Today I woke and found this in front of the gate to my villa in Gouna, Egypt.
It was a rather loud American machine, but I reckon they have to constantly pack the red clay sand that makes up many of the roads in this resort, as only the main roads are paved, and even then, sketchily.
Yesterday’s post in this travel diary listed 15 things that you should keep in mind if you are an American my age who is thinking of leaving America and doing the expat thing on the cheap by renting a villa for the winter in Africa.
It probably came across as a bit of a Gouna takedown, although I would argue it is a realistic take borne out of long experience; but I also said I would list the positives about living here.
So here goes.
There are lotsa things I miss about living in my house in Florida.
My wife is there, and I miss her a lot. I also miss the rest of my family in America; they do not live in Florida, but are (obviously) much closer there than here.
What I miss about Florida is the proximity to so much reasonably pristine subtropical natural beauty, not just along the Atlantic coast, but also inland, in places such as the Loxahatchtee River.
This may seem trivial, but I also like being able to buy things like Listerine (the version with alcohol), which I view as crucial to gum and throat hygiene, and is a product you cannot find in Egypt for probably religious reasons.
And if truth be told, I do miss getting those magnificent Eggplant Parm and Meatball Parm subs at Salerno Pizza. Yes, all that heart-attack-city caloric munificence, but also the great not-oversalted-tomato-sauce pizzas from Brooklyn Joe’s (with at least 3 toppings) did cause me gain a lot of weight, but hey, you only go round once,
Well, it’s complicated.
I grew up in Egypt, but that was a long time ago, and the country has dramatically changed since then, so it’s not like I’ve gone back to the “old country” to relive the good old days, which now are more like the residual stench of a bellyfish that expired sometime around the time of a long dead dictator.
Rather, it is the simplistic idea that you are always more comfortable inside in your country of origin, despite the prisons and collective hangings, particularly if you have not done as well as you thought you would have in your adopted one.
So you come here (or anywhere for that matter where you might have grown up), and you feel comfortable in a way that is hard to describe: mirtah fi baladuh in the Arabic phrase that comes to mind, which means relaxed in your own country., but which really means to be in tune with some concocted, yet deliciously contrapuntal illusion that of course never existed in the reality of when you lived there.
But the truth is, Egypt (or whatever your country of origin may be) is my country in name only: for I have spent a lifetime in the US, and you do not dismiss half a century of living someplace, just like that, as if you were throwing salt over your shoulder, before plunging the dagger.
I’m going to enjoy the time I have left here, despite all the challenges I’ve outlined in previous posts, and work on the three essential but fairly innocuous positives that I have been able to establish here in Gouna:
- Being able to get fit and finally lose a lot of weight, but gradually, so I don’t have have to sweat about disgusting sagging rolls of skin;
- Being able to detox from the US mentally over a period of six months, far away from the vile right-wing noise machine;
- Being able to enjoy slowly reading, in the shade under a desert’s cloudless, cobalt blue sky, various fictional as well as non fiction books (including the Jeffreys’ one, pictured above, which I intend to reread several times, and gaze meaningfully at the nearby mauve Eastern Desert mountains, after each culturally high register paragraph), many of which have something to do with Egypt or the immigrant experience or the post-9/11 literary response in general, without having to “deal” (if that is not too uncharitable a term) with the many distractions that are part and parcel of living in conjugal tight quarters in FLA.
In the end, I shall always be in limbo between different cultures, enjoying the best that each have to offer, but I no longer feel compelled to have to choose between them, whatever that really means, and however ambiguous it may sound.