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March 26, 2008

Get Outta Town!

tara todras-whitehill

Tara Todras-Whitehill at a market near the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem.

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30, photographer, Cairo, Egypt

HOMETOWN: New York City

WHY I WANTED TO LIVE ABROAD: To focus on photojournalism and cover women's issues around the world. I had a friend in Beirut, so I first moved there, then came to Cairo soon after. Right now I'm in the process of moving to Jerusalem.

WHAT I MISS ABOUT HOME: My parents . . . and the New York subway. I never appreciated its efficiency till I moved here.

WHAT I LOVE ABOUT LIVING HERE: The expats, who are incredibly warm and welcoming; the low cost of living; the absence of celebrity culture.

HOW THE EXPERIENCE HAS CHANGED ME: Other than Philly, where I went to college, Cairo is the first place I've lived away from home for any extended period of time, and it has definitely made me more willing to try new things-I don't get so hung up on small details. Instead, I'm more inclined to jump in and see how things turn out.

BIGGEST SURPRISE: How safe Cairo is. I can walk down the street at 4 in the morning with my cameras on my shoulders and not worry about someone trying to steal them. Recently, when someone actually did try to snatch a woman's purse, 10 men chased down the thief and beat him to a pulp.

CRAZY ADVENTURE: Taxicabs. Every time you get in one, it's like taking your life in your hands. Stoplights are nonexistent. That's why the drivers say "Inshallah" (meaning "God willing") every time you tell them where you want to go.

MAJOR MISHAP: I got too close to riot policemen in a small town during the parliamentary elections, and I was teargassed. I didn't realize how bad that could be-never again without a gas mask!

GREATEST CHALLENGE: Taking pictures. Everybody is highly suspicious of what you're doing, and people are convinced that the photos will be used against them by the government in some way.

HOW YOU CAN GET HERE: It's pretty simple to get a work visa for a freelance journalism gig like mine-you just need a news agency to say you're a correspondent. Or you could come as a teacher (see teflcorp.com ), or find jobs at jobsinegypt.com.

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