Word of the Day

sakheef - silly

Food You Should Know

Foul - delicious Egyptian bean paste.  Good for every meal, but great for breakfast.
Tammaya - Egypt’s version of falafel.
Koshary - A carb-tatic Cairene delicacy of rice, noodles, lentals, and fried unions in red sauce.
Molekhaya - green and oily soup.  Some eat it plain, I prefer it over rice.
Fatir - sweet or savory. Pizza-like pastry made from phyllo dough.
Kibda - liver
MaHshy - assorted vegetables stuffed with rice.  My favorite variety is the kosa or zucchini maHshy.

Kishk - I call it yogurt chicken.  It is a chilled dinner dish consisting of chicken in a creamy solidified gravy with fried onions on top. 
Kunafa - pastry with a shredded wheat-like consistency.  A Ramadan favorite.
Basboosa - another dessert.  Kind of a mushy honey cake made from a very specific grain.


Word of the Day

zaHma - crowdedness, traffic


Photo of the Week

Al-Azhar mosque, viewed from inside

Word of the Day

3ala Haseb - it depends



I will be in Egypt for the planetary alignment of Saturn, Venus, and Mercury with the each of the three Giza pyramids.  Don't let me forget to go on December 3rd!  Check out some cool pictures here.

Word of the Day

khulaaws - enough, finished
khelis - at all
long (eh) sound


I made Iftar!  While I mostly just threw together whatever I could, the one Egyptian dish I made was shorbit lisan asfoor, or “Bird’s Tongue Soup.”  Don’t worry, there aren’t actually birds’ tongues in it.  It is named after the shape of the noodles, which look like large like flattened grains of rice.   It is a very simple soup.  You fry the noodles to a golden brown, and then add broth and bring to a boil until the noodles swell and soften.  I used some chicken stock I had for broth, but you can also used water and add onions, fired garlic, salt, pepper, and other brothy things to taste.  And then serve!  But beware, the noodles swell A LOT, so you may end up making for more than you intend.  ALSO the noodles will continue to soak up the broth, so you may end up with a big blob of noodles instead of soup.


Word of the Day

hadritak - formal you (m), sir
hadritik - formal you (f), ma'am


Word of the Day

gadwal - schedule



One of the pillars of Islam is to fast from sun up to sun down during the lunar month of Ramadan.  Last time I was in Egypt I was here for the last half of Ramadan.  I tried to make the point of fasting with my family.  It was a great experience, but it wasn’t exactly difficult.  We gorged ourselves at Iftar (breaking of the fast... or breakfast) and continued eating all night until Sahoor were we made sure to eat enough to last the day.  After that, we slept until maybe three in the afternoon, waited for and hour or two until Iftar and started again.  This time around things are different.  I have no family to feed me every night, and I have classes starting at 9 am.  Fasting is always difficult from a self-control perspective, but living without a family makes fasting hard logistical perspective since restaurants close at odd times and you don’t have the support network to help prepare food or get you up for Sahoor.  It’s just really impractical.  My new policy is “public fasting.”  Whenever I am out I try to abstain from water or food.  I am drinking extra before I leave the house, and making sure I have a hardy breakfast, but then as soon as I am in the sight of Egyptians that’s that.  I think it encourages good will from Egyptians, and at very least, I am not aggravating anyone by being THAT foreigner drinking in front of them on the street.  In this heat that is what really gets you: not the hunger, but the thirst.  These people are amazing for living their lives and going to work while fasting in this kind of weather.

Word of the Day

shawnta - bag


Word of the Day

dillwa'tee - now


Photo of the Week

Ramadan Karim!

