The Real Deal

I realize that I sometimes sugarcoat the details of my life here in Cairo. And given my lovely (read: not so great) day today (due to food poisoning), I think I should outline the lowdown of our life here.

Things that are/were broken in our apartment:
– Electricity in half our apartment …including my bedroom… for about 4 days.
– Electricity in the whole apartment …it goes on and off sometimes.
– Internet …who knows if/when it will work or not work.
– Air conditioner… Even when it works, it’s only in one room, and we’re only allowed to use it for 2 hours a day at a temperature of 81 degrees (thank you landlord!)
– Hot water …If you want hot water, you should boil it on the stove. And if you want to drink water, you have to boil it first.
– The stove …The pilot light rarely ignites, so we use a cigarette lighter.
– The refrigerator …It broke the day after we bought groceries. It still doesn’t work.
– The showers …Hot water is non-existent, and they flood the bathrooms every so often.
– Washing machine … Some of your clothes (but not all of them) come out different colors than they used to be.
– Beds …I didn’t have one for over a week, and the bed that I do have is a 3″ piece of foam on wooden slats. When the slats move, the bed sinks.
– The couch …It has three distinct butt grooves that grow deeper every day.
– Bugs …Okay, so bugs can’t break, but they’re everywhere and there isn’t enough Raid in this world to get them. Only about half of them are biting bugs.

Things that aren’t quite so fabulous about Cairo:
– Pollution …I haven’t taken a full breath since I left home. Some of the cars use a cheap fuel alternative that smells like you have stuck your entire head into a barrel of gasoline
– Smoke …People smoke everywhere, all the time, in your face, with no regard for your lungs. I’m probably going to have emphysema from second-hand smoke by the time I get home.
– Traffic …It’s everywhere, all the time. Crossing the road is extremely dangerous and the traffic cops do nothing. Traffic laws mean nothing to these people. Oh, and because I’m a blonde girl, the young men think it’s funny to drive their cars right at me and nearly hit me. I guess it’s their way of flirting.
– Taxis …Half of them don’t know where to go even though they tell you that they know. Oh, and they don’t believe you when you say “Turn right!.” So they go left, get you about 5 miles out of the way, stuck in traffic, and you end up being 30 minutes late for work. Oh, and then they try to charge you more money because the trip was longer.
– Noise …It’s so loud every moment of every day. Whether it’s the junk collector yelling “Yekeeyah!”, or the car horns, or the call to prayer, or people kicking cats (making them scream), there is never a peaceful moment.
– Men …I’m sure that the vast majority of them are nice people, but seriously. I get ogled every moment of every day (because of my hair color and my non-Arabness) and they think it’s okay to catcall, yell at me, try to grope me, etc. I don’t know what their mothers taught them, but they need to learn to respect women.
– Heat …It is soooooo hot here and the culture mandates such heat stroke inducing fashion. This heat would be so much more bearable if I could just wear a tank top and/or shorts. I have no idea how these veiled women survive. It is a nightmare!
– Food …It’s terrible. You would think that Middle Eastern food is delicious, and you’d be right. But, Egyptian food is the bastard child of Middle Eastern food. It’s awful. They have some of the standard Middle Eastern staples, but they’ve found ways to ruin them, such as using the same dirty oil for months to fry ta’amiyya (felafel), overcooking disgusting meat, etc. Also, there’s no telling how that food will react with your body. I made it a few weeks with little problems and then all of a sudden my body couldn’t take it. I’ve given in to food poisoning a few times recently. Luckily, I’m still the one person who hasn’t had ishaal, but that’s not to say that I haven’t tossed my cookies a few times.

Okay, well that’s my rant for today. I figured it’s worthwhile to give you a more accurate taste of my life here. There are definitely some good moments here, but there are definitely some difficulties that make life tough. We’re learning to cope with life and we have adopted the practice of treating ourselves every week in order to make it to the next week. This week, we might be renting a hotel room for a night so that we can have real beds, and air conditioning, and warm showers, and be pampered. Usually, we just go out for nice dinners once or twice a week.

Anyway, that’s all for now. Please e-mail me with updates on your lives! What are you doing for July 4? What have you been up to? etc…