Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Mount Kilimanjaro - Doing it the Lemosho way - Day _1

Klimbing Cili – Day Minus1

It’s 7 Am and I’m on the scale.. 4 Kgs up the roof and 2 more away from my ideal fit weight.

My knees are quite conscious of the extra blubber they will have to haul up that mountain two days from now. But my stomach is rebelling. In less than 24 hours there won’t be a decent meal in sight for 8 long arduous and ridiculously freezing days. Did I mention the torrential rain?  Yes, it will be a rainy hike up Mount Kili and the weather conditions are going to try their best to go against our will every step of the way.  And here I was worrying about camera chargers and extra battery life! There won’t be a dry moment to snap that perfect shot. Guess Steph and I will have to get very creative taking snap shots inside a 2 x 2 tent for 8  endless days.

But hey, if I stuff myself up with that whole bowl of Avocado, then finish up with some greasy fries, I’ll be much heavier and the wind won’t have it’s way with me afterall!

My friend Isabelle tells me in her village back home, they ask the youngest of  twin siblings to plant a knife in the garden to keep the rain at bay.. Can it work long distance??? Because I need that little boy of hers and 8 sharp knives to travel along!

My friend Salomé has a travel friendlier secret ritual! “Put three eggs in the garden and wish away .. your wishes should be directly to a certain Santa Clara and the rain won’t dare sprinkly your way.. Hmmmm, gotta find a way to carry three raw eggs intact on Lemosho, via Lava tower and the Baranco Wall scramble!

Emilie on the other hand thinks I should absolutely do both, and sprinkle some salt along the way! Afterall, if all else fails, we can end up mucnging on a warm omelette in base camp as we watch the rain wash away the tracks we should have followed!

In the meantime, It’s feeding frenzy till Day 0 hits in a few hours time.. A nose dive in my bed maybe??  And a few trips to my clean comfortable bathrooms just to get my fill! Oh Well,,,,,, It’s gonna be OK!

Mount Kilimanjaro - Doing it the Lemosho Way - Day _2

Klimbing Cili – Day Minus 2

Schedules, schedules, logistics and then some..
It takes two days to book a life changing trip to Kilimanjaro, but a whole three weeks to find subs to take care of the kids while I’m gone! Nerve Wrecking!!! And certainly not life changing!!!

Three kids ⇒Three school pick up times per day ⇒ Two to three geographically-totally-unrelated sets of activities daily⇒ and ONE expat mom.. You do the math.. it simply does NOT add up; no matter how you look at it.

Miraculously it does.. Because I’m an expat mom and we EMs have that super power to make it all settle in place somehow. We develop our own beehive dance around pick ups, drop offs, extra tennis rackets, more snacks, endless water bottles and the most hilarious of car-time motivational speeches.. but it works! We make it work!

And I’ve got the greatest support system I’ve had in any of my expatriations.

So why does my plan look more like Haywire in a mad house than a well synchronized Beehive dance?? 

I’ve done the works.. Ballet? Check! Tennis? Check! Soccer? 4 times a week?? Also miraculously Check! Swimming? Check, check and check!! (well it’s for all three kids), Horseback riding? Costs a fortune that substitute ride, but still.. Check! Birthdays, school drop offs, pick ups.. Bike trainings, and Arabic lessons… It’s all in there and there is a beehive of seven kind souls, 7 fellow expat moms who have stepped in to lead the dance.. Will it work??

Still on my chair, in front of my computer, a cup of steaming mint tea in one hand and a buzzing whataspp group in the other. I’m reading through the last changes of that mighty schedule and I’m out of breath already. Kili is 3 days away and I have yet to twiddle my toes in my hardened hiking shoes and yet… I’m already exhausted!!!!

Friday, February 9, 2018

Mount Kilimanjaro - Doing it the Lemosho way

Klimbing Cili - Day _6

Being an expat follower comes with many different labels: Dependent – Anonymous Spouse – Domesticated Partner  - obviously none really flattering to my ego! In short I am nothing beyond the walls of my household. And that NOTHING is the one word that echoes in my head hours after each party, social gathering or chance encounter and someone from my husband’s realm asks me: So what do you do??????

