Friday, February 4, 2011

everything after evacuation

Basically, after a stressful morning at the hotel with terrible stupid problems with our 'security', we got to the airport and sat around almost all day until we finally got on our completely unmarked charter plane to Barcelona. We got to Spain in the middle of the night and everything went smoothly from there. Our hotel was wonderful, we got checked in completely fine, and there was internet!
The next day, we spent in Barcelona, and it was amazing, but not long enough to see everything I wanted to. I guess I'll just have to go back!
The flight back home was really really long, and took us first to Zurich and then all the way to LAX. Then we went through immigration, to some questions about why I visited three countries in 6 days, and through customs, who noticed we'd been in Egypt and asked questions like 'were you scared?', and then we were home. The end.

Monday, January 31st

I just got a call from Fadi. I don’t even think I was awake until the second or third sentence. Basically, the UCs are getting us out. They don’t want us to stay, and they’re coming to pick us up tomorrow (today) at 0900 hours. Lovely.
It’s certainly a good thing that I haven’t managed to reclaim anything from housekeeping yet, it would be a darn shame if I had anything more than one suitcase to pack.
So now I have a revised list of things to do tomorrow:
wake up at 4:45
wash hair with shampoo which unfortunately will most likely have to be given away
pack pack pack
get the eff out of Egypt on a chartered flight to god knows where, then home. all on UC’s tab. because everybody knows they’re rolling in dough. [don’t get me wrong, i am in no way complaining]
I hadn’t gotten to sleep when I heard a ton of noise from downstairs and people started running in the hallways. The word was that we had to lock ourselves in our rooms. As silly as it sounds I did it, and was scared when I couldn’t find my key at first. But I found it.
A few minutes ago someone ran up and down the hallway banging on doors and checking if they were locked. They woke one girl up who just finished making a fuss about it, and has now decided to go lock herself in her room.
I can’t decide if I want to try and sleep or wait and see what happens.
Well, obviously I went to sleep. That was fun.
I’ve been awake for about an hour, packing everything to get ready to leave by 0900. I’m a little mad that all the food I bought yesterday is going to go to someone else, not me, but I really can’t pack it, and it’s not like I’d throw it all out. I’m compromising by taking some of the granola bars with me and eating an apple with peanut butter for breakfast. Then it’s off to track down housekeeping again and reclaim my possessions.
I really have no idea who to go talk to or what to do in order to get my stuff back. I’m not just going to abandon it though. I’m a little worried about what to do with my sleeping bag. Is that an acceptable carry-on item? If it is, I’ll be checking all three of my suitcases, which doesn’t seem good for some reason. Although, since it’s a charter plane and UC is footing the bill I guess I shouldn’t care so much. Maybe I’ll find room to squeeze the sleeping bag in my big green suitcase instead. I wish I had a vacuum so I could properly use the wonderful vacuum-pack bags my wonderful mother sent with me to Egypt last time.
Tons of stuff has happened since this morning. I got picked up from the dorms and carted around what felt like all of Egypt by a security force pulled directly off the Egyptian version of the Jersey Shore. We made it to our hotel for the night, only to find out that the sketchy lady/company in charge of our evacuation wasn’t paying for it, so we almost had to go back to the dorms for the night. Thankfully we got that all worked out. I’d explain about the day in more detail, but honestly it’s still painfully hilarious, and I can’t talk about it without laughing.
Now my (temporary) roommate and I are in our lovely expensive hotel room, after napping for two hours following a dinner of the biggest burger in existence. Now I think we’re going to bed for real. At 8:15 tomorrow morning, we’re due to meet in the lobby to be picked up and taken to the airport, although it’s looking like the actual pickup won’t be until 10 or 11 because of curfew and because the evacuation people are honestly pretty bad at their jobs.
Hopefully by this time tomorrow I’ll be in Barcelona, about to get on a flight home or even better, in the air above the Atlantic, already on my way.

