It's Christmas Day worldwide, and I am here celebrating with the family in Seattle! Merry Christmas, everyone and I hope you are enjoying your holidays!
I celebrated my 20th last week with my boyfriend, who took me out to an amazing Italian dinner in Maadi including an adorable custom-made cake, red roses, and very Egyptian jewelery. It was perfect in a couple-y, quiet, romantic way, but I kinda missed partying with my girls as a single lady last year because we had such a blast. Ah, nostalgia. I feel like I'm becoming too adult in my ways for my own good. Later a bunch of us went out for a felucca ride and shisha downtown as a sort of last-hurrah before several of our number headed back to the states. I made up for the adult-ness by making us Jello shots like a college student champ. Aren't we adorable?
Coming back to the US for Christmas has been a bit strange, not only because of catching a cold just before leaving for the airport in Cairo or the jetlag. Christmas is celebrated and has a presence in Cairo, but not like here, where I stepped off the plane in New York to be immediately assaulted with Christmas carol music, lights, and various gift stuff. It was a bit of a culture shock, as was being surrounded by Caucasians speaking English. I felt odd looking around me as I slid back into US culture in the spot of being a middle-class white person, with all the privilege that goes with it. In Egypt the advantages are more tangible, because foreigners become the minority so we stand out, but having that framework and arriving back in the US to see Americans walking around unaware of it was a bit jarring. The foreigners in Egypt, whether they flout their privilege and wealth or try to get away from it, are very aware of how they appear and are perceived. You have to be sensitive to it, because the Egyptians sure are--you look like a walking dollar sign.
It's hard to let our reality shift, adapt to that shift, and learn from it. It's scary when those tectonic plates of our psyche start making major shifts. I'm really struggling with mixed emotions about being here in Seattle and going back to Egypt. It would be easy to just be here, be completely present and disregard the aspects of myself that changed from living abroad. I could just ignore that it all happened and move on. It's been so easy to pull on short skirts with tights, throw on my high heels and white wool coat that I left in the States and pretend nothing happened. But things have changed, I don't mind wearing flats now as opposed to my constant heel-wearing self of last June, and I can't help comparing everything to Cairo in my head. Seattle looks small, and squat with it's 5-story-or-less buildings in my neighborhood, the individual houses surrounded by small yards...it looks like a suburb of a suburb of Cairo. I love it of course, but it feels like the small town I left behind for the big city.
I'm a little nervous about returning for round two in the big, bad urban jungle that is Cairo, and at the same time I can't wait. We call cities in the states "urban jungles," but the fact is that you don't know a real jungle until you head to Africa. Christmas carols sing that no matter how far away you roam, you can only have real happiness at home, but I'm finding myself very confused and a bit flustered even with the comfort and ease of being home with my parents. There are gifts I have received that I can't take to Cairo with me because they're too fragile for the foreign environment and I find myself trying to talk about my relationship outside the context of the environment it started in which makes no sense. How can I talk about my boyfriend without the context of his culture and environment? People who haven't lived in Egypt just can't quite understand when I try to explain our relationship in an American context.
Well, here I am stuck between two worlds, and it would be easy to lay Cairo aside and go back to my regular US life if I wasn't going back in a week and a half, but I am. Who knows? I may go back later for years and years, but either way I know I will be back. I'm just going to enjoy Seattle while I can and get the most out of it, but I never want to forget Egypt for one second because it feels like if I blink I'll forget everything that happened the last 6 months. My memories of Egypt are far too precious to be lost like that.