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!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Day 16/17

Yesterday was Thri’s last day in Egypt, so we went over to someone’s apartment for a going away party. It was really relaxed; I spent awhile talking to Victor, Annelinde, and Maria about politics. They are all very curious about American politics, and I am, of course, extremely interested in European politics. Victor is from France originally, but his family lives in England, and he goes to school in Canada, so he has a lot of insight on what is going on.
The worst thing about going out here is that when I get home, I reek of smoke. This country loves its cigarettes, which is something I will never understand. I hate smoking. My hair, scarf, purse, everything smells. That is something that I will not miss about Egypt!
However, regardless of the ever-present smoke, we had a great evening. I’ll really miss Thri a lot. She has a really warm, friendly personality. It’s weird to think that I’ll probably never see her again.
Work has been going well. The kids have settled down lately, and they were really really well behaved today. We used clay to mold “A” “B” “C” and “D” (some of the ambitious kids went ahead with “E” “F” and “G”). Sherin and I are now teaching with a new guy. His name is Dean and he’s from Hong Kong. His English is very good, and we really like him a lot. He’s funny in a quiet way, and he’s good with the kids. He lives near us, so it’s nice to be able to ride the metro home with him.
Sherin and I went over to Michelle, Shubhi, and Aarane’s apartment today after work to sit and talk for a bit. We’re planning to go to the White and Black Desert for a couple of days this weekend. It should be really nice! It isn’t very expensive, and we’ll spend a night camping out in the desert under the stars. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Day 14/15

We got back to Cairo early yesterday morning. The past two days have been pretty uneventful personally, but busy for Cairo. If you have been watching the news, you know that there have been protests downtown because of the elections. If you haven’t been following, it basically goes like this: there were elections last week, and the top two candidates (who will go on to the next round) consist of one ex-Muslim Brotherhood member and one ex-Mubarak minister. The votes coming from Revolution supporters were split among a few different candidates, meaning that they will not be progressing forward in the race. There have been claims of fraud and all sorts of election problems. This has created much anger among the people.

How does this affect me?
Egypt is probably going to get worse within the next few weeks, but I’m being very careful. I have not been around anything/place dangerous, because we know where to avoid going. Unfortunately, the elections are not going very smoothly, and they probably won't end smoothly. However, it is a great learning opportunity for me to be here and understand how democracy works and how the political process plays out in a country other than our own. I feel safe where we are living now, but we plan to move to Maadi within the next week (which is much more residential and out of the city center). Once we move there, I will feel totally secure. 
Most of the news I get here is hearsay from the Egyptians that I know (that is until I have time to get online and look at the news). The guys here try and keep us pretty sheltered from what is going on politically, so I have to ask direct questions if I want to know more. Thankfully, the people that I am with are very politically aware, and we have had some very interesting conversations about it.
I drove through Tahrir Square last night on my way home, and things looked intense. I've been staying away from the area as much as possible and trying to keep up with what is going on while keeping a respectful foreigner's distance from the politics. I will not be attending any protests, out of a combination of interest in personal safety and so that I can take a neutral political stance when need be.
I promise that I will be safe. Sherin and I have discussed what we would do in different scenarios, and we are sure to have a map of Cairo on us, just in case we would need to find our way around. I have the number for the U.S. embassy in Cario, and I have an emergency stash of money. I am well taken care of here, and I promise there is no reason for concern!

*This post was prompted by several concerned Facebook messages and e-mails that I have received from various people. 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Day 13

I rode a hot air balloon today, and we made an emergency landing in a cornfield. It was the most exciting thing I’ve ever done in my life (although, riding Superman Tower of Power was scarier, to be honest).

