Friday, December 31, 2010

Letters from Egypt: Ending a Decade


“Cheers to a new year and another chance to get it right.” – Oprah

Taken from NYE 2010 - scary
I don’t believe in New Year resolutions because let’s be honest, who ever really keeps them? I do believe in having a bucket list, but that’s become a little muddled through the years. All the while, I still have a lot of hopes for 2011.

So for this upcoming year, I’ve decided that I’m about to end a decade – and what have I done? Okay, maybe I’ve done a lot compared to some, but I haven’t done remotely anything compared to others. And while I don’t turn 30 until 2012, this is my last full year in my 20s, and I want to make it count.

There are a lot of things that I keep holding on to that while they might have made me the person I am, I don’t want them to continue to bring me down. So here’s to me working on moving past…well, moving past my past.

There are a lot of things that I do, making my life run in a continuous circle, I hope to be better at recognizing those repeated actions. There are some of you that while I appreciate all the great things you have done for me, sometimes we have to realize that our road was the same for the time, but a fork has appeared. And I need to take a different route. It doesn’t mean that I’m disloyal; it just means that this year, I need to take more time for me in order to better myself. Our paths may cross again and at that time, I hope that I’m the friend that you need.

This year, I’m going to travel. Every year I say this, but every year I get bogged down with work and saving up to visit home (which happens once a year). While I love my home and miss it greatly, now’s the time for me to really live it up and say that I got out there, I experienced life and I made my 20s worth something.

To start off small, I’m making plans to go to Israel – which was always on my bucket list. A friend from NY will be taking his birth right to Israel during the end of February and beginning of March. I have a friend from Cairo that is currently living there. Why not now? So, mark the date: beginning of March – I’m off to Israel.

That brings me to visiting my good Texan friend from Cairo out in Romania. I never thought I’d have a desire, but you know, what can it hurt? If anything I see another part of the world that I’ve never remotely ventured to before, or ever really thought I would.

There are other places that I want to go, but I have to be realistic all the same. Money doesn’t grow on trees.

And for the question on everyone’s mind: when am I leaving Cairo? The same response will be given: I don’t know. I’ve been a little sad for a couple of months now. I sat myself down and realized that something has to change. I found out something about someone from my past not too long ago and it brought up feelings that I once had for them. And while I was going to contact the person after the New Year, I’ve decided that while I’m letting a lot of things go in order to end the decade on a good foot – as you should do for the ending of every decade – maybe it’s time I let that person go too.

The change isn’t going to happen overnight, but I hope that by this time next year I’m not questioning myself wondering if I’m any better today than I was when I first arrived in Cairo on July 10, 2008.

And here’s to all the people that I’ve been so blessed to meet on my travels, the ones that have always stayed with me throughout the years, and for all the ones that will soon enter my life.

Happy New Year!

~LeAnne

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Letters from Egypt: The Egyptian Psyche


Nelson's going away party
When I first moved here, I didn’t want to be that foreigner that stayed in her expat group, never leaving Maadi or getting to know what the culture/society was like. And I did just that – I got out and I really tried to experience the life (often to my detriment). Yes I got burned quite a few times and I want to make it clear, there are some great people here. And to add to that standard disclaimer, every country/society has bad apples. Okay, now that I’ve given the politically correct statement, let’s move on.

One thing I’ve noticed about myself is that although I got out and tried to get a grasp on local living, I find myself clawing my way back to the confines of my expat circle. Egypt has really changed me, some for the positive and also in a few negative ways. I loved to meet new people, note the past tense, and now I could care less if I meet anyone. I also despise fake, materialistic people – which was always a thing of mine. However, I used to tolerate it a great deal more than now.

Now what I’m about to tell you can be applicable to others that you know, whom may not be Egyptian; however, I have found that this characteristic is more prevalent throughout this society than any other that I’ve seen.

The commonality: Egyptians have a need to be liked by all.

