Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2015: Some Last Words...

My reflective blog posts near the ends of every year have become boring to read. Last years' theme is old by now: Of course I never expected any of the things that happened this year, underlined by the fact I'm writing these lines while sat in Moscow for the very first time after what feels like a lifetime of anticipation. 2015's highlights, although I'm currently on holiday, are almost impossible to pick, with Moscow not yet qualifying. Talk about high standards yo! There are just too many eligible highlights. Like way too many. Because 2015 was, hands down, the best year of my life, and I find it impossible to imagine the best is yet to come although I know it is...

I rang in the new year in a very good way: on a couch, surrounded by my bestie and boyfriend, two dogs, a lovely apartment we were sitting for our good friends and, most importantly, away from all the many things I hated about my temporary home of Cairo. Coincidentally, I had no idea that this year would see my transition from party to couch which I can now officially confirm started right about that moment. I immediately felt positive, maybe because I had been reading "The Secret", and knew that I would be looking at a wonderful year. That moment we created that night faded, but the memories are the best. All these people and dogs are no longer around, and yet 2015 has taught me, finally, to look back at the good times and smile, not weep. I had so much love in my life that night, I attracted enough for the rest of the year.

Indeed, 2015 was the year of love for me. Undoubtedly a milestone in my year and life was falling in love, being in a relationship that made and ruined my days on a regular basis. The love I received this year by many people was absolutely unheard of and made no sense at all. Hence, it truly changed my life. Most importantly, however, my life was changed by the awareness that I am also able to return love which I had never really been able to do. It really is nice to love someone, even if it hurts as much as it did. And despite a bitter end and many, many incidents that would have made many people regret giving the love I gave, I'm so happy I did. I attracted so much love in my life that I was able to pass it on to friends, refugees and strangers, and it came back into my life a tenfold.

When I was thinking about the best happening of 2015 I was unable to pick one. There were many professional highlights like almost laying eyes on Putin, partying it up as part of a job that pays actual money and writing about refugees just because I could. On the personal side, I had a blast with my Cairo posse every Tuesday and in Hurghada, Fayoum or Dahab, experiencing first hand how the right company can brighten up a godforsaken place like Cairo. Total highlights included all the guests I had there too. The week I had with Conor was undoubtedly one of the very best, and welcoming Daniel to his first foreign country felt pretty good, too. And then there was summer in which Miriam and my thumb took us all over the Balkans, philosophizing about what we are doing on this planet. And funnily enough all these experiences gave me a better idea about what that is...

Progress is not just movement but the the ability to cross out the things in life you do not want. I am unsure if, at this time last year, I was able to say it as clearly as now what I want in life, and more significantly, believe I will get it. I know what 2015 made me, and I am curious to see how that evolves, but I am also glad for all of the things that didn't happen. Of course, spending a full year in Cairo would teach anybody that, but every bad experience thickened that skin of mine, and I'm not even the slightest bit scared of 2016 although I am either going to head back to school or try to redo the last two years of my professional life on a different, more competitive continent. The tasks get worse every year, and for some reason my life seems to get easier because I can cope more easily.

Away from all my academic and rational achievement, which was the only thing I cared about for pretty much 25 years, there just is a lot of emotional achievement this year which I am happy about. Mamma ain't no mamma until she's walked out of a bad relationship, or accepted she has made a lot of mistakes, or stopped pretending. I am now exactly where I want to be with myself, but now I have to find the suitable surrounding for the person I became, and she's much harder to market than before. What makes it better though is looking back at a year full of luck in every sense of the word, and knowing that luck in fact does not come in a certain quantity that can run out. And mine won't. I won't let it yet... 

Monday, December 14, 2015

Time For Some Words On Donald Trump...

Alright, alright, alright, nobody wants to hear Trump bashing anymore. I like to make political statements so that they don't offend anyone's intellect or opinion although, one may argue, I have little understanding for someone's intellect or opinion if they indeed do not think that Donald Trump is incompetent and delusional, at least when it comes to him in the race for President. It is crystal-clear to one half of the American population that this guy is, well, an idiot, and apparently pretty obvious to the other half that he is the only candidate that will stop political correctness to make "America great again" (just like every other candidate that ever ran, got nominated and even won, sometimes reelected, but who's counting?). I would really like to use my ability to try to consider all angles and opinions to extend an olive branch to the latter half in this text. Something tells me I will fail.

We really don't have to talk about mysogyny, Islamophobia and racism as the very vast majority of people on this planet have already realized that Trump is a fan of all of them. Since he isn't politically correct, his mainly uneducated following seems to think that exclamations of such horror are merely his attempt to speak his mind. What these clowns forget, however, is that political correctness is not the result of somebody waking up one day and wanting to censor people's thought. In fact, a person with, let's say, intellect knows that political correctness is a set of rules that make diplomacy happen rather than antagonism. When I look at Trump supporters, and their bright ideas of "bombing ISIS" (a "state" that doesn't actually exist, mind you) or arming American high school teachers to prevent future shootings it does make sense though. If you are a Trump supporter and feel like I just insulted your intellect, you understood me correctly!

All his terrible rhetoric aside which cannot be excused legitimately I have one major problem with the guy that I'd have even if he was America's version of Justin Trudeau: Trump's an economist, old and probably at least a little bit corrupt which are about the only things he's got going for himself when we're talking qualifications for office; The D has never served in office! How can we just forget to make this a major problem? I can't gequalifications and that guy just gets the presidency? Now I see exactly what Republicans will be saying right now: "You think Trudeau at age 42 has better experience to lead a country than the man that knows how to make jobs, save the economy and have a firm grip on terrorists?". The answer is Yes, yes I do think so. Trudeau was born more qualified that Trump thanks to his father. Also, his ability to suggest that we shouldn't just bomb the entire Middle East and ban Muslims from existing sounds like he has an infinitely better idea what the term "politics" means.

Unfortunately I will not be able to finish this text without getting a little bit historical. I am German, politically correct, racist only if expressing my preference for black and Asian babies is considered racist and very clearly not misogynistic or Islamophobic thanks to having actually met a Muslim (unlike some!) and I can't help to find Trump's behavior, rhetoric and policy plans worrying. Germany is and forever will be marked by the hate one individual successfully spread across a continent a few decades ago, and although I would never compare a Donald Trump to an Adolf Hitler some of the unfounded propositions he made sound strangely familiar. Despite being somewhat of a mass murderer which I sincerely hope Trump doesn't end up being, Hitler did have some good brains, so the comparison doesn't work on more than one level. Bummer!

I would really like to share the perception that Trump has no shot at winning the presidency with the rest of my generation, however, I already thought it was a joke when he started running, and right now he's on the express lane to the nomination. I guess if the American people vote him into office I will officially start commenting on the decline of Americanism which I have refrained from doing so far. There's no way that would end well! Unfortunately it will affect way more people that the redneck gun enthusiasts that vote for him. The alternative, Dr. Ben Carson, is almost as bad in terms of misanthropic rhetoric . Never thought I'd see the day I'd like a Bush to win the nomination. In any case, the only consolation I enjoy in this respect is the faith that American conservatism is declining the more people actually get an education, and maybe, just maybe that will improve a little once the Republicans lose the House and Senate! But I'm getting ahead of myself... 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

"Immmshi!": 6 Things All Expats Think In Egypt

Egypt is the most confusing country in the world. I cannot lie, and I therefore have to admit that it is the worst place a person could live. There is nothing I really like about it very much, and still, over a year later I am still sitting here, on the shores of the Red Sea, glancing over the Sinai peninsula, and find myself unable to leave. There are terrible thoughts us expats all have about Cairo every day, but then sometimes one of these really good thoughts finds its way into our brain, and we eventually ignore all of the others. If you meet an expat that hasn't had the following thoughts at some point, buy them a drink:

"If I hear one more honk I'm going to scream or destroy something!"
I laugh when my LA friends tell me about traffic problems in the City of Angels. One has not experienced how traffic can destroy a day and change anger management skills until one has visited Cairo: third row parking, a ridiculous infrastructure and organization, terrible road conditions and 20 million people slapping their horns like their lives depend on it (which they kind of do!). As a result, there is no place in Cairo where the absence of a honking car can be enjoyed, including the one and only park in the city, that is tied in noise disturbances via traffic and loud families gathering on the daily. A new Cairo resident may think the constant noise won't get to them, but eventually it does, and before the head explodes they flee to the desert or Sinai.

