Friday, June 18, 2010

Touch Down in Cairo

It's about 5 am here in Cairo, and between the heat (it is 81 degrees), the jet lag and the call to prayer which goes off periodically from the mosque just outside my window, sleep is a bit illusive. So like a good American I turn to the internet to amuse me, and I figure I might as well amuse you all too with an update.

I have come to al Qahira to better my novice grasp of Arabic, as demanded of me by GW and the Foreign Service exam. So far I haven't had the ability or much of an opportunity to practice - occasions such as the airline losing my bags really deserve to be addressed in English if they are to be resolved - but I am looking forward to a day with plenty of other chances. For example, I am looking forward to going downstairs and giving a little bakshish (bribe) to the door man in order for him to accept the narrative that I am my friend Alison's cousin and that we are not living in sin. Funnily enough I realize I'd be outraged if someone suggested I do that in America, but for now the idea fits into my brain as though it's a traditional local custom. Take off your shoes before entering the house, bow to your elders, and bribe your doorman! We'll see what happens when the novelty wears off.

My bags are still in Rome at this point, or at any rate they might as well be since they aren't here in the apartment. But honestly I'm not feeling too upset. All the valuable electronics - my camera, my money, and gods be praised my laptop - were in the carry-on bag that I kept with me, and the numerous clothes and books left behind are easily replaced by the local shops. The only thing which gives me a pang is my guitar! If that is lost to the inner bowels of Al Italia I will end my self-imposed philosophical calm and wreak a terrible vengeance upon the system. Heads will roll.

So! Today's plans are, in no particular order:
  • To bribe the doorman
  • To obtain some new (preferably light and airy) clothes
  • To explore the local shops and get a few basic supplies, food and toothpaste and the like
  • To begin to explore the confusing, rusty and ancient torrent that is the Cairo bus system
  • To trace a route towards the Fajr Center (my language center) in Nasr City, and of course
  • To find a Cairo bar
I am so excited about this last one you see I have chosen to put it in italics. Everything I have heard from Alison (who, by the way, was a wonderful welcoming party to Cairo) speaks well of the local bar, Horiya. A recent vocab word! It means "freedom"! I hope it lives up to expectations.

I think I am going to love this city. It is hot and polluted and dirty, but also brimming over with life and difference and it represents a real challenge. I can already tell that I am going to be happy here. Pictures and hopefully more updates soon.

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