Live and let live

gouna egypot
View on my back porch this icy cold morning

I’ve been in Gouna for 4 1/2 months, or 137 days.  My rental lease in the villa I’m in expires in 6 weeks, which is when the owner is returning for the Easter holidays. My 6 month Egyptian visa expires on April 17th.  So… what to do?  Should I stay, or should I go?

I went to bed last night at my usual hour, around 10ish, sleeping on the comfortably hard (good for my neck and back) sofa in the living room.  I made the mistake of keeping the TV on CNN, and was awoken in the middle of the night by what I thought was a nightmare. It was only the grating voice of the orange shill bragging about his grotesque, self-clapping rendition of the State of DisUnion that his probably illegitimate presidency (see, Mueller) is sowing.

That sealed the deal.  I’m now going to do my best to stay on at a new let till mid-April.

Now Egypt is by no means perfect, and El Gouna is full of warts (as I have detailed in previous posts), but going back to Florida is something I should probably delay as much as is feasible, before the weather here turns hot.

So I’ve arranged to go see a rental property at noon today (UPDATE: the rental agent called at 11:45 AM; the scope-out’s been delayed to maybe tomorrow. Yes, it’s Egypt). This new place is allegedly near the Sheraton, thus far closer to the sea, but I don’t know what that means in terms of traffic and noise and privacy.

Meanwhile, things continue to go well here.

I am a little concerned that I am losing weight too fast, as my skin is starting to feel like an empty big suit. But I am doing situps and pushups and stretching by the pool, and also going for daily hour long walks to try to increase the muscle tone in my legs and keep the calorie deficit going, as I relentlessly continue the push for fakir thinhood.

I’m now eating once a day at Zomba’s, usually 2 small pita sandwiches, one felafel (with lots of tahina sauce!), the other fool medames (fried in olive oil with a quartered tomato), both of which are served on a bed of chopped lettuce.

I usually wash the sandwiches down with a glass of freshly-squeezed orange juice and pretty much eat the exact same thing every day.

Not only is this meal plan dirt cheap (it costs about $2-3 dollars, with tip), but it supplies me enough protein and vitamins I need to stay the course on my plan to lose 65 lbs in a year, and be a size 34 waist by late summer.

I’ve already gone from size 42-44 to a size 38, so real progress is being made.  I have pictures of myself when I first came here; the comparison is encouraging, though not so dramatic as to be unduly startling.

It was also a good idea to get a radical haircut last week.  My scalp is in much better condition now from the afternoon seances in the sun in my villa turret.

So all in all, things are going well.  It is still bitterly cold here at night (especially considering the wind chill factor), and it is sad to hear the waiters at Zomba’s lament their fate, but there is nothing I can do about that personally other than be sympathetic, or, now and then, give them productive, actionable ideas on how to try to find jobs overseas — advice that has in fact gone unheeded.

I have settled into a very ordinary, uneventful routine, keeping to myself, not interacting too much with anybody except the bus drivers and waiters and the occasional tourist (usually Brits) whom I run into a Zomba’s.

This is just how I like it; though living this way would have been unthinkable when I lived in Manhattan in my mid 30s.

When I came here,  I had very high blood pressure, and even had blackish purple marks on my face (above my left eyebrow) and on both elbows. This was from residual Graves’ Disease, which I contracted in 2010 from the unrelenting stress of living in cracker country for a decade.

I also had open sores on my knuckles, which my dermatologist diagnosed as some kind of rare knuckle pad disorder. This was also caused by stress.

Well all these symptoms of stress are now gone, thank God.  I still have Graves’ Ophthalmopathy (Thyroid Eye Disease) in my left eye, which causes it to be misaligned when I am tired or read too much, but my hope is that one day that, too, will be a thing of the past.

I’ll post pics of the new place tomorrow, or later this week.

I’ll grab it if the let’s anywhere near half suitable, as I have no desire whatsoever to hastily return to the land of smugly venomous, racist right-wing white geezers, which is a fair description for the kinds of people who live where my house is in FLA.

So let’s review.

2016 ended with my having several operations to correct my severe eye problems (I was almost blind without thick glasses).  Now I can do most things, including reading normal print, without glasses.

I was clinically obese; now I’m not.

I was terrified, as an Arab-American, at the possible ramifications of a Trump presidency and thus decided to leave the country before the yellow Star of David IDs and internment camp roundups began for American citizens of my ethnicity.

Despite having to call the police to quell threatening neighbors, I was able to leave the country by September 2017 without ending up in the cooler.

I have no pressing desire to go back home, as I am happier here than at any time in the 16 nightmare years I was trapped in the Sunshine State.

Ironic how the version of America that I decided to do everything in my power to escape from is exactly where many young Egyptians would like to move, if they could.

I’ll end with this.

Last night I was coming back from dinner at Zomba’s, and decided to pick up a jar of peanuts at the Ebaid supermarket. I was a tad hungry, so opened the jar in the bus as I waited for it to leave.

The bus driver noticed this, so I offered him some. He loved the peanuts, and asked what they were and where I had bought them, so I told him, and then gave him another handful.

mr peanut
Vintage Americana, in its full glory

Now peanuts are called foul sudani in Arabic, and this guy was a Sai’di, which is a region in Upper Egypt where many Gouna, almost Sudanese-looking workers come from.

I wondered how it is was possible that this young bus driver had never eaten foul sudani, before I realized that expat tourists like me have no real idea whatsoever what life is truly like for the common Egyptians who make Gouna function.

So maybe in the future when I get annoyed at certain local behaviors, I should adopt more of a live and let live attitude — I bet you that would probably make the eye thing get better in a jiffy, as I bask in the empty nobility of obliquely self-congratulatory liberal false guilt.

leaving america


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