Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Reading, Writing, and Christmas Shopping

Soon after I rolled out of bed this (early) afternoon, I decided that there was to be no belly-fattening lazing about the apartment. I gobbled up my muesli and yogurt and was out the door. The accumulation of dust on a car that hadn't been outside of my building for more than a day reminding me of snow piling up on vehicles in Minnesota, though I find snow much nicer and the prospect that there was already that much dust a bit disconcerting. Anyway, my first stop was the Greek Campus, where I picked up an encouraging letter from my friend Amy back in Minnesota. Sadly, there is still no trace of the package my mother sent me that I left behind in my errant end-of-class flightyness.
Next, I dropped by a Mobaco shop (of which there are a few in Paris in the neighborhood where I spent my summer a year and a half ago). They sell clothing made from Egyptian cotton at prices moderate in tourist terms but exorbitant in Egyptian terms. I got one article of clothing as a Christmas gift and then, because, wallahi, it's CHILLY at night here now I bought myself a zip-up hoody. As a hearty Minnesotan-born fellow, I am ashamed to say that my teeth now chatter when it gets into the low 60s. Following my shopping spree (so-defined because I spent more than $50--which, for a cheap-o like me is world-ending,) I remembered again how flabby I've been feeling and so skipped the cab ride and walked to Alfa Market in Zamalek to do my grocery shopping. Along my walk, I saw a man in the driver's seat of a car with his seat reclined, sleeping. Next to him, what I mistook from affair for a sleeping woman in a fancy galabaya was actually a Christmas tree which also appeared to be sleeping. I should've snapped a photo. I did managed to get a couple of fun photos at the grocery store where tacky Christmas décor seems to have been ralphed all over the rear display sections where Ramadan goodies once were hawked.
I derived a terrible sense of smug self-contentment when I saw some tourists scampering across the road and trying to dodge traffic. I love putting on my "jaded expat" face and stepping out in front of buses and taxis, though I think after only a quarter of a year here, my credibility is still quite low. Furthermore, I'll have to admit that every once in a while, I too am still a scamperer. Microbuses can be scary things! All this led me to reflect, though, about how much has changed about how I view Egypt since I've arrived. Despite my complaining and moments of misery, I've arrived at a sort of modus vivendi that helps me navigate life here while maintaing some level of sanity and event comfort. I've begun to be able to appreciate aspects of Egypt and even identify places, habits, and people that I'll sorely miss when I leave here. No, it's not home and not it's not France, but neither are the States or France Egypt (which is probably best for everyone involved.)

Some in the Red Sea region see international efforts to stem piracy as Zionist conspiracy
Story on a sewing machine-repairman in Cairo
Nearly half of Egyptian wives have been abused by their husbands

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