Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Egyptian Expat in Cairo

Here is a shocker…
I looked up the definition of Expatriation and google comes back with this: “ex•pa•tri•ate ( k-sp tr - t ). v. ex•pa•tri•at•ed, ex•pa•tri•at•ing, ex•pa•tri•ates. 1. To send into exile. See Synonyms at banish.”

OUCH… I never felt that marriage to the UN would lead to exile.. sounds really harsh!
I didn’t like this definition so I ventured to look for my own.

But my life, in its mischievous ways, decided to hand me with a rare opportunity to find the answer myself.

Early in May, I got the news that my dad was terminally ill.. Funny how the word terminal immediately puts a ticking clock over a person’s head. Their life stops the day you hear the news, and the mourning process takes off long before it’s due.. But that’s a side issue that deserves a blog post on its own.

Three months later, and after an arduous summer, a decision was finally taken… The kids and I would stay in Cairo till December to spend as much time with my dad as possible and pitch in where needed.

September 7th, I took the kids to their respective schools. The day proved chaotic, stressful, crowded and tremendously scary for all three kids and myself.
Later that night, I updated my status on FB with some cynicism. I criticized the school security measures, the lack of coordination between nurseries and school schedules, traffic, crowds, heat, and the arrogance of Egypt’s new elite with their fancy bags and signature couture.

September 14th, I wrote on FB:

“Aside from politics.. what's up with Cairo and Ice watches??? two weeks in the great capital and my son already insists he must have one!!! and an X Box and a motor scooter and a golf cart and and and and .....”

This proved a popular post with many agreeing but some didn’t like my orientalist attitude.. Well they didn’t quite say it outright, but it was there in every word of defense they wrote.

By September 20th, my dreams of finally settling back home, albeit for a short while, started to dissipate… I wrote on FB:

“Week 3 in Cairo. Hot,hot, school pick up is a nightmare, surprisingly lonely, wish I could organize a little so I can do more!”

Lonely??? Who would have thought I would ever feel lonely in the Cairo of my childhood friends, cousins, cousins of cousins, colleagues and the hundreds of people I consider close friends???

October 12th, I wrote:

“Week 6 in Cairo:I reside with my family, which by default = I have access to a cook, a driver, a house cleaner, an ironer etc... YET! i'm way more drained than when I played solo in Westchester!!!!!!!”

Lonely.. drained.. chaotic are usually all symptomatic of one thing: a new phase of expatriation; a dismantling of a home and a discovery of yet… a new one. What was going on? Why was I.. oops, why am I still living as an expat in my own homeland?

And the real definition of expatriation suddenly became crystal clear.
Expatriation for roamers like me.. is not the physical act of leaving home, or worse being expelled from it.

Expatriation is a state of mind that imprints itself in a roamer’s psyche and becomes a critical part of our consciousness. We are expatriates no matter where we are. Roaming in a constant state of rootlessness and that’s what marriage to the UN means!

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