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.