So from cheerful chaos albeit with a sad lack of tourists, to refined politeness. 34C to 10C. Sunshine, blue skies and vibrant colour to rain, grey skies and subdued colours. This may sound a little bit like I am not so pleased to be here which is not true. I did leave with extreme reluctance but I am also pleased to be here with my sister. There needs to be two of me...
I have an abiding fondness for the UK, but also for Egypt which makes for a rather different set of experiences! And both are important in this remaking of me, this rebirth and new direction I am now committed to. Well I was before - nothing like choice being taken from you for commitment to become quite easy to achieve even though the mind shies from acknowledging it.
Egypt: my last experience was my taxi driver (and in Egypt you take the number of the individual taxi driver, not ring a call centre) taking me to the airport through two security stations, and then he was yelled at by more security guards at the airport for going to the wrong place. He ushered me out of the vehicle, got my bags out and the security guard told me to wait. My taxi driver parked his vehicle, came back, took both my bags into the terminal and since this is Egypt (timekeeping not a real priority) and I was a little early, I couldn't actually go through security yet. So my taxi driver found out where I could wait, carried my bags there for me, went and borrowed a chair from yet more security guards, got me seated on it and and made sure I was comfortable before taking his money and departing. All with a smile firmly in place and friendly chat with everyone around and only two words directed at me in English - yet communication was not a problem.
In the UK? I arrived late at night at Gatwick, my promised pickup was not there. I phoned the hotel which I had booked specifically because they offered pickup and stated someone would be waiting at the arrivals terminal - to be told by the bored sounding girl that no of course they didn't pick up but there was a bus outside that I could catch that left in one hour. Oookayyyy. I got a taxi. My taxi driver in the UK drove me at considerable expense (to me) to the hotel, pulled up at the entrance, dumped my bags onto the roadside in the rain, said "there you are darlin'" and drove off. The hotel receptionist waved a vague hand in the general direction of outside, said to me to turn right and then right again and I will see my building. Rightiho. My room turned out to be up two narrow flights of steps, no elevator and my big bag is rather heavy (also a lovely Egypt quirk, they don't really care about allowed weight and actual weight of your bags). Well it was a cheap hotel so I guess you get what you pay for. But it was pretty hard not to compare this experience with the extreme helpfulness at recent past accommodations (also very cheap but clean and comfortable) and to find it an unfavourable comparison, right down to the cleanliness.
Today I went for a walk into town, even though it is wet and cold. Well not as cold as it is going to be, but for me coming from the sun and warmth to this weather it sure feels cold! Even more than it usually does since generally I come from late winter in Australia to autumn here, and it tends to be an easier transistion. Late winter in Australia (well my part of Australia anyway) is generally only about 10C warmer than here instead of the 20C more I experienced transitioning from Egypt to here.
But I digress. Today I went for a walk into town. I wore several layers, and topped it with the super awesome jacket I bought the other day, complete with fake fur lined hood. I borrowed my sister's very cute pansy patterned umbrella and headed off. Her umbrella is a nifty little folding umbrella, covered in little purple and pink pansies, very cute. Nothing at all like my umbrella which I didn't bring. That umbrella is large, strong and sturdy. It's built to withstand monsoon rain and storm winds. This little umbrella is designed more as decoration I suspect. It did an adequate job of keeping the misty English rain off me, but the smallest gust of wind would turn it inside out I am sure. But it was a nice bright note on a grey day.
