December 16, 2009

The Power of the Pharaohs...

It's days like today when the world amazes me. I woke up this morning at 7:30 to take a final and noticed that it was windier than usual outside. After dropping off my final paper for my Arab Women's Autobiographies class I noticed that a sandstorm was blowing in. There were times I was walking but I felt like the wind was pushing be backwards....like how it feels when you walk down the path behind Dorch and the wind from the water blows right up the hill. Except this time it wasn't just the cold that was biting your face there was sand in it as well. Now I don't know about you, but I never expected sand to be able to cause as much damage as it does. But it makes sense if you think about it....sand after all is just rock mashed into billions of little peaces.

The sand blowing through my desert campus was ripping through signs displayed all over campus. It was invading our rooms through closed doors, and closed windows. It was drying our throats, and stinging our eyes. The security guards throughout campus donned medical masks so they could still be out on campus without inhaling the sand.

Sadly enough finals don't stop for sandstorms! So I still had my two papers and one exam to turn in today. But I am actually happy that I got to be out in the storm. You read about  sandstorms and their magical abilities for sand to get EVERYWHERE. But I never really realized how true it is. My room which had the door and windows shut all day now has a nice thin layer of dust on the floor. My throat is dry from sand, and my eyes are loving the fact that I wear glasses for some protection....it was bad enough with glasses I don't know how people got through today without something over their eyes.

But the sandstorm also made me wonder about the thousands, probably millions, of Egyptians who don't have a place to hide. When you walk around the city, or even just drive around Cairo in general, you will see more poverty than you could even imagine. Right down the road from my state of the art university there are new buildings and homes being built and people live in the shells of these structures. Or people live in shacks built up next to them. How do these people hide? Their homes are built out of discarded building materials and are meant to be able to be destroyed after the building project is complete. When can they go to escape the stinging sands of the desert?

The sun is setting now and the sky has turned a bluish, orangeish, grayish, yellowish color...a mixture of sunset and sand. There is a hush around campus like how it sounds after a snow falls. The campus smells like dust and everyone has a gritty feel in their teeth. But the storm has passes...at least for right now...and all we can do for now is wait for the dust to settle so that tomorrow we can clean.

xoxo
~S

This was what weather.com looks like when there is a sandstorm going on outside....


December 15, 2009

Lebanon: A Trip to the Movies

You know why blogs are amazing? They are the perfect procrastination tool! I can do something that is not studying yet feel like I am doing something wonderfully productive!! ...Hence why you are getting two posts in the span of two days :-P

Raina and I had gone out for Nescafe and a walk along the Med when we got a phone call from her cousin Fadi saying he wanted to take us out to the movies with his family. We said sure and agreed to meet him by a hotel down by the water so he could pick us up. What movie did we see? None other than the famed 2012 (and I must say I thought it was going to be SO cheesy but it wasn't too horrible). We got to the mall right when the movie was scheduled to start. (and guess what....I wasn't freaking out about being late at all! I'm Cured!!! lol) But it also might be because I knew we were in an Arab country where nothing runs on time...so of course the movie started late. But no worries about having good seats because apparently over here when you buy your tickets for the movies it is like going to see a play you buy your seats ahead of time too! So we got out tickets and had an usher walk us to our assigned seats!

Now this wasn't your ordinary theater....I swear to you I could have fit two people in my seat. They were big and comfy! I don't know why the US hasn't picked up on this wonderful trend!! I sat down and looked up at the screen and noticed that there were Arabic and French subtitles on the screen! It was so wild...and slightly inconvenient. For those of you who haven't seen 2012 yet then I should explain that for the most part everyone speaks English. However, there are times when the action is taking place in France/ Tibet and the actors are not speaking English. I am assuming that in the States when these parts of the film come on there are English subtitles....However, that was not the case in Lebanon. When the actors were speaking French there was only Arabic subtitles, and when the actors were speaking any other language the subtitles were still only in French and Arabic. (The whole time I was in Lebanon I was kicking myself for not knowing ANY French...all I can say is "Oui" and Will you go to bed with me tonight...thanks to Moulin Rouge) So I was extremely happy to have Raina sitting next to me translating everything from French to English for me! (Raina is one of those magical people in the world who speaks several languages fluently; French, Haitian Creole, English, and she is working on Arabic)

The movie was good, the popcorn was yummy. I loved that everyone clapped when something cool happened on screen. (Just like how everyone claps when the plane lands!) It was a wonderful night out. Plus I got to spend time with Raina's little cousins, Fadi's kids. They were adorable and made me really miss my little brother. I wish I could have spoken with them more though...once again why didn't I take French!!??!

I think living in the Arab world has also really shown me how concerned we are in the US about time. We are OBSESSED with time. I have to say that things do get done faster in the US and things are probably done more efficiently. But look at all the things we loose as a result of that. I have a panic attack if I am late to something. I start getting nervous 15 minutes before I have to be anywhere....even if I am already in route to that place...heck even if I am already at my intended destination. Will it kill me if I get to a place on time rather than 10 minutes early? No, but I was taught that it would. Why can't we relax? Why do we always have to worry?

Why can't we readopt the days where people get off an hour or two for lunch so they can go home to their families eat with them, have a siesta, then go back to work? Why is the world so focused on the end product of things they can't see how they are killing themselves in the present? I didn't know I was freaking out about being late to things until my partner pointed it out to me. I didn't know that my own internal fear was visible. We today become so immune to our own internal feelings and are constantly sacrificing ourselves for the "good" of everyone around us. That is my biggest flaw...and I am working on it. (wow talk about a tangent.... Back to studying!!!!!!)

Much Love!
~S

PS Back to the US in 7 days!!!!!!!!!!

December 14, 2009

Lebanon part deux

In the three months that I had been living in Egypt prior to going to Lebanon I probably lost somewhere between 5-8 pounds. Thats what happens when you live off of food you can make in a microwave/hot plate/water boiler. So I was looking forward to eating home cooked meals for a week like you wouldn't believe!! I had also heard stories every day about the amazing food that I was in store for from Raina nearly every day leading up to going to Lebanon. The things that were on the top of my need to eat list were tabbouleh, chocolate croissants, fattoush, and falafel. But never would I have guessed how much food I was going to eat that week or how many different types of food I was going to eat.

I ended up in Lebanon during 'Eid, and part of the holiday is a feast. But I swear to you I feasted EVERY night. The first full day I was in Lebanon I hadn't yet figured out that one I need to eat slowly so that I am not encouraged to keep eating after I am full, and two my stomach hadn't yet expanded to be able to accommodate the amount of food I was now eating compared to my meals back in Egypt. So at around 3am after my first full day in Beirut I got sick...and the wonderful food I had been enjoying all day payed me a second visit. :-( Thank-God Raina came and found me and helped me clean up after myself and shove me into bed. (SORRY RAINA!!!)

But nonetheless....you all seriously need to eat some Lebanese food. Come find me in the US and I will cook some for you! Let me describe to you a normal eating day. Wake up and drink tea and/or Turkish Coffee, eat fruit, chocolate croissants, that cheese filled stuff, lentils with olive oil, mint, and lemon. Lunch would be Mana'esh bread filled with cheese or zatar...which I don't know how to describe..., hummus, lots of flat bread, wara 'inab grape leaves filled with rice and/or meat, tabbouleh parsley salad usually eaten on lettuce leaves (AMAZING), fattoush also salad like, or we would eat out and eat normal restaurant food, and we ended with fruit and coffee/tea for desert. Dinner was usually more of an experience one night we went to a restaurant right on the Med...you name it it made it's way to our table that evening. But the reason we went out that night was to eat fish, don't tell my father, but I ate an entire fish that night! It was a once in a life time experience :-P One of my favorite dishes I ate the whole week though was loubia bi zeit green beans, olive oil, garlic, and tomatoes (YUMM). After we went to the movies (Will come in another post soon) Raina's cousin Fadi took us and his family out for falafel...and I must say Lebanon totally does falafel better than Egypt. 


All in all Lebanon was a fabulous eating adventure and I would encourage everyone to visit Lebanon in the future...even if it is just for a day so you can drink Nescafe from a street vender on the Med and drink a Lebanese beer, smoke argila, and munch on maza in one of the cafes lining the cliffs!


Much Love,
~S

December 6, 2009

Lebanon part one of a few!

