Monday, August 31, 2009

Life has Begun

So we get catcalled. A lot. But my favorite, as you know, is when guys who watch us go by on the street just say the only English words they know (which might be cuss words) or the first thing that comes to mind, like this guy the other day who looked at me quizzically and said: A-RAbot! (Rabat!) to which I responded: SaH (Correct!) and walked on.

So my host father thinks he's funny that he can't speak English. Or Hebrew. But he tries. Our conversations with him consist of two word sentences, him responding in French, us nodding and smiling, him attempting to dredge up some word from his Hebrew lexicon, failing, but thinking that the French word that he's repeating over and over again is eventually going to make sense to us, and then laughing. Oh and yesterday he came out without his shirt on. I think he was trying to find it. But our host(grand)father is not a small man in circumference, and Lisa could NOT stop laughing though (silently, alhumdulilah) though I, ever the stoic, remained stonyfaced.

We went to "Cyber" on Saturday night since we don't have Internet in our house. Not the one near the house ("Sakana," warned our host sister), the one near the synagogue, which, by the by, you wouldn't know was a synagogue if there weren't an armed guard and men saying Kiddush Levana in their kippot outside. Good cover, Jews of Rabat. Anyway, at Cyber it took 10 minutes to load the computer and for us to realize that the keyboard was in French so that a "Q" is where the "A" should be and the ";" is where the "M" should be. It was rough. And then I realized I had to pee. Desperately. I asked the teenage guy at the desk -- who must have thought it was hilarious to watch American girls poking his keyboards -- if there was a "beit al-maa", he said "wee" and proceeded to show me the Turkish bathroom (=hole in the floor). That wasn't going to happen. So I grabbed my roommate, paid for our time, and we RAN to the hotel down the block. A blessing on French toilets.

Bon Iver is your artist of the day. I've been listening to him quite a bit lately, and its just the sort of sad, beautiful music that I love any time of day. This song- and the video is appropriate, I think- is called Wolves (Act I and III).

Friday, August 28, 2009

Cutlure Shock, Part ...

I don't know how many parts to my culture shock there will be, but for now, this is part 1.

Medina Living; Class Identity. Host family; Jewish Identity. Harassment dialogue; Female Identity.

These are the things that are on my mind. I have not much else to say otherwise (you andI both know that that's a lie, but this is a blog, not a journal, and you are a passive audience far away, not a chum on my left ready for a pillowchat. As I understand that this is unfair to you, I will relate a bit about my home stay and relay to you this article about being an American woman abroad which I just read that I found excruciatingly moving.

I live in the Medina. What this means is that the roads and houses are narrow, the motorcycles are fast and loud, and when you walk out of the house, whether it be night or day, it smells like a mixture of garbage and urine. The house is small - though I haven't explored it all. It sits on to top of a Hanut (Hewbrew speakers, read: Chanut. It's a Makolet, basically), wherefrom was procured our breakfasts this morning. When you get to the door, which is bright red, you unlock the outer treis and then the door itself only to be faced with some of the steepest, but ornately tiled, steps I've ever seen. I'm amazed still that my host (grand)father is able to climb them (recall, he's 71). You come into a sort of middle open space that is the connector for all of the other rooms. Behind you when you walk in are two rooms with toilets. I call them rooms with toilets because they are just that. And they're next to each other. Why? To quote my host mother, "This one is mine. You are a little girl, this one is yours." And a room - on the other side of the house - with a sink and a shower (!?). There is a dining room and a bedroom and a TINY kitchen, and then there is a sitting room...which now mine and Lisa's. We sleep (or, in my case, try to sleep) on couchybed things with two sheets. I'll stop describing now and just take some pictures, but I will say two more things.

My host family speaks French. My host father speaks very very little Arabic, his Hebrew is actually better. Needless to say, we don't communicate well. My host sister, who is returning to Beit/s Ya'acov in France speaks fluent French, her Hebrew is better than her fathers, and her Arabic is FusHa. Who speaks FusHa!? Foreigners. Weird. But we can communicate with relative ease. My host mother speaks perfect French, and her Arabic is good, not great, but she makes up for it in enthusiasm. She is spunky, full of life, and overly concerned about our well being. She took us to see every possible mode of transportation that we might take AmidEast last night around 10pm, to make sure we understood how to take a Grand Taxi, a Petit Taxi, and the bus. On the way we stopped to say hello to all the neighbors. Saying hello is not a short wave, its a "Labas? Labas! Labas Aleyk? Labas! Labas Aley Ochtik? Labas labas!" and it goes on. We never did figure out where the bus stops. The FrenchArabic that is spoken here is going to make me crazy. I'll understand the first chunk of what someone is saying, and then all of a sudden I'll be totally lost in the French only to come back 4 1/2 seconds later when the Arabic starts up again. Sentences were so totally confused, and even more so when you're dinner conversations are held in Farabrewnglishench, over the sounds of the Darija (Moroccan Frarabic)-dubbed Turkish soap opera on TV. But the food was great. It was the first REAL food I've had in Middle East: Traditional couscous. With meat. And I ate it. It looks like I won't be holding to a strict "vegetarian sustainable kosher" diet here in Morocco, and instead will be taking up a strict diet of "Polite".

To top it all off, there is no Internet in their house, and I (knowingly) put ice in my water yesterday which was made from tap water, so I was ill this morning. But I'm not complaining yet. This is just the beginning.

No song for now - gotta run to class. Later. Before Shabbat.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

There's no 911 in Morocco

So, yeah. There's no 911 in Morocco. If you have an emergency, we have been told to call AmidEast (my study abroad program, a United States government sponsored NGO) because they can get to you faster than even private ambulances, and public ones normally take approximately 2 hour to arrive.

But that's the only thing that Egypt has on Morocco. They have an emergency number (I think its 211). Other than that one amenity, Morocco surpasses Egypt in almost every arena. Here are a list of just a few, aside from the awesomeness of the souk which I mentioned in my last post:

1) The taxis are blue, not yellow. (I think its a Rabat thing) And they're not falling apart. Well, at least not all of them. And they adhere to laws. Like the law that they're only allowed to take up to 3 people. Yesterday there were nine of us who needed to go somewhere. In Egypt we would have taken one, maybe two taxis. Here we took 3. Also, did I mention that they're blue?

