Friday, November 30, 2007

Teaching English to Refugees

Twice a week, on Monday and Wednesday, I leave the library at 5:15 for the Tahrir Square Metro station in downtown Cairo. I purchase a ticket for one Egyptian pound and board the north train to Marg. I travel 13 stops north to the neighborhood of Ain Shams, a trip of about 30 minutes. 13 stops twice a week.

The trains are always crowded at this time, and often I have to push my way on the train and burry myself in the deep crowd of Cairenes. The sights and sounds of the Metro are a worth the trip itself. The TV’s broadcast the afternoon call to prayer, the poor sell cheap trinkets in the car, and the beggars pass out slips of paper describing their families and providing blessings from the Qur’an for those who are generous to the less fortunate. Old men in traditional robes and turbans sit next to young girls dressed in colorful dresses and hijabs. The pious softly chant recitations from their pocket Qur’an. I listen to snippets of conversations and pick up a few words here and there. I draw stares. I am the only white person on the train.

“Aiywa, binzil hina,” I say to the man next to the door. This is where I get off. Once out of the Metro station, I walk just two or three minutes to the El-Wafa center, a small hole-in-the-wall facility nestled between two clothing shops. There is a small reception area where the center’s director works. Down the hallway is a small bathroom and two small classrooms with a few chairs and a chalkboard. Basic yet sufficient.

Classes are taught in pairs, and I was blessed to have a wonderful partner named Vicki. Unfortunately she left last week for the US because of serious health complications of a close family member. She was so helpful and a patient teacher, and I hope everything works out for the best.

I teach a low intermediate class of about 5 or 6 students (attendance is not always consistent, but I have my regulars). They are all men in their late 20’s and early 30’s. All of them are natives of the Darfur region of Sudan and have come to Cairo to escape the war, hunger, and crime caused by a complex tribal and sectarian power struggle. If you looked at them, however, you would never guess that they were victims of one of most brutal humanitarian crises today. Their economic situation is surprisingly good all things considered. They wear clean clothes and own cell phones. They have jobs. But they are Sudanese and not Egyptian. When we were having a conversation about weddings in America, one student says he’s waiting to get married until after he returns to Sudan. I wonder if that will ever happen.

We do not discuss families in class. I do not know what these men have seen or done. I do not know where their families are or what has happened to them. As recommended by STAR, I leave this topic open. They have the freedom to say what they want, but so far none of them have mentioned their pasts except for a few unspecific comments here and there. Although I have numerous questions about their personal lives, I am left to speculate.

We laugh and we learn together. Last week we ended class with a playful debate about the chicken and the egg, and everyone left with a smile. Their English is good enough for jokes, which is better than my Arabic, and the class provides a good outlet for my own language practice. Most of the time I speak English, but items are sometimes clarified in Arabic. This is especially true when I give them reading assignments with new vocabulary.

Classes are fairly flexible, and one of my favorite things to do is prepare a one page reading/speaking passage each class. The students like this too. It frees us from the doldrums of grammar and addresses what the students want to focus on in their language training. The passages are also an excellent cultural lesson, so I talk about American holidays, history, and traditions. Past topics included Thanksgiving, the Fourth of July, football, and Native Americans. I also prepare pictures and videos on my computer to accompany the lesson. For example, to explain the rules of football, I downloaded footage from a Michigan-Michigan State football game. And last class, when discussing Native Americans, I played excerpts from Dances With Wolves showing examples of Indian song and dance and the spectacular buffalo hunt. They were enthralled. I’ve also learned a quite a lot about communication through these lessons, because expressing ideas with limited language skills can be a challenge. This was especially true when I did a lesson on American weddings (this was actually specifically requested by one student). I soon realized that I was in over my head. The cultural differences of marriage between Sudan and America are tremendous. I soon found myself trying to explain polygamy, dating, and dowries, and how in American polygamy is illegal, dating multiple people is common before marriage (but never more than one person at a time!), and dowries are nonexistent. “Can you get married without dating?” they asked me. I guess so, but it would never happen. “Do you have to give 100 cows to get married?” No, I responded. Trying to explain dating was impossible—the practice simply does not exist in Sudan, and they could not grasp the concept just as I cannot grasp the concept of seriously considering multiple wives.

