Keep your fingers crossed!

So in November I applied for a travel writing scholarship with World Nomads. The winner gets an all expenses paid 11 day trip to Japan in February to shadow a professional travel writer from Rough Guides and write their own chapter in the Rough Guide to Japan. I wasn't expecting to win, but my goal was to make the shortlist. Today I got word that I did, in fact, make the short list of 18 selected from hundreds of entries. The winner will be announced January 8 and the trip starts Feb 15. I've included my entry, which consists of a paragraph stating why I should win the trip, and a 500 word essary written on the prompt "A Strange Experience Involving Food in a Foreign Culture". I've also included the website, if you care to look. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

The original guidelines and info:

The short list:

Why I should get the scholarship:

I was raised a military dependent and have travelled all over the world, which has cultivated in me an insatiable, obsessive wanderlust. I consider myself a "third-culture kid"; I have the wonderful ability to fit in nearly anywhere on the planet, but lack strong roots in any one place. I have lived in Japan in elementary school, which I believe is an advantage as it was long enough ago that the novelty of travelling there would not be lost on me, but I have a basic knowledge of customs and social norms which would give me a foundation to build upon for my writing. I have a passion for language and writing; I am conversational in over five languages. I would love to work as a travel writer one day and combine my restless feet and my need to document everything I experience. This would be an incredible opportunity to introduce me to the world of travel writing and give me invaluable experience. My eventual goal is to write travel guides focusing on the Middle East/ North Africa which would help steer the reader through and illuminate beautiful, ancient and often misunderstood cultures.

The essay:

I looked down at the bun in my hand, cradled in a greasy brown paper, with a mixture of horror and awe. Overstuffed, meat, gelatinous fat, and a curious unknown brown substance oozed out of both ends. I was in Fez, Morocco, where I had been living and studying for the summer, on a weekend excursion to the market. I had been warned about "street meat" over and over, and over and over my stomach had suffered unspeakable devastation for my impudence. Here I was, yet again, on the verge of gastrointestinal desolation, holding a sheep's head sandwich, bought from a haphazardly-constructed kiosk picked at random among the rows which lined the walkway out of the souk. My friends gathered around me, convinced I would not eat it. Testing the proverbial waters, I cautiously squeezed the now-soggy bun. With a deliciously grotesque squish, a mess of brown and gray slop streamed out of the bun and splattered all over my worn sandals. I swallowed hard upon noticing a patch of sticky black hair which had adhered itself to my pant leg. Slowly, warily, I put the bun to my mouth, hesitated, and sunk my teeth into the sandwich. Tearing off the first bite, I reported to my friends that it was delicious, and they were obviously missing out. Emboldened, I hastily bit into the sandwich again. There was a glutinous, cold explosion which drenched my entire mouth in a bitter, basic taste: an eyeball. The vendor, having kept a watchful eye on me throughout the ordeal, offered me a bit of toilet paper to use as a napkin. I wiped the eyeball fluid off my chin and weakly returned the thumbs-up he offered, assuring him in Arabic that it was, in fact, the best sheep's head sandwich I had ever had. Briefly I considered giving up; I had tried it, and this sheep had defeated me from beyond the grave. It was then that a sympathetic friend of mine pulled a small bottle of Texas Pete Hot Sauce from her bag, which I snatched and doused all over the offending sandwich. Suddenly, the scorching summer fog of pollution cleared, the Saharan sun seemed to oppress me less, and all was right with the medina. This sheep's head was, unbelievably, delicious! It took me less than a minute to devour the remaining sandwich. Even pulling a small, sharp piece of skull from my mouth could not dissuade me from my savory endeavor. Shocked, my friends stood speechless as I licked my fingers, one by one. Then, in a collective group, they all turned to the vendor and ordered their own sheep's head sandwiches. Contented, with my stomach already beginning to collapse upon itself in cartwheels and acrobatics stomachs are most definitely not supposed to participate in, I mused to myself about my victory over my opponent from the East, parallel to the journey I had begun. Like all the very best things in life, it simply needed a little spice.


Never before has someone spoken to me with such hatred in their voice.

I live in a region of the world many often mistakenly associate with evil and malevolence...

...and yet it was only in coming back to America that I found such hate.

Life here is so complicated.

The one that got away

Today I miss him.

It's days like these I spend with my head in my hands, wondering what could have been if I had been content to just go with the flow; not challenged the status quo; accept a normal, safe-yet-stale existence in the Southeast United States. Staring out my window, at the crescent moon, cradling a single star, hanging just above the distant lights of downtown Cairo, effectively transforming the entire city into one blazing, beautiful mosque, I can't help but wonder "what if?" What if I had been less headstrong? What if he had asked me to stay? What if I said yes? What if he had loved me more? I remember one night, shamelessly drunk and standing before him in my purple formal gown, begging him to tell me to stay- for him, for us. I think he loved me enough to refuse, if only because he didn't love me enough to promise that my choice to stay in America would be worth it.

That moon that I'm looking up at has not even thought about rising in his sky yet. 10 AM in his world, where he is comfortably wrapped in the security of the life he has chosen: safe, logical, familiar. That life seems so far from me now, a distant memory, a shadow, a fog. And here I sit smoking on the roof of a building he has never seen, could never imagine, will never know. Is it possible that we have two such opposite realities now?

Today I miss him.

Today I think of the plans we tried to make together, plans for a life together which seemed unavoidable in its rationality. Now, however, I see we were vainly pulling the ends of fraying, mismatched strings, too far apart to be joined; an exercise in futility. Today I think of the plans that remain: innocent, simple, uncomplicated, unambitious. What if, what if, what if?

I would have stayed if he had asked me. I would not know this building, this moon, this country, this life. A sacrifice I was not asked to make. But what did I end up sacrificing for this building, this moon, this country, this life? This man, this friend, these plans, that future, those possibilities.

Was it worth it?

Yes, I think perhaps it was. This world, my new world, has been beckoning me, silently pulling me towards her for too long; she would not be ignored. She wanted me more than he did. I could never have been content in his world, his safe, predictable existence. I know this.

But today I miss him.


Fall 2009 Semester = DUNZO.



I have sand in my nose, eyes, mouth, and ears.

The sand fills the air; I cannot see the sun.

How appropriate for finals week.

I'm going back to bed.





Tell me did you think we'd all dream the same?

Isn't it funny the way your passions and goals evolve over time? Have you ever stopped and taken stock of the ways you've grown and changed? Because the past two years of my life have been spent in constant motion- spent bouncing around between Virginia, Alabama, Morocco, Georgia, and Egypt- I have been pretty aware of the changes I've undergone as I have matured and experienced things. But it was only just now that I really started thinking and taking stock of my own personal evolution, in the context of career goals in particular, over the course of my entire life. It's a pretty interesting path.

When I was four, during my bath, I told my mom I wanted to be a model. She smiled encouragingly, at which point I dashed out of the bath, sopping wet and butt naked, to the front door, where I stuck my little four year old leg out the door provocatively, showgirl style. I returned to the bathroom and corrected myself: "A NUDE model."

A few months later, I amended this goal to include bricklaying. A nude bricklayer/model. Isn't that just a centerfold waiting to happen?

A few years later, I wrote a letter to American Girl Magazine [remember them?] imploring them to help me figure out how to become a successful child actor. After all, I wrote, I was much better at acting than all of the girls on the Disney channel..this was my destiny! I also bought all the Harriet the Spy spy equipment and considered becoming an international sleuth.

After a brief, not-so-successful child modelling career in Japan, I decided I very much needed to be a model, get rich, and be on billboards.

Along with three friends in Hawaii, I formed a band called Crush. At the age of 10, I was convinced Crush was the next Spice Girls. Anyone who has heard me sing will attest to the fact that I cannot carry a tune in a bucket.

In middle school I briefly considered joining the Army one day. Fashion designer and best-selling writer followed.

In high school my main goal was to find a husband and get married, and I almost succeeded- twice. My two high school sweethearts both proclaimed their intent to marry me, and at one point I had a real diamond ring on my finger. Looking back, I can't help but laugh at how silly it all was and marvel at how unhappy I would be now had I gone through with those plans.

When I realized I would, at some point, have to have a job, I dreamt of opening my own all-star cheerleading gym or becoming a fashion marketing executive.

As college loomed closer and I began to become more acutely aware of world events, I coupled my love of writing with my support for the American military, and began laying plans to become a wartime correspondent. Little did I know that this interest would blossom into a love of the Middle East and one day lead me to Morocco and Egypt.

To make that dream a reality, I began taking Arabic classes my first semester of college. As I fell in love with the language, I adjusted my plans to include working for the American governemnt and routinely pushed myself to the brink of a breakdown as I began transforming myself into the ideal candidate- restricting my behavior, learning to supress my emotions, devouring every bit of information on the Middle East that I could get my hands on.

Morocco reintroduced me to the beauty of the world, reawakened my senses and my imagination, forced me to remember that life was meant to be really LIVED and not just controlled in pursuit of some distant goal. My plans, so strict and without room for deviation, relaxed and once again I became the author of my plans rather than a cog in the machine propelling me towards some far-off goal. Sure, my plan was much less focused, but I was happier and healthier than I had been in a long time, much more at peace with myself and my future, whatever it may be.

