Sunday, October 31, 2010

*cough cough* almost forgot

Gosh darn it, this forgetting to blog is getting to be a habit, and I don't like it. I was almost asleep before I remembered this time.
It's not even like anything particularly interesting happened today that I just had to tell you about. I went to class, the janitor's are still on strike, I came home, the bus ride took forever.
In new news, I think I'm getting sick. For the first time since I've been in Egypt, I actually feel fairly unwell. I hope whatever it is goes away soon, but I'm not going to get my hopes up, because it probably won't. All I ask is that I don't have bronchitis. Or strep throat. Or the flu. Just a cold, please. That's all I am prepared to handle.
Well, today is Halloween, and what a spectacularly uninteresting Halloween it was, too. I didn't dress up, I didn't get or give any candy, and I haven't heard a single trick-or-treat. I don't know if I like it or not, but it certainly is strange.
And because today is Halloween, it's a very important day for two reasons. One, it's my grandfather's birthday, and I got to talk to him on Skype today for the first time ever, since I haven't seen him since August (duh). The internet connection on my cousin's iPhone wasn't very good, and neither is Grandpa's hearing, but I think he heard my say happy birthday at least one of the times I shouted it at my computer. The other reason today being Halloween is important, is because that means that tomorrow is November. I've been dreading/looking forward to November for a very long time. November means NaNoWriMo, which I am planning to drive myself insane with again this year. And it starts tomorrow. I'll be writing at least 1,667 words a day to meet the goal of a 50,000 word novel by the end of the month. I hope my blogging won't suffer too much, but that seems like a definite possibility. Either blogging or homework might have to get tossed out the window to make room for NaNo. Which to choose, which to choose?
Also, have I mentioned the trip to Jordan that I was planning to make over the Eid break in the middle of November? Yes, no? Well, it doesn't matter now, because not enough people signed up, and the trip has been cancelled. Yay, now I have more time for homework. And blogging. And NaNo.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

pomegranate hunt

This morning, I slept in, which was really nice. Well, I say slept in. What I mean is 'got up an hour after my 7:30 alarm went off' which is practically the same thing.
I was actually productive first thing in the morning, and wrote about half of my anthro paper before stopping to go on an adventure.
Geoff had mentioned to me that he'd had really good pomegranate juice from a fruit juice stand downtown, or somewhere, and I decided that that sounded really delicious. So, we set out from the dorms to walk to 26th of July street for some pomegranate juice and lunch. The juice stand we ended up at was pretty nice, although, like all the other juice stands I've visited or walked past, it smelled a little bit like rotting fruit. The man behind the counter served us our juice in small glass tumblers, and we stood by the counter to drink it. I'm pretty sure it had had some (probably a lot) of sugar added to it, because it was way sweeter than any pomegranate I've ever tasted. Definitely delicious, though. I even managed not to spill any on my shirt, so yay for that. After we'd overpaid for our juice (because we're Americans, most likely, we went next door to get lunch from a falafel stand. Geoff had a chips sandwich (potato chips in pita) and kofta, and I just had kofta. The man who made our lunches was really nice, and smiled the whole time. He spoke a little bit of English, which was apparent as soon as we'd walked up. I said "What are you going to get?" and Geoff replied "I dunno," and the falafel man laughed and said something along the lines of "Ana mish arif kemen!" which means "I don't know either!" in Arabic. He was very nice, and while my kofta was cooking, we chatted about where we were from (America/USA), and whether we lived here (yes). His reply to us saying we lived in Cairo was to laugh and say "Enta talib!" ("You're a student!") God knows there's no other reason we'd be living in Cairo. We finally got our food and paid (less than a dollar for lunch, which was about the same price as the pomegranate juice), and he said goodbye to us when we left, "maa salaama!" So that was awesome.
On our way back to the dorm, we stopped and bought whole pomegranates from a fruit store for 5.5 pounds a kilo (so much cheaper than at home!), and although I don't know exactly how I'm going to manage to eat mine yet, it looks delicious.
happy halloween!
The kofta was delicious too when we finally got back and got to eat. I'm pretty sure it was lamb. I think.
The rest of the day wasn't very exciting at all, except for my discovery when doing my Arabic homework that I have managed to memorize Maha's second dialog from Al-Kitaab, along with her first. Good for me. I'm sure my newfound skill at being able to inform people that my father works at the UN and my mother works at a university and I am truly lonely will come in quite handy one day.
Geoff and I met up again for dinner, planning to order onion rings from Cook Door but being stymied by the fact that nothing else on their menu looked remotely good. We ended up getting onion rings and burgers from Hardee's, and while the food was good, I expected the family size onion rings box to be less disappointing. Shame on you, Hardee's, shame.
Tomorrow, I may or may not have a midterm in Egyptian Lit. If I am lucky, the professor will still be sick, but I hope she's not, because she is an old lady, and that's just mean. Still, I hope the midterm is another day.

Friday, October 29, 2010

dollars to pounds

Today was the start of a really good weekend. Or at least, that's how it's looking now. For the first time in forever, I have the whole weekend off, with no plans, no field trips, no crazy intense midterms to study for, nothing. Just catch-up reading, some Arabic homework, and an essay/project for anthro.
Speaking of which, I learned on Thursday that what my professor meant by '6-8 pages' was really 'something under 6 pages, please'. I don't know about you, but that doesn't seem clear from his original statement. Not that I'm going to argue about being asked to write a shorter paper, especially when I don't really have anything to say. 6 pages or under is great with me.
Plus, this weekend is good because it's almost Halloween, which I love, even though I don't really have any plans like I normally do. Except for getting pomegranates, because that's not a tradition I'm willing to sacrifice. At home, my next door neighbors have a pomegranate tree, and every year, instead of giving out candy, they leave a bucket of pomegranates out on the doorstep for anyone to take. I confess, my sister and I usually take more than our fair share. What can I say, pomegranates are delicious, and nobody ever trick-or-treats on our street anyway.
Speaking of Halloween traditions, though, there's a new one this year. (I don't really know if it can be called a tradition if it's new, but just go with it.) Neil Gaiman has proposed All Hallow's Read, which consists simply of giving someone (or someones) a scary book for Halloween. That's it. Nothing else. Give someone a scary book. If you want to learn more, go to the brand new All Hallow's Read site here, and if you end up looking for a list of scary books, I found two good ones here and here.
not my picture, clearly. credit goes to dan guy, at a guess.
So, today was good. I went out to lunch with my friends and had yummy Italian food (and just realized that I seem to have officially switched over to thinking in Egyptian pounds, since I was beating myself up over whether or not to buy the more expensive dish that cost six whole dollars. Wow. I am so dead when I get back to the States.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

