Tuesday, December 16, 2008

An addendum from class

I'm in class, but I wanted to briefly post something that seemed kind of metaphorical for the my ups and downs and final settling in here in Cairo: I grabbed ful and ta3mayya on the way to class and arrived on campus early. I grabbed a seat in the empty class room and began to munch on my Egyptian street fare. After a little while, the AV guy who sets up the laptop and projector for the professor came in and began to do his thing. I kept lunching until the AV guy produced from his bag an envelope and asked me if I knew a Carl and added my last name as well.
"Um, that's me," I said. He then handed me the notorious envelope from my mom and little brother with photos and notes that I had thought lost to the void. It was funny that it should happen on my last full day in Cairo of the year and that I should have been the only one in the room at the time.
T-12 hours until I take off for Amsterdam, leaving the wonderfully temperate winter weather of Egypt for colder climes.

Homeward Bound

I'm taking a break from my paper (of which three and a half pages remain to be written) to catch the old blog up and to say goodbye for a while.
Yesterday was more of the same, Christmas shopping and paper writing. Though I'd planned to be more studious, I caved and joined Phil and Jenn, Marise's friend, for dinner. Just prior, I did some shopping at the fair trade store in Zamalek in a mad dash for Christmas gifts and a bid to hang out with my friend from high school, Sheila, before my departure. I'm not sure that I covered everyone in my frantic gift-buying outings to the Khan and to some of the stores in my neighborhood, but I did my best. Anyway, dinner was at the rooftop bar above Sabai Sabai. Though it was a bit chilly, the views of the Nile and the Thai food we ordered up more than compensated. Later tonight (or rather early tomorrow morning if we're being technically correct), Marise is taking Jenn and I to the airport. We fly to Amsterdam at 4:15 AM and then get separate connections. I fly Amsterdam-Detroit and then Detroit-Peoria. Sometime before that, I have to finish this paper and begin work on my law final which I suspect I will have to work on in a haze of jetlag tomorrow and the day after. Ma3lesh.
My last class of my first semester of graduate school is in a couple of hours. It's so strange to think of how much has happened in the last four months! I'll have to admit, Egypt has really grown on me and I'm looking forward to coming back in January (though I definitely won't complain about being able to hang out in the States, France, and Belgium in the interim!)
If my entry is lackluster and scatterbrained, I blame my paper-writing and general franticness brought about by packing and tying up loose ends. Hopefully I'll be cool, calm, and collected in late January when I return to blog about further adventures in Cairo.

Egyptian attitudes toward US government policies turn even more negative
Egypt cell service to begin operations in North Korea
114 migrants attempting to reach Israel are arrested by Egyptian police
Pressure to marry causes stress for Egyptians

Monday, December 15, 2008

Couscous in Garden City

I'm perched on my couch, set to launch into a rousing several hours of paper-writing again, but thought I'd update briefly before doing so. Yesterday, after pounding out a few pages, I went to the Khan with Ross to try and finish up the bulk of my Christmas shopping. I won't detail my purchases (because so doing might ruin surprises), but I will say that haggling and joking around with the merchants was great fun. Whenever anyone asked me where I was from, I made them guess. I got the sun, Canada, Germany and the US. I'm not sure what being from the sun entails, but one of the guy's that picked America said he had so guessed because only Americans wouldn't tell people where they were from up front. Ha! Ross and I grabbed a cab a little ways from the Khan, but still didn't manage to avoid the sketchy kind of cabbie that lines up outside tourist sites. He demanded 10 LE and we told him we absolutely weren't paying more than 6. In the end, we paid six and that was that. Before going home, we stopped in a bookstore that had some really cool 50s-ish looking story booklets in Arabic and a number of other languages, so we bought a few. Working a bit more on my papers for a while, I had to be back into the streets of Cairo a couple hours later to make my way to Garden City for what turned out to be an excellent dinner of Lebanese and Moroccan food at the home of some French acquaintances. Though I often have occasion to speak French here, last night truly reminded me that I've been gone from France for nearly a year and a half. I was the only American in a group of nine francophones, seven of whom were French and two of whom were Egyptian. We spoke French, naturally, for the entire dinner. I think my mouth and tongue have become unaccustomed to making the kind of sounds necessarily for good French pronunciation. Anyway, the toum and hummus were tasty appetizers and the couscous was great. Homemade dessert, French mœlleux au chocolat, topped of the meal. After dinner we chatted and tried to guess which theme music corresponded with various TV chose and movies, mostly American. I think the French had a better sense of American pop culture than I did. It was funny to hear them reel off the names of American series in French (as they're often quite different). Alas, the time soon came for me to put my nose back to the grindstone and I stayed up 'til 2:30 adding more bulk to my torturous essay. I am off to try and do the same.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

1 Paper + 2 Pages Done (Out of 20) + 3 Days Left + 4 Mosquitoes = 10 Neuroses

For the peace of mind of those who check my blog daily or weekly who may worry if I don't post something, rest assured I'm still alive. I am sitting in front of a computer screen, my eyes ready to pop out of my head, trying to create something cogent and convincing out of a sea of source chaos. Next to me is my tattered copy of Human Rights Watch's report on risks facing migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers in Israel and Egypt that served as an impromptu tool of execution for three mosquitoes now. One is left buzzing around and fled down the darkened hallway toward my room. If I get another bite on the bottom of my foot, I may start bathing in DEET.
Today I had my last Intro to MRS class and, as if to make it as painful a finale as possible, the professor kept us a full thirty-five minutes over. Since then I've consumed ful, ta3mayya, and koshary, and read through pages and pages of source material hoping to glean something useful for this paper. I was going to do some Christmas shopping at the Khan, but that's not going to happen until I make some serious headway. To add to my stress, I receive my take-home law final tomorrow. Joy!
Anyway, in a handful of days I'll be home and free of my graduate school stressors. Hopefully I'll have lots of happy reflections on Egypt and shiny, happy thoughts to share. In the meantime expect half-crazed word-processing with bouts of mosquito-murdering rampaging and little else.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Quiet in Bab al-Luq

Ross and I got koshary with Brian yesterday for lunch after another stop at the famed juice joint and then took him to Tahrir Square to get a yellow cab. Different from the haggle-heavy black and white taxi experience, riding in a yellow cab (in theory) means a metered ride free from smoke and loud music and, if you're lucky, the doors will even have functional handles. Since Brian's departure, things have been quiet. A lot of things were still closed for the Eid holiday. Ross and I spent most of the rest of the day in the apartment where I managed to write most of my second paper (that I finished earlier this afternoon). We went out for ful and ta3mayya sandwiches briefly, but that was about as exciting as it got until Ablavi came over and Phil dropped in for ludicrous conversation, mosquito-killing, and YouTube videos.
Today hasn't been a terribly exciting one, but finishing my paper was another huge weight off. I hope to make some headway with the third and final one yet this evening before and after I go out for Indian food with ten or so friends. At this point, it's humanly impossible to leisurely read over the sources and construct a well-thought out essay because of my professors continued changes to my topic. Nearly every other student in the class has had the same problems with her and we're breathing a collective sigh of relief that we won't have her as a professor next semester. Tomorrow is our last session of that class after which I hope to drag Phil and Ross back to the Khan to finish up my Christmas shopping. Sunday night, I'm going to the home of the French couple I met at Sequoia for a couscous dinner. I don't know if I have time for such things, but I couldn't refuse!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

100th Post

This is my 100th post which means I've been in Egypt a handful of days more than that. Crazy! So much has gone on and now that I'm going to be home for a little while in less than a week, I'm becoming more prone again to reflecting on the first half of my year spent as a Rotary scholar here. My conclusions about my decision to select Egypt as a study country are wholly positive. The challenges and difficult times are worth it for the lessons I've learned, the flexibility I've gained, and for helping me to appreciate the outstanding moments.
Yesterday, there were a great many of these. Brian, Ross, and I had breakfast and headed over to meet Marise, Jenn, and Phil at the juice place (the centerpiece of Brian's visit in Egypt). Because there were six people and only five places in the car, Phil ended up in the trunk during the first leg of our trip. This is probably wildly illegal in the States, but more or less permissible in Egypt (as is hanging out the car window, as we later found out as well). I think Phil, Brian, and Ross, who took turns in the trunk throughout the day probably had as much fun doing that as seeing the sites. Normally, I'd be horrified that we were doing such a thing but hey, when in Egypt.
The five of us Americans purchased our student tickets to get into the area while Marise, our resident Egyptian-Canadian-American , got a much cheaper ticket. I cannot begin to understand the rationale behind the dramatic price differences--we don't charge foreigners outrageously higher ticket prices in Washington D.C. to visit museums and monuments as far as I know. This upcharge applies to hotels here and a great many other things. Ma3lesh. The Great Pyramid didn't open until one, so we visit some smaller pyramids and the Sphinx in the meantime. Brian and Jenn rode camels and Marise followed them on a horse while Phil, Ross, and I took goofy tourist pictures with the Sphinx and the pyramids. We met up later to get tickets for the last standing wonder of the Ancient World and ended up arguing with a power-tripping (bribe-soliciting?) Egyptian man who conveniently put up a sign saying "no cameras" after we'd arrived at the entrance. He later got chewed out by his superior, but either way, Ross managed to smuggle in his camera. Of course, nearly everyone else (especially Egyptian visitors) made it in with cameras too, past the oh-so watchful eye of the "guard", but there's not a whole lot to see on the inside anyway because the artifacts are all in museums around the world. Our next stop was meant to be Saqqara, some kilometers to the south. There one finds the step pyramid of Djoser, the oldest standing step pyramid in the world. A bit peckish, we stopped at a koshary place along the way and were the only Westerners in sight, much to the amusement of the locals. We had a throng of children "befriend" us and follow the car as we left. We passed so many donkey carts, oxen, and even a camel or two as we got further from Cairo. Palm trees and agricultural fields lay between us and the sun beginning to set over the pyramids at Saqqara. It was gorgeous. Unfortunately, this also meant that we'd reached the time of day when the complex closed for the evening and we didn't managed to get in to tour the step pyramid. Our humorous conversations, Phil's story-telling, and the beauty all around us was more than enough to make up for it, though. With Brian in the trunk, we headed back to Cairo to Ramses Square where Marise and Jenn bought tickets flanked by Ross and Phil while Brian and I napped in the car. On top of the normal wear and tear of climbing the pyramids and getting up early, I began to realize I was falling ill, which is a bummer. By the end of the evening, I had a terrible headache that kept me up last night. This morning I popped some Excedrin and am hoping for the best. We headed to Café Arabica in Zamalek next and got fiteer, which was delicious. Ross, Marise, and Jenn were having us all draw pictures to be analyzed as we waited for the food to arrive. The conclusions were as funny as the drawings. The Khan al-Khalili was next. We haggled our hearts out for Christmas gifts and souvenirs. It was quite a lot of fun and a lot lower pressure than when I'd gone there a few years ago with Alia.
This morning, Ross and Brian went to visit the Citadel. Since I'd already seen it, need to get papers done (and fast!) and am not feeling too well, I'm hanging here until lunch. We're going to grab koshary and then take Brian to a cab so he can go to the airport whence he'll continue onto Jordan, his next leg in a brief Middle Eastern journey. It's a bummer that final papers and departures are bringing our few days of fun to an end, but we'll all inevitably have fond memories of the experiences.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Tourist Tuesday

