by Luna

by Luna

Luna

Luna

Blog Intro

Hello, I'm Luna, and I'd like to welcome you to "Kisses from Kairo,"* my blog about living and working as an American belly dancer in Cairo.

Life in Cairo isn't easy for dancers, foreigners, women, or even Egyptians. It is, however, always exciting. That’s why after living here for seven years, I've decided to share my experiences with the world. From being contracted at the Semiramis Hotel to almost being deported, not a day has gone by without something odd or magical happening. I will therefore fill these pages with bits of my history in Cairo—my experiences, successes, mistakes, and observations. Admittedly, my time here has been rather unique, so I want to stress that while everything I write is true, my experiences do not necessarily reflect the lives of other dancers.

In addition to my life as a belly dancer, I will write about developments in costuming, performances, festivals, and, of course, the dance itself. I will also make frequent references to Egyptian culture. I should note that I have a love/hate relationship with Egypt. If I make any criticisms about the country, please keep in mind that I do so with the utmost love, respect, and most of all, honesty. Egypt has become my home, so I want to avoid romanticizing and apologizing for social maladies, as most foreigners tend to do. Nothing could be more misguided, patronizing, or insulting.

I hope you find this blog informative, insightful and entertaining, and that we can make this as interactive as possible. That means I'd love to hear from you. Send me your comments, questions, complaints, suggestions, pics, doctoral dissertations, money, etc., and I will get back to you. Promise. :)~



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Monday, January 9, 2012

False Alarm

Warning: If you have an aversion to feminine products or problems, or are generally squeamish, proceed no further.

I totally didn’t intend my first blog post of the year to be about my period, but hey, it’s better than some soppy post about New Year’s resolutions.  Years come and years go, and I never make resolutions.  They’re worthless, and nobody keeps them anyway.  Besides, there’s nothing  special about January 1st.  As far as I’m concerned, July 29th is just as good a day to make resolutions as January 1st.  Because there’s no such thing as time.  Not here in Egypt anyway.

Back to my period.  If anything, my monthly cycle is the closest thing to time in my world.  It’s always punctual and always painful, and I can always count on it coming.  That’s more than I can say for most people, including myself.  And, conveniently enough, it came back to haunt me on January 1st, at the stroke of midnight, to be exact.  Couldn’t possibly be a better way to kick off the new year, now could there?  

The reason I’m blogging about my period is because I wound up touring four hospitals because of it.  In one of my many moments of absent mindedness, I inserted a tampon without remembering if I had removed the previous one.  Being the sissy that I am, I panicked.  Left unremoved, a floating tampon can cause Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS), which is potentially fatal.  Not to mention, I have extremely long nails, which I wasn’t about to remove to perform a tampon extraction. 


At 1 am with all private clinics closed, I had no other choice but to go to the hospital.  So I went to the one closest to home.  But I left sooner than I entered.  The receptionist informed me that because I’m a foreigner, I’d have to pay double what an Egyptian would pay to be treated.  For crying out loud, I’m a tax-paying resident who pumps more into this economy than most Egyptians, and the hospital wants to play Khan el-Khalili with me? 

Determined to be examined, I then went to a reputable international hospital.  I entered the emergency room and requested to see a gynecologist.  There were two of them there, but first I would have to explain my problem to the nurse.  I did just that, telling her I had a tampon floating around 'up in there' and needed to have it removed.  

'You have a what?'  she asked.  

'A tampon,' I answered.  'You know, Tampax?' 

The nurse had no idea what I was talking about, so I told her what a tampon was.  She still didn’t get it, so I pulled one out of my purse and opened it, thinking that if she saw it, she would understand. 

Nope. 


'Ok, could you please call the doctor in?' I asked.  Surely a licensed gyno would know what I’m talking about.  

The nurse phoned the doctor and tried to explain my situation, but to no avail.  She too had no idea what a tampon was.  I tried explaining again, only to have her tell me there was nothing she could do for me.  'Ok nurse, what about the other doctor?'

