Tag Archives: heat

The day’s adventure: a glimpse of heaven, crushing disappointment

Thanks to years of  being subjected to family scorn, I am overcome with self loathing whenever I wake up past 8am regardless of how late I went to bed the night before. I could have run a 5 hour midnight marathon and woken up at 10:30am, and my family would still say upon seeing me with my marathon trophy, “You just got up?”  Thus, as I transition to a more Ramadan-appropriate slumber regime, sleeping at 4am and getting up at 12 pm, the first thing I feel upon awaking is a sense of shame, followed quickly by righteous indignation. “I didn’t even go to bed until 4 am and I got exactly 8 hours of sleep so there is nothing wrong with this. NOTHING WRONG. I’M NOT CRAZY.” Before I even drink my morning nescafe and peruse the morning internet, I’ve experienced a veritable roller coaster of self-blame and justification. My family has clearly taught me well; I look forward to imparting a similar sense of self-loathing to my own children.

After this train wreck, I pulled myself together and then made the mistake of sitting in my living room for four hours straight as I planned my upcoming Italian vacation. This was a poor decision since my living room is generally an unbearable place, filled at all times with stale air, heat, and gaudy furniture. When we removed the heat element through the wonder of air conditioning in addition to closed windows, we were left with a new evil: florescent lights. As I lingered in the harshly lit cave, clicking through endless tabs of travel advice, I found that having the fluorescent lights suck the soul from my body was equally uncomfortable as sweating through every layer of clothing I have on.

Realizing I needed some soul revival, I set out on a little errand that would take me where some sun rays could splash my pasty skin and help me remember once again what life felt like. And so I descended from the den of death and burst into the sunshine. Never had I seen Cairo more beautiful. It felt like my first spring day, even though it was near a dusty 100 degrees. I even saw several trees wither and die while I saw out, but to me everything was beautiful. While wandering around the shaded streets of Doqqi, I noticed a burst of greenery resplendent in the sunlight at the end of a street. What joy! I thought. Perhaps this is a park I didn’t know about! I saw visions of myself wearing ribbons in my hair, strolling in the park while licking lollipops and petting puppies. As I savored the possibilities of the future, I came upon the green area and found to my chagrin that it was merely a spit of weedy grass with some scraggly trees in the middle of a traffic circle. There was no park to be found here, and if I wanted to come and lick lollipops with ribbons in my hair it would be weird.

So I went home and sat in my room and read a book with the window open, suffering through the sweat so I wouldn’t have to suffer through the depths of fluorescent hell once again.

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Damp Pants

The weather in Cairo can be quite warm, some might even call it hot. During the day the temperatures climb almost as high as those currently prevailing in Mid-America. And when we’re really lucky, there is equally high accompanying humidity. There are some places the heat is not a problem, like the classrooms at AUC and Alpha market. Everywhere else, however, it must be dealt with.

My apartment has three air conditioners (central air conditioning does not exist here/I have not seen it so it might exist), but they remain off 90 percent of the time. Our living room is particularly unpleasant, since its physical location is such that getting a breeze in there will be possible when little flying pigs tumble in through the window at the same time. The coffin-like air moves only begrudgingly and  only when human folk stir it directly. Regardless of the time of day and exact location, the apartment is always a little bit warm. And since I spend about 90 percent of the time I’m in the apartment sitting down, either doing homework, clipping my fingernails/toenails, or brushing my hair, I often suffer from what I call “damp pants.”

Damp pants is that special feeling you get when, after sitting for a while and then rising, you realize that a steady and even output of sweat from the back of the legs/thighs and the derrier was absorbed into the fabric of your clothing. Usually after walking for a few minutes, the clothes naturally disengage themselves from clinging to the body, but manual assistance may be needed. The severity of the situation depends on the material in direct contact with ones’ clothes. Our choices of sitting situations is particularly dismal: we can choose from warm blanket, to cozy couch, to fake leather chair, or to gross carpet.

Day after day and night after night, all of us suffer from damp pant syndrome, its only remedy wicker chairs and/or standing desks. Though it is not particularly harmful, I would hesitate to damp pants a pleasant situation. I think because of all the alien movies I’ve watched (Monsters Inc.), I associate dampness with filth, thus on some level I am continually disgusted with myself at the level of filth I bathe in every day. This does not, however, urge me on to frequent rounds of laundry.

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Metro Slime

Descending into the Doqqi Metro station and striding into the spacious hall bookended by turnstiles, I can never help but feel fear despite the relative comfort of the air conditioning and soothing decor. It’s because I know there is a clock ticking down my sweet remaining seconds of freedom before I meld with a pixelated blob of people mashed inside an un-air conditioned tube that collectively counts down the amount of stops it must survive.

This is only one aspect of the fear, however; the other aspect involves metro slime. The metro might be bursting with humans or relatively calm depending on the time of day, but regardless of hour, season, or year, every surface in the metro is covered with a fine layer of slime. As my hand grooves fill with pharaonic grime and lose all form of traction, even the slight bumps and jolts of the metro become a challenge to withstand.

Every time I enter, I know I will have to touch a pole or a handle covered in metro slime, and I know I will forget to wash my hands before eating my next meal. This is what we call in colloquial American English a lose-lose situation.

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Post apocalyptic mall from the desert future

American University in Cairo: new campus

Classes start tomorrow. Thus ends my brief stint of living like a posh Cairene, going out to cafes all the time and wastin’ my stipend like I’m Cleopatra. I went to a place called Mosaic tonight and enjoyed a lovely grape sheesha with a plate of hummus on the side and hibiscus tea to drink. There was enough left over for lunch tomorrow. SHABAM.

My roommate and I got semi-lost on the way back from said cafe, but it wasn’t for too long and we got to see the other side of Doqqi: poorly-lit streets, slightly less well off neighborhoods, cats crawling on garbage piles, kids zooming by on scooters, clotheslines, dark stairwells…. Not too shabby.

We had our orientation out at the new campus of the American University in Cairo today, which is probably the most bizarre place in the world. First of all, it is surrounded by a sea of half built buildings in the desert, part of the “New Cairo” everyone is talking about (I think). The two workers I saw out there will be hard pressed to finish this century, but at least they’re a team: one to hand the bricks, and the other to carry.

AUC’s campus is also massive, most of it consisting of long marbled courtyards beneath gaudy eastern style arches. The campus was nearly empty except for us and the employees of random Western-style food outlets scattered in nooks of the eerie flat-faced buildings shimmering in the heat. The sound of the fountains and the wind in the gardens only accentuated the emptiness of the place. I got the feeling I was on a campus designed and implemented according to what the future might be like if everything was based on faux-eastern mall architecture right before there had been a huge climate shift. Spooky. Alternately, it felt like the campus had been discovered well preserved in some sort of dome in the middle of the desert as a relic of a by-gone era of aliens more advanced than us.

The ride out there took about an hour and 15 minutes both ways in over air conditioned buses outfitted with wifi so you can fulfill your dream of forgetting you are actually in Cairo/that you are one of the miserable beings who is in thrall to the commute to a campus designed for a world that does not exist and almost vomit inducing in the level of its opulence.

Thank goodness we’re at the Tahrir campus.

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