Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Avoidance Tactic

I am a walking piece of TIRED. And The Movement for the Preservation of Shev's Laundry has turned into a failed experiment. Have I mentioned that Alex is HUMID this time of year?
While, on the upside, I have a topsheet finally, my topsheet is dirty. Well not dirty, but stained.
I have to write a media presentation for tomorrow that should last 10 minutes. Its going to be on this article that Rachel Baker (Raybay - there's a shoutout for you!) sent me. Should be entertaining, but I still have to write and practice it. And I'm taking all of my other finals tomorrow since I can't take them on Saturday. I don't think I'm going to study. Is that bad? In fairness, it IS Tisha B'Av. So I'm going to try and write that media presentation sitting on the floor. But in the meantime writing this blog is an avoidance tactic. But its 11:48 and time is flying.

Speaking of Tisha B'Av I had to run out of class today. I all of a sudden realized, at 6:30, in the middle of the 3rd hour of my FusHa class, that I had had a cup of tea, some nuts and a mango to eat and I was hungry. And then I realized that I had to stop eating at 8pm. I get out of class at 8pm. So I ran out of class at 6:30, walked to the only restaurant that I eat at here in Egypt (Muhammad Ahmed's. That's really its name. No joke.) and had dinner, finished at 7:30, and had enough time to shower and put on non-leather shoes before sundown. It's now Tisha B'Av. I think I mentioned that.

Today I went to the gym. Before class. (Back up in time in your mind.) On my way back I needed a cab, so I walked to the main road. Cabs were scarce so I stood by the road for a while -- being stared at by Egyptian men -- but also experiencing something very odd. The road I had come to is a semi-highway and its one-way, but that didn't bother the caravan coming the other way. Headed by six or seven motorcyclists (two or three to a motorcycle), there were maybe nine or ten packed cars, alternating men and women's vehicles (microbus/vans for nakabed women and trucks where men hung off the sides, sitting, standing, kneeling, etc. This was not a wedding party. No one was trilling, there was no screaming, and furthermore, there was no furniture being moved. This mass of probably 60-70 people came through, and I all I could think was "...WTF? Egypt is weird."

Immediately after they had gone, I got a cab. He didn't tell me this when I got in, but we needed to pick up his sister. He told me this as he pulled over to pick her up. Literally. She was in a wheelchair. I opened the door for them and helped them a little, and then got in the front as the cab driver had requested. We started driving and he handed me an apple fanta. I asked him if he wanted me to open it for him. He said no, its for you, drink it. So I opened up the apple fanta and tasted the first soda I'd had in maybe 3 years. It was a strangely sweet treat on so many levels.

If I weren't going to write my presentation now, and if it weren't Tisha B'Av, and if I weren't so tired, I would listen to Stephen Kellogg & the Sixers (thank you Bina) and chomp on some fruit and drink some water. Enjoy.

Monday, July 27, 2009

I am a) Enjoying Alex b) Keeping Shabbat c) Making Friends d) Mistaken for a Prostitute e) All of the Above (Answer: E)

I know I told many of you that we would be getting guest bloggers soon, and we will, but in the interim I will update you with some amusing, and less amusing, anecdotes:

1) Friday I spent much of my time studying in Carrefour, but I decided that on my last fully free day in Egypt (we don't generally have class on Friday, but sometimes we're on a trip...) needed something else...something beautiful. So I took a microbus the end of coast where the "Castle" which sits on its edge with my friend Emma. I tried the street foods (oddly, its all vegetarian and has a very very high probability -- high enough for me, at least-- of being fully kosher), corn on the cob (brittle and tasteless) and some sort of yellow legume (under-boiled and over salted), for a pound each, drank Turkish coffee (mazboot), looked out at the sea, watched a fairly successful fisherman, got harassed by some of the shebab (youth), one of whom gave me a piece of gum (dear Lord) to remember him by, watched the matted and mangy cats eat the picnic-er's bread and meat scraps, watched those same picnic-ers throw their garbage BAG into the rocky outcrop that faces the sea, felt a little ill at that, got over it, took some pretty pictures, and returned home with just enough time to shower and prepare for sundown. Gorgeous.

