Tag Archives: characters

Grizzly One Pant Man

The beloved vessel

There is an interesting character that I see daily as I walk  to the metro. All I know about him is that he owns one pair of pants and a car. It is not clear what he does when he’s not washing his car, opening all its doors and playing music loudly , or sleeping in the trunk with the trunk door open. In short, he’s a bit of a mystery.

Recently he’s taken to talking to friend and I when we walk by him, always starting out with a warm “Thank-you. How are you?” To which I respond in Arabic “Very well” and then he says in English, “You speak Arabic. Very good.” To which I say in Arabic, “Thank you.”

Apparently this conversation never gets old, since it has literally occurred 20 times. There’s something reassuring in the fact I only need to walk past him in order to earn a “thank you.” If only I could earn a paycheck by passing people while trying to ignore them as well. At any rate, I thought I’d made an online dating profile for him since he seems like an interesting guy with dreams and a set of wheels.

okcupid.com profile for “Grizzly, one pant man. With car”

My self-summary: I may seem like a pretty simple guy, especially since I only speak extremely broken English with foreigners. The reality is that I set out years ago on a journey to live a nomadic lifestyle with nothing but my one pair of pants and my car in order to break free and discover truth.  But I fell in love with a girl and followed her to Medan Messaha, trying to woo her with thank yous and how are yous. I lost her when she went inside the Pizza Hut. I waited for her for ages, but either she never came back out or she sneaked out while I was napping in my car. So I’ve been here for the last twenty years, not learning any more English and cleaning my car compulsively.

What I’m doing with my life: Eventually I dream of moving my car to the other side of the square. Until then I want to figure out how to do laundry and wash my car at the same time.

I’m really good at: speaking broken English with foreigners, sleeping in semi-open spaces, moving my car from one side of the street to the other, washing my car, arranging the knick knacks in my car, yelling occasionally, rolling up the cuffs of my pants, etc.

The first things people usually notice about me: I resemble the Santa Claus hanging in my car, except for I look crazier, have slightly darker skin, am thinner, and role up my pants. I guess it’s mostly just the beard that causes the connection. People also notice the huge gaps in my teeth and my bizarre stare.

Favorite books, movies, shows, music, and food: I had a Twix bar once and that was pretty good. I kept the wrapper and used it to decorate my car.

The six things things I could never do without: the sponge I use to wash my car, my car, my pair of pants, my community of people who are equally busily unemployed, buckets, beauty

On a typical Friday night I’m out: on Friday nights I like to turn the music up in my car and open all the windows and doors and just make sure everyone around me knows that I have a car with loud music.

The most private thing I’m willing to admit: I once watched someone choke to death and didn’t help them since I was in the middle of getting a spot out of my car upholstery and had just applied the fabric cleaner.

I’m looking for: someone kind of like my car, but a woman. And a newer model.

You should message me if: you’re willing to help me clean my car, you agree to never touch my car with your bare flesh, you will find somewhere else besides my car for accommodation, you’re okay with always being second in my life, and you are equally skilled at speaking broken English at foreigners.

Thank you! How are you!

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Two of us get lucky

First off, let me clarify what happened yesterday to the best of my knowledge. After a play commemorating the martyrs of the Revolution, armed thugs arrived and started making mischief. No one knows why the thugs came, who they were, or what they wanted. The police remained involved in the struggle, but the army completely withdrew, allowing it to continue for hours into the  morning. No one really understands what happened or why. My teacher today said that it may have just been a play by the army to make people fear chaos and not advocate too strongly for a faster transition. The thugs could have also been ex-policeman or something like that….but it’s not clear. So the moral of the story is: people are confused.

At any rate, we had classes today (unfortunately/fortunately) but we were urged to leave quickly afterwards in stuff started up again. Tomorrow I think there are supposed to be more protests but I’m not sure who/why…a simple google search didn’t yield answers as fast as I wanted them so I’ll just wait till someone more knowledgeable tells me after the fact.

