After my last posting, I spent another week in our nation’s capital where I was wined and dined by friends from as far back as my high school days. I would have gained several pounds had I not been walking everywhere and taking the Metro across the city. As each of my friends asked me about how things had been in Egypt and how I felt being back in the States, the only word that I could come up with consistently was “surreal”. Perhaps it was the jetlag again, or maybe it was just the juxtaposition of leaving a world in chaos and arriving in a world of order. I think it struck me most one evening when I was walking home from the Metro up a DC street and I realized that it was quiet…almost deathly quiet. No honking horns, no prayers from a minaret, no people yelling, no dogs barking or cats yowling, no babies crying, no vendors seeking used goods, no trams rattling or train whistles blowing or any of the constant background noise that is Egypt. In fact, there was virtually no noise at all except the heels of my boots on the concrete sidewalk. And why would there be? It was 10 pm on a weeknight, and everyone was safe and snug in the house settling down for the night. I now know how Dorothy felt-- I wasn’t in Kansas anymore.
Adding to the surreal nature of the experience was the sense that I had been here before, but in a very different context. I used to live in DC and I pride myself in knowing all the Metro stops (except those in Maryland, which don’t count), how to stand to the right on the escalators, how to use a Metro card, that the Mall is not where you shop and that you really need to add NW or NE to an address if you want to get to the right place. And it’s not the expat repatriation thing. I have visited DC several times from my homes abroad and experienced what it feels like to have this town not seem quite like home anymore. But never have I felt so out of place and so profoundly dazed by being in the US. Perhaps it was because this was an unplanned trip, somewhat hurriedly put together? Was it because of the underlying uncertainly of what was going to happen to Egypt? Was it simply that the differences between my life in Egypt and my life in DC are so much further apart on any number of levels that I couldn’t reconcile them in such a sort amount of time. Or, is it just that I was so jetlagged that I never found my chi? Probably a combination of all of the above.
So, while Hosni Mubarak was playing a game of political “chicken” with the people of Egypt, I stayed dazed and confused in DC reading three newspapers each day (