Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Letters from Egypt: Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Musician performing in the Khan el Khalili

I have a confession to make – perhaps I wasn’t extremely honest in my last blog. I was discussing with a friend other things I’d learned in my first year in Egypt and she suggested there should be a continuation blog – I agree.
Don’t mistake all kindness to be genuine, because unfortunately, often times it isn’t. Image is a big deal here. Many people sit outside at cafes to be seen, a rumor that a new A-class place is open catapults the place to overwhelming popularity – why? Image.
You’ve probably always heard, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” Never more true than in Egypt.
Something I have noticed among some is the ease of falling in and out of others’ lives. It is hard for me to fathom how some people that I know practice this so often because you see, I’m not a “sometimes” friend. It’s all or nothing with me. If you knew my background, perhaps you’d understand why my friends are my life.
I am very lucky in meeting people, and I usually have a high ratio of good, true friends. However, Egypt can be deceptive. I’ve had many people come into my life here that I thought were genuine. I trusted. I was wrong. I opened up somewhat easier than usual because different circumstances make you more vulnerable, and I suppose I was reeling off of having some of the best friends you could ever hope to find. Once again, I got too lax in my judgment of others (similar yet different scenario to the cab incident). 

While I say that to survive Egypt you must look to the small things that make you happy, I can’t deny that I have been hurt plenty of times. I had a “friend” that schemed behind my back for months trying to maneuver his way in order to obtain the companionship of another close friend. I’ve had money stolen by someone I trusted. I’ve been fed lie after lie just so others can move up the social ladder. And there are plenty of other instances that would just take up too much space and provide too much negativity.

There are others that I think about and while I had always said they did a lot of great things for me, as I sat down and began thinking of things they had actually done for me – well, I couldn’t think of one positive thing. What does that say about my perception? I think that I came into this thinking I was more prepared, mature, intuitive and yet, I feel as though I must’ve had my head up my ass this past year.

I have always been told that it is difficult to get to know me. If it was difficult before, I feel it is almost impossible now. I’m outgoing, but always know that I will tell you exactly what I want you to know.

Don’t get me wrong, I do have some genuine people in my corner. However, you know that duped feeling you get when you find out that everything you’d thought was totally wrong? Yeah – well, I feel like that now. I don’t know where my head has been, but clearly it hasn’t been where I needed it. 

So what else have I learned: be careful of a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Inside a Mosque at the Khan

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Letters from Egypt: I Made It…ONE YEAR

One year ago... and now

The past few days I’ve been reminiscent on exactly what I was doing a year ago. I was preparing for this move, full of fear and anxiety, and trying to soak up my last days with the people that meant the most to me. I cannot believe I’ve now been an expat in Cairo for a year. There have been plenty of good, a few bad and well, I can’t forget the ugly.

At my six month mark, I wrote about things I’d learned. One of the most important and valuable pieces of advice I can give you if deciding to make a move overseas is to keep an open mind. There will be days that you are so frustrated (remember my computer fiasco), there will be days of extreme culture shock (men vs women) and there will be days that you’re so lonely you don’t want to get out of bed. No matter how often your phone may ring, how many friends drop by your apartment or the kindness from random strangers – you will miss home, it’s inevitable. However, it’s the small things that make you happy that you should focus on and I feel this is no different even if you’ve never lived abroad.

So what makes me happy about Egypt? It’s funny how most of my joys revolve around food, but I am a foodie and I make no quams about that. You see, I’m a BIG fan of pickles. A great thing about Egypt is the fact you can get pickled veggies no matter what place you eat.

I like the fact that my kiosk (outdoor convenience store) is open 24/7 and delivers right to your door. Cairo is the perfect city for anyone with social anxiety disorder. You can have everything imaginable delivered and if you can’t, you can just send your boab (doorman) to pick it up. You can go forever without actually stepping outside your home.

I couldn’t have imagined meeting some of the people I’ve encountered. Some, I have to say I could care less if I ever see again, but the important lesson is that each taught me something. Some taught me that no matter what age, how many countries they’ve traveled, supposedly cultured – they don’t know their “ass from a hole in the ground” (that’s a Southern expression quite often used by my mother). Others make me realize the person I want to be, show me true strength and give me the courage I need to move on.

What would I miss the most about Egypt as of now if I had to leave – shisha, rooftop chats by Lisa’s pool, going to Ace for a beer with Elaine and venting about the latest Nigerian crisis, going late night to Abou Maar with the carhop shouting lively “Oh, the American,” my editor, passing by the Nile no matter where I’m going, just to name a few.

Here lately, everyone has been asking me what my future plans entail. I have said many times throughout my blog that I would just wing it, see where life takes me. I’m no closer today than I was yesterday in deciding my future. I know that I want to stay for another full year – in part thanks to my partner-in-crime Natalia (whom I made a promise I would stay if she did) and at the same time, I’m frightened once again to think of what I will do after. However, I feel like God gives you a tap when it’s time to go. If you ignore that, He gives you a nudge. Ignore that and He does it for you. I’ll know when it’s my time, until then – here’s to another year of more-to-come Egyptian adventures.