protestations and protests

It had to happen eventually, I guess. I went to sleep last night without a thought of blogging crossing my mind. Not a single thought. That's odd for two reasons, 1) because I had some really interesting stuff to say and pictures to post about what's going on at the University, and 2) because I even got up after laying down and closing my eyes to go back to my computer and type out a story idea for NaNoWriMo.
So, even though I forgot, here I am, twenty minutes after waking up this morning, blogging. I would say for you, but it's really for me. I don't like failing my commitments, can you tell? So from here on, pretend I wrote this yesterday. Geez.
It seemed like a normal day on campus, albeit one that was a little warmer than it's been recently. The only unusual thing I noticed was the trash. It was everywhere, piled up in corners and blowing across courtyards thanks to the ever-present wind.
pretty much everywhere on campus looked like this
water feature filled with trash
It honestly wasn't until someone mentioned it, that I got the connection between the piles of trash and the janitors' strike. It was a little bit shocking to me, because when I thought about it that way, the pattern of trash dispersal seemed odd. I would expect, that if janitors went on strike, trash cans would fill up and not be emptied, and lots of trash would accumulate around them. Not at AUC. Instead, the littering habits of thousands of students became apparent, as trash and half eaten food piled up on tables, or benches, or anywhere people like to linger. It was just plain gross.

this is where we ate lunch
outside one of the food outlets on campus
Meanwhile, the strike was still going on, and in all of my classes in HUSS that day, I could hear the yelling and chanting and speeches being made my workers and students alike. I wish that I could say I was proud of the solidarity the students had with the workers, but I can't. I'm afraid that most of the students simply saw the strike/sit-in as an opportunity to skip class. Some, I'm sure were sincere in their dedication, but I noticed most of the crowd had left the school by around half past four, when most final classes get out. Here's the crowd standing in the courtyard near HUSS:
gathered people standing around, possibly yelling
a sign that i can't read yet
new vocabulary on the whiteboard in an english classrooom
Post-school, the rest of my day was pretty boring, as possibly evidenced by my complete and total failure to blog. I guess it's still yesterday on the West Coast. Does that count?
[Edit to add: here is a blog post with the demands of the workers on strike. It's hard to believe they have to strike for any of this.]

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

let's do the time warp again

I woke up late this morning, but made the bus on time. Actually, I made the bus a little bit early. Still, the extra forty minutes of sleep I accidentally got did not improve my mood today. I don't really know what was wrong, I just didn't want to put up with anybody's crap, which can be hard in classes where I have to work in groups.
Talking about The Misanthrope in Dramatic Lit was interesting, though, even if we got a little more technical than my admiration for the play really called for.
My second class of the day, Egyptian Lit, turned out to be cancelled, as I found out after waiting around for the teacher for 10 minutes with another two students until my friend pointed out the very small, not at eye level sign on the door. Woops. So, since we had nothing better to do, we talked about hieroglyphs and played hangman for a while. I drew a picture of an owl wearing a cowboy hat on the board, but I didn't take a picture of him, because I forgot I had my camera.
In Arabic class, we witnessed a march/walk-out/strike by the campus janitors, protesting for higher wages and better food options on campus. As it is, they have to pay the same prices for food that students do, which is ridiculous, since they get paid so little and are completely isolated out in the middle of the desert all day with no other food options.
The protest was still going on when class was over, and I took a few pictures. This is what a protest in Egypt looks like:
lots of people standing around while a few people shout
guys, what's going on? guys? nobody knows.
The bus ride home was long today, but I got a fairly good nap. When I got home, responsible student that I am, I started my homework right away. I had Arabic, an essay for Art and Architecture, and transcription for anthro. Tomorrow I'm presenting to my group in my anthro class about my conversation analysis, so that should go well. I have stuff to talk about, but I don't think it will fill up the time I'm supposed to fill. That's okay, though, because no one else's stuff will take that long either. So, that was my evening, full of homework, with only a few short breaks to dance the time warp while my roommate was gone, but that's it, I swear.
Speaking of the time warp, I finally started to watch the Rocky Horror episode of Glee, which I've kind of been waiting for forever, but the stupid internet won't let me finish it. They're just about to cast Santana as Dr. Frank-n-Furter, and I'm not sure if I want to go on. Glee, I love you, but I'm not so sure about this.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

misanthrope and munch 'n' bagel

Another remarkably productive Tuesday for me. I woke up early, did some homework, watched some tv, made a video, skyped with some friends, did some more homework, and read a play for Dramatic Lit. The play, in all honesty, may have been the highlight of my day. It's called The Misanthrope, and it's by Moliere, a French playwright and actor of the 17th century. Obviously, the play was originally in French, but I read an English translation that was just amazing. The original rhyme scheme was preserved, and so was the meter, and it was wonderful. How could it not be, when it contained lines like "She holds that naked statues are immoral / But with a naked man she'd have no quarrel" and "Lovers are no trouble to collect / If one prefers them to one's self-respect." So awesome! </Moliere geek-out>
I also went to the grocery store this morning, and bought apples and shampoo. It was odd being out on the streets by myself, but I knew exactly where I was going, and wasn't wearing any clothing that could have attracted any unwanted attention. I couldn't really help being a tall pale girl with short reddish hair, though, so I still got a few stares. No one harassed me, though, so it was a good trip. What made it an especially good trip was that I took a different route back to the dorms than normal, and stumbled upon a building that I didn't even know was there, just about five blocks from my dorm. The Supreme Council of Antiquities Building. In other words, the building where Zahi Hawass works. If you don't know Zahi Hawass, please google him or something. If you think you've heard of him but aren't sure, he's the guy who's on the Discovery channel when they talk about Egyptology and aren't interviewing Salima Ikram instead.
The other highlight of my day was dinner. Instead of going out or relying on the cafeteria, some friends and I ordered in from Munch 'n' Bagel. I got a turkey sandwich bagel with fresh lettuce and tomato and turkey that actually tasted normal and not disgusting, for twenty pounds, or four dollars. Including the delivery charge. Yeah, I'll be eating there again.
We did have a fairly awkward time actually paying for our order when it arrived, though. We saw our package on the table, and paid the delivery man standing next to it 60 pounds for our order. He then went down to his bike and got out a package of sushi and tried to give it to us. That's not what we ordered... It all got sorted eventually and we got our money back, paid the right delivery man and got our food, but the dorm security guards were definitely laughing at us. It was pretty funny.
And because I have absolutely nothing else to talk about, here's my new vlog, a really really nerdy one that won't make much sense taken out of its youtube context and put here on my blog. Whatever:

