You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘kindness’ category.

Nathalie Atalla

August 21st of 2011 was the 40 day memorial service for my sweet departed friend. In this part of the world, 40 days after a person has departed there is a memorial service held in their honor. I hopped on a train and headed down to Cairo especially to attend the service.
Fabienne, Nathalie Atalla’s sister had asked me to read the Irish bereavement poem that I had used at the end of my written tribute to her.  No matter how many times I read those few sentences allowed or to myself, I couldn’t help but feel as though that I was choking on held back tears and my lip would disobey direct orders from my brain not to quiver.
When I reached Cairo I busied myself trying to put my closed apartment in order, while thinking about the upcoming service. The reason the service weighed so heavily on my mind was because, when I heard of Nathalie’s untimely departure I had just arrived in London. As much as I wanted to get back on a plane and turn around and go back to Cairo, I couldn’t. So, although I understood that Nathalie would no longer be walking among us in the flesh, my mind hadn’t fully come to terms with it.
As I sat in the church and was a few pews from the alter, where a beautiful picture of her smiling back at all of those who were in attendance, the reality of it all came crashing down. My eyes burned with restrained tears as did my throat, but I knew that she wouldn’t want more tears to be shed and especially not on her birthday. Yes, her memorial service coincided with her 32nd Birthday. A day where we would have all come together to rejoice and having a gay o’l time, but instead we were remembering her life and how she touched each and every one of us.
At the service I saw her two brave adorable girls, standing at the front of the church with their aunt and grandparents, behaving beautifully and comforting their grandmother in the midst of the service. Once the service was over, the two girls greeted the attendees at the entrance of the church with angelic smiles on their face, warm hugs and handed every single person a brioche (it’s like a hot cross bun). As I watched them, I couldn’t help but admire their innocence and how they have bounced back from having their mother tragically taken away from them at such a young age. I could see many of Nato’s qualities and she would have been very proud of them.
In the reception hall on the grounds of the church, friends and family went to pay their respects. A group of friends sat in the hall and sang ballads, two other close friends of Nathalie’s stood up and said a few words about her. Fabienne, gave a very moving speech that brought us all to tears and moved us deeply. I agree with Fabienne, Nathalie wouldn’t want us to continue to cry and be sad, she would want us to celebrate her life, remember her and smile and apply the lessons she taught us to our daily lives.

With the over flow of emotion, my little speech was over looked, but that is fine, what really mattered, was that we were there for her sister, her daughters, her parents and that we were remembering her and what she meant to us.
I finally had closure and came to terms with her passing, but although she in no longer with us in body, Nathalie is still here with us in spirit and she continues to inspire us every day!
Nathalie, you have inspired me to love myself and to take care of my health. I have returned to my favorite sport, swimming. I could barely finish two laps without gasping for air, when I started at the beginning of July but with daily practice and persistence, plus  having your voice encouraging and cheering me on, as you have for the past few months. I have now made it to 110 laps. I look better, feel better about myself and I’m beginning to feel more like my old self. Nathalie, thank you for motivating and inspiring me!

As the famous song goes; every breath I take, every move I make, every single day, every time I pray, I’ll be missing you…

http://www.nathalieatalla.com/ to leave your  thoughts and comments.

Advertisements

Monday 6th of February 2011

I am so excited! I am finally going to see my family. I have been thinking of every possible way to get to them ever since my friend was evacuated. The railway lines have stopped working and the roads out of Cairo had been closed too. The airport is over crowded with people trying to leave the country and there’s a strong possibility that their aren’t any flights.

I had done most of my packing last night but there are still a few items that I need to put in the put in the bag, but I have to wait for Meeza to wake up.

I am feeling very torn. I have formed a close bond with my host, (No….that’s not right), my surrogate family and I don’t want to leave them. I have enjoyed my time here with them, gotten to know them more and feel like I’m apart of the family. I dread to think what state I would be in, if I hadn’t come to stay with them and decided to tough it out on my own. Without their company, I’m sure I would have reached some level of insanity. Becs family will always have a special place in my heart for opening their home to me.

Bec’s Mum insists that I share breakfast with her. I’m not really hungry and I have been working exceptionally hard at reaching a target weight for my sister’s wedding in April, (Operation Megan Fox). I know it’s a silly thing to be worrying about in times like these, but God willing if all goes well, her wedding will proceed as scheduled and I won’t hate myself for not looking my best and being fit for the special occasion. So, I am adamant that I am going to remain focused on eating lots of fruits and vegetables, grilled meats and drink an excessive amount of water, Revolution or not! (would this make me stubborn or very determined?)

At around 11am my father arrives, I am so glad to see him. I waste no time in embracing him at the door and kissing his cheeks. I notice that he looks tired but a wave of relief washes over his face when he sees me. My father and I don’t see eye to ey very often and with us being stubborn and control freaks, we often but heads and clash, but with that put a side, he is my Dad, I love him to pieces and I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to see him.

