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I’m not in Egypt anymore. :(

Time January 4th, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

I’m back in Oklahoma.  At first, coming back to the states wasn’t all that exciting.  I would have liked to stay for an entire year or more and would advise anyone studying abroad to do everything they can to go for an entire year.  I’m starting to get settled back in though.  I am back in my apartment and my room (in the living room) is back in order.  Sarah (she is with me until Tuesday) and I have been been rock climbing nearly everyday that we have been in Stillwater.

The last couple of weeks in Egypt was extremely eventful.  Sarah came to visit me.  We spent a few days in Cairo, three days in Alexandria, and about 5 days rock climbing and snorkeling in Dahab.  Cairo was normal- busy, crowded, and full of friendly Egyptian welcomes.  One of the first things we did in Cairo was see the pyramids.  The day began with cloudy skies and an extremely calm atmosphere around the pyramid grounds.   There was hardly anybody there and the vendors were unusually lazy and seemingly discouraged by the lack of business.  Nevertheless, the pyramids were beautiful as the sun started peering through the clouds and reflecting off of the sides.

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Yemeni restaurant in  Cairo:

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After a few more good experiences with Khan el Khalili, El-Fashiwy’s, a mosque and great tasting juice we took the train to Alexandria.  Alex was a much more enjoyable trip, especially for Sarah.  As usual, it was less crowded and more laid back.  The coolest part of Alexandria was showing Sarah a Ahwah (cafe) that was hidden behind a 2 foot wide alley way.

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Our next destination was Dahab.  Always refreshing and beautiful this was by far the best part of our trip.  The little hotel/hostel that we stayed in is cheap (less than $4 a night per person) and offers an awesome atmosphere of international travels who enjoy the simple, more adventurous aspects of traveling.  At the hotel are divers, hikers, climbers, backpackers… and because we were in town… slackliners.  The first night we were there I set up a slack line in the alley way behind the hostel.  I had to set it at about ten feet so that cars driving through the alley way could get through without me having to disassemble the line.  After the manager of the hostel saw me walking the line, he told me I could do it in the square right outside my room.  Every night following we set up the line in the square.  Many people watched and tried it out.

We also rock climbed  nearly every day we were in Dahab.  After a 20 minute jeep ride into the Wadi El-Qunai, a good number of bolts begin to scale up the wall.  For me, climbing was the highlight of Dahab… especially because it was the first time I had climbed with Sarah in four months.

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The second day we climbed we tried another wadi very close to the first.  This location is full of 100 foot plus multi-pitch routes on slabby rock.  Because of the rain Dahab received a few days earlier some of the routes had a waterfall running right over them.  This attracted a multitude of local Egyptians who used a siphon to collect fresh water from the fall.  They let Sarah have a free camel ride. :)

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We also snorkeled in Dahab.  Although it was a little cold (and I might have gotten mild hypothermia) the coral we saw was beautiful and swarming with a wide range of fish.

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After Dahab our trip was coming to an end.  We took the 8 hour evening bus ride back to Cairo and spent the day walking around Tahrir square and hanging out at cafes in the area.  Our plane left at 3:00 am in the morning.  After 27 hours we were back in Oklahoma.

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Woohoo… I got to climb- Dahab

Time November 27th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | 2 Comments by

Since I’ve been here, I’ve been missing climbing much more than I expected.  I left my climbing gear in the states because the closest place to climb is the Sinai (a 10 hour bus ride)… so I figured that I wouldn’t have the time or the resources to go on a regular basis.  After a few months without climbing… I started to get the itch.  So after connecting with an American climber living in Cairo, I determined to go.  I only requested my rock shoes and harness, but my wonderful girlfriend Sarah surprised me and sent all of my gear (rope, quickdraws, etc).  As soon as I received the package I made plans to meet my new friend in Dahab.

I left after class on Wednesday night (9:00pm) and took a “superjet” bus to Sharm el Sheik.  I snagged a chair in the very back of the bus and was able to sprawl out along the 5 chairs that lined the wall.  I slept nearly the entire bus ride to Sharm.  Once in Sharm I took another bus that left at 9:00am to Dahab which was only an hour and a half away.  After getting to Dahab, meeting Kevin (Cairo friend) and getting some food for our camp sight, we headed to Wadi al-Qunai and started climbing.  It was an awesome feeling to be climbing again… and in Egypt no less.  The rock there is a mix between granite and basalt.  The 100 ft cliffs rising out of the desert floor and the sporadic oasis scattered throughout the canyon make a very peaceful environment compared to the bustling city of Cairo and Alexandria.  After a days worth of climbing we retired to our camp.

