Thursday, June 11, 2009

Having a Good Day

Hubby and I are often asked by friends and family back home how our life in Egypt differs from the life we might have been leading had we remained in the States. These questions are usually prompted by kind folks who want us to move back home, settle down, have children, and hold down jobs like normal people do.

These kind folks have obviously forgotten that we are not normal.

Usually, my first step is to remind people what Hubby does for a living requires a great deal of travel and that I like seeing him more than one or two days a month. But today I’m feeling rather ornery so I’m going to explain some of the differences between our lives in Egypt and the lives of our friends and family back in the Real World.

Waking Up
You are awoken by your alarm clock.
I am awoken by a grumpy muezzin who no more wants to be awake at 4:30 a.m. than I do. On good days he doesn’t have the loud speakers turned up full volume.

Grocery Shopping
You go to one store and buy everything on your list. If you feel truly adventurous, you can also seek out a butcher or specialty shop but you don’t have to.
I go to nine different stores, none of which has the ingredients I need to make the dinner I planned for this evening. Just because they had my ingredient every day for the last five months means nothing. If I had truly needed this item, I should have bought nine of them the first time I saw them and known this day would come. It is, as always, my fault.

Repair Men
You call the repair guy who listens carefully to your explanation of the problem at hand. When he arrives, he removes his shoes and kindly asks you to direct him to the broken machine that requires his services. He fixes it and leaves.
I call the Housing Department and explain the problem. My explanation is ignored and five wrong guys show up and are angry that I didn’t correctly explain the issue to Housing. Two hours later they send the right guy who doesn’t want to talk to me because I am merely a woman. After discussing the issue with my husband who asks if it can be repaired the reply is, “Insha'allah.” Repair guy then fiddles with some wires, shorts out all the power to my flat, and leaves blaming me because I am merely a woman. (Repeat this scenario three times to ensure power returns but item is never repaired.)

Going Out
You get in your car and go where needed to complete your daily chores. Or, you hop aboard public transportation and the same occurs.
I flag down a black and white taxi. The fourth one finally agrees to take me where I want to go. He takes the long way there, almost kills both of us numerous times, and then demands an unreasonable amount of money when we arrive because I am a woman and foreign. I tell him where to go, throw the money through the window and walk off the opposite direction. Many hours later, hot, sticky, and not looking anywhere near as cute as I did when I left the house, I repeat these actions to return home.

You walk down your sidewalk, admire the scenery, and nod to the occasional person you see.
I walk down the road because the sidewalk is blocked by cars. I dodge moving cars whilst ignoring comments from men who disapprove of the full-length skirt and loose fitting, long sleeved shirt I am wearing.

Oh you thought this was going to be one of those posts filled with the positive things about living in Egypt? As soon as I remember any, I promise to blog about them. Until then, I’m going to stand in front of my air conditioner, ignore the thermometer that reads 110F, pray the power doesn’t go off again, and hope tomorrow will bring better veggies to the market and saner drivers to the road.


Joanna Jenkins said...

Oh my! I'm not sure I'm sturdy enough for Egypt! Nice grocery stores would be the end of me! Dare I ask if they have take-out :-)

I'm new to your blog and so glad I stopped. Seriously, you're life sounds very interesting. I'll be back again soon.

Hang in there!

Keys to the Magic Travel said...

Have I told you how glad I am that you blog?

Your sidewalk issues sound similar to Atlanta. A neighborhood group wanted to plant trees by the road, next to the sidewalk. (Road - tree - sidewalk). The Dept of Transportation nixed that idea. Because sidewalks are "auto - recovery zones." A tree might impede the car...but a pedestrian? Nah...they can keep going when you run them over!

Brenda said...

Its the grocery shopping that kills you! I tend to stock up on crazy things just because they have them at the store, not because I need them!

N said...

A very interesting list. Perhaps I should blog a similar one once I move. Would you ever consider settling in Canada then?

illahee said...


sorry to hear that grocery shopping is such a hassle, though.

Anonymous said...

I hate cab drivers like that, happens to me everytme I travel, and it's worst for me because I live in China but apparently look nothing Chinese, so I'm pretty much just treated like a foreigner in my own country.

Unknown said...

I knew it was the same as in Kuwait.
Hubby just doesn't believe me ;)
Anyhow, I still hope and keep thumbs pressed that we get to Egypt in September :)
Pray for us :)

Cab drivers. I usually arranged the price before getting in the taxi. "No problem" answers when they didn't want to tell me the price were not accepted.
Price to high, no use for you "get lost".
It worked fairly well.

Some taxi drivers argued with me, because I said that I am not going to pay more than the Pakistanis, Filipinos or whomever. "But you have more money" was the reply. My reply was that I pay triple for everything as well. Starting with the flat and ending at pissy taxi drivers ;)

They loved me, can you tell? ;)

Anonymous said...

