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 Apparently I am incapable of teaching children how to talk, and therefore Charlie had his first speech therapy appointment this morning. It was Take Number Three, because the previous two attempts at an appointment this week were cancelled as the therapist was sick. The first morning, Monday, we were already on our way to the appointment when we got the call (via Bill) that it was cancelled. The make-up appointment was Wednesday, and we got all the way into the office only to learn it was cancelled. (They had my phone number wrong, which is why I didn't get a call on Monday. I admit, I had been thinking that they didn't call the moms at all - because oh why bother we have to get permission to do anything here anyway - but nope, happily I was wrong. Whew, and bad on me for thinking it.)

Anyway, the driver picked me up this morning and jokingly asked if the appointment had been cancelled yet. "Not yet," I replied ominously, "but if I come out of the office five minutes after you drop me off, I may be too livid to speak. In which case, drive me anywhere in the city you want to go."

(The driver laughed. I happen to like this driver; he has an excellent sense of humor and we get on like a house on fire.)

Luckily, the appointment was on. The place I'm taking Charlie is a much larger operation than the place where Andrew went in Virginia. It's been in operation for 25 years and is well-enough established that everyone who knows we're going there has heard of it, or knows someone who went there. I like the people we've met so far, and they seem to know what they're doing - they evaluated Charlie with the same materials used to evaluate Andrew, and their English is accentless and probably better than mine. I sat in on today's session, because it was the first, but eventually (assuming Charlie's good with it) I won't, and there's a closed-circuit television so I can watch and hear what's going on, which is pretty cool.

So, two 45-minute sessions a week until the end of the month, at which point it's Ramadan and everything stops anyway. And two weeks after that, we're back in the States, where maybe we can find a therapist for the nearly two months we're in Yuma who can continue Charlie's therapy. 

I have it in my head that he won't need as much of it as Andrew has. Andrew had expressive and receptive delays, but Charlie only has expressive delay. He's got about six words, none of which are said correctly, and his main form of communication is pointing and yelling. (At his age, he should be doing two-word sentences, or at least one-word sentences.) The biggest problem right now is that he won't even try to copy what we're saying, and he's surrounded by soft-sack adults who are too willing to just give him what he wants. (I.E., me.) 

So, therapy. I am oh-for-two, people.


In related news, those fidget-spinner things have hit the LoL, and a few of Andrew's classmates brought them to class this week and ended up getting them banned for the entire first grade. Which of course brought them to everyone else's attention, including Andrew, so when school let out on Tuesday, the entire lot of them came racing out of the building, and every single one went straight up to their parents and begged for one. 

Here's the thing: they're toys, yes. But supposedly they're pretty good at helping kids with autism or ADHD focus - I admit I have no idea how - and that's part of the problem in their being banned from a lot of schools: it's not fair to ban something that some kids actually use to learn. I'm not sure comparing it to banning reading glasses is appropriate, but it's the closest analogy I can think of at the moment.

Anyway, Andrew's not autistic, and he doesn't have an official diagnosis of ADHD (though I wouldn't be surprised if he has some form of it), but I figured I'd ask his teacher anyway if she thought the spinners would help.

Answer: Not only "yes probably", but that she'd willingly lift the ban for him if it does.

(Which has also sparked a whole discussion about whether or not we should actually have Andrew tested for ADHD, but we're waiting on the Learning Support folks to chime in first.)

So Andrew and I got to have a discussion over dinner about how maybe he'd be allowed to have a spinner in class, but only if it helps him focus, and he's not allowed to show off to his classmates that he's allowed one when they aren't, because that is Rude. And if Mrs. A says, "Okay, Andrew, this spinner is distracting you more than it's helping you, it's time to put it away and it's going to be an after-school thing only now," he's not allowed to complain or ask for another chance, the spinner goes in his backpack and comes straight home. (Which he seemed to get pretty quickly. Whether or not he does it without complaining or asking for another chance is another thing entirely.) 

So between Charlie's aborted speech therapies and an upcoming trip to the mall to get Andrew this fabulous flicky spinner thingie, I've been off the compound more in the last two weeks than I have since January. (Trips to London notwithstanding.) It feels very strange. Plus I feel guilty for requesting drivers all the time... which is not exactly a good thing, since I sort of need drivers for the next two years. (Argh. Driving. Also one of the reasons I like today's driver, he's the only one who laughs when I crack jokes about my inability to drive here.)

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Technology seems to be failing me as of late. My phone hasn't been working quite as well as it did before our trip to London earlier this month. I don't think London had anything to do with it; the phone is going on four years old, so it's probably well past its life span. It sent and received texts okay, but connecting to the internet was a pain, and I was never able to actually check my email. Since I wasn't able to take my laptop with me (argh, laptop travel ban, do NOT get me started on the idiocy of that laptop travel ban), it was my phone or bust. And apparently my phone was leaning toward bust.