Eight of us left for the balloon field at 4:30 this morning to watch as the balloons were blown up. We got into the baskets, feeling the heat as they heated the air in the balloon. Taking off was really smooth, and soon we were sailing over the earth. It was beautiful, absolutely stunning. We flew over the desert, seeing the Valley of the Kings, and then we went East towards the Nile. We flew up to 1500 feet, giving us panoramic views of the entire region. The basket was deep enough that it came up to my chest, making me feel quite secure. Once we were in the air, the earth began to look like it does when looking out the window of a plane. There is no fear of heights for me then, because it looks more like a 3-D topographical map than anything. However, I honestly preferred when we were flying lower to the ground. When flying low, I felt like we were seeing the world from the view of a documentary camera. I could take everything in as an observer and really understand how the land is used.

My favorite part was seeing the farmland in between the Nile and the desert. The crops grow in little strips, showing the different crops and plots that farmers have. It makes a patchwork of all shades of green. It’s absolutely amazing how fertile the land is there by the Nile, with people farming and living in greenery. We could see a distinct line between the green, irrigated area and the desert. Seeing how people live below was fascinating. They have a very traditional lifestyle, growing crops in small plots and keeping animals in the yard of their home. Many of the houses there do not have roofs, or, if they do, the roofs are thatched and have holes. We dipped low enough to skim over the tops of the trees and, we could count the chickens running around in the yard. We could see down into their homes, watching women cooking and kids running around. It was the early morning, so men were taking their goats out to graze, beginning their morning by collecting alfalfa in the field.

As we passed low over the top of a field of corn stalks (it was so funny when the Greek guy asked the pilot what the plants were, because Sherin and I couldn’t imagine someone not recognizing corn!), and the pilot turned the balloon around for the first time. We found this a bit odd, because we had been steadily working our way South. Then, we got very, very low to the ground, and the pilot was telling us to assume landing position (something he’d shown us before takeoff). We grabbed the handles, bent our knees, and tucked ourselves down into the basket. He landed us in the field of dirt next to the cornfield. At first, we thought that we’d be able to get back up in the air, but it wasn’t going to work out. We were near the end of our 45-minute time slot anyways, so we just sat in the basket until the two passenger vans showed up in the field to pick us up. As we sat there, local kids from nearby fields swarmed around the basket, staring at us and the balloon with round eyes.

We got out of the basket and went home safe and sound. A couple of hours later, we went out to see Luxor and Karnak Temples. They were much larger than I expected! This took the early part of the afternoon, and we spent the rest of the day around Luxor, playing a game in the hotel and going for juice at a local restaurant.
I’m now on a sleeper train for ten hours, traveling back home to Cairo! It’s funny that I’ve already started to miss the city.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Day 12

We visited the West Bank of Luxor today! Valley of the Kings, Valley of the Queens, Colossi of Memnon, and the Temple of Hatshepsut. We ended the day by getting a delicious dinner a restaurant overlooking the Luxor Temple (a place we’ll tour tomorrow). It was a long, long, very hot day, but we saw a lot. We went into three tombs in each of the valleys, and I was struck by the difference in artistry between them. You can tell stylistic differences. It was also cool to see old Coptic Christian writing on the walls in some of the tombs from where the Christians came along, thousands of years after the Egyptians, and hid from the Romans there.

This area of Egypt is nearly empty. Their busy season is NOT the summer, because of the heat, so we basically get to see all of the sites by ourselves. This is nice, but we definitely understand why no one else is here! It is so so hot! We drink 3 liters of water or so a day, but hardly ever pee or sweat. This is because the sweat evaporates as fast as your body makes it. It’s really bizarre, but kind of nice. “Dry” heat makes a difference.

P.S. Sherin wants to note that she "won" an "awesome" macaroni-style necklace at one of the stores we stopped at today. I'm convinced that the guy made up the contest so that he could win her something. 

