’til We Meet Again <3

I remember starting a draft one morning about how my Cyprus visit was coming to an end, and that I was going to be missing my parents. I never completed the draft and that was in February 2020. Here we are in March 2023, nearing yet another end to a visit and I’m so thankful we’ve had so much time connecting ever since my incomplete draft entry 3 years ago. Here’s to many more years, in spite of the distance. Technology helps but it’s not enough, so I’d like to give some credit to all of my family members for putting in the effort.

With the Mediterranean oranges still in season, I told myself I had to eat as many of them as possible. Otherwise I would have no valid excuse paying a ridiculous amount for a bag of tasteless oranges in the States when we get back. I love the accessibility of nature here. While many people don’t live a nature based life and rather a materialistic one in Cyprus, it’s still so easy to access a fruitful garden as well as the wild flora. As someone who doesn’t have roots in the States for at least a few generations, or perhaps because of the culture there, I feel nowhere near the same level of accessibility. My Italian neighbor shared the same sentiment with me the last time we had a chat. There’s more accessibility for other comforts in the USA, like a functional bureaucracy, wide side walks, and Amazon prime.

Speaking of accessibility, there’s more accessibility for educational resources in the States particularly for homeschooling families. The concept of libraries is nearly nonexistent in Cyprus which is probably reflective of the interest the local culture takes in reading — not that we visit libraries often in the States to be honest, but it’s so much easier to access educational books. I also love the seasonal workshops held at nature reserves that are suitable for different ages. The free admission days to several museums is likewise appreciated.

We’ve treated this visit as our extended holiday period instead of the summer time. I am excited to return to a homeschooling routine and have written out a plan. If we finish off strong this upcoming Spring, then we can take it easy in the summer and focus more on outdoors stuff along with some continued reading. We’ll be continuing with some Math Mammoth revision, some incomplete Singapore maths (I haven’t yet decided which I like best but I am leaning more towards MM), language arts, our next chapter book tbd — we are about to wrap up Caddie Woodlawn — daily outdoors ideally right after breakfast as long as the weather allows, a designated nature trail once a week. They will continue Arabic and Qur’an with their dad as per usual and I will sign up Zaynab to her sewing class again. We haven’t yet decided if we want the kids to continue their karate class. I think that jujitsu will be a nice alternative to try out especially for Abubakr as it’ll offer some more hands on techniques. I want to focus on more art consistently and ideally once a week. The children have plenty of time drawing and coloring on their own. However I want to channel my creativity through a class with them consistently too. Pinterest helps and there’s so many videos on Youtube that one can find inspiration from. I will be finishing stories of the Prophets and starting seerah inshaa Allah as we enter Ramadhan with a focus on Ramadhan’s relevance to the Qur’an and revelation as well as the spiritual dimensions of fasting. Without going overboard and consumerist, I am excited to bring a festive vibe into our home and will be making some touches here and there in the house with the kids.

My husband has been off of sugar and breads for nearly 3 months I believe, and I am intending to join the bandwagon in Ramadhan. The accessibility of ‘healthy snacks’ is widespread in the US and I want to cut out any prepackaged stuff no matter how ‘healthy’ they are, because I want to decrease the kids’ desire for those foods in between real meals. We had come to a point where offering apples, cheese, bananas with almond butter — check out Philosopher Foods, my fave — and so on in between meals was not considered ‘snacky’ enough, and they demanded biscuits (i.e. cookies), ‘gluten-free’ pretzels, potato chips fried in ‘avocado oil’ and whatnot. Basically anything that made a crinkly package sound of sorts. Of course the first (and last) step to that is to not have them available in the pantry, end of story.

I want to leave with the hope of being reunited with my family very soon, with gratitude in my heart for the simple pleasures, the fresh air, the delicious juicy citrus fruits, the fresh pecans, the lovely rocks my children picked out for us from the beach and the few peaceful minutes I had to myself while I painted them. There will never be enough hugs from my parents or enough laughter at the dinner table before I feel satisfied. I can only hope to be so present at those brief fleeting moments that when I’m taking my last breath I will remember them vividly. I am so grateful that in all of this magnificent creation and universe, no matter how small and insignificant the planet may seem, Allah has brought our souls into being and blessed us with an ever expansive consciousness. When I met a close friend of mine in Istanbul a couple of months ago after 2 years of not having seen each other, the first words that she said to me upon being united again was how it felt like I was never gone, and the separation had never taken place. I could really imagine that’s how it will be in the Afterlife and that is my prayer.

