Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Too tired for a good title.

This has to be quick because I'm exhausted and I have an early morning.

So, I'm in Cairo finally. The flights were fine. I hate to use the word "ghetto" as an adjective, because I feel like there are usually more apt words, but the only way to describe AlItalia is "ghetto". The planes are just generally crappy, they have only about four drink choices, the meal choices were "beef or fish?" both of which were either un-seasoned beef rolled up into balls, or un-seasoned generic fish rolled up into balls. It was disgusting. And the Milan airport, which I was expecting to be swanky and fashionable had leaky ceilings due to the rain, so you had to step over and around buckets half-filled with rain water, and through actual mud puddles in the middle of the airport. It was very classy.

As I was sitting, waiting for the flight to board, some guy came up to me and said, "Are you going to Cairo?"

"Yes," I replied.



"I'm Bryan."

"I'm Danny," I replied, shaking his hand.

"Do you have a blog?"

That one threw me for a loop. I admitted I did, and he said he had found it while searching for information about AUC. The problem is I had planned on keeping this a secret from everyone over here until I knew I didn't hate them, just to make sure they wouldn't be able to read the nasty things I might end up writing about them. And now the first person I meet has already blown my cover before I even get to Egypt.

So there were 14 of us on the flight from Milan to Cairo, two of whom were from Madison. I'd say, "Small world," but they came through Chicago just like me, and Chicago to Milan to Cairo was the cheapest option. Wah wah waaaah.

The flight in was really, really cool. First I watched the Mediterranean go by, followed by the green, lush northern coast of Africa, followed suddenly by barren desert literally from horizon to horizon, and then an enormous city just sprung up out of nowhere. All the buildings are fairly low, and you'd be hard-pressed to find a paint color used on a building other than brown or tan. So it looks like the sand just kind of hardened into building shapes. And this city is enormous. Tokyo was mind-blowingly huge, but that was only, what? 5 million? Psh. Cairo's packing twenty million.

When we departed the ghettoplane and arrived in Cairo, all of us were noticeably confused. None of us were really sure if anyone would be there waiting for us, but when we got out, sure enough some guy with an "AUC" sign was waiting for us. He led us through immigration and waited while we all grabbed our bags, which took forever, mostely because AlItalia had lost two girls' bags. The driver led us through customs, which I was nervous about for many reasons. I've heard so many things about how hard it is to get laptops into the country, because they think you're going to use them for seditious behavior or something, and you usually have to pay a hefty tax so they don't steal it from you. Also, I had a Salman Rushdie book in my backpack. Good choice for an Islamic country, right? Well, all those horror stories about customs may be true, but not when you've got AUC on your side. The customs agent looked at all the kids and all our bags, said, "You have nothing to declare? Okay!" and then laughed and high-fived our driver while letting us all through. I snuck so many drugs into Egypt! We then followed our dude through the chaotic crowds outside the airport, who were trying to coerce us into their cabs. The second we hit the outdoors, we were blasted with the 95 degree, extremely humid air. Within literally two minutes, everyone was pouring sweat.

This disgusting, confused, and exhausted train of American students followed our driver across crazy streets, through a tunnel, and across a parking lot. We came up to a huge coach bus, which I assumed would be ours. But, in a move made for the movies, the driver kept walking and took us to our real bus, which was waiting just behind the coach bus. Actually, "bus" is being generous. Let's go with "van". So we had to fit 14 kids, each with two suitcases and a backpack into this barely air conditioned bus. I don't mind heat - give me this over Wisconsin winters any day - and it was good because it allowed me to separate everyone into people I like and people I don't, depending on whether they laughed about the absurdity of the whole situation, or just whined about it being too hot. Most people whined.

My dorm was the last out of the four that the bus stopped at, so the trip took over three hours due to the insane traffic. I can't complain, though, because it went through some really beautiful parts of the city that made me instantly fall in love with it. There are so many huge mosques and ancient Egyptian ruins on the side of the road, and there are markets all over the place with bright fabrics and woven baskets filled with spices and people stopping on the sidewalk to get down and pray. It's pretty impossible to describe Cairo. Part Indiana Jones, part Arabian Nights, and part Tatooine is the best I can do.

So we got to the dorm and waited in the lounge while watching really bizarre Egyptian TV, and one by one we were led to our rooms. I was told I was getting a quadruple, but surprise! I was upgraded to a triple. This is awesome. Even better, I have zero roommates! And this room is as big as a house. Well, the no roommates proved to be sort of a bum deal, since my floor is also deserted, and I was forced to go out for the night with a group of only girls, since this place seems to be totally devoid of dudes. My harem and I walked for about an hour around our little island in the middle of the Nile, before we all were about to fall asleep and had to return.

Tomorrow orientation starts, bright and early, and goes for six hours. I hope we do a lot of ice-breaking games!!!!

Sorry for the lack of pictures. My camera's somewhere in my luggage. I promise at least one tomorrow.

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