The other day one of my friends met a man named Flavian downtown. Flavian, of an ambiguous European ethnicity, was carrying a cat in a cage. My friend, who last week took in one of Cairo’s more emaciated street cats, was looking for a vet.

They had nothing in common, except they were both white and presumably both spoke English.

My friend: “Do you know where the closest vet is?”

Flavian: “Sure, follow me.”

Welcome to the Expat Fraternity.

Though not as much as in India, there is a certain measure of solidarity among all the Western expats in Cairo. The common experience – being far from home, getting consistently ripped off by cabbies – is enough to bond them. Many of them have been abroad so long that they don’t seem quite like they’re from their native country either. They’re caught precariously in some nether region of confused geography.

I’m not quite an expat, not by any stretch. I still know where I’m from, but there are times when I feel that so many things about America that are fading from my memory, so many smells, tastes and textures that I’ve forgotten.

I can even feel my English skills fading. There are times when an Arabic words seems much more appropriate, or even when I find myself – unconsciously, mind you – saying something horribly awkward in English that is a direct translation from its Arabic equivalent like, “I’m in the street coming.”

I met Flavian the other night at a dinner party. I never did figure out where he was from.

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