One confidence sandwich, please

There are times when life presents opportunities for growth. Whether they are rather monumentous, such as blindly following one’s husband to far-away lands of the unknown, or slightly smaller, but all the while equally important opportunities such as buying a sandwich. We stand at these crossroads of life and have the option to choose whether to leap (or inch) forward into the unfamiliar, or stay within the set bounds of our comfort zone.

Now, moving to Egypt was certainly a leap outside of my comfort zone. And having done so, I think some people might say I’ve done quite enough and can quietly go about reestablishing my new comfort zone here. However, Ron and I agreed that given this opportunity we are going to make the most of it. We plan on seeing “all” the sights of Egypt (within reason), and will use Cairo as our home base to explore other countries in Europe, the Middle East and Africa as well (I have hopes of also “hopping” over to Madagascar since we’re right “here”).

So, with the mantra of expanding the bounds of my comfort zone (and Ron’s urging), I made a small dent in mine yesterday and went by myself to a local falafel stand, where I stood in line with the locals, went to the cashier and said in halting Arabic, “waaHid fuul sandwich wa waaHid falafel sandwich.” (One fuul sandwich and one falafel sandwich.) I was so focused on what I had to say that I didn’t realize until afterwards that he said to me, “What would you like?” when I walked up – oh, well, I want to practice anyways. So I paid my 2.50LE (~$0.45), received my ticket and then turned to face the 15 people crowding around the other counter. Luckily, Ron and I had come here for dinner a few nights before, so I knew that upon receiving the ticket, you need to take it and hand it over at the second counter, where you wait for your food. It took me a little while to get up to the front of the crowd, as I have yet to master the Egyptian way of shoving yourself in front of others, but I made it, handed over my ticket, and within a minute had a little plastic bag with my two sandwiches. I do believe that I practically skipped back to the apartment I was so proud.

Now, for those of you scoffing at my delight and pride, I will admit that it all seems a little silly. But often it’s the little things that build confidence moreso than the big leaps (moving to Cairo was a big leap, but other than my complete confidence in Ron, it required little of me – oh, and great piles of patience, of course).

Coming off of the “high” of my fantastic fuul (pr. fool) purchase, Ron called in the afternoon to see if I wanted to come downtown and meet him and some friends for dinner. Ron suggested I take a taxi, but I opted for the subway. So again, “fuul” of confidence (sorry, about that), I walked to the metro, bought my 1LE ticket and managed to hop on the train just as it arrived. I had hoped to see a gaggle of women standing together so that I could go glom on to them to find the unmarked women’s car, but everyone was too spread out. I chose a car that looked less full and by sheer luck chose the women-only car. Or I managed to choose a car that coincidentally only women and children were on. Either way, aside from the little grubby boys racing up and down, I felt quite comfortable (though I made sure to stand with my back to the wall and my bag held tight – I’ve heard that the little ones can be quite sneaky).

I rode it all the way into downtown, got out without any shoving matches ensuing, and as I was exiting into Sadat Square Ron called to check on me. All was good, and we enjoyed a wonderful dinner at the Marriott on Zamalek. Apparently this Marriott has several restaurants in it, including “Roy’s Country Kitchen,” where the servers wear overalls, an Indian place, a Thai place and we chose “Egyptian Nights,” where they cook the bread in a brick oven right in front of you. I had a wonderful Egyptian dish called koushari, which was a medley of macaroni, rice, caramelized onions, chickpeas, olive oil and a tomato and onion sauce. We ate outdoors, under a tent, surrounded by trees decorated with strings of lights. It felt more like Epcot than Cairo.

So with each tiny little step, I will continue to gain confidence and comfort in my new home, will expand my comfort zone and will enjoy some delicious fuul and falafel along the way.