Tuesday, October 6, 2015

cerebellum buzz, like bee

all the paper butterflies

Lately I've been silent on here for two reasons:

1: I am busy. Be it adjusting to medicine, a new country, to being in school again, new routines. In the brain and outside of the brain, the days go fast and the plate is full.

and reason #2: I keep waiting for the "right" time to update. I've been defining "right" as in: absurdly overjoyed, inspired, structurally thoughtful(as opposed to usual order of chaos), and bursting with stories and pictures.

Here's the thing: today I've been in a shitty mood. I don't feel well. I'm stressed out. My brain feels like a ripped open cushion. My body hurts and, in full disclosure, I devoured far too much hummus in one sitting for dinner.

So yes, now is in fact the perfect time to post something here, because life we know is not a blog. She is oblong and messy with good days and boring days and in betweens and out of sorts.

I go to school three nights a week, three hours a night--all lecture. Outside of that, I have hours of shadowing trainers and taking other(physical activity) classes to accumulate. I'm also doing a four day training split in the gym myself. When I come home from class, my brain is complete mush. The oatmeal made with too much water and left in the microwave variety. The first bit of the course is all anatomy and biomechanics, which is fascinating to learn about but also pretty tough. Lately I've been making flashcards for myself so I can remember the names of all the muscles. A quadricep is not a quadricep--it's four muscles, each with their own name. Our first exam is in 19 days.

learnin' levers

Since the beginning of my new career commitment, I've been holding fast to positive, determined thoughts. I tell myself you got this multiple times when I am feeling overwhelmed by the information in front of me. I visualize what this will mean a year from now. I think about what my philosophy as a personal trainer will be to set me apart from the rest. I'm trying not to get ahead of myself, and falling behind isn't an option. I'm working hard. Every night I have my school binders, anatomy charts and notebooks spread out on the couch and coffee table. I know that if I really want this, then I have to work hard from the word go. Despite a massive amount of stress, I'm feeling pretty damn proud of myself. I got this.

Meanwhile, I'm adjusting to a new dosage of my medication, which means two weeks of a fuzzy-edged existence whether I want it or not. I've been trying to identify symptoms before they get too wild--this adjustment period means I'm more tired, headache-y, and achy in general. I think I'm just about through the thick of it.

apartment hunting

J and I have been searching for a flat, and we signed on one today. I think we will be relocating in a week. We've been in a residential hotel, which is fine for the purpose it serves. We have our essentials and can get to where we need to be via the metro or a taxi. But I think we are past the point of daydreaming about ruling our own space again, with our own things, etc. It's hard to feel settled in temporary housing. Real estate is a funny thing here in Dubai--places go fast. A lot of units are very similar to each other, so it's important to look for the little things that make them unique. The things we wanted in a place weren't too crazy, we knew what specific areas to look in, and we have a fantastic agent who knew exactly what to show us. We thought we had found THE place last week, but had to rescind our offer due to shady landlord things. I think we were lucky to have it not work out, in a way--it set us up to be ready to go for the place we did end up finding and signing for. Meanwhile, the bulk of our possessions are at port in Egypt, and the rest of mine are in the states...as soon as we have residency established, these two shipments will get the go ahead. In a few months time, we should have all our things in one place. International moves are no joke.

I'm carving out little routines for myself. J and I found a hotel bar with cheap-enough drinks and giant screens for viewing futbol and rugby. I take the metro to and from class, headphones in both ways. It's quite nice to take public transportation regularly again. I'm no longer getting lost when I venture to the mall(I was getting lost on a daily basis at first). There's still a whole lot of exploring to be done. The weather is cooling down here slowly(highs of 100 degrees instead of 108, that's Dubai's version of "cool down"), and I miss autumn's brilliant show back home--changing of leaves, the emergence of scarves, days of nothing but rain and grey. When you're used to it, and it goes away, there is a missing that occurs. Will I miss winter? Probably not. Fall always had a romance to it, I think.

All this, and writing too. My pen is starting to move again, after much agonizing over its stillness.

More soon. Time to study.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

such great heights

photo by JG

Last Thursday we went to the 125th floor of the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa.

I loved watching other people as they looked to the city sprawled out below them. The selfies and poses, open mouths and huddle of bodies.

