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Thursday, February 7, 2013

Your View of Life Depends on How Your Crop the Photo

We long ago recovered from our culture shock upon visiting Egypt.  We jokingly say that everything is different here - and it truly is.  Just how Americans react to the difference is always interesting.  I was reminded of this the other day when we extended our visas.  We probably spent less than an hour  in total at three different windows on the first day.  Of course that didn't get us a visa extension, just a "tomorrow, after 10 at window such and such."  On the second day we yielded our passports (with no receipt, of course) and were told, "after two hours, at window 35."  That was where we waited another hour as names were called.  After the hour's wait, I was recognized and handed our passports.  While another western lady mumbled an exasperated, "unbelievable," we just accepted this as normal.  We had been here a couple of times in previous years.

I think of this when I prepare photos for the blog.  I might start out with a picture in my mind, but the first cut of the photo from the camera looks something like this.

Believe me, it looks trashier than the photo shows.  Many Americans here for their first visit see only this.

Some never get past that image.  They arrive home and talk about trash and dirt.  I carefully crop the photo to only show this.  After all, that's what I actually see.

I suppose it is just my non-conforming nature to see both beauty and freedom when I look at a building like this one.

Notice that people have made very independent choices about how they would finish and decorate their individual apartments.  Some want a balcony, some like bright colors.  And look at the different choices of windows.  Can you imagine a building like this next to the freeway you drive in your city?  Municipal zoning officials would suffer apoplexy. 

Egyptians must have mixed feelings at the procession of green lawns pictures of suburban America.  What kind of government do they have that forbids the growing of weeds and tall grass?  They can't imagine it. 

Linda keeps a list of differences.  I'll pick just a few for you.
  • Vanilla is powdered.  Eggs come in cartons of ten (or in no cartons at all)
  • As in most of Europe, there are no clothes dryers.
  • Cars are frequently driving the wrong way on the street.
  • Many cars drive at night with no headlights.
  • Virtually all restaurants deliver.
  • Your building's bawaab (or his children) will go buy for you what you need.
  • Even the microwave is different - it resets to 1:01 not to 12:00!
That combination of driving the wrong way on a street with driving without headlights causes many western visitors to focus so intently on self-preservation that they miss many interesting sights such as the chicken shop where the chickens are still alive!

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