I don't think I can even accurately describe to anyone how amazing Lebanon was. Beirut is beautiful, you can walk along the cornish at sunset sipping nescafe from a street vender (probably the best coffee I have ever had) and watch the sun set over the Med, you can sit in a cafe in the recent remodeled downtown, enjoy a fabulous meal and smoke argila under the watchful eyes of the most beautiful mosque I have ever seen, you can hit up a mall and shop (or in my case take absurd amount of pictures of Christmas decorations), and you can see buildings with bullet holes in them and holes bigger than me blown into the sides from bombings. My trip was eye opening and so enlightening. I was able to talk to people who have seen war, who have been refugees, who have had bullets fly into their houses. I wasn't getting my information from a book, a newspaper, an article, I got to hear first hand peoples experiences and it was so moving.

But most importantly I got to live with some of the nicest people I have ever met. Raina Zantout's  family was so very kind and I couldn't have asked for better people to spend my break with. They stuffed me full of amazing food at every meal (I loved it so much I wend and bought a Lebanese cookbook) and after every meal and before bed every night and for snacks during the day we would drink Turkish Coffee (which I learned how to make!!!) and Tea. Tante Fatme (Raina's Aunt) was SO kind and saw to our every need, she reminded me so much of my Grandmother and I loved sitting with her before bed while she had her evening cigarette and listening to her stories. Tante Nooha (Another Aunt) cooked a majority of the food and I WISH I could learn all of the recipes she has in her head! Tante Farida (Aunt number 3) was always willing to share stories and making sure Raina and I were safe and sound. Amu Najib (Uncle) provided a nice balance to the estrogen filled house :-P and Raina's Aunt Tante Nour from down the street would often come and visit and we went there once too to visit (her house was SWANKY!).

We were in Lebanon during 'Eid al-Adha which celebrates Abraham's extreme devotion to God that he would even sacrifice his own son Ishmael to God because that is what God had commanded. However, after the sacrifice had been performed God comes to Abraham and tells him that a sheep was sacrificed instead and God had saved his son because Abraham was able to transcend his love for this world to show his extreme love of God. This is also why during 'Eid al-Adha sheep are sacrificed and their meat is donated to the poor. 'Eid al-Adha follows the month of Hajj and the festivities last for three days. So during these three days many visitors came to Beit Zantout and I got to meet many family friends and relatives. Raina's Aunt who lives in Texas was in town, several of Raina's cousins who live outside of Lebanon were around and of course everyone who lived close by came to visit. Everything reminded me so much of holidays back home. I come from a large family and LOVE family gatherings because of the complete chaos with tons of people crowded together.

I am so happy I went and I can't wait to share more of my stories with you!!!

Much Love,
~S

November 25, 2009

Leaving Egypt

I have been thinking recently about the things I will miss when I go home, the things I am excited to leave, and the things I can't wait to go when I get back home...here are a few.

Things I Will Miss

~The amazing weather every day! It makes waking up in the morning so much easier!
~The wonderful people I have met!!! I hope that we can continue our friendships when we go back to the states!
~It being normal to have two girls and two guy hold hands or walk with their arms around each other and forbidden/scandalous for a boy and a girl to walk hand in hand.
~Speaking with my minimal Arabic skills.
~Being able to travel to places I never even dreamed of seeing so easily.
~Bargaining for things.
~The exchange rate...I don't want to be poor again :-(

Things I Won't Miss

~Getting a lot of unwanted attention from men
~People saying, "Welcome to Egypt!"  EVERY time I go out.
~The greasy overpriced food on campus.
~Being SO far away from civilization.
~Getting ripped off because I am white and blonde.

Things I Can't Wait To Do

~DRIVE MY CAR! I can't wait to be able to go places again!
~Drink a cinnamon chai late!
~See my friends!!!! (Helen and Heather I expect a swing and poi date ASAP! Megan, will you be in any shows when I get back?! Everyone else I want to see you too!!! Facebook me and we will figure something out!)
~Have a much needed heart to heart
~Rock with my Mommy.
~Eat some amazing food that I am hoping my Dad cooks....chili, pecan pie, mashed potatoes, and corn bread....hint hint  :-P
~Seeing my brother and sister. I know through Skype that my brother Sam has grown up SO much in these past few months it is just crazy. He is 14 years old and looks and sounds like a man! But he is still as goofy as ever! I also missed my sisters first semester of college. I so wish I could have gone up and visited her!
~Go see the river!!! I need a day back at daffodil valley, wrapped in a blanket, looking at the sun setting over the river...with all the time in the world just to think and figure some stuff out.

How I have changed


~I have realized that there is a lot in this life we cannot control and I have become a much more calm and peaceful person after accepting this.
~I have learned that I know SO little about the world and the people in it.
~I realized that my education in the US was pretty horrible in that I never learned anything about international history. I have learned more living here in 4 months then I have learned in my 20 years of living.
~I have learned how to hide important details about myself extremely well. Sometimes I shock myself with the half truths that I can make come out of my mouth.
~I have learned that I can coexist with a group of people that I grew up being told by the media and some of the people around me were "evil", and "oppressive". And most importantly I learned that these two adjectives are by far the worse adjectives to describe the people I come in contact with on a daily basis.

Much Love! I'm off to Lebanon!!! I'm spending Eid with my friend Raina and her family in Beirut!!! Be back on December 1st!!!

xoxo
~S

November 22, 2009

The Red Sea...an amazing Escape (Part Two The Sea)

We got to our hotel late and exhausted on Friday night. After checking in and laying in bed for a few minutes we headed out to the waterfront for dinner. I ate the most delicious Thai food, with a Mirinda (and they threw in an orange slice for extra flavor!)  and chilled by the water with my friend Raina. We were cold because of the wind blowing off of the water...but I couldn't stop being absolutely amazed at where I was. First of all I have literally been living in the middle of the desert for three months and I have been living on the water for two years back at school!! My soul needed some water in its life! Plus I was sitting by the body of water that connects Egypt with Saudi Arabia! Never in my life would I have ever thought I would be so close to Saudi. The Red Sea has an amazing history and I was so lucky to be able to spend time by it!

The next day we spent down at the water. I got to swim in the Red Sea!!! We snorkeled for a bit and saw some gorgeous fish. I was saddened that there was a lot of trash at the bottom on the sea...beautiful coral would run parallel to discarded mattresses, tires, and scrap metal. Nonetheless, it was an amazing experience and I am so happy that I was able to go. After swimming I sat out on the beach and did some Arabic homework while taking in the wonderful Egyptian sun.

We then grabbed some food for the road, we stopped at a Mc Donald's but Raina and I opted to get take away from the restaurant next door...some sort of fish house I think...I got shrimp and vegetable curry!! YUMMY Then we were off! I got a few hours of shut eye on the way home. We listened to music and I found an Egyptian band I really like!

The best part of the drive though was seeing the oil fields at night. You can tell where they are because of the fire spurting out of the ground in the expanse of the desert. It was eerily beautiful and creepy.

I think that everyone in their life should make it to the Red Sea. I wouldn't trade in this weekend for the world!

Much Love,
~S

I have now touched the Nile, The Red Sea, and the Med!!

November 19, 2009

The Red Sea...an amazing Escape (Part One St. Anthony)

Life was closing in!! I had to research my 12-20 page paper due in two weeks...and write it, read two novels, read numerous articles for my classes, and keep up with learning Arabic...and that was just school. My relationship with my lover and best friend was hanging in limbo...I was 6 weeks away from coming home, missing my family, my friends, and just needed a break. When the school proposed a trip to St. Anthony's Monastery (Which I REALLY REALLY REALLY wanted to see!) I jumped on it! Plus I would get the added bonus of a day at the sea to lay out in the sun! WHY NOT?!

I payed my 120 Egyptian pounds (about 25 dollars!! AWESOME DEAL) 3 days before the cut off date and made myself get through the end of me week of classes. The night before we left, although I REALLY should have slept, I went out for my friend Sean's birthday. I met up with my friends at Harry's Pub downtown after they had sushi for dinner...our goal for the evening...karaoke. Little did the unsuspecting patrons of Harry's Pub that night realize that they were in for complete and utter chaos. The birthday boy Sean and his friends had planned a choreographed version of Backstreet Boys...for video footage of this event check out the videos I am tagged in on Facebook...it was wonderful. Harry's was faced with a problem I don't know if they had had in the past, a flood of college students wanting to sing Journey so badly that we had to bribe them at the end of the evening to let us sing "Don't Stop Believing". It. Was. Glorious. I will have to say though the best part of the evening was having a Saudi man walk into the bar...complete in traditional Saudi garb...and prayer beads....dancing with us on the dance floor....with prayer beads in hand. Guess Allah can't see Cairo, Egypt!

