Sunday, September 18, 2005

a weekend in Egypt

The weekend was great. Friday after classes, we went out for dinner with Taha and his friends. Taha is Megan's boyfriend. He is Egyptian but went to University in the States (that is where they met). We went to a fish restaurant on the Corniche.[Alex and the fish. Notice the pacifier in the mouth of the fish on the wall.]
A few of us don't like fish, so we just had rice, but it was very good, flavored rice.[They just happened to put the fish in front of Ian]
After the restaurant, we went to another place for a sheesha-I had peach flavored this time. It was also right on the Corniche. Taha's friends said that the place had the best sheeshas.[Ian, Kristen and Alex]
Megan spent the weekend with Taha at their summer cottage, at a compound somewhere about 40 minutes away. It is right on the Mediterranean and has private beaches and swimming pools.
The ride home was about the craziest taxi ride ever. The guy was weaving in and out of traffic, honking the entire way. I am not sure how fast he was going, but it was a lot faster than the other cars. Scary. I guess it is always like that in Cairo.[Kate posing infront of Montaza]
Saturday morning, Hussein picked the rest of us up and we went to a beach at Montaza (It was the summer palace of the King).We drove through the Montaza gates into the gigantic, beautiful park. The beach was at the far end of the park. The beach is in a little cove, so it was not all waves. The sand was a bit dirty, though (garbage and such).[Kristen]
Egypt is very conservative, so most women here go in fully clothed. Some have old style swimwear-covering shoulders and upper legs.
After a few hours there, we went back for a quick shower and then went to another area of Alex. to go to a restaurant called Mohammed Akhmed, that is famous for its fast service and good food (falafel, hummus, etc).We went there to meet 2 Swedes that we met at the beach. After we ate, we went back to their hotel, the Windsor Palace Hotel, for a beer.[Kristen and Kate]
Because of their religion, most Egyptians don't drink, so there are not many places to get a drink. The place was so fancy with painted ceilings and fancy furniture.
Today, Hussein picked us up at 10 and we went to the catacombs. They were discovered in around the 1900s when a donkey fell and disappeared into a tunnel. We couldn't take our cameras in but we did manage to get some pics with a camera phone that one of the girls had. They were built during that time that the Greeks and Romans were here. It was an amazing place to see... all underground, of course. Then we went to Pompei's pillar (which really has nothing to do with Pompei) and then the Graeco Roman amphitheater.[Pompei's Pillar][Alex and I at the Graeco Roman Amphitheater]
They were both very cool. I would describe them but am short on time at the moment.
We had lunch at a fabulous restaurant on the sea side of the Corniche. They had western and Egyptian food on the menu. There was a little man-made stream type thing (with no water in it) down the middle of the restaurant, and there were 3 ducks and a white flamingo wandering around. Very cool. We will have to go there again during the week. We then tried to go to Fort Qaitbey, where the Lighthouse was, but it was closed. We will try again another time.[infront of Fort Qaitbey]
Anyway, gotta go. Keep in touch. Love you all.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005


