Thursday, September 30, 2010

The last few weeks of my life

It's been quite awhile since I've remembered to update this, which I guess should tell y'all that I'm having a great time! I've been spending my days either in class or sitting at one of the dining places on campus hanging out with my friends who live off campus. In the afternoons (and by afternoons I mean after 5, when I finally go back to my room) I try to Skype with people when they're online, which for most people is pretty infrequently (ahem, my family). At night I head down to the commons to hang out with my on campus friends (who, I realized recently, are all guys, yet again). We usually hang out, watch tv, run to quick (the 24 hour mart on campus), grab some Tabasco (the only hot food place open 24 hours), or hang out in the Gardens or in the commons with a guitar or two. Somewhere in there I might throw in some homework, but my classes are all pretty easy at this point so all my homework really is is reading. I generally retire anywhere from midnight to 2 on weeknights.
Weekends, however, are becoming a completely different story. This past weekend I went into the city both nights and had an awesome time, so I think that definitely needs to happen more often. Thursday went to a yacht party on the Nile, which was pretty legit, and then after we went (well, tried to go to) a club, but they wanted us to pay 100LE minimum and we didn't really want to drink anymore so there was no way we would get our money out of that. After that we went to a bar and had some sheesha and hung out for awhile before I got in a taxi home at 4:30AM! And the taxi driver got lost so by the time I finally crawled into bed it was just after 6. For some reason after that crazy night I decided it would be a good idea to go out again the next night, minus the alcohol. When I first headed downtown we headed to a sheesha place my friend likes (notice a trend here? Lots of sheesha) and hung out there for awhile before I got hungry and I got some shwarma and rice pudding at a nearby restaurant (so much cheaper than campus, yet still a bit pricey) before heading back to Zamalek (the island on the Nile where the off-campus dorms are). Once there we found ourselves at a party hosted by some guys from West Point. Remember that no alcohol thing? Well they had American liquor, so I decided to have a drink. Don't worry, I only had one, and boy was it delicious compared to the shitty Egyptian stuff I've been drinking. Anyhow the party ran out of alcohol not too long after I got there so we left pretty early, which was good because I got to catch the last bus home at 2AM. I'll tell ya, those busses, much less creepy than cabs. Even after I got back to campus though I didn't go to bed. I ended up hanging out with some people and I didn't go to bed until about 5:30 yet again.
Anyhow the point I was trying to make here is that there can be mouthing to do here on one night and too much to do the next. It kinda drives me crazy how bored that leaves me some weeknights,but I'm sure glad that I can at least escape from this campus prison on weekends.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Sep 8, 2010 4:09 PM
Now that aim basically caught up on my day to day blogging, I wanted to take some time to comment on some differences between what I am used to and where I presently am. Some of what I am used to is Tulane, some of it is from home,but wherever it is from I have surely experiences many differences here. The first thing that I would like to comment on is the food. I've been having some difficulty getting used to the food here in Egypt for several reasons.
The first, of course, is that my stomach is not used to it. Most of the time what I eat does not bother me very much but I was surprised to be sick after eating at McDonalds several days ago. It was the fist time I had actually felt ill after eating something since being here, and I was taken aback that this wasn't even middle eastern cuisine, it was McDonalds. For the record I have since eaten at McDonalds and I was fine.
The second thing I am having trouble with is the lack of vegetables. I have had so much chicken, so much rice, so much hummus and pita, so many French fries, so many pizzas, but hardly any vegetables. Even when you ardor a pizza with vegetables, half the time they forget to put on one of the vegetables. For example the other day I went to Tabasco (the main place to eat here most of the time) and ordered an Ai Broccoli pizza, which is supposed to have chicken, peppers, onions and broccoli. Yeah... there was no broccoli.come on people, broccoli is in the name of the pizza, for chrissakes. This is not the first time something like this has happened with my pizza, and it is always a vegetable that I forget.
The third thing is just the cuisine in general. Things are cooked differently, served differently, eaten differently, And none of this is a bad thing, I actually quite enjoy most of it, but it just takes some getting used to.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Woah craziness

