Sunday, December 7, 2014

Simple things

"I love those who do not know how to live, except by going under, for they are those who cross over.” 

― Friedrich Nietzsche 

I have always wanted to believe in the power of simplicity. The art of minimalism and going without, of cutting away all that is unnecessary in life, to reduce mental clutter, emotional baggage - not to mention a rejection of the capitalist mantra that most North Americans grow up with: Bigger, better, faster, more.

The smell of fresh air, a cold glass of water, an empty road to walk; these simple pleasures are probably the closest I have to a "must have" list, the things I simply couldn't live without (All of which are in short supply here in Cairo, I might add). I am not a fan of unneeded fancy gadgets or shiny technology and have always hated the disposable nature of contemporary culture - buy a computer and then replace it every 3 three years. I detest the idea of waste, and of landfills piling up with our self-created garbage. Keep it simple, Less is more - these are motto's that I always fall back to.

And yet, despite my best zen and hippie aspirations, it seems that nothing in my life is ever truly simple. Perhaps the austere nature of simplicity is completely at odds with my artistic personality - intense, reflective, inquisitive, talkative, decorative and obsessive. I have accumulated a veritable treasure trove of artifacts from the past 5 years of travels (scarves, postcards, antiques, books, objects and ephemera), sitting in reused apple boxes back home in Canada, awaiting the day I ever settle down. If I could paint a wall, I would never choose simplistic white. Stencils of gold stars would more likely border a deep rich red or forest green, with layers of paper and cloth draped haphazardly about, hiding any and all semblance of minimalism. If I have a coffee table in front of me, rest assured it is covered in half-empty mugs, notebooks and papers. My ideal house resembles more a museum, than a functional quiet place of living. Embellishment and detail are what always draw me in - "the more the merrier", anything-goes philosophy of every shabby-chic decorator from here to Soho.

What then, am I to expect of my life, as it naturally echos my philosophies and creative persona? The very nature of an honest Artist is that life reflects art and vice-versa. Perhaps life will always be somewhat complicated for me, because that is who I am at my core - a complex, conflicted, person who attracts similar intense souls, similar difficult situations. Love might be simple, as the best feelings and emotions are - irrefutable nuggets of resoluteness and purity  - but the world they inhabit, the place where love has to live, always seems fraught with uncertainty and difficulty and patience waiting to be tested.

I can admire the Buddha all I want, in his serenity and peace under the Bodhee tree, but in actuality my spirit will always be more like that of a tormented wayward disciple - torn between palm lined paths, toting amulets and talismans from various journeys and beliefs that I stole along the way.

So this is life: a complicated, wonderful beast of a place. And I don't think I'd have it any other way.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

DIY Thai Tom oh-so-yum

On my first visit to Cairo three years ago, I ate little more than greasy late night shawarma, stale falafels, laughing cow cheese cubes and Turkish coffee.  Whether it was due to only frequenting cheap-o backpacker friendly cafes in the downtown, being too out-of-my-mind excited to even eat properly at all -or just that I had no clue of really where to go- I am happy to say that my diet this time around living in Cairo, has been a vast improvement.

Living in the somewhat out-of-touch expat populated suburb of Maadi has its advantages; within a 3 blocks radius of my house I can find a Greek cafe, two Italian restaurants, two Lebanese (one casual and cheap, the other a really classy delicious space perfect for special occasions), several as-yet-to-be-visited Chinese shops, a Sushi joint (haven't taken that plunge just yet - the thought of raw sashimi in a city where I have to sterilize my parsley with vinegar keeps me skeptical), an upmarket American place appropriately called "Craves" (for when the spoiled expat craves nachos, grilled cheese sammiches and maybe a good burger for his poor homesick stomach), a great cheap Egyptian kitchen, a biker-frequented bagel shop, many coffee shops -and more. Of course this doesnt include all the food that is available by phone - a quick trip to and one can order nearly anything and everything to be delivered to ones home, from delicious Mexican burritos to boxes of Syrian shawarma platters bursting with enough grease and garlic sauce to satiate even the most stoned or hungover lazy munch-a-holic.

The one thing then, that is missing from this whole situation, has been my beloved Vietnamese Pho - Cairo's Vietnamese population is apparently next to nil, though there are rumours of a supposed "Chinatown" lurking somewhere, which perhaps might lead me closer to the ellusive phantom steaming bowl. Second to Pho might be a good bowl of Thai Tom Yum - that intoxicating spicy dish fragrant with lemongrass, ginger, garlic, cilantro and other shrimpy soupy goodness (also the perfect antidote to Cairos smog and general related chronic nasal congestion).

Yet my attempts to find a decent Thai restaurant in Cairo have left me feeling like a dead Pharaoh without his funerary mask - incomplete and lacking. The first Thai discovery came via the aforementioned takeout, whereupon on our soup was delivered like a goldfish in a plastic bag. A few floating shrimps in a clear broth for exorbitant (by Cairo standards), prices. This past weekend another attempt at chasing the Thai dragon was made, by me, the flatmate and our hungry respective dates. After a long and arduous taxi ride to the Nile island of Zamalek, (and approximately 30 more minutes of walking like lost hunters through a chaotic and forbidding Thai-less land), we found the place - only to be served another sad bowl of clear salty liquid with nothing whatsoever "Thai" about it, and a main course than is best remembered for the fact that the rice portion was shaped cleverly like dear old Cheop's resting place.

After all this Thai teasing - and the lack of anything satisfying- I thought it perhaps best to just take the bull by the horns, search out the ingredients and in the DIY spirit that has always (and always will) guide my life, just make it myself. If I can find the stuff here to make it in Cairo, you have no excuse!!


