Sunday, December 20, 2009

a wrap-up.

My time in Egypt has been interesting in so many ways. I finally experienced what a true language barrier feels like. I was pretty confident with my Arabic abilities. I mean, I was top of my language class and I had a wide repertoire - like basic greetings, vocabulary to discuss the current nuclear situation in Iran, and I could tell you all about famous Arabs in history. That should have been a good start at least, right? Wrong. I was horrified when I couldn't communicate with the cleaning ladies to tell them that Wednesday mornings worked best for them to change my sheets. But little by little I could carry on complete conversations with taxi drivers and shop owners and soon enough I was having passing conversations with people in the Cairo airport and at museums without them knowing that I wasn't a native speaker. I've been inside 4 pyramids, I've seen both the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea, and I got to travel to Turkey and Scotland on the side. I'll miss being afraid for my life while in a taxi maneuvering around city traffic. I'll miss being assaulted by the sights of city lights and the colors of store fronts and the smells of kebob and shisha smoke from sidewalk cafes. I'll miss the Nile. But most of all I'll miss going out with friends and dancing and talking and laughing until well after sunrise the next morning. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Taken from my friend Kacie, here is a screencap of the weather in Cairo today. That's right, sand. Did you know that sand could be a valid report of the weather? Well, it is. 

I've been terrible about chronicling my adventures lately, but after I've wrapped up exams and recovered from a horrendous flu, I will definitely catch it all up. Then it's only a few days until India!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

farama, saqqara, & dashur.

Tell al-Farama is located in Northeast Egypt, next to the Mediterranean coast. It was the first place for visitors and invaders to Egypt to arrive at, from Alexander the Great to Julius Caesar. My professor told us not to expect grandeur, but even so I thought it was amazing. It looked like a Greek ghost town, abandoned by a people long ago that decided to make plans and split. The sand is soft and comfortable and there are seashells scattered about from the residing sea tides, with faded corinthian pillars lying humbly where they first fell. It's literally in the middle of nowhere and I was caught off guard by how unaccustomed I was to the sound of silence. Farama was a major fishing port so they were a big fishery, indicative of the thousand-year-old pottery shards covering the ground. On our way back we caught the sunset at the Suez Canal when the ships were coming into the ports.

My day to Dashur and Saqqara was one of the most beautiful I've experienced. We wandered through the deserts and crawled into pyramids all day, looking for graffiti carved by previous visitors like Napoleon. My 5'1" feisty ninja professor further proved that she is a badass by removing a snake from the Red Pyramid and tossing it over the side of the pyramid, as I hummed the Indiana Jones theme song. The sky was so blue and the clouds looked like we could touch them if we climbed up to the tip of the pyramids, until a black storm rolled over the deserts and a thunderstorm covered the greater Nile Delta area, cooling everything down and clearing the air. "Seth has brought us rain," said our professor. As we drove past neighboring villages, children in the fields danced in the mud while farmers ran for cover, the crops looking so green and the flowers looking so happy. I woke up this morning completely sore from scurrying down dark pyramidal pathways, but bemused that I had just witnessed the ancient monuments I had only previously seen in textbooks.  

Sunday, October 18, 2009


Hey, all! I finally got around to uploading pictures of my recent adventures a little while ago, and the following is a public link for you to look at them.

And here's Turkey:


Friday, October 2, 2009

istanbul! (not constantinople.)

I knew that my five-plus year adoration of Turkey would be legitimized the moment our taxi from the airport started weaving up the steep, winding cobblestone streets of Istanbul last week. I've read a lot about the identity crisis of the Turkish people - whether they felt more European or more Asian. And now that I've visited, I completely understand how difficult it is to put it all into words. The adorable narrow cobblestone streets remind me of Switzerland, the window flower boxes of France, and the little markets lining the piers of the cerulean Sea of Marmara are reminiscent of Greece. Then while you're strolling past little cheese shops in the early afternoon the sound of the shopkeepers hassling customers is drowned out by the call to prayer ringing out around you from three different mosques on each street corner. Though we had a full week to see as much as we possibly could, it was clear that we could probably just sit in a park all day and still be able to experience the sheer beauty of the city. 

