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

Monday, November 1, 2010

the arrival of the sarah

So, today was pretty much an uninteresting day, except for three things.
1) I am very definitely sick in some way, as confirmed by the four different kinds of throat soothers given to me by student health this morning.
2) I started NaNoWriMo, my story is going well, and I'm almost a full day's writing ahead of schedule.
and 3) I picked up Sarah from the airport tonight! Yay for friends from home!
Actually getting to the airport seemed like a big ordeal at the time, but looking back on it, it wasn't really that bad. I called a cab company to have a car meet me at the dorm, only to have the man on the other end inform me that he didn't know of any street by the name I was referring to. So that was really promising. The taxi did show up, though, and he took me to the airport for the very fair price of forty pounds. I lurked outside for a while, fending off the offers of taxi men to get me a car, and then I went inside to wait for Sarah. We'd talked on the phone a bit while I was still in the taxi, so I could give her the address of the dorm to write down on her visa, but other than that, we didn't really know where we'd be meeting up. (Sidenote: I also didn't know what terminal to direct the taxi to, and had to frantically call my friend Emily for help. Turns out it was terminal 3, which is directly adjacent to terminals 1 and 2. So I don't think it really would have mattered.)
Eventually, Sarah came out into the arrival lounge, and we found each other (and I got my hug) and then we went outside to bargain for a taxi. In the end, we paid 60 pounds to get back, although we had to share the taxi with another passenger (he sat in the front, though, so that was okay). Now we're back in the dorms, all settled in for the night. Tomorrow, if everything works out, we'll head to the pyramids, because what's a trip to Egypt without pyramids?
NaNo word count: 2768