Wednesday, March 11, 2015

life in progress

Today I went to the Coffee Bean and was delighted when they already knew my order and had it ready by the time I paid at the register. My first real moment as a "regular!" Such a small thing, but it made my heart leap. It's always the little glories.

I've stacked up a handful of unfinished blog post drafts over the past few weeks. I start out strong but end up wordless...I'm so full of desire to express and describe my life right now but I worry that words won't do my feelings justice. As a writer it feels a bit foolish to say that. My e-mails to loved ones back home are unhinged, sprawling things. As I wrote to a friend earlier, I'm never sure what people want to hear. It is a delicate balance between the quirky/light and the heavy.

I haven't been here that long but Egypt is already the most exciting, challenging, beautiful, frustrating thing I have ever experienced. I feel extraordinarily lost yet more found within myself than I have in a long long time. This is the duality I am struggling with. Being completely in the unfamiliar has helped me find some inner peace, and I wasn't expecting that to happen. Perhaps that is the balancing act, the self's way of finding equilibrium.

I've grown used to the lack of stoplights and stop signs, the constant dialogue of car horns. I am so accustomed to the music of Arabic that now it is the English language that sounds like a strange tune to me. Sometimes when I overhear English it takes me a beat or two for my brain to say oh yeah I know that one. Getting dressed every day feels less like a math problem and more like simply getting dressed. Keep your legs and tattoos covered, done and done. When I go to the gym I feel super exposed in a tank top and shorts. It's amazing what we get used to if we are given the time to be there.

There is still a struggle within me for comfort. I think I desire a level of comfort that I will never obtain as a foreigner here. When I lived in the states, I seldom thought about the privilege of living in the first world country I was born in. As an American I had the luxury of not having to consider it. I feel a bit of shame in admitting this, that I didn't really understand it until I was gone. It stuns me to think about all that I took for granted, without even realizing it because that was my life. I'm thankful to experience life outside of all that I've known, to add/change my perspective as a whole.

[Power just came on after interrupting things/this post for an hour]

The other day I was walking back to the flat after getting some coffee and a thought flashed on in my head, clear as day: I will be writing about this experience for the rest of my life. I assume this will be both true and untrue--as a writer it is rare for me to write about one thing only once. There is an importance to being able to view things from many angles, not just one...most moments, whether victorious or tragic(or both) call for more than one statement, one stanza, one swing of the butterfly net. There are many things I have turned over and over in my hands, attempting to access new routes to the gut. My time here in Egypt will certainly be no different. But I know life will go onto the next adventures, and those too will deserve my attention.

my favorite collection of directional signs in Zamalek

The funny thing about being incredibly out of your known element is that it forces you to be much more mindful. My time here thus far is very much about mindfulness. There is much more attention paid to what I wear, how I communicate, how I process my surroundings(such as walking constantly uneven terrain or recognizing a place as safe/unsafe). Traveling has taught me to be much more sharp. I can already see that changing parts of me. I still have days when I crave the old familiar so much that it hurts. Random seeming things, things that aren't here, like good mexican food, bowling alleys, unexpected run-ins with friends on the street. Even the act of missing brings forth the mindful. Be fortunate for your moments, even the seemingly small ones. Be thankful for even the repetitive, routes we know on the back of our hands. Love fiercely and listen more than you speak. Live your story because it is yours, even on boring or hard days. In one of the most complicated places, I am relearning some of the most basic things. Life's funny that way sometimes.


  1. This really strikes a chord right now. Having just returned to Pittsburgh after nearly 9 years abroad (though in places much more Westernized than Cairo), I am revelling in the familiar, soaking up the mundane but now I am a foreigner. Travel changes you faster and more dramatically than stasis. I hope you find yourself at home in that place.

    1. Are you back in Pgh for good now? Wow...returning after 9 years must be so wild. When I left Pgh, it was so very different from when I arrived there 13 years prior. All my best in adjusting. I'll be following along!