Sunday, March 21, 2010

Letters from Egypt: My Night Out

 Turkish brother and sister in a photo with Natalia and me after calling me on my false Azerbaijani origins

I can’t decide if it’s only age finally rearing its head, but I’ve been somewhat of a recluse for the past few months. However, I decided that I would venture out this Friday night and revive the old LeAnne. Little did I know the stories that I would acquire.

Natalia and I met up for dinner at La Bodega in Zamalak with a couple of our friends. Afterwards, Nat and I decided we would go to Club 35 – probably one of my favorite clubs in Cairo (located in Giza). We walk in with Jack – as in Jack Daniels – and finagle our way to a couple of seats at the bar.

Two females out on the town in Cairo, alone and single. Lights clearly began flashing for all the guys. The first to approach us was Sherif and his friend Amr as Sherif skirted over my way and asked where I was from. Dear guys: when you see two single females, it doesn’t mean necessarily that they are on the prowl for your companionship. I began to tell him my name was Amanda and I was from Azerbaijan while Nat – ah hem Jane – was from New Zealand. We were just visiting staying with a friend in Shobra (one of the worst areas in Cairo) whom we’d met at uni in Switzerland. Amazing what men will believe although they assumed our friend was Egyptian and from Hurghada or Sharm el Sheikh (meaning we must be prostitutes).

Then another guy approached asking if I was British. I loved his line, “I’m not trying to hit on you…” as I’m sure he was genuine (we work in the same industry), but that was quickly followed by another guy, Habib (actual last name), saying much of the same. Habib informed me that he was only approaching me for a business deal. You see, Habib worked at an advertising agency and was looking for foreign faces for an international advertising campaign and what do you know – I had the exact face his firm was looking for. When he asked if I’d take down his number, I politely said I didn’t have a phone, but since it was a business transaction, I requested a business card instead. After he fumbled in his wallet, it was clear he didn’t have one. Shocking.

As he repeatedly kept asking if I was interested in the campaign, I once again politely declined. Then he said rather hastily, “We pay up to €200 a day!” To which I responded, “I think I’m worth at least €400.”

Several other guys were in between, but perhaps the most memorable was this guy standing right beside me whom also asked where I was from. When I said Azerbaijan, he then began speaking to me in a foreign language. Apparently my Azerbaijan scheme failed me as he was from nearby Turkey.

Nat and I decided that before the night comes to a complete close, we should go by Cairo Jazz Club. We walk in and immediately need to go to the restroom where we ran into a familiar face. While discussing what we’ve all been up to, a lovely girl pokes her head out the stall door and asks us if we have an id card or credit card she could use for a couple of minutes.

So maybe I’m naïve, but apparently everyone else was naïve, when we finally got why she was requesting the card I told her that I could care less what she does in her own time, but when it comes to getting in between me and the toilet in dire times, you’re going to want to rethink your position and/or extracurricular activities.

I’m also a fan of the guy approaching me saying, “My friend thinks you’re hot and wants to meet you.” Then turn to look and his friend is talking to another girl. The friend then says, “Well, apparently he thinks that girl is hot too.”

Oh the memories…

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Letters from Egypt:Departing Ways

Ashish's goodbye gathering
Throughout your life, you will face a constant changing of friends and social circles; however, as an expat, that rotation happens more frequently. And it never gets easier.

My blog allows me to do a lot: vent my many frustrations, inform others about life here who are thinking of moving, keeping family/friends at home updated on my life, and perhaps one of the most important things is that it introduced me to a couple of people that I would never have met otherwise.

I met Andy a few days after he arrived in Cairo. Originally from Chicago, Ill., he had ventured to the sand pit for his career. I also met his long-time girlfriend, who is now his fiancé, Julie. Andy gave me a shoulder to cry on (and trust me, there were many times that shoulder definitely came in handy), and he always kept the jokes coming even when sometimes it was difficult to laugh. Andy kept me level-headed and wasn’t afraid to put me back in my place should I step out of line (shocking, I know). And even now, I still talk to Andy and Julie – although Andy left Cairo in November. Their wedding is in October, and while it is unlikely that I can attend, I know I’ll see them eventually (perhaps when I’m living in the apartment above their garage in my old age with my brand new hip).

And while I can go on and on boring everyone senseless about what they did for me, I have to spend some time on my friend Ashish. Originally from India, Ashish and I had a common bond: New York. He lived there for nearly four years after finishing his degree in Massachusetts. I corresponded with him shortly before his arrival to Egypt, giving him the do’s and don’ts, what to bring, etc. That first dinner was filled with our NY stories, past relationships, roommates gone wrong (as potential roommates in NY should come with a warning label), etc. Ashish has just left for Cancun, Mexico and I have to say, while I was in the US when Andy departed, it was sad being present for yet another friend leaving.

While I’m being prepped with Andy and Ashish’s departure, one of my closest friends will surely leave relatively soon. That’s the frightening part. You take the time to get to know someone and then you’re separated and no matter what, you know that things will change. You’re not as able to keep in touch as you did when you lived in the same city talking about all those little things on the phone that at the time seem insignificant. My friend Lisa says to me often, “After you leave, I’m done. I’m done with trying to get to know people only for them to leave.”

I think about all the friends I’ve lost along the way whether it be a result of distance or personality conflicts/changes, and it’s always hard. You always wish you could basket all of the people you love and take them where ever you go, but that just isn’t possible.

I look at all the people I’ve met here: some good, some bad, and let’s not forget the downright UGLY! If there’s one thing that can be said about life as an expat is yes, your circle of friends constantly changes, but it just means that no matter where you travel in the world, you’ll always have someone in that perspective city. However, even saying that aloud doesn’t mean that it gets any easier.