When I arrived last June, and as my first post reflects, I was apprehensive of what remained of the Egypt I remembered. Had I romanticized it to make the transition easy, or was that the real Egypt? Truth be told, the first two weeks back were tough. A heaviness set upon me that made even the slightest task seem difficult in this not so new place. I did not feel that rush that I had expected upon reaching my supposed homeland. Though I tried to conceal my anxiety, it didn't take long for my family to see that I was feeling a little overwhelmed. Fortunately, my father was not having it. He could see that I was homesick for California. "This is not a revolving door," he warned me. I remember laughing it off at the time, but those words forced me to jump back in. Regardless of how I was feeling that moment, I was going to make it work.
While it's only been a year, I can now say that my reasons for coming back to Egypt may have had less to do with the country itself than I had originally thought. There is no doubt that this country and its people have been through (and are still undergoing) radical transformation and change. It's certainly an inspiration and an honor to be part of it. But that's only part of the story.
Last week, I had the pleasure of spending some time with my good friend Amira, who was visiting from California. Like others before her, she was curious to hear my answer to that all-important question: Was I happy here? Truly?
|...in case you forgot what these states are supposed to look like|
So, what did I say this time? Well, Amira was none of the people described above. She was simply a sensible, level-headed person curious to hear my answer. I felt no need to justify or glorify my decision, nor did I need to offer her a sobering account of the fragile state of this country. My reply was that the question itself seemed irrelevant to me. People, particularly those who are unsettled by the thought of living in a so-called third world country, seem so preoccupied with place. I don't quite see the relationship between location and happiness. I told my friend that of course I realize that California is beautiful, and that life is "easy" there. But when the demands of daily life kick in, you hardly remember where you are. You seek happiness from the people around you, not from the traffic-free roads or those "How-in-the-world-did-I-spend-so-much? I-only-came-in-for-batteries" trips to Target.
Whoever said to choose your company before your destination was right. It doesn't matter how many malls are within a five-mile radius of your house, how many different kinds of cereal you have to choose from, or how big your backyard is. If you're not with the people you love, it won't be worth it. On the other end, there are people in the world living in unfathomable conditions who are content simply because they are surrounded by the people that matter. Life may be difficult, at times impossible, but being with the right people helps us forget, even if just for a moment.
Of course, if you're lucky, you won't have to give up much from either side. Life is good, and, though each day comes with a bigger dose of unpredictability than it once did, I am now with the people that mean most to me. Yes, Laila, I'm talking to you. Actually, mostly your kids, but I guess that includes you by association.