Johnnersintheraw's Blog

April 24, 2010

2009 was 2009 was 2009… fodder for tales on down the line…

The following are blogs written during 2009 after I moved to Alexandria.  I posted them elsewhere for a short time, but never followed them up.  Simply put, there was nothing more to say, except this was where Johnner’s head was in 2009 – for better or worse.

So, here we go: Random Rants and Crapola from 2009

 Carrefour and Beyond

 2009-02-03 – 06:24:16

I realise I’ve got to organise my “blogtime” better. Yesterday I was planning a riff on the wonderful social madness that takes place at Carrefour in Alexandria every Friday and Saturday night. However, because I wasn’t paying attention to the time, I was interrupted, and as a result posted my fragment by mistake. Never mind.

Anyway, as I was about to say before I fell over my own two feet, Alex loved to party, and the current Party Central is Carrefour (there are other venues, of course, but none so deliriously weird). Thousands of people (men, women and children)… jamming the isles of one of the largest supermarkets on the planet (not literally, but you know what I mean), whirling about on the amusement park rides, stuffing their faces in the same (dreadful) ol’ food court eateries we know and love the world over. What is it about a food court anyway? Cities such as Alexandria have amazing markets and shops and restaurants. Food is fresh, tasty, well-prepared and cheap. So why does everyone flock to a food court, and scarf tasteless multinational garbage as through it were their last meal. Horrible thought, that. Imagine dying after eating at a food court. Is that the best last memory one could take with one to one’s final destination?

I thought I was going to finish up with Carrefour today and get on to something more worthwhile. But since I got stuck in the food court and my mind is still there…..

 My Brain is Sucked Dry and Then Some

 2009-05-22 – 16:06:20

It’s been forever since I scribbled my last entry. ‘Course I knew that this would happen. You see, I’ve never been any good when it comes to diaries. I really can’t fucking stand myself and I don’t have much to say. And so, the usual happened: Two entries and then the Black Cloud descended over Johnner’s Blogland. My days ran their course; they all started promisingly enough. Some widened their horizons; some shrunk into their shell. Some could have been interesting, but – you see – I was busy living them, and when I’m busy living a day or a minute or an hour, the last thing on earth I think about is writing about them. Like a memoir: how can I fucking remember something when I’m not yet finished with it?

What does this have to do with Alex? Nothing, really, but this time I really do have an excuse for not writing about this dirty, filthy, crappy city of industries and refineries that I love like no other (except, perhaps, for Paris or Buenos Aires, but I’m here and they’re not). You see, I haven’t been here, either.

Two and a half months ago (a dark day if ever there was one), a private school from a town on the north coast of Egypt sent a busload of urchins to Agami for a day camp. Since I had mentioned to some people I know that I would like to spend some time teaching kids, I was volunteered. It seems they liked me (they were also desperate for a teacher), and I was hired on the spot. So off I trotted, on a day’s notice, to Marsa Matrouh, and there I remained…

One thing good I discovered is that I really do like kids. Another thing I discovered is that I will shred my nose with a vegetable grater if I ever become an Egyptian teacher. Now, before you get your knockers in a twist, let me clarify something. I am not talking about a teacher who happens to be an Egyptian. There are lots of those about and many of them are fine, upstanding citizens. What I’m talking about is that particular specimen I was warned about going in. (“We’ll make an Egyptian teacher out of you.”)… This particular species of pond scum screams and punishes and hurls insults, and quotes some bearded fanatic’s bizarre interpretation of the Qur’An from morning ‘til night, AND NEVER EVER LISTENS to the children. Not once. The kids are they, they believe, only to be beaten and to show blind respect their teachers and to follow every mangled lie that is pumped into their heads. Believe me, I would castrate myself if I was even tempted to sire a child who might end up at the mercy of one of these creeps…..

For days and weeks I watched from the sidelines, more concerned about my own part in this play… and then one day I found that I had started to become one of them. One of these Egyptian teachers.

This might go down as the worst moment of my life. Or perhaps the best. I’ve learned what listening entails. How difficult it is, and how wonderful. I’ve learned how impossible it is to be understood when we ourselves don’t bother to understand.

I’ve still got a week in Marsa Matrouh, and then, insh’Allah, it’s back to Alex, to my wonderful new flat and the new possibilities (good and bad) which which await me.

There are rumbles about me returning to Marsa and setting up a new curriculum in a new department. However, warning lights are flashing and every night I wake up grinding my teeth…..

