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.
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?
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.