Friday, May 25, 2012

Day 11

Something I forgot to mention is how many lines and lines of people that were out voting on Wednesday and Thursday! It was so awesome to see this: people voting in the first free election in decades.
Yesterday was very busy. We went to see the High Dam, Philae (the temple of Isis), and the Nubian Village on Elephantine Island. Unfortunately, we did not get a very good tour of any of these things, so I really didn’t appreciate them as much until I got home and read my Nat Geo guide. The High Dam is massive, and holds back the largest man-made body of water in the world: Lake Nasser. Philae is a beautiful ruin on an island, and we took a boat to get out there.
The Nubian Village… was interesting. I have a real problem with taking tours of places where people live. Touring areas where people who are living in squalid conditions are going about their normal routine makes me feel like I’m supposed to be gawking at animals in a zoo. How would you feel if someone walked by your kitchen window and started snapping photos of the quaint way that you are peeling potatoes? How would you feel if you were lying on the dirt floor of your hut, surrounded by flies, and happened to look up and see someone snapping your photo? It’s just so impersonal and rude. It was interesting to see how they live, but I felt I needed to put my camera away for the tour of the island.  At the end of the tour, we went to a man’s house and were given our first cup of Hibiscus tea, something that is extremely popular here (I’ve been served it two times since then). It’s very interesting in flavor. I would compare it to sort of a grape juice in thickness, and it is pretty good when you add sugar.
Last night, we decided to walk to the Golden Pharaoh restaurant from our hotel. It didn’t look that far on the map, but we walked for probably at least 45 minutes, moving from the city center to a hill on the outskirts of Aswan. Ten of the 13 of us are girls, so the three guys spread themselves throughout the group, trying to make sure that we were safe. Paul, the Greek, was near the front, Victor was near the middle, and Yunus (not how you spell it), the German, was near the back. Near the end of the hike, as we were walking up the hill, we were separated as a group, because some of us were walking faster than others. (In hind sight, we should have stuck closer together). The first seven of us arrived at the restaurant together (Me, Annalinda, Paul, Sherin, Victor, Maria, and Sonia). We called Thri to see how far back she was, and she said that her, Shoebee, and Arrany had been right behind us, but could not find the other three. For several minutes, no one could reach Yunus, Michelle, and Elvita. Michelle wasn’t picking up her phone. It turns out (than god) that they were all fine. However, Michelle’s bag was stolen off her shoulder by a couple of young guys who escaped on a motorcycle. The three of them were further back down the hill from us, trying to figure out what to do about the situation. Thri, Shoebee, and Arrany took a cab with Yunus, Michelle, and Elvita to the traveler’s police station and reported it missing. Unfortunately, there isn’t much that can be done. She can replace everything except the money that was inside (which totaled a little over $100). It shook all of us, especially since no one had experienced anything like this in Cairo (the crime rate in the Middle East is extremely low, and it really hasn’t ever been a problem for us here).
We’ve all taken it as a huge learning lesson. Now, we do person checks every little bit, making sure everyone is there. We double-check that our personal belongings (passport, money, and phones, specifically) are secure, and the guys have made an even greater effort to make sure that all us ladies are together and accounted for.

Started the day bright and early with a 3 AM wakeup call today! Drove three hours from Aswan to Abu Simbel in a van. . We had an armed convoy escorting us and a bunch of other tour buses across the desert. They do this for tourist safety, but it felt a bit odd.
The site was very impressive! The tour was good, and, besides the insanely hot weather, it was a good trip. The fact that they moved the entire thing from below the waters of Lake Nasser made it all the more impressive
Being that far south (Aswan and below) really is the more African part of Egypt. I really felt like Aswan was an African city, whereas Cairo feels very Middle Eastern. (I’ve heard that Alexandria, in contrast, is very European. Hopefully, I will find out in a couple of weeks!).
We rode back 3 hours to Aswan and hung around at the hotel (trying to stay cool and getting food) until our train came. We took the train back to Luxor, so we’re in our Luxor hotel right now! It, like the one in Aswan, is very nice! It’ll be another good night to shower and relax.
The rides, although long, have been enjoyable. I’ve spent most of them talking with Maria (who is working on her PhD in Middle Eastern Politics), Annelinde (who is entering a masters program in International Law), and a French guy from McGill named Victor who is a Middle Eastern Studies major entering his sophomore year.  We had some fascinating conversations today on the train, and it made me more sure of what I am interested in.
Nine of the 13 people that are traveling with us right now are political science/ international studies majors. This makes for such great conversation! Everyone is well traveled, well informed, and so interesting. It is such a great setting for meeting people and networking for the future!

