Cultural Differences

18th February : I’m learning a huge amount about the way of life here, as a Muslim.
As usual, most of what we think we know is wide of the mark. If nothing else this trip has shown me that western society is unbelievably arrogant and uses ridiculous amounts of propaganda to hold itself up as pure as the driven snow. Such crap. I guess I knew it but hadn’t examined it!
The basic tenet, as far as I understand it, is that everyone is brother and sister in their faith, that you care for and love each other unconditionally. I’m not religious, so even if you look at their faith from that stand point alone, taking out all the prayer etc, you can see why they are such a happy bunch. They are the most accepting people I’ve met.
It’s made it easier for them all to accept Ali’s death. While I rant in my head at the unfairness of a young father dying before his time, they say it was Ali’s time. They believe everyone has their life span decided by God at their conception. Chaps and Samira (and many others!) have tried repeatedly to convince me of this logic. I don’t believe it is so, but I can certainly appreciate how that belief eases their grief. I find them comforting me, ironically.
Yesterday, while we women were lying around in the living area with Faisa and the kids, Samira told me that Faisa had to stay indoors for four months and 10 days. She’s not even allowed to look out the windows. All widowed women must do this. They dissolved in hysterics at my reaction. Needless to say I was horrified and said I would die, if it was me cooped up like that.
Then this morning, Faisa’s 11 year old son, Omar, was due to go back to boarding school. The school was temporarily closed due to a major fire, so not only was the poor wee man afraid of fire but has just lost his Dad. He was beside himself, refusing to go and all of us nearly in tears. We women talked it over through breakfast. The school isn’t even a regular one but a place where they rote learn the entire quran. Of course my feeling, and Samira’s too, was he stay here with his family and go to a proper school. In fact I think we all agreed on that. But his uncle, whom I do like very much but is, after all, a Muslim man, came in and hauled him off screaming and crying. It was devastating and poor Faisa is wrecked. She’s such a darling and my heart bleeds for her.
I have been urged to stay here every day and marry locally. I’ve even had offers!! But, boy oh boy, I could not conform to being a Muslim wife. I’d drive any man here insane with my disobedience and independence. Even Chaps, though he’d be better equipped to cope with it with his worldly experience!!
I met Bushekhe’s son today, Ali’s nephew. He has muscular dystrophy. His younger brother has already died from it. Ahmed is at the stage where he can’t move but he has a lively mind and speaks English well. It broke my heart I couldn’t tell him we have an amazing cure in New Zealand. His Mum cried when I said there was still no cure. I can’t convince them, no matter how often I say I’m a nurse, that I’m not a doctor!! This family has had much grief to bear, and I’m sure it’s true of many families here.
Samira made an observation that there seems to be less illness and early death in Mafia. I wonder?
Omar called us from school and apologised for his behaviour, saying he was fine. I hope so. I suspect Bushekhe made him ring but it was good all the same.
Chaps, Samira and I did some retail therapy this afternoon. I could do with a wine, but water it is. My liver will be out of practice!!

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