Tuesday, September 25, 2007


I'm getting so bad at updating this thing. Sorry, Sara. I'll blame it on our lack of internet. The guy keeps thinking that when we call (with our friend Alfred, who translates) to say we want internet, we're actually saying we'd prefer him not to come, even though he says, "I'll be there between 8 and 10 tomorrow," and then never shows up. It's very confusing, but such is Africa.

First of all, that picture I got has been destroyed by my so-called "friends". I can't seem to take a good picture of it, but let's just say that I have beautiful feminine eyelashes, a Hitler moustache, and a speech bubble coming out of my mouth that says, "I'm a Jew. I don't like spending money, but I will LICK YOUR ANUS DRY!!"

Brian took this picture. It's his elbow.

Other than that, we haven't been doing much at all here since school started. We've got a lot of travel plans in the works, however, since we're slowly realizing that it's already the second month of our semester here, and we have a lot of stuff to see. We keep throwing names out there of places we want to see - Beirut! Syria! Jordan! Israel! Morocco! Libya! Turkey! The Sudan (Tara swears she has a friend who can get us in for 17 dollars, but that seems crazy for a multitude of reasons)! Alexandria! Luxor! - and the list keeps growing without us seeing any of them. However, a group of us are having a potluck dinner tonight at our place to discuss and fully plan our trip in two weeks to... some of these places. I don't want to name which ones, since it makes my mom nervous, so you'll hear all about it when I get back, and probably not much before we leave. But I swear it's as safe as Cairo, Mom.

I realize that Ramadan is exactly halfway completed and I haven't really written much about what it's like, so I should probably do it. I haven't seen that many examples of people getting irritable during the day from fasting, with the exception of a few actual street-side fistfights. Most businesses shorten their hours or shut down completely during the month - the majority of the restaurants are not open during the day unless their main clientele are foreigners - and it's a bit uncomfortable trying to eat in secret. I usually more or less fast during the day and then just eat when I'm back at my apartment, to avoid having to hide it. It's not that you get in trouble for eating during the day, it's just that it's completely rude to chow down or take a big swig of your water in front of someone who's starving. At night, the city goes kind of crazy. The sidewalks are crammed with tables for the huge communal iftar meals after sunset, fireworks are usually going off somewhere, and a crazy woman bangs a drum and screams below my window every night for almost half an hour starting at 3 AM. I hate her.

Apartment life in Cairo is more or less the same as back home, with a few more inconveniences. In the time it's taken me to write this, I've had to answer the door twice and tell two separate guys I did not want them to do my laundry. We're amassing business cards like our lives depend on it. The other day, I discovered an enormous colony of ants that had moved into our kitchen. There must have been at least five thousand. Beckett and I went absolutely crazy on the little guys - first we sprayed them with bug spray, then we left a trail of pepper along the path they were taking to throw off their scent, then we just stomped on them, followed by a heavy dousing of Oust, then just some good-old-fashioned flames, and finally just soap and water to clean up the billions of pathetic ant corpses. It was actually really fun. In hindsight, perhaps keeping our garbage in a flimsy cardboard box on the floor with no garbage bag was a bad idea.

Last Friday, Allyson and I went to Alexandria with a class field trip. Unfortunately, we had been up until 4 AM the morning before, and we had to get up at 6 to catch the bus. We both woke up in time, but since the entire trip consisted of 10 hours on a bus with only about 1 hour total off the bus, we slept throughout the whole thing. We did get to see Alexandria, which looks really comfortable and laid-back, the point where the Nile hits the Mediterranean, and a big hole in the ground people are claiming will turn out to be Cleopatra's tomb. When we stopped to see where the Nile meets the Mediterranean, our security guard told us we were absolutely not allowed to take a picture of the military operations out the left side of the bus. Which naturally means he was challenging us to take the highest-quality picture out the left side of the bus. The second his back was turned, I snapped a picture of the "secret military operations", which were actually just some big concrete things sitting in the sand. Awesome!

You are not allowed to look at this picture.

