Give a Book Away

{Note this was in my drafts folder dated February 10th, but totally forgot about it}

I was tidying up the bookshelves and saw the copy of The Alchemist which I gave to my husband when we were engaged. I asked my friends what book would they give to their significant other.  I got some interesting answers (The Alchemist, What Life Taught me  – Galal Amin, War and Peace and Have a Little Faith).

{Until this morning when I saw Ola’s post on Cinnamon Zone}

I love the idea.

So why don’t you give a friend a book that might be useful.

Who would you give a book to and what would it be?

Monkey Cake

Exactly 2 years today I woke up at 9 am feeling tired and in pain.  I got ready to go out to breakfast.  I was in Egypt and my husband was on vacation with me and was going to take me out to breakfast then drop me off at work.  Instead I went to the hospital, had an emergency C-section and met Lulu for the first time at around 6 pm.  That was when my whole life changed.  Two years have gone by really quickly.  I read somewhere that the days are really slow but the years go by really fast.  That is exactly who I feel right now.

She was born with jet black hair, dimples and(which are gone except when she grins really hard) two birthmarks one on each thigh.  She was also born with a very interesting personality.  She is determined, curious, talkative and bubbly.   She was wrapped in her baby blanket and an outfit I had picked out with my husband months earlier.  She was much smaller than I thought babies should be.  She didn’t do anything except sleep, eat, poop and cry for the first couple of months.  I didn’t do anything except feed, wash away all the poop and cry while dreaming of sleep (just kidding it wasn’t that bad, but I still do dream of sleep).   We decided to be friends.  She didn’t ask and I didn’t offer but I think I am determined to be friends anyways.  It is still a long journey but I am grateful.

With out current monkey obsession (diapers and crochet monkeys)  which was probably caused by watching too much Curious George, I felt that a monkey cake was the perfect gift.  I wasn’t planning on having a party anyways.  My husband and I were planning to celebrate quietly just the two of us at home with a cake and a gift.  When my sister in law said she was going to drop by Friday and celebrate with us we decided to make pizza as well and get balloons as well.  She loved the cake and woke up this morning asking for monkey ‘tata’ which is Lulu speak for chocolate.  And she spent 10 minutes pointing at it and saying monkey monkey when she first saw it.  I baked it Thursday morning while she was out at daycare and hid it in the top utility drawer so she wouldn’t see it.  I also made rolling fondant for the very first time and tried a new chocolate frosting recipe because the one I love uses chocolate chips and I didn’t have any.  The fondant was much easier to make than I thought and turned out beautifully.  The whole cake was a success.  It took about an hour and a half from start to finish including baking and decorating so I guess it was easier than I thought it would be.

Lessons learned when making monkey cake:

  • Make sure you have all the ingredients.
  • Wash the dishes as soon as you are done with them.  Chocolate, butter and marshmallows are not easy to wash off when they’ve dried onto your bowls.
  • Be confident when rolling fondant, if you don’t like what you have you can always start all over.
  • I think the next time I make this I would probably make the frosting the first thing and I would use my chocolate chip recipe.  It usually needs to sit in the fridge for an hour or two but it tastes better and its texture is way better.
  • Do not lick too much batter.
  • Take lots of pictures.  It is a fun process.
  • Write down your favorite recipes.  I send most recipes to my email but still lose them sometimes, so I have a notebook filled with successful tried and tested ones.  I also write down a recipe on large post its and stick them on the wall while I am cooking so I don’t have to look for it while my hands are all covered in sticky stuff.  If a recipe passes the test it gets copied into the notebook.
  • Make sure you have a serving plate that fits.  Unfortunately I didn’t the ears make the shape of this cake difficult to fit on a regular plate so I just covered a try in foil.  Next time I would probably cut out a peice of cardboard and cover that in foil and then in pieces of wax paper so I can just pull them from under the cake when I am done so the whole thing would look cleaner.  I know it does not matter but I really care about presentation.  I tried to tissue off excess frosting but it still looked a bit messy.
  • I have an awesome cake recipe but I was afraid that I would not have enough time so I opted to use cake mix (Betty Crocker’s Chocolate Fudge Cake) to be honest I think my cake is better and next time I probably would just use the recipe but it still was a wonderful cake, so don’t be afraid to take shortcuts and use a little bit of extra help.
  • It is best to do this while little people under 5 are out of the house or at least busy doing something else. :-)

