Musings on Moving to Cairo

Cairo is kinda hard to talk about.

It's like trying to capture the essence of someone you've only met twice. I can tell you my impressions, but it's admittedly superficial. And colored by my own cultural experiences.

But I'll try because that's what I do. I know several expats who LOVE Cairo. And have chosen to live here for years. I see the pull. You can live very well here. It is lovely to be on the top of the food chain. A nice flat with people to carry and deliver and clean and drive. We expats are definitely doing well. Yet, there are others who can't wait to get out. The noise, the dirt, the garbage, the incessant honking, the heat.

Mostly, though, I really notice the lack of green space. There are some medians that have grass, and in my area there are trees. But in other areas there is just dust and rubble and concrete. One way to get into nature is to float on the Nile and that is quite breathtaking. Yet, raw sewage is dumped there so you don't really want to touch the water.

This is a developing country, and I think if you're not used to that it is quite jarring. I can tell I'm becoming more used to it because I've started to notice really beautiful things. Like these birds that have a crest on the top of their heads that they tend to open and close in a perfect half circle fan when they land.

Also, I don't feel so lost all the time. I'm getting my bearings, and I don't have to stare at my GPS all the time to find roads. There are very few road signs--I can't even imagine what it was like to try to live here before GPS.

I'm also getting used to how things work here. For instance, when I take an Uber or a Careem (the Egyptian version of Uber) the driver ALWAYS says he has no change. ALWAYS. I know he's lying. He knows I know he's lying, and it is kind of a standoff and I always lose because I want to go home. So yesterday I just refused to get out. I pointed at him and kind crooked my finger. And I said with not a shred of niceness "Give me my change now." I wasn't yelling but I wasn't going to get out of his cab and he knew it. I got my change.

Here’s the rub. I had given him 100 EGP, which is about 5 dollars. For a 30 minute cab ride all the way across Cairo. The fare was 60 EGP--3 bucks. I wanted some change, which for him is an enormous amount of money. For me, it is a pittance. But that pittance starts to add up over time, and frankly I was tired of being bullied into giving money to people.

I'm spending a lot of cash here, and it feels good to support the local economy. I bought some fresh figs at a farmer's market. Yum. I washed them quite thoroughly -- cause you just never know.

Soon, I'm going to the fabric market with a friend who found it on her own by just wandering around looking for it in downtown Cairo. She is my hero. I would NEVER do that. But I need to buy upholstery fabric for the couch because it is too ugly and dirty to sit on. And as much as I love my housekeeper his taste is quite Egyptian (frou frou baroque with a large pinch of gaudy) and I can't trust him to pick it out. He already told me that he asked the upholsterer to add pleats to the couch cover because what I requested (complete with a picture) was too boring. I frankly have no idea what I'll get, but I showed him a totally plain couch cover -- because I know him. If I ask for totally plain it will still come out with some frou frou because he can't help himself, and he knows better than me.

And that comes to the frustrating part of living here. I am a woman and therefore I have no brain. The toilet in the staff bathroom near me at work was not working well. It would flush, but nothing would go down. I've complained for weeks. Finally, circumstances being urgent, I marched into the admin office and demanded some assistance with the toilet. Two minutes later the facilities man was there, looking at me with utter disdain, explaining how the toilet works perfectly well.

I wish you could have seen my face. I think I quite scared him. But I used that finger crook thing again and marched in the bathroom and threw some tissue into the toilet and without looking down (cause I didn't need to see what I already know), flushed the toilet. Of course, the paper stayed right on top and he said OH! It's not going down. (loud screaming inside my head)

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