I shouldn't be allowed to live alone

(Warning: this blog will get gross.  Very gross.)
Luckily, I have a roommate coming tonight.  I need someone to keep an eye on me so I don't kill myself.  Most people get sick when they come to a new country because they have to adjust to the food.  I get sick because I am an idiot.  First, I must say I find the fresh produce here absolutely irresistible.  I have a habit of gorging on raw fruits and vegetables.  Unfortunately, fresh off that plane that is a terrible idea, and everything I am came rushing out my butt.  Luckily, since that first catastrophe, I can now handle more of my delicious greens, but that doesn't keep me from doing eating other stupid things.  I don't like wasting things, but I don't really eat a lot.  Usually, I  can only buy fruits in half kilo increments, so I just slowly chip away at my supply, and try to get through all of it, even if it tastes as though maybe it has turned, but I just can't stop myself because figs are so great, and I don't want to accept that I let them go bad, and then I get intense stomach pain and the runs... again.  Sometimes, I do this even with other people's food.  My host family had some salad in their fridge, so I ate it, because it was there, completely disregarding the off taste.  That one lead to an early morning run to the toilet to vomit.  Weeee.
I write these gross details not only to gross you out (though I do enjoy doing that), but also to illuminate  that feeding yourself when you live alone is hard.  It is difficult to cook for one.  Also, being sick adds innumerable stress to the already difficult process of adjusting to a new culture, so be sure to listen to your body and read the signs to avoid food poisoning.  I am really hoping that my new roomy will want to work together on the groceries so we can both enjoy what's fresh before it goes bad.  I would also like to point out that none of my illnesses come from street food or Egyptian classics, so don't be scared to jump into the Egyptian cuisine.
One last story for you:  This is  most horrific and from just last night.  Yesterday, I visited my American gal friend at her compound in Maadi.  The area is very expat-y and filled foreigners.  She is doesn't like living in an area that is so un-Egyptian, but she does a great job of getting out and seeing things anyway.  On our way to her apartment we stopped by a local store to buy some pop.  I was ecstatic to find some ginger ale at this store.  With my numerous tummy troubles, I had been craving ginger ale immensely.   I should have known that this was The Fates foreshadowing by impending stomach doom.  Inside the store I greeted with rows and rows of legitimate American breakfast cereals.  I was ecstatic.  The cereal here is awful.  I got some "Fruit Rings" a couple weeks ago hoping for a Fruit Loop like experience, but instead I got some stale pale colored rings with a vague floral taste.  So I went for it, I got two boxes of american cereal, FOR OVER 100 EGYPTIAN POUNDS.  My excitement at the time seemed to justify the purchase.  First thing when I got home I dug into the Cheerios as a before bed snack.  That exorbitant cereal purchase may have been kind of stupid, but my consumption of said purchase was straight up dumb.  Here in Egypt they sell a kind of super pasteurized milk that doesn't need to be refrigerated until it is opened.  Maybe you saw the picture of the milk carton I posted before.  It contains somethings like 9% fresh milk.  I just figured that since this milk is so processed it wouldn't go bad and despite the fact I opened the carton maybe two weeks ago.  I think the 91% of not fresh milk covered up any clues of sourness because I didn't smell anything fowl in the carton or taste anything  off in the cereal.  But then 3:30 am came around.  I was actually woken up my a friend calling me back (Ramadan hours are crazy), but then I found I couldn't go back to sleep because of tummy pains.  It tried to relieve myself on the toilet, but when it became clear the nausea wouldn't stop I grabbed a pot to keep next to me in bed.  And then I puked.  Luckily, I hit the pot.  Sometimes, when you're sick and it finally gets out of your system you immediately feel better.  Yeah, this time was not like that, and I vomited again at 5:30 am, and then again at 6:30 am.  By the last time it was just dry heaves.  I HATE DRY HEAVES.  I don't think your body could tell you "I hate you" anymore clearly than dry heaves.  I also got diarrhea with those dry heaves.  I was woken up by another bought of diarrhea at 8:00 am, and that marked the first time I did not make it to the toilet in time.  
Thank god, I don't have class today.  My only plan is to recuperate after my painfully eventful night.