Today my dreams are open and endless, but firmly rooted in the Middle East, this beautiful, crazy, terribly, mysterious, misunderstood corner of the earth that I now call home. I would still be honored to one day serve my country working in an embassy in the Middle East or North Africa, but certainly not at the cost of denying myself the amazing experiences I want to have first. I am determined to experience the world on my own terms, in every conceivable way, beforehand. And if that doesn't work out? I would be more than happy to commit my life to working for any number of beautiful nonprofit organizations devoted to bettering the world I love so much. Or perhaps I will be a travel writer, specializing in ME/NA, sharing with the world this beautiful culture that has so captivated my mind and my heart. We'll see what happens.

I guess this was a long-winded way of saying this: Life is beautiful; the world is beautiful; change is beautiful. Personal evolution is healthy and inevitable and so necessary. Your life is your own; let your cast-off plans become a foundation upon which to build bigger, better dreams; take the broken shards of your old dreams and build beautiful dream mosaic masterpieces. You are the author of your own plan; write "vivid sentences in a bold hand".

She yearned for tropical climes, cruel suns, purple horizons..

This here is a literary post! Relating to my life in the Middle East! Holy f! This is rapidly evolving into some strange diasporic lifestyle blog..I even have a fashion post planned for the near future. How strange!

Anyway, now that I'm done talking about how rad my own blog is..

I am in a class at AUC called Modern Arabic Literature in Translation. The term "modern" is used somewhat loosely, and because I am one of only a handful of Americans in the class who is not enrolled in some type of Middle East history class concurrently with this one and is able to tie the historical landscape in with the period of the work, I have had a hard time relating to or enjoying most of the novels we've read.

A few weeks ago, though, changed that. In an uncommon bout of studious fever, I locked myself in my room and read over 200 pages for this class [way ahead of time, too!]. Once I got past the second page I couldn't tear my eyes away. I rushed through the novel, compulsively turning page after page, anxious to see the resolution. The second-to-last chapter was so powerful it actually caused my stomach to turn and a wave of nausea to come over me. I feel that any book well-written to the point of eliciting a physical response like that is a life-changing work. I can only describe it as an Arab interpretation of "Ethan Frome". Somehow, despite being translated from the original Arabic, it retains this very light, whimsical languistic feel and the way in which things are phrased is strikingly beautiful, which stands in stark contrast to the darkness of the work as a whole. The book is "Seasons of Migration to the North"; the translation by Denys Johnson-Davies is fantastic. Freaking read it.

I've included some of the more striking language from the book, because it is so beautifully worded it is begging to be read.

"..that just like us they are born and die, and in the journey from the cradle to the grave they dream dreams some of which come true and some of which are frustrated; that they fear the unknown, search for love and seek contentment in wife and child; that some are strong and some are weak; that some have been given more than they deserve by life, while others have been deprived by it.."

"There are many horizons that must be visited, fruit that must be plucked, books read, and white pages in the scrolls of life to be inscribed with vivid sentences in a bold hand."

"I feel that I am important, that I am continuous and integral. No, I am not a stone thrown into the water but seed sown in a field."

"The whole of the journey I savoured that feeling of being nowhere, alone, before and behind me either eternity or nothingness."

"I am the desert of thirst."

"Such a woman...knows no fear; they accept life with gaeity and curiousity. And I am a thirsty desert, a wilderness of southern desires."

"And I, like millions of mankind, walk and move, generally by force of habit, in a long caravan that ascends and descends, encamps, and then proceeds on its way. Life in this caravan is not altogether bad...The going may be hard day by day, the wildnerness sweeping out before us like shoreless seas; we pour with sweat, our throats are parched with thirst, and we reach the frontier beyond which we think we cannot go."

"The spectres of night dissolve with the dawn, the fever of day is cooled by the night breeze."

"But mysterious things in my soul and in my blood impel me towards faraway parts that loom up before me and cannot be ignored."

"I experience a sense of richness as though I am a note in the heartbeats of the very universe."

As a tangent, I've prepared a list of other books I consider "Life-Changing"*; mainly because I'm pretentious and think you'll rush out and read the books** I recommend. Humor me.

-The Island of Dr. Moreau
Ok, I'll just come right out and say it: I love HG Wells. Y3niyy, love love love him. He makes such fantastic social commentatries. The Island of Dr Moreau was terrifying and riveting and poignant..and just plain awesome. I also identified on some level with a man who lived through terrible things, wishing he was babck home in the civilized world where it was safe and predictable, and then finally getting back after so much stuggle and realizing he no longer belonged there because he had changed too much to go back. I fully understand experiencing something so outside your realm of understanding and wanting so badly to go back to things that are comfortable and safe, and getting there and realizing it had stayed the same and you had changed too much to go back to that stagnant life. I get chills just thinking about how well written it is. I could read it over and over again and find some new metaphor or symbolism every time.

-Into the Wild
This book is touching, and painfully tragic, but also inspiring. Chris McCandless wanted to live life on his own terms no matter what the cost, and that's what he did. So few people have the balls to really take their lives into their own hands and do what they want with it, to hell with those who don't understand. I was afraid when I recognized myself in the ill-fated main character-- he descended into the Alaskan wilderness to live his ultimate adventure, and I want to walk into the forests of Cambodia, build a teepee, and live naturally for an indefinite period. With every amazing adventure comes great risk, and this story is proof of it. But it is a beautiful adventure story, and the fact that it all really happened is sobering and humbling. I haven't seen the movie, but I doubt it could do Jon Krakauer's beautiful writing justice.

-The Time Machine
Once again, I love love love HG Wells' social commentaries. This one is a little more blatant than that of The Island of Dr Moreau- it paints a dark picture of the future of civilization, given the propensity we as humans have for dividing classes and lording over one another. It is terrifyingly poignant, and I have forced it upon some of my nearest and dearest [sorry, Kenny!].

-Lord of the Flies
I read Lord of the Flies the summer before sophomore year, and have remembered it nearly word for word [especially the last few pages] ever since. Yet another social commentary on the futility of war, the ending is sad and beautiful all at the same time. I don't want to give it away for those of you who haven't read it..but the realization of the children at the end is the realization I feel we as people will have one day standing before some greater power than ourselves- silly, embarrassing, afraid, remorseful for the things we have done which seemed so important at the time but end up having been in vain.

-Tales of a Female Nomad
This is the book that validated all my desires to break free of the social norm and gallavant around the world, seeing and doing things on my own terms. It is really inspiring; a woman who took her divorce with grace and dignity and used it as a catalyst to change her life, travelling the world, coming and going as she pleased, doing incredible things and meeting amazing people along the way. I made my mom read it in the hopes that it would help her better understand my obsessive wanderlust. It really was life-changing for me, and helped me form a better idea of what I want out of life, to understand that a life lived on anyone else's terms is a life wasted.

-Animal Farm
Like Lord of the Flies, I read this book in the 9th grade and the message behind it still resonates with me today: those who are oppressed or colonized will eventually revolt, but not without taking on some of the characteristics of their oppressors in order to beat them, sparking a vicious cycle which inevitably leads to destruction. While the message is more overt than in some of the other books I've listed with social commentaries, it is every bit as thought-provoking and insightful, and still relevant even though times have changed since it was written in 1945.

*I also consider "Ethan Frome" one of these, but seeing as I've already mentioned it, I didn't want to be redundant and include it in the list. You're welcome.
**Yeah, ok, some of them are short stories or novellas. Whatever.

It's funny how time and distance change you..the road you take don't always lead you home

I moved for the first time when I was nine days old. Since then, my life has been one of constant motion. By the time I graduated from high school, I had been to ten different schools, and spent most of my formative years outside the contiguous United States, living in Japan and Hawaii. When I got to college in Tuscaloosa and the prospect of staying put for four years became a reality, I got restless again, and now here I am, sitting in my room in Cairo, Egypt, typing this. Which all leads me to December 22-- the day I fly "home" to America. I will be visiting friends and family in the states for almost five weeks before I come back to Cairo in January 28.
I've been progressively getting more anxious about returning to the States, mostly because I've come to the realization that it isn't "home" anymore. It's the place I used to call home; the world I left behind in search of something new. I'm excited to see my mom and dad and spend some much-needed time spoiling my precious nephew, but beyond that, I'm absolutely terrified. Terrified I won't have any fun plans for New Years. Terrified that all of my friends won't like me anymore or appreciate the changes I've made in my life. Terrified I'll come to the inevitable conclusion that I don't belong there anymore.
After all, the world didn't stop turning when I left Alabama. My friends' lives didnt halt, frozen in the moment I left them. They've all moved on, created lives that no longer include me. And while I hope that during the time I'm visiting Tuscaloosa, they'll be able to fit me back into their lives, I know the reality of visiting will be painful, albeit necessary. The two people I miss all day, every day, my best friends Murphy and Kenny, are preoccupied with getting ready to graduate, applying to grad school,and figuring out how to get out to Pasadena for the National Championship. None of these things include me. While I left my whole life behind when I came here, only a small part of their lives left. Sometimes I get my feelings hurt when they arent enthusiastic enough about Skyping with me or making plans for the time I'm back, but the truth is: their lives can't stop just because I decided to come back to the States to visit. I made the choice to leave, and I will have to accept the reality of the repercussions from that choice. Don't get me wrong; it was absolutely the right choice for me. But that doesn't make the realization of what I lost any less brutal. It's a very humbling thing to realize that the world doesn't revolve around me, like I was so convinced it did as a teenager, and that my best friends don't spend every waking moment waiting for my return. But that's life.
In the novella I just finished reading [and will soon be posting an entry about], Seasons of Migration to the North, the antagonist, Mustafa Saeed, a prodigy from the Sudan, leaves his homeland to get an education in Europe. One of the defining lines in the book is spoken by his lawyer at his trial for the murder of his wife "Mustafa a noble person whose mind was able to absorb Western civilization but it broke his heart." The reader draws the conclusion that the "infection" or spark on insanity which caused him to kill his wife came from the constant state of limbo Saeed was is- belonging to neither the North [Europe] or the South [the Sudan] anymore; a man without roots.
Sometimes I'm afraid this is the destiny I'm slowly moving towards. Not the killing people part, to be sure, but the slow decay of one's heart that happens when you do not really belong here nor there. America is no longer home, but I will never completely fit in in the Middle East. What space between, then, is left for me? Growing up an Army child, we had a picture that hung on the wall which said "Home is where the heart is". But where is my heart? Half of it is in Alabama, with Murphy and Kenny and the rest of my friends and family, but half of it is here, in Africa, the place which has been beckoning me, incessantly pulling me toward it, absorbing me into itself, for over two years. The bittersweet truth is that I am a "third-culture kid", with the uncanny ability to fit in everywhere, but nowhere at the same time.
So where do I belong? Where is home? The East or the West? When will I know?