Lessons learned when having little Lulus (who sometimes behave like little monkeys)

  • Sometimes you have to remind yourself that you are in control.  I sometimes need to tell her in a loud clear voice “I am your mommy, you are my daughter, I am in charge”.
  • Making a fool of yourself in a public place to make your daughter laugh is totally underrated, everyone should do it at least once a month.  It is liberating to act the way you really want to as if no one else existed and it is fun too.  Kids are a great excuse for that.
  • It is sometimes really hard deciding what is best for your kid.  Keep trying.
  • It is sometimes really hard doing what is best for your kid.  Try harder.
  • Sticking to what you have decided and started doing is even harder.  Keep trying harder.
  • Keep track of milestones, if a child is very late at reaching one, go see a doctor.
  • It is always OK to seek a second opinion especially concerning doctors.  Sometimes it is even critical.
  • ALWAYS find a little bit time for yourself.  There is an Arabic proverb that say, he who does not have something can not give it (فاقد الشيئ لا يعطيه)  so in other words a mother who is not happy and healthy can not raise happy and healthy children.
  • Finally,  it is never really a destination with kids, it is a journey, so make sure you pack lots of snacks, diapers, books, pain relievers and a positive attitude.

Happy birthday to you Lulu and happy giving birth day to me too.

Friday's Five: More Biographies

As promised last week here is my list.   I am more of a pacifist so my list is of men who changed the world without starting war.

  • Ghandi
  • Mandela
  • Martin Luther King

My mind just hit a blank.

How about business men who changed the world

  • Bill Gates
  • Steve Jobs
  • Richard Branson

Another blank

How about literary figures

  • JK Rowling
  • Shakespeare (yes Rowling is more important than Shakespeare, she managed to get the younger generations to read again)
  • Roald Dahl  ( Actually I read quite a bit of his own autobiography but never managed to finish it because I gave birth and forgot about it)
  • George Orwell
  • George Bernard Shaw
  • Tolstoy
  • Tolkien
  • Abbas El Akkad

I guess I am more interested in authors than in Leaders.

Stay tuned next week for a list of women 😀

P.S.  This is not the post I wanted to write, but this is all my brain is capable of right now, so I will not fight it, now excuse me while I go lie down.

Monkey Business

Mr Monkey was reason number 3 for wanting to learn crochet.  I am glad I waited till I felt confident enough to make him, I didn’t want to have to take him apart a hundred times until I got him right.  Mr Monkey was sitting quietly when he found a banana, ate it and then went crazy doing headstands.  The only question now, who is naughtier; Mr Monkey or Lulu?

Monkeying Around

One Year, 188 Questions

On February 15th 2009 I decided instead of posting personal status updates on facebook I would ask a daily question. That year has already gone by.  What started out as an experiment turned into a wonderful experience and a lovely habit.  I have gotten to know my friends better, had wonderful conversations and learned new stuff.  I have also noticed friends from totally different circles having conversations with each other which I think is an awesome thing.  Originally it was just a way to avoid the dullness of the status update or negativity and to start a conversation, it has done all of that and more.

I would like to thank everyone who has answered a question.

And today’s Question : Q.o.t.D:  What do you think of the Q.o.t.D, should I go on for another year?

Here are all 188 questions.  They are listed in reverse chronological order, the very first question is the one at the bottom.  You can always use these as conversation starters or ice breakers.

  • Q.o.t.D: A goal without a plan is just a wish. ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery. What is your goal for today and what is your wish?

  • Q.o.t.D: Are you better at starting something, working on something or finishing something?

  • Q.o.t.D: If you were to give a book to your significant other, what would it be?

  • Q.o.t.D: How do you feel about the new facebook user interface?

