Algerian Belly Dancing

belly_dancer_anna_nyc01My Algerian girls are fasting again today. Before bed, they are singing in the other room, I think it might be a prayer. It’s a sweet sound. A couple of weeks ago it was Haha’s birthday. Facebook let me know, otherwise, I don’t know that they would have told me. Haha is not one to call attention to herself. She’s very modest…

Well, Nora and I do some last minute surprise planning and we bake a cake and prepare a nice lamb halal dinner and get Haha a present of a scarf and mitts (welcome to Canada’s winter) and Nora makes a special card and decorates the living room with streamers.

Haha walks in all quiet, her head down, and goes straight into her room. Nora is looking left and right and left and right, “What do we do now? Party over?!” I chuckle. “We’ll call her for dinner in about ten minutes.”

When we call the girls for dinner, Haha shuffles down the hall, blue as Eeyore, and then stops dead in her tracks when she sees the festive feast. She is genuinely surprised. (a rare thing in this day and age) She squeals with delight and Sousou calls out, “Birthday in Canada! Birthday in Canada!” then lets out a high party yodel (that apparently they do in Algeria) which makes us all laugh our heads off and join in. Haha kisses Nora so exuberantly, Nora shuts her eyes tightly, stiffens her body and sputters through her mouth, much like she does when she’s about to jump into a pool.

We have a lovely dinner and talk about their upcoming weddings. Nora is amazed to hear they wear seven different wedding dresses and have a different traditional dance for every dress. Sousou’s eyes light up. “Algerian belly dancing! Very sexy!” Then she immediately covers her mouth, Nora laughs at the naughty word and I assure her, “Don’t worry, Nora knows all the words to I’m too Sexy for Milan…too sexy for Milan…” And then we all break out into a high Algerian yodel again.

Well, out come the computers and the speakers and we are all learning to belly dance. Haha is far more shy with the gyrations but Sousou’s really got it going on, booty jiggle and all. I mean, move over Beyonce! It was incredible to see them come alive in this way: these two very modest observant PhD candidates. Then Sousou shows me one of the wedding dances where you gyrate while holding a blanket over your head. It might be the most erotic dance I’ve ever seen. Nora gives it all a go, her tiny tummy doing back flips to the degree that I start to become concerned about dinner making an encore.

Sousou and Haha are most certainly more than mortgage helpers. They have become very dear to us. And when they go in a month and a half there will be tears. And it is rather likely we may never see them again. Nora takes partings very hard: we’ve said a few, over her short years. Sometimes it’s distance, sometimes it’s death, sometimes it’s just someone being a jerk. And she always says, “Why does it hurt so much when people leave? It’s so sad.” And I always say “Because we have loved them, my dear. Because we have loved them. It would be sadder if it didn’t hurt.”

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