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Monday, September 10, 2012

Returning Home

So I had a big leaving Egypt blog post prepared and I never posted it. I'm thinking I'll still write it at some point but for now I'm just going to talk about being back.

I returned to the US a little over a month ago and I think I'm just starting to feel that I'm not in Egypt anymore. I haven't lived in the US since I graduated college and have never had full time professional experience here.

In the last month, I keep being surprised with everything I've missed. A few weeks ago while going over a case with my learning team (a Darden phenomena where you're paired with other students to help each other learn cases) I, along with the international students in my team, needed to have Groupon explained.

A couple weeks ago while running, I saw a sign that said "Caution: Traffic Pattern Change" and I almost started laughing at the ridiculousness. In Cairo, the traffic pattern changes by whoever decides to drive down a road first and this sign seemed excessive in the face of clearly marked lanes and a traffic light.

When we were discussing a case about an Indian car company that was providing a low cost car, I found it difficult to handle the reactions of surprise from most of the class when a fellow classmate explained how it was common to see an entire family on a scooter. For me, seeing five people piled onto a motorcycle zipping down the highway was commonplace.

Almost every time I get into a friends' car I'm reminded to put on a seat belt - there are even cars that remind you itself!

I really miss baba ganoug and tahina. Oh, and I really miss my mother-in-law's hammam (stuffed pigeon).

Did you know that Amazon has two day shipping? TWO DAYS!

There's a two lane road near the school that most students, including myself, need to cross to get home. There is also construction going on near it and there is a sign that says something along the lines of "DANGER: Do not cross road here please use crosswalk." After spending three years crossing a six lane highway without a crosswalk, stop sign, traffic light or other mechanism for stopping cars other than the traffic flow, it is really difficult for me to respect this well-intentioned sign about a seemingly (for me) trivial danger.

For every thing I miss about Cairo I could list probably ten reasons why I'm really happy to be back in the US, not least of all because I can pick up my phone and call or text my family whenever I want. Unlimited text messaging?!?!

But I guess I'm finally feeling "reverse culture shock." What I'm struggling with the most is simply having people I can relate to about how I have been living. In Egypt, I was able to recount to all my friends, whether Egyptian or foreign, a harassment story or simply converse about the topic without giving an hour of context. Or I talk about Egyptian politics fluidly or have a conversation about the Muslim Brotherhood that I don't feel the need to qualify a thousand times to avoid supporting certain stereotypes about the group. I think I'm becoming mentally and emotionally exhausted trying to recount my experience without coming across as arrogant or superior. Some times I feel I need to just edit Egypt out of my comments altogether.

Perhaps part of the difficulty is the expectation that because I'm American this should be easy. I did spend 20 years of my life in the US. But I guess Egypt affected me in such a way at such a formative time of my life that it's not easy to not be affected. There's a saying in Egypt "if you drink from the Nile you'll always come back." For me, it should be "if you drink from the Nile, you'll never really leave."

Returning home is not nearly as easy as I thought. 

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