AUC Registration Woes


I need a cigarette.

SEC Championship


32-13....Cry Tebow Cry!

National Championship here we come!!!

Roll Tide

So, this isn't technically about Egypt, but just go with me here.

For two years, I was privileged to go to the University of Alabama. I have always loved football, but didn't know much about any one team besides Georgia when I decided to attend UA, in the hopes of cheering there. Immediately I was immersed into the tradition and prestige of a southern football powerhouse with a dynastic history of domination and success. Everything about Alabama football enthralls me, but I've made a list of the things that I truly miss about it.

Seeing thousands of girls wearing houndstooth dresses.
"Phi Mu Loves the Tide" pins
Yelling "Roll Tide" with 90,000+ every time the Tide gets a first down.
Some girls [not me, of course ;)] duct-taping flasks to their inner thighs to smuggle them through the gates; watching them waddle to the bathroom where they promptly retrieve them and pour them into a plastic commemorative cup.
Watching frat pledges frantically collecting used cups for their bitchwork.
The Million Dollar Band at halftime.
Nearly getting into a fist fight with Utah fans on the walk...errr stumble to the Super Dome last year.
Pre-gaming in the shadow of Denny Chimes.
Lunch at Phi Mu, then walking across the street to Bryant Denny.
The Walk of Champions.
Waking up super early in the morning and going to open bar at a frat house, then concentrating so hard on walking to the stadium later.
Camping on the quad the night before a game.
Diehard fans who start staking out spots for their tents on Wednesday for a Saturday game.
The Homecoming parade.
Holding up four fingers at the end of the 3rd quarter with tens of thousands of other fans.
Setting records for ridiculous attendance at the A-Day game.
Watching the other team's fans empty out in the 3rd quarter when they realize hope is lost.
Tailgating at away games from 7am to 7pm.
Losing your voice for days after a big game.
College Gameday.
Seeing the score at the end of last year's Iron Bowl: 36-0, a score that will forever be etched into my memory.
Hearing Bear Bryant's voice before kickoff; the compulsory chill running down your spine.
Singing the fight song after a touchdown as the MDB plays.
Singing along with Sweet Home Alabama and Dixieland Delight.
Singing Rammer Jammer after a win.

This is Alabama football, and I love it, and I miss it so much.
Tomorrow night is the SEC Championship, and it will be on a real TV here in Egypt. My heart aches wishing I was there to watch the Tide roll in.
This is our year-- ROLL TIDE!

Yea Alabama

Yea, Alabama! Drown 'em Tide!
Every 'Bama man's behind you,
Hit your stride.
Go teach the Bulldogs to behave,
Send the Yellow Jackets to a watery grave.
And if a man starts to weaken,
That's a shame!
For Bama's pluck and grit have
Writ her name in Crimson flame.
Fight on, fight on, fight on men!
Remember the Rose Bowl, we'll win then.
So roll on to victory,
Hit your stride,
You're Dixie's football pride,
Crimson Tide, Roll Tide, Roll Tide!!

12 National Championships

1925 1926 1930 1934 1941 1961

1964 1965 1973 1978 1979 1992

Plus 21 Southeastern Conference titles, 52 Bowl Appearances, 17 enshrinees into the College Football Hall of Fame, 95 All-Americans, and the greatest football coach in history.

I miss Alabamy once again, and I think it's a sin...

Tiny Update

Classes have been suspended again and will resume on Dec 6, as opposed to the 1st. Not much of a difference, but it's nice to know that I will still have time to get all my stuff done after I get back from Jordan on the 30. Alhamdulelah!

Leaving for Jordan in about 12 hours! See you kids on the 30th!

Exciting News!

Thanksgiving break [it's actually a break for Eid al-Adha* here, which conveniently falls over the same period as Thanksgiving] starts tomorrow night. I had pretty much made up my mind to be boring and stay on campus to get work done, but I started changing my mind yesterday..after all, I'm living in Egypt. Yes, my schoolwork is important [and I'll get it all done], but the life experience I'm getting here is just as important. So tonight I took the plunge- Will and I splurged** and bought tickets to Amman, Jordan! Our flight leaves at 8am on the 26 and we will spend two days in Amman, and two days exploring the ancient city of Petra. We get back late the night of the 30. I am so, so excited for so many reasons..I have wanted to go to Petra for years! Also, while in Petra, we are planning a trip to the Dead Sea, which is something on my Life List. We were originally throwing around the idea of doing this trip the old-fashioned way: taking a bus from Cairo to Sharm el-Sheikh, then catching the ferry from Nueba, Egypt to Aqqaba, Jordan, and finally a taxi from Aqqaba to Petra. All of this would take an entire day each way and leave us with limited time in the country, as well as being fairly expensive. It would also be a fairly stressful process and our nerves would already be wearing then by the time we got to Jordan [I don't do well on long bus rides- they are uncomfortable and usually smelly, and a bus to Sharm is around 8 hours, plus the ferry to Jordan is supposed to be a pretty stressful experience]. Granted, the airfare was more expensive, but we will be saving countless hours and arguments. I am so, so, excited and cannot believe that in less than 36 hours I will be in Jordan! I will be back with lots of stories and pictures on the 30th! Take care!

*Eid al-Adha is the Muslim holiday which translates to "Festival of the Sacrifice". It is celebrated to commemorate the willingness of Ibrahim to sacrifice his son Ismael as an act of obedience to God.

**I should note that it was not I who splurged, but rather my parents. I am so blessed with parents who are so gracious and generous and who really believe in my passions and support my obsessive wanderlust. They are truly incredible people and I am beyond lucky to have them as my parents. They will never know how much I appreciate them and everything they do for me. This blog would not exist if not for their willingness to send me all over the world to learn and absorb all that I can. I am so very thankful. I love you Mom and Dad!

The Life List

Before I moved to Egypt, I started a list that was meant to be something like a "Bucket List", but was also intended to be a sweet joke for my parents promising I'd be okay living by myself in the Middle East which I planned to craft into a bittersweet, tear-evoking letter entitled "Reasons Why I Can't Get Blown Up Yet". Later on I decided against that, but the list has been growing and evolving ever since then. I have a page of notebook paper which contains the list, and also some quotes which I hold near and dear, that I keep folded up in my wallet. Most of the things will sound like random, cliched, idealistic bohemian tree-hugging wannabe-flowerchild, early 20's rambling, but each of the things on this list really mean a lot to me. Some of these things will take only seconds to accomplish, others years. But I genuinely plan on doing each and every one of them. So, without further ado, here it is:

The Life List

-Go to the Sudan and see the Nubian artifacts [which will all be destroyed within the next 5 years because of the dam being built there]
-Hike Kilimanjaro
-Walk on hot coals. Brag for years.
-Join the Peace Corps. Proceed to do awesome things for the world.
-Lie on a bed of nails. Brag for years.
-Live in a teepee in the jungle. Be dirty.
-Hike Tiger Leaping Gorge, China
-Study with Buddhist monks in Bhutan
-Spend at least a year gallavanting around the globe
-Hitch-hike from Cape Town to Alexandria
-Publish a book
-Study yoga in India. Awaken kundalini power. Possibly go insane..?
-Go to the Holi Festival. Get dirty colorful.
-Float in the Dead Sea
-Grow dreadlocks. Be dirty.
-Be completely alone for at least a week. Preferably in the woods.
-Camp in the High Atlas.
-See Alabama win a National Championship. Roll Tide.
-Spend an extended amount of time on a ship.
-Be a nomad in the Gobi
-Work at a baby elephant orphanage in Sri Lanka
-Ride an ostrich
-Practice capoeira
-Race a camel
-Spend a week in the African savannah.

What are your Life Lists, readers?

An Open Letter to the Love of My Life

Dear Skype,

I know things have been touch-and-go with us for a while; sometimes I'm satisfied with you and sometimes I'm not. Being out here in the desert, where it's blazing hot and then freezing cold, tends to make you moody and fickle, and believe me, I understand. But these past few days you've really shown me the scope of your commitment. You've really buckled down and worked hard for things you know are important to me, and because of that, I have to say, I think I've fallen for you.