The highlight of my day happened when I was swarmed by men trying to sell me souvenirs. I was responding to them in Arabic, because usually it makes them go away much faster than just averting eye contact or (even worse) making vague statements in English that make it sound like you’re interested.  One guy was very surprised that I was responding in Arabic (this is something that the street vendors in the old city are more used to, because most people don’t venture into the heart of the city without knowing at least a little Arabic. However, at the tourist spots, no one responds to the vendors like this). He was really nice, immediately stopped trying to sell me the postcards in his hand, and asked me a couple of questions in Arabic. Then, he said, “You speak beautiful Arabic! Where did you learn? Egypt?” It was a nice compliment! I’ve been using my phrasebook to learn more of the Egyptian dialect. I hope that I can come home with a much larger vocabulary. Victor, who has as much Arabic as I do, went out to smoke with some of the Egyptian guys on the train today, and he said he was able to keep a basic conversation up. Sherin and I were both quite inspired (though she should be able to do it with no problem, because her Arabic is much better than she’d ever let on). I’m so nervous to try this! 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Day 10

It’s a balmy 109 degrees Fahrenheit (43 degrees Celsius) here in Aswan, Egypt. We had a 12 hour overnight train ride from Cairo to Aswan, arriving about an hour ago. We had first class tickets, so it was comfortable, and we all slept the majority of the way (it was definitely the best night of sleep that I’ve had since arriving here, and Annelinde said it was her best night of sleep since she arrived a month and a half ago).

The hotel we have here in Aswan for tonight is really quite nice (we weren’t sure what to expect, but have all been pleasantly surprised). Right now, Sherin is showering, and we’re waiting for instructions to come down the line about where we’re going next.

Sherin and I have been trying to figure out why a civilization as advanced as the Egyptian one would have decided to stay in Egypt. Of all the places in the world, why live in this heat?!

Tomorrow, we’re traveling down to near the Sudanese border and seeing Abu Simbel, which will be really nice!
 Then, we get back on the train and go up to Luxor (which we passed through on our way south). We’ll spend two days there, seeing as much of the area as possible.
We’ll be back in Cairo on Sunday!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Day 9

Not much going on today. We went to work and came home. Tonight, we’ll be leaving for weekend in Luxor and Aswan!

Last night, we went to an apartment in Maadi to hangout with people. The group at the party was basically split into thirds: partially AIESEC-ers (like me), partially students at American University of Cairo, and partially international people in their early 20s who work in Cairo. Several of the people were there for U.S. government work, but no one was specific about what they were doing. Everyone was really friendly and interesting to talk to. The apartment was on the top floor of a building in a nice area, and it had a large terrace with built in seating and a fireplace. They pay $800 (USD) a month for the apartment and get way more for their money than you would in the states or Europe. The girls who rent the place are Norwegian, and I had a conversation with one of them about Bergen. She was super nice!

Sherin and I met an Egyptian guy with very bad English who launched into an explanation about how his girlfriend would be so mad at him for coming to a party without her, but that it was too late to bring her out with him. He then continued to explain what exactly he was expecting of her once they got married. He said that 1) she would need to be home to make him lunch every day. He would get home very tired, and she would need to bring him food. It must be good food, or he would be very angry. 2) She must not go out without him, because he would not know who might try to touch or talk to her. 3) She must stay at home and take care of the house and children, because this will make her happy. It is easy, and she will have time to do a good job.
I pointed out that it is contradictory that he should be allowed outside to talk to women, but she could not go to talk to men, and he just laughed, saying, “it is good for the woman to be jealous. She should always be jealous. This makes her happy.”
While I know that this view does not reflect that of the guys I hang out with here, I also know that the men I am friends with here are part of a very small percentage of very western-minded men. However, it was still a bit odd for me to hear this straight from someone who very firmly believes that a woman’s place is in the home. He wasn’t preaching to us, because he acknowledged that our culture is different.

