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I don’t know why this memory has suddenly begun to resurface and has got me thinking about a guy I had met when I was in University. Perhaps the young woman I was back then, at one time had a clearer view of the person she wanted to be, and how she expected to be treated by a guy, but somewhere at some point in time during the relationship, she lost sight of that. The reason for sharing the experience now after so many years, is to let other women of different ages know, that these situations happen to all of us, they are not alone and that they can move on from them when they end.

This is my story;

Some friends from University and I went out one evening and one of the guys suggested that we swing by and pick up a buddy of theirs. I had no idea, who this guy was, I had never met him before and I wasn’t very impressed when I did.
He came across as moody and unfriendly. I tried to engage him in conversation, but he wasn’t interested in contributing and didn’t speak much. I gave up trying to make him feel welcome in the gathering after that.

Months passed and I didn’t see him again until one summer. The night was very warm and my friends and I were out at a popular club on a Friday night. We were busting out moves on the dance floor, when I noticed a face in the crowd, looking at me and smiling. He walked over to me and in Arabic said, “Do you remember me? I’m Z’s friend”. I told him “Yeah. I remember you, you’re the one we picked up and wouldn’t talk all night. I thought you were miserable and unfriendly”. As you can tell, I rarely held back and told people exactly what I thought.
He laughed and apologized for his behavior, he said he has been stressed out studying for mid-term finals.
“Let’s start again, My name is Irish. It’s nice to meet you.”
with a big grin, he took my hand in his to shake it and said “My name is X. It’s nice to meet you. Would you like to dance?”

We danced for some time. He wasn’t very good at it, but he clearly wanted to make a better impression this time round. After a while he asked if we could get off the dance floor and stand under a fan to cool off a bit. We talked for the rest of the night. He was quite a popular guy, many people came up to him to say hello and he introduced me to them. When I was leaving he took my number.

When summer came to an end and everyone closed up their summer residents to move back to reality and their homes in the city and the sand and surf became a distant memory. Mr. X called me up and asked to take me out. I agreed. We went to a cafe first and we talked. Well, in all honesty, I probably interrogated him about his likes, dislikes, his plans for his future and secretly hoping I might possibly be included in it.

* Important note* I think this was probably the first time, I had caught myself fantasizing about being courted by a suitor, which would end in matrimony. I had never, thought about it before… it was… new to me. My focus before that was, finishing University and building a legacy of some kind.

When we left the cafe, there was still some time before I was expected home, so we went for a drive that resulted in us going to a popular beach resort within the city. It was once the former Monarch’s summer retreat, with a grand palace, huge garden to take long strolls in and his own private beach. The place now is open to the public to visit with a small entrance fee to be paid at the gate.

We parked and got out of the car for a walk, being there brought back some memories of the summer of 96, when I had met my first love, but that’s a story for another time.
We walked and saw the shore line twinkling with city lights around the bay and down part of the city coast line. The autumn breeze gently nudged us and the waves hit the rocks and sand as they played their eternal and never-ending song. He held my hand as he led me across the sand in my high-wedge sneakers to prevent me from sinking and then pulled me close to him when we had reached the lifeguard chair and tried to make out with me. Without a second thought, I impulsively put him into a choke hold. (Yes, I am dead serious, I had him in a head lock). He was startled and confused by my reaction as he tried to pry my arm away from his neck.

“You brought me here to make out with me and you thought I would be okay with it” I remember exclaiming at him. “Look, you aren’t the first guy to attempt this with me. I know many guys think that just because my mother is a foreigner that I am easy and that I’m okay with things like this, but I’m not”, I went on to say. “Would you be okay with a guy treating your sister this way?” “No” came a forced reply from the captive. “Then you need to stop thinking of me as a foreigner and treat me with respect, like you would any of the girls here. After all, I am Egyptian too.” I demanded. “If I release you, will you promise not to try anything?” With a nod of agreement and a confirmed “I promise”, I let go. “Take me home please.” I ordered

We left and for most of the drive we were quiet. When we got closer to my house, he asked me if I really wanted to go home. “It’s not a question of, if I want to or not. I have a curfew and ?I need to respect that.” “Rules are made to be broken Irish, why don’t you just come with me to Far n’ Away, I’m meeting up with some friends and we can hang out more. (By this time, I thought the guy had little to no respect for me). I told him that I couldn’t and I wouldn’t, because I didn’t want to have to endure the dread shib-shib (it’s the Arabic word for slipper, a tool that many parents use to beat sense back into their children and other people). “Come on, what’s the worst that can happen to you? They shout at you and send you to your room?”

“The consequences of the action is not what is worrying me, it’s losing my parents trust and disrespecting them. As long as I live with them, I live by their rules. If you don’t like that, then I’m sorry, but that just shows, you have little respect for families.”

Thankfully he listened and dropped me off on time for me to not get in trouble. I thanked him for the evening (out of politeness) and went up to the house. I thought I would never hear from ‘X’ again after putting him in a strong hold and not bending to his ways, but surprisingly he called back and asked me out again. A romance bloomed and we dated for quite some time after that.

* That girl you read about had spunk and knew exactly how she wanted to be treated, with respect. She didn’t ask or assume it would be given, she demanded it and wouldn’t except being seen like an object to be used for recreational use. That’s the kind of girl/woman we should all attempt to be. We shouldn’t allow ourselves to be doormats, that are walked over and used, by men or anyone else for that matter.

In the months leading up to the summer, I remember a shift in my inner balance. I had never been religious and began exploring it again after over a decade of pushing it away. A result of something that happened in my childhood. The reason for my new-found curiosity of my faith was Mr. X. He was not an angel, but his family were modest and some what conservative people and ‘I’ wanted to know more about their train of thought, beliefs and be a good candidate for their son, ‘if’ things continued on the path we were on. The more I learned the more consumed I became. I began to pray regularly, fast, stop wearing certain clothes that I felt were not appropriate and became more selective of whom I hung out with. I stopped greeting my guy friends as warmly as I once hand and going to places, that I felt were full of sin.

As I look back now, I can distinctly remember, feeling distanced, self alienated, sad, miserable and negative. It puzzled me how, I could feel such darkness, from something that should be giving me peace and light. I know the answer now, but I didn’t know it then. My reasons for my quest were not pure, they were selfish. I had given up a part of my true self, so that another or others would like me more. I had unknowingly turned myself into the dread doormat.

Like most relationships, there were rough patches. We broke up when he went abroad for a few months to get some experience in his field. I told him, I would wait for him and he asked me not to, so we broke up.

My religious phase continued for a short time afterwards, as I subconsciously held on to the hope, that X would return and come back to me. The spell ended up being broken during the summer, when less and less of my old friends wanted to hang out with me. I no longer wanted to go to the beach to swim, go to pool parties or out at night. I was alone and discontent. My mother, sister and dear friends voiced their concerns and pleaded with me to go out. I was resistant at first. However, something that had been dormant, awakened inside me and eventually persuaded me out of the house and I drove to the location of one of the big summer parties held at the American compound, which was allegedly hosted by MTV The Grind. Up until I stood at the gates of where the party was being hosted, I was still debating with myself as to why I should turn back and how this was wrong, but my feet had a different agenda. I walked across the threshold of the gates, my ears guided my feet by following the sound of music being played. I stood taking in the scene of people laughing, dancing, singing along to the music, splashing around in the pool and swimming. I remember, one of my thoughts, ” I have been missing out on so much! What had I done?” My friends saw me and watched intently, waiting to see what I would do. My arms worked fast, taking off the shorts and t-shirt while my mind was still processing everything it was seeing and dove in to the pool. My friends cheered and hooted “She’s back!”

We later got back together some time after he returned. He pursued me and after numerous attempts, I caved. Not long after getting back together he became distant. I thought I had done something wrong and tried to talk to him, but he never flat-out told me what happened. Until one fateful day,  I found out that he had gotten engaged to another girl.

Needless to say, I was stunned by the news. It takes a lot for me to be speechless and this was one of those moments. I was hurt, I couldn’t believe that he didn’t have the nerve to break up with me face to face or tell me he had found someone-else and that he was getting engaged. I wasn’t as angry with him as I was with myself for forgetting who I was and my self worth.

In time I got over the experience and put it all behind me. I wish I could tell you that I learned the lesson and it never happened again, but that would be a lie. It took a few more experiences until I realized, what I had been doing and put a stop to it. I am not happy with how things ended between us, but I’m glad that I wasn’t the one who married him, I may have been lost forever. The amusing thing is, to this very day, when our paths cross, he still can’t look me in the eye or be in the same vicinity as me for more than a few minutes.

I have learned that every experience has a lesson. This experience taught me something very valuable, never, ever, try to be something I am not for someone else’s approval, because you can very easily lose yourself and forget who you truly are. Never be a chameleon, like the character Julia Roberts played in the film ‘Runaway Bride’. Always be true to yourself and who you are and if someone truly cares about you, they will be honest.