This feat, much like getting work done during Ramadan, is simply impossible to accomplish. But that doesn’t stop them from trying. True enough they don’t like everyone (and sometimes I have to wonder if many like anyone other than what they can get), but being able to walk up to someone and say hi is far greater than their possible disdain for the person because, after all, it allows them to add another “friend” to their list. It is all about quantity, definitely unconcerned with quality.

I am brutally honest, many times to a fault. If I don’t like you, you are well aware of it. However, I’m 28-years old and I’m more than willing to go about my business without causing a scene. I will not go out of my way to speak to you and nor should you really approach me. You do you, I’ll do me (classic Jersey Shore). This is just unheard of here. Even if you detest the other person, it’s the standard societal norm to approach, say hi, kiss kiss and make small talk.

Why?

And even when an Egyptian knows that (s)he did something to hurt/upset you, they will go out of their way to contact you in order to make it appear as though nothing is wrong and to gauge your reaction. Life is a game to them, and you need to know what game you’re playing before being thrown into the arena. This is the game: show little to no reaction and go about your business. However, know who you’re dealing with and that they are very delicate. The slightest thing will hurt their feelings and don’t forget about the classic “Egyptian Turnaround” that I’ve noted in several blog posts. No matter who is at fault, you will ultimately be blamed.

This “turnaround” can show in various situations from a foreigner simply wanting her street cleaned and someone saying, “Take care as foreigners doing certain things are seen as imposing colonialism.” I forgot that Egypt gained its independence in 1922 and while less than 4% of the population is 65+, that the possible 1% that are 88 and older remember what Egypt was like to be under British control. I had no idea that wanting to help clean my street would remotely, could remotely, be seen as imperialistic. Silly me.

Or for the person that lied, cheated and stole from me to not understand why I wouldn’t want to kiss kiss and pretend all is right with the world. Silly me, I should just continue down this torturous road to allow you to repeat your previous actions. After all, I must be an idiot not to like it.

And finally, a word of caution: foreigners are viewed by many as simply an opportunistic thing. Having a foreigner as a friend gives the notion that an Egyptian may be upper class, even if (s)he is not. It’s all about image and you can find yourself simply an ornament of fashion, much like the Paris Hilton’s chihuahua. It isn’t a pleasant realization and I’ve held back awhile on placing it on my blog, but this is the truth. It is important to note that these people should be seen as your gateways to meeting your real friends. This advice can be used in any move that you may make whether it be within your own country or to foreign lands.

It took me about a year to meet people whom I consider class acts. I went through a lot of these opportunistic individuals, but for the diamonds that I somehow managed to find, I wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world. I suppose dealing with what I have been dealt only makes me appreciate the good seeds even more. And while I would like to think that I was smart enough to bypass and recognize these bad apples, we all arrive feeling discombobulated and misplaced. We look for others that can help us on our path. So just take this advice as meaning that you should never mistake someone’s kindness for genuineness.

And I would like to hope that you don’t reap the same negatives that I have because I feel, at times, it has made me a very distrusting person from the carefree girl I used to be.


Monday, November 29, 2010

Letters from Egypt: Don’t Forget to Vote

Associated Press
Yesterday Egypt held its Parliamentary elections, but something for those of you from the West to remember is that just because you are given the right to vote, doesn’t mean a free and fair election process – or even that you will be allowed to partake in the process.

Across the newswires are stories of the protests coming from Egypt’s largest opposition party, the Muslim Brotherhood. It claims that it didn’t win the majority vote for any seats in the first round, but a few candidates will stand in the run-offs to be held Dec. 5. The BBC reported that two people died in clashes when protests were conducted after the poll. "Only a few will stand in a run-off, but not a single Brotherhood candidate won in the first round," said Saad al-Katatni, the head of the Brotherhood's bloc of 88 seats in the outgoing parliament, equivalent to a fifth of the assembly (BBC).

Another note for those of you that are unaware, the Muslim Brotherhood is officially banned in Egypt and must run under the guise of independent. Therefore, it is baffling as to how proper figures are reported on the MB (88 seats in outgoing Parliament, much less the so-called leader al-Katatni). This is just another reminder for you when reading such reports.

