Tuesday, November 30, 2010

In which I make a new friend

My friend had a friend visit from his study abroad program in Germany this weekend (ironically the same program my Phi Mu sister Clare is at), and I got a call on Friday afternoon inviting me, and anyone else who wanted to come, to a felucca ride with them. There only ended up being 5 of us, but it was a lot of fun, and I decided I would go with the two of them to the pyramids Saturday morning. So then I went to the pyramids. Which was a long, crazy, ridiculous experience that started at 6:15 AM. I got to Tim's apartment at 6:45, and he wasn't even up yet. Travis (the one who was visiting) let me in and we proceeded to wait around for Tim for awhile. Whatever. I didn't actually care. Then we went downstairs to the supermarket he lives on top of to get bread and cheese for breakfast, and we hopped in a cab and we were off. The reason this whole expedition had to start so early was because Travis wanted to go inside the great pyramid, and they apparently only sell a certain number of tickets to go in it each day. We got some (or friend whose parents were visiting got there like an hour later and there weren't any left, so we were glad we went early). We spent what seems like forever wandering and taking pictures in every possible touristy spot (these are THE pyramids, after all), bought some statue things for a pretty decent price after quite a bit of haggling, and Travis and Tim each took a camel ride (but I wasn't in the mood for a half hour stuck on a camel with an Egyptian man, so I passed. Then there was the ripping off. Travis got ripped off, then Tim got ripped off. I kept my wits about me and avoided it. Whatever, you can't do tourist in this country without getting ripped off, I got somewhat ripped off last time I went to the pyramids, I think it's a right of passage. Then we headed back to Tim's apartment to drop off our purchases before going to khan al-khalilli, a huge touristy bazzar in Islamic Cairo. It turned out that Tim was feeling sick and so he didn't actually come with us, so it was just me and Travis that went. Before crossing the road from where we were dropped off to get to the khan, we checked out Al-Azhar mosque, which is beautiful and I'm glad we decided to check it out. Then came the shopping. I've never done so much haggling in my life. Travis was very impresses with my bargaining skills, and he got most of what he was looking for in our 3-4 hour trip. I was exhausted. Then we met back up with Tim and some other friends at Odeon, a rooftop bar/thing on top of a hotel downtown. Travis and I were exhausted so we headed back to the dorms after not too long and Travis literally fell asleep on a chair in the common room for awhile before Tim came and they went back to his apartment.
Despite being exhausted (and my mother thinking I forgot), I called my aunt when I got home because it was her birthday. I had gotten her a birthday card quite a while ago because I saw it and loved it and my mother had left it on the counter for her in the morning. She apparently enjoyed it quite a bit. I was glad I could make her smile.
The next day was Sunday and we had classes, but Travis obviously didn't because in Germany that's still the weekend. So rather than have him stuck in Tim's apartment all day, I skipped my afternoon classes (for the first time ever, by the way) and headed back to Zamalek early to go with him to do more touristy things. This was also election day. I saw a scuffle outside a polling station and what looked like some people being barred from entering a polling station. I took a picture of the scuffle. It's on Facebook. Travis and I went to Old Cairo, which is the Coptic (Christian) part of town and saw some churches and stuff, and then we headed back to Islamic Cairo because he really wanted to go in some more mosques. Which I was cool with, as al-Azhar the day before had been my first mosque, and I love Islamic architecture. We decided to try and take the Metro, which we didn't realize doesn't go anywhere near where we were headed, so we just took it downtown and saved ourselves some money on the cab we still had to take. The mosques were beautiful, and it was really cool, including one entertaining/annoying encounter with a man who basically stole our shoes in an attempt to get a tip from us to get them back. then he got mad at me for only giving him two pounds (in the future, don't steal my shoes, asshole). Then we returned to the khan because Travis wanted a few more things (he basically did almost all of his Christmas shopping in these 2 days) so I broke the bargaining skills back out. Tim met us there, and we got some yummy dinner at some Syrian place in Mohandeseen before heading back to Tim's apartment. ( I feel like I'm forgetting something in here, possible update later) After hanging out at Tim's apartment they walked me back to the dorms because I had to get some Egyptian coins for Travis and his plane was at like 3AM. Saying bye was really strange because 48 hours previous I had never met him, but we had spent most of those hours together, and I have no idea if I'll ever see him again. Probably one of my strangest friendships ever. But I certainly had a good (if incredibly exhausting) weekend.

Thanksgiving celebrations

Well, despite what you might believe because of the abrupt ending to that last post, I did still have a Thanksgiving. I went to the Maadi house with some friends, where the food was amazing. No important people were met, unfortunately, but I still had a good time. It was clear that many of the AUC students I saw there were hoping to meet some important people, but hopefully they all still had a good time with good food and good friends, because we all have a lot to be thankful for (in case you didn't pick up on the thankful kick from yesterday's post). When I got home I skyped with my family, which was really nice since I haven't talked to some of them since getting to Egypt. That night I went out for a couple of drinks with friends and ended up meeting some really random and really interesting people with whom I had some of the strangest conversations that I've had in half-assed Arabic to date. We stated out wayyy later than I had planned to because I lost track of time talking, and I slept for half of Friday before getting some work done in the afternoon.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

What are you thankful for?