Wow, the lat two days have been crazy. Yesterday (Monday) was the second day of classes and is was pretty similar to the first, except one of my Arabic classes was canceled and I only had one evening class. I also decided that I am gong to go on a trip with my friend Sean this weekend to Dahab, a beach town in the sinai peninsula. I am sooooo excited for it I can barely contain myself. I went to the travel office yesterday afternoon and gave them my 90 LE for my one way bus ticket ( I guess you can only buy one way) and I could barely contain myself on the way back to my dorm.
Today was awesome, but also really long. This morning at ten I had a trip to islamic Cairo, which was interesting and pretty but it was really hot and the tour guide was really annoying. From there I took the bus to Zamalak to see Sean because we've been trying to find a time when I could come down because I hadn't been there yet. Zamalak is the AUC dorm in the city, about a 45 minute ride from campus. When I got there he was at lunch with a couple of his friends so I sat for a bit and talked for a bit because we had met before and they're gonna be in Dahab with me this weekend. After that we just kinda hung out in the common room for a while trying to plan what hostel well be staying in and then we went for a walk around the island (Zamalak is an island in the middle of the Nile). After that we went out to dinner with his friends and my roommate Savannah and her friend Lacey who had joined us. After dinner Sean had plans with an Egyptian friend of his who is a tour guide here so we separated from the group to go meet up with him.
We headed downtown to walk around for a while at this little cafe that I guess Essam (Sean's friend) knew well and this is where I first tried sheesha(!). It was interesting. I would probably try it again, maybe in a different flavor. While at the cafe we got a call from Sean's friend informing us that the travel office had called him and there were no tickets left for the bus we wanted to take or any other bus to Dahab this weekend. It was kinda devastating, we were soooo excited for this trip and so bummed that it wasn't gonna a happen. We mention this to Essam and what does he say? Oh, I can get you private bus, at good rate for me because I am an agent. Our thought: OMG yes we love you. So this bus is going to cost us about another 25LE per person, but it's private and air conditioned, so I'm ok with that. After the cafe we walked around for awhile to some little shops, and I bought a pair of shoes off the street for the equivalent of $1. I mean they're pretty crappily made but they're decent looking and the price was right so whatever. Hopefully they're comfy.we got some ice cream and walked around a mall for a little bit before Sean and I had to head back to Zamalak so I could catch the midnight bus. As I am writing this my bus is pulling onto campus and I will post this in the morning after I sleep.

I am leaving this evening for Dahab so I will not be updating for several days most likely.

Monday, September 6, 2010

First Day of Classes

I'll tell you, I was so excited to start classes yesterday. I mean, I'd been here more than a week and there really isn't that much to do on campus, even more so because it's Ramadan so the busses are all strange. I'm still just excited after two days and homework and everything, so I think this will be a good semester.

I had a lot of trouble getting up this morning for my 8:30 class even though I went to bed around 11:30 last night. My day went pretty excellently, though, so I'm glad I dragged myself up. To start my day I had Fusha, or Modern Standard Arabic. This is the Arabic that is written down and that is used in government, etc. I was a little disappointed that we are starting at chapter 7 because I've gotten through chapter 10, but the next class up starts at chapter 14, so I don't think I should switch. Also, my teacher brought us all presents!! They were just little mini pyramids that probably cost a pound or 2, but it made my day to get to unwrap a present at 8:45 in the morning. After Fusha was my Amaya class. Amaya is Arabic for colloquial, so my class is Amaya Misriia, or Egyptian Colloquial. This is the Arabic that people here speak at home, on the streets, in shops, taxis, etc. and will help me to get around Cairo without getting ripped off, etc. A lot of what we went over on the first day (differences in how to introduce yourself between Fusha and Amaya) was stuff that I knew from my survival Arabic class, but this guy has an odd accent so I had a bit more difficulty understanding him. After those two classes I have a long break (supposed to be from 11 to 2, but is more like 1030 to 115 because of Ramadan) and then I had Politics in Egypt. I spent 15 minutes trying to find the class, and about 3 in the class: receiving a syllabus and leaving. This would have been great if it were my last class for the day, but I had another class at 2:30 (supposed to be 3:30, but Ramadan), so I went and got my colloquial book and bought a notebook (2 seperate stores) then went to my final class of the day: Macroeconomics. The prof seems like she's trying to be all strict with attendance, but apparently it never actually works when teachers try that, so I don't know. The class seems like it's going to be really easy, it's mostly freshmen and sophomores and here you're supposed to take Macro before Micro (which I've already taken), so I think that should be an easy class for me. Finally the end of my classes came and I took another trip to the bookstore to buy my economics book (375 LE!!) and then went home and did homework and talked to my mom, who I hadn't talked to in forever (hi, mom!) and Keith, who I talk to like daily. And yes, that does say homework on the first night.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Up Until the End of Orientation

