Saturday, June 27, 2015


I'm currently sitting in one of my favorite little coffee shops, congested as all hell but finally over the last bit of jet lag. The 'lag is never that bad coming to the states, thankfully. It just means I wake up with the sun for a few.

Immediately upon arriving I found a routine and have been sticking to it. Get up early, eat breakfast, go to gym. Catching a cold was not a part of the plan(obviously) but I'm working through it. I haven't had a proper cold in a long time, and I found myself surprised by how much a sore throat and runny nose truly sucks. I guess I forgot? I also realized that I take effortless breathing for granted on the regular. Oh sweet, uninhibited inhales.

I'm enjoying this much needed break from the middle east. Today in Cairo there was a sandstorm AND an earthquake, oof. I've been spending a lot of time with the family, as well as a lot of time driving. I love taking the back roads with the window down, cornfields on either side. I've missed all this green space. Two nights ago I stood in the yard and watched lightning bugs morse code the darkness. There have been a pile of thunderstorms since my arrival as well. The first growl rumbling across the sky gave me goosebumps. It feels like a little miracle, watching all of that water fall from above.

My niece and nephew continue to grow like weeds, and spending time with them triples the volume of my heart. A few days ago at the amusement park, my nephew declared, "the back of my chin is sweaty." It took us a few seconds but we figured out he was referring to his neck. One evening I was sitting next to him on the couch, leaning forward, and he put a hand on my back and patted it gently. "I've missed you Aunt Nikki," he said. My niece has her hair cut just above her shoulders and it makes her look so much older than her eight years. She's obsessed with Mad Libs and it still blows my mind to listen to her read. To think I knew this little person before she could walk or form sentences, and here she is reading to me like an old pro. I love them both so much.

My father and I are back into our roommate routine. We take walks around the neighborhood or ride our bikes up the street to get ice cream. We have great conversations nowadays. Being near my sister is a bit like being reunited with a part of myself. I'm so thankful for all of my moments with them. And the true icing on this trip is that J was able to come to the states for a quick visit as well(we thought work would keep him in Cairo initially). He will be here until the 8th of July. I will return on the 24th. In a few weeks I'll make a quick trip to Pittsburgh to see as many friends as I can. I'm feeling pretty good lately. A bit more peaceful. I'm staying busy, but remaining mindful. I'm trying not to think too much about how "this will pass," and instead focusing on how it is here, right now in this moment.

I also received news of 4 poems being accepted for publication, which was a wonderful surprise. All of the poems were new pieces and that is always encouraging. Writing has really been on my mind lately. Projects are taking shape, but I am taking my time with all of it. I am learning to nurture my work, to approach it with more love and less resentment. More on that soon.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Ramadan starts tomorrow. Egyptians have been preparing for weeks now--the markets are extra crazy, and lanterns are being lit and presented at the entrances of shops and homes. It's an interesting time to be here. As I've mentioned in this space before, even if you aren't muslim, you do end up participating in various ways. No drinking, eating, or smoking in public/on the street, adjusting to changed hours at various places(like the gym), and many are stocking up on "supplies"(mainly beer from the delivery service). This time I will miss nearly all of it, as I am leaving for a trip to the states on Friday.

Ramadan display at local market

A trip home at this time was in our plan, but I am also needing a break from here. I've been quiet, focusing on each day and adjusting to my medication. The night sweats have returned, so I know the medicine is back in my system. I'm also much less foggy and my mind isn't racing as much as it was, thank goodness. I'm glad that I sought help when I realized I needed it. The past few months have been quite difficult. Now I am much, much more motivated to do something with my days as opposed to wanting to sleep the hours away or stare blankly and cry. Things in general feel much more doable. Still, a trip to see the family and a chance to really clear my head is welcomed.

Right now I am sitting in the hotel bar near our flat, having lunch and listening to an Egyptian and African discuss the current political climate here. This is somewhat of a Wednesday routine for me. I take my time at the gym and then come here to write, eat, catch up on emails.

I have mixed feelings about visiting the states. With each trip, the swirl of it gets bigger and bigger. Of course I will miss J, as well as my daily routines here and things I've grown accustomed to like call to prayer and the steady noise of honking cars and people in the street. But I am also anxious to revisit the sounds of summer in Ohio--crickets and train whistles and fireflies speckling the open fields. When I am outside of the states, I find it easier to read proper news--stories about things that are happening elsewhere, the brutal/beautiful truth of it. In the states one has to sift through layer upon layer of fluff to find out what is really going on. I always feel uneasy and slightly bewildered by how easy it is to slip back into my old life in the first world. Granted, not a lot of time has slipped by between my visits, so the ease isn't completely unbelievable.

It still isn't clear how much longer we will remain in Cairo, but I do feel the end of our time here approaching. I am doing my best to enjoy all the little details of here while I can.