It’s very very nice to be back in Lowlands Country for a longer period of time, it’s been a while. I am mainly travelling between my home town where I stay at my sister’s, who moved a few months ago from a funky city pad with park view to a single-family dwelling in a newly build neighbourhood exclusively inhabited by thirty-something-year olds mostly with kids, and Amsterdam where friends keep their couch, spare room or flat available. I very much realise that I am not living anywhere at the moment. I am in transition. I am catching up with old friends some I haven’t seen in years. I realise that cities change. They move on even when you’re not there. I am made fully aware of the freedoms we have here and we completely take for granted. Seemingly trivial activities like riding ones bike through the city and consuming an alcoholic beverage on a bench along the canal become genuinely joyful experiences. And then there is the wear-what-you-like-’cause-frankly-my-dear-even-if-we could-be-inspired-or-absolutely-horrified-we-probably don’t-give-a-damn attitude. What a difference a year in MaSr makes and although I don’t miss it I think of it often and besides the appreciation of those little things and a tiny bit of Arabic I am wondering what I really learnt. I know that a gained a lot of respect for ‘those who are different’ and my verdict is that when it comes to ‘being different and being proud I have been a bit of a coward myself. As I mentioned in a previous post, there is not much room for individualism in Masr and social control is massive. It’s all about keeping up appearances and maintaining reputations. Tobias told me that one of his students- he teaches English- told him in a discussion that he saw a man beating up his wife in the street. He went over to him and instead of telling him off for hitting his wife he told him do this appalling activity in the privacy of his own home. See no evil, then there is no evil. But I’m digressing slightly. Despite my whining about this country I have met some exceptionally kind, interesting and inspiring people, foreigners and Egyptians alike. Those who choose to stand for who they are despite criticism, gossip and sometimes harassment, go about their businesses and carve a niche for themselves which says; this is me, deal with it. It can’t be easy. It’s not easy in countries like Holland or the UK let alone in politically and -in my opinion- socially repressed societies like the one in Egypt. And what did I do? I -subconsciously?- made an attempt to adapt and fit in. If you’re not the norm you just pretend you are and very few will notice. Even I, who knows what it’s like to be the odd one out and has found her niche, I, who is a foreigner and can get away with certain stuff because I am foreign, I, who was in the country for only a limited amount of time disposed of the little alcohol present in our mansion in any bin other than our own, pressed the lift back to the ground floor when I came home late and refused to have a cleaning lady ’cause I don’t want the whole building talking bollocks about us, which most definitely would happen as the whole world wants to know how the ‘agnabeeyaat’, the foreigners are living. In hindsight I understand why I did or didn’t do what I did/ didn’t do. It is not comfortable to notice there is no room for your ‘differentness’ or ‘weirdness’ while you’re so used to that space being available. But cowardly it is, if only a tat. Here is to you front line warriors of differentness across the world. Be true, keep the faith and keep the weirdness. The world is a far more colourful place because of it. Let others try to fit the mould.