So, I haven't updated in almost two weeks, sorry for that. I've been really busy with, well, mostly vacation. The week of the 12th-18th (ish) I went to Upper Egypt, which is actually south, but upriver. I saw a bunch of temples and statues and tombs and hieroglyphs and, well, old stuff. All the stuff was cool, but the trip was really drama-y so i definitely could've had a better time. Whatever, it's in the past. Then we had 3 days of class, which were pretty uneventful except for a guest lecture in my Human Rights in the Middle East class, this man named Joost Hilterman who talked about Iraq. It was pretty interesting.
Then it was Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays for a lot of reasons, ranging from the almost spiritual to the incredibly materialistic. First, and my most important reason for loving Thanksgiving, is that I think people too often forget to be thankful for everything we have by getting caught up in what we don't have, what we want, etc. I'm including myself in this. I can certainly be just as materialistic as anyone else, and I think I all too often forget, while wanting a new gadget or whatever, that I have so much to be thankful for. SO MUCH. And so I want to remind everyone who takes the time to read this to thank you for caring about me. Even if I don't know you or know that you're reading this, knowing that my day to day craziness might bring a smile to someone's face or that knowing what I'm up to might make you miss me less (I miss y'all too) helps me to feel a little more connected to everyone back home. Some things I'm thankful for this Thanksgiving include the opportunity to live in Egypt, this crazy, amazing, infuriating never dull place I'm beginning to call home; I'm thankful for my friends everywhere, especially those back home who've kept in touch; I'm thankful for my family, it was great to talk to y'all Thursday; I'm thankful that, as much as I love studying in Egypt, I get to go home in May and that I am afforded the rights of an American citizen (more on this later); I'm grateful for the internet keeping me sane while here; I'm grateful for the American Embassy for providing me with a turkey day dinner that made me feel right at home... (my bus got to where it was going at this point and I've lost that really awesome train of thought)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Upper Egypt

I just posted a bunch of pictures on Facebook, and that's not even all of them, and my vacation isn't over yet. This trip has been interesting, and full of old stuff. Right now we're in Luxor, in our hostel with FREE WIFI. For 20LE pppd. I'll write about what we're actually doing when I get home on Friday, but I thought I'd post a small update to inform everyone that I'm still alive and all. Look at the pictures. That is all.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


So after a long day filled with taxis and altogether too much yelling and crying, I have three bus tickets to Luxor on the 9:00 PM bus tonight. There we'll get on another bus/train/IDK and make out way to Abu Simbel, where we plan to get to sometime tomorrow afternoon. Hopefully. Abu Simbel is the home of the Sun Temple of Ra, which is supposed to be absolutely amazing. That's all there really is to see there, and then we go back north a bit to Aswan. Aswan has more old stuff. And now when I say old I mean pre-biblical times. Just so you're aware. OLD. There we'll look at some more old stuff, go to Elephantine, Edfu, and I dunno, maybe somewhere else (I've clearly left the planning to my Middle Easten history major friend) before moving back to Luxor, hopefully by the night of the 16th so we can see HARRY POTTER two days before it comes out in the US. Also in Luxor is more old stuff. From there we will either take a train or a bus OR A BOAT back to Cairo, depending on price and how much time we have. This will all be retold in more detail once I've actually done all this stuff. I should be back sometime next weekend, maybe Thursday or Friday. Until then I will probably be mostly incommunicado, except for maybe some Facebook posts thanks to my data plan on my snazzy new Blackberry. Ma Salamma for now, nitshufuu yum il 7ad.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

This is me, blogging

I played ultimate this afternoon! I missed ultimate. A lot. Then I had class. Which was weird because there usually aren't classes on Tuesdays. But my professor decided we needed a makeup class because we're so behind (because she shows up 14 minutes late to every class, or sometimes not at all) and she decided that should be today. It was just people's presentations, though, so it wasn't too bad.
Now I'm supposed to be studying for my econ test tomorrow or my Eastern European Politics midterm Thursday or the presentation I'm supposed to be giving the day after break, but instead I'm blogging.
O, I never wrote about the breaks coming up. I'll do that next.
I also have to finish my CLS application before I leave because it's due the 15th, while I'm gone. CLS is short for Critical Language Scholarship and is a program run by the US State Department that funds study of critical-need languages (Arabic, Persian, Urdu, Korean, Punjabi, Azeri, Bengali, etc.) for University students every summer. Getting this scholarship would be probably my biggest short-term goal right now. It would be absolutely amazing, you gain the equivalent of one year of language study in one summer and would likely make my Arabic good enough to get into a top-tier grad program in Middle Eastern Studies/Politics.
On a completely separate note, I bought a couple of CDs off iTunes the other day and I've become completely obsessed with them. The first is gonna be me being stereotypical: Speak Now, Taylor Swift's new album. It's pretty amazing, there are only a few songs I tend to skip and all the other ones are so much more grown-up than her old stuff. I love it. The other is Doo-Wops and Hooligans, the Deluxe Edition by Bruno Mars. It features the single Just The Way You Are, as well as many other excellent songs. Kinda reminds me of Gnarls Barkley's album St. Elsewhere, another excellent album. I know this has nothing to do with Egypt, but it kinda does, because it makes me feel a bit connected to home.

