Sunday, February 4, 2007

Home Life

The 5:30 call to prayer reassures me that morning will dawn once again soon, but for the moment I burrow deeper into my blankets and drift back into dream-filled sleep. The decidedly profane beeping of my cell phone alarm irks me awake at 7:30, and I slowly gather the will to creep out into the cold. Once dressed, I join Omi in the kitchen for a cup of coffee (mostly milk), a bit of dense brown bread with jam, and her daily chronicle of maladies (the cataract in her left eye, her diabetes and the sore tailbone from the exercise bike appear without fail). I brush my teeth, throw on my jellabah, grab my backpack and slip out the door to catch the bus to class.

At noon, I make the return trek for dinner. In the living room, I complete the morning's assignments or watch incomprehensible television programs while Hannan embroiders and Omi nods along approvingly from her sickbed on the couch. At one, Sidi Mohammad wanders back in, followed shortly by Souad and Lubna, and Hannan moves into the kitchen to finish preparations for lunch. We all gather around the living-room table to eat from a shared dish while watching the midday news in French. Hannan prepares hot lentil stews, heavy mixtures of vegetables and couscous, dried-pea soup flavored with lamb: thick warm dishes to guard against the cold and nourish well, simple but delicious and entirely homemade.

I return to classes from four to six, then check my email and chat with friends at the student villa before squeezing onto a packed rush-hour bus for the final trip home. At eight, Souad and Lubna return from work and we gather in the kitchen for tea, brewed from whole leaves with lots of mint and sugar and served with dry nut cookies, homemade once again. Our 10 o'clock supper is a light meal, but an animated once. Souad lets her hair down both literally and figuratively (she is the only sister who observes the hijab), and Lubna begins her merry teasing. Hannan scolds her father for adding too much sugar, Lubna translates choice bits of conversation, and Sidi Mohammed always finds some small joke to amuse me. We eat grilled sausage and cheese sandwiches or fried eggs and lamb kebabs or my new favorite creamy sugar-cinnamon rice soup followed by fresh fruit and further conversation. The girls teach me the Arabic names for our food and tableware, while I offer the English term in reply. Amongst themselves, they often slip into darija, and I watch entire conversations without an inkling of their content. Finally, the table is cleared, the dishes are washed, and I bring out my pajamas to warm them against the small gas heater in the kitchen. In my room, I turn out the light and step out of my house slippers at the edge of the carpet. Tucked tightly into bed, I sleep calm and quiet until the neighboring mosque cries out morning's arrival once again.

5 comments:

QSS said...

from sacred to profane, elegant as ever

Sarah said...

creamy sugar-cinnamon rice soup...sounds delicious.

Kyle said...

You have a knack for finding lodging within easy earshot of various summons to worship. I trust the call to prayer isn't as loud as the bells of Saint Jean de Malte?

KEP said...

Not quite as loud as the bells of the St. Jean de Malte, but it is just across the street and uses a loudspeaker, and it IS loud enough to wake me up (me!), so it's pretty substantial.

Sarah said...

it it wakes Katy up, its gotta be loud. :)