We got back to the University at 4 am...hurried to our rooms to collect our bags then met out in the front of the school for the 5am pick up time. 5:15 rolled around and no one was there....not even an RA. We (Raina, Kelli and I) walked back to our rooms and checked to make sure that we were leaving at 5am. All our e-mails confirmed that that was when we were leaving. We sat out front in the cold until 5:45 when a women from the Residence Life office walked up and said, "OH MY GOSH I AM SO SOORY I FORGOT TO CALL YOU ALL AND TELL YOU THE TIME CHANGED TO 6!!" (I then got a sinus infection from sitting outside...but oh well) The bus eventually came and we were off to the red sea.

We attempted to sleep on the way to St. Anthony's Monastery...not much sleep was accomplished. But it did give me the perfect opportunity to see more of this beautiful country! When you are driving across miles and miles of desert in the morning light and you can see the rising sun reflected in the Red Sea, nothing feels oppressive any more. It is a big shock to realize that you really are nothing in this BIG world. Your cares and problems are nothing compared to what some people go through of a daily bases. And I would like to think that living here has taught me to be more self aware, especially after this trip.

We got to the Monastery at 9 am and piled out of the van. I have studied ascetics, people who remove themselves from society at large, live in caves, holes, trees, and on tops of poles, in an effort to bring themselves closer to God and combat their earthly needs and desires. But never in my life would I have imagined Anthony living where he did. I always pictured him living in a cave slightly outside of an oasis town, close enough for someone to bring him a half a loaf of bread each day, but still far out enough not to be bothered. But this place was FAR from EVERYTHING! I was so shocked! It was beautiful....but it really made me re-think asceticism and what it means to be an ascetic.

We were given a tour of the monastery by one of the monks. He was wonderful and loved the fact that one of the first phrases I learned in Arabic was, "I have fish, and everything is good." (Iendy samack, meshi) (I don't even like fish...that's the ironic part) So he proceeded to point out all the fish motifs in the carvings for me! The monastery is beautiful and is currently being restored. It was filled with paintings dating back to the 9th century and makes some of the most amazing bread I have ever had. St. Anthony, according to church doctrine, is buried under the monastery. I also had the opportunity to drink holy water from a spring that flows to the monastery. 


After exploring the monastery we climbed the mountain to the cave where St. Anthony lived out the last of his days. To get to the cave you have to climb up 1200 steps...doesn't sound too bad right?...WRONG lol The first 900 steps, easy, but then you start feeling the exhaustion. Running on maybe 2 hours of sleep, a juice box, and some bread....you really start feeling the tiredness. The group took a rest stop in the shade by a chapel  marking 2/3rds of the way up. But I had to keep going. If I took a break I knew it was going to be a lot harder getting started again. 


I started walking again, making sure I stepped on every step, not wanting to miss a single layer of my journey. All the while thinking to myself, creating my new mantra, "There are things in life that I cannot control, but this does not make me a bad; sister, daughter, lover, or friend." Every step repeat, "There are things in life that I cannot control, but this does not make me a bad; sister, daughter, lover, or friend." "There are things in life that I cannot control, but this does not make me a bad; sister, daughter, lover, or friend." My brain turned off, all it could think was my mantra, all I could afford to think was my mantra. I had to push my body, my brain took a back seat finally and my body came first. One more step, "There are things in life that I cannot control, but this does not make me a bad; sister, daughter, lover, or friend." I could feel myself going higher and higher up the mountain. The ground receding behind me and painting a picture you only see in fantasies; pure desert, stretching for as long as you can see, no roads, no trees, no buildings, no people. All you hear is the crunch of sand under your feet, your breath in your ears and the repetition of your mantra in your head. "There are things in life that I cannot control, but this does not make me a bad; sister, daughter, lover, or friend." I made myself loose control of myself. No it was more like I let myself succumb to the world around me. (Which I always thought would be terrifying because then I am not in control) But. It. Was. Amazing. 


Never in my life have I felt so much relief when I reached the mountain plateau where St. Anthony's cave is. Not wanting to sit yet, I removed my scarf from my head, finally feeling the cool air created by the mountains shade, I removed my shoes and entered St. Anthony's cave. It was nothing like I pictured it to be during my studies. The path into the cave was only big enough to fit one foot in front of the other and even I had to crouch down to get in. The cave was in two tiers. The first one is only about 2 feet by 4 feet by 5 feet and leads down to the main part of the cave where the Saint would have lived. The "Main Part" of the cave is only 3 feet by 6 feet by 7 feet there was a small shrine at the bottom, and kids were sitting down there with flashlights lighting the path. I touched the shrine, repeated my mantra, contemplated taking a picture but then realized that I would be violating what had become my sanctuary. So I turned and left the cave. 


I finally sat down on the side of the mountain, opened my bottle of water, drank, laid down, closed my eyes, and breathed. It was all gone. All that was left was me. Breathing. Repeating. Breathing. The cool mountain was chilling my body. The people around me were all rejoicing at their success at making it up the mountain. Parents carried their children to the cave. Couples climbing up the steps, one by one, holding hands. Some climbed with cd players repeating Coptic hymns. Others climbed in prayer. A few climbed with their extended families. Some climbed in grief, and some in great joy. We all exchanged our energies, releasing everything we had bottled up inside us out into the world. We were all free. Sitting at the top of a mountain. In the middle of the desert. All alone. Yet all bound together for eternity.


Pictures from the trip at 
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=120793&id=559567285&l=75740e2bc3 


Part Two The Red Sea coming after my trip to Alexandria! 

November 11, 2009

Hands

I am in an Arab Women's Autobiographies class and I just finished reading Tete, Mother, and Me by Jean Said Makdisi. In the book Makdisi recounts the lives of her grandmother, mother and herself. While reading this book I was often on the brink of tears because her stories often reminded me of times with my Mother and Grandmother. The book was absolutely wonderful and I would highly recommend it. 

What follows is a short story about my Grandmother. It's pretty sappy so if you don't like sappy I don't advise that you continue reading.

xoxo
~S

Growing up my favorite place to go was to Granny's house. I remember the long weekend days she would keep my siblings and I while our parents were at work. My favorite thing to do was to climb onto her lap, interrupting her constant crocheting, and talking with her. As we talked she would outline the features of my face with her fingertips. She was mesmerized in the shapes of my eyes, the point of my nose,  and the curve of my ear. She would do this for what seemed like forever. Almost subconsciously. Even when I would sit by her on the couch and she would read to me my favorite book The Monster at the End of This Book she would run her fingers around the creese in my lips, and the edge of my chin.

I loved my Grandmothers hands. I loved the fact that you could see her vanes and you could feel her vanes. I would pinch the skin lightly together around the vane and wonder at how her skin would stay peaked after I let go. Her wrinkled hands looked so different from mine.

Just like she would run her fingers over my face I traced my fingers over her hands. I compared the size of my hand to hers. I compared the shape of her ballooned knuckles to mine. Her hands amazed me. Those hands were able to create blankets, and hats with her crocheting. They were able to show so much love with so little effort. They were able to discipline and instill so much fear and respect. Hands are the body part that can connect you with the world and the body part with tells the world your story.

When my Grandmother was in the hospital to get her gull bladder out; I went to visit and crawled into the hospital bed with her. I laid next to her the entire time and she just ran her fingers through my hair. No words had to be said and I felt completely safe and completely loved.

At Granny's viewing I went up to the casket and saw how her hands were so wrong. The embalming fluid made them too flat, the wrinkles were all gone. But none the less, I stood there and traced the outline of her fingers one more time. I felt what once were vanes full of blood still make small bumps under her now smooth skin. I held her hand and was able to gain peace from those hands that had always comforted me in the past.

