31 January, 2010

School, The Pyramids and Winning the Africa Cup...Also, Some Housekeeping Items

As I write this to now, Egypt has just won the Africa cup. And while I didn't go out and watch it with everyone else because I didn't want to sit on the floor in a very crowded place where I probably couldn't see the television, I can still hear all of the excitement from my living room as I watch the festivities on my own television. Not going out also gave Ann (one of my roommates) and I a chance to try the whole "order online and it will arrive" things. I have to say the swarma was delicious. 

But, enough about the Africa Cup and sports. As most of you know, I don't really pay that much attention to them at home anyway. I think the only reason I pay attention here is because it's part of the culture and if I truly want to experience the culture, you have to get involved with everything...including the sports. 

So, I started classes today which was very excited. I had MSA (Modern Standard Arabic), which I will most likely be dropping for another content course which should help me graduate on time and I had Introduction to Ancient Egypt with Dr. Randa, where she gave us a very big overview of Egyptian society starting with the Pharaohs and ending with the present. I was supposed to have my Customs and Manners class, but upon reading the syllabus we discovered that the class won't begin until Tuesday. But, it was fun thinking for a while that the professor forgot about the class. 

Tomorrow is going to be another fun day. I start with Egyptian Colloquial, followed by a break (which is where my Intro to Ancient Egypt class is normally held), followed by Arts and Hieroglyphs (that's what I'm most excited about) and then International Relations (which is most likely the class I will take in place of MSA). It's going to be a very long day, but I know it will be fine. For now anyway. 

I'm starting to realize that this semester is going to be one of the hardest semesters I have encountered. It's going to be a lot of work combined with a lot of trips and wants to see all that is Cairo. It's not going to be as simple as Prague was, where I just focused on my movie and the few papers that I had to write. This is an actual semester of study. I'm both excited and scared. 

Moving away from the terror that is the start of classes, yesterday we went to see the Giza Pyramids and on Saturday I went with Ann and Shruti to an open air market in Islamic Cairo. It was a lot of fun, but very stressful. The architecture was cool though. The pictures to the left are some that I took when we were there.

Now, to begin the pyramids segment of the blog, I have to start off by saying that I had no idea we were living that close to them. We literally boarded the bus and in about 45 minutes had found the pyramids. I thought they were somewhere off in the desert, but really they are just on the outskirts of the city. 

We started with seeing the Great Pyramid, which is the biggest of the three in the Giza complex and then with the help of Dr.Randa with learned about some of the other tombs in the area. She also read some of the hieroglyphs to us, which was cool. I'm excited to do that! I also had the opportunity to go inside a small pyramid belonging to Queen Hetepheres of the 4th Dynasty. It was pretty cool, but not very picturesque inside. We also took a tour of the boat house, which had a boat that they found in one of the boat pits in it. Wow, that was a big boat. 

Once we were done with the boat house, we went up to see a panoramic view of all three pyramids at the Giza plateau. It was here that I got to ride a camel through the desert sands behind the pyramids. I absolutely loved riding a camel and would have loved to be able to ride it all by myself like our program manager Matthew, who apparently used to ride them a lot when he lived in Yemen. I think this was the highlight of the day. After we rode the camels, we boarded the bus and went down to see the Sphinx which guards the entrance to the pyramids. The entire time we were heading down there, the only thing in my head was from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, when the brothers sing, "But, in Egypt there's food going spare. They've got corn, they've got meat. They've got fruit and drinks. And if we have the time, we can see the Sphinx." After all these years, I'm still a musical theater kid. And I must say, the Sphinx was rather impressive. I'm sad that it is missing a nose and headdress, but they are doing a great job of restoring it.
The pictures from above are the ones I took on the trip to the pyramids. They are me in front of the panoramic, the Sphinx, the camel I rode, all of my group on camels, and us actually riding the camels. There are pictures of me on a camel, I just didn't take them.

Well, that's about all of the adventures I've had so far. But, before I sign off, I'm going to take care of a few house keeping items. So, here are the pictures of my apartment. 
They are my personal bathroom, my room, the living room, the dining room with my roommate Ann, the stairs, and the kitchen.

And if you feel the need to send me mail, you can mail it to this address: 

Becky Mezzanotte 
27 Refea Street
2nd Floor Apt. 202
Dokki-Giza, Cairo 

I can't guarantee that any kind of mail will make it to me as the mail system isn't very reliable here. Also, please do not send me packages because in order for me to receive them, I would have to pay a customs fee which I really don't want to do. Thanks. 

And I think that about wraps everything up here. More to come! Life is just starting to get interesting here.

28 January, 2010

The Cairo Amazing Race!