Camping that night turned out to be ruthless for me.  Right after dinner I started feeling terrible.  I had had a head-ache the entire day but I though it was just because I slept on my neck wrong or something.  The headache intensified after dinner and I began to feel incredibly nauseous.  I crawled into my sleeping bag early and tried to go to sleep.  This was difficult because about the time I would doze off a fly would start buzzing around my face (we didn’t have a tent).  I also began to feel so nauseous that moving an inch made me feel awful.  After lying there for a couple of hours not wanting to budge I finally dozed off to sleep.  I woke up sometime in the middle of the night drenched with sweet.  After sitting up in order to get some fresh air… my dinner was projected onto the desert rocks beneath me.  Upon the echoing sound of my regurgitating moans through the canyon, Kevin was frightened awake.  I could hear the fright in his voice as he asked what was going on.  After finally catching my breath I informed him I was “just” throwing up. Comforted, he went back to sleep.  :/  I later found out that he initially was worried that I was being attacked by a Bedouin… haha.

The next morning I woke up and was feeling much better but not well enough to climb.  So I belayed Kevin on a couple of routes and then we went back to the hostel and rested for the day.  By the evening I was feeling good and excited for another day of climbing.  The next morning we went back out to the wadi and enjoyed another awesome day of climbing.  At sunset we went back to the hostel to get some food and then I took a taxi to Sharm el Sheik to begin my travel home.  At 9:00 pm I got on the bus in Sharm and headed back to Alexandria.  I slept like a baby on the bus.  I was awake for no more than an hour of the ride.  When I woke up at ten minutes till 7:00 am, the bus was pulling into Alexandria.  I went home, showered, got some breakfast and then went to class (starting at 9:00 pm).

Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of my time in Dahab.  The first reason is that the camera I was using (my mom’s) got fried when I took it on my canoe excursion in the Red Sea.  The second is there was not time to get pictures because I was either belaying or climbing.  Oh well, Sarah and I are planning on going back when she comes to visit so I’m sure we’ll get some pictures then. :)

 

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Luxor and Aswan

Time November 27th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

There was so much that happened on our cruise down the Nile.  We flew from Cairo to Aswan and then took a ship down the Nile from Aswan to Luxor, stopping at a few towns in between.  We saw temples and tombs as we were guided through the history of each site we visited.  Among the sights we visited were: the High Dam, Philae Temple, the Unfinished Obelisk, Kom Ombo, Edfu Temple, Valley of the Kings, the temple of Hatshepsut, Valley of the Queens, Colossus of Memnon, the temple of Karnak, and finally the temple of Luxor. While all these sights were interesting, they weren’t my favorite aspect of the trip.  So I’ll post a few pictures but I’ll save my descriptions for the things I enjoyed most.

My favorite experiences of the trip happened on the first day.  We arrived in Aswan where our cruise ship was parked alongside the Nile.  The ship was scheduled to leave the next day so we had lots of free time to spend how we wanted.  I wanted to explore the city.  :)  Ben, Jessa, and I started walking around the city and found a friendly man selling clothes who invited us in his shop for some tea.  Now… I have been stopped numerous times by vendors who seem friendly but are just hoping that I buy something.  After visiting with this guy for a few minutes and refusing to accept his invitation for tea multiple times (like I do with every other vendor who wants to give me tea), he assured me that the tea was free and he wasn’t trying to trick me.  I felt comfortable with it so I conceded… and volunteered Ben and Jess to join us by my concession. :) :)  It turned out to be a pleasant experience.  We entered his open-aired shop and had a glass of tea as the man shared the history of his shop with us and asked us questions about our studies and life in Egypt.  After a good glass of tea and a 45 minute conversation, we kept exploring.

As we kept exploring we came upon some men skinning a calf for the holiday (Eid al Adha).

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After watching them for a while, we were swarmed with a bunch of young girls asking us questions.  It was a lot of fun.  It’s always exciting when I’m asked a question in English and upon answering it in Arabic a native speaker says “Oh, you speak Arabic” or “بتتكلم عربي كوبس (you speak Arabic good).  After a while, we went back to the ship for a feluka ride around Elephantine Island.