We were riding in lady’s section of the metro today (I, roomie, and friend) and as usual, the air was hot and stuffy and we were doing our best to speak in Arabic with one another. Just before the train stopped at the Tahrir square metro station, two ladies started talking to us since they were surprised and thrilled we were speaking Arabic. “You have lit up Egypt,” one of the women said, using a common expression in Egypt that I could never remember the response to.  I always think it’s “and light to you” or “God give you light,” but those are both wrong. As I searched for the correct answer, she added, laughing, that she had two sons, meaning she was on the hunt for wives for them. Unfortunately, she got off the train and I didn’t get her info or anything so I’m not sure how the engagement process is going to work. I’ll just be sure to ride that line at that specific time in hopes of finding her again. Lord knows all I’m trying to do is get settled down with a husband and kids here in Egypt ASAP, and she seemed like an honorable woman. It would be nice to go ahead and cross that goal off my list right after “try a different kind of hazelnut spread every week.”

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Quit playing games with my heart

our bowab looks kind of like this but sans hat

Before anything else: the electronic music festival was a blast. We danced, we sweated, one of the DJ’s wore a gigantic mythical bird helmet, it was free, there were no injuries that I know of (though I did hit someone while I was dancing), and no one got an accidental boyfriend. All in all, a great success. I even got to use some of my sweet hip hop moves.

Onto more pressing matters. We’ve been having issues with our landlady regarding ‘irsh or dinero or money.  We first met our landlady and her daughter about a week ago, shortly after we moved in. The landlady’s daughter, a student, was extremely nice and spoke excellent English. The landlady herself, on the other hand, a stout woman of about fifty or sixty, was a little brisk and wore sunglasses the entire time she was in our apartment. She didn’t speak very much English and what little she did know she shouted at us (VEDY GOOD).

When transactions are being conducted in translation or in Arabic, there is always a chance that something has gone awry. Right before they left, the landlady asked us for 100 pounds to give to the bowab and to pay for some other expenses in the building. The bowab is the man who “guards” the door and runs errands for the tenants and stuff like that. They’re a part of Egyptian culture, usually living a very sparse life on little money, and subsisting oftentimes on bread, eggs, and pickles. It’s important to have a good relationship with the bowab because they’re the ones who can either make your life miserable or be a great person to practice Arabic with.

Long story short, the money never reached the bowab. Furthermore, it wasn’t clear what we had actually paid for. Over the course of several telephone calls with both the landlady and her daughter, it was said the money was for a) the bowab and utilities for the building, b) our utilities and the building’s utilities c) the bowab and our utilities d) just the building’s utilities. What’s going on here? What are these games?

So….I called her daughter today and we’re going to set up a time to meet together, all five of us plus an Egyptian guy associated with the program (I told her that there would be a man in our apartment. Her mother conceded after a short conference.) On the bright side, I am now completely knowledgeable about the concept of paying for utilities. The daughter told me at least five times with different examples: “When you take a shower, you use water and you need to pay for that. When you clean the floor, you use water that and in Egypt we have to pay for these things” Ohhhhhh……I thought it was sent directly from heaven in a golden chariot. I guess I need to pay for your mother’s Krispy Kreme habit too with the money she’s squeezing out of us.

Hopefully this will turn out okay in the end and we’ll all be able to be facebook friends. We shall see…..

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The backpackers and the hag

We are in weekend now! The Egyptian weekend (and the weekend in other parts of the Islamic world) is on Friday and Saturday since church on Sunday isn’t so popular. Tonight I’m going to an electronic music festival, so no doubt there will be a post about that: I imagine glow in the dark hijabs.

When I was walking back to my apartment today after class and our “cultural exchange”, I  witnessed an interesting scene upon entering my street from the main square.

