Living outside of One’s Comfort Zone

camelbazaargetaway

Just before having to get out of the way

My Weekly Musings #4

Last week, our American friends invited us to visit the camel bazaar outside Cairo (on the Giza/Sakkara road). We’ve been living here now for just short of three years and I have never been outside of my comfort zone so much in my life. It is literally a daily thing. It is good for me – especially for spiritual me. Not only does it teach me plenty about the world around me, the people of this country, their strange culture and their fanatic religion, but it also teaches me a lot about myself. Living in a culture where you do not understand the language and isn’t even able to read their alphabet or have the same traditions and customs or worship the same God, things can get quite uncomfortable.

It isn’t necessarily a bad thing being out of your comfort zone. It confronts one’s own beliefs, upbringing, culture, customs, world view and lifestyle when you are thrown into a world where nothing is familiar or make sense to you. Not only do you question the behaviour of the people around you, but you question your own. It is not a once off thing, but an ongoing everyday introspection. And not only do you learn to value what is ‘own’ to you, but you also learn to embrace and appreciate diversity. Very early on in our stay here, I have decided that I don’t understand much (not even a reasonable bit) of this culture, but that I am not even going to try to understand it. It makes life here a little bit easier and less complicated to observe rather than to label.

Back to the camel bazaar. I’m sure that this place wouldn’t even exist in a Western country. It’s a raw experience. Camels, by their hundreds, maybe even more, are brought together on a Friday morning to be sold I was told, mostly for meat. Men and (some very young) boys herd the animals – hopping along on three legs as one of the front legs is tied with rope to keep the animal from running away – towards the various ‘auction stations’ with long bamboo sticks. It isn’t a pretty picture to see. On the surface and in the viewpoint of a foreigner like me, it is a harsh place for a camel to be. And also for the people involved.

Upon arriving there, we were only four females in a sea of males – something that already pushes the discomfortometer into the red. The sticks hitting the camels’ bodies – be it on the humps, legs or head – is another difficulty to deal with. Furthermore, none of the camels looked like they had the potential for dinner I would want to see on my plate.

But I realised that it wasn’t my world. It wasn’t my place to judge. With that I don’t condone the behaviour of the people or the suffering of the animals. Sometimes in life things just are what they are – people making a living, surviving the only way they know how to the way they did for centuries – maybe even millennia. My disliking it, my discomfort and the fact that I might disapprove of their way of doing as a foreigner in their country, is not going to change that. I’m not going to alter a country’s culture, customs and actions which are way older than my own culture. What I should do is learn to appreciate it for what it is.

I realised that I would probably be out of my comfort zone many, many, many more times in the period we have left here in this interesting, phenomenal country. How I handle my discomfort is what is important. If I can’t change people’s behaviour or world view, I can at least work on my own. I can learn to value the diversity of this place and the other countries we are visiting, as well as that of my own country when we go back. Hopefully, when we are back in our own culture – which is just as diverse – I will be able to feel less uncomfortable in the mixture, while still staying true to my own upbringing and beliefs and being more tolerant towards people who are different from me.

In the end, when one sees the bigger picture from a forever-living-worldview, we are reminded that we who confess Him as our Saviour are one body in Messiah (Romans 12:5). One day we will be immersed into His culture and all the discomfort of worldly customs, poverty and illness will be something from the past.

PS: I spelled necessarily correct without using spell check or a dictionary.

© 2017 Fielies (Riëtte) De Kock

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

The Hole-in-the-wallet, Laborious, Frustrating Process of Acquiring a Travel Visa

My Weekly  Musings #3/2017

20170123_153820

We are planning a visit to friends in New Zealand next month and with that, we are trying to obtain travel visas – something that wasn’t necessary for South African citizens only two or three months ago. But thanks to people abusing the system or hypocritical red tape or whatever, the New Zealand government now finds it necessary for us to get that little hated stamp in our passports. (And now the South African government reciprocated by implementing visas for Kiwis to visit SA! It makes no economic sense.) We are currently residing in Egypt and to get a visa, one’s passport has to travel to Dubai for this privilege! As if that is not uncomfortable enough, the costs are enormous! Not only is there the fee for the sought after stamp or little paper glued into your passport, but there are handling fees for the passports to get there and more separate handling fees for them to get back. And apart from the cost, the effort is just silly. After all the documents they’ve required were attached, they requested some more documents after receiving the passports.

There are many reasons governments give for requiring visas. Some might be legitimate, but I sometimes wonder if the visa process doesn’t just keep the good guys out. Because when there is an attack somewhere in the world and everybody is surprised by a person on a terrorist watch list carrying out the attack, l really question the system. Obviously, he loopholed the visa requirements. How can they get into a country so seemingly easy and us good guys have to carry out time consuming efforts and pay the financial penalties? As if travel tickets aren’t expensive enough.

We’ve received our passports back yesterday. There are no visa stamps or stickers in. Instead, they informed us that the visas are electronically issued against our passport numbers. We will get an email to confirm that.  An email! All that effort for an email! Where is my visa stamp?! I hope it works, because when we arrive in New Zealand after two flights of four and sixteen hours respectively, and they don’t allow us into their little country, I will leave a piece of my mind there!

Thankfully, after our patience being tested going through the process, I’m reminded of a place where we won’t need visas to go to one day. All we need is to confess the Truth. It is that simple. Or that Complicated. The choice is ours.

“To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God.” (From the Bible – Luke 8 verse 10)

© 2017 Fielies (Riëtte) De Kock

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