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:


Monday, December 20, 2010

laundry day

Today was actually meant to be "get up and leave the dorms and go shopping day" but it didn't quite work out like that.
I put my first load of laundry into the washer around 11 am. Then I watched tv and didn't do anything for a while, until I switched it into a dryer and put the second load in, then ordered lunch. By the time lunch arrived, it was almost time to switch laundry out again, but I ran into a friend downstairs, and talking to friends is always more interesting than laundry.
And that was pretty much my whole day. I sat in the courtyard with a bunch of friends coming and going, talking for a really long time, and it was really really great. I don't like thinking about me leaving and everyone else leaving Cairo, and then me coming back, and most everyone else not coming back. I know I'll make new friends, but gosh darn it, I like these friends.
During one short trip upstairs to take my last load of laundry out of the dryer, I found that the third floor dryer, which I have avoided since my first week here, still really sucks. So, I had to lug a bag of wet clothes to another floor to find an open dryer. The sixth floor was taken, so I went down to the fifth. I was halfway through the door, when I heard a shout behind me. "Cloze double-you see. Man cloze double-you see!"
I turned around to see an angry waving security lady behind me. At first I thought she meant "clothes" and I was thinking, "Yes, I have my clothes," but then I realized she meant "close." So I reached out to close the door, and protect all the innocent fifth floor girls from the scary scary man in the w.c., but she intercepted me, and pretty much forced me back to the stairwell door, wet clothes bag in hand. Then I ran away. (The fifth floor dryer, by the way, was open and empty. It would have taken about thirty seconds to put my clothes in, turn it on, and leave. But no.)
Luckily, the fourth floor dryer was free as well. If it hadn't been, I would have been a good deal more pissed off than I already was.
Speaking of man on the floor, I had another crazy experience this morning. I had just headed out with my first load of laundry, when a cleaning lady looked at me up and down, and said gently "man on the floor." And I immediately turned around, went back to my room, and changed out of my shorts and tank top into something more appropriate. I didn't even think about trying to get past her, or about why I was suddenly wearing a cardigan that covered my arms to the wrists, a higher cut shirt, and a long skirt. When I walked back out and past the same cleaning lady, she nodded approvingly. What has Egypt done to me?
So, it was a frustrating laundry day, but a good hang out with friends day. It ended on a kind of sad note, though, because the first of my really good friends in Cairo is leaving tonight, and we all had to say goodbye to him. And I have nothing more to say on the subject.
Also, I'm just going to leave this here. You're welcome.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

gun museums and *blank* stores

Okay, this is going to be a long post, because I actually went somewhere and did something today. Surprise!
Three friends and I headed downtown with the intention of visiting a few places that we hadn't been yet. Our cab ride from Zamalek was pretty interesting, because as our cab driver informed us, President Mubarak himself was downtown today. Doing what, we don't know, but the streets were covered with soldiers wearing uniforms with shiny shiny buttons and belt buckles, looking bored and not very protective, but threatening nonetheless. So that slowed down our drive a bit, but it was still really interesting to see.
The first place we walked to was the Abdeen Palace Museum. Basically it's a presidential residence, part of which is now a museum for awesome things that Egypt owns. The best part of this was the knife and gun collection, which was massively ridiculous. Ridiculous in that it included things like a pistol with four barrels and guns disguised as swords disguised as walking sticks and a jewelry box with doors that swing open to reveal guns in case of thieves. I simply cannot describe the amazing ridiculousity of this museum, so I'm not even going to try any more. I wish I could show you pictures, but no cameras were allowed inside.
Other rooms in the museum were filled with shiny things given to President Mubarak including a solid gold palm tree and a fighter jet pilot's helmet. On our walk through the museum grounds, we saw some Daleks, which was surprisingly freaky. Again, no pictures, but I swear. Daleks. (A gift from Davros and Skaro to President Mubarak, I presumed.)
After we left the museum, we headed by cab to a supposedly pretty garden, which turned out to be not very pretty at all, so we decided to skip it and get lunch. We went to Gad, a big Egyptian fast food place, where the food was cheap and good, but definitely not fast. Then we tried to visit a synagogue, but it was closed and the guards kind of laughed at us.
Then it was time to head to Khan el-Khalili to get some Christmas shopping done. First we went to a *blank* workshop, where we learned how to tell real *blanks* from fake *blanks*. I bought a *blank*.
Then we wandered for a long time, getting hassled and trying to make good bargains with not much success. It was fun, even though my feet hurt. (They didn't hurt as much as my friend's who had just climbed Mt. Sinai, though, so I'm grateful for that!)
After we had bought everything in the market proper that we wanted, we went to another *different blank* shop. The store owner was very nice and gave us good prices for two *blanks*. They were awesome.
It was about dinner time, so we walked a ways to find a famous sausage restaurant we'd heard about. It was called Zizzo, and the food was delicious and the service was great. For dessert we had some bread and cream and honey thing that was amazingly good. The best part of the night was learning that the gentleman we'd been sitting near was Mr. Zizzo himself. He was very nice and we complimented his food extensively. He liked that we were Americans, because I don't think he gets many foreign customers at his restaurant since it's a bit out of the way.
We took a cab back to Zamalek after getting some after-dinner juice, and went our separate ways. It was a really really fun and productive day, but I'm completely tired out, and my lungs kinda hurt from breathing in downtown air all day. It's totally worth it though: I bought some really neat *blanks*.
p.s. And I was also stampeded by cats in Khan el-Khalili. True story.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


I spent most of today doing the Project for Awesome again, and it was really really fun. Now my commenting fingers hurt, of course, but I think I'm actually a better typist now than I was two days ago. Go figure.
When I wasn't p4a-ing, I went to Coffee Bean and had chai and read Harry Potter, which was really nice. I also hung out with friends for a while and made plans to explore some museums around Tahrir Square tomorrow, which should be really fun. I'm also going to Khan el-Khalili tomorrow to do my Christmas shopping. [Note to self: do not reveal on blog what you purchase at the market tomorrow. It's supposed to be a surprise.]
Tonight I also went out with friends to hang out and drink tea on the roof of a building somewhere across Zamalek. It had a really pretty river view, and it wasn't too cold to enjoy being outside. We talked about all sorts of things, and I had a really great time. I'm really going to miss all the new friends I've made this semester when they all leave Cairo to go back home.

Friday, December 17, 2010

project for awesome

So, I'm officially done with AUC until next semester. It was a little anticlimactic, but it still feels awesome to know that I don't have any two hour long bus rides lurking in my near future.
But AUC isn't what I want to talk about today. I want to talk about the Project for Awesome. It's an annual YouTube event that brings together video creators and viewers to trick YouTube's algorithms into featuring videos about charities instead of videos about kittens on roombas. (Although who doesn't love kittens on roombas?)
Basically, participants in the P4A (which is you, if you want) like, favorite, and comment on as many P4A videos as many times as they can, in an effort to raise awareness of many different charities. Hank explains it all here or you can click here to go to the P4A website, where you can donate money by purchasing raffle tickets to win cool things, or you can just watch some of the videos I'll put below and donate to any charity that you feel a connection to. Please do what you can, this is really an amazing event, and we've already raised $15,000 for charity through the P4A website in the five hours since the project started. It goes on for another nineteen, and I know we'll accomplish so much more.
I didn't get to make a Project for Awesome video myself this year, thanks to finals week, but here are some of my favorites:

I know that's a lot of videos. Sorry. I can promise you, they are all worth your time. (And your money, don't forget! If you can spare even just $5 to one of these charities, you'll help make a difference.)
p.s. I've been commenting so much on videos tonight that YouTube has become convinced I am a robot, and has been making me prove my humanity after every comment by typing a captcha. Some are hilarious, some are completely unintelligible. Bonus points to anyone who leaves a comment giving me a definition for their favorite captcha (or even just deciphering one)!