2) My Shabbat was lovely. Five or six of my friends ended in my room, just chillin, hangin, readin', studyin'...it had a sort of normal Shabbat feeling for a bit. I still haven't made it to the synagogue here. But a friend of mine did and he said its like a museum...no Jews really attend it. I have one more Shabbat here, then one in Israel, one in Seattle, and the next one in Morocco.

3) I have discovered that when other guests come to our hotel I sometimes am overcome by this weird possessive feeling and I'm strangely annoyed that these Others are allowed to hang out with Muhammad and the other hotel staff, are fed and watered by our breakfast girl (can you tell I don't know her name...eek), have their beds made by Sahr and Aziza. And maybe its because we've had some pretty weird guests. There was this one guy who had weird dreadlocks and mannerisms, and told us more than we needed to know about his travels, personal philosophies, and the bar he owns up in that loft apartment over the great party that is America [that was for you, Jack]. Oh and there was this French family who made a lot of noise at night and then in the morning couldn't get their act together enough to leave the hotel and I had to sit in the lobby listening to them twitter (not in the Interweb sense) in French while I satisfied my Internet Itch (I'm an addict). Etc. But today I may actually have made friends with some of the guests in our hotel. One of them - Ahmed- is from Holland, but his parents are Egyptian and he's visiting with his friend from Portugal. He explained why we say "Al-Hummdulila" when someone sneezes. Its because your heart stops for one or two seconds when you sneeze, and you have to thank Allah for the fact that your heart begins again afterward. A lovely sentiment, if you give it a minute. I'm sure that we Jews have some similar idea somewhere in our takleed ("tradition", or, according to Hans Wher, "blind faith" or "to put on a necklace for a woman").

4) I was mistaken for a prostitute on the way to school yesterday morning. Yes. I was walking to school in normal clothes (read: jean skirt, green tank-top over white t-shirt, wearing my backpack). A guy pulls up in a little beat up red car. He sees me, his eyes perk up, and he says "Foloos!?" (which means "Money!?"), at which point I give him a glare and continue walking, ignoring him entirely. I walk a bit more, thinking he'll just drive off. He does nothing of the sort. He followed me for four blocks. He follows me in his car, stopping a 200 meters or so ahead of me and waiting for me to catch up with him so that he can proposition me again, offering me "sita" (which means "six" and I can only imagine he was offering me 600 LE....? Unless he really only thought I was worth $1.17, which, I mean...really!). I was incredibly indignant and kept a scowl on my face while still doing my utmost to totally ignore him, which, admittedly, was sickeningly difficult. I trained my eyes straight ahead and finally turned up a one way street so that he couldn't follow me, and walked down a much smaller parallel street. But he was determined. He found his way around the block and came UP that parallel street! This time, he stopped his car (I was terrified that he would get OUT of his car and come up to me on this newly deserted street), and flashed a fanned wad of cash at me, and yelled "FOOLOOS!", at which point I had had about enough and, as sternly as I could, I choked out, a "Haram Alayk!" ("Shame on you!") and kept walking, very fast, frowning. He drove on (the opposite direction of me), and I hoped that was the end of it. But it was not. He came around the block AGAIN. This time I was determined to make a fuss. But, as it turned out, I didn't need to. He had come back to apologize. "Ana Aasif! Ana Aasif!" he yelled at me as he turned his car around. I think he realized I wasn't a prostitute. I went to Coffee Roastary, got myself a double shot, skim latte and tried to learn some Arabic. Sigh.

