Thursday, 7 November 2013

Algeria, Nigeria... what's in a name....

The Emerald Isle
So it looked like all systems go.  I just had the ‘small’ detail of telling my family that we were going to live in Algeria.  When all they had ever heard in the media about Algeria was terrorism, earthquakes, and devastating floods, and I had a hard time trying to convince some Muslims, and especially some Algerians that we had not lost our minds (one lovely sister tried to persuade me not to sell our house, but to rent it out so that we would have somewhere to come back to “if” things did not work out.  I knew she meant “when”!), how was I going to convince my family?  A few years previously when I had mentioned to my younger sister that one day we would probably live in a Muslim country she burst into tears and said “So we will see even less of you and the children than we do already!”  I decided to write a letter to my mum and to each of my brothers and sisters explaining to them all the thinking and planning that had led us to this decision.  I remember the day I posted the letter to my mum – I felt so sick for the next few days thinking of her opening it and reading it.  I had deliberately posted hers before the others as I wanted her to hear from me first. As it happened she did not receive hers for some time and my sister, who had received hers first had already told her my news.  My Mum told me afterwards that she was a lot happier in finding out this way because, by the time she got the letter she was ready for it.  Subhanallah, man (and woman) plans but Allah is always the best of planners!!!!

Then we backed up the letter with a visit home so that they could all see that my husband wasn’t dragging me off to Algeria by my hair and that the children were happy about the move.  It amazes me sometimes how some non-Muslims can see things so much clearer than Muslims!  My mother told me that in many ways she was happy that we were going as she could never envisage a future for our children in England, living life the way we did.  My older sister said that she and her husband wondered why we hadn’t done it years ago! 

My younger sister had a family get-together in her home and it was such a happy and funny time for us all.  My mother, her sister and my niece were sitting chatting.  My aunt, my mum and their other sister were all in their 80s and often had highly entertaining (to the rest of us at least!) misunderstandings due to their difficulties of hearing.  “So why are you moving to Nigeria of all places?” asked my aunt.  I told her that I wasn’t, that we were moving to Algeria.  “But what made you decide to move there?”  I explained that as my husband came from there it seemed the most logical Muslimcountry to move to.  “But I thought he was from Algeria!”   Yes he is I told her.  “So why are you moving to Nigeria?”  At this stage my niece and I were avoiding each other’s eyes because it was all we could do not to laugh.  I told her again that we were not moving to Nigeria but to Algeria.  “So who told me you were moving to Nigeria?” she said, turning accusingly to my mum.   “Well, it certainly wasn’t me – why would I tell you she was moving to Nigeria when she is moving to Algeria!” retorted my mum. At this stage my niece and I had to get up and walk away with our shoulders shaking!

My mother kept saying, “When you move to Africa”.  It reminded me so much of that Meryl Streep film “Out of Africa” when she starts off saying “I had a farm in Africa”!  One of my mum’s sisters had married, given birth to 4 children and lived very happily in Kenya in the late 50s and early 60s, and the only contact then was via airmail post (which would have been more accurately named “snailmail”!) or telegraphs.  And then in the 70s my sister had gone to live there and married out there also, but although she could telephone it was so extremely expensive she never did.  And the flights to Kenya were so long because, of course, it was so much further away from Ireland than Algeria was.  So I found a map and showed my mum that Algeria was only on the other side of the Mediterranean Sea.  I tried to convince her that, in contrast to Kenya, Algeria was just a hop, skip and a jump from Ireland! She was comforted by that, by the fact that we were all so happy to be going and also by the promise we made to come back and visit once we had settled.  It really put her mind at ease.

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