Monday, 16 February 2015

A Dollar & Thirty Four Cents in Me Pocket and Feeling Fine



Having traveled and left my comfort zone more than four years ago, every once in a while I find myself in a dire situation concerning money. Not that I overspend or have bad habits — as I used to — but simply because of certain glitches in the matrix. And having no family, friends, or even Abdou my loyal doorman from Egypt, I have to deal. 

The recent of those glitches just occurred a month ago. It was one of those times when everything happened at the same time. I had noticed that this is how the Universe likes to interact with me.


First, I had to pay some unusual fees to some lawyer, which affected my carefully-tailored monthly expenses.

Then, my Egyptian debit card stopped working all of a sudden. I knew for a while that the bank had been sold to some other Emirates bank, but they decided to exchange all cards before the new year. The new card was sent to my old office — where I was working in 2010. Apparently, all the transactions from Canada and the US those last years didn't mean much to them.

It was actually my parents who kindly helped in this. They retracted the card and Fed-Exed it to me. It took several days to locate, then about three days to arrive from Cairo, Egypt to Venice Beach, USA.

Another surprise was that my Canadian credit card, which I leave for emergencies, expired at the very same time with the end of the year. Naturally, the new one was also sent to me previous address in Toronto. That's ten working days for them to cancel it and resend a newer one from there to Venice.

The final twist was that it takes almost seven days for the money to arrive to the Canadian debit card.

So in short, I was left with a few dollars for about five days. Usually, I always try to leave a little bit of cash on the side so I'm not at the mercy of electronics, even if $20. But this time, I was not prepared.

I had very little grocery left; one third of a pack of uncooked pasta, another cooked quarter in the fridge, a can of tuna, some lettuce and a few toasts. Yeah, don't judge me.

One of those late afternoons, I took the dog of the 25-year-old girl who shared the bungalow with me and went for a dinner hunt. Apart from the last three eggs I had for breakfast, this was going to be my only meal. I wanted to save what I had at home, because I had no idea when this dilemma was going to be solved.

I already had $1.34 in coins and tried to reach $5.50, which could buy me two portions from Lemonade. However, when I went to the cashier and asked her to try the debit then the credit card, they were both declined.

So I went out to the dog, even more hungry, and walked back home.


On the way, my mind started to imagine some of the best food I had before. My grandma's yummy lunches that I have been craving, the food of the hotels I grew up in, and all the abundance I'm forever grateful for. My stomach started to squeak from the thoughts, and that's when I remembered an Arabic adage:

ما حدش بيبات من غير عشاء  ”, or “No one goes to bed without dinner.”

I then chuckled to myself because I thought, yes that must be true, but only because we usually cannot fall asleep when hungry.

I went home to heat the pasta in the fridge; to my surprise, it had molded and I had to throw it. Apparently, the fridge stopped cooling a day earlier and needed to be fixed. So, I made the rest of the pasta with some onion and garlic, which we had at home.

I don't recall in my life if ever a fridge I was using just stopped working. Anyways, it did happen. 



Even though my aunt lives 45 minutes away, and nothing wrong with asking for help, but I thought I'll just handle the situation myself. It's the life I have chosen after all. I still, however, wanted to share my little adventure — which I found quite amusing. So I called my best friend, who happens to be living in L.A now, to vent a little. He kindly told me that he'll send me 50 bucks the next morning through Moneygram. Great!

Later in the day, I told him on the phone that one day we'll reminisce about these days and laugh, and he wholeheartedly agreed.

Then I went to sleep...not hungry.

In the morning, I had my coffee then went to the nearby Right Aid and used a phone to get the Money gram as my buddy had instructed me. It was my first to use it and I found it pretty convenient. 
I took the received cash and went to Ralph's next door to buy essentials like eggs, bread, green onions, a few cans of tuna. Oh, and ONE roll of toilet paper for $1.10.

On the ride back I was so grateful, I actually had a big smile on my face. I knew the Universe got my back as it usually does, and it did. I just trust it and it never lets me down. It actually held my back in my darkest years, will it turn on me now that I'm facing the Light? No.

In fact, my needs are way less today as I'm an independent artist and live by the beach; and they simply consist of paying the rent and eating, and this is why I'm happy. That is my reasoning as to why life will keep getting better.

