I am Legend?

For your reading pleasure, here is the latest in a series of recent misanthropic posts where I have documented why someone my age should never rent a flat in Abu Tig.

Since that is now an established fact, my goal during the coming hellish week is to find out if it is possible to rent out a villa in a quieter section of town at a reasonable price, and get my fucking money back from the rental agent for this benighted place.

 

If this is not possible, then I shall move to Alexandria, live in a charmingly dilapidated flat by the Old Port, and write exquisitely rendered memoirs over plates of feseekh, during the upcoming cold, winter rain months.

 

But there are quieter places than Abu Tig in El Gouna. However, one problem of living in places like West Golf or South Golf in El Gouna is their remoteness.

 

Without a car, you will be isolated, and hard-pressed to buy essential goods for your home or participate in life in Gouna, unless you have everything delivered and are prepared to find some mode of transport that you will get you around cheaply and conveniently.

 

Plus which, you could get hassled by marauding Bedouins, who sometimes wander about the area looking for free golden piasters.

 

There could be a sense of ambient loneliness, being stuck out there in the middle of nowhere, with seaweed-filled ditches that pass for Venetian canals.

 

That said, here is my latest and final “miserabilist” report documenting what it is actually like to rent a flat in Abu Tig marina.

 

Think of this as being written down in blood by some Nilotic Samel Becket character.

 

*  *  *

 

The nightclub which I will call Club Doodoo sits directly across the street from my rental, kept it going till 2:30AM last night. So much, then, for the claim by the real estate agent who rented me this shithole that they only play music on Thursdays. I wonder how the owner of Club Doodoo would like it if I piped in heavy metal groovevibes in his bedroom all weekend, or if the patrons who come here would like it if this place was right next to where they live. But they’re here on vacation, so I assume the mindset is toz (which means who the fuck cares, in Egyptian slang) if the club bothers anyone who lives nearby. All least I had an ungenerous portion of Spaghetti Bolognese for dinner for the absurd sum of 120LE at 7 Stars before returning home. I watched the piddling fireworks display that marked the end of the Gouna Film Festival as I walked around the Marina, and I thought to myself this festival is unlikely to survive or ever be taken seriously outside of Egypt unless they make DRASTIC changes. I then caught a couple of hours shuteye before the nightmare started up. After Doodoo, the nightclub from Hell, finally called it a night past 2AM, there was a brief lull, and then it was time for the cars. First there was this strange guy who seems to live in the building who parked right in front and sat in his sedan with the engine running for an hour. I looked out the window and saw he was texting on his smart phone. 3:30AM and this guy texting for an hour in a car with the engine running. After that, the motor vehicle crap started up for real. It was now 4am. Time to bring in all the latest guests to the hotel that’s a two-minute walk away from here, since some airlines seem to favor landing in Hurghada from Europe around bloody 3 o’clock in the morning. Cars and mini vans whooshed by for at least an hour and a half, and I am talking full pedal to the metal, and then it got quiet, at which point I drifted off to sleep. I slept through the noise from the garbage trucks but woke up at 8:30 from the sound of guys talking loudly in Arabic in the street as well as the sound of buses going to the Three Amigos hotel nearby. So, 5 hours sleep in total last night, first two hours or so, then awoken to Doodoo hell, and then three hours of fitful “rest.” The suitcases under my eyes are getting heavier. After another 8 hours of 35 degree daytime temps today — did I mention the security guy who sits on a cane chair on a sliver of shade all day directly outside the apartment building, talking loudly on his cell or to all his buddies who walk by — the sun will start dipping down over the mountains, but not before hundreds of tuc-tucs and vans and cars and delivery trucks will have whizzed by outside; and then it’ll all start over again, like a nightime scene from I am Legend, which happens to be one of the oldtime movies playing on the Saudi TV channel I get in the apartment. This is what it’s like to live at the Marina. Instead of the beautiful getaway I envisioned, it’s like being quarantined is some open air holding pen, where everyone’s infected with Tourism Disease, and you’re only a legend in your own mind. Oh how my thoughts are turning toward living in some rustic shack on Deep River in CT. You know, beautiful trees, flowing water, rich mulch, seasons, clouds, rain, snow, and, yes, native English. Only 19th Century CT, it would have to be, Thoreau-era CT, not what the Nutmeg State as it was when I lived there for 5 years at the turn of the century, when I actually had money to indulge my pretensions.

