domenica 22 settembre 2013

There is always a first time

I have two really good friends in Abu Dhabi, Sabrina and Mohammed. They have been my rock for the first few months in the country. We have known each other for years now and their three little monkeys: Lauren (9), Khaled (4) and Malek (2) call me "amto kamilah". In Arabic this is what you call a paternal aunt. We are close.

On more than one occasion, I have told Bina and Moh to leave the kids with me so they could enjoy an evening together. They always thanked me but said that we need to do this gradually, as the little one in particular needs to get to know me better. So perhaps once I'd take them to the shop, another time for a longer trip and so forth until they won't mind being with me without their parents. 
This was about 5 months ago. Nothing of the above ever happened. The kids see me a lot as I am at their house regularly, including many sleep overs, but I never took them anywhere on my own. Not even to the pool downstairs. 

Today, Bina texts me asking if I could mind the kids for a little while before Moh comes back from work because she would like to watch Cork playing an important Gaelic football match. I agree to get there by 4, go jog in her gym then mind the kids for one or two hours max. 

So, at 5.30 I knock at her door looking forward to my after-run shower before I could set the table for the dinner she prepared, and watch some tv not too long before Mohammed comes. Easy no?

Instead this is how it went:
Bina shoves me into the shower saying I need to drive Lauren to her violin class by 6. I have, of course, to take the two boys with me too. I alert that I have no child seat for any of them. She grins (thinking I am so going to the match!) and says:"just put the belt on".
Hold on! Malek is a tiny thing. He is TWO! plus I have no buggies. There are two of them; little monkeys. What do I do once I drop Lauren? How do I keep them both safe and alive for 30 minutes without securing them to a buggy? Bina grins again and says:"you will be just fine". In the meantime Moh comes in, with an equally marked grin. He looks at me and says: "kami, am thinking of going with Bina to the match". Conspiracy!! I mean what happened to: "you need to gradually let them get used to you?" What if I wanted to gradually get used to them?! Hu?

Anyways, we jump in the car (I will spare you the silly talk and voices I had to make to convince the two year old to come with me and leave his mum) and secured the massive seat belts around their tiny tiny wastes and drove 1 block. 
I drop Lauren in front of her class and what do I glimpse? The solution to my problems. An ice cream shop. I decide to buy them the biggest ice creams ever to keep them busy 30 minutes. Long enough for Lauren to finish her class (no comments allowed). Thirty minutes and several scoops all over them later Lauren is back and we can go home (not before we burst into the shop to buy yoghurt and this was an adventure in itself-as I lost Khaled for 5 minutes and I almost died... Another story). 
So, now I have to find the right plates,  cutlery, cups, right sizes AND in matching colours. Sorted! Then I fill them with the delicious food prepared by Bina. I watch them eat, play, and make a mess. I tolerate it all. Except when they cry. 
I could not believe it. It is almost 7:30. Bina was strict:"They have to go to bed. The boys will cry but ignore them". I was ready!
I pick Khaled change him, tuck him into bed. Easy peasy! He reminds me he needs a cup of milk. Done, sorted. "Wait, don't turn off the lights completely." Of course. Night night. No crying..phew

I turn my attention to the  smallest monkey. I am ready to put his PJ on, prepare the milk bottle, endure some crying and then bed. 
But a strong smell emanating from the little creature gave me a wake up call. Hold your horses Kamilah. Not so fast, not so fast. 
For one second I thought: NO WAY I will change his nappy. No way, I have managed to avoid this for 32 years. I won't start now. You know me: am not a child/toddler friendly woman. I mean, I love these kids (and my many other nephews and nieces) but am the kind of aunt who does not try to step into the parents shoes in any way. Am an aunt. I do aunty things. There is a strict line. 

I feel guilty, the tiny thing is obviously uncomfortable in his current situation. Who would not be. I have no other choice but to face reality and do it. Man, they owe me BIG time. I put panic and disgust aside and think: I can do this. Of course! I have done multinomial logistic regressions, I have done harder things than this (sigh).

I need help. Khaled and Lauren come to my rescue, they show me all the suppiles I need for this surgical operation. I find clean nappies, wet wipes, clean clothes. I don't find gloves (sadly). 

I put Malek in the shower so I can be assisted by water and soap. I remove the toxic thing from the tiny creature. A sigh of relief. His. I take a wipe, and take a big breath. How come there is still so much shit (literally) on his bum when the nappy was so damn full already? I reach the shower, check the temperature, he starts crying, I turn the shower off, turn the tap on, give him the soap and beg him to wash. The boy is TWO! he does not get it. He keeps washing his hands. So, we go back to the shower thingie and I aim a water jet on his bum. He laughs. Good. There is hope. 

I grab the nappy. I have no freaking idea which is the front and which is the back. It looks perfectly symmetrical to me. I stand Malek on his feet and try to fit the nappy. I watched nappies ads. Babies are horizontal on beds usually. But how hard can it be to just stick it on while he stands? Hard. Very hard. So, I "gently" lay him in bed and in a respectable 3 minutes the thing is on. Loose, but on. I did it!!

When I put him in bed with his bottle, am ready to endure his crying and begging to stay up. Bina had warned me. To my surprise, he drinks his bottle, says "kiss", I reach down and obey, he waves goodbye and closes his eyes. 
We are both exhausted ...

mercoledì 11 settembre 2013

Living off my suitcase

Many things change in life, some do not. One that always stays the same is my nomadic life and living off a trolley or a suitcase. After London, Genoa, London, Skiathos I am now all packed again ready to fly to Germany. I am off to attend and celebrate the wedding of my dearest friend Bille. I am super excited to see her get married to her wonderful and lovely husband-to-be, Carsten.

Who would have ever known that from a study visit to Trinity College Dublin back in 2006 I would have met this woman who became one of my partners in crime. A sister.

We laughed, suffered (PhD)... grew together.  We visited each other in Dublin, Genoa, Berlin, Bonn, Cologne, London, Frankfurt, and Wuppertal. We listened to each other's love stories and were there for each other to pick up the pieces when it was over. I even convinced her to become blonde for a while (below the proof back in 2007, during our own PhD camp in Genova, with lots of sun and little research).


I saw Bille as a student, as Doctor in Philosophy, I witnessed her first days as Assistant Professor, until she became (yes!) a full Professor. I was there. I saw her turning into the beautiful woman, mother to be, that she is today.

I am truly blessed to be there on a day so special for her. To help her wear a beautiful dress which cannot hide the little treasure she is growing in her tummy. Thank you Sibylle for being one of those reasons which make living off a suitcase so pleasant and so worth it! 

In less than 3 weeks I will be packing again to another destination. To another wedding. Another reunion. Another reason to unpack, pack, sleep little, laugh (and cry) a lot and celebrate life.

lunedì 9 settembre 2013

Perle di saggezza di una mamma (italiana adottata dagli arabi)

" ...e sono felice con te ...vedrai piano piano la vita li' anche se non diventerà dolce come l'assal* ...sara' un po meno mor**"

*Assal (عسل): miele
**Mor (مر): amaro
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