After class, I walk back through Ain Shams to the Metro station, sometimes pausing to look at some of the shops along the way. I board the train again, always pleased that the rush hour crowd has dissipated. The 45 minute journey back to Dokki gives me a lot of time to think and reflect. One conclusion I’ve come to: I realize how fortunate I am to ride 13 stops on the north line.

Vicki and me at the refugee craft bazaar held monthly on AUC's main campus.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Adventures in the Land of the Pharaohs

The American University in Cairo is modeled after the American university system, and this includes a Thanksgiving break. Obviously this holiday very foreign to Egypt, and I even overheard a couple Egyptians wondering why there was no class on Thursday. Many American students took off for destinations such as Israel, Jordan, and the Western Desert. I chose Luxor and Aswan. I traveled with four other AUC students, two of which I knew previously. Caryn went with me to Jordan, and Megan is a U-M student who was in my Arabic class last semester.

We decided to fly instead of taking the train because the flight was only slightly more expensive the overnight sleeper train. Unfortunately our best option was a 6:00 am flight out of Cairo, which meant I had to wake up at 3:30 am and grab a cab to the airport by 4:00. After an hour flight, we landed safely in Luxor. The views of the Nile from the air were beautiful, and it showed why Egypt is considered “The Gift of the Nile.” The river is lined on either side by a rich band of lush green agriculture that ends abruptly a few kilometers from the river’s banks. There is no middle ground—land is either rich green agriculture or barren beige sand.

After we arrived at our budget hotel, we settled in, and sipped the complimentary tea. The hotel came highly recommended by other AUC students. Not only was the price excellent ($2.50 a night), but the staff was very hospital and the facilities were clean. We decided to see the East Bank sites on the first day, so we rented bicycles and biked the two and a half miles to Karnak Temple. Karnak has an enviable reputation among all things Egyptian, and it lived up to the hype. What makes the Egyptian temples so impressive is not only their size, but also the fact that every inch is decorated in beautiful hieroglyphics and stone carvings. Originally everything in Karnak was painted, and I wish I could have seen the temple in its prime. Nevertheless, the remains are surprisingly well preserved, a result of Egypt’s warm, dry climate. Emily, one of the girls in my group, studies Egyptology, and she was an excellent guide, sharing her knowledge of ancient Egyptian history.

We biked back to the hotel and grabbed a quick lunch. We got ripped off by the restaurant because they charged us way too much for the meal, but we couldn’t argue since they didn’t have a menu. We should have asked before hand, but we assumed it would be just as cheap as all the other restaurants of similar appearance and style. We were wrong, and we learned our lesson.

After lunch, we took a ride on a felucca (a traditional Egyptian Nile sailboat) and landed at Banana Island. Famous for its fresh fruit, Banana Island is a picturesque destination, and a walk around the island is finished off with an all-you-can-eat banana buffet with no genetic modification. In the summer, Luxor can reach temperatures upwards of 115 degrees, but the end of November is beautiful. Sailing out on the water was perfectly relaxing. The warm setting sun was accompanied by a gentle Nile breeze that would have put me to sleep if not for the hot tea with two scoops of sugar. Back in Luxor, we headed off the tourist bazaar to buy a few gifts and souvenirs before finding a restaurant for dinner. My “Thanksgiving dinner” was spent munching on a pizza while gazing at the ancient remains of the Luxor Temple. Everyone was really tired by now, so we returned to the hotel to try to catch some sleep. But first I grabbed a Stella on the rooftop, read a little Steinbeck, and had a great chat with a British man living who is in the process of moving to Luxor.

Day Two

The girls wanted to take a hot air balloon ride in the morning, so they had to get up at 4 am. I chose not to go, so I got a couple more hours of sleep before taking the ferry to the East Bank We met up at the famous Colossi of Memnon and took a few pictures before driving to the Valley of the Kings. This is the burial site of many of ancient Egypt’s most famous rulers including several of the Ramses and King Tutankhamen. The tombs were spectacular in the same fashion as Karnak—impressive not only in size but also in the intricacy of detail. Unlike the outdoor temples, the bright colors of the painted tombs are still strong. One of the big news headlines here (and around the world) has been the revealing of King Tut’s face. This happened just a few weeks ago, so we were some of the first people to see him. We paid the extra fee for his tomb, but it was actually kind of disappointing. It was much smaller than the others, and all of the best stuff is now on display at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. But at least I got to see a 3,300 year old dead person.

