Living in Egypt does not allow me to be shy or inhibited. For so long I relied on Hassan to do the shopping, get things fixed around the house and take care of just about everything. Since being on my own now for one year I had to become more outgoing and less shy as I deal with Egyptians on a daily basis. And the fact that I'm not working full-time makes me want to re-coil and live in my own little bubble, but it isn't always possible.
Lately I've been seroiusly contemplating moving back to the US and just re-starting life over there, but the thought of it is too daunting of a task after having moved here almost three years ago.
This leads me to my latest small victories. Here in Egypt it is a necessity that your car be cleaned everyday because of the sand and dust. It's not your ordinary dust or sand, it is a fine small sand that many times cannot just be wiped off. In Rehab they have a staff of men who wake up at 6 am and start cleaning cars in the parking lot, if you sign up at the Rehab offices. When we first moved here Hassan took care of it, and then let it expire so we went without getting the car cleaned for a long time - two years now. Since Hassan left one year ago I have been watching the same men clean the same cars every morning and I'd say to myself "I'm going to sign up to get my car cleaned today." Right. Well, yesterday I finally did it.
My cleaning lady was here and her pass to get into Rehab expired so she asked me to get her a new pass. OK, I thought this will be easy. So I went to the office and I knew the procedure because I went 6 months ago with a friend to get a pass for her cleaning lady. So while I was in the offices I mentioned the car cleaning in my best Arabic/English. The people in Rehab just loved it because if you meet them halfway they will meet you halfway. They are shy to speak English but believe me their English is much much better than my Arabic. I went and took care of the car and of the entrance pass. I was so proud of myself; not for signing up but for having the courage to go into offices full of men speaking broken Arabic.
Questions they asked about the car cleaning (in Arabic of course): What kind of car? What is your tag number? What is your address? What time do you want your car cleaned by everyday? I answered them in my best Arabic - numbers aren't a problem but connecting the words to form a complete sentence are still impossible. Questions asked about the pass were: Do you own? Who is the owner? (OK this was tough because they just like everything in the man's name here) What is your address? Easy peasy.
It wasn't difficult communicating, however, it was difficult actually going there and having my inner voice discourage me from taking care of business. When I finished doing what I had to do, I felt as though I had climbed a mountain and was standing at the top looking over the valley.
I can't imagine how I let Hassan handle things here for me for so long. I think this living arrangement was meant to be in order to get me to stand on my own two feet in a world where language is not the only barrier, but also where most business is taken care of by men. I mean come on, Egypt needs to change -- it's not a man's world anymore.