Well, This has been the absolute strangest couple of days in my entire life. If I tried to explain it all, it would be the length of a novel. Joanna is really ABSOLUTELY crazy. Yesterday in class she was a bit strange and slow but she seemed fairly normal.Then we went to Carrefour, a big western style shopping mall downtown Alex. When ever we went out, she covered her head and pretty much hid her face. She didn't seem to want to actually walk with any of us, and seemed a little paranoid. At the mall, half of the group went to the grocery store with Hussein, our wonderful driver (he loves us all... except for Joanna). Bryn, Ian, Joanna and I wanted to wander around and window shop. Joanna really wanted to buy some clothing because of the situation of having to flee Dubai without her luggage(as she claimed). She wouldn't walk with us there, either. She walked a few feet behind us, keeping her head covered. When we went to look at anything, she stayed well away and when we were finished, she would go take a look. She does everything so slowly, including walking and eating. We were hungry so we went for a quick snack, a cinnamon bun. She ordered a chicken crepe dinner. She moved like a snail while she ate because she was too busy watching everyone that came near or walked by or even moved in the distance. Eventually, after eating, Ian and I got separated from Bryn and Joanna. We went into the grocery store (it had everything from food to clothes to cds. We each bought a notebook. When we all found each other again and were ready to leave, Joanna had bought a new outfit. Actually, Bryn had paid for it because Joanna had forgotten to bring cash and didnt' want to use her credit card because it could be traced. After we got back, she came to our room to join us while we were doing our homework. She said she wanted to show us something and broke out into a very long story. To make a long story short, she claims that she unknowingly helped Saddam Hussein in New Zealand a couple of years ago, and so became sort-of part of his group. She worked with and taught Iraqi refugees. While whe was there, she had a few problems (was attacked by a mother of a 16 year old drugged up girl that she had helped) and the only ones that would help her were a group of Iraqi refugees, of which one was Saddam Hussein, using the name Hassam. She spent time with all of the refugees there. She claims that since then, every where that she goes, she sees people from his group and communicate with them using hand and body signals. Apparently, she saw people from the group at Carrefour (4 of them, to be exact), and they communicated to her that they wanted her to talk to Saddam about the situation with the refugees. She says that she is wanted because of her associations and is worried that the Egyptian gov't will come and take her away because of it. She went into a big long speech about how the Arab troops were mobilizing in Dubai and in Cairo and that they were going to make their big move after the Rammadan, a month long religious period starting next month(?). She wouldn't leave our room until very late and after every one else had gone to bed, she told Megan and I that she was going to flee the country. She walked into Megans bedroom and was standing at her window for about 15 minutes or so and when Megan tried to talk to her, she said to be quiet. When she finally came out, she asked if the guys downstairs would be asleep, because the coast was clear outside. She then hugged each of us and tried to give me her cds and watch. She wanted to trade bags with us but we suggested that if she wanted to do something like that, she should use shopping bags. In the morning, she was gone, her key was on the table and the clothes that she had been wearing were left with her bag and some other things in her room. She left the door open. We had a big discussion when we got to the school. Then she phoned the school to say that she was having family problems and would miss the day but would be back tomorrow. She phoned the school again, a little later, to say that she would be there in the afternoon. The made her go to the apartment to pick up her things and then she did show up. She is now staying in a hotel a short walk from the school. Everyone is a bit freaked out by her. She is very creepy. We are hoping that she will stop coming, as it makes us all uncomfortable. We have to actually work with her, as we do partnered work in the class. It is hard to explain because she did say a LOT more than that. She is obviously delusional but there has to be some sort of truth behind her behavior. Maybe something happened to her and she has become paranoid. Who knows. We do have a lot of people looking after us, though. Egyptians are very protective. We love all of the Egyptians that we have met. They are such great people.Anyway, I should go now. This is getting a little long. Tomorrow night we are all going out. And then it is our weekend (Friday and Saturday). Yay. We might to go the beach and a museum or two.Love you all. Keep in touch.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

a great day in Egypt

For those of you that asked, I am studying in Egypt for one month, not teaching. I am learning how to teach English. The new student finally arrived (she was supposed to arrive yesterday). She is in her 50s and is very strange. We are not sure if it is just because she was tired or if she is schizophrenic or something... I am not talking a little bit odd... VERY odd. She stayed for part of a class and then left because she was falling asleep. I will wait and see how she is tomorrow after a good sleep to make any real judgement, though. Other than that, today was such a great day. Classes went well. I had McDonalds for lunch because we were short on time. We had Hussein, our driver, take us to an ATM during the lunch break. After classes, we went back home and then headed out for some shopping, etc. We split into 2 groups because Bryn and Kate just wanted to go shopping but the rest of us were hungry. We wandered around until finally we found a 'Fat Boy' restaurant. We sat down outside and ordered our food and then a woman, Diaa walked up to us and started talking to us. She speaks English fluently. She is the manager of the restaurant, and she is a lawyer. She moved us upstairs so that we would have more space. Just after we got our food, a man walked up to the table to talk to us. He is the owner of the restaurant and several other branches. He lived in LA, where Alex is from, and where he owned a 20 foot yacht, and in Edmonton. What a coincidence. He owns several pharmacies in different places as well. He is a pharmacist. They told us to go there when ever we wanted and they would give us a discount and if we ever needed anything, to call them. Diaa wants to hang out with us. While we were there, there was a birthday party going on for a 9 year old boy. The 3 women that were there insisted that we join them. It was so fun.There was impromptu belly dancing and other dancing, singing and such.The cake was beautiful (and delicious). The women want to hang out with us. They work in a hotel somewhere. They said that we should go there before we go home. Other than the new student, everything here seems to be almost perfect. Hopefully her participation and attitude will be different tomorrow. Love you all and miss you.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Egypt... getting into the groove

