27 May, 2010

A Sigh of Sadness and a Breath of Excitement

"Save tonight, fight the break of dawn. 
Come tomorrow, tomorrow I'll be gone." 

Well, here it is. The last substantial post I will make from Egypt. I'm currently sitting in the "Man Cave" next to Sean who is watching a show on Haley's computer, while Ann checks her e-mail on the other couch. The others staying in the "Man Cave" are out on the balcony smoking and talking. It's rather odd to be here instead of in my own apartment. 

It's also really odd as the group is continuing to break apart and shatter. Rebecca's gone, Will's gone, Ryan's gone, Lindley's gone and Ann will be on her way to the airport in two hours. I'm torn about leaving Egypt right now. It's going to be a bittersweet goodbye in the morning. I just know it. This post is going to be an overall reflection post, so more apologies from me for being ridiculously long. Here goes nothing.

Egypt for me has been a road of ups and downs. There were so many good times and bad times as well. I think the good times outweigh the bad, but Egypt was still a much different experience that I ever would have imagined it to be. 

I came to Egypt expecting it to be the Egypt of 20 years ago. "Paris on the Nile." I'm not exactly sure why I expected this, but that's what I wanted. A society in the desert that was sophisticated and yet somehow adventurous. Egypt wasn't what I expected at all. I landed in Cairo in what looked to be LAX or somewhere in California. Palm trees lined the road of a modern looking city.

As we entered into the main part of the city, I found what looked like parts of the Middle East you see in pictures. Unfinished buildings made of brick, covered in sand with palm trees lining the road. The more I got to know Cairo, the more I realized that it was in fact a rollercoaster, as they told me in orientation. Some experiences were great, like the trip to Luxor and Aswan and the trip to the Children's Museum and being able to communicate entirely in Arabic at Khan Al-Khalili. While others were horrible, like the days I had to write papers, and sometimes the walk to and from school. Egypt was in fact everything. Good, bad, amazing, and disastrous. I truly do believe that I will always have a love-hate relationship with Cairo and Egypt in general. 

This semester was completely different from the last one I spent in Prague. From the city to the group of people on the program. I felt I had a certain connection with the kids in my Prague program. We were the FAMU kids. We were a family. Here was not the same dynamic. I felt that I didn't get to know everyone as well here. Though I did make some great friends. Shruti was absolutely awesome and so much fun. Mustafa helped me survive this semester. I found I have more in common with him than I thought I originally would. Will proved to be a rather delightful person to be around. Surprisingly, Sean became a rather close friend, which I wouldn't have pictured at the beginning of this whole adventure. And Tyler became someone I could talk to about random things. Sadly I didn't get to know the other girls as well as I knew the guys and Shruti. But, then again I felt that there was a slight cliche between them all and I was once again the outsider. Around the end of the semester this seemed to disappear, but the fact still remained that I didn't really know them. But, they were a lot of fun when we did hang out. 

Ok, so with all the good of a semester, there comes the bad. And before I get so engrossed in the awesomeness that was this semester, I'm going to first talk about my problems this semester. There actually aren't that many, but they are enough to warrant a bit of a rant.
So, here it goes. Egypt itself would be a much better place if the people, particularly the men, in the society would understand the concept of being a woman. Being a woman does not mean you have the right to call me names, hiss at me as I pass, and just overall harass me. If there is one thing I will not miss about Egypt it's the fact that I can blend in and not have to feel angry when I walk down the street all the time. 

Egypt would also be a much better place if they could understand the concept of the environment. Let's be honest. The place is absolutely filthy. I had the worst time trying to adjust to the fact that I had to walk around trash to get to school and that trashcans were incredibly hard to find. Also, the fact that everyone seems to own a car. Why on earth would you need to own a car in this city? There are taxis everywhere! I'll never understand. 

And while I'm on the subject of taxis, just because I'm walking down the street does not mean I need a taxi to get wherever it is I am going. I do like to walk.

As for the program itself, I have very few gripes about the program. I would have liked a little more structure within some of the classes and sometimes I wished my professors were a bit more interactive. But, then again I don't know a way to teach Egyptology other than lecturing with pauses to answer questions. I also think that the workload was a bit much near the end of the semester. But, I've written all of this on my evaluation forms, so hopefully these things will be taken into consideration for programs in the future. 

Overall, I think program and my experience in Egypt was one I'll never forget. I've made some amazing friends, seen some incredible places and done some unforgettable things. You can't leave Egypt saying that you didn't take something away. I definitely did. I learned a lot about myself and I definitely saw a way of living that I would never have seen otherwise.

To finish this post up I've moved outside on the balcony where it's much cooler. As the wind blows and the smell of some of the empty alcohol bottle blows along with the wind, I can't help but already miss everyone. We may not have been a close family like the FAMU kids were, but we were definitely something. A group of friends embarking on an adventure of a lifetime.

I'm dreading the end of this post because it means the end of an adventure. The end of a chapter in my life that I had been planning since I was a freshman in college. When I end this post, I will leave Egypt and return to the States as a Senior at American University. The words are rather terrifying. They symbolize another big moment of my life coming to an end, but I'm not going to think about that just yet. 

As with my last post from Prague, I'm going to give some advice to those who wish to study abroad. My words of wisdom are this, go into an experience with no expectations. You never know where you may end up and what memories you will make. Let your feet do all the traveling. Live your life with little reservations.

I can't say that I won't miss Egypt. I know I will, something at home will remind me of Egypt and call me to remember the dirty city of Cairo. Even with all the times I wanted to leave and felt uncomfortable, I know that Cairo has a special place in my heart. 

I need to thank Matthew, our program manager, for being extremely awesome and so easy to talk to. I'm extremely excited to keep in touch with him about the thesis project I'm going to take on next year. Thank you to Tamer, our awesome housing specialist, who took care of any problem we ever had. And for giving me my Arabic name, Bakinam. Nadia, our former academic adviser, for all her courage and support with girl's nights. And Dr. Riham, our current academic adviser, for listening to us gripe about all of our classes and workload and for truly understanding what we were going through. Without you all, this semester would have been a mess. I know it just would have been. To everyone on the program, Ann, Ryan, Shruti, Garrett, Tyler, Will, Moose, Sean, Lindley, and Haley, you've made this experience one to never forget. Know that you've been great inspiration for some of my characters in scripts.

So, here it comes. The end of the adventure in Egypt. It seems like it just started and at the same time as if I've been in Cairo for years. And with a deep breath, I'm bringing this post to an end. I'm just about out of things to say. No one is stepping out from behind the curtain this semester, I'm all alone on this one. But, it's been a blast. 

So long Cairo, I will miss you. Perhaps we shall meet again. I hope we do. 

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