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Life of Moses (Part 2)

Time April 1st, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Marhaban!

As promised, I am back with more information on my latest few weeks in Egypt!

The two weeks following my Spring Break adventure were unfortunately, a sharp shock back to reality. I had way too much to do and not enough time to do any of it. I had my second powerpoint presentation due for my Politics class and I was stressed beyond belief over it since each presentation is worth about 20% of my overall grade. I did not do well on my last one and I knew this one needed to be perfect to balance out the poor grade. I also had my first big homework assignment for Ameya as well as a Naval Science exam due for back home; not to mention figuring out my class schedule for next fall, an Intelligence Community Fair (future career research), summer planning issues… all-in-all, I didn’t sleep more than 4 hours any night that second week. Naturally, as a result of the time crunch, I also wasn’t eating well ( I was either having Oreos for dinner or skipping meals all together) and after the long week of readily-available, incredibly-healthy, wonderful food, it really took its toll on my body. To top things off I didn’t have the time to work out either, so that just added to the stress… In short, I was in desperate need of a full nights sleep, some vegetables, and a mental vacation unlike any other.

Like an answer my prayers, the IFSA crew was whisked away in a van at 6 am on Thursday, March 21st, far too early in the morning in my opinion, but 6 hours later I knew exactly what the rush was for. I swore I was dreaming. Or in Heaven. Or in a Disney movie. I was the Princess and this… this grandiose building surrounded by so much green, perfected by the sound of distant crashing waves and the smell of fresh melted chocolate wafting through the front doors… this was my castle. We had arrived at the Movenpick Resort at Aihn Sochkna on the Red Sea. We checked in and on a tiny piece of paper at the front desk I saw how much the rent on my castle cost. Evidently it takes $320 a night to turn me into a Princess. IFSA covered the entire trip (well, it was included in the tuition for the semester). After admiring our room and the breathtaking view from our balcony, Sarah and I wasted no time in making our way towards the crystal clear, giant infinity pool overlooking the Red Sea.

On My Balcony

Picture 1 of 18

What a God-send. The temperature was just right. The water cool. The sun warm on my skin. Nothing to do, no where to go, no one to answer to. I read a little, but mostly just chit-chatted with Sarah and then Matt as well once he met up with us. At one point, I played a couple games of volleyball, what a relief it was to finally be doing something active again! It felt like we had only been lounging around outside for seconds before the sun began to set over the distant mountains. The breeze picked up, it was time to go inside. Once we were cleaned up and presentable we walked into the dining room to discover a jaw-dropping assortment of food. They had EVERYTHING. Filet mignon, grilled chicken, potatoes, vegetables, fruits, a salad bar, pasta, a bread bar, a desert table. I nearly cried I was so excited. Six or seven plates of food later, I was stuffed thicker than a turkey on Thanksgiving. Full and content, I went to sleep early and didn’t set an alarm for the first time in forever.

When I awoke, it was to discover a completely different scene outside my window. No longer was the sky a brilliant azure blue. Instead, it was a dreary yellow-gray. An ugly, dark, beige. The wind was gusting strong enough to bend palm trees and create waves in the smooth pool.  A dust-storm. Not to be confused with a sandstorm. Despite the weather, Sarah and I again tried our luck at the pool. The beach was nearly impossible with the wind whipping up the sand so strongly, yet we still tried to part the Red Sea during the storm. We toughed it out by the pool for awhile. The dust particles were minute so it didn’t hinder our vision or anything, we barely even felt it. We swam and read and I did some sleeping but eventually the wind grew too strong and the challenge wasn’t worth the effort. There were also a whole bunch of giant locusts that were making things a lot less fun haha. We went back inside and watched movies on the television in our room the rest of the afternoon. At around 7 we attempted to watch the Ole Miss vs. Wisconsin basketball game but technical difficulties left us “score-watching” instead. Ole Miss won in the end, to the chagrin of Sarah… who happens to go to UW… figure the odds of that one haha. During dinner, Matt and I had a bet to see who could eat the most food with Sarah acting as head judge. I won :) After dinner Matt and I became a little nostalgic for America so we watched Remember the Titans on his laptop. Shortly following I went to bed singing “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress” haha.

The next morning, to my excitement and frustration.. the sky was back to its perfect blue. Taking advantage of the sunshine, our last two hours were spent on the beach of the Red Sea, or more accurately, in the water. It was incredible! Not particularly warm but it was so full of salt that I didn’t even have to move my legs to keep afloat. It was such a unique and odd sensation. The most perplexing feeling was when I tried to dive down to the bottom, only to discover that I couldn’t.. the buoyancy of the water acted like a life vest around me keeping me from sinking down. If only every body of water could do that :) All too soon we were hurried out of the water, checked out of our rooms, and ushered into the back of our van. Six long hours later we were back in Alexandria, our mini-vacation from reality over all too quickly.

That break was incredibly necessary and I am beyond grateful for the escape it provided. Now I am preparing to buckle down for the final month of classes. Time is flying by so quickly! I hope I can keep up with it! It is hard to believe today is already Easter. Wow. I skipped classes to observe my 2nd favorite holiday, as if to prove my point from my last blog post, I have never been in a position that I couldn’t observe a religious holiday when I wanted to. It took hours upon hours to track down a church, that is not only celebrating Easter today (and not on Coptic Easter), but is celebrating it on a Sunday (instead of Friday) and in English. After a great deal of research and phone calls and emails, I finally tracked down a beautiful Anglican church not far from Kafr Abdo. Matt and I went together for mass then stayed for the pot luck lunch immediately following. I hope to go back every Friday for mass. The people were beyond gracious and networking is never a bad idea 😉

In conclusion- Happy Easter! Thank you for reading and I look forward to my next blog post!

Ma’a Salaama!!

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Bellydancing!

Time January 13th, 2011 in College Study Abroad | Comments Off on Bellydancing! by

Here is a bellydancer at the resort we stayed at at the Red Sea. She dragged a bunch of different people up to dance, including Jon and James Blond, and Cory & Simone. Blond can’t dance. In his defense neither can Jon but Jon’s enthusiasm makes up for it. Kasandra kept telling us about her bellydancing skills, but she never got up and proved it. I think she’s exaggerating her skills.


Find more videos like this on Institute for Study Abroad – Butler University

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King Tut Rocks Out

Time November 18th, 2010 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

So lots of stuff.

The first Monday in November Robert, Trevor and I went to see Tutankamun the Musical. It was unique to say the least. It was in English and was performed in part by the Cairo Ballet, and I thought they were very good. Although some times the routines were a little too ..odd. There was a whole scene with a 10 year old boy and some snakes. Very strange. But what made the Musical so absolutely awesome was that it was essentially an 80’s rock power ballad. The only thing missing was the awesome 80’s hair. But otherwise they had it all covered. There were rockin’ guitar power chords, and an electric guitar solo, intense rock beats, cheesy ballads, and the antagonist sounded like the lead singer in a Led Zepplin cover band. It was Epic. Afterwards I felt like we had just seen a rock concert.

We went to Ain Sokhna last weekend. That was a very good time. The Alex kids took the train down to Cairo and the Cairo kids prepared a nice welcome for us. Mr Memdoua unveiled a beautiful sketch he had done of a woman and James Blond or John or perhaps both made spaghetti and stir fry. We stayed up until 2:00am or so just catching up and listening to John play his guitar.

The next day we took the bus over to the Red Sea. The resort was beautiful. Our hotel rooms were actually little villas in complexes surrounding beautiful little wading pools. It was maybe a 10 minute walk to the ocean and the weather was warm enough to make you want to go swimming without being so warm that you were drenched in sweat from the walk. I spent 2 or 3 hours playing in the water with the other kids. We chased fish and sand crabs. We found star fish and sand dollars, looked for shells. We played Chicken, which was a lot of fun. We covered each other in mud and clay. The clay from the Red Sea people pay $50+ for in the US we would scoop up and throw at each other. Kasandra and Blond James covered their faces in the clay and let it dry. They looked like zombies. It was hilarious.

Trevor and I retreated to one of the restaurants around 4:00pm or so and chatted with the bar tender. A drunk Italian guy was threatening to kill the bartender just because he could. It was really odd. He made me nervous.

Dinner was a very nice buffet although they set it up poorly and it made me upset. Thank you University Housing for keeping me from fully enjoying a delicious high end buffet. After dinner we all gathered in the atrium area to listen to the singer and enjoy ourselves. There was a belly dancer and a lot of us got involved in the show in some way. It was really funny. After she finished her act  were all feeling pretty lose. So there was lots of dancing and carrying on. We must have been as much fun to watch as the belly dancer because several tables of people were watching us and having a good time at well. John is a hilarious dancer. He just throws himself in to it. He told me “yeah I dont dance often but when I do I  just go crazy.” I think he figures its better to just try and have fun than to worry what he might look like He was the life of the party. We migrated to an actual dance club after a bit but left after maybe an hour. . At that point the party got split, with most of the girls going to the ocean and a group of us going back to the pools by our villas. We just chilled out, and I retired at about 2:00am.

The next morning we all rolled out of bed by about 9:00am or so and stumbled down for breakfast. Some us were in better shape than others. Then we went back to the beach and lounged around and took turns burying people in the sand while John serenaded us with his guitar. It was really quite pleasant.

This last week was mid terms week. It was a bit of a joke really. The Ameya exam for Robert, Trevor and I (novices/complete beginners) was laughably easy. But the Fusha exam was extremely difficult. That’s not just my opinion. Even the best students in the class agreed that it was at least challenging and all of us agreed that the dictation part was mean. To be honest the arabic program at TAFL is very dissapointing. I’ve learned a lot in my class but I don’t feel like I’m prepared to return to the states and take the next level of Arabic. The classes are very disjointed and disorganized and I feel that accross the board the teachers are adlibbing our lessons. I’ve heard though that the program this semester has had a lot of problems because of a change in the administration and that it is normally very good. So I’m sure that prospective students will have a better time. But I strongly suggest that students who want to learn Arabic and have no experience consider taking lessons at home first. I don’t have a lot of problems with a language barrier. Travel and life in Egypt would be easier if I spoke English but it doesn’t keep me from doing things,  but it makes the classes more difficult. Our “novice” level class made the assumption that we were all somewhat literate and all of the other novice students have experience with Arabic because of either independant study or time spent in Egypt or Egyptian family members.

Today I’m writing from Dahab. Trevor and Rob and I, as well as Lina and Ger from IFSA, and Dean, Connor, and Dan from private programs, are all in the Sinai for 6 days. It was an epic bus ride. We rode 8 hours from Cairo to Sharm el-Shayk overnight. The ride wasn’t so bad.. but if you’re 6ft or taller consider flying. Its more expensive but not by that much, and its only about 30 minutes instead of 8 hours. People my hight and taller simply don’t fit well on busses for that long. The ride from Sharm to Dahab took 2 hours and the bus was sketchier. But it was overall ok. We made it alive.

Dahab is really odd. There are places that are  under construction, abandoned, slums etc. And then there is the coast where all the tourists and wealth is concentrated. Its really strange. our hotel is very nice but 2 blocks over it looks like a war zone. Today we just explored. We had breakfast, and splashed in the pool. While everyone else went to the beach I napped by the pool side. For dinner we went to this amazing restaurant and sat on throw pillows by the ocean. It was very “orientalist” but still a great experience. After dinner we sat around smoking sheesha (flavored tobacco in a water pipe) and drinking Turkish Coffee and just laughing and chatting.

Tomorrow we’re going diving and snorkeling (for those of us who aren’t certified to dive). Rob and I want to go on a ATV safari, and we’re going on an over-night trip to climb Mt Sinai and a camel ride through the White Canyon. It should be a blast. I’ll keep you updated.

James

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