Thursday, August 30, 2007

Only in Cairo Can You Go Bowling AND Eat at TGI Friday's In One Night

It is officially week two of my semester in Cairo, even though it feels like I've been here ages. It's actually pretty cool seeing how accustomed I've become to living here in only seven days. I'm starting to get really good at crossing insane streets, for one thing. Standing on the dotted line in the middle of the road as two cars fly past you on either side isn't that big a deal anymore. I can't wait to try it out back in Madison. The heat also doesn't affect me as much as it used to. When I first got here, I couldn't stand being outside for more than two minutes. But now I don't sweat as much (or I just don't mind sweating all day anymore), and when it dips down below 100, I find it's actually a comfortable temperature for me. I don't know what I'm going to do when I get back to Wisconsin in December.

We're only a week in, and already the school has split up into cliques, which is really stupid. The most notorious one is this girl Jessica, who won't even speak to anyone not in her clique. We don't like her at all. But other than a few obnoxious people, I still really like everyone here. And my main group of friends are all awesome. Since I'm awful with pictures, I only have one of Emily so far. So here she is, eating the hardest biscotti known to man:

It's been great not having any real classes other than Survival Arabic. That ended last night, though. We spent the first three hours of class learning new stuff and reviewing old stuff, and our teacher Maysa brought in these unbelievably delicious honey candies. I promise you've never had anything as amazing as those, whatever they were. They were so good that even some had ants on them, we were still wolfing them down. Then for the final two hours, all the classes went out in the streets to practice our new Arabic phrases on real people. So all of the sudden at 7 PM, all these unfortunate people just trying to run a fruit stand or something were hounded by hundreds of American students, pointing at stuff and asking, "How much is this?" "What is this?" in poor Arabic. It was very entertaining. We went through a really shifty-looking market that was actually in a warehouse, and at one point I was slapped by this enormous Santa's-bag-sized thing of some sort of meat this guy was carrying over his shoulder, and I had mystery meat juice all down my arm. It was a very disgusting place (I won't even describe the smells), but it was pretty cool. They had bags of spices and all sorts of vegetables and fish the size of cars. It was nuts. And all the people were so nice - various guys in their stalls would quiz us, pointing at vegetables and saying, "What's this? What's this?"

Our class then went to get Koshiri, an Arabic dish that shouldn't be good based on its looks, but for some reason is. I'm not sure what's in it, exactly - noodles, rice, chick peas, some black stuff, some red stuff, I don't know. But we sat in a tiny little restaurant and enjoyed it. The owner's son kept running over and asking if it was good, and when he cleared our plates, we slipped him a secret tip (baksheesh in Arabic), which he expertly slipped directly into his little pocket with a straight face, so his dad wouldn't take it and give it back to us.

We finished the night by going with Maysa to a cafe and drilling her with questions about her life and family. We got to meet her son, and the two of them invited us to their farm that is an hour's drive away from Cairo, to have a barbeque. I really hope we actually get to do this, because it sounds amazing, and I'd love to hang out with Maysa some more. She's an unbelievably giving person, one of the best teachers I've ever had in my life, and absolutely hilarious. She gave us all her cell phone number in case we need any help at all while we're here.

Two nights ago, we went to a nightclub called Latex. Seriously, we did. Nightclubs are most definitely not my thing, but neither are they Emily's, so we agreed we'd be awkward together. But it actually turned out to be pretty fun. It was basically an AUC mixer, because the majority of the place was AUC kids. The second we got there, Tara started going crazy (or crazier than usual, I guess), dancing like a lunatic, and she didn't stop for the next five hours. I'll have to get Emily's pictures of Tara, because she got some hilarious ones. Apparently when they went to the bathroom together, Tara was dancing up against the stall door as Emily was trying to go to the bathroom. Emily just said, "Magnoun," ("crazy") to the only Arabic woman in there, who laughed and high-fived her. But good times were had by all, and Emily, Kyle, and I left before most other people. We were worried Tara would be raped or something, since she was pretty drunk and all the Egyptians were looking to take advantage of the drunk little Iranian, but we left her in Beckett's hands, who eventually did get her home safely, long after the three of us had already gone to bed.