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Where is Paradise?

The days are starting to slowly add up, but to what?

The challenge of living alone in a remote tourist resort on the edge of Egypt’s Eastern desert are not inconsiderable.

Yesterday afternoon, when I saw them unload the DJ mixer gear and huge loudspeakers again (they also did it last week, too) to be set up the nightclub across the street, I didn’t know how I could put up with another Thursday night from hell.

I asked around, and people who work in the various restaurants around the marina assured me that there all night clubs must stop blasting music at 2AM.

It’s the law, they said.

The skin-crawling “music” must have started around elevenish.  I was so exhausted from the aimlessness of life in Gouna that day I had drifted off to a morose sleep at 10pm.

At my age, I usually like to sleep normal hours:  go to bed early, wake up around 7, do something for 5  or 6 hours, take a nap, then go and do something else, then bed by 10.

Say what you will about living in Fla, but my house does have central AC, is near beaches where there is actual sand, allows me access to two pools that are heated in winter, is surrounded by a  lush golf course, and is also on truly beautiful eco-preserved land, and, most importantly, is quiet as a doormouse at night.

All this is a pipe dream if you live in Abou Tig.

Last time I’ve feel this wiped out from lack of normal sleep patterns was when I visited Cairo 4 years ago.

I slept in the bedroom of the flat that I grew up in Zamalek, and the dreaded Nile boats would start to gather around 1am in the north end of Zamalek, right outside my balcony and bedroom windows, and start blaring their horrible wedding music.

There was also the sound of construction every night that began around the same time. That was every night and after a while, I could not tolerate it any more, and took the bus up to Dahab for a break.

Ultimately I cut my stay short because I simply have trouble with the Egyptian tolerance for noise at all hours of day and night and a lack of consideration for the right of others to live in peace and quiet in their lives. Everything is always amped up, and it does get quite tedious to deal with after a while, all the shouting and high drama. Call it living in a sardine can.

Back in my Gouna apartment, the situation worsened.

I would say around 1:30am, I started hearing bass music that sounded like heavy military ordinance exploding outside.

The AC had also stopped working. I was able to fix that problem by getting the fan to work, but I was sweating profusely and wondered if I was running the risk of passing out from heat stress. I peeked out the window and saw all these cars parked outside the apartment, motorcycles too, and shadowy figures flitting about on the pier street lamps.

I felt deeply deeply resentful.

When will I ever find a place where I can finally be happy? Where I can find peace?

So I was forced to stay up and watch this horrible stream of really bad American movies from 30 years ago or more on what i think was a Saudi channel, movies like Rain Man, and I could barely make out the dialog due to the concussive music.

I tried from time to time to change to CNN or the BBC to hear English spoken and catch up on the news, but these news outlets are extremely repetitive, and it quickly became boring to hear the same stories broadcast in endless loops without much depth of analysis, unless you consider the likes of Anderson Cooper to be serous political thinkers.

So I thought to myself…. Is this what I have come for? Why I am here, in the apartment from hell, exactly?  What purpose will it serve to be in Egypt, essentially completely alone, for months on end?

I have not already forgotten how tired I was when I left America. How fat I was from eating all this overly rich food, and how unpleasant I found it to be living in the midst of people (I am speaking of the Treasure Coast, a notoriously racist, Bible-thumping, white Republican stronghold) whom I could not stand.

I had just taken my wife for a two-week holiday in Nice, and we had a great time, but for all the ubiquitous cigarette smoking that goes on there.

When she and I parted at Nice airport, I felt sad, and this sadness was compounded when she wrote me an email this past Saturday reminding me it was our wedding anniversary.

As dawn approached, and I tried to get comfortable on the cheap mattress that I have placed on the floor in front of the TV set in the living room.

