Monday, June 22, 2015

A Door Has To Close Before The Next One Can Open

The "end" is everywhere: all foreign folks are packing their bags to leave Egypt, even if only for the summer or Ramadan, classes are done and all couples are breaking up. The "end" of everything dominates my life and of those around me, and as a writer you can't help but to think about it all the time. I can't even stress enough how I'm a good old pro at saying goodbye to everything in my life, whether voluntarily or by force, and it never gets easier. This whole "one door closes, another one opens"-business has been the theme of my life. I would like to take this opportunity to curse that fact. Yes, it's true: all our unemployed, lost, single selfs are far from lost; life will get so much better; we will find jobs, partners and friends ten times better than what we had before; but the "end" never ceases to kick you in the face...

How do you look forward to the future when you are constantly saying goodbye to your past? That's right, you don't. My entire life has increasingly got better except for that time I closed the door on my undergraduate degree because I had finished it but who expects life to get better doing nothing but studying your passion a few hours a day and otherwise drinking and having fun. Still, every time I close a door behind me I'm not exactly slamming it happily. Yeah yeah yeah, I am 100% finding a better man than the one I just left but just because you know there's bigger fish out there the smaller fish are still lovely. And sure, any place I go after Egypt is an upgrade but it was still home for a while. Knowing the future is bright doesn't make the past dark, and so closing the door on it is hard.

I am surrounded by failing relationships right now and very few of them are failing for the wrong reasons. Whatever I hear, it makes sense for me these couples are no longer together, including me and my ex. Sometimes it's the distance, sometimes it's a wrong balance of who likes who more and sometimes one or both partners are just dicks. I say the same to all of them: "Move on!" I think everybody knows I'm right. Yet, I'm also a hypocrite since I've only been closing the door on my own relationship (that shouldn't be hard to slam at all) slowly although another door will be hard to open as long as that one's not shut. The mistake that too many people make is very evident and relationships are just the easiest way to illustrate: people don't close their f*cking doors.

My own life serves as the worst example right now. Ok, I have a lot of doors to other guys' bedrooms open in front of me but I'm lacking desire to enter and stay there. And if I saw a definite door leading to another country my Egyptian door would also probably not be so hard to close. However, I am convinced that these opportunities depend on us. There's a reason people say you don't get over your ex until you find another person. Or should I have said you can't close your door on the old until the new door is there to open? You can't expect a future opportunity to arise before you dis-attach yourself from the past. When is the last time you yourself decided to say "stop" to something without knowing what will happen after?

I know this works though. Let's look at my various moves across borders and oceans. I am currently closing the door to Egypt without anyone definitely offering me a new one to open. The fact is that as long as this door remains open, another one can't be. I can't simultaneously benefit from Egypt while having the opportunity to conquer another country in the way I did Egypt. My job door needed to be closed without another one looming earlier this year and once I did, I suddenly had ten new doors I was never aware of. I also have absolutely no ambitions for another lover, especially not in the short time I have left in this country, but my old door is almost shut so whenever the new door presents itself I am able to open it.

Of course sometimes the new things make getting over the past easier. All the time, actually. The problem with that is that people wait for that to happen, and it might not be. When the present leads nowhere, make it the past, and the future will follow. There is no way the future won't come, whether you want it or not. In one month time, I will have to have a plan for my future and me sitting in this gorgeous Cairo library, writing about Egypt and potentially running into my ex-boyfriend will stop, and I can't wait for it although it's not a bad life at all. I need to close that door before the next one opens because I'm hoping for more than all this. Time to slam it and see what other doors open...

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Ramadan: My Favorite Thing About Egypt... EVER!

June 18, 2015: Ramadan Kareem! In my chosen home of Cairo, the Holy Month has officially started, and Muslims (and those up for the human or spiritual challenge) are off food, drink and sex. Sounds crap? It actually isn’t. Believe it or not, Sina has become a Ramadan enthusiast. One may not be less religious than me, whether it’s Buddhism or Christianity, but while preparing a Ramadan article for an American publication yesterday, I actually became a fan. Now I may not be interested in reconnecting with a religious deity for a month, but the central ideas of Ramadan have impressed me, and made me want to tag along. Looks like I finally got something about this culture…

My favorite thing about Ramadan is experiencing need and making the right conclusions from making that experience. There is nothing wrong with denying yourself basic pleasures to be able to connect to those who can’t enjoy them. I’m a somewhat Christian girl who really has close to no affiliation to the Holy Month of Ramadan and I still believe it would be a humbling and transcendent experience to feel need, be hungry and thirsty and start appreciating what I have. When I think about it, it really is no different to the reason I went to Kenya back in the day. I believed relating to a culture where you own nothing but yourself would make me value my life more. And miraculously enough, it did!