In other news....drumroll.......I now know all of my travel plans! (Tentatively.)
Alex-->Cairo (train);
Cario-->Taba/Eliat (bus);
Eilat-->J'lem (bus);
J'lem-->Tel Aviv (sheirut);
Tel Aviv-->Amman (plane);
Amman-->Cairo (plane);
Cairo-->Frankfurt (plane);
Frankfurt-->D.C. (plane);
D.C.-->Altlanta (plane);
Atlanta-->Seattle (plane).
Oh and then Seattle --> Morocco on the 19th. But I can't think that far ahead.

I'm in the mood for Israeli music in anticipation for my travels...its called "בינונימי" (Binonimi") and its by Arik Berman.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


In other news, I spent a good amount of time last week at the Suk (for all of you Hebrew speakers, that's the Arabic equivalent of "Shuk". Yes.) with my friend Emma. In the course of running all over buying this and that, we, at some point, stumbled into an antique shop for a peek. We walked in to a group of four men chatting, chirping and chuckling in Arabic. It turned out that three of them were antiques dealers, and the fourth was a doctor from Florida who had moved to America at the age of three but returned to Egypt for med school. He spoke perfect English but Emma still couldn't help talking to him in Arabic.

We were there for two and a half hours.

The conversation ranged from the weather in Alex to where we had been in Egypt to the synagogue on Prophet Daniel Street. Consequently, Palestinian coins from 1927, 1936 and 1943 were produced the discussion turned to Israel, and I was asked if I loved the Arab people ("of course"), if I understood that Islam was an inclusive, broad-minded religion ("it accepts the prophets of both Judaism and Christianity! It's wonderful!"), if I wanted to marry someone from Israel ("why would I want to do something like that?!). Eventually they intuited that I was Jewish. Not sure how. Maybe it was my excitement over and request to buy (denied) to purchase the Palestinian coins. Either way, the man who owned the store proceeded to tell me about his father's best friend, who was Jewish.

With other Egyptians I've spoken to, the conversation would have gone something like "My father's best friend was Jewish. Really. He was. And they're friendship was deep. Really. It was. Islam is inclusive. Really, it is." I would have nodded and smiled and sweated. But this man was genuine. He had been speaking to Emma, who speaks better Arabic than I, but when he gave this speech, he looked straight at me with more honesty than a nun. (Abba - Please. I know what you're thinking. His eyes were a clear, black and honest and I was touched by his sincerity.)

I will admit to not understanding all of it, but I got maybe 80% and know that the concepts of strangers, neighbors and locations of Jewish landmarks in Alex all featured prominently and that the entire speech was given without the typical claim of sincere love of the Jewish people which usually undermines the credibility of such stories. At the end of it he gave Emma and I some really sweet, old coins from King Farouk's reign to take with us as a sort of consolation price for not selling the beloved Palestinian coins. We went back the next day and the conversation got a bit more personal. He told us a bit about himself. He ended up reading to us from the Quran...but he might not have been actually reading as he has had no formal education. It might have been sheer memorization. Maybe we'll go back again.

The music of the moment is one of the songs I listened to one the way home from school today. Its called Out of the Woods by Nickel Creek. Its almost where I am with this program. I love it. If you don't - don't tell me[, Zack].

Things that Happened in Sharm

Since I've last posted, many things have happened:

I spent an approximate total of 24 hours on a bus...probably more.
I hiked (the supposed) Mt. Sinai and watched the sun set.
I ate a twix bar that my friends bought for me and it was tasty.
I saw (the supposed) burning bush and was underwhelmed.
I was proposed to thrice by men of various shape and size. One of them was actually really sweet. I declined nonetheless.
I lied about being married once. I was conviniently wearing a ring on the (in)appropriate finger.
I snorkeled in Ras Muhammad National Park which made me want to become a professional snorkler. Or just get a scuba diving license and spend the rest of my life in the blue blue waters of the world.
I took an underwater video of a spotted something something stingray. Cool.
I backflopped off of the 4th story of a yaCHt. Please, pronounce the "CH". That's how they do it in Arabic. It's important.
I dove off of the third story railing of that self-same yaCHt approximately 4,509 times and enjoyed every single one more than the last.
I got woken up at 4 in the morning but have no recollection of said event.
I swam in the Gulf of Aqaba with fishes who swarm when you throw bread crumbs. Try it. Kinda frightening, but kinda fabultastic.
I listened to my first rock opera in full. It took 2 1/2 hours. I feel educated.
I found more Nutter Butters with an OU. I am saving them for a rainy (?!) day.

