A different world view
A month ago I head Jeremy Vines BBC Radio show which was dedicated to the elderly who go for weeks without seeing anyone, and the only voices they hear are the ones through the radio. I was really moved by the show, because with so many people living on their own, with no one to care for them, how do we know when they are no longer breathing? Only when the postman can no longer post letters through the letterbox? Or when bills go for months unpaid and the debt collector calls on them to find no answer? Or in extreme cases, when the stench of their rotting body escapes their home and causes neighbours to call the council to deal with it.
Many older people are left alone to care for themselves, placed in retirement homes with few or no visitors. Some pay for private care out of their small pensions. Why is this? Where are their families? Where are their friends? Why are these people alone? Have they chosen it? Are they are unpleasant people to deal with, that they have driven everyone away from them? The scenarios are endless, and many of the scenarios have a solution.
Many years ago whilst my mum was working in an old peoples home, I used to go and read to an elderly lady who had no visitors. I would always ask my mum if anyone had been to see her during the week because I could not believe that no one would visit their own mother. Surely they didn’t just put her in a home and get on with their own lives? Well they did, and I just found it cruel, I still do. This lady had no visitors in the entire time she was in the home. She was left there to be taken care of by non relatives and left to die. When she died, family started appearing out of the woodwork to sort out ‘her estate’. The only happy thing for me in this situation was the lady, who turned out to be quite wealthy, decided to leave 50% of her estate to the home which had taken care of her, and the other 50% was left to a cat charity. Her family got nothing; and quite rightly so in my opinion.
Over the last 7 years I have been reconnecting with my natural father, someone who had not been part of my life since the age of 4 on a daily basis, and only in my life every 3rd Saturday of the month until the age of maybe 12. Before I left the UK for Egypt, I read an article that haunted me. It was about an old lady who had died alone in her London flat. She had been dead 3 months before her body was discovered. It started me thinking. Was I going to get on with my life, whilst my father lived alone and possibly died alone? Could I do that to him, just because my mother chose to divorce him? The answer was no. So 3 years ago, I asked my husband if he would be willing to have my father come and live with us. We spoke with the boys and we all decided it was the right thing to do. He was going to come and live with us in Egypt, but having lived within a 20 miles radius all his life, it was a very big move, one that even I was finding difficult. So it was decided when we returned to the UK, my father would come and live with us.
So the time has come whereby I find myself living with my dad. Our journey over the last few weeks has been interesting. It has also been one of patience on both sides. Adapting to each others way of life, and creating a new way of life. We are committed to making it work, not just for him, but also my boys. They will get to learn many things from him, and he will also get to be a granddad, and a dad. No longer will he be lonely. He is part of a family again. I am learning where I get certain personality traits from, such as my creativity… and my stubbornness! My dad is no longer alone and he will not die alone.
Why am I sharing this with you? Well, because I don’t want people to be alone. Loneliness is horrible and unnecessary when you consider how many people there are in the world. So please ask yourself if there is someone you can reach out to. Is there someone you can visit maybe once a week for an hour? Is there someone you know who would benefit greatly by joining you for dinner once a week? What can you do to help reduce the loneliness of others in your community? The best gifts to give are humanity and companionship, and they cost nothing.. other than a little time and selflessness. Be kind. Be thoughtful. Be human.
As you will have all read last week, my father in law died leaving many people devastated. He was loved by so many around the world and his loss has been felt on a deep level with so many. This last week I have spent time remembering him, reflecting on many conversations we had regarding books we had swapped, his travels around the world, politics, faith, hopes and dreams for his only grandchildren and his memories of his childhood.
I have been plunged into a deep sadness because he wasn’t just my husband’s father, he was the only father figure I have had. The only one who gave me fatherly advice and supported me in my own dreams. I have known him for half of my life and I feel truly blessed to have had his insights and wisdom bestowed upon me. I am a much better person because of him, and his eldest son, my husband.
I have remembered cooking lessons he gave me, very early mornings making ataif for 3id, before sahor and the early 3id prayers. I have remembered his gentle laughter and the way his face would light up when we shared stories of my boys, and the way he would laugh at goings on in the world. I have remembered the way he used to just lay his arm across his belly, with his other arm crossed behind his head whilst cat napping. I have remembered how he would remind me how lucky I was to be able to smell the awful smells eminating from farms, certain parts of Cairo and of course my boys bottoms, simply because he, himself could not smell anything.