The other thing leaning toward bust was my camera, which Charlie dropped on the parquet floor about three hours after we'd arrived. It looks fine, but the base won't recognize that the lens is properly attached (and trust me, the lens is properly attached), so I was unable to take any photographs with it at all. My phone takes horrible photos now - I'm not sure if it's the age of the phone or just my own snobbery - so there are very, very few photos of the kids in London.

I am, not surprisingly, kind of depressed about that.

I'm also upset about the camera. This is the second time I've broken (by myself or by proxy - Charlie getting hold of the camera was my fault) my camera overseas when there aren't many ways to get it fixed. I've already checked for a local camera repair place. I've found one - it's even an official location run by Sony, my camera's manufacturer - but there's no website and the Facebook page is... hysterical, to say the least. It's mostly people leaving messages about how one of the employees either kidnapped their daughter or owes them money or is otherwise a terrible individual and is wanted by the police.

("Yes, but can he fix my camera?!?!")

So I'm probably going to end up waiting until we're back in the States for the summer, when I'll take my camera to Best Buy where it is undoubtedly no longer under warranty (the last camera broke the day before the warranty expired, not that I could do much about that in Egypt).


But failing getting it fixed for a reasonable sum (and I have tried all the fixes I can find online; none of them work), I've decided that I'm just going to say "Screw it" and wait until the kids are older before getting another camera. By which point I'm sure they'll be powerful enough to take beautiful photos before I've even taken the lens cap off. And will break if I so much as touch them wrong.

One definite thing: I'm getting a new phone. Bill says I could get one now, here, but I can't see that being any cheaper than just walking into Verizon, handing over my current phone, saying, "My plan says I get a new phone", and then getting a new phone

The main technological question for the moment is how we're going to fly back to the States for the summer. The boys and I are going to stay with my parents in Arizona. We have two possible routes. The shortest trip involves three flights, but means flying through London, and therefore being unable to take my laptop.

The other trip is four flights, but goes through Frankfurt, which means that as long as the current laptop travel ban isn't extended, I'd be able to bring my laptop.

(Do not say I can check my laptop. Do not say I can check my laptop. DO. NOT. SAY. I. CAN. CHECK. MY. LAPTOP.)

Hence the dilemma. I survived a week in London without a laptop, sure. It was fine. I can't go for 2-1/2 months without one. Not when I have to be working on Pen's next books, not when I'm planning on publishing the summer camp story while we're in Arizona. (I figure my dad will get a kick out of watching me do that. He's like that.) 

Plus, we're assuming the laptop travel ban won't be extended, which I'm not entirely sure is a safe bet. (And assuming that the LoL doesn't say, "Screw you, TSA, we won't let you bring laptops to our country either." Which would be entirely understandable.)


I need to get off this compound in the worst way, but even if I did, there's not a heck of a lot I could do once I'm off it. There's only so many times you can walk laps inside a mall.

On the other hand.... I read some really nice reviews of Pen's stories today. That helped. And I re-read the Alphaverse story again after a discussion on Tumblr reminded me of it, and it's super dark (which might be contributing to my current frame of mind) but oh man, I didn't really want to stop reading it. I still don't think it's worth scrubbing for publication - who'd want to buy it, it's such a strange concept - but I really, really want to put it up on AO3 now.

Then again, I wanted to put the second season YOI fic immediately, and that's tanking, so I'm kind of doubting my ability to determine appropriate posting schedules right now.

Oh well. Let's see what else I can manage to get done before Charlie wakes up from his nap....
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 It's not the abaya that bothers me about the LoL.

I mean, I'd figured this out already. I've mentioned it once or twice or a dozen times in various online discussions. I seriously don't mind wearing the abaya - but I'm also the first to admit that my experience in wearing an abaya is also very much a product of me being a non-Muslim expat. I'm not subjected to the same expectations that local LoLian women face. My abaya is cream-colored. I usually don't fasten the snaps below my thighs. I don't wear a hijab, much less a veil. And so far, I haven't been challenged about wearing a headscarf - most of the expats I know have been confronted about wearing it at one point, though most of them have also been here longer so there's been more time in which to be challenged. (I also have no doubt I'll be challenged before I leave the LoL for good.)

So my abaya experience - both in what's expected and what I experience - is fairly atypical, and I know it. It's the idea that I am required to wear ANYTHING to conform to a religious standard that isn't my own which probably bothers people. The idea of it definitely bothered me a little bit, at first, and yeah, there are days I defy it or think, "I do not give a hoot that you think I should wear this thing." (Like this morning at the airport, when I deliberately did not fasten my snaps, but left my abaya open. Something I'd never dare to do anywhere else in town.) 

Now, I couldn't care less. Grabbing my abaya from the hook on the back of my office door is second-nature now. I finally remember to put my phone and keys anywhere but my jeans pockets (since I can't access them once the abaya is fastened). And I've gotten pretty good at putting the abaya on in the backseat of a car. I'm actually grateful for the abaya sometimes, because man, those stores are seriously over-air-conditioned, and it's nice to have that extra layer to keep me comfortable.

