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Published: October 2nd 2011
My fave Pic
Em being arty.
Greetings from the Ancient Land of Kings and Cleopatra.
It has been a week of settling in and acclimatizing here. I say acclimatizing because Alexandria really has been a culture shock for us. I'm not entirely sure what i was expecting, maybe the Mediterranean setting gave me the naive hope that Alexandria would be slightly more western; a city perfect for the transition between West and Middle East. This was stupid. The women are mostly veiled and standoffish. The men are overly welcoming and often treat us the same way small children treat cats; that is to say it isn't uncommon here for us to be chased down the street with men either trying to lure us towards them or, alternatively, hissing at us. And all of them; men and women alike, drive like absolute maniacs. The Egyptians seem to feel that anything less that 6 or 7 cars abreast on a 4 lane motorway is a waste of space - at times it really does seem a bit like a playstation game - whoever can whizz through the smallest gap first wins.
We have just started Week 2 of Uni. Classes are hard. Our classmates have all apparently
done 20hours of Arabic per week for the last 2 years which means Emma and I will both have to work incredibly hard just to compete. A fairly novel experience for us, and one we are obviously diving into with relish... hence why i am writing my second blog in fairly quick succession and Em is internet surfing... instead of learning all the vocab which flummoxed us this morning.
Em is also missing England quite a lot at the minute, well, more specifically her other half. I keep waiting for her to get really buzzed about being here - i think i'm really starting to love it - but i think true excitement might really kick in for us when we have travels to tell people back home about. I want our overriding feeling about people at home to be impatience to fill them in on what is happening here rather than sadness at not being there in Durham with them. Although i've not yet reached this stage either really so i can't say too much. It will come though, it will!! Much as i disliked being dumped (out of the blue whilst living in the back of french
One of many juice bars
Pomegranate is pretty damn good. Although guava and lemon are a decent second.
beyond with no family or real friends to comfort me only 5 weeks into my Year Abroad) i must admit that having no romantic ties in England makes it easier to throw myself into being here.
This is not an exoneration for my ex, i still think it was a stupid call on his part- however i am now convinced that it was his loss and not mine and i have even created a list detailing my reasons behind this belief. It provides easily perusable reminders of why not to call if and when a pathetic moment comes calling (after 2 months these have all but disappeared thank God, but it never hurts to be prepared.)
Anyway despite the minor ups and downs I have just purchased a green and pink hand towel for my bathroom - to match the colours of the lizard who scuttles around in there - and so i am currently feeling quite pleased with myself. I have also just found out that we have had some luck whilst here in Egypt. What?! I know - so many of our valuables have been stolen that you must all think that this is sarcasm. However if
the stories of some newly befriended fair-haired English females a few nights ago are true, we can safely say that we have escaped the worst of the male attention. We have been lucky apparently to escape the commonly occurring masturbating Egyptian who hides in his car and upon seeing western women freely expresses his appreciation of our beauty. Disgusting.
Em and I have since discovered a music video which we feel can be blamed for all such hassle in Egypt. It initially features a western women being harassed by egyptian men on the streets. She, as one would expect, looks scared and threatened, after all a large group of men are surrounding her and trust me it isn't difficult to decipher the sentiment behind their leering smiles, even if you don't speak a word of arabic. The woman then runs away - and is chased by said men. In England this would be the opening scene of Crimewatch; in Egypt it is a music video - go figure. Just before the end of her light-footed escape she turns towards the pack of men in pursuit and smiles seductively... WHAT?! At this point, i would be bright red, with rivulets
Arabic life partners.
About 1am at The Portugese Club/ Consulate after party.
of sweat running down my face and fear would be fast giving way to anger - not flirtation! In fact i get wound up enough with the taxi drivers etc who try and rip us off just because we are female and western, so i would just love to imagine my levels of displeasure if people actually tried to chase me. (I am the elected haggler of the group - haggling being the perfect outlet for my latent aggression.) Obviously the music video concludes with love and marriage - the logical end to all sexual harassment. No wonder this country has issues.
