Monday, May 14, 2007

The end is near

I know it's been a while since I last posted, and I apologize, but as the end creeps nearer, my life seems to develop crises and various distractions, yani, like homework, finals, minor stuff like that ;-) I scrambled to complete my makeup work from Jordan, which wasn't overly burdening, but nonetheless consuming, and I also had a party to plan. Akshaya turned 21 that Thursday, and I rushed around Zamalek preparing for it that afternoon, purchasing fresh fruit juice (strawberry, orange, and pomegranate) and bunches of redolent blossoms that perfumed the apartment pleasantly throughout the long evening. With our ample stock of duty-free alcohol, and the supplement of Bud Light from the embassy, we had a well-stocked kitchen which was complimented profusely as the evening wore on. But that wasn't the extend of our American-style hefla, for we also had junk food from the embassy (cheese-its, Doritos, and pretzels), several cakes (we even found a gluten-free one for me!) and a candle-lit atmosphere to transform our average apartment into a flower-inspired, candle light soiree. Quite a success, in my opinion, and we're having a repeat again on Thurs. to finish off the left-over alcohol and say good-bye to our friends.
The nearer the end approaches, the more nostalgic I become, and the most rudimentary tasks seem suddenly endowed with an element of untoward beauty. Crossing the Nile by taxi every morning no longer seems quite so typical, but more extraordinary as the two weeks collapse into one, and that into four days...I have begun to walk home in this extraordinary heat every day, simply because I can, and I try to soak in the sights (not sounds, because I crank up my ipod to avoid the inevitable harassment that ceaselessly follows my footsteps) of downtown, the 6th of October Bridge, Zamalek, all of it, and wonder how this was all unfamiliar but 10 months ago. To me, right now, living in a daze of dreams and Arabic, America seems so very far away, and the places I once, and will again, call home, mere specters to the realities of the concrete, sand, water, and chaos of Cairo. The apartment here is home to me, and I am serenaded to sleep every night by car horns and scraping metal barriers being moved by the police and screeching cats and sleepy salaams and the murmur of voices from below, above, and all around.
Cairo is so alive. It pulsates with this current of continuity, with a sense that life, despite the current state of affairs, will always act out its dramatic role on the banks of the Nile, and it boldly displays the pyramids as a testament to its immutability.
But how accustomed I have become to things that one should not be forced to endure. As I was walking with Akshaya's guest for the week, Kelly, to the spa, she finally turned to me and asked, Do they always stare so much? And I looked back at her quizzically for a moment, not understanding, until I slipped off my goggles of atrability, glanced around, and observed that, indeed, all of the men were staring. But then I slipped them back on, reticently, and continued walking with my eyes cast downwards, with the occasional upwards gaze to orient myself, shrugged my shoulders, and responded with my usual nonchalance, I guess, it really doesn't faze me anymore. And it doesn't, I can be walking along the street with a friend and receive terribly explicit catcalls and not even pause in the conversation. Usually, my companions are far more indigant than I, but that is my life here.
I guess I've become an expert at the repression of some things in my life, but it seems to be a valuable skill at times; spending a life worrying over each new obstacle seems wearying, life will go on whether I sleep tonight or not, and a day with sleep is just so much better than one without. A bit cliched, I suppose, but it seems to work fairly efficiently, and until a new life philosophy presents itself to me, I'm stuck with it.
Seriously, though, I dread and anticipate the end with such a tumultuous torrent of emotions it is hard to contemplate. I want to go home, I want to see my family again, step off the plane and get a big hug from mom, I want to wear normal clothes, walk around my neighborhood unharassed, drive a car again, but how can I leave this place, these people with whom I've shared phenomonal and unfathomable and trying experiences that only we can truly understand, how can we disperse as if we never were? But we will, in a little over a week, complete our year at ALI and flee this country as if the H-Meister himself were chasing us with his Soviet-issue machine gun that looks like it could just as easily backfire as perform it task. Well, not all of us are fleeing, Frannie's here for another year, and my Egyptian friends live here, and some are staying on to continue their studies, but most of us are America-bound.
I, happily, am not immediately State-bound, for the day classes are done, I head up to Dahab for a week of relaxation, sun, and vegatation on the beach, and then bus over to Israel to spend a week exploring Jerusalem and Palestine (not the dangerous parts, insha'allah) with some friends, before I take an interminable bus ride back through the Sinai, rest for a few days in Cairo, and then finally fly home on the 12th. Mother was nice enough to move my ticket back from the 3rd to the 12th, and I hope she knows how much I appreciate this opportunity to see the Holy Land and the Palestinan issue in person, considering how much it has been discussed this year in class (yani, every day, truly).
Last week was fairly, ermmm, uneventful, went to Sequoia with some friends on Monday, did Taboulah's on Thursday, and then received a phone call on Friday that took me by only minimal surprise. You see, I had been Facebooking my high school Meghan, who was studying in Kenya, about the possibility of her coming to Cairo, but it was not until she actually called did I know she was coming, so I met her and her friend at their hostel downtown, oriented them a bit and walked them to the Egyptian Museum, and then returned home to do a bit of homework. That evening, I said goodbye, along with a few other things, to Aaron and friends at one final bon voyage party, as he leaves in a few hours to begin life anew in America. It is the first crumbling of our little circle, but, unfortunately, it will not be the last.
The next day, Saturday, I met my friends at their hostel by 10, thankfully, the party didn't last too late, brought them to stay with me, and then panicked as I realized my phone was missing. Not again! I know, I was utterly despairing as Frannie called the phone once, no answer, called it again, and, alhamdul'llah, someone picked up. Accidently depositing it in the cab on the way to downtown, I had thankfully chosen an honest driver who answered, talked with Frannie, and returned to my building to offer me back my phone. I tipped him well, but that event provided good karma for the day, as the three of us, myself, Meghan, and her friend, Laura, toured the Citadel, lunched at Al-Azhar park, and wandered through the Khan and Islamic Cairo before we returned back to the apartment, I regretfully secluded myself to do homework, and they took some well-deserved vegetation.
Yesterday, I had classes, and they had a desire, for some odd reason, to see the pyramids, so I gave them as much advice as I could, an extra cell phone, and sent them off to Giza while I shuttered off to campus, meeting up with them after classes to smoke some sheesha, strip down to our tank tops in the heat, and discuss their adventures, which were numerous. I just wish I could have accompanied them to minimize the harassment and discrimination they received, but they seemed to take it all good-naturedly. Last night, I dined at Deya's for a classier final good-bye to Aaron with home-cooked Egyptian food, good china, and drawing-room converations. Then, I rushed home, sent my guests off to Dahab via the bus, wished mommy Happy Mother's Day, and took some sleep. Whew!
Cairo has about reached that level of unbearable heat that makes you contemplate the Nile as a swimming pool instead of cesspool, and I've begun stripping down to tank tops on campus and answering the door to delivery men in shorts and revealing tops. The longer I remain in Cairo, the more lazy my attitude becomes, so perhaps it is good that I leave in less than a month. Tomorrow, I present to my reading and writing class an article on the supposed return to chastity and virginity in the States, and I must prepare myself both linguistically and mentally for the discussions. Until we meet again....