Thursday, September 27, 2012

My Memoirs as a Priest's Daughter - Part II




Written 2.3.2009
Acknowledgement:

Many thanks to Rania Joseph whose awesome feedback and questions directed the path to writing this piece. Also, thanks to everyone who asked questions that helped creating a material for this part of my memoirs.

About Part Two:
I never really wrote a part two to any of my essays, I always planned to do it with some essays and poems, but never actually did, except now! 

After the large amount of feedback I received face to face and through mails and Facebook, I had to continue with part two. But this is not the only reason I am writing this essay. I wanted to write part two because I had more stuff to say, I had more things to clarify about life in a priest's house and about our personal life as well. Maybe part two will not be as good as part one, but at least it will continue to record the history that created me. I also want people to understand and appreciate our life and be more merciful on priests and their families.
How It Affected My Actions: 
Being a priest's daughter is not an easy thing. I have been asked if it affected my actions; whether I've been told to do or not to do something because I was a priest's daughter. The answer is yes, it certainly did affect me greatly, from the country's and well as the church's perspective.

As for my childhood, I remember that when I was little, I wouldn't sleep before my dad gets home, which is typically very late! I also remember when I wanted to start service at church, dad wouldn't encourage me. As a result, I started later than the usual age we start the service at. He was afraid I wouldn't adjust, he knew I had a 'crazy'  liberated type of thinking and that I wouldn't be able to keep my mouth shut if I see something wrong, so he didn't want me to arouse troubles; people would say: "Look at what Fr Angelos' daughter is doing and saying!". But thank God I didn't listen to him! Yes, I've faced a lot of problems at service, but I would certainly call these problems as the "success opponent", because right now, I've proved that I am capable of doing a lot of things and I've done so many things in a very short time, so I gained people's respect. The most two things I am so happy with are creating a syllabus for the preparatory stage Sunday school and setting up a mini-library for its reference books, as well as teaching Coptic hymns.    

Another deep issue that still affects me till now is the way people look at me and us as the priest's family. People always look at you, the way you walk, talk and dress. They want to know who your friends are and who you talk to. Some people even add me to their Facebook friends' list out of curiosity!

However, because of all this and more, I have become so strong, determined, confident and so not-caring about what people say. As long as I want to do something, and I see it important and right, nothing will ever stop me.

It mostly affected my mum, she is a great woman and she had to fulfil both roles: father and mother at once, and she has done it perfectly and so courageously! But dad never lets go of any responsibility, but because there are places he can't go to, and because he isn't free most of the time, we are obliged to do many things on our own, and that even includes buying him his own shoes :) We always update him with whatever we do, and we always ask him for his opinion about things... I still show him any new stuff I buy: shoes, clothes, everything. And I even ask him if he thinks this outfit is better than the other... it's just the normal life!  He also drives me when I have exams, even till now, especially on the first day. And he calls if I'm late, even if he's not home, but he knows everything about us. We also go to Hurgada every year, and whenever he visits a church here in Alexandria for a sermon or an event, I go with him. So I didn't miss a thing! And we have lots of memories everywhere.

He's totally fulfilling his role as my father...but it's the things that this country has prevented us mostly from doing that I miss most, like going shopping together, or go on walks, or at least try to avoid people's comments and weird looks everywhere.

Advantages of Being Who I am: 
When I'm a daughter of a priest who is like my father, I get to be famous for his fame too :) I'm known anywhere I go, whenever anyone reads my name. I remember when I was first Alexandria in 5th primary school year, we had calls from all over Egypt, people who saw my photo in newspapers, and recognized my father, they felt it was not just a pride for me, but for everyone who loved my dad... I remember he was giving a sermon at St Shenouda Church in Kabbary here in Alexandria, and I was with him, few days after the school results were out, and the church's priest there took over the microphone and said: "we're so proud of Fr Angelos' daughter; she came out first this year".

So my name made me significant; unique... not just my father's name, but my own name Evronia too, which I'm so blessed to have. Afterall, I can use evronia@gmail, evronia@hotmail, and you can search Google for Evronia  (or Evronia Azer) and most of the results will refer to ME for like 3 pages long or even more... this is not a chance you get a lot! So, I am glad they gave me that name, and I'm glad I have my father's name included too :)
Big Secret!   
A big secret hardly anyone knows is that I was going to be deprived of the position (first Alexandria in 5th primary school year) because of the exact name I am proud of... People from the exams central control contacted us and they discussed the issue with us. There were 4 students including me, who tied at first place, and to arrange them, they usually used the alphabetical order, and since my name in Arabic starts with (Alef) I was going to be put at the top of the list of the top students. And certainly, they didn't want this to happen. They told us that my name couldn't be said first when they announced the top students on TV.  So they arranged students according to AGE!! For the first time in the history of examination results the younger came first.. and so my name came at the second of the list... However, my ranking didn't change (regardless of what we had to do in order to keep that ranking!) and even though there were unfair people, at least there was one good person who stood in the face of the administration and told them that it was MY RIGHT and my effort that brought me this position among the students and that I should receive it. And I thankfully did. There was even a newspaper that skipped publishing my name intentionally, and we had them telephoned! It was Al Ahram Al masaay. But I don't really care! Religious discrimination isn't new to Egypt, and it's not like I've won the Nobel Prize after all! Lol!  
Handling It All: 
I always thought that people don't draw a line between what's important and what's less important when dealing with priests, everyone think that his/her problem is the end of the world, and no one thinks for a second that the priest is a human being (I know that you may answer with the famous line of "a priest is supported by God's grace, may God bless him" ..etc :)   ), this doesn't mean we should forget that he is a human being, needs to rest, to spend time with his family and that some problems can wait! So basically, I get very angry with nonsense phone calls and late ones too, as well as "women's" calls!! lol! 

