Tuesday, September 1, 2009


It's 4am again in Cairo, and I am awake again because this is just before my Cairo bed time. Things have a way of getting a little weird so that all of us find ourselves insomnia-ed out and sleeping at completely random times. I maintain that my tendencies to stay up (more than) half the night serve a couple purposes: I sleep through the hottest parts of the day, and when it's super late here it's a good time to chat or skype with my friends back on the West Coast.


The last week has been a little nuts, especially after a solid week of quiet, exploring Maadi, and living alone time. My room mate Autumn arrived, but then got invited to France so the next day we went to the airport en masse to stick her on a plane to Paris and grab Carolyn, my other room mate which turned into a complete fiasco because the airport is totally unorganized. She's keeping a blog by the way (more detailed than mine, because my memory is somewhat awful), named in the style of this one, so be sure to check out "Carolyn in Cairo." Carolyn and I mucked around for a few days and I subjected her to various learning experiences about Cairo and the neighborhood, which she took in her usual good humored, enthusiastic way. She's enthusiastic about everything! I have to say it's the right attitude to have when traveling, and goes a long way towards making sure you have a good trip.

Not long after a couple days of eating Koshary and wandering around downtown with Carolyn, my buddy Tim of Tokyo City Blues arrived to crash on our couch for a couple days while he looked for a place. By this point, my bawwabs were getting more and more confused, but I assured them that Ibn 3mii (son of my uncle) was not staying permanently in my hilariously broken Arabic. Carolyn and I enthusiastically dragged Tim out to a cafe immediately and I lectured her on some 3ameyya differences she'll have to deal with from studying fusha. The good thing was that it made me realize how much colloquial Arabic I've picked up this summer, and I felt sort of proud and motivated to continue. The bad thing is that Tim claims to not remember anything about this night, which I'm not entirely surprised by considering he spent half of it staring into space over his mango juice.

Soon enough Carolyn's boyfriend Cory arrived and the house really got crowded! It's been fun having him around though, as now Ramy and I have another couple to drag out on double dates and be generally adorable with. The first double date was to Harrawi, one of Ramy and my favorite cafes near Al Azhar mosque--what could be better than smoking shisha next to hundreds-of-years-old buildings? Pics of Harrawi forthcoming as I keep forgetting my camera when I go places. I did remember the next night when Ramy surprised by taking us out to the Citadel--which is amazing during Ramadan, by the way--for a Wust El Balad concert! I had been wanting to catch one of their shows since they're a favorite of Ramy's, but I was so surprised and thrilled that we got to see them for free at The Citadel! It was an awesome show, preceded by a short folkloric one that I also enjoyed a lot. The venue was awesome, and I'm glad we missed the bus and ended up walking up to the Citadel itself because you turn these corners and get the most breath-taking views as you go. What shocked me was the wind-chill factor. I was actually feeling cold for the first time in months, which I think totally confused my body. We all had a great time though, and I really, really want Wust El Balad's CD now...plus we're going again next month insha'allah!


Now Autumn has returned from her foray in France, we've all spent one day at AUC running around to get everything done, and Tim has moved out. We miss him lots, but he drops by lots to hang out and use our internet so it's all good! The day at AUC was pretty rough as I suffered MAJOR insomnia the night before, spending a solid hour crying and writing and listening to music on the balcony until So7or (about 3:30am) when Ramy called and tried to calm me down. It sort of worked, but then Carolyn and Cory woke up and we decided to make sandwiches and chat on the balcony. I got half an hour of sleep before the epic jaunt to AUC. It's beautiful (see the pic @ left) but I couldn't appreciate it because of the heat and lack of sleep. Here's an excerpt from the writing that night:

"I’m finding myself going through a new layer of adjustment being in a new country, which I think I will name the “Home?! Oh right—crap!” phase. It crept up on me suddenly and I was swamped with a feeling of love for this place…followed by a sudden wonder of how in the hell I was ever going to be able to go home and act normal. No, I am not concerned about picking up Egyptian habits like walking in the street or smoking shisha all the time or whatever, I am concerned that I will have spent a year in Egypt and it will have (and already has) engraved that time on my heart without any outside indication.

It’s good and bad really, because when I return this year will become my own personal internal experience, but I also want people to know and catch some understanding of what an impact it made. I know that no one will ever be able to understand this stuff quite as clearly or exactly as I do—because it is my personal experience after all—but I want them to see something of what I’m seeing here. I want them to know how I felt listening to the call to prayer in the pre-dawn light when I first arrived versus now a couple months in, and I want people to get why I love Shaabi music, and things like this that no one will ever really get. I know this, and I know that probably when I wake up in two hours (to go to AUC for orientation—it’s currently 4am) I will have accepted it, but right now I’m so sad to think I will go home and have my Egypt visit be remembered like this.

I love Cairo, but man does it make me feel emotionally unstable! The levels and phases of adjusting to life in a new country can be pretty rough, and I’ve gone through a few already, but this one I think surprised me more than others. Of course I’ve had the “I wanna go home!” moments, but I wasn’t expecting to be hit by a fear of going home, or at least not this early in my trip."

Basically I've been playing Cairo mom lately to a lot of people, which is fun and nice, but my cynical non-smiley self is starting to come out. I'm not sure why, I think it may be the lack of sleep or the need to not feel responsible or something, but I'm fighting really hard to not let a bad attitude come out that could alienate my new roomies. They're sweet people, so I'm really determined to make sure things stay on good terms!

PS--It's Ramadan now in Cairo, and its an experience! Next post...

1 comment:

  1. In my defense.... I had been awake for something like 40 hours at that point. I was so deleriously tired..!