Thursday, December 16, 2010

And Then There Were None; Paradise Lost; Gallagher’s Travels; The Return of The Prince; The Last Falafel

Ended the semester with way too many blog post titles up my sleeve so I’m throwing them all in here now.

Also, in Googling “And Then There Were None” to make sure it was actually the title of that book I read in sixth grade, I found the original title was “Ten Little N*****s”, who knew! That would have been SO much harder to incorporate into a blog post, so I thank the East Aurora Middle School for buying the later editions.

It better not be any colder than 50 degrees when I get home tomorrow, because that’s how cold it’s been in Egypt and I’m pretty sure I have acquired frostbite. It even went so far as to snow in Jordan and other parts of the Middle East, setting off another wave of global warming denials from my magazine writing class. Now they’re claiming it is a Western myth to prevent them from industrializing like we did. It was too awkward for me to tell them it’s because we industrialized the way we did that global warming exists, and hence they should really be more careful than we were and I’m really sorry about that.

My international development class has turned out to be no help in such arguments, as the underlying thesis of the class turned out to be international development is nigh impossible and the world would be better off without neo-colonialist USAID. Despite the obvious implications of scratching USAID’s budget (I wouldn’t have anywhere to spend my summers reading resumes), with all that cash we could buy at least one, if not two, fighter jets, which are way more exciting than building schools anyway.

My media ethics course ended without much fanfare. Last night when I was supposed to be studying for today’s final, Celine Dion’s “All by Myself” was finally surpassed as the most played song on my iPod by “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” by Mariah Carey, who I like to imagine is singing to me. I’m a-coming Mariah! The exam, I thought, was challenging.

Perhaps, shockingly, the class I learned the most from this week was Romantic Literature. It had started like any other lecture, but then suddenly my professor fell into a Professor Trelawny (of Harry Potter fame, who gets a prophecy right about once every 15 years)-like trance, the girl next to me stopped snoring, and I snapped out of a day dream. He was talking about some character I didn’t know from some poem I didn’t read, but he said, “Here Prometheus asks the Gods never to feel pain, regret, guilt, or discomfort. Seems to me he is wishing away the human experience, something I would never wish for.” This is why Dumbledore hired him. And just like that he snapped back to his abstract, boring self, the girl next to me resumed her snoring, and I was left to ponder the wisdom of this eccentric academic.

This logic out of the blue very much applies to my time in Egypt. If you have read any of my previous posts, you’ll notice I focus on the times of hardship (i.e. camels, taxies and sandstorms). But for me the hard times are what made Egypt the great experience it was. I wanted to go somewhere not yet Westernized, and Egypt was just on the brink. And while I have had fun blogging about the difficulties involved in getting anything done here, I am grateful for the opportunity to experience what life is like in places where everything is not always so easy. And that is not a knock on you Madrid kids; I read your statuses about how hard it is to navigate the Madrid metro drunk. But I’m just really glad I got the chance to live in Egypt, but I’m even gladder it was only for four months.

It has always been my intention for this blog to go out on top, but then I couldn’t very well stop blogging my second day in Egypt. So I appreciate everyone taking the time to read my long, grammatically incorrect, drawn-out stories/thoughts. I’ve actually enjoyed blogging so much I considered agreeing to the many requests to continue once stateside (Emily vaguely mentioned it on my wall, and Katherine, Su, and Leslie liked it). But I fear that blog would become too much like Gossip Girl, a very, very boring Gossip Girl:
W challenged D to a FIFA game today, D won, W made a sandwich. Looks like somebody is eating his words, and his feelings!”
xoxo Plucky Peeper

Then The Eagle is holding a contest, “The Eagle’s Next Great Pundit” (who was their last?) to recruit a new columnist, but they’re making it incredibly strict by ruling out personal attacks and unsourced information. As my remarks within parentheses often indicate, two-thirds of my posts are made up of unsourced personal attacks. The other third? Titles.

So in a few hours, I am going to step onto a plane and leave Egypt, the blogosphere, and my beloved falafel behind. Do not ask for whom the departing flight bell tolls; it tolls for me.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Another Day in Paradise

This morning I woke up sore from playing the beautiful game all of yesterday afternoon, went to the kitchen to eat my ten cent fig bagel, and walked out into gorgeous 80 degree weather. Does it get better than this?

I’m writing this post for the benefit of my poor snowbound city, which is having its yearly Snowpocalypse, and is surely in need of something pleasant to read. What is exciting and fun in DC has become what Joe Wenner would create a blog to say is “trite” in Buffalo. But I guess this storm is worse than usual? Good thing the Egyptians in my magazine writing class assured me global warming is a western myth. Whatevs, they’re the ones who built their nation in a flood basin. Let’s see how their precious ancient irrigation techniques work when the polar ice cap melts. But anyway, with all the Western New York suburban police and state troopers working hard to free stranded motorists, who is harassing the underage youth and creating fake Facebook accounts to find out where all the hot parties are? The whole situation seems dangerous to me.

The holidays are here and I have a holiday story! So, Thanksgiving came about and Emily, Maddie, and Zoya all traveled away from Cario. Cue us moving into their apartment for the weekend, in order to prepare a feast. Traveling down on Wednesday night, Ryan, Richie, and I woke up early around noon to get things rolling. Pat met up with us and we knocked the shopping out of the way. We had to settle for a chicken because we were too cheap to buy a turkey. And this chicken was FROZEN. Like, one of the most frozen chickens I’ve encountered in my young life. Fortunately, the internet said we could cook a frozen chicken. Unfortunately, Momma Gallagher said we had to remove the bag of innards from the chicken before we could cook it. Turns out chickens don’t defrost as quickly as you’d hope they would, and in retrospect maybe we should have gotten up even earlier than 12. But there was no time to dwell on past mistakes, so we promptly ladled boiling water into the chicken for the next hour. Finally, things felt like they loosened up in there. By this time Andrew Daly and his roommate John had shown up. Richie reached into the semi-thawed chicken, and excitedly proclaimed, “Got it.” What he withdrew though was no innard, or what is normally an innard, but instead the head and neck of the chicken, and we all freaked out. I’m not sure if this is standard fare in cooking chickens, but it shook us up pretty bad. I mean Richie had just pulled a chicken’s head out of a chicken’s anus; there was a certain shock factor that maybe I’m not conveying. Anyway, we continued to pour boiling water and finally the bag of innards came out and we cooked the bird. All other parts of the meal came together very nicely, aided by the arrival of the token girl, Kiki, who made things run a bit smoother and made an excellent Arabian desert. And when we took the chicken out of the oven and John prepared to slice and dice it, Kiki told us we were morons and that we had actually cooked a turkey! A Thanksgiving miracle! We did have to admit that it would have been a pretty large chicken, and closer inspection of the anus-head did reveal some turkey-like features. But the meal turned out to be wunderbar, very filling, and only Pat and I got seriously sick. All in all, a very happy Thanksgiving.

But it isn’t a complete paradise here. Sure, I’ll always have the weather, prices, and abundant soccer, but there is more to life than that. For instance, the janitor who comes in everyday to mop our floor has developed the habit of taking his break after opening the door, but before doing any cleaning. Coincidentally, we are seeing a lot more bugs in the apartment, and every day I wake up with at least three new bites.

And then my lap top contracted a virus, probably from watching soccer games on illegal sites (at least that’s what I told my dad). This coincided poorly with me actually having work to do, and has since forced me into the dorm computer lab. But it’s not so bad in there, as I get to hang with the Egyptian students here on scholarship who don’t have lap tops to ruin. There is Shady Samy (his real name), Mighty Magded (not his real name), and about seven Achmed’s. We have a good time, the only real difference of opinion coming from my desire to listen to Christmas music and their desire to youtube explanations of mathematical equations. Guys, I got a 2 on my AP Calculus exam (thank you multiple choice), if you have a question just ask!