I put my hands on the glass lightly(a surface cool to the touch) and tried to see beyond what I could see. Past the haze. Past smudged sun setting that turned the sky into a layered rainbow. Blood on the bottom and violet near the stars. You know the one.

We had just missed the magic hour of light, but still managed to snap a few of the sun if we leaned just enough to the right.

As time passed and the viewing crowd thinned out, I was able to find a view in the corner, alone. I needed a moment. I kept thinking I am here I am here I am really truly here. The world below looked toy-like as the sun kept slipping and darkness replaced her. Lights along the roadways lit up and turned the entire thing secretive. I did not expect to feel the way I felt. Content, unlost.

Here's to new adventures and inspiring perspectives.

Friday, September 18, 2015

I had a bit of the new city blues today. This can happen with newness. I walked around a lot in the early afternoon, letting the hum blend into my edges, became a part of it. Realized I am a part of it, even if everything feels separate. I craved a little normalcy so I did a load of laundry. The drying rack barely fits on our meager balcony, but cleanliness is draped all over her now, cockeyed but steady. I write and stutter through email. I buy comfy track pants at the Carrefour for 12 Durhams. They were buried in a pile of other track pants and tshirts that a row of shoppers were rummaging through. A worker was nearby, slowly folding each article in the chaos. Act of sisyphus. I stuck around and folded a couple myself.

Bulgar and almonds and silence for lunch. I have songs stuck in my head that I don't know all the words to.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

dubai (1)

As predicted, J and I hit the ground running once we landed in Dubai. We dragged our six suitcases off the belt and into a taxi van, which took us straight to our residential hotel. We will be here for the next 30 days, or until we find a flat. It is a short walk from the Mall of Emirates and the metro, so we can get around quite easily. Our room is really nice with a decent-sized kitchen and living room area. When you're staying long-term, these two things are necessary. Sidenote: I'm so very happy that J packed the coffee press.

Our view from the living room area is less than ideal...

...but we do have a tiny balcony we can stand on if we want. I can't really say I've wanted to hang on the balcony all that much since arrival--it's hot here. Really, really hot. A fascinating heat, really. Going outside, you feel like you're standing behind the hot engine of a car or blow dryer, so your basic instinct tells you to move away from this heat, but when you move the blow dryer follows you right in the face. The coolest day was 96 degrees. The rest are about 106(and in the spring/summertime, it's much worse). I knew this about Dubai, but it's still a kick in the face when you go outside. I've been in a vicious tango with an on-again, off-again migraine since our arrival, and I think the heat gets partial blame here. Stay hydrated and suck it up. That's been my motto.

Coming from Cairo to Dubai feels a bit like traveling through time. I'm adjusting to the environment of "everything works" again after being in a place where "most things don't." We are also another two time zones forward, which puts us 8 hours ahead of the states. It's strange to be in a land of high rises and highways--driving here is something I am not in a rush to do. The public transportation systems here are great, plus the speed of cars on the road is fairly intimidating. During our first night here, I watched a car haul ass down the road only to squeal to a stop behind another car, swerve, gun it again in the right lane, and slip out of eyesight. A few seconds later we heard crash-boom-thud. Oof. For now, I'll stick with my metro.

I find myself at the Mall of Emirates a lot. It is close to our current hotel, and our closest metro stop is located inside. As I have described in a previous post about Dubai, malls here are a much bigger part of daily life than your normal mall in the states. Think U.S. mall on many, many steroids. The Mall of Emirates is not only host to a metro stop, but also a grocery store(Carrefour), an indoor ski slope, bowling alley, movie theater, three story toy store, as well as designer stores that I am still stunned to see in person(Alexander McQueen, Gucci, Chanel). These higher-end stores are located on the higher floor, away from the stores most normal civilians can afford. Still, they are interesting to walk by and peer into. Malls here are very much a hub of activity and traveling. Every time I go there, I end up getting lost at least once. Yes, even with a map in my hand. I've gone to one of the food courts to have lunch on my own, and doing so was a bit like being in a high school cafeteria again. So many tables, all of these strangers, and me with my tray.

