June 2008 archive

Those damn Fowegners

I have known lots of foreigners living in Egypt throughout my life. For some reason- not that I minded of course- I was always surrounded by them. But lately I started wondering about them: What makes a foreigner- and by that I mean someone of European or American/Canadian/Australian descent because we know what the arabs and the refugees are doing here- come and live in Egypt? I mean I get the ones who visit, but why live here? So, I decided to put my anthropologist hat on, and take a closer look at the foreigners that pass by me, and make sweeping generalizations about the whole population. The results astounded me. My research-which wasn't scientific at all- has shown that there are three different types of foreigners that come to live in Egypt, each with their own habits, traits and even neighborhood. So without further ado, I present you with my findings:

1) The "I am here to make money" Foreigner: This is my favorite type of foreigner, because they come to Egypt full of purpose and they know exactly what they are doing here. This group includes foreigners who work for MNC's and Oil companies, Embassy officials, journalists who are sent here by their chief bureau, People who do whatever it is that Elijah and The Arabist do, and those are studying here because it's a way to get a specific job (like learning arabic in order to join the State Department or be a more hireable regional journalist or doing their masters in Polisci/Islamic Studies/Forced migration/whatever that will get them that cushy job in an American Think Tank or NGO). They are usually very smart and have their whole life planned ahead of them, which is refreshing to encounter in a country like Egypt. They live in Zamalek/Garden City if they don't have children and in Maadi if they do. They summer in Sharm Al Sheikh and el Gouna,  their favorite drug is Life, the desire for success and Alcohol, and their favorite egyptian book is "Beer in the Snooker club" by Wagih Ghaly- that is if they read books written by Egyptians at all. They hang out at extravagant Zamalek parties and sometimes the Ace club, they work out in the CAC campus and they know what's going on in Egypt more than the majority of Egyptians do, which is funny considering that they represent a tiny minority of foreigners here, especially compared to the "I am here to find myself" foreigner.

2) The "I am here to find myself" foreigner: Kind of self-explanatory, but let's give it a shot anyway: Those are the foreigners who tell you that they come to Egypt as part of some journey "to find themselves", but in reality are just looking to put their lives on hold for a bit and not grow up and be responsible like their fellow friends back at wherever they came from. They are usually mid twenties to early thirties, and they come to Egypt as part of a regional spiritual trip or an exchange program, and kind of never leave, mainly due to how cheap living in Egypt is compared to their life back home and the fact that here they get to retain the kind of adolescent social life they have enjoyed so much in college. They either have random jobs that offer shit pay and for which they are totally under qualified with their B.A. in 18th century Southasian philosophy (Check Nile FM, the daily news, the Ibn Khaldoun Center) or they do as every other foreigner who needs a job in Egypt does and become stringers for obscure newspapers and random news agencies, who usually don't require of you more than having the ability to write in half-decent English. Since they don't make that much money, they live either in  Mohandeseen/Agouza or in a houseboat in Kitkat, and they summer in Dahab and Nouiba3. They lead a very communal social life, with nights that boast events such as one of them coming back from a trip to Lebanon (of course) with lots of Alcohol or scoring a really good kind of Hash through their Bawab, and they will call each other and have a "gathering" whenever one of those life's little victories rears its shiny little head. They are usually major drug-fiends, so their favorite drugs include whatever you got on you, and they don't have a favorite egyptian book because they usually don't read (Paulo Coleho and Dan Brown are notable exceptions), opting instead to downloading episodes of "The Office" and "Weeds" off of the internet and watching them high as a kite. They used to hang out at the Greek Club, but ever since their new minimum charge policy of 45 pounds a person got implemented they stick to Estorel and Stella Cafe, and if they show up at L'aubergine for example they will have one beer only, unless you are paying, and then you shall discover their love for whatever is the most expensive shit that bar carries. The "I am here to find myself" foreigner has no shame, mainly because they believe themselves to be children of the Universe and that the Universe owes them something. So they will at first surprise you by their habit to ask the Universe for whatever it is they need, and when that naturally fails they will further surprise you by asking you for whatever it is they need. But other than that they are very nice people, and they eventually leave after spending between 3 to 6 years of their life in Egypt (unless you happen to marry one of them, you stupid dumb sucker), which makes them a much better breed than the final type, the " I am Egyptian" foreigner.

