Tag Archives: CASA

Today I Wear Underpants

This photo is only half staged.

Warning: much exaggerated complaining followed by lighthearted ending. Use this information well.

It’s the last week of school and I am a disheveled shadow of a human. My aspirations of being fluent in Arabic have turned into the desire to live through the final day of my program, which is today.  Monday was not good. I woke up eight minutes before class feeling like death incarnate and rushed out of the house pen-less and still wearing my bed hair.

I had ten minutes to prepare for a presentation that was 20% of my grade. Luckily for me, I decided earlier this semester  that I don’t believe in grades. I ate 14 raw almonds for breakfast during class and afterwards wolfed down a falafel sandwich before taking a four hour nap, waking up just in time to skype with mother who silently judged me for my apparent sloth.

I felt defeated as usual here in Cairo, and I’ve come to realize that this city has utterly wiped me out and used me like a plaything.

My program ends today and I return to the states in a mere 2 weeks. I should be happy, but ahead of me looms a formidable job hunt in one of the most expensive cities in the world. This life-consuming job hunt must take place in the same month that I plan and attend a bachelorette party, a bridal shower, an afterglow brunch (ew), a  boyfriend’s visit, and a family vacation in which I’ll be forced to leave my mountain grove and actually socialize.

I’m looking from a place of exhaustion forward to months of exhaustion with no apparent end.  I’m staring from a position of defeat towards a future me curled on the ground with HR representatives kicking me in the stomach while chewing up my resume and spitting it at me. Things look grim.

In times like this, I can only do one thing. I take out my planner and write down the secret that will give me the strength to go on and conquer my fears and climb the mountains and brush the hair. At the very top of my to-do list I write “wear underwear.”

Can two words change a life? Yes.

After donning my underthings, I cross off the first task on my to-do list and breathe deeply while I look at the twenty things I have left, my rear end carefully caressed by a familiar pair of unmentionables. Yes, today is my day. I’m beginning the rest of my life and I’m wearing underpants.

You, world, may be tough and you may have well dressed people who don’t want to hire me and you may have chatty cousins that distract me from the book I want to read but I, dear world, am wearing underpants and anything is possible.

Who wears the underpants? I DO! Who’s not afraid? I’M NOT! Who’s going to stop crying and leave her mother’s closet today? ME!


P.S. Things really aren’t that bad. I’m going on vacation to Ethiopia today. Yay!

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Eau de Tahrir: l’urine

Currently we’re in the last week of  the CASA summer session, and I think I speak for most of us fellows when I say we

There are more of these now...and no cars

DON’T WANT IT TO END.  PLEASE GIVE US MORE READING! GRAMMAR GRAMMAR GRAMMAR! Just kidding, most of us  are ready for freedom, ready to have time to go exploring in Cairo, sleep in later, watch television, movies, read books that aren’t in Arabic, not feel guilty about frequenting websites like when parents text, etc. All of us will, however, forget Arabic completely in our 6 week break, so that’s kind of a shame.

Many of us will also no longer have the great pleasure of observing the sit-in that continues to occupy Tahrir square on the way to class. Recently, I accidentally read something informative about Egyptian politics, courtesy of Sandmonkey, a well-known Egyptian blogger. In his recent post, he discusses how  the state within a state of Tahrir Square has begun to exhibit on a miniature scale the same social problems that Egypt suffers from as a whole. In the face of what I considered brilliant social commentary, my blog post on damp pants syndrome no longer seemed as ground breaking….but we can’t all be writing biting social commentary, especially since most of us are incapable of doing so. Anyways, take a look at the blog post and see for yourself what’s going on from the inside as opposed to my glancing-out-of-my-peripheral-vision-as-I-round-the-corner-and-turn-instantly-away-from-Tahrir-and-towards-the-relative-paradise-of-AUC-viewpoint.

One thing Sandmonkey forgot to mention was the direct connection between the length of the sit-in and the growing reek of urine steaming off the ground right outside the metro stop I emerge from on the way to class. He also didn’t mention where all the sit-inners go for their other bathroom needs. I haven’t seen any porter potties out there in Tahrir, but then again, I’m not sure what an Egyptian one would look like. It’s possible it could look like a white tent, in which case Tahrir square consists only of porter potties.