Today was the last day of orientation. Thank goodness. Tomorrow is Friday, which means the first day that we actually get to sit down and relax since I got to Egypt.

Right now, as I write this, I'm extremely exhausted and ready to just sleep straight until tomorrow morning. But, I know I can't do that just yet as the football game against Egypt's rival Algeria is tonight in the semi-finals and I kind of want to see that. Also, in case you are wondering the picture to the left, I took on the Nile cruise that we took.

But, anyway. Back to the last couple of days. Well, Tuesday was more orientation. The typical morning of survival Arabic, followed by lunch and then a lecture on the culture of Egypt. After, we met with some Egyptian students that study at Cairo University and chatted with them. I talked to two gentlemen named Ramin, and Mohammed (I think). Ramin studies English literature and art, while Mohammed studies Geo-physics. Both are Master's students, but they were a lot of fun to talk to. I wish I had talked to more students, but I'm sure I will be seeing them around AMIDEAST as they are always invited to come and socialize with us. They like helping us with our Arabic.

Wednesday came around and it was once again the usual orientation in the morning. We then met for a lecture on the culture shock that were going to experience and the street harassment that is common for women in Cairo. We have already experienced some of the street harassment, like men hissing at us when we walk, cat calling, etc. But, some of this stuff is the same stuff that American men do as well. I guess, it's a universal theme to harass women.

After the boys left, the girls stayed with Nadia, our academic manager, and our Arabic teachers arrived. What we thought was supposed to be an "anti-harassment march" throughout the neighborhood, was actually girls night out with our professors. It sucked that my one flatmate, Garrett, was sick and couldn't go. But,it was so much fun. Yasmina, our survival Arabic teacher, took us to a Yemeni restaurant where we had so much food we didn't know what to do with it. It was really fun and very funny, especially because our teachers didn't even know what was going on. After the food, we were taken to a drink place to get sugar cane juice. It was very sweet, but extremely delicious and I would never have tried it if it wasn't for my Arabic teachers. Before we all departed for home, Yasmina and the others insisted that they buy us a box of sweets to take home with us. As if they hadn't done enough for us already. They are so sweet, and I'm so glad that I decided to come to Egypt, even if I wasn't exactly excited to leave.

The pictures above are the sugar cane juice drink which was delicious, the Yemeni feast on the table and of course, Yasmina with the two bags of treats.

So, that brings us to today. This morning was our last day of survival Arabic and then we began The Cairo Amazing Race! If you haven't seen the show The Amazing Race, it's definitely worth watching. We were split up into teams of two or three and given a mission to complete. I was paired with one of the kids in our program named Sean, and our mission was entitled, "Lions and Tigers and Bears...Oh My!", which meant that our first stop was the Giza Zoo. When we got there we had our picture taken at the front gate and then bought tickets to the zoo (which were 20 EPD...we later found out that they were only supposed to be 2 EDP and that we had been ripped off, which is rare at the zoo...but, it still happened.) Once inside, we proceeded to take our pictures with 10 animals and we learned the names of them in Arabic. Pictures will be up soon, once I get them from Sean.

After leaving the zoo, we continued to follow the instructions which led us to the opera house, downtown Cairo, the Ramses train station, and some other cool places where we had other tasks to accomplish. The only problem we encountered was on our way through our detour. We happened to stumble across a man who was very keen on helping us,which was fine as he did help us a lot, but he was also a perfume salesman and it was difficult to try and leave. I ended up buying a bit of perfume from him just so that we could keep moving, but that detracted us for at least half an hour or more. Once we escaped him, another one found us...luckily we were extremely rushed and told him no we could not stay and chat about the stuff. The other problem that we had was concerning The League of Arab States. No matter how hard we tried to ask them our questions, they either didn't understand us, or they refused to answer them. It was very difficult and actually it's what made me finish with the game.

We returned to AMIDEAST headquarter, also known as Babel Villa, and found out that we came in last. It was sad, but we had a lot of fun doing it. I feel like I've accomplished something by navigating myself around Cairo with no help. And I feel like I will be more willing to talk to people and ask questions. It was just a lot of fun!

And that brings us to now. Well, I'm waiting to hear on the plans for the football game as I want to watch Egypt vs. Algeria. Tomorrow is the first day that we have to relax and explore on our own, which I will probably talk someone into doing with me. It should be fun. And then, as if I haven't mentioned it enough, on Saturday I get to go see the pyramids in Giza and ride a camel! Cooool!

So, stay tuned, more's on the way!

25 January, 2010

Walk Like An Egyptian

Or don't. That's just as good. I mean, honestly walking like an Egyptian is certainly one way to get yourself killed.