"Why is a seemingly easy thing so hard around here?!"
Last night, I took an overnight bus to Sinai. I have taken overnight buses in half a dozen countries but only in Egypt it's torture. You can consider yourself lucky if the speakers don't blast "Let's Get Loud" at four in the morning. Last night, I was lucky as the bus driver "only" played the Quran all night at night club volume. You know you're close to breaking down when you start praying to God to make him stop singing although every other word is "Allah". At the same time, a passport check in Egypt takes about an hour where it should really just be a matter of seconds. Even shopping, taking the bus, extending your visa or using your GPS, seemingly straightforward activities, may result in a nervous breakdown in Egypt because around here the motto clearly is "why have it easy if we can make it hard?"

"I wonder where this weight gain is coming from?"
Now this one can go both ways: either you lose lots of weight living in Egypt because you have constant diarrhea or just decide not to eat that crap they're serving you, or you ignore these sentiments and eat that poison. Gluten and Grease, the two Gs of every Egyptian meal, slowly but surely kill you. And if the diet won't, the air will; pollution and second-hand smoking has ruined my skin and lungs. They say one day living and breathing in Cairo equals 50 cigarettes. I believe it! One Egyptian friend of mine once told me he "does not trust air he cannot see". I now find myself lounging on the beach because I needed to stop coughing which was never going to happen in Cairo. The sad but inevitable truth is that this city will try to kill you, but there's always an escape which is about the best thing there is about here!

"OMG, this view is gorgeous!"
Yes, there are a hundred reasons to hate Cairo, and then there's one to love it: when you sit on a felucca on the Nile, overlooking the skyline of Zamalek, or find yourself a 10 dollar bus ride away from the miracle that is Dahab in the South Sinai, you cannot help but to wonder what you did to deserve such blessings. I hate Cairo every day of my life, but it's the only place in the world that allows me to live a professional life I worked hard for, make quite some cash and offer up the opportunity to have weekends away in the Sahara or St Catherin'e Mountains, formerly home to the Ten Commandments. Moses showed quite some taste back in the day, temporarily settling in Sinai when he lead his people out of Egypt although his reasons were better than mine. I'm only slightly prosecuted as a female, white journalist but they actually pay me... quite well! So I get to see all the gorgeousness this country has to offer only because I'm apparently tough enough to ignore the horrors of Cairo.

"Look at these foreigners thinking they know it all!"
When I first came to Egypt, I thought I was a well-traveled, open-minded individual that gets people and makes good decisions. This soon turned out to be a huge misconception. I was quite quickly aware I was the Jon Snow of Egypt with my dress sense and willingness to adapt. Some of these cultural things, including flirting, was just not going to work for me. I vowed to not change my Western-ness, and got into a fight with my Egyptian boyfriend over how many buttons on my shirt I should close. Fact is I just did not know and made the wrong decision. Even worse than the foreigners that believe their way is superior are the ones that come to "experience the real Egypt", which seems to mean sleep with Egyptians as fast as possible, drink disgusting Egyptian beer in crappy "authentic" pubs and proclaim foul and falafel to be your ultimate favorite food. I was the new foreigner myself once (well, not really, but I'll take it for the argument!), but since I'm not anymore I can now be Egyptian about it and judgmentally think "Oh, honey!".

"I will never find a partner!"
This one is a tricky one, because the initial expat thought is "how will I choose between all these people that like me?" Depending on one's intelligence, however, one will soon find out it's not the most genuine interest. After having watched a few failed relationships or romances, I have yet to find someone who truly believes they will find lasting love in Egypt. Cultural difference is just too much of a thing, and even those who try to be different eventually accept defeat. I don't belong to the demographic that has given up on Egyptian partners despite having had a boyfriend who was too Egyptian for his own good, but the sentence "I'll never date and Egyptian again!", has been uttered by pretty much every expat I ever met here.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Giving Thanks To Who's There... And Who's NOT!

It has never, and I mean never, been easier to be thankful for me on Thanksgiving than today and not just because I enjoyed a wonderful dinner with wonderful company who chose for me to be in their midst. I may have had a happier day, or week, or month at some point in my life, but I never understood the meaning of filling my mind and soul with gratitude and the incredible effect that has on my life as well as I do now, and I therefore have thoughts now that match nothing I ever felt before in terms of blessings, and I'm not even religious anymore. Why? Because I know exactly what I have, and what I don't have, and both provide reasons to be thankful. The losses of almost 27 years on this planet are as much of a blessing as the things I do have. Being grateful is easy when you live this life like me...

Last year, I spent Thanksgiving surrounded with four people who I absolutely adored. Four people in 20 million in this city stood out to me, and we sat around a table thanking each other for existing. All four of them were not present today when me and about 15 other people spent the night eating, drinking and talking, having a completely different kind of experience. Without meaning any offense, I thought that today I would possibly have a harder time being thankful for the company then last year when the room was filled with romantic and friendly love. However, the thought of last year, and the contrast it provides to my current life, is exactly what I realized I'm thankful for. These four people are not in my life that much now, either due to expulsion of emigration, but I couldn't help but look back at the memory and be thankful for its existence.

My company for today's Thanksgiving Day was no less awesome than last year, and I still thought about last year and how the participants had vanished from my life. Yet, I was lucky enough not to get nostalgic today but feel blessed for having had this wonderful experience of actually being surrounded by people who truly loved me, and vice versa, thousands of miles from the people who had done so the previous 26 years. It was a day I will forever cherish, and even a year later I still feel thankful for having had these people although none of them are around anymore. The ability to take a nice memory and let it be a smile in my face rather than a tear in my eye was what made this Thanksgiving the best one yet because I finally learned how to appreciate, and not reminisce.

One of last year's dinner participants actually provided the biggest inspiration for my Thanksgiving speech today: I am not just thankful for those selected few people that make my life worth living, but I'm thankful for not having those NOT worth living for there anymore. This year, I am mourning the loss of a person that 365 days ago was the source of all my gratefulness. Today, I am thankful that is no longer the case. To know what's good in your life means more when you also realized what's bad in it, and it increases its quality. I am not unhappy for the time I shared a table, friends and a life with a person who effectively does not exist anymore, and I am not sad about the fact that these four people and I will never get back together like that ever again, but I am thankful for the time when that was my reality, and I am happy that it's not anymore because lives change, and we made the right decisions not holding on to that past.

This week is a testament to how lucky I really am, having my best friend fly over from Scotland to see me and being able to thank him for his existence today. Only last year our stories of all the good times we've had in the past six years would have made me want the past back. Talking to him about our amazing memories would have made me sad because those days are gone. Today, it didn't make me sad! I just can't believe that, six years later, I have this complete random sitting next to me at a Thanksgiving table that I literally shared the past with although I don't share his present. I have friendship and love in my life many would kill for, and I'm aware of it. I can be thankful for the memories, even though some of them caused a lot of hurt, and not let it affect my happiness of the present. I am so fortunate for this lesson, and I can give thanks to whoever put it there whether it was through acts of love, hate, loss or passion...

Living my life, it's ridiculously easy to be thankful. I have a lot of things to deal with and I for sure don't just sit down and wait for good things to happen, but for some reason amazing things happen to me despite my positive or negative outlooks on life. I get more than I ask from life all the time, and I definitely don't want to get used to accepting that and taking it for granted. Touché, some friends, lovers and acquaintances have departed from my life in the last years, but my heart is home to a group of winners that make my heart the most valuable place there is. Part of the reason why this posse is in such a good company is because I have learned to expel those who do not deserve to be there, allowing for my heart to be the mirror of what I want it to be. And what I see in there is more than an epic reason to be thankful for without even having to compare my life to suffering Africans to make it feel special.

Friday, November 20, 2015

What is Love?

Oh gee, watching Anderson Cooper last night wasn't the easiest thing to swallow. I watched the Silver Fox sit down with some Paris survivors who were certain that last Friday the 13th was going to be their last, and in tears they described the thoughts they had while waiting for the bullet that would end their life. While watching this video, I realized something pretty unlikely to happen when you watch a video outlining events that happened from the most sheer manifestation of hate; I realized what love was, and how that hate brought death, mourning and pain, but in the end demonstrated love in such forceful gravity that changed my life as well.

The most common notion in the last week has been how hate is destroying the world. All we hear is news of violence and destruction that makes one fear that love is actually NOT all around. I couldn’t disagree more! These two survivors seemed to agree with me. In tears, survivor Isobel Bowdery from Cape Town recapped her "last thoughts” on 360: 

"It was important that if I was going to die, if the next bullet was for me, then I left saying I love you. So I said it to every single person I've ever loved. And in that way it felt OK to die, because I had love in my heart."

