Tag Archives: homework

Last Day in Morocco

28 May

It’s finally come down to the last day in Morocco.  Our final papers and projects are turned in (or on their way), final exams are all finished, and yesterday we had the half-hour telephone interview that determines our “level” in Arabic.   And in honor of the last day here, a photo re-cap of the adventures we’ve had in Morocco:

One of the most amazing parts of Morocco was how fast the scenery could change…it could be snowing at “home” in Ifrane:

….at the same time as we were driving back from a weekend trip to the desert, just a few hours away:

…And everything else in between.  We visited the first Islamic city in Morocco, Moulay Idriss:

And saw some Roman ruins at Voloubilis:

And visited the old cities of Meknes,

Fez,

and Marrakesh:

We wandered through Essouira

and hung out in Casablanca.

But most of all, we spent quality time with each other (and with some monkeys!):

And of course with our readings, laptops, and copies of Hans Wehr Arabic to English dictionaries.

It was the hardest I’ve ever worked, and living in snowy Ifrane was not at all what we were expecting when we signed up to spend a year in Egypt.  But it’s definitely not going to be a 3 months that I’ll be forgetting anytime soon!  Salaaam Morocco.

Egypt never sleeps

4 Oct

It’s 1:14am. Even the babies are still awake; I can hear them making happy baby noises from the apartment across the street. Mama Azza just got home from the grocery store and fed me dinner…which is kind of like lunch in the US: a light meal of bread, deli meat, olives, and about 5 different types of cheese. Mohab (brother) was already asleep because today was his first football (soccer) match of the season, but Mama Azza woke him up anyway and told him to do his homework (he didn’t).

1:19am and the men sitting out on wooden chairs in the street below me smoking shisha and cigarettes, drinking shay (tea), and chatting, are calling for new coals for their water pipe.

1:24am and the lady in the apartment above me is laughing on the phone with a girlfriend.

1:29am and there’s some kind of traffic problem out front….a few different horns are honking. Helpful people around on the street shout out various instructions to the drivers.

1:38 am and I’m sitting in my breezy room in my host family’s 8th floor apartment, drinking shay-bi-laban (milk tea) and doing some reading for class tomorrow.

And I feel right at home.

Weddings and Wagib

1 Oct

Happy October everyone!  And Happy Egyptian Daylight Savings Time Day!  My day just got about 20 times better, as I woke up feeling like a slacker for sleeping until 11 (it’s been a long week), and then turned on my automatically-updating computer to realize it was actually still only 10am!  So excellent.

Speaking of excellent, last Friday I went to the wedding of the century.  That’s saying a lot because in Egypt, the wedding is just about the most important moment of your life, and they like to do it BIG.  Kholy, the groom, was a great friend from last summer, who has the reputation of knowing approximately every person in Egypt.

The process of getting married in Egypt takes a few twists and turns along the way.  First, there’s the engagement.  After all of the interested parties are agreed on the match (the woman and man of course, as well as parents and family), they have a huge Khatooba (engagement) party.  I went to two Khatoobas last summer, and they’re often called the same word (Farah) as the wedding itself, which makes sense as they’re a lot like an actual wedding, with presentation of bride and groom, exchange of rings and jewelry, cake-cutting ceremony, and of course lots of dancing.

The next step is called Katab-al-Kitab, writing of the book.  This is a small ceremony with very close relatives as witness, when the couple signs the marriage contract and is legally married under Islamic law, although they don’t live together until after the big wedding party.

The Farah itself is a just a huge party to celebrate the marriage with family and friends and friends’ friends and relatives’ friends and occasionally random Americans who show up, etc.    As a rule, the wedding always starts late.  When we asked Kholy what it was going to be like, he told us he would get there at 6, and the bride will arrive at 7.  Ha!  Like the silly Americans we are, we figured that would (more or less) be the case, so Monica, Mae, and I got together and got ready to leave by 5.  We ended up getting picked up around 9, successfully overcoming the walk of shame to the car in our scandalous (for Egypt) attire.

We arrived at the site of the wedding–it was held at the King Marriott gardens on the North Coast, which was beautiful and decked out with pretty lights and a huge stage–in plenty of time to see the zifa, or the bride’s entrance, when she pulls up in a car and is greeted by loud horns and drum music, and is met by the groom.

Kholy and Sarah then had their first slow dance, and everyone got to join in.  Sarah looked absolutely gorgeous.  And Kholy it turns out did not wear flip flops and shorts like he claimed he was going to, and looked pretty handsome as well.

The rest of the night was a blur of FOOD and DANCING!  After the first dance, they opened up the 2 buffet lines of about 30 covered dishes each, with every imaginable Egyptian food, some of my favorites of which were the fish, stuffed/grilled vegetables, cheese-filled sambousa pastries, and oh, at the end of the neverending buffet line was a shwarma stand!  There was a whole separate table for salads and hummus-style dishes, and rows and rows of amazing desserts (also an ice cream stand where you request any flavor)!  So delicious.  Somehow after stuffing ourselves completely full we managed to get up and dance yet again!