The feluka ride was pleasant.  The most wonderful part was seeing the Nubian houses, watching a Nubian girl sit at the bank in contemplation, and witnessing the young boys in their frugally constructed canoes paddling toward our feluka with their thin pieces of plywood.  The young boys in their canoes started stirring my adventurous side.  I began wishing I could be in my own small canoe cruising around the Nile with them.  They would grab on the side of our boat and catch a ride until they didn’t like where we were going.  One of the canoes that latched on to our boat begin singing tunes in all kind of different languages.  It made me start dreaming of how exciting it would be to have my own canoe…

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After returning from our feluka ride and getting some dinner, I was ready to go back out again.  Ben, Jessa, and I took off in search for an area to play frisbie.  We came upon a park fairly quickly and begin to play frisbie.  After about 30-45 minutes of frisbie, a group of Egyptians walked by and began to talk to me.  After about a five minute conversation they asked if we wanted to play soccer.  Jessa decided to rest and talk to some of the local girls that were watching us.  Ben and I joined the soccer game.  Our team won and I had 2 out of the 4 goals that my team scored…. oh yeah!  I think they had a stereotype that Americans weren’t good at soccer, but they were wrong in this case. 😉  After the soccer game we headed back to the ship for a good nights sleep so that we could arise early for a day of site seeing.

After a few days of monuments, temples, and tombs, we arrived in Luxor.  After the ship arrived in Luxor we found freedom again with a little bit of free time.  In typical style, we went exploring.  After walking for a while, we run into some young kids who we started talking to.  They were eager to talk to us and it was really good Arabic practice because they didn’t know English.  They took us into their field and showed us all of the crops that there family grows.  With normal Egyptian hospitality they gave us each a tangerine (I got two :) ) and some peppers to eat.  The tangerines were excellent…. mmm.  They also showed us their donkey.  Ben and I both got a turn riding it. Haha… donkeys aren’t the most comfortable things to ride.  After an hour talking with the kids and having fun, we continued walking.

We ended up walking through the village of Rafah which proved to be really awesome.  The village had a completely different atmosphere than the cities of Alexandria and Cairo that I had become used to.  A young man from the village helped us find our way around the village and gave us good company as we looked around.  We came upon a wedding reception with loud music and dancing underneath a cleverly made tent.  Although invited, we didn’t have time to wait for the bride and groom (who would be arriving in an hour or two)… unfortunately.

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We walked back to the ship just as dinner was being served.  The cruise finished with a last day of intense sight seeing.

Miscellaneous pics:

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Busy… busy… busy

Time November 16th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

It has been a while since I have posted my last blog.  Much has happened since then that I plan on telling everyone about.  I went on a cruise down the Nile where I visited Luxor and Aswan and saw many of the ancient temples and tombs.  There are a lot of fun stories that happened on this trip that I am excited to share with you.  I also made a private trip to Dahab in the southern Sinai to do some rock climbing.  This has been my favorite and most interesting experience since I’ve been in Egypt so I am excited to tell you about that as well.

For now though, I have to get back to homework.  I have been really busy with work since I got back from Luxor and Aswan and especially since I have gotten back from Dahab.  I am currently writing a 4000 word paper (Ahhhh!) for my Islamic History class over the topic of my choice.  I chose to research Islam in Southeast Asia and ended up focusing my paper over a minority group of Malay Muslims who live in the four southern provinces of Thailand.

I’ll share with you the introduction to the paper:

“Within the predominately Buddhist and ethnic Thai population of Thailand exist a small but significant group of seemingly marginalized Thai civilians.  This group exists within the state but is not Buddhist and is neither Thai in ethnicity nor completely Thai in culture.  These are the Jawi Muslims of southern Thailand.  The Jawi speak a Malay dialect that is neither understood by their Thai neighbors nor entirely Malaysian.  As Muslims, they also represent the largest minority within the predominately Buddhist religious spectrum of Thailand.  Unique to the Jawi’s practice of Islam is a mixture of ancient traditions that have been adopted from local customs and practices.  The uniqueness of their religion – not only vis a vis a Buddhist Thailand but vis a vis the greater Islamic traditions and norms as well – and the uniqueness of their ethnicity and culture has been the hinge of their historical struggle over the last century.  Over the past century they have faced wave after wave of outward and inward pressure to assimilate and reform.  This pressure has come both from the Thai government and from reformist religious thinkers and organizations.   These historic pressures have inevitably shaped the identity of the Jawi that exist today in the 21st century.  In many ways these pressures have caused concrete changes in the Jawi religion and culture, but they have also seemed to further galvanize the strength of this distinct religious and cultural identity. ”

Stay tuned for the more exciting accounts of my cruise down the Nile, walking around the streets of a small village outside of Luxor, and my rock climbing adventures. :)

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Fort Qaitbay and Western Alexandria

Time October 15th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

It has been a few weeks since I went to Fort Qaitbay and then explored western Alexandria with Ben. The day began with a
taxi ride to the eastern harbor where we looked around for a while and checked out the small garden that is right across from our university. We met some young Egyptians who were eager to take pictures with us. :)

Another short taxi ride got us to the Fort.  Fort Qaitbay is a 15th century fortitude that was built on top of the city’s old
light house. There are three levels to the fort, and on one of the levels (I’m pretty sure the first if I remember right)
has a mosque.