Today at work, a little girl was trying to rub the blue marker spot off of my finger. She kept asking what it was (I wasn't really paying any attention), and then she found another spot, this time on my palm. Then, she found on on my wrist. I realized that she was seeing my veins through my skin and thinking that it was more marker!  

Tonight, I am taking a sleeper train from Cairo to Luxor with 12 other interns, including my roommates and the girls I work with. We are all very excited! We have a tour organized for while we are there, so everything is pretty much taken care of. It’ll be the most expensive weekend we have here, but I know it’ll be amazing!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

day 8

Went to work as usual today! The teachers requested that we start coming later in the day, because the kids are too rowdy to teach after we leave =P hahah. So now we don’t have to be there til 11! Wooo. We sang “the itsy bitsy spider” today, colored with crayons (while teaching the names of the colors), and taught them basic pleasantries like good morning, good night, and thank you.

The one thing that really upset me today was that there were a couple of little boys being bullied by others. The other boys had stuck them in this shed area and were pushing the door shut. The little boys were very scared and trying to push the shed open. In the process, one of the little boys fell and scraped his arm pretty badly. He started crying, big tears rolling down his face.  I turned to one of the teachers (who was ignoring the situation and shutting the door) and said, “Can I take him in? He needs to be washed up.” She just looked at me. I showed her the cut, which was becoming bloody, and she sighed, opened the door, and said “hurry, hurry, hurry” to him. He ran to the back and stuck his arm under the sink. When he came back out, she shut the door and walked off. His arm was still bleeding, so I pulled out a Kleenex from my purse and told him to hold it against the cut. He was still crying, so Sherin scooped him up and took him to sit with her on the bench. They were best friends in no time. However, I was really taken aback by the lack of sympathy for him. I understood that it was a minor cut, but he needed some attention.

Another event quickly followed this. They had a merry-go-round, and a bunch of kids were hanging on it.  They were on their bellies with their faces to the ground, waving their hands off. The merry-go-round wasn’t moving, but I knew that the moment it did, someone would go flying off. I tried to get them off, but they definitely weren’t having any of that. Also, there was a jacked tied to it, dragging on the ground that I could not get it untied. A few minutes later, I turned back around and saw that there was a boy with the jacket around his waist, pulling the merry-go-round round and round and round. One of the kids was hanging off was a little girl; her leg was wrapped around one of the bars on the inside, but her arms and face were dragging in the ground. She was screaming, but the boys kept going and going. No one came to help her. I stopped merry-go-round and pulled her out, trying to untangle her. I tried, again, to get them to stop, but they went right back to it. Again, the big problem is not having enough people there to keep an eye on the kids!

Sherin and I have been talking about it, and we think what is really lacking there is personal connection. Those kids want attention so, so badly. They call all of the women workers “mama” (including us), but they really have no one who treats them like a mother. They are constantly climbing into our laps, wanting to be picked up and hugged. When we were coloring, they wanted us to watch each stroke of their crayon, making sure we were paying attention. The moment one of us said, “oh, that is so pretty!” or “you are doing such a good job!,” they were so happy and proud. The moment we walk into a classroom, there are little fingers reaching up to hold our hands or hug our legs. I would say that this is just them being little kids, but I’ve been around little kids before. There is definitely more neediness in their hugs, hand holding, and kisses than in those of the average child. Most kids will run up, sit on your lap, and then run away to go get something. These kids very jealously guard their spot on your lap, making sure that they get your attention for as long as possible. Even if they don’t learn any English the entire time we are there, I am so glad that we can spend time with them.

