Patience 

Guilty as charged. Bang went my promise of a blog post every night, the plans of cooking nutritional meals for me to regain my strength and the pep talk I gave myself about not being crabby when hungry. It has all flown straight out of the window.
We’re now on day 18 and I cannot begin to describe how proud I am for getting this far. At the start of Ramadan, day 18 seemed a million miles away, and here we are, with less that two weeks to go until Eid, and I’ve managed every single day.
The one thing I have noticed more than anything this year is the isolation. That has played the biggest part in why I haven’t blogged for so long. It is difficult enough living in a community which isn’t predominantly Muslim, as going about your everyday business, you could be forgiven for thinking that the days of Ramadan are just like any other. The isolation goes deeper though when you find yourself breaking your fast alone every night. For me there has been no extravagant meals. It seems pointless to make that extra effort when I cannot manage more than a plateful of food. The children have eaten a good few hours prior by that point, and I don’t want to cook more than necessary and have it go to waste.
Last year’s diet was mainly a small bowl of soup followed by some fried eggs. This year, I seem to be surviving on noodles. Quick and easy to make, just the right portion size and satisfyingly filling. I went one step further last night and followed it up with an egg sandwich, but by 9.30pm I am honestly past the point of hunger and just want to quench my thirst.
The isolation I have been feeling had led to me becoming slightly depressed and withdrawn. I would leave it until the last minute to leave home each morning to take the kids to school, and upon my return, shut myself off from the world until it was time to drag myself back out again in the afternoon. I wanted to interact with my friends, but realised my energy levels were sapping because I’d not had a decent meal for sahur. I was aware my breath wasn’t the most fragrant, and I found myself avoiding contact because I couldn’t be bothered to make the effort.
I missed the atmosphere of the holy month that I had been so used to in Istanbul in previous years. I missed the bustling conversation over the iftar meal on an evening. I missed listening to the drummer walking the streets in the early hours waking people up before sunrise. I felt resentful at my situation and I felt very alone.
The biggest lesson I have been taught over the past month is patience. Nothing in this life lasts forever. Every emotion we feel, every event we anticipate and every step we take is temporary. I constantly looked for a purpose, for an answer as to what I was doing with my life. I wondered when I would get my break, my good news and my focus. I had prayed so much to Allah knowing that prayers were so much more important in the holy month, and yet each day I woke with the same heavy heart and tired mind.
Today was the day I was to receive my good news and indeed, my prayers and patience had paid off. I received news that I had been accepted onto the undergraduate university course of my dreams. So many things had previously hindered me from studying for the career path I’d had in my mind since childhood. There in front of me was the email confirming my acceptance and I cried. I had done it. Despite the odds being stacked high of being a single mum to three children, going through a messy divorce and learning to stand on her own two feet again, I had done it. I had achieved what I’d set my heart on.
The first person I wanted to call was my mum. I wanted to scream down the phone and tell her my good news. I wanted to tell my Dad and show him that I was going to make him proud. I sat and looked around me and realised that the two people who would know just how much this meant to me, weren’t even there anymore and that hurt. 
I couldn’t get to school quickly enough this afternoon to tell my children. My girls were so happy for me, but their biggest worry was who would look after them when I would be studying. It was an understandable reaction after the upheaval of the past year. I then went to collect my son from his school, and his reaction was the best I could have ever wished for. He shouted for joy and gave me the biggest cuddle ever, with a smile beaming across his face. He knew just how much I wanted this, and what I didn’t have in terms of my parents celebrating with me, he certainly more than made up for it.
Today I got my purpose, something for myself. Today I learnt the lesson to never give up. So many days I felt I didn’t have the strength or determination any more. So many times I questioned when I would reap my rewards. Today my faith and beliefs were reconfirmed because I believe that this is my reward for never giving up.
I have my focus back, my motivation and more importantly, my smile. 

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Day 23. Baby On Board

I am writing this blog at my in-laws home in Istanbul. It is 1.15am and currently 24 degrees. I think I’ve lost a couple of pounds in sweat already. 
The journey today was not too stressful Alhamdulillah. The youngest and I managed to sleep for most of the coach journey (the other two children were far too excited). We arrived at the airport with four hours to spare, and I’m not sure if many of you have ever travelled from Luton Airport, but if you want a seat whilst you wait, I suggest you take your own fold up ones, otherwise be prepared to buff the floor with the backs of your trousers.
We almost never made it to Istanbul. My youngest daughter’s passport expires in November and usually the passport has to have six months remaining on the date of return. Having looked at the passports, I was greeted with a scowl and a shake of a head, along with the words ‘I cannot let you fly’. I’d had four hours broken sleep on a smelly bus, but I still had my wits about me. I proceeded to tell her that we held dual nationality and we were also Turkish citizens to which I received a smart reply saying that my passport didn’t state that. Well, it wouldn’t would it. In between gathering all passports and Turkish ID cards, she managed to drop my son’s card down the tiniest of slits in the conveyor belt where the suitcases get distributed. This wasn’t going to be my day.
After a lot of waiting around, and an overexcited son counting down the minutes until the gate opened, probably for the best part of 90 minutes, we finally boarded. All was calm until the moment the two year old boy in front of us was screaming blue murder because, well, I don’t know exactly what for, but it was enough to want me to get off the plane there and then. 
I had to feel empathy for the mother though. I had been in a similar situation before when my son was a baby, and still to this day, I have no idea what he was crying about. She was doing all she could to calm him down, but unfortunately sometimes these things just happen. It did become slightly inconvenient when a second child piped up three-quarters of the way into the flight, right until we landed on the Tarmac. I am not lying when I say that people were standing up and grabbing their bags whilst the plane was still hurtling down the runway after we landed.
As we drove home, the local parks and seasides were bustling with people who had prepared picnics for Iftar. Large rugs filled the grass along with freshly prepared food and flasks filled with rich Turkish tea. There were 10 people for Iftar this evening- a big difference from it just being the husband and I! The TV was on in the living room, with a program that counts down to Iftar. There was such a lovely atmosphere in the house, and I felt the magic of Ramadan that I hadn’t been feeling very much at home.
The call to prayer gave me goose pimples. I had missed the sound so much. It is a time where, especially during Ramadan, the evening prayer usually means thousand of people of praying in unison in order to break their fast. It takes a lot to beat a powerful stance like that.
Once Iftar had been eaten, and the table cleared away, the room was full of chat- something I had been missing so much. It almost feels like Istanbul comes alive from 9pm onwards as people have refreshed themselves, and head out in order to make the most of the time until sahur. Istanbul is well known for its status of being open 24 hours a day, and this tag didn’t disappoint when at midnight, my father in law was out buying freshly cooked bread. Of course, there would be extra supplies anyway because of Ramadan, but it kind of beats your average Asda trip for a loaf of Kingsmill.