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.