In the past few days, you've helped me talk to my two most important non-family members in the world on several occasions. Not only that, but you've made me feel as if I were there in the room with them. It almost feels unfair, as if I'm cheating on the distance that separates us, the invisible wedge of time and space that has kept us apart these past few months. Because after a few quick rings, there I was, sitting on Kenny's bed, talking with him like I would have after any given school day last year, laughing with him, bickering with him-- it was familiar and comfortable and everything I don't usually have. And then suddenly there was Murph, and he and Kenny and I all bickered back and forth good-naturedly for a while, which hasn't happened for a long, long time. After an hour and a half of talking to my two best friends a world away, I was left with an overwhelming, all-consuming feeling that threatened to fill me up until it began spilling out of my eyes. Home.

And that's when I realized, Skype, that I'm in love with you. After spending the past week on my death bed [or in a hospital bed] with a lung infection [I'm only exaggerating slightly, mind you], you must have known that this was exactly what I needed. You know me so well. I know with this sudden talk of love and committment, you may turn and run, but I really hope not, especially because I need you desperately, if only to finish making my New Years plans with Kenny [wow, I feel like I'm in this situation every year..]. But really, I need you, I do. I know that now. Don't ever leave me; it means too much to me. I love you. Completely, always and forever.

Until they invent a teleporter. In which case, you're f-----.



Other news, aside from lots of recent Skype time with my very best friends: Egypt lost the final World Cup qualifier in Sudan 1-0, there are riots in the streets of Cairo, my scantily-clad roommate finally got in trouble for being scantily-clad [thank you Sachi!], there is no water at AUC and there is limited electricity. Gotta love Egypt.


I know that I've gone native, for a few reasons. The most convincing argument though, is Egyptian football. Yes, I mean soccer, Americans.
Egypt is battling to get the last spot for Africa in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Tonight the battle came to a head in Cairo, in a match against rival Algeria. Egypt had to win by at least 2 points to stay alive and have a tiebreaker match, or win by 3 points to be assured a spot in the World Cup.
Our tiny common room filled to the brim about an hour before the game even started. Face paint, Egyptian flags, and the national anthem were abundant. The tension had been building for days; the Algerian players were even stoned as they rode their bus into Cairo. I don't support that, but I sure do love passionate sports fans.
In the first two minutes of the match, Egypt scored an incredible goal. The common room was deafening. However, the next 88 minutes were all filled with disappointment. Algeria wasn't scoring, but we weren't either. After the regular play time expired, 6 extra minutes were added to the clock to account for play time which was consumed by injuries. That was all Egypt needed. With seconds to spare, we scored and secured a tiebreaker match which will take place on Wednesday in the Sudan.
Afterwards, footage of the streets of Cairo were shown: things were on fire, people were waving flags everywhere, everyone was screaming and singing and random explosions were going off. Now this is fanhood. I loved every second.
This is significant for a few reasons.
1. It was f*****g awesome. Close games are my absolute favorite things.
2. I hate soccer. And I was still jumping out of my seat screaming at the television.
3. I wish I was there. My parents would have had aneurisms if they knew I was around explosions in downtown Cairo, but MAN, do Egyptians know how to celebrate!
4. This is perhaps the most important: I felt a familiar swell of pride when time expired and the score was Egypt 2-0 Algeria, not unlike the feeling I get watching Alabama football. Granted, it was not quite as strong of overwhelming, but I felt it; that quiet stir in my heart signaling the beginning of a love affair. It felt similar to the feeling I had watching Morocco's olympians march in the opening ceremonies of the 08 games.

It's funny, because as I write this, I am lying in bed wearing a shirt that says "I am not a tourist, I live here" in Arabic and for the first time, it feels true. I do live here. Egypt is home now, and will be for the next few years. And I am so happy.


It's been cold here lately. And grey. And the annual mid-semester breakdown where everyone contemplates saying "f--- college", running away and joining the circus is bearing down upon us here at AUC.

Tonight I let the shower run for 15 minutes before I got in. I wanted it to be good and hot. Scalding would be ideal.

Being the champion of water conservation among my friends, my normal shower lasts 5 minutes, no preheating.

Tonight, to hell with the water shortage in the Middle East, I lingered around in the shower three times longer than usual. As I stood in the midst of all that heat, the sand-colored tiles around me, the foggy shower glass, the sensation of itchiness which has been my constant companion since August 28, all melted away. It was only me and the water, cascading down everywhere, and I was somewhere warm and safe and happy.

Yesterday in class, freezing, I snuggled down into the shoulder of the t-shirt I was wearing. I was taken aback by how comforted I was, feeling the soft cotton rub against my cheek. Suddenly I was somewhere else where I was not stressed about midterms, or tired of my friends, or itchy. Home.

Yes, I'm finally feeling some twinges of homesickness.

I miss my mom and dad.
I miss the Cult.
I miss you all.

Sending my love from Egypt tonight across the Atlantic. 51 days until I get to feel warm, and safe, and loved, and welcome, and familiar.

Happy Halloween min Al-Misr!

Happy Halloween everyone!

Truth be told, I'm really missing America today-- Halloween is my favorite holiday, not to mention the holiest of all days: Nick Saban's birthday [ROLL TIDE!]. There was a Halloween party here on campus last night that only succeeded in making me fully realize exactly what all I gave up to come to Egypt. Even if it is all just sweaty, debauched frat parties and copious amounts of booze, the American college experience is one hell of a fun time.

I have two midterms to study for tomorrow, but I decided to go to Maadi to pick up some boxes my mom sent to Dave and Amy's for me ages ago. Will and I took a bus to Maadi, then caught a cab to Dave and Amy's place. We picked up my boxes, popped in to a local expat market where we loaded up on snacks and Dr. Pepper, and caught a cab back to New Cairo, all of which went ridiculously smoothly and easy. The entire endeavor took less than two and a half hours--an amazing feat in a country where NOTHING happens quickly.

My boxes were full of goodies: 8 packs of Djarum Black clove cigarettes, Halloween candy, movies, clothes, newspaper clippings about Bama football and Megan Fox [my two favorite topics!], a Halloween card, and a copy of Where the Wild Things Are. It made me feel so much better on a day when I was really missing home- a care package from the world I left behind.

I promise I really will write on my Alex trip at some point, but I am pretty tired tonight and still have a lot of studying to do. Goodnight from Egypt, Happy Halloween!

What's in my Bag? Egypt Edition

There are few ways that enable you to understand what life is like somewhere better than examining the things you need for day-to-day life in that place.

So, without further ado, I present to you:

What's in My Bag?- Egypt Edition*

Bag: Red patterned elephant messenger bag, bought in Dahab for 50 L.E. [approx. 10 USD]


-cell phone
-in my wallet [yellow embossed camel skin leather from Morocco]:
Hard Rock Café Hurghada refreshing towelette
Doctor's note for missing class on Sunday
97 LE
Same Same But Different restaurant card from Dahab
Ahmed Adly, International Chess Grandmaster business card
AUC Senior Coordinator business card
UA Student ID
Alabama driver's license and military ID
International Student Identity Card [expired]
Jamie Lyons' business card [hahaha]
Ticket stub from Alabama vs. Clemson [08 season opener]
Ticket stub from Alexandria catacombs
Twenty 10-pound Mobinil phone credit cards
Picture of my nephew
Visa card
AUC Student ID
-notebook [I am constantly writing down little notes I want to remember to write about…my lack of updates wouldn't be telling of this but I swear it's true!]
-sunglasses..cuz it's freakin Egypt, man- It's sunny!
-2 AUC pens, one of which doesn't work
-Chapstick…cuz it's dry here
-bobby pins
-deodorant..because I sweat. A lot. It's the Middle East!
-56.70 LE and 3.46 USD in loose change
-random sea glass and coral from Dahab and Hurghada, respectively
-5 Ambien which spilled on a bus ride
-La Roka Café flier
Excerpt from flier: "we have the honor to invite you as we will organize the greater party in El Haram just as we blissful to presentation elevated favor and enjoying by captivated nature and enjoyment by dj tones with dj stars. This party at next Thursday and every Thursday and Friday at 9pm." Hilarious? Yes.

*for those of you who don't know, when bloggers are feeling lazy and don't feel like being introspective but need to post something, they list things. Hopefully this list was at least a tiny bit entertaining, and maybe even accomplished the goal, which was to give you insight into my life here in Al-Misr. No? Eh, you can't win 'em all.

This place is a prison.


A girl sits alone in a dark, deserted courtyard, lips painted a dark rouge for no one in particular, wearing the same uniform of too-tight black pants and black shirt, last night's eyeliner smeared haphazardly around languid eyes, lazily puffing away on a cigarette, complacent, listless, agitated. The picture of indifference; she isn't going anywhere.

Some days these walls feel like a prison. The sky is gray and tyrannical, feels as if at any moment it might give up the hope of hanging on to the heavens and come crashing down on us all. The wooden lattices on the windows become bars, the sterile concrete buildings, with their sharp edges and straight facades my faceless oppressors.

A restless mood settles over me.

Some days the world is not quite big enough. Some days AUC is too damn small.

[Alexandria post coming soon.]

Down in Africa..