DIY Thai Tom Oh-so-yum

1 Onion
2 cloves garlic
1 stalk lemongrass
1 handful cilantro
chunk of ginger chopped into peices
2 thai red chili peppers, seeds removed and chopped into large chunks (or more depending how suicidal you feel)
2 carrots thinly sliced into rounds 
2 scallions cut into longer slices like they do in Thai food
1 can mushrooms
1 cup coconut milk
1 tablespoon green curry paste (they sell amazing Thai paste here for 2 bucks!)
1 teaspoon Sambal Olneok or whatever that hot chili stuff is called (stoked to find this here for cheap)
few squirts Shiracha hot sauce
A litre or so of water
1 cube soup stock
2 spoons fish sauce
spoonful soy sauce
package of Thai stick noodles
Shrimp if you have them (I couldn't find any for decent prices that didn't look like they might give me Gastro-Intestinal nightmares)

First , chop everything up - Get your flatmate to pour you a drink while you do this.Then saute the onions and garlic in a little oil until soft. Add the spice paste and mush it with the onions and garlic, add the ginger and lemongrass, then add the coconut milk, then basically everything else -except the noodles and shrimp. Let it cook for about 10 minutes while you boil water to cook the noodles (they will cook very fast, so watch it!). Add the shrimp near the end because shrimp are little (there's a reason they are called shrimp), and cook it a few minutes. Add the noodles and a bit more cilantro and then taste to make sure its spiccccy hot, (add more Sambal Chili bits if its not hot enough), then eat and drink and be merry with the fact that you probably are eating the best Thai Tom Yum soup in town.

thai things

Steaming pot of awesome

Bowls of happiness

Friday, October 24, 2014

Dusty Rose-Tinted lenses of Wonder

Lately I have been watching numerous episodes of 'The Wonder Years' here in Cairo, thanks to my flatmate Tressa and her 1 terabyte external hard-drive full of downloaded entertainment -and also the fact that my productivity in marking student quizzes seems increased by watching something at the same time.

In case anyone isn't familiar with 'The Wonder Years', this television show from the 1980's was about a young boy's coming of age in the late 1960's. It starred child actor Fred Savage and featured a lot of great vintage music as well as voice-overs, teenage melodrama and him licking his lips in angst. The funny thing about 'The Wonder Years' is that when I watch it, I am overwhelmed with nostalgia - not only for the fact that I grew up as a kid watching this show about a boy growing up, but nostalgia for what my parents must have felt watching a show about growing up in the 1960's, when they themselves grew up then.

I am not sure of the word for empathetic or collective nostalgia, or if it is a phenomenon for anyone else besides me, but I have always been obsessed with other people's stories, lives, and pasts - to the point where I will actually feel nostalgia for something that I myself didn't experience, if I observe others experiencing the glaze of memory in some shared revery or moment. Thinking about this got me to thinking about perception in general, and the concept of objectivity - or perhaps more specifically, objective reality.

Every morning Sunday through Thursday,  I am picked up at 7 am in a minibus and driven to work. This drive might be quite possibly the ugliest drive I have ever experienced on a regular basis; dusty morning pollution coagulating the arteries of the Cairo suburb of Maadi; Rusty petrol trucks leaking their toxic liquids onto the road as we careen around another roundabout and dodge mangy street dogs, fruitcarts, and brave jaywalkers in uncomfortable-looking suits, attempting to make their way across the freeway, to catch their own particular minibus to work. Unfinished buildings line the roads; rebar and bricks piled and left to burn in the sun beside heaps of cement block and disposed garbage and plastic bags. It's a frantic chaotic mess of a morning, so far removed from anything resembling beauty - I close my eyes as the breeze (and dust and dirt) hits my face through the open window; Other teachers crammed in next to me sip their coffees and discuss the days gossip; the driver curses in Arabic while pressing heavily on the horn, and our sweaty minibus exercises its breaks to avoid hitting a overtly confident motorcyclist.

This is one lens of Cairo - the lens of commuting to work in a 20 million person Metropolis that just happens to exist in the middle of the desert. It is the Cairo of dust and smog and uncountable numbers of satellite dishes on rooftops. It is the Cairo of ugliness and decay and general urban disaster. It is the Cairo my Dad referred to years ago when I mentioned wanting to travel to Egypt - "Cairo is the world's largest up-ended ashtray". 

But then there is the lens of Cairo seen in beauty -in fragments of awe and perfection. It is the kaleidoscopic view found in the old Islamic quarter at sunset, standing on the roof of a mosque, watching a man on another rooftop tend to his pigeon coop. It is observing him feed them, as others circle in the air, dancing through the dozens of minarets and the late afternoon haze. It is the feeling of gratitude and inspiration at such a beautiful skyline that makes you want to call a pigeon a dove. The sound of the call to prayer, sung by someone who can actually sing, the morning light on my balcony, shards of sunshine through the hibiscus tree. It is in unknown alleys and unexplored streets, in rooftop bars that never close and plates of free mezze eaten with friends  It is in the seemingly overt presence of chance and fate; every day I feel like absolutely anything could happen - whether it's meeting a fascinating old man in my neighbourhood who runs an artist studio and wants to help me print a book, or getting hit by a truck - It's all there, good, bad and everything in between.

I suppose this is the case for everyone - that our reality is determined more by the lens that which we see things, not by any measure of truth or actuality. Cairo -like all places I have lived and visited- isn't a place on a map, or defined by any precise objective reality, but rather in the momentary lens that I happen to be viewing it through. Just as I will never know what it was like to experience the 1960's firsthand, I will perhaps never know 'real Cairo' - because such a thing doesn't tangibly exist except to those who experience it, or observe. Cairo unfolds as I imagine it, and I ascribe subjective meaning and importance to things because of my choice of lens. I would like to think that this doesn't invalidate my comments, or that my life here as a transient observer isn't somehow less legitimate. Maybe this is what all writers do; elevate the subjective and ignore the concept of objectivity entirely.

The Pigeon keeper on his rooftop exists eternally now, as does every other nuance and subtlety that I have ever happened to notice - immortalized in my memory, my mind mummified in wonder and delight.

Monday, October 13, 2014

I Yam Thankful for Soup

It is dinner time in Cairo - breakfast time in 9 hours behind Calgary, Alberta, Canada. When I sit down to relax with an end-of-the-day Stella beer, you people are all sipping on morning coffees

Today is also Thanksgiving Day in Canada, an Autumn holiday that I actually don't really honestly remember the logistics of -beyond Turkey, Cranberries and pumpkin pie. I do know that American Thanksgiving happens a full month later (and Canadians just have to be different, don't they?) around the time of that other quintessentially American holiday - The Superbowl. Everyone with any knowledge of American History knows that American Thanksgiving has received a fair bit of justly given bad press in the past 20 or so years, for being a neo-Colonial celebration of the near-genocide of the Native Peoples of the America's. What exactly the pilgrims were 'giving thanks' for might never be proven, but we can suppose with some certainty it wasn't the existence of pumpkin spice loaf and lattes.

