Monday, October 27, 2014

Welcome to my Africa, don't bring your Europe!

Remember that time I expressed my desire to continue my European lifestyle in Egypt? Yeah, that's not happening! Before I came here I was convinced that I may enter a new world being able to ignore the unpleasant bits and just "do my own thing". I have always been a person who did that because I can't say I ever cared about what people think of me that much. Now that I am surrounded by Arabs at least 16 hours a day I have had to realize that it doesn't matter if I care what they think or not, I will not be able to be myself either way. The judgement is constant and coming from every direction possible. You know you're being watched when 1984 is suddenly the book that best describes your life. I would have to live a Pink song religiously to ignore the constant looks of disapproval when I even remotely consider expressing myself in a European way. Different aspects of my lifestyle I thought were going to be quite easy to maintain. However, they're not...

Yeah, those days are over!
Possibly the least understandable "rule" around here is the dress code. Right now I'm not struggling because it rarely hits 30 degrees but once summer hits I will not be able to wear long sleeved shirts and jeans anymore. Most impressively, I don't know how chicks over here are doing it wearing their different types of veils. This situation gives a whole new meaning to pasty Scots saying "I'm roasting!" on a fresh August afternoon. I do however get death stares if even an inch of my collar bone is showing. This morning I put my phone in my chest pocket and the metro filled with school girls was in shock. I would like to say I don't care if people are considering me to be a sinner for wearing clothes they consider too revealing but I'm sadly not that cool. I am a visitor and I want to respect the culture but I am very, very warm. For now I'll be a good girl but this particular custom is going to cause a lot more problems.

On top of that, a European eating and drinking culture could not be maintained here if I tried. As I said before, everything you buy here is not good for you, either being way too greasy or way too sweet. My sister and I made a salad at her house last night and it was the best thing I ever tasted. The last time I ever fancied a meal was when we went to IKEA to have meatballs. The meal would have been complete with a glass of wine but you can't buy that here. Well, let me rephrase that: you may buy some extortionate wine which will not impose a feeling of satisfaction in your mouth. It may appeal to your senses but not the ones in charge of taste. Of course there is a huge variety of (3) beers to make up for that. Let's not forget that you have to go to special places to even be served alcohol. If these places are not in a basement or on a rooftop the windows are shaded because it is despicable to be in there. I like wine and I don't want to feel ashamed for having a glass. Somehow, I do feel ashamed though...

The worst aspect by far is however the course of human relationship. Recently, a visitor from Europe asked my friend if he would be able to kiss the girl he liked in a club. Of course he can't which sucks. It is hard for Westerners to imagine how much a relationship is compromised if you cannot show a sign of affection in public. Unfortunately, every single relationship here takes place in public exclusively. If my special friend tells me I look nice I immediately feel uncomfortable because I feel people could get offended. If he takes my hand I think they actually are. But that's the absolute furthest that can go and since we both don't have a house that allows visitors a random power cut in a restaurant turns into the most intimate experience one could imagine. So I thought I'd stick to dating Americans over here, making this a much easier experience in terms of sticking to my European lifestyle. Since I'm not though I had to bid farewell to romance, or intimacy, or any form of expression I would consider basic in my life so far, at least for the vast majority of the time.

So sadly, continuing my lifestyle and even continuing to be the person I was before has come to a forceful end. I do not feel like I get to be myself at all anywhere. If I'm in public, I get stared at and judged. If I'm at friends' houses I have to make up for a lack of making out so that's not me either. My diet is all over the place and I haven't been running in two months. You could say that everything about my original life has changed and I have been ripped of the chance to live a European life. I guess my plan was a pretty stupid anyways. All I'm trying to say is that I see why my sister put on some pounds being home this summer. And all I really want to say is that I never thought I'd want to kiss a boy when my friends are in the room or that not having to wear long pants is actually a really fantastic right we have over there. Oh well, I guess this is my life now, and it's definitely not a European life at all...

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