Thursday, June 19, 2008

June 17, 2008

Today we went back to the office to work on curriculum plans. They showed us around the facilities and to the books that are available. Sam and I sat down, after the tour, and worked for a  few hours on the idea that we’ve been formulating. I’ve been sort of playing with an idea of “Trip to the US.” I wanted to make passports to the US with each kid’s picture, personal facts, and then a page for each of the states we covered. The list we came up with included states like Pennsylvania (obviously), New York, Arizona, Florida, California and so on. Personally, in my class I’m going to try to cover a state each class, beginning with a song appropriate for that region. 

Tonight Aminah cooked a lovely dinner and invited some of her amazing Egyptian friends over for a little dinner party. We ended up with 7 people total—me, Sam, Aminah, Mohammed, Ali, Ibrahim, Sameh. We ate dinner and had a really good time. Then we decided to go watch the Austria/Germany soccer game in a flat that the guys own. 

This concept of the flat, though, is a strange one. Egyptian men live with their families until they are married, but marriages require that the couple (meaning the man) needs to have a fully furnished apartment. This is very difficult, I guess because things are expensive on the salaries that the men make, so they end up living with their families into their mid twenties and sometimes late twenties or even longer. This leaves them with little time to chill with friends so they often rent out rooms to watch tv with friends or play playstation. It's a interesting solution to the problem of privacy. These guys own one of these places to rent rooms so we went there to watch the game. Germany won, but only two of the people watching were happy (I was neutral).

Afterwards, the guys wanted to go smoke sheesha (flavored tobacco), so Aminah, Sam, and I got in Ali’s car along with Mohammed. Ali drives like a maniac, but it was so much fun riding in the car with him. Lots of squealing tires, ebrake, and fitting the car into places that it should not have fit. It was really fun though; we were all laughing hysterically. 

We said goodbye to Aminah tonight, which means we're on our own now. Tonight we had so much fun; I honestly hope that she and I are able to stay friends and that our paths cross again.

I know this trip is slowing changing me, most definitely. I know that once I head back to home and to school I’ll be much more outgoing because I’ve been thrown in this situation and forced to figure it out. I’m not so awkward around people now that I’m here. 

June 18, 2008

Today was definitely a challenge, to say the least. We woke up late, but with still enough time to make it to the office where we were to continue to work on our curricula.

Today has just been a day of struggles all day long. The back door wouldn’t lock from the inside for most of the day so we had to go outside and walk around the house to leave. Then there’s the constant fight with the internet. It’s obnoxious to have to walk to a cafĂ©, then ask the waiter for an access code, then fight with logging in, then reconnecting every time you lose the connection. It sounds trite, but when you’re in a country constantly fighting with everything around you because it’s in a different script and tounge, you just want to sit down at your computer and e-mail your mom. Then there’s the issue of all the web pages showing up in Arabic…and ironically you have to read in Arabic to change them to English, but I digress.

As for the rest of the day’s misadventures, we decided after work that it would be a GREAT idea to go to the massive open market. It started out well, we found a cab etc. and managed to explain to him where we wanted to go. The problem occurred when we made it there. The market was completely insane. The driver left us off in a relatively tourist oriented area but I followed Sam and we ended up in a very, very, very local sector of the market. It was completely overwhelming. Trucks of eggs, men on motorcycles, sheep and other animais, and people everywhere, all smashed into these tiny little alleyways that were only about 10 feet wide. We walked confusedly for like half an hour, getting further and further into the mess of the alleys and shops. 

Meanwhile, men and boys everywhere are harassing us as they always do, which is uncomfortable on a crowded street but in an enclosed area it’s even worse. Anyway, after a really long time we managed to get out of the rough area and reorient ourselves as to where we were. It was pretty traumatizing.

Now a note on men’s attention; this mainly consists of catcalling. It’s not necessarily threatening, although I suppose it could be, it’s just a way of expressing curiousity, perhaps? The two of us are a flash of white in a sea of dark skin and I suppose that most of these people really see very few westerners. It doesn’t make their attention appropriate or ok, but it makes it easier to stomach. Usually, most men watch you pass; some say nothing. Others, say something friendly like, “Welcome to Egypt.” On an average trip to the store I’ll hear maybe 20 of these greetings, but they go no further than that. Women even say this; they’re just being friendly. Some men, however, think they’re funny so they say, “Welcome to Nicaragua” or “Welcome to Alaska,” which, as you can imagine is really not that funny.

Then there are the semi-creepier ones who say something along the lines of “Beautiful, beautiful” and either whistle or make this weird cicada sounding noise at you. The last kind approach you either proposing to you or asking, “You want give me kiss?” I’ve not felt threatened yet, though, and from the way things seem I don’t think I will. It’s just reallllllly annoying when you can’t walk anywhere in peace. Even men in cars will slow down to tell you that you are beautiful or they’ll honk their horn and smile. 

With that I end this entry. Sayid, our boab or landlord, is outside on our deck watering the lawn for the second time today. He’s quite efficient. He even washes our deck furniture. What a guy.


ibrahim said...

Hi Julie

it's Ibrahim, Aminah's Egyptian friend who met you on June 17th ( as you diary said ! )

I am so amazed with both your writing skills and the deep perspective you look at the experiences you go through .... well done !!

Your "Glimpses of Egypt" so far seems good but still i feel that you judged a few things quickly .... of course Aminah or the director of your program have a good experience with Egypt and its secrets and their opinion is much respected but you must have the other point of view ... from Egyptians .... they are the ones who live in the country and who feel its problems & live in it everyday .... no doubt that this EGYPTIAN must be fair, open-minded and has a respectful knowledge and wisdom but surely any honest Egyptian will add to your thoughts something new

Finally, Hope to see you again and good luck in your program and WELCOME TO EGYPT ;-)

Glimpses of Egypt said...

Thanks for the compliments, Ibrahim! I'm glad that you're reading. I'm curious, though, what do you think I've judged too quickly? I'd really love to hear the other side of the opinions I've formed so far. I want to be as accurate as possible in my understanding of Cairo.

Talk to you soon.