Thursday, November 13, 2008

Bevet Breizh!

You linguists out there will have caught that my title is in Breton, not Arabic. It means "Long live Brittany!" more or less. Brittany is the region of France where I spent my junior year of college and also the birthplace of crêpes and their savory counterparts, galettes. Why on earth am I talking about this when I'm residing in Cairo? Because today, I went to lunch with my Egyptian friend, Reham, and fellow American, Rebecca at the French Cultural Center. Though my cheese and mushroom galette with salade verte more closely resemble a cheese quesadilla, the French-speaking staff and a Breton flag lifted my spirits. Even better, while my (dessert) crêpe itself was lackluster, it was filled with crême de marrons, or chesnut spread in English. This was the halawa of my France days--I ate it allll the time with yogurt, on bread, or by itself. I plan to stock up during my extended layover in Paris on my way back to Cairo in January.
Prior to my lunch outing at 2, I had been up for hours already, having been awoken by the maddening doorbell-ringing antics of yet another Egyptian wanting money. The trash man, the man who "cleans the floor," and the landlord are all bereft of any concept of doorbell propriety, pushing the button incessantly thinking it will somehow hasten us to the door. To cope, I only answer the door when some knocks (inevitable my American or French neighbors) or when someone rings once (or twice if I'm feeling tolerant). More than that and they're out of luck. Anyway, the morning sunshine and Ross's company were the upsides to the decision I made to get up and going, capitalizing on my early-rising misfortune as an opportunity to reset my body clock. Running on four or so hours of sleep, I felt eerily optimistic and pleasant and productive. I even scrubbed down the kitchen sink. God knows why. It was in this mood that I polished up my outline for class today and then set off on the twenty-minute walk to Mounira, where the French Cultural Center is located. I lugged along my big camera and snapped photos along the way and, as I neared my destination, was suddenly swarmed by school children. I spoke to them in broken Arabic and they shared their few English words with me: "rabbit, carrot, nose, donkey" and other very useful vocabulary items. It occurred to me after a few minutes resting against a wall by the Center that next to it was a girls school. Headscarf-wrapped heads popped out of screenless windows on the top floor and giggles erupted. If you're tempted to envisage young Egyptian ladies as somehow demure and reserved, you're quite off the mark. I was the object of blown kisses accompany by kissy noises, dramatic princess waves, and even notes dropped from the window. The notes, sadly, were all blown off course by the wind. One girl yelled "Oh my God" rhyming God with flood, likely the only English phrase she could think of to get my attention. After this, another roar of giggles. Reham and Rebecca rescued me after about a quarter of an hour at which point we enjoyed our quasi-French food and had really good discussions about Islam and Christianity, theology, the Qur'an, gender roles, and more. I'm thankful that Reham's excellent English gives me a view on Egypt and the Islamic world that my obscenely rudimentary Arabic cannot afford me.
I had a hard time staying awake in class because of my fatigue, but was glad to be able to turn in my outline. I'll have feedback next week and then be able to get started on my paper. Afterward, I declined some invitations to go out, grabbed koshary, and headed here, to the apartment, to send some pictures along for the Rotary newsletter. After some readings for an irregularly scheduled class I have on Saturday morning (the one I'm presenting in), I hope to hit the sheets early.

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