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Literally an hour ago as we sat watching the Argentina vs Nigeria match both my iPhone and Karim’s Blackberry lit up simultaneously with an important message from his sister Zeina in the US. Over coffee and croissants at a small café, her boyfriend of three years had proposed! How lovely is that!

Being the good Arab-American boy he had met her dad beforehand and asked his permission to propose to her. He’s the son of a family friend who is practically family and Karim has known Omar since they moved into the same area back when they were both still in elementary school. And so now Zeina and her dude are engaged!

Karim pointed out that it would have been a little awkward had Zeina declined the offer (she’s known for her unpredictability lol) and had come home to her father’s beaming smile only to tell him that she had said no. But luckily she didn’t!

It’s these type of moments when I look over at Karim and wonder whether he misses being back in the US with his family. I get pangs of longing to be there myself and I had perhaps spent all in all of about a month if you gather up all the holidays and the time they came to London for the wedding. Just about one month of physically being in each others lives and yet there is this amazing bond that I wouldn’t have dreamed of.

Karim and me have had lengthy discussions about perhaps moving over there. But it’s difficult. I’ve just landed an amazing job, he still has a year and a bit to go on his PhD, I also have my two brothers here who I’d have to pack up and take with me lol.

I think about our future children and here in London, unless my brothers settle down here as well, they wont have any family. And that is a sad thought. Friends are amazing substitutes but it’s not the same.

For now we’re staying in London and meanwhile somewhere on the East Coast of the US our family rejoices and undoubtedly starts making plans for an engagement party.


Living in a relatively wealthy area of London doesn’t immune you from noisy neighbours unfortunately. For the past seven months there hasn’t been anyone living above us. Apparently it’s owned by an Italian couple who only frequent it come summertime. However, roughly a week ago they made their presence well known, with Opera being blurted out at an extraordinary volume.  I waited for about an hour before going upstairs and pounding on their door (it required fist-pounding because they didn’t seem to hear the door bell). I spoke to them explaining to them that the music was just too loud. I couldn’t even hear myself think! They apologised, switched off the music and I went back downstairs. Not even five minutes passed and it began again!!! I went up again, fuming but this time they wouldn’t open the door. I went downstairs and spoke to the porter (we live in a portered building) and he looked apologetically and told me this happens often when they’re over from Rome, and offered to come up and talk to them. They opened the door this time and apologised again, promising to turn down the music.

I suppose it’s because I only work three days a week and am at home on Mondays and Tuesdays, that I am the only one aware of the noise they make with their opera music (apart from 80-something Mrs Smosarski who is half deaf anyway).  I had to endure operatic voices filtering down into our apartment throughout the weekend and through into Monday and Tuesday, each day being played for four or five hours straight.

Today I came home from work, walked in our apartment straining to hear Pavarotti bellowing out Recondita Armonia from Puccini’s Tosca or Angela Gheorghiu singing the Habanera from Bizet’s Carmen. But nothing. Silence. I was sceptical though, and so as I prepared dinner I waited tentatively for the strains of music to start up. Until Karim walked into the apartment at around 7 and told me that John (the porter) had told him to inform me that the Italian couple had travelled back to Rome this afternoon. You should have seen me literally do a little skip and jump! Yipeee!

And by the way, for those wondering how I know my operas…my dad is a massive fan.

A friend who I had lost contact with about 4 years ago added me on Facebook and she commented that she was shocked that I was already married. The comment made me laugh because at the age of 20 when we last spoke I was adamant that I wasn’t going to settle down until I was 30 at the very earliest. I apparently didn’t have time for that kind of ‘stuff’. I was career driven, determined to get a MSc, get a job and to me at the time that meant no men.