Monday, October 25, 2010

in which i forget meidum (again)

Just wanted to say, pictures on blogger started working again, so there are now pictures up in my birthday blog about visiting Giza if you want to go check them out. Actually, they're there if you want to go check them out or not. But never mind, because it's time for a short and boring blog post! I know, I'm excited too.
Today I had my first quiz (midterm) for Art and Architecture, which as you know, I've been studying a lot for in the past few days. And you know what? It really wasn't that bad. I knew pretty much everything that was asked, and the only points I know for sure I'll miss are on the map section, because for the life of me, I can never remember where Meidum is. I know now that it's in the Fayyum, but earlier today, I said it was in Upper Egypt. Silly me. Maybe someday I'll learn. Aside from that, I think I did fairly well on the quiz. There was one minor glitch, in that it was only after we had finished the slide questions that the professor told us that by 'explain the significance' she meant she wanted us to describe the object on the slide thoroughly from top to bottom. That wasn't obvious to me, so that's not what I did. Hopefully I won't lose too many points because of it.
One thing I know for certain is that I didn't miss any of the identifications of the slides. I had a small panic after the test was over, talking to a classmate and realizing that she had put a different answer than me for one of the questions. Note to self: do not automatically assume that someone else is right and you are wrong. When I looked up the picture in question later, it turned out that I had definitely been right, and just gotten myself worried over something that 1) I couldn't do anything about and 2) didn't matter. Good for me. We'll see how the test as a whole pans out, though. I'll let you know.
That was pretty much the highlight of my day. Well, I say highlight. I mean 'only thing that mattered'. Speaking of which, I only have one midterm left! That means that all I have to do tomorrow on my day off is write an essay for my anthro class, sleep in a little and/or nap, read Moliere's The Misanthrope for Dramatic Lit, do my Arabic homework, and film a video blog explaining just how nerdy I am, really. When I list everything out like that, it just looks so relaxing, doesn't it? On second thought, maybe I'll erase that 'sleep in and/or nap' part.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

midterms upon midterms

Sorry for the late (and uninteresting) blog post. I just spent four hours studying with friends for my Art and Architecture midterm tomorrow, so I'm a little bit brain dead on all things not ancient Egypt. Actually, scratch that, I'm pretty brain dead on everything.
School was fine today, although it was another day where I really could have used a hug. It probably would have made me cry, but not in a bad way. Sarah, be prepared for this possibility when I come get you at the airport next week, okay?
My Dramatic Lit midterm went really well, I though, especially since I didn't study as much as I might have. There were at least two sections where I know I didn't miss any points at all, and there wasn't anything on there that I wasn't capable of answering at least partly. I'll let you know how it turned out when I get my test back.
Egyptian Lit wasn't torturous today, mainly because the stories we talked about were actually interesting and class had to end early since the professor wasn't feeling well. I was glad it did, because it gave me some extra time to study for Art and Architecture before I had to go to Arabic class.
I've actually been enjoying Arabic class for the past few weeks, but today was the exception. We had to repeat the dialog from the book over and over again until the whole class could say it, which was just torture. I already knew most of it, so it wasn't that hard for me, but I felt a little bit like a show-off, even though that's not at all what I meant to do. I hope it didn't come across that way to any of my classmates.
I got home from campus at 6:30, and started studying for A&A at 7:00. We finished going through the slides about 15 minutes ago, which just goes to show how much information there is that we need to know. I'm feeling confident enough right now, although I still need to work on the map section before I can take the test.
Now it's definitely time for bed. Wish me luck on the quiz tomorrow!
P.s. If you are in the U.S. and don't have anything to do tonight (Sunday), watch Sherlock at 9:00 pm on PBS. It's a really really great show, and I don't think you'll be disappointed!
best modern adaptation of sherlock holmes ever. i promise.
also, not my picture. duh. thanks bbc.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