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  • Thermia Palace, Piestany, Slovakia

    Thermia Palace, Piestany, Slovakia

    Sunday 27th July  

    Sundays are days off at the retreat! I was very grateful to have a sleep in for a change. Since the end of the Academic year, I’ve been on the go, and a slower pace, even just for a day was nice.

    What would I do with myself for a whole day in a place where I can’t speak the language? sleep? naaa! The sun is shining and the air is clean! I should fill my lungs up with as much of it as possible while I have the chance. But before I decide, first order of business is; breakfast!! I dressed hastily, made sure I had everything I needed in my hand bag and my camera, so that I wouldn’t have to come back to the room if I decided to head straight out.

    By now, I knew what the nutritionist had planned for my breakfast off by heart;  a glass of fresh juice, a slice of toast, cottage cheese, a slice of Emmantal cheese, 2 small 50 gm triangles of processed cheese, 2 boiled eggs, yogurt and a bowl of oats. Meh! is right! It is quite bland to the palette and doesn’t sound or look anywhere near as appetizing as the croissants, slices of tea cake, fresh pineapple, scrambled or boiled eggs, BUT I am here for the purpose to drop my weight and to clean my insides of a decade worth of poisonous crap that I had consumed, so I will suck it up! It’s amazing how a little dash of pepper and salt can change how food tastes!

    Just before I was done Rana walked into the restaurant with her father. I went up to greet them both, she was very surprised to receive the little box of chocolates that I had left, “shoo hay, wahdi be wahdi’ , she said in her strong  Lebanese accent, s “what’s this? one for one.” I told her it was a simple thank you gesture for giving me something I loved so much. “I want to see you in Beirut next time. I’ll send you my contacts so you can call me next time you come.” I promised the next time, I was there I would most certainly contact her. I wished her and her father both safe travels in case I didn’t see them before they both left.

    After breakfast I went in search of the small travel agency (again), that organizes short trips to neighboring cities both in Slovakia and countries close to its borders. I followed my mother’s description to the letter and I couldn’t find it. I was slightly perplexed about it but I decided to continue on with my stroll and worry about it later. As I walked the island and saw the other hotels that shared the area, It was without a shadow of a doubt that I had booked into the jackpot! The other hotels were of modern architecture and from what I could see they didn’t give off as bright and relaxing ambiance com as Thermia Palace. I’m sure the service is good, there too, but I like the places I stay in to look cheerful both inside and out. I snapped a few pictures along my walk and kept a look out for where I might be able to rent a bike for the hour or for the day.
    The thought of riding a bike was exciting as well as Terrifying! Since moving to Egypt in the early 1990’s I haven’t ridden one. I was genuinely worried that I had forgotten how to and that I would fall and that would be the end of my holiday and I’d spend the rest of it all bandaged up like a mummy! When I last rode a bike the world wasn’t as safety conscious either, I didn’t want to violate any rules or collide into another biker, pedestrian or car. So, I also took a mental note of where the bike lanes were, so if I ever did find a bike to rent, I had some idea of where I could ride.

    I had no such luck, so I went back to the hotel after a lengthy walk and decided to check in with my family. As I was about to go up to my room, I bumped into Rana again. I stood chatting with her and her father, and was then introduced to 3 more Lebanese gents who live and own a travel agency here. Rana introduced me to Farag and said, ‘This is Nadia, she’s a lovely girl,  please keep an eye on her. Nadia, Farag is a very old and good friend of mine, if you need anything please don’t hesitate to ask him.” It’s moments like these when you see the true spirit of the people from the Middle East, hospitable, helpful and generous. The media has plagued their image with false assumptions that we are all blood thirsty born killers, who have only thoughts of terrorism on our mind. It was very nice to see abroad as well as back in the region. Once they left and we said our final goodbyes, I went up to my room and sent my mom pictures of the area she had described and asked her to pin point exactly where the travel agent was supposed to be. After a lengthy discussion it turned out I had walked by the place quite a few times! So, once we had ended the conversation I headed back downstairs to check it out.

    I headed down stairs and went directly to the place, my mother had described only, only to find a tiny note pad size piece of paper stuck to the window, that said they had relocated. I took a picture of the new address and asked the reception at the hotel.  They informed me that it was on the bridge to the left of the hotel but would be closed on a Sunday. I asked if they knew of anywhere else I could rent a bicycle and I was told the  hotel Balnea Esplenada rents them. They called the hotel for me and made sure that they had bikes available for me.

    I walk to the hotel and went to the reception. I thought I had been transported back to Cairo and began to panic. The place reminded me a lot of the Intercontinental- Semiramis Hotel, near Tahrir Square. It was a modern architectural structure, with black tiled floors, tan colored leathers seats in the reception area and full of Gulfies.

    (Yeah, I’m definitely staying at the classiest joint on the island! Phew!)

    At the reception I gave my name, and the room key card holder with the details of how long I’m staying at Thermia Palace and room number. To rent the bike, it’s 5 Euros for 4 hours. Once all the details were taken and I paid cash, rather than have it charged to my room, I was taken a long, a long corridor to where the bikes are kept. I chose one, adjusted the seat, took the key for the bike lock and went on my merry way.

    At first, I had forgotten, how one should actually start to peddle. So, I had one foot on a peddle and the other was pushing along the ground, like you would a scooter. Eventually, I got both feet up on to the peddles and I started to move forward, holding on to the handle bars for dear life, as I wobbled from side to side, like a drunk! I eventually found my equilibrium and was riding the bike! I rode along the bikers path along the river banks, the more I rode the more confident I became. By lunch time my thighs, abs and my butt cheeks were in agony. In addition to that I was famished. I headed back to the hotel, parked the bike outside, inhaled my lunch and was soon out again.

    I rode for another hour, until the sky turned a gloomy dark color. I rode the bike back to Esplenada, took it to where I had been told to leave it when I was done and locked it, turned the key into the reception AND the heavens opened with a loud CRACK of thunder and a whip of lightening flashed across the sky!

    Monday 28th July 

    I love walking! I find that I see more and learn more about a place and it’s people, when I’m on foot. On Saturdays, I join a small group of photography enthusiasts who, walk around areas of Cairo to take pictures. I enjoy it a great deal, not only because I take pictures, but I get to walk and see some of my ‘real’ countrymen/women going about their day to day lives.

    First on the agenda for today is Nordic Walking.

    All I knew is that it involved sticks and walking (obviously)! After a very quick breakfast, I went to the spa building Irma, as it stated on the paper to await the person who would be leading the group of people on the walk. I was greeted by a tall blond, blue eyed, fit young man called Jan (pronounced Yaan). In fairly good English he informed me that he would be leading the walk and it looked like I would be the only  one participating. He adjusted the length of the sticks, showed me how to strap them on to my hands. I thought I looked like a marionette or some kind of shadow puppet. which then queued the ‘Pinocchio’ song ‘I’ve got no strings’!

    The sticks took some  getting used to. Jan told me to have the arm go with the opposite leg and to not focus on it, otherwise I would trip myself up. He was right the less I thought about them the better I was at walking with them. I asked him questions about what life is like living in Slovakia and how he got into fitness to distract my mind from the sticks. We walked a circuit for about 20-30 minutes at a fairly quick pace. It was great cardio and my lungs appreciated inhaling the fresh morning air.

    Once done, I ran to my room to get ready for my other sessions…   I had a fairly easy day, I only had 4 sessions.  An hour after the walk I got into my robe, because second on the agenda was the mud pack.  An experience that takes some getting used to at first. I don’t mind having the warm mud slathered on my bare skin and being wrapped up like a shawerma. It’s trying to get the mud off in the shower! No matter how thorough, I try to be, I always end up missing some!  The Mud pack was closely followed by my Electro Magnetic  treatment for my back , where I was greeted by the ever so lovely and very friendly and kind Elena. A middle aged Slovakian woman, with short hair and kind eyes and face.

    My last treatment wasn’t till later in the afternoon, so I went for a long walk around the town, discovering new areas and just taking in the scenery and architecture, stopping every now and then to take pictures with my phone. I also went to the mall to get some long sleaved tops. I had only packed short sleeved t-shirts and if the forecast predicted rain for the week, I would need something warmer to wear. , (Another excuse to shop and spend money! Why not! I’m helping the economy, well at least that’s what I tell myself 😉

    I was looking forward to my work out class GG Slim, last time we bounced around and exercised on balls! This time we had a different instructor, who looked a lot like Rhald Dhals character, the Trunchbull from his book ‘Matilda’. A medium height, square looking blond Russian woman, with knee length shorts, socks half way up her calf, white nurse like shoes and her hair tightly tied back. One look at her and I knew this would be one session where my muscles would be so soar by the end of them that if they could scream mercy, they would. Even the Saudi woman taking the class with me, looked as though she was scanning for an escape route. “Laa Laa Laa, mu hathi, Wahda thanya”, which in Gulf Arabic translates to “No, No, No, not this one, another one!”