Besides, I’ve crappy (and decaying) city or industries and refineries that I love… And oh, do I want to write about her…

… I think I start off with the rendering and paint applied to building, and how it seems to slide off before the first day is done. Bless Alex. Bless everything about her.

 Egyptian Bugs

 2009-05-31 – 12:09:39

No., I’m not talking about our intestinal friends, of which I’ve had a few. In fact, during my lifetime, I’ve had so many various and sundry residents in my nether regions that no new ones dare crave admittance. My amoebae run a closed shop: NO ROOM FOR AMATEURS. It’s rather fun. While all around me spend their days sitting on the pot, my generals are waging war against the invading armies, and I do not feel a thing.

Personally, however, I have a feeling I’m not bothered because I really don’t give a fuck. I’ve got better things to do with my time than spray the walls with shit.

So… if it’s not bugs of the intestinal variety I’m whingeing about, what is it? It’s the fucking computer variety. And they’re driving me bats. Not my laptop. I should add – for I’m really fussy and don’t let anyone get without a million miles of it – but the computers I resort to when I go online for reasons great and small. The fucking viruses here are really boring, and do nothing whatsoever for the already crumbling reputation of Egypt. 

You may have noticed that I am here. This means I’m shot of Matrouh – at least for now – and am once more ensconced in my flat in Bianki, which is now the proud owner of a dozen new lace doilies. Every week it looks more and more like the carriage of a Soviet era first class train compartment, only with strangely Egyptian William Morris/arts and crafts furniture (at least we’ve gone past the French brothel look, of which I’ve had more than a fleeting acquaintance). But even more important, my apartment seems to like me – which is vital when it comes to even the most tentative residence/resident relationship. It is a relationship that (hopefully) will build and endure longer than most of my other relationships, which seem to last about as long as the phrase, “my name is…..”

Of course, should I be offered a small villa which is to my liking, or perhaps an estancia at Tortugas, you won’t see my arse for dust, but please don’t tell my apartment. He is a trusting chap, and I don’t want to disillusion him before I leave him for someone else.

It is altogether amazing and wonderful to be back in Alex! I have met all sorts of wonderful new friends, have added to my wardrobe in an encouraging manner, and am weedling a membership of Sporting… I have even discovered – and this discovery was, for once, the last thing on my mind when it happened – the effectiveness of being pulled whilst on the tram. In this case – which ended my status as a virgin expat and pathetic amateur – it was done by someone more munchable than I could hope for. The someone was idly texting no one in particular but making sure I was the once who saw the message. Quite an amazing experience. It also answered a few theretofore unanswered questions about how to arrange an intimate encounter of the best kind, in a place where such things seem so impossible.

Of course, everyone here already knows about the technique. It’s called “how to pick up or be picked up without anyone else even guessing anyone had even noticed anyone else. I’d heard about it, of course, and knew it was universally used in this part of the world. When it suddenly happened to me (yesterday, as a matter of fact) I had a few qualms of the “what if I’ve knifed and thrown out the window” variety. But, of course, if you listen to all of your qualms, you’ll never get anywhere and probably die a virgin.

 Language Expansion

 2009-06-01 – 10:26:50

No, this has nothing to do with the painful and hopeless attempts on the part of my mind to ensnare Arabic. For that, mi amigos, shall for all time remain an illusive goal. Or, as they say here, mish mumkin.

I used to care. After all, wasn’t that one of the reasons I moved to Egypt?

That, however, was before I realised this particular goal was not within my grasp. I stopped caring, relaxed, and joined that horrid fraternity (formerly despised by me), “Expats who refuse to learn languages”. I used to seethe at the mention of Brits in Spain who’d lived there for twenty years, still ate nothing but Bacon Butties and chips, were resolute footie hooligans and ate nothing but frozen fish and chips, washed down by a pint or twn. Ditto expats from Germany, France and Italy. Argentina I cannot include, for the simple reason most of them seem to be born multilingual. Besides they have the tango and Tortugas Polo Club. Both of those attributes render them perfect and above criticism. However, come to think of it, many of my acquaintances from Arab countries abstain from languages other than their own (for reasons I shall not go into here, but which actually boil down to intellectual sloth). So, perhaps I’m playing their own game. And I shall win. I’ve only learned how to win and I like it. Winning makes me feel good.