It's hard to believe that I've already been in Egypt longer than I was in Morocco. How different my experiences have been! I know I definitely feel like my learning has been delayed, both culturally and academically. I have yet to get up close and personal with the pyramids or the Sphinx, though I've ridden Arabian stallions alongside them at sunrise, and I haven't travelled to see the obelisks, the Valley of the Kings, or even made it to the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square yet. A large part of that is because I don't technically live in Cairo. I live in the middle of a desert outside of Cairo, in a wasteland called New Cairo, which, in five years, will be just as bustling as Zamalek, Tahrir, Maadi, and the Heliopolis, but for now is filled with the skeletons of houses yet to be completed and a whole lot of sand. Then there is the shimmering oasis that is the AUC compound, safely tucked away in the middle of nowhere, in a suburb of New Cairo called Katameya, a virtual Shangri La barricaded behind walls and fences, kept completely unto itself.
I've been meaning to describe AUC in depth for some time now, but it is really pretty difficult to put into words the feat of engineering and hubris that is New Campus. I have likened it more than once to a resort, not a university. First of all, it rises out of the desert sand, looming like a small city in the vast emptiness. Once inside the compound –after clearing multiple checkpoints, mind you- the concrete assaults your senses, which realize that here is a huge concrete and marble structure, built on sand, in a place where no structure at all has any business being built.
One main walkway courses through the campus, flanked on either side by looming, architecturally avant garde office buildings and classrooms. Bisecting this walkway are various fountains, man-made rivers, and burbling geysers. The fountains are innumerable on campus, wasting water left and right, but I have to admit that on days when the fountains aren't on or aren't working, the heat is oppressive and the campus just feels so unbearably, unnaturally dry. The walkway is jagged cobblestone lined with slick –too slick- marble, proof that the government was literally desperate to spend money on things as senseless as marble sidewalks.
The buildings are labyrinthine in design; there's a trick to understanding how they're laid out, and once you get it, it's not completely impossible to get to class on time…but these things take time and diligent study. There are balconies and terraces everywhere. The thing that is amazing is the way the design of the buildings brings the outside in. Many times I have been walking down a hallway, looked up, and realized there was no roof…I was technically outside, in a school building. There are random fountains and courtyards scattered throughout every building, and this has a very calming effect, which is necessary in dealing with the bureaucracy which runs AUC. The indoors and outdoors are integrated seamlessly, giving this monstrous marvel of architectural engineering an feel. I didn’t even know that was possible.
The "quad" is a huge concrete courtyard filled with fountains and lined with food kiosks and classrooms. There are shady umbrellas and leisurely looking wickers chairs scattered everywhere, and several smaller, sunken courtyards with fountain moats surrounding them, with small concrete bridges connecting them to the larger quad area. There are also several staircases which lead to nowhere, placed in the quad just to serve as a sitting structure—we do leisure very well in Egypt.
Now there are definitely difficulties that come with building a compound in the middle of the desert, as my friend Becky was so apt to point out. The water is fickle- sometimes there is none. When there is water, it's rarely hot. Sometime's the toilets don't flush. You can't flush toilet paper, or they overflow. There are no power lines out here, so the whole operation is powered by generators, which go out frequently. Yesterday at 3:30pm the electricity went out and didn't come back on until around 9pm, plunging the school into four hours of darkness after the sun set at 5, leaving everyone in a frenzy of terror and excitement, and causing an overload in buses due to the mass exodus from the campus into Cairo.
Naturally in our little oasis we are cut off from "real life" in Egypt. This is frustrating for me on many levels, because I was looking forward to trying to assimilate into Egyptian culture. Living on campus exacerbates this problem. But I'm adjusting to my new reality. I'm adjusting to spoiled, immature, elitist Egyptian kids fresh out of high school interrupting teachers and speaking during lecture. I'm learning to control my anger at seeing water wasted unscrupulously. I'm even learning to forgive closed-minded statements about the place of women in society which literally set women's rights back hundreds of years. It is the strange day-to-day existence on the compound which gives me my only semblance of reality and stability, but also daily amazes me with its grandiosity and unnecessary amenities. Such is life in the Middle East, eh?
I'm going to Alexandria this weekend [insha'allah] so a good post is coming soon, promise!
Also, I'm on the AUC fencing team. I told you life is ridiculous here.
Take care, I miss you all!

My heart is beeping

The desert is a terribly dirty place for feet.

My feet will never be clean again.

I am so lucky.

Swine Flu Break '09: Hurghada, Dahab, and some actual Swine Flu

Wow, I have so much catching up to do!!!
After 8 days of classes here at AUC, the Egyptian government cancelled school for two and half weeks due to the imminent Swine Flu threat here in Egypt. This, of course, sent waves of excitement through campus and within a few hours of the announcement the entire campus had cleared out. So the Group all went their separate ways on adventures around the Middle East, and Goose, Katie, Dana, Dooler, Sherief and I hopped on a bus for a seven hour ride to Hurghada on the Red Sea. Hurghada is a tiny little town full of incredibly annoying Russian tourists. However, we had a hotel with a beautiful view of the Red Sea, and we quickly made friends with the owner of the bar there, Lotfy. The first day there we took it easy and napped, hung out in the ocean, and ate delicious calamari tagine and seafood soup. That night, we tossed back more than a few drinks with Lotfy, who decided he liked my boyfriend [yes, boyfriend, Goose and I are officially dating and have been for nearly a month…really, who is surprised? No one? Figured.] so much that we wanted him to work there. So Goose spent the rest of the night mixing Long Island Ice Teas and hooking us up with free special shisha. The next morning, we all got up and jumped into the back of a mini van which drove us deep into the desert, bouncing over the dunes violently. We climbed a mountain, where I got third degree burns on my feet from the scorching sand, and then arrived at a little camp where we had a fun-filled day of just about everything. In a five hour period I rode a camel, donkey, horse, dune buggy, ATV, giant tortoise, and held chameleons, venomous snakes, goats, turtles and crocodiles, kissed a camel, played with ostriches, got really dirty, and all around had a great time. After that we went to a Fire Party where we ate delicious food, watched belly-dancers, and marveled as Goose was pulled up onto the stage by "The Devil" and made to swallow [or attempt to swallow] a sword. Good news: his gag reflex is alive and well.
Finally, we watched the sun set from the top of a mountain, saw Jupiter through a telescope, took our van out to a deserted patch of sand, and laid there looking at the stars. Lying in the sand with my new friends/family, I couldn’t help but think of Morocco and my ISA friends, and I couldn’t help but think of how different my life here is than I imagined it would be. I love it, but it's not what I was expecting.
Then we set off through the desert again, cranking Backstreet Boys tunes the entire way. We arrived back at the hotel where Lotfy greeted us with Egyptian beer, and happily passed out.
The next day we committed the entire day to eating delicious food and lounging on the beach. That night, we had a fake and very drunken birthday party for Sherief aka Alfastar in Hard Rock Café Hurghada, where we gorged ourselves on American food and expensive cocktails [have I mentioned I love being able to legally buy alcohol? I've only been carded once. Ohebu al-Misr!] Then we somehow found our way back to the hotel, where we drank even more and smoked Lotfy's delicious, free shisha.
The next morning we all unhappily piled into a bus at 8am, me still wearing my makeup from the night before and chugging water to cure my hangover. An hour later we were boarding a yacht and laying out on the deck, overlooking water so clear and blue you could see fifty feet down to the coral below. We spent the day lounging on the boat, swimming in the water, discovering strange aquatic life [including a slug/crab creature with one scary arm ending in a hook which lived in an innocent looking was terrifying], watching Sherief try and fight Goose, and jumping thirty feet from the top of the yacht into the clear turquoise water below. That night we took a bus back from Hurghada, and jumped on a taxi back to campus, which promptly got a flat tire right in front of a military post. The guards, needless to say, were not thrilled, suspecting us to be American terrorists. However, upon meeting Katie, the flirt of the group, they were charmed and brought us water to quench our thirst as we waited for nearly an hour for our tire to be repaired. We spent the next few days recuperating in Cairo, where I unfortunately came down with the Piggy Flu.
After being nursed back to health by my amazing friends and incredible boyfriend, Katie, Anna, Goose and I took a nine hour bus ride to Dahab on the Sinai Peninsula [which was made longer due to the fact that the bus blew a tire around 3 am]. We arrived, checked into Dolphin Camp, where we stayed in bamboo beach bungalows with a view of the water, and Saudi Arabia across it, and had a delicious breakfast at Dolphin Café. We spent the rest of the day basking in the sun on our private beach, and enjoyed incredible food, shisha, beer, free rum, and great company all night. The next day we set out to go swimming and ended up lounging on an abandoned beach called Lagouna, and ate more delicious food. We ended up at a bar called Yalla run by Australian expats around our age, where we got thoroughly drunk. Our last day was filled with lots of shopping and haggling, some bus confusion, and finally an hour bus ride to Sharm el Sheikh, and a six hour ride from there to Nasr City, where we hailed a cab which took us to the wrong AUC campus, ended up eating a 5am dinner at McDonalds, and waited two hours for an AUC bus to arrive to take us back to campus. It was an adventure, to say the least. I realize my account from Dahab is sort of lacking, but we didn't do much. We just relaxed and enjoyed the atmosphere, the food, and each other. Dahab is a lot less touristy than other towns on the Sinai, and is a huge hippie town filled with expats and long-haired, shirtless backpackers. Needless to say, Goose and I fit in well and loved it there. There were rumors circulating the entire time that AUC was not going to reopen this semester, and the four of us seriously considered renting a $100/month, one bedroom apartment and getting part-time jobs at a bar there. One of my new life goals is to retire there after I'm done gallivanting, open a bar, smoke lots of shisha, drink lots of beer, and bask in the awesomeness.
Now the entire Group has been reunited in Cairo, and classes resume tomorrow [supposedly]. In light of this fact, I am off to get some homework done for my 8:30 tomorrow. I will be updating this blog more regularly now that I'm firmly back in Cairo for a while. Check out my pictures on Facebook!
Salaam wa hubb,

I've got some 'splaining to do

A brief explanation as to why I havent been/ won't be posting for a while:

After a mere seven days of class, the school was buzzing yesterday about exactly how long we would have off for Eid; the previously accepted time was 6 days, starting Friday. Around noon, there was a visible change in the atmosphere here at AUC as everyone ran around screaming and hugging. Turns out, the Egyptian government cancelled all schools and universities until October 3 [at the earliest] due to Eid and the onset of swine flu here. So, I'm off to Hurghada, a small beach town on the Red Sea, until Monday, and then probably heading to Israel and Jordan with my boyfriend [ much for not letting things get out of hand with Goose, right? Who's surprised?] where we will meet up with the two Chris's.

