She bought rice SheSaid: Tami Mohamed Brown's resourceful Egyptian family
"If the modern world were to suddenly implode and become void of all modern conveniences and routines, people left to fend for themselves, these [Egyptian] women, all seemingly tireless and incredibly resourceful, would stand a good chance of getting by."
-Tami Mohamed Brown
by Tami Mohamed Brown
When a historic revolution began in Egypt, my sisters-in-law and nieces went to the neighboring city of Al Mansoura to participate in the protest movement. My mother-in-law bought a year's supply of rice with a sense of necessity.
In the course of a week, life in Egypt changed dramatically after the largest demonstrations seen in decades began in Tahrir (Liberation) Square on January 25, with protestors-both men and women-calling for a new government-one that would be representative of the interests of the Egyptian people, freedom and justice.
At our home in Bloomington, I saw more coverage of current-day Egypt via the media than I'd seen in the last decade-the country suddenly represented as complex, far more complicated than King Tut, the pyramids and camels.
And while I watched events unfold on television that could only be described as life changing, in response to these dramatic times, my Egyptian mother-in-law didn't go to protest. Instead, she acted out of the simple practicality needed to support her family. She bought rice, as she has done for the last 45 years, sometimes with more urgency than other times.
This time, she felt, called for a good deal of urgency.
In comparison to the epic scale of the situation in Egypt as a whole it sounds, perhaps, a simple act. But I recognize it as important work, part of my mother-in-law's ongoing role in a female-dominated home. She constantly juggles and performs multiple roles. Only a month ago, I had written the following words to describe my husband's mother, his sisters, our nieces-words that now seem to have taken on new meaning: "If the modern world were to suddenly implode and become void of all modern conveniences and routines, people left to fend for themselves, these women, all seemingly tireless and incredibly resourceful, would stand a good chance of getting by." And while Egypt has, in a sense, imploded, they are, in fact, getting by, as are many women there.
The Egyptian women of my family have always been strong, in my eyes, and I've known for years that their daily lives were driven largely by the demands of keeping a family fed on a limited income, with limited resources, in a country that offered, quite honestly, a limited future to many of its citizens-women and men alike.
As a working mother here in America, I work and run a household too. My life, in perspective, is one of relative ease, one with so very many options. The sheer luck of geography-my birthplace and nationality-secured me an unquestionable set of rights that I've almost nonchalantly learned to carry with me since I was born. I've had the ability, with just one flash of my American passport, to come and go as I pleased. I've experienced choice and freedom and privilege on multiple levels, in so many ways.
As an American, I think, too, I take for granted that things will always turn out OK. I carry with me the hopeful and sometimes naïve optimism that I often read about or hear used as the descriptive to collectively define those around my age or younger, born and bred here in the U.S. Citizens of many other countries, other cultures have-or live-a different experience. It's nearly mind-blowing to see and hear many people experiencing Egypt from outside their comfort zone, to realize that the people in Egypt are-that they have been-struggling for human rights, dignity and freedom. This is not a new struggle for them.
Like the rest of us, they want the economic means to care for their families, to be able to provide for their daily needs. This is also nothing new.
"It will all be OK," I said when we got through to my mother-in-law via cell phone.
In'shallah, she said. God willing, it will be OK. Tami Mohamed Brown lives in Bloomington with her family.