And o! the work. It is like I’m at a real college doing a real major (something I haven’t experienced since freshman year, if you count international relations as a real major). 8 page paper here, 10 page paper there, power point presentations galore, a long feature story, and then finals. All in the next two weeks! Which means I should probably stop procrastinating, and start applying some original analysis to this romantic literature that has been lying in front of me for the last week. Hey guys, can you turn down the Pythagorean Theorem?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tour de Falafel Part Three: We Three Wise Men

So on to the Holy Land! After taking a bus with some child soldiers (they were supposed to be 18; I have my doubts) up to Jerusalem, I was ready to begin my religious pilgrimage. Traveling with two more or less Catholics in Pat and Ryan, I had a lot of catching up to do on religious history. My sense of monotheism has almost exclusively been shaped by a combination of Mark Twain (“God created man because he was disappointed in the monkey”) and Monty Python (“Blessed are the cheese makers”). But between Pat and Ryan they could usually figure out what we were looking at, and I touched some pretty cool things!

When we got off the bus I got yelled at for taking a picture of taking a picture of the Kosher McDonalds. Five minutes later I got yelled by our taxi driver for closing the door too hard. It’s hard going from a land of lawlessness like Cairo to somewhere so rigid. And every old man sounds like Jerry Stiller. I made the mistake of asking for the meter and the cab driver went on for ten minutes about how I was wasting money and could have gotten the ride for less without the meter. We were staying right in the Old City, in this room that looked like it might have housed a couple crusaders in the day. That first night we just walked around a little bit before hitting the nightlife area. It is pretty crazy, because more people carry handguns there than anywhere else I’ve been. Which must make for interesting bar fights!

The next day we were up bright and early for our tour of the city. We bought some man-sized bagels and headed out of the city, up Mt. Olives, and looked out over the city. It was pretty cool because you could see the Dome of the Rock and everything. There was some talk of perhaps the Garden of Eden being in the vicinity, but Mark Twain was pretty clear that the Garden was in Western New York. Already my worldview was changing. Then we went to the Old City, where we learned that it was divided into the Christian Quarter, Jewish Quarter, Muslim Quarter, and the Armenian Quarter. Favorite quarter? Obviously the Muslim Quarter where the same falafel cost half as much. But we did visit the Church of Nativity where we did such everyday things as touch the rock Jesus was buried on and saw the cave (now a hut) he was buried in.

Then we went to the Jewish quarter where there was schnitzel aplenty and touched the Western Wall. Best part: free yarmulkes for everyone! I don’t know the technology involved, but it never once fell off my kurbiskopf. My day got even better when this couple on the tour with us, who bear an uncanny resemblance to Aunt Peggy and Uncle Bruce (that comment was for Ashley), bought the three of us lunch. Had I known they were buying, I would have got shawerma, but I’ve never been one to complain about a free falafel. Next we went to the Holocaust Museum, which was decidedly not funny. I would say it is more depressing than DC’s museum but it falls short of the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp in Austria. Oh the sights I’ve seen!

That night we headed back downtown where we ran into the air force guys we know from AUC. We wanted to have kind of an early night because we wanted to go to mass in the Church of Nativity. But this one place looped us in, and you don’t walk away from 3 for 1 drink specials, and you definitely don’t walk away from a bottomless bowl of popcorn.

Long story short, we did not make it to mass the next morning. But we did rouse ourselves to go to Bethlehem, where I touched the spot Jesus was born. In order to do though I had to take part in a slow motion stampede, during which I took back everything nice I’ve ever said about Indians as a people (sorry Divya, Gayan, Meera, Cassie(?)). Ryan, Pat and I found ourselves stuck in the middle of their tour group, and while some of them were nice, others insisted on drinking my water and continuously pushing. My favorite part is when one of them accused Ryan of holding up the line, despite the hundred people in front of him who were not moving. We took some pretty epic pictures that will illuminate the experience better for you, as soon as I get my laptop back in shape.

After exiting the hell that was Jesus’s birthplace we quickly stopped by the place where the shepherds were informed of Jesus’s birth. It was a pretty cool field, but you didn’t get the sense that it couldn’t have been the field next to that one. I’m just glad they kept track all these years/had the presence of mind to remember where they were standing. But what was cool was driving along the wall that fences in Palestine. For reasons unknown to me it was all in English, and some of it was pretty funny like “I want my ball back!” Then we went through the checkpoint, and I don’t know what the Palestinians are complaining about, no one questioned my American passport at all.

That night we went out with Ryan’s predecessor Gabe (PKE president past and present? Like dining with royalty!), who is on his yeshiva, which is when Jewish men go study the Torah to get closer to the religion. We met up with his friends, and they weren’t radical, militant Jews! I guess that is what I’m taking away from the trip; everyone we met seems pretty reasonable (except for the Israeli falafel dealers; 20 shekels for a falafel, JOKES!). They did explain some questions I had about the whole sitch, but it was another one of those three for one drink nights, so you’ll just have to believe me it all made sense at the time.

Next morning we successfully made it to mass. My Latin is a little rusty, but overall I thought it was a pretty good sermon. Favorite part: obviously the free cookie. Ryan and Pat waited in line to get into the cave/hut Jesus was unsuccessfully buried in, and just when they got in one very angry priest decided it was time to clean it, but the bros joined a group of nuns in charging in. Obviously, this wasn’t the angry priests first rodeo, as he didn’t hesitate in squirting water on the on rushers. When that didn’t work, he collared Ryan like an experienced bartender and threw him out. Pat got an excellent shot of an angry priest hand coming down on his camera, which I’ll post here when Pat gets it up.

But alas it was time once more to return to the Land of Sand. We decided to cut out Tel Aviv for the simple reason that the bus we were planning to catch doesn’t run on Saturdays, which are the Jewish holiday. Added to the fact we had spent too many shekels on man sized bagels, outrageously priced falafel, and obligatory schnitzel, we knew it was time to return to whence we came. We left our hostel at 9 in the morning, but were too late to buy tickets for the 10 o’clock bus to the border. That meant another four hours of waiting at the bus station, a specialty of ours. It did give us occasion to try the Kosher Burger at McDonalds, which Pat claimed made him the most full he’s ever been at a Mickie D’s. Someone obviously missed Shrek week at that fine dining establishment this summer. After that it was just a five hour ride to the border, an exit tax from Israel, an hour to cross, an entry tax for Egypt, and a six hour ride home to Cairo. Plenty of time to get to know Pat and Ryan.

And so ended the journey of the life time. And now only six classes of Romantic Literature (three weeks) until I make my triumphant return to America. Halleluiah!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Tour de Falafel Part Two: House Hassem

LAPTOP DOWN! Sorry my pictures end abruptly with Lebanon, but my laptop is out of commission at the moment. Also, the computer I’m typing on apparently doesn’t have spell check, so hopefully you’ll be able to sound out this post!

To understand my visit to Jordan it is first necessary to understand my relationship to Hassem. In Connecticut Heights (DC’s best kept secret), I live above a delightful man named Rateb, a frequent commenter on my pictures you may have noticed. He would occasionally come up to our room to learn English, and seeing as he brought tea and chicken, of course I was willing to oblige. You might also be able to tell fom his comments he is a better cook than I am a tutor. Anyways, when I told Rateb I was going to Jordan he insisted his friend Hassem would take care of us the whole time we were there and not to worry about anything. From that point onward Hassem sent me texts in Arabic to which I replied to in English, and a friendship was formed.