As is suggested by my corny, alliterative title, we did a lot of touristy things today (or even typically Egyptian things). I've mentioned before that I am nothing of an early riser here in Egypt and thus it was that I slept until 11:30 or so (which is a bit early for me, really). Graciously, Ross took over my role as host and took Brian to get juice and food and visit Cairo Tower for a view of the city. The juice has become something of an addiction. I think Ross and Brian made it to Mohammad Ali (the juice shop) some three or four times today and made a stop at another juice shop closer to Midan Tahrir. They came back to the apartment by which point I'd gotten ready, had my habitual breakfast of muesli and yogurt, and even managed to work on one of my paper's a bit. Soon we were out and about, passing a detached hoof left over from the Eid on our way down Tahrir Street. That didn't diminshed our appetites though and we headed straight to lunch--koshary at Koshary Tahrir. Brian was a big fan and I have to admit that the quality of the food is better at Koshary Tahrir than at our neighboring koshary joint, though it's vice versa for the service. Our next stop was Coptic Cairo where we visited the Hanging Church and made friends with a few of the girls our age who serve as guides there. In addition to Arabic, one of the guides spoke French and Portuguese, another English and Spanish, and yet another English and German. Brian and I spoke in French, but respectively, we also threw out some Portguese and some German and Arabic. We also stopped by the Ben Ezra Synagogue (Egypt's oldest, dating from the 9th Century) where an Egyptian tourguide was giving a rundown on the place in fluent Mandarin Chinese.
Phil joined us part of the way into our wandering the area and came back downtown with us to our place where we hung out for a while before trekking up some of the most congested streets in this part of Cairo. The amount of people was overwhelming in stark contrast to the calm we experienced yesterday. The weather today, though, was just as perfect. Absolutely gorgeous. We had dinner at a place that Ross and I had gone to months ago. It was even better this time: clean, the "special beans" were delicious. It was basically unmashed ful with peppers. We all enjoyed pretty standard (and cheap) Egyptian fare. Next, we made our way to El Abd, a celebrated pastry shop in the heart of Wust al-Balad (downtown), and decided Ross would be the one to navigate the absolute madness inside to secure us a half-kilo of baklawa, konafa, and more. All that hard work ended in one of the many juice breaks which in turn was followed by our heading to the ahwa (café) where I've played my games of towla. Ross and Phil shared shisha, and we exchanged all sorts of stories. It's a blast having Brian here and that we've managed to drag Ross away from his papers. Marise and Jenn joined us and then the whole lot of us (sans Ross, who we again lost to wise studiousness) headed to Garden City where we caught a felucca. We shared our pastries with Jenn and with Marise (whose birthday it was), but also the boatman who snuck a couple more than we'd offered when we were taking goofy photos at the bow. The boatride around the nile, though, was fantastic. The views were great and I couldn't have been in better company.
Tomorrow, the six of us are reconvening to visit not just the pyramids at Giza, but also the Step Pyramid at Saqqara, and those at Memphis. It should be a lot of fun and hopefully followed by a bit of shopping in the Khan. It's too bad Brian's leaving so soon and the reality of my papers is lurking in the background--I could really get into this tourist stuff!

Chinese language becoming more popular in Egypt
Egypt and Syria spar diplomatically over Palestinians
Housing market impacts young Egyptians' marriage plans

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Eid al-Adha

Instead of being surrounded by the carcasses of sacrificed animals and swimming through blood in the streets, I emerged from my apartment to find that the weather was about the most gorgeous it's been since I've been here and that many Cairenes were on vacation, leaving the city rather empty. They sky was actually blue with white puffy clouds with very little of the haze that comes with pollution. I managed to buy my train tickets and do some more cleaning in addition to corresponding with a professor about one of my papers before meeting Marise and her friend Jenn to drive to the airport where we ended up at the wrong terminal (EgyptAir listed the arrival information incorrectly; no surprise there). We finally figured out where to go and found Brian and had a fantastic evening altogether. Brian's my college friend from Pekin who's studying at Cambridge on the Davies-Jackson Scholarship. Ross joined us for a while when we went to get juice and to kill time at Horayya. I had sobia for the first time at the juice place. Though it was quite popular during Ramadan, I hadn't tried any until now and it was delicious. Phil met up with us at Horayya and we all briefly returned to my apartment and then onto Abu al-Sid in Zamalek sans Ross who was tuckered out. It was fun introducing Brian to Egyptian food--ful, ta3mayya, bassara, om ali, sugar cane juice, and sobia. The girls dropped us back off at Tahrir Square and Phil headed for Ma'adi while Brian and I walked Qasr al-Nil Bridge. He got a small taste of the obnoxious "helloooo"s and "what's your name"s and "welcome to Egypt"s and "where from"s that greet me whenever I go out. He told one guy in Spanish that he didn't speak English which is my approach but with French sometimes. It was generally a lot of fun to sort of see Egypt through the eyes of someone who's never been before. That and the weather and the general vibe of the day made it feel unlike any other and, despite the fact I didn't get much of either of my remaining papers done, I am thankful for it. I better do a bit of research and then head for bed. We've got a busy couple of days coming up.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Sad News from the States

I managed to finish the first of my three final papers yesterday just as Phil arrived to hang out for a while before we met up with a few other people to have Thai. It was a nice meal, but I think the glamor of Bird Cage is wearing off--the service is uniformly poor. Well-intentioned, perhaps, but poor nonetheless. If the prices were lower, it would probably be a bit more palatable. After dinner, Phil and I took some photos exposing them longer to catch a stream of taillights in Tahrir Square.
The jovial and satisfactory nature of the evening was interrupted by disturbing news from a friend from boarding school: my junior year history teacher shot and killed himself in one of the dormitories where he was living and serving as a dorm parent. As it is not yet winter break, the dorm was full and, of course, the kids heard the gunshot. They'll have to live with that for the rest of their lives. Len Jones had a wife from whom he was estranged and a child. I guess he was struggling with that and other personal issues. I have not heard whether or not there was a note left or anything indicating his reasoning in his own words. It's terrible enough when something like this happens at a public or day school, but at a boarding school where the community is so tightly knit and you come to know your teachers very well, it's horrific. To those who might read this who are in the habit of praying, please pray for Mr Jones's family and for the community of Shattuck-St. Mary's, especially the kids who live in the dorm.
Though this has been in the back of my mind, I've been trying to get the apartment ready for when Brian arrives tomorrow. Our office is now a makeshift guest bedroom. I vacuumed, washed dishes, did laundry, wiped a thick, black layer of dust off of pretty much every surface I could, and wrote up a new outline and researched for my paper on the relationship between migration and the nation-state. I took a break to play towla again with Sasha. We each won once. On the way, a kid, perhaps for the Eid, was swinging a censer outside on the sidewalk. As he wafted incense that didn't smell quite right, he asked for money. I literally had none, so I headed straight to my engagement. My heart breaks to see so many people reduced to begging, but it was awful when I was returning home last night. There was a a woman laying with her child in her arms sleeping on a piece of cardboard and under filthy blankets on the sidewalk. This is literally a three-minute walk from my apartment. Up the street and across the square was an imported BMW, albeit surrounded in the litter than fills the streets of Cairo.
Anyway, I better get working on papers so that I have time to do touristy things while Brian's here. Tomorrow is Eid al-Adha, the day when Muslims around the world commemorate Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac at God's command and God's subsequent provision of an animal sacrifice in his place. This means than hundreds of thousands of sheep, goats, and cows will be slaughtered and the streets of Cairo filled with blood. All this while I try and navigate my way to their airport. No stress, of course.

