Sunday, January 9, 2011

Memo to self: have no more great ideas!

Last year I had the fantastic idea to organise the first German Goddess Conference and I ended up spending weeks wondering what I was doing and worrying that it would all be one big desaster. In the end it all went really well and it was a beautiful event But apparently it didn't teach me anything because then I had the great idea of going to Egypt to learn some Arabic. I thought it would be nice to live with a family, look into their everyday lives and take on as much Arabic as possible. The whole trip shouldn't really serve a purpose. It just seemed like a fun thing and a great idea.
So here I am now, litterally stranded in Luxor and feeling more than a little lost. It's not my first time in Egypt, but when I was staying in the German House and in the Fayrouz Hotel I felt I didn't get into the real country in a way. I found a language school in Luxor that offered acommodation with families and thought, Briliant, off I go.
I'm not disappointed at all. It is as foreign and exotic to me as one could have hoped. Hamada, the eldest son of the family, picked me up from Luxor airport. He thinks he's twenty-four and he has a funny way to laugh. A bit like a suffocating fish, but really funny. The flat is about as big as Mitja's and my flat in Bonn. They are a family of five living in it, while Mitja and I agree that our flat is too small for two people. Mona and Sayid, the parents, havn't got much english. Ahmed, the second son, has a little more, and Zahwa, the fourteen years old daughter, who kindly shares her room with me, doesn't speak it badly at all. She doesn't always understand me, but with gestures we get by most of the time. Mona's sister Affaf is the manager of the Luxor office of the language school Ahlan Egypt.

The flat's living room is cosily furnished in Gold and Red. The telly is on all day long. When we eat we all sit down on the floor. An old blanket is spread out with newspapers on top of it. The food comes in several little dishes, and we eat with spoons and with our fingers. There aren't any plates. Everything that is spilled or crumbled lands on the newspapers, and after we've finished, is rolled up and thrown away with them. All day the windows' curtains are closed and it is very dark in the flat. I find it very hard to understand the everyday structure of the family, assuming that there is a structure. Mona seems to spend all day on the sofa watching telly and smoking except when she's cooking. The men come and go apparently as they please. Zahwa is at home all day and goes to lessons in the evening. The moment they come homw the women put on pyjamas and wear them all day. The family is very kind, but we cannot communicate and I have no idea of what I am expected to do. I keep telling myself that I am not expected to do anything at all, but I am under pressure and not happy at all. The bathroom is not much short of a desaster. I am the last person to be fussy about such things, but it is not pretty. Or clean. I don't think I can do that shower more than absolutely necessary and contemplate spending the next three weeks rather smelly. Maybe I can book myself into a hotel room at a reduced fair just to use the shower? Whenever I want to use the toilet I put on shoes because there is water on the floor an inch high. Instead of loo paper there is a suspicious looking little metally tube located in an equally suspicious place in relation to where one would be sitting if the toilet had a toilet seat. I have decided to give that adventure a miss and organised myself some loo paper. I managed Moldova's so-called toilets, I can do it again, I tell myslef. At least here you can flush the toilets! The streets all look the same to me and I have no idea how to get to the school and back. The darkness in the flat, not being able to speak to anybody and not knowing where I am, where I can go and what I can do is utterly depressing. It makes me wonder why I keep doing things like that, throw myself in at the deep end. Organising a Goddess Conference, going off to live with a family whose language I don't speak and whose culture I don't know... Do I want to prove that I'm courageous? Special? Tough? Different? I think the truth is that I'm very scared. I wouldn't do anything if I properly thought about things first. Several good things in my life came out of acting without thinking things through before doing them. My university degree, for example.

I spend the first few days feeling utterly miserable, contemplate going home early and things like that. Zahwa becomes my lifesaver. She goes and buys an egyptian Sim-card with me, she makes me memorise where the multitaxis stop and what I have to say to the driver when I want to get off. Whne she wants to cross the street she actually holds out her hand and orders me: „Take my hand!“ She is the sweetest thing and probably thinks that I need a lot of help.

On the first evening two little girls, who live in the same house, five and seven years old I would guess, came over. They sang me some songs and I have a lovely little movie of them to share. Does anybody know if and how I can upload videos to this blog? Please explain!

There will be photos the next time. But I havn't asked them yet if I may take pics of the living room, and I thought I'd spare us all the bathroom. Blessings to you all from Egypt xx


  1. Dear Joanne, It sure sounds like an adventure that you have thrown yourself into! I hope you will feel more comfortable in the situation soon and that you have a good experience! Sending you hugs and love, Elin

  2. Dear Elin,

    thanks for your words. I'm sure I'll feel at home soon.
    Love to you, Jo x

  3. Wow Joanne, I never did the living with people thing, because I value my privacy too much... not to mention a clean bathroom. But it is very brave, bravo 3alayki! And it truly will be the best way to learn the language, which is why you are there. Have the lessons started yet? Once you have a few words of Arabic things will be easier, and you can practice with them.
    You are very brave and it is a unique learning experience...
    I taught Arabic to a Dutch couple who have emigrated to Luxor to open a restaurant, Lotus Restaurant at the Old Souk Street. Their names are Mia and Albert, and they are lovely people; if you explain your predicament I think they will let you use their shower...

  4. Thankyou Tressy, you're a star! Am getting used to it... Much love, Jx