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Oh great, more introductions

this is an icebreaker

We had part one of our orientation today, and for the first time almost all of us assembled and together we

attempted to absorb the mundane details of  the CASA program. To my great dissatisfaction, there was no formal introduction process. I was like “Come on, throw us an icebreaker or two.” Just because the majority of the people in the program are over 25 doesn’t mean we can’t get to know each other through excessively awkward games where we have to sit on each others’ laps and crawl through each others’ arms while introducing ourselves. I’ll suggest some games for tomorrow. My current line, “So you study Arabic?” isn’t as great as it could be.

Because of the lack of icebreakers, we left at around 4:00 after an incoherently planned orientation still unknowing of who exactly we are going to be dealing with for the rest of the year. They could be ax murders and I wouldn’t have the chance to get to them first.

The lunch was okay…I enjoyed the sweets and drank some kind of white juice. It wasn’t milk, and it wasn’t coconut. It may have been pear…more on this later.

On a different note: when walking through the market, one often happens upon cages filled with rabbits or chickens or pigeons. These are not pets, they are dinner. Sometimes when I see a bunny I want to yell “WHY FLUFFY WHY!” But I restrain myself and instead think about what a scene it would be if I brought one of those home and slaughtered it as a gift for my roommates. It’s a religious thing.

More o-tation tomorrow, but at the new campus out in the middle of the desert, about an hour commute outside of Cairo depending on the traffic. Apparently there’s a pool party afterwards, but I’m not going to it unless Pizza Hut is catering.

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The day after the day of panic

I made some new CASA friends at breakfast….ate a sandwich made with cream cheese and egg on bread with a cup of coffee. The balcony of our hotel is quite beautiful I must say. In the early morning bliss it was incredibly pleasant to be sitting in the open air looking at the tops of the trees growing along the street.

The main thing on my agenda: retrieving my passport. I tried convincing my new best friends to go to the airport with me, touting the benefits of seeing it during the day. I should have advertised the potential to practice Arabic as well, but I did not, and so I went alone. As most trips to the airport are, it was long, costly, hot, smoky, and confusing. But it was ultimately successful. I repossessed my passport and found out my baggage will be arriving tomorrow inshallah. But this is Cairo, so my suitcases could also be headed on unique journey to Addis Adaba. We shall see. In the meantime, my adventure shirt that I just recently purchased is developing some interesting wrinkles in it. I wonder if I can get it read like my palm.

Also, tonight is a little get together with other CASA fellows at a sheesha (that means hookah. Sorry mom) joint downtown, where we will all be sized up according to appearance and Arabic ability….roommates will be scouted. It could be vicious. This morning I was talking to my new friends about how much I hate Canadians so I should remember that first impressions aren’t always the last word.

Still no telephone or apartment.

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My pilot pens!

The flight from Amman to Cairo smelled like cardamom. Oh, to be back in the Middle East where every day is a feast for the nose.

Cairo: I wait at the baggage claim for my luggage. I continue waiting as everyone else leaves. I ask Mr. Man in broken Arabic if there is more luggage. There is not. I go to the claim desk and have a lovely conversation with the man there and he tells me they will bring my luggage to the airport when they find it. I’m not hopeful, but I think to myself, “I musn’t forget my passport” since I had given it to him while he was searching for the luggage.

I find the driver for CASA and there’s another student waiting with him speaking what sounds like perfect Egyptian colloquial. I, on the other hand, listen to a stream of sounds come from the driver’s mouth and realize he’s asking me where I’m staying. We finally arrive at the May Fair hotel after maneuvering through the labyrinth of concrete, neon, merchandise, construction, and people that is Cairo. I’m talking to the man at the desk in broken Moroccan/Formal/and Egyptian Arabic and he asks to see my passport since it’s required for everyone to stay at the hotel. I begin sweating…this is the closest to panic I’ve been in a while. I realize my mistake and stare off into space after fumbling blindly in my bag. He asks me where it is and I try to explain, jabbering in some dreadful mixture of “Arabic.”

“Emily?” He says. The baggage people had called the hotel. They have my passport. So far, only one out of three essential things has made it safely to my hotel in Cairo, and that is my body itself.

Also, the thing I was most worried about losing were my little spoon and my year-long supply of Pilot pens. How will I write without them? I’ll just have to go home…..

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