I was half aware of some stupid Arnie revenge movie unfolding on the edge of my exhausted consciousness, something about him taking down on some sort of Columbian terrorist group single-handedly, interrupted by the blare of Arabic commercials from time to time, and also bits and pieces of the wafting conversations in Arabic of the people out the street, still, at this ungodly hour.

I thought to myself… had there been anything positive in Gouna so far?  Well, yes.  I was losing weight, which is a good thing, and am gaining muscle tone in my legs from all the walking. My stomach no longer sticks out so much from ice cream, which embarrassed me to no end, particularly since I once was quite slim. My face is no longer quite as jowly… so there’s that too.

What else?

Despite the near unbearable heat, the noise, the lack of things to do that don’t involve trying levels of physical activity for someone my age who’s out of shape, the tediousness of hanging out alone for 2 or 3 hours every night at a different restaurant, the sheer hassle involved in doing something simple like trying to visit the local library and having to rely on spine-crushing tuc-tucs, and being exposed to the cigarette and diesel fumes in the street, not to mention the fine layer of sand and dust my lungs have to deal with every day because of the nearly constant wind, despite all this, what could I say that was not some whining rant?

Well…

Gouna is not Bangladesh.

And where else can you get such an affordable view of a beautiful marina where million dollar yachts and pleasure boats moor?

I came here on my volition, and knew what I was getting into, except for the infernal music every weekend (which start on Thursdays in Egypt) right in front of where I live.

The good news is, I figured out how to get the AC in the bedroom to work. It really does cool that room right away and does not shut itself off suddenly like the one the living room.

So, I lugged the mattress back into the bedroom, after adjusting the bed planks that injured my back.

I also figured out how keep it on fan mode all the time in the living room, and i opened the far left window (which has a screen); so now I can enjoy the breeze from the north as watch TV.

Things are looking up.

But just barely. My wife and dog are having health issues back home. I will come right back on the first plane if anything is seriously wrong with the love of my life.

Otherwise the real estate has contacted me and suggested alternatives. If everything is okay with my wife I may rent a villa in mid November.

Let’s see how it goes.

 

leaving america

 

The Bust

Gouna, earlier today.

Two o’clock in the afternoon and it feels like it’s 100 degrees. This is late September. I’ve been here almost 2 weeks now; it’s an oven. I thought the heat was temporary when I got here; I was wrong.

You can forget about doing anything during the day.  The sun stays high up in the sky for 12 hours and you will fry your brains out if you stay out of the shade for more than 20 minutes at a time.

So this means you are trapped indoors for 8-10 hours a day, and you better hope the AC works.

You go for lunch Downtown, then you have to deal with the fleas. Remember, nothing is air-conditioned.

If you sit outside and order anything that cannot be consumed in less than 2 minutes …. fleas fleas armies of them, hovering over your food, with their friends the persistent flies, crawling all over your food at every opportunity, so you are forced to eat fast. And don’t forget all the smokers who will be around at all times wherever you go,

If you want to sit a cafe around Abu Tig prior to 6PM, good luck with that. The blinding glare of the sun makes it impossible to read your computer screen, and most places do not switch on their WIFI till after 4PM, so this means you cannot sit anywhere and use the internet using a laptop.

Gouna is very small. What you do here — it’s watched, noticed, observed.  You have no privacy, in Abu Tig,

Gouna is okay for 3 – 4 months out of the year, if you have a car and a villa with a pool in west or south golf and no loud neighbors.

November till Feb is the time to be here, but do not expect white sands & the wind is constant and annoying, rendering simple things like sitting at a restaurant an exercise in battening down the hatches on the high seas.

The noise from the nightclub next door is starting up again tonight.  I did not come to listen to loud music till 3am every long weekend .  And I cannot tolerate all the cigarette smoking.

I honestly do not feel like writing any more film reviews or seeing any more movies,  and I absolutely cannot take this unending noise.

This trip, as I feared, is turning into a complete bust.  I should have rented Nov-Feb in West Golf, a villa. But then without a car you are completely isolated.

If the real estate cannot fix this nightmare, I maybe be out of here by next week.

leaving america