Tuesday, May 19, 2009

New life

When I first moved to America, * taking a deep breath* my significant other took me to our local and just across the street (from where we lived at the time) thrift store, to buy our new, empty, rented place some cheap used furniture. * and release*

Needless to say I was shocked. ( I cried my eyes out actually!)

A little back ground about me and about where I come from in case you just happened to drop by here today, or if you happen to be amongst the rare few readers who don't know me on a personal level.

I am an upper middle class Egyptian, born and raised in the country. ( Unfortunately, and realistically speaking, class does matter in Egypt. It's almost an entire different culture between one class and the other, even the dialect is different, hence the mentioning of this particular matter. Believe me, all this stuff is going to be relevant, so bear with my annoying details)

In the social class I come from. People never go thrift-ing (if such a place exists to begin with. You do find whole neighborhoods dedicated to second hand stuff but even fanatic thrifters would raise their eyebrows if they go there, interesting cultural experience though) It's really looked down upon, it's viewed as just for people who can't afford to buy new stuff. Add to that that I was relatively a newly wed. Which in my culture even the poorest of the poor go in massive debt to buy their bride or daughter brand new things( not that I agree), probably custom made( which by the way is incredibly cheaper than ready made mass produced stuff in Egypt) * Hmm, this is taking longer than I had in my simple head*

What I'm trying to say or portray to all of you here is, how this ( meaning buying furniture for my new place at the thrift store) was like a slap on the face. And that's if you've successfully deciphered any of the poorly constructed sentences, random ramblings and unorganized thoughts written by a person who doesn't know why she's still wasting precious sleep time writing this very strange and probably disturbing to some(all?) post. Hmph!

Why am I typing all this nonsense you might ask? are you asking? are you? are you?
Well, since you asked! I wanted to share with you how I've really come along way. ( yes I'm totally praising myself. No modesty here. Sorry)

I proudly declare that I am no longer a wimp and that I am now an official thrift goer and lover. And I even re-purpose, re-cycle and give new life to old fraying things.

A couple of months back I entered a thrift store and came out with an old fraying hand made quilt. It had about at least a dozen tiny little holes... I loved it. I loved it because I knew someone spent long nights and days making it for loved ones. I knew that this piece of material carries memories. Memories of maybe little bodies huddled under it for warmth. Or maybe memories of marks and stains from grass and dirt while being spread out in a warm sunny day for a picnic. whatever it may be. Its there. And now I have a little piece of this old life too.

My husband once bought a century old Islamic style rosary for a good some of money. At the time I was so confused. Why would he want worm out prayer beads? I examined it for a while to see whats so special and I could clearly see how some of the beads were thinned from a certain angle from all the use( dhikr) during the years. He was so happy when the salesman dropped it in his palm. He started using it immediately, and he uses it to this day.
This Sibha ( rosary) carries the baraka( good energy) of a century's use. It's value can not be measured by money.

Let me try to end this while I still can...

New/old ( re-purposed and full of life) floor mat for in front of my sink. For all those hours spent washing those precious dishes. I added some batting for heel support.

Thank you for listening (reading).


Btw, I discovered I can set the time on my post and it publishes itself accordingly. So from now on look out for my posts in the morning.


Robyn said...

Even though it might appear that there are no class issues or any real defined class system, there is. Yes, people travel from one class to the next, that is possible. But as in Egypt, you would be hard pressed to find people of upper-middle or upper class status at a thrift store, estate sale, garage sale. They are the one's giving or selling their things away. that's why it's good to hi up a thrift store near a nice neighborhood because you know that stuff will be nice.
That being said, you shouldn't feel bad that you felt that way when you first got married. Though I come from a middle, lower-middle class family (teachers just don't get paid much here), I still wasn't anticipating having to get everything second-hand or being so thankful my MIL saved some of her furniture from the '70s and that some other muslims moving back home were selling us their stuff for way cheap.
To be honest, I don't know if i would thrift if I weren't in a need to do so. I would like to think I would simply because it is so much better to use what's already there than nes, but there is something nice about getting new things, too.

