Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Over the hump

Last month was rough. After a trip back to DC in April, I became convinced I wanted to leave Cairo. When I was here, all I wanted to do was be in DC. I couldn't enjoy myself, I didn't feel mentally present. I started laying the groundwork for an inevitable return, thinking Cairo was done for me. Even if I stayed an extra year or two, I thought, what difference would it make? I came here looking for something, and nearly a year after arriving I knew that something was still missing.

No matter what, I know I'll always be a foreigner here. Being part of no world--neither the US nor Egypt--is not a great feeling. I was homesick. I missed my Cat. My friends at home were all having life experiences--boyfriends, engagements, marriages, babies, family deaths--and I was missing it. My best friends here had all left for America and I would wait until late afternoon for DC to wake up so I could talk to those who truly understood me. My friends here are awesome, yes, but I had this feeling they didn't understand me--likely because they are mostly guys and they didn't understand me. Did they really want to hear me obsess about how I should respond to a text from the guy I like, or weigh what to wear to lunch with said guy?

The constant harassment was also taking a toll. It makes you jumpy. I noticed when I traveled to India, every time I would see a group of young boys I would instinctively tense up, the physical reaction to what I thought would be inevitable harassment/assault.

Friends who had lived as expats warned me around the year mark, you will hit a wall. The little things that bothered you before will make you miserable. You'll miss what you know--those with whom you grew up, your parents to baby you when you feel like shit, the food you love and the little things like Luna bars and Take 5 gum that are impossible to get here.

A few weeks ago I ended up going home after the Muslim Brotherhood government was replaced (see?? I said replaced so stop calling me names) by one appointed by the military. Something happened when I was home. I just wanted to be back in Cairo. The thought of not coming back made me sick. I couldn't wait to come back.

There are many reasons why I feel better about Cairo now compared to a month ago. And there is the real possibility of things going terribly wrong both with Egypt in general and things specific to me, and I foresee at least one major obstacle in the near future. But for now, I'm over the hump.

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