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

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

much ado about nothing

There are events in each persons life which make them feel more mature. In the past two years the most significant of those events have been my trips to South Korea and Egypt. I've been thinking about this a lot because almost exactly a year ago today I left for South Korea. I had traveled without my family before but only in a controlled environment where at least I knew the language or some people I could go to in an emergency. Yesterday I talked to a friend of mine from the trip to South Korea and we talked about how we had changed. She thought I looked different and acted different and I realized almost immediately how different she acted from a year ago as well.

A year does a lot to change a person and I feel that in the past year I have grown and matured immensely. The problem is that looking back to South Korea, I feel that I was a little kid. I don't know why I feel this way because I had traveled more than most of the other students on the trip and I was one of the older students but compared to now, I was very young and immature. This feeling may be compounded by my brothers trip to South Korea this summer as well. When I think of him going there I think about how he will act and automatically think that that is how i acted as well. My brothers aren't young or extremely immature in my eyes, how can they be when they tower over me like they do? But I still know that I have more experiences under my belt than either of them, but thats also beginning to change. Jonah just came back from two weeks in Italy, is making friends faster than I did when I was there, and is living with a family he has known for only a few months. I can't say that I did that as a 15 year old. Tobias is going to South Korea at an age two years younger than I was when I went. The things he will see are probably the same things that I saw and will have the same effect on him only two years sooner.

Before my trip to Egypt, the trip to South Korea was the single greatest time when I came back home and realized how much I had grown and matured. I hope Tobias will have the same realization. People always tell me to travel while I can because its harder to do when you grow up, well I have one more year before college which seems like the beginning of the end of my traveling experiences. I know that I will study abroad in college but in all likelihood it will be someplace I have already been. My last real chance to travel and mature comes in a little over a month when I go to Germany for the year. I'm going to be working as an Au Pair from mid September to sometime in the spring when I hope to travel around Europe and then head back to America and prepare for college.

Taking a year off crossed my mind a lot throughout high school, my sister had done it and I knew other people who were doing it. When I got to my senior year I pretty much decided that I was ready for college and that I couldn't take a year in between. After powering through IB tests, being rejected by my top schools, talking to college students, family, and teachers, taking a year off seems like the best thing that could happen to me.

Coming back from Egypt I feel more mature than many 18 year olds I know. I feel this way partly because of the the things I have seen but also because my friends on the trip told me every day how much more mature I was than college students they knew and especially other people my age. Im glad that people see me this way because I pride myself in my character. I don't understand however why I'm "mature for my age". Why aren't more 18 year olds as "mature" as me? And if they are why dont they show it or why dont people see it. As I write this i feel very egotistical and immature as I commend myself but I dont know how else to bring it up and make the point I am trying to make. You may also be asking "what is the point you are trying to make?" and the answer is "I don't know exactly but its something like this...."

This fall I will be reapplying to schools from a foreign country and maybe even to schools in that country or countries around it. I will be living in the country with a family I have never met in person and hopefully being a part time student there. I will be travelling some and seeing my family there and my old friends hopefully. I know that come June, when I come back these experiences will make me even more mature. More importantly though, I'm thankful for my regular opportunity to travel and I try my best not to take it for granted. Hopefully a summer and fall of traveling, blogging, living, and experiencing will help me through the application process of college. I've done it before and i did a horrible job last time, I missed deadlines, ignored recommendations, and was generally laid back about it. Having gone through it already and having a whole year to grow and live will hopefully make it go more smoothly by increasing my focus. I realize now the importance of it which seemed to slip my mind last year. Thankfully I have this opportunity to take a year off and collect my thoughts and finally return and begin college. I haven't gone through it yet, but I already suggest it to all high schoolers and graduates. Lets see if my opinion is the same in June....

