A Desperation Nugget

2 Sep

I’ve been reading the booklets on adjusting to a new culture that have been stuck in our welcome packets. It seems that we are currently in the honeymoon period. Everything is still exciting and we’re able to envision ourselves living here and being happy. This period supposedly lasts about 2-3 months. Then the bottom falls out. Apparently at that point, we will experience severe culture shock exhaustion and fall into a depression that only long periods laying on the couch eating McDonald’s and watching NBC reruns dubbed over in Arabic will be able to cure. It is a dire picture, but this is what the brochures tell me must come to pass. I hope to avoid this phase.

So rather than being happy and optimistic all the time and saving up all my despair for the big Three Month Crash, I’m going to mete it out in little desperation morsels, to be wallowed in for small periods of 2-6 hours on occasion as needed. My hope is that by doing this, I will strike a healthy balance of reality and optimism, perhaps avoiding that day several months from now when I wake up one morning and scream “what the hell am I doing here?!”

This morning, I decided to wallow. Allow me to share. And let me apologize for typing the word ‘allow’ next to the word ‘wallow.’ It throws me off too.

First off, it’s ridiculously hot here. Not like St. George hot, or even like McAllen hot. In the words of my mother, it’s hotter than a mofo. I understand why the dogs spend the day under cars and the streets are deserted in the afternoons.

Despite sporadic garbage collection, people take it upon themselves to dump out their refuse in random places along the street. Most recently it has been on our street corner. This in no small pile of litter, oh no. It is a large mound of diverse objects of putrescence, with multitudes of stray cats moving among them, in turn urinating and sleeping, sleeping and urinating. Under the aforementioned sun, you can imagine the fragrant aroma that emanates from this.

There are flies here whose singular life purpose is to eat your face.

I have been known to scoff at certain aspects of American culture. The obsession with work, the replacement of people with computers, the focus on efficiency rather than humanity. Well, I take it all back.

I’m sure in a few months I will let go of my American franticness and rational need for efficiency and praise the beauty of building personal relationships and interacting one on one. But for now, give me the McDonald’s model of erasing all traces of variance so that the customer always knows what to expect. Give me ‘the customer is always right.’ Give me the FDA. And for heaven’s sakes, Mr. Nabil, Housing Czar with all your power, give me a soft mattress instead of a rock. And don’t tell me that sleeping on the ‘granite slab’ model of Serta is good for a pregnant woman. Have you ever been pregnant, Mr. Nabil? Well, have you?

I am living in a country where one of the most commonly used phrases really means “there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell that that’s going to happen in a timely manner.” Inshallah. God willing. I will have a dryer for you in a few days, Inshallah. I will bring you a soft mattress this week, Inshallah. The heat will go away soon, and it will actually be quite nice, Inshallah. At first, I thought this was a humble expression and I remarked at the beauty of invoking God’s will in everything. Now I know it’s all a front to cover the fatalism that pervades Egyptian society. It’s a convenient excuse, really, so that if you don’t plan to get something done, you can blame it on God’s will. Or maybe I’m just being cruel and cynical.

There are no traffic lights, so cars honk at every intersection to let other cars know they’re going through. They don’t stop or consider any other cars in traffic, they just honk without slowing from 80kmph, muttering in Arabic “If I don’t look, the other cars won’t hit me, Inshallah.” They do this at night with no headlights on to save the battery.

So there it is. The thoughts that went through my head in my allotted Cairo Stinks period. I feel healthier already.

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11 Responses to “A Desperation Nugget”

  1. Kirsten Campbell September 2, 2007 at 3:09 pm #

    I don’t know if you remember me or not– we’ve met once or twice while in South Bend. I’m in the Mishawaka Ward. (Patrick knows my hubby Dave, who works at ND) I was visiting Renee Chambers in Atlanta and she told me about your blog. I just finished reading it and I must say that you have the makings of a fantastic book here. PLEASE keep writing about your experiences and put a manuscript together. You both have a true gift for writing. All I can say is that I must read more! This area of the world has always fascinated me and I relish being able to glimpse it through your eyes. Keep writing…I’ll keep reading.