Song for today: Originally by Doris Day with a very famous cover by Cake. Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps I will someday have time to post about all of these things in more detail.

***Oh and the dates have been set! I will be in Israel from Aug. 3rd (I will probably arrive in the late evening) until Aug. 9th when I fly from Tel Aviv to Amman to Cairo to Washington D.C. to Atlanta to Seattle. ; )

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Embassy: Vary Your Route

The American Embassy in Cairo cautioned us against a number of things. One of which was walking to school the same way every day. If I hadn't ignored that warning this morning's walk wouldn'tve been as awesome as it was.

Its HOT, even in the morning, and as I was plodding through the 20th minute of the 25 minute walk to the Center for Languages Alexandria (that is a direct translation from the Arabic, in case you couldn't tell) I was asking myself why I didn't don't take a cab for the equivalent of one dollar. And then I got to the last big intersection where there is a Radioshack, a newspaper stand and a police officer who directs traffic (as you know, there are no traffic lights in Alexandria, and if there are, they're irrelevant or ignored). So I stop at the corner to wait for the traffic. The newspaper stand proprietor gave me a look of sound recognition and said good morning (SabaH al-CHeir) to which I responded in kind (SabaH a-Nur). He grinned and was about to sit back down when he thought better of it and called to the police officer across the street. I don't know what he said. I really don't. But the police officer promptly stopped traffic, told me that I speak "Arabi Quais" (Good Arabic) and let me cross the street. Rock on, ME. The picture next to this story is from right before I went swimming in the Nile. Despite the fact that I wasn't Walking in Memphis, but was walking in Alexandria, this is the song of the post, and the video is Cher voiced over. Kind of funny.

Monday, July 13, 2009

A Day In The Life

6:45am - I wake up. It's Sunday, July 13. I can't sleep because its so hot, and if I turn on the air conditioning I won't be able to step onto my balcony to get my clothes because there will be a pool of water between me and my beloved clothes line. So I get up.

7:30am - Coffee Roatary opens. I arrive 10 minutes later and order my double-shot latte. I open my our pretentiously named textbook whose name literally means "The Book" to read some more sentences meant to teach new phrases.

8:40am - So deeply engrossed in The Book's hidden agenda was I that I almost forgot that class begins in 5 minutes. I run to class and arrive sweaty. I sit through two hours of Amiyya, and then one hour of Fusha. Then there's a power outage. The lights go out. The electronics shut down. But most importantly, the air conditioner turns off.

12:15pm - They let us go because we're sticky and cranky and annoying. So my friend and I go to the gym, which had been the plan all along.

1:00pm - Arrive at the gym. Make sure the air conditioner is on, change, start our workout.

1:50pm - I notice the creepy gym attendant arrives. He comes in, brings us what he calls a "towel" (its a washcloth, but I appreciate it greatly nonetheless), and sometimes - if I'm using a machine or doing sit-ups - he'll pretend to be my personal trainer and count for me. In English. But otherwise we communicate in Arabic. He tried to teach me the names of all of the body parts once. That got awkward quickly.

3:00pm - Shower at the gym, get in a cab, go across the way to Carrefour to sit in a coffee shop and read a page and a half of an Arabic text all about approaches to Islamism.

6:00pm - (It took us approximately 2 hours to read that text) Pick up some vegis at the super-market section of Carrefour where I am in line in front of a very gooey, relatively naked family of five small children whose parents seem about ready to put them all up for adoption, and then hit the road for a mandatory CLS evening excursion to an artists gallery. No idea what to expect. Call the head of the program on the way to warn her we'll be late. We're not late. Other people are. The mini-bus to take us there is hot.