An article on the teacher I mentioned above
Police continue to harrass Egyptian bloggers
Egypt-Hamas relations degrade further

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Zipping Around All Day in Zamalek and Doqqi

I'm sure I've kept everyone in suspense by not crafting a blog entry yesterday, but I was in fact being both quite social and academically productive. Before I get to that, though, I'll catch up on the rest of Thursday. My advising session served to eliminate one of my options when my adviser convincingly suggested I not leave AUC without having some kind of accreditation to show for my coursework. He also, unhelpfully, told me it really wasn't about the decision one makes as how one makes that decision. "Sometimes," he added, "I flip a coin." Gee, thanks. I'll just flip a fifty piastre coin to determine the entire course of the next year of my life. Anyway, at this point my inclination is to just bite the bullet and take the class I'm not fond of that will drag me out to the new campus simply because it will give me both the graduate diploma and leave open the choice of pursuing the Master's if I so choose.
After advising, I ran into Cynthia and ended up going with her and Reham to Canary, a typical Egyptian sandwich place. The novelty of getting "street ful" has not yet worn off. I ordered a couple ful sandwiches, Reham got one and Cynthia got ta3mayya and we headed back to the Greek Campus to have our snacks. All was good in well until one of the ubiquitous street cats swatted my second ful sandwich onto the ground and began devouring it. Ma3lesh.
Next came class. We discussing the integration of immigrants and, since that's the topic of one of my papers, I chimed in with my opinions and insights (mostly for the sake of my participation grade rather than because of having anything ingenious and brilliant to add). Afterward, I conscripted my friend Brandy to dine with me. She'd already purchased koshary for dinner, so I stopped for a ta3mayya sandwich and a ful sandwich hoping that this time I'd not run into any pawsy, hungry felines. We took our sustenance within the cat-free safety of my flat while watching Al-Jazeera International--a treat for Brandy whose pricey Zamalek flat is not, for some reason, equipped with a TV. Once our Egyptian eats had been consumed, we headed to meet the British girl and Indian guy I met at Sequoia the other night for drinks and shisha (though I had neither, but some delicious lime juice instead) at a rooftop bar above the Thai restaurant in Zamalek that I go to from time to time. I hadn't known about the bar until Thursday night, but was pleased to have been made to discover it. The view overlooking the Nile is amazing and, even better, you can order Thai food up to the roof. Through Sophie, the British girl, I met an Egyptian documentarian who told us about a film he made following the history of an Egyptian lion-taming family. Supposedly this family owns all of the lions in Egypt. Who knew?
After arguing yet again with a cab-driver and threatening to disembark from his moving vehicle, I made it home safely and paid the price I originally told him I was going to pay. Rather boring, really--I'd kind of hoped to practice my tuck and roll on the 26th of July Bridge.
The following day (now yesterday) saw me awake in the honest-to-goodness morning. It was the first time I'd awoken before noon in eons. Naturally, I had a new lease on life at 11:46 because of this and decided to clean the kitchen. Since I've a guest arriving on Monday, I keep feeling the urge to pretend that Ross and I are model apartment-dwellers by tidying up. I cleaned all of the dishes in the sink, then the sink itself and the adjoining counter. The Egyptian fates conspired against me and our water, as often happens, simply stopped working for a number of hours. Ma3lesh. I ate some muesli and yogurt and proceded to do some online chores--extending my trip in France, checking out train fares, making sure I have places to stay, etc. Once the H2O was restored, I showered and headed to meet my fellow ambassadorial scholar, Ambereen for coffee and to catch up. We ended up lingering there and working on various things (I managed to get seven or eight hundred words done on my integration paper). Coffee thus turned into dinner. Ambereen headed for the opera after that and I continued working until it was time for me to join Brandy and Erin to go to our friends' place in Doqqi. Cara is our classmate who's here on Fulbright and Justin is her husband, they're quite possibly the friendliest, most stable, most wholesome couple you could ever hope to meet--sickening, really. Just kidding. Anyway, it was Justin's birthday and a bunch of us gathered to wish him well and play games like Apples to Apples. The festivities, which started at 9 wound down after midnight, but another Fulbrighter (there were three of them there altogether), and I (much better off with my tuition-paying Rotary scholarship, of course) stayed and chatted until after 4 AM. It was a lot of fun and I find moments like these contributing to my feeling more and more at ease living in Egypt.
Today, I'm determined to finish off the Somali integration paper once and for all and begin fleshing out my next paper. I'm breaking to get Thai for dinner later with friends, though, to keep sane.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

An Early Update

Having typed up my entry later in the day, I didn't have the energy to cover what a nice evening I had just after it. Following the CMRS seminar, my evening turned into an impromptu immersion into downtown Cairo culture. My friend Sasha who works for the International Organization for Migration and is far more street-savvy and adventurous than I happened to be at this seminar and dragged me along to her favorite shisha/tea/juice café which happens to be rather baladi. The word essentially means of the country or, by extension, of the culture of those Egyptians whose families moved to the city from the country for work; thus working class, popular, etc. Westerners (myself included) often misuse it to apply to anything we romanticize as remotely fitting in this category or whatever might be a bit "rustic" to our Western sensibilities. On the way, we stopped at another baladi joint for ful and ta3meyya sandwiches which cost me a total of 3.25 LE (=$0.58). Though I've lived downtown for over three months now, this was the first time I got food from such a place. My flatmate and fellow Rotary ambassadorial scholar, Ross, pokes fun at my fastidiousness and street food fears, so this was a small victory. Incidentally, it was also the best ful I've had here; far superior to Felfela's. I took my sandwiches to the aforementioned café which is really nothing more than a bunch of plastic chairs and worn wooden tables on the sidewalk. As sasha smoked shisha and sipped banana juiced, she taught me the finer points of one of Egypt's favorite games–towla. Though I'd heard of backgammon, as it's called in English, before, I'd never played and our three rounds of it turned out to be a lot of fun. I won the first and lost the other two. Ma3lesh! The atmosphere was wonderful with a sea of Egyptians around us, those who were paying attention glancing occasionally bemusedly in our direction. Sasha knows the waiters there and charms them with her effervescent personality and fluent Arabic. Ditto with the folks at the sandwich place. I was merely an accessory, a stiff, awkward white man in the midst of this vibrant, colorful scene. At the table to my left, a reminder of globalization came with a discussion in Arabic of Facebook. By the time I'd made it down Hoda Sharawy to Falaki Square to my apartment on Tahrir Street, I'd decided that I had a new fondness for both towla and street ful. Who knew?
I did get to thinking about how absurd it was that I could have an entire meal for $0.58 when the night before I'd gone to a place where the minimum charge alone was 75 LE (=$14). I realize we have cheap places and expensive places in the States, but the disparity between people who eat at these two very different establishments is far greater. To boot, I prefer the service at the baladi place ten times to that of Sequoia or Sabai Sabai or Kandahar.
Well, now I'm off to advising to determine which classes are right for me next semester (though two are required leaving me with only one elective to choose.) I was livid to find that the one class I'm not particularly interested in at this point (Pyschosocial Issues in Forced Migration) is out at the new campus. Furthermore, I've heard the professor is "difficult" and not in the academically challenging way. Hearsay's rarely wise to listen to though. I'm pondering whether or not to just skip the graduate diploma altogether and just take classes I find interesting. We'll see!

Stolen antiquities returned to Egypt
Egypt lifts ban on doctors going to Saudi
Islamist website calls for general strike to end Gaza blockade

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Paper Progress, a Settled Stomach, and a Supersalad at Sequoia

I'm about four fifths of the way through my paper on the integration of Somali immigrants into Minnesotan society. My eyes are about to bug out and my mind turn to mush if I don't take a break. I'm not sure that staring at the screen to blog is wise, but I can't not recount what I've been up to.
My stomach has providentially been restored to health or so it seems for now. This is quite the relief for such a worry-wort hypochondriac as I. And so it is that the only visit I ever paid to an Egyptian doctor's office was three years ago when my friend was suspected to have contracted typhoid. Let's just say that I'm not keen on being a patient in Egypt after hanging around that waiting room.
My insomnia has returned and kept me up until 7 AM yesterday morning. Needless to say, I wasn't awake for more than a couple of hours before I had to head off to my 4:30 PM class. Following this, my penultimate class with Dr Fargues (who I just found out was a visiting professor at Harvard for a year or two), I headed to Zamalek, first to grab my dad's Christmas present (which I cannot, unfortunately discuss because he reads the blog) and then to Sequoia, an upscale Nileside place for shisha and mezze, sushi, and other consumables. I was invited by a French friend who'd set the time to meet at 8 PM. Naturally, being the punctual American, I was flustered after realizing that I would be about fifteen minutes late. I should've stopped and remembered who the other attendees were because I arrived only five minutes after the "host." and prior to everyone else. The Scandinavians arrived next, then the other French, then the Indians, and finally the Egyptians. I'm not going to draw any sweeping conclusions about the order of arrival, but you can if you like. For dinner I had a gigantic salad of fresh mushrooms, arugula, and balsamic dressing and vegetable couscous. The salad was served in something that looked like a pail. Though I ordered vegetable couscous, it came served with chicken. When I asked the waiter to rectify the situation he did so not by bringing me back a batch of vegetable couscous, but by taking the chicken couscous back to the kitchen and picking the chicken out of it. I knew this because a found a piece of poultry still lurking in the bottom of the dish. Oh, customer service in Egypt. At this point, I am usually nonplussed and take such things in stride. Some of the other attendees included the French guy I already mentioned who studies poli-sci in Rennes and the French girl who's working in Tel Aviv, but I also met a bunch of other very interesting people. With a Croatian-French guy who works at BNP Paribas (along with Alex, the host, and Sylvain the student in Rennes) and his French girlfriend, a former international law professor who's doing another Master's at the Sorbonne, I discussed life in France and in Egypt, French cuisine and eating habits, and cooking for oneself in Egypt. Samantha and I both lamented the absence of good French bread. I also met a guy from near Mumbai who's hear working with the Egyptian army as a yoga specialist, of all things. A British girl of Indian and Bangladeshi origin and I also spoke of cuisine and where the best Indian food in Cairo is to be had. The conclusion was that Indian expats are probably a better source of tasty Indian meals than are the Egyptian-run restaurants. Two Iraqi-born Swedes were in our party. It's quite a challenge to your conception of blonde, Nordic-looking Scandinavia when you see two people of Arab origin so fashionably-apparelled and speaking English with Swedish accents. Another girl there was half-Norwegian, half-Palestinian. She and the Tel Aviv-based French girl (who is also Jewish) had an interesting chat about the Arab-Israeli Conflict. Later, we talked about ethnic identity. Alex, the host, is half-French, half-Spanish, with a Jewish grandparent. We all threw in our two cents about what it means to be Jewish, whether its an ethnic identity or religious, etc. One of the Egyptians there, Mena, joined in as our discussion shifted to the Egyptian identity. He's a Copt and many Copts have very strong opinions about their distinctness from Arabs. Many Muslim Egyptians though also emphasize their uniqueness. Egyptians are Egyptians in their mind and Arabs are people from the Gulf.
After several hours of conversing in French and English, our multinational group dispersed. I headed to Metro Market to grab some victuals and to return some bad halawa. I hopped a cab back to Bab al-Luq and had a verbal spat with the driver who demanded 10LE after I'd given him 7. "Mish mumkin!" I yelled, "Not possible!" He drove away, embittered, I'm sure. I felt bad as 3LE more would've only been another 60 cents or so out of my pocket, but it was the principle. If I were Egyptian, he wouldn't have made the same demand. After responding to emails, I went to bed with a combination of indignation and guilt giving way to thoughts about and plans for winter break.