  2. Patrick September 2, 2007 at 6:32 pm #

    Two slight corrections to my lovely wife’s post:
    1) They told us it would be hot. They didn’t tell us it would be humid. Nor that the pollution, which makes just breathing the equivalent of smoking two packs a day, traps all the humidity in a permanent haze. The upside is that you can see the air you breathe — none of this stealthy, invisible, “clean” air the environmentalists are always harping about.
    2) When she says the streets are deserted in the afternoons, that means that only 10 of the 18 million people in Cairo are out on the streets, rather than all 18 million that come out around dark.
    And she didn’t even mention the Metro. That will be the subject of a later post, inshallah.

  3. mom September 2, 2007 at 7:16 pm #

    Feel better little girl?

  4. mom September 2, 2007 at 7:29 pm #

    I love you my precious pregnant daughter. Venting always helped me
    cope during my pregnancy too. You come from a long line of venting women. I think it might even have gotten me a diamond or two from your dad. It definitely got me through 36 hours of labor with your brother! (Did you hear that son of mine who hasn’t called me?)

    P.S. Please explain that a mofo is my term for one who will burn in the hottest fires of hell for the unforgiveable sin of not listening to the wise words of their mother.

  5. tracy m September 3, 2007 at 1:18 am #

    I love your mother!

  6. Robann&Carrie&Susie September 3, 2007 at 6:02 pm #

    Hi Melissa! We love reading your blog! Your adventures would make a great book. We think of you often and keep you all in our prayers. Keep up the great work and have fun.

  7. Alyssa September 3, 2007 at 8:29 pm #

    Hi Melissa and Patrick,

    Love the entries. I feel for you (visiting Egypt for a couple of weeks was enough for me for a lifetime). I’m with Emily about reading your posts in book group. You both are descriptive, humorous writers. Your plan to avoid the three month bubble burst sounds like a good one. Honesty and humor and some serious deconstructing does everyone good. Matt and I will try to stay in touch. Inshallah.=)

  8. becca September 4, 2007 at 1:01 am #

    Sometimes I sit down at the computer cause I want to mess around on the internet… then I think.. Oh wait, gotta check the Masons’ blog!! What fun even to read a “grumpy” entry!! Ugh…. I am taking my knowledge of pregnancy and inserting myself into your shoes… ugh…. Im feeling for you. I appreciate the mental picture of that stinky trash heap, thanks for that…So no theme song today? Maybe tomorrow! Cant wait to read more. Its like episodes of 24.. cant wait for the next one. Really.

  9. becca September 4, 2007 at 1:02 am #

    Sometimes I sit down at the computer cause I want to mess around on the internet… then I think.. Oh wait, gotta check the Masons’ blog!! What fun even to read a “grumpy” entry!! Ugh…. I am taking my knowledge of pregnancy and inserting myself into your shoes… ugh…. Im feeling for you. I appreciate the mental picture of that stinky trash heap, thanks for that…So no theme song today? Maybe tomorrow! Cant wait to read more. Its like episodes of 24.. cant wait for the next one. Really.

  10. Stacy September 4, 2007 at 4:16 am #

    Vent away, dear one! I think you have the formula to get you through the Three Month Crash. Knowing your determination, you’ll do fine. The only comparison I have to the hard mattress is that when Miles and I were first married, we lived a month in Colorado Springs and our very hot third floor apartment had only a twin bed. I know…that’s not really a comparison, but we also had a crazy rabid racoon that would come out every now and then on my way to class!!! No comparison, either. Our thoughts and prayers are always with you. Also, I’m with Becca…can’t wait to read your blog.

    P.S. Javi, call your mother!

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  1. Desperation Nugget #3 | State of d'Nile - February 27, 2015

    […] for Desperation Nugget #1 and Desperation Nugget […]

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