Thursday, April 28, 2016

8 Reasons To Leave Egypt ASAP

I might be confronted with leaving this pressure cooker soon, and I just can't get myself to feel bad about it. Sure, I love my life around Cairo, but isn't it time to try to call it a day again? Here are eight overwhelming reasons that say "HELL YEAH" to me.

I got evicted…again!

Strike 8, that is. I have now had to move house eight times in Cairo because of various reasons. Twice my landlords decided to sell but changed their minds the minute I had packed my bags, once we got coerced into leaving due to blackmail, and now I am being evicted for having a vagina. You read that right! My current landlord apparently does not want to have a female living with my male roommates. We could be having sex which of course is none of a landlord’s business. In every other country in the world the racism in getting an apartment in Cairo would be a major issue but not here. Most places on offer are for “foreigners only” because they’re easier to rip off, true story. So now I just have to move again! At this point, I simply refuse to. I simply cannot do it again: find a place, get used to a new group of roommates who will most likely not be as awesome as the ones I had before, sacrifice another deposit and live in fear again it could happen again any minute. I simply cannot!

I lost my job

In an age where we are never going to get a permanent contract for a job I’m happy if the cash keeps coming on a monthly basis. Living in Egypt I knew that my job could go every day because there’s no such thing as a right when it comes to that. My boss told me two days before my pay check that the upcoming one would be my last, effectively giving me a notice period of 36 hours. For a long time now I only stayed for the money since, let’s face it, opportunities if you want to be a journalist, like the kind people take seriously one day, are scarce to non-existent. With the absence of the income, therefore, I can not only justify my stay by career development but I can also simply not afford it anymore.

Summer is coming

There is nothing pleasant about this fact. Summer to me, the simple European girl, is the best season: shorts, riding your bike and drinking Wine Spritz in a beer garden. In Egypt there’s no shorts, no bikes, no wine and no beer garden. On top of that, there are insufferable temperatures, a dress code that requires you to melt like an ice cube in a sauna and shower pressure that is so weak it could never rinse off all of that filth on your body, never mind you sweating again two minutes after your shower. It is a bonafide nightmare to be in Egypt in the summer, and some people might even consider taking part in Ramadan where then you are also not allowed to drink water all day, and if I am here I would most certainly do that.

Everybody is leaving, like every last person I enjoy spending time with

There was a time where I had a squad here in Egypt just like Taylor Swift. It started out pretty well: within weeks of being in Cairo I had made my friends and started dating a boy. For the remainder of the year I never once felt lonely or alone. If anything, I was always so busy I rarely had time to spend with them. This has now completely changed. All my friends have left, the boy I dated left to the military and I’m now usually at home with my cat because it’s more fun than the fun available outside of this house. There’s plenty of good people, there just isn’t that kind of squad. At the same time, finding a new posse makes little sense because for all the reasons I already named: why should I try to replace my irreplaceable group of friends from last year when it looks like I’m leaving the hood soon? That’s right, I really shouldn’t. So I didn’t. And I won’t.

Tipsy Teapot is relocating

I walked into my favorite pub in Maadi today, a big villa that serves teapots filled with substance that can make me tipsy, you put two and two together what that could be. The reason this place is so awesome is because it carries all my favorite memories and is just the most adorable place in a very quiet street in Maadi. With shock I saw a sign that read “We’re relocating!” Apparently the government found out about those tipsy teapots, so the villa where we celebrated Julie’s birthday 2014 and where I can find my bacon fix will be abandoned. With it, all the memories will go, too. And as if this wasn’t symbolic enough, the relocation sign features a telling quote: “The world is too big to stay in one place and life is too short to do just one thing!” It looks like my favorite teapots are telling me to move on…

My favorite breakfast restaurant was demolished by the government

Egyptians like to use the phrase “this is why we can’t have nice things!” when something stupid happens in this country, which is often. The few nice things Egypt has are now, more than ever, subject to a new way of destruction: the government. Since almost no business in Egypt is legitimate, or in other words legal, most places have abandoned their outside seating to avoid being on the radar. When all that doesn’t help and the government shows up unannounced with a bulldozer, like they did to my favorite breakfast place, it’s all too late. Unfortunately, they have also bulldozed a library I work in, probably because the liberal ideas coming out of that place aren’t appreciated. So everything I like is now subject to destruction for being liberal. Unfortunately, so am I.