Saturday we hit up the historical sites nearby, our method of transit via walking or taking the extremely efficient city tram that cuts right through the middle of main streets. Topkapi Palace lies hidden between Istanbul's little roads and a beautiful park walkway with red tulips and kittens frolicking in the dewy grass. The amount of rubies and emeralds decorating the past Ottoman sultans' treasuries is phenomenal. After seeing vials containing "the beard of Prophet Muhammad", we visited the Hagia Sophia mosque - the biggest cathedral at the time built by Justinian which was later converted into a mosque. I could have sat on the ground and stared up at the ceiling, the floral paintings, and the Byzantine mosaics for hours. I also think that the guy who sings the call to prayer at the Hagia Sophia sounds better than the four others in the surrounding block. Afterwards was the Blue Mosque, which still functions as a practicing mosque today. The walls and arches are all painted in blues, whites, greens, and corals like porcelain and on the opposite side of the building you can see the silhouettes of men praying towards tall glass windows facing the sun and the sea beyond. We ended our perfect day with ice cream by the big fountain in the park between the two mosques while the sun started to make its descent. 

Sunday we headed to the Egyptian Spice Bazaar, where each stall has crates and bushels filled with different spices, dried fruit and nuts, and teas. Sellers carve off Turkish Delight for you to try or hold up scoops of apple tea for you to smell. The vibrant colors of cumin and coriander and things I've never heard of overwhelm in the best way possible, and old men are constantly squeezing around passerby with a tray full of tea to deliver to patrons and customers. We grabbed some corn on the cob (a popular Turkish street vending item) and walked up the pier along the Bosphorus, getting assaulted by smells wafting from the fish market nearby. After discovering the most delicious (and the cheapest) chicken kebob sandwich, we rested our tired heads and our aching feet. There's a big different between Egyptians and Turkish people when it comes to prime activity hours; while Egyptians are nocturnal, Turks tend to close shop around 11 PM or midnight. The biggest difference by far is the weather. I don't know what Turkish summers are like, but the Autumn here is beautiful. It was in the 70's all week and there is always a divine, cool breeze sweeping off the coast with seagulls flapping above head. At one point, it started raining and we were all very confused. "What is this wet stuff falling from above?" "Is it...raining?" It doesn't rain in Egypt.

I saved most of my money for the famed Grand Bazaar, which has around 414 stores inside a covered market selling all kinds of things - amber jewelry, tea sets, Turkish clothing, embroidered slippers - everything, really. The Turks don't haggle very well, whereas in Egypt the sellers run after you to cut their prices down by half in their desperation for a customer. Turks barely budge. After the Bazaar, Cheyenne and I dropped Sarah and Alison off at their hotel to bid them adieu in light of their trip out of Istanbul to Athens, and got some ice cream to sit in our usual park for the rest of the afternoon to people watch. It's so beautiful to see small Turkish families, young kids rendezvousing, and little old men shuffling around the fountain. We gawked at sweet children and eavesdropped on a rant from an angry man complaining about his life in Arabic (we think he got fired from his job and was upset about still having to provide for his son and his inability to buy a car now) until the sun went down and it got chilly. We grabbed a chicken kebob sandwich from our old man vendor friend and laughed with each other even though we couldn't really understand one another. We then walked over to the palace sector and had hot chocolate and mint shisha while playing a rousing game of chess at an adorable café (I won). On our way back through the cool evening, a weird old man with a bunny stand stopped us so we could pet the baby bunnies while the mommy bunny picked us out our fortunes. Mine was: You are not a bad person but your destiny is heavy so you are the enemy of are trying to prove yourself...but you are not so know what's your target but there are so much barrier infront of you...
Best 1 lira I've ever spent. I love Istanbul.

