a unique perspective on this crazy world

the chosen ones…

I will now attempt to do a bit of travelogue and catch you up on what I have seen!  What I have also seen is the influence of being a major power on your people.  I was shocked at lunch to hear Americans defend their dollar bill with such vehemence and complain that coins were too heavy.  For a country with such a gigantic fiscal debt, this seemed an irresponsible choice.  But of course the fact that every other country in the world uses coins for that denomination of currency because of economics is the same as the fact that every other country (except an obscure African one I believe) uses the metric system.  Somehow, as Americans, they are above logic and global practices.

There seems to be something of the same in the Egyptians.  Sonia emphasizes at least once a day the accomplishments of ancient Egypt and how Egypt is not a third world country.  Apparently she hasn’t got the memo that “developing economy” is the politically correct term 🙂  And Egypt is a developing economy.  I am mostly alone in spending a few dollars every day on stuff kids sell me.  Sure, they should be in school but I don’t think there is free public education in Egypt so you do what you can when you can’t change the system.  They have to engage me and work for it but I am spending less than the cost of a visit to Starbucks so how can it be a bad thing…

So here is the time to be arrogant about my own people 🙂  I am very happy to be Canadian every day.  But when I travel I am generally pretty proud of my people.  We don’t go around puffing out our chests or proclaiming our accomplishments.  We just troll around in the background, many of us trying to learn about the culture and meeting the local people with an open mind.  And we are starting to get noticed 🙂  CNN gets on my nerves pretty fast so I normally listen to BBC World News when I travel.  I haven’t managed to catch an episode yet but they are doing a series on CANADA this month.  Cause apparently we are happy and prosperous and the Brits are trying to figure out our secrets 🙂

The most fun I have had this trip chatting was with an Englishman I met in the bar at Mena House on my last night.  It was such an easy conversation.  I didn’t have to watch my tongue.  And he told me to exchange some money and carry around a handful of carefully folded five Egyptian pound notes (about $1).  He explained how poor the average Egyptian person is and how tipping is how the economy runs.  Maybe not the ideal system but I am not going to change it in 10 days.  So I am the Canadian girl who tips… but only if I like you and think you have worked for it.  So not everybody gets money…

I realize the travelogue has been diverted… you will get it!  But I am really fascinated by cultures – and how they interact.  Today we had to take a horse and carriage ride to Edfu Temple, a lot closer to the ground and the local culture than we normally get.  I thought it was brilliant.  But apparently it’s politics.  There used to be an air-conditioned A&K bus instead of the horses.  I am happy I am here now.

It’s definitely interesting trying to understand the political situation in Egypt in 2012.  Suzanne is a little obsessed in understanding the politics, which has endeared her to me.  But I think there is no obvious answer.  Despite how much the Egyptians seem to want to deny it, we are in Africa…  and in Africa nothing is simple or logical… but people are generally happy and really easy to crush on… kind of like Canadians… There is a lot to be said for not being the chosen people and using humility as your trump card…

Soon I will be back in Amsterdam.  One of the things that has endeared the Dutch to me so much (in addition of course to the fact that most of them are gorgeous :)) is that they are the only empire I know that managed to navigate the tricky path from world superpower to lesser power with grace and still maintain a vibrant economy and enviable culture.  Perhaps the 21st century belongs to the also-ran powers – the Netherlands, Norway, Canada… nice places to live – with happy, friendly people… 🙂

Here in Egypt we are “Canada… Canada Dry”… but they sing it… I think we have to thank the Italians for that 🙂  It really makes me feel proud to be a Canadian.  The Americans are important to Egyptian politics and to its economy and they get a lot of respect… but when I say Canadian, not American, the Egyptians seem to light up a little bit… and then I smile… and they tell me I will break their heart when I leave Egypt… it’s gonna be tough going back to reality 😉

Comments on: "the chosen ones…" (1)

  1. Having lived among them for 3 years, “them” being Americans, of course, C and I quickly realized that, as far as Americans are concerned, there is only one “correct” way to do things, and that is however Americans do it. “Why don’t they just do what we do, and everything would be fine”. Right. Current events put the lie to that bit of fantasy.

    As for Egypt being “not” a developing economy, see previous sentence – current events…. This might also be of interest – http://www.economist.com/node/21552198 -“Can conquests centuries ago explain the democratic deficit in the Arab world today?” Seems only the Arab countries that were part of the last Caliphate, circa 1100 AD, are the ones dominated by autocrats and dictators.

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