Living in the Past

Funny.  I just published that last post, and then called Sherif to wish him a happy new year.  I thought I was reaching him before midnight, but it turns out it's already 2013 over there!

Me: What time is it there?
Sherif:  One
Me:  What?!  Oh my God, Happy New Year.  You're already in 2013!  That's crazy.
Sherif:  Yeah, Starr, you've got to stop living in the past.
Me: *awkward pause as I don't get the joke* What?
Sherif:  Cuz you're still in 2012!
Me: Ah!  I get it.

Sherif is out at a bar with friends in the exciting metropolis of Cairo, while I am underage and planning on staying in with my mom and drinking sparkling pear juice as we watch TV in our living room.   I love my mom, but I can't help feeling as though my life becomes notably less glamorous when I return stateside.  Who knows, maybe I should take the "stop living in the past" comment more seriously :P

Happy New Year


Hey, all.  I'm sorry for leaving anyone out there hanging.  I'm home!  I made it.  My trip to the Red Sea was lovely.  We rode a huge yacht and jumped off its top, maybe three stories high, into the red sea.  It was amazing.  Then I had a few days at home to pack up and say goodbyes.  I saw who I could, but I had to keep reminding myself that the good times we had together are more important than a frantic goodbye.  Hit my favorite restaurants.  Went to a party.  Visited the Agricultural Museum (CRAZY place you guys, crazy), and the oldest Mosque in Cairo.  I had a small NSLI-Y reunion with three other students who studied with me in Egypt in high school and happened to be in Cairo on my last days.  I tried to keep my head.  I don't leave Cairo well.  I tend to panic when traveling, especially when moving, but I have been known to have full scale meltdowns when leaving Egypt.  I did alright this time.  I guess.  That last day was pretty awful just waiting at home for my taxi to come at midnight, but I just had to remind myself: nothing I could rush to do on my last day would do any justice to the experience I had.  I couldn't fix anything or redo anything, and trying anything new would undoubtedly not be enjoyed in my stressed-out state.  I just tried to stay calm.  I give myself a C+ in that venture. And then I flew home.  I watched a chick flick and a samurai movie while flying over the Atlantic, and was stuck in the Chicago airport for over 6 hours due to customs and full flights, but I made it just in time for Christmas Eve.

Now I'm home, and though I've only been here a week sometimes I wonder, "Did Cairo happen?"  It is such a different life and experience here than in Cairo.  It is so easy just to fall back into my patterns.  My family likes the presents I brought home and I see Cairo paraphernalia all over my house, but it feels so distant.  Last time I came home all I wanted to do was talk about my experiences and share everything about Egypt with anyone who would listen, but this time... I don't know.  I don't really want to think about it.  I feel as though I need to reflect, but I am reluctant.  I have yet to go through my pictures because doing so requires me to confirm that yes, Cairo did indeed happen, and I am no longer there.  Life is overwhelming enough here with holidays, family ups and downs, preparing for my grandpa's memorial, and figuring out logistics for next semester and my summer internship.  Dealing with reverse culture-shock and home-sickness just seems like too much sometimes, but I think working through those things is important.  I hope to us this blog to work through all that in the weeks to come.  If I don't get distracted, expect photos and reflections coming soon.

The NSLI-Y gang.  Some of us just can't help coming back to Egypt.


Finished the Final Final and Left for the Sea

KHALAS!  I finished my finals.  I honestly didn't know if I could do it, but I did.  (I did have to get extensions on my papers, but to be perfectly honest, I didn't even think I could do those by the extended deadline.)  Only goodness know why, but then I decided to take an official computerized gage your Arabic level test, and that of course destroyed my self esteem.  A three to four hour test is a pretty lame prize for finishing finals, but now I'm done!  I'm trying to get last visits and Christmas presents in.  I had a calligraphy lesson.  I met my British friend from the summer and went out to my favorite Sudanese restaurant.  I met Salma and went to my favorite Yemeni restaurant.  I finally made it to the used clothes market.  I swear to jeebus, the used clothing market is possibly the most hipster place in the world.  There are literally just racks and racks of cheap used clothes blocks and blocks and blocks.  The thrift store of dreams.  Most of the clothes are western style, but I did find a pretty sweet galabaya :)  I can't wait to show my absurd purchases including the most bi'a shebab pants in the world!!!  If anyone is interested the market is right outside the nasser metro station and under the 26th of July Bridge.  And now I am at my program's final retreat at Ain Sokhna on the Red Sea.  Swimming.  Drawing.  Reading.  And this hotel is fancy.  Next we go on a yacht.  I won the program award for "Most Perseverance & Suggestion of the Week Champion."  Gots to run!!!