2) There are traffic lights. And stop signs. Admittedly, they are adhered much more as "suggestions" than as "laws", but the fact that we don't have cops directing every single intersection, is sort of nice. Here's a picture of my roommate, Lisa, with one of the aforementioned motorized bicycles. Apparently the idea is that if the motor dies, or you run out of gas, its OK, because you can just bike! I sorta want one, but they made us sign, practically in blood, not to drive while we're here.

3) Egypt was cheap, Morocco is cheaper. Last night - going to dinner, cabbing around, having an orange juice at a cafe - cost approximately $4. Its sort of shocking. Oh and I got my cards in the mail today (IDs, debit card, and insurance card) BUT my debit card STILL doesn't work. I'm getting better at being frugal, but I don't know how much longer I can last. I think I could keep this up for about 2 more weeks. I have 400 dirham.

4) I can JOG! I have gone jogging in the park up the road for the last two mornings. I go with a friend or two at 6:30am when its cool and people are still sleeping after their shuhur meal, and I RUN. I RUN IN AN ARAB COUNTRY AND AM NOT HARASSED! (poo poo poo). Like the blue taxis, this might just be just a Rabat thing, as it is the political capital of this city, or maybe just a Ramadan thing, but it is SO refreshing not to be catcalled...I'll enjoy it while it lasts.

5) I have yet to see a MaybeDead person! I saw one every other week or so in Egypt, but none here (poo poo poo!). But, I just found out today, that I'll be living in the Old City (Medina) in the Mellah (Jewish Quarter) which is going to be in a relatively seedy, but also ancient and awesome part of Rabat which houses the synagogue and one kosher restaurant called Le Circle (Nine of us last night had an adventure last night finding it only to realize that it's actually NOT open during Ramadan. I think its a bar during the rest of the year). My host mother and father are more like host grandmother and host grandfather. She's in her 50s and he's in his 70s! She's a housewife and he's retired. Their kids all live in France, they have a beautiful big house, and she cooks a lot. And they keep kosher. I'm stoked.

6) FRENCH. Grrrrrrrrr. As my cab driver explained it: It's all about who occupied whom. The English occupied Egypt, so they speak English -- but they don't. And the French occupied Morocco, so they speak French -- which they do!

In other ways, Morocco is just the same as Egypt. There are the same *Gay?*Men (i.e. men who hold hands and caress one another in public). The same cats (picture) and mice guts on the streets, evidence of snack times past. Same cafe/makolet/street vendor culture which, though weird now because its Ramadan, will, I'm sure, provide ample places to people watch. Same men who shout anything they know in English at you whether it be curse words "Where you from?", "Welcome!" or "Spice Girls!", or "Is the circus in town?" (if there are a lot of us walking together).

We went to the beach today, fully clothed, or at least most of us were. We played soccer, volleyball (with the soccer ball), and waded in the water. Then we watched the sunset from the jetty. Lovely. And then came the nightly search for food during Ramadan. I ended up with nuts and bread and fruit. Typical fare. Everyone else managed to get pizza or kofta (Arab sausage). Then we went out to Hotel Balima (I call it Hotel Bulimia) for tea/coffee/juice. Cute.

Side note, slightly related to Hotel Bulimia: My friend today was talking to some Moroccans and when she was ready to go she said what she thought was the Moroccan word for "goodbye" which is "bislama" literally, "in peace". Instead she said "bismiallah" which means "in the name of God" which is the beginning of the Shahada or "testimony" which is a statement of affirmation of Muslim belief. Dyslexia is one of my favorite things in foreign languages. We all have it, and it makes for some amusing anecdotes.

And for the song, today's artist is Gomez, who I was introduced to by a good friend of mine who is now music major, so you know it has to be good. Ambivalently upbeat both in music and lyrics, the song (live) is called Hamoa Beach.

Monday, August 24, 2009


This one's for Roxana (!). It's a picture of me with the baby stork that I thought about putting up yesterday, but refrained from because I look more hilarious than the baby stork. But, with Roxy's prompting, here it is, proudly displayed for all to see:

And this one's from tonight's Iftar. Did I mention that there are 27 girls and 3 boys on this program. It was the boy on the left's 21st birthday tonight, ironically placed in the middle of Ramadan:

Too zonked to write more. I'll just write one glimpse of the souk here in Rabat.

The souks all over Morocco are supposed to be fantastic, especially those in Fes and Marakesh. But all I've ever seen are those in Egypt (and Israel and the West Bank) I didn't know what to expect. Lets leave at this: I was blown away. The colors ranged from burly brown to ostentatious orange, baby blue to nautical navy, precious pink to rich red. The smells ranged from rancid meat -- I saw more goat heads, feet, and strung up bodies than I ever wanted to in my life -- to spices I never imagined that come in all shades of green and red. I could go on, and eventually will, but for now, I'm going to see if I can get my act together enough to write in my journal and figure out how I can co-ordinate people to go jogging tomorrow, but I wonder if I can summon enough courage, even with a bunch of girls in thi semi-suburban area (Agdal) to go when no one's around in the early Ramadan morn. Song of the moment: Stevie Wonder's "Have a Talk With God". It's Ramadan AND Elul, folks.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Adeventures are available at any and every turn in Rabat, even during the Holy Month (not Elul)

Couldn't bear to disappoint my readers, so I'm writing about my first day with the AmidEast Rabat crew.

Here was my day in basic nouns. For all of those who have taken Kaufman's US History class, this could be terms to combine for IDs. One potential thesis might easily be the title of this post.

Ancient Romans
Baby Storks
Pottery Wheel
Carpet Souk

Now allow me to elaborate:

Today was the second day of Ramadan. [Ramadan is a time of elevated spiritual attentiveness and focus. Fasting every day from sunrise to sunset, Muslims are careful to pray the requisite five times a day, and abstain from such practices as eating, drinking (obvi), smoking, procreating, among others. Approximately three restaurants in the area are open, and the streets are relatively dead during the day, but if you are a Muslim male you will not be served at any of them unless you have an official government note stating that you have a medical condition. OK, moving on.]

This morning we trudged through the humid August air to arrive at the AmidEast Headquarters, a lovely 5-story blue-and-while tiled building with lots of classrooms, computers, and even a small library for our the study abroad students' exclusive use on the penthouse floor. We were "oriented" which meant that we were told a lot of information that a) we had already read in the packets they gave us b) was mostly common sense and c) tended to drag itself out due to the healthy enthusiasm shown by the interjecting staff (who are wonderful, don't get me wrong).

