Wednesday, January 31, 2007


That word epitomizes my existence at the moment.

A week from today, I am scheduled to fly out of Cairo. 7 days. Yet, it hasn’t hit me. I’m totally in denial of this little fact, because I actually don’t know what’s happening to me in the near future. I may or may not be leaving….

Okay – so - I am currently *trying* to stay in Cairo, but only if circumstances allow. These circumstances will be confirmed tomorrow at 3pm, inshaAllah. Plus, I’m really not done with Cairo. There were stages to my stay here in the last 3 months: initial excitement, initial depression, and then finally things settled in perfectly, and I am now at the stage where I am just getting comfortable. My Arabic is improving, I maneuver Cairean life with less stress, and I am getting close to some wonderful people here. I now realize I haven’t seen enough - I want to see the rest of Egypt….Siwa, Dahab, Luxor, Mt. Sinai, crossover to Jordan. I want to take diving lessons from a friend, Mody, who teaches in Dahab. I want to learn Arabic. I want to go to Pacha in Sharm. I want to go sleep alone in the desert. I want to get a cat.

At the same time, a family member is very ill back home, and my whole family is congregating together there, and I feel so very distant and detached from the people most dear to me. Nabs and I sat on Skype the other night, crying to each other….the only two cousins in the family living in cities where we have no family whatsoever. It makes me rethink whether I really do want to live in Cairo for longer than I already have. I’ve lived in a fair number of cities, Singapore, London, Dhaka….but all of them had some form of family. Being in Cairo alone is a new experience for sure. Now I kind of know how Amrita sometimes felt being in London, without her family. But you do it, because of your education, because of your career, because of friends you’ve adopted as your family.

So it has been frustrating. Waiting for other people to make their decisions, so that you can make your own decisions, which in turn shapes your future dramatically. Being in a state of limbo…..not fun. It makes you useless in a way. Makes you put off making other decisions, doing things you need to do. Tomorrow, inshAllah, at 3pm I will know my fate. And then, I can finally get off my ass, and get a move on with life and what it has in store for me next. Pray for me.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Dear Nutella Thief


Did you think that just because there was a party going on in my flat, that I wouldn't notice my new bottle of Nutella gone the next day?

And what means did you go to ensure no trace of this bottle would exist after gobbling it all up in one night? I couldn't even find the empty bottle the next day! Did you take the evidence home, or hurl it off my balcony into the dark cold night?

How could you betray me in this manner - as a guest in my house - not feeling for the fact that this very bottle of Nutella was my FIRST in 3 weeks, having spent most of January unpaid and unable to afford this measly LE 17 jar of delight until that fateful night?

There were camera's, countless mobiles.....EVEN A BLOODY IPOD lying around, but you go steal the Nutella...? (A note to future Ipod-Thief, Mobile-Thief and Camera-Theif: don't be getting any ideas). Why hurt me where it most hurts?

I hope you suffer from a long, painful tummy ache,


Thursday, January 18, 2007

the mugamma experience

One month over in Egypt, and the time comes for me to renew my visa here. Welcome to the Mugamma, a huge imposing building in Tahrir Square, the workplace of 15,000 disgruntled Egyptian bureaucrats. The easy part is applying for the visa: get a form from this counter, pay for a visa stamp at another, and hand it in at yet another. Salman and I give the lady our passports together. “Pakistani, NO. Singaporean, Yes.” She takes my passport and hands Salman’s back to him. Salman is not happy. Another immigration officer tells him 3 months is enough, he no longer needs to be a tourist in Egypt. They tell me, on the other hand, to come back in an hour. I’m not given a receipt, and I walk away with a slight sense of foreboding. I come back in an hour, but of course the passport isn’t ready. So instead I spend 2 hours pressed up against the counter by 50 African men. Not a fun activity. Requires a lot of dirty looks and elbow shoves.

So without a receipt, how does one claim their passport at the Mugamma? Well if you’re lucky, you will be standing right at the front of the counter. There is no queue, but there is plenty of opportunity to push in. The lady bureaucrat behind the counter will most definitely ignore any kind of verbal communication you attempt at making with her. There is a big pile of passports lying right next to her on the counter, but she isn’t even touching them. You’re itching to stick your hand in and try to find your passport, but are a little concerned about getting your hand chopped off. So you stand. And wait. And shove. And wait. Finally, she will decide to hold up each passport/form and read out the nationalities, and well, if you’re lucky, and you notice your passport being held up in the air, you get to go home. That eventually happens to me. I run out and run home in exhaustion.

And then what happens? I find my apartment building lift CLOSED for the afternoon. Oh yeah they do this. Every afternoon, for 2 hours, for some inexplicable, idiotic reason the boweb shuts down my lift for 2 hours. And I live on the godforsaken 18th floor. So, I suck it up, and climb the 18 floors (well after some bullying by kent on the phone, and refusal by him to meet me for lunch and keep me company until my lift starts running again). Reach my flat, at the point of hyperventilation and promptly collapse on the couch for the next 4 hours. Ah…any excuse.