The celebration of Thanksgiving then -either American or Canadian- might be a somewhat uncomfortable if not downright blasphemous holiday. Canadian Thanksgiving actually also falls on American Columbus Day, which is a celebration of the explorer's supposed "discovery" of the new world in 1492; Nevermind the fact that there were millions of people already inhabiting this place before his arrival (or the fact that explorers from Kingdoms in Muslim Spain, Mali, and The Ottomans are thought to have actually landed in America way before Columbus), any day off from work is a good day in my mind, and being thankful for things never hurt anybody.

As a kid Thanksgiving to me meant nothing more than celebrating the wonderful season of Autumn; the time of year for rusty coloured crunchy piles of leaves, for raking them together and stuffing them in giant orange bags; first morning frosts on the way to school, new corduroy pants and fuzzy sweaters; the smell of things baking as the sun begins to set earlier in the evening, and a pre-cursor to the most glorious of all the fall holidays - Halloween. Being a born and bred city girl, the term "harvest" never meant much beyond picking out a giant pumpkin from a Safeway Bin, but the romance of the season persists: I love Fall. This love grew out of my childhood all the way into Adulthood and eventually gave way to an appreciation of the death of summer, the season of renewal, solitude and cozying up for the ever-dreaded winter.

I am currently living in a country where neither Thanksgiving, nor Halloween are celebrated- beyond perhaps the occasional party frequented by ex-pats. I am in a city where the season of Autumn doesn't actually exist at all - Cairo has 2 seasons, Summer and Winter, and in the spirit of being thankful, I will state that neither requires the use of Ugg boots, longjohns, a snowsuit, or such homely concepts as a 'neckwarmer'.

Despite this, I do miss Canadian thanksgiving, my family and friends and all the roasted-root-vegetable glory of the season; In its honour tonight I cooked a big pot of vaguely Autumn appropriate harvest-y soup.

Here is the recipe:

Easy-peasy Autumn-esque Red Lentil and Yam soup for giving thanks

1 cup Red Lentils
Olive oil
1 onion
3 cloves garlic
2 potatoes
2 yams
2 carrots
1 cube stock mix
3 tablespoons tomato paste (or pasta sauce or whatever you happen to have handy)
cumin, curry powder, salt and pepper
half a yellow or red pepper chopped small

First, get a bowl to rinse and soak the lentils, changing the water a few times and throwing away any debris, stones, spiders, chunks of gold etc etc.  While the lentils take a bath, chop your veggies - onions and garlic small, potatos and other root vegetables a little bigger. (Think small cubes). Don't cut yourself , knives are sharp. Saute the onions and garlic in some olive oil until they begin to look soft and yummy and squishy, adding spices as desired. Try not to drop too many stray pieces of onion on the floor ; the ants love onions and who knows what carnage you might wake up to tomorrow morning. Drain the lentils from their murky tubwater, and add alongside the rest of the veggies and 3/4 of a litre of bottled water (or tap water if you live in a place where tap water doesn't taste like a stagnant pool after a kid pees in it). Add the tomato paste and stock cube and bring everything to a boil, then turn the heat down to a simmer. Put a lid on it (this is the part where you can crack a beer and dance around the kitchen singing "if you like it then you shoulda put a liddddd on it", like Beyonce - or maybe thats just me), and go on facebook for 15 minutes. Come back, stir your soup, then go back on Facebook for another 15 minutes (nothing has changed, but check it anyways). Go back to the kitchen and check the soup - Is it mushy? Taste it. Yummy? Good. Turn off heat and grab a lemon to squeeze in the bowl, and maybe some bread and butter too. Eat and congratulate yourself once again on a meal well done, and maybe give thanks that it was so delicious.

Get back to your roots
Simmer down


Basic soup parts

Tressa is most thankful for my soup

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Pasta with Eggplants

Let me first tell you what I was planning to write about:

I had planned to write a succinct and clever post about the Eid Feast of the sacrifice and subsequent 5 days off from school, my trip to the Sinai peninsula, about the numerous checkpoints on the road, about the horrifying filthy bus stations of middle-of-nowhere Egypt, about the unfortunate early morning flat tire in the middle of the supposed insurgent littered desert, about the truck of black-clad AK-47 wielding men who showed up as I stretched out my stiff morning shoulders in a scant tanktop at the side of the road - and me bursting out in maniacal laughter imagining them to be Islamic militants (actually it was the Egyptian army showing up to protect us from just that). I wanted to write in depth about all of these things, about lazing on the beach with Saudi Arabia in the distance, about the death of Tourism in the wonderful hippie town of Dahab, about anything and everything not related to my all-consuming job of teaching English, (which seems to infiltrate every other conversation and is making me feel very boring)..but as I am currently in the midst of cooking up a mean pot of pasta, I have decided instead to just post a recipe.


Julia's vaguely Turkish-style Spaghetti with Eggplants
(Aka. The Vegetarian pasta dish that people who eat meat will actually enjoy)

3 small eggplants, sliced thinly and cut into half-rounds (peeled if you live in Cairo)
2 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
1 onion chopped up
Small jar tomato sauce (here we have Kraft brand "Pasta sauce" - it's decent actually)
Cumin, curry powder, salt, pepper, oregano
Olive oil for cooking
Bag of pasta, whatever shape tickles your fancy
Feta cheese
Several beers

First, saute them onions in some better quality olive oil till they are nice and soft; add the garlic and spices and continue to saute. Fry until your kitchen smells good, while swiggin' a beer and killing ants on your kitchen counter. Then add a little more oil and the sliced eggplants. Cook on med-high heat until the eggplants start to look soft and have absorbed some spicy goodness. Add more oil and cumin as needed. After about 10 minutes things should be looking semi-cooked; add the tomato sauce and some water so it doesn't stick. Cook on low heat while you light another burner on the gas stove, (carefully throwing the used match in the sink ya hear?) Boil water for the pasta, adding some salt to disguise the taste of the chlorine. Sit on the couch and begin writing on your blog, then get up to check the pasta, then sit down again get up again, get annoyed at the mundane task of cooking; tell your room-mate that you hate cooking and that life is too short to spend hovering over a pot of steaming liquids. Get up again, maybe now the pasta is done. Drain pasta and top with sauce, some small spoonfuls of Istanbul style feta, and some yogurt and salt,pepper, hot sauce etc as needed. Eat it fast, while drinking beer -start to sweat a little. Feel momentarily pretty good about this cooking thing. Fall on the couch while your roomate does dishes.