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After visiting the fort we decided to continue walking west and sea the other side of Alexandria. The west side has it’s own unique atmosphere because the western harbor is the commercial harbor of the city. Close to the sea, the smell of fish fills the air and fish lines the streets for sale.

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 Most of the businesses in this area (close to the sea) sells maritime products.  We walked for a while until we found a beach to swim at… Anfushy Bay.  It’s a public beach which can be crowded and has more potential to host foul play, but there were only a few people there and we enjoyed a good hour or more of swimming and frisbee.

After drying off, we continued to walk west quite a long way.  We saw a new side to the city that we hadn’t
known.

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Slacklining

Time October 15th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | 1 Comment by

After being in Egypt for a while now, I finally felt emboldened enough to set up a slackline in a garden nearby my apartment. This was a few weeks ago and proved to be successful. The British Embassy Garden is a five minute walk from my apartment. The garden covers an entire block and is filled with shrubs and trees surrounding the meandering sidewalk through its’ middle. I had been scouting out a few places with clear landings and good trees for a few weeks at this point. Jessa came with me on the first night. We arrived about an hour and a half before dark. I walked by the guards, greeted them energetically and proceeded down the garden sidewalk.

It was a beautiful evening to slackline. After walking it a few times, a small crowd began to gather to watch. One of the
guards came over to see what I was doing. Everyone responded with enthusiastic appreciation and congratulations. :)

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Eventually Ben came down to the gardens to join us. Both he and Jessa tried it. Around the time it was getting dark, I
started conversing with an Egyptian bystander who had lived in the states for a few years. Our conversation revolved mostly around Western stereotypes toward the Arab world and Islam. His kids joined in on the fun with Jessa and Ben while I talked with the gentleman.

I decided to set up the slack line again the next night. However, I tried out a new spot for it. When I started to set this
line up an official guard in a white uniform (different from the guards that watched me the first time) came across the
street to ask me what I was doing. I explained as best I could and after telling him I was going to walk across this line he
surprisingly asked, “you”? This line was a little longer than the last (maybe 55-60 feet) and a little closer to the street.
After hopping on it a few times the guard responded enthusiastically. After learning my name he told me that he would tell the other guards that this is ok. A bigger crowd gathered this time… by big I mean maybe 10-15 people at the most at one time, but people were coming and going. Perhaps this was partly because it was closer to the street and partly because it was much earlier in the day. About the time it was dark my language partner met me at the the gardens, took me back to my apartment to quickly freshen up and we (along with Ben and his language partner) went to drink coffee and eat “couscoosee”.  I have found a place to slackline!

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Ain Soukhna

Time October 15th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

We just recently returned from Ain Soukhna, a resort at the Red Sea, the first IFSA-Butler excursion. The next one is in a few weeks (Luxor and Aswan :) ). The Ain Soukhna trip was a short but very eventful one. From the time that we arrived from the time we departed was only about 24 hours, but not a lot of sleep and most waking hours at the beach made it seem longer. The Red Sea is beautiful and much bigger than I imagined it to be. The first day we arrived we went to the beach soon after having lunch. We swam, played frisbee, and slacklined between the columns of a bridge.

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The second day was also eventful. The day began with a continental breakfast. Pancakes, fruit, and shay with a little milk
hit the spot. Once I made it to the beach the first thing I wanted to do was kayak. Well… I kind of kayaked. It looked
more like a toy but it got me around the Red Sea.

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Regardless of how toy-like it was, it made me mobile. I rented a single kayak for an hour (50 pounds).
Jessa and Ben also kayaked, but they had to get a double because I took the only single… muhahaha. They only kayaked for 30 minutes because Jessa still needed to check out of her hotel room before noon. We took off. About 15 minutes into it, Jessa and Ben turned around to head back to the shore. I kept paddling. I moved farther and farther away from the beach for about another 45 minutes. The farther I got out into the vast expanse of the sea, the more excited I got and the more a slight feeling of trepidation would arise. It was an amazing experience. When I finally decided I should turn around, I stopped and relaxed for a few minutes, enjoying the smooth rippling of the sea’s gentle waves.

