My first experience flying on a plane came in 2008 when I was 22 years old. This also happened to be my big move from South Africa to Egypt. I was excited, so it should come as no surprise that I spent the entire eight-hour flight wide awake.
I think it’s pretty fair to say I had my own preconceived notions about Egypt and what it would be like. It is also fair to say that I was totally wrong! My first and biggest reality check came when I realized how antiquated everything was. From the shuttle buses, which transport you to the arrivals terminal. To the old-model taxis parked outside the airport. When I look back to my time in South Africa, I can’t really think of my Egyptian husband Alphons (my boyfriend of three years at the time) telling me otherwise. I had a pretty peculiar time in the arrivals terminal, as there are no signs in English anywhere. It took me a good 20 minutes to realize I was standing with a group of passengers waiting for a transfer flight. Oops!
If having my mother-in-law stare at me as though I had just fallen out of space wasn’t enough, I was in for a major culture shock overload living in Fayoum oasis. Living in Fayoum for six months certainly gave me an appreciation for what I have here in Cairo. There’s no Starbucks or beloved Road 9 in Fayoum. Buildings are practically in arms reach of one another. People treat their livestock like children and everybody knows everybody’s business. Although I did love Fayoum’s laid back atmosphere, which is a stark contrast to Cairo’s past paced lifestyle.
Alphons and I were married at the St. Abraham Cathedral in Fayoum. We had intended on a small, simple wedding, with only a few guests. Upon arrival however we realized there were way more people there. As it turns out half of the guests stuck around from a previous wedding after they realized the bride was a foreigner. This is completely normal in Fayoum! Something that still gets me: Egyptian hospitality. Wherever you visit people, a large spread of delicious food is caringly prepared and shared with you. People in Egypt are always so genuinely proud of what they have and happy to share their homes with you. After about six months and twenty kilos more, we left Fayoum for Cairo. Moving to Cairo was so exciting and scary at the same time. After moving, we had many expectations that were never met. This was a major low for Alphons and I. We were unable to find jobs with salaries that met our expectations and we made a mistake with an apartment rental. Which, unfortunately, cost us a large chunk of our savings. Desperate times call for desperate measures, as they say. So I decided that a job at a nursery was our best bet at the time. Running behind a bunch of two year olds had me thin as a twig within a week!
To cut a long story short I got the job at the nursery and we found an apartment in Maadi but my husband was still struggling to find a job. The rent was taking up half my salary and I wasn’t really happy at the nursery, we desperately needed change. I remember seeing a advertisement for an advertising company in this magazine but I didn’t bother applying because I knew nothing about advertising. It also didn’t help my motivation that I had already had several interviews without any positives results. However, for a week, wherever I was in the apartment I saw the magazine opened up to the ad.
Eventually I decided to email the company that posted the ad to ask if the position was still available. It was! They asked me to send them an email with a cover letter attached. This made me remember all the different ways I had written my cover letter before and then I thought, “just be honest and straightforward, what have you got to lose?” I was honest with them. I had no college degree and no experience, but I told them I had passion and that was exactly what they wanted. I had an interview scheduled for the next week. I did something for this job that I had never done before, I prepared. I studied everything about advertising that I could. Before my interview Alphons joked, “If they offered you double your current salary it would be a miracle”. I must have really impressed them the day of the interview because I was offered triple my current salary. That day was a high point for me.
A bit later I began looking to move to Yahoo.com for work. I applied for the position two times, but failed my first. I regrouped my thoughts and proceeded to follow the same steps as getting my advertising job and it worked! However, when Yahoo shut their Cairo office last year I lost my job. I was at the peak of my career. Having been promoted twice I was now managing my own department. My husband had also recently lost his job at the restaurant where he worked. I was disappointed, but I knew together we could do great things. This was when The Tipsy Teapot restaurant was born. We opened The Tipsy Teapot on Road 17 in March of 2014 and have been grinding away every since.
To keep up with my advertising skills I have now taken on a job at a nursery in the mornings, doing their customer relations and marketing. I have come full circle it seems, but I am far from finished. Who knows what more Egypt has in store for me!
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