Lilypie - Pregnancy

Thursday, September 23, 2010

[Umrah Take 2 cont'd]

So we survived that trying trip. As I was saying, this trip was much different from our first Umrah. Our first trip was much much more relaxed. Hubz later said he wanted me to experience my first Umrah in a calm environment so that I would appreciate it better. He'd gone for his first Umrah during Ramadan so it wasn't so enjoyable for him and he didn't want to put me through that. I'm glad he was so considerate, because I definitely enjoyed and appreciated the first one better. Then, even despite my gastritis and what have you, we had time to sit down, pray, reflect, appreciate the grandeur of the two Holy Mosques, and purposefully carry out our worship. This Umrah was much more hurried, and although hubz had his reasons for doing a day trip (because hotels in Makkah cost 10 times more during Ramadan, what more during the last 10 days), I wouldn't recommend it. The gruelling heat also made it very difficult, I'm thankful we went during winter previosuly because we weren't scorched and dehydrated then.

I wasn't very proud of my quickly-finish-it attitude this trip but I guess with the dehydration and exhaustion, I desperately wanted to get it over and done with and go home. I would, sadly, admit that during this trip, I was more of going through the rituals without appreciating each step of it. I hope God will still accept my Umrah.

Another reason for going during Ramadan was so that I could get used to the crowd that we'd see during Haj. I suppose I will be able to manage, as I long as I get to cling on to hubz all along the way hehe.

This trip made me realise the wisdom behind the greatness of doing Umrah during Ramadan. It is said that performing the Umrah at this time is as good as performing a Haj. Our test was made harder by the scorching summer sun, but I guess even without that, going for Umrah while you're fasting is a big test because apart from the rituals, you're tested further with the tiredness, hunger and thirst. It also teaches you to keep a tab on your patience.

Despite all the rough and tough, I'm once again very grateful that we were able to do this Umrah. Did I say this is probably the best thing about being here?? One friend said I was lucky because going to Makkah was as easy as driving from Sg to JB. Very true, though I'd say it's a little more like driving to KL, or maybe Penang heh. Insha Allah we'll be ready for our Haj this year. Better start studying up!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

[Umrah Take 2]

This post is long overdue. Should've been entered before the Hari Raya post. Anyway, here goes... (warning: it's gonna be a longgggggggg post...was generous on the description since it was only a one day journey hehe)

I thought this Umrah was going to be the same as the last, but my perception was quite off target. Firstly, instead of a gruelling 12 hour bus ride, we took a plane to Jeddah then a private car to Makkah. We were in our ihrams from home, and I was initially feeling a bit self-conscious being in my white prayer garment and hubz in his towels but upon reaching the airport, I realised we weren't the only one dressed like that (the men at least, the women were dressed in their usual black). We went during the second last Friday of Ramadan, so it being the last 10 days AND a Friday, we were in for a huge rush.

The flight was pretty uneventful and since it was Ramadan there was no food served but anyway, it was only a 1.5 hr journey. Upon touching down, there were plenty of taxi touts around. One guy offered 250 riyals and as we took another step he went down to 200, then 180. My smart husband said 100 but he said "No one will take you for that price". Two steps later, another guy took up our offer and off we went. Boo ya, haha. My legs were pretty cramped in the car and although I was pretty tired from the lack of sleep the previous night due to nervoussness/excitement, I couldn't nap.

We arrived an hour or so early for the Friday prayers but the crowd had already gathered. The main entrance was blocked by guards interlocking their arms in a huge ring around the entrance. We went around looking for a place to sit and finally settled at one spot which we thought was shaded. The shade only lasted awhile. Soon, we found ourselves under the scorching sun, slowly getting dehydrated while we waited patiently for the call to prayer. There were really some characters there - some women insisted on walking over and around those of us who were sitting just to get to the front and discover there was no more place and then walk back over/around us to finally settle down behind; one lady was creating a scene by screaming at the top of her lungs at the guards to let her into the mosque; others were arguing the same at another entrance at the poor guards who could do nothing but stand their ground. I really pitied the guards because they had to shout at the people while fasting. It was a little disappointing too since it was Ramadan, and was this the behaviour you should be on when you're fasting? If they're not letting you in I'm sure there's a good reason for it. So just go off and look for another place to pray. I'm sure God will accept your prayers whether you're inside or outside the mosque. Like seriously!