I think you are awesome. I think it would be amazingly challenging in some ways to live in another country. I think you are great!

Jennifer said...

Now this is what I like! Real life! ;-)

I'm sorry your daily frustrations are so interesting to me! MORE! MORE!

And I'm sorry about that 110 degree heat. Ick.

Corinne said...

Ugh, my life in Norway is nowhere near as difficult as the **** you have to put up with in Egpyt, for for just once I'd love to find pinto beans. For once!

In fact, I think that will have to be my plan today, to go into Groenland and look through all the crazy little shops. Someone has to have them.

Casey (@ Chaos and Cardboard) said...

Love this! I think it is really hard for people to understand that have never lived anywhere but the states. Especially those who haven't even traveled. I know people here don't even understand that jet lag lasts more than a night! Ack!

LadyFi said...

Ah, the joys of living abroad!

Enjoy the air con!

Pam said...

I've always wanted to visit Egypt. Apparently, living there is a whole other matter. The "merely a woman" stuff would probably get me killed in a less than a week. Ugh!

Unknown said...

You got it spot on dear heart! I remember when Safeway opened a store in Zamalek and I was estatic but neither the store nor my happiness lasted but a few months and I hate to say it, but it wasn't good while it lasted!

Betty said...

LOl!! You could be writing about Paraguay!! Sounds sooooo very similar, except for that last one about the clothing. Luckily when it´s hot, we are "aloud" to wear shorts... :)

Miss Footloose said...

I feel your pain, girlfriend! ;)

You gave me the first chuckles of the day, even though I know how grumpy you felt when you wrote that post. I've had identical experiences in Africa and other places. And although on my blog I try to make fun of them, at times you get so screaming frustrated you just want to get on a plane and get home. (After which, of course, you get frustrated in other ways.)

Now, of course, after you've had your drink(s), you'll write the "reverse" stories!?

Miss Footloose

Becky said...

Awesome post - it seriously is probably one of my favorites! :)
Repair Men - there is someway that you can yell back at them "because you are a women." I haven't quite figured it out, but I see it with other people, so I know there is a way to go about that... I don't know how much Arabic is involved, but I know it's possible to argue back :) (now, I don't think it would make a difference, but in the times where I have been able to argue back, I feel better and they usually switch to trying to make you calm down hehehehehe

Lydia said...

True dat, homeslice. It is for all of these reasons (and many not mentioned) that I am not missing Egypt one little bit. Nor will I ever look back through rose-colored glasses. Egypt is what it is. Something to be endured, and celebrated when done, without a longing look over the shoulder!

theUngourmet said...

I'd never make it!

Gutsy Living said...

As with the comments from other expats, so much is similar. I love the way you described the "cons." Your beginning led me to believe the revers, that you love living outside the U.S. I can't wait to read the "pros."

Anonymous said...

What about trying to cross the main(er) streets in Cairo? We had to get help because we were stuck in the middle and...he wanted to be paid for it! Brurrr.

Jemma said...

I got such a laugh out of this post- we have the same issues here, especially with the grocery store. I have loaded up the cart so many times when a new shipment has appeared of the most insane things because you never know the next time they are going to appear. I can't wait for the elusive Danone cottage cheese to reappear so I can make a decent lasagna but it only pops up like once every 2-4 months!!! We have a mosque next door too and have the 4:30am wake up call as well!!

Unknown said...

God bless you... I reallly have nothing to bitch about...

Unknown said...

Well... the one thing I can empathise with you on is the temperature. :P I blast my aircon ALL THE TIME too. Much to the distress of my hubby and delight of the power company.

Connie said...

Returning to the US AFTER Egypt

Waking up - While staying in a small (but nice) temp 2 bedroom apartment, we are woken by goofy giggling kids. It's how they usually wake up, but now we can hear them. Otherwise, the quiet is deafening... seriously, this is going to take some getting used to.

Grocery shopping - We keep getting lost in US stores. Learning to stick together so they only have to send out one search party at a time.

Repair men - not our problem!

Going out - We can park in a parking space, you know.. between two lines painted on the ground. Cars stop at stoplights (I haven't been arrested yet)... it's very confusing. We've dusted off the visa cards and my wallet feels oddly skinny for lack of paper bills.

Walking - No cars on sidewalks. Although the air is 'heavy' (humid), the rain is the wettest wet ever (both as described by our 6yo), and locals think we are strange because the kids go bananas every time we see different birds, bunnies, groundhogs, etc. I've heard some kidling sized complaints about the dirt being the 'wrong' color.

We're actually missing Cairo, but enjoying our new adventure.

Anonymous said...

just when I was feeling jealous of your exotic life...

Roxane said...

Wow, I can't imagine... The grocery store was enough for me. I will never take Wegman's for granted again!