birthday at the pyramids

Happy birthday to me! I'm not a teenager anymore, how sad. But so far, being twenty has been pretty good.
I was a little bit afraid that having my birthday without any of my old friends or my family around would totally suck, but instead, I had an amazing day, since I've met so many wonderful people here in Egypt.
The day started early, with a taxi ride to AUC's old campus in downtown Cairo, where we got on the bus that would take us to Giza. Professor Ikram wished me a happy birthday and gave me a brownie, which was very nice of her. The drive to Giza was relatively painless, although commiserating with the other students in my class about how totally lost we are for our midterm on Monday was a little worrisome. Still, I've been studying, and I'll do my best. Hopefully that's good enough.
We started our tour of the Giza plateau by meeting up with an archaeologist who is currently excavating the one of the workers' villages near the pyramids. Her work was really interesting, even if we had to climb ridiculous sand dunes and a giant rocky hill to see it. Here's some pictures of that:
view across smoggy cairo from the hill
the second pyramid
foreground: the pyramid builder's village
on the left is the top of the hill we climbed, it's a lot higher on the other side.
Then, we walked to the valley temple of Khafre (the builder of the second pyramid), which is right next to the Sphinx. The temple was beautiful, at least what remained was (all the decoration and statues have been taken to various Egyptian and European museums), but I didn't get any pictures inside. Here's the Sphinx, though:
okay, not the sphinx. a camel leg bone prof ikram
 found on the ground and took home with her.
After the professors were done talking, they somehow disappeared, or we just didn't keep up. We got a little lost, and were chastised when we found our way back to the group eventually. I won't be doing that again any time soon! (Or ever. Never ever.)
Next, we visited the funerary boat of King Khufu (the builder of the first pyramid). The boat museum was wonderfully designed, and we got to wear awesome shoes inside to protect the boat:
boat booties!
the boat pit where the boat was found
so pretty. i want to sail in it.
what do you mean, i can't sail in it? why not?
At this point, lots of people in our group were very very thirsty, because we'd been promised a return to the bus, which hadn't happened yet, and actually never happened until the trip was over. Professor Ikram bought water for the people who needed it, but once you're dehydrated, one bottle of water isn't going to make you better, especially when you're still out in the hot sun.
Luckily, I'd brought my entire bag with me, two huge water bottles, four granola bars and all. I got a little dehydrated, just because I was usually too busy scrambling along with the group like good little ducklings to have time to take a drink, but by the end of the trip, both bottles were completely empty.
After seeing the boat, we entered two mastaba tombs of the 5th dynasty (I think). They were both really interesting, with carvings and paintings just like we'd talked about in class. Did I take pictures, despite the sign saying no cameras? Well, yes. Because the professor told me I could:
the tomb owner and his special kilt
Then it was time to visit the great pyramid. You might remember, last time I visited Giza, I only went into the second pyramids, because the first was too expensive. However, when you're with Professor Ikram, nothing costs any money beyond the field trip fee! It's just like magic.
The first pyramid was amazing, with the corbelled ceiling in the grand gallery and the sheer size of the tunnels through the rock. The pathways up to the burial chamber were steep, but not impossible. It felt like there wasn't any air inside, and it was amazingly hot and humid, but as you can see (read?), I survived. It was a close thing, though, especially when I hit my head on the ceiling of one of the tunnels, giving myself an instant headache. Ouch. Getting back out into the fresh air was a huge relief, except then we walked straight over to the next pyramid to go inside that one as well.
I almost didn't go, just because I'd already seen it, but then I thought, why miss out on the chance to visit it again, with a famous Egyptologist as a tour guide? It was a great choice, and I had a good time, even though I almost suffocated again.
(The best part of being inside the great pyramid, by the way, was when a man inside with a flashlight offered to take a group picture of us by the king's sarcophagus, even though photos are strictly not allowed. Professor Ikram said it was okay, though, so I jumped at the chance. I'll post that picture whenever I find it on someone's facebook, I promise. Even if I look horrible in it. [Here it is!])
i'm waaay in the back, just about in the middle. behind the freaking sarcophagus.
After getting out of the second pyramid, we headed back for the bus (Professor Ikram made everyone sing Happy Birthday to me and the other birthday student, which went something like, "happy birthday dear mumble-mumble") and went home. I caught a cab back to the dorms with some friends, and then headed straight upstairs for a birthday nap. When I woke up, I showered to get the dust of Giza off of myself, and then studied some more. In between readings, I made plans with friends to go out for a birthday dinner. We ended up at Dido's, an Italian restaurant not very far away. I had pesto fettuccine, which was completely delicious, so I'll definitely be going back there again! After dinner, we walked to a bakery/gelato place for dessert, which was amazing. I ordered tiramisu and coffee gelato, which was the best choice ever.
When we got back to the dorms, sigh, I came upstairs and studied some more. Aren't I dedicated? I hope that I do okay on my Dramatic Lit midterm tomorrow, because I'm afraid I kind of neglected it in favor of studying for Art and Architecture. Oh well.
In conclusion, I had an amazing twentieth birthday, and I can only hope that bodes well for the coming year.

Friday, October 22, 2010

a sketchy situation

Woke up today at 7:30 to shower and start studying, which actually kind of worked. I got stuff done, at least until I took my first break, which lasted a lot longer than it should have. I got to skype with my friend Maggie from home, though, so that was really nice.
Then I went downstairs to the courtyard to study more, and managed to get through my notes almost two times before we had to catch a cab to the Egyptian Museum. It was an interesting experience, because the driver was the first I'd met who willingly admitted that he didn't speak a lick of English, not in so many words of course. I was pretty proud of myself for making it work, and getting him to drop us off in the right place, although we did have to cross about six lanes of traffic to actually get to the museum. We also were there freakishly early, because Kim and I were a bit paranoid about being late again, after last time. It wasn't too long before the entire group showed up though, and we headed inside. The trip this time was much less frenetic, and much less boiling hot, because it wasn't nearly as crowded and we didn't have to run up and down any giant staircases. We looked at and learned about a ton of new and interesting Old Kingdom statues, including the only for-sure identified statue of Khufu (Cheops), the builder of the great pyramid at Giza. The statue is less than four inches tall. And it's adorable. The only remaining image of a pharaoh who is painted in history as an egotistical maniac is a teeny tiny ivory statue. If he'd really been as bad as Herodotus says he was, don't you think we'd have found more evidence?
Part of our assignment at the museum today, other than to follow Professor Ikram around like little ducklings* (or 'chickadees' as she sometimes calls us), was to describe a work of art in detail, as practice for our class paper. I chose a statue of King Raneferef from the 5th dynasty, which sadly is all broken up and the paint is almost all gone. That in itself isn't very interesting, but what happened to me when I was sketching the statue was. Perhaps the fact that what I was drawing was called a 'sketch' lends a certain tone to my encounter. An Egyptian man, who I hadn't noticed standing beside me, all of a sudden commented on my art. "Very beautiful," he said, "you are very good." I pretty much ignored him, and continued to draw. "You have chosen a wonderful piece," he said, "it is beautiful." At this point, I was wondering if he would just go away, but sadly, this was not the case. "You are from America," he stated, "you are touring?" I really shouldn't have responded, but I couldn't seem to help myself. "No," I said, "I live here. I live in Cairo." He was bit surprised, but quickly smoothed it over with, "Me too! I also live in Cairo. I am an accountant. What do you study?" "Egyptology." "What?" "Egyptology." "What?" "I study Egypt," I finally said, really kind of wanting him to go away. "Oh, oh, Egypt. Of course. I am an accountant," he repeated, as if I had thrown him off his script. "I play judo, and also swimming." "Hmmm," I said, trying to be noncommittal and also dismissive, if at all possible. Maybe I should have left then, but I was still trying to draw the stupid statue. He was silent for a while, then said, "Okay, okay. I must say. I am not married. I have not been married."
Around then, my friends showed up, ready to leave, I finished my sketch, and I said to him, "Very nice to meet you, goodbye." And to his credit, he left. Major props to him for that, at the very least. So, that was it. My very first 'marriage proposal' in Egypt. I'm so excited. I could tell he didn't really care about me though, I knew the relationship couldn't last. Relationships based on lies never do, and he started out with one, complimenting my drawing. I know the truth. This was my sketch, after all... (As you can see, that man was a big fat liar. Also, you can stop laughing now. Anytime.)
When I got home from the museum, I studied some more, then made the mistake of taking another break. It didn't really turn out to be a mistake, though. Quite the opposite. Instead of spending another five hours studying, I spent five hours hanging out with friends talking about whatever crossed our minds. And apparently, we are all huge nerds. I mean, I know I'm a huge nerd, but it's always nice to have company. We talked about Doctor Who, Harry Potter, Buffy&Angel, Lord of the Rings, Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Anne McCaffrey, George RR Martin, Sherlock, The Room, fanfiction, Lost, Dr. Horrible, internet memes including drunk Jeff Goldblum and sad Keanu, and in short, it was the most epic conversation I've had in a long time. There were, of course, interludes of pizza and cupcakes (not for anyone but Peter, though), but pretty much, it was an amazing conversation that continued solidly for five hours.
One of the best quotes to come out of this monster conversation was this, as Peter attempted to explain why everything bad that happens to Harry Potter and his friends is Harry's own fault: "Harry Potter is the reason Cedric Diggory is a vampire." And I have to say, it was a pretty persuasive argument. Also, the description of the Twilight movies as "comedies with really good soundtracks" was wonderfully apt.
So, that was my day. Egyptian Museum (with marriage proposal), studying, and ultra-nerdiness. It was a pretty great day. Hopefully celebrating my birthday tomorrow on the Giza plateau running around after Professor Ikram again* will be just as fantastic.