    We both took a deep breath and did as we were instructed. We got our mats, lay them on the floor and did what reminded me of the early 80’s Jane Fonda work out, minus the music! We did all sorts of stretching, lifting of arms and legs and stomach crunches. I could felt my muscles wince in pain, as I pushed myself to the exercises, while  reminding myself, this is why I am here, to get fitter, thinner and healthier! Without any pain, there will be no gain!

    By the time the session was over, I was exhausted and the Saudi woman was panting and gasping for air. I thanked the woman for the session, took my card and went to my room to change and go for another walk around the premises before dinner.

    After dinner I went back up to my room and sat down and began writing part I to my experience at Thermia Palace.
    I got so carried away with what I was writing that I lost track of time. I had been asked by one of the Egyptian women, Su, whom I had met on my first night in Piestany and had kept an eye open for me everyday to see how I was getting along asked me earlier on in the day, to make sure that I spent some time with her and her friends later on in the evening. Su and her husband were due to depart the next morning to head home back to Egypt after spending a month at Thermia Palace. I was very fortunate to find them all still sat around the round table that they had reserved for tonight. When I walked in I was greeted warmly by all those who were there. I was invited to sit and take part in the on going discussion. I was the youngest person at the table, sat among two doctors, an ambassador and 3 other highly intellectual individuals of 3 different faiths. It was while we sat and talked and exchanged contact information, I had a ‘moment’… ‘I am sat at a round table, with Christians, Muslims and Jews, there is no conflict or hate, just people.’ How poignant and more symbolic could that moment have been? If only the media, would stop fueling the hate and showing more moments like this.

    Tuesday 29th July

    It was another very early start to the day kicking it off with Nordic Walking. I fared much , better today and I was able to keep up more. The time seemed to just fly by. I felt cheated and would have gladly done the circuit once more. Since my arrival, I had been trying to figure out where the gym was. In the end I just asked Jan, where it was, since he was the fitness instructor. He showed me which door I had to go through and which corridor, I needed to walk along. The place is like Hogwarts (less like a gloomy castle thought), more like a maze! There are so many doors and corridors, that it’s easy to lose your way. (Now that I had an idea of where it was, I would definitely make an effort to use it (I hope!).

    The rest of the day, was spent between Irma and the Napoleon III and 1B buildings. Bustling about across a courtyard between buildings with a gym bag and flip flops in a robe can be a workout in itself I tell you! It was a busy day, with Electro treatments, Parafango, Water gymnastics, Mirror pool and 20′ Massage.

    The water gymnastics was lead by the Trunchbull! It wasn’t the usual red headed lady with a somewhat cheerful air about her. The members of the class looked worried. I related to their fear. There’s one thing to do those exercises on a mat on a floor, but in a pool? I hoped I wouldn’t drown!

    The class went pretty well to tell the truth, the water created resistance and I felt like I had worked a lot of my muscles, especially my upper body. From there I showered off, changed into my robe to make my way across the court yard yet again to Irma, to take a much needed 20 minute dip in the warm sulfuric water of the Mirror Pool.

    I usually shy away from getting naked. I don’t even like looking at myself with no clothes on. I’m fine when I’m looking at myself from the collarbone up, because when I look below that’s when I see all my faults and areas of imperfection that are so loudly pointed out and dictated to us by the media. So,  I was genuinely quite surprised at how well I was adjusting to the numerous of times I had to bare-all and be in the presence of other women too. (I wondered what Freud, would have to say about that?)

    In an odd way it was starting to feel more natural. When that thought crossed my mind, I even shocked myself! One of the many outspoken voices in my head, piped up; “More natural! Have you lost your mind girl? Next thing, you’ll be thinking about how cavemen or tribes people in the Rain forests of South America, are more civilized than we are, and we are over complicating life! The sulfur must have gone to your head!” I’m not saying, I’m by any means ready to give up my wardrobe or start vacationing at nude beaches or becoming a nudist. What I am trying to say, that perhaps we have been going about things the wrong way. There is a lot of shame that is brought on to those that don’t have a certain figure or that breaks the mold shall we say. A bodies shouldn’t be ‘a one size suites all’ mentality. If you look at the statues of women from the time of Ancient Greece or Rome or portraits from the Renaissance, women were not stick thin, they were busty, voluptuous and curvy. Why is it in the past few decades that perception of beauty has changed?

    Three years ago, I wanted to have a body like Megan Fox. I won’t be hypocrite, I’m not going to lie about it.  Having been here less than a week, my perception of beauty is changing. When I’m out walking and riding a bicycle,  I see people who are healthy, active and they come in all shapes and sizes. So, my goal now is not to go back to Cairo looking like runway model, but to be a healthier person, who is comfortable in her own skin. I don’t want to get down to a size 4, I’ll be content if I can make it to a healthy 10/12. There’s nothing wrong with that!

     

    Stay tuned for part III

     

  • Part of letting go, is being honest with yourself, admitting your mistakes or fears and being able to face your past.

    Part of letting go, is being able to admit things honestly and face your past.

    For the past seven years or so, I have built a cocoon of fat around me along with invisible barriers to keep certain people out of my life, to prevent them from further plaguing my mind. After a lot of falls and revelations I discovered that negative people like vampires suck the positiveness right out of me and leave me, with nothing but voices that fuel myself loathing and doubt.

    One particular person who I believe to have caused the most damage was an ex of mine. One of his many hurtful and parting phrases to me were; ‘You ruin the reputation of Egyptians and have no respect for your religion’, along with ‘No other guy will want you’. You would have thought that I had committed treason of the highest order or brought shame to my family and their name, but in ALL, SINCERE honesty, my only fault was being helplessly in love with him. The onslaught of verbal character bashing came after I had told him that a jealous ex had called with the intent to rein revenge on me by destroying my reputation and sullying my family name on social media. Why? What did I do? I must have provoked him. That was All because I refused to see him or go out with him, due to being faithful and informing him, that I was in a serious relationship. Instead of my beau being gallant and coming to defend me, the wool had been yanked away from my eyes and I was met with another arrogant being.

    (I later found out he had been cheating on me and used this as his means of ending the relationship)

    That all happened in 2007, it has taken me all this time to follow the trail of bread crumbs that lead back to that particular moment in time, where I have been harboring so much hate and resentment towards him for saying such degrading things to me. Secondly I was angry at the person I was back then for allowing him to trample on me like that and not standing up for myself and just cowering and hiding away in the shadows. Since then, I have not really dated or been in a long (or short) term relationship with anyone. I have gone out with a few gents, but all the while, I would keep them at a safe distance because I deeply feared that history would repeat itself and the thought of having to pick up the broken pieces of my shattered heart and put it back together again sickened me to the core. So, I subconsciously tried to make myself undesirable and unattractive to ward men off, like a scarecrow in a field.

    I found that when I do start to let my guard down and allow gentry to approach me the echoes of the girl in the shadow, who resembles a female version of Smeagol (Gullom) from Lord of the Rings, is always whispering words of doubt and negativity; “He will turn on our precious”, He will hurt precious just like the other one did, we can’t have that. “It’s best precious stays away.”, He doesn’t really like our precious, he just wants to use precious”, Precious is not good enough or good-looking enough for him/them”, “precious must stay away, stay in the shadows where it is safe.”

    My inner Smeagolina would win and I would end up pulling up the draw bridge, manning the battlements and using every trick I had to provoke the person to show their dark side or simply push them away. To put it in simpler terms, I would put an end to it before it’s even had a chance to begin. In recent months, I have grown stronger and clearer headed than I have been in years. I now know that I can no longer live my life lurking in the shadows alone. I need to come out into the light and tap into my inner Celtic Saeedy warrior and meet each challenge as it comes.
    When a guy would pay me a compliment, I wouldn’t believe him. I would automatically think he was being sarcastic or trying to get in my good graces so that I would lower my guard and the drawbridge. Just last week, I caught myself doing that whilst catching up with a very handsome, successful entrepreneur friend of mine when he had told me I was pretty. I snickered and gave him a look that read ‘Yeah! Right! You must be crazy.’ He was taken aback, because out of the many people I know, he is probably one of the most straight forward and honest.

    When he or others pay me a compliment like that, I would instantly think, ‘WHY ME?’ ‘ WHAT COULD THEY POSSIBLY SEE IN ME?’ ‘THEY NEED A CATSCAN OR A TRIP TO THE OPTHAMOLOGIST TO GET THEIR HEAD OR EYES CHECKED’ or ‘THEY MUST HAVE A HIDDEN AGENDA?’ It’s a terrible habit and a train of thought! I have to put a stop to IT, because if there is any chance with this guy (or any other), and I allow Smeagolina to override my brain, I’ll lose whatever chance I have with him/them.

    On a positive note, at least I recognize the signs now.
    I am still working on peeling back the negative layers that have been encompassed around me. I am slowly beginning to see and believe that I am good enough, smart enough and pretty enough for the opposite sex and that they aren’t all assholes in sheep skin!

