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,