Nope. I joke about not wearing it... but I don't actually mind it so much.

What bothers me the most is not being able to drive. Not so much for me, but....

Okay, so for spring break we took the kids to London, because it's London and I love London, and Andrew has good memories of London, and they speak English and I can get around without needing to call for help and there's a ton of things to do and it's cold and and and and. They're probably stupid reasons, but whatever, they're ours. So we're in London, and because my life has its own trials and tribulations, the boys and I got there a day before Bill did. Anyway, we land at the airport and the company who rented us the house sent a car to meet us at the airport, and we get in and get to our house and it's fine and about an hour after we've settled in, I turn to the boys and say:

Me: Okay, kids, we're going grocery shopping.
Andrew: Yay! Who's driving us?
Me: Um. No one. We're walking.
Andrew: But... we're WALKING? Why isn't someone driving us?
Me: Because it's just around the corner, and we can walk here.

So we walk to the grocery store, and it's a Waitrose and it's fine and we find lots of funny flavors of things and walk home and unload our stuff and it's all good. 

The next day:

Me: Okay, kids, we're going to the Aquarium.
Andrew: Yay! Who's driving us?

(This is when I started to get worried.)

Me: Um. No one. We're taking the Tube.
Andrew: But who's taking us to the Tube?
Me: No one. We're walking.
Andrew: We can walk to the Tube?!?!?

Later that afternoon:

Me: Okay, kids, we're going to the pirate ship playground.*
Andrew: Yay! Who's driving us?

*AKA the Princess Diana Memorial Playground, but Andrew knows it as the Pirate Ship Playground

It took another day before Andrew finally stopped asking who was driving us every time we said we were going somewhere. (Which, incidentally, is when Bill finally joined us and I'm not going to think about the implications of that right now, though it probably only proves the point.)

And that scares me. I've driven this boy everywhere, his entire life, for seven years - and in a few short months, he is so used to me not being able to take him somewhere without some kind of escort that he expects one as a matter of course.

He knows I can't drive in the LoL, and he even knows that the law here prohibits me and any other woman to drive. And yes, he thinks it's silly and weird. But the idea that he's accepted it as the status quo and even tries to implement its ramifications (that I therefore need someone else to escort me where I want to go) is scary.

Momma cannot drive herself; she needs someone to do it for her. Therefore, Momma always needs someone to be with us when we go anywhere. Momma always needs an escort. Momma cannot go anywhere by herself.

It took a full 24 hours of me going where we wanted to go, just the three of us, before he stopped worrying about who would come with us. What will happen when we've been here for three years?

What would happen if he were older, and less quick to rewrite what he believes is the status quo?

(And then there's Charlie: who is too young now, but will be four when we leave for good. And will have spent the majority of his young life not being driven around by me. Is he going to be aware of the seismic shift? Or will it not worry him so much?)

The abaya doesn't bother me. It's a layer. I can shed it. It's not a big deal.

It's the things that aren't so easily shed that worry me, the things that burrow down without me even realizing, that pop up when we least expect them, but in the most obvious places. 


Jan. 10th, 2017 10:11 am
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 It's still dark outside when Charlie wakes up in the morning. In the house, it's quiet as I get dressed and make up a sippy of milk for him. We snuggle on his bed while he drinks and wakes up, the warm weight of him on my lap, the last vestiges of his sleep slowly melting away.

We go outside after, in the cool dark of morning before the sun has risen, and as soon as we open the door, we hear it.

The first call to prayer of the morning is otherworldly - think of a thousand voices moaning on the wind, coming from every and from no direction at all. The entire world sings in a sweeping sigh. 

Over this, there's a single voice, using words I can't understand but which are plaintive and meaningful to him. It carries over the rest of the voices, from some single point off in the distance. I could almost pinpoint its origin, even if I can't determine where the other voices are from. 

Charlie climbs up into his stroller, still working on his sippy of milk, ready to continue his wake-up routine as I walk laps around the complex. But I stand and listen a little longer, my iPod forgotten, the earbuds limp in my hands. None of the music I could play is as captivating or haunting or beautiful as what early morning provides on its own.

It's good music for thinking.

Come to pray, is what someone one told me the call to prayer says. It is good to pray to Allah, praying to Allah makes you happy, you will feel so much better when you are done. Come to pray, now is the time to pray. Come.

I think they're probably right. Just listening to the voices on the wind is a strange combination of soothing and mystical, confusing and calming. It's so much a part of the night - and so unlike every other call to prayer during the day, I feel as if I've stumbled upon something precious and private. Or maybe that it's playing just for me - my precious, private moment, just for me and Charlie.

Every morning, the first call to prayer greets us as we step out the door in the darkness. By the time I'm done walking, it's over, and the sun is rising, casting orange and golden light over everything.

I wonder if Charlie will remember it.

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