But one of the things that I have spent time thinking about is my final resting place, when the time comes. For you see, his family lives in multiple countries around the world, and many family members have married someone from another country. He himself, a Palestinian, married an Egyptian. My husband, an Egyptian Palestinian married me, an English woman. Cousins have married Americans, French and Danes and other nationalities too. So the choices facing all of us is simply this. When our time comes, where do we lie down to rest? Where our childhood family members want us to live, the country our children want to bury us in, or in the country of our choice? Surely the resting place has to be in the place we choose for ourselves. But for me, where would that be? I have yet to make that choice, but for him, he chose Oman. He had lived there for around 30 years and it was his home. His choice, honoured by my husband, has upset many in the family, and understandably so. They want to visit his grave, pay their respects to him, as we all do to the ones we love. But do we need an actual physical grave? Why can we not just pay our respects to those we love during moments of prayer, reflection or simply by remembering them? Behaving in ways, and fulfilling promises, that honour their memory. During these dark days we need to support each other through the grieving process and ask ourselves “what would they have wanted” because it is not about us that are left, it is about the one that has departed this world for a better place.
I’ve asked my dad where he would like to be buried and he has told me that so long as he is buried it doesn’t really matter where, quite simply because he is unable to get up and have a walk around and have a look. Not much you can you say to that is there? (Gave us both a chuckle anyway!)
I quite like the thought of being buried in the Peak District, or in woodlands somewhere… but then I love the sea, so that is appealing… but then Dexter and the Bay Harbour butcher comes to mind, not to mention sharks and I go off the idea. Being buried with a few books is another idea, not forgetting freshly ground coffee… or even in a coffee plantation! (Not sure I would be good for the soil though). I would like my organs and bone marrow to be used to enable another, or others, to live a fuller life once I am gone… because like it says in the Qur’aan “to save the life of one is as if you have saved the whole of mankind”
One thing I have learnt throughout all of this week of reflection is this: we need to communicate to loved ones where we wish to be buried, if we have a particular choice in mind, to avoid any unpleasantness once we are gone. We need to let them know our choices about organ donation, or inform them about different religious practices that they may be unfamiliar with. Our loved ones have a hard enough time dealing with our departure and their loss, along with having to face the daunting task of going through our possessions and papers. Make your departure plans now, if you haven’t already, and make it easier on those you loved most in the world. Make your choices known, give them the information they need now and nominate someone to ensure your wishes are honoured, then they can grieve in peace too.
Today would normally be my Thursday Thought, but just over an hour ago my world was turned upside down. I had a phone call I wish I had never had. I want to turn back time and erase it from my mind. Pretend it never happened. But I can’t. And the pain I feel right now is like no other I have felt before.
The kindest and greatest man I have ever met, the man who has been my father for the last 17 years, was killed in a car crash today, in the rain, in Oman. The father of my husband, the grandfather of my two boys, the head of the Ayche family for only 16 days, following the death of his older brother 3mu 3hbed on the 5th November.
Today, and the days that come, will bring deep sadness to many people, not just the Ayche family. Dr Merhi Ayche, Baaba and Gidu, has saved many lives over the last 40 plus years in his role as a cardiologist and Senior consultant for the Soha Hopsital in Oman. He was also a Caridology lecturer at the Soha University, Oman. He has worked all over the world in his chosen profession, one he studied for under ever changing street lights in Lebanon, due to the continuous power cuts in existence, due to the ongoing conflict with the Israeli’s. How many people would do that? Study under a street light, and then move to the next one when the current one went out?
I feel angry that a man who has saved so many lives could be taken in such a way. Why could he not have passed peacefully in his sleep? Why could he not have lived to see his grandsons grow up, graduate, marry and have children? Why will my boys never get to be with the man that has inspired so many? He was man that made it possible for their mother to fulfill her dream of becoming an author. The man that had so many hopes and dreams for them, and now they will grow up without him. The best grandparent they had, taken away from them whilst they are still so young. The kindest gentlest man who raised my beloved husband to be the great man he is.
I was going to send Baabaa a video of our youngest son tonight after dinner, showing him how his youngest grandson managed to ride his bike all by himself today. Friday is the day we spoke with him, his ‘day off’, and now that will never come. Now I wished I had called him more, sent him more photos and videos of the boys and seen him more. I wish when we made the choice to leave Egypt, that we had chosen to go to Oman to be with him, instead of coming back to the UK. I wish my husband and I had chosen Oman when we had the chance 4 years ago, so the boys could be with gidu every day, instead of going to Egypt.
Nothing makes sense to me at the moment, and I have not been able to stop crying since the phone call. I know that in all faiths it says ‘From Him do we come and to Him do we return’ in some way or another, and that everything happens the way it is supposed to for a reason, but I cannot process this. I don’t know how to process this, alone, whilst my husband is in Egypt with his mother and brother (as he should be). My friends are in other cities and countries around the world and I just want a hug. To be held. I am angry at God right now for taking him in this way. He was not far from retiring and had so many wonderful moments to share with his grandsons. It all seems so wrong. So unjust. He was the kindest, most generous, most forgiving and patient man I know. The world is a worse place for him not being in it, but may his legacy live on, and all those who he has taught to save lives will continue to save lives in his honour.