Our driver found my ticket. It fell under the front seat when he dropped me off, I guess. What a relief. The people in the course are all so great. There are 7 of us so far, 2 guys and 5 girls. One more person was to arrive today but we haven't met her yet. We all get along so far and feel like we have been together for a lot longer than just one day. We are all so different, but we all clicked instantly, which is a great thing since we will be seeing a lot of each other. Ian is from England and the rest are all American. I am the oldest. I hope that we don't scare Joanna, the new girl. Hopefully she will fit in like everyone else. After I got back to the apartments on Friday, I met Megan, one of my roommates. We went out Friday night for a sheesha (a flavored water pipe-we had strawberry) and some mango juice. The place was right on the Corniche, the main street that goes along the Mediterranean coast. When we got back, we moved to another room, cleaner and with working everything. Last night we all went down to a place on right beside the sea for a sheesha (orange flavored) and coffee/juice. We didn't realize that there were places to go under the corniche, so we were following the Egyptians that were running across the busy road,dodging traffic... a bit scary. The room that I am in now is relatively clean and everything works. Megan and Kristen are my roommates.Our room has become the hangout. This morning we all had breakfast/coffee in our kitchen. The course I am taking is how to teach English. Today was the first day of classes. It was quite amusing at times. They wanted us to experience the different types of learning, so we had a short lesson in Swahili and a short lesson in German. Then we were talking about different games to play and ways of having students interact... so we were making skits and such. We were all laughing so hard. The instructors are all pretty nice, too. I think we intimidate them because we are all so close already. Anyway... enough for now. I am tired as I didn't get enough sleep last night and we have to get up around 7:30 or so.

Friday, September 09, 2005

I am in Egypt

I am in Egypt!!! Getting here was so stressful. I was in transit for about 26 hours. When I got to Calgary, I realized that I forgot my credit card that I was going to put my course fee on. I had it out before I left to make sure that the second half of my flight went through. Then the flight from Calgary to London sucked. My console wasn't working so I couldn't listen to the radio or the movie, and my light kept blinking on and off so I had a hard time sleeping. Then the plane had to circle for about 20 minutes before landing, making me feel very sick. I had a 4 hour stop over in London and then a 3 hour stop over in Vienna. The Alexandria Airport is tiny!! The planes stop out in the middle and then a shuttle bus takes you to the building, which is one room with dividers between the sections-immigration, luggage, customs. The traveler's VISA is just 2 little stamps that cost me $15 US. The school sent a driver (Hussein) to pick me up at the airport. I guess he is the main driver for the school. He has been in several countries around the world, including Korea, because he coaches discus throwing and javelin and such. I am in a very old building with a very old elevator. My room is on the 7th floor. It is soooo dirty.There are 3 bedrooms. 2 of the rooms are nicer but the fans in them don't work. The bathroom is very dirty, too. It is fairly big but the shower stall has no shower curtain (it has parts of a pole stuck on the wall. Half of the lights in the rooms are burnt out or missing and there is a leak in the kitchen ceiling, so there is a puddle in the middle of the kitchen floor. There is a tiny TV and a little fridge. There is a very small 4 burner gas stove/oven. After getting into my room, I realized that somewhere between the airport and my room, I lost my plane ticket (for my return flight). It somehow just disappeared. I was distraught. I tried to use the phone to make an international call and a guy answered... speaking English. It is a guy that took the course before and is leaving for Cairo tomorrow. It was about 4AM when I used the phone, but I guess he was up because he said he was downstairs. He was staying in the room next to mine. Today, I met up with him and he is showing me around a little bit. Some of the other students should be here by now. The driver said that some were arriving today and some tomorrow. Anyway, he showed me where a couple of Internet Cafes are and a few other places, such as a juice bar (I had fresh pomegranite juice), a great place for getting sandwiches, and a market. My room is very close to the sea (Mediterranean).The tram is very cheap... about 25 piestres. (I am not sure what the exchange rate is but the guy said it was about 5 Egyptian pounds per US dollar. 25 piestres is a quarter or a pound. Alexandria is not a clean city but the old buildings make it very interesting. I have heard that the people are all very nice and helpful. The city is a bit breezy because it is on the sea, which I guess is a blessing since it makes it a bit cooler. A lot of people come here from Cairo and such for their summer vacation. I have an orientation at the school tomorrow.I am in an Internet Cafe now, obviously. I think this one costs about 1 pound for half an hour. There is another one closer to my room that is only 50 piestres per half hour but it is closed on Fridays. Fridays is prayer day so a lot of shops are closed. Anyway... I have access to email at least while I am in Egypt. Keep in touch. Laura