Presidential Decree

Last night was a rough night for me (and a rough day for my family), so instead of watching the Presidential Decree, or working on my papers, I watch a cartoon called "Avatar."  This is a good rundown of the Decree by one of my peers.  A meeting of all parties sounds like a good idea, but who can say if anything will come of it.  Other than that his speech said lots of nothing, with a lot of blame on the old regime, and maybe a little on the opposition?  My Development professor (who actually founded a political party) has been  protesting with the opposition.  His description shows a bleak picture: a small group of peaceful protesters being ambushed by bus loads of Muslim Brotherhood supporters brought in from villages down South, and then a police presence that is clearly biased against the opposition.  Though my Development class isn't my favorite, I think this teacher might  be,  so I worry about him being out there.  Also, Sherif, usually not a very political fellow, decided he didn't like bullies beating people up and so went to the Presidential Palace during clashes.  I was informed yesterday evening that he is covered with wounds, external and internal apparently, but he continues to go to work. (AH!?!?)   He says he went to the doctor and he's fine...  I continue to worry.  Today has become entirely work day (one of the reasons being we aren't allowed to leave our area) so hopefully I can make up any work that didn't happen yesterday. Unfortunately, in addition to everything, I'm feeling under the weather.  I wish I could say it was just stress, but usually stress doesn't induce hoarse voice and sore throats.  Yesterday, I as feeling straight up nauseous, but I think that was due to several long rides in smelly taxis.  Whatever this is I hope I can nip it in the butt by staying in and sleeping as much as possible.  At very least I pray to the final gods that this illness doesn't become so that it hinders my essay writing ability.  



Look to this day:
For it is life, the very life of life.
In its brief course
Lie all the verities and realities of your existence
The bliss of growth,
The glory of action,
The splendor of achievement
Are but experiences of time.
For yesterday is but a dream
And tomorrow is only a vision;
And today well-lived, makes
Yesterday a dream of happiness
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.
Look well therefore to this day;
Such is the salutation to the ever-new dawn!


Wow, I haven't posted in a while.  You guys must be worried!  I've heard from all my sources outside of Egypt that Egypt is blowing up right now.  To an extent that is true-ish.  There have definitely been protests.  Take for example these pictures taken from my balcony of Muslim Brotherhood supporters marching to Cairo University:

My roommate described the sound of these protests on Saturday like that of Orcs.  But everything was fine.  We were restricted to our apartment, but that would have happened anyway since we are all in the midst of intense final paper writing.  Yesterday, there were pretty violent classes at the Presidents Palace, but that is very far away from where I live.  It's actually amazing how easy it is to just keep trucking in the wake of whatever is happening right now, even when it is happening closer to me.  Life just keeps going.  Sometimes I'm allowed out of my neighborhood and sometimes not, but I always feel safe.  Final essays now.


Slam Poetry and Fish Gardens!

WOW.  TRANSLATED EGYPTIAN SLAM POETRY.  I hope I am in town for this, but between final papers and a postponed trip to Alexandria, I'm not sure if this is going to happen.  Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Favorite place in Cairo at this moment: Aquarium Grotto Garden.  The first thing someone might tell you about this garden, commonly known as "The Fish Garden," is that there aren't many fish there.  A few feeble aquariums, some crocodiles, and some pickled creatures in jars.  What people won't tell you is that half the park is a huge grotto!  As in a huge man-made stalactite-y cave complex, complete with a colony of bats!  I went with the only other science major (biology!) in my program, so we nerded out for maybe an hour watching the bats.  While we watched them, a man came up to us and asked if we wanted a cappuccino or tea.  He had a nice shirt and a little notepad and everything.
My response: "No, thank you."
"This is cafeteria.  What do you want to order?"
"... This is a cafeteria?  There is bat poop on the ground."
"Yes," (oh, language gap, sometimes you are beautifully hilarious) "What would you like?"
I just laughed, "No, thank you," again to him and he realized that his poorly thought out scam wouldn't work on these white girls.  There were also some pretty magnificent trees that grow down as well as up.  It is my quest to find out what kind of trees those are!


