Blasted! Just in Time for Ramadhan! by Nadiya Johnson

In Philadelphia on a breezy beautiful summer night, my husband and I decided to take a walk with the baby. We walked around the LaSalle University campus; spic and span the streets so pristine you could eat off them. So well-lit in the summer night that we stopped and sat on a bench near the football field to take in the night breeze. After about 15 minutes, we began our descent into the darkness down the hill to our home on Church Lane. Me pushing the baby carriage, I turned my head to the right of me and looked at the ground and then turned to the left of me. I could see them coming down the street in formation running fast as if racing us down the hill. Without any words spoken between us, we picked up our pace. In rank and file these 8-legged brown soldiers moved quickly around us. It was as if they were our body guards and we were rock stars they had to get to safety. What do they want?! Where are they going?! We made it inside the house! Whew! But were we safe? One a night would be caught inside the house throughout the summer.

It was just like when I lived in Medina, Saudi Arabia, one big cockroach a night. I shared an apartment with another teacher who had made the mistake of taking a ground floor apartment. One brown creature a night was the average. They had 2 points of entry, sometimes from under the front door and other times through the bathroom wall fan. No matter what they had to be stopped from entering the bedrooms at all costs because we both slept on the floor. Imagine my horror when one Friday morning during a routine cleaning I found one dead, smashed under my blanket.
Egypt was no different. We had a lovely apartment in the 7th district with 2 big balconies with glass French doors. We kept the doors open and our biggest concern was the mosquitoes at night and an occasional bird that lost its way and would fly through the apartment. But sometimes for some reason, water would flow through the streets and THEY would run wild. I told the owner’s sister, “We had roaches in our ‘shaqqah’ (apartment) this morning.” She said, ‘ minal moyah! Minal moyah!’ (From the water), she pointed to the water that was flowing down the streets.
And just yesterday, at my home here in Qatar, what prompted me to write this story, I heard men in my back hoosh (yard) and I smelled something awful. I opened the kitchen window to see 4 Indian men, masks over their faces, one with a hose in his hand spraying what we call ‘soomm’ (poison). Exterminators! I watched from the window in horror as they opened the drain in the ground. You know when you cook popcorn on the stove and you lift the top while it is still popping and popcorn pops out everywhere? Well instead of popcorn, imagine big brown ‘sa-raa-seer’ with legs popping out of the drain in the floor when the Indian man opened it. “Too much! Too much!” he shouted. I slammed the window shut. They died all around him as he sprayed the ‘soomm’.
You know as I sit here and write I feel there are no end to the stories I could tell about ‘sa-raa-seer’. They have been a silent creepy part of my whole life and have followed me around the world. OK just one…maybe 2 more stories.
I was sitting with a group of Syrian sisters outside the Masjid in North Carolina, eating Iftaar in Ramadhan. Enjoying our food after a day of fasting we were talking and chillaxing, when suddenly a cry went up, “Sar-soor! Sar-soor!” (Although I was used to the word pronounced “Sir-saar” I knew exactly what she was talking about.) Everybody jumped up from the picnic benches we were sitting at. We looked around in suspense at the darkness of the ground, we all wondered, “where was it?!” Finally! A shoe was raised high and then came down with a smash! “Kha-laas! Kha-laas!”  Someone announced. Then everyone sat back down. Had they followed me from Church Lane? Or Medina? Or Cairo?
And in a place I least expected…when I visited my father in Virginia Beach last summer I noticed even in his high-end townhouse, little plastic traps set just under the kitchen counters. “What’s this?” I asked. “Traps for roaches, they come in here sometimes,” he said, “I don’t know how they get in… big ones too! ” “Yeah,” my uncle explained, this whole area is surrounded by water, they like it here.”
“They like it everywhere,” I thought, “Will they always find me wherever I go?”

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I know that they are a creation of Allah and Allah has created all things with a purpose. but somehow, that is just not that comforting to me.

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Author: Us-tatha Nadiya Johnson

I help put Arabic language on the tongues of Muslim families in the West. I provide learning materials, curriculum and consulting for Homeschoolers, Islamic schools and Weekend Learning Programs.

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