29 August 2010

In which we sweat and sail

I spent most of my day on Wednesday looking at things like this.

Or the backs of airplane seats.  So actually getting to Egypt was quite exciting, and not just because it broke the monotony.

After landing in Cairo, getting to the terminal (planes land on the tarmac and buses take passengers to customs/baggage areas), collecting bags (they came in waves), and breezing through customs, we (me and about 35 other AUC students) got in minibuses and headed into the city.  Cairo traffic is as bad as I was warned it would be, but I've learned that if I look out the window and not out the windshield, it isn't as worrying.  In the next few weeks, I'll tell you all about the driving/traffic customs I've experienced, both as passenger and pedestrian.

I was assigned a room in the Zamalek residence about halfway up its 10 story square.  Two wings are assigned to women, two to men.  The window of my room looks out onto the courtyard in the middle of the building, which is a very pleasant view.  My roommate (whose stuff was present, though she was not, when I arrived) is a Journalism major at IU (which my father has forgiven, as the IU Journalism program is fantastic) and will be studying here for a year.  The room is quite large, as you can see, with tile floors and an air conditioner, my new best friend.

Our sheets and towels are provided, and we are required to use the complimentary cleaning service twice a week, for sanitary purposes.  Once we use it, I'll let you know how it goes.

The other first day (night) activities included walking around the neighborhood to get cell phones (I'm using a new SIM card in my old international phone from my trip to Europe four years ago), change money, and make a grocery run.  I think one of the best things to do in a new city is to visit a grocery store.  This one was of the omni-mart variety, so in three floors it had not only food, but kitchenware, dishes, toys, electronics and all sorts of other things.  American imports are more expensive - cereal, Jif peanut butter, Nutella, shampoo - but most things have local equivalents.  We were warned, though, to spring the extra dollar for the fancy peanut butter.  I'm used to boxed milk, which is occasionally available here, but the huge stacks of eggs sitting out are a little disconcerting.  I'm not sure how they manage that, but it must be okay, because I've since seen it in other stores.

These are the faluccas we rode on the Nile
I've now made this post longer than I intended for it to be, but upcoming posts include geography, first impressions of AUC, and stories of the Falucca (small boat) ride two nights ago, and the Nile cruise we're taking tomorrow.  Let me know how I'm doing on the level of detail, and what else you'd like to hear about.

25 August 2010

In which we shall get there some day

If I keep repeating this to myself, perhaps someday I'll get to Africa.  Actually, by the time most people read this, I'm sure I will have made it there.  At the moment, though, I've spent almost twenty-four hours in transit, and I'm still stuck in the country.  On the bright side, I've figured out how to hack (being a relative term) the JFK internet, and I've made serious progress on a book Grandma lent me.  All of this makes it more likely that I'll sleep on the plane, which is also a good plan.

I've had many opportunities to people watch today, and the most interesting moment was when several phones went off at once, with variations on the Muslim call to prayer.  The whole gate area quieted, and I could see men praying under their breath, in their chairs.  Not everyone on my flight appears to be an Egyptian native, but the respect (or curiosity, on the part of some, probably) was very impressive.  I'm sure by the end of my semester, there will be nothing intriguing about a call to prayer.

Of the four Bryn Mawr students on this flight, I think we're finally all here, though Halima didn't get here until about 9:15, and Sana and Akilah arrived around 10:00.  Really, I'm all for that... no one NEEDS ten hours in the JFK airport.

After the BMC girls arrived, we went and found the other twenty or so AUC students on our flight - we've spent a little time bonding, and it sounds like most of us are living in Zamalek, so that should be fun.  Sounds like it's going to be a good group of people, but again, I'll have more to say when we've had some time on the ground.

I apologize, as I clearly haven't gotten much better at interesting blog posts, but hopefully once I get to Egypt I'll have more fun things to say.

Until then,
-some clever sign off.  Suggestions, anyone?

20 August 2010

In which much is gathered

As Wednesday the 25th draws ever closer, the reality of heading to Cairo, Egypt is beginning to set in.  It would be an understatement to say that I'm excited, but there's a certain level of trepidation in my thoughts as well.  Not only am I a little low on information, but I'm trying to commit to keeping a blog.  Please don't expect much from me, though I will try to keep up as much as I can.  The best way to do that, as far as I'm concerned, is going to be if people ask questions or have things to which I can respond.     

I am beginning to actively pack all of my clothes, books, and other travel supplies, given that I'm getting on a plane in less than a week.  There are still several people to see here in the the Springs, and at least a day's worth of errands to run.  So I'll be working on that, and trying to decide exactly how many suitcases to take.  Yes, my preparations are thrilling.  Soon I'll have more interesting things to relate, I hope.

In other news, I'm soliciting book recommendations to fulfill my need to read anything interesting in response to my recent deprivation of English this summer.  Leave any ideas in the comments.