Friday, August 6, 2010

Reverse culture shock

I've been back in the states for a little over 48 hours and life here feels normal as it was before I left. I'm undergoing some reverse culture shock, I have a mental block between me and the tap, I think about whether my food was washed with Nile water, and I have to get used to not being stared at. That last one is probably the weirdest. Aside from our school in Cairo we were the extreme minority. Europe is not as diverse as America but it is vastly more diverse than Egypt or other middle eastern countries I'm assuming. In egypt everyone stares at the white people. THe same was true in south Korea last summer but in Egypt they say "hello" or "welcome to Egypt". Coming back and walking around I fit in, I am the majority, I don't feel differen from anyone else and it's weird. The water and food are a big issue too bi know that the food here is safer than the food in Egypt, the long term effects of the American diet may be worse but inthe short term American cooking is much better as it rarely causes stomach issues. In Egypt we asked at every restaurant where they got their fish and vegetables and if "the Nile" was a response to either of those we wouldn't there. I had salad and chicken yesterday and wanted to eat in moderation because I was worried about my stomach but why? The food here wasn't washed in the Nile water but my mind is already wired to be careful of all food. On the flight back we all said what we wanted to first upon returning home. Some of us had elaborate plans which included driving, eating cheeseburgers, etc. But mine was to drink a glass of water from the tap and then a glass of milk. Both of which I hadn't had since june 25th. The water was great and so was the milk but the absence of milk from my diet made me a little sick a little after having it for the first time in a month while in Egypt. There are numerous other shocks I have gone through like the lack of change in news, being able to read full speed, overhearing and understanding conversations, and getting the news whenever I want it. I've never been shocked like this when returning from another country. Europe is too similar and south korea was too short and the others were just blips in time. The odd thing is that I'm culture shocked here but for the first time ever I came home and I didn't feel like Everything was strange. That sounds wierd I know but usually when I come home I feel hat everything is strange despite no being culture shocked. His time I'm shocked by everything but for instance the drive back from he airport felt like any other drive back from the airport. In a few more days it should be good though

I will add now that I will still be posting while in the US however with decreasing focus on Egypt and increasing focus on America and my upcoming trip to Germany hopefully. Also my posts will become more sporadic but do check back occasionally. Also I will notify you somehow that I posted again.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Beyond Egypt

Finally.... ALL of my pictures in one place for anyone and everyone to see. Enjoy and feel free to comment or ask questions.

I expected more from you America

I'm not home yet but I'm on American soil. I haven't been on the
ground for 4 hours and I already am frustrated by everything here.
Call it reverse culture shock, lack of patriotism, being European, or
just sleepless but I'm frustrated. I ended my last post with
"something is seriously up with this country" in reference to Egypt
well something is seriously up win this country. Rude airport
employees and TSA agents feel entitled to do what they want and say
what they want. People don't smile or even say "welcome to the US". I
heard "welcome to Egypt" twenty minutes before leaving from the Cairo
airport. I don't know if we consider ourselves to be a friendly
population but we aren't. Egyptians live under a dictatorship and
have horrible wages and standard of living but they still are the
happiest people I know. Strangers ask your name where your from why
you're here etc. The foreigners in America are barely respected
enough to be welcomed. It's no wonder our diplomatic relations with
other countries are bad when the customs officers are admittedly the
"face or our borders" and cannot treat anyone with anything close to
human respect. Underneath their boothes are the list of things they
promise to do including greetings, respectful manner, helpful advice
etc, it's a shame that those are posted because none of those have
ever happened to me here. And random selection my ass, the Egyptians
on our flight despite carrying American passports or greencards were
still questioned 3 to 4 times as much as any white American was.
Women in the hijab were pulled to the side for an extra pat down.
Arab women say that women here have no rights, if i was coming to the
US and they gave me a lengthy touchy pat down I would feel the same way.

Economically and and technologically speaking the US is not a third
world country but geez we are probably the least friendly people in
the world. The culture shock is infuriating and makes it impossible
for a foreigner to adapt let alone want to stay here. How you did it
mom I have no idea. I left for Egypt a little over a month ago and on
the tv in line to board was CNN talking about Brett favre and the bp
oil spill and now as I sit here waiting to board my flight to
Pittsburgh what do I see on the screen but that same purple jersey and
that infamous live video feed of the oil spill. Does nothing happen
in this country or why do we cling to the same news for more than a
month. Has anything but a cd or movie release happened here since I
left? Trust me I'm a patriot (as wierd as that feels to write, it's
true), and I call myself an American but sometimes I wish that I could
be all of that without associating myself with the America I see now.
I'm in the airport and I'm homesick but the problem is I don't know if
I'm homesick for Pittsburgh or for Cairo. Cairo is crazy, yes and I
did say that I'm glad to be coming back to normality but I forgot that
I was returning to American normality. At least Cairo was welcoming.

