Monday, March 19, 2007


I’m almost done with a book that RB’s son’s ex-girlfriend loaned me, called Guests of the Sheik: An Ethnography of an Iraqi Village. Non-fiction, if you can believe it – seriously, I’m branching out, it’s kinda scary. It was written in the late 60’s, by a lady who lived in a fundamentalist Shiite village (El Nahra) for a year in 1957. Her husband was (is?) a social anthropologist, and they spent the first years of their marriage in this completely foreign environment. She had almost no Arabic, and she chose to wear the abayah and live in purdah (seclusion of women from most interaction with men.) This meant she was thrown into a society consisting almost entirely of women, having to start from scratch, as it were, with scant knowledge of the language and social customs.

It would have driven me insane in a matter of days. Hours, maybe.

Elizabeth Warnock Fernea, however, is made of stronger stuff.

I look forward to reading more of her work, but here are some of the things I can remember off the top of my head (before I forget):

  • Salination of farmland was a serious problem for rural Iraqis. Might still be; I haven’t gotten that far in my studies yet, although I’m very interested in finding out the causes of it.
  • Even if she’s veiled, men can often tell who a woman is simply by her height, her posture, the shape of her body under the abayah, and the way she walks.
  • The abayah in this village was worn most often clasped by one hand under the chin. I assume this is for ease of disrobing once a woman is in an appropriate environment, but it seems like a big pain in the ass to have only one hand to maneuver when traveling.
  • Occasionally some women would show a glimpse of ankle, sometimes adorned with a gold bracelet and emphasized by a brightly colored skirt under the black abayah. I can only imagine how erotic that could be for a woman in purdah to bare even that much skin to a man, and for a man to witness it. It might be enough of a hook for an historical romance (and yeah, I’m starting to mull it over in my head already.)
  • To be separated from one’s family even temporarily (as much as one might have disliked them) was a terrible fate, as so much of a person’s identity was created and sustained by their place in a family unit. The woman around Fernea in the village expressed much dismay and sympathy that she had lost her mother and was separated from her family.
  • The abayah – most especially when worn with a full face veil – provided protection from the sun as well as wind and the ensuing dust clouds. Interesting that in this village, at least, light skin was very much prized above dark skin.

Next on the list of Middle Eastern studies is Bernard LewisThe Middle East: A Brief History of the Last 2,000 Years. Which is, in itself, an amusing title.


Dinner last night was a perfectly slow-cooked corned beef brisket, cabbage cooked in. (I do so love the shiny new crock pot.) Mashed red potatoes, yellow and green beans, and pickled beets for me (Brian still maintains that they taste like dirt.) The only drawback was that the entire house reeked of cabbage for hours after. Probably still does, come to think of it; my nose has likely gotten used to it.


Per Brian’s request, I went to the doctor on Friday afternoon. I was seen quickly. Dr. K was about to leave for a week and it was late in the day, so the last thing they wanted was to have to stay open late for a patient. Dr. K usually sees elder patients, so I think she likes treating me simply because I’m a novelty item. I like her – she has a good sense of humor and some wild-ass hair to boot. It’s like my husband’s hair, on crack.

After some poking, prodding, and moving of the arm, she announced that I might have fractured my clavicle.

(“You broke your collarbone?” Brian chortled later.)

She suggested an x-ray, but agreed that it wouldn't tell us much. Whether the bone was just bruised or broken, it would still take six to eight weeks to heal, and I should just use it as little as possible. Sometimes you sling the arm, but in this case, I’ll just be really gentle. The worse part is trying to get Duckie into a shopping cart (yeeeeow!) and not being able to sleep on my left side. I turned over in my sleep the other night and was rudely awakened by a jolt of tearing pain across my shoulder. Even turning from flat on my back to the uninjured side was enough to wake me up thinking, “Well, that was stupid, Andi.”

Can’t run for another week or so – although come to think of it, the quick jog I did from the school to the car this morning didn’t hurt at all. Walking is fine.

Yoga will be tricky. I haven’t tried over the last week, but I might experiment a little this afternoon. As I’ve learned from other injured yogis, there are options for practice even if you’re hurt. I think it would do me some good to keep the blood flowing and oxygenated to sustain the healing process. Just v-e-r-y c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y.

So anyway, happy Monday, y’all. Share your weekends in comments!


SB Gypsy said...

My son broke his clavicle once when he was in summer day-"camp". Took awhile to heal. Hope they gave you some good meds, I know it hurts alot.

Sending a little healing energy your way.

James Ure said...

Where I lived in Africa light skin was highly prized as well.

That sucks about your collar bone. Ouchies!! I hope you can fine a way to keep up with your yoga. I know how important that is for you.

Our weekend is going good. Pretty boring though. :)

Rete said...

Andi, I loved the book Guests of the Sheik. If you truly liked that one, try Yusuf Idris' "The Cheapest Nights" or Sahar Khliefeh's "Wild Thorns." Both are true insights to the Middle East and its culture and attitude towards women and the causation of of political unrest. All three are permanent fixtures in my Middle East collection.