We got off the plane, transferred our Lebanese money into Jordan dinars (which are actually better than the dollar) and met Hassem. He is the most cartoon-like person I have ever met, and I loved him for it. He spoke absolutely no English, and you all know my Arabic capabilities. But he knew animal sounds! Whenever we would pass a donkey, you could rely on an EEE-AHH EEEE-AHHHH. And we would laugh and laugh and laugh. We got a taxi for the day and first stop, some church in Amman! I didn’t catch the significance of it, but if I can find out from Pat or Ryan I will definitely update this post. Of more significance was the rug store outside, where Pat and Ryan got beautiful Bedouin made rugs. I considered it, but turned back at the last minute due to my hatred of vacuuming.

Then we hit up the Mountain of Nebo, where Moses died. Those of you who are going to heaven will know that Moses wasn’t allowed into Israel for the unforgivable crime of tapping the rock twice. Anyway it offered a great view of the Holy Land and had some pretty funny mosaics.

Next stop, the Dead Sea! Famous for its magical floating capabilities, it made for the ultimate photoshoot. And while Hassem took awhile to learn my best angles in a swim suit, we’ve got some pretty awesome pics of us doing what we do best, floating. Also, I set a new PR for treading water. Often this summer, I would challenge the freakish Katie Wood (she has webbed toes) to treading competetions, and now I think I can finally beat her (I feel bad now, she doesn’t actually have web toes (on second thought, I’ve never asked her if she does or doesn’t, you decide)). As I said, Connecticut Heights, where the fun never stops.

Then we headed back into downtown Amman, where I sampled the local falafel and shawerma. It was here that Hassem made the association of me with shawerma, and at random points throughout the trip he would look at me, laugh, shake his head and say shawerma. Also when I tried to tell him I played soccer he just shouted shawerma and started laughing. Do I look like a shawerma? We walked around the city, with Hassem trying to buy everything for us. By the end he had gotten us this delicious cheese-sugar combination desert, sugar cane juice, and sheesha, which Ryan became associated with for the rest of the trip. Then we headed to Rateb’s house, which is in Amman. Two hours later, we mustered up the courage to mime where the hell are we. Hassem turns around, “House Hassem”, and hands us his phone. We should have expected the unexpected, but none of us were prepared for the porn that we dutifully watched for five exceedingly awkward minutes before returning it to him. “Great sex?” asked Hassem. Due to language/culture barriers, all we could do was nod. That night we slept on couches in Hassem’s house. Just me, Ryan, Pat and our taxi driver Mohammad, WORST ROOMMATE EVER. Up until midnight watching his Arab comedies, then snoring like a fighter jet the whole night, and then getting text messages every five seconds from 6:30 until 8. I would’ve talked to RA Hassem but when I walked into his room he was sleeping on the floor next to “his” bed, leading me to believe we weren’t actually at House Hassem.

The breakfast was amazing though. We have long planned to open a falafel shop in DC when we get back, but Hassem gav eme a great idea. Jumbo Pita, a direct competitor to Jumbo Slice. You get a huge pita, and can put anything you want on it from jam to hummus. Then there was dates (which I was hesitant to eat, but when Mohammad said every good Muslim should eat 7 a day I had to oblige) and yogurt. We carbed up big time for our trip down to Petra.

I feel like not many people know Petra. I didn’t before I went. But it is one of the coolest old places in the world. It is an entire ancient city carved into rock. Oh I should mention by this time we were traveling with Hissam, Hassem’s brother (though we didn’t figure out their relationship til much later). The five of us made our way through the ancient city, taking pictures at will. There is not an oddly shaped rock I didn’t stand on. Something to look forward to when my computer comes back to life! An awkward moment came when we were driving away, and this little kid was wearing a Quincy Carter Cowboys jersey. I didn’t know they even made those. So we all go to take a picture and he walks in front of these three attractive European girls, who turn around and think we’re taking a picture of them. Hassem doesn’t help by turning back to us and yelling “Beautiful?!” Then traffic stopped and we were right next to these girls. All we could do was nod.
Then we were back on the road and ate dinner in the Red Sea resort town of Aqaba, all expenses paid by Hassem of course. After dinner we made our way to the beach, where we sat a few feet into the water, smoked sheesha and drank coffee. Sheesha apparently is the international language, because we had a great time despite not being able to communicate too well. Ryan was accused of trying to eat the sheesha, and then of getting high from the sheesha. He denies both counts.

That night, we parted company with Brothers Hassam and Hissam, and left part of our hearts with them. We posted up at the Bedouin Garden hotel, right on the Red Sea. Apparently, the only local beer comes in 20 ounce cans with a 10% alcohol level. Who knew? We spent the night on the beach reflecting that this was only the fifth night since leaving Cairo and we had already done Beirut and driven across the whole of Jordan.

The next morning we ate breakfast, swam for a bit in the Red Sea (my third time, has to be some sort of record), and got ready to go to Israel. Well, Ryan and Pat got ready; I was last in line for the shower. The taxi came while Pat was in the shower, so I called in urgently that the cab was here. “Message received,” was the nonchalant answer I got. It obviously wasn’t because he wasn’t out for another ten minutes. I think part of the reason we got through Israeli security so quickly was the guards didn’t want me anywhere near them. But hey, we had made it to the Holy Land!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Tour de Falafel Part 1:The Thriving Beirut Night Life As Imagined From My Bathroom Floor

The minute of our big trip had finally arrived. And then it passed. And 65 ones like it. It became a race of which would happen first, Pat being ready to leave, or the taxi cab we ordered for 7 pm coming. At 7:45 we had to let a cab go because Pat wasn’t with us yet. When he did join us 15 minutes later, he opened with, “OK, so who is the asshole we’re waiting for?” It was such an open-ended I didn’t know how to answer it so we all just laughed. Pat redeemed himself by getting us a ride in someone else’s taxi and we were off to Beirut!

It was 1 am when we got there, and we were so amped up we just walked around the city. You would think we would have felt more cautious, but the Lebanese army was out in force and we didn’t stray into western Beirut. My two connotations of Lebanon coming in were that Lebanese women are among the most beautiful in the world and that the country will occasionally have a civil war. Walking around so early in the morning, there was little evidence of the former but great evidence of the latter. From what I gather there was a four way civil war (new twist to the game?) starting in the 70’s that lasted until 1990. Kanye was right that the prettiest people do the ugliest things; almost every building in some neighborhoods had bullet holes in them, including our hotel. Looming over the city is the former Holiday Inn, a specter of the days when 250,000 civilians were killed and many more were forced into exile. We were just taking it all in at a small sheesha café when we met Michael. Michael was a pistol-toting intellectual who discussed with us his political party which campaigns to join Syria. I was dubious at first, hardly seems good politics to campaign for the end of political sovereignty of the nation you are in. But then he bought us coffee and I saw his point.

Beirut is a very western city, due in large part to the French colonization and a huge Christian population. This westernization was very apparent on the walk back to the hotel. First of all, the very fact they were selling pizza makes it western, and the other fact that a guy tried to trade a piece of pizza for a night of romance with Pat is another indicator. Language was a bit of a barrier, but it was pretty apparent the pizza was coming with strings attached. According to Ryan this wasn’t unusual because the majority of the gay population in the Middle East lives in Beirut. I still think it was unusual.