Alright I already talked about the Bedouin night, but I forgot the order I did things, and this next entry for horseback riding at the pyramids was actually the day before the Bedouin night. This is why I need to keep up with my blogging.

I spent this night horseback riding by the Pyramids. It wasn't quite what I expected but it was interesting. I discovered that the pyramids are surrounded by a huge fence (which is how they get to charge admission to something that's pretty much inside the largest city in the Middle East. Well, our 60 LE ($11ish) horseback riding trip did not get us inside this fence, what we did was ride along the fence and up some sand dunes to get a really pretty view of the pyramids from outside the fence, but it was also nighttime so the pictures came out pretty bad. It was really pretty though. The horses, however, were a different story. They were CRAZY. My roommate is a good rider and she couldn't even get hers to do what she wanted it to do. Mine was just slow. Like, really slow. I was literally the last person back on the bus. The guide people kept doing the little clicky thing with their tongues to get it to go faster... nothing. Also, my friend's horse freaked out and reared up and came down on the back of this other girl's horse, understandably freaking her out, but both she and my friend were fine. It was really scary. So yeah, the horses weren't very well trained. I think it was a pretty cool trip though, but I really wanted to get a closer-up view of the pyramids.

Insert Bedouin night here.

My Survival Arabic class ended today. While it was somewhat tiring to go to (20 contact hours in 6 days), I'm sorta sad that it's over. I feel like I learned a lot and might actually be able to speak to someone a little bit now.
Game Night. I feel about 10 years old saying this, but I went to game night here in the dorms and it was a great time. I learned a new game called mango/manga (I'm not really sure which) which is a really cool memory game that I'm somewhat decent at, though it's mostly luck. Then I played a game of Monopoly, which some of you may know I've been dying to play all summer. I had the game won and then I decided to be nice and ended up losing, but that wasn't really the point. I had planned on going to the gym but the Monopoly game went on so long that it was closed before I got the chance to go, so that was somewhat sad but I had a really fun night so that's ok. I really do need to start going to the gym, though.

Even though my survival Arabic class is over I still had to get up because I was approached last night by this girl who had signed up for the Pyramids trip today but was sick and would not be able to get up in the morning to go. So I bought her ticket from her for 100LE (she paid 140) and went to the Pyramids. Dumbass me forgot my camera on my desk, so I didn't get to take any pictures, but Tiffany has some of me so as soon as we become friends on facebook there will be pictures of me at the pyramids. And unlike the last trip to the pyramids I actually got inside the fence, so I actually got to climb on and go inside the pyramids. The pictures came out really well so I'm gonna see what I can do to find Tiffany on Facebook so those pictures go up. I got a first hand view of the ridiculous aggressiveness of the people who try to sell stuff to tourists around here. I got some postcards and some mini pyramids which I later discovered are pretty pathetic, but whatever. The sphynx is pretty badass, btw. We then went to lunch (and at this point we were all starving because the only thing that keeps you from overheating in this country is the wind, and we spent half our time underground, where there isn't any) where we had a buffet of deliciousness. There were scalloped potatoes, grape leaves, hummus and pita, chicken, kofka, and all other sorts of deliciousness.