Garbage City

a.k.a. Manshiet Nasser, home of the Zabbaleen

It's a bird!  It's a plane!  It's a church?  A hanging church lantern!

Hardcore garbage collecting

Hardcore sorting and recycling

Largest Church in the Middle East

Most Christians in Egypt have small cross tattoos on their hands or wrists.  At one point in Egypt's history Christan children would be taken from their families and raised as Muslims, so parents would tattoo them very young in the hope that they would rediscover the religion into which they were born.  Of course no one steals Christan babies anymore, but the tradition stuck around, and many are tattooed before being old enough to remember the event.  I saw this guy in action at this tattoo stall.

This is a cage where pigeons are kept.  Yum, pigeons.

Cairo is so beautiful, it takes my breath away

Passive solar water heaters, and a converter of biomass to methane made from materials the Zabbaleen collect.

The view from Solar Cities, the NGO that sets up those fantastic contraptions on the roofs


Protests Today

Classes were canceled because of protests today.  It's just precautionary measure, and hopefully I can use the time to get some work done... but that hasn't happened yet.  The last month panic is starting to set in.  Anyway, the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists actually canceled their protests late last night, but I assume people will still turn up.  The secularists and liberals are still camped out in Tahrir.  READ THIS ARTICLE.



I had a dream in Arabic last night.  The dialogue was pretty simple, but Arabic it was.  I was also wearing a sailor dress, and being chased on a bicycle by a puddle bog monster.

Another perspective

I've heard another perspective on the prez's latest actions.  Some argue that this is the only means by which Morsi could have supported the revolution.  The Judiciary disbanded the Parliament earlier this year, and supposedly were planning on disbanding all popularly elected bodies, leaving Morsi the lone representative of the revolution against a government of the old regime.  Apparently,  the attorney general was appointed by Mubarak and Morsi had tried to fire him several times, and he refused to leave, so this was why he chose to lessen the power of the Judiciary.  His back was up against a wall.  Some are complaining that the liberals, who have called for protests are being babies, and need to accept when things don't go their way, if it is a result of fair elections.  The issue is clearly complicated. I personally am still very concerned, about the fact that Morsi has no checks to his power.  Muslim Brotherhood or not, that isn't how democracy works, for anyone.  But it is reassuring that he may have good intentions.  Maybe.  As for the liberals being babies, Egypt has a strong recent history of politicians boycotting things when they don't like the rules or results on both sides of the spectrum.  I often question how productive this tactic is, but it looks to me like the liberals turn has come around.


No, Morsi, no

Yesterday, Morsi pulled a Mubarak-esque move, and granted himself more powers in the name of "protecting the revolution" and "national security."  That isn't how democracy works, Morsi.  Protests are amping up.  Nothing huge yet, but I would say this action is deserving of some Egyptian outrage.  I am safe in 6 October staying with some family friends, but everyone is concerned as to what this means for the future of the revolution and Egypt.  Many of the powers Morsi granted himself put him above the traditionally strong judiciary, which is currently the only check to his power.  Additionally, all women, liberals, and secularists have walked out of the constitutional committee (in charge of writing the new constitution), because Islamist refuse to debate or compromise, and since they make up the majority, always pass their motions.  Despite this Morsi decreed that the constitution will be finished on time, with the current members (in other words, a stubborn Islamist majority).  Though Morsi and other members of the Muslim Brotherhood, have been talking up democracy through this whole process, this latest decree suggests that it was all a front in order to obtain power and hold onto it.  Is this how dictatorships begin?  I don't think the Egyptian people will stand for this.  It is an insult after all they sacrificed in the revolution the first time around.


Citadel Pics!

THE CITADEL.  (Sort an odd-ball Ottoman addition to Cairo's architecture, but very famous with tourists)

"Al-Maser Mohamed Ibn Qalawoon Mosque"

"The military and the people in one hand"

Military Museum and other mosque on Citadel campus

Muhammed Ali Mosque


The clearest day I've seen so far in Cairo.


Arab League Pics!

Seed Bombing Pics!

Here are the pictures to accompany the map I posted earlier!

Starting in Zamalek

Bizoor Balady Bombs!


I met this woman at the event.  She had a knee injury and I had my back injury, so we made a good team.

And then we finished at Abdeen Palace downtown.