I've been also asked what we call dad at home... I certainly don't call him "Abouna" and tell him "nokabel el ayadi" when I see him!! And even if some priests' children do that, it certainly doesn't include naughty and noisy ME! I rarely call dad "dad" because I call him all types of nicknames and do all crazy things to him, that I seriously think God will reward him for putting up with me!!      
 
A Priest=A Rich Person: 
A very famous ugly quote in Arabic says "youm fi el farageyya wala sana fi el so3odeyya" (i.e. priests are the richest people). I have mentioned in my part one about the "integrity" of my father. However, it seems people didn't really get what I meant by that word. I am amazed that there are people who think priests have access to the church's money and that the church buys them houses and cars and give them luxurious lives, or that priests charge others for doing them stuff like weddings and other services! If some people do something, this doesn't mean ALL people are like that.

When I was a kid, I was once insulted by someone who I don't remember now anymore, he said that priests are very rich and a lot of other things I don't recall... but the only thing I remember is that I kept weeping all night long because I wanted to tell him that he was wrong, and that we never took a penny that wasn't ours.   

It seems that money is the only thing people think about these days. So to make it very clear to everyone, I will talk about how we live and I believe this applies to all other respectful priests and their families. Priests simply get a salary from the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchy (not from church). This salary is like any other salary at any other job; it increases with time, has some additions to it, and insurance money gets deducted from it as well, and so on. My father doesn't accept any type of additional money above the salary he deserves and what he is entitled to get. My father also does the official marriage court papers (Tawtheeq, like ma2zoon with Muslims) and he doesn't get any penny for doing this either, though many people do. I wonder why people think that priests were so poor before they were priests and that church is their only source of money! Don't they have decent families who probably gave them a heritage to inherit and paved the path for them to lead a good life before they'd become priests?!

This issue has been the core of heated discussions many times among me and other people, and has also been a deep concern for me whenever I was planning to do anything. For example, when I joined IGCSE, I was worried what people would say, it's something that cost around 15 000 pounds a year, and I remember that I told my parents that this was a lot of money and that I didn't want to join IGCSE, and I thought people would gossip. Before that when dad used to replace the car, or when my mom got a new small car, I also had fears. Why did I have fears? Because people would think stuff that weren't true! I hate to think that anyone is thinking that we are living in luxury on the account of church! But in times like that my mom always told me: "If someone has ever given us something, let them charge us for it, it's all from our hard work and we deserve to have a life."

So where does the money come from? It is an important question! Yes it happens that I'm leading a very nice life, and that my father is a priest, but it also happens that my mum is a very good manager, who knows how to spend in the right way, get everything we need and never be in need. Most importantly, we are lead by the grace of God! And I can see it every single day in my life.
  

My Father: Like No Other: 
My father is not a typical priest... perhaps the time has not come for everyone to know how special he is. There are stuff I have seen but I can't mention now, but I have permission to talk about something that happened to him, a miracle, because he has already talked about it at church. My father was riding with Fr. Kyrellos (From St Takla Church too) in the same car, and stopped at the traffic lights to cross Portsaid street before St Mark's College in Shatby area. Then, when the light was green and they were allowed to pass, a thin old man with a dark skin appeared in front of them and ordered them not to move. They were in a hurry so they told him to get out of the way, but the man wouldn't leave. At the same moment, the car that was beside them moved, and crashed  with another car that was coming from the perpendicular direction (From Portsaid Street) with a very great speed ignoring the traffic lights. While they were in shock from this horrible accident that left both cars in total wreck, they looked for the man, but he wasn't there any more. And from then on, they called this area (St Takla's traffic light) and we all still remember this incident whenever we pass by the area. {For those who don't know, St Takla was from   Ethiopia and he had a dark skin :) }
I have been once told by a very dear person to me: "If I had lived in a house like yours, I wouldn't have become worried about anything"... that's why I consider I have exceptional grace of God in my life because of my father.
 
Some Quick Advantages of Being a Priest's Daughter: 
- I get to meet a lot of Bishops, the Pope, a lot!
- I get to have access to all news and buzz going around in the Christian community.
- I get to have special prayers for me all the time and whenever I want!
- I get to eat a lot of Oblation. "2orban" :D

Finally:
I don't know if there will be part three or not, but I hope that I've set things straight with this article of mine. I will be happy to know what everyone thinks of what I wrote, and questions and comments are totally welcomed :)

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