Guess what? I had to wake up early again today. But this time it was for a free trip, so that made it worth it. We went to old Cairo, which is the Coptic section of Cairo. The Copts are Egyptian Christians (Orthodox), so we went in some really pretty churches and stuff. There was also a synagogue that we went in that was really nice. I'm not positive but I'm pretty sure it was the first synagogue I'd been in. I had a plan to go to Zamalek (the other dorms) to hang out with Sean (who goes to Tulane) after the trip, but Ramadan fucked up all the everything (even more than usual because it's Saturday) so that didn't work out very well. So I just chilled in my dorm and went to bed early because classes started the next day(!!).

Writings from the plane

I wrote this on my iPad while I was on the way here, figured I would post it on here.

Aug 26, 2010 3:18 AM
Well, I'm currently on the plane to Cairo, somewhere east of Newfoundland and it looks like due south of the tip of Greenland. We've been in the air for about three hours (out of 12). I'll tell you I'm a lot calmer now that I'm on my way than I was twelve hours ago. I'm really confusing my sleep schedule right now though, because right now it's 3:15 in the morning back home, but it's 10am in Cairo and so I cant decide if I want to sleep or not. It seems like I'm going with no, since I am still awake. Hopefully I'll be able to stay up until at least like ten tonight so I can sorta fix my sleep schedule because my body is so confused right now. Our current ETA is 5:54 pm (and varies by up to a half hour each time I look), which is about 2 and a half hours later than we were supposed to get there, and I'm expecting some pretty bad traffic because it'll be after sunset and it's Ramadan right now... About half of this plane is headed to AUC, which is exciting, I've already met a dozen people who seem really nice and I'm not even there yet. I've also had two separate people try to help me with my Arabic when they saw me studying on the plane, so so far hospitality is getting an A++. I'll probably write more when I get there, but I think this is all for now.

Aug 26, 2010 3:24 PM
I'm looking out the window at Rome right now (that time stamp is Cairo time, it's 8:24 back home right now). Our EYA is 6:06, approx. 2 hours 40 minutes from now(!!) hopefully they'll be serving breakfast soon, because the Nilla Wafers I've been munching on since dinner (at 2 am) just aren't quite cutting it. Dinner was actually pretty delicious, though, I had the chicken (other option: beef, they're not very descriptive), and it was surprisingly tender and was served with sweet potato cooked surprisingly well and zucchini that was a little undercooked for my liking but still very delicious (this opinion may be skewed by my hunger). In addition there was a square of colby Jack cheese (my favorite), a couple of club crackers, and a brownie that was AMAZING. It's strange, all the displays on the airplane TVs are in English and Arabic, and all of the announcements, too. I haven't really heard any Arabic since May, so it's probably a good thing that I'm getting slowly reoriented to it. Oh, I slept from about 4am to maybe 7:30, which is better than I was expecting, so hopefully I'll be able to actually stay up tonight to get time zone oriented.

Continued adventures in Misr

I'm trying to break up the last week into several posts so none of them is too long, but some stuff doesn't fit into dates so I'm just gonna talk about it here. On the first day of orientation (the 28th), everyone got up early to go sign in and get our welcome packets and get on with orientation. I clearly should've slept in, doing it the next day would've been much smarter. I got my welcome packet (and bag, and telephone book, and yo-yo, etc [very strange set of stuff]) and then hurried off to the very far end of campus where I was supposed to get my ID. Hurried up and waited. An hour and a half. You would think that since we had to send in passport photos with our applications that they would put those on our IDs. No, that would be efficient, and this place is anything but. I did discover that Tulane would pay for my Survival Arabic class (a 6-day, 20 hour course during orientation week), so I got in on that (it's $350, so I wasn't going to take it otherwise). It was a really fun class and I learned a lot of the differences between the Arabic I've been learning and the Egyptian dialect, making it much easier to communicate with people.