'He’s home right now, but I’ll call him and have him come in.' She called him, we spoke, and I left.  He too hadn’t a clue what a tampon was, and didn’t think it was worth coming in to find out. 

Pissed and getting more panicky by the minute, I then went to Qasr El-Aini, which is supposed to be a French hospital.  Surely the French know a thing or two about tampons.  

Nope. 


The only thing French about that hospital was its history.  I gave the same spiel to the resident gyno there and pulled the opened tampon out of my purse to demonstrate, only to be met by a confused look and an 'I’m sorry, I don’t know what that is so I can’t help you.'

Ughhhhhhhhhhh!  I don’t care what culture you come from…how do you call yourself a gynecologist and not know what a tampon is?!? And what do I have to do to get someone to put their hand up there and take something out?  Go to a mechanic?  Tell them there’s a pot of gold on the other side of the rainbow?  Sheesh! You’d think since most Egyptian gynos are men, getting examined would be much easier than this.

Next, I walked my way to a nearby public hospital.  It was now 3am, and I was tired, cold, cranky and panicked.  To make matters worse, I heard a woman screaming bloody murder from the hospital while I was still quite a distance away.  'Yikes. Is this a hospital or a torture chamber?' I thought to myself.  

Reluctantly, I walked into the hospital and asked to see the gynecologist.  A youngish man came to greet me and ask me what my problem was.  'Doctor,' I said in Arabic.  'Do you know what a tampon is?' 

'Yes,' he said. 

'Are you sure?  Shall I show you?'

'No need,' he assured med.  'What’s wrong?'  

I told the doctor that I had my beeriood, that I think I accidentally shoved a tampon up my system, and would need to have it removed before it caused a potentially fatal bacterial infection.  

And then, the doctor said the magic words: Tooxic Shook Syndroom.  

'Thank you!'  I blurted in English.  'You actually know what I’m talking about!  I’ve just been to three hospitals and no one knows what a tampon is, let alone TSS!' 

The doctor laughed.  'Heeya diee masr.'  This is Egypt.  He then took my blood pressure and told me to sit tight until he finished with his screaming patient.

I sat in a tiny reception area for at least half an hour, anxiously awaiting to be seen.  In the meantime, his patient snuck out of the examining room and stood in front of me.  She was wailing, and had blood stains all over her beige velvet galabiyya.  I, for one, was having second thoughts about letting that doctor put his hands on/in me. And I was about to walk out....  

…except I was distracted by the site of this poor woman prying no less than twelve earrings out of her ears.  Apparently, she was about to undergo some kind of CT Scan, but was having a difficult time getting all those 24 karat gold studs out.  They must have been fastened quite tightly, because with each twist and yank, more tears rolled down her face.

At that point, the entire medical staff had just about had it with her.  A tiny male nurse missing all his front teeth reached up to the woman’s ears with a longish pair of medical tongs and forcefully twisted the backs off the earrings, one at a time.  What........the……fuck?!  I couldn’t believe what I was watching.  Had I not been put off by the pus oozing out of her inflamed holes, I might have offered to help remove some of the earrings.  Instead, I got on my knees and scoured the floor for the studs that fell. 


My earring search was interrupted by the doctor, who was now ready to examine me.  He guided me into a curtained area with two examining tables.  He then handed me a bed sheet to wrap around my bottom, and stepped out to let me undress.  But, I just couldn’t get myself to take my pants off.  For starters, the bed sheet was soiled with every type of biological stain imaginable-- red, yellow, brown, green.  The examining tables were bare, devoid of that noisy, crinkly paper that doctors put on their tables for sanitary reasons back home.  And there were several blood-stained tissues lying on the floor.  Um, hello.  Why wasn’t there a Biohazard waste basket here?!?