Don't miss me too badly, and be looking forward to regular posting and lots of adventurous stories when I get back!

Port Said: The Politically Correct Version

I cannot write anything here that happened in Port Said.

All I will say is that the city kinda sucks, but I had a fantastic time with my friends, all of whom I love more than ever.

Sorry, kids.

Lessons learned thus far in Al-Misr

  1. The security guards at AUC do not like Capture the Flag. They do not want us to like capture the flag. Especially not after midnight. Especially not during class. Especially not on their sandscaping.
  2. Doritos are about as expensive as a weekend on the Mediterranean.
  3. Shisha is a universal cure-all.
  4. So are good friends.
  5. You cannot walk more than 50 feet at AUC without running into one of these good friends.
  6. It is possible to take a walk of shame at 6am without having shacked anywhere.
  7. Alabama football is nearly as important as air.
  8. Sleep is not nearly as important as I had originally thought. Neigh, it is possible to function daily on three hours of sleep.
  9. Egyptian Arabic is wack.
  10. Keeping your cheeks clenched constantly is the only way to prevent tap-water-induced accidents.
  11. Dramaderies are terrifying, as are Arabian stallions. But nothing will make you as happy as galloping through the desert on one as the sun rises over the pyramids.
  12. Piastres are the biggest waste of paper ever. In the history of the world.
  13. Skype is life.
  14. Ten completely different people can become family in less than two weeks.
  15. Foosball is a national pasttime here.
  16. 8:30am classes are not as bad as I feared.
  17. A "short trip" to the city will always last at least seven hours.
  18. Ramadan rocks.
  19. The HUSS building makes no sense. At all. It's a sick joke.
  20. You can waste all the water you want here. You want 50 fountains on campus? No problem. You wanna take an hour long shower? Go ahead. Water the sand? You got it boss. Let the faucet run all night? Stop worrying. Really, it's not like the Middle East is in a water crisis or anything.

...more to come, I'm sure.

Did that really just happen?

Sept 3 2009
I ask myself that question a lot here. The past two days have been completely ridiculous. Sometimes in a good way, sometimes in a not so good way. The one thing I can say about life here is that it's exciting. Most people say exciting and it always has a positive connotation, but bad things can be exciting too. And really, as long as it's exciting, whether in a positive or negative way, at least things aren't boring.
On Tuesday I slept in all day because exhaustion finally caught up with me. I was still lounging around in my room when Chris called me and announced we were all getting on a bus in a half hour to go to Tahrir Square. I took the world's fastest shower and got ready in record time. At 4pm, Chris, Chris, Goose, Katie, Becky, Anna, Nate, Zach, Frankie and I got on the bus and settled in for a 45-minute drive. About five minutes into the ride, the bus driver put on his hazard lights, got out of his seat, walked back to a seat in the middle of the bus, and appeared to settle in for a nap. We were all completely dumbfounded. No one else on the bus seemed to think this was out of the ordinary. We were in the backseat discussing the perks of a job where you could randomly decide to nap anytime and still get paid when it dawned on us that he had been praying. We still have so much to learn. After a few minutes, he got up and we were on our way again. What a strange, wonderful place where you can take a few minutes out of your job and practice your beliefs without offending anyone. Wasn’t that the idea behind America in the first place?
We got off of the bus in Tahrir Square by the old AUC campus and wandered around for a while. We wandered into a papyrus shop that had lots of essential oils for all kinds of ailments. They had the best names: "Nervous Colon", "Sexual Weakness", etc. This created the perfect setup for one of my favorite exchanges of all time.
Goose: Chris, you probably need to buy some Sexual Weakness oil, don't you think?
Chris: No, that's ok, I produce my own.
I also had a first shortly thereafter. I was dressed very conservatively since it's Ramadan- loose fitting jeans and a loose long sleeve tunic top. As Katie and I were walking side my side, an old woman in a full abaya/hijab lunged at me and made a hissing noise. For a few moments I was completely dumbstruck, then horrified, wondering if she had actually spit on me. Luckily, she hadn't. But regardless, I was shocked. The only thing more that I could have done to be respectful would have been to wear a headscarf- and there were definitely girls in our group showing a lot more skin than I was. That's the first time ANYTHING like that has happened to me, in Morocco or Egypt, but I'm sure it won't be the last.
Next we met up with Ahmed and Sharif, the chess grandmaster and his friend from the other night. They took us to Felfel for a snack before a night of fun. I got shewarma, and it was delicious. Then we walked down to the Nile where we boarded a feluka boat covered in flashing neon lights blasting dance music. The ten of us rocked out to 50 Cent as we cruised down the Nile, unable to believe our lives.
Next Ahmed took us to a little shisha bar he goes to a lot, a humble little place in an alleyway. I was starting to get tired and thought maybe I wouldn’t make it through the night, so I tried to go easy on the shisha and guzzle some water, especially since Ahmed kept saying we had a long walk ahead of us. When we finished there, we set off for Hussein, a historic part of Cairo. At first we just meandered through streets and darted across traffic, but the next thing I knew we were walking across a high-rise bridge- four lanes, no sidewalk. We hugged the guard rail and walked nearly a mile and a half with cars whizzing by us less than six inches away. I have never concentrated on walking a straight line so hard in my life.
When we finally got off the bridge Ahmed and Sharif took us on a walking tour of historical mosques in Hussein, some of the oldest in Egypt, and all famous for various reasons. In the moonlight, lit by the neon glow of Cairo, it was so eerily beautiful that I was breathless.
As we wandered through the souk [market] looking at hookahs and jewelry, we finally started getting some catcalls, which have been few and far between here, and so very different from Morocco. I think the compliment of my life came from a vendor I passed: "You look like Spice Girl! Spicey spicey!"
We randomly stopped in a little café about the size of a storage unit where there was traditional Egyptian singing going on. We sat down, smoked some excellent shisha, and listened, enraptured, as the woman sang. The dj/announcer thanked us over and over again for coming, and even had us write down our names in Arabic so he could read them out loud and thank us again, along with Mr. President Obama.
Finally, around 12am, we stopped in at a restaurant where we had a private upstairs room and feasted on all kinds of things I don’t remember the names of, except for baba ganoush, which I'm pleased to say tastes as good as it sounds. We caught the 2am bus home, swearing no night could ever be better. Little did we know that two nights later we would have a night to rival any we had had so far.
The next day I slept in all day, and didn’t get anything I needed to accomplished. That night, we went out with Ahmed and Sherief again. First we broke the fast at a restaurant he knew and ate delicious food. Then, Ahmed showed us his driving skills, which consisted of nearly killing us and any nearby pedestrians over and over by squeezing mere inches between cars, weaving through traffic, and doing doughnuts feet away from small children. After we had regained control of our bladders, he took Katie, Goose, Frankie, Dooler and I to a café where we smoked excellent shisha [are you noticing a theme here?] and Katie sang karaoke. After that, we went to City Stars, did some shopping, and came home.
The next night was our Bedouin Night: Extreme Grandmaster Version. At 9pm we met Ahmed, Sherief, and their friend who has a bus in Zamalek. We drove an hour into the desert, and the first moment that I saw a giant triangular shadow on the horizon, a pyramid, will forever be engrained in my memory. I think that was the first moment it really sank in that I'm living in Egypt for the next 3 years. We were distracted from the pyramids by neon lights in the distance. We pulled up to a crowded outdoor club- no roof, no floor, just sand and stars and thatch huts and low tables and carpets on the ground. It was breathtaking. We settled in on our cushions in the very front of the club, closest to the makeshift stage, when someone gasped. We all looked around….and there was a man holding a lion. A lion cub, to be exact. He came over and let us all hold it and take pictures with it. Cuddling with a lion cub in the shadow of the pyramids has got to be the coolest thing I had ever done up until that point. From that point, we ate delicious food, danced to American music, limbo-ed, watched Oriental dancing, and Katie did karaoke. We danced our asses off, generally acting like idiots.
Goose and I have been joking around for the past few days about getting married, and I gave him a ring to surprise me with at some point. The plan was to do something really embarrassing when I least expected it. As we were getting ready to leave the club around 4:30am, Goose decided he wanted to dance. I couldn’t figure out why he wanted to dance so badly, because I was tired. He finally pulled me up on stage, and we were the only ones up there. Embarrassed, I looked at him and said, "well, go ahead, you're the one who wanted to dance so badly." At this point, he got down on one knee, pulled out the ring, and "proposed". Unfortunately, none of our friends saw, but about fifty Egyptians got up and clapped and congratulated us, thinking it was a real engagement. I was thoroughly embarrassed, but now we refer to ourselves as fiancées and most of the people we've met since then think we actually are.
After that, as the sun was coming up, I got on a dramadery [a two-hump camel] that was wayyyy higher than the camels I'm used to from Morocco and very scary. We rode out into the desert and had tea in the shadow of the pyramids, and then built a human pyramid in front of them. After that, I traded in my camel for an Arabian stallion and galloped full-speed back to the club, which was simultaneously the scariest and most exhilarating ten minutes of my life—riding through the desert beside the pyramids nearly bareback on a stallion. It was incredible. We took the long busride back to campus, and we all slept all day.
We stayed up all that night playing a game in the common room, and the next day I finally got to register for my classes.
Last night Goose and I stayed up watching text updates from the Alabama game – ROLL TIDE! We won, and it made me miss home and football so much, but I do love it here and I know that this is where I'm supposed to be.
Goose and I are slowly turning into a real couple…I suppose joking about it enough will do that. It's strange. I adore him. He is by far the funniest person I've ever met and he makes me laugh constantly. He's also the most caring, genuine, earnest person I know here, and I know he cares about me a lot already, I just don’t know that I want anything "official" or serious right now, so I have to figure out a way to keep my distance somehow.
I finally got to bed at 4am, and woke up at 7:20 to get ready for my 8:30 Arabic class. Intermediate Arabic at 8:30am after only a few hours of sleep kicked my ass, so I'm gonna have to start getting more sleep.
Now I'm off to Science and Tech of Ancient Egypt, my science class. Sorry this entry was so long…it took DAYS to write. I'll start keeping up better, promise. Miss you all!

