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!

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