About My Blog

I Spent six weeks in Egypt before spending a year in Germany. This blog covers the best summer of my life. If you are looking for my posts while I was in Germany ask me, and I'll be happy to share them but I have been asked not to share them publicly. Feel free to visit my brothers blog of his year in Germany or my new blog

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Definitely progress!

I love the place where we are staying. Each day new groups arrive and
the school becomes more and more international. The school, college
de la salle, is a highschool where they teach in Arabic and French and
students can do the bac francais if they want. I spoke with the
headmaster and a few of the other guests in French and I really feel
confident with my French in settings like this where it is most likely
the second best language for me to use after Arabic which I am much
much much less comprehendable in. The conversations are simple but
entertaining. Other than the language the sheer size of the campus is
amazing, it reminds me alot of the school where I spent half a year in
Germany. The students are currently out for the summer but the
teachers and staff still occasionally wander around. Because nobody
walks around patrolling the grounds we have near infinite freedom to
explore the grounds. We have found several decks and verandas as well
as a few rooftop perches from which there is a beautifull but smoggy
view. They are great for conversations that run into the early hours
of the morning which has become almost a nightly activity for me. The
one downer is the curfew. The curfew is not when we have to be in bed,
only inside the gates of the school but it's a downer to come back
from a club, late walk, or sooq to an angry Rayzaa, the doorman who
wakes up droopy eyed and yelling while pointing at his watch. He calms
down as soon as you flash a twenty pound bill but it's still too bad
that his rules do not coincide with the "rules" of Cairo. It's like
asking New York city to sleep, it just won't happen. The money is
called bakhshiish which means tip or bribe apparently this makes me
feel terrible but also very Egyptian.

The other night we got back before curfew and he was not mad which was
a good thing because we already paid bakhshiish to a ghetto tourguide.
It was a very Cairo thing to do and was completely worth it but
totally a scam. The man introduced himself and walked with us making
conversation with nolan who was with Kayla, Sara, Jamie, and myself.
It was only a conversation between the two of them until he yelled to
us all "turn here!" we should have kept walking but Nolan convinced us
to go. We ended up walking for an hour in the back streets of old
Cairo which was beautiful but it became so touristy as he would stop
and talk about different structures. It was too rehearsed to be a
random friendly Egyptian. The tour was great and Nolan got away with
paying fifteen pounds but looking back it seems like everyone in the
backstreet must have been laughing at us thinking "another group of
dumb tourists" which is totally embarassing We were never in danger
and never thought that there was anything dangerous because we were
all in a group and there is no such thing as violent crime in Egypt.
Which sounds too good to be true but is more or less accurate.

After the crazy tour we went to another sooq which was much more
touristy but also much more pushy. On the way back we hailed a cab and
said "daher" which is the neighborhood where we stay the driver said
okay but proceeded to take us to tahrir and then asked where we wanted
to go in tahrir Jamie, a tiny little girl but also the most fluent in
Arabic began yelling at the driver and explainig to him that we said
"daher" and not tahrir the driver stopped in the middle of an
intersection as cars zoomed passed us and we were all afraid he would
make us get out in the middle of the street. Luckily he didn't and
took us to daher after some more praise to Allah. We paid him a little
extra because of the confusion which we felt bad about but we agreed
it was better to avoid conflict by paying extra than to figt over a
pond or two.

I also had my first trip to the Mogamma which is where Egyptians go
for everything from visas to passports to taxes to tickets to child
services. It is a dirty, old, loud, smelly building which reminds me
constantly of an overflowing hospital except patients are replaced
with regular people and doctors are replaced with policemen. I went
with Kayla and it was our first experience with a cab on our own. She
speaks more Arabic than I so she did the talking and I was proud of
how well she handelled everything. We ate at what is now our favorite
restaurant and had kooshry (again). The kooshry is amazing and
amazingly cheap as well. In the afternoon we had class and then I met
up with my sister. Nolan and Josh tagged along to see zamalek which is
one of the nicest neighborhoods in Cairo. It is filled with embassies
and foreigners which was too bad but also the main reason that the
neighborhood was so beautiful. I was happy that I saw alex but I was
mire happy that I had given the cab driver proper comprehensible
directions in Arabic on what was the 7 day anniverary of our first
full day in Egypt. Alex met us and as we stepped out of he cab she
asked how much we paid and when we said 12 pounds she yelled at the
driver and called him a thief which to us was unnecessary but she said
it wasn't him or us, just the principle that they think they can rip
off young tourists. We saw her apartment which was amazing and has a
great view and then went to mee Lev for dinner which was shortlived by
fun. Now I know where Alex lives and studies which is a good thing for
future reference in Cairo.

And I feel like I can brag a bit more here and say that I got a 27/50
on my first Arabic test in georges class and he said that he was very
happy for any first year Arabic student who got between 12-18. I'm
glad I surpassed expectations by almost ten points and got more than
fifty percent! The objective of the test was to read the
transliteration of a qur'anic verse and write it in the Arabic
alphabet with proper connection of letters.

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