Remember, there are three sides to every story: hers, his and the truth.

The BBC also reported that some 42 million people were eligible to cast their ballots. The CIA World Factbook says, with last update from July 2010, that the country’s total population is a little over 80 million people. While there might in fact be 42 million eligible, the article failed to put the overall population which might give readers more insight as to the supposed “transparent” electoral process in Egypt. And how many of those eligible actually receive their voter cards?

If you do live here, ask your Egyptian friends if they voted. When they say no, which they will, ask if they even have a voter registration card. When they say no, ask them why. Either you’ll hear: I just never got it, but it doesn’t matter anyway because things will never change. Or, you’ll hear: I have tried, but the government denied me.

This is what isn’t reported.

When we live in the comfort of our homes, myself included, perhaps we don’t consider this. I read news reports from the New York Times and the like discussing the first democratic elections being held in other countries. How exciting right? People are finally getting to have their say. We don’t realize that while we know the ballot boxes are going to be stuffed and election proceedings will be rigged, we still think that people have a chance. However, look at Egypt – supposedly one of the most democratic of the Arab states, but that doesn’t mean its people have a say.

A colleague of mine applied for a voter card once – denied. His brother, five times – denied. They go to the offices to register and each day they come back, the official tells them they’re missing paperwork. Everyday there’s new paperwork missing. This is from Coptic Christians, but Muslims are denied the same. I asked another Muslim colleague of mine if he had his voter card. Naturally he said no, so I inquired as to why. “I have dual nationality with the US, they don’t like us to vote.”

Don’t be jaded about the electoral process in Egypt. Some analysts say Egypt is a ticking time bomb and the Mubarak regime will continue at its own pace, only making the timer countdown quicker.

I don’t think that it’s in the best interest for Egypt to do a complete 180 in government leadership, but I do think there has to be change and soon. The Egyptian people aren’t going to continue to live this way.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Letters from Egypt: Small Changes

I’ve been told that you don’t move to a country anticipating to change it; however, you should find one small thing that you can work on to give back to the place that houses you. After all, we are only guests and we should give back to the country that allows us to accrue experience whether it’s for your job or just life in general.

I thought my small thing was teaching the children around my office how to be nice to the stray dogs and now, they even take care of one of the puppies. This is a huge deal here as animal rights are just not on the priority list for Egyptians. Yet in addition to the poor treatment of animals, there’s another problem that faces this country: little to no environmental awareness.

First things first, I am NOT a greenie ranting through the streets about climate change or anything like the such. However, the past week or so, I’ve grown increasingly frustrated at the amount of trash I’m walking through on a regular basis, and it seems like its getting worse. I was so angry the other morning after walking through a heap of trash and finding bags thrown over a balcony near my apartment that I cleaned it up myself. This morning, I saw the same thing in the same place again. This is where I walk my dog and you know what, I’m sick of having to walk through this.

I’ve done blogs on the Zabaleen before, the largely Christian community that hand recycles and collects the trash throughout Cairo. Cleaning trash from the streets carries a social stigma, but I’m determined to help even if I’m only an army of one. “Cleanliness is next to Godliness” which also translates into something similar in Arabic, “Elnazafa men aleman” (cleaning for faith).

There are hardly any trash bins throughout the city and the ones that you do find are overflowing.

So I utilized Cairo Scholars this morning to get feedback as to organizing a cleaning crew. Someone sent this article as a parallel (Young Pakistanis Take One Problem into Their Own Hands), and while the article is discussing Pakistan, there are so many similarities.

  • ·         “A group of young Pakistani friends, sick of hearing their families complain about the government, decided to spite them by taking matters into their own hands: every Sunday they would grab shovels, go out into their city, and pick up garbage.” Everyone here complains about the government, but no one does anything.
  • ·         “The youth of Pakistan wants to change things,” said Shahram Azhar. As well as the youth in Egypt.
  • ·         “The major problem people have here is that there are no bins,” said Murtaza Khwaja, a 21-year-old medical student. Same same
  • ·         “People say, ‘This is nice, but things will never change,’ ” Mr. Khwaja said.
  • ·         “The men in the mosque, on the other hand, were picky, wanting the young people to clean the mosque but not the surrounding area.”
  • ·         “They said, ‘We already have Christians doing that for us in the morning,’ ” Mr. Khwaja said. Christians are a minority in Pakistan, and those who have no education often work in the lowest-paid jobs, like collecting trash, sweeping streets or fixing sewers.

