|part II-ethics,morals and compromise in the Big Mango
||[Oct. 4th, 2006|02:40 am]
The Big Mango-a term actually used by the wealthy here-to be oh so "cute"-yes they do know about the kids picking the trash to eat, but prefer to wear Jimmy Choos shoes-which I have immorally taken part in promoting via totally selling-out "text"-reference hopefully not meant to be totally clear. [DISCLAIMER]
When I was a little girl I had a book on manners, "What would you do, dear?"-it taught proper table manners, social eti-quit (error intentional) and the very important use of forks,etc....
Please explain how these manners can be passed on here. Or Why? Or what compromises are made for survival? Who can say what people do or choose in any given situation? I thought I could. Well, everything becomes more flexible in the harsh light of Cairo's sun.
OK. The ironing kids-now grown more to mid-teens have come to the door. They are Christian, they totally overcharge-easy twofold-I overtip by 150% for all services. This is not just out of the goodness of my heart-it is so my children are "watched on the streets." If I overpay, I can imply favours-such as...please tell me if some of the street kids are after my kids...or keep an eye out for me when I go outside. I also, send these kids-they can't read-to the Christian pharmacy and pay when they get burnt or injured at work. I would probably do it anyway, but now-I understand-it is better-that all of us understand they are to keep watch. The trash man is also overpaid-at least sixfold-because he knows everyone and reports back. The shopkeepers must be paid also-both by being a customer and by overtipping the kids who bring the goods. The women who sells abayas must be used for abaya-buying-as she has the whole area mapped out-and has sons in one section, where the kids walk.
So, do I let my son out, at seven? In the streets-there are no stopsigns? The streetkids have chased him with sticks and rocks. The teenagers throw little "bombas"-firecrackers-and his bike has been a temptation and he has been chased? Do I keep him in a small and dark apartment, with no yard (obviously) and nowhere to go-and-of course-no gameboy-or electronic games-etc.
Do I let him out? Do I let him learn to fight back? Do I let him "train" in rougher areas-like the village or more dangerous areas where his cousins are? Do I let him survive? Do I let him pick up a stick or a rock or a "bomba"-where is the line? The point is, WHERE IS THE LINE?
With his cousins as his "back" he can learn to handle these streets. And I was the type of mother, who padded sharp corners, baby-proofed the house, cover electrical sockets-etc. But, electrical cords here are taped and wires self-connected. Safety in one aunt's home, means staying away from-no shit-a fan on a chair without a screen-and I mean an old fan. Like an iron prop plane-I vow to break it next time, because nobody here will ever place a screen on it-or move it away from the hordes of rumbling cousins.
Do I let them drink the water? Hell, there is NO CHOICE. Do, I go searching, if someone bothers my daughter-yes-and she never ever goes out alone-but I do go searching-and I let the overtipped people know-and those streetkids-well, they seem quiet now.
Everytime the children are outside I am sick to my stomach.
Now, my son can run with the best, in the village and somehow be "okay"-in fact, his cousins, actually had me come down to "stop him" because he has learned well how to take care of himself...then what happens when he goes back to the States? How does one explain a seven year old who can make firecrackers from torn apart "bomba" gunpowder and brillo-type pads-I just found this out!!! In this world, all the kids know how. I could literally vomit. But...how to keep him safe? His sister can't go out alone.
Sometimes, I can follow them and do. In the village, this is almost impossible...even sitting outside-I do-in full covering-is considered-well-unacceptable. I said I don't go out alone-or almost not at all. But in the village compound, I have gone out at night, alone and crossed dumping areas with their-I was afraid-trash, many dogs-especially at night-some guys hanging out-and very bad "Western-sounding" Arabic-looking, looking, looking. It is a nightmare. It is so hard not to become lost...When the kids are in the village, I am expected to be inside with the females. Period. I escape.
I search for the children. When, I speak, I get followed. Each time, I vow, never ever, to go there again. How not to go? How to keep quiet, in the back of the car-mother-in-law in front-and "be good?" Impossible choices.
Children are not watched here. They are just-for the most part-ignored-or asked to fetch something-or in trouble for talking. There is no childhood here.
Hell, and we would be the lucky ones. The Christians tell me to have more faith. The Muslims tell me that Allah has appointed a time of death-so there is really not much one can do-including supervising children.....meanwhile, I just try to maintain a sense of balance....
not be a "spoiled Amerikan"-I float the damned ants (not cute brown Ameerican ants-the native biting variety) to the top of the rice and take them out. I learn to throw trash overboard. I fake it. I have faked it for two years and four days. It is not getting any easier....in fact, sometimes, I just don't fake it, anymore.
I really don't live anywhere anymore.