Then we had our first class in "Survival Moroccan Arabic", also known as our first class in Dairja, or the dialect of this region. The class was unexpectedly quite fun, with our peppy pink hijabed teacher popping from one of us to the next asking us to repeat the phrases we'd just learned, and it made me realize to what degree much my summer CLS program advanced me. Lets just say I have my Fusha (MSA) placement exam tomorrow morning, and I'm not studying.

So then we were supposed to go lunch. But nothing was open. Even the fancy French place was closed. Not because it was Ramadan, but because it was Sunday. I had brought a lunch, so I ate - by myself, in a corner (as we all must on Ramadan) - on the top floor of the AmidEast building and then was whisked off to what's called the "Chellah" (pronounced "Shae-LA) castle. It's an ancient Roman castle that the Muslims built - if I'm not mistaken - right on top if it.

Anyway, at this castle there were all sorts of crazy things to see. I saw beautiful flowers, lots (LOTS) of cats, which I've come to refer to as the "rats of the Middle East" (but so cuuuutttee), and it it was here that I obtained two grotesque mosquito bites. I saw the mosquitoes as they were biting me and destroyed them but still had the horrible bites to deal with...I later was able to put clay on them and they deflated quite rapidly. I will explain.

I even took a picture with incredible old door that looked like it'd been plucked from "A Secret Garden" which, most likely, this had been at some point or another:

But the COOLEST thing I did at the Challah was to hold a baby stork, which was maybe the weirdest animal I've ever seen up close. They were all over when we were walking around, so I snapped approximately a bazillion pictures of these furry dinosaurs, but then when our "guide" was talking to us at one point, he picked one up! And I was like "YO!" - (in my head) - and then when he saw the shine in my eyes and the enthusiasm in my stance, he handed it to me. It was WEIRD. Mostly because it looks so sinister yet is so damp, wretched, and helpless. Probably because it had just fallen out of the nest. I mean its likely. And those nests are HIGH. Not to mention ALL OVER the place!

Anyway, that was the highlight of my day. Used some hand sanitizer, got back on the bus, and headed for the pottery makers where I was one of about 6 or 7 people to get my hands (and clothes!) dirty behind the pottery wheel. It was worth the filthy white skirt I had to wear for the rest of the day.

On our way to the carpet souk we were warned not to buy anything. I think they didn't want us making any outrageous purchases since we're still just "stupid Americans" and don't know anything about anything. Which is partially true. Though, somehow, I wasn't tempted to purchase anything....I'll leave most of that to Grandma and Co. when she comes in October (YAY!!!!)

Tonight we went to a host family for Iftar, the traditional break-fast meal after a day of fasting during Ramadan. It was an elaborate affair. They had the most wonderful dates. I ate nine. And they had glorious sweet tea with na'ana (in Arabic it has an Ayin), or mint. But I only had one glass of that. And after dinner we all got henna on our arms. Mine started annoying me by the time we got on the bus, and most of the chunky stuff is off by now, and my arm just looks an unhealthy shade of orange jaundice.

During that dreary orientation this morning, I made a list of things to do. I have, thus far, done none of them. I probably won't. At least not tonight. Its 11pm and I should go to bed. Or read a book, or do something other than blog. So here's my song, based on a converation I had about Kabbalism and Sufism over Iftar, and while I will admit that it's not the greatest piece of musical or lyrical genius, and it's probably Christian rock to boot, I kind of like it. Here's Glory/Us by Acceptance.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Day One All Alone

So I woke up at 8am this morning before my alarm, having gotten 10 hours of glorious sleep in a bed where I only saw one bug and was too tired to care. The rest of this hotel, though, is perfectly clean. In fact, I was impressed with the cleanliness of Morocco all around today.

I had 200 dirham on loan from the program that had been dropped off at the hotel (AmidEast is a wonderful organization) and had to budget it for my day. And so far so good.

So today's a national holiday, and I was slightly worried I wouldn't find anything open or be able to get a cab. But I walked outside, made sure I remembered the name of my hotel (Oumlil) and walked to the closest (same block) corner store to buy phone charge, tissues, and a big bottle of water (I hadn't had anything to drink since the flight to Paris the day before since I'm afraid to drink the tap water here -- I was parched!). That went well. When I say "that went well" I mean I wasn't ripped off. And getting a cab went well. I only paid 12 dirham (about $1.50) for my 15 minute ride there.

I don't think that Marjane (which is basically a Moroccan Carrefour with lots of comforting, potentially kosher French products) is ever very busy at 10am when I arrived. But it got busy. There weren't enough cashiers. The lines were super-long and not moving very fast. The kids with their parents were antsy. And then there was a shopper revolt. I kid you not. One man started it. He asked people to clap and walk out in protest. No one walked out, but people made noise. They clapped and stomped. What's nice is that most of them didn't take it so seriously and were able to chuckle a little bit (I joined the chuckling...not the clapping). The manager came out to deal with the situation and there was a screaming match. It was really fun.

As soon as I got out of the shopping area I sat down to eat. I had only eaten an apple, a cliff bar and a luna bar yesterday, so food tasted GOOD. I was sitting at a sandwich/coffee spot and got some funny looks for eating my bread straight, but I was too hungry to care. On the way back I saw a guy on a motorized bicylce. Right. I thought it was a motorcycle until I saw him peddling. Then I was confused, because he was going as fast as the cars -- uphill. I still don't fully understand the chrank it was. I hope to clarify in future posts.

So Morocco's pretty, or at least what I've seen of Rabat, which is home to 1.2 million Moroccans (thank you to The Google). There are very few foreigners except for those who live and work at the consulates, which are located here as it is the capital of the Kingdom of Morocco. It's hilly, there are wide side, clean walks, sweet colonial architecture, and trees. Lots. And there are far fewer hijabed women than I saw in Alex. Also - the French is going to be annoying. I mean the fact that I don't speak it. Everything's in French, and people switch mid-conversation from Arabic to French like tossing a ball from one hand to the other. No big deal. They also assume you know French. Which you don't. Maybe I'll pick some up...?

I've spent the early afternoon surfing the interwebs, reading, listening to Arabic music and watching a little Egyptian Arabic TV to get back into the groove. Apparently this double room is all mine until Sunday. Rock on. I probably won't leave it much tomorrow, unless I manage to find the synagogue. I have the address.

