On Palaeography

Are you in a swivet over the impeachment trial yet?

I thought so.

Well, relax, you can take your mind off  the orange circus by entering my no-drama world.  No charge!

Let’s try a little mind experiment.

Picture yourself in a large, semi-upscale gated community, with lots of lakes, preserved Old Florida undergrowth, and plenty of tropical birds and other wild critters like gators and bobcats.

Now breathe in the clean air, and listen to the quiet.

Feeling better?

Here’s how my day is going IRL in just such an environment.

A 19 mph wind picked up today, which made my morning 30-min bike ride tougher.  I cycled back to the spot where I fell yesterday.

This happened when I clumsily dismounted — to lift my bike over an unusually high curb — and inadvertently stepped into the street’s drainage gutter.

Lost my balance doing so, but somehow I managed to turn and land on my back on a patch of St. Augustine grass. A disembodied voice floated out from the bush — this part of the street is next to a golf fairway partially hidden by dense stands of live oak and dwarf palmetto .

–Are you okay?
— I’m fine, I said and promptly jumped back on the bike and cycled away without looking back.

I was lucky this time round, unlike last summer.

Back home, I readjusted the height of my bike seat with a spanner (ie, wrench), and put some antibiotic cream on the scrape on my right elbow.

It’s annoying, but the extra weight I’m lugging around makes getting on and off a bicycle harder than it was when I rode one as a kid from Zamalek in the center of Cairo all the way to the Giza pyramids.

I’m hoping that having a German sheppie around is going to help me lose tons of weight.

Okay… what next?

Given the wind and impending rain, no scaffold-supported cleaning today of the back porch lanai.


dog chow
Notice that this is not baby dog food.

My wife and I are continuing to prep the main living room in anticipation of Geneva’s arrival, our little German shep pupy who will be here a week from tomorrow.  I musn’t forget to order her dog food this weekend.  The breeder made this recommendation, which I will buy through Amazon.

I also have to get marrow bones from the butcher at Publix.  Sheppies love to chew, and this will strengthen her jaw muscles and help make her ears go up.bone marrow

And this.

I have no idea what why salmon oild is good for puppies, but the breeder insists that it’s crucial.

Given that today has turned into a “day off” (of coure in retirement every day is Sunday, which is often a bad thing, especially early on, as you realize how increasingly isolated you’re quickly becoming), I am going to watch Dr. Ahmad Al-Jallad on YouTube give a talk on the origins of the Arabic language (see vid above).

I’m also going to have to decide if I’m going to get serious about SVG programming, or just continue being a dilettante.

Then I’ll take a nap.  I’ve always loved afternoon naps; part of my Mediterranean heritage I suppose.

Now this sort of thing — naps, bicycle riding, arcane linguistics research — might not be your particular cup of tea.

If so, may I recommended some other diversions — other than sitting glued to the TV — that is both therapeutically relaxing and a brain challenge to boot?

I’ve discovered that mawkish nostalgia and obsessive regret is often the curse of idleness in retirement. It can also lead to anger and bitterness.

Things change.

That is the way of the world.

We may not look the way we did in our 20s and 30s, but there is no reason to allow our brains to turn to mush as we wallow in pointless regret over what might have been.

Over how things are not the way they used to be.

Unless you’ve contracted, say, some horrible terminal disease and have only days left, why not read a book, or take a long walk, and make a point of actually noticing what’s going on around you, or meet a friend for coffee or group pool exercises to 60s pop music, or volunteer to march against global warming, or go well outside your comfort zone and call that once-close brother you haven’t spoken to in years?

Whatever you do, stay away from FOX and social media — especially FB.

It’s far too easy to fall into a rabbit hole built by and for those who refuse to see or speak the truth, who think it’s clever or funny to make you unsure what or whom to believe, and who are dead sure convinced that they have all the right answers.

Do me a favor.

If you hear the Messiah is coming for some rally this weekend, leave town now.

Your puppy will thank you.

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wordpress domain renewal

After much thought, I’ve decided to renew my “rental” of the LeavingAmerika.com domain for another year.

I launched this blog 3 years or so ago, after the election of 2016.  Originally the URL was nicalebela.wordpress.com, because I thought that my wife and I might be moving to Nice, France, in 2017.

I had realized soon after that disastrous election that people of Arab ethnicity and/or liberal political inclination would have an increasingly difficult time of it in the United States.

It was obvious that a malignant opportunist was ready to engage in a scorched earth campaign for fun and profit.

Nothing that has happened since then has caused me to change my mind in that regard.

If anything, things have turned out to be far worse than I anticipated — though the mass roundup of Arab-Americans for dispatch to remote concentration camps, WW2 style, has yet to transpire.

So what now?

Why keep a blog going that few people read?

I think it boils down to the fact that born writers write.  That is what people like us do.  If we don’t, something’s wrong, missing.  You feel aimless.  Writing on a daily basis to someone who is a writer is akin to breathing.  Stop, and you in effect die.

This is why I’ve renewed LeavingAmerika.com.

It is my marker that, despite all the disappointments and misfires, that I still hold on to the dream that one day I shall find my way to a place I can finally call home.

During the coming year, I shall write about 3 things in this blog:

  1. dogs, specifically Geneva, our beautiful new German shep puppy who is arriving in 17 days;
  2. weight loss / getting fit; and,
  3. books (mainly fiction) / and literary theory (don’t worry, I shan’t go overboard with that).

I hope, for the most part, to avoid politics — except perhaps when I attend the Palestinian Literary festival in Manhattan in March.

To sum up.

The Internet is strewn with the cacasses of countless well-meaning but ignored blogs into which creative and even not so creative people have poured out their hearts without expecting much in return.

