Nov. 1st, 2007 – Outdoor Sheesha Café – 8pm

Egypt Travel Blog

 › entry 17 of 27 › view all entries

Today was my last Arabic lesson. I am so sad about that. No more conjugating verbs, memorizing adjectives and greetings and learning Idalfa construction. The time passed so quickly and I feel like I had just begun to get a strong taste of the language and now it’s time to leave. I was getting one “aha!” after another today. Oh well, I will just have to discipline myself when I get back to the states to study every day! I was told by several people here that it takes about one year of full-time study to be able to read and write the language on a basic level and another year, full-time, to really get it on a deeper level and be able to speak comfortably. I am happy with my results and would love to study in the States for six months and then return and take another crash course here for a month.

I am really being forced to walk my talk here, and it’s a good opportunity for me to do the reframing that I teach my clients. There are so many daily challenges to deal with – beginning with the fact that nothing seems to be done completely correctly here. For example:

1. I still have no hot water, a weeks after the hotel manager promised me he would fix the problem. My reframe: In Asian cultures it is considered healthy to take a cold shower. It wakes your body up and gives you good circulation.

2. I did a video shoot and interviewed people here and the Egyptian cameraman was dreadful. His hands were shaking and the camera never stopped moving and the framing was all off. Reframe: I get an opportunity to do it over again with this learning experience behind me and interview the even more interesting people I have met since the shoot.

3. The elevator at my hotel is moody. In the morning it may work, but at night perhaps not. If it works today, tomorrow is no guarantee. It is very frustrating, especially since I’m on the sixth floor and climbing all those stairs, several times a day, while carrying my computer on one shoulder and a bag full of heavy books on my other shoulder is no fun. Reframe: It’s good aerobic exercise! I get an opportunity to build my strengthen my heart and increase my endurance.

Lecture and Party:

Tonight was fantastic! I met up with a woman originally from Texas (a mutual friend had hooked us up). She is so wonderfully global, intelligent, funny and beautiful – a real inspiration. Victoria has been living alternately in France, the States and Cairo for over a decade. She does consulting work (she has worked with several prime ministers) and is a psychologist in addition to many other things. She has the skills to get a variety of different jobs here freelancing. She invited me to a lecture at the AUC (American University in Cairo), where Anne Lamont was speaking. I loved her book, Bird by Bird. Several times I had tried to hear her speak in the States but the timing was always off, so I was thrilled to be able to hear her here in Cairo. She was inspirational. Her main topic theme is inspiring others to write, something that greatly interests me.

She said the main thing that stops people from succeeding, especially in writing, is that they burden themselves with pointless challenges. We create those challenges so we don’t have to deal with reality and life. We decide that we need to go to the gym every day to have thin thighs, and suddenly we don’t have the time to write or whatever else we claim is important to us.

She said to be a good writer, whether in fiction or non-fiction, people want to know how to survive, and what life is about. Laughter, she said, is “carbonated holiness.”

One thing I found funny about what she shared from her trip to Cairo was, “Someone forgot crosswalks and street lights here. It was shocking and hilarious trying to cross the street for the first time – like a Woody Allen movie. I asked my local friend if people get hit and she shrugged nonchalantly and said, ‘Sure.”

I couldn’t agree more.

After the lecture we went to a party on the rooftop of an apartment building. Victoria’s friend’s apartment was sparsely decorated but the pieces she did have were beautiful. Everything was top quality – interesting paintings and furniture that was very Middle Eastern, which I love.

There were people from all over the world there, and I had a great time sharing stories with them about the joys and challenges of living in a foreign country. Everyone was interesting open in that way that comes from feeling global and able to relate to anyone from anywhere. I spent most of my time talking with a fabulous couple from Australia who had been living in Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and Cairo over the past six years. We traded anecdotes and a few good laughs before Victoria, her husband Nabil and I slipped out around midnight – which was just before the night really kicked in! Parties here don’t start rocking until at around 1 or 2am.

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