Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Love and work

I have rarely, if ever, felt as pliant as I do now, so forgive this blog if it aerily floats from one topic to the next without pretext or coherence. I haven't really been in the mood to blog lately, mainly because my life has not been very worthy of telling. What do I do? I go to school, come home, eat, study, hang out, occasionally sleep, occasionally party on the weekends, sleep later, struggle through wagib on Saturday nights, and return to my routine come Sunday. My classes provide enough entertainment as is to satisfy my longing for adventure. Every day in media, we watch Al-Jezira report on yet another car bombing in Baghdad (accompanied by footage replete with plenty of bloody pools and bodies, weeping mothers, and vengeful relatives), another Middle East peace meeting between officials, and then listen to the Arabic version of Crossfire and attempt to decipher the commentators' Arabic. I'm sorry, but I am not simply not intelligent enough to cipher through the rapid vocabulary and Syrian, Iraqi, or Jordanian accents presented by the television. News casts I am slowly understanding; commentary pieces on them are another story. There are also the media articles we read, not real news, but opinion columns on such sundry topics as Putin's latest statements decrying America and the the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. And then there is Azza's class, reading and writing, where I've read articles on building the Arabic human and who this is, Issues and Opinions on Arab leadership, Human Rights in the Middle East, and so on, all being quite florid and convoluted and not terribly captivating, but satisfying when understood. Amia, or colloquial class, is always a lesson in how much I don't know, although half the fun comes in learning it. Seriously, though, that class is perhaps the most interesting simply because the lessons are instantly applicable to daily life, the structure is looser and more conducive to tangent-finding, and the teacher is wonderful. Translation, is, well, theoretically interesting, but also consummately boring at times when each word must be translated exactly-although it does make for good practice. Either way, classes are going well, I'm continuing to learn, and all of my professors are decent, if not outstanding.
My personal life is another story ;-) If you noticed, I try to avoid mentioning too many people or too many connections to them, because a) they may read this, as I have a link to it on Facebook (not that I'd ever say anything bad) and b) if I want to work for the government someday, it's best not to reveal your most intimate secrets on the web. So, suffice it to say I had a boyfriend for a few months but I broke up with him last weekend, all very cordial although slightly awkward, mainly because he is in most of my classes in ALI. Hmmm, maybe should have thought of that before starting the relationship, but who thinks of practical things when falling for someone? And he took my out to a very nice restaurant on Valentine's Day, but who has the heart to break up on the international day of love? So we did it two days later...Attraction is such as fickle friend-it will murmur in your ear incessantly until you are driven near mad by the desire to act on its advice, then it abandon you with a callous wave and leave you to pick up the pieces. And then, moments later, it will again distract you and turn your head; to quell its whispers is a mightly feat indeed, but I use Arabic as my crutch. I've got to go home and study, I can't go dancing tonight ;-) A convenient line, but it only works on weekdays.
I've long since known that ALI is one big incestuous family, but I did not realize how close we really are until last weekend. There are twice-removed cousins, and then there are siblings, all of whom communicate via cellphone the minute a scandal breaks out within our clique. I attended a sleepover at Cary's house last weekend, as she is leaving for the States in two days and we wanted to make use of her spacious U.S. Embassy flat one last time. I just wonder what the Feds would say if they knew their beautiful, solid oak dining room table was used for beer pong (which, happily, I am exempt from as I cannot drink beer, so I was the 'designated' ref who retrived the ping pong balls as the shots were sent on increasingly more erratic trajectories) or their living room was turned into a dance floor at 3 in the morning. Despite the late hour of our bed, I was up early, snuck into the living room to read this amazing book, World War Z, and eventually woke everyone else up to cook breakfast, which was in the true American style of eggs and bacon. Yum yum! I came home for a shower, nap, and homework, picked up more insulin at the local pharmacy, and then went to Mostafa's flat for the evening, which began as a very adult party of sitting on couches and making polite converation (boring) but got more lively once the absinthe came out. Absinthe! Yeah, I know, illegal in the States, and my only knowledge of it comes from the movie Moulin Rouge, where a few shots of it send you dancing with fairies in the stars. Once again, my gluten allergy came in handy, because alot of liquors are distilled from grains, so I declined, although no one had to be carried home, so I thought that was positive. It was an interesting night nonetheless, and the cell phones were ringing the next morning, as Cary told me later, but I was already risen, showered, and occupied when the gossip began to spread.