Tuesday we spent the day across the European side of the city and greeted the morning by visiting the Galata tower - a 9-floor tower dating back to Justinian and Mehmet II - with a panoramic view of the city. From there we could see every mosque along the horizon and terrace gardens seated atop old apartment buildings. Afterwards we visited the French Quarter, a leg of European street lined with patisseries and bookshops. We soaked up a few churches before questing for the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art by the shore. The French Quarter was hopping once the sun disappeared - with scenester kids lining the sidewalks to play guitar, to watch someone play the ney flute, or to juggle some fire on a whim. 

It was really hard to leave Istanbul - I'm so glad that I get to check it off on my list of places to see before I die, but I am definitely going to be returning at some point. The beautiful cityscape, the coast, the breeze - these are all things I will remember of my trip. Now I'm back in Cairo, classes start up again on Sunday, and it's already October. And time really does fly.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Fun fact: Practically everyone living outside the United States that I have met/seen in Egypt is terrified that they are going to die of Swine Flu and whenever you walk by tourists at monuments or sites, they will shamelessly shield their faces so that Americans will not cough in their faces instantly killing them on the spot - or something.

Thus, my university has been ordered by the Egyptian government to shut down the school until October 2nd starting tomorrow. We have this Friday-Tuesday off already for Eid al-Fatr to celebrate the end of the Ramadan, so that gives us two and a half weeks off altogether. This means perhaps another trip is in order? Nimisha's Swine Flu Tour '09? 

To top off this most fortuitous day, my Arabic professor rescheduled our Arabic quiz that I probably would have failed anyway, and I'm eating the most delicious falafel sandwich from an Egyptian take-out place on campus that I paid 2.75 Egyptian pounds for, or .55 American cents. 

Sunday, September 13, 2009

I don't care for swimming or beaches in particular, but I wanted to go to Alexandria in order to see the Mediterranean sea again. I can't even remember how long ago it was when I saw it in Greece, but it obviously stuck with me. I'm on the claustrophobic balcony of our 5th floor room in a 3-star hotel. I'm terrified of using the bathroom. But up here I can see a tiny sliver of the beach and the sea. There is a lone fishing boat that wandered away from the port nearby, and from the limited viewpoint from here it looks like we're on the edge of the world and everything else lying between me and the infinity beyond is just cerulean water. What was here, what was under those waters, what may still be under those waters, I don't know about. But I really wish that I did. 

I had absolutely no luck getting into the linguistic anthropology class, but I did manage to enroll in the Egyptology class on Egyptian history during the Graeco-Roman era. So all my classes, school field trips, and weekend getaways all seem to be revolving around each other. 

The sight of old Arab men fishing on the docks is slightly comforting in a way. Surrounding them are veiled mothers watching their frolicking children, some of them sheepishly wading in after them - veil and all - to cool off from the day. The sea looks so inviting - I keep catching myself thinking how appealing it would be to rent a boat and just sail out to nowhere. There are tentative plans to open an underwater museum (which in arabic is, mathaf taht al-bahr, and I think is really fun to say) in Alexandria and I really hope it happens in my lifetime at some point. We were introduced to the city first by visiting the site of the library of Alexandria - the largest and most famous library of the ancient world. Unfortunately, it was just the modern commemoration to it, since the original - which is said to have at one time held over 500,000 scrolls about all kinds of things and served as an academic place of learning for people like Euclid and other famous dudes of that nature - was burnt down and destroyed after several sieges. We then went to the Citadel of Qaitbay, a 15th-century fortress. I feel like all the citadels I've seen are just dry repeats built along the years, but Qaitbay seemed different. I could appreciate its architecture, simple though it is, and at the very top there are two giant windows overlooking the sea port, the rest of the city, and the far horizon. Looking miniscule while I sat several feet above the ground against the base of the stone window, I could hear murmurs from the docks and see the sun sparkling off the turquoise waves. 