So the first song I heard by Geoff Berner was called "Lucky God Damn Jew" but I deemed it inappropriate for this blog (its kinda funny if you wanna youtube it), then I listened to "Whisky Rabbi" and deemed THAT inappropriate as well. So instead I went with this one, called "Iron Grey." Mostly because I liked how he did the video. Oh and he plays the accordion. Sweet.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Charles de Gaulle is a Lucky Man

I sit in this lovely, over-capitalized Charles-de-Gaulle Paris International airport and I think to myself, "I know this feeling of tired. This is the tired after a trans-Atlantic, no-sleep, too-many-movies flight. we go again." And so ti is. My eyes droop, my hands feel like they're made of seaweed as I type, and I'm staring boldfaced at a fellow traveler who is closing his eyes and strumming his guitar. I just had the thought that this feeling of tried might have something to do with my early-morning waterski (which was GORGEOUS - the mountain was out on my way down the shoreline, the water was glass, and I had some killer turns), or the pancake breafkast I prepared for 6 friends and siblings afterward before I finished packing and got the heck out of my house. Maybe...mumkin.

AirFrance is wonderful. I think I watched 6 movies over the course of that flight. Lets see: Two French movies with English subtitles (solid), “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past” (yikes), “Yes Man” (most of it…I got bored), and an nutso dance movie that screamed early eighties at me like I was deaf (Diana, I’ll remember the name and get back to you), oh, and the beginning of “Shakespeare in Love”, which I love. So yeah, about six. Jack should be proud.

Actually, the movies were
the worst part of that flight. The entertainment system wasn’t working properly, but that was fine with me since my last flight across the world on Lufthansa (I always feel like there should be an exclamation point right there so that its pronounced “LuftHANsa!” as is appropriate) didn’t have those personalized TVs, and the movie they showed was one I’d seen three times before (“He’s Just Not That Into You”) on my way OVER. So I was thrilled. Also, this is my only layover! Incredible. And even better, above my tray table there was a coat hook and a cup holder like you find in cars, the flight attendants were super sweet and brought me loads of pretzels (I forgot to order the Kosher meal) and decaf coffee, AND they serve Perrier + real lemon and free alcohol (!?).

Time to bring this to a close. I (only?) have 2 more hours to chill in Paris. This airport is huge, by the by. We landed right on time - 8:35AM - and taxied until 8:50. Then we walked onto the tarmac, as is the custom in countries other than America (and now Israel), and took a shuttlebus for another - I kid you not, 15 minutes - until we got to our arrival gate. From there I took yet ANOTHER 15-minute shuttlely van to get to the proper gate of departure [ooo looks like I’m getting ready for Arabic syntax again…“gate of departure”- pah! That’s an Idafaa]. And now I sit. And I look. From where I am I can see at least two places to purchase overpriced coffee, a machine that lets you scan your bording pass and tells you all the details of your flight (super useful, even if it IS in French. I’m so glad they use a script I’m more or less familiar with), an excessive number of duty free stores (in Paris they have what I can only assume to be designer purses alongside with the normal candy, perfume, and alcohol), and a PlayStation Station (its cool, and I’m no gamer). Also, the whole airport smells like croissants. I am sitting in a booth shaped like one of these guys à ~ that has Wifi, BUT, since I’m an idiot, and left my WALLET AT HOME (cue laughter) - no joke - I can’t use my credit card to get online and tell you all that I’m alive. But, I am. I’M ALIVE. And I am blessed.

Obviously the next time I'm in Paris the song will be "An American in Paris" by Gershwin, because what else could it be? But I wasn't really in Paris this time 'round (4 hours in the airport doesn't count) so you get, instead, Joni Mitchell's title song "Free Man in Paris" as your song of the post. Recall that I have no cellphone and no Internet . I am free.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Egypt is in Iraq

My friend Zack pointed this pathetic excuse for a map out to me in "Al-Masri Al-Youm" when we were in Egypt and Fox News aired it. Needless to say, Egypt was annoyed. This copy of the image is from FAILblog via Tal Raviv. Many Thanks Tal.

Oh, and in other news, Seattle is amazing. I've waterskiied twice now, the outdoor temperature has ranged from rainy/rickety to sunny/sparkling (both weather patterns I adore), and I've seen most of my family and friend who are around for the summer. I made (and consumed) chocolate chip waffles, blueberry pancakes, and my mom's famous cookies. I did laundry using a washing machine AND a dryer. I drove my car, Athena. I went out for a beer that wasn't Stella or Sakara [made in Egypt]. I had a doctor's appointment and wasn't afraid I'd need to baksheesh the nurse. All of these thing have been wonderful, and its true what they say, "don't it always seem to go/ That you don't know what you got till it's gone."

Friday, August 14, 2009

Makeup Music

To make up for my first "PAUSE" that had no music, is a song from the NPR song of the day that I get to my inbox...every day. This one is from July 30. I'm catching up. Its by the Matt and Kim and its called "Daylight". I'd heard it before, and liked it, and then discovered that NPR liked it too, and since, well, I love NPR, it just sort of turned into one, very small, circle of love. Beautiful.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

PAUSE: Got to Go Home

It is now 11:47 and I board my transatlantic flight at 12:30. One word on the Frankfurt airport: Its uuuggglyyy. And it was raining when we landed. But it has one redeeming quality: The Americans who travel through it. I was in desperate need of headphones. Mine had broken (as you may recall) and I’d just been traveling for a good 18 hours without music, and I was, well, desperate. So I bought some for 10 Euro at a newsstand. Bad move. I opened them up and tried to put them on -- to no avail. They wouldn’t even GO IN my ears. So I took them back and returned them. Then I went to an electronics duty free shoppe. Their cheapest that weren’t going to have the same problem were 29 Euro. So I had the 10 in cash that I had gotten back from newsstand man, and 12+ that I’d been given by someone in Israel who knew I’d be in Europe and 7 dollars. I owed 4.30 Euro and my credit card wasn’t working (his machine wasn’t working, actually. My credit card was just fine) and there was no ATM in the terminal. So I’m standing there, mortified that I’m going to have to fly from Fankfurt to Dulles, from Dulles to Atlanta and from Atlana to Seattle with no music, when the guy behind me goes “How much do you owe?” “No WAY,” says I. “Euros are like double the dollar - that’s a lot of money. I owe 4.30.” I slipped it in. And he paid for it. He spotted me something like 8 bucks that he’s never going to see again (in fairness, I offered to buy him coffee with my credit card which he declined) to exponentially increase the quality of my transatlantic experience. Needless to say I thanked him profusely. So I’ve gotten two free things today in airports. My tea in Cairo and the remainder of my headphones in Frankfurt. Lets see what happens in America.