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Once I arrived back to shore, I had been gone for a little over 1 1/2 hours.  I had to dish out a little more cash but it was worth it.

The experience created a new desire in me. I want to kayak or canoe across a vast body of water (but not in a toy).  A good kayak or canoe, a compass, a covering for the sun, a tent, sleeping gear, water, food, cooking utensils, and my best friend would provide an awesome venture.  I hope that I can do it one day.

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Beach

Time September 21st, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Mediterranean Sea:

 

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The day before I started class I spent part of the day at the beach with another student from our program, Jessa.  We took a taxi!  Wooohooo. Fun. :) It was my first taxi experience ever, and it was a good one.  We got to the beach.  I went for a swim about 200m out in the Mediterranean.   Shortly afterward we begin to play frisbee.  Now, no matter where I go I get stares from nearly everyone and even whistles from Arab girls wearing hijabs!  My pale skin, California blonde hair, and crystal blue eyes just tend to draw attention I guess. :)  The stares aren’t rude though.  Most people smile hugely upon eye contact and yell things like, “Hello Mr.!”,  “Welcome!”, or “How are you!” in Egyptian accents.  At the beach, the stares felt constant.  People were watching us swim and play frisbee… maybe we were really impressive or something, I don’t know.  Anyway, eventually I was approached by a couple of older gentlemen at separate times.  They both asked where I was from and what I was doing in Egypt.  A second conversation ensued with both of these men later that day.  They were with a group of friends, all Egyptians who had emigrated when they were younger to various places.  They come back home, to Alexandria every year.  They invited us over to their outdoor patio just along the beach for tea and grapes.  To be on the safe side I know that I was SUPPOSED to decline like I had been TOLD since I got here, but what’s the fun in that!  I’m here for new experiences right?  Besides, we were outside where everyone could see.  So, I ate some of the best grapes I have had in a long time and drank some very smooth tea while soaking up the Mediterranean sun and talking politics and life with a group of educated Egyptian men.  It was awesome!

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Breakdancing

Time September 20th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Breakdancing in Egypt?  I would have never guessed that I would have the opportunity to learn break dancing here.  I would have guessed that I would have met Egyptians who camped and rock climbed in the Sinai canyons before I found someone to teach me how to break dance (I’m still looking so hope hard for me :) ).  But… I’m taking a break dancing class.  In the bottom floor of my apartment is a small workout center that offers all kinds of various classes.  In the center is a small dance room with mirrors lining the room.  I walked in to my first class last Monday and met the teacher, a strong Arab with dreadlocks (he looked sweet with dreads!) and two of his younger students.  Aw darn… I forgot the teacher’s name… Ahmed I think.  Ahmed asked if I had any experience with breakdancing.  I answered: “zero”.   So, he started me out on one of the most basic poses in break dancing.  He showed me how to balance parallel to the floor on my hand with my elbow in my stomach.  The only thing touching the floor is one hand, the rest of the body is off the ground.  I got the pose on my first try. :)  Somewhat impressed, he said that that pose takes most people weeks or months to get.  So, he showed me another pose a little harder.  I got it on my second or third try.  After teaching some girls that were in the class some hip hop moves, he returned to me chuckling because I had gotten the second pose.  He asked, “you’ve never had any breakdancing experience”?  I laughed, “no I haven’t”.  He showed me another that balances on one arm.  It is sort of like a handstand but uses the arm from the elbow to the hand while the opposite leg hovers perpendicular to the body and the other leg bends over the head.  He watched me get this within 5 attempts and laughed.  After talking with his younger students in Arabic (I got maybe 5% of it) he turned to me and said “Well, your really good” (for someone with no experience of course).  “Maybe it’s because your American”?  He and the students laughed.  I chuckled but asserted that it wasn’t because I was American but more likely because I used to wrestle and have been involved with athletics my whole life.  So, he continued to show me things- poses, dance moves, movements.  I didn’t pick up the dance moves near as quickly.  He taught me how to do the wave with my shoulders… I’m still working on that one. :)  At the end, he said that I need to go home and watch break dancing videos because I’m ready to start learning more advanced things and I need to pick a dance style.  So, here is where you can help me.  What should be my dance style?  Low sitting jeans and baggy shirts isn’t me.  So what’s my style?  Technical?  Strong movement?  Fast movements?  Yoga movements?  What kind of music?  You can break dance to classical even!  I saw a video.