There's a huge fish market here, so after our sight-seeing we were served a delicious whole fish (head and all) and Turkish coffee. I'm pretty sure I've gained fifty pounds in the past few weeks just from stuffing my face with manoushi, kofta, and rice pudding. And I have yet to get sick, even after eating the most delicious lamb I have ever tasted from a shady back-alley restaurant downtown.  

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

I'm having a difficult time trying to remind myself that this is not a vacation, and that I actually have homework to do and classes to go to. And when you're going to Alexandria for a weekend getaway, a Nile cruise the week after that, surrounded by palm trees and a completely clear sky in 80-90 degree weather... it's not an easy task. 

My schedule is as follows:
Sundays & Mondays
Intermediate Arabic 8:30 (ugh) - 9:35
Arabic of the News Media 11:00-12:05
Art & Architecture of Ancient Egypt 2:30-3:30
Mondays & Thursdays
Intermediate Arabic 8:30-9:35
Classical Arabic Literature 2:30-3:30

I'm still trying to beg a professor to let me into an anthropology class about languages and their form and function across cultures, so hopefully by tomorrow I'll have a fifth class and won't be killed by the brutal lady in charge of add/drop registration. This schedule is actually tentative and only for Ramadan - the Islamic month of fasting in which participating Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, smoking, and indulging in anything that is in excess or ill-natured from dawn until sunset. So not only do we have a different class schedule during Ramadan, but stores/businesses have different hours, meaning you cannot possibly get anything done when you want it done. On the subject of coffeehouses and nightclubs, my fellow Arab students earnestly say with a wink, "Once Ramadan is over, I'll take you to all the great places in the city." It's like they're all talking about a speak-easy during Prohibition. I'm half-expecting all of Cairo to completely transform overnight after September 22nd (Eid al-Fatr, the holiday marking the end of Ramadan when Muslims party it up after their month of fasting) and turn into a city-wide rave or something. It will definitely be an interesting experience to see the city shake off its spiritual slumber and awaken once again. 

As far as the classes are so far, Arabic is kicking me in the face but I'm definitely not going to go down a level so that it'll be too easy for me. I'm very excited for my art & architecture class - we have (free!) scheduled field trips every two weeks or so to Cairo museum, back to Giza again, Saqqara, Dashur, and more. 

Campus is intriguing. Besides being relatively small enough to navigate and fountains everywhere the eye can see, the Arab students literally just stand around most of the morning/afternoon to just... talk. It's like they don't have anywhere else to be or classes to go to, though they're all carrying bags or books. From 8:30 to 3:00, there are massive hoards of people just chilling out in various places along the open campus, neglecting to let other people who actually have things to do pass by. The library is the worst - apparently nobody goes there to actually work or utilize the resources there. Guys go there to chat up girls and ask what their plans are for the following night. Really? The library? That's my sacred place. I don't want it violated with flirtation and obnoxiously loud hums of conversation and giggles echoing across the stacks and periodicals section. 

Sunday, September 6, 2009

A few of us heard about a "Bedouin night" out in the desert last Thursday, so we hopped a bus and took the ride. Through the window you could see the soft shadows of the Giza pyramids on the horizon and I had to stare at them for a bit longer to make sure they were real. We got out, only to arrive in front of a rave dance party scene and glance around in confusion. Apparently what we thought was going to be a majestic evening in the middle of the desert in the eye of the pyramids where Bedouin people invited us to come sit and share their humble but delicious feast while they sang and danced, was actually just a hot spot for Arab dudes to bring their lady friends to dance horribly on a front stage and cuddle up in dim corners on the rugs and cushions on the sandy platform. I don't know why we even expected anything different. But it certainly was a painful reminder of how modernized even a place like the pyramids is. 