7:00pm - Arrive at the gallery. Walking in, I see a mosaic on the entrance and say "Wow, that looks an awful lot like most of the public art in Alexandria!" No one cares. We get into the gallery, and it turns out, this guy has done most of - if not all - of the public art in Alexandria. Props for me. He's very dignified, lets me play his piano, makes some fantastic 3D mixed media art as well as oil paintings, but his public art is the best. Reminds me of Chihuly a bit in that sense. Totally different style and totally different mediums, but I like his public art best. I want him to tiled the bottom of my pool when I get old and rich.

9:30pm - Arrive back in front of the hotel to be greeted by the usual evening crowd of salesmen. At night there's the sqeaky toy, tissue, and sunnyglasses gentlemen, and during the day they are joined by the mango, sandal, hair accessory, underwear, corn on the cob, and prickly pear hawkers (though they, too, stick around sometimes), many of whom recognize us by face now. I'm hungry so I join some friends going to the roof of a the nearby Sofitel (trivia: Winston Churchill stayed there when it was still called the "Cecil") and I remind myself for the umpteenth time never to raise my children in Egypt. Unless I buy them squeeky shoes. Which are annoying, but let their whereabouts be known to vehicles that could run them over. Namely cars, horse/mule/donkey carts (which, for the record, are a totally legitimate way to travel/transport things anywhere in Alex), and pedestrians, who are really just like cars but on the sidewalk. The Sofitel is beautiful, the elevator is small but grand, and the rooftop restaurant is so lovely I could melt. The cool breeze, the exceptional view of the Monument of the Lone Soldier, the whispering bay, the engaging company, the shimmering stars, the bright green of the large Mosque in the distance...ahh but to be young and in Alexandria on a free program that you love. And to put the cherry on the whip creme -- my Mom called, and I got to talk to her. Marvelous.

12:15 - Dinner is finally over, and we head back to the Egypt Hotel (Hotel Misr) for the night where I begin to blog...

The sagely Simon and Garfunkle once said, "I think it's gonna be alright, the worst is over now, the morning sun is shining like a red rubber ball." So true.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Alex to Cairo to Aswan to Luxor to Cairo to Alex

I wanted to use the term "highlights" to identify certain experiences I underwent last weekend. I've decided to not only use this word, but, in order to do it justice, I will label each event with a highlighter color.

Bashful Baby Blue: The first day we were in Aswan we were given the afternoon off. Probably because we had been visiting all sorts of tourists sights after getting negative sleep. But of course, that didn't bother me. I jumped onto a Feluka (smallish sailboat weighing 5 tons) with my friends Andy and Emma - Emma, you'll recall is a Penn GA, and a wonderful planner - and sailed down the Nile for a few hours. She had found this guy's name in the Lonely Planet and just called him up to which he responded, "I'll be with you in an hour". We managed to find him, precisely an hour later, docked right next to our ship. Side note: His boat, and almost all of the felukas are stunning. Most of them - and they have them in Alex, too, though there they are mostly fishing boats - are painted a glorious pastel blue or green color, so that they sort of blur and bleed the colors of the water into the colors of the sky. Back to the point: This guy and his son who must be approximately 12, but can steer a sailboat like he's 35, took us first to a garden island originally planted by some Englishman but now maintained as a glorious tourist site with lots of pretty birds and foliage and trellises and then...to the first cataract of the Nile! This guy and his son did a speedy strip down and jumped in. It was so hot out, and the water was so cool. Emma and I couldn't resist. So we swam the first cataract of the Nile. It was AWESOME. Don't try this at home, kids. If you're really worried right now, rest assured: No, I don't think I got Schistosomiasis but I'll have to get my blood checked for the antibodies in three months. Yes, I did talk to an actual Egyptian doctor afterward and he said we'd be fine. And no, my liver hasn't failed yet.