Of course, my failing to learn yet another language – having already neglected three unto their deaths – does not particularly please me. However, whilst I have been occupied in not learning Arabic, I have discovered – to my delight – that my other languages have been stretched in certain directions. My swearing has reached new heights! And so has my ability to fight and scream and jump queues and, in general, to behave like a twat.

For a long time I preferred to ignore the fact that no one here is capable of ordering a coffee without fighting with the waiter. One cannot board a bus without entering into a shouting match with the driver. My regular bus trips from Matrouh to Alex are ALWAYS delayed whilst the man selling the tickets fights with someone. And, of course, the men here cannot multitask to save their lives (of course, they already have a head start, being men, but being Egyptian doesn’t hurt). Since they are fighting, they cannot press the button of the computer which causes one’s ticket to be dispensed. And so the bus is delayed; it really is sort of counterproductive to wade in and join the fray… but as I’ve come to realise, it doesn’t hurt either. For the thing is, everyone fights all day long, and no one really worries about it.

In the school in which I’ve been toiling (for my sins), the pupils are screeched at, whacked and punished from early morning til late afternoon. And unlike other countries where they worry about such weighty matters as human and civil rights, nobody thinks twice about it. The kids certainly don’t.

Of course, one knows they get the same treatment at home. And when they grow up and propagate (for propagate they certainly will), they will render the same abuse unto their own kids.

And we wonder why there is no peace in the Middle East. But I do adore the Egyptians, in spite of and because of it all.

Next time I’ve really got to mention bathroom fittings. And perhaps their light bulbs. If, that is, I’m not so busy fighting that I forget.

 Purchasing Light Bulb and Other Joys

 2009-06-02 – 10:58:26

This is for those who’ve either never lived in Alex or have only stayed in hotels or hostels. It’s called “Navigating amidst the Ruins”.

You should know by now that I am infected (and infested) by Alexandria. Egypt is all right. Aswan is dandy, but only if you want to see the same Egyptians you saw in Alex or Matrouh, only this time at their second home. Sharm El-Sheikh is all right if you don’t mind the Lanzarote and Costa del Sol drinking crowd from Blighty. Siwa is all right if you are a old hippy, play ‘ultimate’ and like that sort of thing. And (because we have to mention then) The Pyramids are all right in their own way, especially if you avoid facing Cairo and seeing all the horrendous apartment buildings you never see in the brochures. Anyway, I suppose they’re decent backdrops for photos of one’s mother-in-law astride (just before she falls off) a camel. Yada Yada Yada. But Alex is infectious. By that I mean it infests the blood like an amoebae infests the bowels. Once there; always there.

There is no unearthly reason why there is a single building still standing. The Pyramids may have been built a couple of years back, but – except for their rendering, which I’ve noticed sluffed off just like the rendering on every single Alex building, after only the second month – they’re are in pretty fair shape.

I may have mentioned that I have a new (to me; five years old to Bianki) apartment. And I absolutely adore it. The rooms are large enough to accommodate Egyptian furniture, it’s a corner flat and gets a nifty cross-draught, and it’s high enough up so that, when I hang my towels on the line, I can give my vertigo something to think about. However, it (the building) was not built thousand of years ago when Egyptians had confidence in themselves, but by the contemporary variety who definitely do not. Unfortunately, they also used Egyptian materials.

The flat was newly painted in colours and patterns of William Morris Wallpaper. The furniture is madly arts and crafts, and their maker had a definite preference for spindled legs. And, it goes without saying, there are loads of doilies (many brought by myself). It’s quite fun, sort of like a retro Brothel (or, as I’ve already said, a Soviet-era 1st-class railway compartment).

It even has a water pump so that I am able to shower and do all the other things that make the world go round. However (and this is the first of the ‘howevers’), the taps one should close to keep unwanted water from gaining admittance to the toilet cistern when the pump is on, do not work. But, then again, I have never ever met a tap that works in Egypt. By government edict, the minute one touches one of the little critters, it falls off, often on to one’s foot. Consequently, when one turns on the water pump to, say, wash one’s hands or take a shower, the toilet floods.