(Speaking of biohazard waste baskets, I remembered the time I accompanied a friend’s friend to the hospital to have her thighs liposuctioned.  When she finished the procedure, the doctor sent us home with a black plastic bag full of her removed thigh fat!  Imagine that!  Lugging your own body fat around in a plastic bag!  He probably had nowhere else to dispose of it.  It was really heavy too.)

There I stood, frozen in disgust.  I didn’t know what to do with myself.  Leave? Complain? Puke?  And then I remembered some good advice given to me in Syria when I wanted to leave my apartment because I wasn’t getting along very well with the Turkish toilet: “Don’t be a spoiled American.”  


Indeed. 

Heck.  If I could make it through Turkish toilets with violent food poisoning, I could definitely survive a gyno exam in this hospital.  Besides, I wanted to get that tampon out.  So I requested a clean bed sheet and decided to get on with it.  Only, the nurse pulled an equally dirty sheet off of a neighboring examining table and handed it to me.  No…that’s not what I meant by clean! 

I quickly realized that this was as good as it was going to get.  So I undressed my bottom half, loosely wrapped that nasty cloth around me, and called the doctor in.  Thankfully, I didn’t have to tell him to put a latex glove on.  The doctor then asked me a series of questions, one of which was, 'are you a virgin?'  

'Well, the last gynecologist who examined me seemed to think so.  Does that count?'  

And then, the doctor raised his hand in preparation, and told me, in his very Egyptian English, 'Na-ow I will going to ixblore your vagina.'

>*D               

Oh.my.God.  I couldn’t control myself.  I burst out laughing in the poor man’s face!  He will going to ixblore my vagina!  The doctor turned red, and I apologized profusely, but I just couldn’t contain my laughter.  As soon as I composed myself, the doctor began ixbloring. And I began howling, just like the previous patient.  That was easily the most painful ten seconds I’d experienced in a while.  And it was all for nothing.  As it turned out, I didn’t have a tampon wedged up there after all.  I had just forgotten that I had taken it out!

Because this was a state-run hospital, I didn’t have to pay a penny for this false alarm—not even because I was a foreigner.  I was thankful for that, and grateful that I had met an experienced gynecologist.  I’m not sure that I’d ever step foot into that place again, but who knows?  Maybe the doctor makes house calls. 


16 comments:

  1. Wow! What a way to start the blog off, haha! Very interested to learn more about Egypt, I'd love to visit someday.

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  2. I stumbled onto your blog from BHUZ.com yesterday and can't stop reading!! This post made me laugh so hard I cried. I had a similar situation; I thankfully had no nails on and was able to figure things out on my own... lol

    Thank you for posting!! You now have another devoted reader. = )

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  3. Thanks Siobhan! I definitely recommend visiting Eygpt. It'll be the trip of a life time.

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  4. Anonymous, glad I made ya laugh! :D I appreciate your comment and your readership. :)

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  5. That. Is. So. Funny. :-D
    Hamdullah?

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  6. Replies
    1. Sorry to say but I experienced the same unknowingness from Doctors (Egyptian and other ME) in Saudi too...

      and I recall one Egyptian Dr in Saudi telling me not to worry about my rash on my arms (which I had gone to see him about) as it wasn't a problem - I could, 'still have sex'. sheeesh

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  7. I believe you. Education in general in this part of the world isn't particularly the best. I've seen plenty of lousy doctors too. There are some good ones though...

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  8. Well I am sure that you enjoyed the experience :P

    How else will you be able to call yourself an Egyptian if you didn't experience the day to day activity that we all complain about. Moreover, I am sure this will be an excellent story to share with your friends and have a good laugh about it :)

    Back to the main point, I started following your blog a few months ago and I really enjoyed reading your posts and experiences.

    Now I left Egypt and decided to immigrate to another country, and I was never sure about anything in my life like I was sure about leaving Egypt or else I would go crazy or kill myself.

