Tuesday, March 11, 2014

These past 6 months have been hell... Here's why.

Ok.... Here's the story that only a few close friends know already... Of how difficult the time has been for me since last summer. As a public figure I have tried to stay upbeat on Facebook and here on the blog throughout that time. It was horrible. Feeling like my entire life was a lie.

Now there I have reached the light at the end of the tunnel, so I can share the darker days too.

Back in April, I was with Ellie and Ahmed Harfoush in the Fairmont hotel, just having a wee beer and catch up. A head of marketing came over to ask Ahmed if he knew any female singers he could recommend. Fate was being kind! Ellie did an audition for them that same afternoon. In addition to a couple of jazz songs, She sang one salsa song, so Ahmed and I got up to dance, and I danced with the managers too. At the end of the audition they said "yes, Ellie, we want you, and Lorna, we want you too". "Me?" I asked, "but I'm a bellydancer". "Yes, we know we need a bellydancer and we want you to do that and also perform with Ellie when she sings".
Just like that. We both were offered work and a double act was born. We were both so very excited.
That was April.
Egypt wasn't exactly politically stable at that time, and Morsi was still in power. Nothing happened about our contracts or work visas for months. I lost all hope that it would even happen. When we returned from UK after Ramadan, the evening curfew was imposed, so no one was working in our industry at all. We sat home night after night. It was a difficult time.

In September we signed contracts and in order for the Fairmont to process the work visa, I had to resign from the Pharaohs.

Here is an excerpt from my diary in December, when I was in Shanghai teaching. Feeling low and alone.. Warning- it's highly emotional stuff;

I quit my job at the Pharoahs after 7 years because I had a dream job offer. Contract signed the whole works... And now, 4 months after contract signed, 4 months of no work, they tell me they can't get me a work visa. I have been rejected.
I am distraught.
I'm kicking myself for thinking that something wonderful would happen to me. How naive and stupid. I should have heeded my mothers words;
"Life is not fair, Lorna, get used to it"
Life in Egypt is NEVER fair.
I'm still not used to it. It still hurts like hell. Every single time.
They tell me it's been rejected, but not the reason why.

You must have a dream. Everyone tells you that if you have a dream, then you have something to strive for. What they don't tell you is that a dream is worthless if no one else believes in you. Or If the government is against you.

it's not fair.
I want to kick and scream and slam doors.

All that and I still can't help blaming myself. The guilt. If I had just been content where I was at the Pharoahs with low pay and the lack of respect they show for artists, at least I would still have a job and work papers. Why did I have to be so greedy? Why did I have to aim my sights higher?

I just really don't want to listen.
I don't want it to be over.
I want that feeling when on stage with my band felling like I own the world. That the music and I are one. I've not had that since, well, 5 months at least. I am already having withdrawel symptoms and was 'just' coping cos I thought it was all going to happen bigger and better very soon.

 Now? Now, I am losing it.

There- so as you can see, my actual mental state was pretty shockingly low.
When I returned from China, I had to sit though Christmas and New Year, the busiest time for dancers, without work or work papers. Since I was still trying to somehow get my work papers, I also had to stay in Egypt, so couldn't even go home to my family (even if I had had the money for the flight!)

Then, on Hogmanay I had a conversation with one of the senior managers at the Fairmont who expressed confusion as to why I no longer wanted to work there. This was like an electric shock. What? Of course I want to work there! That's why I quit a job I'd had for over 7 years for it! Seemingly, something had got lost in Chinese whispers... Thankfully on hearing this and realising there had been some misunderstanding, they decided to reopen my case and try for a third time for my visa!

To do this I would have to be outside of Egypt when they put in the application. But there was no point going straight away due to new year, Coptic Christmas and referendum's meaning government offices would be closed and busy a lot during this period. I was also warned that there was still a high chance my visa would be rejected. Those were a long 3 weeks, sat at home without work and not even able to dream. At the end of January I headed back to UK, not knowing how long I would be there for, and not knowing what the outcome would be. It could all still be for naught.

Thankfully I was able to at short notice organise a few workshops and performances, which helped keep me sane and also helped cover the cost of the flight to be there! Huge thanks Elspeth, Katy, Tracey, Laura and Adele for your speedy support in doing this for me!

Friends who had to listen to all these emotional rantings during that time- thank you for your patience and care. You helped!

Then I get the phone call from Ellie. I had just finished my workshop in Belfast. She just said- "come home. It's done. You're approved". I burst into tears, right there in front of my students! Not sure what they must have thought of me!

So then I had to get back to Egypt ASAP to finish the visa process which of course takes longer than it should and much longer than you want it to!

I started work at the Fairmont on Feb 25th 2014.

10 months after the initial job offer.
6 months after I resigned from the Pharaohs.
4 months after Ellie had started there.

I couldn't believe it was actually real. That I was at long last there. That all my distress and insecurity of the past 6 months were just that, my insecurities. Not fact. That at long last I could get back onto stage with my band and do what I love.

Then there is of course all the usual band drama- but that can be another blog entry, this one is already way too long!

Of course there was then 'the glitch'. After performing for one week the mosanifat police told the hotel that if I continued working with only the receipt for the visa rather than the actual card, which they still hadn't issued, then I would be arrested. This could have been readily fixed by an under the table payment, but one of the reason why I do want to work at the Fairmont's is because they have higher morals than that and refuse to do anything unless it's done in the right way. Frustrating when I'm sat home without work, but admirable and I can't help agree with them.

So, we had no choice but to cancel last week shows. I stayed home with all these fears and stresses revisiting me. That I had hoped too much and that somehow it was all going to be taken away from me again!

Tonight I have work at Bab El Nil, in the Fairmont.
My papers are complete.
I am legal at last.

It has been a hell of a journey.
Thank you to those of you who have stood by me through it all. My show tonight is in your honour!


Rasha Bellydance said...

Congratulations! So glad to hear it has all worked out for you in the end :)

Charafantah said...

Congratulations. I really admire your passion and persistence.
Good luck.

Unknown said...

Thank you for sharing your adventures, good and bad.