Everyday, I make myself stand on my balcony or at my window, and I just stare. Maybe if I stare long enough, I’ll be satisfied that I’ve had my fill. If I stare long enough, perhaps I won’t miss this place when I’m gone.

20 days to the end.

Friday, January 12, 2007

The Wedding

So Christmas week, I escaped to Dubai for the wedding of an old family friend, Rahad. It was the most hectic 7 days I've had in ages. Although being my first time in the UAE, I SAW NOTHING. I saw a mall. I saw the Burj Al Arab Hotel from a distance....but it was basically home to beauty parlor to wedding party to home, and all over again. Oh yeah, I did see lots of Meena Bazaar though, the local market hub for desi clothes. The wedding itself was mostly in Sharjah, so I managed to get a glimpse of Dubai mainly on my first day, when I went straight from the airport to the Mall of Emirates, to meet the whole wedding crew. First impressions: Everything is so shiny, clean and NEW! Thats what 2 months in Cairo does to you....From there we spent Christmas Eve dinner at TGIF. Very wierd experience, sitting in an Arab country, being served by Filipino waiters, and driving through neighbourhoods overrun by men wearing shalwar kameez. I wasn't too fond of the fact that getting around Dubai is so difficult if you don't have enough cars/ cant afford taxis. How do AIESEC trainees survive there? My friend's dad hired 3 cars for the entire wedding crew, and even then it wasn't enough.

Even so, I ended up having a really fun time. Weddings are always a laugh, and I really enjoyed spending time with Chahat and Rahad. It was hilarious because our side (the brides side) practically had just me and Chahat to defend our territory. Ok in case you have no idea about Bengali/Desi weddings, we have a tradition where the brides side has to try and get AS MUCH dough from the groom, in order to allow him to marry his future wife. So, in this case, it was up to me and Chahat to get the money. Unfortunately, we were up against 6 big tall men on the grooms side. That's not a very advantageous ratio, especially when your trying to block the door of the wedding hall, or trying to steal the grooms shoes. We still managed though, because the not-so-clever boys on the grooms-end decided to pick him up into the air, in order to carry him OVER us, and in the process we quickly snatched his shoes off his feet! hah! You should've seen us, we literally sat on the floor of the ballroom, clutching one shoe each, tightly to our chests, for like 15minutes. NOT an easy feat when you have a sari on....Camera's, lighting, people all around us, trying to get us to give the shoes back.....but we didn't cave. I just had one thing to say: Show me the money! :D

[I had to make up for lost time, I actually spent the first part of the wedding throwing up in the hotel bathroom, I got a bout of food poisoning on my last day :D But it was all good, I was back on my feet within 5 minutes!]

Alas, we only got away with 150 quid though, so at the end of the night, we decided to block the door to the newly wed's hotel room. :P We told Imran, the groom, that he couldn't enter his hotel room to join his lovely wife, unless he paid up. He did. 500 crisp ones. But then, suddenly, I had this random realisation. The 50 quid bills were FAKE!! They were definitely bigger than I remember.... Hell, I lived in London for 6 years! But then again, I never did have many 50 quid notes, simply cuz i never had much money there!..... :S lol.....So I INSISTED that the bills were fake. We left the hotel room disgusted and cheated.....This groom would have to pay....but how? I was leaving the following day :( To this day, I'm still not sure if those bills were really fake or not...but if they weren't, I'm gonna have to swallow my self-proclaimed knowledge of all things English lol.

One thing I did get done was some much-needed pampering. The beauty parlors there are practically all-female boudouirs. The windows are all blacked out so nobody can look in from the outside. Women enter in their black burka's and shed them inside to carry out all sorts of beautifications. Needless to say, I got the full works: Pedicure, Facial, Waxing, threading, henna tattoos, hair-styling, you name it, I did it!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

why i nearly didnt make it to dubai

There is a school right next to my apartment building. And even though I am 18 floors above, every morning I wake up to the bellowing of 200 schoolkids, singing the Egyptian anthem. It's actually scary how fiercely they sing collectively. Also very annoying when you are trying to sleep in.

Fast forward to the morning of my flight to Abu Dhabi, UAE.

At 2am the night before I set my alarm for 6.15am. My flight is at 9am, so I should ideally leave the house at 6.30am, in order to get to the airport for 7am. Doing so, I fall asleep.

In the morning, I am awoken by the sound of the school kids singing down below. In my half-woken state, I wonder hazily to myself, "Goddamn....these kids get to school by 6.15am?!"......then something in me realises that something is amiss here. I open my eyes, check my mobile for the time, and promptly have a heart attack. It's 7.50am!!!!!!

I literally did a kung-fu leap out of bed.

