Egyptian Street Cat Chronicles Part 2

Egypt Chronicles 2/2017

It was quite something to experience the ginger cat’s transformation from that shy, scared in-survival-mode creature to an animal that would lovingly come and rub her back against your leg and even allow my husband to pick her up and hold her. It took a long time, but she learned to trust us and to feel save around us. The more we learned about her, we realised that she was a fierce fighter with a soft heart. We named her. Sort of. That’s even more dangerous than to start feeding them! We called her GemmerGat (in English literally Ginger Butt). She became happy and quite relaxed when she realised that she could rule our yard.

So, on a not-so-cold winter January day in Cairo, GemmerGat brought a camouflage coloured kitten (which we saw since that December in the flower pots in front of the building) into our yard to be fed. We weren’t very impressed, but we couldn’t refuse GemmerGat’s generosity to reach out to the little street cat and thought that maybe it was her way of ‘paying it forward’.

The kitten wasn’t very pretty and yet it was. We called her Camo. We soon realised that she doesn’t have the same likable personality as GemmerGat. She was only eight months old when our son, Michael, heard some faint crying sounds outside his window and found Camo with three little ones! We were terrified! We didn’t want more cats in our yard!

Camo was a terrible mother! She clapped her babies through their little faces if they wanted to eat and bit them. We liked her even less. We were away on a trip and when we came back the two kittens that were left (the third vanished earlier) were gone too. I am ashamed to say that we were relieved. So we kept feeding GemmerGat and Camo and kept chasing away the male cats. A few times we thought Camo looked pregnant again, but fortunately no more kittens appeared. Then one day, two months ago, Michael heard a noise again and there, from behind the big bag of charcoal, the little blue eyes of Camo’s latest offspring peeked at us.

We weren’t happy with another addition to our yard, but as it goes with baby animals – they steal your heart. This time around though, Camo is a model mommy! Instead of clapping and biting her baby, I was the one who got clapped when feeding her! Talk about haughtiness! (I don’t like that cat!) But she looks well after her baby, feeds him well and even shows affection. So, I have to commend her for that. She got so protective that she started scaring away GemmerGat – to our dismay! What a rotten attitude! GemmerGat brought her to our yard to be fed and she chased her away! I am so angry at her! And I’m even more disappointed in GemmerGat to let her without even fighting for her territory! We saw GemmerGat in the vicinity for a while, but then she disappeared. I’m still trying to come to terms with my feelings about that.

I can’t believe I miss an animal that doesn’t even belong to us! It’s just a building cat after all. I’ve even cried a bit over her. OK, I was actually crying over a situation friends of ours are having, and then I thought about GemmerGat and then I found that I had more reason to cry. Now, I’m just really worried about her and quite sad too, that she just abandoned us like that.

Maybe she is still around and just eating elsewhere, because we are not the only ones feeding them. The bohabs (doormen), policemen and other tenants also put out food. But what worries me is that while we still saw her in front of the building before, we haven’t seen her for weeks now. And that worries me more than I am willing to admit.

I can’t believe I’m writing about cats!

I can’t believe that I miss a bloody street cat!

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©  Fielies (Riëtte) De Kock

Awesomest wife. Finest mom. Hopeful Writer. Forever dreamer. Temporarily living in Cairo, Egypt.

Egyptian Street Cat Chronicles Part 1

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GemmerGat (GingerButt)

Egypt Chronicles 1/2017

One phenomenon everyone living in or visiting Egypt are guaranteed to encounter is the presence of street animals, be it dogs, cats or other animals – like horses, donkeys and camels, which are used for work and/or entertainment.

Although the work animals are looked after by their owners, most of the time they look a bit different than the well-nourished farm animals one would be used to seeing in your native country. For various reasons I won’t elaborate much further on the subject of Egypt’s work animals.

One has to learn soon that you can’t rescue every street creature you come across. In fact, you have to learn to become a bit thick-skinned in your approach to these animals – something that is very difficult for an animal lover. And there are phases to this process.

In the beginning you feel terrible for the dogs running in packs, looking for food. You feel worse when you see that almost every female bears the ‘Baywatch’ look as our son calls it – with their milk giving ‘tools’ swinging around their undernourished bodies when they run through the streets looking for something to eat and drink. What makes it even worse, is when you stumble upon a thin, dirty litter of puppies or kittens stowed away somewhere where the mom though it to be safe.