But then Karim happened. I’m relatively stubborn, so the way I had began feeling about him didn’t factor into the path I had set myself. I continued to suppress my feelings for him, thinking that if I showed anything he’d say what I knew he was feeling and for some weird reason I thought I couldn’t consolidate my ambitions with love and relationship, which is preposterous now that I think about it. Three months after tip-toeing around the situation we began dating. But I made it clear that I wasn’t prepared to settle down anytime soon, that even getting engaged was not on the cards. Two months or so into our relationship my brothers figured out there was someone, and being brothers they wanted to check him out. Luckily I have the most amazing relationship with my brothers and they understand me and the bonus was/ is that Karim and them get on like a house on fire!

On one of my mother’s visits to London she caught wind of our relationship and kept pestering me about what his intentions were. There were quite a few arguments if I’m honest about this between mum and me (but we’ve had a relatively turbulent relationship – luckily it seems to have settled down in the last year). We had been dating for almost six months then and I was open with Karim about what my mum was thinking. That’s when he told me that he was ready to propose to me at least a month ago but that he knew how I felt about getting tied down formally. You would think that hearing an admission like that would make me run a mile but I couldn’t stop laughing. It occurred to me right there and then that I didn’t want to spend my life with anybody except Karim, he has in all honesty become my best, best friend, I was completely in love with him and if I allowed myself to imagine being married, it would be to him. And so we got engaged and a year and a bit later we got married.

I am lucky that I’m married to a guy who isn’t insecure enough to stop me from getting on with my life, from stifling my ambitions. If anything he encourages me, even nudges me forward to do better. He’s the kindest person I know, and I know everyone says that about the person they love, but after the flack that he got from my mother and the way he handled it all with such grace I found myself falling in love with him all over again.

So yes, two years ago I would never have imagined that I would be married being determined as I was not to fall, thinking that marriage was a trap. And then Karim came along changing the way I thought about marriage, washing away my insecurities and my assuredness that it meant the end for me as a person. If anything, he’s made me grow, wiser, more worldly, more confident and so much more in love.

When I wasn’t married food didn’t worry me. I lived in London on my own since the age of eighteen, so fending for myself food-wise basically meant frequenting the different restaurants on Edgware Road. It was practical. I lived just off Edgware Road so why would I go anywhere else when there was tabouli, shawerma, shish tawooq, batata 7ara right on my door step.

Until I was 24 when I finally married the man that stole my heart at the age of 22 I hardly spent any time cooking and any culinary activity that took place in my kitchen was pouring milk over cereal. I have to admit that for the first three months of our marriage we did splash out on eating out and ordering take-ways or deliveries – you know, we were still in honeymoon mode. But we knew it couldn’t last and so I headed out to Waterstones and spent hours browsing the cookery section. I picked up some books on Middle Eastern cookery in an attempt to replicate the delicious meals I had on Edgware Road during my student years.

 As someone who never thought they would find satisfaction in cooking I was slightly shocked at how now I love spending time in our kitchen. We’re entering our eighth month of married life and I’ve realised that I seem to have a knack for cooking up a storm in the kitchen. I’ve also found myself collecting recipe’s from all over, things on tv, articles on the net, from my mum, Karim’s mum and especially from Karim’s dad’s wife who is a phenomenal cook. We’ve actually established an internet relationship where she’d send me and e-mail saying “Amira, I’ve tried out this new recipe. Try it on Karim.” – case in point, yesterdays Chicken Parmesan Bake! I do have to make some modifications though. Like Karim and I LOVE salt (I know, I know, its bad for us) but Tante Maysoon (Karim’s dad’s wife) doesn’t put as much salt as we do (due to health reasons) and so her instructions of ¼ teaspoon results in 2 teaspoons. Or when she gave me the recipe for musakhan and says use a whole chicken – a whole chicken for a family of four fine, but for two people no, so I ended up using just chicken drumsticks.

In all honesty I always found myself recoiling from the kitchen, not wanting to be labelled as that stereotypical Arab woman who slaves away chopping dicing onions, slicing peppers, boiling broth and whatnot. But my love for my forays into the culinary world goes way beyond my reluctance to appear as the clichéd wife.