Allyson can't believe she just re-discovered Cleopatra's tomb.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Picture of a Picture

Look what I got for free when I went to get passport pictures!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Sleepless in Sinai

As you may have guessed from the title, I didn't sleep at all in Sinai. That means I was awake from 9 AM Thursday until 5 AM Sunday. For a pretty surreal weekend, losing my mind due to sleep deprivation didn't help. It all seemed like a crazy dream: there were wild packs of dogs, the sun was constantly going up and down, suddenly I was underwater... Let me start at the beginning.

The grand total of people going on the trip was 34, which is insane. We rented two minibuses, and all met at campus to get picked up. The trip was organized by this guy named Rob, which was good in the sense that it saved me from having to do any work or worry about any of the details, but was bad in the sense that everyone practically worshipped him all weekend. It got to the point where people were completely thrown off when five of us decided to go snorkeling - gasp! - without Rob! He's actually a really nice guy, and I knew that going into it, but I could tell he was going to be a bit anal about the whole thing, since he had gotten it into his head that he was responsible for all our actions all weekend. And who wouldn't want to screw with that?

Anyway, we split in half and boarded our buses. Rob hooked up his closest friends with the bigger, nicer bus, while 14 of us were on the smaller, crappier one. I actually enjoyed our bus size, because it made all 14 of us pretty great friends by the end of the ride. Mostly because we went through many near-death experiences together. Our driver was absolutely insane. He rarely slowed below warp speed, not even on sharp turns. At one point, we could actually feel the left wheels lift off the ground as we rounded a curve, and we started to drift off the road. It was pretty terrifying, and as much as we screamed at him to slow down, he didn't let his foot off the gas a bit. Even though we were going 100 miles an hour the whole way, he managed to make what should have been a six-hour bus ride into an eight-hour ride. He made sure to stop for ten minutes out of every half hour to have several cigarettes. It was pretty torturous. At one stop, we stopped near an intersection, one of the roads having a sign that said, "Foreigners not allowed past this point." Everyone started taking pictures of it, and the driver came over and yelled at us. Someone asked what was down that road, and he said Israel was about 50 meters away, and not to go down that road because there were landmines all around it. Awesome! Aside from the sheer length of the drive, it was pretty fun, and the desert was absolutely beautiful in the middle of the night. You would not believe how many stars you can see when it is literally pitch black - there weren't any lights for miles and miles.

We beat the other bus to Dahab, of course, so at the hotel we were asked to sit down and wait for our rooms to be ready. Now, we're only paying less than 8 US dollars a night for this place, so I wasn't expecting much. But, boy, what 8 dollars gets you! We were seated in their restaurant, which is directly on the beach, and instead of chairs the ground is just covered in comfortable pillows, true Arabian-style. We were given free tea, and after the excruciating bus ride, laying there next to the beach was perfect. I couldn't have been happier.

Finally, Rob & Co. arrived. Now, there weren't enough rooms at the hotel for all of us, but there were two hotels directly adjacent that would be taking the leftovers. We all immediately wanted this hotel, though, because how could it get any better? So we had worked out with the manager before bus two arrived that we would get the rooms at this hotel instead of Rob's group. Of course, Rob showed up, said, "Hell no!" and essentially kicked all of us out in favor of his bus. I loudly booed him, and he singled me out and said, "Danny, do you and two people want to be in the hotel right next door?" Oh my Rob, I got personally recognized by the man himself! Too flabbergasted to speak, I just nodded yes, feeling like the man of the hour.

Turns out he's craftier than I give him credit for. You see, there are three hotels directly in a row - The Penguin, which is the main one we were at; the Sea View, which is even nicer than the Penguin; and sandwiched in between the two is the Jasmine. The Jasmine has four rooms, all of which combined are smaller than the restaurant downstairs. The Jasmine is primarily a restaurant, of course. So Beckett, Brian and I were a little miffed. Especially because we only had two tiny beds, our toilet had someone else's unflushed crap in it (because the toilet was unable to flush) and our "shower" was just an ancient saltwater spout in the middle of the bathroom, with no curtain or anything to stop the water from going anywhere.