Monday, August 2, 2010


well we got stopped at a checkpoint and our driver told them we were
all Canadian, Germans, australians, etc. They still asked to see our
passports which happen to ALL be US passports. Voices weren't raised,
bakhshiish wasn't paid, nothing except a glance at the picture and
then we were off again. Something is seriously up with this country.

Slight issue arises

When we got back from Sinai this morning I took a nap and then took a
short trip to the Internet cafe. The first thing I saw on the new York
times website was a a missile attack on Israel in Elat. Thanks to 20th
century history I know where Elat is and I knew that it was on the
gulf if aquaba where we happen to be staying. This is all well and
good, the attack was far away (a hundred miles?) and it had no
immediae effect on us except as a conversation starter. When I read
the article they had no idea who shot the missile but the main
suspects were Palestinians launching it from Egypt. As the story
progressed however information was released that the missile came from
the southwest. We happen to be southwest and all of southern Sinai is
south west of Elat. The other suspect using the information was Saudi
Arabia who have some land souh west of Elat. I will stop here and
correct myself a bit. The attack wasn't directly on Elat, it hit Aqaba
a Jordanian city a little ways away. The problem was the intention to
hit the israeli city.

The problems for us are going on as I write. We are on the bus back to
Cairo in time for our evening flight tommorow. As we left the hotel
management paniced a bit. We are six Americans travelling without
security and a terrorist attack is suspected to had come from Egypt.
It doesn't matter that the attack was on israel, the Egyptians are on
alert to protect all americans in Sinai where the suspected terrorists
launched the missile from. The hotel manager who arraned the bus told
us to right down on a piece of paper our names; passport number, and
"any nationality except US". I wrote German so as not to fully lie
but the rest of US are now Canadian and australian. This goes back to
the corruption within this country. Instead of showing our passports
at checkpoints they ask to see the paper and they see Germans candians
and Australians. Immediately. They let us go without assigning us
protection because none of those countries provide Egypt with huge
sums of money and arms.

In Egypt American citizens are better than Egyptian citizens or any
other nationality. We give them money to not fight with israel. They
need the money and the only way they continue to recieve it is if
American tourists are happy. To the Egyptians a safe tourist is a
happy tourist. The hotels disagree and think that the police just
cause more problems (personally I agree) so they do their part to
screw over the police. Honestly there is no threat to us here but
there is a chance for the police to make more money by using events
like this as propaganda to be hired on as security. I fly tommorow at
this time so I'm going to get some sleep now but I thought I would
share. Inchallah there will be no problems and I will be in Cairo
tommorow morning in time to pack and say goodbye to this beautiful but
sometimes spectacularly corrupt nation.