Thursday, December 16, 2010


Almost almost almost done. Right now, I have one final, one presentation, and one essay left to turn in. Then, if the University of California were sensible, I could go home, and be done with Egypt. Unfortunately, they're not sensible, and I'll be back at AUC next semester, much better prepared to deal with everything that I'm sure it will throw at me.
But before that, I have to take a test. I have to give a presentation. I have to turn in an essay. Tomorrow.
And then I'm done. Then it's winter break, and I get time off to read and hang out with my friends before everyone flies home. Then I get to fly away to London, and see my family for the first time since August. Then then then. Almost.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

study study

Too much to do. Lots of work. Really sleepy.
Got a B+ on my Egyptian Lit paper. Yay.
Can now tell Senusert III and Amenemhat III apart.
Arabic final tomorrow will be scary bad.
Longest bus ride home yet: 2 hours, 10 minutes.
Got delicious cupcakes, finally. Pumpkin and carrot.
Anthro presentation postponed due to kindness of classmate.
Much ado about everything today. More tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

hit the books

Lots of studying today. Maybe not enough to make me feel amazingly confident about my finals, but definitely enough to make my eyeballs hurt.
I also read Waiting for Godot, by Samuel Beckett, today. It was a good play, but I think it didn't come across very well just through reading. The two main characters are too much alike for me to be able to tell them apart just from their words, I needed to see their actions to really understand. Also, the entire play is ridiculous. But I liked it.
I spent a lot of time reading through my Art and Architecture notes, then downloading and going through the slide shows from after the last quiz until this week. I'm pretty sure it will turn out fine, but it's a bit frustrating when slides still say "look up which Amenemhat" or are unlabeled or completely blank. Except for the white pyramid slide. That's forgivable.
Tomorrow I've got my Egyptian Lit final, and I'll get my term paper back, sadly. I don't really want it back, just like I don't really want to take this test. We're allowed to use the textbook, but since I have a different textbook than the professor, I'm not sure how useful it will be. At least that's my only final of the day, so hopefully I can finish it early and get a start on my anthropology presentation/essay, which I have to present on Thursday. Maybe I left that one a little late. We'll see how it goes.

Monday, December 13, 2010

cold again

Boring, kind of depressing day today. Finals week is usually like this back in SB, but not as bad, because home is a lot closer, and I actually get to go there. Not that London Christmas with the family is in any way regrettable. It's just not home.
In Art and Architecture today, we played a review game, which wasn't as fun as it might have been. I don't learn well in situations where guessing or getting an answer wrong is semi-punished with ridicule. And that's pretty much what I have to say about that. (Aside from the fact that our team name was the Meidum Geese, symbolized by a hieroglyphic goose, which was awesome.)
three of the meidum geese
After that was boring anthropology, where I got back my first paper, finally, which I did well on, but not as well as I think I should have, given his general grading standards. It almost seemed like he needed to take gratuitous points off, and chose me, because he didn't really mark anything wrong with it. Not that I really care, I'm just ready to be done with that class forever.
Arabic was confusing today, mostly because I didn't really focus, which seemed to be a problem with the entire class. I think the end of the semester is getting to all of us.
Tonight was fun though, because I went out with friends to hang out and talk and eat free popcorn, a privilege earned through the purchase of one Stella. The popcorn was delicious, the Stella not so much. This is Egypt.

Saturday, December 11, 2010


Today I met up with a friend for coffee in the morning, and more friends for museum/downtown adventures in the afternoon. It was a pretty satisfactory day, except for one thing: the smog.
I don't think I can honestly say that today was the worst I'd ever seen the smog in Cairo, but it was up there. Also, I'm not usually walking around outside in really smoggy areas like I did today. Honestly, my lungs hurt by the time we got back to the dorms, and my contacts were foggy.
I had to go to the Egyptian Museum today to complete my sketch for my Art and Architecture essay, which was hard. I am not an artist. I did meet a little boy who liked to draw, though, and who wanted to see my picture. I showed it to him, but I was embarrassed. He wasn't bothering me, not really, but his dad apparently thought he was, and took him away. Maybe I should have asked him to draw the statue for me...
After I was finished sketching, we wandered the museum for a bit, but the lack of explanations for anything was more frustrating than usual, so we detoured to Tutankhamum and then left.
The three of us wandered downtown for a few hours, getting lost and finding our way repeatedly. Unfortunately, we didn't find any of the kind of shops we were looking for, but I think we still had a good time. My favorite parts of the afternoon both involved food. We found a bakery where we bought fluffy roll things and some date (I think) cookies for two pounds total, and then had a late lunch/early dinner at Felfela, which was delicious and also cheap. We washed that down with fresh juice, pineapple and fig. I'd never had fig juice before, but I was pleasantly surprised.
After we got back, I relaxed in my room, watched some tv and read my book. I honestly didn't have any work that needed to be done. Well, I hope I didn't. That would be a nasty surprise tomorrow. I suppose I could have spent the time studying, but it felt so good to not have any work to do that I didn't bother. Study later, sleep now.

Friday, December 10, 2010

a productive day (complete with ice cream and jedi)

I was productive today. On a Friday. Something is clearly amiss.
I went to Coffee Bean in the morning, and wrote half my paper and outlined the other half, while enjoying a terribly delicious breakfast of a chai latte and a croissant. The fact that Coffee Bean has no internet is simultaneously extremely frustrating and extremely helpful to my productivity. I think that's why I keep going back. That and the chai. So good.
When I got back to the dorms, I started to watch some tv online, read some blogs, then realized I really had nothing better to do than to finish my paper. So I did.
I ended up downstairs in the courtyard, which was good, because it meant I got to hang out with friends all afternoon and evening and night, with pretty much all of us being productive, sort of.
I say sort of because I was already done with my essay, so I was just reading a book I bought at the campus book fair a few days ago. Oh, Dean Koontz. No other author rivals your ability to write thoroughly engrossing terrible books. This one was about a dog of alarming intelligence, a phrase which I took it upon myself to say as often as I could throughout the day. 'What's your book about?' people asked. 'Oh, not much. Just a dog of alarming intelligence,' I replied.
The best part of the silly book was the setting: Southern California from Orange County to Santa Barbara. Pretty sweet. My favorite bit was when I caught Dean Koontz out in an obvious lack of research: when the evil monster slaughtered a police officer in the hills behind Yorba Linda, he had the 'Yorba Linda Police' go to investigate. Silly Dean Koontz. We don't have our own police force, we just borrow Brea's!
We vacillated about ordering in or eating out, then failed terribly to come to a consensus and ended up eating at the cafeteria. A while after dinner, one friend pointed out that it was now 'time for dessert!' so we headed out with cupcakes in mind. The cupcake store was completely empty of anything but ginger cookies, so we went to the grocery store for ice cream bars, which turned out to be really melty and gross. So we headed over to Mandarine for good ice cream, which was delicious. I had caramel&hazelnut, and the other two had lemon&strawberrylemon and hazelnut&darkchocolatewithweirdpossiblypeachsaucewethinkmaybe.
Then we went back to the dorms and sat in the courtyard freezing until one by one we finished all the work that was going to get done tonight and headed upstairs.
[One friend, I have to mention, was writing an Arabic essay all day, very diligently. Her topic? A summary and explanation of Star Wars. She had all the vocabulary she needed from her media Arabic class: rebel, explosion, alliance, empire. How perfect. The main problem, which we kept cracking up over, seemed to be how to correctly put 'Jedi' into the dual form. Jedi-iin?]

Thursday, December 9, 2010

rainbows and puppies

Is basically what the second half of today was. No joke.
I got to campus early to write my Art and Architecture paper, and it was a good thing that I did. It was done in time to print it out and bring it to class for Professor Ikram to look over.
When I went to her office after class with some other students, she checked it and said it looked good, I just needed to change a few things and add a sketch of the statue, which looks like this, by the way:
imakhufu and his wife
Then she took me outside to talk in private, about my Egyptology scholarship and whether I was actually getting the money from that (which I am, yay!), and about whether I would like to work at the Egyptian Museum. Yes. The answer is yes.
So that was the rainbows and puppies part, and it cast a haze of amazing over everything else for the rest of the day, Anthro class and Arabic and a horribly long bus ride included.
Just now, I got an email from the professor, telling me the museum would be getting in touch, and containing a very clear warning not to let her down, to which my first reaction was: "ulp."
And my second reaction: "I won't."

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Well, the second hundred blog posts is off to a great start. I totally didn’t blog last night. I would just let it go, but I actually had stuff to say, so I can’t.
Last night there was a lecture, and if we attended, we got free ‘delicious’ dinner. The lecture was about dreams, and I was kind of looking forward to it. The only problem was, it was scheduled for eight o’clock at night, which is a bit late for dinner, for me at least. Still, I managed, and it turned out that the food was not just ‘delicious’ but actually delicious.
First I had to sit through the lecture though. It was mostly about the history of dream psychology, and the professor wasn’t as corny or annoying as I had been afraid he might be. It actually turned out pretty interesting. The most annoying part of the lecture was people asking really specific questions about their own dreams, kind of wanting the professor to interpret the dreams for them, which was a little bit awkward.
(Actually, if he had interpreted dreams, that would have been kind of cool. I had this really weird one a few nights ago about pushing a shopping cart up and down a spiral flight of stairs with orange handrails. Also it was happening at VidCon. Also two of my friends were sitting in the shopping cart. What does that mean, I ask? Other than the fact I clearly want to go back to VidCon, possibly with a shopping cart?)
After the lecture I stayed downstairs and hung out with friends for a lot longer than I should have, which meant that I had to do my Arabic homework really late, which I guess is why I didn’t blog. As you can see, I survived. And now I have to go to the library and finish the rough draft of my Art and Architecture essay so I can show it to Professor Ikram after class.
[And blogger is being stupid. Great. I hope this actually publishes and doesn't just vanish into the ether.]

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

100 posts?

