This blog was originally designed to keep me sane as I began learning Arabic. It morphed into a blog of musings about Arabic, the Middle East, and the Islamic World, as well as book reviews about those topics. Then, the blog became a place to keep my family and friends updated on my adventures while I was living abroad. During May and June of 2012, I had a 6-week long internship in Cairo, Egypt through a international student organization called AIESEC. I taught English at the Awladi Orphanage in Cairo, home to several hundred children. I lived in an apartment in Nasr City before moving to Maadi (each is a distinct area of Cairo). I experienced President Mursi's election, camped in the western desert, rode camels by the pyramids, and had countless other experiences. I have since moved past this blog, on towards new endeavors, but if you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment! Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Plane Ticket to Cairo

 Bought my plane ticket to Cairo yesterday morning!
I knew that prices would just continue to go up, especially since the departure date is so close! I ended up getting mine for about 1400. It would have been cheaper if I lived somewhere closer to the East coast :( Ah well, there goes almost a semester's worth of pay. The only bad thing about my itinerary is the 10 hour overnight layover in London that I'll have on my way back home. *sigh*

However, I know that this trip will be worth it. Traveling is always worth it. :)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Awlady or "Awladi" Explained

I am so excited to be joining Awladi's AIESEC team for the summer!
First: "Awladi" means "my kids" in Arabic.
Second: I will be using "Awladi" from here on out instead of "Awlady." Both are technically correct, however, while "Awlady" is what the AIESEC group uses, "Awladi" is the proper spelling according to the organization itself!

Orphanages in the Middle East work a little differently than they do in the U.S., because the Islamic view of orphans is totally different.
If you only have time to read one, definitely take a look at the article below from the Cairo Times.
I have read it several times since applying for the Awladi internship. It blends together information about Islamic Family Law, government policy, and social norms.


Awladi's Objectives

Article about Awlady in the Cairo Times (this is the most informative source)

It is recommended here as a good place to volunteer while on vacation.

Article on the function of orphanages in Egypt.

Even Naomi Campbell visited!

Finally, here is a fascinating law article about the legal rights of non-marital children in Egypt.

McDonald's Egyptian branch supports Awladi.

AIESEC (part VII) - Awlady

Officially received the acceptance note today!
I will be working at Awlady from May 16th to June 27th!
I plan on flying there May 14th and returning June 28th.

Monday, April 23, 2012

AIESEC (part VI)

Oh, the drama continues..

So I got a message back yesterday from the guy in charge of the Awlady thing. He told me a couple of days ago that things are "perfect! no problem." Yesterday, he told me that there are things missing from my acceptance note: my signature and the dates that I will be working.

Which... is true. Those things were not on there. However, (a) I did not fill that sheet out, my manager did and (b) how was I supposed to know?

He acted irritated about it and said, "your manager should have told you to take care of this."

So I'm like.. okay. I scanned in the updated, signed document and sent it out late last night.
I really hope to hear back from him today.

I need to buy plane tickets! Like, tomorrow!

The other wrench thrown into this situation was that he told me "the dates we agreed on will work." Well, we didn't agree on any! I told him that I'd ideally like to work for Awlady sometime between May 15th and June 29th. This is more than 6 weeks though... so when I sent him back my note, I wrote that I will be there from May 16th to June 27th (exactly 6 weeks).

My plan now is to leave on the 14th of May, get to Cairo on the 15th, and start work the 16th.
Then, I'll end work the 27th of June and be home by the 28th.
(I'll lose a day going there and gain a day coming back)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

AIESEC (part V) - Awlady!

I will officially be working at the Awlady Orphanage in Cairo this summer!!!
So happy to have that all figured out.
I got an e-mail yesterday about it. It was perfect timing, because mom is here for mother's weekend and we were going to go out shopping for Egypt stuff.
I made a list and checked it twice, trying to make sure that I would have everything to keep me cute and comfortable in the heat but covered in respect of the culture.

My essentials for Egypt:
-Straw hat
-long skirts
-light, long-sleeved t-shirts
-sturdy, cute sandals 
-a bag sling that will hold my camera, plus other essentials during the day
-sunscreen (obviously)
These pictures were my inspiration!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

AIESEC (part IV)

I'm waiting... still waiting.
Haven't heard back from the guy at Awlady.
I wish he would hurry up. I need to buy my ticket within the next week or so, otherwise prices are going to go through the roof. Currently, flying St. Louis to Cairo during the middle of the week looks like it should cost about $1,300 or so. Dis is a lot of monies!
I e-mailed the guy yesterday, sending him my acceptance note and asking for confirmation on the dates.

I'm getting paranoid that my planning is going to all fall through, and I'll end up sitting at home all summer.

However, I know that I'm just being impatient.
So let the wait begin...

P.S. Is it weird that I think old middle eastern cities like Cairo, ones with sandy, taupe-colored buildings, are appealing? I like natural, neutral colors, things that aren't terribly bold or shocking. To me, the buildings in the picture above look like they have risen up out of the ground.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


Alright, so it has been a week since my interview, and I have yet to hear back about the internship with the Desert Development Center.
(This place:

Sooo I'm thinking about pulling the plug on that internship. It does fit right in with my interests in sustainability, but it isn't the most ideal set-up. I just wish that this guy was more reliable with his e-mail replies. The Awlady guy is always so prompt!