If I thought Czech drivers were bad with swerving to avoid the trams, then I was very wrong. I don't think anything can be as bad as Egyptian drivers. With them, there really aren't any rules of the road. They seem to think it is better to just follow the flow of traffic and avoid all sorts of traffic signals. Yeah...about that...that's all fine and dandy, except for the fact that when it comes to crossing the street, it feels like you are in a game of Frogger. You kind of move out to the center of the street when there aren't any cars coming and then continue in the pattern until you reach the other side. I guess it's no surprise that their traffic fatalities rate is 44 times that in the US. I'm just going to be extremely careful when crossing the street.

In other news, I'm finally starting to adjust to life here in Cairo. It is a very different city than any place I've ever experienced. It's a bit dirtier than most cities and definitely much louder. Car horns and light flashing are becoming a part of my normal life here and my lifestyle is adapting as well...you know stuff like, showering at night, walking in the street instead of on the sidewalk, and going to class on Sunday.

Thus far, my time here has been pretty good. Sunday we started our first day of orientation. It was pretty basic. We went over the regulations and such.Then we went on a tour of our neighborhood and took the metro just to experience the metro. Later on that night, we took a dinner cruise down the Nile where we met most of our Arabic professors and chatted with them in Arabic. Oh man are my Arabic skills rusty...but not only are they rusty, but I also keep confusing them with Czech. Wonderful! After the dinner, I returned to talk to Geoff and my parents before crashing. I was wiped.

Today was only the second day of orientation, but it already feels like I've been here for a while. We went over our academic requirements and then we met the rest of our professors from the Arab Academy. And then, we took the dreaded Arabic Proficiency exam. I'm unsure as to how well I did, but just taking it made me want to cry. I only remember so much of what I was taught and I'm pretty sure that was shown through my performance. Luckily, there isn't a grade for this exam and it is just used as placement.

So, after my test I attempted to navigate myself back to my apartment with no help from anyone. I got lost a little bit, but eventually found my way back to Mesaha Square where I live. On the way back, I ran into Will, the other student with me in the Egyptology program, and Garrett, one of my flatmates, and they invited me to tag along with them and Tyler, the AMIDEAST intern, to see the Egypt v. Cameroon soccer game at the King Hotel because the Egyptians were in the Africa Cup and this was a big deal.

It was a lot of fun! African soccer is very different from any other kind of soccer I've seen. It's slow enough to have a conversation with someone and yet, interesting enough to watch when something is about to happen. We sat with these two very nice Egyptian men who talked with us a little in Arabic and helped us learn some new things. I also got to try an Egyptian beer called "Stella". (I thought that girls couldn't really drink, but apparently drinking is a class thing, not a gender thing.) I had a great time and EGYPT WON!!!! There were fireworks over Cairo and honking more than normal. They are headed to the semi-finals now and it should be fun!

After the game had ended, we wandered over to Tyler's apartment where we had some very delicious food. We then just chilled and talked about a number of different things. I feel that this semester is going to be a good one. We may not be as tight as the FAMU kids were, but I will certainly enjoy all of my time here. I just know it.

P.S.- Pictures and apartment house keeping is on the way. So, don't think that I've forgotten, I just haven't uploaded pictures and such just yet. It will be coming. Especially, after the trip to the pyramids on Saturday!

23 January, 2010

A New World

A new world shattering the silence
There's a new world I'm afraid to see
A new world louder every moment
Come to me, come to me!
~Jason Robert Brown, Songs for a New World

I don't think I could have said it any better myself. This is what I feel like at this moment in time. I'm in a completely different world than the one that I'm used to and it's exciting and terrifying all at the same time.

So, as I'm sure you all guessed, I made it safely to New York, made it successfully onto my plane and through passport control in Cairo...which is where I'm at right now. Cairo,Egypt.

The flight over wasn't all that bad. Egyptair is pretty helpful and they didn't lose my luggage, which is always a plus. The food was fine, I mean, it was airplane food...it was hot...and edible (I really loved the desert, it was a type of cheesecake with jam on top! YUM!). I watched most of (500) Days of Summer, which was an okay movie. I'm not quite sure why it was nominated for a Golden Globe, but whatever...I wasn't in-charge of that. I fell asleep right as we hit some turbulence. I know it's odd, but the bouncing of the plane was really wonderful to go to sleep to. When I woke up, they were playing Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs,and I really wasn't all that interested, but I sort of paid attention before I put on my iPod and dozed back off to sleep.

Getting through passport control was no where near as bad as I thought it would be, however, the baggage claim took forever! I guess that's what happens when you are on a really big flight. Blah! So, after I finally retrieved my luggage, I found the gentleman who was to take me to my apartment...where a slight mix-up occurred, but it was only minor and is all straightened out now.