 

Other than breakdancing, I’ve been doing yoga in an attempt to maintain some of my rock climbing strength.  It’s been good.  I miss climbing a lot, but yoga is helping satisfy my cravings for some physical activity… as is break dancing.  I’ve played a little frisbee also.  Hopefully soon, I’ll have more Egyptian friends who can enjoy some slack-lining with me.  We’ll see. :)

So, let me hear from you.  What’s my break dancing style?

 

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Trams- La, la, la

Time September 20th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

There are many ways of transportation around the city.  Among the many ways, the only ways I’ve experimented with so far are trams and taxis.  Taxis can be a tenuous option depending on the taxi driver and how comfortable you are with negotiating and saying no.  However, I enjoy the process of taking a taxi, especially when I’m by myself.  Sometimes I am with the whole group and the student coordinator, Moutaz.  In this situation Moutaz takes care of everything for us and there isn’t really any challenge for me.  Nevertheless, as you would guess Taxis are more expensive than the tram.  So, I have taken the tram much more than I have taken a taxi.  The tram is just as fun and has some challenges of its own though.  It is typical for an Egyptian to ask where I’m from and for a conversation to ensue after the hellos are exchanged.  It’s a great opportunity to practice my Arabic.  My favorite tram experience came just the other day.  I had finished with my classes and was approaching the tram to go home.  The others in my program had taken a taxi to the mall so I was by myself.  When I was still about 50 meters from the tram station, the tram came to a stop.  Fifty meters doesn’t sound like a long way, I know. However, the trams don’t mess around at stops.  Sometimes they are stopped about 5 seconds before they take off again.  So, when clear I took off running across the street to get in before it left.  I was moving speedily, got to the first door of the tram and without looking thrust myself into it.  As soon as I stepped in I realized that I had just entered the female only tram.  Ahh! I had heard numerous times that there was a specific tram for females if they chose to use it, but in my hurried state I had forgotten.  Women are allowed to get on any other tram that runs, but Egypt decided to isolate a female only tram in an attempt to prevent harassment which is a common problem in Egypt.  As I realized that I had just entered a forbidden door, the man collecting money began declaring, “La, la, la, la” (no, no, no, no) while shaking his finger back and forth.  Just as fast as I had gotten on, I hurried off!  There was some Egyptian boys that saw me do it that thought it was really funny!  It probably was.  I laughed at myself.  One of them teased me about it for a little while as I got on to the RIGHT tram.  I enjoyed a good talk with some Egyptians once I was settled down and heading toward my apartment.  They wished me the best during my remaining time in Egypt.

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Listen…

Time September 13th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

The call to prayer with the sounds of the city in the background:

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The Beginnings

Time September 11th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

My apartment (Cairo): 

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Egypt.  As I flew over the land it was clear why the Egyptians depended on “the gift of the Nile” for Ma’at (life) since the time of the Pharaohs.  Vast desert surrounds a strip of green land that extends on either side of the Nile all the way to the Mediterranean.  However, the major cities extend far beyond this green strip of land.  Egypt has a population of about 91 million… nearly 20 million of those live in Cairo.  To say the least, Cairo is a bustling city filled with traffic jams and hurrying pedestrians.  However, the people are kind and welcoming.  Many have made kind gestures and efforts to make me feel welcome.

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My 4 days in Cairo were spent recuperating from jet lag, attending cultural events, seeing historical monuments, hearing about Egypt’s post revolution developments from key note speakers, and practicing my Egyptian Arabic.  The event that I think the majority of you will be most interested in is the pyramids.  Lying just outside of Cairo, the pyramids are swarming with tourists, tour guides, and vendors selling trinkets and souvenirs.  Nevertheless, seeing the historical site made the past lives and beliefs of the Egyptians a little more concrete and real.  The largest pyramid, the pyramid of Khufu (Cheops) can be seen on the outskirts of Cairo, from miles away.

A view from the back side of the pyramids.  Behind them you can vaguely see Cairo:

pyramids

Unfortunately, climbing wasn’t allowed. :(

cimg0014

I also got to hear some traditional Arabic music from a young group of talented musicians called El Tacht.  They played for us in the office of IFSA-Butler, Cairo.  I had heard of the “Arabic classics” before, but hearing it live and seeing the amount of talent it takes to produce that kind of sound was a impressive.  The intricacy and technicality of the music, like all great classical music, is far more complex than the standardized pop music of modernity.