After Valley of the Kings, we hiked out of the valley and down the other side to see the impressive temple of Queen Hatshepsut. The walk was worth it because we got a great view of the temple from above, something most tourists never see. After exploring the temple for awhile, we grabbed a delicious lunch at a local establishment featuring a vegetable stew with rice. I couldn’t help but notice how much better the food was than in Cairo. In fact, I think everywhere has better food than Cairo, something I can back up with every one of my trips outside the city.

After lunch, we perused the ruins of Habu Temple, which features some wonderful carvings depicting ancient wars. We returned to the hotel, grabbed a snack, and walked to the train station where we caught a ride down to Aswan. The train was an hour late and took an extra half hour to reach our destination, so we didn’t get into Aswan until 10pm. By the time we had dinner, stopped at an ATM, and finalized our plans for the next day, it was 11:30. We booked a bus to Abu Simbel, which meant waking up at 3:00 am for a 3:30 ride to Abu Simbel.

Day Three

Abu Simbel is the home of Ramses II tomb, a monument he built to himself after some kind of military victory (ask Emily for details). The temple is so far south it is only about 15 miles from Sudan. It lies next to Lake Nasser, the world’s largest artificial lake created when the Aswan High Dam was completed in 1971. Because the lake was going to flood the temple, UNESCO moved the entire temple complex up to higher ground and built a giant artificial hill to build it in. The project was of Pyramidal proportions, but at least they had the aid of truck, cranes, and the mechanical advantage of internal combustion engines.

The drive between Aswan and Abu Simbel is about 3 hours, but because of security concerns, all tourists have to travel together in a large police escort. This explains the 3:30 start time—it’s required. I’m not sure why it’s so early, but my guess is that for most of the year it gets unbearably hot by midday. For independent travelers like us, Awan proved to be very constricting. The bus to Abu Simbel was required, so we also ended up in a tour group going to other sites including Philae Temple the Aswan High Dam. While it was nice to see all of these places, the time constraints were inflexible. Oh, well. What are you going to do? Philae Temple, which is situated on an island in Lake Nasser, was also very nice (its original island was also inundated by the dam). The High Dam itself is massive, 18 times larger than the largest pyramid. The lake is very beautiful and reminded me slightly of Lake Michigan. Perhaps I’m just not used to the smell of pollution-free freshwater breezes.

We got back to the hotel with about three hours to burn, so we did a little more shopping in the giant tourist bazaar and grabbed some more of that delicious vegetable stew and a couple date desserts from the bakery. Although Aswan is nice, the touristy nature is disgusting. All the shops sell basically the same stuff, and the salesmen are very aggressive and rude. They are also very offensive to women, calling stuff out to them and making awful remarks. Because I was traveling with three other girls, they would say stuff like, “You’re a very lucky man…three wives!” and “How many camels?” This of course is asking me to sell my “wives” in exchange for camels. I felt like throwing back some four letter words, but I restrained myself. The girls felt extremely uncomfortable with such behavior, and I felt uncomfortable because I was with them. The best thing to do was just make jokes about it, but in the end it’s a serious problem in Egypt and the developing world in general. If you treat half your population like property, you’re not going to improve your situation.

Egyptian men aside, the trip was fantastic. Seeing the monuments, temples, and tombs far exceeded my expectations, and I gained a new appreciation for the greatness of the ancient Egyptian civilization. Their artistry, engineering, and empire are impressive, and we as citizens of the modern world are lucky to have so much history to explore.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving Up South

On Sunday, November 18, AUC put on a Thanksgiving dinner for all the dorm residents at Marwa Palace. I was looking forward to this event even though I had doubts about the food. So on Sunday evening at 7:30, all the Marwa residents gathered upstairs for our Thanksgiving festivities. Of course the students showed up at 7:30 American and the food arrived at 7:30 Egyptian, but this should come as little surprise after 3 months in Egypt.

