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. 

1 comment:

  1. It sounds amazing Nimisha!! I love learning about the country through your eyes and observations and I can't wait to here more!