Word of the Day

khowwaga - foreigner


Ramadan has officially begun.  After an unrelated Felucca ride, my classmates and I kicked off the Holy Month with a dinner out at the famous “Prince” restaurant in Imbaba Thursday Night.  The traffic was crazy as every scrambled for their last opportunity to eat out.  Prince was fantastic.  It looked as though the establishment was inside out, with a small restaurant in the building, then a bits of kitchen lined the front of the establishment and beyond that tables stretched out far into the street.  There are lots of fast food places to get Egyptian food, but Prince is the kind of Egyptian food that makes up for it if you don’t have an Egyptian mother to cook for you.  It was perfect.  We attacked that food like a pack of wild animals and devoured it in a matter of minutes.
I then stayed up quite late killing time at Borsa (the cool ahwa spot downtown) until Sahoor, which is the pre-fast meal.  At 2 am, I was still quite full from my Prince feast, but it was great to be with Egyptians for a major cultural happening.
The next day I slept in (el hamdoulilah) and then headed off to Islamic Cairo with my American gal friend.  I have never seen Cairo so empty.  Fridays are usually strange and empty because of prayers, but this friday in particular was insane.  The streets were empty, Tahrir (where I got on the metro) was empty, the metro was empty.  Islamic Cairo the location of the famous tourist trap Khan el Khalili bazaar was freakishly barren and many of the shops were closed.  I actually preferred the Khan that way, it gets quite overwhelming.  
After prayers we visited two mosques.  By the time we got to Al-Azhar we were so tired, we didn’t want to move.  We just sat there in the mosque for more than an hour enjoying the space.  While we sat there, and old man came up to us and asked if we wanted a photo, or to climb the minaret.  When we said “no thank you” and he realized he wouldn’t get any money from us, he told us we weren’t allowed sit in the mosque.  “Mish momnoo3” my friend said, meaning “it’s not forbidden.”  I’m not as much of an expert on mosques and Islam as she, but generally it doesn’t make sense that a non-Muslim could visit a mosque, take pictures, and climb a minaret, but not sit where everyone else was sitting.  Eventually,  the man just walked away.  Another nicer man in a galabaya came up to us as we sat.  While the first old man had asked if we wanted photos, this younger man wanted a photo of us... with his baby.  We started to say no, but then we found his adorable six month old baby in our laps.  The baby was still in that round and floppy stage.  We tried to coax him into looking at the camera, but the baby was stupefied.  I can only imagine where that photo will end up.  Maybe on their mantle for all their visitors to see, “Look at this beautiful photo of my son with two random white girls in headscarfs.”  We left just before evening prayers started.
The metro was nearly empty when we got on as the evening prayer began to sound.  It was spooky.  While I think the call to prayer is beautiful, it became quite ominous as it echoed down the dark entrance halls of the metro.  Only every other light in those halls seem to be working.   
After some delicious Egyptian desserts and , the evening ended, of course, with a long sit in Borsa.


Word of the Day

fanoos - Ramadan lantern 



Sorry for the slow pace of posts.  My Internet has been painfully slow lately.  Luckily, my school has wifi, so I can get my business done during breaks, but that's not quite enough time to type up an interesting blog post.

I don't have a lot to report.  I have been going out to the ahwa after class the last few days with my classmates.  Their usual stomping ground is wust elbalad (downtown), but traffic has been so bad the last few just walked to Dokki.  It's been awesome for me, because that is the neighborhood I'll be living in when the school year starts.  I really like the area.  The streets aren't quite as wide as they are here in Mohandessin.  Ultimately, the new area is just as nice with the same demographic, but it is just a little more homey and a little less commercial than it is in my area now.  It also has more ahwas, and is right on the metro line.