I'm going Home.

PAUSE: Long and Lonesome Road

I am beginning this blog at 4:23 in the morning so that you get the full effect of what this trip is/was like. I have spent four times the number of hours in airports as I have spent on planes today. I got to Ben Gurion around 3pm having taken a 2 o’clock Nesher. The girl who interrogated me when I got there had a hard time piecing together my story, mostly because she couldn’t believe I spoke Hebrew, spent one week in Israel and two months in Egypt.

The flight from Tel Aviv to Amman was mostly uneventful, thankfully. I think I slept for maybe 10 minutes. That was nice. And when I got to Amman, though I didn’t have very much time to spend dillydallying in the airport, I did see a Starbucks (and I remembered with fondness the “Stars and Bucks” in Ramallah) with commemorative mugs for sale from almost any Arab country that you please. I didn’t buy any, but I took a picture.


When I got to the Cairo airport things turned crazy.

After spending approximately 8 hours in the airport, I was really ready to get out of there. When we landed we were bussed to the customs. On one side there was a row of booths to process people who were staying in the country, manned by Egyptian border guards and on the other, a similar row for "Transfers", which were all empty. So I did the usual. I went up to a policeman who handed me off to another policeman who handed me off to see where this is going. Anyway, eventually I was told there would be a bus to take me to the Lufthansa terminal, Inschallah, and that I should give them my passport as collateral so that I could run past the lines for customs, grab my luggage from baggage claim, and come back. I did. Then I sat down and ate the dinner I had brought with me, to the awkward amusement of the policemen, and was eventually joined by three Americans who had been teaching some Lebanese students in Cyprus after a cruise along the Mediterranean who were also on their way back to America via Delta. We chatted. And then we all got on the bus when it arrived. But it took us to Egypt Air security. SO here I was, making friends with the security guards once again, telling them I was married, making sure they were making arrangements for me to get to where I needed to go, and all the while thinking A) I'm glad I have a long layover here and B) I'm not going to sleep tonight. Finally my bus arrived (Yes, MY bus. It was a huge 50-seater -- all for me), I said goodbye to my friends at EgyptAir security and I got on. But no sooner had I gotten on that bus, that the driver pulled over. When I asked him what was up, he mumbled something, so I said "Ohn", which you will recall is an affirmative sound, and let him get out and walk into some unmarked large concrete structure while I sat there for what was probably a good 20 minutes. I wasn't scared, or even nervous at all, until I heard footsteps behind me. It was an Egyptian soldier making his rounds. I smiled at him as he passed. Egyptians have this weird thing where they do a double take if you smile at them- its like they don't expect it- and he did one of those and then presented me with a massive grin of his own and continued to glance backwards at me ever 6 seconds or so until he was out of eyeshot. Then my driver came back, bearing snacks. I offered me one of his three massive sandwiches, implying that they were tasty by saying "Quayis!", to which I responded "Yes, good for YOU," and let it go at that.


A few words about this driver: He drove like an Egyptian. Not that that was unexpected, but we crossed the tarmac together - we went over a good chunk of the Cairo airport's square footage and you'd think it would be easier adhere to a few road rules where there's so MUCH concrete at your disposal. But no, we still went the wrong way on one way streets, he almost ran over some police officers who were trying to cross the "street" who yelled at him (!), and he threw the top of his soda can (apparently in other parts of the world the little flip cap for soda hasn't been popularized), which I found unnerving. And we passed some people hanging out, eating, praying and sleeping on the street outside of a building in what felt like the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night for no reason. I asked the driver who they were, and he told me that they were Palestinians in transit to other countries, and that they stayed there - a sort of holding ground - until other countries would grant them visas. I'm not sure how good this guys credibility is, but if that's true -- woah. And then he asked me for basksheesh. I laughed at him and told him I had no Egyptian money. He said Jordanian would be fine, too. I just kept laughing and got off the bus.


The guys I found next who worked for Egypt Air loved me. I think it has something to do with the fact that I can be animated when I'm exhausted and want to be understood. I cracked them up. Turns out I’m also super good at making it seem like get something close to 84% rather than the 56% I actually understand, and that’s if I round up. In any case, they treated me like royalty. Granted I was there for their entire shift and I’m pretty sure that it may never have happened that some random 21-year-old white girl who understands and speaks some Arabic hung out with them all night, that’s all I’m saying. I left my stuff with them to get coffee at the cafeteria and the guy who made my coffee gave me free tea when I finished. Sweet. But then it was only 1:30am and I was bored.


So I came back downstairs and ended up talking with these guys, who I assume were supposed to be working or something - Ahmed and Husayn - from approximately 2-4:30am. We talked a lot about the guy I’m engaged to (Sean) who is not Egyptian (a'asifa), lives in America and doesn’t make money now, but will when he graduates and about the apartment our parents are buying us that we’ll move into after we get married in one year. And no, we won't live in Egypt because Sean doesn't speak Arabic. Oh and since I was taken, Husayn decided that he wants to marry my sister when she grows up. I told her that she (Elizabeth) is twelve, but he didn't mind. I told him my brother (Teddy), who is sixteen, might not be so OK with that. We talked about the weather a lot, too. And movie stars. They got a kick out of Sean’s name because they love Sean Connery. And they love the WWF. Can you tell that neither of them is married? In any case, its 2½ hours of Amiyya Masriyya to chalk up on my Gold Star Chart. You know how new drivers, pilots, or kids being potty-trained have to count their hours or successful attempts and then they get a prize (like a license or a barbie) in the end? That’s what I think I should do with speaking Arabic. I should get free trip to an Arabic-speaking country or something when I get up to like 100 hours. I think I might be close.


