Having been abroad on vacation for a month has done wonders for my psyche and my spirit. I can’t remember the last time I felt  so relaxed and rejuvenated. The daily stress of everyday life was put aside and the only worries that I had whilst I was away were 1-Is my sister taking care of herself while we are away? 2-What/where am I going to eat out today. 3- What wondrous bargains will I find on today’s shopping expedition. (You can’t walk by a 70% clearance sale and not check it out? T-shir for 10$ or less you buy it even if you hate the colour and the way it looks on you! You won’t find T-shirt’s back home for that price, It’s a steal!)

Life abroad is a lot simpler. Simpler in the sense that the chaos that we have here in Egypt is minimal there. Chaos like the traffic and having to plan your daily activities and life around the traffic. ‘ If I need to be in Mohendisseen by 7pm, then I will probably have to leave Heliopolis between 5:00 and 5:30pm, giving me some extra time in case traffic is really congested or if I get lost.” If what your wearing is conservative enough for going out in, “Am I going to get hassled if I wear that in a taxi or walking down the street somewhere? Are the pants too tight, skirt too short, is the shirt see through or is part of my cleavage showing?” Having to get something repaired in the west you look up a couple of plumbers, carpenters or electrician in the yellow pages, give them a call and tell them what the problem is. They theny give you an estimated quota and if your agree with the price, then Bada boom! They give you a date and time of when they’ll be starting. The great thing about that is THEY ACTUALLY SHOW UP and KNOW WHAT THEY ARE DOING! Here you have to turn in to a serial nag of a stalker and practically pass by them at their place of work, beg them to come, drive them to your house , make them endless cups of tea while they repair what ever it is that needs fixing and drive them back, leaving your house in a mess and the stench of cigarettes behind them! If you don’t go and get them you could be waiting days or weeks before they show up. I’m DEAD serious!! My Dad takes great pleasure in hounding workmen. Just when they think my Dad isn’t looking, he’s there standing over their shoulder watching their every move like a Doberman. Grocery shopping is bliss abroad. I could spend an entire day wheeling a trolley up and down the isle. It’s so QUIET and the shelves are neatly stocked, labeled clearly with the correct price for the item and  when you are at the check out counter everyone stands waiting PATIENTLY for their turn.  Carrefour is like that at 10am but somone must have told someone who told some one becuse now, it doesn’t matter what time you go! It’s crowded and noisey like a mokeys cage at a zoo. To add to the fun of grocery shopping, Ramadan is right around the corner, you have people who think that they need to get to the supermarket before Ramadan becuase the shelves will be empty and out of stock. (It’s funny how EVERYONE has that very same thought!)

 If you have never experienced the scene of pre Ramadan, Ramadan and Eid shopping you have been spared! It’s like watching bulls in a china shop. I’m guessing that this is what goes through a shoppers mind, “Ramadan is going to start in the next week, so, I better go to the super market now and stock up on 60 Liters of oil, 13 Kilos of rice and pasta, I mustn’t forget about the kilos of onion, garlic and potatoes that I will be needing. I almost forgot Milk for the Um Ali and Rice Pudding, Oh and at least 20 packets of sugar, OH, I almost forget about the cheese, butter and drinks that we will need to break the fast with. Yohgurt lots and lots of yohgurt for the vine leave dip and suhour (a light meal that is had by most before dawn prayer, to commence another day of fasting from sunrise to sun set.) !!”  It’s Ramadan!!! not a hurricane or a draught!!! The food and items will still be there!!! They get so stressed out! I’m sure it isn’t good for them.  Another thing that I love about being abroad is that people don’t want to know your business or care to know. While here they make it their business to know EVERYTHING!! “Look their back from their vacation, they brought 6 bags back with them, when they only left with two. I wonder what they bought. The food there must have been good, she’s put on weight. Are those new sunglasses and shoes she’s wearing?”

It’s such a shock to your system when you land. The first thing that hits you is the increase in temperature, then the noise level is cranked up a few decibels and the organization and simple logic fades  to a distant memory and the motto of  ‘One for all and all for me’ comes back. You shake your head in disbelief, look at your family members to see if they are feeling or at least sharing your thoughts of ‘We’re Baaaaack! Why did we come back again?” You need a vacation after the culture shock!

Having said that, ( I know I’m going to sound like a hypocrite) there are lots of things I miss when I am away. My own bed, my house, my friends, the warmth of the sun, the agami sea with all it’s magary (sewerage)  but especially one of the GREATEST inventions that in my opinion is right up their with the air conditioner and that is the SHATAFA or as my Uncle in Canada has so aptly named it ‘The Shit Offer’. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s a hose that is located next to the toilet and after one has gone about doing their business they can clean themselves. The French have a fancy name for their contraption, they call it the bidet (pronounced beday). Theirs, however looks  more like a sink to wash your tush in. While I was away, I was getting so tired of having to have a shower every time I wen to the loo!! Can you imagine how many showers a day that is?! (now times that by 3 (each person in the flat) ). I know what your thinking, why not use wet wipes. I’ve tried it and it’s just not the same. I was getting so desperate at one point I was considering purchasing a garden hose or a water gun! I seriously think that someone needs to export the Shatafas or toilets with a built in one to the West and Europe. They would make an absolute FORTUNE!!!

All in all, with the daily chaos of life, pre Ramadan grocery shopping obsession, traffic, noise, pollution and unbearable heat. It’s good to be home!

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