Disinfected Produce

bubbling pot of goodness

Arabic Pastas

Olive oil, ISIS brand spices

finished plates ready to be devoured

Mmmm carbs

Sriracha sauce for all

Hurray for timer shots!

Watch out for those pesky kitchen ants!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Fear and not-quite loathing, in Cairo

We have all been told over and over again, since childhood, that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Fear, (as anyone who suffers from chronic anxiety or bouts of worrying knows), is a rather unproductive emotion- Fear leads to feelings of powerlessness, elevated blood pressure, irrational panic and on occasion, tears. We live in a world that idolizes bravery, and shames fear. Nobody wants to be a wuss, and often we hide our feelings of fear, lest we be labeled a wimp and shrink into the corner.

Well, I have a confession to make, after several years writing this blog, and perhaps due to the variety of places I have traveled as a solo female, being often mislabeled by people as being "brave": I am afraid. I am afraid of pretty much everything. I am, in fact, the self-appointed queen of fear. How I ever managed to hop on an airplane alone in the first place is something of a mystery - I suppose for all that I am fearful and scared, I am also as equally adventurous and curious. If only I could exist in some sort of super-hero-like sealed bubble of protection, while wandering the globe -that would be wonderful.

As a child I was terrified of many things, including but not limited to: hospitals, doctors, dentists, needles, anything and everything medically related (including such innocuous objects as rubber gloves and aqua-blue greened hued nurses outfits), a veritable hypochondriacs list of ailments and diseases, the dark, spiders, large dogs, aliens, ghosts, falling down, climbing things too high, and the probability of an asteroid hitting the earth. As I've matured, some of those fears have wained slightly, (and I do credit watching the X-files as part of the healing process), but many have remained. I am still completely phobic of anything to do with blood and needles, and those fears of falling out of a tree have morphed into the fear of being hit by a car - currently, one of Egypt's manically driven, lawless minibuses careening through a round-about in downtown Cairo. (This fear is not without precedent mind you - being hit by a speeding motorcycle in Tehran and taken via ambulance to a Iranian hospital for probably illegally radioactive X-rays will definitely make one a bit paranoid of future collisions.)

Living in Cairo presents a unique opportunity to confront ones fears - I watch entire families of 4 riding on one motorbike in rush hour, wife sitting side saddle holding a newborn baby, weaving in and out of traffic like a suicidal video game, and my mind reels in the possibilites and probabilities of the situation. I shudder and wipe my sweaty brow, gazing from the taxi. I lay on the sofa and browse Facebook and learn of a bombing outside a Cairo Foreign Ministry office; I quickly close my laptop and retreat to a room in the house not near any windows. The water heater in the bathroom makes odd noises and I envision it exploding as I sit on the toilet, scalding me senseless. I imagine that the cold virus I have apparently caught is actually Legionaire's disease, transmitted via the aging Air conditioning system in our apartment. I create all manner of terrifying situations in my head, as though my mind is an out-take of a horror film, perpetuating endless loops of all that could go wrong.

And then I realize how silly it is. If a family of 4 can ride on one motorcycle, sans helmets, along one of Cairo's busiest freeways, then what on earth do I have to be worried about? If 20 million people here can go about their daily business, why am I such a baby? I am tired of feeling afraid, tired of the scenarios that play out in my mind. Another one of the teachers here (coming from a gloriously logical Engineering background), keeps reminding me of the optimism of statistics. Statistically speaking, in a city of this size, it is unlikely that I will ever be at the wrong place at the wrong time (fear of terrorism). Statistically speaking, it is unlikely that I would be hit twice in my life, by a speeding motorcycle. Statistically, Legionaire's disease is a fairly unusual affliction.

It is with such mantras that I cloak myself in the Emperor's-new-clothes hijab of invincibility; I put it on and twirl around the room in front of the Air-conditioner. I know I am not invincible, and the dangers are still out there, but for now I am choosing only to see with brave eyes, trying to balance the part of me that whispers "be careful" with the part who is dying, itching, screaming -to just be alive.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Falafel and the Blow Dryer

One week in Cairo, and I do believe Tressa and I have settled in fairly well. Our gigantic Maadi apartment has been cleaned and stocked - toilet paper (naturally, we have both been spending a fair amount of time on the porcelain throne), five 26 oz bottles of duty-free liquor to last us through the "winter", fridge full of groceries (including a pallet of 32 eggs, the dangerous possibly-infected-with-typhoid produce, instant coffee and a giant bucket of glorious Istanbul-style white cheese), case of bottled 1 litre water (though I have been told by several brave teachers that Cairo's water is safe to drink but just tastes bad- "All the chlorine in it kills the Nile's parasites!!"), and of course, a small box of friskies catfood for our resident Bastet look-a-like, the skinny tabby from the street, 4 stories below.

The AC blasts all day (we were lucky enough to get an apartment with air-con, thank heavens) - all day when there isn't a power cut, that is. Cairo recently has been stricken with regulated daily power outages where we are left sitting in the dark, internet-less and without AC for exactly an hour. Some days we will be lucky enough to not get one at all, other days it can happen up to 3 times. It always starts exactly on the hour, and lasts for one hour, and is done to reduce stress on the apparently overloaded power grid (When daily temperatures reach 37 degrees Celsius and there are some 20 million people in one city, I suppose the power plants are a bit breathless and overloaded). This reminder of the precarious nature of our energy resources hasnt stopped me from cranking the AC at all hours though, in fact its resulted in me thinking quite the opposite: If I'm being inconvienced anyways , I may as well enjoy those bourgeois comforts guilt-free and abundantly, right?

Funny note: Just as I was writing this, the clock struck 5 pm, the AC stopped, and yes, a powercut indeed began.

Even in public places, if there is a powercut, you can expect a certain measure of chaos. Last night at the Maadi City Centre Mall, whilst shopping the aisles of a larger shoe-and-clothing shop for new flipflops, the lights went out and no back-up generators kicked in. The result was a large multileveled store full of people fumbling for their phone flashlights, being escorted by Mall security to the store entrance, where indeed there were some backup generators providing light throughout the main mall thoroughfare.

Larger shops such as the omnipresent grocery giant Carrefour are above such inconvenience, providing their own power supply, and thus we headed there to purchase groceries and a few more needed household items while the rest of the city went dark.For those who don't know, the Carrefour is a very large megastore, somewhat akin to the American Wallmart. Rather than hunting down various shops that are near impossible to find in our neighbourhood (dollar store, shoes, bathroom products etc), it is much easier to just grab a taxi and head for the giant neon florescent lights. I say it with some shame - one week here and there's been 2 trips to the Carrefour, and we havent even seen the pyramids yet.

