21 May, 2010

Coming Full Circle

Everything about my journey in coming back around full circle from where my journey began. It feels almost like a déjà vu. I've seen it all before, I've done it all before, but in some way there is a variation, a difference, that makes me remember what I had done in the past and I can see how I've grown. 

My journey began at the end of January and it of course began on a dinner cruise down the Nile with my soon to be Arabic teacher, the AMIDEAST staff and my program mates, who I had only just met. That first weekend I was here, I explored Khan Al-Khalili with Shruti and Ann. It was an overwhelming experience and I can remember thinking, 'how am I possibly going to be able to survive within this country?' Within that first month of being here, I also went to a French Party at the French Cultural Center. It was a lot of fun. We went with our newly met Egyptian friends and we met more Egyptian friends while we were there that would accompany all of us on our journey in Egypt for the next four months. 

And now, here I sit, with one week left in this country. Both sad and excited to leave. I have come full circle. Yesterday morning, I got up and decided that souvenir shopping needed to be done and thus hopped a taxi all by myself and headed down to Khan Al-Khalili. The conversation with the driver was a little awkward and leaded to me telling him I was married, so that I wouldn't get another marriage proposal (this is something rather common in Egypt actually). 

Anyway, I got down there and I ended up looking around through some of the shops, when one of the shop keepers stopped me to ask if I spoke English. He spoke English rather decently himself, but as he explained, he could speak but he couldn't write it and he wanted to send an e-mail to a friend of his in South Africa that had proper spelling and grammar. So, seeing that I was in a good mood, I sat down and worded the e-mail out for him. Turns out, he had just had a baby, (normally, I wouldn't have believe him, but his mother was sitting close by and I spoke with was overjoyed for a grandchild, so I assumed it to be true), and he wanted to let his really close friend know that she had just been born. Her name was Nadia. 

To thank me for writing the letter, he offered me some very good Egyptian tea. I sat and talked with him for a bit and I did end up buying something from him, a beautiful box that was actually really well made. He wanted 400 Egyptian Pounds for it, but that was way more than I had, and I ended up getting it for 100. I still probably overpaid for it, but it is something that I've been looking for and I got the experience of sitting with this man and talking. So, in the long run it's worth it. 

I shopped until about 2pm at the market and I did quite a bit of bargaining while I was there. And I almost finished all of my souvenir shopping. Almost. I still have some more to, but I'll do it later today. 

I returned home for a bit of downtime before heading out with everyone to our end of the year Yacht Party. AMIDEAST was nice enough to rent out a Yacht for all of us and everyone we've ever met during our time in Egypt. We went on a two hour tour of the Nile, which was pretty awesome. There was pizza and soda and good company. I enjoyed it so much. It made me both love Egypt and at the same time long to be back home on the Chesapeake in a little crabbing boat with my camera. Oh, yeah. That's the other thing. Guess what I forgot to bring...my camera. So, no pictures of mine sadly. 

We returned from the Yacht Party and said our goodbyes to everyone. Sadly, this was probably the last time I saw Emy before she comes to the States in October (hopefully). I wished her well and then Shruit, Sean and myself went on an adventure downtown. We pretty much just went and looked at every possible store we could have. The streets were packed with people and the night itself wasn't as hot as others had been. 

After a quick beer at a bar downtown, we then traveled to Max's place where we gathered everyone and left for the French Party. It was a good bit of fun. I ended up dancing with an Egyptian dude, who was a little creepy, mainly because I felt bad for him. A friend of his, who was even creepier than he was, tried to cut in and I pretty much scowled evilly at him until he left me alone. Eventually, Moose came over looking for beer...and I told him I'd buy him one, so he grabbed me away from the creepy dude and as promised, I bought him a beer as well as a drink and a crepe for myself. Best. Crepe. Ever! Mmmmmmm Chocolate.....It reminded me of Europe, which just made me miss Prague. Sad. 

The French Party ended and we wandered over to an after party at a nearby apartment. I didn't stay long however, as it was rather lame. It wasn't really what I wanted to do for the evening after the French Party. So, Sean and myself caught a taxi home. I pretty much played online for a bit after that, talked to Geoff and then crashed. 

I got to sleep in this morning, which was just wonderful and I'll probably do a bit of shopping later today. 

So, you see, I've come full circle. I started my trip to Egypt with a Nile Cruise, a trip to Khan Al-Khalili and a French Party and I'll finish my trip with the same. The experiences both times though, have been quite different. I can see my growth when I look back on them. My most recent trip to Khan Al-Khalili did not have me panicking and unsure, but confident and bargaining in a language that I was certain I could never remember. The Nile Cruise went from an introduction to Egypt to commemorating my time in Egypt with everyone I've met. And the French Party served as my connector from Prague to Egypt and Egypt to Prague...a connection to my memories of last semester and new ones that I made this semester. 

The semester isn't over yet, but as its drawing to a close I'm realizing just how much I've grown and accomplished here in Egypt. And I'm amazed. Who knew that I could survive this? I definitely didn't think I could and here I am. Life has a funny way of working these things out. 

Well, I have to run now. More shopping needs to be done before I leave. But, I'm not done blogging yet. Keep an eye for more updates in the next week. Who knows what may happen. 

Countdown: 8 days left in Cairo

P.S.- I found out yesterday that my language skills jumped two levels. I started at Novice High in terms of proficiency and now I'm at Intermediate Medium. That's super impressive. Yesterday was a good day!