    It isn’t just about the men, it’s mostly about ME. I have been learning myself worth these past few years and months. I have found that I AM worthy of being spoken to and treated respectfully and politely, because I don’t have to put up with disrespect. Why should I have to?!

    I have been a bit more adventurous this past year and come out of my hiding place a bit more. The first step was when I went to Central America last summer and was alone with myself, for the first time and got to push my limits and see what things I could overcome. This year, I have traveled quite a bit, taken to going out of my way to reconnect with old friends, who were dear to me and making more of an effort to keep the lines of friendship open. I have also pushed myself far out of my comfort zone and gone on photography walks and a caving trip with people who within the first hour were strangers, but by the end of the walk/trip became valued acquaintances. Some of whom I found share similar views and passions as I do.

    I am feeling optimistic because, I have decided to be honest about my past and to let go. I am letting go of all the animosity that I have been holding on to for so long. It has been a heavy burden to carry around all this time, it has also been weighing me down and draining me of my positive energy. In addition to preventing me from reaching my full potential and holding me back from being social, adventurous, taking risks, climbing the ranks and trying to start projects that I genuinely and firmly believe in.

    Enough! Is enough! It is time to believe in me and to prove to those that lead me to believe that I couldn’t amount to anything, That I CAN and I WILL!

    It’s time say good-bye to Smeagolina and to allow my inner light to shine as brightly as it can, while I take a stand and make my mark in this world.

    I hear by free myself of the shackles of my past! I give myself permission to move forward!

    P.S I recently heard the sone ‘Human’ by Christina Peri and I felt that it reflected a lot of what I had been through. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5yaoMjaAmE

    Image

    Confession letter

    In October I had come to realize that all my previous efforts to fight the battle of the bulge were in vain. There must have been something that I had over looked and not seen that was my invisible and deeply rooted obstacle that prevented me from reaching my goal of being healthier and fitter.

    I had heard of detoxing but in all honesty, knew very little about it. I got in touch with a woman who does this professionally. I asked her endless questions about what to expect and how it is meant to help me. After several e-mails back and forth, I was less skeptical and more willing to take the plunge into the unknown. I won’t lie, I was terrified of what demons that might surface, because after all, this wasn’t just a food cleanse, it was one for the body and psyche. Having nothing to lose and everything to gain, I paid to take part in the journey.

    Detoxing, is a way of getting rid of all the junk that you have unknowingly been storing in your body, by eating healthy. For the first 8 days of the cleanse you are gluten-free and vegan. Vegetables and Fruit and lots of water are the source of nourishment. I had no difficulty giving up grain, carbonated drinks, sugary foods and protein, but I did find it hard to wean myself off dairy. Yogurt had been a huge part of my daily diet. I didn’t suffer from caffeine withdrawal symptoms like other members of the detox did, simply because I could never drank it. I learned years ago, that I was allergic to coffee and would get severe heart palpitations, where my heart would beat so hard against my rib cage that, I thought it would rip through my chest cavity and land on the table. The experience was enough to never make me want to try it again. Little did I know that I was on a road to discovering other things I was allergic to.

    During the course of the 8 days, I noticed that I was looking trimmer, feeling lighter and less bloated, I was sleeping better, my mood was more upbeat and positive and it felt like there had been a haze in my head that had been clouding my thoughts and hearing, it slowly began to clear and I was seeing things in technicolor with a more accurate perseption and able to hear my own thoughts more clearly.  It felt as though, I had been awakened from being on auto pilot or I had come to a clearing and left the fog behind!

    When the time came to reintroduce foods back into our diet one by one, I discovered that grains and I don’t mix well. It makes me feel sluggish and bloated. The Nature’s Valley granola bars that I used to eat as a snack or for an energy boost had an ingredient in it that caused nausea and dizziness. There were other foods that had the same affect on me, like birthday cake and Cadbury’s products. Milk would cause phlegm in the throat and make my stomach uneasy,
    (bye bye Easter Eggs, Flakes and Crunchy Bars).

    On this journey, I kept a journal and discovered that I was eating much less than I would usually consume and not feeling hungry as often or the need to munch or snack on something. It was then that the reality finally hit home, that I AM one of those people who self medicates with food. I eat to numb the pain, to relieve stress, to get over disappointments, let downs, overcome the feeling of failure, not feeling pretty or smart enough and heart ache after a break up. I was my own worst enemy! I was the main culprit! I was the one who had been poisoning myself sub/consciously and making myself ugly to justify the pain (in some twisted way). I have been standing in my way of moving forward and achieving my dreams and aspirations. It was ME!
    (now… I have to make up for a lot of lost time!)

    Although the cleanse was for 15 days, I continued eating mostly fruit, vegetables, fish and chicken till mid December. I hadn’t felt that good in ages!!! I was happy again. My mother even noticed the difference and said, “That is the old Irish, that I used to know!”

    Then Christmas came! My family and I spent the holiday in the UK and that’s when it all came crashing down, (again). The temptations of all the delicious food and treats was too hard to fight! For the first few days I was really good and maintained my healthy way of living, but it was too much for me to resist. The real trouble started when the trip and holiday came to an end. Back to work and life, I found it very hard to get back on track. The addiction had its hold on me again. The weight was piling on, the restless nights were coming back, the stress of work was getting to me, I was finding it hard to see the silver lining in things and was becoming more and more negative as the days passed.

    Towards the end of March, we had a fundraiser at school and pictures that had been taken had been posted and when I saw what I really looked like and not what I thought I looked like, I made a conscience decision that I had to do something about it and now, before it was too late! In 4 more years I will be 40 and as I get older my body will find it harder to get rid of all the fat stored and it will just add to higher health risks. So, as soon as Spring Break started, I went cold turkey again! I have been gluten free and vegan for two weeks. It is a very difficult thing to do here in Egypt, when carbs, sweets and protein are on the menu of every restaurant and eating is THE SOCIAL PAST TIME! (knock on wood, so far so good).

    I have also found that my problem of abusing food dates back to when I was a child. There was a time when I was really unhappy at the school I was attending and when I would come home, I would binge snack to the point of feeling sick. Once I left the school the problem went away, but since I graduated from university it has been a roller coaster battle. Now, that I know what and who I am battling, I have a better chance of defeating it this time round.

    This awakening moment came to me, last week. My cousin in the UK had a project that I said I would help her with. She needed a handwritten letter or note for her university project and it could be about anything. When I began writing it last Saturday, the two page letter turned into a handwritten confession from me to my trapped inner thinner self, apologizing for holding her captive and crippling her behind layers of blubber and that I had been wrong in doing her such injustice and that having seen the errors of my ways, I was ready to let go of the things that I had mentally been holding on to, that had been signaling my body to store fat and eat crap. I would from now on do her right by peeling away the layers that I had been binding her with to release her, so that she could be free from the lonely prison I had so selfishly been keeping her in and to let her be free to live and accomplish everything she had ever dreamed of setting out to do. Allow her to become the rightful person she was meant to be and allow her to love herself and be loved by others. Another trigger to this was Elsa, the character from the hit Disney animated movie, Frozen. Elsa had been locking herself away from the public because she had been afraid of her gift and once it became public knowledge of what she was and she had run away from her prison and felt free, she was on the road of becoming who she was meant to be.

    Now, when I look at my reflection in the mirror, I see her, (my thinner self) gazing back at me. The anger and frustration in her eyes is still there, but she is closer to the surface than she has been in a long time. In addition to eating healthy, I have also made another important decision. For three to four weeks this summer, I will be going to a weightloss specialized center/spa where I will have the help I will need from professionals to help me unlock the shackles of my past and will be left no choice but to focus on the goal that I have set for myself.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0HtACLaRDk0

    This journey that I am on, will probably be the most challenging thing I have had to do, thus far. I do not expect it to be easy, there is a high possibility that I will tumble and fall, but I need to stay committed and pick myself up and keep going forward, for me, to be free, so that I can see, what I can do and test my limits and break through 😉

    Wish me luck!

     

    If you haven’t been watching the news for the past two or so years then you are way behind on the times. I’ll try and give you a quick summarised run through of what has been going on in the time you’ve been watching ‘Keeping Up With The Kardashians’.

    It will be three years in January when the Egyptian people took to the streets to demand the resignation of former President Hosni Mubarak. (Why?) He had been in power for 30 years, he was not democratically elected by the people and his cronies were sucking the country dry of resources (billions of dollars), the poor were getting poorer, no jobs for graduates, inflation, no benefits (financial/medical) and we were under military rule. (Are just some of the many reasons why people were frustrated and fed up)

    After 18 days of clashes, resistance and protesting, former President Mubarak steps down. GREAT! (or so most of the people thought) Once he left office lots of the people who were activists and fighting for the cause of the revolution dusted themselves off and went back to their everyday lives, which was a HUGE mistake. They didn’t have a plan to put in place once the president had stepped down. Which is when the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamic parties who had been oppressed/banned by our previous rulers (Mubarak, Sadat, Nasser), seized the opportunity they had been waiting decades for. They have had planned their ‘coming out party’ for years and they swept the elections and seats in parliament like a tsunami! They were prepared while liberal parties and activists were not. They were blind sided, had the rug pulled out from underneath them and the wool over pulled everyone’s eyes if truth be told. WE WERE NOT READY and we can’t blame them for being ready.

