I’ve reached that point in my time in a new city that always comes when things aren’t so new after all. There is a comfortable rhythm to my days, the system (or lack thereof) is understood, and I feel at ease. I wouldn’t say I am in a wild love with Cairo, as I have been with other places, but I have that affection that grows between two people who have simply spent enough time together that they know each others’ habits and quirks. It’s a peaceful kind of fondness.
Just now I was watching my neighbor across the way hang her laundry out to dry with the sun shining between the cracks in our buildings, and it struck me how very comfortable I am with the simpler life I lead when I’m abroad. I’m dragged out of that commercial cycle of always needing to “go to xyz store” for something or other, I learn I need far less clothes than I have, and I find it far easier to look around me and appreciate everything. It’s like when I’m home I’m figuratively under some sort of hazy cloud of everyday life, and when I go abroad I pull my head up above it and breathe clearly. I have to say, I like that.
I like the informal economy sector here, where I buy produce from an older, soft-spoken man in a street alley wearing a traditional galabeya…he sells baskets of fresh zucchini, bell peppers, tomatoes, herbs and more. I buy oranges and bananas from man-drawn carts that vendors walk around the city. You get what you need, no fuss, and usually fresh and tasty.
I like the feeling of community–especially between women–like when I see mothers passing their children to seated women on the subway to hold them on their laps so that the standing mothers can rest. Or how I rarely see the elderly go up stairs unassisted–there’s always someone rushing to help.
I like that, if I don’t have exact change for the snack stand outside of my workplace and the owner doesn’t have change either, he’ll wave it off and let me pay him the next time I come by.
I like that our building bawab (doorman) basically keeps a bunch of our local stray animals and feeds them as his own–so in a way, I’ve got a couple of dogs who know me and trot over, tails wagging, when I come home, and there’s always a sleepy kitty or three adorably curled up somewhere.
There are, of course, numerous things about Cairo that are a hugely unnecessary hassle or that I disagree with. And undeniably there are, of course, some unnerving and horrible events like the recent incident with Giulio Regeni that give pause to all. But, maybe it’s the recent burst of sunshine through the clouds, or the peaceful Saturday morning I’m having at home after a great weekend start with friends, but today I’m feeling a warm inner glow for my life here.
Things are good.