It Seems Like Everywhere I Go, the More I See the Less I Know

I find that, somehow moreso in Egypt than in Morocco, I am constantly making an ass of myself here. Perhaps it's because the campus is way too big for the meager 5,000 students who go here and I'm constantly wandering around like an Alzheimer's patient. Perhaps it's because I'm more ballsy about my actions now that it's my second time in MENA. And I suppose it's partly because a lot of times in Morocco I felt like I played it too safe instead of taking risks. This time around, I decided I really want to live, and experience everything, not just observe. I think that, despite the constant ass-making I do, always seeming clueless and lost, I'll be happy that I chose to do things this way in the long run.
Yesterday I didn't have much to do: I signed up for some trips [Alexandria, Bedouin Night, and Giza..there's a 3-day cruise over our long weekend in September too, but its 1750 LE, around $350. Needless to say, I won't be going.], tried to sign my loan check [they wouldn’t let me because I haven’t registered for my classes], registered my e-mail address, and went to the one orientation meeting they have for transfer students. Know what I found out? There are only two transfer students this year, including me. And the other has lived in Cairo for a few years. Silly me. Somehow I thought it was more common to take the route I have. Apparently not.
After that enlightening experience, I hung out with "The Gang" in the common room for a few hours- the common room is the only place in the residential area that is co-ed. There's a group of about eight of us: me, Katie, Becky, Anna, Chris, Will, Zach, Rashid, and Adam. We all hang out together all the time, but the sad thing is all of them except Becky are leaving in December. I have a feeling that that's how things will be at AUC; I'll have to make new friends every semester. We hung around, played BS, and then went to dinner at Tabasco. After that we tried to get a football game together, but we were too disorganized. At 10pm, we caught the bus to Zamalek to go to a bar. It was about an hour's ride there, along busy highways and overpasses. The skyline on the way was so diverse: huge mosque minarets penetrating the black night sky, grandiose hotels, and decrepit buildings literally falling apart around the residents. I also had an enthralling conversation with my new bff Will [I never call him Will- he will henceforth be referred to as Goose or Sunshine. He looks EXACTLY like Goose Dunham. I know, I'm gay.] that ended in my nearly peeing on myself when he asked how I liked his "smell". We got off the bus and Zach, the fearless leader [who was so dedicated to finding a bar that he had drawn up a map], led the speed-walk to a fancy bar on the banks of the Nile. No alcohol here, we were told. [Note: right now is Ramadan, the Muslim holy month, where they fast all day and get to eat all night. It's a little difficult to find alcohol here right now.]
Disappointed but not defeated, we started a two mile trek to the Mariott, which has a pub in it. We walked through dank alleyways full of stray cats, passed all the embassies, and practiced our extreme jay-walking [friends from Morocco take note before you come visit me: crossing the street in Cairo is wayyyyy more intense than it was in Morocco. Try crossing 6 lanes of speeding vehicles Meknes-style. It's a rush.]. We FINALLY made it to Harry's Pub, where we quickly placed an exceptionally large order and were delivered exceptionally large Sakara Gold beers [Bama folks: about the size of a Big Ass Beer in Nola]. We had the whole pub to ourselves [again, it's Ramadan] and had a great time talking, watching soccer on the TV, and laughing about how much trouble we went through to get alcohol. Typical Americans. Four Exceptionally Large Beers and two hours later, we stumbled through the streets of Zamalek trying to retrace our steps to find the bus stop. After getting lost several times, we made it to the bus and I had an intense discussion with Chris. Around 3am, I poured myself into bed [the night before I had only gotten two hours of sleep].
I woke up at 8:30, too lazy to take a shower, and ran errands on campus- trying to register and whatnot. Important discoveries today: AUC is only accepting 24 [possibly 30] of my 60 credits from Alabama. This means I will probably be here for THREE years. And also, I can't register for classes until Saturay. School starts Sunday [since Friday is the Muslim holy day, the weekend here is Friday and Saturday. The school week starts Sunday. We'll see how many times this causes me to miss class on Sunday. Predication: a lot.]. Also, the trip to Giza is at the same time on Saturday, so I will miss seeing the pyramids. All rather disappointing discoveries.
Anyway, I'm off to nap- 7 hours sleep in two days is just not okay.
Also, I'm sorry I haven't really described Cairo much. The truth is, on the AUC compound, I don’t really see much of anything except desert, and I've only been off the compound twice. I will definitely try, but let me give a disclaimer: nothing I write will ever do Cairo justice. You'll never get the feel of the broken sidewalk, the chalky-dustiness of the ground, the gray tint to the sky, to heat of the Egyptian sun pounding down on you, the hum of all manner of different languages. For that, I apologize. Come visit me and see for yourself.

You wanna know about Egypt? Oh, I'll TELL you about Egypt.