She tells a worldwide audience how a stranger risked his life to save hers, how she dedicated what she thought would be her last moment to fill her heart and soul with the love she had for all the people she loved and how the gunmen’s’ hate had not won. What other than illogical and natural love would do that? It reminded me of United 93 where shortly before certain death the people on the plane called their loved ones to let them know they’re loved. I immediately thought of the gunmen and tried to picture their last thoughts, wondering if they also saw people and remembered their feelings, but finding it hard to imagine that to be the case. And just like that, I saw my heart, my thoughts and the presence of love that is present in every single one of us until we fight it. And I realized that it’s not just words that say “love is stronger than hate”, it is the way we were born.

We might do hateful things, some worse than others, but in the end hate in our hearts very obviously needs to be fueled while love is innate and has to be haltered by our fears. We try to stop love from happening, but it never does, while hate only happens when we let it. I am thinking of the many years I was scared to open my heart towards friends, family and partners because of fear of pain or hanging on to sorrows. In the moments it mattered though, when my father or my high school best friend passed away, none of that was still there. And I am thinking of the man I used to love whose hateful ways towards me and others have been the result of a wide attempt to stop loving me. I would like to believe that in the moments it matters (which hopefully will never come) he would remember he loves me just like I love him although that love will never find an expression again.

There have undeniably been a lot of horrible events in my life. Many of them happened because of people’s unwillingness to make a decision that would go hand in hand with the love in their heart. Recently, someone wanting to get revenge on me for something I hadn’t even done got more than just himself involved in this plan, but hurt me and other people in his attempt to bring pain to my life. I should really hate that person or the people who helped him in this moronic pursuit, however, I just can’t. My life has been so positive, and the poisonous hate I sometimes catch myself feeling doesn’t punish those who deserve it, but me! My life is good because it follows Bowdery’s stance: it is a good life, because there is love in it.

Unlike many, I don’t count the love I have in my life as a quantity. The mere fact that some random people in California who are completely unrelated to me are considering me a part of their family blows my mind, or should I say heart?! I don’t have many people in my life whose face I want to see on judgement day, but those faces I will see deserve to be seen, and their mere presence in my life raises the quality of it. It is the willingness to let that feeling that they call love take you over despite of all the bad or evil you have experienced. It is the liberation of allowing fear not to spoil the best things you can have in life. That is love!

The other survivor, Bowdery’s boyfriend who she believed to be dead when she miraculously survived the attack, states how he went looking for her, frantically searching every inch of the ground for her dead body. The love we feel for a partner can be so destructive if that person was lost. Although the dramatic display of these two people on CNN can hardly be the measurement of how much they love each other, I believe that is in fact what love is: the complete inability to picture life without that person. I, for one, only really knew I loved my last partner because it was almost impossible to let him escape my life even when there was nothing positive in it for me anymore. And I knew I didn’t love others, not just partners, because their inexistence in my life was never going to change the quality of it. Ultimately, we should vie for the feeling of love in our life that allows for it to become better and to be the object of somebody else’s pursuit of happiness, and nothing less than that.

I know what love is. It is the absence of trying to make something happen, but accepting it will. It is the quality of your happiness, not the quantity of your happiness. It is the one thing you want to think about before you die, even if the memory will hurt you. If I was to die tomorrow, I know exactly who I would be thinking about and who, unfortunately, would not be in those thoughts anymore. And I know that these people would see me if they died tomorrow. For a strange reason I don’t need anybody to know about my love but myself because I’m lucky I have it. Luckier than most. And I am lucky because I see truth and not some distorted idea, clouded by religion, hatred or ignorance. But most of all, I am lucky because I allow myself to feel that love and ultimately that will attract more and more love in my life.

Some people should think about that…

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

5 Times Quality Wins Over Quantity

As we get older, it is said, our tastes go from quantity to quality, and I know that to be true. In fact, I have decided to accumulate all the times where I have in fact realized lately I'm becoming a woman of taste, not masses... or at least I think so:

#1 The Size of a Party vs The Enjoyment of a Party
Last Thursday Night, I went to three parties. One of them was a very quiet, no more than ten people wine and cheese gathering, one was a small, boozey going-away party and the other one was a rager. Now, there were times in life where my choice of venue would have been clear: party #3, with a bunch of stoned, drunk people would have been great because "I loved people, and their chat!" Yesterday, I left that party after minutes to go back to wine and cheese. Why? Because the quantity of people, or the number of different stories really don't matter at all. Today, I invited some of my good friends to a charity dinner, and we sat, ate, conducted conversation that was worth having, and I suddenly realized that's what people meant by "quality time". Funnily enough, the more people get involved in it, the less quality it really is...

#2 The Number of Friends vs Popularity
Last night also serves as a beautiful example to illustrate how the quality of company beats the quantity any day. The quality of both the drinks and the company at wine and cheese was so vastly better that I had to accept times have definitely changed from quality of company being much more important than quantity. When we were younger knowing a lot of people was a sign of popularity. Since I never valued popularity I'm much happier today not having to be known by people. Quite the contrary: those people I meet, saying "they've heard of me" are a riddle to me. WHY? There is no reason to ever talk about me. I'm neither the nicest nor the worst person in Cairo, I'm super boring, and chose to hang out with the same 10 people for well over a year now. And the reason for that is because I value the quality of people I surround myself with, and not the quantity.

#3 Your Drunk Level vs The Taste of the Drink
And one more illustration how Thursday night showed very clearly how 26-year-old Sina is no longer 21-year-old Sina was her preference for wine and cheese over a binge fest. Back in the day, I'd scrap my pennies to buy a bottle of Vodka to go out. I never liked Vodka, but it did the job. I never saw why I would spend more on something delicious when it had the same outcome than Glenn's cheap Vodka. When I went shopping I also didn't ask for much: I usually went for three Primark pants rather than one really nice pair that would be worn far more often. In short, quality meant nothing to me. Obviously, leaving college naturally changes this behavior (or at least should). I'd rather not drink for a month, then have last night's cheeses and wines, than have four vodka parties.

#4 The Duration vs The Relaxation of a Holiday
During my younger years I had a certain amount of my money dedicated to traveling. Since the goal was to see as much as I can in the cheapest possible way, I stayed at 2$ hostels with merely a hole in the ground to piss in, hitchhiked all over Europe and ate in restaurants that gave me instant food poisoning. As a result, until quite recently I had never been on a "holiday". yes, I traveled widely, but my traveling always had a purpose, and that purpose was never relaxing. These days I catch myself wanting to blow the money I spent on two months in Eastern Europe on a five star, one week holiday in a resort just for the added extras of not having to worry about my breakfast, lunch and dinners and to be called "ma'am" by people who actually know what the word "service" means. The only reason for that is that the success of a holiday now lies in quality, not quantity...

#5 The Masses vs The Taste of Food
I never thought I'd even mention this point, but apparently living in Egypt, also known as the worst country in terms of cuisine, has made me appreciate food far beyond of what I thought was possible. Admittedly, I was a bit on the thicker side just a few years ago, and maybe my desire to eat well rather than eat a lot has something to do with it. All-you-can-eat buffets were my absolute favorite; today they're a waste of money because I could never eat my money's worth. And the quantity, of course, comes at the expense of the quality. Since in Egypt it is virtually impossible to eat food that makes you appreciate life unless you pay up, I have increasingly found myself willing to pay that money just to challenge my pallets occasionally. Although I can go have Koshary 15 times for the amount I now spent on a good meal, I wouldn't even think twice about it.   

Monday, November 16, 2015

#PrayForParis: Why Are We Still Talking About Profile Pictures?

Friday Night, on the International Day of Kindness, I hosted a charity event, had a few drinks with friends and then went to a pub. I was happy and filled with gratefulness because I had raised a good amount of money, was surrounded by my very best friends and was celebrating, like my Parisien counterparts, the fact that I am alive on this beautiful planet and able to enjoy this weekend in happiness. When a German friend and I checked the score on the Germany vs France game we then saw there had been a bomb. Appalled, the initial impulse was to get back to our partying, but I decided to browse. The more information I received, the more impossible it was for me to stay at the pub, so I grabbed my stuff and headed to the taxi.