Egypt's leading cleric slams Hamas for now allowing pilgrims to make the Hajj
Egypt's Foreign Minister expressed unity with those opposed to Iran's nuclear ambitions
Uproar over simple handshake shows Egyptian public's deep resentment of Israel

Monday, December 1, 2008

December? When did you get here?

Shopping at Alfa Market the other day, I ran into this lonely-looking Santa Claus in the back of the store, but even the gaudy Christmas decorations in stores that cater to foreigners didn't prepare me for today. What is today you ask? The 1st of December! I cannot believe that it's the month of Christmas and New Year's Eve and that I've been here in Egypt for over a quarter of a year now. Holiday planning and my trip to France and Belgium are underway. My month away from Egypt promises to be quite busy.
My stomach is being a bit more agreeable today and I've managed to make some headway on my paper (over 3,000 words at this point). I went back to Ain Shams tonight to teach English as usual and I sincerely regret not having brought my camera. In the run up to Eid al-Adha, the bloody holiday that will take place a week from today, more and more goats and cows have been appearing in the streets. In one particularly disconcerting display, a butcher-shop was brightly lit with the equivalent of Christmas lights that descended from the roof a multi-story building across the street. Flashing pinwheel lights and a host of different colored bulbs illuminated dozens of carcasses hanging on meathooks. And right next door were penned in cattle and goats, lowing and bleating in blissful ignorance, though I could have sworn that one exceptional cowlooked on with something like suspicion at the grotesque sight.
Class today involved prepositions and how they changed the meanings of various verbs like "put" and "take" and "turn". My student who'd been arrested came tonight and was actually one of the most eager to participate. After watching a video in law class yesterday on the rather bleak state of affairs regarding the rights of Sudanese refugees, I wished there was something more substantial I could do to improve their prospects of a better life. Tito, my best student, the one who'd ask me to help him learn French but hadn't come to class the last couple of weeks, showed up with his little brother who couldn't have been too much different in age from my won little brother. It's always sobering to think about just how different our lives are. The time I spend with refugees and studying their situations and experiences as well as living here in Egypt has transformed my vague theoretical awareness that the majority of the world lives in poverty and dysfunction into something much more viscerally real. And, as some of my classmates would point out, we don't even live in the "real" Africa. Spending time with family over the holidays, I'll be all the more appreciative of my life at home, but certainly painfully reminded that I can't blissfully assume everyone everywhere is just as happy, well-fed, and secure.
After teaching, I came back to my apartment with the noble intent of pounding out some more of my essay but since then have only managed to watch Al-Jazeera International and order and eat some pizza from Maison Thomas in addition to answering important emails. The hawkers on the metro have arrived at a new level obnoxious. One was trying to sell flashlights which he shined in people's eyes. Now, in my opinion, blinding people and trying to send epileptics into seizures just isn't a good salse tactic, but the deep sense of guilt Egyptians have toward the poor brought about a few transactions.

An article about the Cairo Metro
Increasing ire at alleged police misconduct
High prices, low demand complicate cattle sales as Eid al-Adha approaches

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Last Law Class

Today, International Refugee Law began an hour early to compensate for the canceling of a post-Eid class. Only when the professor mentioned it in passing did I realize it was our last official session of that course. We're having a mini-class on Thursday dealing with Palestinian refugee issues, but otherwise, it's just the paper and the final left. I've really enjoyed the class by and large and have stuck with my assertion that it's my favorite of the three I've had this semester. We ended by discussing whether refugee law was even a viable field and that morphed into a discussion of refugee studies as a distinct field from migration studies.
My stomach is still on the fritz and I'm eating less so as not to anger it. I'm hoping to keep dodging the doctor and that it will resolve itself. My family will have to fatten me up again while I'm home for Christmas.

Egypt "favors quiet diplomacy with Saudis" over abuse of doctors
Human rights committee spot-checking police stations
Egypt tackles AIDS stigma

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Long Days of Essays

Yesterday and today were spent nearly entirely in the apartment, though I've had Ross to keep me company as he too has been obliged to buckle down and write, write, write. Last night, I went to a part in Zamalek and most of the people there were Egyptian, which is much better for benefiting from Egyptian culture (obviously). My stomach is still behaving in a most unfriendly fashion, but I don't think it's severe enough that I'll end up going to a doctor (at least I hope it's not).
I'm meant to hang out with the French kids I met at the part the other night sometime this week, and have plans to get a meal here and there with this or that classmate or friend, but other than that, I hope to be wildly productive in hacking away at the thousands of words I have left to write. Ross and I began to get loopy from cabin fever and microwaved Christmas Peeps that mysteriously appeared in our apartment thus making them balloon up to ten times their original size. Already, behaving like overgrown children, we played some pranks on our Togolese neighbor who was quick to reciprocate. Don't judge! If you were cooped up writing all day in an apartment in downtown Cairo, you'd succumb to a bit of craziness too. Ha. Catherine is moving out tomorrow (much to our landlord's pleasure, I'm sure) and we're meant to be getting a German neighbor in her place as of Monday. It's quite the multinational floor we have.
Though I'm really beginning to find my niche here, I'm excited to be coming home for the holidays to see friends and family. I'm sure my visit will be a busy one, but a lot of fun. I just have to make sure I find time to get all my Christmas gifts and souvenirs to bring back with me amidst my essay-writing.

Egyptian physicist who worked in America for years returns to Egypt after having security clearance revoked
Egypt criticizes Hamas's preventing Muslims from Gaza making the pilgrimage to Mecca
Israel planning incursion into Gaza Strip

Friday, November 28, 2008


Despite my wistfulness at not spending this traditionally family holiday with my family, I ended up having a great Thanksgiving with friends and classmates and friends of classmates. At Brandy and Mary-Anne's flat in Zamalek, we had a pot-luck dinner complete with standards like stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, salads, pumpkin pie (even if it was a bit Egyptian), and even, to my utter euphoria, a tiny bit of cranberry sauce. Chickens stood in for turkeys for the carnivores. Brandy also served delicious stuffed dates and hummus and veggies for appetizers, adding a little local flavor into the mix. As planned, I brought beet and arugula salad and Tunisian wine. The latter wasn't stellar, but certainly better than anything I've had in Egypt thus far, which is all one can really ask for. I only had a taste though because I've been popping pills left and right for sleeping, for shrinking mosquito bites (Claritin), and to deal with recently arisen stomach aches--oh Egypt, you've caught up with me! As to the last issue, I can only hope I don't have to go to a doctor. Anway, because the world is a very small place, I ended up meeting a Bretonne (a girl from Brittany, the area in France where I studied) who works in Alsace (the area in France where I visited relatives and where a bunch of my mom's ancestors came from) and is a Rotaractor. She'd lived in Egypt some ten or years ago while her father was working here and in Madagascar (where my former supervisor from my State internship is working currently). We yammered on in French about Egypt and Thanksgiving and Rotary all over delicious food. After dinner, a handful of us migrated to a friend's birthday party elsewhere in Zamalek and, though the party overall wasn't my scene, I ran into a French acquaintance I'd met a while back and met a few of his friends. One of them actually goes to school in Rennes (the city where I studied in the aforementioned region of Bretagne) but is from Paris. Of course, more gabbing in French ensued. After the party, Amanda and I had a nice walk through the quiet, mostly-empty neighborhood and ended up at Metro market where I did some spontaneous early-morning grocery-shopping. I caught a cab with one of the best cab-drivers I've had yet. I gave him the same amount I usually give cabdrivers when taxiing from Zamalek to Bab al-Luq, but he seemed genuinely polite and thankful when I handed him the money. Maybe he knew that's what Thanksgiving's all about. Ha. Anyway, it was refreshing, especially since I continually overpay and get sneered at anyway for not lavishing my apparently millions upon the cabbies. Anyway, I got a brief phone call from my dad and his wife while in the cab. They wished me happy Thanksgiving and, when I logged into my email before going to bed, I found out that my host counselor had too. She took the time to send me a Thanksgiving e-card. I got one from my mom too earlier in the day. So much Thanksgiving thoughtfulness!
Today, I'm getting back to work on my paper and treating my stomach with suspicion. When I'd begun to again become disheartened by the magnitude of the paper-writing left to do, I thought of my walk to Zamalek the other day. If I had thought when I was at my apartment of how long the walk was going to be and nothing else, I might've just hopped in a cab. Instead, I enjoyed each step along the way, allowing myself the possibility of taking a cab after each errand. I ended up walking the whole way and not thinking about how much time left or what the distance left was. I enjoyed each place I found myself for what it was. Now, this is obviously more applicable to how I view my time remaining in Cairo, but as far as my papers go, I can only take them step by step. I ought to forget obsessively clicking on the "word count" in Word to see how much academic torture remains and just get on with it. Nose to the grindstone!