Mount Sinai

In an earlier post I talked about religion for myself. I told you
that I am not a religious person. I don't remember if I said anythig
about spirituality though. Sprirituality to me is very important. There
are moments of power, feelings of belonging, and times of complete
calm. These times, among others, have a spiritual meaning to me. It's
weird to say this but scuba diving was spiritual, everything was in
perfect balance and it was perfectly quiet. Again it's weird to think
that snorkeling here has been spiritual, to be in contol and dive five
to ten meters while holding your breath and actuallly swimming with
the fish instead of around them made me feel like a part of nature.
Sure I was an invader and not natural to their habitat but they were
I had heard in the past that mount Sinai, and climbing
mount Sinai was a deeply religious experience for some people. The
importance of the mountain to religion didn't escape me but I didn't
think a mountain could do that. After having climbed it I can now say
that I understand that position. Although it was purely spiritual for
me it was odd to have a closeness to the site where morality for half
the world's population was established. And it was definitely as close to
religious as I will ever get.
We left the penguin village hotel at a little after 12 and arrived at
the base of Sinai at 2 am. We started to climb as a group of twenty at
around 2 15. It was obvious that there were serious hikers, fit
people, and then us, the Cairo bums. I guess there was some overlap
but I walked slowly mostly to stay with Kayla and Ayman. She was struggling
because of her asthma and I carried her backpack to the top along with
mine. The walk was along a dirt path but it was wide enough for
camels to walk beside you on either side. The moon lit the path
as our group spread out more and more, them making progress, and us
falling behind. It was an extremely long walk and took us a little
over three hours to finish. As we walked up people sang and chanted
and enjoyed their religious experience. I don't know if it's
religion, will power, or both but there are very few things in the world
that could make 80 year men and women make a climb of this nature. It was a wide
path but it was steep and just before the top, the last 30 minutes are
a walk up hundreds of stone steps. As we looked back below us while
walking, groups of people, flashlights in hand, wobbled up the
mountain just as we had done a few minutes before them. To me this was
the spirituality, something brought us all together on that mountain
this morning. Even though most of the people will never see eachother
again we all know exactly who we shared that hike, that view, and that
sunrise with. That happens every night there but each groupk each
night has it's own connection, somehow. I have been to touristy places
before but nothing like this. Not because of the chuchkie trinkets but
the languages and the community. There were a few hundred people on the mountain I would
guess and here must have been more than two dozen languages. The
Asian tourists were there with their high socks, goofy hats, gloves,
sleeves, and cameras. The Germans were there wearin typical capris,
tevas, and German socks while eating bread and cheese out of a cheap
plastic bag. The Americans were there, and you can guess how they
were. Every background, age, nationality, and religion was
represented and we all watched the sun rise together before climbing
back down. We climbed down the steps but then decided to descend on
another path. The other path was filled with switchbacks and tiny
shops but we returned by climbing down more and more and more stairs
until the bottom. The view was great as we came down this crevace in
the side of the mountain.
In the dark of the night we drove to the base and could not see our
surroundings, as we climbed we saw the ouline of mountains and the
trail ahead of us. But on the top and on the way back everything that
we hadn't seen was finall revealed to us. A ligt fog covered the
mountains and the sun as it rose but the red mountains reflected the
sunlight in a way that no camera, only firsthand experience could do
it justice.
It's starnge that this place was as highly gaurded as the DMZ
between the koreas. Our bus to Sinai from dahab was stopped several
times and we were asked our nationality. Before leaving the hotel
receptionist told us to say canadian or british because as ling as
there are no more than 3 Americans they don't tag security on you.
The security for Americans is to keep us/them happy but it has an
opposite effect. The police here are burdensome and creepy and way
overbearing. The whole Sinai penninsula is like that but especially at
Sinai. Even within the complex of mount Sinai, our bus was pulled over
4 times. It's completely unneccesary but also completely the fault of
our own government.
Once the police were dealt with and the climb through the night began
I was struck by that spirituality. Everything was calm. The people
were in harmony. The setting was gorgeous. Truly a once in a lifetime
experience and a story to tell to everyone. My only question is, am I
obligated to climb it again in old age like the men and women we saw
or was this my one trip. I couldn't figure out whether the old people
were returning, or trying to cross something off of their bucket list in the latter
stages of life, either way the draw to return is there.

The theory

This post is out of order but it's just abou the most important thing
I have to write about. I'm on the bus to mount Sinai and it popped
into my head. It goes along with the post that was the the recap of
the last few days.

Like I said we ate dinner with the Iraqis on Wednesday and the topic
of oppression came up at dinner. Nolan and I weren't there for it but
Jamie Kayla and yalda told us what they said. The iraqi women and some
other women we have talked to got offended when we asked if they felt
oppressed because they feel that American women are more oppressed and
have fewer rights than they do. I never thought of the hijab or nikab
as oppression but I did assume that Arabic culture in general was
oppressive. Nolan and I argued that they are oppressed and just don't
realize it because they don't see what we are missng. I now agree
that this was a very closed minded western opinion but it's the
opinion I took. We got into a heated debate over oppression and the
girls ultimately proved to us that we cannot call them oppressed. I
they don't feel oppressed then they can't possibly be oppressed. We
asked how they felt about being called oppressed and they compared it
to our opinion and our argument which makes complete sense. The
ddebate went on but I don't know exactly what went on in the debate.
The importance of the night and the importance of this post came after
the discussion. Nolan and I returned to our room heads hung low and
soundly beaten but we couldn't figure out why. We started talking and
involved our other two roommate into the discussion. We started
talking at 1am and went to sleep at 5 am just to put into perspective
the intemsity ofhis conversation. It started because Jamie challenged
Nolan to find one time that he actually saw a woman being forcefully
oppressed. Nolan obviously couldn't but we still needed an argument.
We came up with oppression we had heard of bt not actually seen and
tried to think of it as when is it oppression and are we justified in
thinking it's oppression and most importantly when can we intervene.
This question bugged us bu at some point we came up with a failptoof
theory. And when I say failptoof I mean that I fits everything. We
agreed at four am that maybe this just worked because it was 4 am and
we were all extremely tired. But first thing in the mornin we ran
through several more scenarios and what do you know, still failproof.
This theory should be written into a book and studied everywhere it's
that good. I know I'm one of the founders of the idea but wventhe
girls couldn't argue with it and I obviously believe in it. I'm now
going to go through the theory and if you agree tell me if you don't,
well then don't say anything.