My Dad comes in to the house for no longer than twenty minutes. We can’t delay our departure due to heavy traffic caused by blocked off roads and protests. We also have to be back in Alexandria before curfew time. My Dad thanks Bec’s parents and as a small gesture of my families appreciation and gratitude for all they have done for me he gives them a bottle of Whiskey and a big box of sweet dates. I in turn hug both Bec’s parents and thank them and promise to come and see them as soon as I am back and settled again.

As soon as we are in the car we have to make a stop at my house to pay the landlord the rent and so that I can drop some unwanted items and collect more clothes (who knows how long the current situation is going to last).

As we approach my street, which is a big military area, I notice a crowd of twenty or more people near the Military Hotel, Triumph. I wonder what they are all doing sitting around staring at the Military compound’s huge metal gates. My father must have caught my gaze or read my mind and informs me that the people are waiting to see their loved ones that had been recaptured by neighborhood watch and military me as they were trying to loot the nearby areas. Upon hearing this slightly disturbing piece of information, I couldn’t help but feel relieved that I had followed my instincts and made the decision to go and stay with Bec’s and his family. The thought of having the escapees that have been causing fear and havoc in the city held across the street from my building, was not in the least bit comforting.

As soon as the car came to a halt, I waste no time in going in to my building and up to my apartment to leave an un-needed bag and gather some other belongings. I am whirling around the place like the Tazmanian Devil from the famous Warner Brother’s Cartoons. I am trying to be as quick as possible so that the echos of the last night spent in the apartment don’t come back to me. The feeling of being in my flat is an odd one. It is familiar and yet alien at the same time. ‘I hope to see you again soon’ I say to it before I close the door and lock it before taking the elevator back down to rejoin my father and the hired driver to head back to Alexandria.

During the drive out of the city my father ask me questions about the safety situation in Heliopolis, the sight of the barbed wires across the street and the tanks pointing outwards to wards the road. He tells me of events and situations that have taken place in Alexandria. That with in the first two days after the prisoners escaped from prison, the people guarding our street caught fourteen ‘baltageya’ (thugs/looters). He told me that other areas of Alexandria are experiencing much worse and that I know for a fact. My friend Shamel has been calling me daily telling me about his nightly watch and the amount of firing and killing that had been going on. Although I am living it, hearing it and experiencing it, my mind still has a difficult time accepting and believing that this is happening to us here in Egypt. It just boggles my mind! How did things spiral out of control so quickly? What lies ahead for all of us? Is it going to get worse? Will things ever get better? It is hard to tell…

At the Cairo toll gate leading to the desert road armored vehicles stand guard with their guns pointed at the center of the road. By the wayside, stolen, crashed and torched cars had been confiscated ownerless as you pass by the toll gate. For the past week we have been hearing horror stories of people’s cars being run off the road, cars being hijacked, robberies, rapes and killings along the desert road. On all the occasions I have driven back and forth on this road, I have never been so alert and watchful of every movement, car and person.

To stop at a rest house to use the toilet, gas up or buy something to eat is too risky and dangerous. Some of the escaped convicts are still on the loose and nobody wants to take any chances. The busy rest stops are empty, which is a strange sight because they are usually bursting at the seams with business, but now only the gas stations have clients. My father told me that he had stopped at one of the gas stations on the way and when he entered to building the owner was sat with a machine gun and bullets across his chest, the smell of freshly baked fiteer was absent in the air and the bustling of the waiters bringing the customers no longer existed.

We finally reach Alexandria after a two and a half hour drive, the security at the toll gate is more intense that the Cairo toll gate. There are more cars and the traffic is worse. Getting to the city is difficult, there is a hold up of some kind. We find out that the congestion is caused by a bus accident and large puddles of water.

As we pass by Carrefour City Center (a big shopping complex) there dozens of confiscated stolen cars parked on the side as you pass the shopping area. There are huge tanks and armoured vehicles positioned there too.

After two weeks of wanting to be with my family and a two and a half hour drive, I am finally home. I take my bags out of the car, get in to the elevator and press the button. The ride up seems to take longer than usual. “Hurry up!! I want to hug my Mum and sister!” As I finally reach my floor, I can see my mother’s silhouette through the glass with her arms spread wide ready to embrace me as I step out. I yank out the bags and drop them at her feet and just squeeze her tightly, while breathing in her motherly scent. There is nothing as warm or comforting as a mother’s embrace.

As I walk over the threshold of the apartment, my sister comes to greet me in the foyer of the apartment and we hug.  It is so good to be home and with family. They look well but tired from all the stress and constant worrying about their safety, the state of the country and me. At least now, they have one less thing to worry about. I am here, safe and sound with them.

