On Sunday 29th of August after work (Sunday is a work day in Egypt) two of my colleagues helped me load my luggage and a couple of boxes to be stored in my colleague’s house. I said goodbye to my old apartment and left it to the ants and the rat that had moved in. When I closed the door I realized that I’ve gone through this motion so many times before. By the time I close the door for good, life in a new city, which was scary and quite lonely in the beginning, had become familiar and comfortable. I’ve noticed one other thing too… I usually move in alone but when it is time to pack up and move on again I find these people helping me pack up, carry stuff around and accompanying me to the airport. I had no idea these people existed when I first moved in; these peculiar people with their own stories, worries, humour, ideas, fantasies, and ambitions. Some of these people carrying my stuff around have become dear friends, one or two have been my lovers, and yet others I have never seen or heard from again.
So here I am again back in the Netherlands, feeling terribly cold, wearing woollen sweaters and socks, eating potatoes and speaking this weird language again. The first thing that struck me when I walked out of Amsterdam Central station after landing at Schiphol airport is that the people in Amsterdam are all so damn hip and trendy. These people look like they just walked out of a fashion shoot, even their bicycles are hip! In my worn out clothes and after 2 sleepless nights I felt quite the opposite of hip and trendy. But a warm shower, a glass of champagne, delicious food, a yoga class and the wonderful company of my twin brother and his friend took care of that.
Now I am in the same room again where I spent almost a year sleeping (or rather trying to sleep), doing nothing, thinking (too much), studying and crying after the worst case of heartbreak I’ve ever experienced in my life. Coming back here confronts me again with the sadness and pain of losing a love and all the fantasies and hopes that came with it. But I have found ways to deal with the pain and overwhelming emotions that come with heartbreak. I go running or beat the crap out of my punching bag when I feel angry and frustrated, I meditate when my thoughts start to go wild, I take a shower, cut my nails and dress up nicely when I feel low on self esteem and I write in my diary or on my blog when I need to get things of my chest. I also stroke animals or hug my friends or family when I feel in need of affection and I call my friends for a drink and a chat when I want company.
Sometimes, in order to move on, more radical things are needed. Three months ago, even though I didn’t feel ready for it at all, I booked my ticket to Cairo. I am happy I did so because I gained so much from it; I had my own photo exhibition, I started to learn Arabic, I got an assignment with FAO, and I finally started my PhD research (the reason I had to go to Egypt in the first place). I also found this group of nice guys with whom I’ve been spending quite some time. I got to know these guys through the gallery where I had my exhibition and most of them are artists. With one of them I spent a whole night taking photos in old Cairo after which we had breakfast at 04.00h in the morning. Mostly we just sit in a street cafe somewhere, drinking tea and chatting until early morning. I also met some really nice foreigners and these people make going back to Cairo a pleasure.
Most of all I feel I regained a sense of curiosity and excitement about getting to know new places and new people and although I still have quite a long way to go, this tells me I am getting there….for sure!