We decided that within any system of percieved oppression there are
four kinds of people. This percieved oppression can be percieved by
anyone, westerners, Asians, Arabs, women, men, gay, straight, and
alien. The four levels each have a corresponding actionthat can be
taken by someone who prlercieves oppression. The four stages are not
oppressed, internally oppressed, externally oppressed, and the
revolutionary. I'll start at the first stage and I will use the first
tense and the percieved oppression of slavery. If I percieve that
slavery is oppressive then I can use this system

The unoppressed slaves are the slaves who are happy with their
situation and who don't percieve themselves as oppressed. These people
are content and despite my feelings that they are oppressed I have no
right to tell them they are oppressed.

In stage two the internally oppressed slaves are the ones who are
unhappy but they feel that they have a duty to be a slave. They do not
try to leave the system because it is an internal feeling that they
cannot do anything but that. These people are internally oppressed. I
can call these slaves oppressed and at this point I have the human
right to tell them that they are either happy where they are, in which
case they would become unoppressed. Or to tell them that they are
oppressed and that they should try to remove themselves by moving to
stage three.

Stage three slaves are the slaves who are made to be slaves by an
external force. They have tried to escape the system by running away
or buying their freedom but they are continually forced back into
slavery by their masters At this stage I have the right to call the
person oppressed just as I was with stage two oppression. At this
stage my human rights expand. I gain the right to help the person
escape their oppression. They have tried and are unable to escape
without outside help so I have the right to help them escape if they
are willing to accept it. Advancement to stage four has two choices,
one of which has another two options. This is where the theory gets
confusing but it still works.

The revolutionary slaves are the slaves who have escaped slaery and
the percieved oppression. They can escape as an independent escapee in
one of two ways: dead or alive. Either the slave gets out of the
oppression by running north and succeeding or by being killed while
running away. Either way the slave is no longer a slave and is no
longer oppressed. This seems morose but it's true. The second way of
escaping is as a group. A whole sale change within a system of
oppression which allows people to escape. In terms of slavery this was
Abraham Lincoln and the abolition of slavery. Slavery was made illegal
and the slaves were no longer oppressed. They escaped the oppression
as a whole and therefore have become unoppressed. Naturally these
people are not oppressed and we have no right or option bu to call
them unoppressed.

Some of you may be thinking "what about the happy slaves? The stage
one slaves?" well here's the problem in America and within every
system of oppression. It should be optional. This sounds like I am a
southern radical who promotes slavery bu I'm not. But we cannot
abolish slavery is a slave was entirely happy to be a slave and felt
unoppressed. By abolishing slavery we deny him a han right to the
pursuit of happiness. We stop him from being what he wants to be, a
slave. There are a few more clauses that I wrote in a notebook
throughout the night but they are too superfluous for now. We tried
this system with everyone we thought of as oppressed and it always
worked. Part of the problem for us is that we do not see western
oppression very much today but this theory/idea is universal because
it can be applied to your personal perception no matte where you live,
how you were raised, or how ling you have been alive. It always works.

Dahab day 1? Sortof...

