Monday, May 17, 2010

How it happened... my story so far...

This post has been inspired by a question from one of my blog readers (thanks Anya!)who wanted to know how I came to be where i am! Since I have published so many posts now on this blog, over the years it might not be apparent to new readers how i came to be where i am today. So this is for you guys!!!

Bascially my story is this...

I was teaching Bellydance throughout Scotland for 9 years full time. Every year I came to Cairo at least once, although eventually up to four times in a year, just to buy costumes, music and see dancers and be inspired. To learn more so i could teach my ever hungry students even more!

On one trip, I had at least 4 different people within 4 days saying to me.. but why don't you work here... and me constantly saying 'i'm not good enough'. I decided to listen to people instead of my own self doubts.. and tried out for a couple of auditions... and was offered 2 jobs instantly! I was overwhelmed and very happy. However I was also very commited to my students (over 400 of them by this time!) and to my Edinburgh fringe festival show which was already selling tickets. So I declined both job offers but told them that I would be back in the spring to work.

So thats what i did. I told all my students, friends family etc etc that i was moving to cairo to try my luck at performing over there for 6 months... and then I'd be back again to resume normal life and show them all what i had learnt!

As you can see, over 4 years later ,I'm still here- things didn't really go to plan.

You see , the problem was, that laws changed about foreign dancers work permits... and it became very difficult for any new dancer to get a license to work. You needed a work visa to get a contract, and a contract to get a visa. In those 1st 6months I did get work for a while...good work... in a couple of 5 star hotels... but without work papers. So i was continually looking over my shoulder, scared I would be discovered and possibly deported! I couldn't even advertise the fact that I was working on my blog in case anyone told tales on me to the police!

After a year I was ready to quit and come home... feeling myself a failure. I hadn't achieved what I had gone there for. I had worked.. but couldnt tell anyone about it... I was the lowest emotionally I have ever been in my life. I had come from Scotland where I was a big fish in the pond, to Cairo where i didn't even feacture as a tiddler. My self esteem was at an all time low. I even had quesitons about how I could go on. I was also financially low, having spent my entire lifes savings just living, rent, food, arabic lessons for a while. Things couldn't have been much worse in fact. The only thing that really kept me going that year was the fact that not one single day went by in the entire year, where I didn't get some email of support from my friends and students back home. All proud of me... and missing me, and wishing I'd come home but also encouraging me to keep at it and stick to my dreams. Women telling me how I had inspired them to start up their own businesses, to follow their dreams. I felt I had let them all down. I had failed.It felt really awful.

The day I was set to pack my bags... i got offered 2 contracts!!! Never rains but it pours, and couldn't have been even a day later, i was at the very end of my tether and 5 days away from my final plane ticket! I refused the contract at the Sheraton and accepted the one at the Pharoahs boats. I was at last legal!!!!!!!!!!!!

I have been dancing at the Pharoahs ever since.

There are still problems of course. The main one is that foreign dancers are only permitted to perform at the venue written on thier contract... so that means scouting about for other work is difficult. The beauracracy is always a nightmare, with all my work papers having to be renewed everytime I leave the country. Even to the point of having to retake an aids test every time!!! (bizarre law!). I hope the future gets brighter for other foreign dancers wanting to work here too because at the moment it doesn't seem great.I don't know of anyone else who has got a work visa since I did 3 years ago, unless they are married to an Egyptian. It's even harder now to make it here than when i first arrived. The pay is good by Egyptian standards, but not very good if you are trying to cover flights 'home' and rent and of course the ever needed new costumes. Which is why i rent out my 2 spare rooms to visiting dancers, to help pay my rent.

That said, i really enjoying having people stay- meeting likeminded women from all over the world and showing them 'my' Cairo. Its great. Also , despite doing it for over 3 years, I STILL get a buzz dancing on the Nile night after night, with my own band. I do what i love. Its a great feeling. I also love that everyday i am learning something new about the culture, the language, the music, the dance. Everyday!

Of course i still have greater aspirations. To be known more and working more , teaching and performing on the international circut. To be performing here on a larger stage with a larger orchestra. However, I am also very gratful to be in the very fortunate position of being content with my life. There are not many who can say that i know.

so... Thats my story so far............

how long I'll stay in Egypt? as long as i can keep performing..I love it so much.... after that, who knows?


Miss Vena said...

Wow - your story is great. I can see a BBC drama about your life....

Keep up your passion and energies for the life you have embraced in Cairo.

All the memories and dances will one day turn into a fab book or something.

Keep smiling!

Anya said...

Lorna - thank you so much for making the time in your busy schedule to answer my questions! Hope to meet you sooner then later.