Before I moved in, “my people” were told a new stove was being installed in the kitchen. In fairness, it probably was new at sometime in the last century, about the last time it was cleaned. That wouldn’t be so bad, except the knobs (those that are there) also fall off when touched, rendering one unable to turn off the gas. Since, as of today, I have no more cheap plastic knobs to replace the other cheap plastic knobs that have broken in half, and I happen to like to cook, I have no choice but to bring up the matter to the proper people (hopefully via “my people”, since they – at least – have been known to get things done). I really dread the confrontation, for in the hearts of every contemporary Egyptian (what has happened to them?) lies a thick payer of denial of the “what’s the matter, there’s nothing wrong with it” variety. And that leads to the regulation fight, and after a regular dose of such fights, I’ve become a much more unpleasant (but possibly more interesting) person.

I am a very sore loser, and have been known to prolong a fight longer than even the best Egyptian… (this is for the record, by the way).

Which brings me to light bulbs. Now, the light bulbs here are made to expire the minute one needs them. They also shatter in their fittings, which is why every blingy, gilded chandelier in Egypt looks decrepit before the first day is out. I don’t know who makes the light bulbs, but I do know that unless the makers want to give Egypt an ever worse reputation than it already has, they should cease putting “Made In Egypt” on the box. The light bulbs are utter crap.

However (this is sort of a reverse however, to compensate for all my other negative howevers), if one does have to purchase a light bulb for any reason, one should always go to a shop specialising in light fittings and (yes) light bulbs. At least in one of those places you can check the boxes in front of the little man before forking over a wad of brown money. One thing you do NOT do, is to purchase light bulbs in a Supermarket, not even in such lofty emporia as Carrefour or Metro. A friend of mine did. However (sadly, not a good however), I was by that time wise to all things bearing the imprint “Made in Egypt”, and told him to check the box before he bought. He looked in all twenty-six boxes (this was, by the way, in Metro, which is part of the San Stefano Mall, anchored by The Four Seasons Hotel). In every single box was a shattered light bulbs. The manager didn’t seem to think anything was wrong with them. He even had the nerve to say, ‘Insh’Allah’, which annoyed me no end.

I’ve not got round to buying shoes yet… or to brown money… or to getting change, although I’ve probably mentioned that, it being one of the impossible inponderables of life.

But I still love Alex. Call me infested.

 Ain’t Life Wonderful!

 2009-06-07 – 10:01:26

What can I say? I’m in love again. And no, I’m not talking about my personal life, where – let’s face it – I give a new meaning to the word “fickle”, and where it’d be nice if my love of my life lasted longer than the best part of five minutes. In fact, I rather think the longest-lasting love affair of my life was with a paint bubble when I was about three. It was on the window sill of one of my nursery windows… then there was my love affair with a jar of pickles when I was five.

I also fall in love with necks… more specifically, with the line that runs down from the jaw bone to the collar bone… this, means, of course, that I can have great relationships with perfect necks on the bus any day of the week, and never have to worry about personal interaction and other boring stuff.

I also have a thing about the throat latch of horses… very special horses. But unlike with members of the human race, I don’t mind a bit of interaction with their equine equivilents. Plus the fact, that I’m still around for breakfast.

You might have noticed that I’m not angry this morning. The reason for this, my dear friends, is that I have “DONE THE RIGHT THING”.

As you might know – if, that is, you’ve been following this blog or my page on Facebook – I spent the past couple of months teaching at a private school on the North Coast of Egypt. Lovely people; lovely town (as towns in Egypt go); fabulous kids. And everybody seemed to want me around (which must be a first). The only drawback – and one that was airily dismissed by those in charge – was that, although I was supposed to be teaching English, not one of my pupils could understand a single thing I said. As anyone who knows anything about teaching understandings, a good teacher has to find a way around this sort of problem; it is, after all, the teacher’s jobs is to find a way “in”, as it were. Unfortunately, in this case, the longer I was there and the more I listened, the more I realised that I understood the pupils even less.

There was also the problem (while I’m being honest I might as well admit this as well) that I do not know my way around kids. As kids, I really didn’t know any (preferring horses and books and inventing stories); in school I avoided them whenever possible. I’ve never held a baby, and – until my recent experience – I’ve never ever played with them. Of course, I suppose kids are remarkable creatures. Not as interesting as a pet kestrel or a horse or a pen and paper, of course, but good for a few amusement. At least until they realised I don’t really know what they’re for, at which point they find someone or something more amusing.