I discovered that the Cinnabon and the food court are finally open!! The problem with getting here more than a week before classes start is that none of the food places was open. The first day I ended up eating almost nothing because I couldn't find any food. On Friday I found out that there was one food place on campus that was open, plus quick mart (which is insanely expensive), so I had been eating there for every meal since then, but today I discovered that a bunch of the other food places are now open and so I had a Cinnabon for breakfast, it was amazing.

I went to an event called "Bedouin Night Sohour" this day, it was awesome. There were so many different things that happened that I'm sure I'll forget something, but I'll try. First we got there and sat down on these cushions on the ground that were actually really comfortable. Then we sat. and we didn't really know what to expect. Then some random guys came around with a lion cub (it was a big cub, but still a cub) for everyone to take pictures with. They then, of course, asked everyone to pay for their picture (they would print out a professional one for you) I said no, but my picture actually had come out rather nice. Then they came around for drink and sheesha orders. I had a strawberry juice that tasted like someone just put a pint of strawberries in a blender. it even had chunks of strawberry. It was delicious. No sheesha for me, though. I want to try some but I didn't want to order my own. Then it was dinner. Chicken and rice (well seasoned, as always) and kofka (ground beef thing, I don't know how else to describe it). Then no one really knew what was gonna happen next until someone took the mic and announced that there would be a show: dancers and a dancing horse. The dancers were... interesting (see pictures). There were people on stilts and short little costumed people and it was all very strange. and there were some more traditional looking dancers with sticks, and then a provocatively dressed woman who all the guys with sticks danced around... I have no idea. Then there was the dancing horse. It was, as you might think, a horse that danced. I guess for a horse it was a pretty good dancer, but I really wasn't all that impressed. After that we thought the night was over. It was almost 1. But no. We then had basically a dance party that lasted like an hour and a half. it was interesting to have a dance party with no alcohol and no touching. Very VERY different from Tulane. then we finally went home, got back around 3AM and I had to be up by 10 for my Arabic class, earlier if I wanted to get anything done (I didn't get anything done before class).

First days in Misr

As all of this might suggest, I'm in Egypt(!!) I've been here about a week now and I've been nagging myself to start this blog the entire time, so I finally did. Even though I've only been here about a week, I've already done a ton of stuff, mostly trips that are put on by the housing office here. they have signup sheets and you just fill out a receipt and give them money (usually between 50-150 L.E., or like $9-30) and they take you where ever that trip might be going (nile cruise, horseback riding, the pyramids, etc), and often even supply snacks.

I went on a Felucca ride on the Nile (in this case, just a river in Egypt). A felucca is basically a sailboat with a really strange looking sail. The ride was fun and it was one of the first days I was here so we did some ice breakers to get to know each other. I discovered that the ride into Cairo can range anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and a half, and that bus rides on this country's roads make me feel carsick, which is not something I've ever had a problem with before.

Another night I went on a Nile cruise iftar (افطر). Iftar usually refers to breakfast (in the morning), but since it is presently the holy month of Ramadan (more on that later), iftar refers to the meal that takes place at sunset to break the fast. Dinner was really good, it was chicken (which seems to be every meal around here) that was seasoned excellently, and it was a surprisingly huge portion (an entire half chicken), along with cinnamon rice (sounds strange, is AMAZING), these little things that reminded me of indian samosas, hummus and pita bread, pickled vegetables (ick), and a few other random things. Overall it was a delicious meal. There was also entertainment... a tanoor (تنور؟) dancer. The tanoor dancer spins round and round for his entire performance, and he has these thingies that he holds up while spinning and then he takes off these huge skirts he has on and spins those. It was cool. Pictures are on facebook. Unfortunately the "cruise" part of the cruise happened during dinner, when it was dark out, so it seemed kinda pointless. Even though the food was good and the entertainment was cool I think I overpaid somewhat for this trip.