  • Q.o.t.D: What is your favorite company slogan? (E.g. Etlob aktar akeed fe aktar, Pepsi)

  • Q.o.t.D: Have you seen 1000 mabrouk? What did you think the moral was?

  • Q.o.t.D: Are you afraid of karma?

  • Q.o.t.D: Why do the Arabs hate the Egyptians?

  • Q.o.t.D: What is your favorite comic strip?

  • Q.o.t.D: What have you owned for a long time, don’t really need but still can’t get rid of?

  • q.o.t.d: Have you been nice for no reason to anyone today?

  • Q.o.t.D: .if you were a fruit what would you be?

  • q.o.t.d. On a scale of 1 to 10 do you think Egypt can become a better country? How and Why?

  • Q.o.t.D: What is your desktop wallpaper? How often do you change it?

  • Q.o.t.D: What do you wish you could see more often in the street? (e.g. Smiling people in the streets)

  • Q.o.t.D. 2009 in one word.

  • Q.o.t.D. What resolutions did you keep from 2009?

  • Q.o.t.D: What’s your favorite movie quote of all time?

  • Q.o.t.D: Do women lie more about their weight or their age?

  • Q.o.t.D: What was the best and worst things that happened in 2009?

  • Q.o.t.D: My lovely cousin Injy Gamal asked for a special QOTD. She said “”Since it is also copenhagen climate conference. I am really interestd to know about the level of awarenss in Egypt and how drastic the climate problem is and what we simple ppl can do in our daily lives to help make a change””. So people what do you think?

  • Q.o.t.D: Today is human rights day. What right do you think we really don’t exercise in Egypt and would like to see being implemented?

  • Q.o.t.D: Do you think being a woman is a disadvantage?

  • Q.o.t.D: What do you think of the statement, “some people do not deserve happiness”?

  • q.o.t.d.: what do you know about Sudan?

  • Q.o.t.D: How old or young do you feel?

  • Q.o.t.D.: What did you do this Eid? What was the best thing about the vacation?

  • Q.o.t.D: There are 2 ducks in front of 2 other ducks. There are 2 ducks behind 2 other ducks. There are 2 ducks beside 2 other ducks. How many ducks are there?

  • Q.o.t.D: If you were to buy me a birthday present tomorrow what would you get me? Heheheh it is my birthday and the world revolves around me.

  • Q.o.t.D: Do you believe in aliens? Would you want to meet them? What would they look like?

  • Q.o.t.D: If you had to be trapped in a TV show for a month what show would you choose?

  • Q.o.t.D: If you were a microbus/taxi driver what would you write on the back of your vehicle?

  • Q.o.t.D: If you had the money, would you start your own business? What would it be?

  • Q.o.t.D: If you could receive one small package this very moment, what would be in it and who would it be from?

  • Q.o.t.D: Quoting Gihan Mahmoud “looking around, finding that almost everyone she knows feel kinda ‘lost’, ‘distressed’ ‘confused’ or ‘on a diet’.” Do you feel that way?

  • Q.o.t.D: What is your current favorite movie?

  • Q.o.t.D: What was your prized posession as a child?

  • Q.o.t.D: If you could be any age again for one week, what age would you be?

  • Q.o.t.D: What’s your favorite room in the house?

  • Q.o.t.D: “”More people would learn from their mistakes if they weren’t so busy denying them.”” Harold J. Smith. Do you learn from your mistakes? Do you deny them?

  • Q.o.t.D: What was the worst song that got stuck in your head (an earworm)?

  • Q.o.t.D: When was the last time you received a handwritten letter?

  • Q.o.t.D: What are you really grateful for today?

  • Q.o.t.D.: What is your multi-million dollar idea? (Yes, I can have two questions if I want)

  • Q.o.t.D: What is your favorite children’s book?

  • Q.o.t.D: What is the dumbest thing you have done recently?

  • Q.o.t.D: If you could create a magic pill that cured a disease, what disease would you cure?

  • Q.o.t.D: What is your favourite thing about winter?

