Sunday, May 31, 2015

4 Things I Learned in Egypt I Wish I hadn't

Egyptian girls are bitches

I don't have many Egyptian girlfriends although I didn't have prejudice after I was repeatedly told to stay away from them. My first boss in this country showed me why! That chick was an unbelievable bitch that was hated by every single person in the office who refused to pay me. As she was the first one to show me the Egyptian deal of handling people which I'm now used to I was shocked back then. My new boss, just as bitchy, at least had a skill set to back up her bitchiness with and I respected that. But then, yeah then, I met my various landladies. The first one kicked me out of my home with 24h notice, not caring for a single second I'd be homeless and the second one and her disgusting daughter used nothing short of psychopathy to get rid of us. Both of them had only one reason to do so: greed. Without a dime of our deposit back she then proceeded to call me a thief on a Facebook group. Totally lovely, those women! Either one of these ladies would individually deserve the title biggest bitch I ever met, and they all have one beautiful thing in common: they call this country home!

Being soaked from sweat, not rain, is pretty freaking disgusting

I hail from the rainiest place in Germany. Then I moved to Scotland. It's like rain is my middle name. The absence of it is really awkward. However, with the absence of proper air conditioning in many places as well, being 'wet' is even more awkward. This kind of experience brought up some pretty new thoughts in me: No, I did not just shower, I just rode the metro for two stops, crammed in a compartment with 300 heavily clothed women and nothing but a 'fan' on either end of the compartment. And no, this usually loose shirt is not just magically stuck to my body. The feeling of dripping from sweat is an experience nobody really needs to make in their lives, but if one so wished, thirty seconds on the Cairo subway should suffice.

Celebrity sucks

Obviously, I'm not a celebrity but the reaction I'm getting to looking, well, foreign are sometimes making me feel like one. For everyone who suffers from the desire to be the center of attention desperately I have one thing to say: come to Egypt and wear your hair down. That's genuinely all it takes! The perpetual stares and super obnoxious "oh la laa"s will make anyone hate attention. To think that Beyonce gets this treatment every day makes me feel sorry for the girl. At least her consolation prize is a multi million dollar career while I get sexual harassment and death stares as as result. Ok, let's not be unfair, I do get lots and lots of free food and drink, clothes and other perks but I miss being myself without everybody having an opinion about it. At the same time, I'm appalled how easy it is to become a person of influence in this city. Why did I get free stuff? Because I wrote for a big magazine. Is that all it took? YES! Insanity! I would hate to be Beyonce!

Hearing a bomb go off is a whole new level of scary

About two months ago, while I was conducting an interview in a cafe, the surroundings were shocked by a loud noise that immediately put shock on people's faces. I had never heard a bomb but I immediately knew it was one. However, that part of town rarely saw explosions. People rushed out of the cafe to see what had happened. I started investigating on Twitter and found out that the bomb had gone off less than ten yards away from me, however, on a bridge above my elevation. I didn't plan to take that route either, so I did not look death in the eye that day. One police officer, on the other hand, did, and died the second we just heard the boom. Even though that wasn't the day I was supposed to die I had a hard time accepting I live in a place where my life could in fact be ended by a bomb explosion. Putting things into perspective was one thing that did; imposing a stronger than usual urge to leave the country was the other.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Egyptian baby steps to becoming a journalist (that's not getting arrested)

For the past twenty years of my life I was expected to end up being a journalist. I always liked stories, writing and unconventional lifestyles; one may say that my personality traits were giving me pretty divine signs. At the same time, I never fancied being super poor though since I don't have any parents with a substantial income to help me make those dreams come true. Egypt, of all places, made it happen. In a country where opinion and unconventionality are as desired as Putin at a gay pride parade, they paid me for my written word, making me a full professional writer for a few months. I had reached the expectations my family had for me since I wrote my first "book" at age 7 and I was doing the only thing I really ever learned how to do: make stuff sound good! 

My intention wasn't necessary to start my international journalism career as part of an Egyptian online magazine that sells most of their content, however, I thought it was great practice. I knew I wouldn't be the next Christiane Amanpour just yet because I wasn't too fond of the idea of prison. I was happy writing lifestyle and news that weren't news because the reality for actual journalists looked grim. Faced with a change in my job that no longer allowed me to write, I left my job earlier this month. "You can easily freelance", they said, "good writers always have a shot!" Before I even left my job I had various other assignments, most notably the international online magazine Elite Daily who wanted some dirt on Egypt. Easy, right?