Baabaa, I never got to tell you just how much you mean to me. I never dedicated my book to you because of reasons we both know. I promise you I will pursue this career as an author to make you proud and do all I can to make sure this book is a success. I promise to do my best to make sure the Ayche Foundation will become a reality, educating and healing those who have been directly affected by occupation and war.
I know I must focus on the positives, get on with things the way you did, forgive and be patient. I promise to be the best mother I can possibly be to your two grandchildren and ask for your forgiveness. I promise to honour your first born son, and be by his side forever more.
I love you so much Baabaa and cannot thank you enough for always being there for me and 3omar. I don’t know what we are going to do without you. May God give us all strength to overcome this and to move forward in a way that would make you proud. May Allah grant you the highest position in heaven for all that you have so selflessly done for others and for all the lives you have saved, helped to save and by the grace of your teaching, will continue to save through others efforts.
You really are the greatest man I have ever known. I am really going to miss you, we all are xx
Life is precious. Life in the grand scheme of things is very, very short. A blip on the time line of life. It will continue in one way or another long after we have gone from this world, and our children’s children have long gone. So what do we do with the life we have? Do we watch life pass us by secretly dreaming that we could be someone else or like them? Do we hanker after the dreams we once had but never gave ourselves or our dreams a chance to flourish? We each have our own life and we alone must choose what we wish to do with the life we have been blessed with.
Some take life easy, not stepping outside of a carefully woven comfort zone, most probably based upon views, habits, attitudes and fears of our parents. They will take many forms such as being scared of dogs, watching TV every night with dinner on your lap, the need to look spotlessly clean every minute of the day or simply being afraid of needles or spiders.
Many like to ‘be safe’ when stepping outside of our comfort zones such as venturing to a foreign country on holiday, but staying in a tourist resort that can be plucked out of any country and placed into another without you even knowing it. Others like to go to the supermarket to try out the ‘Chinese’ food from a jar before nipping along to the local Chinese restaurant and ordering ‘proper’ Chinese food.
Then there are others, like myself, who just simply jump in feet and head together, take the risks and just roll with the punches. I sometimes wish I didn’t do this because life would be so much easier if I stayed ‘safe’ – or would it?
At some point in our lives we just have to stand for something. It is irrelevant what others think of your stand for something, if it is something that you deeply stand for it. If you are standing for something and you don’t know why you are standing for it, you just feel you have to, then it is time to take your thinking to a whole new level so you do understand why you are standing for it. Whether the stand is for your family to be united, or to get your child on the school football team, or for your to lose weight or even something as boycotting any company that supports the holocaust in Palestine, each and every stand you make in your life, will give you strength. What you stand for, and how you stand for it will of course differ from one to another, but we have to choose; and be happy with that choice. Only then can we truly start to own our stand and create amazing possibilities around it.
My life has been moving forward at a tremendous rate recently with things happening that I myself cannot comprehend. Some of these things have led me to reflect deeply and change major things in my life, which to many will seem trivial, or will not be understood, but I OWN THEM. I have seen dreams devastated, dreams realised and all those other dreams I am living my life within them, making them happen one day at a time.
Life is too short to waste on trivial things. We should do things that take us one step further towards our end destination. I insist on having fun on the road to success, working hard so I can play hard has always been a favourite motto of mine… and play hard I do!
When we are in this life, we need to leave a legacy for those youngsters in our lives. We have to lead them to greatness and we have to look after them. As a family we should stick together, even if our siblings choose a different path to us. As aunties and uncles we should be there to step in whenever we are needed. We, the adults in the family have to lead, and when it is our turn to take care of the older ones as well as the younger ones, we must do this. We have to have the ability to respond, otherwise known as responsibility. By doing this we create this presence that is admired and respected by the others in our family. We have to be courageous, even when in the face of adversity. We have to chose to do the right thing, even if we do not wish to. We have to step up and be counted. Family needs someone who will do this, someone who has this presence and who will be respected, because when they are gone, one of us has to step up and fill their shoes, and those shoes may be so much bigger than we could ever have imagined.
Dedicated to 3mu 3abed who passed away 2 days ago on the 5th November. A very special man and the head of a great family. May he rest in peace always. Always loved and never forgotten.
Woke up this morning and thought I would get cracking on the press database in the local area. I need to get my book out into the local market, line up interviews and organise book signings. I made myself a coffee and set to work. So far a good number of contacts have been made, even though many people are not at their desks working yet… “oh that’s right it is the morning rush hour!” I thought to myself, then had a giggle, rush hour has a whole new meaning to me now I have lived in Egypt. I was too early for the 9 o’clock desk crunchers.