Things are going to be changing pretty quickly here.  The last class of this session is tomorrow, and Ramadan starts Friday.  Most of my classmates won't be coming back for the next month's session, so we are having a big farewell dinner at restaurant that is known for having THE BEST Egyptian food.  I'm really going to miss that gang.  It's a really cool group of people.  I think the traveler lifestyle lends itself to throwing oneself into new friendships, and enjoying people while you can.  There isn't really time for inhibitions when everything is clearly temporary.  It also helps that people who travel tend to have some great stories.

Starting Friday I'm not sure how food will work.  It will be very rude to eat in public and most food vendors and restaurants will be closed during the day.  I will still be able to go to the grocery store and all, but I will have to get used to a new set of routines.  I am also unsure how seeing friends will work.  Evenings, I think a lot of people will be tied up breaking fast with family.  I'm hoping I will be invited to join in some of these family gatherings, and/or see friends after they've eaten, but that also means I need to adjust my sleeping schedule yet again.

In other news, my power has been going out regularly as more people pump up the AC (right now I am sitting in complete darkness), and I will be getting a roommate (female) next week if everything works out.  I have enjoyed living alone, but I think I'm ready to not be alone now.  I just hope she gets along with all my plants.

Oh yeah, and I love Egypt.

Word of the Day

sa3aat - sometimes


Word of the Day

sibnee feeHalee - leave me alone


Word of the Day

khudar - vegetables

Photo of the Week

Street Art near Tahrir with the Cairo Tower in the Background


Concerts are the Ultimate Good

I love music.  I love concerts.  LOVE THEM.

There are two music venues I have been wanting to go to since I arrived in Cairo.  The first is a very well-known spot that I visited once or twice last time I was here: El Sawy Culture Wheel.  The second location is a smaller venue that keeps sneaking up on me.  I feel as though every conversation about music ends up with a reference to Makan.  It's reputation as the best whole the wall for underground and traditional music convinced me that I HAD TO see this place for myself.  I had been (desperately) wanting to go to concerts at these places but I hadn't had a chance to organize any friends to go.  While I considered just forcing myself to go alone, general apprehension and laziness kept me at home.  I also acknowledged that a more easy-going, Insha'allah, attitude about by goals was more Egyptian.  I am glad to say I was rewarded for adopting this attitude.  I've had a great weekend so far!

This month's session of Arabic classes will finish up next week, and then most of my buddies are traveling for Ramdan or back to real life in their home countries.  (It looks like it's just going to be little ole me studying away by my lonesome next month.)  We all wanted to meet up before we disperse, so we agreed to meet downtown and go to a cafe.  Last minute, plans were changed slightly, and all I was told was that music was somehow involved.  I was absolutely gleeful to be led be lead directly to the one place I most wanted to visit: Makan.  The venues was perfectly dingy for my taste, but I think even the neat-freaks in my family could enjoy it there. The three member band played Eritrean, Sudanese, and other African traditional songs.  The songs were unstructured and emotive with beats that my white brain couldn't duplicate.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.  At one point a beautiful women got up and started dancing despite the calm atmosphere of the venue.  With perfect confidence she proceeded with the most graceful, subtlest, and sensual belly dancing I have seen.  I hesitate to call it belly dancing because American and even showy-Egyptian belly dancing has such a different flavor with big sweeping hip movements and body tricks, but this was all small concentrated movements with a more African flavor. This woman's friend joined her (with a more Egyptian party style of dance).  When they saw me jamming in my chair they pulled me up to dance with them.  Believe it or not, my friends say I held my own.  Twice they had me dance with them.  My high school obsession with Shakira has paid off!  I am proud of myself for not feeling too embarrassed.  The music wasn't exactly the kind that makes you jump out of your chair, but if you let it sweep over you you can find the jam.  It was a great night that ended with a lovely sit at an 'ahwa.

