Saturday, January 31, 2009

Mr Clean

Admittedly, my standards for what's "clean" in Cairo differ from those I have back home, but today I decided to "clean" my apartment, at least in part. Cleaning the bathroom with my array of sponges, paper towels, and rags and some aerosol disenfectant was like using tooth whitener–things were at least five shades whiter when I was done. I discovered that the window was, in fact, translucent. As a matter of pride, I cleaned our front door which had been theretofore caked with dust so thick you could probably slice it and remove it in segments. I feel like such a responsible adult with my cleaning supplies. If any of you know how I keep my bedrooms, you'll be thoroughly impressed at my taking the initiative.
Prior to this cleaning binge, Ross and I took Tyler (the Bradley student) to get street food and then juice. I had sobia mixed with doum juice. Doum is the fruit of the doum palm or "gingerbread tree". It sounds tastier than it really was, but the sobia redeemed it.
Other than that, I've been reading for class. If you're interested in migration law, click here to read what I'm reading. I'm excited for the course because, if I recall correctly from the preview the professor gave last semester, we have to synthesize our own migration law as a group project. Should be interesting if nothing else.

Egypt claims it will begin monitoring Gaza tunnels
Aid trucks stuck on Egyptian side of border with Palestine
Rafah's economy depends on Gaza tunnel traffic

Racist Cabbies & Peoria Pals

Today was another beautiful day in Cairo (from a meteorological point of view, anyway). I did more laundry, ate more koshary, and end up going to CityStars, the obscenely large mall in the suburbs of Cairo with my friends Erin and Brandy. Because I am a responsible adult, I bought a sensible black shirt at H&M that was on sale and then a host of cleaning supplies and kitchenware at Spinney's. No more college-esque bachelor pad living for me; I own a colander now, and sponges! Anyway, on the way to said mall, our trio encountered a taxi-driver who explicitly told us that America was only good for money--I presume he meant making it. We assured him that with this financial crisis the only redeeming quality he found in our homeland might not even hold. He went on to share his incredibly racist views with us at which point I politely reminded him that our new president had African roots. This of course threw him off. Egyptians don't feel much camaraderie with the rest of their continental brethren, so he recovered quickly and came back with some ignorant retort. Ma3lesh, we said as many polite but firm things as could be said and then went on our way. The cabdriver on the way back drove like a maniac, scaring the girls. I was more miffed about the price he charged us. In the end, though, I was glad to have this mini-reunion/consumerist adventure with two of my favorite people in Cairo.
Back at my apartment, I chatted with my flatmate and made dinner and in the process received a call from an undergraduate from my alma mater, Bradley University. We'd planned to get koshary earlier, but his class ran later than I'd expected so I invited him to come up and hang out, which he did. It was fun having someone else who knew Peoria and Bradley and many of my friends and acquaintances.
Tomorrow, insha'allah, shall be a day of cleaning and unpacking and maybe a bit of reading for my classes that start next week.
Oh! And my honeymoon with a mosquito-free apartment ended abruptly this evening when some stealthy little bugger got me right between the eyebrows, on the forehead, and on my cheekbone. Thanks, mosquitokind, for reminding me about our bitter feud. I'll have you in the end.

Middle East hopeful about Obama
Darfur activists arrested in Cairo
Egypt hosting Gaza reconstruction forum

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Back in Action

After spending a perfect winter vacation in the chilly Midwest and not-much-warmer France and Belgium, I am soaking up the beautiful upper 60s weather here in Cairo. My Rotary host counselor, Omaima, sent someone to pick me up at the airport when my flight got in early this morning and let me tell you, it was so convenient. He helped cut through the crowds, customs, and the people asking if I needed a taxi. He even had "shortcuts" to avoid driving through areas where there was radar that made cars slow down and queue up. Savvy, that one.
Anyway, this arrival was completely unlikely any before it. I'm sure a part of it was that I'm not jet-lagged having just come from three weeks in Europe, only an hour behind Cairo time, but beyond that, I had the strange sensation of feeling comfortable riding through the streets of Cairo, seeing familiar neighborhoods. Today, Ross and I went out into the perfect weather to get koshary. I wore sandals! Heaven, really. Walking about, I was so zen. Absolutely nothing bothered me which, having read some of my acerbic entries about life in Cairo, my readers may be hard-pressed to believe. I felt cheery and patient--who knew that was possible? After koshary, we made a bee-line for the juice shop where I had some delicious sobia (which I followed up with a chocolate macaroon I brought from Ladurée in Paris). Life is perfect. I'm sure my honeymoon take two won't be longlasting what with classes and everything starting up, but I'm certainly liking it now!
Speaking of classes, I'll be taking Comparative Migration Law, Psychosocial Issues in Refugee Studies, and Research Methods. Gradewise, I did all right last semester, getting As in my law and Middle East migration classes and a B+ in the intro class (I certainly wasn't happy, but nor were a broad swath of other students who were also sleighted by the professor who, thankfully, I won't have to take again).
Though I heard about the Gaza protests, I've seen nothing even suggesting there's a nearby conflict. I guess things are calm for now.
During this new semester, I hope to be more proactive about finding more volunteering opportunities and bettering my Arabic. As for my blog, realizing the breadth of people that read it, I am aiming to make it a little more informative and "professional", but you'll probably still here me indulging in descriptions of my culinary adventures.

Israel continues to bomb border tunnels
Obama's Middle East envoy in Egypt
Promising reforms to Egyptian organ donation policies

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Update from France

For those who are interested in how things are progressing in Cairo, I received the following message from the warden at the American Embassy in Cairo:

Local media are reporting that there have been calls
for demonstrations in front of the Embassy at 5 Tawfik Diab Street, Garden City, Cairo, on Jan 15 and for a general strike on Jan 18. If these actions do take place they may lead to some road closures and traffic disruption in the general vicinity of the US Embassy. The police preparations might cause similar traffic disruptions. As always, we strongly urge American citizens to avoid areas where you see heavy police presence or crowds assembling and to exercise caution if within the vicinity of any large public gatherings. As a reminder, even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence.

Thankfully, I'll still be in Europe on the 15th and 18th, returning to Egypt the 28th.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Attacks on Gaza stirring things up close to 'home'

I'm still in the States and am not going to start writing full entries until I'm in Cairo yet, but this article talks about how the square down the street from my apartment was under "police siege" and how there was a protest at the campus where my department has its offices. Should be interesting to head back there in three weeks.