Story of a muezzin or prayer-caller in Cairo
Head of Cairo International Film Festival weighs in on future of Egyptian cinema
Moves toward reform in treatment of the mentally ill

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Cabin Fever

Today has felt a lot like a day spent home sick only I wasn't sitting around guzzling Pepto Bismol and watching The World of David the Gnome. Instead, I spent six or seven mind-numbing hours writing about the integration of Somalis in Minnesota. I didn't leave the apartment AT ALL. So this is what all the complaining of grad school was about! After my brain turned to mush, I realized that I still have some 6000 words left in this paper alone and another 9000 looming over my head in the form of papers I have not yet begun.
To be nice to myself, I made a delicious dinner of stir-fried broccoli and mushrooms and penne in tomato and garlic sauce which I gobbled up while watching The Seventh Seal which turned out to be an excellent film.
Apart from talking to Ross when he got home, my human interaction today was limited to a couple of brief chats and then : one with Ablavi, my Togolese neighbor, in French--her electricity was out again and we managed to figure out how to push some wires together to make it work; and the other with the man that "cleans" the floors. He tried to rip me off, which just ticked me off (but not half as much as his previously-described doorbell-ringing antics). Dishonesty whether it comes from a landlord or a floor-cleaner seems to be the norm in this building.
Tomorrow, of course (or rather today since midnight has just come and gone), is Thanksgiving. I'm going to be joining some classmates for dinner in Zamalek. I'll be taking along some arugula and beet salad, some bread, and a bottle of non-Egyptian wine (a highly sought-after commodity since Egypt's wines are about as drinkable as vinegar).

Israeli Defense Ministry official makes secret visit to Egypt to discuss Gaza
More anti-Christian violence in Ain Shams as thousands protest the construction of a church
Police beat Cairo University students protesting against Gaza blockade

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Reading, Writing, and Christmas Shopping

Soon after I rolled out of bed this (early) afternoon, I decided that there was to be no belly-fattening lazing about the apartment. I gobbled up my muesli and yogurt and was out the door. The accumulation of dust on a car that hadn't been outside of my building for more than a day reminding me of snow piling up on vehicles in Minnesota, though I find snow much nicer and the prospect that there was already that much dust a bit disconcerting. Anyway, my first stop was the Greek Campus, where I picked up an encouraging letter from my friend Amy back in Minnesota. Sadly, there is still no trace of the package my mother sent me that I left behind in my errant end-of-class flightyness.
Next, I dropped by a Mobaco shop (of which there are a few in Paris in the neighborhood where I spent my summer a year and a half ago). They sell clothing made from Egyptian cotton at prices moderate in tourist terms but exorbitant in Egyptian terms. I got one article of clothing as a Christmas gift and then, because, wallahi, it's CHILLY at night here now I bought myself a zip-up hoody. As a hearty Minnesotan-born fellow, I am ashamed to say that my teeth now chatter when it gets into the low 60s. Following my shopping spree (so-defined because I spent more than $50--which, for a cheap-o like me is world-ending,) I remembered again how flabby I've been feeling and so skipped the cab ride and walked to Alfa Market in Zamalek to do my grocery shopping. Along my walk, I saw a man in the driver's seat of a car with his seat reclined, sleeping. Next to him, what I mistook from affair for a sleeping woman in a fancy galabaya was actually a Christmas tree which also appeared to be sleeping. I should've snapped a photo. I did managed to get a couple of fun photos at the grocery store where tacky Christmas décor seems to have been ralphed all over the rear display sections where Ramadan goodies once were hawked.
I derived a terrible sense of smug self-contentment when I saw some tourists scampering across the road and trying to dodge traffic. I love putting on my "jaded expat" face and stepping out in front of buses and taxis, though I think after only a quarter of a year here, my credibility is still quite low. Furthermore, I'll have to admit that every once in a while, I too am still a scamperer. Microbuses can be scary things! All this led me to reflect, though, about how much has changed about how I view Egypt since I've arrived. Despite my complaining and moments of misery, I've arrived at a sort of modus vivendi that helps me navigate life here while maintaing some level of sanity and event comfort. I've begun to be able to appreciate aspects of Egypt and even identify places, habits, and people that I'll sorely miss when I leave here. No, it's not home and not it's not France, but neither are the States or France Egypt (which is probably best for everyone involved.)

Some in the Red Sea region see international efforts to stem piracy as Zionist conspiracy
Story on a sewing machine-repairman in Cairo
Nearly half of Egyptian wives have been abused by their husbands

Presenting Palestine

As I mentioned, the most notable event of my day was attending the first of six parts of a documentary called Chronicles of a Refugee that deals with the Nakba and the subsequent hardships of the Palestinians. The film itself was fairly well-done and provided a human face for the tragedies of the late 1940s, but the speakers afterward were inappropriate in much of what they had to say. As someone in search of the most balanced view of the Arab-Israeli conflict, I was offended at remarks aimed at minimizing the gravity of the Shoah and those suggesting that the economic downturn and any ill effects it had for America would somehow benefit the Palestinians. While I realize that for these speakers, all three Palestinian, the issue is particularly salient and emotionally charged, the only way to solve anything will be through compromise and the acceptance that the other side is indeed human as well.
I chatted with my neighbor Catherine and some of our Egyptian friends about the event before heading to get koshary and then to my apartment. Maged called me while I was sitting down to type up an entry and I joined him and his friends (who, together with a dozen or so others comprise a Christian worship band who perform on Egyptian television, or so I gather). Most of the conversation was in Arabic, so I spent time trying to pick out words I knew and trying to read the Arabic on ketchup packets and signs in the street.
Most of my pre-documentary hours were spent retooling my paper for my intro class. I'm now writing about the relationship between the evolution of the nation-state and immigration and refugees. It already seems like a pretty interest subject to delve into.

Egypt beefs up police presence on border with Gaza
US State Dep't to encourage online youth movements (including one in Egypt) to fight terrorism, political oppression
Sectarian clash in Ain Shams (the neighborhood where I teach English)

Monday, November 24, 2008

"And a pleasant, light breeze across much of Iraq," forecasts BBC World's weather service. I just watched the news over koshary after returning from watching the first installment in a six-part documentary on Palestine. I'll comment more on that later. Now, I'm off to meet Maged and some other Egyptians on Tahrir Sq. I've just gotten comfy on the sofa, but I figure interacting with real-live Egyptians is time better spent than half-heartedly researching and surfing the web.

Good Grades, Good Grub, and Mosquitocide

I am relaxing in the living room after an epic battle with two mosquitoes. They have returned to haunt my room, the evidence being several welts on my arms and a couple on my neck from last night. In a gentlemanly gesture, they avoided my face. Just as they did me, I found victory in a sneak attack. Upon returning home from a delicious Indian dinner with my Egyptian-Canadian-American friend Marise, Phil, and another of our classmates, Mike, I went to my room to toss my sweater on my bed. Near the lightswitch, the biggest mosquito I've seen so far in Egypt (I think it was a migrant from Minnesota, perhaps) was digesting my (no-doubt delicious) type O blood. Disgusted and resolute, I tiptoed to the nearest solid object (a folder) and dispatched the vicious fiend in one fell swoop. I grabbed my can of Off and eyed my window suspiciously, spraying the opening in it for good measure as I'm always a little uncertain of how effective the screen behind it is. Just as this is happening, I see one of the deceased's nefarious co-conspirators. Not wanting it to get away, I raced toward it, not having anything but the can of Off. Naturally, I uncapped the stuff and sprayed the beast which then hobbled somewhere, hopefully to its doom.
Phwew. Lest you think that was the only uphill battle of the day, I also met with the professor of my intro class who told me that I didn't have enough of the right sources for my topic. This wasn't a battle between us, but has become one to find either more sources or a more viable topic, and time is ticking. Yikes! In better news, I got my mid-term exam back in law class with a 103% on it. (We had 5 extra points thrown in for good measure.) This was a huge relief and cause for celebration with Indian food. Ok, so I'd already planned Indian with Marise previously. Rather than cab it over to Mohandaseen, Marise graciously conveyed us to what was a delicious and relaxing meal.
Paper writing and research will be on the upswing over this brief break from school (I don't have classes until next Sunday again) as well as a couple of interesting events--like a film tomorrow night about Palestine and Thanksgiving. In two weeks, a college friend who's studying in the UK will be on his way and I'm planning on dragging him to the pyramids, the desert, and maybe an oasis with Marise's help as she's also got a friend coming in.