But this was my relationship with my grandmother's hands. What Teta, Mother, and Me made me wonder is what did her hands do before they were my grandmother's hands? What were they like as a farm girl waking up with the sun to milk the cows? Did her palms get sweaty the first time she held hands with a boy? Were her hands as comforting to the people she nursed in the hospital as they were to me when I was sick? What were her hands like as a girl, a sister, a daughter, a mother, an aunt, a lover, a friend? Did my other cousins experience the same hands that I did? Did my aunts and uncles get the same attention from her hands that I did?

There are so many questions I always wish I could ask her. But I will never have the opportunity.

Love you Gran!

November 2, 2009

An interesting article

This article was in one of the newspapers on campus and created LOTS of drama in the international community...Enjoy! (all typos exist in the original article)

xoxo
~S


Atheism By: Hager Ibrahim

In a previous issue of Caravan, my dear fellows Mai Shams el Din and Heba Khalil wrote about atheism On Campus. At the first glance I was very attracted to read their articles as it is such a sensitive issue to be addressed in Egypt… well, yes AUC is still part of Egypt! I wouldn’t lie to you, I just didn’t feel well after reading. I won’t deny the fact that I know “Egyptians” on campus that are atheists, yet, I felt like I got a lot to say.

My friends talked about the Egyptian Law that AUC abides by; about foreigners on campus who feel that they are not welcomed enough; about the diversity that AUC offers; about the tolerance we shall have. Yet I wonder what is it exactly that we are requested to have in order to be tolerant enough?

We accept very liberal dressing styles inside AUC as a community, it’s not against any Egyptian law, but I wouldn’t say that our average dressing code is the acceptable dressing code within the Egyptian community. Yet, we are still not tolerant enough? I believe this tolerance issue leads us to a deeper question. As students in AUC we have to revisit out perception of out university. Is AUC actually American? Egyptian? Or simply and American-based system on Egyptian Land? To what extent are we truly conforming to the Egyptian perception about AUC what states that AUCians are spies on Egyptian land and that its youth are being transformed by the Powerful state of America to serve its own interests in the Middle East specially in a country that is considered one of the centers of Islam in the World?

Knowing that the Religious distribution of Egyptians- according to CIA world fact book 2009- is approximately 90% Muslims and 10% Christians; and taking into consideration the profound religious roots that are deepened in the Egyptian community, we find ourselves (Muslims and Christians) opposing many of what could be considered in America “Freedom of Choice”.

An American thinker would say that you are free to choose your religion, and a Religious Muslim would say that as well. Yet, a Muslim would have much more to be concerned with. We would care that Muslims stay as is, for we shall not forget that as Muslims we have the “Redda” concept that applies to Muslims who convert into other religions. Although this concept is heavily debated in religious arenas it should be taken into consideration. The same shall applies to Coptic Orthodox Christians who care to preserve their unity and belief. Additionally, a religious Muslim would take into consideration the concept of “Al Amr del maa’roof wal nahi a’an el monkar” which entails that a good Muslim shall advice others of what’s right and speak out when seeing something wrong. Finally, if a person is a true believer in any religion, he/she would probably like to see his/her children believing in the same religion out of the love of seeing the children doing what is right.

I am not sure how foreigners feel that of whether they are accepted enough on campus. But my guess is that, at the most, Egyptians are very welcoming to foreigners, and they don’t try to change them. It’s out of the concept that “it’s none of our business!” Yet, tolerating Egyptians getting affected by American thought to the extent that it contradicts their basic religious beliefs… That gets me back to the semester I spent in Portland, OR, USA. Portland is known to be a place for what’s ever is freaky and unusual in America, a place of maximum liberty, a haven for athiestsand a place where almost 10% of the population are homosexuals. A place where the last generation that considered itself Christian is over 60 years Old. Moreover, it’s a place where I found that homosexuality is encouraged more than being straight! I just wonder if this is the development of freedom of  “everything” kind of thinking, would that city exists in 50, 100 years from now?! I Doubt it! There wouldn’t be enough straight people to produce new generations!

Forgetting about the Egyptian Law, We need to ask ourselves several questions. Could we reach that stage one day? Is that what we want? Are we supposed to be more tolerant forwards accepting the existence of foreigner atheists? Are we being transformed into what America wants????

October 25, 2009

MORE PICTURES

If you would like to check out my pictures go HERE! It gives a pretty good summary of what I have been doing with my life in the past month!

xoxo
~S

October 22, 2009

Being Green in Egypt

When I first got to Egypt the first thing I looked for were recycling bins....and they were no where to be found. I kept searching and I found out that the American University in Cairo does have bins to recycle paper in. It is my understanding that they sell the recycled paper to NGOs to use. Then I realized that on our trash cans there are signs that say "Wet Trash" and "Dry Trash"...meaning Dry Trash are recyclable things and Wet Trash is not recyclable things. However, drama has started on campus because people don't know if the Dry Trash is actually being recycled. We (the hippie americans) are looking into this...I think it has gotten some wider campus acknowledgment though.

I clearly have gotten spoiled by SMCM who has recycling bins EVERYWHERE! You don't see a trash can without seeing a recycling bin close by. It's quite wonderful. Plus SMCM has started placing Compost Bins in places where student would be throwing away food. (eg by the dorms, by the Campus Center etc) I haven't had much stuff to compost at school since I have been living in dorms....but here we have been cooking a lot because food on campus is expensive and a part of me dies every time I have to throw away veggie bits that could be composted. I'm always tempted to throw them out in the gardens...but I know that if I do that the cats/dogs that roam campus will start roaming around the dorms and that poses many problems.

I also grew up in a house where we composted anything we could. My Dad pretty much walked behind everyone in my family my whole life telling us to turn off the lights when we left rooms. I was never allowed to leave food on my plate at dinner and we have been recycling for years. So I am pretty biased on this subject....but I feel like most people would agree with me that SOMETHING has to change and soon!

I have also seen a HUGE problem with students leaving trash everywhere. And I hate to say it but it seems to only be Egyptian/Arab students who do this. The vast majority of the school population at AUC is extremely privileged and they are used to having people clean up after them. Most of them have maids at home and they clean up after them. But they need to realize that they aren't at home! You can't just leave your trash outside of the Cafeteria and expect it to go away. Often the trash sits around for days before people can get around to cleaning it up. I have also been behind people walking down the path and they will drop trash on the ground right out in the open! I have to wonder if this is just complete and total disregard for what they are doing, or if it is because they are ignorant to the horrible consequences of constant littering?

I can only hope that AUC starts implementing some sort of active recycling plan in the near future and also environmental awareness education. Because when it comes down to it...things may be getting better in the United States with becoming more "Green"...but that is only ONE country. There are thousands of countries out there that need a complete and total U-haul.

Just something to think about...
xoxo
~S

October 15, 2009

If you don't have Facebook but want to see my pictures!

These are all public links so if you don't have Facebook you can still see all my pictures! Just click and it will take you to my album! I will try to put up the public link whenever I put up new pictures! 

ENJOY!

xoxo

Greece Pictures!

























October 6, 2009

Greece

Alison and I got to Greece and chilled in the hotel room our first night there. We found out that our ceiling actually had little lights in it that change colors and look like stars....we were amused! Our first day was LONG. We went to the Acropolis Museum, which opened this June, it was amazing and the artifacts were beautiful. There was actually quite a long line to get in, it is apparently the nicest museum in Greece and has all of the newest technological gadgets to keep everything preserved. The most interesting part wasn't even inside the museum. Before you entered you stood on a platform that was made of glass. If you looked down you could see the ruins that the museum was built over. (It made waiting in line bearable!) While we were wondering around the museum we stumbled upon a few AUC kids who just happened to be at the museum...the world is really small when you think about it!

After the museum we climbed up the Acropolis to see the Parthenon...and truth be told it was a let down. I had gotten so used to Egypt where you can go in temples and explore and look around. There are virtually no limits to what you can and cannot do. But in Greece we weren't allowed in the temples...we had to stand about 5 yards away from the Parthenon. Plus they had scaffolding up everywhere, and have had it up since 2000, to repair the temples. It was still really cool to see! The best part though was defiantly the view from the top of the mountain! After exploring all the temples on the top of the Acropolis we hiked all around the mountain and found the smaller temples that surrounded the Acropolis. These temples ranged from caves...to small groves. It was a fun scavenger hunt! Hiking around the mountain was defiantly more exciting than looking at the big temples on the top of the mountain. It was the only time that we were able to get up close and personal with the sites. Plus who doesn't love exploring caves and hiking?! Needless to say we slept well that night!

