Sunday, December 27, 2009

Letters from Egypt: Tis’ the Relationship Season

One year ago, Christmas found me in a not-so holiday mood. I didn’t even realize it was Christmas time until Dec. 24 – pretty sad eh? This year was much different. I’m unsure if it was because I had my fill of family during Thanksgiving or if it was just because I got that much needed break from Egypt.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my family, but my brother had it right when he said how I reminded him of the single life away from home, just relaxing watching Christmas movies and not worrying about the hustle and bustle that family holiday time entails. Let’s be honest here, avoiding a family dispute on Christmas is like the NY Mets winning the World Series – rare.

And in with the holiday spirit, I guess I should hit on the one question I get asked often – what’s the dating scene like (because you all know the holidays make you want to be in a relationship or remain in the unhappy one you’re in just to get through the holidays)? Now, some people might argue with me on this, but I suppose it just depends on how picky (or desperate for that matter) you really are. In fact, I’m not even sure if I can fit this all into one blog post, so there might have to be sequels.

First of all, Egypt provides many females with self-confidence that perhaps they didn’t previously have. Imagine how it feels if you’re from a small town, never really traveled and you arrive in Egypt with a flood of guys staring, telling you how beautiful you are, willing to bend over backwards (for a short time at least), etc. And men, don’t even try to compete with these smooth Egyptian talkers, they certainly know how to feed a few lines of BS (hint hint ladies, it is almost ALWAYS BS).

Here’s where it gets tricky (oh, I have not dated an Egyptian and will take this from my observations in addition to friends’ experiences): Unfortunately, many of the new arrivals (and some old) are so starved for attention that they buy into this. Now of course you have your male anomalies, but those are few and far in between. Let’s just put it out there like it is: if you have blonde hair, you look exotic. If you have blue eyes, beautiful. If you’re pale – great, you’d make perfect kids one day. Oh yeah, and you have a foreign passport, even better. Oh and I almost forgot, you might get paid a foreign salary – cha ching!

Men are men no matter their nationality. That being said, this advice falls in line with the previous posts of how difficult it may be to judge a new culture. I am not here to tell you the do’s and don’ts of dating in Egypt, so take my advice for what it’s worth. I will also tell you alternately that for those of us that had confidence before arriving here; the treatment that we endure actually has an adverse affect. You want to think men are genuinely interested and not just talking to you because of your passport or potential financial stability. And let me tell you ladies, the other expats aren’t that much better. Most of them are married and have numerous girlfriends all over the place and still have their eye on more.

My basic conclusion: men are men no matter where they’re from. And if you think the dating scene in Egypt is much better than your home country, you’re jaded.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Letters from Egypt: What I Learned My 1st Visit Home

Maur, Amy and me at a little place we like to refer to as Salty Balls

I finally went home after 17 months away, and I must admit, I was slightly nervous. I had heard from other expats that your first time back was a culture shock so to speak. Nah, I disagree, but what I will tell you is that it does teach you a valuable lesson. I suppose the lesson is different depending on the person. My lesson was that sometimes I just have to learn to say goodbye.

I’ve always had a hard time saying goodbye. I’m usually the first one to move somewhere, but I’d like to think that I’m better than most about keeping in touch. However, through my many moves and changes in life, goodbye has become inevitable. The difference: I never recognized it. I would just let things fade out without a second thought.

 The new bride Kelly, Jodi and me
 I first arrived in NY, the place that although I wasn’t born, I still call home. Despite the depression based on the economic downturn, I felt as though things were pretty much the same – okay, give or take a wedding, two engagements, and a couple of pregnancies. Then I went down South and had some family time for Thanksgiving and of course, to see my favorite sport (American football) and my favorite team continue their undefeated season (Geaux Saints!!!).

Kelly and me getting geared for the Saints, WHO DAT!

It was then that I realized that sometimes I just need to say goodbye. I have this friend that while I may know her since college in a very different way from most people, it was very evident that she and I are now on different paths. It doesn’t mean that the goodbye is permanent, but there comes a time in your life when you have to sit down and say to yourself, “Perhaps this person’s priorities are lining up on a different road and I need to stop trying to catch up to them via the street that clearly wasn’t meant for me.” It’s never easy to come to the realization that you’ve moved apart, but why linger? But to be fair, I knew this was coming I just didn’t want to say it. Instead I turned a blind eye to her past actions and continued being there even though she wasn’t. The sad part is, she probably doesn’t even realize that I’m gone.

There could’ve been a tear, but not really when I knew it all along. However, something else happened. While I feel like I’ve let one close friend go, I got back one back – our mothers refer to us as ‘partners in crime’ – after almost three years of hardly any communication. Truth be told, I dialed her phone number by mistake and from that point on, we talked all day every day up until I left. It came natural and it felt like no time had lapsed at all. The funniest part was although we hadn’t spoken in so long, we shared very similar stories of where our lives had gone and the relationships we’d run into along the way.

Through it all though, I was reminded of just how many people are supporting me. Egypt is not an easy place to live, but Elaine said, “If things really get so terrible, we as expats always have an out: home. However, when things are really terrible at home, we have no out.” Therefore, life as an expat can’t be that bad because many of us never go home, at least not until we’re good and ready.