Egyptian police accidentally kill man after entering wrong apartment in pursuit of drug dealer; spark riots
Mubarak hopes to increase number of women in Egyptian parliament
Bedouin in the Sinai call for blood of television presenter over remarks

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Lebanese Food and Listlessness

I've spent most of my Saturday being a good-for-nothing, web-cruising schmo. If I could get paid for listening to podcasts about the economy, the news of the world, and the quirky lives of everyday people, to read Huffington Post and the Drudge Report, and to travel the world, I would be in seventh heaven. I did make a bit of headway on my Somalis in Minnesota paper. Did I mention that my native state is home to the largest population of Somalis in the United States? Aside from this, I threw in a load of laundry and went out for Lebanese with my friend Edward from California. The glamorous life I lead!
Finding it hard to gather my thoughts and throw myself wholeheartedly into my research, I wondered about listlessness and agitation that probably relate to my thoughts about whether I'm doing the right thing or in the right place or where my future lies. Sometimes, this feeling masquerades as boredom. "There's just nothing to do here," I think. Wait, wait, wait...nothing to do in one of the most storied cities in the world where there are millions of other people? I make the excuse quite a lot that I don't like wandering around alone. Really, though, I've made enough contacts, acquaintances, and friends that I could always be up to something if I got on the phone or sent an email. And on top of that, of course, are a million topics to be researching and as many opportunities to be explored or applied for. When this wave of reality crashes down, it's a matter of not getting overwhelmed because that has the same effect as being bereft of ideas--paralysis and inaction. It's a game of taking the right risks and getting my act together, and what a game it is.
Another thing I was thinking about that was borne of my conversations about life and politics with my Egyptian host counselor and her family as well as an email from one of my great-aunts is the sheer depth of experience of each person in the world. Our interactions with others on a daily basis are often cursory and perfunctory, leaving us with no clue about the hopes and dreams, hardships and successes of those we encounter. I think this is part of the reason I have a mania for meeting new people and maintaining old contacts. I love to really know people and speculate about what makes them tick. This is hard to do when I'm complaining about their country (in the case of Egypt) rather than listening to what matters to them. So, I'm trying to focus on meeting more Egyptians and deepening friendships I've already made. All of this while pounding out three research papers and other assignments--who has time to be bored?!
Sorry to my readers for waning introspectively loquacious, I do hope you're all still enjoying the blog.

Researches find larger-than-expected proportion of religion conservatives in Egypt, Jordan; define this group as "extremely religious individuals who do not approve of gender interaction, expect others to follow religious practices and override their personal choices for religious beliefs"
Piracy off the Horn of Africa a continuing threat to the world at large and to the Egyptian economy
UN Secretary General calls on Israel to allow humanitarian access to Gaza

Friday, November 21, 2008

Egyptian Hospitality

Yesterday after class, classmates Phil, Marise, and Rebecca joined me in pursuit of Thai deliciousness. It was to be found at Bird Cage, which I've mentioned before. The evening was full of laughs, good conversation, and much-needed relaxation. After dinner, Phil and I hit a nearby store that sells clothes made of Egyptian cotton. I need to start Christmas shopping, so I think it'll be a stop when I make the rounds. After getting home, Ablavie, my Togolese neighbor, came over to hang out with Ross and I. Yet another chance for me to keep up my French!
Today has been just as good and restore my fondness for Egypt (and firmed up my thankfulness for Rotary connections). My new host counselor had me to her home for a late lunch--all Egyptian food. Molokhayya, fatteh, wara ainab, salad, and more. I brought them pastries from the pastry shop near my house, but I'm not sure of their quality. I'm not a connoisseur of Egyptian desserts, but think that if I am trying to be a good guest, I'll go to Al-Abd next time and pick up a tray of sugary goodness. Anyway, the meal was delicious. I decided not to share with Omaima my vegetarian tendencies and thus ate quite a lot of beef. My stomach feels a bit funny, but I think the protein's good for me. Before, during, and after the meal, we had really good discussions about politics. Omaima's husband, Tarek, explained in no uncertain terms his distaste for Hamas and the problems being caused in Palestine. He was also talking about how intractable the conflict in Iraq is. In his opinion, it's going to be harder to resolve than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We also discussed Egyptian names and their meanings and common American names. Tarek told me about his travels in America--apparently he's been to Chicago and Urbana/Champaign in Illinois, Texas, and many other polaces and they have a son that lives in Texas. Both on my way there in the metro and on my way back in their car, I realized that a love for Egypt was seeping back into my soul. It's less fleeting and more realistic than the euphoria that comes with novelty, and hopefully more enduring. It was reinforced by the incredible friendliness and hospitality of my hosts today which in turn was made possible through Rotary. It's finally all starting to work as it should. Al-hamdulileh.

Egypt risks political unrest if economic slowdown not properly handled
Egyptian Minister of Endowments discourages the wearing of the veil
Former Secretary General of the UN condemns Saudi lashing sentence of Egyptian

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Notre Musique

Yesterday evening, I attended the CMRS seminar on protection and the roles of refugees in the humanitarian aid process. The lecturer, Anne Cubilié, also talked a bit about her experiences in Afghanistan and her interviews with woman and how their perceptions of themselves as people who simply aren't witnesses has shaped how they remember events and the narratives they construct to understand their experiences. I sat with my friend journalist friend, Liam, and chatted about with him, Anne, Maysa from the CMRS office, and another woman (Alana, might've been her name?) who's originally Palestinian. We then headed to Zamalek, where we were going to get coffee, but that turned into dinner and I already had plans, so I had to duck out, unfortunately.
At my friend Ewelina's apartment, a bunch of us gathered to watch Notre Musique over pizza from Maison Thomas (with their special Argentine sauce, of course). I really enjoyed the movie but, as others pointed out, it demands a second-watching to catch all of the symbolism. Every other line was as something from a book. So many different languages were used and conflicts touched upon, tying the human community together in a unique way. In one scene, a French-Israeli woman is interviewing a Palestinian author and they are speaking Hebrew and Arabic, respectively, without a translator.
Following the film, Andrea, who lives in my neighborhood and at whose place we watched the last Godard flick, headed to Metro Market in order for me to grab some long-awaited groceries (yogurt!) quickly before we hopped in a cab back to Bab al-Luq.
Not being able to fall asleep (quelle surprise) I listened to some NPR Talk of the Nation podcasts that were really interesting. One discussed whether or not it would be wise to bail out the auto industry, another the forgery of religious artifacts in the Middle East, and another tried to show that not all government lobbyists were bad people.
Tomorrow, my new host counselor, Omaima has graciously invited me to her house for lunch in Ma'adi. Setting the time at 3, she's a woman after my own time schedule! It should be fun.

Article on Barbara Harrell-Bond, refugee advocate and former AUC professor
Emergency meeting on Somali piracy held in Cairo
Che Guevara's daughter comes to Egypt

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Two Tabascos

After class last night, I grabbed a cab to Zamalek with classmates Erin and Brandy since they lived near Café Tabasco where I thought I was meeting my Egyptian-British friend Rania for her birthday. Little did I know, I was meant to be at the Tabasco in Mohandaseen. Oops. No harm, no foul--I jumped in another cab, had my friend give the cabbie directions telephonically, and was there a little while later. Over decent gnocchi (creatively spelled gnyocke on the menu) and Greek salad, I got to chat with my friend Crysta and get to know some of Rania's other friends. After dinner, Rania, a few of her Egyptian friends, and a German traveler staying with one of them, and I hung out first at an apartment in Doqqi, then at a bar downtown called After Eight where we were regaled with Arabic music and where Rania met a famous actor (who I didn't know from Adam, of course).
Today I am coaxing myself into doing research on Somalis in Minnesota to be able to move my Migration in MENA paper along a bit. Tonight is the film Notre Musique and some pizza from Maison Thomas. A good combination, no doubt.
[Portion removed]

Excellent NYTimes article on Egypt and its future
Bedouin forced to pick through trash in seaside resort town to survive
Germany possibly to sell submarine to Egypt, Israel worried