The next day we went to the Ancient Agora (It was Athens shopping center back in the day!), Hadrian's Library, The Roman Agora, the Zeus Temple, and Hadrian's Arch. The Agoras were the more interesting sites....mostly becuase I really like seeing where normal people would have interacted on a daily basis and where else would be a better place to study that than at the local marketplace?! This day was also filled with A LOT of walking. Probably more than the day before. But this did give me the perfect opportunity to get lots of pictures of some really awesome street art! (The street art in Athens was amazing! If you are a street art fan I would totally recommend a day trip to Athens.)

Our last day we REALLY wanted to see the water. So we took the metro to the stop that had a boat next to it lol yup that was the extent of our planning. We got there and saw lots of boats....but there wasn't a pier for us to look off of. So we returned home dismayed. After grabbing a quick lunch (and once again feeling really poor because we had to pay in Euros) we headed to the Archeological Museum. At the Archeological Museum in Athens, Greece I saw Egyptian mummies....I haven't even seen a mummy...and I have been living in Egypt for a month...but I saw one in Greece! :-)

We meandered back to the hotel where we picked up our bags and walked 3 blocks to the Suburban Train that took us to the airport. After sitting on the train for about 30 min...I was looking at the awkward map on the train wall and trying to make sure we were going in the right direction (I knew we had gotten on the right train...Platform 2 Line 2). A guy behind me asked me where I was trying to go...I said the airport....and his face fell. "You have to be kidding me" he said. "No I'm being completely serious...why?" I responded. "You are going in the wrong direction" he told me. Apparently the lady who sold us our tickets didn't tell us we needed to switch trains at the first stop. So we jumped off the train we were on. Waited 30 minutes at that station until a train was coming in the opposite direction ( and if you know me you know that I get REALLY anxious and nervous if I am going to be late to something so I was slightly freaking out). But the stop we were at was right by the gorgeous water! So we finally saw the water!!! We got on the next train...switched trains where we should have the first time and got to the airport one hour before our plane left. We got to our gate 15 minutes before our plane was supposed to leave....we were booking it through the airport. And after sitting there for 10 minutes they delayed our flight for an hour....our layover in Istanbul coming home was only 2 hours long...so that only left us with 45 minutes to find our next gate to head back to Cairo.

But all in all we made it back to Cairo safely and non of my souvenirs got broken! Although the trip to Athens was fun and I really enjoyed seeing the sites...I do not want to go back there. If I were to go to Greece again I would go to the islands. Athens was fun but there is not much to do after you have been there for two days.

xoxo
~S

September 28, 2009

Turkey!

Alison and I left the University at 12am on Friday, after calling our amazing and wonderful cab guy…we finally found a regular one who is awesome and reliable! After being surprised once again at the laxness of security in Egypt…we meandered to our gate and sat. (To pass time we sounded out words written on signs….we didn’t know what they meant but we could say them! Haha) We jumped on our 2:30 am flight to Istanbul, Turkey sleep drunk and ready for a nap! The flight was easy (I wish I could have slept more though) and the landing was gloriously smooth (no Inshallaha Air landing here!)

The taxi ride to our hotel was BEAUTIFUL! I fell in love with Turkey on the ride. (Our old bald driver was blasting techno music the whole time…it was wonderful) It was so exciting to see flowers, and trees, and grass everywhere again! The weather was crisp and cool; which was awesome because I thought I wasn’t going to be able to experience a fall this year! Our hotel was gorgeous and Alison and I didn’t want to leave! It was a nice change of pace and exciting to be spoiled for a few days!

Our first night there we went out and explored the street we were living on. We found this awesome restaurant, Doce, where we ate several other times during our stay. Later that night we met up with two of our friends who are staying in Istanbul the rest of this week and went to a Nargile café and smoked/ drank tea while we planned the rest of our stay.

The next day we went and explored the historical landmarks in Istanbul. We went to the Topkapi Palace, which was the grand palace of the Ottoman Empire. We saw lots of jewels, pretty paintings, and pure elegance. The palace is located right on the water! (Which was wonderful because I was missing those chilly fall days where the wind whips off of the water and sends chills through your whole body!) It was the perfect location for tons of pictures with my friends and me! (I will do a picture only post when I get back to Egypt!!)

Then we ate lunch at a little café by the Hippodrome, across from the Egyptian obelisk, where we witnessed (we only found this out later though) the burial procession of the last Turkish Sultan who died earlier this week. We were scared that we were by a riot! We then went to the Aya Sophia, it was a Church in Constantinople which was later changed into a mosque when the ruling class became Muslim. The meshing of the two religions in one building was astonishing and breathtaking. The mosaics that had been hidden by plaster when the church was converted to a mosque were gorgeous and still glittered with their past elegance! After leaving the Aya Spohia we went to The Blue Mosque.

The Blue Mosque is so named for the hand painted blue tiles that adorn its walls. But before we were allowed into the mosque we had to wait for the evening prayer to finish! Also when you go into a mosque you have to cover up, so we all slipped on our sweaters and put our scarves over our heads…and you must take off your shoes.  (If you don’t have things to cover up with they have people outside handing you robes that you can slip on over your clothing.) The mosque was just as amazing as everyone had made it out to be! It is lit only from light from the windows with a few chandeliers that dangle down from wires that stretch from the ceiling to 7 feet above the floor. It gives the illusion that you are amongst the stars when you sit down on the luscious carpet and look up. We sat in the mosque for a while just taking it all it. The air was filled with a peace that you can only find in a spot filled with so much faith.

That night Alison stayed in and did work while Nimisha, Cheyenne, and I went and explored! We ended up eating the best chicken kabob sandwiches we have ever had from an awesome vender by the hostel they were staying at! Then we headed back to the hotel Alison and I were staying at and had a sleep over!

The next day we woke up and headed over to the spice market! (Who doesn’t want to start their day filled with fresh spices and yummy free food!!!) Then we walked over the bridge to the other side of Istanbul! There we ate lunch (corn from a vender!) and sat by the water. (In order to get to a place to sit we had to walk past a creepy fish market though…it was depressing…) After that we went to a hidden book market outside of the Grand Bazaar. It was defiantly a hidden treasure and smelled amazing! (Who doesn’t love the smell of old books?!) Then we headed back to our hotel where we chilled and watched Aladdin! (The evening was punctuated by a frantic search all over Istanbul for pizza since we had been seeing signs for Pizza Hut all day!) We had another sleep over that night because we wanted to get up early and go spend our last day at the bazaar.

Our last morning in Istanbul we woke up and headed out to the Bazaar where I spent too much money…but it was fun and I got some really cool things! We ate one last time at Doce, the first restaurant that Alison and I ate at in Istanbul, and had apple tea one last time (a local yummy favorite), then headed back to the hotel to catch our cab!

It was a wonderful 4 days and I know I left a part of my heart in Istanbul! I hope that I get to come back to this wonderful city again sometime in my lifetime!

Much Love
Xoxo
~S

September 24, 2009

What's Been Going On In My Life!

Hey everyone! A lot has happened in the past few weeks! I have been to Luxor and Aswan in Upper Egypt and am currently in my hotel lobby in Turkey waiting for my room to be ready! When AUC decided to close until October 4th I knew I was going to travel but I never expected to have done so much in such a short period of time.

I went on a Nile Cruise with the school and I met some absolutely wonderful people who I feel really comfortable and close with!!! We visited three tombs in The Valley of the Kings; Ramses VII, Ramses IV, and Ramses IX, and I was shocked by how much these tombs have been preserved over the years. In the Ramses IV tomb you could even see brush strokes in the designs that were painted on the walls. Every surface was nearly covered with color from floor to ceiling; there were spots where some of the paint had been chipped away. The most shocking part about visiting The Valley of the Kings is seeing how much land the tombs that they have found take up. And when you look around and realize how much time and man power it would have taken to create one tomb it is mind blowing.



We also visited many temples; The Temple of Queen Hatshepsut, the Colossi of Memnon, Karnak Temple, Horus Temple, Sobek, Haroeris Temple, and The Temple of Philae. (Truth be told...once you see one temple they all start to blend together!) However, I learned that when touring temples with incompetent tour guides Lonely Planets, and friends who speak other languages are wonderful things to have! All of the temples were beautiful and will hold a special place in my heart.

