Thursday, 27 August 2015

The kindness and goodness of strangers

It started as a day like any other.  My eldest, Sarah left home at 8.00 am to travel into Algiers with her brother.  He duly dropped her off at Tefora bus station in Algiers and continued on to his hospital appointment.  When he returned home alone just before 1.00 pm I was not overly worried.   Sarah had gone to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Rouisseau, a place infamous for being somewhere people disappeared for inordinately long periods of time.

When the doorbell went at around 1.30 pm I just assumed it was my youngest son’s friend…the one who is around at our house so often we’ve been tempted to put him in our Family Book. Instead it was one of Sarah’s students to tell us that someone had found her phone and had rung them to let them know, seeing as their number was the last one she rang.   ‘How kind’ I thought…of her student and of the person who had found her phone.  My son rang her phone and arranged to go and pick it up.  Meanwhile I had visions of Sarah frantically looking everywhere for her phone, retracing her steps all to no avail…..and with no way of telling her she was wasting her time.

2.30 pm came and went and I wasn’t really worried….she may have decided to give up and go get her paperwork anyway.   3.00 pm had arrived, and no sign of her and, at this time I was supposed to be at a friend’s house for coffee, so I texted her to let her know I would be late.  By 3.15 I was becoming annoyed….why couldn’t she pop into a taxi-phone and call us?  When we first moved to Algeria 12 years ago (yup…it’s been THAT long!) there was one on every corner where you could go in make a phone call in a small phone booth and then pay when you had finished.  Now, with a mobile pressed up to every ear I’m hard pressed to remember the last time I saw one. Of course there is also the fact that mobile phones have made us practically number illiterate with few of us knowing any phone numbers by heart.  But I knew she would remember our home phone number….she had to repeat it to Algerie Telecom enough times to have it burnt into her brain.   But…there are cyber-cafes EVERYWHERE…..She could send me or her sister a message on Facebook or email me.  By 3.30 pm I was almost convinced she had been kidnapped and sold into white slavery.  I say ‘almost’ because the only thing holding me back from the brink of insanity was the knowledge that she had lost it in Tafora, one of the busiest bus stations in Algiers, and the upside of Algerians being so interfering and nosy caring and curious is that there is no way anyone could be attacked in broad daylight in such a busy place without several people intervening.  And there was also the fact that no Algerian kidnapper worth his salt would leave a perfectly good iPhone behind
 At 3.40 pm she finally sauntered in the door and I didn’t know whether to hit her or hug her.  The day, of course, had been so very different from her perspective.  She had realised she was missing her phone within fifteen minutes of dropping it, but was almost convinced she had dropped it in the car….of course she couldn’t ring her brother to check.  So she retraced her steps back to the bus station and looked up and down the footpath where she had walked.  There was a cleaner nearby so she asked him if he had seen it, and he told her he hadn’t but…she could ring her number with his phone.  I’m amazed she knew her own number but she did ring and it rang out.  She thanked the cleaner and walked back to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs where she spent the rest of the day.   If you know anything at all about this place you will know that in terms of awfulness it comes close to being sold into slavery.  It is notorious for its ineptitude and inefficiency , and, as a result it’s like a monster that swallows people whole and spits them out in pieces.  People enter these premises perfectly sane and calm and come out as total lunatics spitting fire.

When she finally was reunited with her phone she saw she had 24 missed calls between the first time she had used the cleaner’s phone up until lunch time…. The cleaner had taken it upon himself to try and make contact with whoever had picked up her phone (I don’t think there was much cleaning done as a result!).  But it seems that it was an older gentleman who had picked up the phone and not knowing how to answer it had left it ring, although not without opening some apps in his first few attempts to answer the darned thing.  When he arrived home he handed it to his son who contacted Sarah’s student (and also finally answered the cleaner’s call!).

So all’s well that ends well.  Sarah was reunited with her phone and I burnt a few calories pacing the floor with worry while also making it to my friend’s home for coffee where I had a lovely afternoon (adding on all the lost calories) with a few other friends.   And… of all……our faith in the innate goodness and kindness of strangers, in general, and Algerians in particular, was strengthened.  Alhamdulilah…there is always more good than bad in this world.


  1. assalamu alaikum sister, ma shaa Allah very nice reading your blog allahumma barik!

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  2. Walaykum asalaam wa rahmatulah wa barakatu, BarakAllahufiki for your comment - I'd be very honoured and flattered if you re-posted any of my posts. I've had a look at your site and it looks very interesting at first glance Allahibarek. Wa iyakum.