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Beet Salad and Better Days

Yesterday began looking like it was going to drag on unsatisfactorily, so I decided to be proactive. I went and picked up my passport newly stamped with my student visa (that strangely resembles my tourist visa but cost more money). Feeling a bit listless and not sure what to do with my time, I wandered to the Semiramis hotel and perused some of the shops before strolling to Tahrir Square, home of the Egyptian Museum and the Mogamma. There, I perched, put in my earbuds and people-watched for about half-an-hour with my iPod providing a soundtrack. Needing to get dinner before heading to teach English, I began heading back toward my apartment, hoping to find inspiration along the way. I began to get frustrated with the lack of options, but then I caught myself. My own negativity is a stumbling block to truly getting everything I can out of this experience, so I'm doing everything I can to keep it in check. My solution was to head to Taboula, near the law school, and get takeaway. So as not to annoy the waiter by hemming and hawing, I hurriedly picked three items without giving them too much thought and sat down to wait while my order was processed. 44 LE and twenty minutes or so later, I had my food and was off to the metro to trek up to Ain Shams. I got to the school early and chatted with Cynthia as I unpacked my dinner which turned out to consist of some delicious bamya (okra in spices and oil), beet salad, and some "sautéed" vegetables. The first two items were delicious. I hadn't even realized when I picked "Rocca salad" that there were beets in it. Getting excited about beets may seem a bit much, but I'm telling you, it's the little things! Unfortunately, there were problems at the school and Tito, whom I was supposed to give a mini-French lesson to didn't show. One of the students had gotten into a fight with an Egyptian earlier and the whole group was thus up in arms and in the street outside figuring out their next course of action rather than coming to class on time. Admirably, though, within a half an hour, most of my class had arrived and we went through our lesson as normal.
On the way back, a funny thing happened. As the metro is emptier later at night, I was able to find a place to sit. Next to me was an Egyptian guy about my age who, after a few stops, mustered the courage to ask me in Arabic where I was from. I indicated after answering the question in Arabic "Amreeka", I didn't really speak the language. He smiled understandingly and went on to tell me in English that he had been an Italian-Arabic translator and a tour guide, but was now doing military service. While we were conversing haltingly, struggling for words in one another's languages, a one-armed man with a box full of candy came by. This of course didn't faze me as people always go through this routine: they have trinkets or candy that they walk around the train car setting on people's laps before they can object and then they come back around asking for money. Prepared to return the candy, I was prevented by my new army friend who bought it for me. I laughed to myself at the whole scene and was genuinely thankful for the show of generosity.
My next stop was Horeyya to meet a couple of guys I met at the party I went to the other night. I wasn't feeling well, so I stopped home to drop off my bag and drink some water (my late grandmother's remedy for every ill) and marched onward to the café/bar/cultural institution. We ended up staying there for hours, our conversations ranging from personal to political and, later, including other characters--a Greek man who was born in Alexandria but forced to move to Athens as a young child by the political events of the Nasser era, an American student-turned-investment banker who's been in the country ten years, and a woman from Berlin who is in Egypt on vacation. The latter two and one of the guys I was with headed onto Odeon later where we ended up talking more politics as well as religion. Because Suzanne, the German, grew up in East Germany, her experience with religion was vastly different than our respective Roman Catholic, Episcopal, and Evangelical upbringings. We also talked about how foreign the concepts of atheism, agnosticism, or simply believing in God are in a country where your religion is put on your ID card if you're a citizen, or in your visa applications if you're an expat. You can only be a Muslim, Christian, or Jew here, and that last category is a bit iffy. If you don't fit neatly into one of these categories, tough luck. I made it home after 4 AM, but considered my evening quite well spent in light of the fact that my insomnia and the roosters would've kept me up until then anyway. Better to be out having stimulating discussion than in bed tossing and turning.
Today, I got an email from my host counselor apologizing for the effect his busyness has had on his helping me out during my stay here and saying that I was being switched to Omaima, the woman who attended the Rotary event I spoke of in my last entry. We'll see how all that goes, but it's frustrating, because I have the impression that they were inconvenienced by all the miscommunication too and I don't want them to feel there's any ill will toward them on my part.
Anyway, in less than an hour, I'm off to class and then to Zamalek for my friend Rania's birthday party. Unlike in past weeks, I have plans for every night of the week, part of my concerted effort to make the best of Egypt rather than letting things get the best of me.

Egypt halts gas exports to Israel
Underwater museum planned for Alexandria
More on the first female marriage registrar in Egypt

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Typical Chaos in Cairo

Let me preface the less pleasant part of my entry by saying that I'm feeling better about my experience here in Egypt again, focusing on the opportunities presented and the aspects of life here I value. Walking to law class tonight after having hammered away at an annotated outline for my working paper, I was grateful for the beautiful weather. On my way to law class, I passed one of my favorite buildings in the neighborhood, an old colonial mansion of sorts, ochre in color, crumbling, and covered in some kind of native ivy. Flanked by an azure sky streaked with white cirrus clouds it looked like a still shot from a movie.
International Refugee Law went for only an hour and forty-five minutes today, though our topic, the errors made both by claim-processors and asylum-seekers, could have taken up much more time. The intention was that the class would attend a lecture by another of my professors on brand new research on Iraqi refugees in Egypt at 7. Unfortunately, I was invited on short notice to attend a Rotary event and felt obliged to go. The email, from a lady in my host club rather than my host counselor, mentioned something about the Rotary scholars in Egypt getting together with each other and our host counselors for high tea with the District Governor at 7:30 and something else about guest speakers at 8:30. Attached was a schedule, nearly entirely in Arabic and thus of no use to me. There was no mention of how to dress, nothing about the content of guest speakers' speeches or even the theme of the event. I asked for further information and was later informed that, in fact, I might even be asked to talk about my experiences in Egypt. I was actually relieved, because I've had such difficulty lining up speaking opportunities here. As no one from my club offered to pick me up I joined Ross to wait for his host counselor, who had, in fact, thought to offer him a ride. We headed to the Ramses Hilton, where we were meant to meet her, but Ross received a call after we were already en route that because an Egyptian team won a soccer title people were out en masse in their cars straining the already insufficient infrastructure and causing traffic jams all over the city. People were speeding around madly waving flags and wearing red headbands, honking likenobody's business. It was such that we waited until 7:45 to be picked up, but yanni, at least Ross's host Rotarians were nice enough to convey us to the event at all. We arrived after much direction-asking behind the World Trace Center. Pre-planning and foresight are consistently absent in Egypt across the board in nearly all of my experiences and therefore, apparently the security at the parking lot had not been informed that Rotarians would be arriving and need a place to park. Go figure. We sat in the car for some twenty minutes as the car's driver jovially bantered with security, finally securing himself a parking spot. "There are lots of rules in Egypt," remarked Ross's host counselor as we headed slowly toward the building despite being forty-five minutes late at this point. The lady who had emailed me was there when I came in and, when I went over to talk to her, she said she'd called the club president to ask where I was. I bit my tongue and instead told her it was nice to see her again. She told me that my haircut made my hair look much better than it did before, the probably-unintentional backhanded compliment not being nearly as frustrating as when she proceded to tell me that she had been saving me a spot but that someone took it and she "didn't say anything to them" so I'd have to go find a place to sit by myself. My host counselor didn't even show up. I sat next to Ambereen, a friend I'd made back in the outbound orientation, and listened as the scholarship coordinator for our host district explained that the event was all about ambassadorial scholarships. I wanted to scream. How was it that my presence at this event was such an afterthought when our role in it was central? Ever more vexing, the speaker said that it was the responsibility of host counselors to look after ambassadorial scholars and to actively engage them, involving them in the service projects of the club. When we had impromptu introductions, the same woman who'd been speaking pointed out that though my host counselor wasn't there (I was the only scholar out of seven--four ambassadorial, three cultural--without my host counselor there) people shouldn't worry about me because my host counselor, though very busy, had everything under control. I kept my mouth shut, but couldn't manage a smile at that point. To add insult to injury, Ambereen and Nathan and all of the cultural scholars were asked to briefly talk about their experiences in Egypt, as I had been prepared to do. Ross and I, however, were conveniently left out. It was offensive, to be quite honest. By the time Ross and I were dropped off back in Bab al-Luq, I was deeply regretful I hadn't simply skipped the event and gone to my professor's presentation on Iraqi refugees. Please note that I have no ill-will toward my host counselor who's been very amiable, it's just that it takes more than good intentions to make this whole host club-ambassadorial scholar dynamic work. Also, the woman who was there tonight has been lovely and I enjoyed my chat with her at the sohour where I met her. It's just that assigning me an inactive member who is too busy to be a host counselor and doing so weeks after I arrived simply isn't in the spirit of what this scholarship was made out to be. The miscommunication and disorganization is maddening, even more so because my host rotarians are such genuinely nice people and if they understood how frustrating things have been for me, they'd probably feel bad about it.
Though this all sounds like quite an abysmal account, as I mentioned, the last couple of days have yielded a net positive increase in my contentment. I had fun last night hanging out across the hall at Catherine's, chatting with her and Ross. I look forward to head back to Ain Shams tomorrow to teach English, and going early to meet with Tito to teach him the rudiments of French. I have plans to go to my Polish friend's in Zamalek to watch another Godard film and have some Maison Thomas pizza. I'm waiting for feedback on two of my papers after which I'll kick into productivity mode and jump headfirst into writing for the rest of the semester. All in all, I'm happy with where I am at the moment, al-hamdulileh!

Egyptian president's son, Interior Minister summoned in tycoon's murder trial

Egypt says that Sudan's president is not immune from ICC prosecution
Interior Minister decrees release of of AUC professor detained for two years

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Early to Bed, Early to Rise

Ok, so I'm not sure going to bed at 3 generally qualifies as going to bed early, but the way things have been going, it's an improvement to be sure. The night before, I went to be even earlier, though men operating jackhammers just across the street from 11:30 PM until 2:30 AM weren't conducive to my drifting off. Last night, the tool of choice sounded like a chainsaw. God only knows what they're doing out there.
Yesterday, I lazed around a bit before meeting my friend Amanda for a light dinner at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf in Zamalek. We talked about the ups and downs of Cairo life as I was positive when she was devising ways to leave the country and now that I've been down a bit she's hit an upswing in her appreciation of life here. It's good to have friends who can help bring some perspective and indeed, I've been feeling a bit better recently. After about an hour or so, a girl I'd never met swung by to pick me up in a black SUV and whisk me away to slightly trendy L'Aubergine, a restaurant in Zamalek. The professor at whose apartment I spent election night put me in touch with her because of similar research interests and so, over mediocre Egytpian white wine (all there really is available in terms of vino here), we talked about her thesis and life and the like. She also invited me to a party in Mohandaseen and, despite the fact that the following day (today) I had to lead discussion in my 9 AM Migration in the Middle East and North Africa make-up class, I stayed until 2:30. I met all kinds of interesting people from the expat community-Americans, an Australian, a Syrian, and more.
At precisely 7:34 I miraculously rose as if from the dead and somehow found the energy to shower and get ready for class. The morning sunshine, the brilliant blue sky, and the perfect weather made things just a bit easier and somehow, from somewhere, I felt rather positive about things. I paid more attention in class than usual and made a valiant effort in leading our discussion about the integration of the descendants of immigrants in Western countries for the second half of the class period. At noon, it was over and I returned home for a couple-hour nap. Just finishing replying to emails, I am now trying to come up with an outline and annotated bibliography for my Refugee Law class tomorrow.