  • Q.o.t.D: When something bothers you, do you find it easy to express yourself?

  • Q.o.t.D: What was the first thought that popped in your head when you woke up this morning?

  • Q.o.t.D: Do you consider yourself an introvert or an extrovert?

  • Q.o.t.D: What has been your most life changing event yet?

  • Q.o.t.D: What can’t you leave the house without (three things)?

  • Q.o.t.D: What do you usually eat for breakfast?

  • Q.o.t.D: What are you reading these days? I just finished Outliers and loved it.

  • Q.o.t.D: Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

  • Q.o.t.D: What is your greatest extravagance?

  • Q.o.t.D: How was your Eid?

  • Q.o.t.D.:If you had an imaginary friend, what would their name be?

  • Q.o.t.D: Are you waiting for Farag?

  • Q.o.t.D: What are you doing this Eid? What is your favorite Eid memory?

  • Q.o.t.D: What will you be praying for the most in the last 10 days of Ramadan?

  • Q.o.t.D: What was the best gift you ever got?

  • Q.o.t.D: What is your favorite time waster?

  • Q.o.t.D: What are you grateful for today?

  • Q.o.t.D: What do you do on Saturdays?

  • Q.o.t.D: Which loss is more difficult to deal with, your wallet or your phone?

  • Q.o.t.D: If you could have Iftar with anyone, who would you choose?

  • Q.o.t.D: Bema en masr om el donyaØŒ meen aboha?

  • Q.o.t.D.: What is your favorite Ramadanian dessert?

  • Q.o.t.D: What is your favorite memory of Ramadan?

  • Q.o.t.D: What kind of impression do you like to leave on people?

  • Q.o.t.D: Are you proud of being an Egyptian (or whatever) and why?

  • Q.o.t.D:How do u like your coffee?

  • Q.o.t.D.: What is your favorite fruit?

  • Q.o.t.D: Which item in ur wardrobe is your favorite?

  • Q.o.t.D: What is your strongest sense?

  • QotD: What did you learn that turned out to be really useful in life, that you didn’t think was important at the time?

  • QotD: What is your most treasured possession?

  • Q.o.t.D: You won a prize either you get 10 $ in cash or a mystery gift worth 50$ which u might not like, which prize would you choose?

  • Q.o.t.D.: If you had the opportunity to have a country named in your behalf what would you like it to be called?

  • Q.o.t.D.: You were just given a yacht. What would you name it?

  • Q.o.t.D. : “”It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”” -Aristotle. What do you think of the quote? Can you entertain a thought even if you don’t accept it?

  • Q.o.t.D.: Are you a talker or a listener? Is it ever possible to really be both?

  • Q.o.t.D.: If you were writing your memoirs, what would you call the chapter for the current period in your life?

  • QotD: If you had to be trapped in a TV show for a month, which show would you choose?

  • QotD: Describe yourself in 3 words.

  • QotD: What dish would you like to learn how to cook?

  • QotD: If you had to be a teacher of something, what would you teach?

  • QotD: If you were a smurf, what would your name be?

  • QotD: If you joined the circus, what act would you most want to perform?

  • QotD: If you were given an opportunity to be born again, what kind of person would you choose to be?

  • QotD: Would you act or think differently if you were living in a different country?

  • QotD: If you could have a tattoo, what would it be?

  • QotD: What do you do now, that you hated as a child? {Inspired by Lasto’s post http://is.gd/1gEPv }

  • QotD: Which would you choose; a job you love or a job with more money?

  • QotD: Describe your shoes.

  • QotD: What is the current ringtone on your cellphone? Why?

  • QotD: When you first looked at yourself in the mirror this morning, what did you think?

  • Bonus QotD: Why do you think we lost yesterday? {real question later}

  • QotD: If you were an animal what would you want to be and why? {courtesy of Reem}

  • QotD: What trait in yourself that you would hate to pass onto your children?

  • QotD: What are your life’s mission and vision statements?

  • QotD: What do you consider your greatest achievement? (Two questions today, because I felt like it)

  • QotD: What is your favorite font?