I also thought it might be a logical opportunity to quickly pick up a hair dryer - though why one would want to dry ones hair with a heated appliance in a stuffy desert environment is an illogical mystery that, like the Pyramids, might never be fully explained or solved. Regardless, what I thought might be a simple task - grabbing the item off the shelf and paying for it at the cash register- was an exercise and lesson itself unto the Egyptian Bureaucratic nightmare machine.

First to even locate the item required asking a Sales Associate and pantomiming the act of drying ones hair. Hairdryers: obviously located next to the MP3 players, powertools and blenders. Then, it is not simply possible to throw the hairdryer into ones cart, for a special form needs to be filled out, which takes approximately 15 minutes to do so, and then one must take this form and pay for the item elsewhere, and come back. Of course, as it turns out, one cannot pay for the electronic goods with ones groceries at the regular tills, but instead one must go to a special desk. If after figuring this out and managing not to pull out ones own hair (which would in fact render the now paid for hair dryer, rather useless), one will go back and be handed the coveted dryer only to be told to go to customer service for it to be "checked", testing the wires and settings, and of course, getting the security beeping device removed lest one be accused of shoplifting and thrown into one of General Sisi's illustrious prisons.

By the end of all this half hour long running around, my patience had run dangerously thin (think irate Italian man gesturing frantically with his hands, cursing), the perishable goods in our cart were nearing expiration, and my face had taken on a new level of sweat and rosy flustration. I remarked at the near saint-like levels of patience exuded by my fellow Egyptian shoppers- this sort of thing was par for the course for them - what was I getting so irritated about?? It got me to thinking how grossly spoiled we are in Canada, and of course, in moments the inevitable "Why am I here?"question cooed and cawed in my head like a kookabura bird on speed.

At the risk of becoming one of those reflective people who runs from one intercontinental Existential crisis to another, the simple fact that in the same mall visit I was able to eat a delicious falafel platter for a fraction of the cost of one in Canada, as well as sip a coffee in a mall cafe where the non smoking section and smoking were in fact, hilariously the same section, seems to be enough to justify it. I am here for lack of any better place or anything better to do - No fixed career or anything to tie me down means I am free to experience the good, the bad, the ugly and everything in between, and of course, the extremities of the experience provide a plethora of things to be inspired to write about. Which is basically my one true passion, and hopefully will one day be my actual career.

So, why am I in Cairo ?? Well...why would I NOT be in Cairo?

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The people you'll meet

There are thus far 8 new teachers who have been hired this year at Sakkara school, in Cairo.
We all arrived within a week or two of each other, and due to the fact we are all living within the same few blocks in Maadi (a fairly upscale suburb of Cairo - though upscale in Egypt means something slightly different than in North America), have become instant friends.

Yasmin - the first to arrive. Half Libyan, half British, with a very thick awesome proper British accent, Yasmin studied Arabic in Cairo for a year while at University, and has also spent a few summers here. She quite obviously loves Cairo, has a great sense of humour and also loves chain smoking while drinking Stellas.

Rebecca - Yasmin's flatmate, Rebecca is an experienced teacher who has spent the last 10 years in various locales from Japan to Chile. She is originally from Georgia, USA, and has a lovely Southern accent, as well as a very feminine, beautiful sense of style - sort of Southern belle meets boho traveler. Our first night out, she navigated downtown Cairo's maze of uneven and crumbling streets in a pair of wooden platform strappy wedge heels. I was very impressed. Rebecca is a vegetarian, a shameless smoker, and a fellow aspiring writer, who studied photography at University. She was originally planning on going to Afghanistan to teach, but much to her fathers relief, chose Cairo instead. I think me and her are going to get along fabulously.

Michelle - Originally hailing from sunny California, Michelle is a super funny and friendly hip girl, who happened to study Arabic for a semester in Cairo, and of course, fell in love with the city. She is self professed to be obsessed with Urban renewal/decay and megalopolis cities, and is intrigued by the contemporary fusion of cultures and lifestyles that cities like Cairo encompass. Michelle is very confident in stressful chaotic urban situations, and has been a sort of tour guide to us girls who aren't as familiar with the city. She is hilarious and always cracking jokes, I like her a lot.

Tresta - The last of the girls to arrive, Tresta happens to have a very unique name that also happens to be very similar to my friend (who also came to Cairo with me), Tressa. We are all slightly amused by this coincidence.  Tresta, from Florida, spent the past 2 years living in India, volunteering for an NGO, and teaching kids. She is very feminine and well spoken and calm- though she seems to have plenty of interesting stories too, including something about a broken engagement to a German man while in India. This is her first time in Cairo.

Hannah - Hannah originally hails from Montana, USA, so naturally we initially refered to her as Hannah Montana, though I don't think she appreciated it so much. She has her degree in Arabic, and spent a year or two living in Alexandria, Egypt, before coming to Cairo. Her and her flatmate Linea (from Alaska, USA), are long time University friends and have spent a fair bit of time to themselves, so I don't know them as well as the others, yet. They both seem very polite and quiet and reserved, though if they love Egypt this much, I predict they are fairly different people once you get to know them.

And then there's me and Tressa, the 2 Canadian girls. I am not sure what people might say about us - the 2 loudmouths who talk a lot, one of whom is obsessed with the region, the other who came along for the crazy ride, both of whom love hummus and make somewhat inappropriate jokes about the old, run-down vintage dive bars full of drunken old men, in Downtown Cairo, in front of the schools Director. Whoops.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

You will go to Cairo.