The one memorable occasion, besides the pompous guy who thought his robot moves were the greatest thing since sliced bread, was the horseback ride through a desert path. Sure it was contrived, and I was skeptical from the beginning, but once my horse and I got out by ourselves I felt a little less judgmental about it all. There are still things to enjoy amidst the glaring Westernized establishments. Like the fact that the mere moon itself lit up the entire desert ahead of us and revealed the pyramids that seemed close enough to just walk over and touch, bathing the sand in blues and purples. 

Friday was hot even at ten in the morning. It seemed like the afternoon was going to be miserable, but I endeavored against it, because nothing was going to ruin the excitement of seeing the pyramids in Giza. It bothers me that I can't come up with enough words to correctly describe just how magical they are in person, but I'll try. You have to drive up a steep way in order to get to the entrance, and you're so busy staring at the giant monuments in front of you that you almost forget to look behind you at the completely panoramic view of the city. The minarets from the nearby mosque echoed with the call to prayer as we entered - a dramatic difference between what faith in Ancient Egypt was then and what it is now. We roamed around the 2nd pyramid, the one that still had part of its limestone casing at the top (the pyramids were encased with pink granite, limestone, and grey granite - respectively - back in the day) and I really loved the view of the birds that would swoop around the top and perch on some of the ancient stones before taking flight again against the desert winds. There were of course many peddlers trying to sell people camel rides or stupid little trinkets but it was easy to ignore them as we were all too busy imagining what the pyramids must have looked like in their prime, the sunrise glinting off from the top and making them all look like gold. Cameras weren't allowed inside the actual pyramid - which was narrow in every direction and from a moment's glance looked like one wrong step would kill you for sure - but I didn't listen and sweet-talked my way into getting the watchman to let me take a picture standing inside the actual stone tomb that held the sarcophagus of a dead Pharaoh. I'm the kind of person that would love to be in The Mummy. Alas, me disturbing the final resting place of Khafra didn't seem to do much of anything, but it was still pretty cool. The final visiting place was of the Sphinx, and though there was a hotel and a KFC/Pizza Hut right across from it, it was still very ethereal. It all just makes me wish that I could somehow go back in time just to watch everything happen - not to change anything, just to watch. There must be so much that we don't know and so much that we think we know but have gotten completely wrong. Lost knowledge makes me very sad. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Last night a group of us went to Khan-al-Khalili, one of the most famous marketplaces in Cairo. From the overpass I caught a glimpse of the ocean of people, Egyptians and tourists alike, and felt discouraged. I wanted to walk the market without having my personal space invaded, have some tea, and leave. I read about how crowded it always is and as we walked down the cobblestone path towards the Khan I took a deep breath, decided to suck it up and take the plunge. And I'll be forever grateful that I did. We passed by stands selling lanterns, scarves, musical instruments, apricots, and spices. Sellers shimmy over to you from every direction, insisting you look around their stores. "Just look. Looking is free!" Every single one of your senses is assaulted with something around you and it's wonderful. 

My shining moment was successfully haggling with a shopkeeper and using my feminine wiles to get him to lower his prices for my friends buying shawls, completely in Arabic, understanding everything. He asked if I was Egyptian, I said that I was Indian and he insisted that I had some Egyptian in me - that I "am Cleopatra, queen of not Egypt, not India, but of the world." Saying no in Arabic to keep away the sellers and the beggars came so naturally as we dodged popcorn and peanut carts and pointedly ignored the "Half price for the pretty ladies!" comments. Sellers here are all very interested in ethnicities - and I think that they must have different techniques for the variety of customers they get. Throughout the course of the night I got, "Are you Japanese?" (which I was very confused about) "Enti Masriyeh? Are you Egyptian?" (to which I responded, "La'a, no" and he replied, "You are! Don't lie!") and "Hey, Indian lady! Look at my golden slippers!" 