Kids want to play. Kids need to play. It’s what kidhood is all about. In other species, play is what is referred to (condescendingly, I fund), nothing more than a schoolroom for the cutthroat world of adulthood. However, when it comes to kids, playing is called time-wasting. Now, my problem as a teacher is that I want kids to play. Once their balls drop (in the case of boys, at least), life will start to sour – not only because that is what life does when one turns into a seething pustule of pumping hormones, but because there is inevitably an authority figure who takes himself too seriously and spends his time beating the pustule whenever he behaves… like a pustule.

Kids need special handling; they are, after all, our future and I (at least) they manage to do a better job taking care of things than have the current crop of adults. And that is why, when a teacher realises he or she has no business teaching, he or she should stand aside.

I spent the past two months getting more and more angry, acting more and more like a male Egyptian teacher. In other words, ranting and screaming and – yes – resorting to physical abuse. Then I woke up. I realised that one more day of that and I would thrown myself out of a window. Literally.

I’ve also become increasingly rude. Now, if you’re Egyptian, it’s all right to argue with everyone and push into queues. It’s a cultural thing. However, I’m not Egyptian. With me, such behaviour is NOT acceptable.

And so, in spite of being wanted by one’s employers, I quit. As soon as I did so, I suddenly ceased feeling angry. I no longer feel the need to be ruder than the next guy. I didn’t spent the night ranting and raving. I know, I know: in a place where everyone else spends all their time yelling and screaming, no one even notices. And the kids are often abused so much at home, nothing done to them at school even phases them.

Best of all, I’m back in Alex. I don’t have to spend five days per week away from this glorious mess of a city doing things for which I hate myself.

I’m back in Alex. I have fallen in love again. I’m learning how to have love affairs the Alex way, even if they last only the best part of five minutes. I am reading great reads and scribbling great scribbles. I’m looking out for the next best thing.

 Alex without Alex

 2009-06-16 – 15:15:56

This actually has little to do with Alexandria. Of course, it happened in Alex, so for all intents and purposes it’s an Alex problem.

It’s been a while since I last scribbled anything for this blog. I made this promise, you see, not to say anything about the city unless it was something (at least) reasonably positive. And, of course, that meant I was OBLIGED to go one a tear. A rant. An absafucking shitfaced fury over anything and everything, but mostly over the constant fighting and screeching and yelling that surrounds one every minute of the day and night.

To be fair, it’s not an Alex thing. It’s an Egyptian thing. But still, it drives one round the bend. Especially since – if you’re like me – it’s so easy to get sucked in to the fray. In fact, you can easily go from dawn to dusk (well, more like late afternoon to dawn, since nobody gets up until 4 or 5 in the afternoon) and never spend one second without being embroiled in one fight or other. It doesn’t matter that you don’t know the others involved or that you have no idea what’s going on, the thing is to let everybody else know that they don’t have any right to exist. Not that they do exist. This explains a lot about the Middle East Peace Process and why anyone from the know-it-all West who thinks he/she’s got the answers has been eating too many happy pills.

Ooops… as usual, veered into lecture mode. Sorry about that. Of course, I’m not going to admit I was born with it, because I was. In fact, in school I was chosen as the Mostly Likely To Bore People To Death.

I don’t know what I’ve accomplished in this blog, but as they say, it’s the jounrey that counts, not the actually getting there.

Oh, I know. It’s about not writing this blog if I couldn’t find something good to say about Alex. HOWEVER, I just thought of something to write about in which I could blame Alex, but at the same time, let Alex off the hook.

It’s all the fault of Alex. Not the city Alex, but an Alex named Alex. Alex may or may not be his real name, and I may or may not have met him. In other words, what took place may or may not have taken place. And while it took place in a city that looked very much like Alex, it may, in fact, have been Geneva. Or not.

I bought (or didn’t buy) a computer. From a guy who may or may not have been named Alex. Now, the first rule is NEVER ever buy a computer from anybody else. NEVER EVER buy a USED computer. Period.  Also, never ever buy a computer unless you like it – and more importantly, unless the little guy that lives inside and to whom you pore copious amounts of coffee every day (through the CD/DVD thingy)- likes you. That’s the trick about successful computer ownership. The guy inside’s gotta like you, and can’t care a fig what a moron you are.

Most computers I’ve owned (all of which have forgiven me anything and everything and have never once told me I’ve performed an “illegal act”) have ended up as my best friends. But then, I knew they would before I bought them (the same has applied to houses and flats and cars and motor cycles: either I’ve loved ’em, or I’ve left ’em (usually without getting my money back, which shows that when you buy a computer or a car or a motorcycle, it’s the same as getting married).