There was no way we were going to sleep in that room. And since it was already past 3 AM when everyone was finally going to bed, the three of us went back to the Penguin's restaurant and laid on the pillows to await the sunrise. The hotel was overrun with a pack of stray dogs, and after seeing the staff throwing rocks at them to get them to leave, I of course felt bad, so I pet one on the head, barely using even my fingertips to avoid getting all sorts of diseases. This tiny bit of attention endeared the dog to me instantly, and it collapsed right in my lap to go to sleep. Brian was horrified, claiming I was going to get AIDS and Rob knows what else, but it was too adorable to ignore, so I had to keep petting it, in spite of its open sores and horrible stench. All of the sudden, the greatest little puppy bounded up, and before I knew it, I had five dogs all around me. By this point, Brian was twenty feet away. I just sat with my pack of dogs and watched the sun rise, which was the most beautiful sunrise I had ever seen (for the next twenty-four hours, at least). The particular stretch of Red Sea Dahab is on is only a couple miles wide, so we could see straight across into Saudi Arabia as the sun rose behind the Saudi mountains. It was incredible.

For the rest of the day, we rented snorkeling gear and tried out a beach down the coast a bit. The snorkeling there was pretty terrible, but we heard about this place called Blue Hole that we could pay 25 pounds to go snorkeling at, so we jumped at it. There were five of us who climbed into this Jeep for a wild ride through the desert. We passed a huge amount of camels, most of them being led by kids. It was very strange. We got to Blue Hole in one piece, and jumped into the sea. Now, I've been snorkeling in many beautiful places - the Caribbean, Hawaii, the GreatAt 1 Barrier Reef - but I don't know if I've ever seen anything like this. There was so much activity down there, and it was completely beautiful. Too bad the sea was packed with Italians, who all seemed unable to swim, instead grabbing onto us and pushing us down in an attempt to stay above the water. But it was still fun. We finished before noon, and faced with the prospect of nothing to do until 10 PM that night when we would be leaving for Mt. Sinai, we just went back to the restaurant and lounged around literally all day. It was ridiculous thinking that as we were laying in luxury on the Red Sea, eating crab and looking at Saudi Arabia, our friends back home were sitting in class. How is what we're doing right now fair? I pondered it for a second, but then just ordered some more mango juice and continued the crossword puzzle Megan and I were working on.

At 10:30, the group boarded two buses and set off for Mt. Sinai. It's about a two-hour drive, which means we made it in three hours. And since we boarded the buses around 10:30 but didn't leave until midnight, it was already 3 AM and we were pressed for time, if we wanted to reach the peak before sunrise. So we started to climb!

Have you ever tried to climb a mountain in the middle of the night with one flashlight for 20 people? It's really hard. Most of us opted for the harder, more vertical path rather than the longer, gentler slope congested with ancient Russians and camels. Turns out our way was smarter, because Emily took the easy path and gouged her knee enough to need stitches. Which, of course, she didn't get because we were on a freaking mountain in the desert. The climb was so beautiful - there were billions of stars above, and shooting stars practically every second. There's a monastery at the bottom of the mountain that has the supposedly real Burning Bush, and at 3:45 AM, we were high enough to look straight down at all the little monastery lights right as the monks were waking up. Their bells and chants echoed all the way up to us, and it was beautiful.

The climb went on for nearly three hours, and we actually had to scramble up the last little bit, since it was already pretty light out. The top was absolutely packed with tourists, but we found a nice spot and settled in to watch the magic. It was a stunning sight, and I really don't think I'll see anything close to it in quite a long time. The pictures really don't do it justice.

After sitting at the top for an hour or two, we returned to the bottom the same way we came up, which was a thousand times easier in the daylight. Rather than going into the monastery like most people, we laid in the van and rested, since we were completely exhausted by this point. Rob had arranged it so we wouldn't leave until 8 PM Saturday night, even though Sundays are school days here, so people had 7 AM classes the next day. We talked him into moving it up to 6, which meant we would actually be leaving at 8 anyway. We lounged around again all day because everyone was completely wiped out.

We re-boarded our buses that night, and set off (with a different driver, fortunately) back for Cairo. This time, it took nearly ten hours to get back. The driver stopped almost twice as much as the previous driver, much to our chagrin. The word for "let's go" in Arabic is "yalla", so every time he stopped for a smoke break, we'd all scream out the window, "Fucking yalla!" Even though we were exhausted and cranky and just wanted to get into our beds back home, we were still having a hilarious time. It kind of sucked being with such a large group, but I really did have a great time with these people. We got back around 4 in the morning, and I finally got back and into bed at 5 AM, just as the sun was coming up - my third sunrise in a row.