I'm going to digress again, briefly. Have you ever noticed that in general the people of hot, tropical climates tend to dress brightly, and the people of cold, damp climates dress in softer shades? I have a theory, which may or may not be true since I've never bothered to do anything remotely scientific to back it up. My theory is that in the colder climates the general colours of nature are softer, more muted. Greys, pastels, softer greens and gentler shades of flowers. In hotter climates the colours of nature are bright bright bright. The sky is bluer, the sun hotter and the colours brighter and sharper. Explosions of colour in the flowers, deep and bright greens, colour everywhere. Sunglasses are required so as not to fry the retinas. So, I think people unconsciously dress more to suit the climate and the colours of nature around them. I mean this in a general en masse way, not the individuals who will always stand out against tradition. I know I have a wardrobe here that is more suited both to the climate and also to the more muted, softer styles and colours. In Australia my style is of necessity different - it gets so very hot - but also brighter, much brighter. Anyway, that's my theory which of course anyone reading can feel free to shoot out of the water should you wish.
I don't actually know why I'm saying I digress, since as usual I don't know what my point is. I'm just doing what I usually do, writing until my point becomes clear to me and then pretending that I knew that all along. Of course I don't, I'm often surprised by what comes out from my fingers. Well to be truthful I'm surprised more often than not.
Today I planned only to talk about my walk into town, in the rain and cold. I do enjoy the cold, I much prefer it to the heat. It's so much easier to get warm than it is to get cool. I can walk for half an hour each way without feeling like I am going to drop from heat exhaustion. Instead I feel energised, and refreshed. In Australia, in the heat, I take my walks in the very early morning and still come back drenched in sweat and exhausted. It's all relative of course, for me the novelty value is a big part of my enjoyment. It's also a kind of ritual, I feel much more at home here after I've gotten damp from the soft English rain and I've revisited the town. And I've bought a large cup of pumpkin spice latte complete with cream. I adore this coffee! Possibly I come here at this time of year solely to buy this coffee. I also bought a slice of lemon drizzle cake, crumbly and tart like only the English make it. I thoroughly enjoyed walking in the rain, wearing my jacket, hood up, letting the rain patter against the jacket. Probably wearing my contacts instead of glasses would have been wise, but oh well. I drank my coffee, ate my cake, got slightly damp, slightly numb toes, and felt at peace with the world.
I like to see the skyline indistinct, misty grey clouds sending the misty rain pattering down. I like to see the leaves that have taken on that golden red autumn hue falling like rain from the trees as the wind dislodges them from their branches to swirl and eddy and come to rest in drifts on the ground. I like stepping around puddles, seeing my breath frosting on the air, smelling the wet earth smell of an English autumn. For me, living in a tropical climate, it is wonderful to see these changes. In the tropics there is no autumn, no spring, not really. There's a few weeks of cooler weather leading into the few weeks of winter and after winter a few weeks of warmer weather that we call spring. There is nothing like the experience of the earth waking up after winter in the colder regions of the earth. In the tropics the trees are evergreen, flowers bloom all year round, you have to be focusing to notice even the small amount of renewal the tropical spring brings. So I like the change.
So why, since I like the cold, do I like Egypt? The heat there is drier, as it is a desert climate. There is nothing quite like the humidity of a tropical summer and it is not a pleasant experience. On the plus side, living with that type of heat means that any other sort of heat is a doddle. I find the heat in Egypt very easy to handle, they don't have the same level of humidity. And the energy, the vitality, the ability of the people to think laterally is phenomenal. It is the energy of the people that renews me there. I feel at home there almost as much as I feel at home in the UK. The one place I've never actually felt at home is the country of my birth.
And that brings me to my point, a very long winded and roundabout way to get to a very simple and short point - but hey, it took me this long to realise my point so I hope you enjoyed the read to get here :) If you are feeling like a square peg in a round hole, don't try to shave your edges, to soften them and round them off. It won't work, you will just hurt yourself and lose parts of yourself and it takes a long time to get it back and heal the damage. If you feel like a square peg in a round hole, you are. This is not bad, this is not wrong, this is not a mistake, this just is. Don't try to live with it, don't try to change yourself. Find a place where you fit and don't be afraid to accept that you are different and being different is ok. Find your place where you fit, where you belong, where you find people like you. The world is huge, somewhere out there is your place and don't be afraid to go find it.