But back To Alex. Who sold me a computer. A used computer. A computer I didn’t like. I computer I hated so much (it looked at me and sniggered) that I locked it away in the wardrobe for a month before using.

Of course, like in any good horror story, the computer really was evil. It had a worm. A really really really bad worm. And I know it was there waiting for me, because it sucked out the life of a flash disk before I even went on line with it. It destroyed my life and I hadn’t even downloaded any porn. And that wasn’t nice of it.

Alex phoned me a while back and asked me (?) how the computer was. Of course, seeing as how it was still locked in the wardrobe at the time, I said it was fine.

Alex isn’t in Alex anymore. Alex is now Alex-free. I like Alex better now that Alex doesn’t live here anymore.

 The Joy of Being Me

 2009-06-20 – 15:30:13

It’s nice being me; it’s even better not having to be anyone else. Being someone would be so exhausting. All that responsibility for things, which I – as me – don’t have to worry about.

It’s taken me a long time and a lot of miles (and kilometres, since I’ve lived in a lot of countries) to appreciate the me-ness of being me. That is not to say I necessarily like myself or like what I do or like my personality (or any of those other things that – put together – make the me that I am. But I’m used to me.

Now, I’m not necessarily very good at anything, except of course, at being me. I have no other talents to speak of, I’m rather too fond of being antisocial when life would be easier if I weren’t. After all, going through life alienating people is not something I would recommend to anyone else. Except, of course, if you’re me, and then it’s all right. I’m used to it.

My linguistic skills are appalling. I was once fluent in three languages and proficient in a couple more. Now, I barely get along in one, and unfortunately that – English – is not one of which I’m particularly fond; it can be sublime when on the printed page, but that’s as far as it gets.

What does this have to do with Alexandria, my home for now and possibly for the foreseeable future? Not much, excepting the bit about my appalling language skills, and even there I feel a fine Italian hand at work.

You would think, wouldn’t you, that now that I’ve settled here, learning Arabic would be my number one priority. Not a bit of it, it seems. I’m not in the least bit proud of myself, but – you see – it doesn’t really matter all that much. Perhaps one of these days I’ll awaken and proclaim, “today is the day I learn Arabic.” But I doubt it. And I’ll tell you why.

What a longish life lived in many countries has taught me is that, as soon as one knows the lingua franca of a given place, one is required to listen to what people are saying. And since they are usually saying more or less the same thing wherever you are, why should you go to all that bother and muss and fuss just to hear the same old crap you listened to at the last twenty places you lived in. In language, just as in so many other things, familiarity really does bred contempt.

It used to really upset me that I don’t retain languages very well when I don’t practice them. But that was when I was when I was busy striving for a meaningful existence and hidden talents and – well – denying my real purpose in life: which is to be me.

Alex, at least until it changes its mind about me, is quite a nice place in which to be me.