I am a firm believer in grass roots initiatives, so not only do I want to help clean, but I also want to create awareness. I am not naïve to think this will help anything for awhile, but I am hopeful (which could be considered an idealist) that if organized properly, we could help make Egypt better for everyone.

Volunteer to Help Make Cairo Clean
I just sent out an inquiry on Cairo Scholars and have had many people comment/want to help with a clean up. The first matter is organizing a group of volunteers, so if you’re interested, please email me at leannegraves@hotmail.com and I will add you to a list that I’m creating to send out notifications.

While this is all in the preliminary stages, I have proposed that we start off once a month to get support. I can make signs in English and Arabic that would explain what we’re doing in order to follow the concept ‘teach by doing.’ This will create awareness. The streets will be small because longer streets may cause people to feel frustrated or as though their efforts aren’t producing any results.

Participants will wear a green shirt to easily identify volunteers.

The trash collected will be taken to Garbage City for the Zabaleen to sort/recycle.

As I said, this is only preliminary thoughts so if you would like to participate or have other suggestions, comments and/or thoughts, please let me know.

So yalla Egypt, let’s get to cleaning!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Letters from Egypt: Diminishing Hope

Before I moved to Egypt, I was so naïve and hopeful. Maybe naivety breeds hope, who knows, but what I can say now is that although I have a lot more to learn, my hope for Egypt and Africa in general is fading.

Sometimes I still wonder how certain things make national and international news. For instance, how does a certain murder like that of Natalee Holloway make international media outlets as opposed to the other murders that happened around that time frame? What makes her story so special?

And then you think that because you don’t hear such stories come out of Egypt, that everything is easy breezy. Well, I do understand that aspect: the government keeps such a lid on the bad things that happen so as not to tarnish its reputation.

Previously, I wrote a blog about the book Princess: The True Story of Life behind the Veil which detailed a young Egyptian girl being sold to a Saudi prince and repeatedly raped and then just thrown out on the street. I’ve heard this is common even in current times, but never have I heard of a story personally involving someone I knew – that was, until now.

Raymond* owns a factory in the middle of nowhere that employees people from a lower class. While weddings occur all the time, one of his younger staff members makes this one particularly special. News of the wedding spread and the next thing you know, the factory foreman gets a phone call from the girl crying. She said that her father was selling her for 10,000LE (approximately $1,739) to someone from the Gulf that only planned on marrying her for a week – in order to take her virginity – and then would leave her in Egypt while he went back to the Gulf. The girl begged for Raymond and his father to help her and contact the police.

What did Raymond do? He told the foreman to ignore her pleas and not to mention it to his father because he didn’t want his father involved. I wonder how Raymond sleeps at night. I know after hearing this, I didn’t sleep.

It brings me to my hopeless thoughts for this country and society. Raymond would, of course, be up in arms had this happened to his sister. Others have said, “Well, this happens all the time.” It’s that complacent attitude that hinders this society from progressing. Complacency is never a positive term, and you should always strive for better. With elections coming up, many young Egyptians want change. Change doesn’t start with the government, change starts with you. Oprah Winfrey didn’t wait around for the US government to approve her aid work. She worked hard and gave back, and not necessarily for public attribution.

So what if this happens all the time? When someone begs for your help and has nowhere else to go, I find it unfathomable that you can turn your back to her. Everyone wants change, but they negate that change doesn’t happen over night. Change starts with one person. So even if these things happen all the time, helping that one person could have in turn led to her helping two people and so on and so forth. Yet, this society doesn’t think like that and it’s heartbreaking.