    About a year after Mubarak stepped down we had an interesting look at presidential elections. EVERYONE wanted to be president. If you could get 30, 000 signatures and were 100% Egyptian on both sides (mother/father family) then you could run. Over 3,000 people ran for presidency!! It was eventually filtered down to a handful of twenty or so, which split the votes every which way. A second round of elections came about between Mohamed Morsi (Muslim Brotherhood) and Ahmed Sahfik (former minister of Aviation), which to choose? Vote for someone who represents extreme conservative Muslims, or someone part of the regime that had just been toppled and many people had lost their lives for? Who would your vote go to? Many people didn’t go and vote, they boycotted the election because they believed that there was foul play. Morsi won by a VERY small margin (51% to 49% I believe).
    Congrats! Egypt has its first democratically elected president… who on June 30th 2012 takes office and is sworn in. Morsi vowed to represent ALL the people in Egypt.

    For the first five months of his time in office he took no action or decision on any important issues in the country. (I guess he was learning the ropes or getting comfortable in the chair that everyone seems to want) He did however pardon some of those who had been imprisoned for petty crimes like having a hand in the assassination a former Egyptian president.

    Then in November, he comes out and declares that he is above the law and that no judicial court or person can contest to his decisions from that point on wards. In other words he declared himself SUPREME PHAROAH & DICTATOR of Egypt.

    (SAY WHAT NOW? The Egyptian people didn’t have a revolution and people didn’t die for him to become another dictator, back to the streets we go!)

    A peaceful sit in takes place and Pro Morsi supporters armed and angry attack the sit in, killing some of the protestors. If the president or leader of your country did that, would you sit and take it and just break open another can of pop and bag of potato chips or would you voice your disapproval?

    (WAIT ! There’s more…)

    A few weeks later protestors take to the streets again this time to prevent the justices from meeting so to prevent any judicial review of the president’s decisions. Instead, President Morsi dissolves the (our equivalent to) the Supreme Court and labels all those who are members “traitors to Egypt”

    (It Gets Better!)

    A month later, he makes the ‘new’ constitution null and void and forms a constitutional committee to draft a new constitution in just FOUR days; those chosen to be on the committee were extreme Muslim conservatives and preachers. In a referendum not supervised by any judicial branch because judges all over the country boycotted it and the ‘new’ (biased, one sided) constitution narrowly won.

    (Meanwhile)

    The Egyptian economy was plummeting, foreign investors pulled out and our main source of income, tourism was not revived because the tourists were warned to stay away, plus the president and the minister of tourism never did anything to beef up security to make tourists feel safe, so it died!
    In the warmer months of his term in office, in a country as hot as Egypt electricity/power cuts were a daily occurrence. Some people were lucky to have it cut once a day, while others would be without power for hours on end.

    Egypt a country rich in fuel witnessed never seen before lines at petrol/gas stations that went on for blocks and were 8 hours long in some cities. Eventually petrol/gas stations had NO gas to sell?!
    Egypt that has direct access to the river Nile, suddenly was having sever water shortages! Schools, Businesses and homes would have water shortages some for a few hours others for days on end.
    Unemployment has almost doubled, and the value of the Egyptian pound was almost worth nothing. The exchange rate on the black market for the dollar reached 8 Egyptian pounds!

    (Still not convinced…need more proof?)

    President Morsi outlines his plan to lease the Suez Canal for 50 years giving full administrative control!
    Then we had the endless accounts of sexual harassment of women (veiled and non veiled) who would be targeted by groups and assaulted along with the attacks on Christians in and around the country. Not one member of government or the President ever came out and condemned or demanded it to stop. Due to these actions and many of the above decisions hundreds of people have sought Political Asylum in other countries across the globe, some desperate enough to cross the borders into Israel to build a better life for themselves there. If that isn’t fear or desperation I don’t know what is?!

    The above is just some of the crap that the Egyptian people have had to endure over the past year under President Morsi’s governing. Months before the 30th of June, a group called El Tamarod (Rebellion) started collecting signatures to demand the resignation of the President, because they honestly did not feel that he represented them and did not have the countries best interests on his agenda. For them to be taken seriously they needed to collect 15 million legitimate signatures, they collected over 22 million. One June 30th, 2013 on the anniversary of the Presidents one year in office, over 30 million Egyptians took to the streets to demand his resignation. They stayed there for four days!

    Hearing the cries of 30 million people, the army gave President Moris an ultimatum, (this came after months of trying to negotiate with him), he had 48 hours to come out with a clear all party inclusive road map for the country or they would remove him from office. Just before the deadline Morsi came out and said that he would agree to hold early Parliamentary elections.

    (uh, too little, too late dude!)

    As promised the military removed him from office and placed him under house arrest.

    (Coup or not a Coup?!)

    Weikipedia’s definition: “A coup d’état typically uses the extant government’s power to assume political control of the country. In Coup d’État: A Practical Handbook, military historian Edward Luttwak states that “[a] coup consists of the infiltration of a small, but critical, segment of the state apparatus, which is then used to displace the government from its control of the remainder.” The armed forces, whether military or paramilitary, are not a defining factor of a coup d’état. Lately a view that all coups are a danger to democracy and stability has been challenged by the indication of the phenomenon of a “democratic coup d’état”, which “respond to a popular uprising against an authoritarian or totalitarian regime and topple that regime for the limited purpose of holding the free and fair elections of civilian leaders.”[5]”

    We had no extant government takeover of the country; outside parties are temporarily in place until elections are held in 6 months time. The actions that were taken were to save democracy because the Egyptian people were NOT being represented.

    Foreign Media and foreign governments all began clucking like chickens and called it a Military Coup; The Egyptians call it the People’s Coup! As you can imagine the Pro-Morsi supporters and members of the Muslim Brotherhood did not take to the news very well, so they took to the streets hurting and killing people who were Anti-Morsi supporter and Christians. General Sisi, in a speech came out and asked the Egyptian people to show their support by going out into the streets if they agreed to him protecting Egypt and her people from the terrorists who have been trying to divide Egypt and cause anarchy. The people answered and 30+ million people gave him their consent.

    That brings us to the Pro-Morsi supporters and their 6 week sit-in in El Nahda and Rabaa Adaweya in Nasr City Cairo. The residents and business owners in the area were being obstructed from going about their daily lives, the area became inaccessible. Those who were part of the sit in and had torn up the tiles on the sidewalks to build walls/barricades across the streets preventing vehicles from entering the area. They had set up tents and make shift day-care centers too. Many attempts to negotiate with the protestors/squatters failed because they would not agree to anything, their one demand was that Morsi be reinstated.

    (If UK’s Prime Minister or NY’s Mayor had a 6week sit in Trafalgar or Time Square, would they leave it or clear it? If you chose clear it, how would you go about it? (let me jog your memory, think back to occupy Wall Street))

    After several attempts of negotiating, meetings of what to do, advice on how to clear the squares and warning of not to do it, the Interior Ministry (who are by no means saints themselves and are responsible for many deaths during the 2011 uprising), felt they had no choice but to go in and clear the squares. Early Wednesday morning, when the crowds would be sparse, they went in with police forces, bulldozers and tear gas. They were met with resistance.

    What the foreign media is showing the world is tunnel vision reporting! They are failing to show the WHOLE picture. Many (NOT ALL) of the supports were (and still are), heavily armed with machine guns and rifles, who shot at the armed forces.

    When word spread of the clearing of the sit-ins, this angered lots of the Pro-Morsi and Muslim Brotherhood supporters who took to the streets with anger in their eyes and fury in their hearts. Some of these protestors were peaceful in their protest, while others vandalized, burned public property and churches (and I mean OLD churches, like 4th and 5th century), they also stormed several police stations, killing and mutilating the bodies of police officers. (Peaceful and misunderstood protestors right?) This has not been reported on any of the International News Stations and when someone being interviewed would bring it up or mention it; they would make no comment or act as if they hadn’t heard it.

    Now that you have a clearer idea of what is going on in Egypt, would you have let your President/Prime Minister drag your country into the ground, or would you have done what the Americans did, when Nixon was in office?

    If Egypt and the US’s had facebook accounts, their relationship status would read “it’s complicated”, they are on the verge of a devastating break up. Which would make Russia and China really happy, because they would gladly swoop in and come to Egypt’s aid.

    (That would be a WORLD game changer!)

    If you require more evidence photos or videos get on twitter or youtube and you can see it yourself. You be the judge, don’t let your media censor the information, speak or think for you.

