Friday, July 30, 2010

Cairo, Day 7

It would be foolish of me to start off this entry with generalized statements on Egyptian culture. I have been here seven days. “Cairo is…” or, “Egyptians are…” are not phrases I am yet qualified to make. Perhaps I never will be—such statements are too often made in haste. One might have an awful experience in a taxi (not unlikely here); another might be invited to a dinner party (also not unlikely). However, this does not mean that all Egyptians are looking to take advantage of Westerners, nor does it mean all Egyptians are hospitable. A more appropriate response might be, “Man, I had a really shitty cab driver the other day,” or, “Gosh, I met the nicest Egyptian family…” or, more simply, “My experience was…”

I have had a pretty positive experience in Cairo looking back on my first week. Here are some highlights:

-Thus far, the majority of the cab rides I have taken have instilled in me a healthy fear of driving in this country. I’d feel safer free-soloing Maiden Voyage in the Black Canyon than taking a taxi on the Corniche (river road along the Nile) downtown during rush hour. Like the states, there are lines in the road designating lanes; however, unlike the states, the lines serve absolutely no purpose. From the airport our cab driver was literally driving aside five cars on a three-lane highway as I thought for the first time in a year of climbing ice, rock and skiing powder, “I really wish I had health insurance.” Were there enough space between our car and the one adjacent us, I could have stuck my torso out of the window and tuned our neighbor’s radio.

-This past week, I thought I had been witnessing an odd Egyptian custom when men would chuckle immediately after being introduced to me. Yesterday I learned how wrong I was during my first Arabic lesson with my friend Mohay. Mohay had me introduce myself and conduct a very simple conversation with an older man sitting at a table next to us in a run-down cafĂ© in Old Cairo. As usual, the man began to laugh after hearing my name, as did Mohay. I asked him why. In Arabic, “Hunter” is the name of a historical Arab hero who, from the description Mohay gave me, resembles Hercules. One can now say “Hunter” to refer to a “very strong, hard, confident man,” according to Mohay. Naturally, I found that awesome and wondered where the humor set in. Mohay then informed me “Hunter” has also become slang to refer to a man’s penis.

-I joined the Cairo Ultimate Frisbee club and now plan on playing ultimate one to two times per week. I don't particularly care for ultimate, but it's a good way to meet people.

-Mohay told me there is a big futbol tournament in the streets during Ramadan, which is fast approaching. He said I could join his team. Five vs. five in the streets of the island in the Nile next to Old Cairo. Could be cool.

That's it.


PS- It's so F-ing hot here.

The above pictures are of the American University of Cairo, my new school.
The first displays their dedication to using water in an efficient and responsible fashion in this God-forsaken desert. I'm so proud.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Cairo, Day 2

Last night my buddy Sears and I hired a felucca, a small sailboat, to cruise around the Nile. His two Egyptian friends joined us, Islaam and Mohay, as well as an American traveler named Krista and a Croatian living in Cairo, Valentina. We brought a few Stellas—Egyptian beer most certainly not to be confused with Belgium’s Stella Artois. As you would expect, there are many cultural differences between Egypt and the States. To put it mildly I will, without doubt, have a much easier time living here in Cairo as a man than if I were a woman. On the boat, Mohay was cluing me in on a few Egyptian phrases to use in an altercation with a local. One of the words Mohay taught me was, “khowel.” He said it between gasps for breath because he was laughing hysterically, explaining that a “khowel” would be “like a man who cooks for a woman.”

I’m cooking burritos tonight for Alan and I. As well as Krista, Valentina and two girls named Chelsea and Erinn.


Prior to Leaving for Cairo I was able to make it to Rhinelander, WI for my family reunion. Here are several photos of my brothers (Taylor climbing), my mom and I. Also, I am a golf champion.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Paris, Jim Beam, Hopefully Cairo

Greetings Friends,
Off to Cairo! I'll spare the details of the past nine months and suffice it to say I hit a couple speed bumps, but am now well on my way. In fact, I'm writing this from the airport in Paris where I'll be spending the next 7 hours of my life awaiting my flight to Cairo and ignoring Parisians!
Some highlights of my journey thus far:

1) My mom escorted me through security in the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport and waited with me until I boarded the plane. I suspect her intentions were twofold:
a) Being the wonderful mother she is, she wanted to see off her eldest son prior to his 2-year stint in a foreign country.
b) I'm confident she was expecting to step in and take the hit if we'd run into any trouble at the security gate.
2) I woke up after a short nap somewhere over the Atlantic to notice the flight attendant had just passed my row with our second meal. I patiently waited until she cycled through all of the rows and was back in the prep area before approaching her for my meal. Her word-for-word response was, "you snooze, you lose." I held back about a half-dozen comments that immediately came to mind and turned to walk back to my seat. She stopped me and handed me my food, but not before letting out an irritated sigh.
3) After landing, I discovered the business elite/1st class private lounge below one of the terminals. There is free internet access which I am currently utilizing to write this to you all. There is also free food, free drinks, and free booze (self-serve, including Jim Beam). I know there are a few of you that won't believe me, so I took a photo:

My postulate is that, upon learning of my flight reservation, Paris decided to try and make amends for treating me so poorly the last couple times. I can't be bought. But I will have a drink.