been thinking a lot about the idea of home lately. first off, this girl colleen who’s writing a book about Americans living abroad came to stay with me for a weekend here in Luxor and she would ask me these interview questions sometimes out of the blue, like in the kitchen while Owen and her were making breakfast, questions about notions of home, living abroad, what it takes to really feel like you are at home. when i was younger i used to love to sit around and relish in discussing such philosophical questions but now I find myself shrinking away in silence. i often let owen take the wheel, running with such questions, happily entertaining our guest and i sit on the floor playing with the cat.
it’s a question i’ve been asking myself for years, living abroad and feeling like i’m missing some essential ingredients in the home recipe. i don’t have that tight-knit group of lady friends or dude friends that i can call up and go to the pub with. i can’t call up my best friend and go out to the cinema to see a flick. as much as we call ourselves friends, the people i know here in egypt I probably will not see me after this job is over. now those sound like cheap shots – i know what you are thinking – you are living abroad, living the dream! oh i know. i feel really lucky to be here. but it is a different life. walking out onto the street, i am not much more than a walking cash machine, a weird haircut, or a target for verbal ping pong. “LUCKY MAN” they shout if one man is walking with more than one lady, “KALESH!” if they want us to get into their horse carriage, “TAX” for a taxi, or “MARKET THIS WAY”, etc, etc. The point I’m trying to make is that although I don’t have a lot of friends here in Luxor, the ones i do have make life possible here. They occasionally allow me that taste of genuine friendship that makes me feel at home again.
there is a certain age at which you start to take notice other people’s lives. happy couples with bright futures. and you start to think about your own future – about domesticity. settling down. Aline and Brahim are French stone masons that met when they were both stuck in the same course at college. they’re engaged. they started reconstructing this old home around September of 2009, working at Karnak temple (where I work) from 6.30am to 1pm and then going home and working their own future home until sundown. They put everything into this place. The unfortunate thing is they were supposed to be on contract with ARCE, the American Research Center in Egypt for at least two years and found out this year that come this April, they’d be out of a job. Not for anything they did wrong, just no more work for them. So they basically had put all of their money and time into this house that they are essentially renting and investing in thinking hell, it’d all be worth it, at least they would have it as their personal paradise for the two years they are here employed by ARCE. In any case, they recently finished the house and yesterday was their last day working at the temple and they have no plans to leave. How could they after all that? So they are renting the place they practically built…
Owen and I both documented the process, which was amazing. They turned this old dilapidated pile of mud brick into a beautiful bohemian home. they threw a party at the conclusion of it all last month, inviting all the workmen back for a goat roast and we put a slideshow on on the roof. it was a beautiful moment, sitting there together with the Egyptian workmen from the temple and the workmen that built the house, with the archeologysts, the Frenchies, the Americans, the stone masons, the whole lot of us together, sitting under the stars on that freshly built rooftop, watching the whole thing happen before our eyes, sharing laughter and drinks and for just one moment we all had the same thought – this really is paradise.