You spend the first few years as a novice expat scrambling through fleeting career opportunities, that shortly after become just job opportunities, which soon turn into  once-in-a-while consultancies..  But you don’t despair. In fact, you are so busy building your identity as a super mom that your life actually does have a meaning after all.

Then you hit 40. You breath and open your eyes, and you relax a bit. 40 isn’t so bad! Even for a career less, jobless, bored roaming housewife. Kids are fine, healthy and occasionally happy. Home is a safe warm haven of your own crafting, memories are busy being woven and your birthday cakes are to dream for!

But then 45 lurks right behind and the 50s bells begin to chime far in the distance!

You look around you and you see your kids struggling to fit in, traumatized because your so-called safe haven has just been breached, under your watch and they were bad people with big guns. Your kids are addicted to gadgets and their grades are screaming for the rescue squads. Other parents blame your kids for some crazy problems they trapped themselves in, and dragged others along and you suddenly find yourself sinking.- rather sky diving… and 45 is closing in, with 50 right in tow!

You take another breath. You open your eyes and you just see…. NOTHING!

So being the perfect mom is quite an elusive prospect despite all the energy that went into it. And your children are not just imperfect, but they are also unique in a beautiful, unconventional but sometimes very destructive way!

Even if you pull your mom thing through and they emerge safe and healthy and with some luck, relatively happy; in three years they will fly out of your cocoon one after the other. And you will hold your breath, yet again, hoping they don’t nose dive!  And then what?

You are failing,… miserably.. or are you??

OK you breath again.. and again.. You suddenly decide to shake it all off!!

Being a mom is the most frustrating journey I’ve ever imagined.. You start off aiming super high. Then as the years pass and your kids’ personalities start to shape, your dreams shift with the rising tides. Every once in awhile a Monsoon hits. You handle it. You think you got this but then a Tsunami emerges and the end is nowhere to be seen.

That’s what being a mom really feels like when you are an expat! Because there are no benchmarks, no guidelines and every move comes along with a new set of unfamiliar challenges.  You fall back on relevant memories from your own childhood. Nothing in there helps: we had an internet free, gadget free and a relatively simple childhood back then. You look around and you hesitate. Your friends, if you are lucky to have made some as an expat are wonderful people. But they come from over the world, each with their own set of cultural expectations, barriers and benchmarks. You’ve known them for what: 1 year, 2?? 4 at the most?? You love them dearly but are they really equipped to help you navigate this damned stage of your life? Do the want to?

Some years it’s easy flow, others it’s just a hormonal avalanche and the household seems to be anchored in the eye a Perfect Storm but in an agonizingly slow motion mode.

You go with it. You yield. You sink fast and you despair. You reach rock bottom and then you realize, it’s not over! You can’t just accept defeat. There is a small number of humans that depends on you standing tall and more importantly… standing PROUD!

Now you need to climb all the way back up again.. All the way to an elusive snow-peaked summit.  You know is more of a mental challenge than a physical one. You need to tell yourself that you can make; despite your lack of fitness and inability to believe in yourself. But if you make it, only then you’ll know!!!!

It’s going to be OK!, you are going to be OK! Your kids are going to be fine! Your friends will manage to look through the turmoil and hold on to you till you emerge again. Till you make the climb… all the way to the peak!

It’s Day -6 and the countdown to the Climb has just begun….


This post won’t resonate with any of the following echelons of expatriation:
  • -       The genius wife who managed to carve a successful career alongside her roaming partner
  • -       The satisfied home maker who fulfills her own dreams off the career path
  • -       The disgruntled expat follower who knows how to be a social butterfly
  • -       The financially independent partner who can afford to create a parallel fantasy life alongside her reality as a dependent follower
  • -       Parents of the perfect children who never ever engage in any inappropriate behavior or leave you dealing with a trail of anger, shame, worry and sometimes even sheer fear

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Do you speak Expenglish?

