June 19th, 2009 19th

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History In The Making

Glorious.

I’m left speechless as I attempt to re-live Egypt’s historical victory against World Champions Italy in the Confederations Cup last night. Following a quality performance against Brazil in the first match, the Pharaohs took African football to the next level, becoming the first ever side from the black continent to beat the Azurri. And what a victory it was!

Egypt vs Italy

I witnessed history being re-written at a bar near Place Monge with Alberts, Jose (pronounced: err-kho-thei) and Rocio. What a night! I had picked up Jose and Rocio from the airport yesterday morning, they’re here from the weekend, visiting from Utrera (an authentic, ancient town near Sevilla). They showed immediate interest in watching the spectacle. While Alberts thought it was a good opportunity to pay me back for all of the Barca games that I had watched with him and the Catalans!

I was the only Egyptian at the bar, as you might’ve imagined. In fact, I was the only one closely following the game (and not really hiding my emotions), proudly boasting my Egyptian national team jersey with the six stars, representing the number of times we have been crowned African champions. My new Egyptian friend, Mohamed el Dahshan, who I met through Paris-Blog-activist Ruth Pimentel, tagged along as well (although a few minutes AFTER the game was over). Immediately after, I took off to the other airport, Charles de Gualle, to meet my originally Valenciano but realistically Egyptian friend Toni Bolinches, who’s also here for the weekend.

The funny part was while I was on the way to pick up El Bolinches. The RER made stops that weren’t schedule, until they decided that the train is not going any further, and that everyone has to get off and catch the bus. I’m not sure how they justified it to themselves, but there weren’t any French complaining. Instead of taking me 40 mins to get there, I arrived to a stranded Bolinches in over an hour and a half. I don’t know what I would’ve done if I were trying to catch a flight.

Anyway, as I was about to get on the bus, one of the station organizers, standing at the entrance to the bus, said “Essalamu 3aleiko” (after noticing that I had the Egyptian shirt on), and so I jumped at the opportunity to express my joy, and went on in Arabic about our historical victory against the world champions. He said that he had watched the match as well, and was extremely happy for us. But then he dared to make the blasphemous move of saying “But against Alegria, you can’t win. You can’t beat us”.

Immediately after, there was a sudden silence as my ear-to-ear smile instantly changed to a serious frown. It was a look of a gangster who is about to pull up a gun and shoot the guy’s brains out. The poor Algerian’s face was converted to a look of fear and deep concern. His jaw dropped, his eyes wide-open, and his head slowly but surely turning away in an attempt to save his life. My hungry face was literally 10 centimeters from his, as he started to feel my fuming body heat. Seconds later, we both burst out loud into outrageous, obnoxious, Arab-style laughter and gave each other a symbolic fair-play hug that sent peace and love vibrations to the entire region.

I was still laughing by myself on the bus. And then I started getting into the vicous cycle of calculating how Egypt can make it to the World Cup, and that was sad. Regardless, a revolutionary win, an incredible achievement. Mabrouk to the seven thousand years of Egyptian civilization.

May 6th, 2009 06th

1

Mes Que Un Club

Tonight was a crazy night. Those of you who follow the beautiful game will understand exactly what I mean. In the return leg of the semi final of the Champions League, FC Barcelona had traveled to London and managed to score a last-gasp goal to book their place in the final against Manchester United in Rome. There’s so much to talk about, it’s ridiculous, but I guess it’s better to leave that for another time.

fifthbar

The fun part of it, for a neutral like myself that doesn’t really support either team, was that I was surrounded by a large group of Catalans at a bar in Mouffetard. It’s always a lot of fun to be amidst a group of Catalan-speaking football fanatics. And with the way the match ended, the entire bar and neighborhood went WILD. Even though the main idea of living in a city like Paris is to meet and get to know Parisians, it’s still rather entertaining to spend time with a group of people like that. After the game, we all went to another nearby bar for some drinks before I headed back home.

Another striking feature of tonight was getting to know a new area of Paris: Mouffetard and Place Monge – REALLY cool area. There are cobble-stoned narrow streets with bars and restaurant left and right. More importantly, and rather surprisingly, they are (relatively) cheap, which in turn draws a lot of the university crowd, making it an even more interesting area. It’s the kind of zone that surprises you, because you realize what this city is truly capable of. There’s so much to live here, it’s over-whelming.

In an earlier post, I talked about Bip Bip Pizza, who earned my acknowledgment as the best creperie in town. While I stand by my word, I must say that he’s facing tough competition from AUP’TIT GREC. This place is famous and has people lining up to pick up crepes. Don’t bother with the sweet crepes, they’re just as good as in most other places. What makes this place special, are the salee crepes, offering various ingredients including Feta cheese, Mozzarella, and mushrooms. All crepes come accompanied by free onions, tomatoes and lettuce, converting the crepe into a full meal. To top it all off, they’re rather reasonably prices, so it’s definitely something you wouldn’t want to miss.

auptit

So I think everyone should visit the aera at one point, and pick up a egg and cheeses crepe, for example, from AUP’TIT Grec. To get there, just catch line 9 to Place Monge, walk one block down until you cross Rue du Mouffetard. Enjoy!

May 5th, 2009 05th

2

The Dark Side Of Freelancing

Today won’t go down as one of my best in my stay in the second Capital of Love; some problems with the freelance work from Cairo, but oh well. Like they say here, c’est la vie. That’s the general problem when you’re working as a freelancer: the client.

You have to freedom to work from anywhere in the world, there are very little costs associated with your work, you work whenever you want to…and the list goes on. But unfortunately, like we say in Egypt “the sweetness is never complete”, there always has to be a downside, and that is precisely what I had gone through today. Maybe I should try to avoid Egyptian clients, and stick to the Europeans, who are much more organized and generally pay more. But then again, it would be nice to know that I would be helping the design industry in Egypt somehow.

To rub salt in the wound, Arsene Wenger proved that his time at Arsenal desperately needs to come to an end with a humiliating defeat at home against Manchester United in the 2nd leg of the semi-final of the Champions League. I am now convinced that he doesn’t really care about the club having any success or winning trophies, all he cares about is to prove to the rest of the world that he is a genius because he can get players of no value and still make big achievements. He’s obviously a failure because ever since he took on that school of thought four years ago, he has not won a single trophy – nothing. I can go on forever complaining about his philosophy, but I should leave it for some other time.

What makes a loss feel even worse is not having the people around to share your disappointment with. Football isn’t that important anyway, but I think little things that usually upset me tend to have a more noticeable effect here in Paris since I’m not surrounded by my usual listeners (and phone calls are not the same).

On a more positive note, I’ve kicked off some other projects that seem to be very promising. I’ll post about them at a later date. But it’s comforting to know that I will be working with professional people, and the income should come in handy around here.

Would I give up freelancing for a high-paying and secure 9-5 job? If I can help it, I would never give it up. And luckily, I think I’m in the field where I do actually have a say, and with the demand in Europe creating an attractive market, I hope to be able to have my freelancing cover for my monthly expenses. We’ll have to wait and see how things develop, but I, as I tend to be, am pretty optimistic.