June 19, 2008
I can literally feel the day on my face as I sit here typing this—the dirt of a long day out and about in Cairo. We woke up this morning to the sound of multiple hammers beating on what sounded like solid rock right outside the wall closest to our heads as we sleep. This began at 8 am. It would start for a few minutes then abruptly start and begin again. Eventually we just got up because there was no use with fighting with sleep with that much noise going on, so we headed to the office. It was our last day of curriculum planning! Orientation with the students will be on Sunday.
We decided to go on an adventure in Zamalek (the rich, hip section of Cairo where most Europeans live and where British colonizers spent most of their time) after we got finished. It’s a pretty long walk there; I’d estimate we walked about 2 miles by the time we reached our destination. We stopped in a western coffee shop, which was nice for a change. Sam and I ordered iced coffees but when the man at the counter told her that she owed him 25 she just stood there with her wallet half open, staring at him. Then she looked at me, back at the wallet and the money in her hand, and then back at the guy. Meanwhile the guy is saying, “You speak English, right? Right? 25, tweeeentttty fiiiivvvveee.” I realized what was happening because it happens to me all the time here so I just leaned over and casually said, “5 dollars Sam. He’s giving you the price in pounds.” It was one of those moments where you find yourself in a familiar situation and are completely thrown off by something minor. The money thing is kinda bizarre; it’s ironic, though, that some of the prices here in pounds are accurate to the price in dollars in the US. 5 Egyptian pounds (or gnay as they call it) is about 1 US dollar. I bought a package of cookies tonight for 6.50 LE (Egyptian pounds). That’s not too far off of what we’re paying or what we will be paying if gas keeps going up. But I digress
Anyway, we were looking for a clothing store for some unknown reason, I guess just to have a reason to go out. We walked in so so many circles, but we eventually made it there. What a victory! When everything in an ordinary day is a struggle, it’s huge when you can navigate your way to a store where you don’t even buy anything anyways.
We decided to go meet up with some friends later that night, which was really fun. Our ride home, though, was very interesting.
The driver we found was ridiculous. He first asked if we were Russian, which was bizarre. We explained we were from America (for some reason they don’t get it when you call it the US) and he started yelling, “I love Amer-ka! Amer-ka iss good!” The rest of the ride consisted of him repeating how much he loved us and how we were all friends. He also threw some Italian phrases in, especially when other cars drove by. He then started teaching us the ‘arabee’ words for EVERYTHING in the car. And our supposed love for each other. And our supposed friendship. He also couldn’t deal with the fact that we needed to go to Dokki (where our apartment is); he kept driving past it and at first took us to a completely different part of the city. At the end of it all he told us he was crazy and explained that crazy in Arabic is “ma-goon.” The ride ended with mutual exchanges of magoon! magoon! He apparently had a great time, because he didn’t want to let us pay for the ride. Eventually I convinced him to let me pay but we did get his number in case we need a driver for anywhere. We’ll see if we call him again.