Monday, November 8, 2010

I'm not really sure what happened to my life

My mother sold our house. My room is being packed up today. It will be in storage when I get home. Not really sure where I'll be living this summer, but I find I don't really have any desire to spend it in the States. I feel no tie to anywhere. I mean, yeah I would miss people. I miss people now. But that's why we have phones. I think I'm gonna pray that I get one of the scholarships I'm applying for (Arabic) so that I don't have to deal with the fact that I now feel like I have nowhere at all in the states where I belong or have any desire to be. That might sound extreme to my family and friends and yes, I do and will miss you. But where y'all are is not where my life is. Not that I know where my life is right now, which I think is the emotion that my quasi-homelessness has brought to the forefront. I need to figure out what the F I wanna do with my life, and then I need to do it. Because as much as I've enjoyed where I've been, I don't feel tied to any of it, and I need to find myself a place. Wherever that might be.

Friday, November 5, 2010

I've made a decision

I'm staying in Egypt over winter break. I've been trying to decide what to do for a while now, and there were a good number of possibilities including going home for all, going home for part, spending the whole thing backpacking around Europe, spending part of it in Spain, or Turkey, or just staying in Egypt. One of my best friends here and I will be getting an apartment (which we were planning on doing next semester anyway) and chillin' in Cairo for the end of December and the entire month of January. We'll take smaller trips to places like Suez, Siwa (an oasis), etc. within Egypt and maybe even larger trips to places like Jordan and Lebanon. I might go to Turkey. Or Spain. Or Morocco. And I will probably spend less money in the whole month than I would have on just my plane ticket home. Now for the apartment hunting. I'll probably talk to some friends about their apartments, how they like them, how they like the neighborhood, etc. and hopefully just take over a friend's apartment when they leave at the end of the semester.

This is Egypt

My friends and I often find ourselves saying "T.I.E.," This is Egypt. But for those of you not here in Egypt, I thought it would be nice if I shared the kind of "this" that we have here in Egypt.
You frequently only get brought most of what you ordered in a restaurant, or have to ask a waiter a couple (or many) times to get your full order.
People (try to) translate things into English on menus and such, but often they just transliterate it (put the Arabic letters into English letters) so you're stuck wondering what things are and sometimes have no idea what you've ordered until it shows up on the table.
Cars don't slow down when you cross the street in front of them.
People walk along the side of the street, not on sidewalks.
Generally people don't bother getting out of their cars after an accident unless it's serious.
There are speed bumps on highways.
You have to haggle for everything or you will get ripped off.
You get anything done with enough baksheesh (tipping).
ANYTHING can be delivered to your front door. The liquor store delivers.
Everything will take "five minutes." Nothing takes five minutes.
A 2:00 start time for a class means the professor will show up promptly at 2:14. And often end the class early, too.
Egyptians are always amazed when you speak Arabic, even more amazed when you know about non-touristy things or neighborhoods of Cairo.
I have never once been asked for a single form of identification when going to a club, despite a drinking age of 18 for beer and wine and 21 for liquor.
Being white can get you a long way, or it can just get you harassed.
A headscarf can save you a lot of trouble.
I was literally wounded last night because my bus driver (of one of the nice, AUC busses) went about 40-50km/hr over a speed bump. I fell out of my seat, my computer and phone went flying (and my laptop would have broken if it weren't for the nice man sitting in front of me), I jammed my foot on the stairs in front of me and I have a huge and beautiful purple bruise just above my left knee from where my laptop came crashing down on me.
A "mop" is a squeegee with a rag on it. "Mopping" is dumping a bucket of water on the floor and pushing it around, leaving puddles on the floor.
You have to go up stairs to get to the elevator of the dorm. HAVE TO.
There are separate boys and girls sections of the dorm. They have guards preventing the wrong sex from entering. even for visiting. Not even a parent of the opposite sex can see their child's room.
The Nile is nasty.
The food doesn't agree with your stomach. It just doesn't.
Everyone skips class. Everyone. Someone was amazed yesterday when I told him I had skipped one class all semester and it was because I was on vacation.
Sheesha is everywhere. At all times of day. In every flavor.

This list is a small portion of what my life is like here. These things are common knowledge to me, yet most of them are probably at least somewhat foreign or even shocking to all y'all back home. I never really had the "culture shock" thing when I got here, but I think when I get back there will be some things that I will have to get re-adjusted to.