Friday, November 7, 2008

Maddening Mosquitoes and Other Frustrations

The acuteness of the pervasive and ever-present sense of struggle that is living in Egypt is returning, exacerbated by unforgiving mosquitoes who are smaller and faster than those in Minnesota. Just when I catch one in my sights, their tiny forms silhouetted against the dingy, uncleanable wall whose shade of paint is what only the sunniest of optimists could call cream, they sink down, blending in with the non-descript "neutral" tones of the haggardly area rug or the olivey fabric of our strange-smelling furniture. Sometimes, while typing, I suddenly notice a little hematophage feasting on my arm or foot or, as just now, I hear one buzzing past my ear. While I can take swipes at them while awake, the numerous red welts on my feets, legs, arms, and even face are evidence that they manage to let themselves into my bedroom (one of the windows in which, I have just discovered, cannot be properly shut and has a rather unconvincing mesh screen).
Like mosquitoes, the small aggravations that come with living in Egypt are most unnerving they're numerous, difficult to deal with, seemingly endlessly elusive, and pop up one right after another, just when you think you've vanquished them. I won't go through and complain about the particular problems with my apartment beyond the pesky flesh-nibbling one I've described and to say that after the fiasco with my landlord and my neighbors, I feel compelled to find other lodgings (Ahmed called Catherine all kinds of foul names I won't repeat her, told her he had the upper hand because he was a doctor and an Egyptian, reminded her that his "uncle" who lives upstairs works for the Ministry of the Interior, etc.) Beyond this, I keep wavering on whether or not to stick with the program I'm in and turn it into a Master's. I'll go for weeks at a time, convinced of the soundness of my plans, and then get discouraged and think I'm perhaps not on the right path. At school, my papers are seeming daunting and I should really meet with my professors to try and understand better what's expected (though I've been getting good grades thus far). Taxis, the service (or lack thereof) at restaurants and grocery stores, the stares, the things shouted, and the general lack of logic as I'm accustomed to it have again become wearing. Add to the stress emanating from my living conditions, school, and my interactions with Egypt an email reply I received from my scholarship coordinator at Rotary HQ in response to my first report in which I explained the difficulties that have prevented me (along with the three other scholars in Cairo) giving speeches yet, and I've just about had it. The email said that the scholarship coordinator would not accept my report without the "Required Presentations Form" with the "correct number of presentations listed and the appropriate signatures listed." Lest I offend, I am going to refrain for the time being from making further remarks about this, but will report on how it all ends up resolved.
Last evening, I met up with my friend Sheila who, in the nearly half-decade since I'd last seen her, had married an Egyptian investment banker and had traveled to the Middle East a dozen times, seems to be doing really well. We had dinner with the requisite reprehensibly rude service at Sangria. Some of the food was pretty good which, combined with the fun of catching up with an old friend, sort of made up for the rest of it. A taxi driver who drove like a maniac was my means of returning home and became disgruntled when I didn't give him the exorbitantly high fare he demanded.
This evening, I had Thai with classmates who were also quite good company. The service was spotty, as is obviously the theme here and so it was when I went to Metro Market afterward to try and get groceries. They were out of the bottled water I'd gone there to buy and I won't even delve into the antics of the cashiers in the check-out lanes. Thankfully, the taxi-ride home tonight was calmer and more peaceably concluded than the last. I mailed some postcards and greeting cards to friends and family, bought some bottles of water, and came back to seek solace in aish baladi and halawa only to receive the aforementioned email.
I'm reading through the news now and it seems some minor violence erupted downtown today, see the first article below. I heard some commotion earlier, but suspect it was just your run-of-the-mill brawl and not connected, though you never know. I'm not sure how close Ghad headquarters are to my part of Downtown.

Clashes erupts at Egyptian opposition party headquarters
Osama bin Laden's son, currently living in Egypt, was refused asylum in Spain
Optimism in Egypt in wake of Obama win

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