Sunday, July 19, 2009

ANSWER TO letter to Nathalie Berard--an unwanted French houseguest

After some hesitation and some serious consideration, I have decided to post Nathalie's response to my long letter from April. I welcome your feedback:

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Saturday, May 9, 2009 8:33 AM

"Dear" Andy,

Now that i'm back home, i came to read your email with attention.

I just cant believe what i just read.

This is not a letter or a complaint about my behavior. This is a trial !!! You missed your vocation.

A trial, i dont know how to say this in english, a trial with 100% charges. I forgot : there is two sentences with good feelings u had about me and then there is, let's say, four pages of charges.

Four pages in which you dissect every move i made, every word i said, every minute we spent together. You wanted to make a 100 % charges trial and u did it.

How come u felt so hurt that u come here to say such horrible things - this is just beyond my ability of comprehension.

I dont feel like saying bad things to u. I dont have any anyway. I liked you. I liked you when we were writing to each other before we met ; i liked you after we met. I enjoyed your personality.

Now, lets make a nice resume about me : i am a liar, i am a thief, i am a french white trash (nice thing to say),

None is this is true. I have been speaking to you as a friend. When i meet people that i appreciate i dont bother asking myself if i should say this or not. U use everything i ever told u in your trial. Why ? I cant be a liar, Andy, because i am a very straightfull speaking person, i dont even know how to lie.

You have the nerve to write things about that man i told you in Paris (telephone and so on). Up to you. Still your trial.

Anyway, i am not going to take every of your point and answer it. What's the point. I dont have to defend against an somewhat obsessional accusation from a somewhat obsessional guy.

Why are you obsessional ?

So, some things i remember from your CRAZY email.
I didn't steal anything from you or from anyone. This is absolutaly insane. I didn't steal anything to anyone in my whole life. $
I didn't lie about anything or to anyone. Didn't do it in my whole life.

About that guy Meher : And about you by the way. Maybe living in Cairo, being away from home and so on drive you to be paranoïd about people that you meet, i dont know. You really believe that i stole an AC REMOTE CONTROL ?!!
It was decided from the beginning that i would stay there a night to see whether i like it or not and whether i decide it or not to take the room. I decided not to. I didn't like the behavior and the manners of this man. Point.

About Iman : you werent the last one to complain about her and think that she is maybe not the best girl in town. I met other people who happened to know her and none of them liked her. Related me some kind of strange and not so good behavior of her with people.
Iman literally persecuted me with her requests of papers, contract signature and so on. I dont like that kind of behavior (even thought asking for papers, contracts and so on might be normal). Iman gave me a hard time while being in her flat. Now you dissect everything you saw from me and her. I could also dissect everything that happened from her and relate it to you. But what's the point ?
Yes, after the last night, after waiting for hours that she goes out of her bedroom, after telling her that i had to go out, so would she be nice enought to give me a key or confirm that she would be here when i would be back, after hearing her from behind her keylocked bedroom (thing that she has been doing with everyone and that hurted everyone) that she was soooo tired (at 3PM after a 14 hours sleep), i decided it was enought, went to the room, pack my things and told her i was leaving. Then only she went out of her bedroom.
I had a 50 LE note in my purse, i throw it to her (yes, i admit it).
I should have been more patient ; maybe she should have behave another way. She behaved this way not only with me and not only me disliked it. Was it normal that she didn't return my phone calls ? Would have she done it and i would not have spend another night at your place.
About the money ; Iman asked for more than anyone will ever asked for a week's stay.And what she asked for was not, in any case, justified. Iman and i agreed on a more fair price.
Ah yes, Iman invited us to a sudanese restaurant : great. You are so mean in your writing about me, Andy, that the only way to answer you is also to be mean. But do i feel like it ?
I'm not sure. So i will not say anything about the invitation of Iman to a restaurant. But everything u say about my terror of spending money can be said about her.

Your email is dishonest. This is what happens when we decide in advance that we are going to "kill" somebody. This is what happens, and what is the aim, of a 100 % charges trial.

Now, you assume all the worst about me. Shall i have to persuade you of the contrary ? You perfectly know that i was going to treat you all to thank you. Probably not in a sudanese restaurant. I didn't have time and you would then refuse my attempts to clear up things. This is normal. You do that when you just ENJOY doing a trial to someone.

Now, here is my point of view. What u say about the way i handle money is not completely false. There is truth in it. It has nothing to do with a supposed to be devilish nature of mine or a supposed to be "bad" nature of mine. It has to do with lack of money. But it also has to do probably with other things and yes, i should work about this with a psycho analyst. As it comes to you, you, also, have probably things to work out and things you could work with a psychoanalyst. It would not be the same things as me but i guess there would be a bunch of things you could work about. This email of yours for example. Think about it.

