Thursday, March 25, 2010

Time for a Break

Again, I've been scant on the updates lately, but I have excellent, school-related reasons--I swear!

Somehow my schedule has worked out that I have had one midterm each week for the last month, which is kind of a mixed blessing.  On the plus side, they're spaced out enough I can study for them properly and get everything done, but on the down side I've been constantly busy working on midterm stuff.

Arabic is (still) Hilarious and Difficult
This week was the week of my Arabic midterm, in which we were asked to make a video using the vocabulary, grammar, and sentence structures we learned over six chapters of material.  As my schedule with work and everything is so crazy I opted to not work with the group and just grab a couple of Egyptian friends to Egyptian have conversations with me in Arabic in my video.  Over dinner we came up with a story line bizarre enough to encompass all of the chapters, the vocabulary (never mind all the grammar) topics of which were:
  • Around the house
  • Items for the house
  • Items from Khan al Khalili
  • At the Doctor or the Pharmacy
  • On the street, finding directions
  • Daily routine
We rejected (sadly) a story line involving plays to get guys from a female version of the "men's playbook" concept, which personally I thought would have been hysterical but the guys thought might not be appropriate for class because of excessive, suggestive, Sarah-Palin-Style winking.  The story line we did agree on is as follows:  I  am some normal girl out shopping for household stuff, pondering over what I should buy.  I remember I want to buy a blanket and ram into some guy standing behind me.  He starts flirting with me, and follows me out of the store where another guy comes up and tries to defend me, when the first guy punches him in the face and runs away.  The second guy wakes up, and we take a taxi to his house, where I make tea and we discuss his flat a bit.  I then leave and hold a conversation with myself in my head about how cute the guy is and how I should cook him something while waiting for the elevator before heading to the Pharmacy to get something for his eye.  I talk to the Pharmacist and then leave to go to a grocery store to get food.  I go to the grocery, buy the food, head back and cook while talking to him about another flat he has in the building he wants to rent.  Then I sit down and begin to apply the medicine when the door bangs open and his fiancĂ©e shows up!

The funny part is that all the guys, except the main guy who was played by Jimmy, are played by one person.  My friend Sherif agreed to being a pharmacist, a taxi driver, some flirty jerk, and a grocer all in one day, and all the women are played by me. Yes, that means I not only talk to myself in my head, but also when the fiance and the main girl are yelling at each other.  It's pretty hilarious to watch the final product, especially since Sherif doesn't even change his outfit in between being the guy that beat up Jimmy and the taxi driver.

The exam was not so funny, being over 7 pages of questions and exercises and took over an hour and a half!  We all survived somehow and everyone is now heading out tomorrow for Spring Break!

Spring Break
The funny thing is that with all our midterms going on, no one really had time to do good planning for Spring Break besides roughly sketching out where to go.  People walked around for weeks going, "yeah I'm going to Syria and Lebanon" or "definitely the Dahab and Sharm!" but we had been putting off doing hotel and flight bookings forever out of laziness and the feeling that Spring Break would never come.  At the last minute yesterday my room mate changed her plans and is now heading home to New York for the break, while our other friend was intending to do the Jordan, Syria, Lebanon jaunt and is now heading to Hurghada instead.  I don't know how I feel about the student-life style of travel, because it's supposed to be less stressful and less trouble but half the time ends up being twice as much so.  Trying to get hotel reservations at the last minute when there's only one decent, cheap place to stay in town is a bit frustrating!

My own plan finally came together just this last week, so tomorrow night I'm off on an overnight train to Luxor!  I'll stay there a couple days, head to Aswan for a couple days, and cap it all off with a night in Abu Simbel before heading home to Cairo!  I will hopefully be able to update mid-trip as my hotel in Aswan is supposed to have wi-fi, so expect pictures at least when I return to Cairo, if not halfway through my travels.

Cairo Sights
This seems to be turning into my "touristy" part of my stay in Egypt, as I finally did get around to visiting The Egyptian Museum last weekend with a friend of my father's who is in town with a sizable tour group.  It was amazing!  It's not frilly or anything particularly well-explained or documented, so it's very valuable to go with a good guide.  The treasures inside are amazing though, particularly the King Tut exhibits which show the magnitude of prestige Pharaohs had in ancient Egypt, even in death. An amazing amount of items are on display there from his tomb, but I found the two first golden sarcophagi and the solid gold burial mask to be the most striking.

Everything in the museum is special and amazing though, and riveting in different ways.  The royal mummies were an eerie sight, so well-preserved they still have eyelashes and hair that was last combed or styled thousands of years ago.  They aren't describable in words I feel, you would have to go see them yourself which the extra ticket price (60LE for students, 100LE for adults, something less for kids) is well worth at least once.

The ground floor of the museum is like a huge warehouse of towering ancient statues, thick stone outer sarcophagi, and various other boats, pottery, etc.  We didn't have enough time to spend in there, but I think I could have spent ages wandering through staring at every little hieroglyphic on every surface.  It's fascinating to see these amazing things produced by such an ancient culture.  One interesting thing to definitely take a look at on the ground floor is the copy of the Rosetta Stone gifted to Egypt by Britain which is just inside the main entrance.

Clearly I should be trying to play the tourist a bit more often, although it was pretty cute that the security guards were shocked to see me speak Arabic!

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