The terribleness develop into a depression of sorts when it seems that all you see are stray animals looking for food and you realise that you can’t do that enough to help.

Eventually you hear about angel people, called veterinarians, who try to at least sterilise some of the dogs and cats at own cost.

The next phase is when you walk in the street in the summer heat and you get that familiar smell in your nostrils and see the decomposing evidence and you think: Ah, thankfully you don’t have to suffer anymore.

The next phase is the most dangerous one. On a hot day when all the different smells of human sweat hangs in the air, mixed with the smell of blood washed off the pavement after a Ramadan slaughter, you find yourself standing in a little shop, checking out the cheapest cat food. Because by now, a very nice looking black-and-white had started following your neighbours’ son back from the gym, your friend down the street had picked up an almost dead kitten and nursed it back to life and when you get home from a function one night, a ginger living in your building had shyly followed you to your front door and after you have checked each other out a few times, you have fetched a bowl of milk one night and rapport had been established.

And after a few more weeks, the once scared, shy, in-survival-mode cat, greets you at the building door and show you to your front door as if it is the bohab (doorman) and cheekily sits and waits for her treat. And when you open the door, she only slightly rubs against your leg when pushing past you, and runs perkily ahead, through the house to the other door. And before you know it, you fill an empty butter container with the cheap cat food from that little shop in Road 9. And when you go to the plastic shop the next time the butter containers get replaced by plastic bowls. And almost without you realising it, you have become a cat carer.

You shush the male cats away because they spray and it stinks and the stink gives you headaches and they fight with ‘your’ ginger. You know this because you hear the unearthly cries at night and you see the ginger fluff rolling past your bedroom window in the slight breeze in the mornings. And you feel surprisingly relieved when you open the door and she sits there – battle scarred, but alive.

I never thought that I would become one of those crazy persons filling the Internet with writings about cats. I’m a dog person, after all.

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©  Fielies (Riëtte) De Kock

Awesomest wife. Finest mom. Hopeful Writer. Forever dreamer. Temporarily living in Cairo, Egypt.

Those Big Small Things in between Facebook Status Updates

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Life is speeding so fast that it can overtake us very easily, leaving us clinging onto whatever we can to survive. And when we are in survival mode, we tend to focus on just that – survival. Sometimes we need to get off the runaway train, stay on the ground and just enjoy the moments of experiences added together that is called ‘life’. So many of us live for our “one day” – that day or days near or farther in the future when all our dreams will be realised into the utopian existences we spend all our free time imagining.

But sometimes we need real life to give us a slap through the face or shower us with the proverbial bucket of ice water to slow us down from our busyness or even to bring us to a halt in order for us to stop and be alive within the actual moment we find ourselves in.

It can happen through the shock of sudden death, the scare of illness, being faced with dangerous situations or just recuperating from something less serious – but as disruptive.

Shock or trauma or failure can sometimes be good for us. It can help us clean our systems, re-organise our priorities and re-evaluate the impossible goals we set for ourselves into obtainable ones and making us pause for a while. Very few things in life can be so good to us than coming to a complete standstill. And I really mean to stop doing what you’re doing and to live in the moment, with no looking forward to the tomorrow that may never be born.e always dreamt of living abroad for a period of time. Due to circumstances that dream got lost for a while, but after some time it found its way back into becoming a possibility and our lives were frozen in their tracks. Everything we did or didn’t do, planned or didn’t plan and decided had to be weighed first against the probability of going away for a few years. It changes one’s whole focus, lookout and pretty much everything you do.

The realisation of a dream can be a horribly, scary affair and takes courage to pursue. (Read my previous blog on this at https://fieliesdekock.com/2015/11/10/the-process-of-realising-a-dream-can-be-a-nightmare/)

We only heard six months later that we were going to live abroad. In Egypt. I cried for a day and then my previous positive-self reappeared and I made a pro’s and con’s list and, surprise-surprise, the pro’s list convinced me – not that it was the longest! (How is it that when your prayers are being answered and you get what you ask for that you get confused?)  But the crying subsided and the excitement and frightfulness kicked in. We had a lot to do – easier stuff and more difficult stuff. All the easier stuff had to do with the ‘whats’ in our lives. The more difficult ones had to do with the ‘whos’. My mother lived with us for 17 years and she had to be relocated. And we had to find houses for our four dogs. It wasn’t easy.