The next day we pretty much just bummed around the city. We walked along the Corniche, which is like a boardwalk of sorts. The Lebanese were all fishing and swimming in the Mediterranean and we were taking pictures of everything, but we eventually made it all the way down to see the Pigeon Rocks. Then we went to check out the souk, which we thought was going to be a authentic market place like the Khan in Cairo but turned out to look like Georgetown in DC. Each US dollar is 1,500 Lebanese pounds, so just imagine a Gucci handbag cost multiplied by 1,500 and you’ll have an idea of the sticker shock we experienced.

But then it was time for the famous Beirut night life! The New York Times, despite being run by the Zionists, still said Beirut was the best place to go in 2009. It being 2010 at the time of writing, it can’t have fallen far down the list. So we got ready to go clubbing and headed to a cool bar to start the night off. After my first beer I vomited in the bathroom. I thought it was odd, as normally I don’t get smashed until after my third beer, but I chalked it up to being too full from an epic falafel eaten just hours before. After my second beer I was begging the taxi driver not to aim for the speed bumps as we sped back to our hotel, where I spent the rest of the night.

Due to the ferociousness and brevity of The Sickness I have concluded it was food poisoning. The thing is that everything I ate in Beirut Pat and Ryan also ate, so I have to conclude that it was the pound of dates I ate before getting on the plane to Lebanon. Not an irrational conclusion! But yeah, I had Maddie, my date dealer, pick me up a batch for Wednesday’s Blackburn game. Unfortunately she couldn’t get them Wednesday so got them for me Thursday instead. I knew there wasn’t much wisdom in eating an entire batch of street fruit before a big trip, but I have an eating problem. But no more! As Kate Moss would say, nothing tastes as good as not sleeping on a bathroom floor feels. That night I gather Pat and Ryan barhopped before making it a club our hotel manager had recommended, which apparently sucked as much as our hotel manager. But they saved the night by going back to the sheesha café and getting some more pizza, hopefully by paying for it.

The next day we took a tour of Beirut. Our tour guide Ronnie was pretty funny and pretty knowledgeable. In fact, the tour turned into more of a lecture on the complex zoning and squatting rules of the city. Turns out it is really hard to tear down an abandoned building in Lebanon; much easier to wait til the next civil war and hope it becomes part of the collateral damage. My favorite part of the tour was when Ronnie asked what the national tree of India was, and an Indian guy celebrated getting the right answer by cheering, “Yeah, Indian guy!” Is it racist to say that Indians have become funnier as a people sinse Aziz Ansari made it big? Well, anyways I hope my facebook friendships with Divya, Meera, Gayan and Cassie(?) prove that I’m not. By the way the ? denotes my skepticism of Cassie’s ancestry, not my facebook friendship with her. But other things we saw on the tour include Roman baths, the President’s house, and Martyrs’ Square, where all the cool kids go to protest/incite unrest. Also on the tour I learned the Lebanese constitution mandates certain positions be held by certain religions. So like the President has to be Christian. Imagine having to formalize something like that. Are the Lebanese on to something here? Can we expect a new constitutional amendment in America, given how Barack’s assumed Muslimness nearly disqualified him from our highest office?

After the tour I went back to regain my strength, seeing as the previous night I had lost every liquid in my body. Ryan and Pat went out again though to make more of an effort to get every bit of liquid in their bodies as they could, and they dropped a good amount of money doing so. The highlights, from what I gather, were Pat falling asleep at the bar, Ryan falling in love with the bar tender, and hanging out with Michael again while he was carrying two pistols in his belt. They came back pretty out of it.

Two hours after they returned to the hotel room we were at the Beirut Airport, and seeing as we made good time we had about an hour before the flight took off. So we parked ourselves ten feet in front of the gate. Understandably Ryan and Pat fell asleep, but luckily I had a good night’s sleep so I kept watch. Unluckily I tried to read my romantic literature, so the next thing I know I was woken up by the airport worker who was screaming LAST CALL FOR AMMAN! That would have been bad. But we made it. Next stop, Jordan!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

In Case You're Looking For Me

Gone are the days when I would wake up and my greatest concern is where to break my ridiculous 200 pound bill. You would think a nation that traffics in three pound falafels wouldn’t dispense these monstrous bills so freely, but it is all the ATM produces most days. Then of course no one will accept it, whether they have change or not, on the principle of the matter. You want 197 pounds of change? Honestly, I just want a falafel.

But I digress. The Trip of Epicness starts Thursday so you’ll have to deal without my omnipresence on Facebook, Skype, and G-chat. Ryan, Pat and I have had our Risk board out for weeks, mapping out what should be a goldmine of profile pictures. We are flying to Beirut and staying there for a few days. Then we are flying to Amman, Jordan, to see the city and stay with a friend of a man who lived in the apartment below me in DC. Trust me, it’s legit. Then we are swinging down to see Petra, made famous by Indiana Jones. Then I make a third appearance at the Red Sea, but this time at Aqaba in Jordan. From there were bussing/taxi-ing across the border up to Jerusalem. They say it’s hard to cross the Israeli border, but I’ll just turn the charm on. So you guys ever been to Lebanon? Not since 2006? Oh well there were no rockets when I was there. After four days in Israel it’s back to Cairo, via a 12-hour bus ride. Plenty of time to get to know Ryan and Pat. But so help me God if I hear one hat story…

So yeah from the 11th-20th I will be incommunicado. And until then, I’m rushing to finish all these papers I’ve got due the week I get back. I am struggling to write my Romantic Literature paper, as per usual I’m writing about poems I cannot understand. I’m regretting dropping Arabic to take this course; at least with Arabic I could use Google Translate. Now when I try and put Wordsworth into the box it tells me it doesn’t recognize the language. That makes at least two of us, but with the lack of class participation I’m guessing that number could climb as high as 25.
I got a huge confidence boost though when we got our midterms back today. I was pretty nervous, as I was banking on his abstract mind reading into my highly abstract answers. His comments were, “Great job! Very original analysis, though lacking in any real evidence.” He must not realize how easy it is to be original when not grounding answers in any evidence. Still, if he’s handing out A-‘s for original analysis, he is going to love my paper. Speaking of backhanded complements, I was playing tennis the other day against a real tennis player. At the end of the match he came over and said, “Adam, you’re a great tennis player! The only thing you are missing is technique.” Incidentally, I’m a great cross country runner; the only thing I’m missing is stamina.

I finally made it to a professional soccer game. Kind of underwhelming. We were obvi cheering for Cairo’s team El Ahly, who were playing some team not from Cairo. We had maybe three thousand fans to their zero. But for the first time I truly felt I was in a police state. The road to the stadium was lined with helmeted riot police, and at the end of every row in the stadium sat an armored officer. Unfortunately, that didn’t stop the people behind us from spitting and throwing drinks on to the people in front of us. And by direct request of Divya for more pictures of myself in Egypt, here is one of us bringing the fervor for Ahly:

You’ll notice I’m wearing my flag as a cape to shield against the barrage of spit and drinks that rained down throughout the match.

But as I was saying I leave in two days so I’m scrambling to get everything done before then, like intern applications, blog updates, and of course Romantic Literature papers. And packing. It is hard to pack because we're going to be doing a lot, climbing mountains, swimming in seas, and raging in clubs, but at the same time we have to carry everything around with us. For this reason I've decided to bring an extra pair of jeans, three shirts, and a can of Fabreeze. But what has been troubling me most lately, and taking up most of my time, is WHO KILLED HARRIET VANGER?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Bedouins Can't Be Choosers

Or rather, they can be, and choose to do everything the hard way. If there is a road, they will drive next to it. If there is a bump, they will hit it. If there are tents, they will sleep outside. Basically, they are the bamf’s of the desert, and they know it.

