Sunday, August 17, 2014

DeNile of Greatness

Sunset on the Nile River
Cairo, Egypt 
There are four stages people tend to experience when they live abroad. The first stage is the "honeymoon"-one is ready to explore this new adventure, oozing with endorphins. I am finally seeing glimpses of that stage amidst what I refer to as the "funk" stage (also known as the hostility stage). I tend to feel very depressed when I know I will be far away for an extended period of time-deeply homesick, looking up flights to return home and crying myself to sleep after popping an entire xanax, because half a pill simply won't cut it.

I am truly grateful for the ex-pat Hayah community (shout-outs to Siri and her family, Simon, Michelle, Mary, Zuzana, Dimitri & Amanda and Ma'adi local Sayeed for keeping me busy these past six days. I cannot believe that I was ready to leave my rent-free apartment (shady, but free) and miss out on having dinner at the Grand Cafe on the Corniche, watching the sun set on the Nile and ending the night with a falucka ride, peacefully floating on the river with a coffee mug of Egyptian white wine.

If I could pin point when I finally started to feel like myself again, it would have to be when I was roaming the furniture aisles in IKEA in New Cairo, about a half mile away from Hayah International Academy. I don't know if it was my Swedish roots speaking to me or the smell of a bargain, but I felt at peace for the first time since arriving. I cannot wait to go back now that I have the motivation to charge my credit card for home goods. Items on the list include an assortment of scented candles as a light source when the power goes out (five to six times a day).  

I am truly grateful for my mom, dad, Alex, Fuss, Michael and Christine back home who encouraged me to get out of bed and start experiencing this unique opportunity in Cairo. They were witness to my disgusting cry face (seriously, who looks cute when they cry?) and yet still were able to look at me and give their unconditional love and support. I realized as I was curled up in the fetal position and rocking back and forth that life is about spending time with the ones I love, which is part of why I questioned staying here, thinking my gut was telling me this was a mistake. But I need to give Cairo an honest effort and embrace the healthy challenges ahead of me. I am now facing the struggle to move in to a new flat, which will be taken care of by the beginning of September...Inshallah.

I am off to finish my second cup of tea at the cafe across the street, check Facebook & have some leftover beef schwerma while I watch It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. It is times like these where I don't feel so far away from home.

ma'a salama,



  1. I'm so sorry! I hope you are feeling better. I'm so jealous of your bravery and wish I could do half the things you do. So many people live in their comfort bubble, me included, and never live life. I can't imagine how you must feel being so far away from home but I do know if anyone can get through it and make the most of it, it's you! It may take a month or even two, but I know it will start to feel like home. Please whatsapp me ANYTIME! I know the time difference makes it hard to connect but when I'm not at work I just laze around the apartment. GOOD LUCK!

  2. Love the humor. I bet finding ikea was like seeing a mirage in the desert.

  3. Hang in there, Erika. The culture shock is always hardest for the first couple weeks or so. I've been there (in Rwanda). That is cool that there is an Ikea store there. Egypt must be fairly modernized. I am so excited for you begining this adventure!

  4. Hey Miss Hillstead! I'm really impressed with the huge challenge you took on by going to Cairo. But from what I learned about you through one year of being a student in your class, if anyone can do it, it's you. Love your sense of humor on your blog and I hope you have an amazing time in your worldly adventures! :)