Fast forward…

…to living in Cairo, Egypt, for two years.

It takes time to settle into a new environment. And it took me one year an nine months to get so used to the new place to fall into a little bit of a rut – in spite of (or maybe because of) busyness.

Precisely one year and nine months after arriving here, I fell into a not-so-slightly ‘down’. (Don’t worry – it was caused by stupid pains, and although they remained, the depression flew out of the window after a few doctor’s visits. ((And I realised that my ‘depressions’ are always health related.)) And it is a fact that everything seems worse if you are far away from ‘home.’)

Now that the background history is told, I will get to the point. Since that day, three years and three months ago when we first heard that we may be moving, I have learnt to live in the moment. Because of the uncertainty of our situation, we stopped buying unnecessary things, didn’t make decisions with long-term consequences and just started taking every day as it came.

Due to the fact that we came to live in a country where the security situation can be volatile, our circumstances can change at any time and our stay can end unplanned and abruptly. So, I decided to keep living here the way we lived back home for those uncertain fifteen months before we left – in the moment. And I already decided to keep doing that when we get back home one day. But, as I am writing this – even that isn’t a certainty, because that is a tomorrow that is still to come. I pray though that it will happen for us all.

But back again (!) to the reason for this writing. During all these experiences the last few years, I have learnt to enjoy the ‘little’ things in life. Don’t get me wrong. With our current, temporary lifestyle come lots of privileges, which we enjoy and appreciate enormously! I mean, without this experience, my dream to see at least something of Europe would probably always have stayed only in the dream phase. We have cruised the Nile and we are scheduled to go again soon. We have snorkelled in the Red Sea (and fell in love with it)! On a French mountain I have played in the snow for the first time in my life! I attended my first (second, third and shortly my fourth) ball! I have stood in a chamber in The Valley of the Kings outside Luxor containing the petite mummy of king Tut. Etcetera. Etcetera. Etcetera. These are memories I will cherish for as long as my mind allow me.

But as it is in life – privileges don’t come free or cheap. And in between these very wonderful experiences are those that don’t reach Facebook status. And they take up way more time than those very wonderful ones. They are the ones that can make or break us. The in-between times when the heat, dust, cultural differences, strange religion, terrible traffic, the thin, sick, hungry street dogs, the stray cats, the tummy bugs, the illiteracy (mine!), the overwhelming crowdedness, the ‘ununderstandable’ customs, the poverty, the dirtiness, the interestingness, the bland food, the overripe tomatoes and all the things you miss from home, make you wonder how on earth did you make it so far and how on earth will you make the rest of the time?

I remember back home when we had some challenges, we would go for a walk in the afternoons and with my hand in my husband’s and with our son and our dogs tagging along, I felt like the richest person alive! And this, I personally believe, is where the secret of happiness lies: to find blessings and joy and thankfulness in even the littlest things in mundane life.

I have listed just a few of these things that make me happy. Some of them are not so little at all.

  • Reading Bible and praying whenever I want to, because the Living God of the Bible is always everywhere.
  • Mild weather.
  • Walking to the shops.
  • Walking to the shops on my own legs.
  • Walking to the shops on my own legs in mild weather.
  • Having good Egyptian people in our lives.
  • Eating the last piece of biltong someone thoughtfully brought when visiting.
  • Sitting (in the still mild weather) in our garden, listening to the birds chirping without the competition of the air conditioner sounds (because the weather is still mild and the aircons are still off).
  • Aircons in summer!!!
  • Drinking rooibos tea with my husband and son on a Saturday morning outside in the garden (when the weather is mild) or in the TV room or swimming pool (in summer, when the weather is not so mild).
  • Sleeping through the night without fear of violent house-breaks.
  • Waking up in the morning. (What a privilege!)
  • Having an Afrikaans (my native language) speaking buurvrou (neighbour) in the building across ours!
  • Having even more friends from home nearby and being able to lunch with some of them every week!
  • Feeding at least two of the many hungry cats in this huge city.
  • Watching ‘our’ two cats doing all their cat-things in our garden on top of the parking garage.
  • Taking pictures. Lots and lots and lots of them.
  • Being thankful for every ‘big’ or ‘little’ thing that works out.
  • Being safe after there had been uncertainties.
  • Aircons droning out the muezzin calls.
  • Power coming back on after cuts. (These days they aren’t as frequent and as long as in during the first year. Something to be thankful for – especially in summer!)
  • Experiencing everything with my husband and son!
  • Kissing my husband good night.
  • Kissing my son good night. (That’s probably not something he would like people to read on the Internet ((but he likes it – I can tell)).)
  • Seeing my husband happy because he can watch South African rugby and cricket matches on the satellite TV channels.
  • Paging through the teabags at my Japanese friend’s dinner to find a rooibos tea bag!
  • Having lots of friends from around the world to hang out with, visit new places with and to learn from.
  • Being able to buy the medicine I need and don’t get from home.
  • Being healthy (I hope).
  • Coming home to a haven of safety and tranquility.
  • Having a good landlady.
  • …the list can go on…