Our last stop was at the High Dam and Lake Nasser. I think that Lake Nasser is probably the most beautiful man made thing ever created! It was also crazy to think that I was SO CLOSE to Sudan!

                                                (The Nile...on the way to Philae Temple)

To get to all of these places we flew to Luxor then sailed on a cruise ship to Aswan and stopped along the way. The Nile was beautiful and sailing was peaceful. It was a perfect way to spend Eid!

Then we got back to school and my friend Alison and I planed a trip to Turkey and Greece! I know my life sounds so horrible right now. But if it makes you feel any better I still have homework to do and need to keep up with all of my assignments for classes!

Much Love! xoxo
~S

Where in the world is Sarah?!

Hey everyone! I know you all are thinking...wait didn't Sarah just get back from a trip....and the answer would be YES however I am leaving tonight at Midnight for another excursion! I am going to Istanbul, Turkey from Friday September 25th until Monday September 28th then I am heading to Athens, Greece until Thursday October 1st.

School will then hopefully start on October 4th! I promise a nice long post when I get back from the other side of the Mediterranean!

xoxo
~S

September 18, 2009

Off to Upper Egypt!

I am going to get on my bus to the airport at 3am my time (9pm East Coast time) and my plane is at 6:45am to Aswan. Then head to a ship in Aswan to see the High Dam, the Temple of Philea, and a felluca ride around Kitchener's Island, and the Aga Khan Mausoleum. The second day we are going to a temple shared by two Gods Sobek and Haroeris of Kom Ombo. Then we will sail to Edfu and see the Horus Temple. That night we will sail to Luxor and on day three we will see; the Valley of the Kings, the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut, and the Colossi of Memnon. Finally we will go see the Karnak Temple and the Luxor Temple. Then back to Aswan. Hop on a plane and back to Cairo in time for dinner on Tuesday!

I will have lots of stories and pictures up hopefully by Tuesday evening! Much Love! And Happy Rosh Hashanah (on Saturday) and Happy Eid el Fitr (on Sunday) !!

xoxo
~S

P.S. Check out my videos on YouTube!  http://www.youtube.com/user/Sarah8104

September 17, 2009

NO SCHOOL!?

So the Egyptian government has shut down my school until October 4th. Why you ask? Well you see there was an outbreak of the piggy flu in Alexandria. Which freaked the Egyptian government out...so they postponed the opening of all of the government run schools. (AUC is not one of them) So my school opened on time....but EVERY other school in Egypt was closed because they are government run.

Then the government get all pushy and told AUC that we HAD to close....even though NO ONE on AUC staff, faculty, or students had the Swine Flu. (Really the Egyptian Gov. was just being the big mean bully on the play ground) Will this help the situation at all. I would say, very confidently, no. First, all of the students are now going to travel...so they will come in contact with more germs than if they had stayed in school. Second, the Egyptian government has pretty much screwed over their own country for the next century because they are preventing their future leaders from going to school and getting an education...and they need to go to school so they don't make these same decisions. (I was SO SHOCKED they it was so easy for them to cancel schools like that. They barely batted an eye)

So I am currently planning a trip with some of my friends...I hope it works out! Right now we are thinking about going to Istanbul and Athens...about four days in each. I should be getting a price quote tomorrow and we will see if it is monetarily possible! But this weekend I am going to Luxor and Aswan in Upper Egypt (aka South Egypt...I know it's weird but thats how it works)

Wish me luck with trip planning! and I will be sure to keep you updated!

xoxo
~S

September 14, 2009

Hashish in Egypt

I know everyone who I go to school with who reads this blog is now going, "YES SARAH IS FINALLY GOING TO TALK ABOUT SOMETHING COOL AND INTERESTING!!!! HASHISH!!!"

And if that means nothing to you check out the Wikipedia!

But I am sorry to disappoint my friends...this isn't going to be about Pot it is going to be about grass...the green stuff on the ground everywhere back at home...not a synonym for pot (fyi Hashish literally means grass in Arabic)

When you see grass over here; you know that someone takes really REALLY good care of that patch of grass. They have timers set to water the grass every day. You always see people walking around it...I often wonder if they are talking to the grass saying, "Come on grass YOU CAN DO IT!!!!!!!!" The school has a tiny riding mower they use to mow that little patch of grass right by the entrance to the school...and you KNOW they are so proud of that grass.

But today on my way to class sadly the small patch of grass on campus has turned brown. They were trying to water it and revitalize it....however, the status of the grass remains unknown but I will keep you updated if there are any drastic changes.

xoxo
~S

September 13, 2009

Dit Dit Dit

Three simple words which mean so much to me!

Last night the Pink Boa had its last party and with the ending of that amazing institution I feel like I need to give thanks to all the the amazing people who have graced that hallowed ground.

Until college I was never able to be truly and completely myself. However, the amazing people I met at St. Mary's and the amazing alum from SMCM have pushed me to finally be comfortable with being me. Thank you so much....and you know who you are! Some of you I knew about even before I met you...and I am so happy you came into my life and blasted away so many of my previous conceptions of the world. Some of you came into my life through others and I couldn't be more grateful for all that you have taught me.

I would not change anything I have done in my life, even the bad things, because they brought me to you.

I miss you all and wish I could have been there with you to hear Dit Dit Dit one more time in the crocodile tears color room! You all are my best friends and my family. Many Kisses and Many Hugs!

xoxo
~Sarah

September 8, 2009

Ketchup

(pre warning I accidently hit the italics button and can't get it to turn off and be normal...I'm sorry) 


Yeah....so Ketchup. Every time I order food on campus I am given 5 packets of ketchup.....and I have no idea why! Order pizza, I get ketchup. Order a turkey and cheese sandwich, I get ketchup. Order spaghetti.....and they give you ketchup. WHY?? Especially with foods like pizza, and spaghetti, why? One time I got pizza and I told the guy no ketchup....and he started laughing at me. I don't know why. Maybe they think Americans really like ketchup on everything because they are always trying to give it to us. 


Sometimes when they give you your food they say, "We give you special American ketchup!" (meaning Heinz....but it is all Heinz ketchup...so then I get confused....am I being hit on through ketchup innuendo???) I don't know.


In conclusion I want to know if Egyptians think that Americans REALLY like ketchup. Because right now I would totally say that they do. 


xoxo
~S

September 7, 2009

We need to chat

Things work a lot differently here in Cairo. To put it eloquently...time here is not something that you see on a clock. It cannot be measured. It is in the sky. Especially with it being Ramadan right now everyone looks up at the sky to see when the sun will rise to stop eating, and when the sun will set to start their feasts. Ramadan is never a Grecian calendar month; it is a lunar month. It begins with the moon disappears and ends when it fades away again.

So yeah I know this sounds pretty and cool and all but what I am trying to get at is a minute...in no way means an American minute. Here 1 minute=15 minutes and tomorrow means 3 days from now. It was annoying at first. Then I thought it was kinda adorable. (In the cliche oh look at how relaxed their culture is compared to the GO GO GO type of lifestyle they have in the United States.) But it has become annoying again.

WARNING here comes the part where I vent so if you don't want to here me complain then stop reading!

So I got here and my door didn't close. It took them 4 days to make that happen.
Then when my door closed I couldn't open it with my ID. It took them 3 days to make that happen.
Today I forgot my phone in a classroom. I asked 6 security guards to open the door for me so I could go in and get it. NONE OF THEM HAD KEYS and the guy with keys wasn't coming back until after Iftar (8:30). But I did eventually get it back.

Okay thats my time rant. On to other subjects.

Also they suggested that the international students bring travelers checks with them....but there is no place to cash them on campus (the bank wont do it) and so I don't know what to do.

The fire alarm keeps going off EVERYDAY (a few times it went off in the middle of the night....the night before classes started it went off at 2 am). But they have people come and fix it every day with no avail.

Until two days ago the fire alarms all chirped in our rooms. Then after the alarm went off at 2 am the other day they started again. (They just stopped chirping today at 4 o'clock! YAY)

Then the school sent out two different and conflicting Ramadan schedules (we need a different schedule to accommodate Iftar). Which left both students and PROFESSORS confused about when classes even started. Today I waited for 30 min before my professor came because he had the wrong time for that class.

