The “H” Word

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Ok so thus far I have managed to side-step the whole topic of the h-word. Avoided talking about it, avoided blogging about it, avoided feeling it that much to be totally honest. But today all the signs were indicating that it’s time to face it. It’s time to face the homesickness. This morning, while running across the 26th of July bridge over the Nile I passed a very Egyptian looking guy wearing a “No Snow No Show” t-shirt. I doubt he had ever seen snow – although one of my professors did say that Cairo used to see the occasional winter flurry when she was a child. And now, having ventured to a nearby breakfast place that has surprisingly managed to escape my notice up until this point, (I am on a perpetual hunt for good scrambled eggs and French toast) I was shocked to find a “Colorado Omelet” on the menu. Only slightly less surprising, it was actually pretty good too – though as always the hot sauce was a little lacking.

So there it is. I admit it. I miss Colorado. I miss the mountains. I miss Boulder. I miss dousing copious amounts of Cholula upon a bursting Chipotle burrito. I miss walking only 10 minutes to lose any thought or indication of civilization. I miss feeling that every breath of cool October air is bringing me a little more life rather than a little closer to lung cancer. I’m super jealous that my dad is probably about to send in his skis to get sharpened and waxed and that Gramma, Aunt Francie, and Mom probably got snowed on some this weekend during the Komen walk in Denver. The novelty in living in a totally foreign place and totally foreign culture is long since worn off. I’m not a visitor anymore – I live here. And sometimes, as Evan once famously quoted on an extended family camping trip from which he was ready to return, “I want to go back to the house with the roof on it!!”

Ok enough of that. I gotta shut up or else I’m gonna start getting sympathy messages. I hate sympathy. Anyway I’m over my 10 seconds. The ever-wise Christy Ritter once advised me that it’s good to give yourself 10 seconds to let out all the negative thoughts and feelings and then that’s it. Lock it down. Move on. (Ok so side note actually I received this tidbit of wisdom second-hand and devoid of what I’m sure was an originally gentle intention when I started sounding a little too whiney around the ever-blunt Hailey McClure.) But regardless of its origin, I have put this little gem to use often in the last few weeks, and generally by second 7 or so, Cairo, in her unrelenting current which stops for no man’s nostalgia has managed to whisk my attention on to the next marvel.

Yalla Azaam!

Having somehow worked my way somehow into the dizzyingly variegated fabric of the city, I have started learning how to use my un-concealable role as “foreigner” to my advantage. For example I recently started running in Zamalek and the surrounding areas while the pool at the University was inaccessible due to the student strike. This is something I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing during the summer – not just because of the degree of agility and reckless assertiveness necessitated by Cairo traffic, but because of the reactions a clearly western guy in shorts and running shoes draws. But when you go into it accepting your role as the slightly crazed foreigner (they just do things like that you know…) then it becomes easy for both parties to play their parts and move on. I smile and wave like an idiot; they roll their eyes and go back to their shisha. Last week I had one guy start running beside me, so in Arabic I goaded him into racing and felt probably a little too much satisfaction when he fell off halfway, laughing and panting. Two nights ago me and two other American ALI students went to the Cairo Jazz club – an interesting little joint that always has a live band playing, which lets them get away with charging the equivalent of $7 for the Egyptian equivalent of a PBR. We almost got turned away because we had failed to make a reservation and Hainer half-jokingly tried to bribe the door guy which made him mad. But as a last-ditch effort Kerry and I shamelessly switched on our endearingly broken Egyptian Arabic banter and the bouncer’s attitude switched instantly from dangerously prickly to laughingly waving us though the door. It got even better when we discovered that an Egyptian Beatles cover band was playing that night.

Classes have resumed at the main campus again, which is great because it means that the rest of the school is no longer planning fun things that the ALI kids are unable to attend (our classes were moved to Zamalek during the strike). Karim is no longer mad at me for cancelling our second trip in 2 weeks after he discovered that his SECOND surprise birthday party was the cause this weekend. I know. He’s

Birthday boy!

so spoiled. This weekend was a joint surprise party for Karim and his friend Azzam put on by their childhood friend Mohammed. Last weekend Mohammed, Zia, and I rented out a felucca on Karim’s birthday and brought him to the dock saying that we were looking for a bathroom. Luckily a group of about 30 of Karim’s Egyptian and international friends came pouring down the stairs before he could start wondering if I was planning on peeing into the Nile. Besides the wonderfully energetic group of people that the party brought together, it was a great example of how Egyptians manage to banish their own inhibitions so completely – and those of everyone around them – and revel fully in being together – all without a drop of alcohol. By the end of the 2 hour boat trip everyone was drenched in sweat from having thoroughly shook his or her respective thang, and Egyptians and foreigners alike were all grinning uncontrollably.

So there it is. I’m completely engaged and content while simultaneously and enigmatically longing for something else. This week I am planning on going hotel-hunting in preparation for my family’s visit at the end of the semester. Hopefully that will be a good way of dealing with the dichotomous emotions. I guess the date tree is always greener on the other side eh? Ooh speaking of fruit here’s what I’ll leave you with: go to Google right now. First type in the words “Do a barrel roll” and hold on. Gotta love those Google guys. Then type in “ashta fruit” and prepare to be amazed…

Karim, me, and Sahar


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