Friday, October 17, 2014

Things I WASN'T told about Cairo

My memory is excellent, and I write down almost everything that happens to me. As a result, I can tell where I was on almost every given day of my life without having to look at my timeline. Neither a year nor two months ago I even remotely thought I'd live a life so completely different from everything I've lived before. Consequently, I had no time to prepare myself for life in Egypt and how much it would change. I was prepared to be slightly warmer than usual or to stand out from the crowd a bit more than before but there are plenty of things I did not really see coming at all despite my connaisance of Egypt beforehand. There's the changes you have to make that all guide books prepare you for. And then there is the changes you make you were not quite prepared to do.

#1 You will stop breathing for many reasons
It is said that every day spent in Cairo equals smoking a pack of cigarettes due to insane levels of pollution. The part I wasn't aware of is that I may add another pack a day due to the effects of passive smoking. I was spoiled by the best air the world has to offer in the wonderland we call "Scotland" for four years where trees keep it clean and people don't spoil it by smoking or driving. Everyone here smokes extensively and has a car that would not be allowed to be driven in European cities. In fact, I never knew the smoking ban in pubs was as awesome as it is until I started suffocating in a Cairo club. Or Taxi. Or just every street there is. I have developed a cough that hits in random situations but I had to realize it's not really all that random since I am constantly around cigarettes, and if I'm not there is still Cairo's air that is slowly trying to kill me. Add the damage the ozone layer that undoubtedly does not exist just above Cairo and I'll be knocking off some time off my clock every day I stay.

#2 You'll want to be on Big Brother to get some privacy
This is the story of how elevators turned from being my worst nightmare to my favorite thing ever. Why, you ask? Because it's the only place in Cairo I feel a certain degree of privacy. Dating in Egypt never sounded that easy but it gets a lot worse when you have blonde hair and you're accompanied by an Egyptian gentleman. The part I knew is that there was not going to be any PDAs; the part I didn't know is that I will be watched like I'm Selena Gomez on a date with Justin Bieber. I don't want to jump the guy in public but I'd appreciate a basic amount of intimacy. Easy fix for those with their own places. However, nobody does. Either people still live at home or actually have a bawab (security at tenement buildings) that makes sure men and women are never alone. I am a quiet sufferer of the latter. I had to officially fare well my European expectations in a normal dating process and now just have to find the highest buildings in town with the slowest elevators, hoping that nobody else but us will get on it.

#3 You will not want to be allergic to Gluten
Foodwise, they tell you Egyptians use a lot of sugar in their cooking and they're not kidding. Almost every juice or tea or sweet tastes like a cavity. Another thing shocked me most, though. Pasta, Bread, Rice and all that jazz are great ways to add to a meal of meat and veggies. I'm not a fan of carbs in the slightest and if I had to pick a carb of preference it would be some yummy potatoes. However, potatoes are a vegetable here. More akwardly, salad is not. In fact, ordering salad anywhere will result in you getting served Hummus and Tahina with tasteless bread. Quite obviously Egyptians love their carbs as a popular sandwich consisting of mashed potatoes in a bun would suggest. Where are the vegetables? You can fill your sandwich with falafel or beans instead of mashed potatoes, that would be an option.To this day I have not had a meal that didn't consist of carbs at least 70%. For my conscious diet this was not the best news. You know you miss your old diet when you find yourself going for KFC to get some serious servings of meat. The only way to keep a healthy diet therefore seems to be home cooking which is not an option for me because I live in a hotel and don't have a kitchen. Consequently, my digestion will soon be limited to processing Shish Tawook as it's the equivalent to my salads in my European life.

There are many things in Cairo that are way worse than anything I've known before. At the same time, there is much to be learned. Finding my zen state and health from inside rather than the outside which is my biggest aim in life is much more needed in a place like this. Everyone will start feeling zen and pure when in the Highlands but what about now? Not being able to take my relationships too far too fast has also been beneficial. Being forced to just talk would have been good for some of my exes. And despite the lack of health in Egyptian food the culinary adventure is about the best part of being in new countries. Granted, this experience would rock more for me if I liked either carbs or sugar but oh well. I'm sure I will encounter many more things I did not expect that much but then again, that's kinda why I came here. Expect the unexpected. 

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