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!

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