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Saturday, 29 November 2008

One year ago today I moved here....

I left London exactly a year ago today to relocate to Cairo. Someone asked me if it was the right decision and if I have any regrets.

Answers on a postcard:

Absolutely the right decision.

I have no regrets whatsoever.

What has it been like

My quality of life and health have improved immeasurably. 18 months ago, before quitting my job, I had a pulse rate typically 90+, with skipping heart beats, blood pressure of around 168/120, was permanently tired and suffering some rather scarey symptoms. Within a couple of months of moving here (no medication, no exercise or diet programmes), pulse rate is now typically 75, blood pressure 125/80, and very rare skipping heart beats. I'm 10kg lighter with barely any effort. That says it all as far as I'm concerned.

In terms of how the last year has gone - my first few weeks were a frantic round of sorting out electricity meters, phones etc, I then fell into a lethargic phase - adjusting to the fact that (a) I no longer had a full time job and (b) that all the focus of moving here which occupied the last few months in the UK was gone so I had to figure how I was going to spend my time 'productively'. I found getting to nightfall and feeling I had achieved nothing all day stressful. OK for a week's holiday but not ok when that's the life you could lead if you wanted to - and I've certainly no interest in a 'coffee morning' sub-colonial lifestyle.

I had started retraining for a new career just a few weeks before leaving the UK so I needed to make progress on that which I have (qualifying in October - some of you know what but I don't wish to discuss it here).

I have enjoyed discovering more about Egyptian life, meeting new people, my family relationships are SO much better - we have so much more contact and on a deeper level than when I was living a life of get up - commute for 2 hours - work 9 hours - commute for 2 hours - work for 3 hours - bed unrelentingly day in and day out.

I enjoyed my last trip to the UK because that was now 'the holiday' so I was able to relax. To afford to live there as a single person would be impossible - I would have to go back to the same kind of high salary, deeply stressful, demanding life that I left behind.

Egypt has its problems, which of course are discussed by many on different forums around the web, but it has so many pluses as well which is what I try to focus on with my posts. Most of my experiences with Egyptians are wholly positive (and I'm talking about casual experiences not individual friendships) - so kind and helpful.

I guess maybe I'm lucky in experiencing almost no sexual harassment at all compared to the reports some people make - I have had 3 mild incidents in the last 12 months - the policeman with 'bosa bosa habiby' after my quicksand incident (which I don't think I posted here on the blog - I'll dig it out), one pinched bum walking down the road in Zamalek and one groped ass from behind on one microbus ride (both these two incidents on the same day I might say - was it my perfume LOL!). Certainly I experienced far more sexual harassment than this in the UK. I'm sorry if people don't like to hear me say this, but that's my personal experience. I have never felt in danger here the way I did on occasion in the UK. I have never worried that I will get knifed on the way back from the metro station by someone high as a kite on crack wanting my possessions for fund his or her habit. I'm not belittling others experience just saying how it is for me.

The kind of things that drive me nuts - tradesmen not turning up when they said they would - is exactly the same as in the UK. How many times did I wait in from 7am to 6pm for those deliveries that never came either taking annual leave or working from home?

I'm annoyed with myself for not making better progress in speaking Arabic, but it seems to have started to 'cascade' lately - I'm quite often able to understand conversations aimed at me without being able to identify individual words. My use of 'mish fahma' is decreasing.

Its been great working as an English teacher of adults a few hours a week. A pain in the ass sometimes, but on the whole learning a lot about the thoughts of, I guess, the 'middle classes' - aspirational young professionals, older people wanting to advance their careers. It was fabulous having the opportunity in August to run 6 management training seminars (all unpaid!) and learning the difference in approaches, learning that perhaps what expats in companies tell you - that Egyptians don't want to work in workshops - is more like they don't know how because they have little experience from their educational system of being considered to have valid opinions and that the 'teacher' doesn't know everything.

If there is one thing I would seek to change in Egypt and which I think would impact everything else, it is the educational system which does not serve the general population well. I think I've said elsewhere that the fact that so many Egyptians DO manage to survive this system and achieve a reasonable level of education is a credit to them!

And of course, I just LOVE the buses - microbuses, minibuses, mythical 'air conditioned' buses - all wonderful

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