Omar Khayyam and Foul and Falafel have become intolerable

I never liked Omar Khayyam wine, the only wine on offer in Egypt I can afford out of a total of four, but after almost two years always tasting the same (very bad tasting) wine the prospect of drinking something else is exhilarating. Omar Khayyam is a Chardonnay, which is pretty bad to begin with, and I am now so tired of it I even prefer to drink vodka. Foul and Falafel, on the other hand, are still good, but if you eat something over and over again even caviar gets bland, and I just can’t wait for a taste in my mouth that makes me say “oh wow, I didn’t expect that.” 

F*ck this stupid smoking everywhere

I wanna breathe again. Air. Clean Air. The type that doesn't smell like cigarette because 90% of the population chain-smokes and does not give a crap about whether you do or not. I want my skin to stop having pores as big as craters because I passive-smoke 30 cigarettes a day. I want to breathe... but I won't as long as I live here!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

What Michael Moore Forgot In "Where To Invade Next"...

It has happened: I finally watched a Michael Moore documentary. I have to admit that I hated that guy back in the day. All this wallowing and complaining, paired with a pretty obnoxious personality and appearance, didn't make me a fan right away. Sooner or later, however, I had to accept that me and Michael Moore would be really good friends if we met. Part of what I like about him is his critical thinking of something that he, as an American, was taught not to criticize. In his new movie "Where To Invade Next", Moore sarcastically invades Europe to check out how much better it is than the US. Now, I agree with that premise, I don't need no swaying, but that movie is not all it seems...

His first stop is Italy. He meets an Italian couple who are titled "middle class". What Moore neglects to say that Italy's economy is so bad its middle class has had better days. Watching how every Italian business owner tells Moore how they love to pay money on employees, Moore starts laughing in disbelief. He has a point! No business owner in the world actually enjoys paying employees a 13th salary, even Italians. They're capitalists too, you know! Just because there are more liberal laws unfortunately doesn't mean it's all working out as amazing as Moore portrays it. We can't all be Germany! Italy, in fact, is falling apart, and less liberal people probably have a point when they say this 13th salary, and all the other pretty large spendings the Italians consider ok, are to blame for that...

Moving on to France, where I appreciated Michael Moore's humor about them not resisting him very long. I love a joke on the French. The joke in that segment, however, was that every school in France serves three courses, plus Camembert. Which kid in the word eats shellfish? Even French kids are kids. And sharing their ice cream is not a particularly French thing either. But all this doesn't matter because Moore immediately states where that money comes from, and here we have the closing argument for every argument when discussing American economics or politics: the French don't have to attack the Middle East or send out drones and spies around the whole globe. And because of that, their kids are healthy and not fat! Before even going on watching, I think that might just be the silver lining of the movie... hell, maybe just of the whole damn problem with the United States. 

The Finnish part made me a little mad. Maybe it's jealousy because I know this segment is accurate. The Fins nailed education, and if they are as nice about it as the math teacher that claims his purpose is to "teach the kids how to be happy", then damn, I wish I had that system where I grew up. However, it's easy to praise this system that is obviously looking out for much fewer children than other places. That shouldn't matter, but it does. The rich kids and the poor kids are not automatically going to be equal just by going to the same school. Rich and poor are social structures that don't just disappear in the sand, Eventually, even kids learn that. I was poor and went to a private school with a whole lot of rich kids. We did learn the same things, but their subsequent lives were a lot easier still. And the reason is money. Daddy's money. Sorry to burst the bubble!

I will skip Slovenia because Germany was next and duh, I was most excited about that. Also, we got free education, too, yo, we just didn't have to bring down the government for it. When the movie takes us around beautiful places in Germany my homesick eyes teared up, and I couldn't wait which of the great points of Germany Moore would highlight. And then he starts with debt free college grads starting a career. I had to go "Reeewind!" because mate, if there's one problem we also have it's youth unemployment, and I know more about it that I would like to, mostly from empirical research. Also, I have debt. I didn't pay tuition, but I did have to eat at the same time. The movie then continues to talk about all the benefits of being employed in Germany which is a luxury most of my peers have not yet been able to enjoy. I would looove to be employed. With a contract. And an hour in the day where my work finishes. But I am 27 with only two Master degrees, I can only dream of that, But Michael Moore obviously turns it around when he acknowledges our acceptance of the ghosts of the past, and then he flies away from that beautiful country like I have many times. Heartbreaking!