Before I start talking abot dahab I want you to all go back and read
my firt or second post where I talk about the sun and my skin. Do that
now........... Okay now that you read it I'll tell you how I'm going
to look when I get back. If you wanted you could print the post
gazette on the front of me but you may mistake my back for a lobster.
This whole trip I have done a great job with suntan lotion and
avoiding the sun and on my last weekend here I screw it up, if I can't
sit still on the plane because I this sunburn I will be mish mabsut
when I get back. When I say red I mean RED. I applied SPF 95 to my
back and still I managed to broil. That was earlier today and I'm
getting ahead of myself.

We got to dahab at 10 in the morning. For those of you who don't know
dahab is abou halfway down the gulf of Aqaba 16 kilometres across from
Saudi Arabia. When we got here I had about 3 hours of sleep since the
same time the day before. We talked to the people at the front desk
and were told our rooms weren't all available so they switched our
rooms around as we sat on the deck and had a small breakfast. When we
got our rooms the man mentioned Scuba diving to us. Originally we
planned to climb mount Sinai last night and do other things today but
he said that the monastery was closed and we would have to wait until
today. This worked perfectly in the end. Scuba diving changes the
pressure in your lungs because you are breathing compressed air and
descending. Therefore when you climb a mountain you come in serious
risk of bursting your lungs. Some of us wanted to dive from the time
we planned the trip and others were fine just snorkeling. I was among
the snorkelling group but I'll be damned peer pressure works wonders.
At 1 o'clock, three hours after arriving I was with Nolan Sara jamie
and Kayla talking to our dive instructor. He explained the dive and
the dangers and the signals and then fit us into our equipment. We got
wet suits shoes fins goggles and apparatus and loaded them onto a
truck. We all squeezed into the back of a car and fifteen minutes late
we arrived at a small cove called lighthouse. We pulled the gear out
of the truck and the instructors set it up for us. Jamie has her scuba
PADI license and set up her own gear. As we put on the wet suits we
took lots of pictures and acted as goofy as we looked much to our own
amusement. The wetsuit and shoes were extremely hot and they only got
hotter and more uncomfortable as the instructors lifted the oxygen
tanks onto our backs. I had seen scuba diving before and I knew about
the oxygen tanks but I never assumed them to be burdensome. Underwater
they look so normal but on landthe aluminum mass becomes a weight
almost to much to carry. As beings we are bouyant, our suits were
bouyant, and our oxygen filled tanks were probably somewhat bouyant as
well so to counteract that you have a belt of weights strapped around
yor waist before you enter the water.

Where we entered was relatively rocky but they were the nice rounded
smooth rocks so with the shoes on it wasn't uncomfortable. Our
instructor told us to spit into our goggles because it's the best kind
of antifog bwe did this and we put them around our necks as he
strapped us into our fins. Above water it's nearly impossible to move
around in the wetsuit and apparatus so it was nearly impossible to put
them on ourselves as beginners. He gave us final instructions in the
three foot water and took me under first. I waited in my knees
breathing into the apparatus as he helped nolan down as well. It took
a little bit of time because he had to remoe the bouyancy from the
apparatus so that we coul stay underwater without rising to the top.
I'm not a claustrophobic person at all and I'm usually very relaxed
but in the three foot water I paniced because I felt so surrounded. I
was breathing into the apparatus and it felt so weird that I freaked
out a little. I wasn't scared just jittery like the moment before the
drop on a big rollercoaster. Going underwater I guess I hadn't
realized that that would be my last breath of real air until I
resurfaced which made it even worse. I popped up and immediately felt
better after I took a final breath, this time knowingly, before going
back to the pressurized air. Underwater this time I was much better
and i focused on breathing deeply. The air isn't thin but it's
different from breathing normally, the air sortof rushes into your
mouth and lungs with a vaderlike hiss. Nolan was underwater and set as
I came back down on my own accord. We ran through the skills we talked
about above water like emptying your goggles underwater, and clearing
the breathing apparatus. The goggles were a bit scary beause you fill
them underwater and then have to force the water out by exhaling
through your nose until the water is out of the goggles. To clearthe
breathing apparatus you take a deep breath, remove it, allow bubbles
to exit your mouth, replace the apparatus to your mouth and exhale