*Do not in anyway misunderstand me: I love having the chance to follow Salima Ikram around like a baby duckling.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

a hermione moment, a liveshow, and the absence of hugs

Wow, I actually have lots of stuff to talk about today. What's up with that?
This morning, I woke up early, because for some reason I was waking up all night, and 10 minutes before my alarm went off happened to be one of those times.
I took the 7:00 bus to campus, and got my coffee like usual (except instead of just American coffee with milk, I got a mocha cafe thing, which was totally worth the three extra pounds I paid for it. And my friend Maggie dropped a pound coin in her coffee. I don't really know how it happened, just that it did. And then they remade her coffee for her while the cashier cracked up about it. It could happen to anyone.
In Art and Architecture today, we discussed the upcoming midterm quiz, which covers everything we've done so far and will feature a map section, a short answer section, and possibly a drawing section. Oh, and also, if I do well on it, I might get to work either in the Egyptian museum or on a dig on the Giza plateau. If that's not good enough motivation to get an A, I don't know what is.
In my anthropology class we arranged the desks in a circle for some reason, although we didn't really have anything different about the class. Maybe the professor just wanted to sit down. Anyway, near the end of class, he was discussing 'native' ethnographers and how women study women, etc. and something about that statement just struck me the wrong way. My hand flew into the air like I was Hermione Granger preparing to defend house elf rights or something. It was a little pathetic.
I just wanted to know why 'women studying women' was classified that way when decades upon decades of men studying men was just 'anthropology'. I didn't really get a satisfactory answer from the professor, but he didn't say anything terribly (or even moderately) offensive either, so that was okay.
The rest of the day went well, although I didn't get my Arabic quiz back like I'd hoped. We did get to practice our new vocabulary though, and say things like 'Do you spend all your time in the library?' Very useful, this class, I'm telling you.
When I got home, I did some homework, studied a bit, not nearly as much as I should have, and then headed downstairs to the study room to actually do some work. When I got there, I transcribed some of my conversation project for anthropology, then made the (awesome) mistake of checking facebook, where I saw that John Green had just announced a liveshow not 10 minutes previously.
Being the giant nerd that I am, I immediately went to watch, throwing my studies to the wayside. This turned out to be a good choice, or at least, that's how I feel about it now. I got to talk to tons of other people in the show's chatroom, even though I wasn't in the main room in the beginning. I don't know if anyone reading this has ever watched a liveshow on blogtv, but basically there's the mainroom, where the person hosting the show can see everything the viewers in that room chat, and then there's the waiting rooms, where the host can't see anything you chat, unless they specifically go to that waiting room. It's a little frustrating but still fun because you get the chance to talk to tons of awesome people.
Also, in chat situations like this, there are usually a few people in the room (of a about 100 or so) who type frequently and whose name everyone recognizes, and who get real conversations going. Usually I'm not one of them, but tonight I was, and it was really fun. I got bumped up to the mainroom eventually too, and John even answered one of my questions, which was nice. This whole liveshow thing may have ruined my night for studying, but it also sorta made my day.
[For those who don't know, by the way, John Green is a YA author and vlogger extraordinaire. His books are Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines, Paper Towns, and Will Grayson Will Grayson. You should read them. They're pretty jokes.]
After the liveshow, I hung out with my friend Maggie in the study room for a while, and we both freaked out a little bit about the sudden and frightening appearance of courtyard cat. I got some footage of it, finally:

And now it's time for quick unfortunate story time. I haven't been feeling that great lately, like not sick, but not well. I didn't really know why until I realized that I haven't had a real hug in almost two months. That's weird to even think about. I don't know why, but I don't hug people here. I think it probably has something to do with the weird PDA rules the dorm, and unofficially the campus, have. Hugging between members of the opposite sex is a big no-no, and not too much hugging goes on even between members of the same sex. Double cheek kisses yes, between two guys or two girls, but not hugging. And cheek kisses just aren't the same, in my opinion. (Not that I know any Egyptians well enough to merit a cheek kiss.) So, basically what I'm saying is, Sarah, you are getting a big hug from me when I pick you up at the airport next weekend.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