From Thursday until Sunday, it felt like one really long, really productive day. In that one day, I had witnessed two spectacular sunrises, snorkled, climbed a mountain, and sat on buses for almost 24 total hours. What a busy 60-hour day.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


Life has definitely slowed down in Cairo. For the first three weeks, I really felt like a tourist, and I definitely didn't feel like I would be here for any long stretch of time. But now that classes are in full swing and I have this apartment, I actually feel like I live in Cairo, which, I must say, is pretty cool.

For one, I'm back to my regular school ways - go to class, come back to my apartment, take a nap while watching TV, eat ramen noodles, do homework, etc. I've stopped doing a ton of sightseeing every day, mostly because I don't have the time, and also because I've seen a large majority of Cairo already, and I need to space some of it out - I've still got three months!

The hardest part of returning home after all this will be going back to a real school. All us international kids have said the same thing: we feel like we're back in high school. I, for one, feel like I'm in high school in Laguna Beach. The teachers seem like they used to care but have given up, the students seem like they don't need an education (because, let's face it, they don't), and every single student wears at least $10,000 worth of clothing and jewelry to class. We really are surrounded by some of the wealthiest 17-year-olds in the world. And classes are ridiculously easy. On top of that, I only have class two times a week. It's actually a bit frustrating how little work I'm doing.

Everyone seems to be going through the same thing at the almost-one-month mark: namely, a bit of homesickness. Not debilitating or extremely painful homesickness, but in our conversations I find us talking less about sex and more about things like, "I wonder what so-and-so is doing right now..." or "Why are my friends so bad at responding to messages?" (that's YOU, Danny Bodnar). I think this is all just a side-effect of the afore-mentioned transition from tourist mode to resident status. It's strange.

Also, today is the first day of Ramadan. I haven't been outside yet (I need to stay within range of a comfortable bathroom... You figure out why), but I'm a bit nervous to see what it's like. For those of you who don't know, Muslims cannot eat, drink, or smoke during daylight hours for the month of Ramadan. For that reason, they get much testier during the days, and every night turns into a wild party. They also rearrange all the schedules - classes are compressed so I get out by 4 PM instead of 6 - and most businesses pretty much close all month. Which means I'll be either living out of the grocery store downstairs, or... Hardee's. I'll partake in Ramadan for at least one day during the month, which I imagine will be pretty difficult, since I'm constantly starving and you can't even drink water, but I want to see what it's like.

This weekend marks the first of many non-school weekend trips. Although it may as well be a school trip, because 23 of us are going. We've rented two minibuses, and we are leaving at 5 PM tonight for Dahab on the Red Sea. It's about a six or seven hour drive, so we'll get in around midnight. We spend the night and the next day on the beach or doing whatever we want, and then at 2 AM Saturday morning, we will start climbing Mt. Sinai. It takes about two or three hours to climb it, so we'll get to the top and wait for the sunrise. I can't believe I'm going to be watching the sun rise where Moses got his little tablets.

I'll report back (i.e. who kissed, who fell off the mountain, did I find any more commandments) on Sunday.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

In Which We Lose Our Minds

Things have gotten a little crazy here in Cairo. Let's start at the beginning.

Four days ago, it was the last day in which you could check out of the dorms and get most of your money back. After that, you would lose all of it, I think. Naturally, I had no plans to leave the dorms.

However, I was sitting in my room, minding my own business, while Ahmed was sleeping in his bed (he has to sleep for 20 hours to gather enough energy to sit on the computer for four hours a day until he goes back to sleep). The RA for our floor walked in, introduced himself for the third time, and said, "If you want, you can move down to room 417." I was confused, so I said, "Okay, thanks, but I think I'm fine here." Then he said, "Yes, but we need you to cooperate. Ahmed wants his brother to live in his room, so we would like you to move."