Two years in South Africa and I already say EEZ It? Yuhh and Shame!
Yoh is when I’m astounded; and Yoh has come out every time I go into a shop and people think I am French!

I have a French accent - he South Africans say..
But the French, despite the flowery compliments know I don’y do their language justice. After all I’m a product of the Egyptian education system and that doesn’t position us well in life in general.

I do however, spend some time everyday in the French-speaking realm and my closest of friends are predominantly French. They speak to me in Frenglish most of the time so yeah, I get it, I picked up the accent and I fused it with some South African English. Add my Egyptian heritage to the mix + 11 years in New York to spice it up and here you have it….


There is no denying that English is the common language of Expats.  And for the fortunate expats who successfully forge the best of friendships beyond their national compatriots orbits…with Italians, Argentinians, Spanish, Germans, Brazilians … and thanks to the French school, also French; we manage to somehow craft our own special accent.

The Intercontinental spice mix gives it a flavor that is unique to expats around the world. We know it, we like it, and best of all.. We can never go wrong with it.

There is nothing that we can utter that can be classified as grammatically wrong! Because it’s all wrong.. And that makes it soooo right.  It makes it sooooo unique and soooooo us – expats, that our Expenglish becomes an inherent trait of our global identity.

Hello, my name is Laila, I am an expat and I speak Expenglish.. an all-embracing, judgment-free English that allows us to use as many foreign words as we need, gesticulate as far as our arms can extend, and make the weirdest of body movements to fill for the vernacular gaps. If I get what you want to say then you are fluent, regardless of what you actually said! I get it..  Don’t ask me how.

You know why we get it?

It’s simply because it’s the only language in the world that doesn’t carry any cultural baggage. It is not heavily impregnated with nuances and connotations. It doesn’t differentiate between old and young, man and woman, rich and poor, old money and nouveau rich or black and white. All you need is your basic knowledge of the English language, and your rich experience as an expat and you’re speaking.. Expenglish!

Two years in South Africa and I’m not worried about being understood any longer. Speaking it like the locals is no benchmark for positive integration. When I’m asked: where is that foreign accent from? I simply smile and say.. Take your pick, it’s Egyptian, American, South African and French. I’m all of those and still more to come. J

Friday, January 8, 2016

How to Live UP your First Expat Year in South Africa

ZA  100 - First Year Bucket List (100)

This isn't another brag post. It certainly isn't another long monologue about being an expat! Although I tend to write a lot of those.

This is a list…. Pure and simple!!!!

If you are into outdoors, you'll meet your bucket list here.. But if you also like to wear a flowery dress and put on a big sun hat that totally matches your pointy shoes, then head out 
for a dainty High Tea, then this list is equally for you.
If you are a traveller at heart and you wish to raise your family flag on each and every province, then HELLO partner :)

The idea is to give you a hint, a clue, a little nudge in a certain direction and a search word to open up the magnificent world of #Google, #Trivago and #Tripadvisor for you.. enjoy and let me know if you have a cool idea for my 2016 list

-    Fifteen hikes 
a.     Saamrus
b.     Vergenoeg
c.      Groenkloof
d.     Windy brow
e.     Tswaing Crater
f.      Robberg Island
g.     Wilderness River
h.     Wonderboom
i.       Rustig
j.       Sugarbush
k.     Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens
l.       Uytipik
m.   Shelter Rock
n.     Mountain Sanctuary
o.     Cape Town Botanical gardens

-    Five High Teas 
a.     The Silver Birch tea garden (disappointing), Go for the Saxon by all means
b.     Michael Angelo – Piccolo Mondo
c.      54 on Bath
d.     Kirstenbosch Tea Garden (Cape Town)
e.     Maslow

-    Nine provinces 
a.     Gauteng
b.     North West
c.      Kwazulu Natal
d.     Mumalanga
e.     Western Cape
f.      Limpopo
g.     Northern cape
h.     Eastern cape
i.       Free State