In general, the meal can be described as a good attempt that fell a little short. The turkey wasn’t very good as it was served as part of a rice dish. The mashed potatoes and gravy were actually quite good, but this was paired with sub-par side dishes. The best part was the pie. The girls, who all live in apartment-style housing with kitchens, baked a bunch of apple and sweet potatoe pies. I was really in the mood for pumpkin and pecan, but these were close enough. Although it was nice to have a celebration with friends, Thanksgiving dinner just wasn’t the same without family, Lions football, and a 40% chance of snow.

For my latest STAR English class, I wrote up a short essay on Thanksgiving. My students are very curious about anything American, and it doesn’t get much more American than Thanksgiving. I explained the origins of Thanksgiving dating back to the pilgrims and Squanto and how the Indians helped the first settlers survive. I then tried my best to explain Thanksgiving dinner and all the traditional foods. I even taught them the phrase, “That’s as American as apple pie,” which is kind of hard to do especially since there is no Arabic word for pie. I’m hoping to bring in an apple pie for the final class. Educational theorists are always talking about the importance of interacting with the language and the culture—a good excuse to eat pie if you ask me.

On Thursday, the real Thanksgiving Day, AUC has no classes. I’m taking this opportunity to visit Luxor and Aswan, the two largest cities in “Upper Egypt,” which means southern Egypt. After living most of my life discussing excursions to “Up North,” Michigan, I still haven’t got used to the fact the Upper Egypt is in the south. The reason for this is the simple fact that the Nile River flows south to north, so traveling up river means moving south.

So instead of spending my Thanksgiving with family in Michigan, eating excessive amounts of food, and watching Lions football, I’ll be sightseeing in the Valley of the Kings. It’s not very festive, but there’s always next year.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my family, friends, and blog readers!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

November 17

November 17. One month to go in my semester. Three full weeks of class. I can’t believe I’ve been here three months now. November 17 is also the Michigan-OSU game. I wish I were in Ann Arbor today, but alas, distance is an unconquerable obstacle. At least I have and Sopcast, the lethal weapons of any expat college football fanatic.

AUC is putting on a Thanksgiving dinner at Marwa tomorrow night. Turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberries, rolls, and pie are among the items on the menu. Thanksgiving is coming a little early this year, but I think AUC will do a nice job making us Americans feel at home. I’ll let you know how it goes. There is no class on Thursday, so I’m taking this opportunity to travel to Luxor and maybe Aswan. Luxor has some of the best Pharaonic ruins in Egypt, including the famed Valley of the Kings and the recently-revealed face of King Tutankhamen.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

In Cairo Winter Comes

Winter approaches in Cairo. Not the cold, icy winter of Michigan, but the cool mornings that warm to comfortable sunny afternoons, and evenings that call for a sweater. The weather in Cairo changes methodically, every week a degree or two colder than before, and rapid temperature changes are nonexistent. I notice the temperature the most when I get off at the Ain Shams metro stop in north Cairo and step outside from the ticket booth on my way to STAR teaching. The sun has just set, and the night air lingers, every week a little cooler than before.

Winter is near. When I stepped out of Marwa on Sunday morning to board the shuttle to campus, I said to myself for the first time in Cairo, “It’s a little chilly outside.” I was still comfortable in my jeans and t-shirt, but goose bumps rose up on my forearms. Chilly, just a bit. Today, all the traffic cops and tourism police changed from lightweight white summer uniforms to black wool winter uniforms and sweaters.

Winter is here. Beano’s Coffee has snow flakes and snowmen on the cover of their menu, and Metro is selling Lindt chocolate santas for LE 34.95. Even Santa makes it do the dessert. It just costs a little more for the import.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Breaking Point

There’s no denying that cultural differences are a point of friction no matter how prepared one is for the cultural adjustment. One of the interesting things I’ve noticed in the last few weeks is that tension created by cultural differences has actually increased throughout the semester rather than decreasing. Although it seems that the opposite would be true, I can explain this phenomenon through the increase in frustration American students have with the Egyptian culture and the challenge of living in Cairo. What is at first an inconvenience transforms into large-scale irritation. I call this the breaking point. But the cultural difference isn’t just one sided; Egyptians also are frustrated with Americans. Here is an example of each, Steinbeck style:

What a jackass. A cab from Tahrir is only 6 pounds, not 10. It’s not like we don’t live here and know what’s going on. And if one more person says, “Welcome to Egypt,” I think I’m going to punch them in the face.