It started off like every other school trip; we were awake at five on Friday morning, given our rations of a juice box and a Molto, which I’m guessing by this ad, is the travel croissant of choice (and apparently aphrodisiac) throughout the world . DISCLAIMER: My trip was nothing like that. So we settled in for a five hour ride out to the Black & White Desert.

We were leaving modernity behind; careening down the highway to a land as primitive as the Deep South. No telephones, no lap tops, nothing but a boy, his bros, the stars, and his iPod. Very Walden. I had several reasons to be anxious about not having internet. For one, I was due to schedule classes that day at six in the morning, and the class I needed to get into to have any hope of graduating on time only had five spots left. I had left my fate in the hands of the capable Will Miller, who had proved himself an able secretary many a time, but even the best fall down sometimes. Then there is my hypochondria. With no Google Image, who was going to confirm that this freckle isn’t an advanced form of skin cancer? Also, my fantasy football team is in chaos with five starters out on byes. This is when they need me most, and here I am going to the desert. And lastly, IS EMILY LELANDAIS’s EMAIL/BLOG REALLY CATCHING UP TO MINE IN TERMS OF PAGE VIEWS? What are you people doing lately? And don’t tell me Halloween weekend takes preference over my blog, I don’t want to hear it.

We finally arrived at the entrance, and left our bus for a caravan of Toyota Land Cruisers driven by real lives Bedouins, not those horse-dancing-David-Guetta-loving farce long time fans will remember. These guys were born to be bad. Our driver, Waleed, was inclined to drive off the road when he noticed someone sleeping (normally as a result of Ryan telling his hat story) in the back of the jeep. After twenty minutes we turned off the beaten path and into straight up desert, and after driving a little further we came across a restaurant more or less in the middle of nothing. But they showed us the famous Bedouin hospitality and I was able to have a real guava, something I thought only came in juice form, and also there was an endless bowl of pasta, just like the Olive Garden. Where it trumped the OG was instead of breadsticks they had pita bread, so I could make pasta sandwiches to increase my eating rate. Finally, I couldn’t eat any more pasta so we rolled out, back into the desert.

For an hour we drove through the desert, occasionally getting splayed across each other. You get to know your jeep-mates pretty quickly when your face is in their stomach and who knows whose hands are on in your inner thigh. It was a bumpy ride, but I’m still not convinced Richie’s groping of Alex was completely accidental. Eventually we reached the part of the desert where you expect clocks to be melting it was so surreal. After checking out the amazing scenery and filling my shoes with sand in the process, we were on to the campsite.

We made camp in the middle of the White Desert, or as my group refers to it as, The World’s Largest Litter Box. I don’t think there is a single rock that my classmates didn’t defile, but in our defense, you can’t give us tea right before bed time and expect the desert to stay clean. But that aside, the White Desert was amazingly beautiful. It looked just like snow, and from the way Wally was swerving, it must have been like snow to drive in. Or that could just be Wally being Wally.

The Bedouins made us an excellent dinner of chicken, rice and potatoes. This was the second and not the last time I would be served this dish by Bedouins, so I have to believe it is their staple dish. This is only noteworthy in that it is also the staple dinner at the Gallagher household. I’ll be home in six weeks, prove me wrong Mom! After dinner the Bedouins showed off their musical abilities; these guys can navigate the desert, cook dinner, and sing? They are gonna make some girls very happy someday.

About midnight we laid down in our sleeping bags and star-gazed for awhile. When I tried to have a deep conversation about the changing times in relation to stars and satellites, Ryan, uncomfortable in conversation not involving New Jersey or frats, changed the subject to his hat story again. This was the beginning of the end of the harmony that had blessed our dorm, but it was bound to happen with three highly confrontational personalities and Mitch, the instigator, all under the same roof. The Bedouins were still banging out some tunes when I fell asleep, as I had been trained to sleep in loud environments and after heated discussions by my freshman year roommates. If you can sleep through the Call of Duty: Nazi Zombies, you can deal with a few Bedouin musicians. I woke up a few hours later freezing to death, wishing I had taken the Magic School Bus’s warnings that deserts can be as cold as they are hot. Anyway, determined not to show weakness in front of the Bedouins, I crawled face first into my sleeping bag and let the silent tears drip down my chapped face.

But all the misery of the night before was more than compensated for with breakfast. Jam, honey, tea, pita bread, Swiss Role, bananas, the works. For being a desert people, the Bedouins certainly eat well. After bfast we headed back out in the jeep to Crystal Mountain. There seems to be an inverse relationship to how awesome something is with its name. The White Desert didn’t sound like much but turned out to be amazing, whereas Crystal Mountain was little more than a hill. After fitting as many small crystal pebbles in our pockets as we could without the Bedouins noticing (it’s not rock hunting season yet in Egypt) we took our scariest plunge off a mountain yet. Our driver got out, looked down the drop, and then jumped back in and gunned it. It was like being on a rollercoaster without the confidence modern science was on your side. We made it and were well on our way to safety when we spun out in the sand and almost got stuck, if not for the finesse driving of our Bedouin. Another jeep was not so lucky though and tried to floor it when he got stuck. Amateur hour. It took us another half-hour to dig him out (by us I mean the Bedouins), and then we were headed for the Black Desert, or Mordor. That was pretty cool, and we climbed a big hill/small mountain for a pretty epic photo-shoot, unaware that sleeping on sand did my hairdo no favors.

Then it was the hour long ride back to our bus. Conversation took its normal course. “Richie, how long have you had that hat for?” “Oh this? I’ve had it for two years.” “Bro, I was SO pissed I lost my fitted Yankee hat before we came here. I was gonna wear that every-” Here I had to cut in and inform them in no uncertain terms I didn’t care to sit through another hat story. Having a head slightly too large for hats throughout my entire life, hat-wearing was never a hobby of mine and I thought it unfair of them to talk about it in front of me for the thousandth time. Richie than voiced the age-old argument that I was offering nothing to the conversation besides criticism, a comment so stupid I didn’t entertain it as serious. It wasn’t the first time the claim had been made; it is the origin of the “Shark” name on the back of my Turtle Crew shirt. And then Dyl tried to sell me on the idea Behind Blue Eyes should be my theme song. Well anyways the jeep-ride descended into silence, with Ryan and Richie afraid to say something for fear of criticism, and me afraid to point out their silence was a sign of their susceptibility to social pressure, for fear of proving their point.

One more chicken/rice/potato serving later we were on a “four” hour ride back to campus. Since nothing is ever easy in Egypt, our bus broke down on the way home, forcing us to take a cab all the way back for the last hour of it. And just when I’m getting the venom in my veins to blog this country's public transportation to smithereens, AU goes and does this:

In other news, the janitorial staff is protesting low wages on campus this week and it has spelled disaster for the campus. Egyptians throw their trash everywhere with the assumption someone will pick it up, and they're a little slow in adjusting. An interesting side note, the workers are trying to raise their pay to $125 a month, or approximately $13 more a day than I made reading/skimming/not reading resumes over the summer. Where do they get off?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Extra Ordinary

Since hating life on Mt. Sinai, my life has been extra ordinary. And not extraaaaaaaaa ooooooordinary in the Nat-King-Cole-singing-the-opening-of LiLo’s-Parent-Trap sense, but instead in the sense that everything that has happened in the last week has happened the whole time I’ve been here. But seeing as to this point I’ve only seen fit to write about the extraordinary, perhaps you’ll take interest in the more common occurrences in Egypt.

