I've been off my blog for a few weeks. Doing some soul-searching. Trying to categorize the crazy swirling thoughts in my mind.
Cairo is our first post overseas. And I like it. I think. It's hard to say. Maybe I don't. I don't know. Yes. No.
I'm withdrawn, and I don't know that I can, or even should put it into words. Because then I have to deal with it. I haven't reached out to my friends about it. I've kept it inside. I feel lost.
I did talk to fab hubby about it. A lot. And he says blog. Blog because when I write, it helps me sort out my feelings. So here goes.
See, sometimes I think I love living here. I sit on the porch as the call to prayer echoes through the city. I hop in my car and zig-zag down the road, flowing with the traffic, honking, swerving, gawking at the sights. I take in the view of the Nile River. Sometimes you can see the Giza Pyramids all the way from the Autostrad while driving to Khan Al Khalili. It's breathtaking. I love bargain shopping at the souk. I love that I've bought something like ten pashminas. I love listening to my children count in Arabic. I truly enjoyed our trip to Luxor. I love my job.
But often I don't love living here. I don't like Egyptian food. Sure, I love the local bread. But I don't like koshari. I don't like foul (the Egyptian equivalent of refried beans). I don't drink tea. The garbage, the filth, the dust. It makes me so angry. It's piled everywhere - doesn't matter how nice the neighborhood is. It's dirty. And when I'm in a mood, the lack of traffic laws, the near-accidents, the ridiculous motorcycle-turned-uhaul that almost hits a kid on the road puts me over the edge. It's hard to run outside safely. It's hard to run quick errands to the store. It's restrictive. I can't walk alone at night; I've been warned about running alone through the streets. Heck, I've been chased by street dogs. We don't explore the city in the ways I thought we would.
I guess maybe we were sold on the Cairo of the 1990s. Of the Cairo that was American-friendly. The Cairo that was safe. Maybe we weren't ready for the post-revolution Egypt. And maybe my expectations were, no, are
unreasonable. Because, honestly, who cares if I don't like the food? We have commissary that carries all of the grocery items that I need from the U.S. There are plenty of U.S.-type restaurants here that I love. Chili's. TGIF. McDonald's. Pinkberry's. Starbucks.
And who cares if we don't get to explore a lot of the city? We live in a nice neighborhood with the rest of the American community. Really, everything we need is here. The kids' school is fantastic. I love being involved there. Not to mention we have a great American club with a restaurant, pool, playground, and lots of green space for the kids to play in. Should I really be so upset with the garbage everywhere else so long as my yard is clean?
But it's a bubble. A nice little microcosm of all the American things that I love. That really removes us far from the daily life of Cairo. Which makes me just wonder - if the things that are making me most happy here aren't the Cairo things, but the American things, then why live here?
I'm sure there's some sort of research out there about mobile lives and happiness and the process we go through as we try to assimilate to our new nomadic lives. But whatever the answer is, it's all got me in a funk.
I look at our time here and I realize, it's all so very temporary. We just got here and we're going to be leaving to go who-knows-where in just a little over a year. I like our apartment, but we didn't pick it. It was picked for us. The furniture isn't ours. I don't even have pictures up on the wall.
My closest friend, who I've only known for six short months, is leaving post. She's the kind of friend that I feel like I've known forever, and she's leaving. It's a new feeling for me. You see, I've always been the one who leaves
. We've moved three times over the past three years - I'm the one who leaves. Not the one who gets left.
I'm sitting here typing all this out and the questions keep rolling over and over in my mind - am I happy here? Is this what I thought it would be? It sounded so glamorous. We're going to live in Cairo
. We spent an entire year prepping for the move; we sold the kids on this idea. What is it that I'm looking for? Why do I miss the U.S. so much when most of the stuff I really love about it is here?
And I beat myself up for it. I feel the guilt rolling over me. As I look at everything I have, everything I've wanted and I dare ask myself if I'm happy with this all? What is wrong with me?
I admit, I don't know the answer. Maybe it's good that it's temporary - that the time we get is just enough time to find the things to appreciate about the culture, to learn something new, and then move on. Maybe it's good that the stuff that makes me happiest is the American things. After all, I AM
And my family - I couldn't love them more. I get more time with the kids, more time to be involved in their school, more time with the baby. The days I work? I get more time with the fab hubby. I even get to see him at lunch. We work out at the gym together. Carpool together. All that time that I was missing him so desperately when he was in Iraq and I was stuck in Ohio with two kids and a newborn, all that time I was dreaming of the days we'd be together in Cairo, we have that now. I wouldn't change that for the world.
I KNOW that I am blessed with all that we have. I am grateful for this time we have, for the opportunity to serve in the capacity we've chosen, and for the opportunity to explore a new culture. So maybe I shouldn't beat myself up so much about this all.
But the funk is there. I'm knee-deep in it, and I'm trying to pull myself out of it.
I think that at least for now, it's ok for me to mourn what I'm losing - my friend going to another post. But I know I've made a life-long friend. Who knows? Maybe our husbands will get posted together someday? Maybe it will even be in the U.S. where we can laugh and reminisce about all the crazy traffic in Cairo while we sip lattes in Starbucks.
Maybe I shouldn't beat myself up so much for feeling this way. Sure, it's temporary, our time here. But that shouldn't mean it's not home. It's my responsibility to make it home. I'm going to put some pictures up. Make it a bit more "ours." And celebrate that when my kids spill Kool-Aid on the furniture, I'm not the one who paid for it. (And be thankful that it's dark material!)
Maybe it's not exactly what I expected. And maybe I miss the U.S. more than I thought I would. That's what R&R is for, right? We have ours planned for one month, starting in mid-July...a trip to Orlando for the kids before we head to Ohio to see family and friends. All the stuff I'm missing, it will always be there.
And then maybe, just maybe, I'll realize what I miss about Egypt? We'll see.
But there is no specific answer right now. Am I happy living here? Yes, no, maybe, sometimes, yes...