It’s been hard getting back into the groove of blogging. This, despite having time on my hands after the reduction in working days. But everything seems too mundane to blog about and so I keep quiet and this blog remains dormant. But my best friend told me yesterday that her hubby has got an amazing opportunity in the UAE and that by the end of September they will be moving out there for good! Now that is something to write about 😦

I met Jumana on my first day at uni as an excited, gonna-change-the-world 18-year-old. I was standing outside the lecture theatre and she came along, her unruly golden mop of curls bouncing the way they always do as she walks. I smiled at her and that gave her enough encouragement to stick her hand out and very formally say “Hello, I’m Jumana, and your name is?”

That was six years ago. Since then we’ve graduated, she’s moved to Dubai for a year, I progressed to another university for my MSc, we’ve fallen in love, gotten married and one of us has a little baby girl! 

She’s been a constant in my life, even that year she was in Dubai. Not a day went by without long telephone calls that ranked up phone bills that we then gasped at but proceeded to continue with anyway. It will probably be the same when she leaves in September. The wonder that is Skype will be in constant use and we’ve both already agreed that we’ll pressure our husbands into spending holidays either in London or Abu Dhabi just so we can maximise the time we spend together throughout the coming years.

A part of me will miss Jumana, but the idea of not seeing baby Aida every week is unfathomable! I’ve seen this little thing grow and watched her character form and I can’t believe she’s five months old now! (I know you thought I was talking about a much older child right? Not something that has been with us for 5 months only?) But yeah, I can’t imagine it. My brothers are not getting married any time soon and Karim and me are not planning on having kids for a while yet, so Aida bears the brunt of my baby-cravings, my silly voices, the weird facial expressions that I make in oder to get her to laugh! I gonna miss that kid like hell when she goes.

But hey, I’ve still got 5 months of memory-making until they fly off. But even then, they’re only a flight away 🙂

Two weeks ago, my boss called me into her office.  I instantly thought doom; that they were going to get rid of me, I mean, after all I was just filling in for a six month maternity leave and there were only two more months left of that.

She told me to sit down and smiled sympathetically at me from across her desk. She asked me how I was. I answered that I’m fine. What was I supposed to say, I’m freaking out! Wondering what’s warranted this impromptu meeting! That Karim and me hadn’t sorted out our expenses to not include my income yet!

She nodded and said that was good, that she was glad I was fine and then started talking about how the organisation, unfortunately, wasn’t fine, that it  had been hit pretty badly with the credit crisis and what not, that their budget has to go further, that they have been asking people to voluntarily reduce their hours, that some people are going to start working a 3 or a 2 day week instead of being in every day and I felt like screaming, Just fire me already!

“But you, Amira, you have a 6-month contract with us, because as you know, Amira, you’re covering Amy’s maternity leave. And your contract, Amira, is ending in about two months time.”

I nod. What else was I supposed to do? Start begging her to keep me on. That I’m excellent at what I do, that she said so herself! That I get on with everyone in my department, and it’s important to have a good team, a good morale within the work dynamics is good, good, really good, for the organisation. But yeah, I just nodded.

And so she continued, “So, Amira, we were thinking…” Oh crap, here it comes, the Alan Sugar moment – you’re fired! “ We were thinking…yes, we were thinking…” Stop saying ‘we were thinking’!!! “ ..that you would like to remain with us for the foreseeable future?”

Huh? What? What was all that hoohaa about the credit crisis, blah blah blah? There’s a catch! There must be a catch! Where’s the catch?

“The catch is…” *sigh*There’s the catch. “We’ll have to reduce your days from full time to two days a week. And one day you’ll be working from home. What do you think?”

There was no two ways about it, after I graduated from uni with my MSc it had taken me a year to find a job, especially one that deals with International Relations – the subject that I had specialised in, so of course I said yes.  

And so today is my first day at home, not working. It gives me a chance to kick back and relax, enjoy two extra days of the week, spend time with my best friend and baby Aida. And actually see my hubby more. So, although our expenses will have a knock, there’s always a silver lining! Yep, always a silver lining under my slice of sky!


What in the World am I doing…

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