I have made a lot of passing references to my eternal struggle with the taxi drivers of this country. But I gather from the questions of the sole commenter of my posts that perhaps I need to make clearer what these battles typically entail. I had a whole paragraph typed up, but to shorten the story, we get in cabs we believe have meters, only to be informed halfway through the trip the meter is broken, and when we get out the negotiations start. There are two schools of thought on how to best handle this situation. There is the Richie Roy “Just Say La” method, which involves shouting La (no) at the taxi driver until he gets more frustrated with the language barrier than we are. Then there is the Patrick Schweighart “Walk Away” method. Pat will throw the money into the seat, and peace. Sometimes the cabbie curses and drives away, other times he gets out and attempts to drag Pat to the police station. Personally, I prefer watching the walk away method.

Memorable cab rides include the ride home from the American Expatriate Club, when ten police officers were needed to broker a deal between me, Ryan and a cab driver who threw the five pounds we gave him into the wind in an expensive show of disgust. Then there was the time when our taxi broke down on the highway halfway to the city. We were chugging along, and then we just kinda coasted to the side of the road. I figured it was a cigarette break, but then he started pouring some liquid into the hood. And then the car didn’t start. I’m not really car guy, and unfortunately neither was the cabbie. He tried a variety of different things, including driving with the hood open and completely obstructing the view, but each time we managed only seven feet before petering back out. Finally he threw his hands up, which we took to be our cue that it was time to get walking. To his credit, he wouldn’t even take a pity-five pounds, restoring my faith in humanity.

To return to the American Expatriate Club, it reminded me very much of a Rick’s. There were all types of strange, creepy Westerners there, presumably trying to escape the harsh realities of Cairo. The drinks are cheap and so is the conversation. I briefly considered opening my own Rick’s, but thus far I have been unable to convince Mitch to address me as Mr. and learn the piano. Play it again, Mitch! Oh the times we would have. But in general the place—and the places like it—isn’t all that fun. The most fun I’ve had there is when I went on an off-night, and watched a Blackburn game with a couple of real live English fans.

Which brings me to my first SPORT REPORT. Watching Blackburn games in the bar was much better than watching them online, during which I am always inundated with offers to get an American green card by completing tasks such as cream pie-ing Uncle Sam in the face or popping the correctly colored balloon (hint: it’s green). Well, Blackburn have been so bad and boring I’ve probably pied enough Uncle Sam’s to bring half of Cairo back to America with me. Thank goodness I have the Buffalo Bills to cheer me up.

I was in the gym a few days ago running twelve miles less than what my mom ran in her half-marathon today when I happened upon the Arab University Women’s Basketball Championship. This is a tournament between all the Middle Eastern universities to promote unity and so on. Being somewhat of a girls basketball connoisseur from my days of watching the East Aurora Girls Varsity team run train on New York State (there apparently is no link to any newspaper covering the state championship). But anyway, these girls can BALL! At least I think they were girls, but it very well may have been Kobe out there wearing a hijab. Maybe they weren’t that good, but they were very impressive for running around as conservatively as they go to the Mosque. I think my chants of “Welcome to the BLOCK PARTY!” weren’t appreciated due to the lack of street blocks in the desert. Or maybe they thought I was being obnoxious. One of the two.

I haven’t played a lot of soccer since being here, but when I’ve played it has been a lot of fun. Every Egyptian plays, and they’re not bad. But let’s just say Team Tevez could beat them 9 out of 10 times. I did get beat as bad as I’ve been though, which may be hard for those of you to believe, who have seen me get some pretty bad beatings. What made this one truly special was the guy who beat me was probably fifty pounds overweight and wearing jeans. They all wear jeans when they play soccer, and at the gym, and probably in the pool, I’ll let you know next time I’m willing to risk extreme bodily burns. So yeah, after that I went home. But not before celebrating Ryan Giggs style after scoring a tap in. Making friends all over the place.

While on the soccer subject, we witnessed a soccer style fight at our favorite Shisha place. We were just sitting there, enjoying our Turkish coffee, when these guys playing dominos jump up and start ninja kicking each other. I don’t know how to play dominos, and I don’t think I’m going to learn. Anyway security slept right through the whole affair but it was all sorted out by pushing the fighters out opposite ends of the alley. That’s the convenience of having a café in an alley way.

My acting career took a huge step last week when our non-English speaking neighbor had me voice over the documentary based on Guns, Germs, and Steel to avoid copy right infringement. The script he handed me to read from was taken right from the movie, minus the conjunctions. But apparently, and this is true, his professor was so impressed with my broken English narrating skills she thought that he hadn’t replaced the original narrator. Which turned out not to be a big deal at all, so he needn’t have gotten me in the first place. I’m glad he did though; I love doing my Crocodile Hunter accent.

And now I have actual work to do? I have to write a five page paper for Romantic Literature about poems I never understood. I hate doing work for things I don’t understand, which is why I dropped my SIS major, my Arabic minor, and now my lit minor. Quite literally the only line I understand in Wordsworth’s Prelude is “My Drift I fear is scarcely obvious”. Which I suppose could be said about this blog post, so I better get back to block quoting away five pages.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Scent up Mt. Sinai

There’s an old saying that I picked up from ESPN’s Chris Berman; “If the mountain won’t come to Muhammad, Muhammad most go to the mountain!” He was, of course, talking about Muhsin Muhammad, future hall of fame wide receiver. But the saying originated with THE Muhammad, who once asked for a mountain but God was afraid should he grant the request, he might end up crushing the Prophet. A reasonable worry! Muhammad should’ve worded his wish better, like can I have a mountain ten feet away from me. It’s all about clarity.

That anecdote was meant to lead into me going to Mt. Sinai, but it got away from me. And with my aversion of the delete key, I’m going to have to start over. Well, Thursday arrived, and we set out on an eight hour bus ride to the Sinai, take two. When I say “we,” I’m not referring to my bros and I, I’m referring to myself and 10 kids I can’t stand, five kids I like, and five I’m ambivalent towards. Open thing I quickly learned was this: I’m proud to be an American (University student), where at least I know I’m not a pretentious prick. It seems if you go to school some place people have heard of you become rather unbearable. To support my hypothesis, the worst offender was a cultured girl from Harvard, who loved to talk about Harvard culture. I just about cried when she turned my retelling of a 30 Rock episode into how the head writer for the show graduated from her school, and is always inserting jokes only she and her kind would get. Naturally, the tears were from jealousy. Then this girl from George Washington sat behind me and kept me awake for the entire ride, telling some sob story of how she wished she could stay together with her state school bf, but with her volunteering at big and important places on Capitol Hill, it just wasn’t going to work. Which reminds me, last week I accidentally had lunch with a Georgetowner, and HE SENT HIS 60 CENT FALAFEL BACK TO THE KITCHEN, citing lack of tahini sauce. I looked at him like dude, that is the equivalent of sending an open bag of M&Ms back to the store because it didn’t have enough yellow ones. My one solace was the cook got a good look at him, so that Hoya can be sure to expect some extra juicy falafels in the future.

