Following the Unexpected Path :: Meet Donia


unexpected pathMy name is Donia, pronounces like the Spanish word Doña. Not Danyuh and not Donna or Dona. I just wanted to get this out of the way since I am rarely called by my real name. I am a Westchester County mom to two beautiful girls, Dania (pronounced Danyuh), who just turned 16 and is an independent, talented, and smart young lady who wants to study and live abroad. And Mirette (rhymes with Roulette) a 9-year-old who is kind, philosophical, sophisticated, and wise beyond her years. She is curious about everything and has her own unique opinions and views that she is always eager to share.

I am also a stepmom to two beautiful and smart girls, Nada, who is turning 30 soon and whom I consider a little sister since she is only 10 years younger than me. And Malak, who is 25. She was seven years old when I first met her and whom I first practiced being a mom with. She is still little Lulu in my eyes.

I am a pet mom to two cats Tiger an 8-year-old wise guy and, Drogo, a 4-year-old daredevil, and last but certainly not least, Max, a 2-year-old sweet and smart German Shepherd.

I moved to Mount Kisco in June 2013. Before that, we lived in Bayonne, NJ, in a diverse ex-pat community for about two years and one year before that in New York City. Coming from Cairo, Egypt, I found that NYC was an exciting place to live. There was always something to do, and I could walk by myself day and night, which I could never do before.

Everything was new, and we quickly ended our relationship with The Big Apple when we realized how expensive it truly was. It took us a few months to realize that a $6600 rent was unsustainable. We treated the dollar as we did the Egyptian pound, and that was a big financial mistake.

You see, in Egypt, we lived a somewhat luxurious life, an enormous 2100+ square feet apartment in an upscale building in the heart of Cairo. Our neighbors were ex-ministers, and government officials, one of them was the president’s brother-in-law (a big deal there). We went on vacations whenever we felt like it. We belonged to a sports club that extended over 200 acres. We did not think of how much we spent. We just got whatever we wanted.

So, when we moved to New York City and found a beautiful three-bedroom apartment on the East River for just $6600 a month, we thought it was a steal. Same as the international school we enrolled our daughters in. Not so proud of that either.

Some ex-pat parents at the girls’ school lived in this beautiful community on the Hudson River in Bayonne, NJ. And we loved it. It was less expensive, but not so much given that we all had to commute to the city for school, unlike the city we now needed cars. Our family was growing too as I got pregnant with my younger daughter. So, we needed to act fast and change our mentality to live a sustainable and decent life that balances our past lives and current situation.

Thank goodness for the internet because it saved our necks as with everything else. I did my research and found out about Westchester County. The main goal was to find somewhere to live with good schools close to the city and affordable. So, every weekend we would go on a little road trip to visit a couple of school districts rated among the best in the area.

One day we were heading to the next destination Mount Kisco. We got off the Saw Mill at exit 34 and turned right onto route 133 / East Main Street, and we were immediately impressed with the historic feel of that portion of the street. Going down that hillside, we both said at the same time, “This is it!” we fell in love instantly.

The town had this small-town charm you only saw in movies if you are a city person (which was our case). Yet it was big enough that it had everything we could need. It was almost Christmas, and the town was cheerfully decorated. The only thing that would have made this scene truly picture-perfect was if up in the sky was Santa’s sleigh. We found it! How incredibly grateful we did on that rainy winter day.

Moving to a new country can be challenging especially if you have no family or friends nearby and three girls in different stages of their education. One in college, one in high school, and one is just starting elementary school.

Although we moved six times in the first two years, trying to figure out this new life and adjust. We realized we could not stay at the Omni indefinitely. I could not handle money; I did not understand the currency, especially the coins (it was strange that people handed me coins as change at stores). I studied them for a while and still forget what a nickel is sometimes. We pretty much do not deal with coins in Egypt, and anything less than 10 Egyptian pounds was considered change, and you would leave it behind. You are considered cheap if you ask for it.

I did not understand the imperial unit system. It took me a few weeks to get used to the pound vs. kilogram, mile vs. kilometer, and Fahrenheit vs. Celsius. Food was a different endeavor altogether. I could not tolerate the weather. I felt miserable with my ears freezing off mid-October. That was a big turn-off until I learned how to shop appropriately for the weather. I was afraid to speak because of my accent but only for a couple of days when I found almost everyone around me had a different accent, and that was ok.

I would not change a thing. I am still living a dream 11 years later. I am so grateful for whatever chance that led us where we are now and to the path we took (or the path that took us). Westchester is home now, and this is where I want to raise my girls.

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Donia is a stay-at-home Egyptian archaeologist who majored in Egyptology. Egyptology had always been her passion since childhood. But family is her biggest passion. She lives in Mount Kisco with her husband Ayman, their daughters Dania (2005) and Mirette (2012), their cats Tiger and Drogo, and their German Shepherd Max. She is also a stepmom to two girls Nada (1991) and Malak (1995). When she is not busy taking care of her big family, she enjoys anything Sci-Fi and fantasy, watching cooking and baking competition shows, playing the drums, playing tennis with her husband, video games, and DIY projects. According to her girls, she particularly enjoys event and travel planning for her family and always goes all-out and prepares too much for an event. She is excited to join Westchester County Mom to share her experience as an expat and mom.