This is a post I started on 2 July, before Alexa's surprise month-early debut. It was almost ready to post, so I've decided to go ahead and publish it. I promise I haven't abandoned this blog; I just don't have much time to write anymore. I started a post a week ago; Alexa woke up hungry about halfway through, and I haven't had time to go back to it. I'm hoping to start writing more regularly, but it's looking like blog posts will continue to be few and far between for a while. Thanks for sticking with me!
I have realized something over the last couple of weeks that I've been home. I am spoiled. Not just a little pampered, but downright spoiled rotten.
I was spoiled before I ever moved to Cairo. Having a generous and loving husband will do that to you, trust me! So will growing up in a family in which finances are something to be aware of, but not something to worry about overmuch. Actually, growing up in America at all spoils us in ways that I'd say most of us don't recognize--if you take it for granted that most public restrooms will be usably clean (even though not up to standard for your home bathroom, I'm sure) and that the toilet paper will be free, trust me: you're spoiled.
Since I've been back in the United States, however, I've recognized some unique ways that Egypt has spoiled me. To be very honest, many of them are ways that the U. S. government has spoiled me during my time in Egypt--I'm spoiled compared to most expats who live there, too. But for me, it's all been part of my experience in Egypt.
What are these ways in which I'm so dreadfully spoiled now? Let me tell you ...
I've been home for 2-1/2 weeks now. I've cleaned my bathroom once, using vinegar and baking soda because I won't use chemical cleaners that produce potentially dangerous fumes so long as I'm pregnant. I made the decision to clean the bathroom only after finally accepting the fact that I in fact did not bring my part time maid home with me. She's busy spoiling Jeff now, cleaning the bathroom he uses, ironing his clothes, cleaning the floors he walks on ... if I want something cleaned here, I have to do it myself. (To be fair, I could ask Mom; she would do it, especially if it's something I couldn't or shouldn't do because of the pregnancy, but I won't be more of a burden this summer than I can help.)
A couple of days ago, Mom and I went to the grocery store. We went to one of those discount stores where the prices are ridiculously low, but you provide your own bags and bag your own groceries. That part didn't bother me any. But then we had to take our own groceries out to our own car ... and I thought of the baggers at the commissary in Cairo. They bag your groceries, take them to your car, and load them for you. *sigh* And then when we got home, we had to actually carry the groceries into the house. No grocery carts waiting by the parking lot (it would have had to be the driveway here) for you to use to get your groceries inside. The equivalent for expats who don't live on an embassy compound would be: no bowwab to carry your groceries for you.
When Mom and I got home from the grocery store, the power was off. I had laundry in both the washer and dryer, we had just purchased cold and frozen items, and--worst of all--the air conditioner can't work without electricity. It was only out for an hour or so, but let me tell you, I missed that great big embassy generator! My power in Egypt never goes off for more than a couple minutes, usually more like 30 seconds, because the generator kicks on automatically. (This is one of the ways in which I am totally spoiled even for an expat--most expats in Egypt don't have generators, and the power goes out frequently, sometimes for hours.)
I've been driving quite a bit since I've been home. It's no fun anymore. The challenge is gone. In Egypt, you have to be on high alert all the time--you never know when a vehicle is going to cut you off, slam on the breaks, make a left turn from the right-hand lane, come flying out of a small cross street with no warning ... anything can happen. Likewise, you can do pretty much whatever you want; you can make a one-lane road into a three-lane, refuse to stop at intersections, drive as fast as you want (the only limitations being physical obstacles such as pedestrians, other vehicles, speed bumps, and pot holes), and generally drive like a maniac. In fact, I'm convinced that the more crazily you drive, the more fun you have and the safer you actually are, because you're paying more attention. Here, there are rules. And you're expected to obey them. In America, we have these beautifully smooth, wide interstates--and the authorities expect you not to get above 70mph! And to limit it to three lanes of traffic, when there's obviously room for at least five. I haven't gotten any tickets, but that's just because I'm so aware of the fact that there actually are rules here that I'm more careful about obeying them--or at least coming close to it--than I was before I had experience driving anarchy-style. Unfortunately, though, all the rules, when combined with the good road conditions, make driving kind of boring. I try to stay focused--after all, anything can happen, and although driving here is less risky than driving in Egypt, it isn't risk-free. But after driving in Egypt, driving in America is just ... boring. Too easy. Not exciting. Not fun. *sigh*
Of course, there also are ways that I'm not spoiled in Egypt, but I'm becoming spoiled again here. Everywhere I go here, I find that the air conditioner is functional and turned on. I can drive without being concerned about hitting my head on the ceiling because of going a little too fast over the speed bumps, pot holes, or general road hazards. I can wear sleeveless shirts, and men don't harass me, nor do women hiss at me. There are parking lots everywhere--a huge deal for me since I never really got the hang of parallel parking. And of course, there are the bathrooms, which are so important for a pregnant woman! Every store has one, and they're pretty much all clean; equally important, they all have toilet paper, and they don't have an attendant that I have to pay in order to get said toilet paper. I'm also finding that I enjoy being back in a Christian culture, with a church on every corner and businesses sporting Bible verses on their signs. (Yes, I'm from the Bible belt!) And I'm absolutely loving spending time with my sister's two children, the younger of whom probably doesn't even remember that I visited last summer, but who should remember me next summer after spending this time with me now.
Yes, I am spoiled. I have a very good life, one that I love. Adjustments have to be made when big changes are made--and moving, even temporarily, back to the United States from Egypt definitely counts as a big change. Most people would expect everything to be better in the U. S., but I'm finding that there are things from Egypt that I miss--and not just my husband and my cats, although they certainly are the top three! But I am happy to be back in the States, happy to be with my extended family, happy to be receiving the best medical care in the world for myself and my baby ... happy to be being spoiled in all the ways that I missed in Egypt, just like I'll be happy later this year to go back to being spoiled Egyptian-style.
How about you? Are you spoiled? If so, I have only one thing to say: Enjoy it!