Being back in the UK has been a very surreal experience. My sister’s wedding was three days after we arrived back and it was all too much, so the boys and I left the reception party early. So many faces, some knew me, or rather ‘knew of’ me and I had no idea who they were. Others knew me and I had no idea who they were. Then there were the faces I knew, and those faces ‘knew’ me but seeing them was too much. It was very uncomfortable knowing what I know and overcoming past hurdles with a fresh outlook. The past is the past and that is where it is staying. ’Deep breath, smile on face and let’s do this’ was the motto I had been running through my head before the wedding. Upon arrival stony cold silences and ‘reminders’ to behave myself ‘its your sisters day’ were rammed into my head by others. Like I said, they ‘know of’ me but don’t know me. Plus being surrounded by alcohol and drunkenness has never been our cup of tea.
The weather has been great for me. Cold. Very cold. Just what I wanted and needed, snuggling up in scarves and coats, layering clothes and then walking outside to see my beautiful nieces running around in a t-shirt saying they are hot. Brought a smile to all our faces! I have seen just how unfit we have become compared to our country life counterparts. But now that the boys have their new bikes, and are cycling everyday along the country lanes, getting fresh air into their lungs, the fitness will soon return. We are walking several times a day and Kelt is loving being let off his lead to run freely. He is connecting with his ‘inner dog’ and it is a wonderful sight to behold. Children and dog being free to be. To run, to climb, to play without the fears of cars, street dogs and the host of other worries caused by a broken and corrupt society on the edge of civil war. It’s good to be back but it is not without its worries.
On the TV there are endless gambling websites advertised, like a nation in recession needs to have gambling promoted to them every 3rd or 4th advert! People have gotten fatter, disgustingly so in many cases. Foul language from a young girl in Cambridge shocked me beyond belief. Racism is still rife in the local area, but the number of foreign languages in the area is something I have loved to hear. I have heard Polish, Lithuanian and of course the local dialect which is all a bit foreign to me now. It is providing me with a few giggles to say the least, and a reminder of how much my own accent has evolved. I even giggled to myself when I thought of story time with the boys. Those pirates and farmers in the stories are going to be given a whole new level of ‘ruralness’.
The highlights of being back, for me, have been seeing my nieces and meeting my nephew for the first time; seeing my dearest friends in Sheffield, albeit for a passing cuppa tea; walking and being surrounded by endless nature as far as the eye can see; the development of wind farms in the local area and in the sea out at Hunstanton; but the best part about being back home so far has had to be the coming together of all my Diehard family and the techno workout. It was amazing! Being on the dance floor with the feeling of techno vibrations running through my body, the sounds of the mid 90′s filling my ears brought me back home to the place I always felt at peace. Dancing with friends, laughing, being daft and catching up; our homecoming party was just what I needed to release frustrations built up over the last 4 years. The harder I danced the better I felt… until the day after the day after when I could hardly move! But the muscles are awake now and they need to stay awake. Running is next on the agenda, I just need to find my running gear!
So until next week folks, take it easy and find your inner peace
Expectations. Some say it is best not to have them, some say you should most definitely have them, and high ones at that. Many feel that when you expect things from others, they will always let you down, so it is not worth expecting anything. To some extent I agree with them. Expectations can be disappointing. But is is really the expectations that you have that are wrong to have, or simply because more and more people are simply giving up on the basics?
Looking for an image for today’s post was interesting. So many of the images were negative and showed the current trend of thinking about expectations. People, it seems, expect perfection but are faced with ‘reality’ – the mediocrity of the masses; the lies of those around us, and the distorted images created by Photoshop and Hollywood. There were many images that showed the ‘can’t be bothered attitude’ that so many of us are faced with when coming into contact with others in our daily lives.
Growing up I was always told by my mother that she expected me to always use my manners, always to be polite and respectful, do my best (not be the best) and to be clean and tidy always. She expected it, and so I delivered it. I knew she had faith in me, because she expected me to be able to do all of them. My mother always taught me that if someone expects you to do something, it is because they believe you can do it, or at least have the skills to do it. I have taken this view of expectations throughout my life. I know people are capable of great things. I know I am capable of great things, we were all created for greatness, but society is telling us we should not expect greatness ‘because it leads to disappointment’. Well I disagree, we SHOULD expect things of each other, and we SHOULD have high expectations, otherwise we forget about being good and start on the slippery slope to the gutter. Jim Collins wrote a fabulous book called ‘Good to Great‘. A business book yes, but his observations apply to the whole of society, in many ways.