I can’t stress enough how enchanting of a place Egypt can be, but I also don’t think I can properly convey how much I want to see Egypt – a place that I hold close to my heart – grow and be the leader that I know it has the potential to be. Although I don’t want to sound too much like an after-school special (“The More You Know…”), something has to change here. It has to start on the ground and move up. I’m not saying that you should get involved in matters that aren’t your concern, but if someone asks for your help – hey Egypt, why don’t you do it out of the goodness of your heart and not to gain more points or so others will see you? Or even because it’s not someone close to you – do it because it’s the right thing to do.

You shouldn’t do things just to get a pat on your back, but you should want to build up your country. You should want to change this mentality that selling off YOUR young girls to disrespectful, trashy people like the one that paid 10,000LE (which is nothing to a Gulfie). You should want to protect your women, children, and even the man who sweeps your street religiously. You should take pride in your country because as it stands now, there’s very little to be proud of when you dig beneath the face-value surface that the government allows in the media.

*Name changed  

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Letters from Cairo: HarassMap

Mapping harassment so you don’t have to.

A new tool is being introduced to Egypt that’s very similar to the US’ Hollaback site which has branches in major cities across the country. Now Egypt is introducing HarassMap in which women can report incidents via texts/SMS.

Credit should be given to the creators of HarassMap because the more tools available for women to combat these actions, the higher probability that change can be implemented.

And listen up women, many men will tell you to be careful for fighting back because you never know if the aggressor has a blade or worse. This is a case of the famed “Egyptian Turnaround” that I’ve mentioned on my blog several times. They will continue to say that they’re just worried for us, etc. Just another feeble attempt at keeping us quiet.

I say fight until you can’t fight anymore. Knock them to the ground, kick them in their groin, punch their nose off their face, scream and attract as much attention as possible. God did not create us to be a tool of convenience for a man contrary to popular male belief. Stay safe but be strong. Change takes time.

Before I left for vacation, I had an incident occur. I used to be one of those girls that said harassment happens when you’re not being aware of your surroundings, wearing inappropriate attire, etc. Yes it’s true, you can take certain measures to keep at bay unwanted harassment (isn’t that an oxymoron because let’s be honest, who ever really wants to be harassed? And if you do, seek help...immediately), but things seem to be getting worse. You must cross the streets when possible if a man is walking in your direction or safe guard yourself from a grab if unable to cross. You could wear the niqab, but even niqabbis incur harassment on a daily basis so it isn't so simple.

I happened to come back to my apartment after souvenir shopping on the last day of Ramadan. I was in the best mood possible. I’d gotten good deals on all the items I wanted to give to family and friends and I was chatting with a friend on the phone while holding a coffee. I had my back turned to my apartment building and two boys, ages approximately 13/14, came out and grabbed me.

Immediately yelling and hanging up on my friend, I chased them (never once dropping my bags or phone which I think is rather impressive). I cornered one of the boys at a car while the guys from a nearby café ran out. Do you know what upset me the most? There was a grown man standing nearby that watched everything and never once came to help me.

While I didn’t get to punch the guy in the nose like I wanted (because although he would never have told his parents the real reason he had a bloody nose, he would’ve had to have explained something), it’s highly improbable that the same boys will dare touch me again.

Now it’s also worth noting that in the two years that I’ve lived here, I have only had two grab incidents (although I’ve had a slew of chest hits). I know sometimes you may be shocked that someone would do it, but even when I’m walking down the street, I go ahead and mentally prepare to knock the *&^% out of someone. It’s sad that you always have to think like this, but you MUST be prepared. The last thing you want on top of feeling violated is having a delayed reaction and thinking, “I should’ve done something.”