That night, it could have been anyone. I live in a city that is no stranger to bombs, and I've been close to one before that killed a policemen. All my peers are criticizing that I live a dangerous life for that matter, and it turns out that I am still alive, while over 120 completely innocent people in Paris, the birthplace of our Western freedom, are not. And as always when tragedy strikes Europe, or the West, it is a bigger deal than tragedies anywhere else in the world. Facebook is littered with condolences, all news channels fail to broadcast any other news and politicians are speaking of war. Only a day earlier, similar tragedy struck Lebanon, probably part of exactly the same terror series, and those Russian on the plane in Sinai didn't get the same attention either (although they are white, people!). Yet, profile picture changes are only possible now, not in connection to any other human crisis.

There are two kinds of social media posters this weekend: on the one side, there are people posting solitary messages and change their pictures, and then on the other side those who condemn the bias of the media, the hypocrisy of those posting that and those who claim that other atrocities have been forgotten. To the latter I have all but one thing to say: Kindly, please piss off! These critics are not only insensitive since any kind of sympathy is good, even if it's fake, but they are also oblivious to how this world works. Of course it sucks we care more about dead Parisians than Arabs or Kenyans, but this is not because the world disregards people living in the Southern hemisphere, or as most claim "those who are not white enough".

Now I'm not going to be somebody who claims racism doesn't exist but this whole claim of the media, and world leaders and all the "hypocrites" on facebook being biased because those in Lebanon dying were of the wrong race is ridiculous. More white people died in the plane crash, also probably thanks to the same terrorists, and still people don't pray for Russia. Maybe everyone is right and I'm not and people just like the French better than the Syrians, Lebanese or Russians. More likely, however, is that everybody else has missed the fact we're not just mourning people dying, but 15 years of increased security, the defense of liberal views and the illusion of a protected life in our midst being attacked. People outside of the West are quick to understand it as racism, however, it has nothing to do with who actually died, and how many.

It is more ignorant to me that some people seem to not understand that for the WESTERN media an attack on WESTERN soil is of bigger concern than a Kenyan school shooting. I remember the day the Kenyan news broke very well because I was distraught and started crying at work. Since the Western media tends to filter its content it makes perfect sense that they would give more attention to something similar happening in the area they are actually broadcasting or are originating. I have occasionally been upset about what nonsense the media chose to cover over other, more important matters but the media is just another cooperation, usually trying to make dollar. As sad as Kenya and Beirut is it has little effect on the international system and on most people watching. If it was merely about human atrocities every government would be at war with Boko Haram. But I don't hear anyone calling for the US to finally send more troops there to finally kill those murderers. Why? Because it's simply not their problem.

After Paris, ISIS is now France's problem, and since we have a Western cooperation of nations it is now at least the West's concern. If we are still going to pretend we all love the NATO, they the West is soon at war, obviously changing the lives of Westerners quite a bit. Before, I hate to break it to all of the facebook community, it didn't matter, and it's not a state's job to care about people dying, but the survival of itself. You may hate that, but that's how it is. When President Barack Obama doesn't hold a press conference for killed Kenyans that does not mean that the individual Barack Obama is unmoved by the event. Maybe this Christian guy even included them in his prayers, we don't know. His state, however, is completely unaffected by the tragedy, unlike Paris, and therefore we don't hear official words. States and people aren't the same, know the difference!

Now, if you ask me if that is cool or whether I'm happy to live in a world like that I would maybe hesitate. In the last few weeks, however, there's been so many good things happening and I have started to really love this planet. What should be spread is that notion, not the notion of how everything is going to waste. Because, frankly, it's not. We still live in a world where even in fear and mourning Parisians help each other out, where people open their door to refugees fleeing war despite many parts of society shunning them and in which you can sit down, close your door and support those suffering with your positive thoughts and prayers or your profile picture. I don't see any reason to hate on anything more than there already is to hate these days, and really don't understand why everybody's trying so hard... 

Monday, November 9, 2015

The GRE: A Daunting Story

I've done relatively well in all of my endeavors in my life. Usually, whatever the task is, I can make a good result happen once I truly believe in it. And I usually don't doubt this ability, knowing that I'm one of those people that can make any kind of thing happen if I really want to. This confidence was deeply shaken in the last few weeks when I prepared for the GRE. Beforehand, I only heard people say how easy it sounds and how I'll do well with minimal effort. These people were wrong! I did do well, however, the preparation for this ridiculous test had me wishing I wasn't so damn ambitious and just throw in the towel. After 27 years of lifelong struggle, finishing that test was the biggest relief I ever felt...

I have two degrees and did my fair share of exams, with or without comparable pressure. However, the GRE simply cannot be compared to any other task. I did maths during my Masters', and I hated it then, but the last weeks of Quantitative Reasoning was an absolute bane to my existence GRE expression, I'll have you know!). I'm a writer and believed to be good at reasoning; throw in a few numbers, much too much time pressure and suddenly I'm a fifth-grader. I used to laugh about Kellie Pickler NOT being smarter than a fifth grader, and suddenly realized neither am I. I had genuinely never heard of permutations in my life, and in my preparation to learn GRE Math I had either forgotten all about high school maths or had never learned any of that stuff. The end result was the same though: I had no idea what was going on!

I then thought that Verbal Reasoning would appeal to me more. I'm fluent in English, have spoken more English than German in the last seven years and read all the time. I was wrong about that either. I suddenly asked myself what I had learned in the last 15 years since I've spoken English because I didn't seem to be able to answer any of these questions. If someone used GRE words to describe me, saying I am loquacious, intransigent and contentious, I wouldn't even know they're insulting me. I studied vocabulary every day and it might have contributed to three or four more points on the actual test, but I felt I was about three years too late in starting to prepare for the test to do really well because I was lacking about 80% of the dictionary.

I was preparing with my American friend, and sometimes mentioned some of the vocabulary to my British friends, and I had to accept that they just know a lot of things I didn't for no reason other than them just being native to the kind of thing the GRE asks for. Both in language and math rules they had a lifelong advantage on me, and I said goodbye to my dream of scoring a six and two 170s on the test. As a next step, I made it my aim to at least do better than my native-English counterparts which sounds easier than it was. I had developed a false arrogance about my supremacy as a student because my English is better than most foreigners', but when it came to the GRE I was just as bad as everybody else.

On test date, I was hoping for suitable questions, and my prayers were not heard. I got confronted with lots of stuff I didn't know, and close to no questions I had actually beasted in preparations. My last practice test at the house resulted in a miraculous score, and the actual score did not follow up on that. In the end, I was still outperforming my international counterparts and some Americans, so I was happy about the result. Most importantly, however, I was happy it went well and I didn't have to retake the test. That stuff sucked! It's important knowledge being taught in the GRE, but even a 4 hour test on Russian politics, otherwise known as my biggest passion, would suck, never mind the added pressure of knowing it might result in my dreams not coming true. At the end of that day only one thought was predominant, and that was gratefulness that it was over!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Egypt: Dangerous Or Misunderstood?

If you're planning a trip to Egypt anytime soon, you better be prepared for all of your family and friends quickly starting to question your sanity; pictures representing Egypt in the worldwide media do not make it appear like it'd be a great idea! Only last month, 12 tourists were killed in the Western Desert of Egypt because the military believed them to be terrorists, thus killing them. You don't hear that every day. The same goes for the frequent reports on either small or big bombs going off and militants being killed in the Sinai. This week we reportedly had an ISIS plane crash there. Now nobody is claiming Egypt is as safe of a soil as Greenbow, Alabama, especially if one counts being verbally harassed as a woman and getting food poisoning as a danger, but we live in a world where people die of the most random things. As a resident in the Middle Easter country, I feel my account is accurate...

I was once in close proximity to a bomb going off, actually killing a police officer unlike the countless bombs some idiot, either someone disliking the government or wanting to appear that way, built on in their basements without a single clue about how one would do that and detonated in a rundown car. Most of these bombs don't detonate at all, therefore not even making the headlines because it's some hobbyist bomb builder who is making a fool of himself. In pretty much all cases, even the successful detonations, nobody is harmed though. Needless to say, if there are injuries or casualties, the international community goes berzerk over it. At the same time, thousands die every year in Cairo because traffic is back. For some reason that never stopped the tourists.

The fact is that as a Cairo resident I am in fact risking my life but more so by crossing the street or being a writer than being a tourist in the wrong place. People stop going on holiday in South Sinai because an odd 300 kilometers away some terrorists are trying to make a difference. If you told you parents you're vacationing there, I'd get their worry. In Sharm El Sheikh, Dahab or Hurghada, however, your bigger problem is not speaking Russian because the Russian tourists are not afraid and show up in the thousands. And once you're done worrying, you will have the most amazing seafood, the cheapest and most amazing diving lessons and the most chilled and breathtaking scenery to enjoy. The bottom line is: if you ain't a pussy you cash in big time in Egypt!