It honestly snuck up on me. This is the 100th time I've posted on this blog, starting the night before I left home to come to Cairo. Wow.
Today was a good Tuesday, again. I went to Coffee Bean and worked on my essay, and made a good amount of progress. Then I went to lunch with friends and then came home to essay a bit more, a goal which I completely failed to accomplish. That was okay, though.
I made my vlog for today, and had a really good time doing it.
If you watch the video, which is at the bottom of this post, I suggest clicking through to the video page and watching the linked video in the doobly-doo. Well, I suggest that if you're a huge nerd, or a nerdfighter. Otherwise, I guess it might be slightly confusing or off-putting.
Tomorrow I've got to get to school early and read The Caucasian Chalk Circle for Dramatic Lit, because I totally forgot to get a copy from the copy shop on campus, so I couldn't read it today like I meant to. I hope I can finish it before class and still have time to work on my Art and Architecture paper or the Dramatic Lit paper. If that doesn't work out, though, I'll settle for just finishing the play on time. I hate it when I totally blank on reading assignments like that, especially when they're for a class that is completely made up of discussion of the reading.
And that was a really boring 100th post! What can I say? It was a Tuesday.

Monday, December 6, 2010

7-up yours, buddy

So it turns out I have a lot more work to do this week than I thought I did. Oh well. It will get done.
At last count, I have one essay due Sunday, one due Monday, and one due Friday, along with one final on Wednesday, one on Thursday, and a presentation on Thursday. But it will get done.
At this point, I'm mostly concerned with simply maintaining sanity until this semester is finally over and done with and I can escape from AUC and from Egypt for a while, even though my vacation plans are still ridiculously up in the air.
Today in my Anthro class, we actually had a whole discussion about 'if a tree falls in the forest and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound?' which was completely ridiculous because yes, of course it makes a sound, if you're defining sound like science defines sound, as vibration through air. But the professor felt the need to argue this, saying that sound according to people is something heard, so of course if no one hears the tree fall, there was no sound. Which is all well and good, until you realize that he's just summed up the saying as basically, 'if a tree falls in the forest and nobody is there to hear it, nobody is there to hear it.' The end. What a brilliant conclusion.
Basically, the entire thing reminded me of a story about my uncle when he was little putting the family dog into the refrigerator for a few seconds and then asking it whether or not the light had gone out. Maybe that connection only makes sense to me. Sorry.
When I got home from school, after what seemed like a horribly long bus ride but actually wasn't that bad, I went out to dinner with friends, and we had chinese, which was pretty good. I think I'll go back there, or order in at some point. The fried rice was delicious, probably from all the MSG.
An interesting thing happened on the way back to the dorm. On the way to the restaurant, we got a few mutters and marriage proposals, nothing out of the ordinary, but on the way back, one kid in a group of teenage boys yelled "suck my dick" and we didn't know what to do. What exactly should we have done, do you think? Is there an appropriate response to that, do you think, or is ignoring it the only way to go? I have to say, a few rude replies came to my mind, but I was a bit too shocked to use any of them. I hope that doesn't happen again, though. Not a pleasant experience.
Tomorrow is a day for homework, not relaxing, so I'm planning to get up early and head out of the dorms to keep me away from the internet. Hopefully that will work. And hopefully I can get wherever I'm headed without any commentary from men on the street. Not likely.

Sunday, December 5, 2010


A title which has absolutely nothing to do with the subject of this post. Moving on.
Today I took a slightly later bus, and got to campus just in time for the rare books library to open. Then I spent a few hours doing really really fun research. I'm not even kidding. I found this German book that has an amazing catalog of tons and tons of statues in the Egyptian Museum. The only problem is, it's in German. But that is really just an extra obstacle. I can read enough German to figure out whether something is a limestone statue of a husband and wife or not. I think.
Then it was time for class to start, and I went to Dramatic Lit, where the professor cunningly steered all discussion away from the more controversial topics of Streetcar, and we mostly talked about the boring character of Mitch.
After lunch I tried to go to my Egyptian Lit class, but the professor just didn't show up. So that was a complete and total waste of my time. When it was finally apparent that the professor just wasn't going to show up, I went with a friend to the campus book fair, where I bought two books that I didn't need, and have no idea what I will do with when I need to move. Oh well. They should be entertaining for a while, at least.
The bus ride home seemed longer than usual, but I met a nice girl from Kenya who is studying at AUC who I sat next to.
The rest of the night was fairly uneventful, except for a brief half hour period where I looked up and memorized a Japanese tongue twister to upload onto youtube for a project Hank Green is doing. I hardly ever participate in stuff like that, so I'm really glad I did today.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

freezing in the library

But at least I got some work done. I was actually remarkably productive almost all day today, and got everything done that needed to get done.
I meant to take the 10 or 11 o'clock bus to campus to work on researching my paper, but I put my laundry in late enough that I couldn't. Instead, I took the 2 o'clock bus.
That might seem a little silly, since I could only spend two hours on campus before needing to get on the 5:15 bus back home (after the library closed at 5 o'clock), but it was worth it, because the bus rides were relaxing and I got some good work done on my paper. I'll be back there tomorrow morning before classes to do some more research, and then hopefully I'll have enough to type up my bibliography and run it past Professor Ikram for a check.
Tonight there was a "girl's night in" party on the fourth floor, the flyers for which promised pizza and drinks and henna and belly dancing, only the first three of which I was actually interested in. When I got there, though, there were just sandwiches and really loud music, so I left pretty early. It turned out that they did have henna, so maybe I should have stuck around for a while, but it really doesn't matter in the long run. If I really want henna done, I can find a place to do it.
And that was my Saturday. Pretty sweet. See you tomorrow.

Friday, December 3, 2010


Oh, weekends. You're so good to me.
I did very very little today, and it was great. Aside from the lounging around reading and the nap taking, the best part of the day was getting out of the dorms to have lunch with my friends. We also walked to get ice cream after, which was nice.
Tonight I went to look at the apartment I mentioned yesterday, and it was amazing. I really really hope that I get to live there next semester. Both of the girls I met were really nice, and the bedrooms they had available were huge, and one had a balcony with a Nile view. And the apartment is only about a five or six minute walk from the bus stop, so that's pretty great. It's also right across the street from Coffee Bean, which is amazing. Hopefully I'll be hearing from them in the next few days, yea or nay. Fingers crossed!
Tomorrow I'm taking the bus to campus to do paper research, hopefully successfully. Researching has always been more fun than writing for me, but the special collections library is always freezing cold and kind of terrible, so that might put a damper on the fun part.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


Today was good. Well, parts of it were okay, and parts of it were awesome.
The best part was in Art and Architecture, when we were looking at Middle Kingdom tomb paintings from Beni Hasan in Middle Egypt. We looked at this one, and Professor Ikram asked us what was happening in the bottom row:

One guy in the front row said quietly, 'Seals?' and Professor Ikram seemed to vanish.
Well, she didn't really disappear, more like double over with laughter that the entire class then caught. Every time she'd try and talk, it just got funnier and funnier. Finally we all managed to stop laughing, and she told us that she could never teach this class again, because she'd never be able to look at that painting without thinking 'seals'. So that was great.
After class, a few other students and I followed her to her classroom to ask questions about the upcoming paper and stuff, and I found out that I need to change my schedule around to take her Culture and Society of Ancient Egypt course next semester. Previous years engaged in projects like making makeup, cooking, making wine, and carving maces and then hitting watermelons with them. So it's not exactly a class I can miss out on and not hate myself forever, you know?
The rest of the day was fairly mediocre after that, except for my Anthropology class being cancelled. Everyone I know only found out because of the note on the door, but when I checked later, it turned out that he had notified us on the class website this morning. That's a step in the right direction I guess, but since that website is fundamentally useless, no one checks it, and an email would have worked much better.
After I got home from school, I went out to dinner with friends, which was delicious, and I couldn't even finish all of it. Then I came back to my room to do nothing, which I've been quite successful at. Tomorrow, coffee, studying, reading, and an apartment visit! Wish me luck!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