You will go to Cairo because of palm trees, smog and sand. You will go to Cairo for its sheesha cafes in narrow alleys downtown, plastic chairs and tiny little metal tables. You will go to Cairo to mimic the feeling of going back in time. You will go to Cairo to feel frightened in Elevators. You will go to Cairo because of mint tea, served in a glass cup, with an egg cup of sugar on the side, and a tiny metal spoon. You will go to Cairo to see pyramids, obelisks and minarets. You will go to Cairo to hear Oum Kulthum playing quietly in a taxi, as you circle endlessly through chaotic suburbs, trying to find your house. You will go to Cairo to pet its feisty street cats, before their skinny legs whisk them through a busy intersection to grab a stray garbage chicken bone. You will go to Cairo for tarnished brass, weathered wood and dusty glass.You will go to Cairo and eat endless triangles of laughing cow processed cheese. You will go to Cairo because of tiny dive bars playing old black and white movies on the television, with old men gathered around, smoking endlessly, wearing vintage blazers and thick glasses. You will go to Cairo to pretend you are in a Naquib Mahfouz novel. You will go to Cairo to get lost downtown and dodge taxis and motorcycles balancing giant jugs of water on their back seats. You will go to Cairo to be woken by the 5 am call to prayer, wailing outside your bedroom window. You will go to Cairo to sweat in your skinny jeans, and watch women in black chadors keep their cool. You will go to Cairo to take the metro and have teenage boys flex their muscles, trying to impress you. You will go to Cairo and wash your tomatoes and cucumbers very carefully. You will go to Cairo and count the line of ants in your living room, an intricate complex system of pests, almost invisible, obviously plotting the take over of your entire house. You will go to Cairo to smell jasmine bushes, hibiscus flowers, and dirt. You will go to Cairo to step over a baby crawling along the busy sidewalk. You will go to Cairo to smoke. You will go to Cairo to have giant plates of rice, fried onions and lentils delivered to your door at 2 in the morning. You will go to Cairo to laugh maniacally, to speak loudly, to walk fast. You will go to Cairo to meet other people as crazy as you.

Monday, August 11, 2014


There are perhaps few concepts that I am more conflicted on than that of the word, "fate".

One cannot reference "fate" without taking note of it's unpleasant linguistic relation to "fatalism", to be "fatalistic", or just generally the simple root word, "fatal". A person who's attitude is fatalistic is generally not someone we might want to spend much time with. Accidentally ingesting a poisonous substance deemed fatal, might be a rather unfortunate choice. Your illness is fatal? Not exactly the greatest news. Etc.

One might favour the slightly more appealing: "fatale" (as in a "femme fatale"), but it seems to me that besides this mysterious cigarette smoking exception, the word 'fate' and all its related variations generally conjure up negative, "ill - fated" reactions in not only myself, but a general swath of the population. 

The Latin's came up with the term "Amor Fati" - that is, to love ones 'fate' and to see that all things that happen, both good and bad, are necessary and that one should love it all, every elation and equally every misfortune suffered. German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche was quite the fan of Amor Fati, and like to write poetic things about it, in between suffering mental breakdowns and smoking opium.

"I want to learn more and more to see as beautiful what is necessary in things; then I shall be one of those who make things beautiful. Amor fati: let that be my love henceforth! I do not want to wage war against what is ugly. I do not want to accuse; I do not even want to accuse those who accuse. Looking away shall be my only negation. And all in all and on the whole: some day I wish to be only a yes-sayer!!"
- Friedrich Nietzsche

I once got into a heated argument with an ex-boyfriend over the term, 'fate', and our general differing opinion on it. Perhaps sensing that a discussion of this magnitude after only a month of knowing each other would undoubtedly be a recipe for disaster, he took a large swig of beer and laid his cards on the wooden pub table: "I don't believe in fate."  I countered this with a large swilling of Gin and recoiled in horror, not so much playing devils advocate as voicing my own unsure beliefs: "You mean to say that nothing for you has any meaning, that you don't believe things happen for a REASON??!!"

Suffice to say, the evening didn't end so well.

Now that I am older and presumably wiser, my belief in fate has become somewhat muted. Fate can unfortunately often be an excuse to be lazy, to go with the flow, and to simply accept any given current circumstances, wasting away on the laurels of complacency that things are the way they should be. I have long been an avid devotee of 'taking charge of ones fate' - that is, to make a goal, a plan -however improbable- and become obsessed with it such that, for lack of a better word, you "make your dreams come true". This is all fairly in opposition with the idea that our destiny is predetermined. If fate is in control, than how exactly can I "take charge" of the situation?? It's all a bit convoluted. If everything has a meaning, and somehow "it is written" (the meaning of the word "Maktoob" in Arabic), then how can I write my own story the way I, as the control freak that I am, want to? Then again, when coincidental and auspicious events happen (and they really do seem to happen a lot), and it seems that the universe is giving away certain clues and signs, how can that be unless somehow there is such a thing as fate and these things are "meant to happen"?? Alternately, I might just be a crazy person who sees signs in everything.

This might all be a bit heavy and absurd to think about on a Monday morning, but the reason for me writing this is that often I find my own choices and decisions are made with a regard to somehow thinking what seems to fit in most with the so-called 'fate' I want for myself. When events happen that dovetail nicely with some particular idea I have for myself, or excite me, I like to call those circumstances "fate", as though it somehow solidifies any otherwise precarious and ill-advised plan. Recently, me and a friend of mine applied on a whim to teach English in Cairo, and as luck would have it, over a month later we have received an email basically offering us the job. Cairo certainly isn't the most stable place in the world right now, and despite my love of the region, I'm sure some friends and family are re-coiling at the thought of it. Yet there is that nagging little part of me that is convinced that this is the path I am "meant" to take - and it certainly doesn't hurt that I keep seeing those rather auspicious signs everywhere I go, nudging me that this is what I want to do, those little random reminders of Cairo.

Renowned mythologist and storyteller Micheal Meade wrote:

"Fate is the mistake that was meant to happen. It’s the accident that is no accident.... There are some things that constrain our lives, that limit us somehow, whether it be a family history, a genetic predisposition, a specific fault, or an omission that wounds us. I know a lot of young people who are older than their years because they’ve been trapped inside old family stories or attitudes. I call these limits that we did not choose, but that we must live with, “fate.” When we face our fate, we find our destiny, which is our soul’s destination in life. That which limits us has within it the seeds of that which can help us transcend our limitations. Through the exact twists of fate we find our own unique soul."

Of course this sort of writing tends to provoke the ire of people who hate the word "fate", most probably because of the over-use of the word, "soul", which at some point becomes pretty ridiculous to define and then the whole bit gets thrown out as hippy-drippy speak, some sort of "Eat Pray Love" mantra.

Whether or not it is fate that within the month I end up back in Egypt, or whether it is simply due to my own arbitrary and perhaps reckless choices, is for the Universe to know and me to never find out.

Wish me luck on the phone interview.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Of sunny days and short fuses.

