Are Evenings Boring?
[youtube width=”800″ height=”450″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qVBpQZ_-5pw[/youtube]
Notes about the video: Moutaz was very casually dressed when we started doing tongue twisters, and when I started recording, he asked to be not shown. Now, my current software skills don’t stretch to blurring someone out, so I hopefully respected his wishes by pretty much blacking out the image. Anyways, the audio is what’s important in those clips. The day I recorded the game of Slaps – four games in about 45 minutes – we cracked our playing table. Brannon especially was feeling rambunctious, Moutaz worried about disturbing our neighbors, and when Jeanette came down, the guys all thought she was a disgruntled neighbor. Ahh life in the Apartments!
Throughout my time in Egypt, I’ve had nearly every evening free. My previous four semesters have consistently had me out of my dorm up to 6 nights a week, for professional performances, student or faculty recitals, lectures, inter-building games, cross-campus games, recreational sports games, club meetings, dance club practice (for the three semesters I participated in Ballroom/Swing Club), floor meetings, floor parties, Free Movie Night downtown (which has apparently been disbanded this semester!), dinners off campus, church services, or any combinations of those. I’m used to being so busy that I have to squeeze in homework around socializing, or socializing around homework, and I have to micromanage my days. My friends are the same way, and this semester it’s been really weird communicating with them, still in the midst of that hubbub, and I have a ton of free time. I didn’t know what to do with myself!
So this semester, since I don’t work (that would take time away from homeworking in the middle of the day, but I enjoy my job!), and until this last week and half the homework’s been rather light, I have learned how to procrastinate. I’ve been incredibly on top of my YouTube submissions, writing letters back home, emailing parents, friends, relatives, dreaming about other places around which to travel, and reading. I have read more books this semester outside of class than any other college semester. I should have brought more books from home; normally the books I have around me get stuck on a shelf until I pack them up to go home.
So, outside of homework, cooking and cleaning (I’m really obsessed with having clean public spaces in this apartment), and small hints of boredom, I’ve found answers. One large solution has been going out to the district Mahatat Raml with my language partner, Dina. Not only has she helped me learn and utilize new vocabulary and is a significant reason I can coherently string together sentences, she’s taught me a lot about the city. She’s a history buff, and has told me stories (in Arabic, mind you) about Alexandria’s gloriously cosmopolitan bygone years in vivid enough terms that I too wish I could have lived in the years when gentlemen wore tarbushes (you in the States know them as the fez that Salah wore in Indiana Jones). She’s also taught me a lot about the highlights of modern Alexandria – city life just flourishes in Mahatat Raml, as people hawk wares to the teems of Egyptians out for the night. Restaurants are everywhere, as people mingle over food, always conversing in fast Arabic. Dina showed me the Opera House, where I wish I could return, and is keyed into a lot of the social networks that have really clicked with me. She’s always right – I should get out more.
However, my favorite place to visit in the evenings is also the gathering spot for many of the demonstrations that have shut down the Corniche and/or other main thoroughfares. I have not been back to Mahatat Raml since the 22nd, when a group of friends took me out to dinner for my birthday. The 22nd is also, ironically, the day Morsi declared himself, in effect, a dictator. While he’s stepped back from that position, he’s still pushing for the vote on the Constitution on Saturday. IFSA and TAFL, my two acronyms that are in charge of my stay here, have unilaterally kept us away from the Corniche on protest days. So, while I’ve spent most of the last week to 10 days doing lots of homework (researching and writing final papers – this is a break from writing my second and last paper), I’ve been strongly encouraged to remain in and around my apartment.
Another strong line of evening entertainment has been cards. This entire semester Moutaz and Brannon have been challenging each other for title of champion of Slaps, also known to me as Egyptian Rattisker, Egyptian Rat Screw, and Egyptian Rat Sphinx. Beats me why there’s so many variations on the name. Anyway, originally we all got into the games, and have even got Mariam playing. Jeanette kind of backed off when she broke her finger, and Ben will participate about half the time now – he pays a lot more attention to news than we do. In the last month, rare is the night that we don’t play. Lately, we’ve attempted to broaden our game repertoire with games like Indian poker (we spent more time arguing about rules of betting than actually playing) and Doubt/Bluffing Game/BS/Shakak (Arabic name for it). I even brought out cards and challenged Brannon to Slaps between classes at TAFL on Sunday, which was way fun.
Honestly, while I maybe would have preferred accessing social clubs and outings like I tap into at Luther, I’ve used my experience to learn. I’ve learned about social contacts in Egyptian society, about safety measures and traffic patterns around demonstrations, city life in Alexandria, exciting places within large cities, and creating fun out of enclosed situations and a small number of people. Remember, this is also my first prolonged experience in a city with over 10,000 people, including the student population. Had I known this is what life Fall 2012 would be like, I don’t know that I would’ve signed up. Yet, stepping into that ambiguity has been kind of an interesting journey, and one I shall learn from down the road. Now, as I demonstrate my capacity to procrastinate, I’m going to go work on a paper.
Notes of updates: finals, including tests and papers, were moved up a week suddenly. TAFL made this decision to ensure we are awarded appropriate grades (and “gain our degrees” as the translation goes) for our semester’s work, even if the country’s really fluid situation requires us to evacuate. I’m not super worried about evacuation, but the potential for that action has hovered over us in the last five days.
My arthritis returned in the last three days, this time centering on my left elbow and left knee. Alexandria’s been really windy and rainy in that time period, so maybe the change in weather’s really put my joints to the test.