Thursday, August 23, 2007


Today I woke up and got on the crazy little shuttle to take us to the AUC campus (I had to sit in the front seat with no seatbelt, which was terrifying) for orientation. I met the only person I knew before arriving here, Emily, which was great. No one in Zamalek seems to understand my sense of humor, so I get a lot of weird stares and blank looks when I make a joke. Emily gets it, so I actually have someone to laugh at everything with, which is really all I ask. Too bad we're not in the same dorm. Hers seems like a bad mix between a hotel and an apartment. There's eight of them in four bedrooms, and they have a kitchen and a full-sized refridgerator and stuff, but they have to buy pretty much everything else. They don't have internet, towels, desks, or shelves. But judging from all of the people I've met from Marwa, and the people that live in Zamalek, I'd trade most of the luxuries I have here for some tolerable company. Okay, that's harsh. The people here are tolerable - just not really my type. Everyone at Marwa seems like they have personalities, and all of Emily's roommates are really cool.

Orientation was a blast. Everyone (all 400 of us) just sat around in this courtyard, completely confused. There were tables all around us with food and drinks, and some people were able to get some, while others were stopped by the employees. We had no idea what we were doing. Then about four people made a small line at this table, where two women were waiting with lists that we had to sign, and information packets to give us. Luckily, Emily and I figured out what was going on early, so we were about fifth and sixth in line, and didn't have to wait in the line for practically two hours like everyone else. We were also able to get the food (bread and butter) and drinks (juice boxes), so I guess the whole ordeal was a success. Once everyone had gotten their stuff, some people started yelling stuff at us through bullhorns, and then everyone just started to move in opposite directions. Eventually we got sorted out into smaller groups of about twenty people, and we went on a tour of the campus. It was all pretty confusing, and I know I'm going to be so lost once classes start, because we never saw any actual classrooms, so I don't know where those are. Again, I was relieved Emily was there, because she was perfectly willing to make fun of the whole ordeal with me. We loved the kid who seems like he only came to AUC to work out - constantly asking where the fitness center and gym are, what kinds of weights they have there, and salivating while peering through the door once we actually got to the fitness center. But our favorite part was the esteemed "Rare Books Library", which everyone was very serious about. I tell you, you've never seen such rare books as those. No one else seemed as amused with the Rare Books Library as us.

After the tour, orientation took a turn for the worse. We sat through hours and hours of lectures from all sorts of people telling us boring stuff about insurance and the medical clinic and registration and visa applications. The best part was the main woman, who will also be doing our advising and registration, Tomader. She's a fiesty, crazy older woman, and was possibly drunk at the time. At one point, she started fighting the guy telling us about finances.

Some things I enjoyed during the mostly painful three hours:
-The "powerpoint presentation", which was really an old-school projector with transparencies that had bizarre drawings and stupid slogans that added nothing to the information, like "We do the DETAILS so you can do the LEARNING."
-The doctor who assured us that we most definitely will be vomiting if we eat pretty much anything.
-The same doctor, who assured us that all the millions of stray cats around the city will scratch and bite us and give us rabies.
-Some guy with the most boring Southern drawl ever, who calls himself the Warden of Cairo, and thought we'd be impressed that the last time there was an emergency and he needed to contact all the students, he got in touch with 60% of them within a day. He claimed that was a good number, but that means almost half of the American students were technically lost. His excuse was that they were probably "at parties or what-have-you."
-This little slut from the American Embassy who was supposed to tell us how to register with the embassy but only seemed to care about the extravagant parties the Marines throw at the embassy for all us Americans. Tomader cut her off and told us not to go to those, because they have just tossed drunk girls out on the streets in the past. I think the "drunk girl" in the story was actually Tomader.

Emily and I skipped out on part of the lecture to go exploring, because the hall had the most uncomfortable chairs of all time. I scored a two-liter bottle of water for only 25 cents, but we returned after getting hassled too much to buy a bunch of crap, and because we needed to get back to the air conditioning.

After the excruciating speeches were over, nine of us managed to catch two cabs (guys sit in the front seats because women might get raped by the cab drivers, explains Tomader, which I think is neither true nor possible) back to our little island in the middle of the Nile, where we finally found cell phones to buy. It took a while because the first store we went into was "out of phone numbers". I know it meant he's allotted a certain amount of numbers per day or whatever, but it was funny to think that there are so many people that they actually have used up all the possible 10-digit combinations, and there are literally no numbers available. "So what, we have to wait until someone dies?" I asked. Only Emily laughed.

We split up and four of us went to get some sort of meal, and I'm ashamed to say my first official meal in Cairo was a New York Sandwich and potato chips. But, really, we've been hard-pressed to find any Egyptian restaurants. Plus we were really hungry and it was the first place we saw. I then came back to my room, thinking of napping before dinner, but all of the sudden there was a knock at my door, and two guys, Josh and Eric from the fifth floor, were asking if I had a balcony. Apparently some rooms have enormous balconies, and they were searching for them. We ended up talking for a while, and were joined by three guys a few rooms down from me. The six of us decided to go get some dinner, and we went to find this Italian restaurant one of the guys, Zeke, had seen earlier. But since this is the most confusing place on the planet and two different streets have the exact same names, we got lost. We toyed with going somewhere else, but we decided not to give up, and eventually did find the place. You may be confused by my lack of Egyptian food, again, but Italy is so close to Egypt, so it's not as bad as American food. Plus it was about four dollars for a huge bowl of fettucini and a soda. Have I mentioned how much I love Egyptian money?

I know I promised a picture, but there's no time to stop and take a picture. Okay, that's a lie. I'm just a reluctant photographer.

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