But all my troubles left me when we reached our hotel at 4 in the morning. It was beautiful in the night, and even more so in the day. It was also jam packed with drunk Eastern Europeans, for reasons I will never know. One downside was I had to share a bed with “Dave,” but he turned out to be a perfect gentleman so it wasn’t that big of a deal at all. In the morning we hung out on the beach before “Dave,” Big Adam Morsy and I headed out snorkeling. I’m not trying to brag, but the Red Sea is actually one of the best places to snorkel in the world. In fact, on the world-famous “Travel Lady” magazine website, it comes in at #2 for best places in the world! Well, it’s the second one they wrote about. At first I was a little weary, as they gave me emerald green fins and a mask that I was sure would cut the circulation off to my brain. After all, my high school German class did nickname me “Kurbis-kopf”, and it’s hard to deny the allegations. I could see the headlines: “Ireland’s Least Competent Spy Washes onto Saudi Shore, Still Pale.” But I persevered and reveled in the colors under the bright blue sea. Red fish, blue fish, “Dave’s” flipper coming at my face, everywhere I looked there was something interesting to see. After spending two months observing varying shades of brown, the coral and sea life were welcome sights. When we got back to the boat our guide got us some cokes and we just sat there taking it all in. I didn’t bring sunscreen or a shirt because it was supposed to be a two hour cruise, a two hour cruise! The weather started getting rough and the tiny ship was tossed, if not for the complacency of the Egyptian crew the motor wouldn’t have been lost. As it were, our guide was content to let the waves batter us onto the stones and had to spend the next hour fixing the motor, while I spent my time acquiring skin cancer.

When we got back I was utterly exhausted and passed out poolside, but woke up and finished Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. And people (Shelby Krick) complain I spell poorly and have bad grammar. What about Mark Twain, the greatest American writer! Could barely read a sentence without one typo or another, let alone the cussing! It was like I was reading a rap song. Anyways, I became disappointed there was no parallel between Tom, Huck and I, so I floated over to the pool bar and drowned my sorrows in banana milk juice.

At 2 the next morning we reached Mt. Sinai, and began our ascent up the mountain path. It was fairly dark, but I quickly became aware there were camels afoot, as I almost put my own foot directly into one of their many, many camel piles. As a consequence, my gaze was directed groundward for the remainder of the trip. At one point I glanced up to find myself face-to-face with a ghost camel. Gah! I stumbled backwards a few steps, but when I steadied my flashlight I found myself walking next to the George Washington girl! GAH! We snaked our way through the mountains, and I had the impression we were circling the same mountain, Dante’s Inferno style. In the morning, however, I discovered we had just pretty much hiked a straight path and then zig-zagged it up one face of the mountain until we got to the 700 stairs, and the only thing hellish about the trip was the company. Seriously, we were taking breaks every ten minutes for people who had spent too much of their breath/life talking about their own awesomeness.

Around 6, 20 minutes before sunrise, we finally made it to the peak. Naturally there were no spots left to see the sunrise, but the Harvard girl used her considerable girth to wedge herself a spot. That left the rest of us disappointed, as it was her considerable girth that had slowed us down. By the way, I have no fear of her reading this because to do so she would have to be my friend on FB, and if that happened I’d be dead already so what would I care? And if you spoke with her for a minute you’d be using words stronger than “considerable girth.” Luckily I’m a bit taller than most, so I at least got some decent shots of the sunrise. On our descent I saw the burning bush, which is looking remarkably well for being in such a dire situation so many years ago. But by then my thoughts turned homeward; I was out of sight of Ryan, Richie and Mitch for nearly 48 hours. What kind of excitement was I missing in our dorm? Maybe Ryan would wake up before three today? When you begin to yearn for the cave that is my dorm room, you know you need sleep. I also I have an ultra-heightened case of hypochondria since being in Egypt, and needed to get home to Google image various freckles and discolorations. I fear I may have been "incepted" with the idea I'm going to catch something horrible; Leonardo has certainly been in my dreams more than once. Of course, the AUC health center doesn't diagnose cases of inception, so I'd rather not waste my morning waiting in line.

After a nine hour bus ride back (we took an extra hour to look at a hole in the ground) I made my glorious return, to find it was Mitch who provided the excitement by sleeping a full 19 hours. That gave us something to talk about. But then, by a stroke of fate we hear this irresistible melody coming from across campus. I could barely make out the words, but it sounded like the singer was In Miami. I followed the beat and it paid huge dividends, we came across FREE SHAWERMA! Which is like a delicious Arabian taco. I had forgotten a big Lebanese festival had been planned, and was relieved not to have missed it. But my, how dressed up people got for a Lebanese festival. And they all looked so young! We felt slightly out of place. It all made sense, however, when the loud speaker came on. “We’d like to thank everyone for coming out to our first annual High School Model UN Ball!” So we had crashed a high school dance and ate all of their food, repping our white Ts, completely ignorant to how unwanted we were at the event. So I took a few shawerma roadies and made my way to my long awaited bed. Turns out the Lebanese festival was tonight, and filled myself til I couldn’t eat another bite. Then they brought out this dessert that was a mixture of wheat, cottage cheese, and barrels of sugar, so now I think I’m going to go lie down and die somewhere.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Once More Unto the Beach, Dear Bros, Once More!

I realized after writing the no one will get the pun, through no fault of your own, but rather of my far too regular watching of Good Will Hunting. Robin Williams quotes Shakespeare’s Henry V “Once More unto the Breach, Dear Friends, Once More!” But more famously it is the title of Gilmore Girls Episode 721. I don’t ever want it said that this blog, or that show, panders to the ignorant.

Beach weekend! Me and the bros (minus Mitch, who is no longer a bro until further notice, possibly tomorrow) headed up North to Alexandria to wait for buses and argue with taxi drivers, and see the sights in between. Alexandria is the Buffalo to Cairo’s New York City. Second biggest in the state/nation, great waterfront view, wonderful people, and there are sheep in the street. It’s only a two and a half hour train ride, when you don’t figure in the five and half hours we waited for the train after our trademark poor planning. Anyways, it gave us a good chance to get to know each other in a way that sitting everyday in the same dorm room doesn’t.

But then we started chugging along and the times were merry. We weren’t quite sure where we were going to spend the night, it was either this cheap hotel or at our 34-year-old lawyer/international lover friend of friend’s BEACH house. I was hoping for cheap hotel. See, Pat was in Alexandria a few weeks ago and met this character, Amar, at a bar, and ever since Amar desperately tried to get Pat to come back for his birthday party. As luck would have it, Ryan, Richie, and I were headed up that same night of the birthday party. We met Amar in a bar in Cairo a couple nights beforehand to make sure he wasn’t shady, and three hours of his Conquests of Love throughout Europe we were convinced this guy was pretty straightedge.

On the way up there we found out the party of the century had been moved from his friend’s mansion to above a restaurant. So we got into town, checked into a four-bed room, and went out to celebrate now having a 35-year-old creepy friend. The place was pretty chill, and as to be expected Amar had a lot of young, strapping friends, many of them British. We had a great time, but nothing to really tell about until Richie was persuaded to call one of the Brits a fairy, more out of obedience than homophobia. I’ve never seen a name make such a mark. The kid was livid, and stood up ready to turn the clock back to 1812. A ten minute shouting match ensued, both arguing the merits of their nation, while I slammed plates of hummus with Pat, in what could only be the reason for the most severe hiccups either of us have ever had. When the dust settled it was apparent the Brits were as douchey as their popped collars suggested they were, and we were as culturally sensitive as our passports suggested we were. A fun night overall that left plenty to be talked about on the way home.

The next morning we got a jump on things and were up by 11. We headed straight out to the Citadel and I loved it. It was a medieval castle, on the BEACH! We were as much an attraction to the Egyptians as the sights were to us. Several asked to take pictures with us, primarily because of the Tattooed Freak that is Richie Roy. Getting a tattoo is taboo in Islam, but there’s no taboo against getting your picture taken with a damned infidel. We explored the fort for awhile then went to the Catacombs, which also were awesome but didn’t allow pictures. Buried deep in the earth, they had some awesome caves dug out to put dead people in. Here we almost got in another fight, when we remarked how another tour group must be having difficulty with the guide only speaking Arabic and the group only speaking Japanese, or so we thought. Then we hear, and I quote, “We’re not Japanese, BRO.” Oh god damn.