The world is cruelly indifferent, yet there is always a chance your screwed up life will turn up all right in the end — despite the ruthless and unceasing efforts of zealots the world over to snuff out that which refuses to be like them.

One day, LeavingAmerica shall be no more. It, too, shall become a silent testament, another grim heap of bleached bones in the Internet’s death valley, another digital skull laying in wordless vigil on the hot, cracked earth, with uncaring vultures circling the cloudless sky above.

But until then, enjoy the ride.

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Goodbye, Egypt

The ghosts of Abu Tig marina

Tomorrow is my last full day in the dusty resort town of El Gouna, Egypt, which is on the Red Sea.

By the time I leave on Saturday, I will have spent a total of 6 months and 28 days here. Long time, but soon I will be a ghost, and the few people whom I did meet and befriend will forget about me quick enough. In no time at all, it will be as if I was never here.

I leave knowing that I met some really nice people, and also hooked up for probably one last time with old acquaintances and family.

One old friend in particular was incredibly generous in paying for a service to guide my wife around at Cairo airport when she came to visit in January. I do not forget things like that.

I came here to escape an America that had elected an abomination as President of the United States. With all the insults he and members of his party were hurling at Americans of my ethnicity, I no longer felt safe to live there.

And so I went to Nice, France, for a few weeks, then came here. I ended up staying in an apartment in Abu Tig marina, then 2 different and quite lovely villas. When I arrived, it was really hot, then it got really cold, now the weather is perfect. Along the way, I was adopted by a cat whom my wife named Sandy.

My main objective coming here was to determine if Gouna would be a suitable place to retire on a modest income.  A secondary one was to lose weight:  I had contracted an illness a few years ago, and the medicine I was given to treat it caused my weight to balloon.

I have come to the conclusion that, for a variety of reasons, Gouna is indeed a lovely place to visit, but… unsuitable for any extended period of time.

There are things here that do get under your skin, so to speak:  the mosquitoes, the flies, the noise in certain parts of Gouna, the annoying tuc tucs, the ubiquitous cigarette smoking, the endless construction, unstable internet connectivity, the workmen who regularly intrude on your rental property while chattering on their phones, the various cliques, especially the entitled ones, and the blistering heat.

It can be quite isolating here to be by yourself for a long period of time.

There is very little to do, unless you’re rich, and have a boat that you can take out for spins to the nearby islands; the beaches on the mainland are quite drab.

Of course there are events, such as squash (which I used to play in my teens) tournaments, music (I was actually once in a rock band) festivals, and kite surfing championships.

There is also tennis and diving and snorkeling in what remains of the reef, the inevitable “desert safaris” that you can take in a rented ATV, horse riding, playing golf, and there are also the bar nightclubs where people go to party — but none of these things hold any interest to me whatsoever, as I am not in my 20s or 30s: I have reached an age where I no longer have as much time left to waste on what I consider largely superficial endeavors.

At a certain point I advertised in a local paper the idea of a book club that would take place at the Gouna library.  There was no interest whatsoever. Gouna is not a place where people are particularly interested in culture (except for the film festival); this is not why they are here:  they come here for the reasons that most people go to high-end resort getaways, which do not include joining book clubs.

I am happy to report that I was able to lose quite a bit weight.  When I return to Florida next week, after spending a few days in NYC, I shall continue with my weight loss program, but will begin to focus on strengthening my muscles and doing cardio workouts on my bicycle to increase my stamina.

I have tried to not lose the weight too quickly, as I did not want my skin to start sagging.

so long, fat clothes

But I have managed to go from size 44″ waistline to a size 36 in 7 months. Not bad. As a result, I am donating to charity some of the clothes I brought with me. I’m also leaving the electric heater I purchased in Gouna, as well as the famous self-supporting mosinet, a pair of sneakers, a belt, and a few other items– none of which I shall ever need again. I like travelling light, especially after I injured my back when I arrived here, from carrying an overstuffed suitcase, and couldn’t sleep right for a month.

When I return to Florida, I hope that the humidity will restore the elasticity of my skin which has completely dried out in this desert climate, causing lines to appear on my face which were not there before.

That aside, I have a very long trip ahead of me on Saturday.  The plane to Cairo leaves at 5:30am so I have to leave this villa at 3:30am to get to the airport by taxi.  My smartphone just died again, so I cannot use it as an alarm, but I was able to add an alarm clock extension to my Chromebook browser, and it works great.

I was supposed to take the 10am flight from Cairo to JFK, but that has now been delayed to 1PM. This means I will getting back to NY in the evening instead of mid afternoon as I had planned. I will also have a six-hour wait at Cairo airport, prior to taking a very long trip across the Atlantic in economy class.

By the way, on Monday, I plan to catch Jon Hamm in Beirut at the Loew’s theatre on 68th and Broadway. It will be a distinct pleasure to be passing through my old neighborhood, in the city I will always love — but it’s too bad the M104 bus doesn’t stop by Grand Central anymore.

One last thing, I have written quite frequently in this blog since my arrival, but this is the final post I shall be writing while in Egypt.

I have tried to scrupulously record my daily experiences. I ended up writing quite an astonishing amount of material (for me), which I hope to be able to transform into a work of fiction that deals more directly with some of the things I have observed or imagined but not written about in this blog.

All in all, coming to Gouna for an extended period was a worthwhile experience. Inevitably there were a few disappointments along the way, but I am glad to be returning to my home country — despite the absolute chaos in America right now — after such a long sojourn, and once again be with wife and family.

Goodbye, Egypt:  I wish you all the best.

leaving america