Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Lowered Ears and French Favors

So I thought ordering in from upscale restaurants was quite something, but this evening, I ordered in a haircut. This wasn't a product of the Egyptian way of doing things (in which doctors still regularly make house calls and where you can order drugs sent to your door that aren't even available over the counter in the States), but rather the work of an acquaintance originally from Wisconsin. Now, those of you who know me well know that I'm finicky about my hair and rarely every pleased. I can only hope that the implicit trust I placed in my new friend is justified. My first few glances in the mirror revealed that nothing horrific had happened, but we'll see what I think tomorrow. As it is, I was rather impressed by the degree of professionalism.
Prior to my haircut, I'd been in Ain Shams where I spent the better part of two hours teaching about when to use "going to" and "will". My gosh, I have new-found respect for English teachers (including my mom). Tito, the one who's catching on the fastest, coaxed me into arriving early before class next Monday to give him a basic run-down on French. We'll see how that goes, ha! Teach French to an Arabic-speaking Sudanese guy in English in Egypt seems as though it could be an uphill battle. Later in the evening, during my haircut, I was also asked for a bit of French-tutoring.
The balmy weather (still in the 70s) and the teaching session lifted my otherwise stormy spirits. I'd been trapped in my apartment all day trying to assemble an annotated bibliography for one of my papers and got a case of cabin fever after about six hours. On my way to the metro, I wore the most impassive face I could muster, shoved in my earphones, and tried to ignore the world. Arriving at Tahrir Square, I passed an American couple trying to pleasantly turned down an obnoxiously persisent Egyptian man trying to get them to visit "his shop". As much as we talk about racism directly against Arabs, racism runs rampant here too. Egyptians on the whole are racist against black people, but also against whites. There's this view that we're these decadant infidels with gobs of money that can afford to be ripped off and therefore should be. I got into an argument with an unscrupulous cabdriver one night who asked me for twice the price an Egyptian would pay to go to my destination. I told him it was outrageously high and he didn't deny the price was high. Instead he goes, "but is it a problem for you?" suggesting that I could afford his inflated fare. Naturally, I found a more reasonable cab driver. Anyway, I left the American couple to fend for themselves after shooting them some sympathetic glances giving them an out to approach me if they wanted to. I next passed by a man getting his shoes shined in the street and contemplated how degrading shoe-shining is, or at least appears to be. I don't mean in places like George's shoeshine parlor in downtown Peoria, but rather where someone who is clearly impoverished is forced to bend over someone else's feet for a period of time attending to the shininess of their footwear. It is often the case that the shoe shinee here, be he a cop or a businessman, perches proudly and takes up as much space on the sidewalk as he can while this process takes place. Perhaps I'm not explaining it well, the site just struck me as off-putting and has the last several times I've beheld it.
On the way back from the metro, I went to get bread from a corner market only to find that, instead of whole wheat "Rich Bake" there was, in fact, a cat on the shelf. This was my second unexpected animal encounter of the evening, the first being in Ain Shams when walking to teach. As I passed an internet-café, an electronics shop, and a dry goods store of sorts, I suddenly found myself surrounded by goats. They were just sort of their, half-corralled, half-freely wandering among the cars and trucks. I don't ask questions anymore. Especially not questions like those inspired by the butcher shops in Ain Shams, such as, "Huh, that's an interesting tail on that carcass, I wonder what kind of animal that used to be?"

Facebook activism in Egypt (with a video worth watching)
Egyptian president Mubarak visits Sudan
Egyptian woman killed by bulldozer while protesting the demolition of a home in Qena

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