a streetcar named desire

Have you seen it? Read it? Watched the movie? If you haven't, this blog post might not make much sense. I'm sorry.
I'll try not to get too spoiler-y, but it's a pretty well known story, I think, so I'm warning you now, just don't read this if you really really care.
So, Streetcar (by Tennessee Williams) is about a woman named Blanche, a woman who is so caught up in the lies she's wrapped herself in that she's drowning. She can't leave her past behind, no matter where she goes, her family's problems and the spectre of her dead husband haunt her.
She goes to New Orleans to stay with her sister Stella and Stella's husband Stanley. In her mind, Blanche imagined that the Elysian Fields, the sector of the city where Stella lives, is just as much of a paradise as it's name indicates, but she was wrong. It's a dump, maybe a charming dump, but still, not paradise.
She lives there for a while, stuff happens, et cetera et cetera et cetera, until one night a confrontation with Stanley comes to a head in a bad way. Here is exactly what happens in the play:
Stanley corners Blanche. She tells him to get away and leave her alone, but he won't. She breaks a bottle and threatens him with the sharp edge. He still won't leave, and she slashes at him with the bottle. He grabs her wrist, yells "Tiger! Tiger!" and doesn't let go. Blanche cannot fight him, moans and falls to her knees. Stanley picks up her limp body and puts her on the bed and the lights go down.
The next time we see Blanche, she's out of her mind, creating fantasies and not able to connect with the real world, and Stella and Stanley put her in a mental hospital.
What do you think happened in between? I agree with the consensus of my Dramatic Lit class: it's pretty clear that she was raped.
What I don't agree with my class about is the circumstances of that rape. Some of the arguments I heard today:
'She gave in. She let him.'
'She was asking for it from the beginning.'
'Look how she acted around him.'
'She stopped fighting.'
'She wanted it to happen.'
I couldn't believe I was hearing this, and moreover, that I was hearing it from the other girls in my class. Only one girl was on my side, completely bewildered that anyone could even try to make these arguments rationally. It was honestly upsetting to listen to. I wanted to sit with them and talk outside of class. Maybe yell a bit.
No one ever asks to be raped. No one wants it to happen.
No matter what you wear, no matter how you act, it does not give anyone the permission to violate you.
If you can't fight, you can't fight. That doesn't make what happens your fault.
It is never your fault.
And that's what happened today. I'm really looking forward to Dramatic Lit again on Sunday.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

tuesdays are the best

It's just like a mini weekend in the middle of my week. Of course, the feelings of relaxation that come with a Tuesday are always hopelessly crushed by nighttime when I remember that it's not a real weekend and I still have to go to school the next day. It's better than what all those poor ALI students have to go through, though, taking nothing but Arabic classes with school five days a week. So sad.
I finished my term paper today, bibliography and all, and it's ready to turn in tomorrow, unless class is cancelled again. I actually still liked my paper by the end of it, which is a pretty rare thing. Hopefully my professor will like it too. Actually, if she doesn't, it's a good enough paper that I don't think it will get a bad grade, even if she hates it. At least, it won't deserve a bad grade, which is what I care about more.
More work tomorrow, yay. I need to talk to my boss and see about being done with work after this week or next, just because of finals coming up and everything. All the other girls I work with are grad students, so they're even more stressed out than I am!
Did anyone who read yesterday's blog actually go listen to Erase This? What did you think about it if you did?
I'll edit this post later, probably tomorrow to add in the video I made today, which is boring. But I don't think the slow internet will let me upload it tonight. It will get posted eventually. Everything gets posted eventually. [Here it is, the most boring vlog in the entire world! Also the most weirdly framed one. I am just a talking head, thanks to iMovie and youtube...]

Also, it's the last day of NaNoWriMo! Congratulations to any wrimos out there who finished/will finish their novels today!

Monday, November 29, 2010

is it time to blog again?

Apparently, yes.
So since I blogged earlier, I was going to skip tonight, but I decided not to. For no real reason at all, actually. I mean, there's nothing left to say.
I worked on my paper a bit, read some sources. Didn't do as much as I was planning to do. Tomorrow is another day?
Basically, I don't want to go to bed yet because I haven't talked to my family on skype in two or three days (except for my aunt who is amazing and called me!) and I miss them. I'm debating right now whether to keep working on my paper (because late night sentences are still sentences) and stay up to see if they get on the computer, or just say screw it and go to bed. Decisions, decisions.
While I'm pondering that, go look at this.
This album, Erase This, from DFTBA records (that's Don't Forget To Be Awesome for all you non-nfs out there) is amazing, and I'm almost ashamed that I didn't buy it before its creators offered it up for a free download.
Erase This is one of those albums that tells a story, although what it says to each person who listens is almost certainly different. I just know that the story I hear when I listen to it seems to come from my heart, not just Alan Lastufka's mind or Luke Conard's voice.
If you have $12, I suggest you follow the link above and buy the album. If you don't have $12, at least listen to Boxcar Blood for free a few times and see how you like it. (Or go here to the iTunes store for previews of all the songs. Try 'Forgiven' and 'Erase This' at the very least.)
Although right now Erase This is my bus ride music, I'm very much looking forward to the time when I can play it in my car, driving anywhere I want, home home home.
p.s. My mom just called. So yay.

i don't even know anymore

I didn't blog last night, and I didn't even think about it until now. I'm on the bus ride home from a long day on campus, ready to finish my essay and maybe write some more NaNo so it won't fade into oblivion like last year's book.
I was upset last night, from lots of stuff, and it was really hard not having anyone to talk to about it, just because of the time difference and the fact that no one carries a computer around with them to get skype calls like from a phone.
At school today, I actually stayed at work until 11:15, instead of leaving early for one reason or another. I guess that was good because I got a lot of stuff done, but at the same time it wasn't very satisfying because none of the stuff that I did actually matters to me personally. Mostly it was sorting papers that the person who worked on the collection before me left unsorted, papers that if it were up to me would just be chucked in the trash or recycled, because they're a waste of space. But it's not up to me.
Then I went to Professor Ikram's class, which was really nice, since we haven't had real class for a while. The lecture was really really fast, and I'm sure I missed some important stuff in my note taking. I'll make it up with my friends' notes though. It all works out.
After class, I followed the professor to her office to ask a few questions about my paper, along with about half the class. No wonder she calls us ducklings, the way we trailed after her!
In my next class, we watched a really interesting film called The Return of Navajo Boy, which I think you should watch. It's a documentary made in 2000, about a Navajo family living in Monument Valley and about the history of their family and tourists and filmmakers and other people, and I really liked it. Also, it made me cry.
In Arabic class, we just practiced making sentences, but it wasn't boring. Then my friend Vincent and I bought brownie sundaes at McDonald's, which were completely amazing, if also completely unhealthy.
And then I got on the bus. And now I will take a nap. I do have a question for whoever is reading this. Do you like me posting every day? Would you rather I didn't? Does it matter?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

nanowrimo winner!

Well, I won NaNoWriMo. I actually wrote more today than any other day so far this month, and finished my 50,000 words just a half hour ago. The only problem with finishing early is that I don't have a decent excuse to not work on my term paper anymore. Dang.
I'm planning to keep this novel going for a while, to see where it ends up, because I've had a really great time writing it over the last month. It feels a little bit anti-climactic to have won early, but I'm glad I did it. Except for all that term paper stuff.
As you can guess, a lot of my day was spent writing, in my room, in the courtyard, and at Coffee Bean again. The employees definitely recognize me now, I'm sure of it.
For Dramatic Lit class tomorrow, I'm meant to have read A Streetcar Named Desire, which I totally didn't do this weekend, because of doing other stuff. That's pretty much the best excuse ever. I guess I'll read it tonight and finish it on the bus tomorrow morning. Then I'll do my Egyptian Lit reading at lunch, I suppose. At least I had the foresight to do my Arabic homework early.
NaNo word count: 50674

Friday, November 26, 2010

so sleepy

Who knew that essay writing could make me so tired?
Honestly, all I did for most of today was eat breakfast food (pancakes!) and drink coffee and write my essay, and do some NaNo-ing.
Then I came back to the dorms and hung out with friends for a while, talking about crazy stuff like racism in Disney movies, and what movie we all wanted to watch, none of us actually motivated enough to get the others moving to make something happen. We're such college students. Even in Egypt, we talk and talk about our plans, and then just sit in the courtyard for another hour or two. It was nice, though, even if it did garner me a fresh mosquito bite right on top of my foot.
Tomorrow will be another essay day, fun fun fun. I've managed to keep up my buffer on NaNo, so I'm hoping to finish officially a day early this year. That would be something. Instead of taking essay breaks with youtube tomorrow, I think I'll try doing some word sprints instead, and see what comes out of that.
NaNo word count: 46800

Thursday, November 25, 2010

eid shokra sa3eid!عيد الشكر سعيد

Is my badly spelled version of Happy Thanksgiving in Arabic. Yay!
Today was filled with procrastination, coffee shops, essay writing, and too much food. It was pretty amazing though.
For starters, I actually got real words written for my essay. It's amazing how two pages is almost nothing in NaNoWriMo, but seems like such a victory for a term paper. I guess that's the difference between letting whatever's in my brain out onto the page and writing something with structure and substance. I much prefer the former. Anyway, NaNo and this essay are 'due' the same day, so that should be fun.
Tonight, I had a real Thanksgiving dinner with lots of AUC friends at Maadi House, and had a great time. The food was amazing, and I wish I had gone back for more. I could eat those mashed potatoes every day, I swear.
There wasn't really the opportunity to mingle with important people from the State Department or the Embassy like most AUC kids there thought there would be. We all dressed up fancy to come to a buffet dinner that was mostly just small families. But I had a great time anyway, mostly because I was in it for the food and not the networking, although that would have been nice.
The cab ride home was ridiculously long because of traffic and getting lost, but we eventually made it. Then I came back to my room, where I Thanksgiving-Skyped with my family, including my little sister, who retains the ability to annoy me even when we're halfway around the world from each other. Then it was time for NaNo, which I have to admit, I didn't do so well on today. I'm more than a day ahead, and since I was falling asleep on my keyboard a little bit, decided to just write for a while, and not worry about the word count. Maybe I'll make up for it tomorrow when the essay writing gets tough.
NaNo word count: 43744