We have an impressive list of things to do, including establishing residency, which is a process that will be delayed due to the holiday Eid Al Adha. The process will take roughly two weeks. We have to have residency to secure a flat to live in, so much of our to do list is dependent on the thing(or two) listed before it. One of the big things we did yesterday....enrolled me into sports/fitness college! I'm so excited about this. I still need to write an entry about all of my personal training stuff...it's coming, I promise. Right now I need to get started on errands. More soon! I have a lot to say and seemingly very little time to do it.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

everything is extra beige-y today

There is a sandstorm today in Cairo. I noticed it before J officially informed me via text from work--I could tell the sun was shining, but it wasn't hitting on anything. No shadows to point to, the sky a sort of blankness reserved for the moments just before a snowstorm hits....or, in this case, a sandstorm. I left for the gym with sandstorm necessities--sunglasses to protect my eyes, a scarf to keep the wind and all it carried out of my mouth. Things were still fairly calm on the way there--on the way back things were starting to pick up. Aside from the shining/not shining nature of the sun, you can see the way landscape changes in front of you. You feel like you are a very short step away from entering a sepia toned film. Grainy and beige, yes. The wind kicked up, and collectively shoulders of every passerby hunched up.

a tree in our courtyard, more layered in sand than usual

Things are moving quickly now. The moving company visited our flat to assess what will be packed/what will not. Shredding documents, sorting through the oversized bowl of spare change. We will pack our immediate things to go with us on the plane--the rest will be packed by the movers and sent to Dubai. We should retrieve it all in a month or two, inshallah. Sometimes the hold up in customs can take a while. We are all set up with a residential hotel, which will serve as home until we find a flat. The hotel is really nice, with a proper gym and pool, as well as a kitchenette in our living quarters. I can already tell that life is going to feel vastly different there. We will be hitting the ground running once we arrive--J has a few free days before work starts. I'm already setting up a meeting with a sports college to learn more about the personal trainer certification program there. I'm anxious, excited, nervous. All the things I should be.

This week is my quiet goodbye to Cairo. Everything feels more pronounced...it's that thing that only happens when you are leaving a place. The mind's finality, I guess. Shards of glass on the curb shine brighter. Cars parked more jigsaw than usual. A bus driver and motor bike stop in the middle of the street to yell at each other up close--even their fingertips touch as they embellish their hollers with arm movements. But they still part ways and drive on amicably. It's the nature of this place. Traffic builds to an impossible standstill. Three cars going the wrong way, two coming the right direction, another backing up into the mess. Pedestrians weaving the inches in between bumpers. Dust gathers on another vehicle that hasn't been moved in weeks, months. At night I like to stand on our balcony and look back into our own windows. On the outside looking in for just a moment.

Laila kissed both our hands when we broke the news to her that we were leaving--she told J he was like a son to her. I feel like I've felt so much here in such a very short time. For as difficult as it was at times, I am leaving Cairo with a very, very full heart.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

11 days

In 11 days, J and I are leaving Egypt. Our next chapter takes place in Dubai. We’ve been patiently(and not so patiently) waiting for the exact when/where/how, and here we are faced with preparations for actual departure.

Oh man. So many feelings about this. I’m so excited for J’s next job post—I know he is really looking forward to being out in the field again as a journalist. Writing is something very important to both of us. I’m excited to begin my own new career path—I’m going to pursue my personal trainer certification while in Dubai, and hopefully start work there as one. The fact that I will be able to get a job there, as opposed to here, is thrilling(and yes, scary). J and I are starting to look for flats and that too makes my mind spin in a very good way. To have a new space to settle in and make ours. It’s been difficult to settle here knowing we would soon be leaving.

Departure is also sad as I have grown an affection for Egypt, despite the difficulties. I wish I could bundle up all the wonderful people I’ve met here and take them with us. I told two friends that last night with tears in my eyes. I’ve been lucky to make friends in the short time I’ve been here. Being in Egypt is a jumble of love and frustration. It is a complicated place, I’ve made that statement a time or two here on this blog before. Things are growing increasingly intense here…on one hand it is interesting to be a witness, but on the other it means I am ready to be somewhere a bit more safe.

Does one every truly get accustomed to moving? There are the immediates to pack and the rest to prepare for the movers. There is temporary housing and then the search for a flat to rent longer term. New routes and routines to establish, a transportation system to learn. Another time zone. More heat.

