Monday, October 5, 2009

Yesterday, after poring over Australian and Canadian court decisions while being feasted upon by tiny, silent mosquitoes, I decided that escaping to the outside world might be a good idea. The previous day, I hadn't even left the apartment. I did however, have a delightful visit with the very polite man downstairs who's somehow connected to my landlord. Mohamed (my landlord), sent him to check on our toilet whose tank, over time, had decided to stop refilling. Using my lamentably sparse Arabic vocabulary, I was able to prevent our guest using a dinner fork to fix the problem and to kindly ask another man brought in later to quit smoking in our hallway. At the end of that day, we had a fixed toilet, muddy floors, and the lingering smell of cheap tobacco to give our humble abode that homey touch.
Anyway, my flatmate Phil and I went on a field trip to escape our theses and the confines of the apartment. We strolled effortlessly through traffic and over uneven pavement around piles of trash, old hats at Egyptian Frogger, ultimately arriving at the unadvisably-pink Bostan mall. Here all sorts of electronics both licit and illicit (a classmate's stolen laptop resurfaced here last semester) are sold. But that's not all, you can even find the grandiosely-named "Café de Paris" and a couple of clothing and shoe stores thrown in for good measure. From every direction, music blares, each habibi-filled ballad competing with the others while the omnipresent fluorescent light transforms night into a desert summer day. We were there to pick Phil up an external hard drive and to find a power strip for the kitchen as the previous one had given up the ghost. As Phil inquired about the specifics of the hard drive, I idly observed the comings and goings of a storefront that had been covered over with crazily studded sheets of multi-colored metal. Another layer beyond the narrow opening prevented you seeing into the mysterious establishment. Is the Bostan mall cool enough to have a club? Before I was able to get the courage up to find out, we were off to the pastry shop near the apartment where Phil indulged his love of baqlawa. As the man who usually tends the store wasn't there, we made a new friend who asked the usual question of where we were from. "Amreeka," I answered. He told me my cheeks were too rosy for an American and that that, combined with my mechanical way of walking which he took delight in imitating betrayed to him that I am undoubtedly either a Russian or a Czech.
That was the extent of our fun for the day. We returned with the electronics and pastries to our mosquito-breeding ground (which some ants have recently provided with a bit of diversity). We ordered food from a Turkish restaurant, wistfully recalling the old days in Turkey. Before long, I smelt something burning. Since I often smell peculiar scents wafting in from outdoors, I didn't bother to check but we later found out that our new power strip had fried. Streaks of black and melted plastic had deformed the white cord. I supposed we should've realized that plugging two major appliances into a power cord rated only up to 250V wasn't the wisest choice. Ma3lesh. Another day on Tahrir Street.
After working on my thesis today, I'm meeting a new friend, Tsega (yet another Coloradan) for Yemeni food. With Phil, Marise, and Erin, over Lebanese the other night, we had discussions about cultural differences among the US, the Arab world, and East Africa, including how sharing is viewed and what constitutes politeness were really a lot of fun. We debated how many times if at all you should politely decline something offered to you that you really want and other such questions. An Ethiopian-American, Tsega, grew up negotiating two cultures, as Marise did.
Alright, I'm back to nursing my mosquito bites and reading refugee cases. I leave you with the news:

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