But there are many more reasons why I think Ramadan is a rather good thing about Islam. Whoever says otherwise never really thought about it. One may think that it’s pointless to fast for a God but even without a God fasting ain’t bad for you. And let’s not forget that the true thought behind it is empathizing with the less fortunate. Ramadan is also about charity, sharing your Iftar table with the needy and dedicating a month to reaching out in order to spiritually gain for the rest of the year. Let’s take Trump, for example, who just announced how rich he is. Looking at his volume I’m sure that guy has no idea what need is in any way. Maybe it’d be a great experience for him to make during his presidential campaign and actually feel what some of those Americans he vows to lead are dealing with.

Although I am unable to take part in Ramadan this year, at least for the whole month, me and my German friend were talking today about how we’re jealous of this experience. Granted, we can also stay away from our food and drink but our experience will be very different. Why? Because Ramadan is about family, and we don’t really have one. These Muslims look forward to reconnecting with their families and friends. One friend was telling me he shares special moments with his high school friends during Iftar who he never sees otherwise. I don’t even have high school friends, at least not in the radius of a thousand miles. My sister is my family, and even though she fasts, she doesn't equal a cultural entity that I will just not have after one year here, So even if I go through this ordeal of abstinence, at the end of the day I will not be surrounded by my family, I’m not in a Muslim community that I can exchange with and the one person I would like to share this with isn’t around anymore either.

At the end of the day (literally!) we are left with nothing but an insight into a culture that I know the rest of my circles have no clue about. We love to hate on religious customs, but if you think outside of the religious box all this makes a lot of sense. I feel truly humbled by having the chance to experience this astonishing time first hand and having stories to tell for a long time after this. I think this might be the moment everyone was waiting for but I actually appreciate being in Egypt now. I may rebel against religion but I can’t rebel against good ideas, and Ramadan is just that. And maybe, (most likely) I’m just jealous of those with a God, those with a family and those who aren’t as lost as me…

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Father's Day 2014: The Day My Own Father Passed

At the age of 17, I lost my father to a heart attack. Four days later, all dads were celebrated on Father’s Day. When you don’t have a dad, Father’s Day is like your deceased father’s birthday or day of death: a day on which you realize more than ever that there is something missing in your life, and you won’t get it back. For me, today, it’s both Father’s Day and the day I remember losing him, as it was exactly 9 years ago this moment. June 14 will always be Father’s Day. It reminds me that I have a past, present and future, but my dad is only part of one of them. As a fatherless child, every Father’s Day will be dominated by a series of thoughts that are the opposite of a celebration.

The memories of Father’s Day past
Memories of Father’s Day past are bittersweet, because I would love to make new ones. For the last decade, however, I have been unable to add to my book of Father’s Day memories. Instead, I revisit the old ones annually. The last decade I committed to finding a man who will one day replace my father. Since then, the masculine void had to be filled in different ways. After I lost my own, my CaliDad George gave me foot rubs and advice, and at least made it feel like I still had one. And once I got to uni I always had my male sidekick in the shape of Silvio or Conor, never making me realize I don’t have that male presence in my life everybody else does. I was never able to replace my father, but I found people worth celebrating. On Father’s Day, however, I remember my own dad, and celebrate I was once able to celebrate him. The overwhelming memory today, however, is being told that “he didn’t make it” on this day in the past, changing my whole life.

The Reality of Father’s Day Present
Father’s Day reminds me that my father has no idea who I turned out to become. Would he like what I achieved and what I have become? I will never know. The reality of not having a father on Father’s day is harsher than on other days. I won’t be driving home this Sunday and I won’t be having dinner with my old man. I don’t have anyone to celebrate, so I won’t be enjoying some family time as everyone else. With social media being ablaze of people sharing their favorite #DadSelfie, people without a dad can’t help to be jealous. This is one trend us orphans can’t take part in. I would love to share a photo of my dad. But even more so than that, I would love to know what my dad would actually look like in that picture. The present is now telling me that I almost spent a decade without my dad. At the same time, the present would no doubt never in a million years look the way it does if June 14, 2006 had gone differently. So in the end, my sister and I have decided we’re thankful rather than bitter today.

