Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Personal Accomplishments

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.




Cairogal said...

I'm a firm believer in the notion that travel outside of one's country generally forces all of us into positions that are uncomfortable and awkward/. Egypt surely wears a crown for that! The beauty of it, M, is that eventually these things become a little less uncomfortable and a lot less awkward over time. Congratulations! It only gets easier from this point forward.

Living Away said...

i've being on your shoes when i moved to the usa without speaking any english. i felt so proud of myself when i got the courage to go the post office all by myself...

Ruthy said...

Asalaamu Alaikum

Funny thing, I was searching a recipe for sweet fateer and I found your blog. Although I probably couldn't make an exact match of it anyway because making the ishta would be difficult. I miss it so much when we were in Alexandria in the SUMMER! So hot but it was a trip we had to make. I too created a blog about our entire trip. But we do talk about moving to Alex from time to time, but right now its all just talk for now. I look forward to finally reading the American point of view of living in Egypt.


Anonymous said...

Knowing you can take care of things now, I can come back home and just take it easy…am so proud of you, Hassan

Anonymous said...

I am proud of you, this is a great accomplishment. The old you vs the new you, WOW! I know you are a special person, Mira gets a lot from you too. (Hello Hassan, call me.) I miss all of you, and I really miss the BBQ at the end of the road. KarenJ.

Marian said...

Cairogal - I sure hope it keeps getting easier - but I still get frustrated. Makes me want to scream sometimes. Thanks.

Living Away - Living in Egypt has certainly given me a new sensitivity to anyone who has moved to another country - as an immigrant or refugee. I was always sensitive towards people, but this is enlightening beyond my wildest dreams. Congratulations to you!!

Ruth - Mmmm. Sweet fateer. One of my favorite Egyptian sweets. I have to say I'm spoiled here w/ delivery so I don't order sweet fateer as much as I would like - it's just too easy. I hope you enjoy reading my blog and continue commenting. Thanks.

Hassan - OK you're on!! Just do a few things for me -- make sure I don't get ripped off and make sure the car runs smoothly. I can handle the car washes and oil changes, but I'm afraid of getting ripped off by being charged too much! I love u.

Karen - It is so great to hear from you! I think of you so much because you are the most outgoing person I've ever known -- and super friendly too. I think of you when I have to get the courage within myself to do something on my own. And the BBQ Place - Randy's? We all miss it terribly, although my waistline doesn't miss it - just my tastebuds. Best BBQ sauce in the world too. Love u. Hugs to Luke.