When the earth is shaken with its quake, and the earth brings forth its burdens…

“The waves look like horses, Mama. When I watch the waves, I imagine that they are a lot of horses, running.” 

We arrived in Cyprus, my hometown, about a month ago. A few days after we arrived, my husband and I went to Istanbul for a few days to finalize the sale of our house there. It was bittersweet. We took our two youngest daughters including Fatima who was born in Istanbul 3 years ago but had no memory of our life there. Our memories relating to that episode of our lives are beautiful and for that we are thankful. We prayed that the new owners will likewise have a similar experience. I am also forever grateful to my parents who have been there for us from day 1 of our move to Istanbul in 2016, and finally my father was there during the selling process of our home too as we closed our chapter in Turkey for the foreseeable future.

Unfortunately we were reminded of why we left Istanbul in the first place during the few days we were there — intolerance and an overwhelming feeling of unsafety, and I wanted to write a blog post about that, until the earthquake incidence, so I will leave that to another time…

There have been a few thoughts running through my mind in the aftermath of the earthquake which was, albeit to a lesser degree, felt in Cyprus. I slept through it but my mother and both my sisters were awakened by it. It is a strange feeling having to find out that the same earthquake we experienced here had a devastating impact not a very far distance away. I was up for fajr around 6a.m. when I first saw my mom’s text message on our family group chat reading


‘You are all ok (?)’

Sent at 3.20a.m. Cyprus time.

Soon after, we found out the true magnitude of it and that the effects of it in Southeastern Turkey as well as bordering Syria were much more tragic.

Everything that happens in life has several explanations from a multitude of angles that simultaneously hold true. Let’s take the case of disease… a state of disease in a person has pathological, biological, emotional, spiritual reasons and explanations. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. In the same way, natural disasters have several explanations. I have been hearing a lot of people asking what the theological explanations are for the earthquake, the geological explanations. And the cheap construction of the buildings that now lay in crumbles over helpless people which led to a lot more deaths than there could have been if the buildings were made differently. It’s not new that Turkey is an earthquake prone zone. It’s also not new that a lot of buildings in Turkey are just not fit for earthquakes. And yes, I do believe that if Allah willed, even with what we have set as standard specifications for earthquake proof buildings, those buildings can be toppled down. However, those buildings were not made so in the first place because someone preferred to save some money at the expense of lives.

I have been thinking of the concept of responsibility a lot because of this. The responsibility of an engineer, a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher is significant, their impact on people can have severe ramifications. And yet, I was reminded that we don’t need to have any of those professions to take responsibility seriously. Even a waiter or an employee at a mobile center — and I give this example because I couldn’t make sense of the carelessness of the Turk Telekom employees at our local branch in Istanbul who seemed to wake up every morning just to have another meaningless day — has responsibilities with considerable consequences. Not just for a business to do well. But to make things easy and not difficult. To have a meaningful life. We have responsibilities even if we are officially jobless because we have a responsibility towards one another as humans. I don’t care if I am never going to see someone again. I don’t want to be remembered for hurtful words or something of the like. Even if I am not remembered, I don’t want leave them knowing I might have caused difficulty or hurt. And even if I don’t remember, Allah remembers.

Of course I have had a lot of other thoughts in the aftermath of the earthquake… Immense gratitude, reassessing what matters in life, making tawbah, sorrow… renewed hope in humanity seeing the international response to the disaster. Alhamdulillah.

I took my eldest out a couple of days ago for some special bonding time just around sunset, and it was so beautiful watching the Mediterranean wash onto the shore, taking in the salty scent of the sea and listening to the sound of the tumbling pebbles forming a sweet tune after every retracting wave. I hope we can do it again before we return to Evanston.