Because Nolan, Sara, Kayla, and I had never dove before we had to be
literally pushed and pulled by our instructors. We began our dive and
he lowered us deeper into the ocean occasionally telling us to
equalize our ears and asking if we were okay using hand signals. We
reached the drop off and suddenly I saw truly the most amazing thing I
had seen, I was surrounded by coral reef and thousands of fish from at
least fifty species. The water was perfectly clear and the visibily
must have been at least 50 to 100 feet. All in all we were under for
almost fourty minutes and were about ten meters deep. I never paniced
after that first part because I was surrounded by beauty and filled
with amazement. The only problem I had was smiling which allowed some
water to seep into my my mouth but that was barely on my mind.
Because of the apparatus you can't speak and the fish don make sounds
either, the only sounds are your inhaling, the bubbles of your
exhaling, and your own thoughts. It was so peaceful. When we surfaced
I was all smiles and I began asking our instructor about his diving
experiences and I was definitely eager to dive again. Someday I will
and maybe I will get a license so that I don't have to be tugged
around. After the dive we all talked about what we saw and changed out
of the gear. The car drove us back and after a quick lunch I fell

After waking up we rented snorkels and walked along the boardwalk to
the same location we wet scuba diving. We snorkeled around some parts
that we didn't see on our dive an his time tallied about it as we
looked around. Snorkeling was never my thing but I only ever
snorkeled in lake Erie where ten foot visibility is considered great.
Here I could see as far as I wanted and somehow after breathing out
ofthe apparatus earlier the breathing with a snorkel became more
regular. We snorkeled for a while and then at dinner and chatted on
the roof before going to bed.

This morning we woke up at ten for our 11 o'clock trip to the blue
hole. It was about thirty minutes way and it's the most famouse dive
and snorkle site in Egypt and rightfully so. Blue hole is a general
term for sinkholes surrounded by a rounder circular wall. The blue
hole is extremely deep and a tunnel coonects it to the open water.
This tunnel is infamous and makes it one of the most dangerous dive
sites in the world. It is completely safe if you stay within your
limits and the limits of scuba diving. Scuba diving allows you to
reach 40 meters below the surface, the tunnel is at 52 meters. Many
people have tried to go the extra 12 and swim through. Those who make
it down that far often miss the tunnel or get nitorgen narcoses and
become "drunk". There is apparently a video of a man at the blue whe
who removes his apparatus and offers it to a fish and then begins to
drown because he lost his survival instincts. Some divers find the
hole but it is very narrow and they often get stuck and drown. More
than fourty people have died there which seems ridiculous. At the
blue hole we joined hundreds of other snorkelers and divers and this
is where my sunburn story comes in. Trust me, I applied sunscreen,
lots of it. But that does nothing against the sum in the desert in
crystal clear water. We snorkeled around the hole for two hours and I
spent the majority of that on my stomach looking downward. This is
where you call me an idiot and I proudly accept it. I'm red and burnt
but it was worth it. There were thousands more fish and hundred of
more species of coral and dozens of more colors. The fish vary in
shape and size and are the inspiration of one fish, two fish. The
while thing was amazing and the bubbles rising from the scuba divers
in the depths added to the beauty. Schools of fish swim in unison,
larger independent fish float around and show of their parrot like
colors. I'm a pool person and I hate deep water but this I could do
all the time. My fears vanished and I didn't even feel like I was
swimming. I fogot I was swimming and that I had to be able to swim
because I was so dustracted by everything else. Not even the small
shark I saw or the dark abyss below could rattle my nerves. Never in
my life have I been so comfortable swimming in open water as I have
been here.

The sunburn and the day of swimming made me tired as soon as we
returned back to the hotel. I woke up a few hours ago and finished my
last post and I have been writing this one since. And so far, despite
the sand in my bed, my back is comfortable. We leave in two hours fo
mount Sinai and I couldn't be more excited to climb, see, photograph,
and write about it. But right now I need a bit more sleep and
definitely some food. I'll write again post climb. Until then....

I'm sorry: a recap

It's been a long time since I have posted and for that I apologize.
I'm writin this on Friday night but I'm not sure whether or not I will
be able to post until I'm back in the United States on Tuesday. It's
not that I have forgot to post or that nothing has happened, actually
it's the opposite. This past week I have been thinking alot and every
time I think about writing it down it feels like a daunting task,
especially at two in the morning when I'm exhausted. Well I finally
have time and it's four in the morning. I'm on a private bus with some
friends and we are on our way to Dahab. The trip is six hous and we
are about two hours in. I can't sleep like the rest of us but we
really should be because tommorow is going to be a long day. Before I
go on about tommorow I'll recap the last few days.