What the hell? How rude is that? The kid is here two days, I'm here two weeks, and I'm being asked to move all my stuff to another room? Does he really need to live with his brother, who is only two floors below us, and who he probably lives with at home? And why do I have to move? We have a third roommate who could be asked, as well as Ahmed's brother's roommates. I've become great friends with all the guys on my floor, I've gotten comfortable in the room I've come to think of as my temporary home, and suddenly this spoiled (seriously, the kids that go here are wealthier than you could ever dream) little brat puts me in this position? In my mind, I had two options, neither of them favorable: I could suck it up and move, giving in to that little jerk and significantly lowering the amount of fun I have in Egypt, or I could say no, but then live with a kid who would hate me, and whom I wouldn't feel comfortable leaving all my stuff behind with all day while I was in class. I was pretty furious, and you can believe that I stopped being so nice and tiptoeing around the room while he slept - I slammed the door shut and open every time I left (which I made often), and I invited people in to have loud conversations. Passive-agressive non-confrontation is the greatest.

But then Emily, Catherine Catherine, and Laura got an apartment. We were all kind of confused, since Catherine and Laura had been looking for an apartment, but Emily just moved out on the spur of the moment. So Beckett, Tara and I went over to see it, and it was pretty amazing. First we walked up these really awful stairs, that were falling apart and filled with hobos and garbage, so I was expecting the worse. And the elevators - how to describe them? They had to have been the first elevators ever. I laugh every time I ride in them. But we got up to their floor, walked in, and all yelled, "Oh my God!" at the same time.

We didn't know the place was fully furnished, nor that it was so huge. They have a fancy dining room table, two lounge chairs and two couches, a TV with free satellite TV, a coffee table, three fully-furnished bedrooms with two bathrooms, a washing machine/dryer, and even paintings on the walls, rugs on the hardwoods, and shelves with various decorative objects on them. It's incredible.

So Beckett and I started talking, and we began to consider getting an apartment in the same complex. We actually went downstairs, expressed our interest, and toured two apartments, one of which was directly below the girls. This was at 11:10 PM. We had 50 minutes to get out of the dorms, if we were going to do this. Beckett asked what I was thinking, and since the apartments were both nicer than the girls', I said, "For me, the decision is which one do we take." So with that, we said we wanted to take the one right below the girls, landlord Ahmed (get used to that name - the majority of the men I meet here will be named that) said we could come back tomorrow to sign the papers, and Beckett and I took off running to get to the dorms. Luckily, we were only two blocks away.

We ran up to our Resident Director's room and asked what we had to do to check out so we could get our money back. He simply said, "Get out in half an hour. Get packing!" so we ran downstairs and packed in literally five minutes. Roommate Ahmed seemed absolutely thrilled, even helping me to pack. We signed out and returned our keys at 11:45 PM, 15 minutes before we'd be stuck there for the semester, and then we dragged all our stuff the two blocks back to the building. In less than an hour, I had put in an offer on an apartment, checked out of the dorms, and been turned free on the streets of Cairo with all my belongings. It was kind of nuts.

We ended up spending the night in the girls' apartment, with Beckett and I sharing a bed with Emily, which kept us up (talking, pervs) until 4:30 AM. What I forgot to mention until now is that class started the next day at 8:00 AM.

When we all got up and had showered using the same towel (can you see why you get extraordinarily close with people in only a couple days while traveling?) we boarded the shuttle from the dorms to campus. Normally those who live in apartments have to pay for the shuttles, but we still had our housing IDs, so we get to ride free! Jackpot!

Classes were pretty strange. I skipped Arabic, since I was planning on dropping it, so I went to Global Politics of the 20th Century, which is taught by a classy old British woman, who may or may not be a Dame. The Egyptian students really (for the most part) slack off, since they're so freaking wealthy, so none of them had pens or paper, which pissed the Dame off, but not as much as the kids who walked in half an hour late, eliciting a perfectly snooty, "Well!" from her.

I then went to drop Arabic and add another history class. I thought I could just go to the registrar office, but of course Tomader needs to personally control every aspect of our lives, so we had to wait in line for over two hours just to add and drop classes. What was awful is that there was no way of seeing which classes were still open until you were face-to-face with Tomader. So some people waited for two hours for a "No". Luckily, the History of India was open, so I now only have class two days a week.

I got into History of India only five minutes before it started, so I raced across campus to get there in time, which I did, even though I got stuck in a long security check line. After class, Beckett and I had to get in a cab and race back to the apartment to pay Ahmed. He only accepts cash (it sounds shady, but with the exception of this he's actually really professional), so we withdrew thousands of pounds to give to him. I felt so awesome walking around with a huge roll of cash in my pocket. We signed the papers, gave him the money, and raced back to campus for the rest of our classes.