Once home, I made a magnanimous four-egg brunch and the day went perfecto. Even more so, Bret, my bungalow mate, was able to fix the fridge and it was up and running. I'm glad he did, because I could not really afford to lose the new groceries.

The next day's dinner was then again another issue. Such happenings are like a quick glimpse into the life of millions of hungry people around the world. Though in my case, I may have been hungry but I was not worried; I may have been broke but I never broke.

As I strolled the streets with a few bucks in hand, I was once again reminded by all the filling food I haven't eaten in a while. More or less, my parents' and grandmothers'. Chicken soup, molokheya (Jute leaves), even chicken and beef liver made the fantasy list. Apparently that's what happens when one gets hungry.

This experience naturally made me think of where I am today and how I got to this moment. For an instant, I wondered if I had taken the right choice by leaving the comfort zone of all I had. Even though my faith was never shaken, but I did, however, think for a brief moment about the relative ‘ease’ and ‘comfort’ of all the previous mundane, unfulfilling jobs I held for a full decade. Though I also thought of how toxic and unhealthy it was to go on through life without motivation.

I was replaying all my life in my head, before I finally went back to being grateful for the path I have chosen and for where I am today. 

Back home again to a can of tuna. I mixed it with lettuce, added olive oil, pepper and ate it.

Then, for some reason — probably out of desperation — I thought about looking for more coins in my bags' pockets. To my surprise, I found 70 L.E which I had since my last year's trip to Egypt. This is about $9. Great. One more day of food.



I Googled the currency exchange places and found one about two miles away. I called and they said they are about to close and tomorrow is Sunday, so I should go on Monday. Hm, too long.

I Googled another place and found it open on Sundays. I went to bed thinking how ‘lucky’ I am to find this Egyptian money. Also, by thinking that I have my health, a bed to sleep in, and a clear conscience, I felt even more grateful. Not only that, but I'm where I want to be doing what I love to do. I mean, I know people who are homeless; others live in their cars and vans right by my street. So really, nothing but gratitude was all I could feel.

Then I slept...not hungry.


Note that all that time I knew McDonald's offer 99 cents burgers, or say a dollar and something. But, having not eaten any of this junk for a really long time, I knew my body wasn't going to receive that Big Mac the right way. I also knew I was going to get hungry a few hours later. Besides, psychologically, I wouldn't have been too happy.

I wanted to give my body what it needed in the cheapest way possible. After all, I had no other option. Well, I thought about taking the drum and playing in the street for a bit. I'm sure I could have collected a few bucks in the hat. But I kept that up my sleeve.


The next morning, I biked to the money exchange place, which was a few of miles away, and got $8. Six miles (10 K) of sweating and eight dollars gained, not bad at all. 

That night again, I went to bed...not hungry.


Then one morning at 8:45, the Santa Claus Fedex guy came to deliver the new debit card. Hallelujah! Of course I had been neurotically tracking that package online like a drug dealer and his smuggled stash. So I was pretty much expecting him when he rang that sweet doorbell.  

I took the card and went again to the grocery store and used it. A day later, I was trying to use it again and it didn't work! Hm.

So apparently, the bank freaked out when they saw a transaction in Los Angeles when the card had just been issued in Cairo several days earlier. I had to call their call center and fix that. Typically, the guy told me that it would take three working days to undo the block, “because it's the weekend.” Ah. That was a reminder of the fact that Egypt is still Egypt. 

However, it all passed, like it always does. When I had the money, I was once again grateful that I have it. It's all about gratitude and counting our blessings. This mindset is actually one of the best ways to keep track of how lucky and unique we truly are. The more we are grateful for those blessings, the more we attract people, situations and things to be grateful for.


As an end note, after many direct, life experiences I have come to the conclusion that once we stop obsessing over what we seek, it comes to us. As simple as that. Don't fret the money, or any other material thing for that matter; for they come and go. Don't get attached. Don't freak out. Don't let fear gets to you; for worrying makes everything worse. Once you stop thinking about it, somehow, someway, it turns out well. And most of the times you'll go to sleep “not hungry”.

If you do, however, get the occasional freak-outs, remind yourself that you're stuck to a 4.5 billion-years-old rotating rock that is orbiting a star, which itself is orbiting the center of the milky way galaxy. The galaxy is traveling through the Universe at a rate of 600 Km/s: That's 2.2 million km/h.

Now take a deep breath and smile.

And how was your day today?



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