As for personal expectations, I expect my children to have good manners. I expect them to do their homework on time. I expect them to be polite and respectful at all times. I also expect them to be clean and tidy, in the way they dress, their everyday way of being (such as not dropping litter in their home or the street) and with their speech. I don’t however expect them to hit them all the time, they are not perfect, but due to the expectation, the belief I have in them, they hit the expectations most of the time. I expect success in everything I do. I expect myself to be on time and respectful. I make sure I do everything I can to make sure these expectations happen.
With people I work with, I expect smart thinking, hard work, dedication and results. Do I expect perfection? No, of course not. But if I expect it of myself, and I deliver the results, and they are on time, surely it is only right and proper that others deliver too? Or should I be satisfied with excuses/reasons from others for not delivering, when I am delivering? When a few on a team are delivering and the others aren’t, I call them concrete boots, leeches, time wasters and I develop an exit strategy either for myself or for them, if I am in a leadership/management position.
Expectations should be high in my opinion. They give you something to aim for. They give you a target that helps you improve who you are and what you can do. Expectations drive business performance, they drive social change and they can motivate. If expectations are unrealistically high, as mine have been for myself over the years, they do lead to disappointment. But having said that, that disappointment has been a tool for drive and ambition. I didn’t hit the expectation this time, but I will next time, or the time after. It helps me identify an oversight in my planning and it has helped me fill gaps in my knowledge or skill base.
As for expectations of others, well this is a minefield. I expect people to be honest with me. Not the sugary sweet words they think I want to hear. I expect the truth. I also expect manners such as ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. If you are in a meeting with me, or we are having coffee/lunch, I expect you to be on time – thus respecting me and the other plans I have made. I also expect you to be with me, instead of on your phone and the myriad of apps on it. I expect adults who attend business events to switch off their mobile phones and respect the people who have given up their time to speak. I also expect adults to at least look interested in what the speaker is saying, instead of having side conversations with others. ( How rude!!) I expect a lot of things from myself, and I would never ask another to do something I am not prepared to do myself. I learnt that from my mother too.
If you are giving up on expecting things from others and yourself, ask yourself why that is. Are you with the right people? Are your expectations unreasonable for that person? Or are people in general just giving up on the basics and driving us all further into the gutter? Remember if you want the world to be a better place, have higher expectations of yourself and others, whilst working towards improving yourself in the meantime. In the words of JCI… Be Better.
Nearly four years ago I wrote an article ‘Why I am glad to be leaving the UK’. It makes interesting reading now, having learnt so much more about Egypt, and myself. The ideals I wrote about, the wishes and hopes about our ‘new’ life in Egypt are now quite laughable and show that I really had no idea about a lot of things compared to what I know now; and some of what I know now, I’d rather not know to be honest with you. I have moved on in my thinking, my emotional growth and my expectations of people and places.
Over the last few years, I have learnt a lot about human nature and oppressive society. I have learnt what I truly want for this next stage, my future and of course that of my children. I’ve also learnt what I do not want in my life, or my children’s lives (until they are old enough to make up their own minds) and I have considered whether I actually want to be a Muslim or not. I have reviewed all my life choices up until this point. Which choices will I continue with and those I won’t. Watching and experiencing life here has been a roller coaster of emotions, from deep sadness to pure excitement. But every moment has been worth it due to the lessons I have learnt. There is always gold in every experience.
I know that returning to the UK is going to be a strange and surreal experience in the first year. Going from one of the busiest cities in the world, to the quiet of the Fenland countryside will be the first strange experience, but the one I am probably looking forward to the most. I know the fields of Friday Bridge and surrounding villages like the back of my hand. I know my old hiding places, and at the moment a place to hide away from people is just what I am looking for. I need to heal myself and collect my thoughts in the peace and quiet of trees and fields. I want to reconnect with family and friends slowly, taking each day as it comes. I know I have changed a lot, and they may have changed a lot too. I have to be ready for things to be different, maybe a good different, maybe a bad different, maybe just simply an indifferent difference. Nothing ever stays the same.
The new opportunities and challenges that face me are ones that have been carefully thought about. I am looking to start again, not continue where I left off. As a family we are searching for a new home. I am writing new books and developing myself further. I am going to work in the field of integration and develop a new 5 year plan to enable these goals to come true, taking me another step closer to my original goals. As with everything I do, I will do my very best, working smart and hard, setting what I believe to be a good example for my boys.
For my boys, I would love for them to look back at this part of their lives with some fond memories, embrace the experiences and see positively rather than negatively the benefits we’ve all gained. I wish for them one day to be proud of being Egyptian, accepting this part of themselves, moving beyond the dislike they currently have. I pray they get into a good school in England and that we are able to give them a good life whilst starting over. I pray my husband and I have correctly managed their expectations of what life will be like when we return.