Meanwhile, I’m shaking the last bit of my jet lag. If I drag myself out of bed by 10am, I feel victorious. Fingers are twitching because I've been feeling the need to write again. I joined a new gym here for the remainder of our stay, a women’s only gym that I am head over feet for. We are planning a few final get togethers with friends before we leave, and I am trying to eat at all my favorite places in Cairo. We had thai food at The Birdcage the other night, a meal ending with fried ice cream rolled in coconut and diced apple with a candied orange slice jutting from the top. Thank goodness I brought my Lactaid. Last night we devoured italian at Trattoria, followed by drinks at the Cairo Cellar for J’s birthday, where all of us spent an absurd amount of time at the table impersonating a cat on a waterbed. This is my life, and I enjoy it.

More soon.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

returning to Cairo

Hello from Egypt!

I arrived to Cairo on Wednesday evening. My trip, overall, went fairly quickly. No big layovers along the way, which made each flight flow into the next. The first was a puddle jump to Minneapolis. The long flight followed--Minneapolis to Paris. Air France is okay, I guess--I'm not a big fan to be honest. Their seats are small, the television sets only worked for half the flight, and the flight attendants were on the borderline of rude. But how much can I truly complain if I made it to my destination safely? I was sitting next to a woman and her husband who were just beginning a journey all over Europe. We made small talk about politics--it was nice. In Paris, I had just enough time to get through security and people watch at my gate. On the Paris to Cairo flight, I sat next to an Egyptian woman who didn't seem to mind one bit that I only spoke shwaya Arabic. She talked often during the trip, and I could feel my brain straining to decode her sentences. There was a lot of nodding and smiling and describing with our hands. We both gave a bit of a swoon when the plane banked left before landing, providing us with a bird's eye view of the brown building sprawl below us. There it was, Egypt.

The Cairo heat smacked me immediately upon exiting the airplane. Per usual routine, we were hustled on a bus which drove us to the arrival terminal. Lines for immigration extended endless. I helped the couple behind me spell Zamalek on their paperwork, then fought my way through to get my luggage. I wish I had a picture of the madness at baggage claim. It's always such a sweet relief to recognize your luggage on the conveyor belt, even when you have to fight your way through others to drag them off. I had nothing to declare so exiting the terminal wasn't complicated(security thumbed through my passport, tapped my luggage while asking where I came from/what were the contents of my bags). J was waiting for me on the other side. The start-to-finish process of getting through airport/immigration in Egypt used to stress me out so much. Funny how all of it feels quite comfortable now.

So far jet lag hasn't been too hellish, though I fear jinxing myself with that declaration. I tend to refer to it as "the lag," as if its a temporary but oppressive affliction or spell I am under. Last night was my first true taste of it--up at midnight after going to bed at 11, going back to sleep at 2am and waking up again at 11am. Wednesday and Thursday night slumbers were facilitated by two fingers of whiskey and a sleeping pill. We went to a friend's house out in the desert yesterday for a cookout. The water in the pool felt amazing. I read books to the little kids in attendance and fought off the urge to doze off in the grass. I love the variety of people that are always in attendance at social things here. Irish, French, American, English, Canadian, Egyptian. I had a really nice time, which helped combat some of the homesickness already creeping up.

Today on my list of things to do: check out a new gym. I stuck to a fairly strict regimen back in the states--at the gym lifting/doing cardio 6 days a week(three days on, one day off). I feel strong and amazing and want to continue that. It's very difficult to convince myself to rest for a few days upon arriving here--resting seems like a waste of time.

Returning to the flat here in Zamalek felt a bit like coming back to look at a previous existence. If I were a snake, this would be me slithering back to my old home to observe skin I've already shed. Now that I'm back on medication, I feel quite far from the sadness that gripped me before my departure. I remember it, even if I would rather not. It's important to remember that, to know it is there and I should be as determined as ever to not return to it. Medication is not a cure-all, and I know being better requires conscious effort on my part. All this to say it is nice to return and feel better.

J and I are finishing up our time here in Cairo. J's next journalist assignment is taking us to Dubai--so far, it appears we will be there sometime next month. I'm thankful to have a bit more time in Cairo to properly say my goodbyes to the wonderful people I've met here. To experience all of "the things" a little more before leaving. I am also thankful to be leaving, as life here has been difficult for me at times. I've mentioned before that my visa does not allow me to work, and I was not prepared for how frustrated this lack of work would leave me. This move to Dubai will provide me with more freedom, and hopefully a better feeling of safety. I have goals in mind for our next adventure, something I look forward to talking about more in this space. That will require its own entry.