<-- This boat kind of said my name. Crazy.
Yawn Ye Yellow:
I spent the day of Sabt (Shabbat) on the boat. Everyone else went off to do some more touring in Edfu or some such, but I stayed. And I slept. And I went up onto the deck, and I read on the couches in the shade. And slept. And ate some of the food I'd brought with me. And slept. It a true day of rest. My own personal vacation. Delicious.

F# Fuchsia: There was a electronic Piano on the cruise ship. It was shaped like a (preme) baby grand. I asked to play in the early mornings and late at night nearly every day. I played for no one. It felt fantastic. ~If you're sensing a theme of excellence throughout this blog post, it may be because this trip was precisely that: Excellent.~

Obelisk Ozymandias Orange:
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter'd visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock'd them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away
~Percy Bysshe Shelley (1818)

Get this: I saw Ozymandias. Emma arranged the trip (of course) for us to go to the Valley of the Nobles and then to the "Ramsseum" after our day at the Valley of the Kings and Hatshepsut's Temple which were both very cool -- in a figurative sense, of course...it was actually as hot as the depths of that place Christians think you go if you're a bad person and you die -- but Emma, as I said before, takes her tourism seriously, and I was not about to miss an opportunity to see some super-ancient tombs, statues, or temples of a people who perhaps enslaved my people so many thousands of years ago. So I spent the afternoon gazing at the tombs of those who knew they would die (Valley of the Nobles), and then at the shattered visage of a man who thought that he could immortalize himself -- Ozymandias, King of Kings. The thought crossed my mind that Shelly may have, ironically, done more for his immortality by writing that poem (which, by the by, is a re-writing of another English poet's poem) than he did himself.

This picture, however, is NOT of me and Ozymandias. It is, instead, me and Hatshepsut, who remains my favorite ruler of Egypt, because she took over the thrown for 21 years and ruled as a King, depicting herself as a man (see picture) to such an extent that she was buried in the Valley of the Kings and not the Valley of the Queens. She is defaced here because her step-son, Tutmosis III, was a bit pissy about being overlooked for so many years and took out his rage on her statues.

Oh and I found Obama in hieroglyphics at the Karnak Temple in Luxor:

Aside from Ozymandias, I've saw some magnificent examples of ancient Egyptian architecture, art, mummification, statues, history, etc. that I would love to show you so that I could wax eloquent about how my concept of The Ancient and The Pagan and The Arts have all transmorgified over the last week, but the Internet in our hotel acts like a whiny tween, and I can only upload tiny pictures at approximately the same rate as the mail gets from the US to Egypt (Mom and Grandma, I got your letters!). So please accept my apologies, and allow me to end this post with a song by Ben Harper that's been stuck in my head due to the scorching weather called "She's Only Happy in the Sun".

From Andrew

I thought I'd share with you an email from my dear friend AK (not 47) clarifying some of my "confusions in translation" (the transliterations are mine):

oh, and a few things regarding your confusions in translation
zebra actually translates as 'monster donkey' (side note, its a good insult to a guy hitting on you to say ya wahash (you monster), then you could add on ikwe (this may be palestinian dialect, but it means get lost, but literally is the command for 'Iron!'). there are lots of fun combinations to make. [I actually went to the zoo in qalqilya where i saw the sign for zebra in arabic, and laughed]
Also, قفل {Kafala}, as I learned it doesn't mean 'to ensure'; it means to block up or close, غلق {Ghalaq} same as, if your phone is in arabic, when you unlock it the screen says (إغلاء قفل) or cancelling the locking, or at least mine does. To ensure would be more like امن {Amina} which is to insure or ضمن {Daumin} which is to guarantee, or in quranic arabic إشترى (Ishtarey) as I saw on a شهيد poster someplace in my travels and i'm sure there are a million other ways to say all of these and that قفل {Kafala} has lots of other meanings...