I think the hardest part for me moving on to the next chapter of my life, will be knowing that I may never see the dear friends I have met here. When I said goodbye to friends in the UK, I naively thought I would see many of them again. I know now that I will never see some of them again, especially my dearest friend Amera, as she died nearly a year ago. The others have scattered to other parts of the world building their new lives. When I have said goodbye this time, I have said it with all my heart, just in case I don’t see them again. The likelihood is, I won’t see them again. I don’t know if I will come back to Egypt in the next few years, other than for work purposes, and then it will only probably be a flying visit. There are many more countries to visit and create opportunities in. So, I head back to the UK, fully aware of the reasons I left it in the first place, fully aware of why I am leaving Egypt and fully aware that our best intentions to stay in touch with people will get overtaken with pressures of life. Those that make the effort, will be the ones we see, those that don’t, well then it was never meant to be forever in the first place.
It’s time to move on, so until next week, keep learning, keep smiling and keep moving forward.
Since November 2012 I have had the pleasure and the honour to teach my two boys at home. It has been both rewarding and stressful. Many of you who follow this blog will know of some of the problems we have faced here in Egypt finding a school that is of a suitable standard. Now this is not just me and my husband being picky or snobby. It is down to the fact that in most schools here in Egypt, Year 4 students cannot read basic books or decode words. Year 5 students are at a standard that the British schools demand of Year 1 students. The education here in Egypt is appalling to say the least, even in the private international schools where the wealthy elite pay the equivalent of £10,000 sterling per year, per child. But this post is not about how bad the education here in Egypt is, it is about Home schooling, or Home Education.
I always said I would NEVER home school. I don’t have the patience and I wouldn’t know what to do or where to start. I didn’t have faith in myself as a parent or as a teacher. I have very little patience, and I am certainly not the most tactful of people, so I wrote myself off before I had even started. Not a good example to set my children. But then, as with all things, scarcity is the mother of all creativity, so I set to work. I utilised the knowledge I have from training adults in business soft skills, my skills as an individual who sets targets, goals and plans. I read a huge amount of books so I swapped genres. I learnt how to be a teacher. I have a TEFL certificate from years and years ago, and I restudied to be able to teach IELTS. So if I can do that, I can home school.
I downloaded all the objectives from the Cambridge website. I bought nearly every Dorling Kindersley Text book and encyclopedia from a local book shop and purchased all the Letts and Carol Voderman workbooks I could find. I cross referenced each and everyone and set out a plan. It took time, but if I was going to do this I was going to do it properly. I signed up for home schooling newsletters (never used one of them to be honest) and I joined a home schooling group on facebook – their pictures, hints and tips were motivating and really helpful, not to mention reassuring and humourous.
We started off at the beginning with set timetables and a proper class room structure, but it didn’t work. My boys are 4 years apart and well it just wasn’t a structure that worked for us. So I adjusted the day, my oldest in the morning, the youngest in the afternoon. Whilst I was teaching one, the other was on the BBC Bitesize website playing the games and doing the quizzes; or they were utilising the IT programmes ‘Scratch’ and ‘Story Book Weaver’ – helping to develop their IT skills relevant to their age. They would also be researching a given topic I had given them using their new library of encyclopedias and cross referencing with the internet. We would head off to a cafe and they would get to draw different things in the cafe, again using art and craft books to get desired effects needed.
I also made sure that the boys had the use of TV programmes such as David Attenboroughs complete series of documentaries, along with the Physics Professor Brian Cox. This was a bit much for the boys to understand fully, I mean even I got a bit lost with it all, but they loved the imagery and the enthusiasm from it all, so when we did the basics of the planets and stars, they were able to pull out bits that they remembered from the shows. They also loved watching the Horrible Histories series – who wouldn’t? They are great! They just have the Richard Hammond’s Brainiac – Science Abuse series to watch and the Bear Grylls survival series’ (love Mr Grylls – he is a LEGEND!) Now I am not normally a fan of allowing my children to sit and watch TV but I had to acknowledge my areas of weakness… and the lack of facilities here in Egypt that could teach them what I don’t know. I also had to find something to distract them from all the political problems facing the country and the amount of failed field trips, such as cancelled desert trips. They did however get to attend Roquayah’s Ranch up near Alexandria for just under 2 weeks where they learnt about Animal Husbandry, Life Cycles, Food Chains and of course every little boys right of passage – tree climbing, making catapults and just being free to wander amongst fields with his own thoughts. They learnt the basics of horse riding, how to slaughter chickens and rabbits, how to skin and pluck them and how to cook them. They milked the cows, groomed the horses and fed the cows, chickens, donkeys, buffalo and of course the beloved horses.
