Monday, January 15, 2007

Friday: Day of Foriegners

We don't have class Friday, Sat, and Sunday. But church is on Friday, and I went with Melissa, Marie, and another of their friends to an international church in Maadi. Maadi is a suburb with a TON of foriegners. We saw them everywhere! It was bizzare. It was also covered in smog/humidity (although how it was humid, I can't figure out), I could barely see. And where we were, not very dense, and quite green. I hear you can live in Maadi and barely know you are in Egypt. The American consulate is there. The church was the same mix of bizzare-American-transplant and comforting-familiarity. I liked it quite a bit. It is kindof in a tent outside, but with a full sound system and everything. I signed up for a small group that meets in Mohandisseen, the neighborhood where my school is.

I unwittingly sat next to Kezzia, a British girl that Melissa had been telling me about, she went to ILI awhile ago and might have been looking for a flatmate (but she's not anymore). So I met her somewhat by chance too, and she's very nice. I called her and we are going to the opera (the one I heard about from the Opera singer in the taxi) tonight. So, that should be fun.

All in all, my first few days and nights here were sometimes terrifying, but things are looking better. I tend to write emails when I'm feeling good, but there has been some times when I feel very alone here. Its a huge city, and being stared at for looking so foriegn and not knowing the language is quite isolating. But, I am starting to get connected. I still am staying with Melissa and friends. I asked Marissa (from my Arabic class) if I could crash with her for awhile, and she said she'd ask her roommates, but I haven't heard back. I am also considering asking Kezzia, since her flatmate is away for the next week or two. Housing is still shaky, but in terms of friends, there are lots of possibilities--at school, church, random connections from friends back home, friends of Sally's, my current hosts, etc. Plus AUC starts in a couple weeks, so even more English-speakers will be back then. I'd love to be friends with someone in Arabic, but its not good enough to get past the very basics, so that will have to wait. Right now the power in the flat is only working in certain places, so I am sitting in the dark. Hopefully we can get that fixed tonight. Apparantly, even in nice places, slightly sketchy power is the norm. I've heard that in Cairo, "if its not broken yet, just wait a few days."

Kezzia and I did in fact go to the Opera. There is a very fancy new-looking arts complex in Gazira, which is this garden-like island in the middle of the Nile. Its where Sally's fancy club is, as well as a lot of clubs, and a posh neighborhood. The opera was admittedly a bit bizarre. It was based on a Naguib Mahfouz (Egypt's most famous author, winner of the Nobel Prize) novel, Miramar, and performed in colloquial Egyptian Arabic. It was more like a play, sung, than an all-out opera (not that I've ever seen a real one, but this seemed more subdued). I saw my taxi friend, she wasn't a major character but she was a good one. Very tragic, it was really depressing actually. We had a good time, though, especially as we couldn't find our way out of the Opera house complex when it was over, and wandered in a circle a lot. Kezzia lost her keys, and when we got them again (she had left them at security upon entering) the guy said, "you are very beautiful girls." Egypt is pretty bad for one's vanity, you get used to all these compliments, and to being stared at like some sort of celebrity. Some guy followed us as we walked down a street more or less void of other pedestrians, bothering us and trying to get money. He kept calling me, "lady! white!" but even though it was a bit funny it was also a bit scary.

So Kezzia took a taxi home and I took the Metro. I saw 3 blond people waiting for the Metro. I was a bit nervous not to take the women's car (there was one guy with them) but I was more curious to find out who they were so I waited with them and talked with them. Turns out they were Mennonites, volunteering in Cairo, and also getting off at my stop. The ride was pretty harrowing, there was no space at all, we were like sardines. And all the guys around us kept asking us questions. I ignored them, rather rudely, but one girl didn't and they wouldn't leave us alone. They wanted our mobile numbers, they told us we were beautiful. When we got off the train we had to push and shove to get to the door and finally got pushed out. "Its like being birthed!" said the Mennonite guy. They were friendly, but not really. They seemed too busy to want to be my friend, so I let them go. I took a taxi home and continued my obsession, which is reading Brothers Karamozov. I find a Russian novel to be extremely applicable to my life in Egypt, for some reason.

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