WRONG! I'm actually in danger if I say what I really feel. Sure, the government shouldn't care about my stance on religion, politics and society but for some reason they do. I have zero power to make things worse for them, yet either the ministers or some terrorists in this country will go to quite some length to make me stop what I would say if I could. So in the end that dirt that these international publications want from me could very well mean that I may have quite some regrets if I oblige. Next to Syria and Iraq, I read, Egypt is the most dangerous country for journalists. As much as I want to do a good job, I'm not ready to write the inside scoop on a women only cell at an Egyptian prison just yet.

As a result, I say neither good nor bad things. A government that can't accept my criticism will never get my praise either. Quite a lot of the things I have to complain about, in fact, have nothing to do with the government at all. Human rights abuses, for example, are committed every day in every street of Cairo and that is not President Sisi's fault. The people who decide to harass women and pick on homosexuals made that choice. The only thing needed from Sisi is to act against it. However, it is also the people of Cairo that ignore almost every law there is on a daily basis so it looks like Sisi, hero or failure, really isn't solely responsible for this. So even if I could, I'm not sure how much "dirt" I would actually have on Egypt since most of it is on the Egyptians. 

Freedom of speech is a beautiful thing that people here don't ever experience. The reform I would most like to see is not a government that stops acting against freedom of expression but a people that would actually stand behind the idea. In my experience, however, the majority of Egyptians is not fussed, even though it's just because they're disheartened and disappointed from too many failed attempts to change the system. Therefore, the dire environment in which I am now working as a journalist actually really sucks: no criticism, no reliability, no good news ever. I feel like this country needs Christiane Amanpour, but what am I going to do? For now, I have to turn every word to make sure I don't say something crass, and that's really the opposite of what journalism should be...

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Whatever happened to time?

There was a time where I could sleep in almost every day, go to the gym after I woke up, hang out with all of my friends for a nice lunch and spend time doing what I liked doing. Since my first day in Egypt, these days are over! Not having an abundance of time has never been a bad thing for me, but time just completely vanished. I soon couldn’t sleep at all anymore, for the gym or any kind of fun activity there was no time left at the end of the day and my friends forgot what I looked like. As a result, for a few months I wasn’t feeling all that great! Yes, I was happy and satisfied, making enough money and all, but I was physically at the breaking point. Now, one job less, a new phenomenon has reemerged in my life, and it’s called “having time to live!”

I have increasingly come to realize that any career or money ambition is not worth killing yourself for. I had a fantastic job here in Egypt for the time I’ve spent here so far and for most of the time, I didn’t mind it was taking all of mine. With additional jobs, a boyfriend and a sister I occasionally wanted to see, and activities such as eating and sleeping everyone just has to do, my spare time for self-fulfillment was confined to like 20 minutes a day. My body faded away, my blog stopped happening and sleeping became such a waste of time I seemed to no longer be able to do it. Finally, I started missing that boredom I once hated so much.

Drastic measures had to be taken to prevent me from breaking. I did it for months, and now it’s time to step back. I got phenomenal offers to make my dreams come true in this country and I now made the time to make them happen. Success or failure is pretty irrelevant right now! The facts are that I thought I hated boredom and loved being busy but not even Zuckerberg keeps going without a weekend on the beach without his phone sometimes. And if he doesn’t, they pay him with a billion dollars not to. I don’t see no check in my hand for working my good heart condition away, so “most stressful country in the world” or not, Sina is at the end of the power reserve and there needs to be some charging before new juices can flow.

So in the end, all that boredom I blogged about last year actually had one major upside: it didn’t kill me slowly but surely. Maybe I’m just too weak, maybe I’m not as badass as I thought and maybe Egypt is more than just one size too big for me. But chances are that anyone would start fading away with numerous jobs spanning over about 60 hours a week, with really no actual time off ever. No boredom can’t work either! I have now enjoyed a good sleep and finally some catch ups with friends I hadn’t seen in weeks, and I feel something in my body that can only be described as energy: energy to start creating again, energy to laugh and have fun without worrying and energy to make those god damn dreams come true because I know I freaking can!

As a result, I thank the heavens for giving me what I asked for: no more boredom! But more so, I thank them for stopping me before those grey hairs on the right side of my scalp take over my entire head, before those pimples in my face ruined my otherwise perfect complexion and before my increasingly faster heartbeat caused some serious damage. To really make a difference in my health, Mamma’s booked herself a plane ticket to “no smoking land”, otherwise known as home, to finally recover from those ten months in Egypt that have truly shown that time is of the essence; the essence to survive this madhouse!