While visiting Luxor, Egypt, our Airbnb host, Ghamoury, invited my sister Destinee and I to a wedding party. We excitedly accepted the unexpected cultural opportunity. He drove us down a narrow dirt road parallel to a canal fed by the Nile River. We arrived after the party was in full swing. Ghamoury parked precariously next to the canal in the only space still available. He led us through the crowd of neighbors and found a spot to sit.
I loved sitting outside in the Egyptian moonlight listening to some toe-tapping live music. Men were dancing. The Egyptian women all sat beyond an undrawn boundary line, chatting and laughing. My sister, a European woman–who I’d actually met on the plane from Bulgaria to Cairo–and I represented womanhood in the festivity’s inner circle. When I asked Ghamoury about it, he shrugged and said we were his guests.
The groom-to-be graciously introduced himself to us and welcomed us to the celebration. The community celebrates with nightly parties for a whole week before a wedding. Dressed impeccably, groom-to-be commanded presence in a regal manor as he walked around the party. Destinee and I felt a little conspicuous since we’d spent the day hiking around temples and tombs and had been hot and sweaty.
After awhile, I asked Ghamoury about the bride. I excitedly anticipated seeing her. Ghamoury explained that the bride wasn’t there. She doesn’t attend any of the pre-wedding festivities.
He abruptly left us for a while. We sat and watched the merry-makers. Some guys dared Destinee to dance the stick dance, not with them, but by them.
Ghamoury returned and told us to follow him. He took us back to the women section and a giggling group of girls. He said something to the group in Arabic, said he wanted us to have something to remember the night by, and left us to fend for ourselves. We pretty much had no idea what was going on.
The girls took our hands and led us to a table. We understood that they wanted to put henna on our hands. Sure, why not? What could it hurt? I’ve seen henna. It’s so beautiful and delicate. Well, that’s what I expected.
The girls giggled and chatted and asked us lots of questions we couldn’t understand. They understood some English, so we pretty much asked each girl what her name was—repeatedly. ☺ We were so interesting to them and them to us.
They grabbed this gooey, mud-like, orangy-brown stuff, put it into the palms of our hands, and closed our fingers tightly over the stuff and motioned that we were to remain that way. They squeezed our fingers into the goo until it squeezed through and coated our fingers. And then they repeatedly covered our fingernails in the orange mud.
This wasn’t the dainty henna painting I imagined. But, it seemed harmless and we kind of enjoyed our time more with these tweens and teens than the men anyway. So, we stood there, palm fists tightly clasping the stuff, awkwardly chatting with the girls and the gob of people who gathered to take a lot of pictures, including selfies, with us. We felt oddly glamourized…until we tired of one guy’s incessant pictures and Destinee asked him to stop.
After nearly an hour– which is longer than I thought we’d be at the party in the first place—our henna was approved. We washed off the gooey mud and voila! Totally orange hands and fingernails. I expected a round two. But, that was it! The final product! The girls proudly motioned that we finished. Another round of pictures began.
I stared at my hands and suddenly couldn’t stop laughing. Hysterical. So basically, we stood there for an hour, which I thought was prepping for something still to come…something meaningful and beautiful…but actually, I just stood there for an hour, with my hands tightly fisted, to stain my hands orange. I figured it was a prank. But nobody’s reaction indicated they felt it was a prank. So, I just laughed and laughed.
Destinee danced with the girls. The girls moved magically to the music. Happiness abounded. Picture taking abounded. Orange stain on our hands abounded. It was past midnight and we were ready to go back to the flat.
Still a little perplexed about the purpose of it all, Destinee and I laughed about our orange hands for the rest of our trip. The stain started fading on her hands more quickly than mine. We compared our hands every morning. By the end of our two weeks, flesh color dominated the orange on our hands.