At Makan, British friend Mike said he had seen this band before.  I asked him where he found out about events and he pointed me in the direction of Cairo 360.  The next day I was perusing this website, and low and behold a musician I liked was playing at El Sawy THAT NIGHT!  The musician was Ramy Essam, a young man who became famous during the revolution for putting popular chants to music.  I actually gave a presentation about him and other music in Egypt in a class I took about the Revolution.  Essam was actually arrested and tortured at one point, making him even more famous.  He is also very cute.  So I had to go.  I pretty much ended up going alone.  I assumed my foreign friends  didn't know the musician and my Egyptians couldn't meet until after, but it doesn't matter.  I SAW RAMY ESSAM.

Essam opened for himself with an acoustic set.  (I don't know if opening bands are even a things here.)  For a few songs he brought on a friend who played classical guitar.  It sounded great.  Essam's voice has that raw untrained quality, like melodic speaking, but at the same time his voice is good enough that it doesn't berak, he can do some beautiful runs, and has a decent range.  But after a short while he left the stage, "for five minutes."  We were standing there for over an hour.  While it was hot and stuffy and crowded it was also a fun experience because everyone knew Essam's songs, the crowd just sang them with out him, and then recited all the latest protest chants.

Eventually, dreamy Ramy did return, and with a full band.  Instead of a drummer he had kind of a cheesy DJ for his beats, but after a few songs I got into.  (There was also a tabla, or Egyptian hand-drum, player, so that helps.)  It was a fun set, and he played for quite a while to make up for the time he lost.  Boy, is he cute.  I was smart enough to bring my glasses so I could see him properly.

The concert ended in fireworks, and then I met some friends at a cafe.  It was a good night in a good weekend :)

I desperately want to upload the videos that I have from the Rany Essam concert.  I can't get it to work right now, but I will keep trying!

Word of the Day

ruf"I"ya - skinny (f)


Word of the Day

3arabawgi - donkey cart driver


Insha'allah, I am going to my first music venue downtown tonight.  I have yet to find the good underground venues, but I'm working on it.  Thus far I have been content playing music to myself in my apartment, and I have found a wonderful website to aid me in that pursuit: Masr Music.  All lyrics are in Arabic, but many of the songs can be found on YouTube.  What a wonderful opportunity to practice!


"Egypt is my musser and Egypt is my fasser," mumbled a crazy old man on the airplane Sherif's host sister rode on her way to visit.  She and Sherif laughed at his craziness, but I think I can imagine what that old man feels.

I am not trying to say I am Egyptian.  I clearly am not, I don't have the family ties or history, but there is something about it here...  It feels like home, maybe not my home, but a home.

I saw my host family for the last time yesterday.  They left at 4 am today for Amreeka.  I am not as emotional as I once was, but yesterday evening was one of those feeling times.  It is scary seeing them leave.  They have been so good to me.

Just thinking about them, and family, and Egypt, I realized how much Egypt has done for my perception of family.  I have always been a fairly family-oriented individual, but I never realized it until moving here.  Seeing how other families work, and realizing the wonderful things my biological family values was a great experience.  (I miss you guys.)  Egypt also reaffirmed my faith in the power of people and relationships without blood ties.  Those unrelated family-members have something extra special because they aren't forced or expected to love you.  That is a beautiful thing.

This weekend marks the first weekend that I will not be staying with my host family or traveling out of the city. Wish me luck on my first weekend in Cairo!


Word of the Day *Bonus Edition*

Today we learn how to feel things!

Ana .....(a)  -  I am .....(feminine)

Harraan - hot
bardaan - cold
za3laan - sad/angry
farHaan - happy
"L"'en - worried
3"I"en - sick
zah'aan - bored
kaslaan - lazy
ga3aan - hungry
Tah'aan - fed-up
H"I"raan - confused
na3saan - sleepy
sakrawn - drunk
shab3aan - full
'arfaan - disgusted
magnoon - crazy

example: Ana shab3aana - I (Starr, a female) am full

And for you overachievers:

Enta ...... - You(m) are ......
Enti ......(a) - You(f) are ......(f)

example: Enta shab3aan! - You (a male) are drunk!
               Enti kaslaana - You (a female) are lazy