We then unwound at Al-Fishawi, the oldest and usually most crowded coffee shop in Cairo that has supposedly been continuously open since the 1700s. After a few lefts and a right we found it, located literally in the middle of a narrow alley surrounded with ornate mirrors of different sizes and shapes. We all shared traditional mint tea, pomegranate juice, and strawberry shisha at a table outside under the moon while sellers of all ages waved jewelry and papyrus that was probably fake in our directions as they walked by. I didn't want to leave, but we eventually had to and the drive back to campus was suddenly so much more enjoyable than before. The short but eventful trip made me fall even more in love with Cairo. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

We decided to head down to the gym and sports complex last night - the campus' current bright and shining star - and ended up playing a pick-up game of basketball with one other American guy against a bunch of Egyptian guys. The moral of that game was that Egyptians take pick-up games of anything very, very seriously. There were cuts, burns, scratches, and lots of yelling. I think they're so competitive because the only thing that they get first place in is highest pollution producing country in the world. 

After assessing our battle wounds and showering, we tagged along with a group of the RA's on campus to a hookah cafè in downtown Cairo an hour or so away. It was my first real experience with the chaos that is driving on the highway in Egypt. The only rules are that you try not to hit anyone and that the driver has his or her seat belt on at the occasional police check-points. Blasting music and speeding down the highway past giant billboards, Ramadan holiday lights, and decorated mosque minarets with the windows down was a fun rollercoaster through the city. You can't truly comprehend those pictures from space that show the amount of light coming from major cities around the world until you're in one of those cities that never does sleep, like Cairo. Being around the table of twenty-something-year-old Arabs, most of them guys, bantering and joking about things I only half understood was amusing. We all ordered mint, cherry, and apple shisha (or hookah) around the table. Arabs say "senashrab shisha", literally meaning "we'll drink shisha", which I think is beautiful. Not smoking, but "drinking" it. I'm still rusty at it for a beginner, but I'll get plenty of practice in while I'm here. I had some cinnamon-honey coffee to accompany the mint shisha. The loud conversations at our table and the open windows around us seemed ironically peaceful, as waiters would dotingly come around to refill the coals in our shisha, asking us "Ai shey, ya pasha?", or "anything else, my lord?" Even though the youth in this region listen to Akon and wear designer brand names, they still hang out at hookah cafès and uphold all these traditions. We got back to campus in the wee hours of the morning, some of us contemplating the possibility of just staying up until sunrise. But the serenity of the dark campus led us back to our beds instead. 

As far as cuisine goes, I've been constantly eating this little nutella-filled croissant snack food that are popular here, as well as zataar and lebna manoush (a wrap of olive oil, yogurt, cheese, cucumber, and olives rolled into a baked dough).

I unfortunately forgot my camera USB at home, so I can't upload pictures as of yet. But I'm sure I'll eventually get my hands on it in order to post some.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

So I ventured out to buy a sim card for the cell phone I brought from India in order to use it here instead of buying a new phone. The guys at Vodafone all thought I was Egyptian so they started speaking to me in swift colloquial Arabic and I just stared blankly at them for a few seconds. We all went to City Stars shopping center which is literally the most overwhelming shopping experience that I have ever encountered. Egyptians seem to stay up until the wee hours of the evening into morning in order to eat or shop. (Who really thinks, "Hrm. 1 AM? I think I need a new lamp"?) So the trip to the mall's grocery store just to get laundry detergent made me homicidal. I could hardly take a step in the place without bumping into someone, their small child, or a shopping cart. After grabbing the cheapest box of Tide detergent (1 dollar), I tried to stand in what I thought was a line where adamant mothers were ruthlessly pushing their carts in front of other people. It was definitely interesting. 

Waiting for the bus to pick us up, some naive Londoner who afterwards gave us all a huge lecture on Islam and how good of a Muslim she is made the mistake of giving a boy on the street money because "she was trying to be generous for Ramadan" only to have the boy's father claim that she didn't pay for the cups he was selling and they started to argue. It was extremely awkward, especially when he started to get violent. People just don't understand that giving away things to beggars makes their condition worse because it makes begging their job - they learn how to work the streets. It's so frustrating that people don't see that. 