Anyway...this semester is going to be very different from the semester that came before this one. I can just feel it. Let alone the fact that I'm going to be working on actual academic assignments and not film related stuff, which I don't even really consider class.

But, just for the sake of everyone reading this post and for those who possibly just found my blog, I'm going to recap.

My name is Becky and I'm a student at American University. Last semester, I spent my time in Prague, Czech Republic studying film at FAMU. I had a whole lot of fun and I made a whole lot of friends with whom I'm still keeping in contact. While I was in the Czech Republic I worked on 4 short films and 1 independent feature. It was a lot of fun and I was excited to see my talents being to put to such good use. I'll never forget the adventures I had and the trips I took, they will be with me forever, shaping who I am and how I react to people and situations.

This semester, I have opted to study abroad once again. This time in a country that is drastically much different from the States. I'm pretty optimistic at this moment that my trip here will be just as fun, exciting and rewarding as my semester in Prague. But, as with everything in life, there is no way to be sure.

I am apart of 1 of 2 different programs going on here in Cairo...and I really don't know anyone here...so, I will be making lots of friends I'm sure. My program here is very small (2 people! The other kid, I sort of know, but not enough to call him my friend.) and is relatively new, which means I'm pretty much a guinea pig for this program...this will be fun! It also means a lot of one-on-one time with professors which could be very useful.

There will definitely be somethings that take some getting used to however. For instance, the fact that the work week starts on Sunday and ends on Thursday. This means, that tomorrow I start orientation for the program...wow! (This also means that I will be calling it an early night, not that I wasn't to begin with, but you know...)

Since I arrived, I haven't done a whole lot. I've managed to put all of my belongings away in my room (which is a single room...meaning no roommate. Also, I have a private bathroom...that's kind of cool!), and I managed to wander downstairs to buy some soup and a soda for dinner. I haven't felt the need to wander yet as many people are still arriving and I want to make sure I can find my way back to the apartment ok.

So, that's about it for the moment. More things will arise, I know it. It's a new city and a new world! I just need to explore and figure it all out.

22 January, 2010

It's very odd being at the airport by myself. The last time I flew, Kris was with me, but now I'm all alone. I just left my parents and Geoff not long ago and soon will be in Cairo where I will make an actual post. Stay tuned!
Well, we are in Delaware. On the way to New York to fly to Egypt.

20 January, 2010

The Countdown Begins Again

It feels like time is rapidly moving, but I know that it's going at the same speed that it always has. For some reason, when I was younger, it felt like it took forever for things to come around...and now it takes them no time at all.

When I returned home on December 18th, I had mixed emotions. I wasn't ready to leave Prague, but I wanted to see everyone. I needed to see everyone: Brad, Manya, Emma, Geoff, my parents, etc., etc....the list goes on and on. It was a wonderful feeling to travel away and return with stories of far off places.

But, now I'm at that point of mixed emotions again. On Friday, I will leave once again to study abroad. This time, however, I will not be in Prague, Czech Republic...but, Cairo, Egypt. It's a big difference from the last time I prepared to leave. I was ready for Prague...I'm not ready for Cairo. I want more time at home with everyone. There are still things that I need to do...but, I know I won't get the chance to do them until I get back in May.

I still need to go sky diving with Brad! And I need to do more shadowcasts with The Evening Slice! I still have to finish plotting out the summer series we are working on with Manya and Brad. And I still need to see Glee! I need to sit in the movie theaters and see the nominated films for the Oscars.There is just so much to do and the time to do it is running out! I guess, I'll just have to wait until I get back in May to everything that I need to do...but, then it just might be too late.

It's not that I haven't done a lot since I got home. I had Christmas Eve with the Mezzanotte side of the family and then Christmas Day with the other side. New Year's Eve was a lot of fun and I got to spend it with a lot of friends that I hadn't seen for a while. I finished the book I was reading, The Haunting at Hill House, and I started another one, Seeing Redd, which I'm almost finished. I've been ice skating with Brad and shadowcasting with Manya, Emma and our sister cast, The Midnight Surgeons. I've played Inspectres with many of my friends from college, worked on make-up for a photo shoot for the Rudes, and seen just about everyone I needed to see before I leave, including Steph and Shayna...who I saw yesterday in DC. And I've eaten all the different foods that I missed while I was in Prague.

I'm tying up loose ends. Still procrastinating on the whole packing thing, but preparing myself for what is going to be a completely different semester.

I don't know what else to say. I'm back to blogging about my adventures and you are all here for the ride once again. So, here's to another semester of curiosity, of joy, of challenge, and of seeing the world.