Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Pictures are up

Now that I have Internet fast enough to upload pictures in a reasonable amount of time, I've put all of my photos onto a Google Picasa website. If you want to see what I've been up to, visit:


Back Home

Well, I made it back home safely after a long flight, and it's good to see some snow and cold weather. The fresh air is nice too. The Christmas tree is up, the holiday cookies are on the counter, and the music of carols fills the kitchen.

Whoever said anything about reverse culture sock doesn't know what they were talking about. I have yet to feel any such feelings. Rather, I have enjoyed the simple conveniences of the West. Amsterdam Airport was a welcome relief with its sanitary bathrooms and paper towels. Signs are well marked, traffic regulations are obeyed, and buildings are thoroughly clean. Ah, the site and smell of clean. The best part may simply be that I can go about my daily activities without the constant confrontations and tensions that characterize life in Cairo.

I look forward to a long break back in Michigan. I can see friends and family, catch up on everybody's news, and enjoy a few Red Wings hockey games. I hope everyone has a wondeful holiday season.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Friday, December 14, 2007

The end of classes and a few observations

I’m done. This morning at around 9:40, I handed in my last exam of the semester, and now I’m free to enjoy a couple more days in Cairo before heading home on the 17th. What a semester it has been—a roller coaster of exciting new experiences and difficult cultural and linguistic challenges. I’m kind of sad to be leaving Cairo now. I’ve grown more and more attached to it despite all of its problems. Looking back, I’m amazed at how far I’ve come, and I think it’s safe to say that the experience was well worth it. Living and studying in Cairo will certainly pay dividends in the future.

I thought it would be fun to include a list of the best, worst, and most. Some of them are more serious than others.

Best thing in Egypt: The exchange rate. 5.55 Egyptian pounds to the dollar and accompanied by a very favorable cost of living. Dinner out at the best pasta place in Cairo: $2.70. A taxi cab to the best pasta place in Cairo: $1.08, or split it four ways at 27 cents a person. A haircut including a shampoo: $3.63. A breakfast with a croissant, fig pastry, and coffee: $1.03. Train ticket to Alexandria, a trip of two hours: $4.68.

Worst thing in Egypt: Taxis. Old, run down, and pollution-spewing with a huge excess of labor supply. Ignore the rules of the meter and start the negotiations. Give the driver enough money and he’ll take you wherever you want. Sound kinds of like the Egypt government, if you get my meaning.

Best food: I was going to say that no Egyptian food is worthy of this recognition. However, the Fish Market in Alexandria has some of the best seafood in the world.

Best dessert: Om Ali at Abu El-Seed Restaurant. Nobody makes a better Egyptian-style rice pudding.

Best drink: Mango juice. Fresh, delicious, and as thick as a smoothie.

Best place to visit outside of Cairo: Alexandria. Egypt’s “other city,” with a refreshing Mediterranean breeze, is necessary for purging one’s lungs of Cairo air.

Worst place to visit outside of Cairo: Dahab. The epitome of Red Sea resort tourism characterized by constant battle with the salesman. Dahab is the Arabic word for gold, and that's exactly what they're looking for.

Best escape within Cairo: Al-Azhar Park. A former trash dump, al-Azhar park is Cairo’s best urban development project. As far as I know, it’s the only place you can go in this city and stare at nothing but green.

Most annoying: Traffic. If there are existing traffic laws, they are simply not enforced. Cars completely ignore traffic lanes, and the absence of traffic lights is beyond comprehension. One New York Times article said the city’s traffic infrastructure was only designed for a half million cars but that there are currently about 2 million vehicles on the road. I wonder if this total includes the donkey carts? That’s right, donkeys and BMW’s use the same streets.

Most shocking: Russian tourists. Rule number one in an Islamic country is modest dress, but I’ve seen more Russian skin than I thought possible. Get back on the bus, please, because I’m embarrassed for you.