My roommate left last night to change residency from Egypt to Syrian Kurdistan. One may argue that's not the safest place to be right now either. However, if you live your life based on where you have the biggest chances of survival you might as well just lock yourself up in a log cabin somewhere in the Mid-West. Be warned that your life will suck though! In other words: I get that people consider the increased risk of being close to a bomb in Egypt, but that risk is ridiculously unjustified considering there are 20 million people here. Between me and the next destructive thing happening here might only be a distance of a mile but there are one million people between here and there that would be more likely to be affected by it than me. Death can find you anywhere, here he just has to look for you more intensely.

Yes, there's more chaos and harassment. And yes, we lose more people to terrorists on ground than in Europe. And maybe that Mexican tourist incident and plane crash was a result of failuresComing to Egypt is safe! For me, the problem is neither the bombs, the terrorists or the government. My biggest problem here are heartless landlords, greedy vendors and low-lives that grope women. If these people would disappear my life would be much more secure. If tourists stay away because they think there should be tenants rights in Egypt or harder punishments for sex offenders, then I'm with them. But since they're not, I can only say "Your loss!"...
that would not have happened somewhere else. But, and it's a big but, a trip to Egypt's amazing tourist spots does not equal a signature on your death certificate.

Am I fake for using a filter?

Being on Social Media yesterday wasn't fun as this model Essena O'Neil was all over it "telling the truth" about being an Instagram celebrity. While I commend her for admitting to airbrushing, cropping and every other little tool there is to make someone very pretty to a large audience, I felt this story was mostly dumb. Does anybody actually think the Kardashians look this good sans makeup? No, they don't. People know these techniques, and to criticize social media itself for lying, to me, was a largely idiotic notion. There are a number of reasons for this, and it's not just because I don't use my social media account to get people to admire my beauty on a daily basis. Now Essena was obviously making money, so I guess she was fake, but we're not all fake for posting selfies...

Duh, I've posted selfies. And yes, I also used filters. And I'm not even going to write here that I haven't used such filters to make my pimples disappear. Of course my motive for such actions was feeling pretty and wanting to share that. Maybe people don't believe me but I don't actually have to convince people I am pretty because I don't care if they think I am or not. Not everyone is like that, I understand. To propose that I'm not depicting my real life because I use such tools is simply not true, though. Just because a filter, or some other things the stars use to make themselves look better, are applied to a picture one's life does not get destroyed, like the Instagram model claimed hers was.

If a psychological problem arises from drawing a wrong picture of oneself on the internet, a psychological problem is already in place. I don't lie on my social media profiles. I might be more open about the good things in my life than I am about the bad things, but I don't lie to my circles to evoke jealousy or portray myself in a better way. And even if I do, how does that destroy my actual presence? I am tired of people telling me I should put my phone away and actually speak to people. Nice suggestion, however, I am actually quite thankful that social media allows me to "speak" to my friends in the first place since 90% live abroad! The negativity around social media therefore exceeds people criticizing the fakeness, but don't people forget we also have a lot of benefits due to this new kind of media?

For Essena O'Neil to post pictures that do not reflect her actual life is a sign of weakness that is evidently starting to catch up with her. Fortunately, she has realized that her depictions don't make her happy. Another normal human being should realize that the pictures we see on there many times are not reflective of a person's actual struggles. In the case of the Kardashians, often accused from painting such a false picture, we actually know their various body parts have nothing to do with God's gifts. Kylie Jenner, despite being super beautiful, was certainly not born this way, and when I see her pictures on Instagram I largely just feel pity because she is very clearly not accepting herself. Immediately, my short moment of jealousy is fading, and I remember it's good to be me, too.

I like social media and sharing, and I am exceptionally transparent, even talking about the bad things in my life openly to people on the internet who do not even know me. For me to not feel offended by O'Neil's claim makes total sense. I have to seriously doubt people's intelligence, however, if they see a model's Instagram feed and believe the only thing that happens in her life is looking gorgeous. Yes, some girls will fall for that, but I would go as far as saying that these people need to learn a lesson about life, not social media. As if that platform was the only one you're being fed lies... just like any other person on this planet even your best friend will use social media to lie to you, make you think things are great when they're not and try to appear awesome. It's called life... get used to it!

Monday, October 26, 2015

"Come To Dubai", They Said... "It Will Change Your LIFE", They Said!

The past 72 hours easily qualify as the most amazing, spontaneous and in a way life-changing hours of my life. On Thursday morning I woke up, knowing that nothing would happen other than studying and trying to avoid thinking about the turns life has recently taken. I must admit, that Thursday morning I wasn't as unhappy or sad as I have been for reasons thoroughly expressed in my last blog (gimme a break, I never said it wasn't going to be self-indulgent), but I was deeply disillusioned with the direction my life has taken in the last month and was hoping to get through the weekend without relapsing from my very successful regeneration antics. Unfortunately, this story of how I then ended up on a rooftop in Dubai in a pretty fancy outfit and nail polish on my nails (which simply just never happens) a mere few hours later is incomplete without mentioning my recent experience of un-loving someone because it has nothing to do with it, but everything! What is far more important, however, is how it cured all of the things I was feeling that morning...

Around 3pm I got a call. I was told that if I'm at the airport by 5pm, I would be flown out to Dubai for the weekend, just for fun! I had been looking forward to this Cairo weekend for a while because I knew that the before-mentioned un-loving would make serious progress during it since the person it was directed towards would no longer be around. Then, however, I found out that would not be the case. Cairo being Cairo, I knew I would see him. Inside of me, I thought, I would like to see him before he was off, possibly signalizing that there is no bad blood and I'm very content with our recent decisions (and my very own to finally say "Go suck it, asshole!", at least figuratively). But then, I realized, I was being given the chance to just go chill on a beach and remove myself from the pressure of fixing something. Once I came back, I knew, I would never have to worry about that again. Before I could change my mind on the only viable thought, namely that I have absolutely nothing to fix and should frankly not give a shit, I was on the plane already.

As I arrived in Dubai a driver was waiting for me and took me to the most gorgeous hotel I've ever been to. The halls were smelling of Glade and my room had a bathtub in the middle of it. As the concierge left me to sleep, I might have actually jumped up and down because I was so happy to be there, and not in the noisy streets of Cairo. Don't get me wrong, Cairo is ten times the place Dubai is, but is there a better place for someone slightly hurt who needs to relax, get away and find some peace to study than a suite on The Palm? I sincerely don't think so. Because everything was too perfect, Mamma stayed up watching TV, taking two showers and cuddling with four (!!!) Tempur-pedic cushions until 6am. Part of why I was so over the moon was because I hadn't seen it coming. I didn't expect anything but a normal weekend of the same old thoughts in the same old situation and then suddenly, I woke up on Friday morning and realized that I had not wasted a second on giving in to my usual thoughts. Miraculously, Friday and Saturday also passe without a single regret.

I don't write for Elite Daily because I'm such a factual writer. In fact, I am the walking stereotype of overemotional zeal but right now, with my lungs still filled with Emirati air, I really can't contain the cheesiness and how much this trip restored who I was. I felt empowered because I had forgotten about the lethargy that had been haunting me on and off throughout the week. I felt happy because I knew this was happening to me because whatever powers are out there were commending me for the decisions I made. I felt relaxed because I was surrounded by man-made beauty and not mad-man-made chaos, like in Cairo. And these three feelings have literally been absent from my life for a long time. After a shopping spree and a visit at the hairdresser, we headed to a nightclub that blew my mind although I hate them, and I felt strong, pretty and relieved because I knew the "recovery" had been complete, and I was myself again because, unlike in the last few weeks, I am pretty tough, cute and content. Something, that for some reason, never really surfaced before I bid farewell to my romance...

Now I won't claim I went on a holiday, all my problems disappeared and I come back happy as a Japanese chick about a new camera. I still think about this love situation and what I'm doing in Cairo, but having something wonderful that is completely random and unresponsive to anything I have ever done in my life happen to me after I just made a pretty detrimental decision just spoke to me as if it was a sign. I felt the treatment I received was the universe's way to reward me for finally saying I am done. I put my best dress on and partied like I used to, not thinking about what it would mean to someone who's onlooking, and I started liking who I was again because someone had me convinced that person wasn't good enough. I was spending my not-so-hard earned money on nonsense and felt good about it which someone would have disliked. And I didn't think about someone for a long time and embraced the thought of a life completely without him. I knew this would eventually happen, but a night out in Dubai and some good old looking at it from the distance sped up the process of being able to say I am sure I made the right moves because I doubted them for a while. And for that, and the pretty new shoes I also received, I am unbelievably thankful and live a better life today...