 On Being a Border Person

 2009-07-07 – 03:09:55

As usual, it’s been a long time between blogs. To be honest, there’s been nothing much to say. Or at least nothing to say I haven’t already said a dozen times. Pathetic, really, when I’m living in Alex; surrounded by teaming, screaming life; being lectured to by sour men who spend most of their time standing on their heads and never look at the garbage they’re throwing on the ground. They always ask me if I can say the Faditha, to which I answer yes. They don’t bother waiting for my reply. I’m European, and therefore stupider’n the cat shit upon which they’re standing, and so they ask me to repeat after them. At that point I butt in and say (politely, I hope) “I pray to God and not to man”; quickly I say Ma’a Salam and exit stage right. But not before they’ve asked my age, followed by various other personal questions I’ve no intention of answering. This is not really a whinge; it’s an admission. Every day I’m assimilating less. Something I’m not proud of, really, considering I have always lived between cultures – though I’m not really ashamed of it, either. A border person, is one definition that fits people like me. I exist between cultures; I don’t fit in anywhere, and the longer I live the less I want to. I used to become annoyed at my mother’s constant refrain, “but I’ve moved all my life!” I know now what she meant, because the mantra has become my own. But, of course, it always was; only when I was younger I was naïve enough to think I would change.
Of course, I have changed; however, instead becoming someone or a better me , I’ve become a more concentrated version of myself. I’m far more me than I was a year ago. I sort of like the me I’m becoming (thank God I’m even less conservative than I was last week; if the opposite were true, I’d have to kill myself). My horizons are brighter; the colours sharper. I exist and want to exist in the Aurora Borealis.
The average length of time I’ve lived anywhere is about three years, the longest exception being five or six. What I notice now is that “drifting through” is my limit. Set me down in a place for three months and I can’t stand myself. When I think of what I really want to do, all that come to mind is a sail boat – endlessly sailing the southern oceans, only stopping now and again. Mr heart yearns for Patagonia. The Andes also call, as does the north of Norway and Sweden. Cities don’t beckon, except for their diversions; education and learning do. And books. Endless stacks of books. And, please, if I am to be around people, let them have a passion for life and learning. Let their horizons be bright. Let them be fucking educated. And for fuck sake, let them keep their religion to themselves. We all believe in something. I believe in the endless seas; in the skies; in the breezes that caress my bare flesh; in horses; in me. The rest is my business.
I know why I’m writing this. It’s because I’ve been in Alex for more than three months. Three months, plus a further two in Marsa Matruh. When it comes down to it, I’ve got nowhere else to go; Egypt is good for me; I have opportunities here that elude me elsewhere. Who cares if the cities are cities. Who cares if they don’t wash their plates on the reverse side? Who cares if the people are nosey and bossy and as rude as shit drying in the sun? They are also giving and generous and wonderful…
I’d thought, having nothing good to say about Alex, I’d write about something else. There was always the jingoistic 4th of July “Happy Birthday America” picnic to which I was invited, and which left me in a black hole of fury (about which I have nothing original to say, and so won’t. At least for now). On a more positive note, I’d also thought to write about the community of rats living in my (and everybody else’s) ventilation shaft. I met them today; they’re fat and healthy and bigger than the Agami cats. I’ll write about them tomorrow. Mumkin.

 Early Sunday Morning on Bitosh

 2009-06-27 – 10:33:50

Picture this (I only say this, because if I don’t, you might not get the picture). It is Sunday morning in Bitosh, which, for those not in the know, is in Agami, somewhere to the west of Alexandria. In the summer, Agami is a party town. It rises at five or so in the afternoon, and doesn’t really get going before nine or ten or eleven.

I live at the good end of Bitosh. In other words, I live at the edge of Bianki. Not so posh as living in Bianki itself, but better than living on the other side of the street, if you know what I mean.

Clubs on Bitosh and in Bianki don’t get going til long after midnight. And some don’t wind down til after seven in the morning. I should know. My apartment overlooks the Paradise Restaurant, where all the trendy Agamiti hang out and do what they never do – things they don’t even know about – between the hours of seven and midnight.

I was going to say it’s where hijabs come off and minis (just about) come on, but since it’s one of those open secrets of which Egypt and much of the rest of the Middle East is so famous for, I won’t go into it.

Now, I get up early. Always have. Always will do (until the day I don’t). The racket blaring from the Paradise has nothing to do with my sleeping habits, only I wish they’d get a longer playlist and a better sound system. One can only turn the volume up on a cheapo set so far until it you start pondering the fate of humankind, if such a thing is possible. Thank heaven no one in Egypt can afford sub-woofers, is all I can say. The buildings in Egypt are constructed of concrete in which they forgot the concrete. They have enough trouble standing upright without sub-woofers.

This morning I met a new best friend. I was leaving my building about nine, a time when everyone else is asleep – unless they’re slumped in a cafe blurry-eyed and sucking on a sheesha – and a young ultra-trendy agamisto came up to me and asked me where I’d spent the night. I pointed up in the general direction of my apartment, to which me mentioned a name. A worried frown crinkled his face.

The conversation went back and forth (as they do here), and it dawned on my that one of the women living in the building (I don’t knowing which one, not knowing my neighbours) earns the sort of income no one in Egypt is supposed to know about. The guy – who I suppose – has to earn a living somehow, was worried I had been getting a little on the side without him getting a cut.

In the end, we got it all sorted out. He knows (because I told him) that my “little friend” likes to be introduced before getting all excited, and that being introduced entails more than a quick “here’s fifty pounds, your alleyway or mine?” Also, although I’ve got the morals of a stoat, I’m really really cheap (I thought he deserved to know the truth about me). However, since I also said I was always ready and willing, and that I never met a “haram” I didn’t like – should the conditions be right – my new best ultra-trendy Agamisto pimp friend left me with a hopeful smile playing on his lips. I bet he phones we with a proposition.

Actually, what I said had something about drawing the line at ducks.



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