I've been back in Egypt for three months now. It has been a tiring process of adjustment and assimilation resistance. Somehow Egyptians are more tolerant of my peculiar personality than before. Though unjustifiable, for I have not changed at all. I suppose I'm much less edited and thus amplified, but I am the same person I have always been.
I must admit , I'm finding it difficult to return to the state of contentment I inhibited before leaving. I never fitted in with society's definitions of who I should be and how I should behave. I've never been happy, living in Egypt. I hate the dust and crowds. Very few things brought me genuine happiness. These things revolved around certain people. But, beyond them, I merely existed. I went through the motions everyday because I had no other choice. My only solace of satisfaction and self actualization came from work. The only beauty I perceived was watching my niece and nephews morph into human beings. I was never truthfully happy, only content. That was my life in Egypt. I had grown to accept it for what it was. I lived one day at a time.
Moving to New York, I found new avenues that excited and motivated me to live. My job there played no role. It was tedious and mind numbingly boring. But it didn't matter. Fulfillment came from else where. My colleagues were an amazing wonderful group of people. I enjoyed their company profusely. I looked forward to spending time with them every week. Most importantly, I'd eagerly await the weekends. It's in those forty eight hours that I truly lived. I divided my time between choirs and fun. I read books and wrote stores. I watched films and went to the theater. I walked around New York and enjoyed the scenery. I took in nature and people watched. It was a beautiful serene interlude. I will, forever, dearly hold those two and half years in my heart. I look back on those times, mesmerize, cry and smile.
My move away from Egypt was a lifestyle change. I exercised more. I ate healthier. I met new people. I made new friends. Everything I could not and cannot do in Egypt. Everything that makes me happy and I no longer have in my life.
The choice to move back was a rational one. I had my reasons. I do not regret it. But, I'd like to retain some of my New York being. I enjoyed being happy. Mere contentment is unacceptable. I have boxed my professional life in a 9-to-5 window. I refuse to carry my job around with me all the time. Once I step over the office's threshold, I shun all worries. It hasn't been easy, but I persist. I'd like to maintain a healthy diet. Something that has proven more difficult to do. There isn't an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables. My roommates deplete my food stock. I want to continue writing, but inspiration is fleeting, as is the solitude necessary for the writing process (just had an argument with my mother to explain to her that I need to be left alone while writing). So far, I've been unsuccessful at maintaining a happy lifestyle. But I haven't given up hope.
The theater is the one true thing I miss the most about New York, together with green grass and donuts and independent bookstores and a bunch of other things. There's something electrifying about live performances. The energy from the stage is contagious. There's inherent beauty in witnessing artists creating art. In an attempt to retain that beauty, I attended a Harp recital at Cairo's Opera House. Despite the misery associated with purchasing tickets and battling God awful traffic during rush hour, the concert lifted my spirits. It was like finding a radiant rose in the middle of a garbage dump.
The performance was held in a makeshift open area stage on a Wednesday evening, early September. Temperatures were too high to accommodate for outdoor activities. The musicians melted under the added heat of spot lights. We sat on bare boned banquet chairs that were very uncomfortable. The audience unapologetically chatted amongst themselves during the performance. Many people popped out of their seats to get a better vantage point for their smart phone cameras. Despite all this, the musicians, centered around Dr. Manal Mohei El Din and her harp, closed their eyes and lost themselves in the music. Their heads swayed to the rhythm. Their energy infected the audience, who soon enough clapped along with the beat. A smile emerged from my lips. I forgot the heat. I forgot the traffic. I forgot contentment. I was happy for two hours.
The beauty of art is that performances stay with us. We reminisce the experience and relive the moment. Every time I hear Elqamh El-Liela, I remember the recital and smile at the memory.
Since June 30th 2013, Egyptians have been bombarded with fund raising themes. Donate to Charity. Donate to rebuild the country and renew prosperity, despite paying ever increasing taxes. We are assaulted with beggars and hobos who have sprouted on every corner. These are all noble causes, but charity should also extend to one's self. Donate an evening to yourself. Experience art and be touched by the performance. Support local artists and appreciate their work.