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

That Time I Tried To Love, But Lost!

During my time at Cairo Scene my expat experience in Egypt was the subject of many of the articles I wrote, and my recent experience of ending a relationship with an Egyptian man would have been a welcomed addition to that series. Since I have absolutely no bad blood towards the incident now I don't have to add to the rather mean-ish ways I had in the past of portraying my intercultural love as a ridiculous, bad idea, and today only look back to how hard it has actually been to end it for me although, everybody agrees, it was a nightmare. This week, I came clear to almost everyone in my life about just how painful this experience has been and I shockingly found out that almost every expat lady has had a similar experience. Before, even though that is pathetic of me, I didn't feel I could even write about it to prevent anyone from knowing what I allowed to happen to myself. But I finally can now...

I spent a lot of time researching Hillary Clinton this weekend and came to find out that after a life like hers most people still see her as a person defined by the Lewinsky affair. Bill had done her wrong, but she decided not to leave him despite people expecting her to. What I really saw, however, was a pivotal moment in her life where she made the choice to sacrifice some of her pride publicly in order to maintain a life with the person she loves, no matter how painful that was. I made similar choices in the last few months. I fell in love with a person that required me to forget about my ego, my pride and, in the end, my own personal happiness in order to feed his, and although this sounds like a horrible experience I was happy to do it. For a person who has taught me how to feel love I was willing to do anything to make him never forget that I also loved him. Unlike Bill, the receiver of my sacrifice chose not to appreciate it, yet, make me feel dumber and dumber about doing it.

To love somebody who is not right for you is almost worse than unrequited love. I knew until the last day I was loved back but knowing is very inferior to feeling something. A lack of love was never a problem for me and my Egyptian boyfriend. A relationship ends, but the love doesn't. And knowing that something is a bad idea, doesn't have a future or will make you sick just doesn't matter when you love. And I did. And then, knowing that in actuality you are loved back but it doesn't work anyways is very, very painful. I hoped that love would be enough but everybody knows it's not. I knew I was never getting rejected but he tried very hard to make me feel like I was. For the numerous times I had hurt his feelings I felt like I was being taught a lesson. The treatment was bad, and I took it because I told myself "but he loves me!" Not a single person I spoke to accepted me, a pretty strong-minded person, to be this victim-like dumbo. But I chose to be just that for a very long time.

Now one may claim it is not beneficial to be with a person that criticizes often and compliments never. One may claim that a person that doesn't appreciate you and wants to change everything about you isn't worthy of you. And one may claim that once a relationship has become toxic both parties should just accept defeat and move on. Obviously, I know that! But if there's love, there's no such thing as the rational decision. I've known for a long time I should not allow someone to treat me badly even if he also treated me better than anybody before once and I still didn't have the strength to say "suck it!" and walk away from him. I thought I was going to be Hillary and accept kicks and beats if that means I get to be there for the person I love in a time of trouble. I thought of it as merely a bad time, until it became obvious that the good time wasn't coming back anymore. Eventually, and thankfully, I realized that for the good times to return a relationship needs two fighters, and not just one, and I was the only one.

I still struggle with the end of my relationship which, despite numerous attempts to try again, ended in May already. With each time I signalized to my ex that I still care about him he became more powerful and milked that fact to the last drop. The only way to fix it, unfortunately, was to force myself to completely stop caring. Evidently, I'm still not there but I will finally try. I had to accept that this power struggle had gotten out of hand, with me as the loser, and walking was the only viable option. I'm thankful for the memories but they have lost the ability to motivate my actions in the present. I knew that the days where he appreciated me would never come back, so why would I still try? And, finally, there is a very big lesson I learned from all this: when everybody you know shares an opinion about what you should do, they're probably right! It took me a while but I finally listened to the omnipresent advice everyone I know gave me and walked away, and it's so much better for everybody. 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Why Dogs Are Better Than People

I grew up as a cat person. Not only did I have one, I would meet my friend Gina at least once a week to pretend we're cats. We also had a cat binder in which we collected all our cat drawings and stories and thought one day we would be able to publish it. Meanwhile, we were hating on our two best friends who did the same thing, but with dogs. This cute story which is now 20 years old is no longer an accurate depiction of my personality. I am currently sitting in a dog sandwich between my friend's dogs Lily and Jessie, getting doggie kisses left right and center and I couldn't love it more. This is because I have no only learned to prefer dogs to cats, but dogs to people.

Over the last year I have made many dog friends despite thinking I was initially scared of them. I just bonded with my friends' dogs which happened to be awesome and slowly but surely started realizing that dogs are pretty great. Even the fact that they needed to be taken out for potty didn't bother me when I moved into my friends' house to sit the dog with my boyfriend a few weeks because I enjoyed the down time, loved to watch little Dolchie poop and got a true kick out of the moment they finally dropped their number twos. Being a dog owner, I realized, had many benefits, and only the most obvious downsides of me being too poor and too busy to truly make a dog happy.

I will never forget the day I actually started loving dogs and truly understood what all that fuss is about. I moved to my friends' house to take care of their dogs for a couple of weeks. I had just quit my job and my relationship was rocky. All in all, I was very sad inside, but hadn't really let it out to anyone. As soon as I entered the door, the dogs freaked out because they were so happy to see me. I lied down on the carpet and let them kiss me while I started balling. Them dogs knew what mamma was feeling, ya know! I know they knew. Human beings might like to see me but even my biggest fan doesn't give me that kind of reaction (and kisses!).

My current doggie friends come sit with me when I study. Whenever I feel like I want to shoot myself, Jessie jumps on my lap and schmoozes. There really couldn't be anything better and more encouraging than love, and dogs just give more of it than humans. I am actually really sad I can't add these dogs on Facebook or interact with them like I do with all these people because, well, they are not my dogs after all. I have widely been spreading my theory that the day I have my own dog all of my dreams will have come true: having enough money, a nice place and a partner! Thus, the day my puppy Bubbles joins the family will be the achievement of all my modest endeavors.

Maybe it's my continuing wish to just not be out anymore and cuddle up rather than go to parties and talk to people that makes me want to have my own dog. I have seldom been that jealous in my life than when I see people have a dog. Why are they so lucky? They don't have to make friends, they have one, and it's a good one. I watch those dog surprise videos on the internet and can't even imagine how much I'm gonna freak out when I find my own dog under the Christmas tree. It doesn't help they are also one hundred time cuter when they're puppies. Oh gosh, I need to stop thinking about this...

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Biggest Side Effects To The Traveling Lifestyle

I'm a good conversationalist and usually people like talking to me. Why? Because I have stories to tell, and I'm saying this with only an essential amount of arrogance. They like to listen to me not because I'm a better person than others. Quite the contrary: I'm a basic bitch that has limited interests, no hobbies and a mediocre willingness to chit chat. What I do have, however, is an infinite number of stories that I can whip out at any moment because very few things haven't happened to me yet. No, I didn't beat cancer or had my heart broken, but I moved a lot. When I say "Momma's been around!" I don't mean I've slept with fifty guys, but that I have went many places, and in the process I have become numb to the feelings of normal, secure and stable. Now I'm no supergirl or world conquerer, but I've done what people call the Nomad lifestyle for a few years, at least to an extent, and get a lot of interest because of it. "I wish I could do that", or "It must never get boring for you" are among my favorite bullshit sentences that people confront me with when they hear how I currently live my life. Let me tell you now: It's not just fun and games. It actually really, really sucks to live like a Nomad. I'll tell you why...

The Obvious: No Money!
Oh Lord, I'm broke! I mean, I could be rich if money had ever been a priority. Instead, I chose to focus on growth, experience and making myself happy. I genuinely doubt I would be any happier if I had money but fact is I have like none of it, with limited prospects of that changing any time soon. It's not because I blow my money on travel. My last one month Eastern Europe trip cost me 500 Euros because I hitchhiked and couchsurfed. Even a month in Egypt costs me that much! The problem is that, to have a life that includes moving and uprooting all the time, you obviously barely get the chance to climb the money ladder at a job. I make good money now but its hardly a career knowing that I will hopefully leave again in a few months to go to Grad School. So even when I have money it won't help me build a life.