The wait for the prayers seemed like an eternity. An Arab lady was gesturing to me "Shams" (meaning sun) and I was like shaking my head in agreement. Hot hot hot. I guess it was about 46 degrees, if not closer to 50! Luckily I was in white and I noticed that when I covered my black stocking-ed feet with my skirt, it actually became cooler. Really pity all those who were totally in black. There were all sorts of methods people were using to cool themselves off. The girls in front of me had 2 bottles of ice...everytime some ice melted, they would take some of the water and pour it on their heads. Soon people around them saw what they were doing and requested for some water. Others had umbrellas with them, and one frail lady was lucky enough to share her shade with the Indo who had the umbrella, and also some water from the girls to cool herself. Soon, the Indo had 4 people under her tiny brollie - God bless her! Many others were using their prayer mats, even pieces of cardboard to put over their heads. At least we women could cover our heads, the poor men were left bare in their ihrams. If the heat was a test, it was sure a big one. There were a few casualties; one old lady nearby had to be taken away in a wheelchair. I'm sure there were many more. I myself was praying and praying that I would remain strong despite possibly suffering a heat stroke.

The sound of the prayers a very long wait later was like sweet music because we could finally get up and get out of the sun. I was overwhelmed when I realised the Imam leading the prayer was my favourite Quran-reciter - very lucky huh? He got emotional during the Friday sermon, which I unfortunately didn't understand. But when he said a few doas I was familiar with, I asked for God's mercy and thanked Him again for letting us be here.

Getting into the mosque after the prayers was another long wait. They were attempting to empty it first before letting us in, and with the hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of human beings there, it took forever. Even the guards must've realised it was taking forever so halfway through, they finally let people seep in even though people were still coming out. We started on the 1st floor with our Tawaf (circumambulation) thinking that it would be easier since it was less crowded and more shaded. As we stepped onto the Tawaf lane, my feet were almost scorched. After just a few steps I pleaded with hubs to do it in the shade although that wasn't the designated Tawaf area. As I processed the moment, I was thinking - wow, if this is how it feels under the scorching sun, imagine how the heat of hellfire will be. Dear Allah, save us all from that torment.

Our first three rounds on the first floor was incredibly slow. I was totally dehydrated and if it were not for hubz literally pulling me along, I don't think I would have made it. What made it worse was that since it was a bigger circumference, it took forever to complete. We would walk and walk and walk, and then I'd be like, oh no, we only covered one side of the Ka'bah. The zam zam taps were all turned off since it was Ramadan, so there was also no way to cool off. Thankfully I brought a tiny little bottle of water so we used that to sprinkle some water on our faces every now and then to cool off and prevent further dehydration. Although I was afraid of going to the ground floor to finish the rest of our Tawaf, we figured it would be much faster to clear. It was a good thing I brought my thick socks (special Umrah/Haj "socks" which they sell here that look a little like booties) so armed with that, we completed our next 4 rounds in half the time we took upstairs. Should've done that from the start heh.

The Sa'ee was also tough since our energy levels were super low. Imagine being hungry, dehydrated and having to walk hundreds of metres in a few hours. Sigh. We trudged on, with hubby giving me horse power and us taking rests along the way. A couple of times I was dizzy with exhaustion and almost felt like giving up. By some miracle, Alhamdulillah, we managed to complete our Umrah before Asr prayers. We were dead beat by then so instead of staying on for iftar/Maghrib as originally planned, hubz suggested we go back to the airport to rest and break our fast there. Seriously, at this point, I was too tired to even think about protesting.