We retire to the sitting room and talk for hours while pausing mid conversation every so often to hear the latest news up dates.

By 9pm I can no longer keep my yes open and got to bed.

I am home at last.

In Egypt we don’t just tip the waiter in the restaurant or the bus boy who transports your bags to your room. In Egypt you tip for almost everything!

If you are trying to park your car and can’t find a parking space, you will 9 times out of 10 find a man directing cars in to the tightest spots and for that you tip him. While you are out going about your errand he will be watching over you car and if you ask him to, he will even wash it for you, (just make sure you tip him well, because the next time you park there, he will treat you like a Pacha or a Brincessa (princess))

When you go to the cinema and the usher shows you to your seat, you tip him a pound or two.

When you pull in to the gas station and ask the attendant to fill her up and the other to clean your windows. You tip them for their services.

When you are at Metro or some other super market and the person packing your bags helps you carry it out to your car, you tip them for being so helpful.

When you go to the bathroom at a rest house, mall, and restaurant you will most likely find that there will be a person there handing out paper towels when you go in to the stall and when you come out. You tip them for maintaining the place.

When the porter in your building helps you carry your luggage in to the building and up the stairs to the elevator or right up to the apartment, you tip him for the extra effort he has made.

When a delivery is made to your house by the pharmacy, fast food restaurant, dry cleaners, grocery store and whom ever else provides that service you tip them for risking their lives on their vesper to deliver the goods to you.

To have a parking or traffic violation ignored or canceled you tip the traffic cops who’s uniforms are tattered and almost thread bare. DON’T even try to approach or tip the men who have brass stars on their shoulders. If you do, incarceration will be the gift he gives to you! 

The men who come to collect the due amount owed for your electricity and water bill should be tipped for walking around the streets of the city and ringing the hundreds of door bills to bring you your bill instead of you getting lost and trying to find where the companies are tipped for the door to door service.

By now I think you are getting the idea. I bet your asking yourself the same question that I had been asking myself for many years. Why and what for?

Well, to put it simply they have government jobs and don’t earn enough to live off of. So, to increase their monthly allowance all the tips they make give them a little bit extra to put food on their table. I think of it as me contributing and helping people in need.
Always make sure you have a wad of 1 pound coins handy!

I just recently celebrated my 32nd Birthday. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to spend any part of the day with family. They live in another city, (Alexandria) and I couldn’t be with them due to work. They were the first to send me birthday text messages and call me, because the date is forever engraved in their memory, (and they LOVE me to pieces). My celebration with them will be postponed until the weekend and I am truly looking forward to it.

My colleagues and friends in Cairo once they found out that is was my Birthday, they made sure that it would not be an unnoticed or quiet affair. My co-teacher told the students that she would bring in a cake, plates and candles for them to celebrate. They took the initiative to participate in the celebration and contributed as well, bringing chocolate to share, home-made cupcakes, pop corn, dozens of balloons blown and tied on the bus on the way to school as well as hand-made cards. I was deeply touched by the effort that they made and the gesture.

My Birthday fell on a Tuesday this year. Every Tuesday evening, my friends and I make a conscious effort to break the grueling routine of the week and meet up for a movie, arcades or dinner some where in Cairo. The turn out isn’t always big, due to traffic, work load, kids and other things that tie us up. That night, we were expecting around ten to twelve people to show up, but to my surprise 21 one people put everything on hold and came out to Le Pacha ( a boat on the Nile with many restaurants) to celebrate my birthday. Having my friends around me when I couldn’t be with my family was comforting and the best substitute I could have ever hoped for. I was deeply touched and as I looked around the table at all the faces that had congregated for the occasion, I couldn’t help but think ” I am lucky and I am liked”. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of friends or present.

The celebrations continued to the following evening where a few of my girlfriends and former work colleagues came over to my house to celebrate my birthday. Even though we had agreed that we would be ordering in food, they went out of their way to bake me some cupcakes and make a cherry cheese cake, (which is my favorite). We  sat around talking, catching up on each others news and telling each other stories as we dug in to our Thomas pizza. In the midst of their visit I also had an unexpected visitor who turned up at my house to surprise me with a gift. A colleague from work hadn’t wanted to embarrass me at work with a singing helium balloon and a gift, so she decided to pass by and give it to me in person.

It’s people like these who make your birthdays special and whom make you feel special. They keep insisting that ‘I Am Special’. I don’t see what they see in me, but I’m going to take their word for it. (I still think it’s them that make me special, because they  see something in me and they help to bring out the best in me)

I leave today, to spend the weekend with the most important people in my life and whom make every Birthday a special one.

I know some people like to go all out when they celebrate their birthdays to make them memorable, I personally find that the simpler the celebration and the lower your expectation is the more enjoyable and authentic it is.

So, I would like to thank every single person, who sent me a text message, called me and made an effort to see me for my birthday. I truly appreciate it.

