Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Busy, Breezy Day

My day started at 10:30 with me dashing around to get ready for a Center for Migration and Refugee Studies meeting at the Greek Campus. Once I'd showered and dressed, eaten my habitual muesli and yogurt, and grabbed my iPod, I headed to join my fellow CMRS colleagues who are on the Master's track (which I, of course, am still debating switching to). Ray and Philippe were the faculty there and filled us in on thesis requirements and expectations. Aside from actually choosing the topic, completing a Master's thesis seems a lot less intimidating (but no less challenging) than I had feared when imagining what life as a graduate student would be like. I also had the chance to talk to Ray a bit after the meeting about some of my hesitations and questions about the program, whether to remain and pursue a Master's, and how to come up with a sound thesis topic eventually. I'm hoping to explore the possibility of coming at an issue in migration from an international relations perspective, which might be a bit more work, but certainly fulfilling, I suspect. My classmate Phil and I also talked politics with Ray and ended up being invited to watch the election results at his house, which sounds like a lot of fun.
A small detachment of those attending the meeting, congregated outside in the courtyard in the wonderful weather who's only drawback is that the autumn breeze blows up all sorts of unpleasant things into one's eyes. There, we reviewed a number of possible cases needing to be analyzed for our refugee law midterm which we'll be discussing in class tomorrow. Most consisted of circumstances of people seeking asylum or resettlement and whether they qualified those people for either or not.
From this yet smaller group, Erin, Brandy, and I walked and chatted in Bab al-Luq on the way to my apartment where I grabbed the carrot cake Amanda and I purchased in Ma'adi yesterday, and ultimately Erin and I headed for Zamalek, while Brandy headed to Al-Azhar Park with the Middle East Studies folk.
In Zamalek, I got coffee with a new friend who's a freelance journalist here in Cairo. He's been living in Egypt for three years--I admire his mettle. He was following up on the Moqattam cliffs disaster that I'd mentioned a while back--the rockslides that crushed parts of poor neighborhoods on the outskirts of the city. He also generously brought me back Tom's of Maine toothpaste from a recent trip to America. Ok, so I'm a toothpaste snob.
I met Amanda and Erin for dinner and, though we were suppose to have Ethiopian, we ended up getting Thai. In the short, but respectable, time I have under my belt here, I've begun to develop the ability to expect nothing to go as planned. I don't expect everything to fail, but rather if something I'm hoping for doesn't work out, that something different, but still good will spring up in its place. It's a much healthier and more flexible outlook than moping around blaming Egypt for being chaotic, inefficient, and illogical (though it is all of those things in infinite measure). After dinner, we went back to Erin's to enjoy carrot cake and wine and were joined by Brandy. Not being sated by the dessert and tempted by the presence of a cake shop that delivers even late at night at no charge, we ordered a couple of slices of cheese cake which were actually pretty good attempts. Whether this was calorically wise, I don't think we care to think about. Erin shared stories and pictures of Africa with us and we discussed our musical tastes and some of the things we liked about Cairo. I only just returned from my very full day after midnight, about a half hour ago.
Monday I officially begin teaching English in Ain Shams. I feel like I've been trying to actually volunteer as an English teacher for eons to no avail. We'll just have to wait and see if it works out this time. I'll be sharing my native tongue with Sudanese gang members in the bright pink room I helped scrubbed down last week.

Oh, and I forgot to mention yesterday that in Ma'adi, a beared, traditionally dressed and broadly grinning man tried to give me (or perhaps sell me) a live pigeon in the street yesterday. He had no other pigeons or any cages around him, just a single pigeon. "Hammam?! (Pigeon?!)" No thanks, thought I, after recalling all of the new facts about avian flu I'd just learned at the seminar on Wednesay. Though I won't say the idea of briefly owning a pigeon didn't appeal to me (it surely would've gotten away since I neglected to bring along a cage...silly me).

The US pledges more money to fight bird flu at Egypt talks
Egyptian author pens fictional Chicago about Egyptian expats at the University of Illinois
Bloggers in Egypt arrested while an Egyptian blogger is honored in America

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