Foreign Frustrations

When you fly across the globe to spend time in a strange place, for a long or short time, language is always the first barrier you encounter. I had to deal with this frustration in China as well. Naturally, there is an adjustment period where you start to pick up certain words that will help you survive from day to day (directions, numbers, greetings and goodbyes).

This frustration is acceptable and I know that it is up to me how fast I learn Egyptian Arabic just as it was up to me when I was learning Mandarin.

What really peels my oranges is the apparent ignorance and/or inability of people to accomplish seemingly simple tasks. I thought it might be because I don’t speak the native language that I’m being given the run-around when it comes to me getting what is rightfully mine. But the people I’m dealing with speaking English as well! In some cases, I’m sure that I’m treated differently because I am a foreigner. In other cases, I’ve learnt that some people are just porch monkeys by habit.

I know I’m being vague, and that is for a reason. What I can tell you is that I tried sending a postcard to a great friend of mine and it has now been lost in the system. This friend is held in such high esteem by me that I put a considerable amount of work into ‘jazzing’ up the postcard with my personal aritistic touches. I hand wrote a paragraph that was so long, it really had no business fitting on such a small piece of paper. I hurt my hand and eyes trying to craft this masterpiece.

your word ain't worth shit

When it came time to send the thing. I took my time making sure that I could send it and that it would actually get to its intended destination. I had DHL and FedEx options available to me, but someone here said that I could send it through the normal mail with limited postage and it would still get to Canada; just not nearly as fast.

The speed of the postcards arrival wasn’t that important to me. I figured it would be a welcome arrival in my friend’s mailbox no matter the time or date. So I listened to this local person’s advice and went with him one afternoon to the post office. He asked an officer there where to go to send this international mail,  and yadda yadda yadda, I asked him if he was sure, then asked him to ask the officer is he was sure, both agreed, and I dropped the postcard into a mailbox.

Did it arrive?

A few weeks later the guy who took me to the post office said we went to the wrong post office and put the postcard into the wrong box and that it had probably been lost or thrown out by now. He informed me of this mistake so nonchalantly that I wanted to rip his sandy throat out (like MacGruber would). I refrained from any display of violence of course, and just smiled and said that it was ‘ok’.

I took pictures of the post card, because I guess I knew, never having sent a postcard before, that something like this might happen. I’ll upload them later, if I can find them.

Sorry dear friend of mine (you know who you are). But fret not, I’m not giving up so easily. I have a whole stack of postcards at home. And though you are surely busy back home with this and that, I’m not taking my name out of your hat yet.

I’m going to a black and white ball tonight (sort of) with Egypt’s elite (sort of). I’ll bring my camera along to share the PG moments.

Signing off,

Professor T

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