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.