    Here is a link to an article written in an American perspective;
    http://www.theblaze.com/contributions/putting-egypt-in-context-what-if-president-obama-did-what-morsi

    TJ with us celebrating my bday

    TJ with us celebrating my bday

    Since I moved to Cairo in 2004 I have met many interesting people, with equally interesting characters. Some of those people I may have met once or twice, while others were part of a very special group of people I am forever grateful for being introduced to. Without them, I highly doubt that I would have endured or enjoyed Cairo as much as I have. Timothy J. Quinn III was one of those people. Not only was he one of the most adored and friendly members of the group, but he became like an adopted brother to some of us and you could talk to him with the greatest of ease.

    I remember the first time, I met T.J at one of our ‘Tuesday Nighter’ outings, he very politely extended his hand to me and said, ‘I don’t believe we have met before, my name is T.J, forsa sa3eeda giddan (translates to, the pleasure is mine)’. I was shocked at how well he spoke Arabic. A conversation from that point on ensued and we talked like we had known each other for years. I learned that he was of mixed heritage too, (Irish/Italian) but was a Boston boy!
    (Go Fighting Irish)

    Every time I saw T.J from that time onwards he would always greet me with a genuine warm smile and hug no matter how much time had passed since we had last seen one another. When we would get chance to talk he would always ask how I was and what I had been up to and be sincere in his wanting to know.
    I may not have known him as well as some of the other people in our group, but T.J had a way of making a lasting impression and being in everyone’s good books. In all the time I’ve known him, I can’t recall him ever saying anything negative about anyone or anything. If anything it was his graciousness and positive upbeat attitude that is still fresh in my mind.

    T.J like another dearly departed friend of ours, Nathalie Atalla had the ability to bring out the best in those around them and could effortlessly bring people together. T.J knew EVERYONE! Whenever we went any where, it didn’t matter what part of Cairo or the country it was, T.J always had a ‘buddy’ there. Come to think of it, I am sure that he has a buddy in every corner of the globe. There is a theory that between you and a stranger there are six degrees of separation. That may be true for most of the world’s population, but not for T.J.
    T.J loved to laugh and enjoy himself with those he knew, (he had a great laugh, and when he did his face would turn crimson red). If he was at a party and there were people who didn’t know him when they arrived, they most definitely would have by the time they left and it’s highly possible they exchanged numbers or became facebook friends not long afterwards.

    T.J although a Boston boy, loved Egypt more than most Egyptians I know. He had traveled around the city and the country to places I had never heard of and wouldn’t know how to get to even if I wanted to, but he could and if he was free, he would gladly take you there himself. He knew where to buy most things at great prices, he wasn’t afraid to ride public transportation where he would interact and talk to the people he sat next to. He would come back and tell us stories of his adventures and have us gasping for breath as our sides hurt from laughing and tears streamed down our face, with his witty remarks and unforgettable sarcasm.
    We would often tease him and say that with his knowledge of the country and his spoken Arabic, he had to be working for the CIA and was gathering intelligence, because lets face it, even though he had a great bald head, he was no Bruce Willis.

    In the autumn of 2012, to the best of my knowledge, T.J went home to Boston for a visit. I had no idea he had been away until the 2nd of January when he emailed us with some shocking news.
    He sent and e-mail titled; ‘Happy New Year and a stroke of good luck.’

    “dear all!
    a happy and healthy 2013 to all.
    Just a quick update: I had a stroke. at the ripe old age of 32.
    expecting a full comeback in the coming months. for now, it sucks. I speak spottily/sloppily with some slurring and my left side is much slower and weaker than my right side. I was hospitalized over the weekend and am now home in allston (boston), where I have been for the past few months, albeit now under new circumstances.
    i was given initial physical therapy at the hospital and will get regular outpatient treatment over the coming weeks. Family has been looking after all of us here. I am in good hands.”

    (ever the comedian and optimist)

    As you can imagine we flooded him with well wishes and encouragement, reading back on my reply to his, my words ring true now more than ever.

    “T.J

    I now know why you had been on my mind recently. I’m sorry that you
    had to experience a stroke at such a young age. I too am going through
    some odd medical things that most people don’t get until they are much older,
    so I can relate to what you are experiencing on a minor level.
    I am glad you were home when it happened so that you had/have the
    support that you need and the medical attention too. Take good care of
    yourself T.J and never give up. You will make it through this and just
    remember to thank God daily for your blessings!

    Take care friend”

    We got a total of 3 up dates from TJ and they were full of optimism.

    February 14th, update number 2

    “Dear all,

    Thank you so much for all your support and help. I just got back from the ‘bubble test’, which seems to have gone well. My parent’s said my doctor sounded excited by the results. That’s the good news. The test was not fun.
    (following is largely minutiae) It was similar to an angioplasty (anyone?) but instead of cleaning up gunk from your arteries (or heart) with a small bubble, it sent to one of the arteries in the brain and stopped blood flow just below the aneurysm to see how I reacted. I was awake during the whole process. It was literally a pain in the neck. I spent yesterday night at the hospital under observation and left today. My left hip is very sore (as that served as the entry point) today, though that is thankfully getting better.The therapist gave me a cane in case I needed it, though it is better to use as a prop than using it to hit him.

    I’ll be in contact soon when I get the doctor’s to get the next course of action.
    In the meantime, thank you again so much for your help and supporting emails!
    All the Best,
    TJ”

    March 26th, update number 3

    ” Dear all!
    Happy Easter!
    Thank you again for all the signs of support! It’s really helping!
    Just saw the neurologist and the neurosurgeon and wanted to share the news:
    The bubble test last month bore positive news and I am having surgery in late May. The surgery basically involves clamping the artery ‘feeding’ the aneurysm, thereby reducing pressure and slowing potential growth. There are secondary arteries that can sufficiently “power” the area. Apparently, there is a fair amount of risk involved, but doing nothing is even more risky. They also mentioned waking me up during the surgery to make sure everything is working properly. I hope this kind of “wake up” surgery is not a growth industry.
    There was also a stroke check up. The stroke, as far as strokes go, was a huge one, which is surprising because I am basically back to functioning ‘normally’ – to the point where I could agitate the aneurysm, and handle a Quinn Family gathering. Even my speech is almost totally clear (so long as I keep away from those pesky tongue twisters …and copious amounts of beer). However, running a 5k for St Patrick’s Day did not happen as hoped – I can ‘run’ about a 100 yards/meters, at which point my left leg starts dragging. Instead, I’m going out for extended walks, weather permitting.

    This was definitely not what I foresaw returning to Boston from Cairo, but makes for a great ‘overcoming challenges’ story whenever work interviews begin.
    Thank you again so much for all the notes, words, and help over the past few tricky months!
    Love,
    TJ”

    My contact with him continued, I had just finished sending him two drafts of my latest blog posts and wanted him to read about the latest drama I had experienced. His last email to me was on April 21st not knowing it could very well be my last. The following day his group of friends were forwarded an email from his sister Nina.

    ” Hi everyone.
    I apologize for the mass email. I wanted to let everyone know that TJ is currently undergoing surgery at MGH.
    His aneurysm ruptured this morning – less than a month before his surgery (which was scheduled for May 20) to clamp it. He was home and my parents called 911 and he went to MGH in an ambulance.
    I got the call that he’d been taken to the hospital around 215 and went to meet my family in the ER. We were able to see him a few times before he went into surgery. He was in a medically induced coma with the ventilators and all sorts of wires leading to all sorts of beeping. I was definitely a freaky for me to see my big brother (who I was literally laughing with yesterday) look like that.
    We spoke as a family to an ER nurse, a nurse liaison, the head of neurosurgery at MGH and one of his people, and a few nurses on the ICU floor where TJ will be staying. I cannot say enough about the MGH team. To say he’s in good hands is an understatement.
    My parents are going back around 930/10 this evening and will speak to Dr. Ogilvy (head of neurosurgery at MGH and arguably the best in the world) to see how the surgery went. I’m waiting to hear from them with any updates, though there might not be any this evening. Though Dr. Ogilvy was positive, this is a really tough case (TJ Quinn: making things difficult since 1980) and it’s too early for a prognosis of any kind yet. I also don’t believe visitors outside immediate family are allowed at this point, but I’ll let you know otherwise as news comes in.
    Again, I’m sorry for the mass email, but wanted to keep you all informed as possible. I’ll share any updates as they come. Feel free to forward to friends and folks I may have forgotten.
    Thank you all for your love and concern over these past few months. You have been a HUGE support for me and my family. I’ll be in touch as I have more to share. ”

    The news of the possibility of losing T.J came as a big blow and although we were optimistic, the news that followed on April 29th was heart wrenching and shattering.