Summer is in full swing here in Calgary - that short fleeting season of endless outdoor festivals, iced lattes, patio beers, backyard BBQ's and mosquito bitten flip flopp'ed feet. The season of urgency and sunkissed skin, of tinted lenses and slurpee sticky hands, late night thunderstorms and lawnmowers buzzing, the time of year that makes extroverts of introverts, and social butterflies of committed homebound hermits - after all, no one really wants to be like Morrissey, spending warm summer days indoors, writing frightening verse to a buck-tooth girl in Luxembourg.

Sitting idly at my desk at work, the air conditioning unit blazes away while the sun still manages to seep its fatigue inducing warmth through the window onto the corner of my chair; the sunny days just seem to melt one into the other -hard to imagine that in a few months there will be snow on the ground once again (and that really isn't pessimism talking, but just the reality of life on these unfortunate Canadian prairies).

This morning I was privy to a rather odd interaction relating somehow to the summer weather; as I sat on the bus to work, wearing my usual attire of denim cut-off shorts, tank top, cardigan and sandals, a sun burnt old man (who was being rather oddly chaperoned by two attractive Asian 20- something ladies), began talking to me such that I had to remove my headphones and ask him to repeat himself:

"Are you wearing anything down there?" he asked, bemused, as he pointed to his crotch and I glanced down at my lap, covered by my purse and a book, slightly confused, slightly horrified.

Apparently my seated position and carry-on parcels had obscured the view such that the poor dottering old man thought I was in my underwear on the bus - imagine that!! His two "caregivers" (nurses, wives, girlfriends- who knows), laughed and smiled and I adjusted myself, and replied curtly, "I'm wearing shorts - but thanks for noticing".

I wanted to tell him where to shove his cane, and to take note of the fact that he too was wearing short-shorts, (an all white ensemble that conjured up images of pasty privileged white men in Palm Springs who have no doubt drank too many glasses of scotch and are making disparaging remarks about the hotel help), and that it generally isn't polite to make commentary on the percentage of near-nudity exhibited by sweaty people on the morning bus, but I decided for my own sanity it was best to write him off as a senile old fart who meant no harm.

It did give me flashbacks to last summer though, and the infamous "Mashallah" men of Istanbul -those mustachioed beasts lurking on low stools, sipping tea in various alleys throughout Tarlabasi- who made sure to always make a remark on how much leg I happened to be showing as I swiftly walked down the street in my obviously-much-too-short-shorts.

Summer is a tough season for a girl to keep her cool in, especially when under various grades of sexual harassment -no matter what corner of the globe. I take some solace that at least I am not living in a country where, in some absurd defense of quasi-modesty, women are discouraged from laughing in public  -as Turkey's deputy Prime Minister was recently quoted as saying. As if my feminine blood wasn't already reaching dangerous internal temperatures - such idiocies take it from a gentle simmer to a full on raging blood-boil. It  always makes me wonder - do men who make these sorts of comments truly not see how irrelevant their statements are? How self important and grandiose does a person have to be to think that their opinion is of any importance? Who asked you to open your damn mouth anyways? Who asked you to look at me?? I am wearing shorts because it is HOT outside, you ignorant buffoons - I honest to god can't wrap my head around the level of privilege that men who make comments on women's appearance, to total strangers, must feel. You don't see me outing every bald head or beer gut I see, do you? How about you shut your cake hole and let me and my booty live in peace?

Times like these I know I need to just grab (another) iced latte and head for the nearest body of water to cool off. I do miss my beloved Istanbul Bosphorous, with its fishy breezes and shisha pipe cafes on a warm, tiring summer day - lazing on the evening ferry, watching the sun set. I crave being near a body of water, even if I'm not much of a swimmer (and lord knows what kind of lecherous old men are lurking around Calgary's pools); At least I have the lovely Bow river to stroll along and sink into my own reveries, where nobody notices the length of my inseams, nobody ruins the skyline with their arbitrary remarks, nobody has the audacity to spoil the sunshine.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Deconstructing the mystery

"When the mystery of the connection goes, love goes. It's that simple. This suggests that it isn't love that is so important to us but the mystery itself. The love connection may be merely a device to put us in contact with the mystery, and we long for love to last so that the ecstacy of being near the mystery will last. It is contrary to the nature of mystery to stand still. Yet it's always there, somewhere, a world on the other side of the mirror (or the Camel pack), a promise in the next pair of eyes that smile at us. We glimpse it when we stand still.
The romance of new love, the romance of solitude, the romance of objecthood, the romance of ancient pyramids and distant stars are means of making contact with the mystery. When it comes to perpetuating it, however, I got no advice. But I can and will remind you of two of the most important facts I know:
1. Everything is part of it.
2. It's never too late to have a happy childhood.” 

- Tom Robbins, 'Still Life with Woodpecker'

As the last few hours of this past weeks roadtrip came to a close, and I lazily slouched in the backseat of the car with my sunglasses on, in that satisfied half-revery composed of equal parts joy and exhaustion, I found myself reciting this passage -one of my favourites written by American author Tom Robbins-, in my head. Personifying not only one of the most poetic and blunt written voices to come out of the USA in the past 30 years, Robbin's perfect articulation of the outlaw, the freak, the insatiable wanderer and rogue, the fuck-up, the wild-eyed unwashed romantic wayward desert hobo, all seemed perfectly appropriate and representative of all that this past weeks sojourn to the American Southwest, encompassed.

I in fact awoke this morning in Las Vegas at 6 am, and it is now nearing midnight back home in Calgary - I ought to be sleepy and happy to be back in my own bed , yet the awakening of the mystery, as Tom Robbin's might put it, has placed me in that usual post-trip semi-manic hyper-high state that can only be satiated through incohesive writing, a stiff drink, or a late night walk outside under a waning full moon. I have drank too much lately, and my feet are tired, so, here goes the act of writing:

The barren desert landscapes of Utah, Nevada, Arizona and California burn still so freshly bright in my travel retinas; it is no accident that such landscapes seem ripe for all manner of UFO observance, and a veritable cult of supposed 'alien touch down' sites, replete with kitchy roadside cafes featuring silver spacecraft sculptures, or 'martian' BBQ beef jerky, have flourished throughout the area. These places seem too extremely haunting and ridden with mystery to be enjoyed only by humans - if aliens do exist, you can bet that they are too are in awe of the strangeness and vastness of the desert, I am certain. The jawdropping Monuments of Navajo Utah, sticking up like oversized red chunks of petrified wood on a plate of perfectly flat sand; Driving the narrow dark road into Joshua tree National Park late at night, with no light pollution to dull the stars shining, such that I made a point of getting out of the car and sitting down right in the middle of the road, the cold concrete below and the full moon alighting the entire eerie landscape like a flashlight from God; The glimpse of our first saguro Cacti, tall and outstretched like statuesque prickly cowboys, at sunset in the south of Arizona; All the twists and turns on highway roads, random truckstops and latenight burritos, the sub-sea level desolation of Death Valley's sand dunes, a vulture circling overhead hungrily...