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

un-pumpkin pie

Who in their right minds would ever boil a sweet potato? Well-meaning Egyptians would, that's who. I attended the Thanksgiving lunch for American students today, with a few hundred of my closest American friends. It was a really nice effort that they made, and I had a great time. There were some interesting choices made with the food, though. Although I didn't try it, my friends reported that the sour cream was probably in fact whipped cream with salt. Most interesting of all, the much awaited for pumpkin pie very definitely contained no pumpkin whatsoever, which all of us found very confusing. Pumpkin pie spice alone does not a pumpkin pie make.
The rest of the day was fairly average. I got my new term paper topic approved by my professor, which was good, but which also means that I really do need to start actually writing it tomorrow.
Since tomorrow is Thanksgiving for reals, some friends and I are planning to accept a very generous offer that was made to us by an American club called the Maadi House. Their membership is limited to U.S. State Department employees working in Cairo, and other American diplomat types, but for Thanksgiving, they're hosting American AUC students for dinner as well, which is very exciting. I hope everything goes as planned, and it will be time for Thanksgiving number two tomorrow!
NaNo word count: 43108

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

coffee bean tuesday 2.0

I had a much less productive trip to Coffee Bean today than I did a few weeks ago. To start, I wasn't even done with my reading, so I couldn't get to work on my essay right away.
Then, part way through my research, I realized that the essay topic I had chosen and gotten approved wasn't really what I wanted to write about at all. I figured out a new, much more interesting topic, and plotted an outline for it.
I tried to buy a few hours of internet from Coffee Bean, but apparently they were 'out' so I had to come home to do more research. So, basically, I'm no farther along on my paper than I was this morning, but writing it will definitely be much easier now that I'm actually interested in my topic.
NaNoWriMo went amazingly today, and I wrote way more than I needed to to meet my goal, but it didn't drag on at all. Unfortunately, I pretty much know for certain now that the novel itself won't be finished when it hits 50,000 words. That's better than the alternative, I guess, but rather dramatically increases the chances that I won't ever finish it. I'm kind of thinking about skipping ahead and writing some major plot points, just to have them done and the story all tied up, so it will be easier to go back and fill in the blanks, rather than have to finish the whole story cold. I'll let you know.
Essay research and planning took up most of the day, except for the fifteen minutes or so in which I made my video for the week, and the three hundred minutes or so that video took to upload to youtube. Really, Zamalek dorms? Really?

NaNo word count: 40876

Monday, November 22, 2010

a free elf

I had school today, had a test in Art and Architecture, did some research for my Egyptian Lit paper, wrote my NaNoWriMo words on the bus ride home. But that's not what I want to talk about.
I went to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part I) tonight.
It was an amazing movie, it lived up to the expectations I've had for all the Harry Potter movies since the very first one, something that none of the previous films have ever managed to do. It was both an excellent movie and a faithful adaptation of the book. I enjoyed it very much.
What I didn't enjoy was seeing it in Egypt. It wasn't the company, I went with good friends who care about Harry Potter just as much as I do, it was the entire experience.
Even though there's nothing in particular I can pin my dissatisfaction to, (although I might mention the smoking break in the middle of the film, or the constant murmuring of the audience, or the ringing cell phones, though even the sum of all these annoyances was not enough to ruin the experience) but something was definitely wrong.
It just felt wrong, I suppose. It felt like I wasn't meant to be seeing the movie like that, in a foreign country, on an average night, surrounded by people who just didn't care. It may seem lame to you, but Harry Potter is worth more to me than that.
To me, seeing a brand new Harry Potter movie shouldn't happen in a tiny theatre that smells like cigarette smoke, with the audience made up of people who just wanted to see a movie, any movie, on a weekday night.
Seeing a brand new Harry Potter movie should happen in my theatre at home, surrounded by my family and friends, surrounded by fans who give a damn, *spoilers* who care when Voldemort kills Hedwig, who sit with their hands over their eyes when Bathilda Bagshot speaks to Harry in Parseltongue, who already start to cry when Dobby appears in the Malfoy's dungeon.*end spoilers*.
That's what tonight should have been like, and it just wasn't. I understand that's the way it had to be, because of where I am, and I guess that's just how life works here. This is Egypt.
But I don't have to like it, and when I get home in June, I'll be ready. Deathly Hallows Part II. We're going to do it right.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

successful felucca ride

Today was a fail, and then an epic success. The first part of the day totally sucked, so I don't want to talk about it.
When I got home from class, after a very good NaNo session on the bus ride, I talked to my dad and sister on Skype, then met with Stefana and friends for dinner and adventures.
We had real reservations at Abu el-Sid, and walked over there, buying dessert on the way. For dinner, we split three entrees, and they were all delicious, although we couldn't finish them all. Stefana was very brave and tried all the unfamiliar food willingly, even the slimy green molokheya, which is one of my favorite foods here.
Then we caught a cab to the river, and found a felucca captain who promised to take us out for an hour for 50 pounds for his boss and "baksheesh for the driver" (tips for him). He played us music and even sang a little, and we ate our dessert and had a good time taking silly pictures. Then it was time to dance, apparently. I'm sure there are some terrifyingly awful pictures of me (and all of us) dancing with the boat captain that will eventually appear on facebook or somewhere. I can't quite decide if I'm looking forward to that or not. It was a wonderful boat ride, and we tipped him very generously.
We caught a cab home to Zamalek, and I can honestly say that it was the worst cab ride I've ever taken. He took us a very roundabout way (around the island twice) to drive up the meter (which was going super fast anyway), and didn't listen when I tried to tell him the right way to go, then got mad when I didn't know where we were. It ended up costing over thirty pounds for what should have been at most a ten pound cab ride. At most. If he had known what the heck he was doing, and hadn't tried to cheat us. But I've put it behind me. Deep breaths.
When we got back, I walked my friends back to their hotel and we hugged goodbye. They were very good huggers. It was really nice to hear them say that this was one of the best trips they've taken while studying abroad. I hope that's true, but even if it isn't, I had a wonderful time showing them around, and just hanging out with friends, and it was sad to see them go.
Tomorrow I have a quiz in Art and Architecture that I haven't studied as much for as I need to, so that's what I'll be doing all tomorrow morning. Hopefully I won't do as badly and I'm afraid I will. Wish me luck.
NaNo word count: 36753

Saturday, November 20, 2010

pyramids with stefana and co

Today was a really excellent last day of vacation. It started out with me sneaking into my friends' hotel to munch on their free continental breakfast, and then we took off for the pyramids. When we got there, we learned that the second pyramid (my favorite) had been closed for repairs, but that the third one was now open. This was exciting because I had never been in Menkaure's pyramid before, so we all bought tickets and visited it. There was a lot more going on inside that little pyramid than in either of the giant ones, which was pretty cool. The other three girls also bought tickets to go inside the great pyramid, but I passed on that one, because like I've said before, once was enough. (Also, side note, I've now hit my head on the inside of all three Giza pyramids. No, not on purpose. Ouch.) If anyone got cool pictures of us by Menkaure's pyramid, I'll link to them when they're posted, because my camera is still broken. I should do something about that.
After the pyramids, we took a cab to Khan el-Khalili, where we had juice (banana for me, pomegranate for Stefana, and pineapple for the other two), and I pointed them toward the market, then headed home to study for my quiz that's coming up this week, and to write for NaNo.
Then we all met up again for dinner at Crave, which was delicious again, especially the desserts: chocolate lava cake and strawberry cheesecake. So good. If it weren't so expensive, I would eat there all the time.
Tomorrow, I've got school again, and the girls are heading off to the museum, and possibly back to Khan for some more shopping, then we're going to try dinner at Abu el-Sid (with proper reservations!) and a felucca ride. Nothing can possibly go wrong.
NaNo word count: 34855