I am currently watching the Lufthansa crew walk towards the plane. They’re mostly blond, and I overheard the captain talking to an Egyptian who is clearly the coordinator or whatever for the planes saying “So are we on time today?” [Egyptian nods and says “Ohn” which is Egyptian for “Yeah.”] “Not like yesterday,” continues the captain, “when we were ten minutes late…” I understood from his town that THAT was a disaster that cannot and will not be repeated. Oh ye Germans. You never cease to amuse me with your timekeeping. It’s funny that Egypt Air and Lufthansa have a partnership. Egypt Air is so absolutely Middle Eastern -- late, laid back, and more often than not, falling apart. The German Airline on the other hand is quite the opposite. It’s particular, precise, and above all (it seems), punctual. I’m just saying -- this is not a match made in heaven. {Will the JEW who ordered the KOSHER meal please IDENTIFY HIMSELF! ß that was for you, Abba. I didn’t order any Kosher meals. Hopefully I won’t starve, I still have some nuts and Cliff bars left.}


You know what would make this airport better? Free Internet. Then I could post this blog in real time. Ahh well, what can you do? Its now am and I have to get on the plane to Frankfurt. Not looking forward to the rest of my journey so much, but I do believe that the hardest part is over. Somehow it seems that the hardest part of any of my travels ends up being in Cairo. See previous post for details.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

PAUSE: Insert Israel

So while I am aware that I need to insert legs 4 and 5 to complete the story of my Exodus, I would like to relate a few moments of my stay in Jerusalem this past week. I leave tomorrow, so I figure, here's my opportunity. Here is a list, entitled: Why I Enjoyed/Got A Lot Out Of My Time In Israel. Enjoy.

Why I Enjoyed/Got A Lot Out Of My Time In Israel:

1) There was lots of FOOD. I think I ate most of it. And it was all Kosher L'Mehadrin.
2) Bronfman paid for my first night of entertainment (and food) at Chutzot HaYotzer where I bought pretty things and heard Ivri Leider in concert (you only heard him on youtube, sorry)
3) I got to go to the Jerusalem Wine Tasting Festival at the Jerusalem Museum with a bunch of my friends from Penn who I won't be seeing for some time. Obviously ran into some people from my youth group and high school days, as well as old friends from Seattle. Obviously had a little bit too much to taste. Obviously had a wonderful time.
4) I went to Ramallah and saw a refugee camp for the first time. Really interesting to be exposed to that immediately after Egypt. Ramallah is cleaner (the garbage dust is finer in Ramallah), smaller (27,000 people vs. 7 million in Alex), and more messed up (they speak a weird Semitic language dubbed "HebrAic" that will probably remain unrecognized by the international community for years to come).
5) I went to a 40th-anniversary revival of Woodstock and was pursued by some sweet hippies from Bat Ayin who were trying to recruit my friends and I to the "Acharit HaYamim" (End of Days) Festival that was taking place the next down down in the West Bank.
6) I got to take a hike in the environs of Hadassah Ein Karem with my friend {shout out: SHIRA!} and her new hubby. And I got to see their house. And be introduced to Mivtza Safta. Rockin'.
7) I had my first Shabbat dinner at a friend's {shout out: RACHEL!} sister's {shout out: NOA!} Bat Mitzvah. Lovely davening, lovely food, (lovely dessert), lovely view, lovely company.
8) Had Shabbat lunch at my home-away-from home with real home-cookin' and learned that cheese, figs and balsamic vinegar are a wonderful combination.

Lots more but must fly. Watched Australia tonight. In its spirit, I present you with "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole. Its my favorite version.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Leg Three: How Two Arab Men Robbed The Sleep From My Eyes

I changed the title a bit. I think its a bit more poetic this way.

I got on the bus, hopeful that this time I'd be able to sit next to an individual of my choosing. There were three (2 guys and a girl) friendly-looking Swedes getting on the bus with me and hope filled me like a balloon. But, alas, alack, it was not to be so, and my dreams were soon deflated. {Lesson #1: Never hope.}

WAHID: When I found my seat, I discovered in the window seat a sweat-and-smoke smelling Arab man who took up his seat and half of mine. And I was seated across from the Swedish girl. Why couldn't we have been seated next to each other? Turns out, she might not have been the best company - she slept the whole time (God knows how). Once I sat down I began to notice certain things about the man I was to sit with for the next 7 hours. {Lesson 2: Don't judge.} He had winding tattoos through his inner forearms, immediately on top of which were an excessive number (16 or 17 per arm?) of terrifying scars that made him look like he had been slashed a number of times with a thick blade up and down his forearms. I had various theories about him throughout the night. At first I thought he was had been a political prisoner somewhere and had been tortured. Then I saw him looking at his phone and pictures of his kids, and thought "aww" he must have been a troubled teen but his good heart won out and saved him from the streets. Then, when we stopped for the first time [there were 3 or 4...can't remember], he bought food. Every time he cracked a bottle or a bag of Chipsy open, he offered its contents to me first. So I thought maybe he was a drug addict and used food to replace his habit (remember, he was taking up 1/2-2/3 of my seat in addition to his own). Then he told me about himself. He's Jordanian, and, just so you know, in Jordan they have better tea. Other than that, I didn't understand a whole lot, but he talked on anyway. He also managed to sleep a lot, but still manage to touch me with his leg or arm at most times. I initially attributed this behavior to his bulk, but soon decided that there were probably other contributing factors. That was creepy man the first.

ITNAYN: So there was this guy sitting next to the Swedish girl at the widow opposite me. We made eye contact early in the trip, and I had allowed myself to smile because he looked normal. When I say he looked normal I mean he was wearing a polo shirt, dress(ish) shoes, and sported a glorious mustache. But when he smiled back at me -- he was missing a front tooth. This story gets better. Around 3:30am we stop (either the 2nd or 3rd stop, but I was really happy to stop because Jordanian Tatoo Scars was bumping up against me and was becoming slightly more than uncomfortable) and I walk around, used the bathroom (I really should, though probably won't, write a blog post just about the bathrooms I experienced between Alex and Jerusalem), and stood around for a while. I happened to be standing around this guy, lets call him Osama, because that was his name, and I asked him, since we'd been chillin' for a while, if he thought that there was still time for tea. {Lesson #3: I can be stupid.} He took this as an invitation to tea. So we sat and sort of talked. He told me he was a computer engineer (I believed him at the time, but when the passport inspector came on board our bus he told him something yeah. {Lesson #4: People Lie.}) He asked me if I was married, I said no, but I had was engaged to a boy in America (I change this story all the time), and showed him my ring. He paid for my tea anyway and told me I was beautiful and I wanted to scream "I'M NOT BEAUTIFUL, I'M WHITE!" Then, as we were walking back to the bus he asked me if I had e-mail. I straight up told him "No, I don't have email, sorry." I wanted to scream "HA! TAKE THAT SKETCHY MAN!". And then he said he wanted to see me again, and I said, "Well I don't know where I'll be in the future (I should have used one of our catch phrases for the summer: "you can't a'arif the mustakbal" or "you can't know the future", but I think that would have given him too much false hope.) He got what I was silently screaming by the end, though: "THIS IS NOT HAPPENING FOR YOU, GIVE UP AND GO AWAY". {Lesson #5: If you scream loud enough in your head, sometimes people can hear you.} And that was creepy man the second.

