Friday, October 17, 2008

Up, Down, and Busy

As I ride the roller coaster of adaptation to life changes (moving halfway across the world, trying to be an "adult", making important decisions) and cultural changes (the markedly different concept of time, differing values placed on verbal commitments, less personal space) I try to keep perspective, but it's a tall order. Four of my close friends back at home with whom I'm in frequent electronic contact and who also went the grad school route (is it just me, or is that what all undergrads are doing these days?) have all expressed frustration and uncertainty about this life decision and the transition into our post-college years. A couple have contemplated dropping out and the others aren't sure they've chosen the right concentration. It's not bragging if I'm talking about my friends, so let me just say that these four in specific are some of the brightest people I know with the most promising futures–it's certainly not an issue of them not being able to hack it. Although those of you who have already safely navigated the uncertain waters of your 20s may view this rite of passage with a bit of wistful nostalgia, there are many indications the task is getting ever harder, especially with the direction the economy is headed. The term "quarter-life crisis" has gained currency to describe the psychological, economic, and social upheaval that accompanies trying to sort out just who we are and how to go about shaping our lives. That said, rising to the challenge is not impossible and can, with proper perspective be successful and exhilarating (or so I hear). Still attempting all that and moving to the Middle East knowing hardly a soul often leaves me feeling like I've bitten off more than I can chew. You know, Egyptians have the "luxury" of living with (and off of) their parents until they're ready to get married and have a steady job. Maybe they're onto something, but I rather relish my independence, I think.
The best ways I've found to cope include spending more time with people. A lot of the friends I've made here are older and have had more life experiences than I, which is really helpful. What's more, when I end up in a crowd of students and expats in Cairo, I find kindred spirits who love to nerd out over all things international or politics or travel. Another good approach is attempting to engage Egypt. Though it can seem somewhat like exposure therapy, I like wandering parts of Cairo that I hadn't previously explored and practicing my feeble Arabic with shopkeepers or taxi-drivers or whomever looks friendly and isn't yelling or honking at me.
Today, after class, I went to Café Horraya with some of my classmates and following that to the koshary place two doors down which, I finally discovered, is called Zaaim. It's funny that I've been frequently the place for two months and only now know it's name. It was even written in Arabic on the back wall the whole time. Anway, my two classmates who had exchanged war stories about their time in sub-Saharan Africa at the Lebanese restaurant shared more about their experiences, which was really cool. Brandy, the fourth member of our koshary-crew, and I bonded over our love of photography. I ordered the other three dessert in Arabic using a word I'd overheard a man use the other day. He was rewarded with rice pudding for his efforts, so I thought I'd give it a try. It worked, and the dessert was pretty tasty.
Schoolwork is becoming a bit more labor-intensive as the papers I'd mentioned loom nearer and a take-home mid-term in my law class is on the horizon just after a book review in Intro to Mig. and Ref. Studies. I'm also trying to organize applications whose deadlines are coming up--trying to get accepted into a summer Arabic program. On top of this, I'll be starting with the Youth Violence Prevention Initiative on Saturday. Should be fun and challenging!

of Egypt:
Egypt calls for "nuclear-weapon-free-zone" in Middle East
A writers' colony in an eco-village outside Cairo, who knew?
Egyptian women find their voice on the radio

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