Here is a taste:

If you know a little about Cairo, then you might know about the Khan el Khalili.  It was… stimulating to walk down tiny little alley ways with hundreds of shops lining both sides, people moving too and fro, and solicitors everywhere.  While in the area I attended the “whirling dervishes”, which was an hour and a half performance containing classical style Arabic music with drums, dance and men spinning continually with heavy, bright patterned skirts.  How they don’t fall over or throw up is beyond me.  I’ll leave some up to your imagination…

swirling dervishes

My favorite part of the Khan el Khalili was sitting down at a traditional coffee shop and having a glass of shay (tea) with a hint of peppermint and watching people move about in their daily lives.

shay

I am writing now from Alexandria, a much less crowded city than Cairo (still “bustling” though).  Most of my time in Alexandria has been spent in orientation- learning about the different areas around the city, getting to know the campus, and Arabic language sessions.  I’m starting to get settled in now and I’m ready for orientation to end so I can start living like a student living in Egypt rather than a tourist.  The events thus far have been nice, but I’m excited to began struggling with the language on a daily basis as I pay for food, call for a taxi, ask for directions, make new Egyptian friends, and explore the city on my own.  Even more than seeing the historical monuments and the cultural events, this is the learning experience that I want most of all and that I’ve been most excited about.  I anticipate learning more in these situations than I ever could visiting a historical site or sitting in class.  Stay tuned…

From Alexandria,

Brannon Frank

 

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A New Adventure

Time September 4th, 2012 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

This summer has been an exciting and interesting one for this small town Oklahoma boy.  I’ve experienced many things that were very new to me.  I worked as a Challenge Course/ High Ropes Course Facilitator, rode in a helicopter for the first time, visited three states I had never been to, had three staples in my head (which I removed myself), went fly fishing, crabbing, slack-lining, high-lining, sport and trad climbing, and backpacking.  The best part of it all has been developing a closer relationship with my best friend who was with me in it all.  It has been the most exhilarating summer I’ve ever had.

The routine part of my summer in Stillwater was working as a facilitator at Oklahoma State Universities’ high ropes course and picking up landscaping jobs on the side.  When not working, I tried to swim, slackline, mountain bike, rock climb, and catch beautiful sunrises and sunsets as much as I could.

slackline-1 2-sunset

After work and play, I spent some time preparing for Egypt by completing necessary paperwork, studying and practicing Arabic, and keeping up with Egyptian political developments.  The adventurous part of my summer began when my friend Sarah and I went to visit my family in Illinois in late May, early June.  We stayed about a week in the family cabin and spent nearly all of our time bass fishing and swimming in the lake.

3-fish

Before and after our time in Illinois, we made multiple trips to rock climb in Arkansas throughout the summer.  The climbing and camping was fantastic.  I had some awesome times with friends, met new ones, climbed hard, and relaxed around campsites and fires while playing guitar.  It’s so refreshing to sleep under the stars.  During these trips I learned how to trad climb and rode in a helicopter for the first time!  :)

4-climbing 5-guitar

At the end of the summer Sarah and I embarked on the biggest trip of the summer and of my life.  I pulled out of my parking spot in Stillwater on July 28 with all of Sarah’s possessions, and my camping, hiking, and climbing gear.  I headed for Colorado where I met Sarah at the Denver airport.  We stayed around the Denver and Colorado Springs area for a few days visiting one of my friends and rock climbing.  Driving onward we camped in Moab, Utah for the night and arrived in Logan the following day.  We stayed a few days in Logan at a beautiful campsite.  Our tent set only 20-30 feet from a swiftly flowing creek, and there was a climbing area only a short hike away.

6-moab

Leaving Logan, we headed northwest toward Boise, Sarah’s home for the next year.  After resting for a day and moving her into her new place, we spent a few days in Sun Valley (east of Boise) with Sarah’s family.  After Sun Valley, we moved north past Sunbeam into the Salmon-Challis National Forest to spend the night at the trailhead of the Loon Creek Trail.  This was the first trail that we intended to hike.  It’s an 18 mile trek that follows Loon Creek all the way to the Middle Fork of the Salmon River.  However, we abandoned the idea ten minutes away from the trailhead because of a forest fire that had been raging in Idaho for a week.  A northeastern wind had blown the fire’s ash and thick smoke over the area that we were venturing.   Instead, we moved south of the fire to spend a little less than a week in the Sawtooth National Forest.  We backpacked through the most beautiful country I have ever seen, hiking 55 miles with everything we needed to live on our backs.  It was one of the most refreshing and enjoyable experiences I’ve ever had.  We started at the Grandjean trailhead and made a giant loop that ended where it began.  After leaving the trailhead about 5:45 pm, we made it to Trail Lakes (our first camp spot) about 3-4 hours later.  Such a late start caused us to hike the last hour of the rocky and steep switchbacks at dusk.  We arrived about 5 minutes before it was necessary to pull out our headlamps to see.  Tired but excited to see such a beautiful lake with jagged mountains in the backdrop, we pitched the tent, ate dinner, and slept.

