Friday, September 26, 2008

A Morning of Somnambulence and a Marvellous So7or

Because of my awful insomnia, I didn't fall asleep until 6 AM following the posting of my last entry. This might not have been an issue if I could've slept in until the early afternoon as usual, but nooo, the AUC office responsible for liaising with the appropriate government bureaucrats vis-à-vis visas shutters up at noon. Noon! What 5-6 AM is to normal working people (just a bit too early), noon is now to me. So, I awoke at 10:45 or thereabouts, though woke is a relative term. One might suggest I sleepwalked through the entire process of arriving at the main downtown campus, dragging myself up the fire escape to the top floor of the main building, and heaving myself before the desk of Dr Enass Maghreby only to render my passport and a fee, mention my upcoming travel plans and the resultant need to have my passport back in a timely fashion, and leave. So that my zombie-like experience was not entirely in vain, I stopped by the post office and bought stamps (they close at 2 during Ramadan). I stumbled sleepily down the hallway and threw myself into bed where I remained until nearly 4 PM, only to find out that the world moves on without me. I had five text messages to attended to, one of which told me that Mitchell, with whom I was to jointly lead class discussion yesterday, had hoped to meet up at 3 PM. Ma3lish!
Once I finally met up with Mitchell, we crafted questions and discussed our readings for Intro to Forced Migration and Refugee Studies. We subsequently joined Natalie in her office to chat and relax before class. Our class discussion on categories of forced migrants and displaced persons other than refugees went well enough and classtime passed by mercifully quickly. Immediately thereafter, I was in a cab to Mohandaseen with a driver who was intent on making conversation. Everyone in Egypt wants to know what one's father does. Because mine has rather a multi-faceted role in his company, to those whose second language is English I respond simply with "engineer." For cabbies, I suspect this means they think they can extract more money out of me for the ride. Joke's on them! I've discontinued my previous policy of setting a price for rides before getting in. I decide what I'm going to pay (and in fact, it's often a couple pounds over what one should pay), get the money out, get out of the vehicle, hand the sum to the driver, and walk away. It works pretty well and I've never been hassled.
Anyway, my loquacious cabby ended up being rather attentive, finding me the exact building I was looking for. At the door, I was greeted in Arabic by a woman who clearly wanted to know what I was up to. I smiled and shook my headed until she understood that me understanding her wasn't in the cards. She called over a resident to ask who in the building I was looking for. It occurred to me that I didn't remember the surname of the couple whose so7or I was attending. Thankfully "Ghada wa Amr" (their first names) did the trick. The invitation was for 10:30 PM. Because my class ended at 10, I didn't get there until 10:35 PM which had me fretting about being late. Ha! I was the first one there and no one else showed up for at least another quarter to half of an hour.
My hosts and I made small talk but as the other guests showed up, I worried that this would be another of those evenings where I was plied with delicious food, but deprived of stimulating conversation. It was, indeed, like that for a while, but eventually I feel into some good conversations: the Rotary club president brought her daughter, a college student. We carried on in French and in English about school, travel, and the food (which was, as anticipated, quite good). After feasting on stuffed grape leaves, fetteh, quiche, broccoli and carrots (more of a delicacy than you'd think), apricots, tabouleh, and caesar salad, a man named Sherif struck up a conversation with me. He's led quite the life, traveling extensively as a consultant. He grew up in Ma'adi, a suburb of sorts south of Cairo where a lot of expats live, but then ended up in Europe (based in Germany). He's currently a German citizen and has only been back in Egypt for a couple of years. We discussed life in Cairo, but also Mohammad Abdu (who I've mentioned before) and Germany. He also told me that his father started the Egyptology department at AUC. Earlier in the evening, another German-speaker, Osama the investment banker, explained to me (in English) that the financial crisis in the States made for one hell of a week in Egypt's markets. Omaima, a woman I'd met at the fundraiser, explained to me that her son, living in Houston, had weathed Hurricane Ike all right and his electricity, water, and the like were all back on but his work (I believe it's something to do with petroleum) is or was suspended for a week.
On the way home, business cards in my pocket, riding along in the car of an AUC professor and his wife who I'd met at the first so7or, I saw ten-thousand different things that reminded me I should be bringing my cameras more places more often. The same feeling of contentment, too, that I'd felt while wandering Downtown, welled up inside again. I'm just worried that admitting I like Cairo and being in Egypt rather a lot might jinx the whole thing.
Well, as I was trying to fall asleep last night, I made a list in my head of things I need to accomplish today. I'm off to make some purchases, read for Refugee Law, and explore Cairo!

By the way, this blog is jointly written by 8 Egyptians who're in the States sharing they're reactions to and reflections on the elections. Might be something interesting to check out!

News of Egypt:
Part of ancient Ramses II statue uncovered
Kidnapped tourists have been moved to Libya
Palestinians killed in cross-border tunnel collapse
An article about a couple of the bloggers contributing to the above-mentioned blog

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