No, I don’t have change. Why the hell can’t you give me change for a fifty? Look at your register full of small bills! Forget it. I didn’t want the juice anyway. When I get back to the States, the first thing I’m going to do is buy a pack of gum with a $100 bill, and watch them give me change without even thinking twice. Metro won’t take 50’s? Give me a break.

Is the Internet working? No? Damn it. How are we supposed to do work here if we don’t have Internet? Marwa sucks. How long do we have to put up with this?

We need maid service. The towels are dirty and the sheets smell. All we need is clean towels and clean sheets and a new trash bag. If they’re not going to vacuum, then I’ll do it myself. Just give me the vacuum. Why do we have to be here for the maids to come in? Why don’t the security guards watch them clean the rooms to make sure they don’t steal shit. The guards don’t do anything anyway. How much are we paying for this place?

Elevators are down. Again?

You want me to sign in? What for? This isn’t junior high. You’re just trying to make work for yourself because you have nothing else to do.

I’ve been trying to get this light fixed for a week now. Where the hell is the maintence? Sitting around?

Fucking Egyptians.


The Americans are here. Big group. About 10. Round of Stellas for everybody. They’ll put down a lot money tonight. They don’t get much shisha though. Only a few guys will get shisha. But we don’t make much money on shisha anyways. It’s the beer. A second round of Stellas for the Americans.

They want dance music. American dance music. You think we can do that? Maybe after that other group leaves. They’re about to go. Put on the American music.

What are they doing? Drunk off their asses I’d say. They came here drunk I bet and it only took a few beers to really get them going. They’re disgusting. Who wants to live like this? Look what they’re doing on the dance floor. Why do they have to talk so loud? Give ‘em the bill. Get ‘em out of here. Now look. All the Egyptians are leaving. Our business is leaving!

Fucking Americans.

Birthday Dinner

Last night I went out with 12 friends to one of Cairo’s best restaurants, Abou El-Sid. Featuring traditional Egyptian food such as stuffed pigeon and stuffed vine leaves, the Abou El-Sid was certainly the best Egyptian restaurant I’ve been to. Everything on the menu was enticing, but I decided on the stuffed pigeon with rice and a special sugarcane martini-type drink. I ended the meal with an Om ’Ali, or rice pudding with mixed nuts and dried fruit. If anyone reading this travels to Cairo, you cannot leave without indulging in an Om ’Ali at Abou El-Sid. The restaurant’s atmosphere was great and conducive to good conversation with good company. I spent a long time discussing the Cornell West lectures I attended this week at AUC.

After dinner, we were all ready to hit up a bar, but we had trouble finding one that wasn’t overcrowded or had a large cover. We ended up at a place in Dokki and sat down for a round of beers. All was good except that a few guys, who had been sipping their own alcohol all night and got way out of hand and completely inappropriate. A few people went back to Marwa, and four of us headed to another bar for a more relaxed environment. We sat on the rooftop of a downtown hotel and just chatted over tea and ice cream (you can never have too much dessert). The night ended very well. The outstanding dinner met expectations for a 21st birthday.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

21st Birthday!

Well, I’m 21—a grand achievement in the life of a young man. I now have all rights and privileges under the law. The government says I’m an adult. My driver’s license flips back to horizontal. I can go to the bar and buy a drink.

Too bad I’m not in America, because none of this applies here in Egypt. There’s no (enforced) drinking age because most of the people who drink in this country are tourists.

I’ve never been wild about birthdays, but I can’t help but feel that this one is a little more important than all the others. For college students, 21 is accompanied by all kinds of hoopla, mainly an excuse to get brutally drunk (as if this is somehow different from every other weekend). But not being much of a drinker, I prefer something a little more subdued, if not sober. One or two Stella Egyptian lagers is good enough for me, although I’d prefer something from the Ann Arbor Brewing Company or a Dirty Bastard Ale at Cascarelli’s.

Being so far from home, I can’t help but feel a little nostalgia. It’s kind of like missing a holiday. Fortunately I have a lot of good friends here in Egypt that are more than willing to share in a celebration. I have a very busy week with papers and presentations, so I’m working on plans for this weekend—maybe a nice dinner out and a trip to the Odeon Bar or the Cairo Jazz Club. We’ll see.

Thanks everyone for all the birthday wishes. I miss you guys!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

The American Experience

I miss something. This is not surprising for a study abroad experience, especially in a country such as Egypt where daily life is so different than in the United States. But last month, I realized something was missing, but I couldn’t find it. I simply didn’t know what I was looking for. All I knew was that this thing was something more than a triviality. I didn’t miss American food or American TV or sitting in a café drinking good coffee. Yes, these comforts are temporarily absent, but I can live without them for a short while.

After thinking for a long time, I narrowed my understanding of my problem: the thing I was missing was something larger and less tangible yet more inherently present. I missed the communal experience of the university, the experience of going to football games on cool fall afternoons. I missed seeing the colors change in the trees and the crunch of leaves under my feet during a run through the Arb. I missed seeing my breath float in the air on crisp November mornings. I found myself browsing the Internet for pictures of New England autumns, of Michigan wilderness, and of the great American West—images I could identify with as symbols my larger home.

Last week I ran into a friend who was reading Steinbeck’s East of Eden, a novel I read this past summer while living in Monterey, not far from Steinbeck’s home. At this point I realized what I needed to do: I needed to read Steinbeck. Specifically, I needed to read The Grapes of Wrath, the greatest retelling of the American experience—the most real, the most moving, the most human. It’s not often I revisit a book, but the context of the novel is now radically different. The change of time, distance, and experience, such as that found in Egypt, requires a reexamination of the text.

Now I am half way through Grapes. I am halfway through my semester. The Joads are heading West. I am a product of the West. The Joads are living the failure of the American dream. I, in my relative privilege, am a beneficiary of the American dream. The Joads drive a clunky, rusted jalopy. I drive a silver-bullet Zephyr.

To me, Steinbeck’s unrivaled ability to describe in prose what we as Americans feel deeply inside us is what makes his work so great. Living in Cairo, The Grapes of Wrath has new meaning. The sympathetic vignettes, with faceless characters defined by occupation rather than name, force the reader to fill the void by projecting their own face onto the faceless. The identity of the characters—the capitalists, the laborers, the landowners, the bankers, the living, and the dying—are no different than the identity of the reader. The novel speaks of all America. It speaks of my roots and my identity.

Now I realize what I miss. I miss is the American experience.

Halloween Weekend

Props to Sean Sluys, the do-it-all, make-it-happen extraordinaire. He’s one of those guys that does everything, and does it well. He gets an idea, and follows through. When he decided AUC needed a Halloween party/fundraiser for STAR, he made it happen. He found the DJ, decorated, and organized, and because of his efforts, everyone had a blast. Marwa looked great, everything ran smoothly, and about 200 people showed up. We raised about 4000 Egyptian pounds for STAR, an outstanding success.

With few Halloween items available in Cairo, creativity was the name of the game. My challenge was to construct a costume using nothing but jeans, t-shirts, sweaters, and a pair of khaki shorts. My solution: the prep. It was nothing special, but with a pair of sandals, a pair of khaki shorts, a yellow polo, and a red sweater tied around my neck, I looked the part. Other people did better. Dave won with his transvestite costume, made possible by generous donations from the girls’ floor. Grant was as obnoxious as ever with his red underwear, boots, and mohawk mimicking a Mortal Combat character. Jesse represented white trash with his handlebar ’stache, American flag t-shirt, flannel shirt, very short denim shorts, and a cigarette dangling precariously from the corner of his mouth. Sean also did a very nice job with his Zorro, complete with fencing sword. The dance party was a great time. Plenty of food, music, and fun had by all.

Friday night was also a good time as a group of friends went out to Ma’adi, the wealthy ex-pat suburb in south Cairo, the same place where the softball leagues play. We ate at a restaurant called Lucille’s. An American establishment, they have everything you’d find in America from burgers and fries to milkshakes and all-day breakfast. I couldn’t resist the western BBQ bacon burger, which tasted a little bit like heaven. I rounded it off a ice-cold coke, fries, and a chocolate milkshake. After over two months in Cairo, this was as close to American dining I’ve seen. Everyone had a great time. Upon returning to Marwa, we all hung out at the coffee shop around the corner, sipping tea and Turkish coffee while a few guys smoked a shisha. All in all, a very nice weekend.