On Tuesday I was feeling sick and didn't do anything. I left my class
early and then used the afternoon to catch up on much needed sleep. I
wish I had felt better because we had a trip to the citadel which
would have been educational. Instead I spent the day in bed hoping I
would feel better the next day.

We have tests to show how much we have learned while we have been
here. I think this is ridiculous because written tests are not the
purpose of the Arabic I have learned on this trip. Sure I can read and
write but many people do not have the courage or capabilities to order
at a restaurant or give directions to a can driver. It is those
things that should be graded because it shows a willingness to learn
and apply your knowledge. Why learn Arabic if you won't een use it
while in an Arabic speaking country. But anyway I used my sick day to
study for the exams, of which there seem to he alot.

On Wednesday I wasfeeling better which was a really good thing because
we had our final presentations for our language class at ILI. Our
presentation went well, Yalda my partner was feeling sick so I did
most of the talking. Not because she didn't want to speak but because
I get nervous and need to make sure that we talked enough. In the
afternoon I slept again as normal but then some of us went out to
dinner with the Iraqis who we met the week before. They brought their
whole extended family and other families which was great. I was a bit
dissapointed in our group because we all invited to take them out to
dinner or a movie but then half ofthe people backed ou leaving the
cost of the dinner on half of us. I didn't let this bother me because
I know that the nice dinner and company would mean alot more to the
Iraqi refugees and myself than the extra money would bother me. The
meal was good and the conversations were again interesting. Some of
the stories they shared biug tears to their eyes as well as theirs but
they still happily shared. I thought, while listening to one woman
tell me how she saw her driver shot on her way to work and how the gun
was pointed at her until an American hummer pulled up, that someone
needs to ask all of these refugees to write or dictate on short story
or experience and then publish all of them. I know that people would
read it and say "awww" and then go back to their suburban gated homes,
but maybe they would at least understand the situation there a little
bit more. Ultimately the night was great and we exchanged information
and hopefully we can stay in touch.

Thursday we go our final grades from ili and recieved our
certificates. I got an overall A and nothing less than an A- in each
category. For me the grade didn't matter even if I had gotten a C. I
know that I have learned Arabic. Arabic has come pretty easily and
pretty quickly to me so my efforts on homework or in class were
sometimes not the best. Some people tried harder than me and got
better grades which is fair. For me the real grade or proof of how
well someone knows a language isn't the certificate or grade you get
it's how well native speakers understand you and how well you can
communicate with them and I think I can do that. One thing that I
forgot was to get gifts and souvenirs. I had been to the sookh a
couple of times mostly to look around so I went Thursday night and
actually got the things I had seen before and was interested in. I
didn't buy things specifically for anyone I just got a few things that
I knew people would enjoy. This was my last oportunity to go shopping
because our Friday was planned out and now I'm in dahab until the day
when we fly back home.

Friday was a good day because I got to sleep in until the day was half
over. After that I studied for a few tests and then took them. I have
one moreto take once I get back to Cairo but I have this weekend to
study for it. The tests wee both makeup tests to see if we improved
over our course of study and I think that I answered the questions
more completely the second time around. In the evening we had our
final PMEI goodbye/birthday party for Alex. We went to the Nile where
we got on a large dinner boat at around 8. The boat drove up and down
the Nile for almost two hours and we got to eat buffet style the whole
time while listening to music and talking about our trip to that
point. Some people left right from the boat to their bus to the red
sea. Two groups of students made the trip to the red sea. Josh,
Andrea, and Whitney paid to spnd Saturday and Sunday at a resort and
Nolan, Jamie, Kayla, yalda, Sara, and I got a cheap hostel right on
the water with lots of opportunities to swim and snorkel. Our bus
picked us up at two AM. I started writing this on the bus and have
been writing it in pieces since. The experiences here have gone on
making it hard to write about what happen before so I'll make a new
post solely for the purpose of our first two days here.