  • QotD: Think “”happy thoughts””. What are you thinking of?

  • QotD: If you were a cartoon character who would you be?

  • QotD: What is the birth order in your family? Do you think it has an affect on your personality?

  • QotD: You have a magic wand, what spell would you cast?

  • QotD: What question do you hate being asked?

  • QotD: If you could live in any city in the world, where would you like to live?

  • QotD: Every new “”Today”” seems more anxious than ever. Do you find more solace in “”Yesterday”” or “”Tomorrow””? Why?

  • QotD: If you were a character in an Egyptian black and white movie, what would it be and which character would you like to play?

  • QotD: Do you consider yourself Liberal or Conservative?

  • QotD: What is your favourite item of clothing or accessory in your wardrobe?

  • QotD: What do you regret most not doing?

  • QotD: What lesson did your father teach you that still helps you in life?

  • QotD: If you could leave notes for the future, what message would you have left in the past for today?

  • QotD: What compliment are you most often given?

  • QotD: What is your favorite comfort food?

  • QotD: If you could change ONE thing in Egyptians, what would you change?

  • QotD: Your house is on fire, what item do you grab before you go out the door ? (assuming there are no living beings in the house other than urself)

  • If I gave you 1,000,000£ to invest, What would u invest in?

  • QotD: Pepsi or Coke?

  • QotD: Money or Power?

  • You know you are a mom when you get puked twice and all you want to do is hug the baby to make her feel better while both of u are covered in baby puke.

  • QotD: What is the nicest thing anyone has ever done for you?

  • QotD: If you could paint, what picture would you paint?

  • QotD: Why did your parents name you what they did? Would you change your name?

  • QotD: What are 3 things you have learned from a friend/spouse/relative ?

  • QotD: Why do you think countries below the equator have waged less wars than countries above the equator? (Courtesy of Lubna Rustom)

  • QotD: When you are really stressed, how do you destress?

  • QotD: If you could build or make something what would you make?

  • QotD: If your fairy godmother appeared and said she would grant you one wish, what would you wish for?

  • QotD: “”Life is … … …”” Please complete the sentence.

  • QotD: What do you wish other people knew about you.

  • QotD: Is it easier to make friends now or when you were younger? How long have you known your best friend?

  • QotD: If you were a TV channel what would you be?

  • QotD: What is your mission statement for life? Here’s some help if you feel stuck http://www.timethoughts.com/goalsetting/mission-statements.htm

  • QotD: What is your question for today?

  • QotD: What is your favorite Tv show of all time?

  • QotD: What was the most life changing event in your life?

  • QotD: If you were president, what are three things you would do or change?

  • QotD: Are you environmentally conscious?

  • QotD: What three things do you regret not learning to do?

  • QotD: How have you changed from the person you were 1 year ago?

  • QotD: You are at the beach, someone is drowning and screams for help, you don’t know how to swim, do you jump in and try your best or do you call for help?

  • QotD: What is the one dream you haven’t accomplished yet? (Courtesy of Reem Gamal)

  • QotD: If you were a mythical creature what would you be?

  • QotD: What is the best advice you have ever been given?

  • QotD: What would you rather be doing right now?

  • QotD: What is your favorite word?

  • QotD: What are you afraid of doing?

  • QotD: If you were shampoo, what would you be?

  • QotD: What do you love the most about yourself?

  • QotD: In life what have you done, that other people probably haven’t?

  • QotD: If you could ask one person, anything? Who would you ask and what?

  • QotD: If you were a bumper sticker, what would you say?

  • QotD: What do you bring most to a friendship?

  • QotD: If you had a time machine what time period would you like to visit?

  • QotD: What would you do if you won 10 million £?

  • QotD: What is the quickest false assumption people make about you?

  • QotD: What is your biggest fear?

  • QotD: What is the most important invention that you have been using in the last ten years? (Courtesy of Reem Gamal)

  • Is there a cure for repressed anger?

  • QotD: On a scale of 1 to 10, how well are you understood by other people (1 being totally clear and 10 being completely misunderstood)?