After that I returned to whence I came, the library. Yes, a lot of people don’t know, but before I read resumes at Chemonics, before I looked good at Food & Friends, before I spilled coffee at The Roycroft, and even before I got fired from my work-study position at SIS, I nearly died of loneliness by working at a library. But this library here wasn’t any ma and pa shop East Aurora Library, where we measured DVD’s in and out with tally marks; this was the Great Library of Alexandria, one of the seven ancient wonders of the world. Except that one got destroyed, so this is just the Library of Alexandria, but it is still pretty great. It functions more as a museum and convention center, but it can still hold up to 2,000 readers, or approximately the population of East Aurora proper.

That night we went to a delightful little seaside restaurant, The Mermaid. True Adam fans will know I’m no fan of fish, but when you’re in Alexandria, you eat fish. So we had a wonderful meal of sea bass, calamari, salad and dessert all for $10, and I had that unfamiliar feeling of being content with a meal. Afterwards, we went to a famous place of expatriates for the night, Spitfire, where we had a wonderful evening and I was forced/enabled to eat these little doughnut holes all night. On the way back we had a one pound falafel shop, where we were served spicy falafels. I’m not one to make excuses, but I feel they basically left out the falafel and gave me a spice patty in a pita bread, because I almost died. Richie thought I might be able to handle it better and could handle spicy sauces, the way people at Inauguration were surprised when I curled up in a ball and demanded to be left for dead. Yes, I’m from Buffalo, do I not bleed? Too much Shakespeare for one post, I’ll tone it down.

Next day was straight up BEACH. We had two of the toughest roughest taxi drivers you could ask for but we didn’t let that spoil our tan time. First beach we went to might as well have been Lake Erie for all the trash that was floating in it, but we had better luck at a beach farther out. Eventually, though, we knew we had to pack our bags and head back to our lack of responsibilities in Cairo. So we got to the train station, said we were looking for a bus to Cairo, got crammed into a mini-bus (leading cause of death for tourists in Egypt, true story), and were out on the road. About a minute into it we ask, “Are we going to Cairo?” We weren’t. But we were going to a bus station where we could get one there. Of course, the bus didn’t leave for another 2 ½ hours, but it was fine as it gave us a chance to get to know each other. A three hour ride later and one final taxi ride later, we were back in the middle of the desert, where we belong.

I also think it is hilarious GoogleAds think my audience will be most interested in hot Bollywood action. They know you’re reading this, Rochelle King and Cassie Wheeldon.

Here is a link to the new album:

Sunday, October 3, 2010

29°C and Sand

Finally, Thursday night was here! Not much had gone on during the week, and I was ready to head to the Sinai Peninsula in order to follow the footsteps of this blog’s namesake, get my beach on, and see YET ANOTHER MONASTERY. But it wasn’t to be.

I was excitedly packing my bag when Mitch stuck his head in my room. In his western-Canadian drawl he asked if I had looked at the weather. I replied in the negative, assuming the night would be like the last forty nights I had been in the Egypt, dry and hot. Mitch had checked the weather, and he told me, “29 degrees and sand.” Upon opening my window I found the sand forecast to accurate. Damn you Jack-Off, damn you. Apparently sandstorms don’t just occur when you steal a magic genie lamp. They occur when I want to get my tan on too. With the trip postponed, there will be much more opinion than the normal factual reporting you’re used to from this publication (EDITOR’S NOTE: It also gets slightly blasphemous).

My first thought was what the significance of the sandstorm was. Is it possible that God has taken notice of my blog’s popularity? I did have 3 page views yesterday, and not including the two times I visited to check. Does he fear that climbing Mt. Moses will give me the last bit of authority necessary to start me new world order? By his own admission, he is a jealous God. Well if He/She/It thinks I need some slabs of stone to dictate how this world should work, He/She/It’s got another thing coming. Here are my Studying in Egypt Ten Commandments, given to me by no one (unlike a certain prophet I know):

1. I am the Travel Blogger who brought you off of Facebook, the house of drunken pictures and annoying status updates (Gooooooooooo Billsssssssssssssss!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!). There shall be no Travel Blogging before mine (except Feierman’s fotolog, but that’s fine because it’s hardly a blog and he left a month before everyone else)

2. Do not make images of this Travel Blog, all rights are reserved to the author, including the forthcoming Broadway musical under the same title

3. Do not swear by this blog. While most things recorded here have some semblance of truth to them, I often lie to make stories more entertaining

4. Remember the Holy Day, Friday. Nothing will be open so you have to plan ahead, or else you will be very, very hungry

5. Skype thy Father and thy Mother. They worry about you, and it’s a good excuse to look at yourself on your screen, see what looks work which ones don’t

6. I’ll actually keep my forerunner’s sixth suggestion. Three thousand(?) years later we can still agree murder isn't cool

7. Do not commit public displays of affection. Especially not twice, two kisses=expulsion from the dorms

8. Do not let cab drivers steal from you. They will try to charge you $15 for an hour long taxi ride that should only cost $10. Be vigilant, be harsh. At the end of the day their feelings aren’t gonna hurt any worse than the chronic back problems they have from working extremely long hours for extremely low pay. Yo no hablo Ingles, bro. And certainly not Arabic.

9. Do not bear false pretenses of speaking Arabic. If you’re trying to impress the group of Americanners you’re with by being the native speaker in your traveling group, don’t. They’ll know when your cab ends up in the middle of the desert, the cabbie is demanding you get out, and you’re still shouting Cahara Jadeeda!

10. Do not covet thy roommate’s falafel. Guys, I’m stockpiling for Friday. Don’t touch em. Yes I need all seven of them!

Of course for a more traditional account of the Ten Commandments you’d have to listen to Congressman Lynn Westmoreland’s hilarious recollection of them on the Colbert Report. It is seriously the funniest interview you will ever see, and I really hope you watch it.

While I am decreeing my wishes, you should all buy a pie from Food & Friends. I hate to get all Maggie Skelton I’m-gonna-use-social-media-to-promote-my-own-selfish-cause on you, cause I really do detest it when I get on Facebook and she’s making me look at starving children, but this is mutually beneficial. You get some of the best pie I ever tasted (and you know I’ve eaten a lot pie in my day), and you help those in DC who are living with AIDS/HIV, cancer and other life-challenging illnesses. If I remember correctly you’re all poor, or at least that’s what you said when I asked you for money at the last party, so maybe you could find a friend and buy a pie together? If you need flavor recommendations, I’m always on Facebook.

Speaking of my copious amounts of free time, I’ve decided I need a profile picture for this blog. But, after Emily Beyer tore my FB prof pic apart for being too Egypty, I need public opinion to pick the one for this blog. I tried to keep to the standard six American profile pictures you generally see, but I couldn't get four girls to pose with me so I knocked it down to five. Also I added a distinct Egypt taste to it. If you would please view the pictures below and then vote at the top right of this page for the one you think I should use, I’d greatly appreciate it.

Option A: The Falaphisor

Option B: Quarter-pounders

Option C: Falafel Belly (not even flexing girls)

Option D: Two Much Falafel To Handel

Option E: Falafel Eyes

Special thanks to Emily Lelandais for taking the Falaphisor photo, which the onlooking Egyptians will never truly understand. My favorite picture is the candid one directly below, taken by the shutter camera after I had accidentally dropped my second falafel during my antics. Just look at the pain on that face and tell me I don't love falafels.