    ” Dearest Family and Extended Family,

    I write today with sad news. TJ is not going to wake up. We knew his situation was serious and, though the surgery was technically successful, we found out on Friday that he was not responding positively, and will not recover from the ruptured aneurysm.
    This weekend has been spent saying our good-byes. Your prayers and thoughts over the past week have kept us all strong – I have been reading all your messages to TJ. Tomorrow (Monday) we will remove the ventilator and let nature take its course. It should not take long even though TJ is strong.
    Though completely devastating, I write with the knowledge that he received the best care possible. The doctors and nurses and staff at MGH are truly special.
    I can’t thank you all enough for your kind words, texts, emails, and prayers. Each one was felt. I will share details about services over the next few days.
    Peter and I know that we shared TJ as a brother with many of you and as a friend with all of you. We are honored that he touched so many hearts – one of his many gifts. I know he will be missed.

    All my love,”

    Although the chances of T.J defying medicine were slim, we his friends for the most part chose to hold on to that last shred of hope, that he would choose life and that God all mighty would grant us a miracle. He had already claimed a dear friend of ours a couple of years earlier. Did he have to take T.J too?

    I am grateful that I got to meet and know T.J. He was an exemplary individual who was liked and adored by many. He siezed moments and enjoyed each day.
    I am also grateful that he was back in Boston when all of this happened, so he could be home with his immediate family.
    Most importantly, I am grateful that he did recover from his stroke, so that he had the time he needed to spend with them over the past few months and we, his friends could let him know how much we truly cared for him as we encouraged him to keepy defying fate. Maybe the miracle we had hoped for last night didn’t come true, but the fact that he fought his way back the first time was a miracle in itself.

    T.J even during this very difficult and delicate time as we say our goodbyes in our own way and make peace with the fact that we will not be seeing you, you have succeed in bringing people closer together. The outpouring prayers, well wishes and condolences that were sent by people you knew and those who were touched by your story was overwhelming and heart warming.
    As a friend of yours on twitter posted this mornind ” @rbecker51 @tjquinn3 is #BostonStrong”

    (Irish Blessing) I raise a glass to you today and say;

    If tears could build a stairway, and memories were a lane,
    We would walk right up to heaven, And bring you back again.
    No farewell words were spoken, No time to say goodbye,
    You were gone before we knew it, And only God knows why.
    Our hearts still ache in sadness, and secret tears still flow,
    What it meant to lose you, No one will ever know,
    But now we know you want us To mourn for you no more,
    To remember all the happy times, Life still has much in store.
    Since you’ll never be forgotten, We pledge to you today,
    A cherished place within our hearts, Is where you’ll always stay.

    We will miss you T.J, come visit us in our dreams from time to time.

    Slainte!

    April 30th 2013

    No tourists

    No tourists

    Last Thursday, I was graciously invited among many other Irish nationals living here in Egypt and friends of Ireland to attend the Irish Embassy’s St. Patrick’s Day party at the Le Meridian Pyramids Hotel that has a view of the great pharaonic structures, for the ‘Greening’ of the Pyramids. I sign to symbolize friendship between the two nations.
    Along with the invitation was an incredible and very unbelievable rate to stay the night at the hotel and have breakfast included for less that 650LE. (that is a bargain!)

    The thought of battling traffic to get there and then having to do it again once the party was over did not appeal to me in the least. I RSVPed that I would be in attendance and I also booked a room, (every girl deserves to be pampered every now and then, especially after having suffered from a week-long of sinusitis. Wouldn’t you agree ;).

    Thursday evening I arrive with time to spare, checking in took less than five minutes. I was upgraded to deluxe suit overlooking the pool and Pyramids (not bad)! I had enough time to freshen up and get myself ready for an evening of socializing and culture.

    When I left my room to make my way to the reception the usual bustle, friendly hum of conversation was noticeably absent once i reached the lobby. When I walked through the restaurant to the area by the pool where the event was being held. The clinking of silver ware and appetizing aroma of meals being cooked was barely noticeable.

    The evening was better than I had expected. I met many interesting people of various occupations, I heard Irish musicians who collaborated and were accompanied by 3 bedouin musicians, Irish tunes filled air with a twist of Middle Eastern beats and rhythms, there was a buffet of Irish cheese along with other delicacies and of course a bar stocked with my favorite rich in iron beverage, Guinness!

    The following morning I awoke to a very empty and quiet hotel. The restaurant was only a fraction full with a minimal number of tourists and the usual breakfast rush, clattering of plates, shouts of chefs and waiters running around was absent. The pool on a hot sunny day was not in use, there were no squeals of children splashing around or occupied sunbeds. This was indeed a sad sight, it was heartbreaking to see how badly tourism and hotels are suffering.

    You can’t help but wonder, why the leader along with politicians are not trying to make more of an effort to bring back the tourists. Why aren’t they taking a step to trying to make the nation a safer place for foreign nations to give their nationals the green light to come back to see our wonders and treasures.

    If we can’t make the tourists come back, what are we going to do?

    (Winne the Pooh moment, think, think, think)
    Here’s a thought, just off the top of my head, Why don’t WE support our industry?
    How many of you can honestly say that you have gone to see the attractions that our great nation has?
    We need to support our country and the industry by discovering our country.
    With discovering our nation, we might be able to instil pride and patriotism of the highest degree!

    So what do you say?

    Ready to book a trip?

    I am.

    One of the many X-Ray's I had to take

    One of the many X-Ray’s I had to take

    Egypt has an abundance of doctors of all specialties! Like Pharmacies you can find a doctor’s clinic almost on every block! They are everywhere!

    I always find it amusing how some of my fellow Egyptian’s who live in places like the Emirates, Europe and North America will not have lazic eye surgery or their dental work done until they come to Egypt for an extended visit. It isn’t because the doctors here are any better than the ones abroad, it’s because the amount you would pay for simple surgeries or checkups is cheaper here in Egypt than it is other countries.

    However, if MAJOR surgery is needed then those who can afford to go abroad, will pay the hefty bill without hesitation. One of the main reasons is because the aftercare (nursing) here is appalling to say the least. Their skills are lacking in more ways than one and I wouldn’t trust most of them to care of a pet cat.

    I have to be totally honest, there are a great number of doctors in this country who are phenomenal and are excellent in their line of work! They are very well-trained and knowledgeable in their field of expertise. Then you have those who aren’t as good as the others and often times misdiagnosed patience.

    After returning from my summer vacation I had noticed that I had been getting sharp pains in my right him and my Achilles tendons were causing me pain as well. I went to an Orthopedic Surgeon and gave him all the details I possibly could. He gave be the basic examination and asked me to get an x-ray and a blood test. Neither showed anything serious thank goodness and I was told I only needed to take Vitamin B-12 shots for the hip and for my Achilles he advised me not to walk barefoot anymore and to always wear slippers. So, not having a medical degree myself, I did as I had been advised and the pain in the hip subsided for a while but my Achilles tendons were still hurting.

    A month later, the pain came back with a vengeance and that’s when I decided that I would go for a second opinion. The second doctor asked me to get an x-ray, MRI and blood test. I did as I was told and came back with the results to be told that I had ‘Gout’ (high Uric Acid levels). Gout is a strand of arthritis and it’s hereditary. I didn’t think that the diagnosis could be wrong because my mother has it and a cousin has another form of arthritis. I did find it weird that I had it considering I don’t eat or drink most of the food that would cause Uric Acid levels to spike. So, I did my homework and researched how I can improve my way of living and what are all the foods I should avoid eating and what I shouldn’t eat during an attack. I quickly came to terms that I would be living with this for the rest of my life and started to rethink the activities I took part in. I was very upset that I had to pass on trying out and joining the Women’s CaiRoller Derby Team, because it would be too much strain on my joints. It also meant that Operation Megan Fox would have to be put on hold too (my goal to losing the kilos I had piled on to reach my goal weight). I watched what I ate and tried to exercise, but there were times when the pain was excruciating and wished for amputation.

    Every Christmas I send a lengthy annual news letter to family and friends abroad filling them in on my news and adventures and my diagnosis was included in it. An old High School friend who has a strong medical background in diseases contacted me and asked me a series of questions about my diagnosis and strongly suggested I go to a Rheumatologist to get a more concrete answer about my Gout Arthritis. I had nothing to lose, so I asked friends to help me find a really good doctor and I have to say that they really came through for me! I somehow got an appointment with one of the TOP Rheumatologists in Egypt/Region, which is almost impossible; the waiting list to get an appointment is usually a few months!

    The day of my appointment I went with all my tests, x-rays and MRIs for him to see and I gave a very detailed history of ailments as well as family history, which was recorded by the assisting doctor. He did a basic examination until the doctor came in. When THE doctor came in, he read over the details and asked for further details. As he read and I spoke you could see his mind at work making a list of possible diagnoses and with the answers you could see him mentally illuminate them too. He then put me through a series of tests and twisted my limbs in all directions making me feel like a human pretzel. Once he had pin pointed where the pain was coming from, he then checked all the x-rays, blood test results and MRI scans I had brought with me. I felt like I was sitting in the presence of the medical version of Sherlock Holmes and his trusty partner Dr. Watson. When he was done, he put my mind at ease and told me that I have nothing serious and that I did NOT have Gout or show any signs of getting it any time soon! (PHEW!!) What I did have was an old untreated injury to the hip and mild tendonitis of the Achilles heels and I needed to take anti inflammatory pills for a month as well as 1 months of physio- therapy and to come back for a checkup in 2 months time.