Sorry for the lack of updates.  I have running around like a crazy person.  Whenever I get home I am either exhausted or without Internet, so I haven't been able to update this blog.  My "Word of the Days" are suffering from my current schedule.  (I will try to catch you up.)  Mind you, I have been Egyptian busy.  I am going to my classes, but other than that the things occupying my time are not especially productive or necessary by US standards.  I am out seeing friends and family, in commute, or simply too tired from early classes and late hang-outs.  For example, last weekend I went to Aida Beach on the Mediterranean with my friends (Photos are up on Facebook!).  It was great and beautiful and relaxing, except for the detail that Egyptians never sleep.  Then I came home and went straight to an engagement party (at the Four Seasons!) with my family.  Egyptian engagements are notoriously boisterous and late, and this one was no exception.  We arrived at 9 and food wasn't served until several hours in.  Then I stayed with my family in Heliopolis and had to get up even earlier than usually to make the trek across town to my classes.  The next day I squeezed in a brief nap, but then had another family dinner at the Fish Market in Maadi, which meant another late dinner, and three more treks across down before my class the next morning.  I love having so much to do, but I am now trying to strategically squeeze in some down time.  I have yet to recover completely from my beach vacation.  Today is looking to be a calm day, so if I can get my brain to slow down a notch, I anticipate long periods of uninterrupted slumber. 


Photo of the Week

Sanctuary of The Hanging Church in Coptic Cairo


saHil shimallee

North Coast!

Sorry for the short notice, but I am heading to the Mediterranean with my friends for the weekend.  I am so excited for this trip.  It's going to be great.  I won't have my laptop or Internet, so I just posted an obscenely long blog entry for you to work through while I'm away.  I return to Cairo on Saturday for an engagement party with my host family.  I will be home only briefly on Saturday and then I am staying over with my host family, so please don't be worried if you don't see a blog update until Sunday.

I will update you soon!


