The Middle East is a beautiful place filled with the magic of the ancient world liberally mixed with modern. It’s filled with people good and bad—as with any place you visit in this world. Despite the political structures, scratch the surface of people, regardless of race, and there is a commonality; they want to be happy, have a good life, a secure place to live with plenty to eat, raise their children in safety to thrive and succeed. Unfortunately, that isn’t always possible due to political instability. Such is the case with Egypt and in January of 2011, a campaign of non-violent civil resistance which featured a series of demonstrations, marches, acts of civil disobedience, and labor strikes. Millions of protesters from a variety of socio-economic and religious backgrounds demanded the overthrow of the regime of Egyptian President Mubarak. It wasn’t a particularly safe time for westerners to be there. Various governments started evacuating their people living in Egypt.
My cyber friend, and romance author, Jenyfer Matthews and her family were among those evacuated. I knew she had lived in the Middle east for over ten years. It was home to her children. I was curious about the changes she and her family faced relocating back to the States and the effect on her writing career.
It’s been just over a year since my family evacuated Egypt, days after the first wave of the revolution. After we left, my children and I spent much of the year in limbo, staying with family and friends, waiting to see what would happen next – and whether or not we would be returning to Cairo. Just after summer vacation, days before I would have purchased tickets for us to return to Cairo, my husband was offered a job in Michigan.
If I had been paralyzed by anxiety and indecision in the first part of last year, suddenly I had too much to do in a very short period of time. My husband had already returned to Cairo after visiting us on his summer vacation and worked out his notice period and organized our personal things for shipping. I came to Michigan to find a rental house and then packed up my car for our move. The children and I arrived on Labor Day, the day before school started. We spent the first week on air mattresses, but they started school on time!
Being anxious and perpetually stressed out didn’t do much for my creativity last year either. I managed to get my backlist formatted for digital and paperback release but wasn’t able to add anything to my unfinished stories. Since returning to the US, I’ve had the opportunity to stretch my creative muscles by stalking garage sales and refinishing furniture that I find – a practical occupation as well since we lived in furnished housing while we were abroad and have very little furniture of our own. A pleasant side effect of that creative outlet was to find my mind wandering while sanding and telling me stories again.
Our transition to living in the US again after a decade abroad hasn’t been without its bumps. I’m a naturally chatty person and when you live abroad, you tend to make friends fast. It probably has something to do with being out of your own element, but I’ve met and bonded with people nearly instantly in my travels and am used to that sort of interaction now. However, I think my instantly familiar manner is a bit off-putting to the classic Midwest reserve if the people I’ve found myself chatting to in the produce section of the grocery store are anything to judge by! (That’s me, the talkative blond by the bananas)
I’ve also had to adjust my shopping habits. Having daily access to a Target is a dangerous thing! I’m used to what I call binge shopping – or trying to buy a year’s supply of “X” at a time because there was nothing that came close to Target in Cairo and I had to stock up on everything in the summers. Having a mall within ten minutes of my house doesn’t mean I need to visit it every day – I can shop at will, when needs arise now. Amazing.
One thing I love love love about Michigan is the number of weekly garage sales. I’ve always loved garage sales but it’s great to be able to use the bargaining skills I honed in the Middle East to get a great deal.
If you want to read more about Jenyfer's thoughts on this and her life back here in the States, check out her blog
Three popular contemporary romance novels by Jenyfer Matthews together for the first time in one volume for one amazing low price. —H
I am an American recently returned to the US after more than a decade in the Middle East, most recently living in Cairo, Egypt. Aside from writing, I'm a married mom of two, a decent (if reluctant) cook, an encyclopedia of random scientific / medical facts, a wine lover (but not a snob!), and a Capricorn. I love to travel, spend time with good friends, and laugh at life's surprises. View of life - definitely half full. You can find Jenyfer: Facebook and her website.