general malaise

That's the only thing wrong with me. General malaise. Unfortunately, there's nothing I can do about it, except keep going forward. That usually (always) helps. It gets better.
I had an absolutely fascinating morning at work today, and if you think I'm being serious about that, it's only because sarcasm does not become me. I sorted through file folder after file folder filled with papers that had been paper-clipped and stapled and why-on-earth-would-anyone-do-this-taped together. Which I then had to sort out properly to make them 'archive appropriate'. Worse, the papers today weren't even interesting. To quote Tom Lehrer, they were 'full of words and meaning, and signifying nothing.' Mostly boring emails. Who prints out emails and then files them? That's what computers are for! They store things, things like emails. Sigh.
At least I didn't work in the freezing cold today. The office was empty, so I got to work in there with the warm sunlight coming through the window in front of me and the door to freeze-world shut securely behind me.
After my first class today, I had a library adventure with my friend Geoff, who needed to find books on diglossia for a linguistics paper. Actually, we didn't find any books on diglossia in the end, but we did find some on pidgins and creoles. Due to a mis-transcription of a call number, which may or may not have been my fault, we completely missed the first book we were looking for by just a few shelves, but we found it eventually. (We also took a moment to fangirl/fanboy over a really cool pidgin called Tok Pisin from Papua New Guinea. It's really cool. Tell your friends.) The other book we were looking for turned out to be on a different floor, a fact which I didn't realize until we had thoroughly explored Floor 2. So what if I can't remember that 'g' comes before 'h'? We found it eventually, didn't we?
[NB: There are currently insane freshman girls shrieking outside and running up and down the hall. If only a man-on-the-floor would appear and scare them all back to their rooms.]
I had my first real test in Arabic today, although my ustezza (professor) called it a quiz. I think I did pretty well, even if I couldn't remember how to spell 'seven' correctly. Yup, just checked google translate. Definitely got that one wrong. Arabic class actually kind of freaks me out sometimes. I don't know if it's just the fact that it's not my first 'second' language, or it's that I've taken a bunch of linguistics classes since I started learning Japanese, but Arabic seems to be coming to me a lot easier. It seems more like a puzzle that I can sort of figure out on my own without too much help. I kind of want to do a huge morphological analysis of everything I've learned so far, but I don't think I'll waste time I don't really have to waste on something like that. I'll waste it on Skype and Facebook and NaNoWriMo instead.
New song for you: Shut Your Eyes by Snow Patrol. They don't seem to have an official video for the song, so this is a fan-made one. I haven't actually watched it all the way through, so that's a disclaimer for you right there:

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

'hint, hint,' says my subconscious

I woke up super early this morning to have some skype time with my friend Teresa from home, which was really nice. We were both sleepy, her because it was bedtime, and me because I'd just woken up. We also had some problems with weird noises coming through skype, and the sound randomly cutting out for one or both of us. Still, what are you gonna do? We are halfway around the world from each other!
After talking to Teresa, I talked to other friends, namely Audrey and Caira. This conversation ranged all across the internet, from facebook chat to skype to gmail chat/video. Everything we tried was frustrating, because we couldn't make three-way calling work at all. We still got to talk and catch up a little bit though, and I really had a good time.
I spent about an hour today watching cooking videos from SortedFood. I highly recommend them to anyone looking for something to make for any meal, ever. Of course, I say this as a person who hasn't had, and won't have, access to a real kitchen for two months. While I watched the guys at Sorted making strawberry shortcake, chicken quesadillas, jambalaya, rocky road, and tons of other delicious foods, I apparently got a little bit drawn in. At one point, I looked up from a video to notice that I was leaning all the way over the desk, and had my nose about six inches away from the computer screen. It's like my subconscious was trying to tell me something.
So I went downstairs and had rice and some cucumbers for lunch. Yay for imaginative Egyptian cooking.
Aside from that little adventure, and studying for my Arabic quiz tomorrow, today was a pretty empty day. It was definitely the good kind of empty, though, because that's how I wanted it to be, and I didn't have anything I had to fill it up with.
I did film another video blog today, the theme for this week being the google verb meme. I didn't really explain it in the video, but the gist of it is, you google "[your name] [verb]s" and see what google throws up for you. The entire list is -needs, -looks, -says, -wants, -does, -hates, -asks, -likes, -eats, -wears, -was arrested for, -loves. It's actually pretty fun just to do for kicks. My favorite result was definitely 'elise needs to learn how to live in the world' which was actually a result from a website telling a made-up story about a little girl named Elise with a peanut allergy who needed to learn how to not be so sheltered. Or something. Whatever. Here's my video:

P.s. about the video, it took me forever to make the damned thing, because I wanted to include a clip of courtyard cat for everyone to see. iMovie was being ridiculous though, so I couldn't make it work. Sadface.
So that's it. Except for this: 'Things I Don't Have to Think About Today', written by John Scalzi for his website, which I just wanted to share. I think it's something that people ought to read. And think about.

Sinai 2 (10/15/10)

I really like the month and year lining up the way they do right now. It's like the day is the only thing that really matters and the rest of the date is just there to look pretty. 
Of course, today is halfway through October, which is a little scary. I'm dreading November a little bit.
After I finished writing last night, I snoozed on the bus, but didn't really get to go to sleep. Eventually we made it to the hotel, got everybody awake and off the bus, then found out that it was the wrong hotel - our rooms were booked at another one with the exact same name, It all go sorted out thought, and we got there, got our room and went to sleep. My roommates and I slept two in a double bed, and one in a single (I was in the double, but there weren't any problems, mostly because we were both too tired to thrash around or steal covers in our sleep.)
We woke up at 9:30 to get breakfast, then my roommates went back upstairs to nap, and I went to the beach to meet up with some other friends.
The water was ridiculously clear, and the sand and coral and fish were beautiful. We hung out in the Red Sea for a while (the Red Sea!) and then went to lay down on beach chairs by the hotel's pool. I was already a little burned, so I didn't go back in the sun. After an hour or two, we swam in the pool, then went back down to the beach. This time, the tide was coming in , which meant there were tiny waves, and the sand was stirred up, so we couldn't see the bottom any more. I'm glad I didn't stay in the hotel room, because if I had, I really would have missed out.
After we were done at the beach, I showered and got dressed, then met up with my friends again for lunch, which was interesting room service pizza, made with phyllo dough. Odd.
After lunch, I hung out by the pool to do some reading for Dramatic Lit (Duchess of Malfi by Webster - interesting, but not interesting enough to keep me from falling asleep by the end of the second act). Then I hung out in the room with my roommates, watched weird Arabic television and snoozed.
Dinner was free, buffet and all. I think strange is a thing with the hotel food here. The rice had carrots in it. Dessert was good, though.
By the time we finished, it was dark and we walked down to the beach to see the sea and stars, which were so pretty.  Then we came back to the room for our final nap before taking the bus to the mountain. Next time I write, I'll have seen the sun rise from the top!
[Boring catch-up blog. Still, done now! Until the next trip...]