Friday, November 19, 2010

friends from italy

Today I again had nothing much to do, and again, it was a really good day. I almost wish vacation could go on for longer, but I miss having stuff to do. I'm sure that feeling won't last long once I get back to AUC, but that's how I feel right now.
My friend Stefana arrived from Milan today, with two of her friends from the university where she's studying. I met them at their hotel for lunch, and then we explored Zamalek.
I actually had a really difficult time finding their hotel, because google maps told me it was in two different places. Just when I had given up, I found myself on the correct street, right under the hotel sign. We went to a restaurant called Cafe Noir for lunch, which was pretty good, and a relief for them, after getting used to paying European prices for food all the time.
Then we set off exploring, and walked all the way from my side of the island to the Opera House, way on the other end. We saw a poster for a performance of King Lear, which I was sad to learn I missed, because I love that play, and would definitely have paid to see it, even if it was in Arabic.
About halfway to the Opera House, we decided to make our way to Cairo Tower, and see the whole city below us. It was past sunset by the time we got there, which definitely spoiled that plan a little bit, but it turned out okay. After buying our tickets and waiting in a ridiculous line for about half an hour, we decided to chip in thirty more pounds each as credit for the restaurant in the tower, and skip the long line. This turned out to be a good idea, because when we got back down, we saw people still in line who had been ahead of us.
While we waited, we chatted, or were chatted at by a group of Egyptian girls, about age thirteen or fourteen. They were very nice, and told us we were beautiful, and we told them they were gameela too. We had a bit of a language barrier problem, but I enjoyed talking to them.
The top of the tower was very very windy, and it was completely dark by then, but we got to see all the lights of Cairo spread out beneath us. The lit up feluccas on the river were really pretty, and it was amazing to see how far the city stretched in all directions.
When we finished looking, we went down to the restaurant, and had coffee and dessert, completely not thinking about the fact that none of us had eaten dinner. The chocolate cake was good, but the vanilla ice cream was kind of funny. We decided it tasted like funfetti cake, but without the funfetti.
We took a taxi back to the dorms so we could look up the new Harry Potter movie, in the hopes that we could all see it together while they were in Cairo, but it didn't look like it would work out. On our way back to their hotel, we ran into a friend who told us that it will actually be released in Egypt on Wednesday, unfortunately after they've gone back to Italy. (But I'll still get to see it! Yay!)
Tomorrow I'm meeting them early, hopefully sneaking myself into their free continental breakfast at the hotel, then we're off to Giza to see the pyramids! I don't think I'll ever get tired of them.
NaNo word count: 33110
p.s. I had a ridiculous NaNo session today. I've almost got my whole buffer back from where I lost it two days ago!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

vacation for reals

Vacation for reals for me is apparently not a day at the beach, or multiple consecutive days at the beach. Vacation for reals according to me is apparently a day spent alone eating cornflakes and watching lots and lots of tv shows, including possibly more Star Trek: TNG than is possibly healthy for anyone. (God, I love Captain Picard. Dang.)
So today was pretty much awesome, because while it was a day spent doing nothing worthwhile, it wasn't a day spent avoiding doing worthwhile things, so there wasn't any intrinsic guilt involved. If I didn't know that I actually have work to get done tomorrow, I'd quite happily do the same thing again. (Probably not, though. Too much tv. I guess I'd read more, maybe.)
Plus, tomorrow my friend Stefana and her friends fly in from Italy for a few days, so I get to be a tour guide again. I'm looking forward to seeing her and meeting new people too. And having places to go, I guess. A little productivity never hurt anyone.
Also, if you have ever had a dog, or you just enjoy reading things that made you cry with laughter, go read this.
NaNo word count: 30477

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Wow, I really haven't blogged for a long time! Dahab was amazing, and although I did find internet, I didn't make time to blog while I was there, which I think was probably a good thing. I had a hard time relaxing as it was, so that little bit of stress off my mind helped, I think.
We left Cairo on the bus at 7:30 pm on Thursday and arrived in Dahab around 5 or 6 o'clock Friday morning. Even though the five of us had all our bags, we were too stubborn to take a taxi to our hotel, which was a bad idea. Dahab, at least the touristy part, is laid out in a giant line. We walked from the middle-ish, where the bus station was (far back from the beach) to one far end, then along the beach to the other far end where we eventually found our hotel. We were really really tired by then, but our room wasn't ready, so we had to chill on the beach for a while and watch the stray puppies play in the sand.
Our rooms turned out to be pretty nice, although they didn't come with toilet paper. Oh well.
That first day, we spent mostly by the beach right by the hotel, although we did walk back along the boardwalk street for dinner and to meet up with other friends from AUC. The best part of that night was definitely our thick shakes at a restaurant called Yalla. Basically, a thick shake is ice cream in a glass, served with a spoon and superfluous straws.
All the days we spent in Dahab kind of blended together, so from here on, I'm just going to give highlights. The best restaurant in town is Chinese, called the Three Brothers, run by three actual Chinese men, possibly actually brothers. The main server is nicknamed Baba, and he doesn't speak any English or Arabic, so to order, everyone has to point at the item they want in the menu. Then when it's time to pay the bill, he comes over and adds everything up on his pocket calculator. We ate there a lot, and it was always delicious.
After the first night, I woke up with countless mosquito bites on both my calves, which made the rest of the weekend much less fun. I would show you a picture of how many bites I got, but the camera's still broken, so that's a no go. Plus, it's kind of awful to look at.
For our third night, we moved from one side of town to the other, into a villa owned by the same hotel. It was amazing, and I would love to stay there again if I could be with a group of people that would make it more affordable. Since the kitchen was fully supplied, we got to go grocery shopping and cook dinner for two nights, the first time any of us had cooked in three months. It was amazing. We had spaghetti one night and chicken and rice the next.
The fourth night, another friend arrived and brought friends over with her that she had met at the bus station, telling us only that they were Tanzanian. This turned out to be not quite true, they were actually two Peace Corps volunteers visiting Egypt before heading home after their two years service. It was really interesting to talk to them, because I had never really considered the Peace Corps before, but they made it seem wonderful. I'm still not really considering it, but it's not a completely invalid option any longer.
By around the third or fourth day, I was going kind of crazy, what with staying in one place and not really having anything to do, not to mention the insanity that so many mosquito bites brings. Because of all that and a host of other stuff, I decided to go home early, which is why you're getting this blog post tonight (Wednesday) instead of on Saturday, when I was supposed to get home.
Long story short, I bought my bus ticket Tuesday morning, had a wonderful last day in Dahab, snorkeling the famous Blue Hole reef, and caught the bus at 10 pm to take me back to Cairo, where I arrived this morning. Now I'm really tired, so I won't tell you all about my bus trip home adventures, I'll just say that instead of a cab from the bus station, I took a taxi to the Metro with a guy I had just met, who's studying in Alex and had just gone to Dahab for Eid, and who was extremely helpful and gave me a pound for my Metro ticket, then got off in Tahrir square and took a taxi home to Zamalek, where I lazed the day away watching stupid television shows and skyping with my mom. Oh, and NaNoWriMo, which actually went really well in Dahab.
Here's my Tuesday vlog about my last day in Dahab, hope you enjoy:

NaNo word count: 29381
p.s. If anyone has any helpful suggestions about making mosquito bites stop itching or making me start being able to ignore them, please leave a comment! Or leave a comment with sympathy, and we'll see if that helps!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


That's how I feel right now. I have almost never been so ready for a vacation in my entire life. I'm sure there are exceptions to that statement, but honestly, nothing comes to mind.
An entire week where I will probably do no work except for NaNoWriMo sounds excellent. Just me and friends and a confusing hotel reservation and the Red Sea. Pretty sweet.
Unfortunately, my camera is still broken, so I won't even be taking it with me. When I get home I'll do my best to get it fixed, but there isn't anything I can do about it now, so I'm not going to worry. I will take my flipcam with me, though, and I'll vlog while I'm there. I don't know if I'll be able to upload the video, because the internet situation seems a little sketchy at the moment, but we'll see.
Currently, I've got about 6 mosquito bites, since my roommate has decided to start sleeping with the window open. I've closed it tonight, but it might be open when I wake up tomorrow morning. Plus, I'm sure the mosquitoes are already in the room since it was open all day anyway. But no resentment there. You're imagining it.
While I'm away in Dahab, there are tons of projects I could (and probably should) work on. Just to make a general list, I have three essays I should start, a take-home quiz for Arabic, and studying for my second Art and Architecture quiz. Probably not much (if any) of this will get done. And I'm okay with that. This week, being a tourist on vacation comes first.
NaNo word count: 18689
p.s. If you don't see any blog updates for a while, it will just be because of sketchy internet, nothing to worry about. Also, I'm not really planning on doing individual days of catch-up blogs, a week is just too long for that. I will write stuff down every day so I can catch you up when I get home, though. Promise!
p.p.s. I love this video so much, I'm not even going to offer any explanation for it:

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

coffee bean tuesday

I woke up early this morning, got ready for the day, and headed to Coffee Bean, a few blocks away, where I proceeded to sit for the next seven hours.
I probably had more coffee than was strictly speaking good for me, but I also finished my essay that I need to turn in tomorrow, so it was well worth it.
It was an odd feeling being in the Coffee Bean, because everything was in English, and I could almost have forgotten that I was in Egypt if it hadn't been for the not-free wifi (which was a helpful motivator for me to write my essay) and the clouds of cigarette smoke that made my lungs hurt by the time I left. Next time I won't stay for so long, so hopefully the latter won't be a problem again.
When I got home in mid-afternoon, I filmed my vlog, which you can watch below, then I read my play for tomorrow, The Wild Duck, by Henrik Ibsen, which is interesting, but not one of my favorites. It's fairly predictable (at least so far) and a bit too soap opera for my tastes.
I also got a lot of school and vacation related business done today, including trip planning for winter break, finally.
Also, I wrote over 2,000 words for NaNo today! I don't know what came over me, but it was definitely a good thing. My story is still going where I want it to go, but it's turning out differently in the middle than I thought it would. Not in a bad way, just in a kind of father-son Lion King way, and that's really the best I can describe it. Doesn't sound so good like that, huh?