later chiquita,

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


It began at midnight, July 3 and lasted until 3:30am July 7. We got on a bus for Cairo. We got to the airport at 3am. I didn't sleep. And a sudden rush of weird energy hit me in the airport. I could be seen sashaying down the moving sidewalks and twirling betwixt and between the awkward English signage (some of the best of which, I still maintain, exists between the lobby of our hotel and my room. The sign reads: "Emeragecy Exit"). We got on our (delayed) flight to Aswan and landed sometime between the hours of 7 and 9 am. I don't remember because I managed to fall asleep sometime towards the end of the one-hour plane ride from Cairo to Upper (read: Southern) Egypt, and when I woke up the only word that can describe the way I felt was "groggy". Not to worry, my trusty GA Emma was there to take care of me and grabbed my stuff from the roundy thing that brings you your luggage, also known as a carousel. [Note: Emma is a second year PhD student at Penn and is actually a GA for a hall in the lower Quad. She is very good to me. More on that later.]

Enough with the boring travel nonsense. We were in Aswan. It was hot. Like really hot. One hundred and ten degrees Fahrenheit hot. But that didn’t bother our tour guides. We plunged right into visiting ancient temples, tombs, and…dams? Yes. That’s what we did. We took the bus to the dam, a ferry to a Temple that had been moved because of that dam, and then a bus to our CRUISE SHIP ON THE NILE WHERE WE WOULD BE LIVING FOR THE NEXT FOUR DAYS. It was everything both you and I though it would be. Mostly because the pillows were soft, the towels were large enough to cover all of my vitals, the shower was clean, and separate from the rest of the bathroom, but also because there was a small pool on the top deck, a guy who came around and swept off the crumbs from the table with a big spoony/scrapy thing, and they turned out our beds at night. If you don’t know what that means, you were like me before this trip. Suffice it to say: Its baller (for readers over 25, this means super cool in new slang).

I’m not going to write whole lot about this trip now because I need to do lots and lots of homework and then maybe sleep a little bit. My eyes are in that stingy-tired stage. Oooo but one other interesting piece of news for all of you dedicated readers: I will (most likely) be in Israel from August 3rd (night) until August 9 (morning). If you will be in Israel at that time, send me an email and we'll chill! I plan on taking a bus from Alex to Cairo, from Cairo to Taba, and from Taba to Jerusalem and afterward a plane back from Tel Aviv to Cairo with a layover in Amman since I've only been able to find Royal Jordanian Air flights.

The only bad - if you can even call it that - thing about this trip is that my headphones broke. I bought new ones today from Radioshack. Pretty poor quality, but they get the job done. Which brings me to my song of the moment. I am currently listening to the song Mischak HaSimultani (Simultaneous Game) by Beit HaBubot, one of my favorite Israeli groups of all time. I feel that the whole song, and especially the title, fittingly sums up the double-life (Soloveitchik) feeling in Egypt.

PS this has been the single-most difficult blog to publish. Blogger is being difficult. I wish I could send it to its room or something.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Egypt in Stages

I have a test today. A big test. On last three chapters in Al-Kitab II. And judging by my (and most of my class’) performance earlier this week (we had a predatory “quiz”), it ain’t gonna be fun and it ain’t gonna be pretty. So I’m blogging to avoid the studying that comes before the test, which is similarly unfun and ugly. (Speaking of which I think that the word for Zebra might actually be “Hemar Wahish” or “Ugly Donkey” and not “Ugly Horse” as was previously posted. Please accept my retraction and apologies.)
But what WAS fun was yesterday. I have three stories. They come in chronological order:

