I heard the news on a Friday night. We are to pack and get ready to travel in a month. It was quite exciting in the beginning, to know that you are being given a new chance in another country. I have never visited USA, and my feelings were mixed between eagerness and fear. I still remember the pounding of my heart as I thought about how I would leave everything I have in Egypt and start a new life for some years to come in a total different continent. I could think of all different mothers, wives and children who are beginning new experiences far away from home. Some of them get enthusiastic and some panic about having to deal with a new culture and way of living. For me, it was an adventure that I thought was important to experience.
The United States is quite daring for a lot of people. Better choices, better jobs, a better standard of living for some, and maybe it is completely the opposite for others. Depending on your origin, the US is either considered a fantasy come true or just another place for a diverse opportunity. We thought of it as a chance for an enhanced life and vision. It was November when we arrived at the airport. The scene of cold, rain and empty roads gave me the feeling of loneliness. It was around 11 pm when we reached the hotel. Everything was quiet, with nothing to hear except the rain falling and the heaviness of my heart. We stayed in Arlington, Virginia as advised. It was cheap and beautiful. Days passed, and I was given a chance to see places in Virginia and Washington D.C. Although, Virginia and D.C. are connected with long bridges, you feel like as if you have traveled to a total another place. D.C. is a busy place with traffic, museums, activities, companies and restaurants here and there. On the other hand, Virginia is mostly full of houses, buildings, forests, natural views, organized sectors of restaurants, malls, shops and other family-friendly areas. These are two different worlds in one place, but both are mostly clean, safe and practical. In spite of the differences between the two states, they both share one thing in common; alienation. As you walk down the streets, you can see people smiling, but there’s no one to share a story with through a glance, or to have a simple conversation with and feel content. Everyone is so focused on their own lives, afraid to communicate much and preferring to maintain their privacy.
As I stepped away from my homeland, I left behind my heart, my soul and my most precious connections . Egypt might not be like USA when it comes to cleanliness or organization. Nevertheless, there is something about Egypt that makes it special. That smile you see on the people’s faces, or that busy talking between strangers in the early morning – something you would never quite find anywhere else. The friendly looks, the beautiful greetings from humble citizens willing to offer helpand expecting no real thing in return except for a prayer from the heart. Walking between the lines of history, starting from the pharaonic country and moving forward to Mohammed Ali’s era till our modern day. There’s a special personality that it holds, in the secretive stories hidden in its pyramids, mosques and citadels. It’s the feeling of love and emotional atmosphere everywhere you go and visit.
Christmas rings its first bells by the end of November in the US. Everyone is starting to get ready for it, buying gifts, arranging travel to family or friends, and decorating. A change of atmosphere has started. There’s a feeling of love and warmth at this special occasion and an eagerness to share it with whomever you meet and see. Kindness extends faster than the famous tortoise and hare story. The sensation of home starts to enter the hearts of the people all around. A slight door opens for hope, that there is something nice about this country. Still, this feeling reminds me of the month of fasting in Egypt.
Back there in Egypt, observance of Ramadan takes an emotional route. People give more to the poor, holding banquets and providing tables full of free food for anyone. Decorations and lanterns are hung in every street and alley. Greetings and love are expressed in every place you go. Friends and families giggle about events and happenings. Roads are busy all day long, with beeping here and beeping there, as families try to get back home for the breaking of the fast. Chit chats fly from one balcony to another. The sounds of hurrahs emanate from cafes with every goal scored. Life visits and happiness is spread.
Months pass slowly in the US. Everyone is busy with their own lives and issues. People work like machines, hoping to fulfill that American dream. Routine is kind of a word that could describe this hectic country. Materialism is their motto and everything else comes after that. Whenever I felt the pain of homesickness and the emptiness of living in such a big country, I wasn’t able to stop thinking about returning back home. I wanted nothing better than to set my foot in own country. As much as I know that Egypt might lack some of the greatest things that the US has, like opportunities, dream homes, cars ,beloved pets, clean roads and most importantly law and order, there is nothing that compares with the love and unity of Egypt. For me Egypt provides a homey atmosphere and sentimental sensations. Egypt’s geography provides it with a wealth of resources that make it one of a kind. The unity of vision and real people’s love of this remarkable country, make it heaven on earth. After three years, I leave behind the dream that wasn’t mine from the first place, taking with me the great ideas that the US gave me during my stay. I return to set a foot back in Egypt with a new vision for my own home. And as I leave the land of material dreams, I give thanks for the opportunity to take the best of what I have learned to use in my own land.