But, our fingernails were a different story. Our hand henna occurred March 19th. As of June 24th, the tips of my fingernails still bear that orange stain. I called and asked Destinee about her fingernails. She said that she’s painted her nails to cover the henna stain. Her tips are still orange, too.
I never imagined that the henna would affect me longer than a passing thought. It was something I did for fun that I thought I could just wash off, and probably eventually forget about. But, its effects have lingered and lingered. And every time I look at my hands and fingernails, I see orange stain. And I’ve realized something. Everything we do does matter and leaves lasting impressions.
Of course, I know that actions have consequences. When I was a kid, my parents sat us down and told us about drugs and the specific effects drugs have on the body. That FHE lesson REALLY impacted me. I’ve seen consequential effects of addictive lifestyles. I’m intrigued by scientific studies finding how actions have long-term impact—for example, exposure to violence affects children’s DNA so significantly that it can ultimately reduce the child’s life span by 7-10 years.
But, what about mundane things? Here are some headlines about basic things we all know about.
How does Food Impact Health? “The food we eat gives our bodies the “information” and materials they need to function properly. If we don’t get the right information, our metabolic processes suffer and our health declines. … In short, what we eat is central to our health.”
Why Sleep is Important and What Happens When You Don’t Get Enough “Sleep is essential for a person’s health and wellbeing…yet millions of people do not get enough sleep and many suffer from lack of sleep. For example, … 60 percent of adults report having sleep problems a few nights a week or more….more than 40 percent of adults experience daytime sleepiness severe enough to interfere with their daily activities at least a few days each month. Furthermore, 69 percent of children experience one or more sleep problems a few nights or more during a week.”
Regular Cleaning is Good for Your Heart and Soul. “A clean house isn’t just “nice to have,” it’s actually a necessity for good mental and physical health.”
I clearly understand these impacts, but in full disclosure, I’m sitting here sleepy, having just eaten pineapple and Cheetos for lunch, in a room that needs cleaning.
The effects of these choices are as obvious as henna fingers, but apparently I’ve learned to ignore them. Maybe I expect radically different consequences to show up one day—like how fingernail growth eventually displaces the henna stain.
Yesterday, I had a chat with a friend who is organized and “with it.” She doesn’t just act like she’s organized and with it, she actually really is. In response to me asking how she “did it,” she said that she let go of her fear of failure and competing with other people. She rushes into life, understanding that she will experience failures. Regardless of failure or success, she measures herself against the measuring stick she feels God has for her.
If she’s failed at something, she consciously acknowledges the choice and result and determines how to improve the result. If she sins, she repents. If she succeeds, she repeats those choices until it becomes second nature.
She’s not a spectator in her own life. She acts instead of reacts. If she doesn’t like something, she identifies the cause and effect and changes it. By living consciously and intentionally, she has gained a talent, a spiritual gift, for moving forward in life.
The subsequent effect of a lifetime of choices is clearly obvious. She radiates health and happiness that’s authentic and beautiful. And to me, the coolest effect of her choices is that she LIVES. She’s disciplined enough to do the basic, mundane things efficiently and quickly leaving time to serve the Lord, time to do things she enjoys, and time to play with her family.
So what consequences am I choosing to accept? A violent movie imprints itself on our minds, and so does scripture. Negative thoughts about ourselves and others influence our well-being, and so does love. A good night’s sleep leaves a lasting influence throughout the day, and so does a bad one. Big decisions culminate to define our lives, and so do tiny ones.
After three months of watching my henna fingernails grow out, I truly appreciate the lesson of that spontaneous, “non-effect”, decision. What I do or don’t decide to do matters and the consequences are usually as obvious as orange hands and fingernails.
I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have moved 64 times and have not tired of experiencing this beautiful earth! I love the people, languages, histories/anthropologies, & especially religious cultures of the world. My life long passion is the study & searching out of religious symbolism, specifically related to ancient & modern temples. My husband Anthony and I love our bulldog Stig, adventures, traveling, movies, motorcycling, and time with friends and family.