    It took 6 months and 3 doctors to figure out what was wrong with me! I am among the lucky ones, some people don’t find out until years later, or never do. My mother is one of them, for eight years she had been suffering from back pain and was told it was a slipped disc. She wasn’t convinced and went to other doctors and did her own research until she discovered she was suffering from sacroiliac and a hip problem. For 3 years she was told she didn’t need hip replacement until she self diagnosed herself again and insisted on going to another doctor and found out she needed immediate hip replacement because she had not only worn away the ligament but the ball of the joint by 3cm, so she had one leg shorter than the other.

    I guess the moral of the story is, sometimes you find the needle in the hay stack and get the correct diagnosis of the bat, other times you have to keep going back for second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth opinions until your instincts tell you not to look any further. It’s a gamble !

    Three weeks after visiting the rheumatologist, I can honestly say that I do feel better. I am able to Zumba and Belly dance with little pain. I have been going to physio for just under a month and my Achilles is feeling better, but my hip is still aggrivating me. I am optimistic!

    Kidnapped
    My second or third year in Egypt I can clearly remember answering the phone at home. The person who answered the phone didn’t ask to speak to anyone; they didn’t identify themselves they just started talking in a very serious and angry tone.

    “Tell the Doctor, that he better pay what he owes or we are going to take his children.”
    (Translated from Arabic)

    I remember how scared I was when I heard the threat. I immediately went and relayed what I had heard on the phone to my grandmother and then had to retell it to both my parents. All of whom reassured me that my Dad didn’t owe anyone any money. The thread did seem rather odd because although my family live comfortably we are of no importance in society. Why threaten us? My father wasted no time in going and talking to every shop owner and vendor on both sides of our street from the beginning of the road right to the end, telling them to keep an eye out for his daughters as they walked to and from school every morning and not to allow any stranger to come near us. At that time, there was still a chivalrous code among men, where men would gladly come to the aid of a fellow citizen, neighbor, acquaintance or friend in their hour or moment of need. The code unfortunately seems to have not been taught to the younger generations and will soon be forgotten.

    In 1996 Mel Gibson and Rene Russo stared in the thriller ‘Ransom’, where Gibson, a successful business man, his son is kidnapped and held for ransom. I remember watching that movie and thinking how I doubt I could ever be able to understand the terror a kid must go through in a situation like that or the long process of recovery that would follow afterwards. It never occurred to me that the horrors of that movie would become a reality to many affluent families here in Egypt.

    I can’t give a comparison of numbers or statistics pre and post revolution of kidnapping threats, kidnapping attempts and actual kidnappings. What I can confirm is that THEY ARE happening.

    After the revolution school buses were targeted and attacked by gangs. Going to work became a terrifying experience because you never knew if your bus would be the one that they decided to attack early in the morning as you made your way to school.

    Monday, February 18th 2013 two sisters left their house early in the morning in Alexandria to go to school. They are from a well off family but they are not as wealthy as some of the other students they attend school with. They were ambushed by men armed with knives. The men got into the car with them and had the driver drive them to a place in Alexandria where they had another vehicle waiting. The men tried taking both girls, but the eldest sister put up such a resistance that they opted to take the younger one and sped away out of the city, leaving the sister and driver behind.

    The kidnappers had the 13-year-old girl call her family to let them know they she was alive and well and gave the ransom demand of two million Egyptian pounds for her safe return.
    The horror, worry and powerlessness that this family went through can’t ever be accurately put into words or imagined by another individual who hasn’t experienced the same thing. Every second, minute, hour and day that passed would have had anyone sick with agony. Those who knew the girls or the family in any way, (myself included), were gutted by the news, our hearts ached for the family and our prayers were with all of them, hoping and wishing for her safe return home.

    Meanwhile, the police had suspected the driver and he had been taken in for questioning. Needless to say, their tactics whatever they might have been proved successful. He confessed to initiating the kidnapping and gave the police the address of where the young girl was being held captive. At around 9 PM on Wednesday February 20th, the police escorted the young girl back home. When she arrived all the children who knew her were standing outside her building on cars cheering and celebrating her safe return.
    Fortunately for this family the ending to their terrible ordeal was a happy one.

    This is just ONE of MANY incidents that are happening here in Egypt and it seems that nine times out of ten that it’s an inside job. A driver, the nanny, hired help or someone who works in the family business. Parents do not know who to trust, because the loyalty that once existed with the hired help is a thing of the past, it has been replaced by greed, resentment and jealousy.

    One parent from Alexandria was discussing with me on twitter, if he should consider hiring bodyguards to take his child eight year old son to and from school. I have seen some left no choice but to resort to this because of threats made to take their children. The more I think about the idea of hiring bodyguards the more it feels like we are living the lives of the Columbian drug cartel!

    It is VERY disturbing to think that Egypt has fallen so far and so quickly in only two years! One only dreads to think what other dangers will be fall us in the months, years to come.

    In the very early hours of Sunday morning my sister and her husband arrived from England for their annual two-week visit to Egypt to visit family and friends. During their stay, I though I would make their lives a little easier by lending them my car to help them get about in Alexandria as well as Cairo rather than relying on people for rides or public transportation. While I was at work they made their way to Alexandria to spend their first week there.

    At around 11:30 pm I was awoken from my slumber to the sound of my blackberry ringing and a illuminated screen with a name across the screen. I would usually ignore any calls while I’m getting my rest, but I found it odd that my sister would be ringing at such an hour. When I answered I could sense that she was in no mood for pleasantries and wanted to get straight to the point. “Hi, did you have anything of value in the car?” Having just woken up unexpectedly, my brain got another jolt! (thinking to myself) ‘Why would she be asking me such a question at this time of night???? (brain kicks into gear) unless ‘…)  “No, nothing of value, just change in coins and my CDs, WHY?” I ask waiting to her the answer I already knew. “Someone broke into your car by smashing the passenger window and stole both license plates off your car and the car emblems, nothing appears to be stolen from inside, we are on our way to the Police Station to report it now.”

    Upon hearing news like this, you would have expected me to have had more of reaction, but I took it really well and had no trouble going back to sleep. When I woke the next morning the memory of the conversation came crashing down on me like a tidal wave! License plates stolen, window broken …WTH!? Thoughts of the pains taking task that lay ahead to get the report stamped with the Egyptian Police seal, to go to the Traffic headquarters to get all the papers needed to replace the stolen plates with new ones and reissue a new car license with the new plate numbers on is worse than registering a newly bought car!! Then thoughts of my sister and her husband came to mind. They hadn’t been in the country 24 hours and this happens to them? Geez! That is not the way to start your vacation.

    After work I called my Mom who gave me an update on the situation. She said it took my sister and her hubby a while to file the report and they didn’t get home till after 1am. She and my Dad (God Bless Them) got up at 8am to begin procedures to replace the plates and issue a new car license as well as running other errands in the scortching heat.

    It turns out, my sister had arranged to meet a lot of her friends at the Greek Club by the tram in Alexandria the evening of her first day there. She had parked on the tram side of the street next to the club, which is where she has always parked pre and post revolution. While they were inside catching up with their friends the security guard came in and told one of the regulars that there was a space in front of the club for him to move his car too. Jokingly my sister said ‘What it’s not safe to park by the side of the club anymore?’ The security guard and friends said that is wasnt. The guard said he’d go and look and see if there was a place for her to move her car to, not long after going out to check he returned and informed the owner of the restaurant in the club that my car had been targeted. Apparently that area is watched by a gang of window smashing, plate stealing jerks!

    Earlier that day, my sister’s friends had gone to Cairo and the very same thing had happened to them. Passenger window broke, plates stolen, but their car was taken, but later found with the wires dangeling down from the dashboard, (it had been hot wired) and quite a few items stolen from inside the car.

    The reason the gang choose to smash the passenger window is because many people keep the car license in the car’s glove compartment. The license plates are taken to put on other cars transporting drugs and if caught, the plates won’t be traced back to them but to the owner of the car they stole the plates from! God forbid if the same should ever happen to you, report it immediately because if you don’t you’ll be held liable for any crime the plates have been involved in. Secondly do not leave your car license in your vehicle, because if you do and they take it, well they have evidence of owner ship and could sell it or find some other use for it.

    I am very grateful that my sister and brother-in-law were not harmed in any way and that the car wasn’t stolen. I am also very grateful to them and my Dad for taking car of all the legal procedures in my absence and getting it all done.

    Let this be a warning to you out there, be careful where you park the car. Try and avoid poorly lit streets.

    Since the Revolution the crime rate appears to have risen drastically. Crimes like these occurred during the Mubarak rule, but they wouldn’t be as frequent because thieves knew what the consequences would be if they were ever to get caught. Now, it’s like a popular past time or accepted profession!