The Hope of Father’s Day Future
My dad was a big presence in my life, but he will never be a presence again, neither now or later. The only thing that remains of him is the memory. As a result, Father’s Day reminds us fatherless children how we will not be walked down the aisle or congratulated at graduation by the men who raised us. The next time I will have a father in my life, it will be the father of my children. The possibility of one day celebrating Father’s Day again offers hope that, eventually, this nostalgic holiday will cease to be a cry fest or sentimental parade. In the future I will hopefully have a father to celebrate, it just won’t be my own. On June 14, 2016, I have a pretty big fish to swallow as that day I will have been fatherless for a decade, and each year it gets more surreal. By the time I’m 34 (when most people still have their dads) I will have spent more time without one than with one. Let’s hope that the universe found me a substitute until then…

Friday, June 12, 2015

"Sorry" Is Not The Hardest Word, "Goodbye" Is...

In less than a month I am most likely turning my back on my life (again!) and will leave Egypt. Highly anticipated, I knew this day would come, and since I'm a veteran immigrant I have more experience in leaving people and places behind than Paris Hilton has in being pointless. For the seventh time in my life I'm embarking on "the unknown" and will potentially start from scratch, not knowing anything or anyone wherever I go next. On first glance, there really isn't anything wrong with that. But there is! New places? Great! New faces? Even better. But what happens to the old places and faces? Unfortunately, I know that they are to a large extent not going to be part of my life. And while that is part of life and something as inevitable as Ted Cruz winning the nomination, it still blows a lot!

Last night, my friend Ronald finally finished his Egyptian ordeal and returned to Miami. Since pretty much day one, our little group of friends had been together, watching "The Walking Dead" on a Tuesday and embarking on impromptu dance parties whenever the tunes were right. With the addition of two dogs, this group of six to eight people had truly become my family, not just because I would take care of the dogs when Mom and Dad weren't around or escaped to their spare room with my boyfriend who I never saw in private for many months. With Ronald being the first one to pack his bags, the reality that this part of life is now coming to an end hit with force, although it is an end we were all looking forward to for a long time. Now that it was time to say "Goodbye", however, the undeniable truth that those days were good and won't ever return is at the very least tear-jerking.

Having said "Goodbye" to many people in my life, including my father, grandparents, uncles and friends who I will never see again, I'd consider myself used to it by now. In the coming month, however, I will have to do it again. My ex-boyfriend or closest friends here who I of course love very much will potentially never be part of my life again, not even in the form of a catch-up coffee at Starbucks or a random encounter at a party. What my friends in Germany, Scotland or the US are to me now, these guys will become, and that's a negative development I am not looking forward to. Knowing that chances are that the vast majority of the people I see, talk to and love in this country on a daily basis are heading for my personal oblivion makes "Goodbye" the hardest word ever because, if I want it or not, it means I'm banning them from my future...

Today, there's Facebook, Skype and Whatsapp so I always have a medium to connect with my friends no matter where they are. But those days where you could find solace in their presence or have fun with them on a felucca will be over when I board that plane. Taking all this into account, I have no idea why Elton John ever seemed to think that "Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word". Watch this, Sir Elton: Sorry I hated Egypt and all its ridiculous, life-impeding rules and sorry I wasn't the most positive, trusting or hard-working person I could have been. This confession is hard to make, but not nearly as hard as saying "Goodbye" to a part of your life and a part of your heart. Letting go is hard enough as it is, but to actively stand there and bid farewell to things you don't want to let go of has been the most useless experience of my life, and I can wait to do it again...

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Welcome to the World, Caitlyn Jenner! I like you...

I never watched a single episode of the Kardashian show, but even I knew who Bruce Jenner was: a guy that went slightly overboard on surgery and married a person (and into a family) that must have been a proper nightmare to be with, beside the athletic glory, that is! I knew far too little about him to see or sense that there was a confused person behind that face although the media had been mocking his apparent transition to a woman for years. As almost everybody else, I never expected that to actually happen. Now that it did I am beside myself with happiness because I well and truly believe this is a groundbreaking event. Caitlyn Jenner is transforming the world like Bruce Jenner could never have.

If people want it or not, this is a world in which transgender people are part of society. As an avid LGBT supporter I'm ecstatic that an occasion like that will further the discussion about their place in it. The fact is that people hate on everything, especially things that are out of the ordinary. For many years, all of them to be exact, being a transgender person was considered "being out of the ordinary". This will stop. At some point, being 16 and pregnant was out of the ordinary, and still today it's part of society as much as the selfie is. Caitlyn Jenner is a breakthrough now, but the acceptance of transgenderism will only increase until the inevitable happens: it will cease to be out of the ordinary to discuss gender identity.