-    Camping 
a.     Borakalalo

-    Ten cultural places 
a.     Soweto on bikes
b.     Arts on Main (Thursday monthly night market is cool)
c.      Stanley 44 (Lunch)
d.     Melville - Amazing arts scene
e.     Parkhurst - Cool restaurants and galleries
f.      Midlands Meander - Kwazulu Natal, this is a TRUR MUST
g.     Oriental Plaza - Indian heavenland 
h.     Kyalami (nice meanders and artsy shops)
i.       Cradle of Humankind
j.       Fordsburg - Oriental and Middle Eastern hub close to Oriental Plaza
k.     Melrose Arch - Safe Haven in all this chaos
l.       Bryanston Organic Market - a little artsy island worth going to

-    Ten cultural events 
a.     Opera dinner (really cool experience with Gauteng Opera)
b.     Barnyard theater (Cheesy but loads of fun for the whole family)
c.      Jo'burg Theater
d.     PJ Powers (She's a national icon)
e.     Ultra (if you're a late comer to the Rave scene like me, this is a must)
f.      St. Pietersberg Ballet (there is always an international production a year)
g.     Johannesburg Ballet (to compare notes)
h.     Trevor Noah (H-I-L-A-R-I-O-U-S)
i.       The Little shop of Horrors – Camps Bay
j.       La Traviata (Some classics to balance to the cheesy shows out)
k.     Parker’s Comdey Club (I actually understood most of the jokes)

-    Five Picnics and fruit pickings 
a.     Strawberry Farm (Tangaroa)
b.     Hartbeerspoort Dam (lots of activities)
c.      Wine tasting and Cheese (Cape Town)
d.     Powers Park
e.     Nirox Sculpture Park (worth checking their events calendar)

-    Five Game drives 
a.     Kruger
b.     Pilanesburg
c.      Lion Park
d.     Monate
e.     Pilanesburg (It's close and convenient, that's why we keep coming back)

- Five Touristic Sites 
a.     Red Bus
b.     Apartheid Museum
c.      Satyagraha (Ghandhi's house) +Make sure you combine with lunch
d.     Elephant Sanctuary
e.     Cableway (Hartsbeerpoort)
f.      Bird Garden (Monte Casino )
g.     Ushaka (Durban) a must for kids
h.     Museum of Transport (Cool under explored) + Combine with picnic by lake next door

Five new activities (Done) (You can tell, there is a bit of everything for everyone's taste)
a.     Stand Up Paddling
b.     African Fusion dance
c.      Cuisine Thai
d.     Accrobranch
e.     Cookie icing

Five kids activities 
a.     Avalanche
b.     Surfing
c.      Paddling
d.     Ziplining
e.     Hiking
f.      Quads
g.     Horsebackriding

Five South African books - I've become a D Meyer addict
a.     Deon Meyer .. Devil’s Peak
b.     Deon Meyer,, Thirteen hours
c.      Deon Meyer,, Cobra
d.     Deon Meyer,,  Trackers
e.     Blood Safari
f.      Dancing with a poor man’s daughter

Five sports related excursions 
a.     Canoeing the Wilderness River (Garden Route)
b.     Biking Park (PWC on Main Sreet)
c.      Biking the river path (behind our house)
d.     Quads  (Cullinan)
e.     Horseback riding (Cullinan, North Pretoria)

-   - Five cool restaurants 
a.     Four Seasons Westcliff Brunch with a view
b.     Cube (Atomic and weirdly yummy)
c.      A la Turka (oriental fake palace with belly dancers and the whole 1001 nights atmosphere.. surreal)
d.     The Blue Crane (Pretoria) Better for Sun downers and early lunch, serene and Blue Cranes are in full presence
e.     Col'Caccio (Chain like Pizzeria but I like it cause it's not junk and they give dough for the kids to shape and cook while they wait for their food)

   - Blog about the bucket list at least 10 times :)