3) The "I am Egyptian" foreigner: That would be the type that drives me up the freakin wall, the foreigner who comes to Egypt, claims to have fallen in love with the country and wants to stay here to fix it. They exhibit certain similar traits to the "I am here to find myself" foreigner, only their condition is slightly more extreme. They usually have serious identity issues ( especially if they come from the US and super especially if from the south), and need a purpose in their lives that will give their lives meaning and piss off their parents (which is really their goal to begin with). They will go on diatribes about how this other foreigner you both know doesn't get Egypt like he/she "gets Egypt", and they will have dick measuring contests over who loves Egypt more. True story: I once encountered two such creatures once, roommates, the first said that its true that if you drink from the Nile you have to come back, while the other countered that this is not true, because if you drink from the nile, you never really leave Egypt, cause you leave your heart there. I informed both of them that they are both wrong, because as an egyptian would tell you, if you drink from the nile, you will end up in the hospital, because that shit is super polluted. Anyway… Their favorite american author is naturally Noam Chomsky, their favorite topic of conversation is the different Zionist lobbies in Washington and they say Inshallah and habiby every 20 seconds. Where they live is a tricky proposition, since they do follow a certain migration pattern that is depended on how "egyptian" they've become. They start by living in Zamalek their first year here, and then they will move to Downtown the following, citing the fakneness of Zamalek and the cultural richness of Downtown as their reasons. Their third year they move to a Houseboat in Imbaba ( they will say Imbaba with the same pride reserved for being hardcore egyptians, as if Imbaba isn't the area opposite of Seqouia), followed by a Bonus phase that not everybody takes of moving to Mukattam and discovering how awesome it is to take a Microbus to work(" Sure, I get sexually harassed and grabbed, but it only costs me 50 piasters for a ride. It's awesome"), before finally setteling in Al Haram, either in a street off of Faysal, or if they are truly willing to go the distance to prove their egyptianness, Omraneya. Their favorite Egyptian Author is naturally Ahdaf Suweif, because they are retarded and they think her orientalist drivel is actual literature (Alaa, I know she is your Aunt and everything, so please please please get her an Editor. In the Eye of the Sun is needlessly 450 pages man. There are 200 pages of her talking about her make-up and removing her hair using Halawah. I am serious man, someone needed to say it!), they will claim that their favorite singer is of course Oum Kalthoum, even though they usually don't understand what the hell she is saying, and their favorite hangout is the Ahwah (Shisha cafe) in front of their house if they are males and the houses of their middle-class Hijab-wearing egyptian housewife bestfriend if they are female. They rarely hang out with other foreigners- unless they are just like them, and even then it gets tense due to the aforementioned dick-measuring contests- and they would never be caught dead being seen in Zamalek or Maadi. Their favorite summer spot are Alexandria and Ain el Soukhnah, and they end up usually working as teachers in Language schools that just started a bullshit but overpriced American Diploma program and they needed any foreigner who look like a teacher in order to seem legit to the parents of their students. You can also identify them through their facebook albums, because at some point in their lives they passed by Gaza and took pictures with smiling Palestinian children, which they will show you while naming the children and telling you anecdotes of how cute and smart they are and how they formed a connection and told him/her that they never want them to leave, in denial of the fact that they are just one of the 30,000 foreigners that passed by those kids that year alone, and that they probably forget all about him/her ever existing, let alone their names. Oh, and their favorite drug is HASH, of course, cause, really, what's more Egyptian than that?

Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments section! 

The Special candidate

Hillary wasn't only the first woman with a strong chance of being nominated for President, as Hitchens reminds us:

Posterity may well remember the Hillary Clinton campaign as the nearest
that a member of the female gender had thus far gotten to the
nomination of a major political party. But the episode will be recalled
for many other salient features as well. The first time that the wife
of an ex-president had leveraged her first-lady status into a
senatorial seat and then a bid for the presidency. The first time that
the candidate's spouse (and campaigner in chief) was a person who had
been disbarred for perjury and impeached for—among other
things—obstruction of justice. The first time since the 1960s that a
Democrat seeking the nomination had implicitly relied on a "Southern
strategy" of appealing to the rancor of the "white working class." The
first time since the lachrymose Ed Muskie that a candidate's eyes had
welled up with tears in New Hampshire. The first time that a woman
candidate was married to a man who had been believably accused of rape
and sexual harassment.
The first time that a candidate had said of her half-African-American
rival that he was not a member of the Muslim faith "as far as I know."
The first time that the loser in the delegate count had failed to
congratulate or even acknowledge the winner on the night of his
historic victory.

But please remember, she lost because she was a woman. Oh, and white. 

Mugabe, I am confused!

Ok, Mugabe, out of curiosity: If you are going to arrest your opponent in the upcoming election and his second man in charge, Impound the buses he uses to campaign in the country, send hired killers against Human Rights activists, and state that the opposition will never govern in your lifetime and that you would rather go to war than cede power to them even if they did win , then..ehh…why even have an election? Why go through all of that trouble? Or are you just doing it for attention, you attention-whore you?

Obama and Affirmative Action

* This convo happened between me and my American friend E, right around the time Obama clinched the nomination, but before he ruined things by kissing AIPAC ass*

Me: So Obama finally won the nomination. No more Hillary.

E: About damn time. 

Me: True. Now, I have a question: Can affirmative action be used By Obama in this election?

E: Shut it.

Me: No, for real.. i mean he is applying for a job, and it's him versus a white dude. Does he get extra votes for being black?

E: Dude, you are being stupid. Shut up!

Me: Ok, fine, but what if he and McCain split the electoral college votes equally, does he then get some extra votes? 

E: NO. He wouldn't, and you know it. Stop it!

Me: Ok, fine. Seriously now. If Obama wins, is there still an argument for affirmative action? I mean, if he wins the majority of the votes, then it could be argued that the majority of the country isn't racist, right? And if this is the case, then the racists have become a minority, so a government policy to combat nationwide racism against Blacks- with the presence of a Black President in Office- would no longer be necessary, no?

E: Nope, you are wrong!

Me: How do you figure? 

E: Because he is not the descendant of slaves.

Me: HA!!

E: He is not Black. He is African.

Me: You know, I could actually see this argument being used and working!

E: Of course it would.

Me: Only in America, ehh?

E: God Bless it!

Citizenship tests

Germany and the USA are putting out new citizenship tests, and they are kind of hard. I mean, I passed them, but I am a history junkie, and strangely enough I did better on the german test (6 out of 7) than on the american test (7 out of 10..and I have read books on the constitution. SHAMEFUL!). So, if you think you know your shit, go take the sample german one here and the US one here! 

PS: Don't you just love that the picture they have for a person testing to be a german citizen is a Hijabi? 

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