Sunday, January 30th

I woke up this morning to a day completely free of anything to do. No school, so no bus ride to make new friends. Curfew, so nowhere to go and nothing to do outside the dorms. That is, if anything were open at all, thanks to everything that’s going on. Viva la revolucion!
Anyway, I called home, using up nobody-knows-how-many minutes, only to talk for less than 15 minutes before my phone cut me off and started talking to me in Arabic. Not the same as last night, though, this was a recording. I don’t know what it said, obviously, but I really don’t want to find out, just in case what it said is something like, “Sorry, you have no more minutes, you can’t call America anymore, you’re completely incommunicado from anyone who loves you.” That would really suck. I would have tried to call back, but if I am out of minutes, I’d rather find out tomorrow when I try to call again rather than today and have no hope at all for tomorrow.
I dragged myself (and a friend) to Alfa this morning to get supplies just in case the zombie apocalypse really is coming. Now I’m provisioned with nutrigrain bars, cereal, apples, and cans of tuna which I cannot open until I retrieve my stored luggage from housekeeping, who have yet to make an appearance.On my way back upstairs, I ran into a group of new girls who asked me what the situation was outside. I couldn’t really tell them anything except for the fact that there wasn’t a huge long line at Alfa like there was yesterday. They asked me whether there was water (which I couldn’t answer, I hadn’t even bothered to look) and whether there were phone cards (ditto). Their questions made me feel unprepared for the zombie apocalypse. What good are apples if I don’t have water? Or phone cards?
So maybe buying a phone card would have been a good idea. Today is not ending as well as it began. The U.S. Embassy is recommending that all Americans leave the country, and there is a sign-up list downstairs to be put on a flight out of Egypt. I don’t really want to go though. I mean, it’s hard to explain. I don’t want to be here either. I just don’t want to run away. It wouldn’t be quitting, I know that, I do. When the U.S. Embassy shuts its doors and tells you to get on a plane, you should do it. But I don’t want to.
There are a lot of reasons for this, the first of which is, sadly, my stuff. The dorms still have all my stuff from last semester and show no signs of wanting to give it up. This is bad. The second reason I don’t want to go is what will I even do with myself when I get home? I could get back to UCSB for spring quarter, I’m sure, but what good would that do? If I leave, I won’t get to work at the Cairo Museum, or the Supreme Council of the Antiquities. I won’t get to take more classes with Professor Ikram.
If I go home, life will become much simpler, almost instantly. I’ll have internet and phone service, I’ll be able to talk to my family and friends again. Being unable to communicate is probably the worst part of being here right now. I told my family not to worry, but there isn’t anybody here to tell me not to worry. And I could really use that right now. And if I can’t have that, I’d like at least someone to commiserate with, a really close friend who I could talk everything over with, who I could decide things with. Things like whether or not to follow the directives of the State Department and get the eff out of Egypt right now. But I don’t have anyone like that now, so I’ll figure out what to do on my own.
I’ll go to sleep now, there isn’t anything more I can do tonight. In the morning, I’ll get up early and hit the streets of Zamalek. If there are phone cards out there to be had, I will find them and buy them and call my family. So I don’t have to face the zombie apocalypse alone.

Saturday, January 29th

So, no one really knows what’s going on. The general consensus is that classes tomorrow have been cancelled, but I hope that’s wrong. It would be really nice to be able to get to campus tomorrow and talk to Fadi or Professor Ikram face to face.
Some people are getting ready to leave, even though they’ve only been here a week. Parents are apparently freaking out, booking tickets out of the country as fast as they can. Lots of students are planning on just getting out of Cairo for a week or two, going to the Red Sea or an oasis for a while. I’d be more worried about getting back in than getting out, and getting too far from the airport isn’t high on my list of things to do.
Apparently Mubarak fired his cabinet. That’s not the issue here, buddy. Good try, though. Maybe just go one step further and fire yourself.The entire internet is still down, except for the notable exception of AUC’s website. It’s not much help, though, since I still can’t access my email account to contact anybody. I don’t know why that one website out of everything escaped the block, but I’m guessing it’s because someone high up in Egypt’s bureaucracy who is responsible for cutting off the interwebs is an alum, or the parent of a current student.
Okay, that might have been gunfire, or it might have been someone rolling a heavy cart over uneven tiles. I’m leaning toward the latter, because it’s more comforting, and because I thought slamming bathroom doors were gunfire last night. Maybe I’m a little on edge.
This morning I left the dorms in search of coffee and sustenance, only to find everything closed. Even McDonald’s. I bypassed my chance to visit Alfa Mart and stock up on food, which is slightly unfortunate because apparently we’re under curfew now. I’m sure I’ll survive, though. I have a jar of peanut butter.
There were apparently demonstrators outside, so everyone who was downstairs was made to go up. Apparently we have to huddle in our rooms. I spent the afternoon hanging out with two new friends who were both here last semester. We watched The Fast and the Furious, and paused it every half hour or so to go out on the balcony and look for smoke, helicopters, and protesters. Then I played a rip off version of Scrabble downstairs. When we were done, the board included words such as ‘quaffle’, ‘jaaa’, ‘heil’, and ‘snun.’ Official rules? What rules?
I keep checking the AUC website, even though I know there isn’t anything to see on it. It’s just a little comforting to have one piece of the internet that still functions, I guess.
I tried to call home, exactly the same as I did this morning, but the number didn’t work. First there were two men talking in Arabic, saying something about Egypt, and the phone was ringing in the middle, and then a woman said hello, and then something I didn’t understand, but she sounded sorry. I think she was saying something about not being able to reach America, but I’m not sure. I’ll try again tomorrow morning, just in case.
Oh, and classes are cancelled for all of next week.