  • QotD: What was the last song you put on repeat and listened to over and over again?

  • QotD: In one word, how would you describe yourself?

  • QotD: What is the one word that perfectly describes your day today?

  • When life gives you lemons, learn how to make lemon meringue pie.

  • QotD: What is your personal motto?

  • QotD: What do you want to be famous for?

  • : If you could have lunch with anyone, dead or alive, who would you lunch with?

  • : If you were a book, which book would you like to be?

  • : If you were a tree what kind would you be? Would you bear fruit? Would you have flowers? What would they look like?

  • If you were a flavour, what would you be?

  • How normal are you on a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is marginally abnormal and 10 is totally abnormal?

  • Would you rather have the ability to rewind time or fast forward it.

  • Q. Ot D. If you were a cartoon character, who would you be?

  • Q.ot D. If your life were a movie show, what would it be?

  • has a Question for you: If you were a color what would you be?

  • has a question for you today; what is your dream job?

  • Today’s Q : What’s the meanest thing you’ve ever said to someone?

  • Question of the Day: If you could ask any question in the world and get a true answer, who and what would you ask?

  • Question of the Day : If you knew you were about to lose your voice permanently, what is the last thing you would want to say?

  • Today’s Question: What challenges in life have you conquered and emerged from a better person?

  • Would you rather be smarter or prettier?

  • If you could have one or the other, would you want an extra hour each day or an extra pair of arms all day every day?

http://www.chocolatemintsinajar.com/blog/2009/04/why-i-ask-questions-instead-of-update-my-status/

Friday’s Five: Leader Biographies (courtesy of Mohamed my husband)

I asked my husband to pick five biographies for leaders he thought helped shape and change history and he gave me a list.  Of course he didn’t stop at five.  My husband is a very interesting young man and also very intelligent,  he is also somewhat of a  history.

Napolean Bonaparte

What I already know

He was short.

He was exiled in Saint Helena.

He was married to Josephine, divorced her and remarried a great niece of Marie Antoinette

Book Recommendation

Napolean’s Road to Glory

Hitler

What I already know

He kicked the jews out of Germany

He was a racist

He was an incredible orator and could move the crowds

His mustache was ugly.

Book Recommendation

Mein Kempf

Hitler: A Biography

Fidel Castro

What I already know

He ruled Cuba for ages.

His buddy/comrade Che Guevara (Argentenian Doctor) helped him.

He handed the presidency over to his brother because of ill health.

Book Recommendation

Fidel Castro: My Life: A Spoken Autobiography

Anwar El Sadat

What I already know

He was a dictator

He smoked a pipe

He was married twice, his second wife was Gihan el Sadat.

He was kicked out of the army

He was part of the Free Officers movement but did not take part in the revolt itself, went to the movies instead.

He is very controversial.

Book Recommendation

In Search of Identity

Franklin Roosevelt

What I already know

He was in a wheelchair.

He gave the OK for the atomic bomb.

He was a president for four terms.

Book Recommendation

Autobiography of Theodore Roosevelt

Regardless of what I think of these men or whether I agree with their effect on history they were all notable men.  History must be read and understood for the future to be planned smartly.

Stay tuned next week for my own list of great people.

P.S.  It is sad that the list does not include any women.

Are you a beginning, middle or end kind of person?

I am a dreamer.  I dream of the things I want to do.  I imagine myself doing them just the way that I want.  But moving from that phase to the actual doing is always a difficult step.  I always feel that I need to think it thru, to make sure that I will do the right thing and not regret it, that I am sure that I can deal with all of the obstacles on the way.  Of course there are other times when I just jump right in and just do it.  It usually depends on how confident I feel that I can do that thing.  The thing that does not change is the fact that I am a dreamer.

I don’t mind the part in the middle, well not unless it is taking a REALLY long time, then I usually get bored and start wanting to move on to other things.

I love the ending, especially when it is a happy one.  I enjoy watching a project coming to completion, having seen it blossom from nothing into something good is always a good thing.  By then I am usually racing to the finish line, wanting to congratulate myself on the win and already dreaming of something new.