My personal thought about Caitlyn Jenner is the same thought I have about most things in life: Why the hell not? If that appearance and that identity makes her happy, I'm all for it. If she decides next week to live her life as a Kermit the Frog personification I'm also ok with that, too. Unless Caitlyn Jenner murders someone, or inflicts any kind of physical pain on someone, I'm not just accepting of that but encourage her behavior. Kudos for being yourself, God knows most people aren't and they don't even identify as the opposite gender. I know people who don't have the balls to admit they're not really that into God or like to listen to Taylor Swift, and when I say balls here I don't even mean the stereotype of having actual testicles. Caitlyn Jenner don't have them no more, still she' well and truly the most ballsy person we've seen in a long time.

Every day, social media is ablaze with pictures and comments on gay marriage and, thanks to Caitlyn, transgenderism. While I love the discussion, I can’t wait for the day we are just over it. Gay marriage is going to happen as much as more and more transgender men and women having the courage to speak, thanks to Caitlyn. And in the end, we are all going to accept it like the majority of people already have. The reasons for that are very simple: there is just no actual explanation why anyone should hate on people who are confused about their identity. Other than “this is weird!”, there is no legitimate criticism. And remind me please when “being weird” was ever a bad thing…

I’m on top of the world for Caitlyn Jenner. If that’s what it took to feel good, good on you girl. I personally think that she looks way better as a woman which might be the result of numerous surgeries, but the end result is what matters to me, and that’s a mentally healthy, happy woman. GREAT! I just released myself from the shackles of a relationship which already had a liberating and positive influence on my life, I can only imagine what Caitlyn must finally be feeling. The support is way bigger than the hate, and it will only get better from now… 

Monday, June 1, 2015

Why it’s the good memories that last...

One could not have made more changes in their life than I did this month: within two weeks I changed my job and relationship status, I’m potentially leaving the country of Egypt to move to greater shores (literally!) and let’s say last month I had no intention to do any of that. While all of my decisions have been well thought through, graduation goggles suck. Why is it when I think about a job that sucked in the end I remember only the banter? And why do I get nostalgic over a relationship that unfortunately had very little future and was making everybody in it feel terrible about themselves? It’s because good things are much stronger than bad things, and we will forget the hurt, damage and irritation and remember only the fun, love and comfort.

I am not new to this phenomenon. I write diaries and the overwhelming theme that is gracing my diary of summer in Kenya 2010 is “There is nothing worse than Kenya!” Looking back though, all I see is the incredible things I got to do there. Living in Glasgow, I always thought there could not be a place as miserable as that rainy shithole, yet now, all I remember is my cozy bedroom (which I only call cozy because I forgot how physically painful it was to live in that icicle) and all of my lovely times with friends. Clearly, the memories of wishing to be anywhere but there have left my mind, and I seem to remember only the rare moments of awesomeness

One of the biggest mysteries of my life is my sentiments towards Germany. When I’m there, I pray to God to let me get away: the horribly boring people, the pish weather and the constant complaining aren’t my favorite. Then I get away, all the time, and all I can think is “I’d die for a bite of Bratwurst”, and “geez, Germans are so funny!” In the end, I always have to reread my diaries where I am reminding myself why it sucks there. Every week or so I wrote the words “Sina, never forget to always avoid living in Germany!”, otherwise I’d forget! And still I always go back… It’s funny how something that is thoroughly unenjoyable becomes a beautiful memory in retrospect. Genuinely all break ups of anyone’s life are bitter (even if they’re bitter-sweet). If a couple decides to break up, the relationship isn’t good anymore, right? So why be sad? We still are, all the time.

Last week my favorite boyfriend ever and I broke up. Although he is like “oh my gosh, like such a good guy!”, we knew for a while the end was near. Mamma hates Egypt, and her lover was Egyptian; one can see where it would get problematic at some point! I can only speak for myself but the reason we struggled to finally calling it a day was the memories of our first meetings, the amazing times we had and the comfort we felt being together. I know I wasn’t alone with this feeling! The end of that relationship was not fun, and neither of us enjoyed it, yet all I could think about is how he left me notes on my bed when I went to work, how he sneaked a kiss in the street (that he could have been arrested for) and how he well and truly fought to be with me. In the moment of breaking up it was those moments I thought about, and not the evident struggles we were having and were always going to have.

I am happy that these things stick and the bad memories vanish. My favorite memory of Egypt, in fact, is and will always be the support from friends I received when I was evicted like a dozen times. I cannot physically wait until the memory of being evicted because of greedy and nothing short of criminal landlords is no longer predominant. And maybe, just maybe, the worst time of my life aka my stay in Egypt will become a nice memory in which I remember weekends by the beach, a job that was hard to exceed in fun and falling in love. And much later, I would hope that on my deathbed I’ll have completely forgotten the hardships that are really much more frequent in quantity than the good stuff, at least in the last few years. Good thing my memory sucks…