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Published: September 4th 2009
Sometimes I don't know why I do it to myself but even with all the differences, the ridiculousness of some things, the crazy illnesses/upset stomachs, the misunderstandings and confusion, the "if you don't leave me alone I'm gonna hit you in the face" moods, I just LOVE LOVE LOVE being abroad. It is soo nice to come home and I had a great time this summer (thanks to all of you!) but when I'm abroad it's just like my whole soul is happy. There are definitely times when I wish I could just fly home, even for a day or two, lonely times when the cultural and language differences can take its toll but all in all I'm never happier than when I'm abroad and traveling. The thrill and excitement of new things, meeting new people, tasting new foods, the excitement and curiosity in people's eyes when they see you- especially the lil kids- and want to speak to you and "practice" their English - there really is just no feeling like it.
So here I am again - this time a two year commitment even though after just speaking to my parents my Dad kept repeating "You know you can come home at anytime". Every adventure has been different than the one before and this is no different. Two years ago I was volunteering my way around Africa, last year I was a Kindergarten teacher in Qatar and now I'm back to school for the next two years - Master's in International Human Rights Law with a Graduate Diploma in Forced Migration and Refugee Studies at the American University in Cairo.
So here's a lil bit about my life thus far in Egypt...
100 Stairs...that's how many stairs there are from my apartment to the ground floor of the building. Not that that's bad or anything, or even that much BUT when it's hot and humid and you're coming home that can just make you go over the edge - make you just wanna lay down and give up! There's always the elevator but if you're claustrophobic there is no way you'd get in and even if you're not it will make you claustrophobic - hardly enough room for two of you and god only knows what the weight limit is PLUS the fact that it only goes to every other floor (mine not included).
Whether you take a left or a right outside of my apartment building you're in the heart of Cairo - right smack dab in the middle of the city of 20 million. I'm a 5 minute walk from Tahrir Square, 5 minute walk from Talat Harb Square, 7 1/2 minute walk from my campus and about 9 minute walk to the Egyptian Museum (where you can see King Tut's infamous mask and coffins plus millions of other ancient Egypt artifacts). I know none of that means anything to any of you who have never been to Cairo but when you come VISIT (wink wink) you'll realize I'm in a great location for so many reasons. Here is where I am going to learn to live like an Egyptian, speak Arabic, live my life day to day like every other citizen of the city. I'm not in some fabulous compound surrounded by foreigners - I'm living with the locals and you can't get much better than that! I'm about 30/40 minutes from the airport and the same for the pyramids - could be quite faster but Cairo traffic is HORRENDOUS! I'm a 3 minute walk to Falfela - the perfect place to get a chicken shwaerma (1 dollar) or a bowl of delicious kosheri (50 cents) for lunch or dinner. Right next store is a fresh juice place where you can bring your empty water bottle and pay to have it filled with fresh watermelon, karkade (hibiscus), lemon, orange juice, etc. A thousand shoe, electronic, clothing, fabric, etc. stores. Lil stalls selling phone credit, extension cords, Egyptian touristic junk, biscuits, stickets, etc. There really isn't much that you can't find (and well Ashley is already on her way home with a list of the "few" things that you actually can't find around here for my parents to send me!!).
As you walk down the streets you try to blend in as much as possible but rarely is it possible. There is always someone to break your "I'm Egyptian now" attitude and mindset by saying "Welcom to Egypt! Where are you from? where are you going? " and there you are again, your normal American self just trying to blend in with everyone else but isn't going to work...ever! I swear I could spend 20 years here and people would still say all of these things to me because even if I were to marry an Egyptian and have children I myself would never be Egyptian and my western ways of being a female and walking with a sureness about myself - head held high and my eyes up (not looking down at my feet as I walk) will never leave. There is also the "I'm not from here" obviousness as well when you're walking down the street trying to dodge the falling water from the airconditioners above from the various apartment buildings (you know it's not bird poop fallin but it might as well be cause it's gross and well, at least bird poo is supposed to be good luck!)
It's a crazy city - too crowded and too dirty but I love it more and more every day as I discover new streets, new places to visit/eat/shop/hang out and new people. It's difficult and hard now but it'll get easier as time goes by and I feel more like I REALLY DO know what I'm doing.
Ashley left last night - we had a great two weeks together. We started it all off by checking in with Jetblue in Burlington - all 4 pieces of checked luggage WAY over weight (did I mention that the scale broke the night before so I made my parents go and buy a new one and when I came home and weighed them all they were all around 49.8 pounds - too good to be true I know). But the Jetblue lady was soo nice and after I told her I was moving to Egypt she told me not to worry about it. Then when we checked in with Al Italia (Delta) they said that they were going to charge me for 2 bags (then I started getting nervous about how much they were gonna charge me since I had an extra 20/25+ pounds spread over the 4 bags). Luckily the Delta woman was soo nice when I explained it was really an Al Italia flight (operated by Delta) so she didn't charge me for 2 bags and just turned her head away when it came time to weigh them - and they were strict as there was a couple ahead of us who were charged for 2 extra pounds in a suitcase. Anyways, someone was looking out for me so we went to one of the airport bars and had a few margaritas (I can't believe how strong they were for being at an airport) but after those we passed out before the plane even left the gate - no joke! We flew to Rome - waited a few hours before our flight to Cairo. We got into Cairo fine, got to my apartment - easy enough and spent the 2 weeks settling in. We went to the Red Sea for 4 days which Ash absolteuly loved - so much she already wants to come back next summer! We went to the pyramids, went to the Egyptian museum, Khan Il Khalili, walked around Cairo, had a dinner cruise on the Nile, etc. She really like the food and all in all she had a great time (or so she says)! Next up to visit is Justin who is coming in November and then Beth who is coming for Christmas - I'm gonna have to start calling this place "D's Cairo Hotel". So you all better sign up fast cause I've already got people checking out flights for March, April and May....I'm so happy though that everyone wants to come over and visit!!
I spent last weekend at the school's new campus out in New Cairo - absolutely BEAUTIFUL- and have already made a lot of friends in my program. Our classes are still here in downtown which we're all happy about cause even though the new campus is gorgeous it's out in the middle of nowhere. I'm taking 3 courses this semester - Introduction to Forced Migration and Refugee Studies, International Law, and Introduction to International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law. I'm soo excited about each of them. Each class is once a week so lucky for me my schedule this semester is 1 class Monday night, 1 class Tuesday late-afternoon and 1 class Wednesday late-afternoon - so I get a 4 day weekend! Now that's fabulous though I know the course work is going to be massive and I'm looking at getting an internship (already applied for a few) and a job (same thing and could possibly be starting one on Monday).
I had wanted to send pics but there are currently 5 men in my apartment painting (why didn't they paint BEFORE I arrived..well that of course would not be the Egyptian way!!) so I don't really have the time but expect a follow-up blog in the next few days with lots of pics.
Wanna send me mail??? I'll send you some if you send me some!!!!
15 El Boustan
Bab El Louk
Love to all
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