The reason I am talking about all of this was because I was thinking about why I don’t get to do all of the things I really want to do.  I realized that I am a slow starter and that even when it does appear that I have jumped right in I have usually given something lots of thought.

Is it something that can be changed?  I don’t think so, I sometimes have conversations in my head and keep telling myself not to think about it too much and if I don’t like what I am doing I can always go back and do something else.  But the thing is, I always feel the need to finish what I started.  For instance I find it really difficult not to finish a book, although now if I am reading a book that I don’t like I just put it down and start a new one because I don’t have time to waste on bad books.  When I was younger I would read a book even if I hated it from the very beginning to the very last page because I always thought it just might get better somewhere in the middle.  Now, I don’t.

Maybe it just needs practice.  Or maybe it is just something that changes with aging and maturing and understanding that it is ok to take a U turn when you need to or that it is ok if you don’t finish something or that finding what you really want to do takes the courage and patience to keep trying.   To be able to push yourself to start things you are not really interested in to find the things that you are.

What kind of person are you?  Have you changed?  Do you think you can change?

The Truth About Being An Expat

Disclaimer: This is my own personal opinion based on my own personal life, circumstances, personality and other stuff.  This does not apply to any other expat except myself, unless that expat can relate.

First things first, what is an expat?  An expat is a person who is voluntarily absent from home or country.

I did not really choose to come to Kuwait, not directly anyway.  I never really wanted to leave Egypt.  You see I am one of those crazy people who actually love Egypt and want to stay and build a better country for the younger generations which will come after us.  I see huge potential in my country and believe that my generation can help start the fixing process.  After graduation I watched lots of young graduates leaving for better paid jobs or better opportunities and I remember having several discussions with them or people still considering leaving.  My argument was always the same, even if I did choose to leave I would go to learn something and come back and use the knowledge to help my own people.  I never wanted to leave for the money.  You have to know some more background info to know why I feel this way.  I was born in Kuwait, then moved to Scotland with my family as a child and then back to Egypt as a tween.  I suffered terribly from culture shock.  I spent years trying to fit in until I decided to stop fitting in.  I was a third culture kid, I was different, I had a different set of ideals and values.   Unlike the rest of the kids at school, I did not have a best friend whom I had been raised with and knew since Kinder Garten.  With every move I had to start all over again.  To be honest, all of this moving taught me flexibility, openness and tolerance which most kids my age new nothing about.  Unfortunately these skills are not very useful when you are 13 trying to make new friends.  My own father chose to leave a permanent job in the UK so that he could go back to Egypt to use what he learned to help Egypt.  The offer was he could become a citizen within a year and we would follow shortly after.  We grew up understanding and respecting his choice and thinking that this was the only right thing to do.  When I met the man whom I eventually married, he was already living in Kuwait and I understood that Kuwait came with the marriage.   At the time I was excited, happy and in love.  When we discussed where we would live, he too wanted to come back to Egypt but had to tie some loose ends.  Things happened, we got married and the loose ends sort of unraveled a little bit more and we still have installments to pay for which is basically why we are here.  My mom did warn me, but I didn’t really listen, she thought we should wait until he came back to Egypt.  Sometimes I think she was right.  But then again, she too resigned from a bright career in Academia (Medical School) to be with my father in Kuwait, so maybe it was a case of monkey see, monkey do.  She could have taken unpaid leave and spent half of her time in Egypt and the other half in Kuwait, but she just could not break up a family like that.  My husband himself told me if we postponed our wedding we might not have to stay in Kuwait.  At the time the situation just wouldn’t have worked out any other way.  I still believe I made the right choice despite everything else.

Now that you know the story let me tell you what I think about being an expat.