What is this mystery and where does it come from, why does it hit me so hard, and how can I keep it alive in my everyday, non-desert-wandering life?!? These are the questions that my sleep deprived and sun baked brain asks itself as I sit now and type on the keys. Questions of permanence and solitude and love and connections and mystery ; all the best sorts of questions, I do suppose.

I have been so fortunate to have traveled to some of the worlds most beautiful, mysterious places, yet the whirlwind of sites that my friends and I managed to see on this trip nearly blows every other country out of the water, in their au natural, wonderous state. There is something so pure, timeless, and dare I say, 'primal' about being able to get in touch with the mystery, through nature. I am normally a sucker for the castles, churches, mosques and sacred spaces built by man -the influence of religion and history being the mysterious pull that draws me like a moth to a flame. In the deserts of America though, the mystery is evident mostly through the hands of nature; A giant canyon that appears out of nowhere, a gigantic hole in the earth, that gives palpable context to how deep and huge our rotating ball of earthly carbon actually is - and to know it was created simply out of the erosion of millions of years of rivers and tributaries???!! This is the kind of thing that gets my mind all worked up in a tizzy and makes me act out like a character in a Tom Robbin's book.

America is a fascinating and friendly place, with so much subtle nuance and mystery to be found in between the glitz and neon and plastic artifice: I feel really grateful that I, along with my three fellow outlaw gypsy diva friends, got to chisel away at a bit of it together, screaming along to Lady Gaga in the car, howling in our own born-this-way way, an homage to all things sparkling and fleeting, mysterious and beautiful and strange.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

In like a Lion and out like a Lamb

March in Calgary is a moody month at the best of times; whereas in some parts of the world the heralding of spring brings with it mild weather, budding cherry blossoms, warm winds and pedicured sandal ed feet, in the unforgiving climate of Western Canada, March is a confused indecisive time wherein it can be snowing one hour and deceptively sunny the next. People in parkas sip beer on patios. Cats make near obsessive compulsive-like journeys in-and-out the catdoor, while office workers similarly fidget with their windows, opening them one moment to exclaim how beautiful it is outside, and then desperately plugging in the space heater an hour later while frantically sipping their 3rd latte of the day, twitching.

Today was one such example: I awoke this morning and was greeted by several inches of sparkling snow outside my window, collecting in the branches in the most photogenic of fashions. I zipped up my black biker boots and did up my weathered parka and trudged to work. After spending the day indoors daydreaming of warm faraway places while doing my job (which, in fact, is helping to plan tours for other people actually going to warm faraway places), I caught the bus to a dentist appointment and emerged repaired and polished in the early evening dusk to walk back home accompanied by a gorgeous balmy spring evening, glorious warm winds melting the days snow into oblivion and setting my heart ablaze with renewed optimism and some sense of purpose.

It's amazing the tsunami effect that decent weather can have on a girls spirit.

Mere weeks (days) ago I was feeling completely trapped and boxed in here in my Calgary life, unsure of what I am doing here back in Canada at all, ticking off the weekdays and "working for the weekend" (it's no accident that the band who wrote that song was from Calgary - When existing for half the year in subzero temperatures, it becomes necessary to have at least the weekend to look forward to, lest you attempt to bury yourself in a snowdrift and call it quits). Without sounding too bratty and privileged (because having a Canadian passport that even allows you to travel the world freely does make you privileged), it's a damn hard adjustment to go from a few years spent wandering the globe, living in insanely exciting and gorgeous crumbling megatropolis' like working in a quiet office in discreet Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Not that this adjustment is anything new by any means, but I havent had to deal with a full on Calgary winter in several years now, coupled with the travelers reintegration. I'm not sure I can do it again, to be honest.

Which brings me to the next leg of this haphazard entry. I came back to Calgary to somehow "make my peace" with it, to prove to myself that I wasn't addicted to the rush of travel, that I could take pleasure in the so-called small things (which really implies a hierarchy I am not comfortable with), that I wasn't in danger of falling over the nomad cliff edge of doom (assuming I havent fallen already -which really I probably have but I prefer to think of myself as scrambling into uncharted ledges rather than freefalling to my demise). My brother asked me recently if I had "made my peace with Istanbul", which elicited nothing but amusement from me - Make peace? With what?? I have nothing to make peace about in the sense that Istanbul has never caused me any grief whatsoever - beyond the over-zealous mustachioed men, occasional tear gassings and the ghetto bottlekids during the Bayram celebrations who liked to shoot pellet guns at me and occasionally explode things in my general vicinity. I'd go back in a heartbeat, if I could figure out a sustainable plan and a way to make a living that didnt involve kids pooping their pants for a sub-par wage. Calgary on the other hand, has always proved somewhat more elusive in the peacemaking department - we are like old comrades that went to war together, and somehow over pints we end up brawling in the alley and then having a silent, lenghtly feud afterwards, occasional rockets being fired until a cease fire is drawn up in the form of a bowl of Pho.

Tonight walking home felt like some semblance of peace being made though. I don't hate this city. I have loads of great memories here; Family, Friends. Maybe I'll stay awhile this time. Maybe I won't. Maybe I'll get TESOL certified and return to some faraway place and then change my mind when it all goes wrong and go somewhere else. Maybe I'll ride my bike to Mexico. Maybe I'll hitchhike to Shangri-la. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe.

Either way, life isn't always about some grand logical plan building towards some perfect, stable, "happy" life - some of us rather enjoy the unpredictability of it all and the adventures that happen along the way, and I think maybe, if anything, I've made peace with that. That I might thrive, and be most fulfilled when living in some semblance of chaos, in a way that doesn't appeal to most people I meet. That doing anything that doesn't bring out your best qualities, whatever they might be, isn't worth suffering for. My life might not make sense to anybody else, but as long as it makes sense to me and I am happy, then I must be doing something right.