My last two classes were also pretty good. One I might drop - Social Problems of the Mideast. It sounds fascinating, but the professor is this ancient Egyptian woman who forgets what she's talking about and just rambles all class long. Plus there's an obnoxious girl who - even though the professor speaks fluent English and has lived in the United States for extensive amounts of time - feels the need to translate everything we say in English to the professor in Arabic. Everyone else in the class hates her. Oh, and there's a 20-page paper due. Yeah, I'm doing all I can to drop it. And my final one - Egypt in the Graeco-Roman Era - seems really interesting, and there are all sorts of awesome people in it. Plus we get to take five separate free trips to Alexandria.

After class, we went back to the apartment to actually move in. Our place is a bit nicer than the girls'. It's decorated like an 80-year-old woman died recently (and it kind of smells like it, too), with almost leopard-print couches, a matching ottoman/coffee table, a huge dining room table, a china cabinet complete with china, a fully-furnished kitchen with dishes and silverware, a balcony, two bedrooms and two bathrooms, a washer/dryer, beautiful views of the Nile, free satellite TV, faux crystal chandeliers, trippy paintings, two of the biggest beds I've ever seen (well, to be fair, my bed is actually two twin beds pushed together to form one enormous bed), etc. I could go on forever. In short, we loved it and didn't regret our decision in the slightest.

We had our new neighbors (the girls) over for a housewarming party, and Tara, Kyle, and Erik came over, Erik bearing gifts of cookies and 24 rolls of toilet paper. What a swell guy. The party was mostly us channel-surfing until we found Legally Blonde in English, and all of us just enjoying the fact that guys and girls could finally hang out together in a comfortable way.

Eventually we went to bed, with Tara sleeping over, since this is so much better than the dorms. I ended up absolutely freezing due to my air conditioner, but I suppose that's better than sweating uncontrollably all night.

Today, we just lazed around for most of the morning while Tara was at the gym and class (she's quickly becoming our unofficial third roommate - she even provided the groceries). When she got back, we went to the City Stars mall, which was freaking huge, to buy some stuff for our apartment. We got towels, dish soap, laundry detergent, dishwasher powder, air fresheners, tupperware, paper towels, shampoo for beckett, and some other stuff that I can't remember for only 120 pounds - less than 25 dollars. It was awesome. We also bought a rip-off game of Scrabble for about 7 bucks. We had a little scare in the cab when Beckett got a text message from his friend Brian, who is also here in Cairo - "Syria shoots down Israeli jet". The three of us kind of began to panic at the thought of the repurcussions from the Syrians shooting down a plane full of Israeli citizens for no reason, and we started debating the likeliness of a nuclear war and how soon we'd be evacuated from Egypt. We then found out later that Brian was a little dramatic, and the real story is that Syria fired at but didn't hit a military jet from Israel. Major difference. Although, I personally think the US press should be a little less biased and instead of "Syria fires missiles at Israeli jet," perhaps they should consider the headline, "Israel flies jet at Syrian missles".

Here's a short apartment tour:
This is how we pay the rent every month.

The gang watching Legally Blonde our first night in the apartment. Those tacky couches, chairs, and table all smell like a horrible barnyard. We're 98% sure they're stuffed with hay.

Beckett got the king-sized bed, I got the two twin beds, which I combined to create a superbed.

The view. For those of you who failed geography, that's the Nile.

This is painted inside my shower. There's all sorts of girly crap on my side of the apartment.

This is where we have all our formal dinner parties. And by that, I mean, "This is where we eat ramen noodles and play Scrabble."

I guarantee we never even touch this fancy china. But it's nice being able to say we have a china cabinet!

The greatest balcony ever. We plan on doing something more with it than some stupid chairs.

I swear this is real crystal. Diamonds, actually. Yeah, diamonds.

I love this. I plan on stealing it when we move out. It's this bizarre painting that came with the place. Note the signs for addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and pi. Also the DNA in the bottom left corner, and the words "math" and "science" at the top center.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Out of Africa (Well, Cairo)

Sorry about the lull in updates. Things are pretty hectic here, and the only time I'm in my room is for the five or so hours a night I sleep. But let's get this show on the road, because I have plans soon.