You are not a citizen and you will never be one

This is the case in Kuwait.  Unlike expats who live in the UK, US or other countries, who eventually choose to become citizens.  In Kuwait you do not have that choice.  So you know that it is a temporary situation that might last for a year or sixty.   Knowing that you eventually have to leave or get kicked out is a looming inevitabilty that everyone thinks about some time or another.  You can not own your house, you can only rent.  You can not make long term plans or goals because you know it just might not happen.   You have limited rights and you are not represented in parliament.  At the end of the day you are just a worker here, doing a job that is not permanent.  Since the economic crisis lots of people have lost their jobs, some chose to stay and take pay cuts and others chose to go back home.  It is sad watching someone fight the clock to find a job because their visa will expire and not only do they have to deal with job loss, but they might also have to deal with moving and other things.

You are also a stranger in your home country

Things change, you go back home to find people look different, buildings have been demolished and others replaced them,  relationships between people have changed; best friends parted, couples divorced, couples married, people have died and babies have been born.  You don’t know where the hip restaurants are anymore, you have no idea where to shop and you are totally lost.

You change

Change is natural, normal and inevitable.  But perhaps the scariest thing about change when you choose to become an expat is that you drift from who you were.  Let me remind you that this is a very personal thing.  But no matter how hard you try, things will change.  I am not talking about maturing and growing up kind of change.  But the kind of change that comes with new and different priorities.  Some people living in the gulf end up being very dull.  Shopping becomes their new hobby and restaurants are the only place they go out to.

Life lacks balance

Life is work, end of story, full stop, period.   When I was in Egypt, I’d go to Sakiet el Sawi, Alexandria Library and lots of other places for cultural events.  We’d visit museums or just go to the beach at Montaza.  Most people here have limited options.  I am not saying that these things don’t exist.  I am just saying it takes time to find these events or a network of friends who are interested in these things.  Sometimes you change and stop caring before you manage to find them.

You can not choose your friends

You can’t choose your friends anywhere, but when the pool of available people is smaller it becomes even harder to choose friends.  Let me be very clear, there are acquaintances and there are friends.  Acquaintances are the people you can go out with or have a conversation with that usually revolves around the weather.  Friends are people you can count on to be there when you need them to.  Friendships take a long time to build, trust is earned along the years and memories forge this bond.  When you do not have that kind of time and history you end up with people who are closer to being acquaintances than being real friends.  Of course there are some people who are really good at making friends.  Unfortunately I am not.  It can be very lonely sometimes.

The money is not that good anymore

Some people assume that because I live in Kuwait that there is an oil field in our kitchen.  It is not true.  On second thoughts I am glad it is not true, can you imagine how much work running an oil field would be?  Salaries are higher than in Egypt that is true,  but so is the rent, food and all of your other expenses.  I am not trying to say it is a tough life or that we are poor.  Al Hamdu Lillah, we are not, this is not because of Kuwait anyway,  Allah gives what He pleases, to whom he pleases, when He pleases.  I am just trying to say that if people assume that just because they will be making 4 or 5 times more money than they are making in Egypt that that does not also mean that they will be spending 4 or 5 times what they already spend then they have no idea of what they are getting themselves into.  Just for example, rent is a big chunk of what we spend here.  My phone bill is crazy because most of my calls are long distance.

There is no support

For someone like me being away from family is hard.  We have a large tight knit family that act as a constant support group.  Living thousands of miles away makes that kind of support harder to get.

Conclusion

This is not a rant post or a complaint one.  This is just me stating the facts.  There are of course lots of good things about being an expat.  You get to experience different cultures and meet different people.  You learn to adapt and learn how to deal with life on your own without friends or family.  You have the chance to become so much more than you ever were and to rise up to that challenge, to grow and fulfill your potential or you can regress and become lesser of a person.  The choice is always yours.  You can choose to meet every challenge or obstacle by sitting down and crying next to it or you can turn them into stepping stones to your goal.  Whatever you decide in life you should always know that you are the one who will have to deal with the consequences of your decisions.  You should learn not to assume things but to question, research, learn and look into things with an open mind so you can make the right decisions for you.

We have a winner

Congratulations to Mehwish for winning the makeup bag.  I’ll be emailing you for details on sending it.

I really enjoyed this and will try and do it again sometime soon.