These are just a few things and when writing them down, I realise that they are not so little. They are pretty big and important. They are the glue that holds life together. To be in awe when seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time or feeling small against the largest of the Giza pyramids is splendid, but one can survive life without it. Of course travelling enriches our lives and I am a big supporter thereof (even if it is just exploring outside of you immediate comfort zone) and I wouldn’t have wanted to miss out on these experiences! But it really is the ‘small’ things that we can’t live without, which makes the mundane extraordinary – which is the difference between letting life get away from you and living in the moment. It is the ‘small’ things in life which brings sustainable happiness.

 

© 2016  – I, Fielies (Riëtte) De Kock is trying hard to be an awesomest wife and greatest lover, finest mom and to write something all at the same time. I share my current living space in Cairo, Egypt with my husband, young-adult son, the building’s two cats and the space in my head with way too many ideas and multitudes of story characters to function as a normal human being.

Egypt Chronicles – Cruising the Nile

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The route – from Luxor to Aswan

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The Nile Adventurer

In April we went on a Nile Cruise. The cruise entails flying to Luxor from where the actual sailing starts. Before cruising though, all the well-known tourist attractions in and around Luxor is being visited. All these are temples, except for the Luxor Museum harbouring artefacts from temples. Not really my cup of tea. On the first day we had quite a full program.

Day 1

After we arrived in Luxor we started with a visit to the Luxor Museum, which paved the way for the rest of the sites, because it was filled with statues and artefacts from temples and archaeological finds. There were even two mummies in the museum. There were a few similar pieces which are also featured in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. One such a piece is the face of a pharaoh who had done away with all the Egyptian gods and declared that there was only one God – the Creator and the only One that should be worshipped. Other similar pieces are horse carts and statues of historical figures.

Our guide on this Nile Cruise tour was an Egyptologist who is very passionate about his job. He is also very patriotic, has strong political views that he is not afraid of voicing and according to him everything and all were invented in Egypt. I realised soon that we would be treated to quite a lot of information we would not always appreciate. 🙂

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As a Bible believer I had a tough time staying focused on what we were being told, because the stories about the pharaohs and the gods and the religions were a bit much and one always tend to weigh others’ truths against your own Truth. Anyway, this is an account then of our Nile cruise for any of you who are interested in coming to visit Egypt and wanting to go on a cruise. If you find personal travel pieces boring and just want to know if it worth the while, here is the short answer: Yes, come and visit Egypt and go on a Nile cruise.

We booked into our cabins on the boat after the museum visit and had time to settle in a bit. Our group occupied two ‘ships’. The bigger bulk stayed on the larger of the two boats, The Mövenpick Sun Boat, and we booked into the smaller one, called The Nile Adventurer. The latter is a quaint little boat with nice interior, a pleasant atmosphere and friendly and efficient staff. The food is excellent and way too much on a way-too-regular basis.

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Just before sunset on Monday, we left by bus to visit the first temple. There we saw the sun set over Luxor which was a beautiful spectacle. From there we went to see a sound and light show at the Karnak Temple, where we were met by the governor of Luxor. Here listened to an overly dramatic audio narration – which sounded as if was made in the 1930’s – of the history of the gods, starting with someone calling himself the ‘god of the first day’. My attention wondered a bit, but I practiced taking photos in the dark with my newish camera, while another ancient proud himself that he married four of his own daughters and bragged about the amount of children he had with them. Later we moved to a different location nearby in an amphitheatre-like pavilion and were treated to another half to three quarters of an hour’s sound and light narration.