On an much more upmarket note, 3 days ago Emma and I attended a drinks reception at the British Consulate, along with about 50 other british university students currently studying in Alexandria. Everyone was dressed extremely well which added to the overall ambience of the evening but turned out disastrously for some as the local waiters were unused to holding wine glasses on trays one-handed (alcohol not being a common aperitif here) and so more than a few ended the night soaked in wine, beer and gin. I watched impotently from the other side of the garden
After muuucchh alcohol.
as a waiter tried to balance his tray and instead executed a neat pirouette and dumped the entire contents (perhaps 7 glasses of wine) directly onto the girl behind him. The lace on her demure neckline never looked quite right again afterwards.
However it was a brilliant meet and mingle event. I spent a good hour with the ambassador's wife discussing the merits of a career in interpreting and was then introduced to the Ambassador himself - who was so posh he sounded almost German. His accent must have been really pronounced for me to notice as after an extended period of study in Durham and my last boyfriend my ears seem to have become somewhat deadened to the peculiarities of the upper-class accent. Nonetheless he was an absolutely spiffing chap, wot and we chinwagged for a good little while.
After this enjoyable networking interlude i excused myself to wander off and take advantage of the free bar, which emma had been making the most of for some time. I located some truly horrific white wine, Bordeaux spoilt me, and also managed to bump into none other than David Beckham's old PE teacher. He was a rather odd
This made Em and I so happy.
man but i figured he deserved a mention nonetheless, especially as he told me some funny stories about girls preening to get Beck's attention during cross country practices.
Worryingly, almost the entire time i have been typing this i have been listening to the steady running of the kitchen tap - which refuses to turn off. Apparently leaving on our water pressure motor for longer than a 4 hour period during the days causes a system overload. I had never heard of this contraption before renting this apartment and had foolishly thought that living on the 8th floor that our problem would be too little water pressure, not too much!!!! If it hasn't stopped by tomorrow it shall be added to our list of things to accomplish.
This currently consists of
1) Pay Internet man - harder than it sounds as we have never met him and have no idea what he looks like or where he lives.
2) Study - we have so far avoided any of this.
3) Find out all about sugar waxing so that we are mentally prepared for Wednesday's appointment with Madame Koka - who speaks absolutely no english.
Although i don't like seafood, Alex is a seaport and i have had some of the best fish in my life here!
4) Finally visit the Sporting Club and find out about horseriding/belly dancing - an eclectic but complimentary mix i feel.
5) Brave the police station again to wrangle the police report off of them for emma's stolen items so that she can actually get money back from her insurance. - I am particularly looking forward to this experience as Emma went alone last time with an interpreter from the centre as she realised that the theft had to be reported within 24 hours and so left class and dashed off. Her stories however have left me with high expectations of the building. Upon her arrival she was shown into a large audience chamber, where the only rule appeared to be - 'whoever gets the attention of the chief at the front of the room first, gets to report their incident.' This resulted in a cacophony of noise as people shouted and waved furiously vainly trying to present their case. The women directly beside Emma spent ages arguing very loudly before one of them stormed out, without legally resolving the issue. Apparently, em was later informed, one of them was accused of stealing the other's passport and
life savings - the interpreter was also pretty sure that woman thief was the one who walked out - which doesn't fill me full of confidence in the policing system. It was however obviously a bog standard day at the station as the only thing the officer taking Em's statement felt he had to justify was the pink paint on the walls. He cheerfully informed her that the building had been ravaged by fire during the Revolution and that pink paint was the cheapest they could find to paint over the damage. Emma's consequent concern about the building's infrastructure proved unfounded as she made it out before it collapsed.... however, there is always tomorrow....!!
Night all. Will write again shortly as i really should tell you all about our semi flatmate soonish! xxxxxxx
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