NaNo word count: 16087

Monday, November 8, 2010


Well, nothing interesting happened yesterday, which is perhaps why I forgot to blog again. Good for you, Elise. Fail.
Basically, I went to work for the first time in forever, had no idea what I was supposed to be doing, and left a bit early. Sounds like fun, right?
Then classes, yay. Then bus ride home, where it was a NaNo race against my computer battery, that I actually won for once. Then I had pineapple cheese pizza for dinner, and skyped with my mother in the lobby because once again, my roommate decided to go to bed early. It's not that I mind her needing her sleep, because I don't, I just mind when it intrudes on my life, which sounds horrible and mean, but it's true. If I have to talk in the lobby, I can't say the same kind of things that I would say if I were alone in my room, and I don't like that at all.
So, tomorrow (I lie, today) is Tuesday, and I have an essay to write, a trip to Europe to plan, and at least 1667 words to write before it gets dark. Once it gets dark, I never get anything done.
NaNo word count: 14048

Sunday, November 7, 2010

at least nano's going well

Today was a long day, and I'm glad it's over. Nothing was particularly bad about it (except for Sarah leaving - I miss you, Sarah!), but it was definitely long.
In the morning, I took the late bus so I could help Sarah get checked out of the dorms and reclaim her passport from the front desk. It didn't really work like I'd thought it would, but they didn't charge us any money for her stay, so that's something!
School was long and pretty boring, even my midterm in Egyptian Lit. I don't think I did badly on it, but I'm pretty sure I didn't ace it either, unless the professor grades really really lazily.
Arabic was kinda fun, we got to show the class pictures of our family and talk about them. It was nice seeing all my friends' families, because since we're all so isolated from home here, it's a little hard to think of each other as people with parents and siblings and cousins and such. The pictures made those kind of imaginary people a lot more real to me, and it's nice to know that those other families are out there, even if that sounds pretty weird.
On the bus ride home, I NaNo'd the whole time, and got more than my 1667 words done for the day. I'm a little afraid that this novel won't be finished by November 30th, because that will make it much more unlikely to ever be finished (like last year's novel), but I'll keep working at it and see where it takes me.
In awesome news, I have plans to go to Dahab for the Eid break (did I already mention this?). A few friends and I are going to be renting a villa for a week-ish and staying in the resort town near the Red Sea. Should be pretty fun. I'll have my computer with me for NaNo, but I don't know if I'll have internet or not. Hopefully yes, but if no, it might be nice to take a break from the net for a while and just enjoy being away from the city.
Tomorrow will be a longer, but hopefully better day. Fingers crossed.
NaNo word count: 12200

Saturday, November 6, 2010

egyptian museum and khan el-khalili

Well, that was a long day! I have so much to talk about, but not a lot of time to say it in, because I want to get to sleep. Luckily (not), since my camera is still broken, I don't have any pictures to upload, so that works out great.
Sarah and I slept in this morning, then got a late breakfast at a restaurant called Cafe Noir before we headed off to the Egyptian Museum. We both tried to order pancakes, only to be told they were really crepes, and we could have apple or nutella. We both opted for apple, and ordered mocha lattes to go with. The food and drinks were delicious, and I'll definitely go back there another time.
We got to the museum, sharing a cab with my friend, and found two other students and Professor Ikram waiting. She let us all into the museum with her awesome magic paper, and then left. It was really nice of her to make the trip, just to ensure that we didn't have to pay six dollars to get in.
We had a little mix up with Sarah's camera, which meant she had to leave the museum to put it in a locker, then buy a ticket to get back in, but it all worked out. Starting from the right wings on the first floor, the two of us made our way through the museum, dodging tour groups, and saw almost everything, and definitely everything we were interested in. That took about four hours, and then I went off to describe a statue for my Art and Architecture paper, and Sarah went to check out the gift shop.
When we were done, we met up and (after walking a few pointless blocks) caught a cab to Al-Azhar mosque, near the famous bazaar of Khan el-Khalili. The cab dropped us off in a place I didn't recognize, so we headed off down the street in search of something. What we found was the completely non-touristy section of the market, which was wonderful. We walked through an alley lined with stall, and no one yelled "Obama!" or "Let me take your money!" at us. We bought delicious baclava from a funny old man who wanted us to take a picture for some reason, and pretty scarves from two other vendors. Eventually, we retraced our steps and crossed a busy street using a pedestrian overpass. Then we bought pomegranate juice from a juice stand, and sat to drink it out of small glass tumblers with straws.
When we were done, we wandered a bit more, and stumbled onto a part of town that I recognized, the place I had asked the cab driver to take us, Al-Azhar mosque and the section of town known as Islamic Cairo. It was dark by this point, but we still wandered for an hour or two, and found a mausoleum that was open and free to wander around in. We also found a silver shop where Sarah bought a tiny box for a really good price, even if it isn't really sterling silver (but I think it is).
Then we caught a cab back to Zamalek and had dinner at Hardee's, because we were both kind of craving some protein. I also recharged my phone after I ran out of money on it for the first time this morning. It was terrible not to be able to call or text anyone all day.
When we got back to the dorms, we realized our mistake in eating at Hardee's because tonight was Turkish night, and there was a huge free buffet for everyone, with all sorts of delicious food and desserts. We were stuffed and tired, though, so we went upstairs for a bit, and when we came back down, all the food was gone. Oops.
So that was today, full of walking, and paying for things, and completely wonderful. Sarah's leaving tomorrow, which makes me sad, but it was amazing having her here, and I wouldn't trade the last five days (the scare of two nights ago notwithstanding) for anything.
NaNo word count: 10337

Friday, November 5, 2010

remember, remember

The fifth of November. Anybody? No? Moving on.
First, what happened yesterday. I'm sorry if I worried anybody, I really did mean it when I said everyone was fine. Basically, Sarah and I and a group of my friends were planning to go out to dinner and then take a felucca ride on the Nile with some traditional Egyptian desserts. The way it worked out, we couldn't get a dinner reservation earlier than 10 pm, so we decided to do dessert and felucca ride first, then get dinner. As soon as we got on the felucca ride, though, one of my friends got really sick, and we had to take her to the hospital in a taxi. We were pretty worried about her, and the taxi ride was just one long anxious wait, especially when the driver decided to stop to use the bathroom. That would be fine during any other cab ride, but not one taking a sick girl to the hospital. Honestly.
One of the dorm RAs met us at the emergency room, and it turned out that our friend had to go to a different hospital where they could take care of her better. We couldn't all ride in the ambulance, though, so we left her with the RA and doctors to take care of her.
We ended up at dinner, relieved that she was going to be okay, and talking about all sorts of stuff that was pretty unimportant, when I got a phone call that one of us had to come back to the hospital to stay with our friend all night. None of us could do it, for real reasons, but that didn't stop me from feeling incredibly bad about it. In the end, the RA managed to stay with her, and it all worked out okay, but I wish it could have been different.
Also, carrying around a box of Egyptian desserts covered in honey for five or six hours is not a good idea. The box will leak, making everything sticky, and it will eventually feel like your own personal albatross as you lug it around Cairo, from downtown to Mohandisseen, back to Zamalek, criss-crossing the Nile more times than I could count. By the time we got back to the dorms, it didn't even seem appetizing any more, and we left it on the lobby table for anyone who wanted it.
So, that was yesterday. Thank you so much, everyone who commented and let me know you were here. It really makes a difference to me.
Today, Sarah and I had to be downtown at 7:45 to catch a bus to the Fayyum Oasis, south of the city, with Professor Ikram. In total, the number of 'chickadees' was about fifty today, which meant it was hard to keep up and hear what was being said.
We made lots of stops throughout the day, seeing sites ranging from the Greco-Roman period to the early Middle Kingdom. It was nice to be able to get back on the bus every hour or so and avoid too much dehydration. Unfortunately, my camera stopped working at our last stop in Meidum, so I can't upload any photos tonight. Soon, I promise! The best part of the day was getting to go into the Meidum pyramid, built by Snefru in the 4th dynasty, and then crawl into mastaba 17, a journey which involved crawling on my hands and knees and eventually pulling myself through a bottleneck flat on my stomach. I made it, though, and it was totally worth it. There were bats inside! Also, the way we entered the tomb was the robber's entrance, chiseled out by grave robbers not long after the burial was completed. The best part was seeing the stone hammer they left behind, propping up the lid of the sarcophagus. It's still there today!
Then we came home on the bus, and Sarah and I got pasta for dinner and ate part of a pomegranate, which wasn't the best I've had, but certainly wasn't bad. Now it's time for me to catch up on my NaNoWriMo, because I haven't had a chance to write at all today!
NaNo word count: 7399