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Day 2

On the second, hot morning of the cruise we visited the Valley of the Kings, the Habu Temple, where in 1997 seventy plus tourists were killed by terrorists, the Hatshepsut Temple and the Collossi of Memnon. All the hieroglyphs and tombs etc. were starting to look the same to me by this time. One must admire the tenacity with which the ancient Egyptians recorded their doings, especially because they did it in stone. Some of the artifacts here are really well preserved. And, now I can say that I have seen the actual mummified body of Tutankamen, the boy king. Mmm.

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After the very hot morning, we were welcomed back on the boat with nice warm cloths to clean our sweaty faces and fresh lemon and mint drinks to refresh us. We had a late lunch and we finally started sailing to Esna.

Cruising was my favourite part of the week. We sailed all along the Nile, passing farmed lands and very small villages. Time had stood still alongside the Nile. They are still attending to their crops the way they did a few thousand years ago. On the one hand, I thought, man, these people have so much to learn and they could benefit so much by new farming methods, machinery and expertise help. And on the other hand, I envied them for the absolute quietness, simplicity and peace in which they live.

Maybe this was how life should be. Living from the land, from the hand to the mouth, just sustaining yourself and those living with you. It is mind blowing to find that in a country which had become modernised up to a point, you can still find this way of living. And what blows my mind even further is that the land alongside the Nile still belongs to these people, living their modest lives. It is not yet monopolised by big food corporations or holiday consortiums. Weird. And wonderful. If we are here for the next three years, we will go on the cruise again and again, because this passing by of peaceful Nile existence, and not the glamourous temple visits, was what I enjoyed most.

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Day 3

We sailed to Edfu in the early morning and got off the boat to visit the Edfu Temple. This was probably the most fun visit of the cruise, because instead of getting into an air-conditioned bus, we got on horse carts and were driven through the busy town’s streets to the site. At least now we can say that we have been in a horse cart traffic jam too. I never thought I would be able to add that to my life’s CV. It was very hot here again, and we moved from shade to shade and had our first and only ice cream afterwards. We didn’t enjoy the harassment of the stall owners that much of course, but it’s compulsory of any Egyptian experience.

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We were back on the boat for lunch again and cruised to Kom Ombo, a lively town with colourful shops lining the docking space. Here we visited the Kom Ombo temple at night with its small museum housing quite a collection of stuffed crocodiles.

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After the visit to the temple it was galabeyya (Egyptian dress-like attire) party night on both boats. It was a lot of fun with a Bulgarian lady friend with camel riding trousers on dancing the night away and a South Korean friend perfecting the Gangham Style. We macarena-ed with our American friends and the boat staff joined in and showed us a few Nubian dance tricks. Michael looked like an oil baron and Deon and I looked cool in our ‘dresses’ too, I think.

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Day 4

Ah, Aswan. We cruised to Aswan and had a full day full of pleasant surprises in this surprise of a town. I know, I’m surprised myself that I use the word so many times. 🙂

We visited the Philae Temple, to where you have to go by bus first and then by boat. The temple is situated in a beautiful area filled with water and rocks and plants, unlike any other terrain we have seen so far in Egypt. It almost feels as being in another country. It was still hot, so we did some shade hopping again.

We went back to town by bus and then caught falloukas – these have engines – to the botanical garden on an island in the Nile. The garden was planted by Lord Kitchener, when he was in Egypt. At least he did some good in other areas of the world, because he wasn’t a popular man in South Africa back then. (If you don’t know why, go and do some research about the Anglo-Boer War between the British and South Africa.) Plants and trees from all over the world were imported to be planted there. The gardens are being looked after and is a peaceful haven in the desert. On the other side of the garden is a huge sand dune or a small mountain full of sand – a beautiful piece of earth.

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Our next stop was a Nubian village. The Nubians are an ethnic group who originated in modern-day Sudan. They are a little darker of skin than the rest of the Egyptians, are very friendly and like to paint their houses in colours – mostly shades of blue, which is absolutely beautiful. We visited a home where we met the family’s pet crocodile kept in their sink and drank some good mint tea. Real nice green mint tea, like the Moroccans make it.

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We rested a bit on the boat after which we had an appointment for high tea at the old Sofitel Cataract Hotel, where the likes of Winston Churchill, Agatha Christie, Jimmy Carter, Princess Diana, Tsar Nicholas II and Queen Noor hung out regularly. It is said that Ms Christie wrote part/s of her novel ‘Death on the Nile’ there. So, for me this was a real treat. The wind started blowing fiercely, which provided a nice breeze in the early evening and we had our ‘tea’ on the lawn in front of the hotel. The view is spectacular with the Nile ‘forking’ here underneath it and the one leg flowing pass the one side of the hotel. At a little table outside on the terrace I could swore that I saw Ernest Hemmingway’s son creating a best seller. (I even have a photo to ‘prove’ it!) The rooms are beautiful and old Englishy and just sooo romantic. I could almost see Agatha sitting in her room behind her desk, putting words into Hercule Poirot’s mouth on her old type writer. I took way to many photos of the hotel’s interior. I’m ashamed to say that I will treasure this visit more than the sight of the mummified body of Tutankamen. But, hey, I must be forgiven, because I’m a writer…

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Back at the boat we were welcomed by a band and dancers and being entertained on the dock for about half an hour before heading for dinner and a bottle of wine on the deck – the most Deon and I had ever paid for a pretty ordinary bottle in our entire lives…

Day 5

We were nearing the end of our cruise. We left the boat after breakfast and gone to the Aswan Dam by bus. We got out and ‘inspected’ the dam wall in the still strong blowing wind. From there we went to Abu Simbel – probably Egypt’s most written about temple. Most people drive there from Aswan, which can take up to four hours (just to get there and then you still have to drive back) and can be rather uncomfortable in the heat. Fortunately, we flew and what a sight it was, flying over Lake Nasser for the whole way! It is such a big body of water and it is beautiful to see the water veins flowing into each other from high above. When we landed the water still stretched to the horizon in the direction of the Sudanese border.

The visit to Abu Simbel was pleasant, because even though the sun was warm, there the breeze blew the heat away. After the visit we went back to the airport and flew home to Cairo where we were greeted by very uncharacteristic icy weather in the middle of April!

It was a most enjoyable trip, which for us comes up annually while we are staying here. I can’t wait to go again. Hopefully, we will be spared and the security situation will stay good and we can repeat it next year.

Travel Tip: Abercrombie & Kent is a wonderfully, professional and competent international travel company to use with when planning a Nile cruise.

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© 2015 – I, Fielies (Riëtte) De Kock tries hard to be a Proverbs 31-woman – excellentest wife, finest mom, greatest lover and successful ‘wordpreneur’ all at the same time. I temporarily share my living space in Cairo, Egypt with my husband, young-adult son, the building’s ginger cat, a stuffed toy dog, named Ike – and the space in my head with way too many ideas and multitudes of story characters, to functioning normally.

Living in Egypt – Almost Eight Months Down the Line

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Since my first blog entry about our new life in Egypt a lot had happened. Our small family was transformed from overwhelmed hotel dwellers, into residents living in a house and becoming streetwise very quickly.

Our house is a ground floor ‘apartment’ as it is called here and not a ‘flat’ as we South Africans would call it. That earlier blog entry was written by a person new and still very confused by her surroundings. Since then I learned to find my way around our neighbourhood and can even navigate the way home when entering the beginning of our suburb. And I am starting to recognise roads previously taken. That is what is called forward motion in such a large city as this one.

It was a crazy, busy time these last almost seven months. We had stayed in hotels, did house hunting, moved into a house, furnishing the house, living in it and learned to breathe in it. (Which is not as easy as you think in a climate that requires 24/7 air conditioning.)

Work-wise things had gotten direction too. My husband is settling in nicely and I am playing my supportive wifey role pretty well, I think, attending dinners and receptions and other events and making a lot of small talk – because in the ‘business’ we’re in, that’s called ‘work’. And sometimes it is real hard work. Most of the functions we attend are in other parts of the city, a mere ten kilometres or so away, but going there three, four or five times a week, means travelling in peak traffic, which takes an hour and a quarter to an hour and a half. Fortunately, driving back only takes half an hour or so – normally. Sometimes we do this twice a day.

We have travelled a bit for official purposes, as well as for leisure and have seen quite a bit already of this vast and intriguing country. We’ve made our way to Alexandria and were happy that the sea there was more like ‘ours’ – with actual waves and sounds. We’ve made a stop at El Alamein and found the grave of my great uncle who died there on 23 November 1941 in WWII in one of the battles. We went to the Red Sea at Ein Sochna twice and we have flown over the breathtakingly, beautiful Sinai desert to Sharm Al Sheikh, from where we drove the 50km to Dahab – a diving and snorkelling paradise, where we lazied away five wonderful days in the very, very, very hot sun.

A few weeks ago we visited El Alamein again for the commemoration ceremonies. It was a touching experience, sitting there in the blistering autumn desert sun, thinking of the many people who lost their lives in those wars and wondering what life would have been like if they didn’t sacrifice their lives for us. I also couldn’t help to wonder what the future holds for us with the threat of fanatic terrorists taking lives as if life was theirs to take, not so far from us in the Sinai, Iraq and Syria. The previous night twenty plus Egyptian soldiers were brutally murdered in the Sinai, making the day of remembrance much more of a reality than just remembering history. With the young soldiers standing guard around us in a church service, I couldn’t help wondering what still awaits us in the near future.

Since being here, we have met with friends from South Africa visiting Egypt for various reasons. Some were old friends of ours, some were friends of friends and others were new friends, like Foeta Krige and Barend La Grange, who were finishing a trip from the Southern-most tip of Africa in L’Agulhas to the northern-most tip in Ras ben Sakka, Tunisia.

My brother-in-law, John, was our first stay-over guest. Our spare room was ready just in time for his visit. He stayed three weeks, but it rather felt like three days. Our son was in the last three weeks of his school career and we couldn’t entertain him as a guest should be entertained, but fortunately he is a seasoned traveller and no stanger to Egypt , so he entertained himself. He went about his own business and even went to the desert for a few nights. At least we took him for his first-ever quad bike experience to Sakkarah – something he took to enthusiastically and enjoyed immensely.

Michael’s friend, Wilhelm, is currently visiting and the two of them are enjoying their first few months of adulthood together. Both just finished school and turned 18 recently.

Life is treating us well and we feel very privileged and thankful to be able to have this experience. Things aren’t always easy and we miss ‘home’ and our family and friends and our pets. (We are warming up to the building cat however – or is he warming up to us?) And we miss the tastes and sounds and sights and everything that is familiar. But it is a fantastic experience to live abroad for a while and to experience so many different people from so many different nationalities that we socialise with on a regular basis. One learns so much from other people and from visiting other places. And you learn also to appreciate what is dear and sacred to you. One has to learn to live your faith, rather than just practice to believe. It is good for the soul. Very good.

Travelling, in my opinion, must be something that every person aspires to – even if you can do it only once in your life, you should. One should save as much as you can and travel as far as you can on what you have. Go experience the world and its peoples. Learn about new places and taste new tastes. And broaden your horizons. And if your savings aren’t enough yet, get onto your feet, onto your bike, or into your car, or on a bus or train and just go to a place in or out of your town or your city and experience something new. Go see how people who are different from you live life. It will change your opinions, views and just maybe, your life also.

I have a young friend who was a member of my writing club, who is exploring the world right now. She is only 19. She is beautiful, a talented writer and this is what she said about travelling on her Facebook page the other day:

With travelling there are many things that go along with it. Once you have been somewhere so different you undergo a form of transformation, a loss of innocence. You realise how messed up and beautiful the world is at the same time. The more you see, the more you realise how little everyone knows. It makes you want to live for others and not for yourself. You realise how little it means to have a lot of money or a nice face. To realise this at an early age of your life will change the way you think forever.

You get it, Leila!

© 2014

I, Fielies (Riëtte) De Kock tries hard to be a Proverbs 31-woman – excellentest wife, finest mom, greatest lover and successful ‘wordpreneur’ all at the same time. I temporarily share my living space in Cairo, Egypt with my husband, almost-university-student son, the building’s ginger cat – and the space in my head with way too many ideas and multitudes of story characters to live as a normal functioning human being.

