Saturday, August 28, 2010

desert bureacracy

Today I took the bus ride to AUC's new campus for the first time. It took about an hour to reach New Cairo, and on the way, we saw some amazing things. We crossed the Nile again, this time covered in smog that stretched across the entire city.
The tall buildings and crowded streets slowly faded into empty apartment blocks and housing tracts still under construction. The sand encroached on the sides, until all we could see on either side of the bus was desert. Finally, we reached New Cairo, and the AUC campus greeted us like an oasis. The greenery seemed like a deception though, because as soon as we set foot off the bus, we were greeted by the heat. At a guess, I would put the temperature at 9:00am in the low 100s fahrenheit. As we toured the campus, we felt like we were melting. Not even the cohesiveness and beauty of the architecture could distract us, and the instant the tour was over, my friend Emily and I hurried (sluggishly) to the Quick-24hr-Mart to buy some ice water and snacks to replenish ourselves.
Then we entered the wonderland that is AUC's amazing bureaucratic machine. We were handed a checklist of essential tasks, then told to make our way around the tables in a room that didn't allow us to complete any of them. For me, the most essential item of the day was to ensure my enrollment in the survival Arabic course, but for Emily, it was to rearrange her class schedule. We split up, and I was shuffled from building to building all the way across the campus and back, meeting people, filling out forms and finally arriving in my survival Arabic class 5 minutes late and 10 minutes before the teacher arrived.
Class was actually interesting, despite the fact that most of it was a review of what I'd learned in my colloquial Egyptian class last year. Best of all, I got to make some more new friends.
After class ended, 3 and a half hours after it started, we all trudged back to the bus, barely making it in time to get seats and ride back to Zamalek.
A few hours later, after cooling off in the AC for a while, Emily and I along with other some other Zamalek residents headed off to get dinner. We were in the mood for traditional Egyptian food, so of course we went to Hardee's. What could be better? We also completed our grocery shopping, and had an adventure waiting outside a phone store for it to open, an experience which lead us all to more fully understand the difference between Egyptian time ('the store will be open in 5 minutes') and real time ('dude, we've been here and hour and a half. when is the store going to open??'). Eventually, those who needed to succeeded in buying their phones, and we walked back home, swimming through the humid Cairo air that had been suffocating us for the past 4 hours, back home.

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