So. We got up to go to the Red Sea. We were told we had to be at campus at 8 AM, so that meant we would have to take the 7:30 AM shuttle. Since we're in Egypt, there were no shuttles waiting for us. So all 200 of us kids from Zamalek had to catch cabs in groups of four. It took forever to get that many cabs. The cab ride was absolutely nuts, too, because for some reason our driver was blasting the craziest Arabic music I've ever heard. So this awful woman is screeching like a banshee as we're careening through traffic. It was wild.

When we got to campus, there was mass chaos again. No one knew what to do, there weren't any buses, kids were missing, and long story short, we left about thirty minutes late. And then we stopped at a gas station for a while to wait for our security guards to arrive. So things were already not going as planned. When we arrived at the hotel, no one knew what to do, but we were quickly herded directly into an auditorium. How was your trip? Good? Okay, now sit for a three-hour orientation session. What made it even worse was the fact that it was a question and answer segment, and I think AUC students are all either insane or really funny jokers. People asked about crocodiles leaving the Nile and entering the city, what to do if they wandered and got lost in the middle of the desert, and where Tomader thinks are good places to eat. Then we sat through presentations introducing us to the Student Union and the "Friends", who are there to help us/take Tomader's verbal abuse. Finally, they let us go, but said that we couldn't go to the beach and would have to all sit in the lobby for an hour. Sweet!

Two hours later, we were given the keys to our rooms. We were grouped in threes alphabetically by our last names. The quality of the room you were given was up in the air - some people got waterfront rooms with balconies, while Beckett had to share one king-sized bed with two other guys. We got two twin beds and a cot, and our room was right by the water. So I was happy. Although they only gave us one key for the three of us, and only one beach towel. One of the jerks I was stuck with decided he was going to hang on to the key and I would have to find him if I wanted to get into the room at all, even though everyone else was leaving their keys at the front desk so all three could have equal access to it. But whatever, the less I had to see of the guy, the happier I was.

The Red Sea was great. It was warm enough to make us have to got out frequently because we were getting a bit too hot, but it was so much fun. Plus we could walk forever and never not be able to touch the ground. It was so shallow - big deal, Moses, I could part this if I wanted to. So we lounged around on the beach all day, and that night we went to a "bellydancing show" which was anything but. It was hosted by this gay little Italian man who was incredibly annoying. For some reason this Italian woman in a bellydancing costume sat on a pillow on stage and smoked shisha with him the whole time, but she did no dancing at all. Some other woman (with enormous breasts) did all the dancing, but it wasn't bellydancing as we know it. It was just a lot of swinging her arms and shaking her ass. And she barely did that, because for every song she just called random guys up on stage and made them dance with her. As the night progressed, I started to notice that she had called all the guys from the first three rows up, with the exception of me. So I began to empty my pockets and think up some cool dance moves.

Then things turned sour. This guy came out, kind of like a Whirling Dervish, only more circus-like. He was wearing a multicolored skirt and some sort of crazy getup, and he just spun in a circle for about ten minutes straight. It was actually kind of cool, until he took off the skirt, stopped spinning, and then just spun the skirt over his head like pizza dough. He did that part for another 5 or so minutes, which got really, really boring. Suddenly, the Italian announced that he would need two people to compete in a spinning competition. So of course Tara starts pointing at me, and next thing I know, I'm being dragged up by the Italian. The other guy they pulled up goes first, and he makes it for 25 seconds, which is absolutely pathetic. So then the Italian and the clearly gay (even though he claims to be married) Whirling Dervish start to put the skirt on me, but before I know it, they've torn off my shirt. So I do the spinning shirtless for some reason, and I make it for 30 seconds before I stop (I could have gone for days, but what would be the point?) Well, I was feeling quite ill, but then the Italian guy grabbed me, threw me over his shoulder, unintentionally (I think) pressed my genitals against his face, and started spinning me around more. I was so close to throwing up. And now I keep getting recognized by AUC students. I hate Egypt.

