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 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!!!


November 22, 2009

The Red 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,

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

November 19, 2009

The Red 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 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 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 

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

November 11, 2009


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.


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)


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????