There were two great well-known musicians who came and sang to Kholy and Sara and led the dancing, Abu Elif and Mahmoud El-Esseili, which was tons of fun.  At weddings the women all dance around the bride, and the men all dance encircling the groom.  Sometimes the circles mush together a bit, and sometimes the girls circle links up and goes into the middle of the boys circle, so the boys are all on the outside dancing in one direction, girls are all inside dancing another direction, with the bride and groom in the middle!!  Afterward a DJ took over, until  it was time to say our Mabrouks (congrats) and head home to bed.

The best part about the wedding was seeing the group of friends we made last summer all so happy and excited for our friend Kholy!  He’s the first of their group to get married, so it was just really fun to be a part of such a big event for Kholy and our buddies from the Rotary club.

Also last weekend I moved in with my Egyptian family!!  I’ll write a more specific post on that sometime but for now an update on life in general:  living with the family is working out great.  I have a Mama Azza and a brother Mohab, who are both super nice.  Mama Azza cooks me food and makes me shay bi-leban (milk tea), and in general is just the sweetest person ever.  They’re just moving into their new apartment, so things are still all getting set up, but I have my own room, desk, bed, internet….and what else do I really need in life?

After classes started this week, just about all my time has been spent with this:

HOMEWORK.  Classes are so intense this year.  I slave away over reading and vocabulary from the time I get out of classes until I can’t work any longer and have to fall asleep.  (Hence the lack of recent blogging, sorryyyyy).  And not even all of our classes have started yet!!  University classes (supposedly, but you can never be too sure) start this week, and my internship just started yesterday…I’m working at a non-profit called Caritas Egypt, on their microfinance project, searching for grant money for their blossoming program.  Sweet!  Anyway, gotta salaaaam out for now.  Good luck with all that rain I’ve been hearing about in the US!  I’ve pretty much forgotten what rain is at this point. 😉

Finally Almost Settled

23 Sep

They tell us at our pre-departure orientation that our experience living abroad is going to be one huge W.  Lots of ups and downs.  Sometimes they’ll be little squiggles, hating Egypt one moment when you don’t have hot water or people just won’t stop staring on the street, and loving it the next when you taste your first fresh pomegranate juice or have a really good conversation with a cab driver.

My first week was rough.  It was tough to come back to Alexandria after a year, knowing some of the people and places, but having such a different mentality on what my goals and ideals are this year.  Last time, even though we took classes, the program was kind of a joke, and we learned most from our experiences in the city and travels to other parts of Egypt.  For the year-long program, we have a 30-hour per week schedule: Flagship Classes within the program, a direct enrollment course taken at Alexandria University, a 10-hour per week internship at an organization or business, and meetings with language and academic partners.  That’s not even starting to talk about homework, spending time with our host families, getting places via public transportation, eating, or sleep (ha!).  Needless to say, I’ll be busy.

And I already have been!  But to tell the truth, as my schedule is starting to take shape, and we gradually ease into finding our internships and starting university classes, I’m so much happier.  The uncertainty of not knowing what daily life will be like, where I’ll be living next week, or how I’ll get from place to place was I think the hardest part for me to deal with, at the same time as my body and sleep schedule adjusted to new food, climate, language, and environment.

So, right now, I’m finally getting settled.  Well, sort of.  Things are at least starting to gain some semblance of certainty, which is comforting.  I’m still living temporarily in the dorms I lived in last summer, within walking distance of the university.  I was originally supposed to live here just for 5 days, until the family I was going to live with came back to Alexandria.  That family ended up falling through (the mom got sick and they aren’t coming back until the end of September.)  Luckily, a friend of the program knew of another family that is willing to host me.  I went to visit them the other day, and they’re really nice!!  It’s a mom (Mama Azza) and her son (Mohab) who is in high school.  They’re moving into a new apartment and it’s not ready yet, but hopefully I’ll move in on Saturday.  For now, I’m getting sick of living out of my suitcase, and my room is a super-disaster!  Classes are great this year.  I have two of the best teachers in the program, and I can already tell I’m going to learn a lot, and have a TON of work.  The details are finally worked out for my internship, which is at an organization called Caritas that has various projects around Alexandria on issues like street children, empowerment of women, HIV/AIDS, and education….more on that when I start next week!  For my direct enrollment class, I’m taking Industrial Sociology….that should start up this week or next as well.

Anyway, so that’s the update!  I’m going to a wedding tomorrow and SUPER EXCITED!!!  Here are a few pictures of the views from my window, and from the roof, one day when I woke up before sunrise by accident.  (2nd picture is my window view)

Can I just say…

20 Sep

Walking to a cafe after class to get some homework done, and getting to watch a sunset like this?

Corniche Sunset

Ain’t never gonna get old.