Thursday, October 9, 2008

A Hubbub and al-Horreya

I didn't get around to writing this entry yesterday because not long after I got home and wished my little brother a happy birthday on Skype at about 1:30 AM my time, I was feeling exhausted and went to bed. Did I fall asleep right away? Of course not. Even without the aid of the rooster, I'm consistently unable to drift off until after 4! Not a good habit. I'm not keen on the idea of dabbling in Egyptian-made pharmaceuticals, though. Anyway, realizing after more than an hour that I wasn't going to crash anytime soon, I listened a recent episode of This American Life that explains the current economic crisis in a straightforward and convincing way. I'd definitely suggest checking it out if, like me, you were a bit fuzzy about all of the details of what led us to what some are suggesting is the next Great Depression.
Earlier yesterday, I finished my reflection paper on the refugee régime and later took it over to my TA to read. Apart from that, I got to know my neighborhood a little better, surprised that I'd missed small streets quite near to where I've been laying my head for a month and a half. One was lined with stores selling glasses, another had various parts of a cow hanging from meat hooks, and all were full of vibrant colors and curious Egyptians. I ended my little walk at a nearby market that sells basic groceries and other staples. I had a jovial conversation about having a couple of boxes of water delivered that would indeed have been a success if the water had ended up at my apartment. Despite giving them my address and apartment number and receiving assurances and handshakes, I am still without H2O.
On the way back from my TA's apartment, I got some koshary to go and returned to wait for the landlord and the "carpenter" who burst into the apartment not a quarter of an hour later like some kind of Laurel and Hardy skit gone terribly wrong. They were yelling at one another the whole time and making a terrible mess of the two doors that have been waiting to be fixed for nearly a month. I confronted the landlord about the fact that our landline was cut off a few days ago (thus preventing me and my neighbors accross the hall ordering groceries since you cannot call the store from a cell phone) and he mumbled something about it being reconnected today (it's not). I might point out that this is a breech of contract, though I didn't bother to remind him of that just yet. Anyway, the carpenter partially fixed the bathroom door which now almost closes and doesn't sound like a bolt of thunder when being opened or shut. Whether or not this slight repair was worth the bits of paint and wood-shavings that became interwoven with the dusty, dirty rug in the hallway, I have yet to decide. After the carpenter and landlord left for my neighbors' apartment without cleaning up the mess, I calmly joined them there and inquired as to when he expected it to be clean up. The carpenter, in turn, followed me back, asked for a drink of water (we of course had none) and rambled on in Arabic about bokra (tomorrow). He then wormed his way out of my delightful abode and I again followed him to the neighbors' apartment where I again asked Ahmed when the mess was going to be clean. Ahmed began yelling at the carpenter to take the vacuum from my neighbors' apartment and use it in mine. Immediately, of course, my neighbors reminded him that the vacuum has not worked since their arrival (and indeed didn't work when we lived over there either). Ignoring the warning, Ahmed and friends (now up to three with a "plumber") began to bring the vacuum out and, knocking it over, spilled dust all over their hallway. After this fiasco, Ahmed and the carpenter returned to our apartment. While forcing the carpenter to wet the detached bottom of a mop and wipe up the bathroom floor, Ahmed lifted up the rug and shook it, sending God know's how many decades of Cairo dust into the air (and everyone's lungs). I yelled angrily and told him this is why a furnished apartment with rugs should have a vacuum cleaner that works to which he replied, "We'll see about that." Promising, really. This all paled in comparison to the subsequent altercation that Ahmed had with the girls, one of whom he threatened to evict. There was much argument over the contract and Ahmed ripping people off and things not being fixed. It became so loud that I heard it across the hall. So far no one's evicted, we still don't have phone service, and there's not a vacuum in sight.
Anyway, following this hubbub, I went to meet friends at Café al-Horreya in Falaki Square near where I live. It's something of a landmark: a loud, smoky, fluorescently lit café that's glory days were long ago, perhaps when the British were around. Old men play chess on one side and a healthy mix of Egyptians and expats congregate on the other, availing themselves of cheap beer or, in my case, a Fayrouz–Egypt's endearingly mediocre carbonated non-alcoholic malt beverage with fruit flavors and no chemicals or concentrates. The café's name means "freedom," perhaps a bit optimistic in such a country as this, but the conversations there often wane political from what I hear. Last night, at least, it was so as we discussed Iraq and the upcoming presidential elections in the States as well as the role of religion there. I walked home after a few hours, reaking unpleasantly of smoke. I do wish Egypt would go the way of America and Europe and spare me having to inhale other people's secondhand smoke.
Well, I have class in about an hour and a half and have a few things to get done beforehand so I'll close here with some news:

Measures to deal with Cairo's "Black Cloud"
Rioting after pregnant woman died from injuries inflicted by police south of Cairo
Cairo becomes one of top ten emerging global outsourcing cities
Increasing public dissatisfaction in Egypt

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