Amreekia Min Bab Al Sharayah

That was the name of my old blog. Translated, it means an American woman from the old, poor and rundown district of Bab Al Sharayah in Cairo. I was given this nickname because although I was born in the USA, my mentality is more ghetto Egyptian. I'm a curious mixture of east meets west, and dont care if you call me balady!

I'm going to slowly bring some of the old posts from Amreekia over here (see archives), basically to give new readers some background. I hope you'll enjoy the old and the new and join me on this fascinating expat journey!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

What's it like to make an international move???

First, have on hand plenty of boxes, preferably the ones your tranquilizers were shipped in, because your going to need loads of them too. In fact I don't recommend any kind of move unless you are on mind-altering drugs. It lessens the pain a lot--trust me. I'm a veteran. I have moved over 20 times in my life, and this is the third international move as I said before. It doesn't get any easier with experience, nor with age. In fact the older you are the worse it gets. You just don't have that get up and go anymore. It's gone, probably left behind at the last house you lived in. Anyway...

Moving is high-anxiety drama. Especially for a pack rat like me. I save everything. Heh, you never know when you might need those half million twist ties that are used to close bread bags, or all those spaghetti sauce jars--they come in handy for storing more crap. I definitely inherited this trait from my grandfather who used to save burnt-out light bulbs! Yes, folks it is true. I think he thought some day someone would find a way to recharge them or something. When I had to move my Mom from her ancestral home, I threw away tons of burnt out light bulbs, not to mention those empty cardboard toilet paper and paper towels rolls. I think Granddad was considering crafting in his old age. He never did make anything with those though.

That move was such a terror, you'd think I would have learned something. But in 3 years in my rental home I have still managed to stuff this place with crap. Especially the kitchen, pantry and basement. I have this idea that this crap might be worth something to somebody and I could make a killing with a garage sale. Yeah right! Tried that once too. I nearly ended up paying the buyers to take my junk! Oh God.

I haven't yet gotten into the meat and bones of the work yet, because there are a few prerequisites before I tackle the household wares. First I had my house cleaned. I have a wonderful cleaning lady, which if I could afford, would be here daily, trust me. As it is, it was a few months since I brought her. There was so much going on in my life, I was very busy with outside activities, and my cleaning consisted of a lick and a promise. So I brought Martha to give this place a good going over. Now I can work in cleanliness, if not peace. Second step is to have the rugs cleaned, which will be done on Thursday. I have pets. Need I say more? Accidents happen. So the rugs need to be cleaned and then I can start filling the floors with boxes.

Here's the general rule: You need three boxes and a HUGE garbage bag in each room. Into the boxes go: what you want to keep, what you want to sell, and what you want to give away. Into the garbage bag is everything else. Sounds simple right. Not! Because sometimes it's hard to decide what to sell or give away--let alone make the decision to actually part with something. A general rule of thumb...make sure your sell and give-away piles are higher than your keep pile. Otherwise you really aren't going anywhere.

I did make plans though--for the first time--an estate seller to come in here and sell all my stuff once it's all arranged. They take about 1/3 commission on your sales, but they also set everything up and do most of the work, the worst of which is haggle with customers. The stress of not having a "garage sale" type of situation is worth paying the commission, believe me. Cuz I've been there and done that and I think I came out the loser.

So in these days before I get to the heart of the packing and selling, I am busy arranging for passports, tickets, international health certificates for my pets ( yes my babies are going with me), and a million other things and all that in itself is a full time job. Am I stressed? You bet! It's hard to drag myself out of bed most mornings. And sometimes I just sit and veg in front of the TV. But what keeps me going? At the end of it all, lies this...Egypt. The closest place to heaven I have found on this earth!

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Welcome to my world

Join me as I venture into my third--yes third--"permanent" move to Egypt. Between vacations and actually living there I've bounced around more times than I care to count. But this move will be the last. Planned for October 2007. For those of you who have never moved, let alone internationally, you might not appreciate my trials and tribulations. For those who have, you'll breathe a deep sigh of relief as you read this and say "Thank God it's not ME this time!" In any case, I hope you enjoy yourself here. Welcome to my world!

The title of my blog, Amreekia min Bab Al Sharayah, needs some explaining. It means American (female) from the Bab Al Sharayah area of Cairo. This area is supposedly a lower class area filled with common folk who might best be termed the "working poor". You most likely wouldn't find any 5 star restaurants there, just fava bean and falafal shops and dreary old "ahwas"--coffeehouses for men only! I've never been to the Bab, but because I watch so many Egyptian movies on the Arabic Dish, I've managed to pick up a lot of slang. Low class slang, apparently--haha!

So one Egyptian officially dubbed me, after hearing me speak Arabic, an American from Bab Al Sharayah. I cherish the title. I like being "balady"--and I don't even know how to explain that one! I guess it means countrified in a way. I don't want to belong to the hoity-toity, so-called Egyptian "high" class. I prefer to be one of the common folk. Because high class in Egypt doesn't mean the same thing that it means in the USA.

High class there means you have MONEY--even if you have no manners! You can be a rich drug dealer or cop on the take and spend a 1000LE on a meal, wipe your mouth on your sleeve and belch loudly when you've finished and be considered high class. On the flip side, you can be a hard working, family oriented man or woman whose word is gold and is always ready to share their last piece of pita with a neighbor and be considered "low" class. That's for the birds! It's a mixed up society. But I love the commoners, and am proud to be considered one of them.

Call me what you want. Just don't call me late for falafal!