    Two months in, and I never been so miserable in my life. The first night for me here was a nightmare, one of the worst nights in my life and I had quite a few. Finally, I realized that this place is going to be my new home. I had to make new friends, I had to make new everything.

    How did you cope with this in Egypt and I am certain its a hundred times harder than my situation. I know all the bads that forced me out, but right now I couldn't care less about any of them. All I want is back to my country.

    How crazy is this comparing everything around me with all the madness in Egypt, even before the revolution.

    Its not that I find it hard to adapt to this new country more than it is missing my home country. Although, I've been traveling for quite some time now and I've been away for months and I never had a problem dealing with it, but this is a whole different story. There is no return ticket this time.

    I am sorry to bother you with all that crap, I am sure you have enough on your plate to deal with than counseling some stranger.

    I didn't intend for this post to be public, but I could really learn from your experience.

    If you can reply to this via email (ahm_demus@yahoo.com) then I would really appreciate it.

    Thank you for reading this,
    A.A

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  9. Hi A.A. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. I can totally understand your frustration with Egypt, and feeling like absolutely everything about this place is just wrong. Yet, depending on what type of person you are, and depending on what your goals are in living here, you can find some positive things about this place. Or at least things that make you laugh.

    I for one, have "adjusted" the person I am to be able to cope with the daily frustrations that Egypt throws at us. I have become more assertive-- dare I say aggressive- in order to ensure that no one pulls the wool over my eyes. At the same time, I try to find the humor in every situation. And believe me, there's much humor here. Instead of getting angry, I laugh. Hence this post that you're commenting on. Laughing has become my coping mechanism.

    Another thing I find that helps me, is remembering that this isn't forever. I have an American passport and can leave any time.

    Although you said my situation is more difficult than most, at the end of the day, I'm so happy that I got to fulfill my dream of dancing in Cairo. I'm on stage every night, doing what I love, so I'm willing to put up with a lot just to be able to do that. Thousands of dancers would give their left hip to be in my position, so I'm grateful and happy that I have this opportunity.

    That being said, there are moments when I think I will go insane or else seriously injure someone else. But like I said, I just laugh it off.

    Thanks again for sharing, and I hope you find happiness wherever you are. :)

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    Replies
    1. Great story! The hospitals sounds very much like the hospitals here in Morocco, as I saw first hand when I went to visit my friend in one last night.

      Tampons are very hard to find on the shelves here. Seems to be societal pressure for women not to use them, especially before marriage. The unmarried adult women that I work with all use pads- and very large ones, at that. And, they are not exactly shy about carrying a bag of them around to the bathroom. :/ The girls who use them in the high school where I work are teased- by girls and boys- for using them, and are basically called sluts.

      Thanks for sharing your story!!

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    2. Thanks for commenting! :) Yes, you're absolutely right. Tampons are an interesting topic here. Most people believe they take away virginity. I've had some other funny tampon-related experiences also. You can read about it in post entitled "Condomonium." Wishing you the best, Luna :)

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  10. Do you have difficulty finding tampons to buy in Cairo Luna?

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    1. Some of the upper class super markets sell them... supermarkets where the rich and foreigners shop. And some pharmacies carry them. But the selection is limited, so I import mine from the States. The same goes for condoms. They exist here, but most Egyptians don't have a clue as to what they are. I wrote about this in my post entitled "Condomonium." :)

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  11. Is there a high rate of STD s there with no education on condoms? And im wondering if the hospitals are diligent on preventing contamination with needles and equipment.

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    1. I'm not sure about the actual rates, but I would imagine that would be the case. Hospitals here a little scary, to be honest. They are rarely clean, and the nurses don't have any education. You can tell by how they talk and act. To make matters worse, you have to tip them for every little service they provide! If they help you walk somewhere, for example, or if they raise the bed for you, etc. Needles are disposable, but lots of doctors don't wear gloves. In short, things could be much better here.

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