Riding the Metro home, we went on the communal section. The women’s section was too crowded, and we couldn’t make ourselves get in there in the heat. We got creeped on hardcore. However, it was way more comfortable, because there was room to sit. The guy across from us kept trying to wink at Sherin. I avoided eye contact with everyone, so it went okay. There was a baby sitting down the row from us that we kept making faces at. We realized that her mama was NOT happy that we were looking. Then, we realized it was because her husband was looking at us. Hahaha. This country is so ridiculous sometimes.

Speaking of ridiculous, yesterday Sherin and I started something while we were riding the taxi home from the metro. We put on ridiculous fake French accents, and began loudly talking about our (fake) lives. Today, the taxi driver began laughing so hard that he turned off the music just to listen to us. We had this whole elaborate story going. It went like this: Sherin had been living in Egypt for 15 years, and I was in Cairo to visit her. I had like fifteen kids, and a husband in Istanbul.  I had lived in Moscow, and spent awhile discussing how the weather in Egypt is so much nicer. Sherin mentioned how much she loves sweating, and how she had given up bathing after moving the Cairo. I asked if she had been to the Pyramids, and she said no. I said, “oh? In fifteen years? You have not been?” She said, “but I hear that they are not finished yet!” I said, “oh, really? Why?” She said, “There are stones missing!” I asked how she knows, and she said “I saw it on the travel channel!” (that part of the conversation was when he turned off the radio). We proceeded to discuss her love affair with Egyptian shwarma, how she has not been to Luxor (but has seen it on the travel channel), and how she needs to find a nice husband. The best part was when I started raving to her about the quality of the taxi driver, and how we needed such drivers in the states of Europe (this was where I slipped up by saying “states” and tried turning it into something reasonable). We stayed in character for a full 15 minutes, paid our fare in accent, and got out of the cab in front of a mosque, Sherin asking me if I wanted to go to the nearest Café (which is comical within itself, because the area we live in has no Cafés).  We’ve decided that that will become a routine part of our commute.

Oh, the other thing I decided today is that I’m going to start hissing back at all the men who hiss at me. I hate the hissing. Hate hate hate. Whistles are fine, comments are fine. However, when men hiss, they sound like mean cats, and I hate it. On our way to the apartment, two men hissed at us. I hissed back, not turning to look at them. Sherin nearly fell over from laughing. Unfortunately, my action had unintended consequences: they thought it was hilarious and kept trying to get our attention. There's really nothing to do but ignore it.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Day 7

Awladi is a really nice setting to grow up in, especially considering what the rest of Cairo looks like. It would be nicer if the women who care for the children would spend more time with each kid, but they appear to be a bit short of staff.

In the first class, we helped the kids complete their Arabic workbook pages (basically just copying down letters and words). It reminded me of my elementary school days and how much I hated copying down letters and words. Then, we taught them numbers in English. They know how to count to ten, but they don’t understand what it means. They have it memorized, but do not realize that “one” means “wahid” and “two” means “ithnaan.” Thankfully, the teacher in there is very nice and helpful.

In the second class, things were chaos. They actually seemed to comprehend the  meaning of the numbers because we would hold up fingers, and they could count on their fingers to figure out which number we meant. However, they did not like sitting still. In the middle of class, older girls came in to bring them snacks. The girls were fascinated with Sherin and I, so the kids got distracted. Then, we tried teaching them “head, shoulders, knees, and toes.” It worked for a bit until the teacher left the room. Then, it became “attack of the apes.” They were crawling all over. The only reason they listen to the teacher is so she won’t hit them with her ruler. We just gave up after that. I figure that at least we can give them some attention.

We went outside afterwards and played with the little little kids. Geda, the girl who attached herself to me yesterday, came and found me again. She’s legitimately the sweetest thing I’ve ever seen. She just wants to be picked up and hugged, and she quietly talks in Arabic, half to me, and half to herself. She, like a lot of the little ones, likes to hold your hand up to her face, kiss the palm, and squeeze it against her cheek. Yesterday, she was sniffing my palm, and said “saboona, saboona, saboona” as she sniffed all around my hand. Then she picked up the other one and did the same thing, working her way up my arm. Halfway up my forearm, she said, “la saboona.” I had to ask Sherin, but I realized that she was saying “soap, soap, soap,” and then “no soap” once she went up my arm. It was so funny and cute! I had just washed my hands before going outside. I’m sure I’ll have lots of stories from her, because she’s my absolute favorite.

