... then I always end up looking for So3ad Hosny's ya-wad-yat2eel because it reminds me of Zouzou and of an Egypt I never knew, an Egypt that came and went before I was born...

I have never loved anywhere the way I have loved Egypt; similar to the love of a woman to a man by loving the way she feels when she is in his company, Egypt evokes emotions of security and safety, as being in proximity to my husband makes me feel like more of a woman than I felt before him. What remains of Egypt when you are outside of its borders is what has become my definition of it, the essence of it survives in what we take with us, what we pack in the suitcases of our psyche. I have spent the better part of Saturday morning listening to Egyptian music online and trying desperately to remember where I was when I heard the songs for the first time, none of them were here, all of them were isolated moments in time, in our Kitchen in Maadi making Turkish coffee and listening to the new Ahmed Barada song on that new radio station on FM, what was it called, I struggle, Nile FM maybe, then in the car on the way to work listening to a new Elissa song, or Angham when I bought her new tape and my husband issued a rule against blasting it out of our sound system on repeat until I tired of mediocre music, then I always end up looking for So3ad Hosny's ya-wad-yat2eel because it reminds me of Zouzou and of an Egypt I never knew, an Egypt that came and went before I was born, but endures in music and in film. My final destination always seems to be Om Kolthoum, a woman I did not begin to appreciate until I grew older, but her music reminds me of my mother and father and how they loved her and how I could not understand why. I think I do now. 

What remains are fragments, the art of Lehnert and Landrock which hangs on my walls, and the faint taste of Egyptian food, the sound of my mother on a long distance line, and the crippling sense of a failed relationship with Egypt which one remembers fondly but forgets the details of why it failed, only certainty in the fact that it can never be revisited and a reminder of why those of us who left... left. 

I think it is a common naive misconception that it is easier abroad that it was in Egypt, my story is evidence of the exact opposite of this assumption, I live a difficult life here and my life in Egypt was unrealistically padded in luxury but lacking any concrete possibility of a good future. I honestly can not determine which is better, I will never be anything but an Egyptian woman. I wonder if I want to be. I will never prefer Tim Hortons over Turkish Coffee. That I know I don't want to do. What happens when we spend our days never belonging, always feeling brutally alone and never being able to be part of a greater community, never quite fitting in, not in Egypt and not outside it. I think my life has been reduced to music, art, and taste, all connected with a very intimate relationship with God, and a suspension of belief in my strong opinions about life in general because they have proved to be too abrasive for reality.

I know that this experience has made me a stronger person, I think it has shown me that I can do things I never thought I could, and I think it has made me much quieter which may or may not be very good. I think it has made me love the people I love more profoundly, and discard meaningless relationships, it forces you to be efficient with your time, with your effort, and your emotions. I think it slims your wasted energy.

I notice lines around my eyes that were not there a year ago, some of them could be called laugh lines, but most of them are a result of worry, they make me look more interesting, a young face with older eyes. I find the combination quite curious and a starter of many interesting conversations where I have to admit that snow had an entirely different meaning before I was knee-deep in it.

I wonder if my parents are okay, I wonder if I can communicate just how grateful I am to them for everything they have given me, some days I think it is the reserve of love I have that makes me get out of bed, I think I must be stronger, I must endure for them, I must make them proud. Funny how sometimes we become our parents, how when you are at the bottom you find strength is those who love you even if they are too far for an embrace. Separation is the most cruel aspect of leaving, the void does not get smaller, the pain in my chest of missing my mother does not get any better, I have just become much less vocal about it.

So what do I do... I get out of bed every day and hope that today is better than the day before. I try not to worry and I try not to succumb to the episodes of not being able to breath when things get too overwhelming. I hug my husband a little harder, and I try to smile more even when I don't feel like smiling. I write an e-Mail to Le Cafe because that is also where I always end up, it is nine years of my life, this medium so please be gentle with it. I stay positive on the phone, and I spend all my money on phone cards. I try to tell my friends that I love them, and I become more brutally honest with people who drain me. I miss people more and try to enjoy the aspect of it that indicates that I am grateful for having people to miss. I wear snow boots and my knees get used to -30 temperatures, I wear body lotion for survival not pampering. I try to remain warm in my heart. I try not to become a hard person. I slip on the snow and get up, and slip again, and think this is insane, but I get up again. I think in the end it is all about getting up not about how many times you fall. I listen to my music on Saturday mornings, I try to remember smells and find that those are the hardest to remember, I try to remember the sounds of Egypt and I know I will one day be able to go back and stay for as long as I can. I ask God to be with me. I listen to So3ad Hosny and it reminds me of everything, but also of my husband. I tease him about it, and we turn up the volume on our laptop in the tiny one-bedroom apartment that we share, watch while it snows outside, and live with the absurdity of all these elements coming together. And my lines, I am not too worried about them, they keep the interesting conversations coming. 

Is that not what everybody does?



 © Mona Abdallah 2005



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