7-first-night 8-camp-1

The next day’s scenery was much different than the first.  Our entire 7 mile hike was filled with dead trees caused by fire and/or disease.

9-dead-trees

The hike was difficult.  Our trail meandered through steep switchbacks that led us through a passageway crossing a small mountain range, back down to a valley, and then up again toward another range.  It ended with the most intense switchbacks of the day.  We trekked back and forth, climbing steep terrain for what seemed like an hour.   We finally made it to the top of the divide and we could see Sawtooth Lake , our campground for the evening.

10-sawtooth-lake

This was by far my favorite spot that we stayed.  The view from the top of the divide is stunning.  I arrived about half a minute before Sarah and yelled with excitement at what I saw.  When Sarah arrived, her jaw dropped in fascination.  We had another 20 minute hike to the base of the lake where we set up camp for the night.  It was nice getting there a little early.  We relaxed and took a swim (the water was probably in the 40’s… brrrrrr).

11-swim-swt 11-swt

The next four days were equally exciting and scenic.  The scenery was just a little different each day and our destination always ended at a lake that was pleasantly serene and enjoyable.  On average we crossed about 2-3 creeks a day and saw a countless amount of chipmunks and birds.  Here is some scenery from day 3.

12-me 13-leaving 14-scenery 15-scenery 16-creek

We hiked 14 miles on the third day, which was our most difficult hike of the trip.  We were rewarded with another beautiful lake in our tent’s backyard.

Upper Baron Lake: 17-upper-baron-lake

Day 4 scenery:

18-creek 19-scenery 20-scenery 21-scenery 22-scen

Camp spot for night 4; Cramer Lake:

23-cramer-4

The last two days provided some respite because although there were a few divides that we crossed, we mainly hiked through meadows (relatively flat land).   So, although we hiked a good number of miles, it was only difficult because our legs were already tired from the previous days.

25-meadow 24-scen 26-waterfall

Last campsite; Elk Lake:

27-elk-5 28-sad 29-water

We arrived back at the car in the evening to discover that we had left the windows down.  Wooops.  Luckily nothing had been taken, but the inside was covered with ash from the surrounding fire.  We drove back to Sarah’s house in Boise and rested for the next couple of days.

We then drove to Oregon to meet Sarah’s family in Cannon Beach.  The three or four days we spent there were relaxing.  Among other fun and interesting things we did while there, we went crabbing (a new experience).  My boat caught 5 keepers.  I was the master puller of the net. 😉

30-cb

After Cannon Beach, we spent a little less than a week at Smith Rock State Park (Central Oregon) climbing.  The climbing there was amazing, the best I’ve ever done.  Sarah and I did our first multi-pitch climb (basically where both climbers take turns moving up a very high wall… It’s called multi-pitch climbing because it takes multiple climbs to reach the top).

Smith Rock:

31-sr 32-lat-lover

A view from the top pitch of our multi-pitch climb (500 feet high):

33-view-from-top

Probably the most exciting time I had at Smith Rock was high-lining.  I have been slack-lining for a little under a year now and I enjoy it a lot.  The first night we climbed at Smith, I met a local who started talking about a high line that was set up.  After asking him if I could join, I high-lined twice over the next few days.

34-slackline

After finishing our adventure at Smith Rock, we again went back to Idaho.  The last few days were spent hanging out with a good friend who met us for a day, and… of course… rock climbing at a local spot in Boise.

35-boise-climb

I got home from the airport a few days ago and have been finishing things that needed to get done before I depart for Egypt.  Now, I am all ready to go.  I leave in two days and I am anticipating another exciting adventure ahead.  It will be a very different adventure than any I have experienced.  I will be stretched and challenged, but it will help me learn and grow.  I hope to discover truths about the country, the people, myself, and the world.  I imagine that it will end up being the most exciting adventure I’ve ever had.

 

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