I went to add Intro to Political Science today because I need it to graduate and I figured why not take it here since their Poli Sci department is awesome. But the women who helped me was (pardon my language) but she was a bitch. She told me that I could not take the course because it was a 100 level course and I was a Junior and only Freshman could take them. (and she wouldn't even listen to me when I said that I needed the class and my school would accept it for credit.) Then asked me what my major was and suggested a class. I asked what it was about and she THREW the course catalogue at me and told me, "Look it up yourself! AND MAKE IT QUICK!". I just said yes to the class. But I got back to my room and e-mailed my school and they said it wouldn't count as the poli sci class that I need to take to graduate. So the wonderful women at SMCM who takes care of credit transfers wrote a letter for me to show AUC saying that I need this class. I really hope they let me in!!!!

(All I know is that I can be REALLY grateful that I don't ride a bus...or this list would be MUCH longer!!!)

I really love St. Mary's so much right now! This place is beautiful and looks amazing. But it can't function! (I mean even the professors didn't know what was going on!!!!!!) A few problems are excusable. Everyone makes mistakes. But really look at this list! How can this many things go wrong when I have only been here for ten days. I really hope things get better. I have faith that they will when classes get started. But if this continues I don't know if I can take it.

~S

September 6, 2009

First Day of Class

I had my first day of class today and I think that everything will go smoothly. The only thing that I am worried about is understanding my professors through their accents. Also after looking at the silibi (SP??)that I have gotten so far I think that classes here are a lot less work than they are back home. I'm not complaining. But I am worried that I will have too much time on my hands. I think I am also going to try to add another class so I will be taking 5 classes.

Things were a bit crazy today because the school sent out two different Ramadan schedules. So no one was really sure about when they were supposed to have class and some people didn't even know that the Ramadan schedule even existed. It was slightly chaotic...but then everything here is always a bit out of order. You get used to it. I think that this trip will make me less anxious all the time....Or just cause me to have a mental break down. :-P

Thats pretty much everything for now. I know I said I would write about my Bedouin Night....but I'm not really feelin' it right now. I promise I will! Maybe on Tuesday when I don't have class. Oh thats another think thats kinda weird. The school week here is goofy. I have classes on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Tuesday there are no classes and our weekend is Friday and Saturday. It is defiantly going to take some getting used to!

Much Love
~S

September 4, 2009

Internet in the Desert is not Reliable

Hi Everyone! Sorry that it has been a few days since I last posted. Things got busy on campus and my internet was down for a few days. But everything is fine now! Inshallah things will be fine for the rest of the semester.

I have had 4 days of my Survival Arabic class and have learned A LOT! I often find myself wanting to speak in Spanish. I have no clue why. I rarely try to speak English. But I keep thinking and wanting to respond in Spanish. On the positive side of things; I can sound out words and say them when I see them written in Arabic. I can count to 10...100 if I am awake and alert. I can say, "Hi" and "Good Bye", as well as have a few simple conversations about things like food, and prices of food/taxi fair. I am really happy that I took this class because it gave me something to do during the day and made me get my body on Egypt time. ( I still know people who are staying up until 6 am and then sleeping until 2 pm.)

Monday was pretty uneventful except for a trip into town...which became a trip to City Stars. We got into town on the AUC bus. Then found out that the next bus back to the school wasn't until Midnight. (and if you know me I am totally not an evening person.) So my friend Alison and I got a cab and went to City Stars. The cab ride was CRAZY! Picture rush hour DC traffic....with no lines on the road....and a cab driver who is young and willing to take risks. We were weaving all over the place. Making lanes (well there are no lanes....but if there were, we would have been making new ones). I am positive that riding in a cab in NYC after this trip will be a piece of cake! (There were a few times where we were so close to the car next to us that I could touch them IN THE CAR without any effort...it was an interesting experience) But none the less these guys seem like they know what they are doing.

Then we got to City Stars. (City Stars is a HUGH 7 story mall in Cairo. Name a store and they have it!) I had arranged to be taken back to school by Sarah (who totally saved me that night! THANK YOU SO MUCH!) and so while she was eating dinner we wandered around and checked out the stores. I was shocked to find quite a few Lingerie stores. What was defiantly the weirdest part of the experience was during Iftar the whole mall was empty. All the stores closed and everyone headed to the food court. WHICH WAS PACKED!! There were no seats so people were sitting on the stairs and on the floor. Also what I thought was pretty wild is that there is a place to pray in the mall itself. So maybe Monday was more interesting then I thought! :-)

On Tuesday I went to Khan el Kahlily Bazaar and it was AMAZING. (the bus driver got lost on the way there...which is not uncommon...and so we only got to spend and hour there but it was worth it!) I got a scarf which is so pretty. (I love bargaining for things!) They had lamps everywhere that reminded me of Aladdin. Tons and Tons of trinkets, scarfs, rugs, ornate boxes, and lamps. (This is totally where I am going to get souvenirs!) In order to keep track of everyone in the bazaar people looked for blonde heads. If you got separated from the group you just needed to spot a yellow head and head that direction! At the end of the evening we chilled at the coffee/Shesha bar until to bus came. I had fresh Mango juice. Words cannot describe how good it was! The tea was also wonderful and so different from the states. When we were getting ready to leave we attracted a lot of attention. Nothing bad, just a lot of waving and people saying "Welcome!". (The kids seemed the most amused by all of us!)

Wednesday was fun. After class the school provided us with Iftar and entertainment. The food was AMAZING!!! Mostly because I got to eat veggies!!! I MISS VEGGIES SO MUCH! The food here is very meat heavy, very good...but lots of meat. They set up a stage by the library and tons of tables for all of the international students and first year students. We had greenbeans, carrots, and peas. As well as chicken, beef sausage, and rice. I had water, pepsi and apricot juice to drink (IT WAS YUMMY). For desert we had pudding with nuts in it. I was full and happy!

After we ate a club on campus played a movie they made. It was supposed to show arab history through time and be a comedy. But everyone at my table got distracted when in the first 5 minutes of the show they had characters appear in black face. I was sitting at a table with 7 students (2 were African American) and 3 profs. All of the students were staring with their mouths open. The profs didn't react. So an interesting conversation got started about how, yes minstrel shows are not part of Arab history. Therefore, they probably don't realize how offensive black face is. But still, it really hit a nerve, and we all had a MAJOR case of culture shock. (Not being able to flush toilet paper was odd but you get over it. Seeing people in black face and no one reacting but the Americans. Was really weird because that ideas is so ingrained into out culture. But it is in no way present here.) Afterwards they had a DJ come and play music. It was fun to watch people dance because they don't touch each other. (They kind of hop) I found it amusing.

Yesterday I had a Bedouin night....but this post has gotten LONG so it will just have to be by itself!

MUCH LOVE!
~S

P.S. Hopefully I will be able to figure out how to post pictures with my blog soon!

September 1, 2009

What's on the Agenda

Here is what I will be up to for the next few days!

I had my first day of Survival Arabic today! I can now say hi 3 different ways and goodbye 3 different ways. I can say where I am from and how to say my name. I also learned numbers and letters...kinda (we went through it REALLY quickly so I am not sure how much of it will stick. I know I will have it after the first semester though!) I think that the class will be very helpful and the people who aren't taking the class are pretty much hating life right now because they are running out of things to do.

I also have a few trips planned for the next few days.

Tonight I am going to Khan El Khalily. Khan El Khalily is a market in downtown Cairo. We are going at 9:00 pm I know it sounds late but that is early for most people here. I have been at a grocery store at midnight and there were whole families there and I mean everyone! (little babies is strollers, toddlers...) I think that Cairo is really the city that never sleeps!

Tomorrow I am hopefully going on the Nile River Cruise. But the bus leaves at 5 from Zamaleck and I have class until 5:30 tomorrow....so I might be going I might not be. It all depends on the bus system which can be pretty chaotic around here and if I can get out of class early. I really want to go though! I have heard only amazing things about them. I would be going for Iftar, and while we are there there would be tons of entertainment!

Then Thursday I am going to do a Bedouin Night out in the desert! We go and eat dinner then ride horses....I'm not really sure of all the details I have just heard that it is absolutely amazing.