To be honest, as much as I would like to go chill at the American University in Cairo for 6 weeks, I don't feel like it would be a genuinely Egyptian experience. Everyone at AUC is fluent in English, and they are upper middle class Egyptians. The new campus is like a 30 minute drive from downtown Cairo, so it wouldn't be quite so convenient, plus it wouldn't give me the cultural experience I want. However, the campus is beyond gorgeousness! I am going to make a point to visit there while I'm staying in Cairo.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Egyptian Arabic Phrase Book

Lonely Planet's Egyptian Arabic Phrasebook
I've stopped reviewing books since the beginning of my AIESEC planning, but I just bought this little pocket-size travel phrasebook and it's awesome! I own two other Arabic dictionaries, but this is much more ideal for traveling with. I bought it on a whim at the bookstore, but it seems as though this is more perfect than I could have hoped for!

a) passport sized, perfect for slipping into a travel bag
b) quick reference keys on the inside covers, perfect for those moments when you've blanked on a simple phrase like "thank you."
c) easy to read and understand

I have thumbed through it several times, and I must completely agree with one of its Amazon reviewers: "I love this book!!! When in Egypt this June, I used it to my heart's content. Thanks to this book, I have learned very much in speaking the Arabic language. Being a student of Arabic, I found this small phrasebook even more efficient in teaching me than my textbook from school! It is simply awesome. Although the grammar could have been talked about more, I found this book a life-saver in many situations while being in North Africa. This book will teach you pronunciation, the Arabic alphabet, numbers, and thousands of useful phrases whilst in Egypt. The best Arabic-learning tool out there!"
I can honestly say, I like this better than any of my textbooks! Plus, it's so cheap! Only $6.99.

It will definitely be accompanying me in all of my travels around Egypt.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

AIESEC (part II)

After being matched up with my internship manager through AIESEC here on campus, I was able to get onto myaiesec and start browsing the internships! I was, at first, a little weary about paying $75 for access to the site, but my hesitation was gone once I was able to see the options available!

There were positions to work for major companies, but the NGO positions were what I was most interested in. I found things working for the UN and many regional nonprofits that don't post their internships anywhere else. The database really condenses all of the options down onto one list, one application process. The database is updated each day from people around the world, but I gave myself a deadline for picking a group of organizations to apply to. (For family reasons, I also constricted myself to jobs lasting only 6 weeks that I would be able to start around May 15th and be home by around June 26th.) Which leads me to...

My top 7 AIESEC internship options:
1) American University's Desert Development Center
2) Human Rights for the Assistance of Prisoners
3) UN Women
4) CARE International
5) Awlady Orphanage
6) Dar el Sabeel for Children's Rights
7) Alliance for Arab Women

Those were the ones I applied for (which really means: my manager e-mailed the person managing the incoming exchange for those internships). We only heard back from the ones that are italicized. Which means that either a) they weren't interested in me or b) they don't check their e-mails very much. Regardless- I set up interviews with managers from the four italicized NGOs. For some reason, the Dar el Sabeel manager did not show up on Skype for our interview :( and the person for the Human Rights for the Assistance of Prisoners group was very unorganized, to the point that I decided to stop maintaining contact. My manager said that usually, it is best not to pursue the managers who are not organized, because this reflects the fact that their chapter of AIESEC probably isn't very well run. I cannot argue with this! I would not want to show up to Egypt and, because of disorganization, not have a place to stay!

However, the two other interviewers were perfectly lovely! I was offered the position with Awlady on the spot! The Desert Development Center program (which takes place on the brand new, gorgeous AUC campus) is trickier because I do not fall into their dates. I cannot come as early in May as they want me to, because I will still be in school. I'm supposed to hear back from that guy sometime next week. I wish he would hurry up though! I need to buy tickets and such...

Click HERE for more information about AIESEC.

AIESEC (part I)

Wow! The semester has flown by.

I am now a month into my AIESEC internship search!

I will be working in Cairo, Egypt for six weeks this summer!

Here's a little background on that:
I decided that I would like to go to either Egypt or Jordan. The reasons begin: none of the Gulf countries have good development NGOs to work for (they are usually more technologically focused) and their internships require larger time commitments. Once I began looking closer at my options in Egypt and Jordan, I realized that Jordan probably didn't have what I was looking for.

So, Egypt it is! The two major cities they recruit for in Egypt are Alexandria and Cairo. The idea of living in Alexandria seemed more appealing to me initially; it doesn't have quite the hustle and bustle of Cairo. However, less so than Jordan, AIESEC Alexandria didn't quite have the internships that I was looking for.

So, Cairo it is! My mom was a little concerned about me going to Cairo, especially in light of the revolution that took place (something that, let's be honest, will be really exciting to be exposed to! It's just an extra perk that I will be able to meet these revolutionary people and see them build up their country). However, I talked to her about safety and how AIESEC is really great about supporting their interns. I talked to one girl who said that she was in Egypt during the revolution and a director of AIESEC took her and other interns to stay in her house for a few days, until they were sure that things were secure. Obviously, many students are studying abroad in and around Cairo now. Everything seems perfect!