Monday, October 18, 2010

song of the harper

Today was pretty normal, so I don't have anything particularly interesting to share, except for a conversation I had in my linguistics class today.
We were discussing folk lore and tall tales and things of that ilk, and somehow Anansi stories got brought up, then that got connected to B'rer Rabbit, and before long we were talking about animal stories, and how in the European/Western tradition, we don't really have any that don't have a few human characters too. The only exception we found was Aesop's Fables. Apparently, even these aren't actually European, due to some weird pseudo-linguistic maneuvering:
Aesop -> Aethop -> Ethop -> Ethiop -> Ethiopia
Which is apparently where the stories come from in the first place. Then the conversation got really interesting, when research was mentioned that basically said that all Native American folk lore (the animal stories at least) came from Africa via contact with slaves.
That didn't make sense to me at all. Like, at all. How could an entire tradition of stories and legends across two continents be manufactured/borrowed in just a few decades between two populations that didn't even have regular contact in all areas? Take California, for example. I know the Chumash have/had animal legends, and there certainly wasn't widespread slavery in California, especially of the kind that would have allowed direct transmission of folk lore straight from Ethiopia to the native population of the area. Anyway, I never really understood the point he was trying to get at. Not everything originated in Africa, unless one takes a really wide view, in which case everything did originate in Africa, and I mean everything. Those are really the only two general options that I can see. I'm going to do a little looking into the idea, though, just because I found it really interesting.
I also got coffee today, from the only halfway decent coffee shop on campus, which is really not that decent at all. Plus who names a coffee shop after a leafy green?
my 'coffee american small with milk'. mmm.
And if this blog post weren't boring enough, I'm going to share a really interesting Ancient Egyptian poem I read in class. It's actually probably one of the best things I've read this school year, because I love the point of view that it takes, one that's pretty contrary to the popular thoughts in Egypt around the time it was written, thoughts that generally lauded the afterlife and all it promised.

The Harper's Song:

One generation passes away and the next remains,
Ever since the time of those of old.
The gods who existed before me rest in their tombs,
And the blessed nobles also are buried in their tombs.
But as for those builders of tombs,
Their places are no more.
What has become of them?

I have heard the words of Imhotep and Hardedef,
Whose maxims are repeated intact as proverbs.
But what of their places?
Their walls are in ruins, 
And their places are no more,
As if they had never existed.

There is no one who returns from beyond
That he may tell of their state,
That he may tell of their lot,
That he may set our hearts at ease
Until we make our journey
To the place where they have gone.

So rejoice your heart!
Absence of care is good for you;
Follow your heart as long as you live.
Put myrrh on your head,
Dress yourself in fine linen,
Anoint yourself with exquisite oils
Which are only for the gods.

Let your pleasures increase,
And let not your heart grow weary.
Follow your heart and your happiness,
Conduct your affairs on earth as your heart dictates,
For that day of mourning will surely come to you.
The Weary-Hearted does not hear their lamentations,
And their weeping does not rescue a man's heart from the grave.

Enjoy pleasant times,
And do not worry thereof.
Behold, it is not given to any man to take his belongings with him,
Behold, there is no one departed who will return again.

Sinai 1 (10/14/10)

[Sorry for the late catch-up blog. Here's day one of my Sinai trip, finally.]
Blogging on the bus is not very fun. Oh well. That's what I get for deciding to go n awesome rips to Sinai. Before I get to that, though, here's what happened today.
Umm. Not really anything. School (stuff), lunch (falafel), bus ride home (agonizing). In Arabic today we presented out dialogues, and the teacher gave us a resounding 'mumtaaz' (excellent) after we were done, so that went alright. But I digress.
Like every school day, I got on the 5:15 bus home. One of the 5:15 buses, anyway, there are usually two or three. We left around 5:10, and drove for a while, then got stopped by traffic. It took until 7:00 for me to get back to the dorms. The bus ride home has never taken that long before, and I hope it never does again. I don't know why the traffic was so bad today, but I assume it was an accident of some sort. (Speaking of accidents, the bus drove by a burned out truck this morning, still kinda on fire. That was interesting.)
Anyway, I got back to the dorms at the precise time the bus was meant to depart Zamalek to go pick up the New Campus students, and I wasn't packed yet.
I went up to my room, and finished packing, and made it back downstairs in about ten minutes, just to wait until 7:40 when we were informed by an RA that the bus would be another twenty minutes.
I left my stuff downstairs and went back to my room to charge my iPod as much as I could and talk to my mom on Skype a little. I was about to head back down when I got a call from the RA that the bus was there waiting. As if I was holding it up.
But whatever. I went downstairs, all seven students leaving from Zamalek got on the bus, and we headed out. I took the opportunity that the long drive to New Cairo provided to do a little homework for my linguistics class, and recorded (with permission of course) a conversation between several of the other students on the bus, to transcribe and analyze later. [NB: I have still not analyzed this recording. Oops.] The conversation was actually more of a debate about marriage and the benefits and detriments thereof. I was kind of disappointed that I had to record, and therefore couldn't contribute to the conversation, but on the whole, I'm glad I got the recording done with. I got almost an hour of data before my flipcam threatened to die on me, so I stopped.
We picked up the New Campus people a few minutes after that, and now we're on our way to Sinai. The bus ride promises to be long and agonizingly boring and/or painful, so I'm definitely looking forward to it. I'm going to try and get some sleep now, so I'll be all refreshed for a nice relaxing day at the beach tomorrow.
[And a special gift for you catch-up blog readers, I'll include the doodle I made in my notebook after I wrote this blog]:
yeah, you know you're jealous

Sunday, October 17, 2010

post-sinai snooze-fest

Sorry, there won't be a catch-up blog from Sinai posted to tonight. I am uploading pictures to yesterday's blog, but my computer is being epically slow, and I don't want to fight with it any more.
I did pretty well at school today, despite being sore and tired. Climbing the three flights of stairs to get to work hurt like nobody's business. Tomorrow should be better, unless of course, it's worse. I find it works that way. It will get better eventually, though.
For the first time, I actually didn't wake up when the bus got to campus this morning. It wasn't until the doors opened that I had any idea we were there. I like to think that someone would have woken me up, but I'm not really sure about that. Sadly, nothing else really interesting happened today, except for discussing The Duchess of Malfi in Dramatic Lit, and turning in a pretty fail outline to my Egyptian Lit professor.
When I got home, I started work on my midterm for my linguistics class right away, and got half of it done pretty quickly. Of course, then I took a break, which led to me not finishing the second half of the midterm until 11:00. Oops.
In the meantime, though, I did get all my laundry done. I went down to the first floor to use the machines there. That turned out to be good in someways (both machines worked, I got to take the elevator upstairs without seeming like a total wimp, since I was carrying laundry) and bad in others. Well, other. I got shut into the bathroom twice by a security lady, thanks to a 'man on the floor'. Wonderful, right? Gotta protect me from the trauma of having electricians see my laundry.
On the positive side, no one stole my laundry detergent when I forgot it on the washer. Twice.
Okay, the slowness of my computer is driving me insane. That's it for tonight. Catch-up blogs tomorrow, and don't forget to check yesterday's post for the new pictures!
Oh, and read my friend Geoff's new blog about Cairo, he sums the entire experience up pretty well. You can find it here.
Something to listen to: Ben Folds singing Losing Lisa.