Thursday, November 4, 2010

not a real blog

Well, it sort of is. But mostly it's me saying that total *shirt* went down tonight, and I'm not together enough to blog about it. Suffice it to say, I'm fine, Sarah's fine, everyone is (or will be) fine. So no worrying on the part of whoever reads this thing. I'll catch you up tomorrow.
p.s. Could you leave a comment telling me you were here? Even if you think I don't know you or care? I promise I do, and I would really appreciate it tonight. Thanks. (Yes, you.)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

schooltimes with sarah

I dragged Sarah to school with me this morning at the ungodly hour of 7:40 am, since I wasn't feeling well enough for work and decided not to go. Plus, sneezing on archive papers? Probably not the best idea in the world, and definitely not how I wanted to spend my morning.
We hung out and got coffee, and chatted. Sarah met some of my friends from AUC (and UCSB), and then we headed to Dramatic Lit. Today we were talking about Nathan the Wise, a play originally in German, written by Gotthold Lessing. Basically the play is about Christians, Muslims, and Jews in 12th centruy Jerusalem figuring out that they can all get along as long as they judge others by the fact that they are human beings first and members of a religion second. Sounds like a pretty good idea to me. I really enjoyed the play, and it was interesting to talk about in class too. I hope Sarah wasn't too bored. It was interesting to have another American university student sitting in on that class with me, because I've gotten fairly used to the high school atmosphere, but it was new and weird to her.
Egyptian Lit was okay, but I hadn't done the reading for the first time (pretty much) all semester, and of course today was the day she decided to call us out on not reading. Oh well. The midterm is on Sunday, so we'll see how that goes.
Speaking of midterms, I had my Arabic midterm today, which I didn't really study for. It turned out to be not too difficult though, and I think I did okay. For the first time, I had a test in language class that I understood all the questions for. That almost never happened in Japanese class! Usually there would be one or two words that I would mess up and that would cause me to answer a completely different question than the one I was supposed to. That didn't happen today though, so that's good.
After I got out of the test, Sarah and I had to wait for about an hour to catch the bus, so we bought some carrot cake, which was unhealthy (duh) but delicious. The bus ride home was long, but I took the time to write some more for NaNo, which was a good choice. I'm a little bit ahead now, and I'm hoping to maintain that lead and increase it day by day. I was almost always a full day ahead last year, and I really liked that feeling, so I'm going to try and get there again.
We didn't have any adventures for dinner, just the cafeteria, but that was okay food, and it meant that I got to get all my laundry done (finally!) for the first time in much too long.
Tomorrow is just another school day, but hopefully with more adventures in the evening than today had. Keep your fingers crossed for reservations at Abu el-Sid and a felucca ride after
NaNo word count: 5611

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

tuesday at the pyramids, take 2

Sarah and I slept in this morning, and then lounged around a little bit, until we were awake. Then we took to the streets of Zamalek so I could do my grocery shopping. And so we could eat brunch. We ate at Munch and Bagel, where I (again!) had the delicious turkey bagel sandwich. Someday, I will try something new, but that day wasn't today. Then we went to Alfa for groceries, and I bought apples and peanut butter and 3x5 cards. (Probable TMI warning: apparently you can't buy tampons in Egypt? What the heck? Not cool.)
After eating and shopping, we headed back to the dorm to relax for a little bit longer before heading off to our adventure for the day, visiting the pyramids for the first time for Sarah, and third time for me. I didn't mind at all though, it's not like they get less awe-inspiring.
I had toyed with the idea of taking a bus to the pyramids from Tahrir Square downtown, but eventually gave up that idea in favor of taking a taxi. The ride itself wasn't bad, but when we finally got near the pyramids, right before the hill leading up to the parking lot, two men jumped out in front of the car, forcing the driver to stop. It turned out they were trying to get us to hire a horse carriage or camels from them. They did this by telling us that walking around the pyramids was impossibly tiring, and we really shouldn't attempt it. I wanted to snap at them that I'd already walked all over the Giza plateau with Salima Ikram, so surely I would be fine. Also they kept calling me sister, which was really annoying. Finally, we convinced them to leave us alone (after ignoring them didn't work), and our driver took us up to the ticket booth (getting stopped once more on the way). We bought our tickets, and were in.
sarah's first pyramid!
I waited outside while Sarah climbed into the depths of the first pyramid. I was cheap, so I didn't want to pay for a ticket, or risk hitting my head again. We had good weather, so I didn't mind waiting in the shade and the wind for her to come back out.
big pyramid, tiny sarah
After the first pyramid, we walked over to the second, but didn't go inside. The policemen were trying to get us to come closer to the pyramid beyond the keep-out ropes, so that they could get money from us, presumably. We didn't go, despite their persistence.
Next, we walked over to the solar boat museum, got our booties, and went in. I love that boat. When we finished the museum, we walked a bit around the great pyramid, to see if the mastaba tombs I visited with Professor Ikram were open to visitors, but they weren't, as far as I could tell.
When we were walking away from the pyramid, toward the Sphinx, we got semi-assaulted by a group of babbling middle-school age Egyptian girls. They surrounded us, and I couldn't tell what they wanted. Eventually, one girl in a bright pink hijab spoke up, and said she wanted to take a picture with me. This was very strange. Why, why, why on earth would anyone want to take a picture with me? Let alone go ahead and ask to take one? She asked my name, and I told her, and then I asked for hers in Arabic, after which we conversed between my very bad and her very fast Arabic. Her name was Maha. One of her friends took the picture, with me and Sarah surrounded by eight or ten Egyptian teenyboppers. It was kind of adorable, if very weird. After the picture was taken, I took out my camera and asked if they would take another one with it. I thought the girl did, but I guess she was just being sneaky, because when I checked, it wasn't there. Sad.
After the picture was taken, the rest of their group, and a man I presume was their teacher, came up. I don't remember exactly what was said, but the teacher did invite us to come on their tour with them, which we politely declined. So they left, and we left, to walk down the road to the Sphinx, where another odd thing happened: someone else asked to take a picture with me. I don't know what was going on. This time it was a teenage boy and his friends, though, so I said no, because it was a bit creepy. He was polite though, and not a jerk, so I talked to him for a bit in Arabic/English. He asked where I was from, and I said California, and that I lived in Cairo. Then he called me beautiful, which was out of the blue and a step further in our relationship than I was willing to take, so I excused myself, and we headed down to the Sphinx.
Talking about it later, Sarah and I were wondering what on earth made these people want to take pictures with me. The only thing we could settle on was maybe my hair, since it is pretty out of the ordinary in Egypt. I was dressed modestly, and honestly didn't expect to attract any attention today. Shows what I know.
The Sphinx was sphinx-like, although we didn't get to spend very much time with him, because the best viewing spot was being shut down for closing time, meaning we had to force our way through giant crowds of people going to the exit of the temple near the Sphinx, because the guards telling us to get out didn't think to stop the flow of people going in first.
hello mr sphinx
Then we crossed the street and had dinner at that famous Egyptian restaurant, Pizza Hut. It was worth it for the view:
sunset behind the pyramids. at pizza hut!
We left the restaurant, and caught a metered taxi home, which ended up being cheaper than the 40 pounds quoted to us by the nice man who spoke to us outside. I would have been okay with going with him if he hadn't been so pushy. I think I've taken the advice 'always choose your taxi, never let your taxi choose you' to heart. Traffic on the way back was terrible, but we made it home, where a miracle happened. We didn't have exact change for the taxi, so I over paid by five pounds, and asked for change, fully expecting the driver to just shrug and drive away. But no! He produced a five pound note and bid us farewell. What a gentleman.
We walked to get gelato before heading back to the dorm, and saw this street sign for our road. Mohamed Sakeb. Everything else I've seen calls it Mohamed Thakeb and that's what the Arabic on the sign reads. So, I don't really know what is going on, but I know what to tell the taxi company next time, at least!
this explains a lot
Tomorrow I have to go to school, and take my Arabic midterm, which kind of sucks. I think I'll do alright though. I also get to drag Sarah along to campus on the hour long bus ride. I'm such a great host.
I will have a vlog to post here tomorrow, but I'm not going to stay awake while it uploads, so you'll just have to wait. Be patient.
[Here's the video! Please enjoy.]

NaNo word count: 3592