An academic term used to describe the socially constructed difference and distance between peoples.  The "US" versus the "OTHER."
German Friend once brought up an interesting point about our traveling lives.  When we write home and talk about the new cultures we visit, do we lessen them, even if we mean it as compliment?  For example when one marvels at a Latin American's dancing skills and sexual appeal, are we representing them as more impulsive and instinctual than our rational selves?  Why do we always ignore Central Americas fascinating political history as tourists?  It is so easy to attribute "unsavory" traits of a society to "lesser development," and completely ignore the different and yet complex intellectual circles, political happenings, and artist communities.  Maybe some of these traits as simply "different" rather than "unsavory."  It is so easy to say that "they are 50 years behind," but that suggests that our development is linear (and constantly improving), and other cultures are following the exact same path.  
Have you heard of "poverty tourism?"  Where western tourists visit famous slums and poor communities, sometimes as a mission of volunteer trip, but often to satisfy their curiosity and verify their difference from The Other.  But I have to wonder if it is wrong to want to see this Other if it contributes to their economy?  Why wouldn't someone be amazed by a way of life and standard of living so different from their own.
When I expressed concern about the prospective male roommate to my school the immediate response was, "But you're American?"  It took me a while to convince landlord and school that I was not just this label of "American" without boundaries.  I am a person, a female person, and most importantly I was directly expressing discomfort with the situation.    I was put into this box of Other and it made things very difficult for me.
This goes both ways.  When the fella showed up at my door, and I had expressed my discomfort once again he said, "You know I'm American, right?  I'm not one of those Egyptians."  He felt the clarification was nessicary because he could speak Egyptian Arabic, and was ethnically Egyptian.  I found this insulting.  I have many Egyptian friends, and I trust them more than I would trust a generic unknown American male any day.  Looking at statistics of sexual assault and rape, being American is by no means a get-out-of-jail-free card.  There is this general understanding that Egyptian (maybe even all Arab) males are sexually repressed and more dangerous.  But in my personal encounters with people I know, I trust an Egyptian guy to look out for me ten times more than I do an American guy.  Maybe this is because Egyptians come from a communitarian culture and the USA has a fend-for-yourself kind of culture.  All this being said all Egyptian women will agree that harassment in the streets of Egypt is a major problem.
Read this blog entry "Don't Trust What You Read" by a friend of mine on Othering in journalism.
Ultimately, this rambling fragmented blog is me thinking out loud about balance as a traveler in a globalized world. 
I want to visit some NGOs that work in a Zaballeen settlement, which is a community of impoverished garbage collectors here in Cairo.  (They recycle 80% of what they collect compared to "developed countries" 20%!)  I enjoy the haphazard markets I stumble upon on poorer areas, and my favorite places are the dingy dirty 'ahwas set up in the streets.  Is that bad?  Am I one of those tourists?  Or am I one of those students that studies these foreign peoples like they are some rare species of ape whose behavior patterns can not be decoded?
When I start to question my motivations for studying in Cairo, I have to force myself to really consider what makes me love this place.  Though I enjoy the 'ahwas, I love my friends and family here.  Though I find the rugged underbelly of society enticing I am also fascinated by the ever changing politics.  I love following Egyptian art, music, and literature which spans popular, underground, historical, current, high society, and lower class.   I love the rusty yellow glow of the streets at night when everyone comes out.  I am drawn to the hectic unplanned and unfinished developments, but I am also made breathless by the impeccable craftsmanship of Cairo's mosques and churches.  I don't love the people here for being “poor and irrational;” I love them for being sarcastic and generous.
I don't have answers to my questions.  I don't know if I love Egypt for the right reasons.  (I think about this more and more as I keep being asked, "Do you think you'll move here some day?" Funny, I thought I had already moved here...)  I don't know if there will ever be a way for people from different cultures to not only see each other objectively, but also see each other as diverse protean nebulas rather than oversimplified Others.  I think the only conclusion I can come to is that I and any other traveler must be open to complexity,  and the possibility that large portions of the Other might not be so different after all.
I can also conclude I think way too much.

Word of the Day

maHalee - local


One month

Tomorrow marks the one month anniversary of my committed relationship with Egypt.  I am getting sentimental as I sit drinking my tea (Egyptian style with too much sugar) on my balcony.  I am nearing the end of the tin of cookies I bought on my way from the airport.  I remember stumbling stupidly through the super market with Sherif, baffled at what exactly I might need to survive.  I was immediately drawn to the tins of cookies, a favorite part of my first Egyptian host family’s home.  I always called them tea cookies, but the can says “Butter Cookies.”  I always associated this tea and cookies snack as an Egyptian phenomenon, but now, after a month long engagement with this cookie tin, I see that the brand is “Americana.”
I think I’m doing pretty good.  I have survived happily living alone without any major meltdowns (knock on wood).  I have been studying and I really love my school.  I have seen my host family as much as possible.  I have seen two/three major tourist destinations I didn’t get to see last time: The Black and White Desert, and Coptic Cairo.  I have also visited a destination that wasn’t nearly as famous when I was here before: Tahrir Square.  (I passed through today and bought a little flag on my way to renew my visa.)  I have watched the Euro Cup at a wust el-balad (downtown) ‘ahwa (cafe), and I have ridden the metro.  Six more months baby.  I can’t wait to see what’s in store.