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Letters from Egypt: All Things Trivial

My best friend and her husband before their wedding. She somehow figured out the secret to finding a decent man.
To be quite honest, I really don’t know what my problem was when I lived in the US, particularly NYC. I used to complain worse than the ladies of Sex and the City when it came to my dating life.
Then I had a reality call that I think all of you should have. Mine was moving to Egypt. However, it wasn’t until this last trip back home that I realized how crazy I used to be (and to be fair, my craziness is still probably very prevalent in other aspects).
It isn’t as though I’m looking to settle down anytime soon, but I used to whine whine WHINE about the guys back home. There were the guys that still lived with their parents at the age of 32 (ah hem, if you live in NY and a guy tells you he has his own apartment and it’s the basement apartment, that means his grandmother lives on the first floor and his parents live on the second floor); there was the guy that took me to lunch...at a strip club; there were the guys who were married desperately trying to hide the bulging wedding band that they’d just slipped off into their pocket; the guy who sang “She’s Like the Wind” full blown while stroking my head like a dog; and trust me, I have plenty more although I’m pretty sure I should keep some things to myself.
Take all of those experiences (multiplied by 100 more give or take), and here’s what you face in Egypt:

Jealousy – I particularly like when I need a lighter and the guy I’m with goes to find me one when I don’t understand, why didn’t he just ask the guy smoking directly in front of me? So while he goes off, I just ask the guy only for my guy to return to yell at me for remotely talking to another man while he was there. Apparently, it’s disrespectful, no matter how innocent your intentions are.

Misunderstood – The above story leads into the guy that actually lit my cigarette who, although could clearly see I was with someone else, began following me around and continuously hitting on me. Apparently asking for a lighter is a big pick up line here.

Mistaken Identity – As if smoking wasn’t bad enough, smoking in public must equal being a ‘working girl.’

Double Standards – Because as long as you’re a foreigner, it’s okay if you aren’t a virgin, but don’t expect anything serious or to remotely meet the family – that’s reserved for those that are worthy and you’ll never be good enough. Arranged marriages are still big here and let’s be clear, mommy dearest isn’t going to allow some floozy to be in her family. I mean, your passport might be good enough and that foreign salary, but you – no, you’ll never be.

Conflict of Interest – No matter how open-minded you may be and he may say he is, if you are religious, be cautious. As a female, you are not required to convert to Islam, but you are required to raise your children Muslim. Please look for a future blog on things you should know before getting married in Egypt such as rules, dowry, what you can put in your contract, etc.

And finally, Cultural Differences – This may not seem like an issue at the time, but for me, I want someone who gets my idiotic Jersey Shore references, when I say “Frogger,” not only do I want you to know it’s an arcade game, but I want you to laugh remembering the Seinfeld episode with George moving the game throughout the streets in NY. I want to talk about football – American football – and how Brett Favre just needs to retire when he says he’s going to, or how the NBA isn’t as good as what I remembered growing up, and how I would like to see the Mets win the World Series again before I die.

I was riding on the subway one day and I noticed this relatively attractive guy staring at me. Perhaps it is from being here so long and maybe I never noticed it before, but people stare a lot in the US. I was thinking, “Why is this guy staring at me? Do I have something on my face? My nose is runny, but do I have grossness left from my tissue?” Then I thought about how many attractive people I saw on the subway platform and I was like, “Wow – I miss this.”

Fist pumping the night away with my Snookie Halloween costume
I used to play this game each day when riding the subway to work. If this was my last train ride ever, who on here would I…well, you can fill in the blanks. And without fail, everyday, I’d say, “Damn, I got on the ugly car.” Twenty minutes into the ride, I’d look around and say, “Alright, he’s not so bad.” Thirty minutes, “Okay, yeah, him.” And forty minutes would have me nearly jumping the guy all because we lower our standards and pick the best of the rest.
I feel that’s what I’ve been succumbed to in Egypt, although I haven’t really picked anyone. So when going back home, I was like a kid in a candy store. I was so excited to be able to talk sports, throw out the frogger reference a few times, laugh at the Jersey Shore, etc.
My point is, all the things that used to throw me off about guys at home, well, most of those hang-ups seem trivial now considering what I face each day. Find a foreigner in Egypt you say? That’s funny, most of them are no better. So my subway analogy is still applicable to Egypt: you realize that the guys at home aren’t so bad after all.