~Mahalat Alef (stage one)::: Before Class~
I was walking to class. It was 8:35am. I had forgotten any food I might have had for the day at the hotel that is my dwelling place, and I wanted to buy some fruit. So I stopped at the little corner store (the Egyptian equivalent of a mini-mart or Makolet, if you will) to purchase a couple bananas or something. I step up to the fruit display and I see a cigarette butt hanging out - still smoking - in the grapes. Disgusted, and happy I had never intended to buy any grapes, I put lifted the bunch of grapes, dropped the smoldering piece of trash to the ground, and stomped it out. The owner of the store comes over to me, chuckling (“You foolish American child,” he’s thinking). He waves for me to look at the rest of the fruit, which I suddenly realize is ALSO smoking. Using mostly hand motions he explains that what I thought was a cigarette butt is actually incense and that it’s supposed to be there and that I just stomped out his fruit-freshener and fly-keeper-away-er of the morning. Mortified, I look around, but the three lady customers are chuckling, and the store owner is still grinning.

~ Mahalat Ba (stage two)::: During Class ~
So Muhammad Sayeed designated half an hour for conversation in class yesterday. We were supposed to discuss our “family problems”. So, of course, Andy and I had to discuss OUR marital issues. So Andy announced that the problem is that I take drugs. I responded: Of COURSE I take drugs, because YOU’RE so difficult to deal with (Esther: I don't actually take drugs. This is a joke). But what happened next was what was funny. Muhammad Sayeed -- this wonderful, portly, mustachioed, case-ending-speaking, galabia-at-home wearing, devout Muslim, fiercely nationalistic man -- proceeds to demonstrate someone to take drugs. First he takes heroine. Ties himself off and shoots up. Then coke. Complete with the eyes-rolling-into-the-back of his head and convulsing part. It was so shocking all we could do was explode with laughter. The running class joke and Muhammad Sayeed’s mad acting skills had struck again. The class was on the floor. I really do like my Fusha teacher.
{Later that day...or, actually, very early the next day:}

~ Mahalat Jim/Gim (depending on your location)::: After Class ~
I went to the gym. Then I went to Carrefour (a sort of mall/supermarket/foodcourt) and studied in a coffee shop for a couple hours with a friend. But by 7:30ish I was ready to go back to the hotel and she was staying. So I got in a cab by myself. The conversation began when he asked an outrageous price and I negotiated him back to normal. The conversation immediately progressed to the “so are you married?” conversation -- typical.
“No,” I say. “I’m not married”. Bad idea.
“Why not,” says he. “Marriage is wonderful. I myself am engaged.”
“Congratulations!” I exclaim. WHEW.
“I’m only 21. I have lots of time.”
“You’re old! The time is now!” O dear. “I have a friend,” he continues.
“Oh…?” Uh oh.
“He might like to be your husband.” Indeed...?!
“How about if we're just friends?” I use two synonyms for friend to make it clear I really have no desire for an engagement party tomorrow.
“That might work. His name is Muhammad.” Of course it is. What’s your phone number, I’ll give it to him and he’ll call you.”
“I forget my phone number.” Lies. “How about you give me yours? That would be easier…” So he gives me his number and I think I’m safe because the power is in my hands. Even though he knows where I live (he was a cabbie, after all). How wrong I was.
He called me today. Twice. Once while I hung up on him in class and once whenI have a test today. A big test. On last three chapters in Al-Kitab II. And judging by my (and most of my class’) performance earlier this week (we had a predatory “quiz”), it ain’t gonna be fun and it ain’t gonna be pretty. So I’m blogging to avoid the studying that comes before the test, which is similarly unfun and ugly. (Speaking of which I think that the word for Zebra might actually be “Hemar Wahish” or “Ugly Donkey” and not “Ugly Horse” as was previously posted. Please accept my retraction and apologies.)

So I took my test today. It was awful. Really awful. But now its 2:32 am, I have class at 8:45am, and am getting on a bus to get on a plane (I think) to Aswan tomorrow night. Tired and hot will be the two most munasib (appropriate) adjectives to describe what I expect to feel this weekend. As for music, today's is Rufus Wainwright's version of Halleluja. Because if I had a mood ring it would be white. And if I had some coffee it would be black. And if I had a piano, I'd be playing this song.