Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Volunteering and Vexing Electronics

I woke up "early" today. That is to say, 9:45. In Egypt, especially during Ramadan, what one would consider college hours are kept by a large majority of the populace. I am no exception, staying up until 2 or 3 in the morning and sleeping until 11.
Meeting up with other volunteers, I hopped on the metro and headed to volunteer again grading English exams. I won't be doing any actual teaching until later this month at the earliest. Five and a half hours later, bleary-eyed and my stomach suffering from Egyptian generosity (they'd plied us with greasy pizza from Pizza King), I returned home. The noble intention I'd had of reading for my Int'l Refugee Law course evaporated as I curled up for a nap. Before long, it was time to head to my 8 PM Migration and Refugee Movements in the Middle East and North Africa course. While I enjoyed the professor, a Frenchman, the classroom was shoddy and uncomfortable for hosting a 2½ hour class. Furthermore, AUC's inefficiency seeped in. The CMRS office had neglected to tell us we had a packet of readings for today and, on top of that, the copy shop didn't even have them available. A bunch of us went there after class to place orders for the second week's readings which Dr Fargues had assured us would be there. No dice.
It's this aspect of living in Egypt--the struggle for the simplest of things--that I've mentioned before that weighs on me the most. Dealing with my archaic laundry machine whose intstructions are entirely in Arabic, drying my t-shirts outside on a drying rack of sorts only to realize that the drying rack is filthy and has left stripes of dust across my theretofore clean clothes, taking a shower and constantly having to adjust the hot and cold water because the hot water tank is insufficient, being taken by surprise when, for the same reason, hot water trickles, then explodes out of a faucet, soaking everything within a three-foot radius, finding dependable neighborhood restaurants only to have them close during normal dinner hours during Ramdan, leaving me scouring the neighborhood for options which are usually limited to fast food chains or American-style cafés who are more often than not out of half of the food on the menu, having to prepare myself to haggle with a cabdriver coming and going just to go to get groceries, being bounced around from one office at AUC to another and another ad infinitum, etc. etc. etc. A lot of these are little things, mostly inconsequential alone. However, when they join forces to wrangle with my mental health, they're successful more often than not. Now, with the responsibility of reading for classes and writing papers, I don't have time to be stressed out about the little things. Unfortunately, the little things don't quite understand they're meant to resolve themselves. In fact, I swear they just attract other problems: my computer, for example, to which I would write love poems and elegies if it weren't inanimate because of its important position in my life, has now decided it's not going to load Windows without me first starting it in Safe Mode and then restarting from there. Maybe it was one of those nefarious ants who nibble away at a file. In any event, Dell's already frustrating customer service is unlikely to be very helpful or easily accessible from the African continent.
And so it is that the period of my having been exuberantly joyful about being in Egypt (convincing myself I wanted to stay a second year and get my Master's) faded and was followed by my "Dear God, please send some more of those plagues of old on the Egyptians again" which in turn has been replaced by some bizarre synthesis of the two. The ups and downs are all within single days now. Whatever happens, I've no doubt that these challenges will cause me to be more self-sufficient!
Terribly sorry to those who were looking for a less self-indulgent entry. Hopefully I'll do something marvelously touristy (not likely with all this reading) or have some striking cultural insight or fun factoid the next time I write.

Egyptian opinions of the US, 9/11, and more
Journalists to be interrogated by the Egyptian government for violating publishing ban

1 comment:

Sasha said...

hey! thanks for your comment yesterday.

between your academic interests and your affection for the brothers karamazov, it seems that we have quite a bit in common... not to mention a few mutual friends.

i'm sure we'll run into eachother some time. cairo is too bloody small.

best,

sasha
www.oumpushkina.com