As the year wore on, and the boys were studying more and more independently, I began to realise just how much work they had to do to be able to attend a decent school in the UK. Now at the end of the year, both my boys, having completed 2 years work in 1 year, are both performing well. My youngest, although only 6 is completing work aimed at 7-8 year olds, my eldest, 10 years old, is completing work for 11+ and has already started some KS3 work. To say I am proud of them both is an understatement. They have had to deal with a mother who is a task master. We have had some very amusing debates and some very upsetting moments. We have had disagreements and they have both been grounded. We have all shed tears, but regardless of all of this, I have had the blessing of seeing my own children have those light bulb moments that normally only teachers in schools have. I have seen them increase in knowledge and show me the way they think. They have helped me develop new ideas about things and made me giggle endlessly with their ideas.
One of the other benefits of home schooling for us has been the ability to put into practice everything they have learnt, attend Tae Kwon Do and swimming lessons whenever without the school schedule getting in the way. (Teachers haven’t bribed them with sweets or gifts either, as is the norm here in Egypt). We were all able to take care of our little puppy when he had Parvo and they have been able to walk and play with him more than if they were at school. The Arabic lessons have been one to one, and although my eldest son refuses to be taught by an Egyptian teacher and refuses to learn Arabic, he has still managed to speak and understand his sports instructors in Arabic. He is what is known as a language acquisition student, rather than my other son who is a language explosion… but then those that know them both will know this goes for the personas as a whole. The boys haven’t mixed with the ‘rude, arrogant, lazy, disrespectful’ children here in most of the schools, that the teachers I know are desperately trying to make a difference with. Only last week I had an email from a friend who is a teacher here sharing her pure exasperation and shock at the bad attitudes of the children and administration in an American International school. I am glad my boys have not shared a classroom with the children here, and I am sure that if Barack Obama knew what was happening in schools here, he would rethink his comment ‘we should raise our children to be more like the Egyptian children’. No President Obama, we shouldn’t. Children need education and discipline and there is very little of either here.
So, although I never thought I would, or could, home school my children, I am so happy that I was put into a position to do so. Every dark cloud has a silver lining as they say. I have just spent an extraordinary year with two of my favourite people in the whole world, and I only pray I have done enough to ensure their entrance into our chosen school in the UK. If we can’t get them into that school… well who knows what we will do. But I do know this, my home schooling days are nearly over. We all need a break from one another, and they need to be in a classroom environment working with respectful, disciplined peers, and they need to just be boys with boys of their own ages.
20 sleeps to go until I wake up in Europe. I haven’t been back to Europe in the last 3 and a half years. Been to the UAE, Gulf and to Lebanon a few times, but not back to Europe. I am filled both with excitement and apprehension. The excitement comes from seeing so many friends I have not seen for years, some even decades. A party is planned and every time I think of it, I get this stupid grin appear all over my face and I am almost breathless with a giggle that won’t come out! I feel excited to know I am going to dance the night away to music that I love with people I love. hearing the samples and rifts of classic tunes that just make you want to dance and overload you at the same time with happy memories. Oh the freedom of the dance floor! I don’t really care if I dance like the awkward uncle at the family wedding, I am going to burst, I know I am…. after I have taken it all in again and adjusted to a culture shock like no other; the one of returning home after years away, being older and hopefully wiser, but still crazy and full of fun that you can just lose yourself with a group of friends messing about and having cheeky friendly banter.
Going from the noise that is Cairo, via Amsterdam will ease me into the UK nicely I think. I have a nice long ferry crossing, during which I plan to read on deck. I will probably sit up on deck for as long as I am allowed to. Crossing the sea, with the wind blowing, nothing but water all around me. How amazing will that be!? I don’t even care at this point if it is raining, I just want to go and stand outside with the rain pouring on my face. A feeling of peace has just washed over me now as I think about it. Beautiful.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the fact that it is hot enough here that you could be outside all day if you wanted, but that is just thing. Being a lover of cold weather, and not being built for mosquitoes, it is just too hot for me. I am a lightweight when it comes to heat. I can function but it is just too hot to do anything outside; and then when you do, oh the mosquitoes just love to come out and bite ya! What is the purpose of mosquitoes anyway? Other than to cause pain and misery either by their evil bites or spreading diseases. Does anyone know how this tiny little blood sucker actually benefits us? Or has he just outsmarted all the species to remain past its welcome date? I will be honest, I do splat the little bleeders with pleasure… sorry to all you mosquito lovers out there. But please, you are welcome to them!
The other added bonus about it being so hot here is this. You can do no laundry for a few days, then do wash after wash in one day and be done. It takes on average about an hour for your washing to dry. As you take one load out, you can collect the other wash, getting maybe 3-5 washes done in one day. (You do have to get it in though due to all the dust and pollution).