As soon as you turn left from Medan Messaha (or Messaha Square in English) there is a little kiosk and a flower shop, or rather, a flower kiosk. This kiosk by all accounts appears to be open 24 hours, and with good reason since many love emergencies happen in the wee hours of the morning or the late hours of the night. As I was passing by the flower shop, I saw three backpackers, probably European. They all had a very “natural” look and were laden with ridiculously huge backpacks, making them even more conspicuous than their mere colonizer-ish appearance. They were talking to a woman seated on a stool resting against the wall of the flower kiosk, and I swear this woman popped right out of a fairy tale. I know that she must be a lovely lady with a beautiful family and precious children, but she had the exact appearance of the hag that tricks Snow White into eating the poisoned apple, except for she was about three times as heavy and was wearing an abaya not a cloak. I wished to join their party just as an observer of the strange scene taking place: three clueless foreigners taking up with the ilk of the flower shop folk, but I walked on. I have a feeling the backpackers had left a trail of breadcrumbs or something of the sort. Probably as soon as I left, she fed them poisoned hibiscus flower tea and then stole their kidneys. Or took them to her house and fed them to be nice with the added benefit of fattening them up.

As I passed, I felt somewhat superior since, having lived here all of less than two weeks, I am obviously much better attuned to life here and almost fluent in the language and knowledgeable of every Egyptian custom. My confidence was brought down to size quickly, however, when on the way up the stairs to my apartment I almost went insane when a cat scratching its way down the stairwell came close to clawing my legs as it rushed past me. I think my heart exploded from the fright as well as the abundance of caffeine I’ve consumed today. I’m taking the cat as a sign from God that I shouldn’t drink so much caffeine.

If I’m still alive after the electronic music festival tonight I will write about it.

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The pajama-d strong lady

We finally moved out of the Mayfair hotel today, after eating our last delicious breakfast of bread and egg and cheese and coffee or tea and enjoying our last morsels of internet on the peaceful balcony amongst the trees (so we thought/hoped—more on this later. Cliffhanger!).

It was fairly simple for me to get out of my room….I just shoved my laptop into my backpack and neatly gathered my trash  into a plastic bag and that was that. For my future roommate Shawna, however, things were a bit more complicated since she’d not had the luxury of losing most of her luggage. She was burdened with a gigantic black bag that had originally been over packed by about 30 pounds, giving you a hint of its size, and a smaller bag that was probably filled with rocks.

However, we rose to the challenge of hauling these things down the stairs, down the sidewalk full of booby traps and curbs, and to the street in order to get a taxi,  accomplishing it with minimal complications and only the beginnings of major sweat stains.

The taxi we had hailed pulled over to the curb, breaking away from the street full of typical traffic, and out popped this bespectacled gentleman of perhaps sixty years. He hobbled around the car to the curb and took a look at the enormous black bag and realized it would not fit into his trunk (we understood this moment later on). It then appeared that he was indicating to the back seat of the car, which we knew wouldn’t fit the bag, and was also speaking to us in perfectly clear Egyptian Arabic, which we of course could not understand.

As we remained befuddled as to what he was trying to do, this sturdy Egyptian woman wearing an abaya (robe-like thing) over her pajamas strode over to us looking like she had just come out of her kitchen. Her face was friendly and familiar like a gingerbread house, and her eyes were all crinkly as she looked at us with a mixture of pity, mirth, and the desire to help naive foreign girls. She and the taxi driver stooped down, grasping and then heaving the suitcase onto the top of the car with the same ease as if she were kicking one of her kids away from the stove. I have a feeling she was actually held back by the help of the taxi driver.

Finally understanding what had transpired, I and Shawna thanked the pajama-d strong lady and our grandfather-like taxi driver profusely. She brushed it off lightly and walked away with a knowing smile. We got into the taxi, our lives changed forever.

I have been incredibly impressed by how genuinely friendly and helpful some people have been here in Egypt, and to complete strangers no less. I look forward to more of these experiences.

My baggage came today.

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