Word of the Day

titfarragi - you (f) watch (i.e. television)



Oh my gosh.  I can’t handle my life. So good.  So awkward. And then so blah.
Classes were a blast today because my normal ECA teacher is on vacation, so his brother is standing in.  OH MY GOSH the man is crazy.  My normal teacher is great, but this brother... It is fantastic, he is so enthusiastic, yelling all over the place, but the best part is that he makes us actually speak.  A LOT. 
Then after classes, I went home.  Usually, if I go straight home, I just stay in until I am invited to go out because it is alway hot and I am lazy.  But today I convinced myself that it was necessary to go to the ATM.  Once out, I decided to take some streets I hadn’t been on before just around my neighborhood.  An intense craving for tomatoes overcame me.  I had to get some delicious flavorful Egyptian tomatoes (much better then the huge, dry, flavorless tomatoes we have in the US).  Daily, I see carts selling vegetables milling around my neighborhood, but I quickly became aware the vegetable carts are a morning thing.  Only fruits were being sold out on the street.  But I kept looking.  On my way my nose lead me to a fantastic bakery near my house.  Hopefully, they are open early enough that can get pastries before class for breakfast.  There are also a lot of neat cafes that I hope to take my friends to when they visit (I am not quite out-going enough to go alone).  I had almost given up, but then I ran into a fella who lives in my building.  He pointed me in the direction of a huge market down further than I had ever ventured before.  
I went and broke through to THE OTHER SIDE of Mohandessin.  Where I live there are wide streets and it is relatively quite, but when you go past Sudan St everything is bustling with life.  The streets are jam packed with people all scurrying about, cars honking, and stalls over-flowing with produce and merchandise.  It was dirty and crowded in a way that makes a person (or maybe just me) feel comfortable, like you know this place is really LIVED in.  It is so amazing that a place like this actually exists.   It is just so foreign to me and my (relatively) quiet and organized Minnesotan-Scandinavian upbringing.  
And the people walking around were so diverse: hijabee (hijab or scarf-wearing) women, uncovered Egyptian women in T-shirts and jeans, men in galabayas, and men in suits.  Right when I crossed over to THE OTHER SIDE an assertively friendly Egyptian man introduced himself and offered to show me to the market and help me buy tomatoes.  His skin was so dark, at first I didn’t think he was Egyptian, but he was.  His family was from Aswan.  Another testament to how diverse Egypt is.  We walked and talked together for quite a while.  He invited to me to his family’s home (which I politely turned down, saying I didn’t have the time) and he gave me his number.  I am considering giving him a call and asking him to be a language partner.  There are plenty of public cafes in the vicinity, so I could meet him and still maintain my privacy and anonymity.  We’ll see if I even have time for that.
When I got home I was very proud of myself.  I adventured with fruitful rewards.  Literally: I got my tomatoes.  But then things went from the best to the most awkward.  I had previously mentioned my dude roommate.  I was trying to be easy going about everything, but I slowly realized as I told my friends and family, that this is situation was quite unacceptable by Egyptian standards.  My school and landlord were treating the situation as though being American made me impervious to everything, even though I expressed discomfort with the situation.  I realized that I would not agree to live with a guy I didn’t know and had never met in the US, so why on Earth would I agree to it in Egypt?  I thought I had sorted the issue at school, but then this evening my landlord turned up at my door with the fella.  Awkwardness ensued for maybe two hours.  My landlord insisted that he would move out by the 14th.  That was still unacceptable and I said I would go stay with my host family (my Egyptian dad was very involved by this point).  And then the landlord suggested the fella stay at a full apartment of boys, but he rightfully wanted his own bed, not someone’s couch.  It was just very awkward, because I have nothing against the guy personally and I know he was exhausted from traveling.  I was very Egyptian about the whole ordeal.  I made him tea, and offered to let him use my phone and computer, all while “suggesting” he get out of my house.  Finally, after my host father had arrived at the apartment to pick me up, my landlord decided it would be best if the boy didn’t stay at all (not for one night, not for three, not until the 14th) and I get to stay in my apartment.  SO here I am.  Alone in my apartment.  There was lots of awkwardness, but my landlord was understanding, and now it is sorted.
And then the power went out.  What a day.

Photo of the Week

I present my new zoom lens!


Word of the Day

Ana bahebbik - I love you