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 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.



  1. Sarah, I just love your blog. I'm sorry that you are going through some rough times adjusting to things over there, but I think you are right that things can only get better. Or... at least, they'll bother you less. :)

    Anyway, your first paragraph is this blog post was so eloquent and right on. I really liked it. Some of the things you write about remind me of India. Even here in the US, some of our Indian friends will say... "They are on Indian time" when a couple is an hour late for a potluck dinner. It's just so less rigid than what we are used to here. It sounds like you are learning a lot culturally... even though your classes may be a little less academically challenging. Enjoy your time there! At some point in the future, you will really treasure it. Keep writing and take care!

  2. re: traveller's checks. I used them when I was in Japan and quickly realized they were a huge hassle, so, lesson learned.

    Banks are supposed to cash them. You usually need to fill out a form and provide your passport. Try an off-campus bank (despite not speaking Japanese, I managed to do it within the first week of classes). If you're still having trouble, call the issuer of the checks (American Express, right?) and ask for help.

    In my future travels abroad I didn't bother with the checks. Figured out pretty quickly that my ATM card worked almost everywhere. That might also be the case in Cairo. Try it out! (buuut you might need to find an international ATM - in Asia, they're in convenience stores - when in doubt, Google!)

    Also, woah, hey, I miss you! Focus on the awesomeness that is Egypt, and keep writing about all the excellent things you're doing!

  3. Oh, and if it's any consolation, I spent at least a quarter of my semester abroad in a protracted meltdown about "WTF I'M IN JAPAN THIS IS DIFFERENT AND HARD." It's totally normal, and you can feel free to talk to me or any of the rest of us who've studied abroad and can relate to the frustrations! :)

  4. Hahaha. In Tunisia we called it "Inch'allah time" (because you know how whenever they talk about something in the future, even if it's something as regular as a sunrise, it has to be followed by "Inch'allah").

    Look at it this way: at least you're getting a funny blog entry out of your ordeals. :-)