At the moment, I have noticed the temperature getting cooler here and I am happy. Egypt is giving me a going away present of its cool freshness that only October brings. But still whilst I am still in vest tops and light cardigans with jeans and Birkenstocks, I can see a few people are already adding an extra layer or thicker clothes. The AC untis are not buzzing as much either, which is nice. I am really looking forward to being cold – the English kind of cold. The cold here in Egypt is different. It goes deeper into your bones than when you are attempting to walk into the freezing cold Baltic Sea, or the ice cold plunge pool in a spa. The spa… hmmmm lovely….. I will also be glad to open all my other suitcases in England and pull out all my old winter clothes. It is going to be so nice to wrap myself within them all over again. They’ll be like new clothes but with history, free vintage. Bonus.
On the way back to the UK, I will have my little shadow with me. I have never traveled with an animal before, other than with my dogs growing up in the car. So to travel by air, sea and car across Europe back to the UK is going to be an adventure… but my little pooch is such a good little boy… unless he discovers tissue! What is it with the tissues? But the thing I am looking forward to most is walking out of the ferry port in the UK and seeing my dad standing there waiting for me… hopefully with a hot coffee and some wine gums, and giving him a very big hug. Perfection.
First of all, I want to make it clear, when I use the word ‘migraine’ I really mean migraine. I don’t mean a really bad headache, or simply a headache. I mean a migraine. For many of you reading this who suffer from migraines, you’ll understand what I mean by this first part.
For the last 3 weeks I have had 3 migraines. They have all affected me in different ways. The first one three weeks ago left me unable to move or see properly. The second one I was able to move but couldn’t see properly or have bright lights, or too much noise. With all of them the searing pain, the nausea, the numbness in my arms and face and the lack of energy left me feeling like a zombie… but what am I to do? Well I know my cure, but I have to wait until I get back to the UK to get it. Shipping it here to Egypt is not an option due to high costs and the lack of a guarantee it will get here before I return to the UK. Best just wait it out.
Being a mother of two very lively, not to mention noisy, boys is tough enough without being incapable of being there to do the things I need to do for them. Losing 2-4 days every week as I did up until 5 years ago, and again now this last month, is not fun. When I have a migraine I just sleep, or lie in the dark. I need help with the basics such as going to the toilet, or moving position in bed. Sometimes I need paper and a pencil to write down what I need to say because my mouth doesn’t work (and yes … … it must be oh so quiet for everyone else!). I can’t even read, because I either can’t see or my vision is so distorted it is a blur at best.
The boys have got used to helping mummy go to the bathroom, making their own breakfasts, lunches and completing their work by themselves. They have got used to being quiet, and they are getting better at making mummy a post migraine cup of tea. They can make omelettes, cook chicken and duck breasts and sausages either in the oven, under the grill or in a pan. They can roast a chicken and some vegetables. They know how to chop salad and vegetables and how to handle the cooker hob and oven. They are great at making sandwiches, rice and pasta.
A few years ago the boys were giggling in their bedroom which was next to mine. They stayed upstairs just so they could hear me if I needed help. Bare in mind that my oldest at the point would have been 6. I lie there thinking to myself “of all my senses which would I prefer to lose?” I still to this day have not decided. If I lost my sight, as I do often with my migraines, I would never see their smiling faces, but if I lost my hearing, I wouldn’t be able to hear them belly laugh in the way that they do, or hear them tell me they love me, but we would be able to use sign language. So I am leaning more to the loss of hearing than the loss of sight, but praying neither happen.
Having migraines that debilitate me so much has made me so much more appreciative of the body, and skills, I have. One of the reasons I don’t waste a moment of my time is simply because I do not know when my next migraine will come, or when I will lose one of my senses or limbs altogether. I like to walk rather than drive because my grandmother used to say to me “use your legs everyday, you never know when God will take them away from you” This piece of advice was during one of our Sunday afternoon bike rides, of which at least 5 miles would be covered. She was 76 when we first started the bike rides and 82 when she had to stop them. My grandmother taught me to live everyday as if it is my last, simply because I don’t know if it will be or not. This has been one of the best pieces of advice I have ever been given.
My boys may be young, and they may have to cook for themselves, organise and motivate themselves to do their study; they may have to clean the house, load the washing machine, organise the ironing and put their own clothes away, but when they are older they will be better equipped and fully able to do these tasks, which in turn gives them essential life skills that so many men and women my age cannot do. I used to feel bad about the fact that they had to be so self sufficient, but now I see it as a blessing. These are skills no one can take away from them, so I thank God for giving me migraines…. just wish they weren’t so often.
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