Next up Michael Moore gets a shirt that reads "I'm liberal and I love it!" No no, that doesn't actually happen, but it could have. He talks crime and identifies that crime does not equal American crime in Europe. Portugal decriminalized drug usage because, let's face it, that just means that there will be less prisoners, consumption will not be affected by illegality. It is true because it's silly to imprison someone who has a problem. Treat that stuff! And then Moore shows how they do it in Norway where a guy is living in a cute little flatshare for 11 years because he killed somebody. Seeing this it suddenly makes total sense that Anders Breivik sued the state for inhumane treatment: if that's what he expected prison to be, that cold coffee he was served seems like a pretty bad bargain. Then again, he killed over 90 people. I won't argue I feel bad for him... 

And finally, we're in the Middle East where it becomes apparent Michael Moore came to "pick the flowers, not the weeds!" There is so much American culture would oppose to even in a democratic Tunisia. The Middle East they know is different. And the one thing that radio journalist is right about is that Americans can learn from others. The Icelandic women said the same. Why do Americans fight so hard not to be like us? It really is a monumental question. And as if I didn't love this movie enough yet, Michael Moore ends it in Berlin where my country was reborn. He says "name anything that's impossible, and this wall proves that it can be done!" You have to have will. And that's what every person in this documentary had. Will to make something better. Will to be good. Will to possibly sacrifice. Americans don't have that. At least not yet... 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Dalai Lama: What Is Happiness?

Today I read a story on a guy who met the Dalai Lama in the 90s and took him skiing in the Rockies. The entertaining story boils down to the last paragraph in which the Dalai Lama is asked what the meaning of life is, to which His Holiness answers "Life is happiness!". One has to find what makes them happy, and do it! And while I read these sentences I immediately knew the meaning of my life was if the objective was to find happiness. I am ridiculously close to it, however, it only made me think how achieving happiness is hard even if we know what will make us happy. As a result, we have to ask ourselves if happiness should really be what we are all aiming for.

My dream and biggest happiness is to be successful in the talent God has given me. Professionally, that makes me hope that I will become a better writer. When I'm successful as a writer, I am happy. Aside from the professional, I was also given quite the compassionate heart if I may say so myself, and I am lucky in a religious sense but unlucky in a socioeconomic way to actually enjoy improving other people's life. When I help, I am happy. Neither being successful at writing or helping is really an easy way to happiness because the ability to achieve it is sometimes not given. Recently, I was invited to interview for a job that would allow me to both write and help people's life, ultimately having the potential to make me one happy cookie. If that job doesn't work out, of course, the opposite of happiness will seize me for a while. If I don't achieve writing and helping in my life then, does that mean my life doesn't have meaning because I failed to be happy?

As a person who has had her fair share of obstacles in life, I should have to agree with that. The times in my life I was happiest was when I was successful and felt like I was doing what I was supposed to. The only times in my life I felt I was unhappy was when what made me happy wasn't progressing, working or, at the most somber level, paying the bills. The realization that I know what the meaning of my life is and should be, and a perpetual inability to make it the center of my life, caused me unhappiness. I was born to write, tell stories, meet people, communicate and help people in the process. That is the meaning of my life and I know that with the utmost certainty. But knowing what the purpose is doesn't mean life lets you do it.

In college, learning was the source of my happiness. Although it seems to many like I partied and studied in equal amounts, I never got a rush of happiness from attending a party that was not alcohol-infused. Staring at my computer screen in the library, getting lost in stories and knowledge, however, did that just fine. I always felt like the knowledge I was acquiring would help me become what I needed to be. Consequently, it made me happy following on a path that was supposed to transform the meaning of my life into reality. When I couldn't find a job, felt the stalemate in Egypt in my career and was rejected for opportunities that would change my life I felt unhappiness for the first time. Clearly, my meaning in life is not to find happiness. My happiness is fulfilling the meaning of my life. 

I am convinced that my pet, a child I may have one day and love can also make me very happy. I do, however, think, I was not put on this planet to do that. I clearly have more talent for writing, communicating with people and helping them than I have for raising a child or taking care of a family. The meaning of my life is not procreation. If nothing else happens in this life, however, I am sure I will still manage to be a happy little grandma one day. The quest for happiness is everyone's biggest challenge, I agree, but to call it the meaning of life is completely underestimating life. A life can be meaningful without happiness. A life can be happy but meaningless. I intend to be both happy and meaningful. Let's see how that will go...