Disclaimer: For those of you reading this and you recognize that you were mentioned above, don’t feel bad – at least I didn’t mention your name. After all, this is supposed to be a reference tool. So now you know, don’t do it again. You’ll never have another chance with me, but use it in the future.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Letters from Cairo: Warning in Maadi

Word is spreading in Maadi about an American Egyptian, Ahmed Sharif, continuously harassing women in the area.

He has reportedly assaulted a female in Maadi and continues to send her threats on a regular basis. His description is as follows:

* Around 5’11
* Ethnic Egyptian, but with a thuggish slang American accent (how do you remotely try to explain that without sounding horrible?)
* Has a Marilyn Monroe mole above his upper lip

He has been banned from the Ace Club as well as the Air Force club, Peace & Victory (PV), for his behavior toward women. He is also married, and believe it or not, his wife partakes in the harassment.

A little old lady in my apartment building, Hoda, told me that before the 1950s, Cairo was like Little Paris. She made it sound so romantic, and I wish I’d gotten to know that Cairo. Unfortunately, harassment continues to rise and the only way we can stop it is to spread the word. As always, be smart and know your surroundings and safeguard yourself. And in the meantime, watch out for Ahmed Sharif.

If you've been harassed and have photos, names, or specific places where this unacceptable action continues to occur, you can visit Cairo Shame website and request to have the information posted.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Letters from Egypt: A Bit Nostalgic


People try to tell you what your first trip back home is going to be like after you’ve lived abroad, but they never tell you about your subsequent visits. You hear, “Oh, things are going to be different,” “You’re going to realize that you don’t fit in,” and “You will learn that your home isn’t as perfect as you’ve made it out in your mind.” And while each person is different and I definitely learned a lot my first visit back, my second visit proved even more important.

I haven’t written a blog in awhile since I took over a month off from Cairo. In my defense, the first leg of my trip was work related. However, what I noticed about this time away was how much happier I am in my life than I was on my last visit home. It took my first visit to tell me that I have got to let go and realize that my life is currently in Cairo. Egypt will never be my home, but it is an adventure and one that I’m happy to have experienced.

Another aspect was the sheer nostalgia of where I’ve come from, where I’ve been, and where I want to go. While in NY, I found myself on the wrong train in the wee hours in the morning headed toward NJ. No bueno. Then when I finally got situated, I ended up walking for over 30 minutes to my friend’s apartment (around 5 am). I wish I could blame this mistake on alcohol, but unfortunately, I’m just going to play it off as a ‘blonde’ moment. I ended up walking past the very last restaurant I worked at, and I remembered getting fired on Dec. 18, 2006 because “it just wasn’t working out,” unable to make rent, and just thinking that I was never going to make my dreams a reality.

Okay, enough of the pity party. Moving on. I went to my first full time job that I started on Jan. 2, 2007 (while having a near nervous breakdown over getting fired from the restaurant, I prayed that things would pick up and on Dec. 23, 2006, I received an offer to work here). I try to remain in good graces with each of my previous jobs, and this one is no different. I’m very loyal and will also be appreciative of the start this job gave me. I still have my sweet friend Seth who emails me even when I’m unable to respond, and he is one of my biggest supporters. I saw Sue and Dianne and many others. I even brought back a coffee mug and a water container just to give me a reminder that not only did this job give me my start, it continues to give me support no matter where I am.

From there, I met up with a couple of old restaurant buddies, Miranda and Tabitha. My how time flies and how people change. We reminisced about our old lives and how far we’ve all come. It is amazing to remember that although I have frustrating and trying times in Egypt, sometimes we overlook all the hard times we had at home. I used to cry continuously over money, jobs, etc., and often times I forget how difficult things were there and just place ‘home’ on this nonexistent pedestal.

I also went back to my college to celebrate its homecoming, seeing my nephew following somewhat in my footsteps, and…ATTEDING MY 10 YEAR HIGH SCHOOL REUNION! I learned a little something else when it comes to the dating scene. However, this blog is long enough so just wait for the Letters from Egypt: All Things Trivial.