What else, my god ?! Ah yes. By the way, thank you for making me such a reputation in town ! Never mind. I wont do the same about you. Again, what's the point. But you see, everything you say, and the fact that you have been talking to as much people as you can about me remind me of something : i did exactly the same thing with my "story" with the egyptian guy of Luxor. So i guess, something really disturbed you about our meeting. Exactly as something really disturbed me about that guy. Again, think about it, "sweetie" !

Yes. My whole point of view about my "stay" with you. My point of view is you made a big deal out of nothing. Here you are, dissecting every of my move and word when we were together. As for me, you put me up during, what, 3 nights ? What is the big deal about it ?
We got along well, had nice talks together. Every of your reproaches to me, let me tell you, has very little to do with my stay in your flat, do you realise this ? Ah yes, i "stole" your lonelyplanet... Did i ? Isn'it on your shelf ?

I let my luggage in your place. Didn't know it was such a big deal to let luggage in your place, my god !! I did this not because i wanted to invade you, guys, but because it was more convenient while i was looking for a place. I, myself, would never be shocked by such a thing if somebody was leaving its luggage in my place in Paris, even for weeks !

You let me your bed. Next time, dont do it. If it has to traumatize you to this point !

On the whole again, you may have some points in what you say. I say this assuming that you will understand it, as an intelligent person. You should just try to be less dramatic, less insulting and less final in your conclusions.
You should also try to be less arrogant, less violent. Some questions about yourself would also be useful for you, my dear. I hope you will not become that horrible guy that sometimes show up behind your intelligence.

Chinese-american guy.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Wow! You speak Arabic!

The Arabic proverb says, “He who knows the language of the foreign people--may God protect him from their evil ways.” In some ways, the ability to speak Arabic is like possessing a magic key that opens doors. I noticed a few examples while in Cairo:

• In the Mari Girgis neighborhood—as I was walking towards the Art Museum Darb 17-18, a security man tells me in simple English, “Sorry, closed. This area not open.” I tell him in Egyptian Arabic, “ya amm.” Or Hey Uncle—I want to go to the museum. It’s open daily except Friday and it’s very close.” He replies, “You speak Arabic? Ok, come in, please!”

• Even at the market when I purchase postcards, the vendor tells me, “you get a discount because you speak Arabic.” Of course, he says this partly in jest, but I understand his intention.

• At the Cairo Airport, a security man asks me to remove an item from my bag. I ask him in Arabic, “small or big bag? Is my water bottle a problem?” “Hey—you speak Arabic?! No problem at all. Please just go through!” I sometimes think that maybe one day I can show up with a small gun, but as long as I speak Arabic, the staff will waive me through.

Earlier this week, I was in New York. I passed a hot dog stand in Battery Park and overheard the vendor speak Egyptian Arabic on the cell phone. I stopped and thought I had to speak to him. He never got off the phone, so I asked him in Arabic, “I’d like a bottle of water.”

He replied, “$1.50” in English.

I had just bought a bottle earlier in Flushing, Queens for $1.00, so told him in Arabic, “Hey uncle—that’s a bit expensive. Can you make it cheaper? Maybe $1.00?”
He replied in English, “ok.”

This morning, while in Jersey City, New Jersey, I entered an Arabic corner store and asked the vendor in Arabic if he had “koosharee” the famous Egyptian dish of macaroni, rice, lentils and grilled onions. He replied, “insha’ Allah” or God Willing or “yes.” We spoke for a few minutes. I then asked him if he had Molokhayeh, or Jew’s Mallow, a thick green soup popular in Egypt. Again, he replied, God Willing or “yes.” And proceeded to pull out a small tub from the fridge. “I give it to you—free!”

“Allah yekhaleek!” May God Keep You, I thanked him.

I somehow doubt that he would’ve done the same had I simply asked him in English.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Come home!

First conversation with the parents after my return from Egypt:

My Father: we’re worried about you. The economy is hard. Come home!

Learn about computers. When the economy improves you can find a job in any store.

You can take a computer course. If you don’t have a degree you can’t find anything.
Our door is always open to you. After all, we’re one family.
Don’t think like Americans – and not living with the family.
If you have any difficulty, tell us. These are my thoughts.
Of course, my hope is that you come home.”

My Mother: If you can’t find a job, then come home.
Go to a San Jose computer company to find work!

Perhaps, my parents know that I have no intention of returning home to live with them or to find work. However, they persist in inviting me home. I simply say "un huh..." and don't argue.

There is no acknowledgment of the study of Arabic, or perhaps, how valuable this new skill may be. No questions about whether I want to return to the Middle East. My mother does ask if I want to return to Egypt specifically. I say not for now, although I don't rule out a future return. Both of them are more concerned about my future than even I am. Perhaps, this is a natural aspect of being parents.