We finally pulled the onions last night! We planted them in November and watched to see how well they would grow in this soil. They did pretty well! Surprised everybody. Everything we successfully grow seems to surprise everybody! Not sure why… Last year they planted onions which were not successful! But that was probably the ‘Bad eyes’ of a neighbour who gave them his onion-planting advice. This consisted of telling them that onions do not need a lot of water therefore they should only water them every two weeks! Considering that it does not rain here and that the sun is always shining this seems like crazy advice but if you don’t know…When Omar told me this as we were planting them, with the help of his sister Nagat, I refuted it. Onions, like everything else need regular watering!!! Nagat concurred as she grows her own! So we watered them well and the result was big, juicy onions. The kind of onions you want someone else to chop because they are so strong!!!!
When I was first told the story of the neighbour with the Bad eyes I couldn’t quite figure out how this worked but every time this particular neighbour appeared it was a case of ‘Don’t show him anything as he has bad eyes and nothing will grow if he looks at it’!
One day, in a shop behind our garden, men were working on a water pipe and this particular neighbour was standing beside the hole looking in. You can guess what happened can’t you? The water pipe burst, no-one had any water for an entire day and a wall fell in ruining a palm-furniture man’s produce! The whole area was flooded and part of our garden was submerged in three feet of water! It was our neighbour’s bad eyes again!!!
I wanted to understand how this ‘bad eyes’ business actually worked, so I kept my own eyes open for every time he came by for a visit. Our onions were doing well with all our watering and care so his visits were not very welcome. But he appeared one day and of course the subject of the onions came up. I listened to the conversation and Omar translated what I didn’t understand. Again we were watering the onions too much, in his informed opinion, and we would be better off not watering them or they would be small and inedible!
As he spoke I became aware of the energy of his words and it was ‘envious resentment’. He was the kind of person who was envious of what his neighbours had and so took any opportunity to sabotage their endeavours. You know how it is. You have two children, one of whom is envious of the other’s relationship to the parent so they take any opportunity to ‘discourage’, with negative advice, anything which they feel envious of! OK. Now I was getting a handle of what people meant by ‘Bad Eyes’. However, the eyes only see, it is the voice and actions of the envious person which causes the problem. If you listen to them. Most people know the ones who have Bad Eyes. They have a reputation for it!
One evening Omar and myself went to the shop and people were setting up the souk stalls for the following day. Omar bumped into a man he knew and introduced me to him. This man looked at me a little too long for my comfort and held my hand in a ‘lascivious’ handshake, pulling his hand away slowly. It gave that horrible feeling of being ‘leched’ at that makes me feel angry. I said nothing until, continuing our walk across the souk, Omar said that the man had a reputation for having ‘bad eyes’ but he didn’t think it was true. I disagreed instantly and responded that he wasn’t a woman so he wouldn’t know. In this man’s case his bad eyes were bad thinking!!! I’m a ‘European’ woman, therefore sex is obviously what I am here for!! His belief about me was palpable and made me feel angry and disgusted but I had to smile and ‘be nice’ for the sake of decorum. Omar changed his mind about that man’s bad eyes!!!
Often, when people become ill, it is seen as the actions of someone with Bad Eyes! I have a friend next door, a Spanish woman, who suffers from allergies. When she becomes ill it is seen as the action of someone’s bad eyes as they are envious of her. Even the most educated of Egyptians in Upper Egypt will put problems down to Bad Eyes. They don’t realise that Bad Eyes only work if the person actually does something or says something to you which changes your actions!!!
Sometimes it makes a good excuse too! We bought some glass mugs around the corner in a little seed shop and all of them spontaneously shattered!!! It was weird. We would hear a sharp crack and a glass would just have shattered by itself! We told the man in the shop that all of the glasses had broken in this way and he put it down to’ bad eyes’ because someone who had seen us buy them must have had been jealous because Omar had a European wife! Good grief!!! Needless to say we didn’t get our money back so we just decided not to buy glasses there again. Perhaps the whole batch were faulty and unstable.
And so, back to the onions. We completely ignored the neighbours Bad Eye’d advice and did things our way and had a lovely crop of red and white onions! We harvested them late in the evening and all the kids and some of the family helped with the sorting of them. Omar’s mother then wanted to know why we had not planted more?! They said the same thing when we produced kilos of potatoes. Everyone was sceptical and reluctant to give us land to plant them and then when we lifted them they wanted to know why we didn’t plant more!!!! You can’t win.
But every success is a another battle won. Every little improvement, which makes life easier adds to the confidence they feel, that we do actually know what we are talking about!!! And that the Irish woman who helps her husband in the garden does actually know a thing or two about growing vegetables, even if it different to the way it has always been done!
Now, if only I could get them to understand organic soil improvement through the use of composting and mulching!!! That is my next goal, but it might take a little longer…