And something else to listen to: Self singing Paint by Numbers.

p.s. I talked to my cuz-niece on Skype last night. We took pictures of each other:

Saturday, October 16, 2010

climbing up and falling down mount sinai

 Today has been a very very long day, so I'm sorry if lots of this blog post doesn't make much sense. I just need to get it all out of my head before I fall asleep.

We met in the lobby last night at 10 o'clock to take a bus to Mt. Sinai, which of course meant that we didn't leave for almost an hour after that. The bus ride itself wasn't bad, except the sunburn I managed to get from being at the beach all day was starting to hurt a bit.
We got to the base of the mountain, and after using the facilities (one pound for toilet paper!), split up into smaller groups to make keeping track of us a little bit easier. My group was all girls, including my two roommates from the hotel, three Egyptian girls, and our RA fearless leader.
The hike didn't start badly at all, the only annoying part was the total darkness and random rocks jutting up through the sandy path waiting to trip us. It was about 12:30 am at this point, and we were just starting our climb. On the way up the mountain, we took frequent breaks, stopping at small coffee shacks to sit and catch our breath for a while. These coffee shacks, for lack of a better term, sold hot and cold drinks, candy bars, and other snacks. I didn't buy anything, because I didn't want to eat on the go, but I was pretty tempted by the Twix.
About every ten feet or so along the path, we'd come across a man standing next to a few camels. The camels would ignore us, while their owner would smile and say, 'Camel? Camel? Camel ride? You want camel?' over and over again. None of us took them up on their offers, which persisted more than half way up the mountain.
While we hiked, we were frequently passed by groups of old people with canes, who were obviously much more dedicated to the climb than we were.
I wish that I could have taken pictures of the starry sky above us. I haven't seen that many stars ever before in Egypt, because the city gives off so much light pollution. I found all my favorite constellations, but couldn't really see the Milky Way stretching across the sky.
I should mention our tour guide at some point, I suppose. I never caught his name, but he wore a bright red vest and was very energetic. Due to some kind of mixup between our group name (AUC) and the name of one of our RAs (Adam), we were called group Adam all the way up the mountain. 'Adam! Group Adam! Over here, Group Adam!' It got to be pretty funny after a while, although that might have just been the sleep deprivation.
Finally, we got to the last leg of the climb: the stairs. A flight of 650 stone steps led up to the last coffee shack, and after that, 100 more steps to the summit of the mountain. Imagine climbing stairs in pitch blackness with only a small flashlight to show your way, while surrounded by strangers and having to move only at the pace set by the person in front of you, at 3 o'clock in the morning. If you're imagining correctly, you'll understand why it took us until 4:30 ish to reach the summit. By that point, the flashlights were no longer necessary, although the sun hadn't quite risen yet. Unfortunately, we were fairly late to get a good view of the sunrise, but we made it work. Watching the mountains around us get lighter and lighter with the dawn was amazing.
Unfortunately, it was freezing cold, and after a while, all we wanted to do was start climbing back down the mountain. It took 45 minutes to get all of Group Adam back together, and we finally set off back down the stairs, which were crowded with people, and a little bit scarier in the light, now that we could see just how far we had to fall if we lost our footing.
I wish the stairs had been the most difficult part of the climb down, but unfortunately, they weren't. It was the sandy, rocky paths all the way down that really got to me. Between dodging camels, their owners, other hikers, and trying to keep up with the group, it was surprisingly difficult to keep my footing. At last count, I twisted my right ankle three times, my left ankle four or five times, and fell straight down on my knees four times. About halfway down the path back to the bus, when I fell for the second time, I also hit my emotional exhaustion point, which did not make the rest of the hike any more fun. I made it eventually, though, just in time to use the scary pit toilets at St. Catherine's monastery, and take a quick tour of the monastery where I got to see Moses' actual burning bush! Wow. It didn't really look like a bush to me, though, let alone one that had been on fire.
Then it was time to get back on the bus, get breakfast, then head back to Cairo. Breakfast was actually decent, a buffet at a Sinai restaurant near the mountain. I had hardboiled eggs, which were delicious, and which I hadn't eaten for a long time. Then we started the bus ride home.
About an hour into it, our resident coordinator man informed us that we were lucky enough to get to stop twice on the way home to see various interesting things along the way, including something called 'Moses' Eyes'. I didn't get out of the bus for either of them, and neither did about half our group.
We made it back to New Cairo around 6:30, and back to Zamalek about 7:40, which was actually much earlier than I thought we'd get back, which was good, because I still had homework to do. That's all done now, though, and so is this blog. I promise I'll add pictures to this post tomorrow, and also post at least one of my missed blogs from the weekend. Now it's time for me to examine my giant purple bruises from falling down on Mount Sinai more closely, and go to sleep for a full night for the first time in three days. Lovely.
what we saw while climbing the mountain
sunrise! and a man who should pay me for this picture
i have no idea why he's glowing. moses?
stupid people, getting in the way of my mountain picture 
happy at the top of the mountain
misty mountains that reminded everyone of mordor.
we were just like hobbits climbing to mount doom!
emily and me (gotta represent the gaucho locos!)
so many people on one small mountain top
maybe my favorite picture ever.
sums up the whole experience perfectly.
some of the 750 stairs down off the mountain
so cute. i want one.
camel, camel? want camel? no.
a way-too-friendly feral cat
the burning bush, in all its glory.
yeah, it didn't look like a bush to me either.
and, finally, the bruises. impressive, no?