Hello from New Cairo, Egypt! Sit back and relax, kids, because this is gonna be a long blog. Or, if you are one of my friends from college, scroll through until you find a cuss word.
I have a lot to say, so I'll start from the beginning, which I suppose is leaving Tuscaloosa. I hung around Tuscaloosa all summer in my house at the Village at Brook Meadows and did all kinds of stuff: went to Los Cal, hung out with Phi Sig, nearly got robbed, nearly got arrested, nearly got robbed again, went skinny-dipping, got drunk…you know, the usual. I stayed until Bid Day, and I had a great time with everyone. A few big things marked my departure from Tuscyloosey. First, the night before I was supposed to leave town, I was at the new Phi Sigma Kappa house, my usual summer hangout. I wasn't feeling well so I decided to go home early. Realizing this was probably my last time to see most of those guys, I started saying my goodbyes, when one of my friends stood up on a cooler: "I propose a toast. To Egypt!" All of the other boys put their glasses in the air and said things about how they would miss me and it wouldn’t be the same without me, and before I knew it, I was sobbing. It was a touching moment for me.
I also got to experience my first Bid Day as an ex-Phi Mu. It was strange, sweating in the Alabama humidity in my sundress, being on the other side of the fence around the Phi Mu house. But to be honest, I welcomed the change. Looking at the girls standing in the yard, I knew I wasn't one of them. And for the first time since my Bid Day in 2007, I wasn’t trying to be, wasn’t pretending to be. I stood on the "wrong" side of the fence knowing that their place was inside of it, and mine was beyond it. And that was okay.
Probably the biggest event for me was an unexpected reunion. Everyone who knows me knows that I have a very tight-knit group of friends affectionately referred to as "The Cult". We've been friends since my first month of college and those three boys mean more to me than nearly anyone else in the world. Most people who know me well also know that I had a falling out with a Cult member, my best friend Murphy, over A-Day weekend in April. I won't go into why; it's not important and most of you probably know anyway. But the four months since we have been estranged have been some of the hardest of my life: it's like a part of me was missing, but I still sensed it there, still needed it…like a phantom limb after an amputation. As I was saying my goodbyes to the other Cult members that Sunday, a feeling washed over me; something akin to anger mixed with a deep, unrelenting loss. I wasn't willing to accept the fact that I would never see or speak to my best friend again. So I texted him. And then something amazing happened. He texted back. We met for dinner, there were tears, and hugs, and I couldn’t have been happier as I left Tuscaloosa for the last time.
The next Friday my parents threw me a going-away party, and from what I can remember, it was lots of fun. All I will say about this party is that I drank an entire bottle of Sweet Carolina in one night. The fact that I'm still alive amazes me.
Finally, after months of planning, thousands of dollars, countless tears, and tons of fights, I was at the Atlanta airport with my parents. Saying goodbye to them was one of the hardest things I've done in a long time. I had an inexplicable lump in my throat and where I had been trying to be strong, the tears prevailed. Seeing my parents cry is never an easy thing. After lots of hugs and "I love you"'s I went through security and left the Deep South behind, with a one way ticket to Egypt and two suitcases for two years.
I made it to DC on time and proceeded to wait for a ridiculously long time; my flight to London was delayed. I watched the land zoom by as I left America and the real adventure began.
I got half an hour of sleep on the seven hour flight to London, but I did get to watch "I Love You, Man". The flight was bumpy but I was still relatively pleasant when I got to Heathrow. The girl next to me and I struck up a conversation- she's from Jordan and has spent a lot of time in Egypt. She helped me find my way through Heathrow and we stopped to get a coffee before my flight left. This is when the trouble started. I put in my international SIM card and…nothing. I couldn’t make calls at all. I should have braced myself then.
I got on a tiny plane at a far extremity of the airport and took off for Cairo. I was nearly comatose during those four hours. I was deliriously tired but could not fall asleep. It was torture. As we began our descent into Egypt, I looked at the ground and saw…a lot of green strangely enough. A weird feeling of disappointment was beginning to course through me, when the plane turned and I was blinded by the sun. When I was able to see clearly again, I looked down and saw…sand. Lots of sand. And the Nile weaving its way through the sand, canals breaking off every which way. If only I had been a little more lucid, it would have been one of the most blissful sights ever. Feeling near death, I got off the plane in Cairo and stumbled through Customs, and got my luggage when I realized, there was no one waiting on me. Oh, shit. What do I do? Just as I was starting to really panic, I saw a huge group of Americans, and one held up a sign that said AUC. I was ecstatic. Finally, we boarded a bus meant for ten people- there were 15 of us plus two pieces of luggage each. To say we were crowded was an understatement. After half an hour of navigating through the airport's ridiculous roadway, we got out into Cairo, and it was everything I hoped for: dirty, rough around the edges, but ambitious. There were cars and motorcycles with four people on the back and donkey carts and pedestrians casually strolling in front of speeding cars. It was just like Morocco and I felt at home. The feeling would not last long.
AUC is surrounded by a lot of crap. For miles there are half-built mansions which look like they have been abandoned festering in the sun, waiting for completion. There was trash everywhere, but I didn’t mind that. After numerous u-turns [not because we were lost, because the roads weren't planned well] we finally pulled into Gate 4 of AUC. We hauled our stuff off of the bus and two by two, passed through security, where they x-rayed and hand –searched our bags and made us walk through metal detectors. Then a university employee loaded our bags onto a golf cart and dropped us off across campus at the women's dormitories. I got my room assignment and an RA walked me to my room. She showed me where it was…and then left. I mean, I know she was busy helping people move in, but I had no clue what to do. I immediately tried to get on the internet, but it wasn't working. I thought, I'll at least set up my computer. Oh, wait. The electricity from the wall isn’t working. Remember, I still don’t have a working phone. I have no way to get in touch with anyone. That's when panic set in. I was starving; there was no one else in my building yet; I was completely alone. I got in my bed, accepting the fact that I would be alone and hungry that night. I was almost asleep when my phone went off. I had a text message from my dad! I was so happy I nearly cried. We could send and receive texts, but not make calls to one another. Depressed and not knowing what else to do, I went to sleep.
Luckily my jet-lag woke me up at 3:30 in the morning and I had a text from my dad telling me to meet our family friend Amy, who works here in Cairo, at the AUC bookstore in the morning. Alhamdulelah! I went back to sleep, tossing and turning in the heat, and finally woke up at 7:45 to take a shower. I went to the bathroom, and there was no water. Ughh. Really??? Finally, around 8, the water started working and I showered and sat down with a map to find the bookstore. It wasn't too hard to locate on the map, until I realized where it was in relation to my dorm. Imagine a long, winding path, with side-paths branching out in all directions. That's the AUC campus. My dorm is on the far end of the path- really, it’s the farthest building on one side of the campus…the wall securing the little compound it right outside my window. The bookstore was on the exact other end of campus, nearly a mile's walk, and the map was an architect's sketch of the university….not exactly clear on how to get there. I sat down, defeated already, and wondered what to do. Finally, I grew some balls, grabbed my stuff, and set off. I ended up asking tons of people for directions, none of whom spoke English, but finally, after passing through the gates separating the campus from the desolation beyond it, I saw Amy and her son Sam waiting for me. The feeling of relief was instant. We climbed into her SUV and headed for Maadi, the suburb she lives in.
I really would have been lost without her. She took me home, where her husband Dave had breakfast waiting on me. After that, we set off to get a new SIM card, an adapter for my computer, and various other things I needed to survive. We stopped at a McDonalds for lunch, where Sam decided to wet himself. Laughing, we went back home where I got to call my parents –finally!- and lounge for a few hours. Then, Amy and I went to her kids' school and hung out at the playground while Sam and his friends ran around. When we got back, delicious Thai food was waiting on us, which I devoured, and gratefully accepted a much-needed beer from Dave. Finally, around nine, Amy brought me back to campus and we cajoled a guard into taking us from the Pepsi Gate - I'm not kidding, our school is sponsored by Pepsi- to my dorm in a golf cart because we had a lot of groceries from the embassy commissary.
Then, on Sunday, I slept in until about 1, trying to sleep off the rest of my jet lag. My roommate showed up. She is British but has lived in Cairo for the past two years, and, here's the kicker—she's sixteen. Yeah. For a sixteen year old, we get along pretty well. I finally got up and went to get my Orientation packet and met up with some girls I knew from the bus from the airport. We ended up going to the dorm meeting together, and also decided to take the 8pm bus from campus to City Stars, a mall about a half hour away, together. Right away, everyone on my bus got along great. When we were in the meeting, I saw a really cute boy, and lo and behold, he was on the bus. I decided at the meeting that he was my conquest for the semester, and after the night was over, I had his phone number, knew his life story, and we were on a last-name basis, which as any frat guy knows, is closer than a first name basis. We did some shopping at City Stars, and everyone in the group got their phones working. Then, someone had the brilliant idea to go to a hookah bar a "few blocks away". We wandered out of the mall, but no one knew quite where it was. We stopped to ask a group, and instead of telling us, they took us there. It ended up being a half hour walk to the place, but it was worth it. The ambiance was incredible and we had a great time smoking and getting to know each other all night. The guys who took us even stayed and translated for us, and offered to take us sight-seeing tonight, gratis, which is amazing. One of the Egyptians, Akhmed, is the international chess grandmaster. I kid you not- it's on his business card!
We missed the 12am bus back to campus, so we stayed a smoked for a few more hours, then rode the 2am bus home. With tons of new numbers in my phone and a dozen or so new friends, by the end of the night I was feeling pretty good about Egypt. Good, because I needed it. Today I'm going to attempt to figure out registration and get my ID card- insha'allah. Wish me luck!

Pre-Departure To-Do List

-Buy a really good Arabic-English dictionary. How have I made it through two years of Arabic study without one?

-Buy lonely planet guide to Egypt, and probably Israel, and Jordan...and everywhere else I think I might be able to convince my parents to let me go.

-Get really fat so I'll have lots of extra weight to shed as I waste away at the mercy of the heat and my digestive system.

-Sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll. Kidding. But seriously. I need to indulge in every vice I have before I have to go behave for two years.

-Eat lots of Los Calientes.

-Buy a new pair of Rainbows.

-Re-read Tales of a Female Nomad for inspiration.

-Drive. Alot.

-Take a walk around campus and say goodbye to everything I know about the college experience in America.

-Study Arabic. No, seriously. Study Arabic until my epiglottis hurts.

-Try to be fearless.

41 days!

It's been a while, blog!

In fact, it's been nearly a year! It's just been a regular year here in Tuscaloosa; I've been enjoying America and missing Morocco terribly. Since I've been back, I've seen Michael and Jennifer twice, Brigid once, I'm seeing Autumn this Friday, and I talk to Ben on the phone once a week like clockwork. Alabama is home sweet home, but it's time to move on. Seeing as UA doesn't offer my desired major, I made the difficult decision to transfer elsewhere to finish school. The first week of June, I got the most exciting news of my life: I've been accepted to the American University in Cairo...that's right- Cairo, Egypt! So on August 27, I'll be hoppin on a flight from Atlanta, to DC, to London, to Cairo, all by myself. Funny to think I didnt come to college a few states away without my parents, and now I'm moving to an entirely different continent completely alone with a one way ticket and two suitcases.

Anyway, since I'm heading back to al-alum al-arabiyya, I'm starting my blog up again to chronicle this exciting new adventure I'm about to go on, to document getting settled and building a new life in a different country just like I did in Morocco last summer. Only this time, it's for real. I will be in Egypt for at least two years, however, knowing me, it will be a long time before I come back to America to live fulltime. The things I am going to see and do and the people I'm going to meet are incredible, I just know it. I really feel like this is what I'm supposed to be doing at this point in my life. I'm less afraid than I was before I left for Morocco; I feel more prepared. My Arabic is better [two high A's in my advanced arabic language courses this year!], I know more about the culture and religion, plus I am proficient in Spanish, Hebrew, and Turkish...there's bound to be SOMEONE I can communicate with in SOME way no matter where I am. This is my dream come true and I hope you are all as excited as I am about it!

41 days and counting!

Salaam wa hubb,