After work, we went to lunch and shop with the three other AIESEC workers. I got more points on my phone card, and I added some to the modem (however, the internet still kinda sucks). We took the metro home.

I’m getting more and more used to the metro. Near the end of the lines, the cars are nearly empty. Near the city center, it is literally like a barrel of monkeys in there. I have never been pressed so close to people in my entire life. It is hot, smelly, and uncomfortable. However, it only costs 1 pound to ride as long as you want, which beats the taxi every time!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Day 6

Sherin and I woke up at 7 for work. Omar picked us up at 8 and drove us down to the Maadi district (quite a long drive). Maadi is a very nice residential area with a British/ American school and lots of expatriates.
Awladi itself is tucked into the neighborhood. It has lots of trees, and large grounds. We were assigned to teach two classrooms of 5-6 year olds. The other age group is 3-4, and another group of AIESEC-ers are teaching them. We began by teaching the alphabet. They knew the alphabet song, but aren’t good at the letters. Then, we started teaching from an Animals poster on the wall, spelling out the words for Dog, Cat, Horse, etc. We followed up each work by making the sound that the Animal makes. Sherin is particularly good at making a loud, scary “rawr” (surprise, surprise, haha). They loved her to do the Lion, Tiger, and Bear noises.
There are about 16 kids in each class, so it wasn’t too out of hand. However, the kids speak no English, and the teachers speak a very minimal amount. The teachers helped us keep the kids in order, but it was hard to communicate with them sometimes. Sherin need to sit down and think about what we will teach each day. Otherwise, we have an hour to fill (in each class) and no ideas.
It isn’t a stressful job, unless you count the fact that teaching children is like herding cats. They don’t really want to pay attention, and you don’t speak their language, so they’re rather just do their thing.
The ride home was our first time commuting so far by Metro. We left Awladi in a taxi and drove a short distance to the Metro (next time, we may just walk). We bought fresh bread for lunch and rode the metro for about five minutes one way, talking about which stop we needed to get off on. Then, all of the women around us realized that we were on the wrong train (we should have been headed the opposite direction, because we were heading away from the city center instead of towards it). They were so, so kind and explained where we should go. One woman offered to take us across the walkway to the other train. We were, of course, laughing at ourselves for the stupidity (and probably would have figured it out a few minutes later), but it was nice to know that even though the women gawk at us on the Metro (among a sea of hijabs, we stick out like spare thumbs), they are extremely helpful and nice. Once we were on the right train, we had about 18 stops (45 minutes) of riding across Cairo before we were home. We then took another taxi back to the apartment. All in all, it should cost us about 10 pounds a day to make this commute (less than 2 dollars), which is really not bad at all. Unfortunately, it is a pretty long ride. Omar has offered to move us to an apartment in Maadi if we want. However, we really like our current roommates, so we are thinking about moving to Maadi once our roommates go back home (they have about two more weeks here). Maadi will be a nicer place to live, but it is not nearly as convenient to the city, so we would not be able to have the guys pick us up so often. That is a drawback, especially during the evenings when we’d rather not be using taxis (rates go up at night). Ah well, we’ll figure it out.
We have Wednesday and Thursday off because of the elections. We are leaving for a trip to Luxor and Aswan on Wednesday night. It is a long ride down there, but we’re traveling with like 20 other AIESEC-ers, and we’ll take a train. We are going to get a tour guide for the trip, just because there are so many people. Thri is taking care of accommodations and transportation. It should be really nice!
Since we have Wednesday off, we were thinking about getting up at our normal time and going to the Giza pyramids. Hopefully, we can talk one of the guys into going with us, so we get the Egyptian treatment, rather than the “special price, just for you” that is reserved for foreigners.