I thought jet lag hadn't affected me at all until this morning when I was physically unable to wake up at 7:45 to get to orientation stuff and ended up sleeping in until 1:30 this afternoon. Thankfully, there are several chances to check-in and get schedules so today was just a refresher. I think my sleep cycle is now all caught up. 

Saturday, August 29, 2009

I have arrived! The view during touchdown from the plane was inexplicable. All I could see for miles was red sand and palm trees and I kept having to tell myself, "Okay, you're in Egypt now." It still hasn't even sunk in yet that I'm here and that I'll be here for four more months. The look of sheer joy on the face of the large old Egyptian lady sitting across from my aisle on the plane made me feel welcome, though. She was very happy to be home. And I think I'll be calling Egypt my home in the near future. We went on a felucca ride (a longboat) across the Nile last night - the evening breeze felt like a great introduction to the country. Riding through evening traffic - hearing loud foreign music blasting from nearby cars going from work to a club to unwind for the night - reminded me a lot of India so it all seems very familiar to me, like I've been here before in a way. 

The campus looks like a giant fortress made of sandstone - with fountains and palm trees in the courtyards and accents of blue tile. It's about half an hour away from the main city, but I don't mind being away from all the hustle and bustle. I'm a bit jaded by the fact that there's a Cinnabon and a Subway on campus, but at the same time it's a little bit comforting. Our dining hall offers some cheap Egyptian food, though - I sampled the chicken and garlic shawerma for lunch, which was my first actual meal in about two or three days. The staff here don't speak English very well, which is interesting since it's an American university, but it's good because this way I can get some practice in. I had a nice conversation with the night guards during an evening jaunt about campus to see where everything was and they invited me to break their fast with them. It's Ramadan, so Muslims are fasting. The fact that I can understand a lot of what people around me say in basic Arabic conversation is really relieving. The moment I went through security on campus (there's a strict policy of screening purses and bags and whatnot at the front gates) I had to speak Arabic with the guards since they couldn't understand me or opened my locked suitcases. (lazim al-miftah? "do you need the key?") 

We went into Old Cairo today - which has some historic sites dating back to 40 AD and earlier. We saw the Coptic church, where Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus supposedly hid in the crypt of from King Herod. Also, the Hanging Church, the old synagogue, and the mosque of Ibn Asr. They were selling lanterns in the market across the street and I wanted to buy one so badly but I never would've used it. The mosque upset me in some ways - it was so commercial and the students with me thought they were doing such a great thing by giving the street kids outside their candy that they had. Because it's "so cute" and it's "such a shame" that there are underprivileged children in foreign countries. Well, you're not saving them or helping them by giving them your snacks. You're making it worse. Thankfully, I brought my own shawl so I could cover up my head and not have to wear the communal robes that mosques distribute. I sweat out all the water I drank in the 90-degree weather and now I'm back to relax before going out again to try and get my cell phone to work here. Orientation starts tomorrow and classes start on the 6th - and I'm so excited to know what's going on and to have an organized schedule again. 

I still can't believe that I'm here. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

اهلآ و سهلآ الا بلاج! welcome to my blog!

Well, I have officially finished packing - filling up two suitcases that I can fit into and my indiana jones rucksack. As one can see, I have had plenty of practice posing with said rucksack so that my pictures will be perfect when I am adventuring in the desert, much like the real indiana jones did (but before that dumb alien sequel.) I'll be traveling about domestically until my flight from JFK to Cairo leaves tomorrow evening, so until then I plan on stuffing my face with America's delicacies (i.e. McDonald's and Starbucks.) I can't wait for my first taste of kebob from a street vendor and my first cup of mint tea from a corner cafè. I'll be keeping up with the blog as much as I can once I arrive, and uploading pictures to share with you loyal followers. 
مع سلام and goodbye!