Thursday, June 25, 2009

Hotel President has bed bugs and other travails of travel in Egypt

I'll begin with my personal state and then backtrack to recent travels (and travails).
While I personally do not possess documentary evidence, my fellow travelers have been repulsed enough by the carnage wrought by the bedbugs to take pictures. I will try to obtain some. I am covered from finger tips to shoulders and from toes to hip in bed bug bites. It's miserable, ugly and unforgivably itchy. In the 110 degree heat of Beni Suef each little painful, poison infested mound throbbed with additional heat, bringing me to my first bout of tears this summer.

To make myself feel better I decided to buy things after we returned to civilization (in this case, Cairo). Here is a display of my treats:

Last Saturday 20 June we traveled to Memphis and Saqaara. The pyramids of Saqaara are visible from the Maadi neighborhood of Cairo, as seen here:
Sunday and Monday I had Arabic class at AUC's downtown campus. Tuesday was perhaps the best Arabic class I've ever had--we went to the mall. The advanced class (there are 15 of us) get to spend 1 day per week learning in context, so after we dumped off the beginning classes downtown, the space bus took us to a governorate just south of Giza called 6 October. We spent the morning at Nadim, a furniture making and restoration facility. We lunched and concluded our trip at Dandy Megamall. At Carrefour we had a scavenger hunt that was probably the most fun Arabic learning activity ever. Did you know there are more than 15 brands of sliced cheddar cheese for sale?

Wednesday and Thursday we spent in the desert 10 km south of Beni Suef at the Mediterranean Centre for Sustainable Development being hot and unproductive. Tomorrow is Friday, our free day. I intend to attend a movie or two, do some homework and brace myself for the heat I will encounter in Giza on Saturday.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Best view of Cairo

My first personal glimpse of the Pyramids of Giza.
This is a view from the south of Gezira, the island where I live. The southern half is Mohandiseen and the northern half is Zamalek, where I live.
Giza and the Nile all at once!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Arrival in Cairo!

I got to Cairo safely on Sunday afternoon and was so overcome with fatigue and allergies that I fell asleep on Monday at 6 pm and slept through till this morning. Tuesday we went to the American University in Cairo for our Arabic language orientation. My first impression of my teachers was that they seem overly intense. They thought it was completely unacceptable that the lot of us haven't read a library's worth of Arabic literature and poetry and consequently questioned our abilities to read at all by requiring one of us (not me luckily) to read the newspaper headline aloud. Savages. I'm terrified. The group of teachers furthermore assured us that Arabic is easy. Jerks. Anyway, I have had ridiculous allergies since Monday afternoon and was checked by a doctor who assured that I don't have H1N1 but I do have "allergy to the weather" in Cairo. Good thing I brought Zyrtec--I am congested, have a TB sounding cough and a runny nose. Festive!
The work week in Cairo is from Sunday to Thursday, so today (Friday) is our free day. The first 2 days of class were less daunting than that first day of orientation. Turns out that the really mean guy won't be teaching us till July, so that's a relief. My colloquial teacher is the most beautiful woman I've ever seen. Other than class I've been doing amazing things every day. Tuesday was the first day of the Refugee Film festival and I went after class and saw 2 films--
and Salt of this Sea and Giraffe in the Rain. Wednesday night I went to Khan el Khalili to see some Sufi whirling dervishes and filmed part of it. I'll upload it to Youtube.

Last night I went to see 3 tenors at the Cairo opera house. And today, my precious free day, I finally unpacked, made my first trip to the grocery near my residence and successfully negotiated the delivery of 4 boxes of water to our room for my roommate and me. Afterward my Cairo man protector, Blake, and I went to the Grand Hyatt Hotel. From the 40th floor panoramic view of Cairo I finally laid eyes on the Pyramids of Giza. Breathtaking. We then saw a movie called
"Omar wa Salma" that was far too loud and totally inscrutable.

I'll likely spend the rest of the day smoking lemon flavored sheesha and relaxing! We head off to Memphis tomorrow.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Receipt of Critical Language Scholarship to Cairo

I got word Thursday 26 March that I am the lucky recipient of a Critical Language Scholarship for Advanced Arabic in Cairo. I have orientation in DC on Thursday 11 June 2009 and Friday 12 June 2009 and depart for Cairo on Saturday 13 June. I return to the US on 8 August.

The hosting institution is the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE), which is a part of the Council of American Overseas Research Centers (CAORC).

I will be housed at the President Hotel and studying advanced Arabic at the School of Continuing Education (SCE) at The American University in Cairo (AUC).

More details to come!