To escape Jordanian Tatoo Scars and Osama, I tried to listen to music. But my headphones were broken. Life was rough. But its better now, and this is a song that a friend/former security guard of mine from Tel Aviv just posted on The Book of Face. He made the video because the song, by Asaf Amdurski, didn't have a video to go with it on youtube. I think the song is called "Mayan" which means "Spring". I hopefully will be hiking to one on the morrow with some friends. Oh and I felt it was an appropriate song because I went to a 40-year anniversary celebration of Woodstock last night near Gan Soccer. You'll understand what I mean once you take a peek. Woodstock Revival wasn't very exciting...but this video is.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Leg Two: I Just Need An ATM

I got off of the train in Cairo and had really very little idea of where I was supposed to go. I recieved much contradictory information from friends, strangers and policemen before finally going to the police station located by the exit and asking them. I walked in with my biggest American smile and started speaking in Arabic, explaining my situation with a fluency that surprised me even more than it surprised them. I was passed from one cop to another maybe five or six times before one guy took me to the INFORMATION station where the lady behind the desk first complimented my Arabic and then told me exactly what I needed to know. The bus station was 10 minutes away by cab and the next bus to Taba left at 10:15pm. This meant that I had 3+ hours to kill.

The first cabbie wanted 35 LE for the drive. I was ouraged. He brought it down to 20 LE, and I was still disgusted. He yelled at me for a bit but I just ignored him and found a cabbie who would do it for 10. I got to the station, bought my ticket and some coffee which I decided NOT to drink immediately after I received it a) because it was terrible and b) because I had the ridiculous thought that I might try and sleep on the bus to Taba. After I paid 6 LE for the undrunk coffee, I realized I needed money for the border. Turns out: No ATM in the bus station. Great.

Long (LOOONNGG) story short, I spent the dusk and early night hours lugging my life around to the point where I had serious bruises on my hip bones and burns on my shoulders looking for the Official Building for the Bank of the Pyramids. Not the most fun time to be out in Cairo as a lone white woman. I felt like the Israelites in search of the Promised Land, only the bread I'd stolen from lunch that day was leavened. I also made friends with the guys at the information desk. I told them that there was no paper in the bathroom and one guy ran and bought me a pack of tissues. I was only slightly more thrilled than creeped out.

Stay tuned for Leg Three, "How Two Sketchy Middle Aged Men Made Shev's Night Extremely Long" . Til then, enjoy some Ivri Lider whose concert I went to the night I arrived here in Israel (FOR FREE...Thank you Edgar Bronfman!). This (New People) is the first song he played...Loves it.

Leg One: I Don't Understand Awani

So I felt like a pregnant turtle. I was carrying my house on my back, I had a smaller backpack on my front, and a duffel back stuffed somewhere in between. I was a sight to see in the Alexandria train station. Mercifully, two of my wonderful friends from CLS joined me in my trek towards the train. On the way we were picked up by a guy who took us to a spot where he said car #7 (my car) would stop when the train came in. My friend baksheeshed him, and he went on his merry way. And then car #7 stopped maybe a quarter mile down the track from where we were. Sigh.

I sat down in the first available seat, happy to throw down my stuff somewhere. Then I noticed some Egyptians scrutinizing their tickets, and I looked at mine and...Who knew there were assigned seats on intra-city trains in Egypt!? NOT ME. So I hoisted my life back on to my body and moved from row 1, seat 1 to row 43 seat 2.

I was seated next to a woman from Aswan. Aswan is a city in Egypt - one CLS did, in fact, take us to where we began an epic Nile cruise where, as you will recall, I swam with Emma in the First Cataract- and its population is more African than Arab...suffice it to say it was difficult to understand the many words she said, but her gestures were unmistakable. First she explained that she had no money on her cellphone which she kept in the folds of her glorious black dress/shirt/all-in-one-garment. Second, she told me about her family and how they were coming to get her at the station. Third, she offered me sweet cheese and bread and Coke. I declined respectfully.

End, Leg One of Five. Stay tuned. Since I'm in Israel, and my friend reminded me of how much I love this soundtrack, here's the title song from Mishu Larutz Ito.

Monday, August 3, 2009


And I am safely in, what was known on CLS as, "The Country Above Egypt" (or, if you perfer and are linguistically minded, "The Country Where They Speak That Other Semitic Language"). I write to you from the comfort of my home away from home in Jerusalem on my way to meet a friend for coffee, to which I will carry only a purse which weights perhaps 3lbs. This preface is intended to inform you that I am sore, decaffinated, speaking the language of the Hebrewman, and have stories to tell.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

CLS's version of "a cultural exachange"

Woot woot for guest blogging. This one from my often sardonic friend Zack. He speaks:

This entire week of FusHa class we had discussions. That is, we didn’t learn anything new from the book; we didn’t review what we had learned through the summer. For 12 hours we sat around and talked about various issues: from the mundane to the somewhat important.

By hour 7 we had basically run out of things to say to each other. But our instructor sat down with my 4-person group and urged us to continue.

Following current events, I decided to explain to our instructor about the policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in the U.S. Armed Forces and how roughly 50 Arabic language translators have been fired for violating that policy.

The instructor interrupts me to ask a follow up. “So, 50% of Americans are gay? And why are they all studying Arabic?!”

Ok, I maintain that I properly explained this situation and that my instructor was just “joking around” (Two of my fellow discussion participants agree with this; one was thoroughly offended by the instructor).

But then he went on to exclaim that he’d be concerned when his wife asks that they visit America. He’ll be sitting on the train and someone will lean over to him, “Excuse me, do you speak Arabic?” As if this was some sort of sub-culture pick-up line (Of course, it would be uttered in perfect FusHa).

We couldn’t help but laugh. Awkwardly, to be certain. But we did eventually get our point across. Our instructor agreed with the decision to fire the Arabic linguists at a time when they’re most needed, however: they could be spies.

In case you’re wondering (as I came away wondering) why it does seem that so many Arabic translators are gay: I asked a knowledgeable source, who told me that there are over a thousand (if not thousands) Arabic translators in the Department of Defense.