The Egypt Chronicles – New Residents in a Foreign Country

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l (and my husband) never had the desire to emigrate from South Africa, but we always had the dream of living and working abroad for a while. Hopefully our only son will one day earn his living mainly in our country too. Through the years so many things in our lives and our country changed and we started to think that the possibility of working and living in another country was lost. But ‘out of the blue’ the opportunity came our way and we took it.

We love travelling and thought that if we lived somewhere ‘in the middle of the world’, travelling would be much easier. (Read less expensive.) We South Africans are mos eager travellers, but it costs an arm and a leg for us to travel.

To live in South Africa have more advantages that most South Africans realise. Ask any South African living abroad or who had lived abroad or who travel abroad regularly. At this point, please let me just state that I do not criticise people who emigrate. l can really, really, really understand it when people leave the country after they had been hijacked for the third time…

l am also of the opinion that migration is a very natural thing and that circumstances ‘moved’ people to emigrate throughout the centuries – in this instance the crime rate in our beloved country became most people’s moving factor. It was this ‘natural’ migrating phenomenon after all which brought our forefathers to South Africa in the first place. l believe the point is now made. So, let’s get on with us living in Cairo now.

It goes without saying that it is much different to holiday in a country than to live in it. We came to Egypt with the intent of staying and not holidaying. I think we got that one right so far. But, in spite of travelling via Cairo elsewhere six times before, and knowing what it looks like, I was still overwhelmed on our first night here. In my head I did the Maths: 4 x 365 days to go. l didn’t feel up to it. But, the next morning I woke and the fatigue from the flight was gone and so were the woes.

Let me put it in perspective for you. l grew up in a small town with a population of only in the thousands  – the then black township people included – of whom you rarely saw a few dozen at a time and where, according to statistics only 33.5 people live per square km.

For the past 26 years we had been living in Pretoria, a city with 1.7 million people. The whole metropolis houses plus minus 2.4 million (675.1 people per square km). South Africa has between 48 to 52 million people (according to different websites, none of which claims to be correct). Our new city, Cairo, ‘they say’ has 20 million people! In one city! That’s almost half the population of South Africa! In one city! Will you forgive me if I felt just a tad overwhelmed?

But like in most situations where one feels overwhelmed, it always helps to get your facts straight. According to the CAPMAS, the country’s official statistics body, Egypt has 86 000 000 people – excluding the 8 000 000 living abroad. (Yes, Hany, you were counted too.) It states that Cairo has only 9,12 million souls. ONLY. I feel much better now.  🙂 Although,thinking of sharing a square kilometer with 47 257 other people in the Cairo governate IS daunting. On the other hand – stats here are only manipulated numbers. There may well be living 20 million people in Cairo. The indications are there. Enough of the stats. I’m more of a words than a numbers person.

As it normally goes in life, one can adapt quite quickly. While Cairo seemed like a dull, chaotic, dusty, dirty place on that first day, l wake up every morning since then to be surprised by something new. lt is as if someone comes every night with a box of crayons – not paint yet, but crayons work for me so far – to colour a new piece of the city just for me. And when I come out on the hotel balcony every morning to see what the day looks like, I find that the water in the Nile in front of me suddenly has changed colour. And so does the agricultural patches across the river and the  trees on the the other side of the river bank. And even the desert and the pyramids on the horizon. And the cars and shops in the busy streets. And some of the scarfs on the woman’s heads.

When you keep calm and draw a breath and get enough sleep, the world around you seems to become a better place. Because then you have the awareness to be wooed by the views and the sounds and the sights and the people around you. OK, I admit that the sounds are still something to get used to, but the friendliness of the people overrides the bombardment of the forever-present hooting sounds and the forever-present howling sounds from the mosques or the forever-present sounds from the traffic in the streets.

Every South African living here, tells us that they enjoy it here and those that are leaving or had left already, told us that they are/were sad about leaving. l don’t want to think about leaving. We just left South Africa. I don’t have the capacity for more goodbye’s in the near future.

We’ve been ‘living’ in Egypt for two and a half weeks now. So far, so good. Hopefully we will move into a house soon and then the real ‘living’ can start.

I don’t want to bore you, so I will stop here for now. Thanks for being on this  journey with us – wherever you are when you read this.

2014 Riette De Kock