Later that night, Tara, Beckett, Kyle, Catherine Catherine (don't ask) and I decided to sleep on the beach and watch the sunrise, mostly to avoid all of our awful rooming situtations. We went down to the beach at 2 AM, but a guard wouldn't let us go on it because Tomader told him not to (seriously, he let Egyptians on the beach), even after we found cigarettes for him. But he said we could go in the pool. So Tara and I instantly jumped into the pool, which woke up all the students who had been sleeping in chairs around the pool, waiting for the beach to open so they could watch the sunrise. Plus it attracted some other guards, who kicked us out of the pool and said the beach was open. When we went to the beach, a guard tried to send us back to the pool, but we told him what had happened. He called his superior officer over, who asked, "What's happening?" The poor little guy answered (in Arabic), "The world is broken." But all was good, and a big group of us got to sleep on the beach.

Turns out it was kind of a bad idea. It gets pretty cold in the desert at night, especially when you're right on the water. And we had no blankets or towels or anything, and Tara and I were wet. But Tara managed to talk one of the guards into fetching a blanket for her (she gets free stuff all the time), so she was okay. She climbed onto my chair and I got under the blanket, but she didn't like my still-wet shorts, so she moved to Beckett's chair. Then things got crazy and she was totally naked from the waist down, because she had taken off her suit to dry, and she gave me her skirt to use as a blanket. But Beckett kept his clothes on and remained a perfect gentleman to this half-naked, attractive Iranian girl lying under the blanket with him. Even though we were kind of miserable, we had a great time together, especially in our attempts to force poor, shy Kyle to make out with Catherine Catherine, who is ridiculously hot and really likes him.

Finally the sun came up. It was really beautiful, and it was the first real sunrise I've ever sat and watched all the way through. Then we went back to our rooms to get some sleep. But my room had, like, five guys in it for some reason. I didn't question it and just went to sleep. Two hours later, I was woken up by all the guys walking around in only their boxers, and someone loudly saying, "Just let me poop!" I just rolled over and tried to go back to sleep. That wasn't possible, so I just went to the beach to catch some sleep, which I never ended up doing, since I spent the rest of the day swimming and playing ping pong. Isn't my life so difficult?!

7:00 that night, we all boarded our same buses for the trip back to Cairo. But since AUC was in charge of things, nothing could go right. Our bus was completely messed up. The air conditioning didn't work, and the exhaust and heat from the engine was directed into the back of the bus rather than the outside air. It was well over 100 degrees in that bus, and we were all choking on carbon monoxide. We literally spent the whole trip giggling and passing in and out of consciousness at random. Although on Beckett's bus, the girl next to him vomited into her hands, so I prefer mine.

The next day, we got up bright and early to go on another AUC trip to the pyramids and the Sphinx. It was really awesome seeing them, since I hadn't seen any pyramids yet and I've been wanting to see them since I was, like, five. Although we had to stick with our huge, obnoxious group of kids, and we were on AUC's schedule, which allotted us only 15 minutes at some places and bypassed some really cool-looking things. We'll definitely have to go back, and I totally have to ride a horse or a camel.

We got to go inside some tombs and a pyramid (the Titi Pyramid, nonetheless, which had us all giggling like the 20-year-olds we are), and it was incredible. Everything was at least 4000 years old, but in many places the paint was still on the walls. And the hieroglyphics were beautiful and it was all incredible for a history nerd like me. Cameras were not allowed, but I'm a huge rebel, so I snuck some quick pictures. Suckers!

Today I had to register with Tomader, which was actually kind of scary. She made the girl before me cry, but I held it together. She forced me into some classes I don't want to take, but starting Wednesday we can bypass her and just drop and add classes at the registrar office, so I'm going to do that. Although I don't suspect for one moment that my actions will escape The Tomader's notice, and I fully expect her to break down my door any second.

I feel like I'm finally getting the hang of life in Cairo, and now I'm prepared to add classes - which start Wednesday - to the mix. Although I hear classes aren't that difficult, and once I change my schedule around, I should only have classes on Mondays and Wednesdays. Two day week, baby!

Now I must go. Beckett and I are meeting Emily from Madison and her roommates for something - not quite sure what yet. Tomorrow I have absolutely nothing to do, and I plan on sleeping forever. I can't wait.

You are not allowed to take nor see this picture.

Same goes for this one. Although this one is pretty cool.

I had slaves construct these ones just for me.

Touching the Step Pyramid, which, I believe, is the oldest thing in the world.