And, as another classmate pointed out, at least our instructor didn’t spin a conspiracy theory about the U.S. creating an Army of Gay Arabic Speakers to corrupt the Arab World.

Because this is Shev's blog, I have to include a song. So here's the Anthem of the Egyptian Elite: George Michael's “Careless Whisper.” It's been in my head all week.

A prime example of the type of letter Liz referred to in her post:

Dear Zack,

Nice post. It's been fun spending time with you in the Orient. I'll miss you.


PS thanks for the song

Liz is Awesome

I am leaving for Israel today. I get to the Alex train station around 3:30, get on my train at 4, get to Cairo by 7, end up hanging out at Ramses II Station for a couple hours, then get on a bus (InchAllah/Bezrat Hashem) to Taba. Once I cross the border (probably at around 5 or 6am) which will cost me about 5LE on the way out of Egypt and 80 shek on the way into Israel, I will find my way to the central bus station upon which time I will board a bus for Jerusalem. I think the earliest is at 7. Those are my plans. And without further ado, a guest blog from my dear, dear friend, Liz with whom I desperately hope to keep in touch:

I am honored to have my guest-blogging potential requested. Since the end of our program looms and an over-eager language partner has schemed something that will take place a half hour from now, I will briefly comment on three notable phenomena I have observed in the last two months in Egypt.

First: Having studied several years ago in this general geographic area, I was a little trepidatious about the logistics of certain extremely personal activities that I’ve run into before. In Greece, this particular restriction was country-wide, utterly necessary except in the utmost of modern buildings like the Athens airport.

The day we landed in Egypt (and began a furtive continental search for our luggage), I was on the lookout for signs declaring the existence of this particular restriction. In the airport, no such sign was to be found. In the Cairo hotel, and upon our arrival in Alexandria, still no such sign.

It wasn’t until we reached our language school, with two bathroom stalls to serve the at-times 40 people crowded into its rooms, that this sign faced me, admonishing that which I had so feared.

There, in bold-print on a humidity-shriveled sign behind the toilet, read “PLEASE DO NOT FLUSH YOUR TOILET PAPER.” A simple garbage can sat innocently beside the toilet, in no way assuaging my worries. As in, I could not imagine the feat I would be required to perform time and time again this summer and assume that this meager can could hide the nast that would result. Maybe a chute would have been more appropriate – a chute resulting in instant incineration and the ability to recover from witnessing that which I had just scraped off of myself.

For those of you in similar situations, I highly recommend this utterly serious resource:


Second: Shevsky and I are two of three vegetarians on this trip. Admittedly, Shev’s dietary restrictions have gone far beyond passé vegetarianism, but I’m going to write this from the perspective of one who does not eat meat, by which I mean any food substance that used to belong to a creature that once had eyeballs. (This is to clarify my definition of “vegetarian,” and to distinguish myself and ourselves from those who believe they are vegetarians and still, say, eat fish. Or chicken. Or beef, but you know, only when (a) or (b). As well as people who “aren’t a vegetarian today, but will be again tomorrow.”)

Repeatedly I’ve questioned my communication abilities and/or sanity because of misunderstandings that have arisen over this subject. The word for “vegetarian,” I was taught by several Arabic teachers, is “nabatee.” Or, for a woman, “nabateeya.” It can also mean “a food that is vegetarian, or does not contain meat.” However, on several occasions I’ve had conversations that go like this:

Me: Does this food have meat in it?

Waiter: No, no, MA FEESH, no meat.

Me: Wonderful! So it is NABATEE?

Waiter: Oh no no no. Not nabatee. Here, here’s some bread.

To which I crumple under the crushing weight of a hearty WTF??!


Finally: Shev introduced me to a fantastic, ongoing joke between her and the cynical, cool people on the trip I always secretly wished I could be cynical and clever enough to join. They will compose letters to each other, often while sitting next to each other or while on the phone to each other in the same building.

For example:

“Dear Zack: Please pass the challah. I mean, hummous. Love, Shev.”


“Dear Shev: It has been a long and illustrious trip through The Orient. My research proceeds satisfactorily, but I daresay I have experienced the occasional longing for a hearty helping of bangers and mash. These silly sentiments aside, I write you today with a request: I beseech you, if you have both the time and the means, to send along with the next air mail from America your iPod headphone splitter. Most deeply and sincerely yours, Andrew.” (This, from across the aisle of the bus.)

Well. Now it’s my turn.

Dear Shev:

Here we go. Our last day in Egypt, and I’m ferklempt.

Your presence on this trip has been one of, at the very least, comfort and good vibes. At the very best, spice and adventure. You are interesting without effort, adventurous but not cliché, and true to a fault to your beliefs. You uphold your interests and dedications without making those less driven feel dissatisfied with their meager accomplishments. (Me: “I memorized five new words today!” Shev: “Wow, that’s great! I caught up on five chapters of this book, and have made friends with an antique coin dealer who can also read minds. But that’s AWESOME that you were able to memorize five new words AND update your blog!”)

You always have a plan. When you’re not studying, you’re off to the gym. When you’re not cracking your creaky knees on a treadmill under the extra-close supervision of our gym attendant ‘Amr, you’re exploring a corner of the city that promises intriguing nooks and awkward, rich situations. And when you’re not “smiling and nodding and sweating” with an Egyptian shop owner, you’re studying.

I am truly, deeply, forever honored to have had the chance to get to know you, however chaotic the last eight weeks have been. I know that you are off to encounter even more marvelous enterprises. It will be difficult to keep in touch. No, seriously. I mean, we’re both going to be in school, you’re going to be in another North African country learning ANOTHER dialect, and I’m going to be doing whatever thing it is I’m going to be doing. YA3NI, Gchat can only quench my thirst for a cool Shevsky so much. After that, it’s just daydreaming about houseboats in Lake Union, and the creamiest, most unexpected baba ganouj at a roadside rest stop in Cairo with a fellow NABATEEYA.

My friend, I must end this letter, for the air mail is costly these days. Remember your verb forms, and try putting your candles in the sink.

Love, toil and baba ganouj,


In fairness, I read this post as I was putting into Blogger. I had no idea it would be so, umm, well, flattering. Dear Liz, a thousand thanks -- alf a-shurk -- and I hope to the good Lord, Allah, that I will, in fact, see you in the future. To everyone else, your song of the day is by Kansas, and its a song we've been attached to on this trip for some reason, and I feel it is only appropriate at this juncture: