Getting out of Dodge
So I’m sitting in the boys apartment in Cairo. I go home on Wednesday. I’m on the home stretch. We’re all ready to go I think. I can’t speak for the girls who are left but us boys are excited. We like to complain about Egypt and I’m very ready to leave. But its more because I’m excited to go home and see my friends and family than any kind of desire to leave Egypt. There is certainly a lot I’m going to miss and I don’t think I’ll be able to evaluate the true impact of the program until I’ve had some time to decompress.
Our last week in Alexandria was .. anticlimactic I think. Although there were some fun moments. We said goodbye to our teachers. We took our final exams and good riddance to a particularly awful professor. We had to say goodbye to some good friends and that was sad. We all had finals but I know us boys didn’t study very hard. We were just finished with school and ready to move on to the next phase. We payed for it a little too. The ameya exam was brutally hard. I walked out of there in something like shell shock. But our fusha exam was much easier and more fair than the midterm I thought. Our history and culture exams were… well. They were. They’re done now.
The train ride down last thursday was insane. Rob and I got to Sidi Gaber earlier than anyone else and we watched a man almost die on the tram. When it pulled in to the station something like 2/3 of the people there tried to pack in to this thing. They were crammed in like sardines and people were still trying to push more bodies onto the cars. I saw people hanging out of windows, holding on to doors for dear life. There were people on the rail coupling between the engine and the first car. People were actually riding with the conductor. The man who almost died was trying to get off the train. He literally fell out of the sea of people and his arm got caught on something right as the train started to move. So he was being dragged along while some people were pulling him every which way trying to get him out. I saw him dissappear off the platform but I think he made it out ok because I didn’t hear any horrible death screams and nobody called an ambulance.
It was just Kasandra, Trevor, Rob and I on the trip down. The rest were either leaving from Alexandria or catching a train on Friday. At Cairo we met up with some of the other students and went to a nice restaurant to eat. We had to say goodbye to Rob since he had an 11:00pm bus to Israel. The rest of us stayed up all night looking at pictures and sent Kasandra off to Turkey to stay with her family. Andrea left a few days later. Trevor left Monday. Jon left on Friday. The only boys left in Egypt are the 3 Jameses and Josh. Of the girls the only remaining are Lina, Ger, Corey and Simone.
But on the upside two my two best friends from home got in Tuesday afternoon. I took them wandering around Cairo and they were both really excited to go on adventures. We got a little lost, found a street market and bought some oranges. Ate shawarma.. We retreated back to the hotel and went swimming and just relaxed the rest of the night. They had been traveling for a long while because of the snow in Europe and needed a rest. Wednesday we toured the Egyptian Museum. That place is incredible. It’s the most poorly organized and chaotic museum ever. But it was still full of so many things. I went to the Met and was impressed to see a couple sarcophagi and other artifacts and in this museum that kind of stuff is stacked like cord wood. It was mind blowing. In the afternoon we met up with Lina and Ger and Jon and went to Khan to show them the souk and after that we went to City Stars. Jeff wanted to see an Egyptian grocery store and I wanted to take them from something as “oriental” as a huge street bazaar right to something so incredibly western as City Stars. It was a busy day but it was a lot of fun. Thursday we went to the Coptic museum and Al-Azhar park. The park was gorgeous and it had a great view of the citadel. We took a lot of pictures, but by this point my camera died. When I got home all the pictures I had taken to that point had been deleted. That night we sat at the bar in our hotel and had a drink and played cards
Friday was when we had all the crazy adventures though. We got up early and took the train out to Giza station. That was our first mistake – Giza station is surrounded by filth and garbage and flies and the worst stench I’ve smelled since being in Egypt. But we found this guy claiming to be a cab driver and I don’t know why I let ourselves get in this car because it was NOT a cab. He then took us in a direction I figured was away from the pyramids and we ended up in this sketchy back ally, sitting in this sketchy tour guide’s office while he sold us sketchy camel rides for way to much money. It was totally worth it though. We got to see the pyramids from some amazing angles and we took some really great photos. Our guide barely spoke English but he was really nice. We got to climb the smallest of the 3 great pyramids. We saw the sphynx and then we paid our guide and ditched him. We walked around the great pyramid, explored the burial sites of some of the queens. Jeff climbed one of the little pyramids to one of the queens and we got some pictures of him standing at the top. Then, for the sheer absurdity and awesome nerd win of it all, we found a place to sit in the shadow of the great pyramid and played a game of Magic: The Gathering. While we were there Jeff took pictures with a bunch of people. He’s 6’5, 200 pounds, blond and fair skinned. He took A LOT of pictures with women. They all thought he was gorgeous and I bet if he had asked one to marry him she would have in a heart beat.
The second half of our adventure.. we took a train out as close to the citadel as we could get. Then caught a cab. I looked for the most broken down sad little cab I could find because I wanted to show my friends how I got to school every day. That was a mistake too. I kept saying we wanted to get to the Mohammed Ali Mosque, or the White Mosque, or Mesgid, or etc. In Arabic. He has no clue what I was talking about. We finally got close and just got out and walked the rest of the way.
We got right up to the main gates of the citadel and took some goofy photos and this little Egyptian man comes by, introduces himself, tells is that the Citadel is closed on Fridays for prayer service.. but that he knows of a nearby mosque where we can get a good view anyway. He drags us all through the shady back alleys of Old Cairo and then fleeces us out of 300 pounds. I don’t know where my head was that I let him do that to us. But we did get to climb a minaret and it was a pretty good view of Cairo. Was it worth the 50 bucks we lost..? Maybe. But it was still cool.
They left on Christmas Day. Dr Alkomi took the remaining IFSA students out to dinner to celebrate and then we just chilled out the rest of the day. I’m just spending my last few days in Egypt loafing around. I’ll probably go out a couple more times on small adventures but I’m kinda adventured out. I will miss Egypt and I really do plan to come back some day. But right now I’m looking forward to pizza with real sauce and bacon on my burgers.