Sadly I can't do the pyramids on Friday because of my class :-( I am really sad about that. I REALLY REALLY REALLY want to go. But it is at the same time my class is. I think a group of people that I have met are going to go to the pyramids on a weekend later in the semester when it is cooler so I will defiantly jump on that!

Lastly I am on the waiting list (2nd in line!! I REALLY hope that I get to go on this trip!!) to go to Luxor and Aswan. It is a 4 day 3 night trip to so many places further south in Egypt.

I guess that is all for now. I am also planning to go up to Alexandria one day with some friends in the future as well. I hope that everyone is having fun back at home!

Much Love,
~S

Comments and Concerns

Things overall are going well here. I have figured out how to eat while I am on campus. It is kind of annoying though because I don't have a meal plan so everything that I eat I have to buy out of pocket every day. This also means that I am slightly concerned about having enough money to do everything that I want to while I am here....but I think I will be okay. I found a way to get to a grocery store using the bus system here on campus. In order to save money I think that I will buy breakfast things and some snack things there. So at the most I need to only buy 2 meals on campus a day.

I still don't know how to change in travelers checks. I'm going to go to the bank on campus today and try to figure that out. This is VERY important because I am running out of money! (between buying food, and school supplies, and a down payment for a trip I'm actually currently a bit short to buy a bus pass...I have the money it is just in travelers checks at the moment.) OH! and I am really not happy that I have to pay 300 LE ($60) to get a student visa! My travelers visa is good for 6 months but apparently I still need to get a student one.

My door now shuts! But my ID won't open my door....and we don't know why because I got a new ID but it still doesn't work! Therefore the problem must be in the door itself. We will just have to wait and see how that pans out.

I was quickly typing this as a way to distract myself from going to my crash course in Arabic...but that starts at 10 and I need to find the building it is in! So I am off to class! HI to everyone back in the states!!! Especially everyone at SMCM! I miss you all so much and I don't think I realized how much that place meant to me until I was away from it.

Much Love,
~S

August 30, 2009

Iftar And My Busy Day About Campus!

Iftar was so yummy! There were chicken cutlets, beef, stuffed cabbage, Okra in a stew type thing, Pigeons (Yup whole pigeons...which are actually quite yummy), stuffed eggplant, something that looked kinda like macaroni and cheese but it wasn't macaroni and cheese, and so much more that I can't even remember right now! I ate with Sarah's fathers side of the family and met some of her Aunts, Uncles, and Cousins. They were all really wonderful and spoke really good English. Her one cousin, Mona, from New Jersey (currently living and working in Egypt) was a trip. Sarah's son Dudu was playing with Mona's iPhone and wanted music (He actually asked if Mona had Barney on her iPhone...it was really adorable). So Mona put on Single Ladies by Beyonce and Dudu and Helima started dancing and swaying back and forth. I started laughing and thinking about all the different places I had heard that song in the states! I loved it! It was one of the best moments so far here.

Then we got back to campus and the guards at the gate were joking around with me asking if I had a bomb in my purse. But they don't speak english so they were making gestures and saying BOOM! It was pretty wonderful!

Then woke up early this morning to do orientation things. Which included getting a bag that looks like a laptop case filled with stuff about the school...finally a map and some sort of to do list. So then I signed up for a tour...which I left half way through because the tour group was HUGE and the guy was just walking really really fast and talking as he went. So I couldn't hardly hear anything and I was learning enough just wandering around. Then a group of girls I met and I went to get some lunch at a place here on campus (Sarah you were right to food is good!). Then I spent the rest of the day doing little things like getting an ID card (which took FOREVER and I was so happy to be done with!), and figuring out my schedule.

Oh and BIG NEWS. I went to Residence Life again today and I talked to the Dean (who gave me her mobile phone number to call if my door wasn't fixed today) who finally got someone to come look at my door. The guy tried to close it once...said I need to come back tomorrow then left. (I felt so defeated.) Then I was hanging out tonight and the guy who was activating ID cards saw me and asked about my door. I said it wasn't closing still. So he came up and FIXED MY DOOR! YAY Then I shut it. Escorted him out of the girls area. Went upstairs. Tried to open my door with my ID. It didn't work. I ran downstairs. He came up. Tried to make it work. Then said that my ID had a flaw in it. I have to get a new one tomorrow. (Thats what I get for thinking I was done with ID chaos) I'm going to get up at 8am tomorrow and go right to the ID place and hopefully get one that actually works!

Thats about all thats going on here now. There are some more interesting things that I want to talk about but this is getting REALLY long. So I'm going to say by now!

MUCH LOVE
~S

August 29, 2009

My first day about town!

Hello everyone! Today an ex student of my Aunts from Bahrain came to pick me up at school and take me out to get what I need. She has two adorable kids a boy (whose actual name I am not going to even try to write) his nickname is Dudu and a little girl Helima. We went and got an Egyptian SIM card for my phone (YAY!!!!) so now I can talk to people here! (This would have been helpful today because I was waiting for Sarah to pick me up; but we ended up at different gates!!! I had to ask someone to borrow their phone to give her a ring...but we found each other!) Then we went to a stationary store (think staples but crammed into a dorm sized room) and I got the school supplies that I needed. (The only thing that I didn't get but I can live without while I'm here is a hair dryer. I fried mine this morning because I forgot to change it to work on the 220 power that they have here. So if you want a good christmas present idea a hair dryer would be wonderful!!! hint hint)

We then went back to her Mother's house where she is staying with her husband and kids until they find a place in Cairo. (They are moving to Cairo from Alexandria) She fed me pizza, which was wonderful because I had only had granola bars all day. She helped me get my phone back into English (from Portuguese Thank You Jess! See I'm a million miles away from you...yet you are in my life every day!) and put minutes onto my phone.

Then we came back to campus! I am writing you this before she picks me up again for Iftar tonight (literally translated it means breakfast...it is when they break the fast of Ramadan). So more food to come! Thank goodness because nothing is open yet here on campus.

I learned some interesting things today about AUC though. All of the roads leading up to the campus are newly paved...becuase Obama was coming through and they wanted it to be nice for him to drive on. There is no masque on AUC campus (this makes me sad because I wanted to hear the calls to prayer. I heard them this afternoon at Sarah's though!). AUC is located in the Desert. Like literally this part of Cairo is being reclaimed and turned into a sew suburb. So 5 years ago I would be in the middle of the Desert. This explains why I saw SOOOOOO much sand on the way here. Everything is changing and being built up. Sarah told me that the city is nothing like what it is like here it is very crowded and chaotic.

My two worries for the coming days are that I figure out this food thing until things get going on campus....and that my door gets fixed! (My door doesn't close all the way so I can't lock it!)

Much love to everyone back home!
xoxoxo
~S

I'm in Egypt

Hi Everyone! This will be my first full day in Egypt! I can't wait! My room is quite large there is a lofted bed a large L shaped desk, a wardrobe, and some shelves. But lets start back on the airplane! The flight went well! I remember flying over the Mediterranean Sea and seeing the coast of Africa for the first time. It was pretty and slightly dotted with clouds. Then the closer we got to Cairo and the farther we got away from the water the more the sky changes to a weird gray, tan, pink color. (I am assuming it was the dust in the air...hoping it wasn't pollution! lol) The land looked like what you would expect...large expanses of sand dotted with attempts as growing things and little villages.

All my luggage made it and after waiting for a bit for everyone to figure out what was going on we piled into a van to take us to the school. (and I mean pile) We fit about 14 college students....as well as their luggage into a slightly larger than normal size van. (I took pictures. They will be up later) We drove around for a bit and learned that if you plan of going anywhere in Egypt U turns will be made. (I don't know why but in order to get out of the airport I think we took 3 U turns!) Then we got to campus...when through security AGAIN and were able to get into our rooms. I am in Unit 12: each unit has 3 floors and the roof is a porch area. My floor has 3 doubles on it and one single. (I still don't have a roommate but hopefully I will be getting one today!) The bathroom is nice: two sinks, two toilets, and two showers (and these showers are BIG). The school is beautiful and I can't wait to explore it later!!!

I did get really frustrated when I couldn't get the internets working last night but finally they are up and running! For some reason the fire alarm went off at 11 pm last night and again this morning...no one will tell me why. But I see people doing work on something outside so that might be the cause.

I miss home A LOT! But I am really hoping that this semester goes well!! I miss everyone back in the states so very much! I LOVE YOU ALL!