The Annoying: No Comfort!
I have been homeless for almost half a year now which I'm sure nobody would be thinking of as a good thing. ;ost people, when they hear me explain my homelessness, find it inspiring, as I'm not out in the cold without shelter. I have friends that put me up, and here and there I have a couch or bed to crash on that's more comfortable than anything I could afford, but I have not had a place to call my own. My name is on no letting agreement, and as a result I have not been able to "come home" in a long time. There is no bed in this world that feels like "mine". I have no possessions I can arrange to make me feel cozy. Coziness, what was that again? So yeah, I'm free and not tied down by anything which people for some reason find really awesome, but does this really sound good?

The Inevitable: Loneliness!
I make friends, sure, but I don't stick around to keep them. They say that if a friendship lasts seven years it will last forever. Seven years ago, I didn't even know any of the people in my life right now. Changing places, changing faces, all the time! I managed to stay friends with a select few in Germany who were around in 2008 but where are they now? On a different continent. Their friendship exists but it can't have any of the benefits friendship usually comes with, most notably giving one the feeling of not being alone in this world. When I go through a tough time, my friends are at the other side of the world unable to help me. The few people you know around have not been around for very long, so a person like me usually doesn't have too many close people around. It blows big time!

The Super Negative Side Effect: Numbness!
A few years ago, some things were actually hard for me: going to live abroad wasn't something that I took lightly. It caused excitement and fear inside of me. I felt proud or disappointed with experiences. Today it's become all the same. After Egypt, i really don't think anything can get more uncomfortable and harder in terms of settling in and adjustment. Going to a new place really doesn't do that much inside of me anymore. Of course I still feel blessed for my opportunities, and I haven't become numb to my graces, but the butterflies are largely gone. Newness has become the habit and is no longer what it should be anymore.

The Underrated Loss:  No Stability!
Nine to five jobs, steady incomes and long weekends sound so banal to some people who have them. All they want to do is break free from their rut. Oh my, how I wish I had a rut. I enjoy getting up early, go to a workplace, enjoy an after work drink, go to sleep and do it all over again, unless it's the weekend I have been looking forward to when I do something extraordinary because I have the funds to do so. What is wrong with a life with limited surprises? Surprises, one has to understand, are not just fun all the time. Negative surprises happen, too, and I wouldn't say no to a little bit more down time for my brain. Maybe I have more free time and room to grow, but my mind never turns off. In a stable life I could at least just stop thinking sometimes...

The Consequence: Tired all the time!
When you have to start over, even a 12 hour day can seem like a lifetime. Making friends, smiling all the time, trying to navigate through an unknown place, not understanding anything and having your senses overloaded by all the impressions works better than any sedative. Now that I am in Egypt with limited language skills even tasks like going to the supermarket have become chores for me as I can't read price tags, can't ask for help and don't know most of the products on offer. And then you go to a party because you do need friends, and you have to tell your life story for the hundreth time and still smile to make a good impression. Settling into a new place is hard enough as it is but if that place is in a foreign country it gets so much worse. By the end of the day you are tired, and the energy doesn't come back for quite some time.

The Painful Part: Goodbyes!
I will never in my life be able to live without missing someone or something again. When I'm in Egypt, I miss rain. When I'm in Britain, I miss Californian burritos. When I'm in Germany, I miss all of my friends and the fun I had abroad. And worst of all, I constantly had to say goodbye to aspects of my life I really cherished. When I left Egypt I wasn't scared I'd miss the hassle and smog, but I did live there for a year, and I was permanently saying goodbye to wonderful memories and people I will never have back in my life although I was back here just a few months later. I have been gone from Scotland for over two years and I still miss the green of the Highlands and the Garlic Chicken Pizza from Iceland. Goodbyes are indeed some of the hardest things to do in life, and I have had to become an expert on them. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Trouble With My Heart

In the last few days I have found out that I have indeed become a writer, and I don't care how much I annoy people with saying that. I write more words than I speak because I simply don't know how to express myself in any other way. Last week, I had an four hour conversation with a friend who at this point knows more about me than anyone else in Egypt and despite telling him something about my recent and earlier struggles I did not feel better until I had written it down. Now I could write chronicles about all of my struggles, what I learned and how they affected me, and one in a hundred people might actually find it useful, but if I'm being honest with myself I know I only write for myself these days, and this blog is no different. Talk about soul searching...

There are people in life that beat out all the others to make it into your heart. I am very fortunate to have a heart that has room for many, but I'm equally fortunate to only have a few spots occupied. Making friends has been the hardest task of my life, and that is for a fact a struggle nobody would guess I have. And because it's so hard I have had a lot of people walk over me just because I was scared of losing them. I'm not the best with letting go of things or people, so I've made bad experiences, and some are harder than others. I have previously been sold by friends for 200 British Pounds, been lied to excessively and one of my boyfriends just appeared on social media with another chick halfway around the globe. I'm not stupid enough to want these people back in my life but I never let go easily.

The predominant thought I have when such things happen is a "Why?": why did they do that? Why did they feel like they wanted to do that to me? Why was I so wrong about them? In the end, I always just wish it never happened although, one could argue, I'm definitely better off not sharing the love with people who would steal my money or lie to me. It might be one of life's bigger issues for me to believe in the bad in people and apply hate where I should but I seem to be incapable of that. I always wonder what I did to make people do things that disappoint me so much, and I almost always seek the fault with me when my head knows it really wasn't mine. I go to my friends and say "Good thing I saw people's true faces", and I mean it, but I'm secretly wishing I never saw those faces.

I have taken a lot of small but very painful jabs from someone in the last few months and was unable to refuse to take it anymore because I knew he didn't mean to. My love for that person made me be their scapegoat for everything, and I took solace in the fact that I'm being there for a friend in need and that it's probably a temporary thing. People tell you not to do that for anyone, but those in my heart will always be able to get that from me. So I never told anyone. His intention was never to make me feel that way, but intentions are secondary to actual actions, at least in a right world. I, however, can't walk away. When I finally did his apparent indifference towards me turned into hate. And here I am now, knowing that person better than most people and wishing I could still be there for him. Sounds like that person who gets beat by her husband but defends him, doesn't it?

Being selective over the people I choose to call my friends has never appeared bad to me: the fewer people you trust, the fewer opportunities there are for pain. Unfortunately we keep falling, and falling, and falling for it again... When some of the chosen ones then secede from your heart though their space is left empty, and the majority of feelings in my body are wanting them to claim their space back, but that would never be possible. Four years after I lost a boyfriend to lies, drugs and other fun stuff I still wish he hadn’t made me expel him, and I would probably still be friends with the guy that sold our friendship for an iphone if the events hadn’t forced an end to those days. But with every such experience it is harder to find replacements and that fear isn’t fun to live with. 

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Greece: Worst Country Ever?

Being a German, I am fortunate to be in people’s good lists when traveling; Germans are always super popular, I don’t really know why. Every traveler has a cool story with a German, and almost all people who have been to Germany loved it because it’s apparently cheap, friendly and pretty. Have you ever had anyone tell you “now the Greeks are a crowd I’d invite to my party”, or “oh my, Greece is just such an awesome country I will never go anywhere else”? No? Let me tell you, there is a reason you have never heard that, that reason being it’s simply never been said. On my ranking of 30 countries of this world I have visited, I have a new 30th place, and I don’t even know who or what to make responsible for it. Vain and rude people? Underwhelming countrysides? Extortionate prices? Let’s see…

On our first appearance in Greece, we were hitchhiking from a toll station. Before we even arrived at the station, an employee came running towards us, telling us we couldn’t hitchhike here, we’d have to leave the highway with our backpacks and massive loads of stuff. Fine, I said, how are we leaving, man? He obviously had no answer. How does one leave a highway? Walking? So we stayed for two and a half hours waiting for someone to at least take us to the next gas station, only to be ignored or laughed at by hundreds of big cars. After two hours these guys even called the cops on us who showed up and banished us from the highway. Same question, I asked the police officer where I should go. He said, 5 kilometers down the highway we’d find a gas station, so I asked him if he could take us there. The guy’s response is so paradox it’s almost funny: he told me he wasn’t a taxi, and left!

Another time we arrived at a toll station to hitchhike and were immediately banished “for our own safety”. It was pouring, we were two girls in the middle of nowhere but we were not allowed to stay. Instead, we had to walk along the highway in search for the next road. Completely soaked, eventually a truck driver took us to Athens. Ironically, the Highway officer had told us that the only people who would take us at the toll station would be trucks, and that would be very unsafe. Thanks, safety lad, for forcing us to go with what you were apparently saving us from. We eventually made it to Athens alive but certainly not due to the help of Greece’s amazing people. Nobody stops, nobody smiles, and nobody even tries to help. People are apparently scared. Of what? Two soaked girls who are cold? Thanks, Greece.