Egyptian court rules aid must be allowed to enter Gaza
Egypt's first lady downplays prevalence sexual harassment in the country
Egypt blacklists Saudi firms that allegedly abuse workers

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Bevet Breizh!

You linguists out there will have caught that my title is in Breton, not Arabic. It means "Long live Brittany!" more or less. Brittany is the region of France where I spent my junior year of college and also the birthplace of crêpes and their savory counterparts, galettes. Why on earth am I talking about this when I'm residing in Cairo? Because today, I went to lunch with my Egyptian friend, Reham, and fellow American, Rebecca at the French Cultural Center. Though my cheese and mushroom galette with salade verte more closely resemble a cheese quesadilla, the French-speaking staff and a Breton flag lifted my spirits. Even better, while my (dessert) crêpe itself was lackluster, it was filled with crême de marrons, or chesnut spread in English. This was the halawa of my France days--I ate it allll the time with yogurt, on bread, or by itself. I plan to stock up during my extended layover in Paris on my way back to Cairo in January.
Prior to my lunch outing at 2, I had been up for hours already, having been awoken by the maddening doorbell-ringing antics of yet another Egyptian wanting money. The trash man, the man who "cleans the floor," and the landlord are all bereft of any concept of doorbell propriety, pushing the button incessantly thinking it will somehow hasten us to the door. To cope, I only answer the door when some knocks (inevitable my American or French neighbors) or when someone rings once (or twice if I'm feeling tolerant). More than that and they're out of luck. Anyway, the morning sunshine and Ross's company were the upsides to the decision I made to get up and going, capitalizing on my early-rising misfortune as an opportunity to reset my body clock. Running on four or so hours of sleep, I felt eerily optimistic and pleasant and productive. I even scrubbed down the kitchen sink. God knows why. It was in this mood that I polished up my outline for class today and then set off on the twenty-minute walk to Mounira, where the French Cultural Center is located. I lugged along my big camera and snapped photos along the way and, as I neared my destination, was suddenly swarmed by school children. I spoke to them in broken Arabic and they shared their few English words with me: "rabbit, carrot, nose, donkey" and other very useful vocabulary items. It occurred to me after a few minutes resting against a wall by the Center that next to it was a girls school. Headscarf-wrapped heads popped out of screenless windows on the top floor and giggles erupted. If you're tempted to envisage young Egyptian ladies as somehow demure and reserved, you're quite off the mark. I was the object of blown kisses accompany by kissy noises, dramatic princess waves, and even notes dropped from the window. The notes, sadly, were all blown off course by the wind. One girl yelled "Oh my God" rhyming God with flood, likely the only English phrase she could think of to get my attention. After this, another roar of giggles. Reham and Rebecca rescued me after about a quarter of an hour at which point we enjoyed our quasi-French food and had really good discussions about Islam and Christianity, theology, the Qur'an, gender roles, and more. I'm thankful that Reham's excellent English gives me a view on Egypt and the Islamic world that my obscenely rudimentary Arabic cannot afford me.
I had a hard time staying awake in class because of my fatigue, but was glad to be able to turn in my outline. I'll have feedback next week and then be able to get started on my paper. Afterward, I declined some invitations to go out, grabbed koshary, and headed here, to the apartment, to send some pictures along for the Rotary newsletter. After some readings for an irregularly scheduled class I have on Saturday morning (the one I'm presenting in), I hope to hit the sheets early.

In wake of row over whipped Egyptian doctor, Egypt halts doctor visas to Saudi
Egyptian president to visit India for the first time in a quarter century
Egyptian bystanders, emergency services duped by German art installation at Goethe Institut

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Seeking Solace in Goat Cheese

Last night, I managed to get to sleep at a reasonable hour with the generous assistance of a couple of pills. I woke up far later than I'd have liked, but not too exhausted. I made a bit of headway on my outline, but generally didn't have it in me to get much done. I threw on a scarf, more for effect than to combat the weather which is quiet mild and pleasant, hovering in the upper 60s. I looked like a European, perhaps a grumpy European. Listening to a lecture on my iPod about existentialism, I waltzed through AUC's laughable security and headed to a lecture on the unlawful killing of Africa migrants attempting to cross the border from Egypt into Israel. I've included links in my news section before. It truly is shocking. Men, women (some pregnant), and children have all been murdered by border guards, over 30 this past year. For it's part, Israel returns asylum-seekers who reach its borders, equivalent to refoulement because Egypt is not, in fact, a safe country to be returned to. Many have disappeared and any Sudanese who travel to Israel are considered by their home government to be traitors which could lead to persecution should they end up back in the country. My law professor was one of the two presenters of the seminar, the other being from Human Rights Watch.
After the seminar, despite being invited to a shisha bar (I still don't smoke shisha and don't plan to, but it's a huge social event here), I came home where I sought solace in cooking. I stir-fried some broccoli and garlic and boiled some rotini to which I added my store-bought Barilla arrabbiatta sauce. I topped it all off with some pepper-encrusted goat cheese and was actually quite pleased with the result.
Things are busy in the academic realm and I have a Rotary meeting I'm apparently meant to go to on Sunday. It's quite late notice, of course, but I'm going to try and get out of my law class early to go. Before that, I have to prepare my final outlines for the papers in both Intro to Mig. and Ref. Studies and International Refugee Law and prepare a presentation on the experiences of second generation migrants from the Middle East and North Africa in the West for 9 AM on Saturday since the professor decided we would not only reschedule a class slated for the 25th, but that we'd change the order of the class topics at the last minute, therefore leaving me four days to do a book-sized packet of readings, synthesize the main points, and develop an outline for leading an hour and a half discussion on the top. Nice.

HRW demands Egypt stop slaying migrants (related to seminar I attended tonight)
Clashes with Bedouin lead Egypt to beef up military presence in Sinai
Egypt donates medicine to Tanzanian government hospital
Saudi lawyer banned from receiving human rights award

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Misplaced Sunshine

Because my insomnia has returned with a vengeance, I didn't make it to sleep until sometime after 6 AM. Killing time until I was tired enough to do so, I listened to a pretty interesting podcast from the Carnegie Council for Ethics and International Affairs. This episode was entitled, "Economic Gangsters: Corruption, Violence, and the Poverty of Nations" and may be found by clicking here. Sleeping in until the late afternoon, I had little time do anything but get ready and go to class. I'd like to have made more headway on my outlines and bibliographies, but no luck there. I stopped by the Greek Campus to check for mail and sure enough, a package had arrived for me from my mom and little brother. Insides were photos and other little tokens of home, all of which brightened my day. Unfortunately, after a class in which I found out, because of some spontaneous schedule rearranging, I have to prepare a presentation for Saturday morning, I was hurrying to catch up with some classmates who were getting a cab to Zamalek and let my envelope in the classroom. I only realized it once we were quite close to our destination. Frantically, I called a couple of people, the second of whom was still on campus. He agreed to go and check for the package, but in the end, it wasn't there. I have no idea if it was simply thrown away or if someone who'll be thoughtful enough to read the address on the front and return it to the CMRS office ended up with it. It's one of those little things that you'd take in stride were everything else going ok, but given the stress I've been dealing with lately, it broke my heart and has made me pretty miserable. To top it off, there were photos with my dog Barkley in them, who died recently while I've been away.
I ended up having dinner with my classmate, Mary-Anne, at Tobasco. Strangely, Sheila, my friend from high school who'd I mentioned meeting up with the other day, happened to be eating there with a friend of hers. After discussing class and our mutual friends, Mary-Anne and I said our goodbyes and I joined Sheila and her friend for a while. My next stop was the nearby grocery store where, when I went to grab a carton of juice, another tumbled to the floor and burst open. Given my mood, I was about ready to scream or cry or both, but, because it was Egypt, no one had even paid attention to my gaffe. I walked back to an employee, tried to explain what had happened, and he just smiled and nodded. I shrugged and did my shopping, not worrying about the expenses in my despondancy and the whole time, the only think that happened to the ill-fated juice carton was that it was set up-right. No mopping, no removal of the damaged good, but also, not blaming me, so that was nice. I grabbed the staples--halawa and aish baladi and yogurt, but because the coconut flavor was a bit old, I opted for vanilla instead. I also got some frozen vegetables--broccoli, peas, and carrots, some garlic, and some Barilla pasta sauce. I was hunting for dark chocolate, but to no avail. Proabably for the best as I'd have come home and eaten it all. Instead, I got a small container of halawa with pistachios (in addition to the other large container of halawa) and had a bit with bread when I got home as a dessert of sorts. The grocery store I went to, Seoudi, had much friendly and more helpful staff than either Alfa or Metro, so that was at least something positive to seize onto. Just as important, they were well-stocked with the bottled water I can never find at Metro. They asked if I wanted it delivered, but they ended up only doing so within Zamalek. The guy at the check-out felt bad for me and went out to hail me a taxi and carried the water all the way to it, which was nice. The cab-driver, apart from asking for too much money at the conclusion of the ride and being obliged to take a cop somewhere free of charge when the latter hopped in and demanded he do so, was amiable. I understood most of what he was saying to me in Arabic--he inquired about my studies, and Obama and Bush and my opinions of them. He told me Bush was crazy, but I held my tongue about my opinions of the Egyptian president. Now I'm about to catch the news, try to motivate myself to do some school work, and hope that I can get to bed earlier tonight.

New pyramid discovered in Egypt
Three bedouin killed in class in Sinai
Egypt attemps to delay genocide indictment of Sudanese president
Egyptian doctor exposed to harsh punishment at hands of Saudi government