Thailand! I'm going with two great people, Lesley, with whome I went to Dahab, and David, who now lives in my building. We met Saturday afternoon at an internet cafe to book the tickets together, although the internet was not accepting our credit cards, so we went downtown to Etihad Airlines office to complete the transaction. Etihad is the national airline of the U.A.E., and we stop in Abu Dhabi both directions, so I that's another country crossed off the stop-over list. The ticket was less than half the price of a flight from the U.S., and Thailand's rumored to have some amazing beaches for spring break heaven, plus we'll be boosting the economy of a nation still struggling to grasp some footing after the worst natural diaster in recent history. Christmas was celebrated on the beach of a Muslim country, and Easter will be celebrated on the shores of a Buddhist one. Strange, my holidays of late, but I'll be back in June and submerged right back into American culture. I get tingly just thinking about, the three of us trekking around Thailand, exploring crumbling ruins in a steamy jungle and riding elephants over mountains.
This week has been like most others, except that Cary is leaving, and I am trying to spend alot of my free time with her. Our apartment has been rather misappropriately deemed 'The Den of Inquity' by several of our friends, and, perhaps, by Arabic standards it is. I can always wake up from a nap and find some friend studying in our living room, usually a boy, Jema stayed over for a few nights, and, on Valentine's Day, I was preparing myself for dinner as a constant stream of guests flowed in and out of my room-Deya, Frances, Akshaya, Cary, Jema, and occasionally Eli, as well as Phil and my date who waited in the living room. But it's rarely lonely, and that helps any homesickness from creeping in.
Yesterday, Cary and I went to the Khan for her to purchase some last minute gifts and for me to further master the labryinth of alleyways that is the bazaar, studied for a bit, and celebrated Jema's birthday at the Greek Club downtown. My friend Ismaiel and his, Omar, are car-wealthy boys, so we didn't even have to take taxis. During my first class yesterday, I received a notice from the ALI secretary to 'please meet a representative from your campus at 11 in ISSO.' Miraculously, I did not have a class at 11, so I headed over the International Student Services Office and met Jodi from the U, who wanted to meet with current students who were in Egypt. There are 4 of us, and the other three are study abroaders who just arrived this semester, and, to be honest, I felt a world, or at least half a world, away from them. One was planning a first trip to the Khan, another didn't know what otlob.com is (to be fair, neither did I after three weeks). At one point, Jodi asked us where we'd traveled in Egypt, and I began my litany-Sinai three times, Hurghada, Luxor and Aswan on a Nile Cruise, Siwa Oasis and Marsa Matrouh, the Black and White Deserts, and Alexandria. That's one of the reasons I feel more experienced, because I am! I've had almost 7 months to explore this country, and I feel pretty successful. Now I'm ready to region-hop ;-) Thailand for spring break, Turkey once classes are done, and then the plane home to Minnesota. Anyway, I was probably rather intimidating in the interview, and a bit too jaded and with too much 'wisdom' to share, but it was nice to be in a room with Minnesotans again. And they were nice.
Today I woke up ill and exhausted, as this dragging cold and wracking cough have been dogging me for days, to the point where I almost choked to death yesterday and can barely sleep because of my hacking. Thus, later in the day, I visited the spa with Cary, this gorgeous paradise of doormen, marble and brass staircases, designer products, plush couches and heavy drapery, and more class than any salon that I've seen in the states, let alone in Egypt. Mohammed El-Saraer, the place where Egypt's elite pamper themselves, is four floors of heaven with separate levels for men and women and gorgeous facilities than gleam with cleanliness and exude wealth, offering an entire range of services of which we took full advantage. We each got a pedicure and then went upstairs to the women's spa level. Although Cary had made reservations for two, the receptionist had ineptly only saved space for one, and so neither of us were going to receive a treatment when the manager spoke with one of the masseuses and worked us in. She had been very polite and apologetic the entire time and spoke excellent English, another sign of the true elitism of the place. Any business that actually provides customer service is very quality indeed here in Misr. So, I received a disarming and utterly decadent massage in a room that was perfumed by candles and provided a sink and shower for the customer's pleasure. Walking home afterwards, Cary and I rather felt like we floated dreamily through the throngs of traffic and pollution, so relaxed and de-kinked were we. Ahhh, and now I should do a bit more homework. Maa salaamat!