Acts of Kindness

Nadia. M. N. El Abdin

Published in the April 2009 issue of Campus Magazine

 I wrote this piece a few months ago after a couple of inspiring events had taken place. After writing the piece I wanted to share it with as many people as I possibly could in the hopes that perhaps they too might be inspired to make a slight change. The piece was published in the May issue of ‘ ‘Campus’ magazine.  An English magazine that you can find in selected places. I didn’t feel that it got the attention that it deserved so after much thought I decided to post it  on the site.

       How often do you see someone in the street that you wish you had stopped to help but didn’t because you would have been late for a meeting, couldn’t find a parking space or had some other excuse? I will be the first to admit that I have done that a few times and the image of the person(s) stayed with me for quite some time afterwards and I would be filled with deep regret for not stopping to help. I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that I’ve turned into a saint and help every single person I come across that would be too farfetched. However I do make a conscious effort to help those that I can whenever and even more so when I have the means to do so.

On the eve of Eid El Atha I parked my car nearby my seamstress’s house and when I stepped out of the car I noticed that a few people were making a b-line as if to avoid something disgusting or even contagious. When I looked closely there lay a man sleeping on a piece of cardboard huddled under a blanket. The sight was both startling and very upsetting. As I walked away from the man and towards my destination, I couldn’t help but think of ways I could help that poor old man. After all it was the season and the time for giving those less fortunate than myself. It wasn’t until I had finished my errand and was heading back to the car did it hit me. I stopped at the local green grocer, who was just around the corner from where my car was parked and bought a mixture of fruit, juice boxes and bottles of water. I walked to my car placed the bags that I was carrying on the ground as quietly as I could because I didn’t want to wake the sleeping man and so that I could put some of my bags in the car. The parking attendant was very shocked to see that I closed the car door and picked up the remaining bags and went to the old man sleeping on the side walk. I wanted to place the bags as close to him as I could without stirring him, he must have sensed me because he awoke and saw me. I pointed to the bags and told him that they were for him.  I will never forget what followed he sat up and looked straight in to my eyes and because he was mute he placed his hands together palms facing up and raised his hands slightly towards the night sky. I couldn’t help but well up with tears and bow my head and walk away. As I write this, I can’t help but get emotional. The exchange between us had caused a few people in the street to stop and stare. When I reached my car the attendant recited a blessing as he held the door open for me. The feeling of helping that man especially after finding out he was mute is indescribable. I only wish I had been able to do more.

This past weekend I came down to Alexandria to pick up my parent’s from the airport. I pottered around the house getting things ready for them, did some last minute errands for them and for myself until their flight was due to arrive later that evening. I went to do some of their weeks shopping and as I rolled my trolley up and down the aisles of the hyper market bumping into some friends, striking up a conversation not knowing that another opportunity would be waiting literally right around the corner. I paid for the shopping and stopped at a coffee shop. As I sat inside sipping my orange juice, taking a bite from my spinach cheese pastry, skimming through a magazine and subconsciously checked things off on my mental to do list, two young girls walked in to the coffee shop, from their attire it was obvious that they could not afford any items on the menu. They sat at a table and as quietly as they could they pulled out a bag of potato chips that they had probably bought with their saved up money and sat sharing it between them. I knew that some individuals who like to go to the coffee shop wouldn’t appreciate their presence and would probably ask the employees to have them leave the premises. To ensure that no one would have the opportunity of putting the employees or the young girls in an embarrassing situation I quickly finished my beverage and pastry and pushed my trolley back to  the cashier and waited in line to place another order. I ordered two chocolate twist pastry and two orange juices and told the cashier to give it to the two little girls sitting at the table. The cashier sighed and smiled trying very hard to hold back the tears. I paid for the order and left. Although I wasn’t there to see their reaction, I know that they appreciated the gesture and felt special sitting there as equals to everyone else.

Acts of kindness don’t always have to be in the form of monetary things. It can be something as simple as acknowledging your waiter by his or her name when you’re at a restaurant and not talking at him or her but with them. Remember to thank them, when they bring your order and when they take the plate away. Believe me they will appreciate it more than you will ever know. You might have been the nicest person they have served all day. When you walk into your building and pass the porter (bowab), say hello and ask how they are and listen to their reply. When you are stuck in traffic, remember you aren’t the only one getting frustrated, there are all those other drivers who are stopped next to you probably feeling the same way you are, if the cars start to move and you see someone attempting to cross in front of you, let them, the few seconds you wait won’t make a difference and you never know you may be helping that person indirectly by getting to a place they may need to be urgently a little quicker.

 On that note, I challenge you! Yes, you! I challenge you to do something nice for someone else without expecting anything in return. It could be a stranger, a family member or a friend you know. I defy you to tell me that when you have done it that you didn’t feel good afterwards.