blogs from the land of no internet

Since I'm back home now, and alive, and safe, and whatever, here are the blogs I wrote and couldn't post while I was in Egypt last week. I really don't want to go back through and read them again, because I know I would totally want to edit to edit them to death.
Honestly, keep in mind that whatever I wrote about thinking or feeling, I'm fine now and home, and everything is good, mostly. So, here is my blog from Friday January 28th, and I'll be posting the following few days really soon:

When I arrived in Egypt for the first time five months ago, it was Ramadan. The streets were thronged with people all throughout the night, sometimes the city was eerily quiet, and it was really hard to get food.
Now, I’m back in Cairo for another semester, and there are riots. I’m sure you’ve heard about them in the news. I’m not planning on going and joining the protesters, but I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to avoid the consequences of everything that’s going on.
Just during the drive from the airport, we saw (and felt) tear gas in the air, and groups of men marching on the highways. The shops that are normally brightly lit well into the night were closed and barred, and it was only seven o’clock.
The dorm lobby was packed with students, some waiting for free pizza, and some waiting for the chance to make a one minute phone call to their families to let them know we’re all okay. (One minute phone calls are no good, by the way. You barely get to say anything before you have to hang up and let the next person have their chance.)
The reason for the regulated phone calls, by the way, is because the Egyptian government has cut off all mobile phones and the internet (not just social networking sites like twitter and facebook, but everything) to the entire country. That’s why this blog will have to be posted tomorrow. Hopefully tomorrow.
Basically, I’m fine, we’re all fine, I’ll do my best to keep everyone updated, once I get the internet back of course.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

first last day in cairo

So, in less than an hour, I'll be on my way to the airport to fly home for winter break. That means in less than 24 hours (I think) I'll be at home. That is a good thing.
Today didn't really consist of much outside of packing and worrying about packing, but I did get to hang out with friends, so that was a good thing.
I figured out how to store my extra luggage (which can be done easily by finding an English speaking housekeeper and saying 'store' or pointing at a suitcase), and I hope that everything will still be intact when I get back to Egypt.
In order to finish out our semester on a traditional Egyptian note, we ordered out for dinner and had Chinese. Mmm.
I'm really not looking forward to navigating the airport and figuring everything out, but I know it will be okay. At least I'll have a bunch of AUC friends with me and we can help each other figure it all out. I don't know who I'll be sharing a cab with to the airport yet, but if I end up going by myself that will be okay too, it won't be the first time.
So, as of posting this, my first semester in Egypt is over, and I'm on my way home, laden with gifts and things that turned out to be useless. I don't know if I'll keep up with blogging while I'm home, it will probably depend on if I do anything interesting at all. I definitely would have blogged if the original vacation plan had gone through, but as it is, I just don't know. I'm not used to blogging in America.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

the reverse bel-air*

Now this is a story all about how my life got flipped turned upside-down. And I'd like to take a minute just sit right there, and I'll tell you how my entire winter vacation trip to Europe was cancelled and now I'm going home for a month instead.
So yeah. The weather in London cancelled my family's flight, and they can't reschedule until it's too late to have a real vacation together. Instead, I'm flying home tomorrow night. I'll be home by the morning of the 23rd.
Today was spent in a kind of frenzy of Skype calls and flight booking and packing. I'm really really tired, which of course is why I plan to go out with my friends tonight for a last hurrah which may or may not include a belly dancing club.
That's really all I have to say today, except that I guess it's nice that my flight home is the same as most of my friends', so I have an extra ten hours or so before I have to say goodbye.
The only other thing is, go watch this, please. Shawn Ahmed and the Uncultured Project decreasing worldsuck in Bangladesh: