Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Pyramids & Ramadan

okay sooo updates!

I went to the pyramids which was so amazing and breathtaking and fabulous and hot! but i climbed a pyramid- and got yelled at lol, saw the sphynx, rode camels throughout the desert and ate awesome Bedouin food.We got to climb up inside the pyramid to the Pharoh's chamber- which was by far one of the coolest things. You have to crouch down low and climb straight up a 50% slope from the bottom to the exact middle of the pyramid, which I guarentee you is no easy task. The inside of the pyramid was dark and beautifully sculpted. You climb up a set of stairs (they installed handrails) with no AC (to be expected) inside of a big block. Kind of crazy, but worth it when you get to the chamber with the coffin. It is mindblowing to think I was standing where a King was buried thousands of years ago, not to mention I was inside one of the Wonders of the World.

This week I started all my Arabic classes. 12 credit hours of all arabic plus a calligraphy class and language partners outside of class. plus trips and then you know a little fun on the side ;) just kidding...really everything here is fun.

I fasted for Ramadan for three days. Basically you cannot eat or drink anything (including water, gum, medicine, etc) from sunup till sundown everyday. It was/is a really cool culture/social/ body awareness experience.

Last weekend we went to the Desert Oasis, you know like those crazy springs in the middle of the desert - then the Black and White Desert and a bunch of mummies and stuff. super super fun!

I eat on the streets of Cairo almost everynight -- really good food like kofta (beef kabab things) rice with liver and tehina. soo good. cause when i fast- i am like super thirsty, your stomach shrinks but you are still sooo thirsty.

This weekend we went hiking in the Sahara desert- seriously crazy I know. We visited the Bahiriya Oasis and the White and Black Deserts and all these cool natural monuments. I cklimbed a mountain with some friends in the black desert(my rpfile pic is ffrom that). We actually had a guide which was nice-otherwise we wouldve died lol. Oh we also got to see to desert springs- "oasises" which are basically pools of water that you can "swim" in. lol but not really. I will post pictures soon. We got caught in a sandstorm at the end of our day- seriously like the movies, crazy crazy lol. You couldn't see anything in front of you. We ate Bedouin food and drank this amazing mint tea- played mafia and were just silly under the stars. After the storm died down, we played in the White Desert- climbing everything. The stars/galaxy was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. I have never seen the sky that way. You could see the Milky Way perfectly, all the constellations, some planets and the moon. It was so gorgeous- dwords cannot describe. I hung out with all my friends and stayed up till like 3 in the omrning, got up right after sunrise, at breakfast which consisted of fuul (beans, with onions and tomatoes) with khubz arabee (arab bread) and arab coffee all cooked over an open fire. soo cool...then we journeyed the long 7 hours home. It was an amazing weekend!

Really Ignorant.

Ok so I saw a t-shirt and I was basically the most upset I have ever been over a t-shirt in my life.: it was on campus and it made me sick- i was just plain disgusted. It is with people like this I know I judge-but I don't really feel bad about this. I just wonder how much I hate has to be within someone to think this way. The shirt had a Nike logo saying just do it. But...the sign thing was an airplane flying into the twin towers. How can anyone find peace in something harms other innocent peace? Differences in politics, culture, religions, and social values- but hate is another- though wrong it may be. But iolence towards anyone or anything for that matter is just disheartening and crappy. This is the kind of stuff that makes me so sad for the world. What experiences could this person have had to instill this kind of hatred?

Most of the students at AUC are nice but 98% super rich, so a lot of them are a bit standoffish/extremely stylish. They're all high fasion, rich Cairo kids. I'm so glad I live in Zamalek and not out on New Campus so I get to experience the real Cairo. Living in the dorms out on the other campus is just no for me....I definitely did not come to Egypt to experience America and a lot of the stuff on campus is American- McDonalds, Cinnabun, etc. lol. Zamalek is the nice part of Egypt- and you're a cab or metro ride away from Heliopolis, Giza, Khan al Khalili, literally wherever. And we're right on the Nile which is just indisputably cool. ....

And as I sit under the Saharan on campus, sipping an espresso (so American :) ) it's easy to reflect on my time here. Choosing to study here has been one of the best decisions I've made in a long time. Already the people have shattered steretypes I held, introduced me to a new culture, shown me a new dedicatio to religion that is more or less absent in America and opened my heart to the povery which is the rule- not the exception. I love the way I live here- ready everyday for a new adventure.

Every night, a group of us go out todinner at a different place. Some nights we eat $2 dinners which are so good at foodstands on the side of the road. We're also gone to nice places like Mezzaluna - a mock Italian resteraunt. I got crepes with mushrooms and salmon- very unEgyptian.

More later.


"Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me."

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Markets, The City, The Crazy

I am learning so much about myself here- I absolutely can be a good listener but it is definitely I have to work on daily. Today I went to a lecture on Ramadan- To understand Ramadan- obviously lol because I fasted for a while. I learned the reason for the abstaining from food, water, alcohol and sex. It is an extremely sensible reason, admirable. From my understanding, the rejection of "fleshy" things helps you to focus more on spirituality- instead of spending your time eating, drinking, etc. Fasting helps you to focus solely on being a better person, being calm, peaceful and concentrating on listening to your soul. ie, your soul controls your body as opposed to your body controlling your soul.

I learned self control is a huge part of Islam- something not as clearly emphasized, in my humble opinion of course, on the Protestant end of Christianity. Muslims pray five times a day- making God an everyday part of life, whereas I feel that most Christians lead a Sunday-Christian lifestyle. (With many exceptions, obviously. But, the most admirable being my parents: who devote themselves so fully to others and what they are truly passionate about. I have never met people who give as selflessly as my parents- and are so devoted and continually happy in what they devoted their lives to. I hope to be like that oneday :) )

Anyways, I have now had several classes- and I absolutely love immersing myself back in the Arabic language. My teachers are awesome and the people in my classes are pretty cool. eccentric, but cool. As for Egypt, I lvoe this little big city full of pollution, crazy taxi drivers, cats, great Arab bread, and a million other intricacies only a city like Cairo can produce.

The Other day (saturday night 9/5/09) we went to the cotton market- which reminded me of an explosion of a giant Goodwill. We walked around for hours. We were the only foreigners there- which was really cool. It was my first experience with poeple coming up to us and being nice- saying welcome and asking where we were from, if we were students etc. Even though my Arabic is currently atrocious, it was so nice to communicate, even if only minimally with people. We had Ifhtar (breaking of the fast) at this awesome resteraunt! We ate so much food it was ridiculous. The sad part was in this part of the city, we saw such rampant poverty-like much of Cairo. There were so many adorbale children just standing there smiling at me. They would run up and shake my hand and then run away or just plain stare, but in a curious- who is this blonde girl kind of way; which happened to be the case with most adults as well.

A Few nights ago I went out to dinner on this stand on the 26th of July street- I had kofta and rice and liver with tehia- it was actually very good. Not a huge fan of liver, but I'd eat it. We hung out and talked about random things families, marriage, love which ended up really freaking me out. I am only 20 years old and here we are having a conversation with the realization in all likelihood in the next 10 years I will be married or engaged or something. So incomprehensible right now. lol. (Dont worry mom and dad- I don't want to get married for a long time :) !! haha).

Oh- and today I found out my school is cancelled until October 4th. It is currently the 16th. Why, you may ask? What else but the freaking Swine Flu. Seriously?!? So we are planning trips to take up that beautiful time and see some amazing things.

Off for the night tonight.
Love from Cairo,


"Happiness is the journey, not the destination."

En Route to the Middle East

Hope you all enjoy this :)
All my big love and kisses to everyone back home.

Leaving my family and closest friends was one of the harest things I've experienced the way of goodbyes. Probably because I had been gone all summer soaking up the beauty of Europe. I was still pretty excited for the adventure though. On my flight (there were actually 3) to NYC I met a really cool guy who was a teachwer in Cali going to a wedding. We talked about his job, great American classics, literature, his family, etc. I was getting a bit nervous in NYC. Well not nervous, but more it just hit me that I was actually going to live in Cairo. Even two years ago, I would've never probably imagined that. On My flight to Cairo I was totally spastic- loosing things, anxious, a bit annoying probably- but again, I sat next to a cool young guy (with a tatoo from Alien all the way up his leg) who was on his way to a backpacking tour of Egypt. The diversity on my flight was awesome. And I understood a bit (and i mean a bit) of the Arabic they kept announcing over the loudspeakers.

The landing was jaw-dropping. There were mounds of yellowy dirt balls popping out of the earth..forever. I remember getting off the plane and the first thing I noticed was definitely the smell. a bit off. Anyways, I was surprised to see that the airtraffic control people were women in Burkas out in the heat directing the plane to park here and there. They directed us to buses.

P.S. Hygiene is defintiely not the #1 Concern in Egypt. I went to the restroom and this woman handed me a papertowel. I said thank you and she asked for money. I should've seen it coming...but I was so tired after 24 hours of traveling. I couldn't have even gone over to get it myself. This vulture woman was hovering over the papertowels like a protective mama.

After, when my university did not show up to take me back from the airport (thank you AUC) I took a cab home. Oh, I almost forgot to mention at the airport, all the attendents taking our information/passports and everything were wearing masks and looking for people with symptoms of H1N1. Crazy...So back to the cab. I paid way too much. But again, I blame tiredness and pure shock for that. The drivers here are seriously nuts. I think it is their little burst of 'look i am a man- i like fast things-watch what i can do' kind of thing. Horns are used quite liberally to say the least. They get within literally 3 inches of each other. Most taxi's don't have AC here but the city of Cairo is so beautiful! I bit dirty, and definitely polluted....but, like Rome, there is a distinct aura of walking/driving though world history.

My campus housing actually is in Zamalek, an island in Cairo. It houses the upper middle classes/rich classes/ ex-pats/diplomats in Cairo. Lots of shopping, eateries, sheesha joints and an amazing view of the Nile. I was super nervous at first about meeting everyone. I tried to be alittle more relaxed/not as intense as usual. and the best thing... I'm not stressed here even with a complete disregard for organization/timeliness/immense amounts of traffic. I just try to find the joy in the present. So (when I wrote this) I am about 4 days in and now really starting to enjoy it. I am stoked to start Arabic here and everyone is feeling really bad for me because I am taking the intesnes program which apparently means I have no life. Cool. But I guess we'll see.

Oh, my room is super fabulous with a blessfully functional AC and a huge desk, closet, and bed space. I've met some relaly cool friends. Most people are really open minded. Food=delicious. But lacking in the fruits/veggies/nutrition department. And strangely enough I am never really hungry during the day which is kind of weird because I am definitely a person who lives to eat- not an eat to live-r.

Ok well thats it for now. I am about ready to go to my Modern Standard Arabic classes.
All my love from Cairo.


"There is more to life than increasing its speed." -Gandhi

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