Last night, we decided the time had come to do Nile Bowling. Seven of us (me, Emily, Beckett, Kyle, Tara, Erik, and Ellen) got in two cabs and
attempted to get to the building. The problem was we barely knew anything about this place, other than the fact that it is on the Nile. Someone at the dorms who had already been there said the address was 125 Nile Street, which sounds absolutely made up. He also said it was across the street from the "Swiss Restaurant", which was a little too vague. But one of the cab drivers insisted he knew where it was, so off we went. We got caught up in conversation with our cab driver, who just kept naming American presidents to see if we liked them or not. ("George W. Bush is good big boss man!" "No no no no no. Bad bad big boss man," we all replied. "Bill Clinton?" he asked. "Yes! Yes!" we all shouted.) But we soon noticed we had crossed back and forth over the Nile about four times, and even though Erik and Kyle kept giving me two thumbs up from the back of their cab, it was pretty clear no one knew where the place was. Eventually we just got off on a bridge, paid the drivers the standard five pounds, and tried to find Nile Bowling from the bridge.

Beckett was 100% positive he knew where it was, so we followed him. We walked all the way across a rather wide section of the Nile, and then along it for about two miles, until we decided we were not in the right place. Who would have thought the Nile would be this long?! We went into some strange little playground/dance hall/fishing pier to ask directions, and got several directions that didn't help at all. But yours truly put the pieces together and realized it was all the way two miles back near the bridge we got off on. All we had to do was take a right when we came off the bridge and walk for ten minutes. Instead we took a left and walked for miles.

But we did find it, and it was spectacular. There were about eight lanes total in the little place, but you could look out at the Nile while bowling, which is probably better than any bowling experience any of you have ever had. Also, I won, even though I'm actually really bad at home. I love Egypt! We're definitely going back many times, and we've already started recruiting people for our next outing.

Afterward, it was 2 AM, but none of us had any desire to sleep. Then someone (Tara, I think) suggested buffalo wings, and buffalo wings became our mission. We chose - again, not joking - TGI Fridays for a really late-night meal. But this TGI Fridays was awesome. It's in a boat on the Nile, and it's where all the young, rich Egyptians go to hang out. We were the only white people in the joint, even though it was completely packed. And why were there small children at a TGI Fridays at 2 in the morning? It didn't make any sense.

All we did was ordered a crapload of food to share - three orders of wings, a cheeseburger and fries, a "fajita tower", and Emily got a fishbowl-sized virgin strawberry margarita that was basically pure sugar. We had an absolute blast, and I think Nile Bowling and late-night TGI Fridays are going to become a frequent tradition.

Today was more orientation, which we haven't had to sit through in quite a while. I slept in two hours late, so I missed some good Tomader stuff - apparently she basically told a Muslim girl who won't shake hands due to her religious beliefs that her religious beliefs were absolutely wrong, and then Tomader claimed she's a descendant of Mohammed. She's crazy. I got there just in time to learn about the various sports and clubs (I'm totally joining the Marionette Club), and to hear this awful guy drone on and on about "Who are the Egyptians?" He spent an hour talking about the many identities these people have - Egyptians, Arabs, Africans, Muslims, blah blah blah. It was kind of interesting, but I couldn't get past his voice (if you closed your eyes, Michael Moore was giving the presentation), and I thought it was all kind of useless, since every single person on this planet has at least two identities - national and continental. But my biggest concern is that he's an Egyptology professor, so there's a good chance he'll be teaching me. Fantastic.

Can't wait for the Red Sea tomorrow. Bright and early at 7:30 AM.


Peggy said...

What makes you think Nile bowling is better than Super Bowl in Appleton? I love reading about all your adventures. The only advise is that you might want to add some comments about what an amazing Mom you have. Love you!

Anonymous said...

Your days are like dreams - wild, wacky, and wonderful - I'm having more fun "traveling" with you - although I know I'd need more sleep - are you really going to school/college?? That standing in the middle of the road though, is definitely enough to worry this grandmom!! Can't wait to hear the next chapter.