Robyn said...

I meant to also say that I like the rug.

Kate said...

Okay, can I just say that if we lived in the same neighborhood, we would sooo have to be friends. Because I a) love your blog and b) love that you "ramble" (which I actually don't think you do) late at night, when you are weaving together the then and the nows of your life, and that thread that ties between them. By the way, century old prayer beads? amazing. While I'm not muslim or buddhist or catholic, (just a run-o-the-mill overly liberal presbyterian, if I need to put a name on it) I love the idea of prayer beads, and do like to think someday I'll own some well loved rosary and will learn to pray with them. And pps-- I grew up in an upper-middle class suburb and I have to say, my mother still has to hide her shudder when I go thrifting:) (not that that is as extreme as a real class system, but still a stigma is a stigma is a stigma:))...

Saritta202 said...

I was introduced to thrifting back in college when my friends wanted to buy cheap objects to set as still life. When I decided to go with them I was facinated by the culture. I loved the sights, scenery and people. Dealing with these people taught me a lot about life. They were poor, but happy.

I found pleasure in digging into a pile of junk to produce a tiny statuette, or a unusually shaped bottle. Then buying it for a facinating price. I immediatly decided that I love thrifting. I don't think it has anything to do with class, or society.. It's like you said. The energy that comes from the object.

I love the rosary story... and I love the rug.

In case you are wondering which thrift neighberhood I went to. It was Soo' el Talat ;)

Azra Momin said...

Loved your story about the rosary! In India we don't have thrift stores, at least not in the city I come from. They have something called Chor Bazar, which means Thieves' Market, where you can get dubious-looking stuff cheap, but then you can't say where the seller got it, with that kind of name for the market. I actually haven't even seen the place.
Here in Canada I have yet to go to a thrift store, but they have such an aura about them, in my head at least!
Your rug is a beautiful find, and you're making great use of it.

UmmLayla said...

I can understand where you are coming from with the culture thing. The whole new husband buys the apartment, wife's family brings furniture, husband's family brings appliances... And of course wife gets showered with jewelry... It all seems to go out the window when you are in a mixed marriage. Maybe that's for the best in the end though.

As for thrifting, it's an acquired taste for all of us girl!!! But to know it is to love it, you got that right. And of course for the creative soul it offers a chance to express yourself. I personally like to go to thrift shops, but have lost my touch since I go so infrequently now (there are no good ones close to me).

I am trying to say I hear you. And even middle class me has cried over the no new house, no new furniture, no his and hers custom ordered linens, no picking out my dish pattern at the department store. But hey, I married a student. You get what you agree to right? I still don't have more than second hand house stuff. But you can bet that will make the first time I go and actually choose and order furniture for myself all the sweeter!LOL

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

I've lived in Egypt for 5 years now and I definitely understand where you are coming from. It's a very class-conscious society, and thrifting is not very popular here.
The rug is beautiful, and your blog is great!

Muslim Hippie said...

Thanks for your kind words everyone!

Sus said...

here from the blankie chronicles, because i figured anybody who loves kate as much as i do must be cool - and you are! love the repurposing. i lived in chicago for 6 or so years before moving back to indiana - south side and north side and ended up in Lincoln Square. You make me miss it!

good to meet you!

susan said...

What a beautiful post! And I can completely understand the love of the old tasbeeh. And the rug, too. :)

Lori said...

beautiful post!

i have a friend who swore she would never buy anything at a thrift store — she was raised to believe it was one step above dumpster diving (hey, and i’ve done both ;^) — but she is all about being green now and she finally has seen the light about reusing and repurposing!

there is nothing like the excitement of a person who has never thrifted when they find something beautiful they love for a dollar! ;^) then you know you’ve got them hooked! lol