For 20 seconds, I just stood in the middle of my room, hair all wild, my eyes wide open in shock, scanning the room for some direction. What do i do? Omg, what do I do? It would take me 40mins just to get to the airport! Something in my says, "Ah sod it, you've missed the flight...go back to sleep."

But then I quickly call my friend Omar. He picks up the phone and I totally freak out on him. He tells me to just GO. Go downstairs and get into a taxi. So i do that. Within 7minutes of waking up, I was in a taxi. I merely put on some jeans, grabbed my suitcase and ran out. I didn't shower, didn't brush my teeth, didn't change out of the shirt i fell asleep in. I was an abomination. Get into the taxi, and I make Omar tell the cabbie that if he doesnt get me to the airport ASAP somebody gonna get a hurt reaaaal bad.

Amazingly...we make it to the airport in half an hour. 8.30am, and we are there. But then we spend an extra 5 minutes driving around, trying to find my terminal!! At this point I'm hyperventilating. Finally, we find it, throwing a 50 in the taxi drivers face, I run inside, and then waste another 3minutes trying to figure out where the bloody counters are. Who puts counters AFTER the security checkpoint???!! Who?!?!?!?!

8.40am, and a random airport guy breezes me through all the checkpoints, asking me for a tip at the end of course, and finally a quarter to 9 and I am at the boarding gate.

This being the first time I have ever been so late in catching a flight, I am sooo grateful it happened in Cairo. Because only in Egypt, do they let you onto a plane 15mins before departure and not blink an eye. :D

im baaaaaack

Last time I wrote, it was December 18th. Exactly 3 weeks ago! I feel terrible for not blogging, so much has happened in these 3 weeks! I suppose that’s why I haven’t been blogging :P Also, I went away for Christmas, and since being back in Cairo, I’ve been working from my boss’s home in Heliopolis, which means I actually have to WORK, because I’m literally sitting on the same desk as her in her bedroom, working away at our respective laptops. Pretty intense! But it’s all good, because last week she cooked me thai green curry for lunch, and my tummy was singing from that moment on……………how I miss my thai food!!

My boss is a very cool lady. A Swedish convert, married to an Egyptian man, we have many an interesting conversation while working during the day. I also have her two monkeys for sons keeping me on my toes during the day, jumping across the hallway, calling my name, burping for my entertainment and other activities 7 and 9 year old boys tend to get up to during the holidays. Apparently, when I didn't end up coming over on Sunday, they were kinda sad and told her that I "was funny". lol!! What a revolution. Little kids tend to dislike me because they can tell I dislike them :P Alas, they only like me really, because I snort back at them when they're pretending to be pigs in front of me. lol.

So to summarise the last 3 weeks:
Just before Christmas, I started doing some freelance proofreading work with a local English magazine here. I was thrilled because this technically is the first time anyone is PAYING me to do anything related to journalism. It's not much, but it's something. That free Sony PSP from my internship in London doesn’t count :P
Around the 22nd my mom and dad finally flew out of Cairo. Dad came for 3 days, Mum for 15!
Then, Nay-Nay and I threw a huge Christmas bash in our wonderful apartment…..Being our first ever houseparty here in Cairo, we went all out, lighting up the flat with Christmas fairy lights, wearin Santa hats, the whole deal. We also created our very own 9 hour playlist and the party was BANGIN’ (shut up Kent you weren’t even there), because at the very least Nay-Nay and I had a great time :D
36 hours later, I flew off to Dubai for my friend, Rahad’s wedding (more on that later)……returned to Cairo 7 days later, spent a night resting, and next morning Nay-Nay and I took a 2 hour train ride to celebrate New Years Eve in Alexandria with 10 other friends. Celebrated the countdown in STYLE, at the Hilton hotel grand ballroom…..which was something different for us usually-tramped-out AIESEC trainees (we were proper pimped out in suits and dresses).
Finally got out of Alex after 2 nights, after doing some sightseeing (beautiful but bitterly cold!), and came back to settle down in Cairo once again. And since the New Year, my workload is finally becoming intense. All the work I’m meant to have been doing the last 2 months, is in effect, being done this month. Phew. Writing all this down has made me realize why I haven’t been able to blog in so long! Plus, one of my and naynay’s joint NY resolutions is that we can’t sit at home and laze about on our laptops like we love to every evening after work. This month we vowed to get out of the house and explore this city, and so far, I haven’t really been at home most evenings, so yay for me!

I now have approximately 1 month left in Cairo. I have no idea where the last 2 months have gone! I still haven’t explored as much as I wanted to, it’s all been a blur of work, friends and craziness. It’s still been amazing so far, and I’m so glad I came to Cairo. Even though, now when I go back to Singapore, I’ll be right back to where I was 3 months ago – i.e still looking for a job there – I feel so much more ready to tackle building a new life in Singapore. Cairo has kind of given me that confidence. Also, strangely enough, some things changed between me and my mum – for the better – while she was here in Cairo visiting me. I think something in her has finally realized I’m a grown up young lady :P