We had pizzas and coffee at Jeddah airport, was unsuccessful in changing our flight to an earlier one and so had to wait another couple of hours for our flight back. We were so dehydrated we finished 2 cups of soda and 4 bottles of water for iftar alone. Later on we gulped down another 3 bottles of water even before getting on the plane, and we were still thirsty! This time there was refreshments on the plane (me loike..hehe...I live for airplane food lol) - a sandwich and drinks. Upon reaching the airport here, we bought more pizzas, from the same franchise at that, and made our way home. I told hubz it would be better if we ate now and slept later because after our exhaustion, we probably wouldn't be able to wake up to eat in the morning. So we had our suhoor at 2am, gulped down a bottle of 7-up and more water (yes we were still thirsty!!), and dozed off till noon the next day.

This is already a long entry, so I will write my reflections in another one...hope I didn't bore anyone already heh.

Friday, September 17, 2010

[Selamat Hari Raya / Eid Mubarak!]

My Desperate Housewives (@ DH) friends were telling me that Eid was gonna be boring here. According to them, people just go to the mosque in the morning then spend the whole day sleeping. Visiting and such maybe that night or the day after. I guess it would have been boring; since almost all of them either went back to India or went to other cities/across the causeway.

How was my first Eid away from home (not counting last year which I spent with hubby in Phuket hehe)? EK and us started from the night before, with our last iftar (break fast) at our place followed by a pizza "celebration" then a game of cards. On Eid itself, S gathered us S'poreans at her place for a potluck and as she put it, to have a little Hari Raya feel. It was a great gathering, chatting up with the Sg nurses, eating good Malay food and getting to know more people. After the meetup, we made our way to the stadium to watch fireworks. Cannot beat our National Day fireworks lah, but it was pretty nevertheless. Will upload it one fine day... EK were also on their way to catch the fireworks so we met them. After that, we went to their place for an eat-drink-and-be-merry time. This time there was beer, chips and more cards till 1am again. Happening right??

On Day 2 one of the nurses invited me to her compound for another little gathering. It was interesting walking around their grounds and experiencing a different kind of living here. Day 3 saw us on the outskirts of Riyadh, partly because we initially got lost thanks to wrong GPS coordinates, and partly cos AM's compound was literally in the middle of nowhere. It was food galore at their place. Chicken dishes, begedel, stir fried beans, even keropok ikan... mmm... yummy Indonesian food. I'd been craving for Malay food very much before this so these gatherings were a real treat. [On a side note, this was because firstly I don't cook much Malay food cos Mr F doesn't really like Malay food partly cos his chilli tolerance is pretty low, and secondly because the iftar gatherings at the DHs' houses were always very standard - haleem, fruit salad and briyani. Like ok, I love briyani, more aptly what we get in Sg, and not the Hyd kind, and 4-5 gatherings in a row of briyani, briyani and more briyani.....I don't mind staying off it for another 6 months now..hehehe). Needless to say I shamelessly packed food each time before going home. Hey, good food I've been craving for and 3 days of no cooking - why wouldn't I? :P I felt a little bad not giving duit raya (Raya money) to the kids but with our tight situation, we have to be thrifty.

I kinda regretted not spending my "last" Raya with my family (though at that time Phuket with the hubz sounded like a fantastic idea) especially when I started feeling homesick on Raya morning. I miss the Raya takbir (special call for Raya prayers) which I did not hear on Raya night nor the next morning, I miss mum shouting at us to get up early and go to the mosque or help her with cooking, I miss not having visitors i.e. Auntie's and Uncle's family in the day. I used to think Raya was a chore till of course now. When you don't have it, you miss it more. Despite this, I'm glad to say that I had an excellent time this Raya. Even more happening than in Sg since with my small family, our visiting can be done in a day or so. S brought up a relevant point that celebrating Raya away from home is sometimes better since there's no family drama and no need to make 4 sets of clothes for visiting (thank God we don't need to do the latter in our family). I'm really grateful and happy to have met with the lovely people here who made my first Raya away from home a very pleasant one. :)