The next thing that we waited for in vain was to be vowed by the countryside of a country that cost us triple the amount of money the same time frame cost us in all our other destinations. We paid ridiculous amounts to go to the island of Zakythos which was no more than a 4 on the scenery scale. Macedonia, which charges nothing to look at nice views, cute beaches and amazing mountains, cost us zero. Just saying! Sure, there are nice spots, and we’ve seen some, but we’ve also seen more. Not everything that is great is equally great! Athens, out of all places, is the biggest joke. Every street looks the same, and none of them are pretty except for the ridiculously touristy Acropolis neighborhood which all boosts traditional Greek atmosphere. I sure hope that’s not is because I have yet to find someone Greek hanging out there.

Maybe these neighborhoods are too expensive for Greeks who are broke right now, you may think, but no, Greeks do not appear to be broke. In fact, everything is super expensive and every cafĂ© is hosting large crowds, no matter what time of the day. Not having money looks different to me. Good for them! In conversation with Greeks they tell me they reject austerity because it destroys their quality of life which I guess is true considering they’re all spending money like there was nothing else to do. And one person even said he does not understand why he should be paying for the government’s mistakes. Instead, he prefers the Eurozone to pay for it. While the politics of austerity are definitely not a fair business, I may have said it differently. 

I do admit that our sampling size of Greeks is too small to make accurate scientific conclusions. We would have loved to meet some Greeks, but all of our pick-ups were not Greek. In the street, people seem more interested in make up or clothes than each other. Even the smallest places looked more like a runway show to me. Worst of all, however, was probably the fact that coffee was so expensive and gross I was having tears in my eyes when I spotted the relieving sight of the Starbucks sign. Two weeks in this country could have just been an unlucky representation but we agreed that Greece was definitely not worth the visit, and I'm pretty sure that I'd rather give every other place a second chance than Greece. Others may disagree, but my list has a new lowlight!

Monday, September 7, 2015

A Hitchhiker's Guide To... Anywhere But Greece!

I am close to perfecting budget traveling, having been to 29 countries thanks to Couchsurfing and still having money in the bank. On our latest travel, my friends Miriam, Olta and I thought about how we could also eradicate those pesky transport costs. The easiest way, of course, would be to just hitchhike, we thought. And once that thought is there, it’s hard to shake it off again because the benefits are ridiculous, and the only disadvantage is that “they say it’s dangerous!” Is it though? Three chicks on the road who have seen a lot weren’t really that scared. Our biggest concern, at that point, were our parents’ opinions. Keeping it a secret at first we made an attempt and succeeded in executing the cheapest trip in the history of trips… until we hit Greece!

Our trip took us to the South Balkans, starting in Skopje, Macedonia. Being one of the cheapest places to begin with the extra two Euros we saved on not getting a bus ticket would really not have made a huge difference at first. But we took about 15 buses, stacking up to a 30 Euro saving we made by avoiding the crappy bus and just putting our thumbs out. Additionally, and probably, even more importantly, almost every single driver was nicer and more polite than any bus driver there is, most likely because drivers take hitch hikers just because they’re nice people and not because they get paid for it. People would occasionally even change their route to take us to our final destination, or a spot we could easily hitch from to the next place. None of them had to, they just felt like helping. How exactly is that really that dangerous?

Yes, yes, I know, there could be a murderer behind the wheel. I agree, there could be. There could also be a WWII bomb detonating adjacent to my house, killing me instantly, or let’s not forget the imminent, perpetual threat of terrorism. Dear Reader, please realize that I’m employing sarcasm. There could always be danger, and if you’re always scared it will find you. Danger didn’t find us, yet. Instead, we traveled around 2000 kilometers around South Eastern Europe without paying a dime. All we had to do is do a bit of small talk and wait by the side of the road for a few minutes. In Macedonia, Albania and Kosovo three girls easily found a ride because people rightfully identified we are not a threat to their personal security. Greeks weren’t that smart.

Now, other than the hitchhiking experience we made in Greece it would probably still be a pretty crap country full of pretty vain and conceited people, but the difference in hitchhiking perceptions really says it all. Until now, two weeks into our stay in Greece, we are still waiting to get a ride with a genuinely Greek person except for one single grandpa who was hoping to take us to a music bar after we arrived in Patras with him. All the others had at least lived abroad if they hadn’t been born and raised there. Earlier today, Miriam and I were standing in the middle of nowhere at 35°C without water, being ignored by every single bypassing Greek car until the rescuing Bulgarian drove by and even took us where we needed to go, although they didn’t have to go there.

But worst of all so far was our very first experience in Greece. We started hitching at a toll booth where every single car that was passing by was guaranteed to be going our direction and slowing down to pay the fee. We were then either ignored or laughed at. One thing was for sure: nobody even thought about taking us. In every country, our average waiting time was two and a half minutes. In Greece, make that hours. Two and a half freaking hours until a pastor realized that two girls and a boy of 22 we picked up in Macedonia would probably not rob or kill him. Well, we could have, but the guy’s trust was too humbling, so we decided not to and just be thankful after we’d been dehydrated and sunburnt.

It is unlikely we were simply unlucky that day, especially since we have pretty much not moved in Greece because we know it’s impossible. Now that there are only two girls again, we were pretty convinced things would get easier but they didn’t. Leaving our hair down or wearing shorts also had no effect. People here tell us that Greeks are scared, and the legitimate question at this point is: what from? What are the odds of two girls trying to rob them as opposed to two girls just trying to catch a ride, Greek people? Have some faith? We now switched vehicles and are mobile on bicycles so that we don’t have to ask Greeks for anything anymore. Ironic, isn’t it???

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Perspective, perspective, perspective...

There have been many instances in my life where people offered me the most useless advice ever. "It's all good, Sina, other people are starving or dying!" Yes, I always thought, other people might not have stupid problems like me, but I usually doubted that their poverty or sickness made them unhappy people, because I believe it doesn't usually make you unhappy to have less of a thing than me. I've seen many poor, sick people who have kicked my butt in terms of happiness, and so I always thought this advice was faulty and useless. My happiness cannot be defined by how unfortunate other people are. And then I came to Macedonia, watched people run for their life, and suddenly that mind set became a new one...

Yesterday, I lost my phone and I'm too poor to buy a new one. Being in a situation that couldn't be worse financially makes me feel everything from despair to unhappiness. The situation is brightened by the fact I do what I'm supposed to, still, waking up with no money to make a plan for my life that exceeds the next two weeks is not ideal. And then, for the first time in my life, I actually had to stop being unhappy about it because I considered the fate of the people I am currently working with. And I find it impossible to be upset about losing a phone when the people around me have lost everything, from A to Z.

I'm still not happy about losing my phone, but I'm currently traveling the Balkans in search of the real story, and that is the refugee crisis. I have recently been talking to men and women that left Aleppo, the West Bank or even the Balkans because their survival in their home country was impossible to sustain. One man said "I knew I was possibly going to die leaving Syria, but if I had stayed I'd be dead already!" At the border of Greece and Macedonia people are stacking up to catch a ride to the Serbian border, with nothing but a small backpack on their back. For me, who is watching this process for a living, it'd be genuinely f*** up to keep being upset about my ridiculous phone.

We don't find happiness if we compare our lives to those who have better lives than us, right? As a result, I never believed that comparing my life to those less fortunate than me could contribute to my happiness. Since this extraordinary experience I, however, beg to differ. In Kenia I made the observation that those kids I was teaching in the slums of Nakuru were less wealthy, but more fortunate than me when it came to knowing what makes one happy. And here in South East Europe, being happy isn't even the objective anymore. The refugees I encounter are no longer looking for happiness. All possession and fulfillment has left the equation of their life. Right now, the only equation that needs to be solved should end in x = survival. 

So yeah, I'm ridiculously poor, I have a pretty tough future looking ahead and things definitely could be a bit more comfortable. As soon as I even say this sentence I feel disgusted by myself. While that sentence is definitely true, I should be careful with what kind of energy I'm playing with right now, because everyone around me would love to switch lives with me. It might be ok for me to feel this way when I'm in Germany, surrounded with my rich friends who have no care in the world, but right now I have no right to complain, because I know better. So when you know better, you change the way you lived. And so have I...

Photos Courtesy Of Reuters