Tag Archives: random

Escalator Anxiety: Why Does it Exist?

I thought I was like most people in that I have never suffered from escalator related anxiety. Indeed, in my humble opinion, escalators are almost a basic right. I find few things more offensive than seeing a broken escalator and being forced, against my personal, American will, to hike up the stairs like a health freak and/or plebian. What could I ever do to deserve such self-debasement in sight of my very salvation?

Though the ridged steel and rubber of escalators runs in my very blood, based on my daily observation in the Metro station, a significant percentage of Egypt’s female population is not nearly as confident in their escalator usage.

During the morning rush, an entire horde of people is bottlenecked at an escalator in the Sadat Metro station, efficiently being funneled upwards. The crowd shuffles on at a steady pace and then just as it’s almost my turn, the woman in front of me hesitates before boarding as if she’s considering, “Wait, do I really want to do this?” or “Did I put on deodorant today?” or “Whose kid am I holding?” Though this pause might only cause a slight hiccup in the flow of traffic, it makes me want to scream wildly and set everything on fire since there is simply no good reason for her to hesitate. The eighty people before her didn’t hesitate before they boarded, and that includes the blind guy. Even though she might have to lift up her floor length garment, that could be done one millisecond beforehand or even simultaneously while stepping onto the escalator. Older women are worse offenders since they are sometimes legitimately scared of riding the escalator and test it out in the worst way possible. They gingerly place a foot onto the first step only to realize seconds later that half their body is slowly pulling away from them at which point they are forced to hop on in order to avoid a hospital trip.

Indeed, it is becoming more and more apparent that all my life I’ve overestimated how easy it is to ride the escalator. If it were this simple, an old lady would not have fallen onto me today and almost taken me on a lengthy bowling-like escapade ending that could have ended in severe internal bleeding. From this remarkable woman I learned not only how to incorrectly ride an escalator, but also that it is, in fact, possible to ride an escalator incorrectly.

She went wrong immediately as she boarded, when she did not lean forward in order to make up for the difference in speed between her lower and upper halves. Though she may have noticed her increasing lack of equilibrium, she proceeded to not grab onto the side of the escalator for assistance, and instead slowly leaned farther and farther back until she lost her balance entirely and latched onto me as she continued falling. I felt like I was being dragged to my death by a big tub of pudding. At the same time, luckily, two men also grabbed onto her and supported her from the back and on her left side so we did not all go for a tumble. She looked at me with wild eyes as she sent some swift escalator-related prayers to the Big Guy Upstairs. I, for my part, tried laughing nervously in order to make light of the situation, but my chuckles were not returned and may have only gotten in the way of her fervent muttering. At any rate, we all made it to the top safely, I probably the one in need of the most counseling in order to understand how someone almost fell off an escalator. Read that sentence again. I still do not believe or understand how this is possible and I saw it happen. This is probably one of those questions we’ll only be able to answer when we reach the big metro station in the sky, but until then, I either need to start doing push ups or watching out for wobbly old women on the escalators.

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Sowing, Winnowing, and Manuring

Today we went to the Egyptian Museum of Agriculture, a gem that has and will be overlooked by hordes of tourists for

Hands on learning.

years to come. In this context, the word museum is misleading since the Agricultural museum is, in fact, more like a playground. Here are some of the differences between a “normal” museum, and the Egyptian Museum (playground) of Agriculture:

1) A museum has guests.

The Museum of Agriculture does not have guests. From the disbelieving looks on the employees’ faces, we were the first foreigners visiting the museum since the woman or man from Lonely Planet discovered it. The other few museum patrons were there for picnicking or loitering purposes, but certainly not to see the museum itself.

2) A museum requires and undergoes regular upkeep.

The Museum of Agriculture requires but does not undergo regular upkeep. It is set up similar to the National Mall in that the museum is a group of five buildings centered around a green space that has trees and statues in it, but the comparison ends there. The statues are placed without any apparent design and the lawn and trees have been left to their own devices ever since they were planted. The museum employees are hired to be present at the museum but not to do anything to it, in order to preserve the natural deterioration process. Thus, a thick layer of dust and one case bird droppings coat all display cases, broken exhibits remain unrepaired, and all textiles within the museum are in danger of turning into dust at the touch of a finger.

3) Some museum employees are knowledgeable about the museum and its contents. There is a curator.

From what we saw, no museum employee knew anything about Egyptian agriculture or this museum dedicated to its existence aside from its hours of operation. The Agricultural museum employee’s job is this: “Sit or stand near the entrance of the hall. Should anyone walk in, stare at them. Open and close the doors at the appointed time. Avoid dusting or improving the museum in any way.” As for the curator–should he exist– he is either dead or has been on vacation for the past three decades.

The star museum employees assist people in entering the exhibits and taking pictures with the mannequins while sweating on them and gesturing wildly, afterwards demanding extra money for having clearly gone above and beyond his normal call of duty.

4) The museum exhibits are educational.

Are you getting the dusty attic feeling?

In theory, the Museum of Agriculture is filled with educational material, and yet it would be an Olympic feat to actually learn anything from it. Aside from the fact most things are unorganized and poorly labeled, you will be too distracted by the ridiculousness of the place in order to do anything besides contemplate the museum’s existence itself and the thickness of the cobwebs on the windows. The two things I took away from the Horticulture hall, for example, after seeing dusty glass case after dusty glass case of different kinds of wheat stalks and seeds, corn stalks and seeds, bread, fruits, vegetables, stages of growing of wheat, etc, were: “There is a lot of variety in the world” and “This took a long time to assemble.”

5) The museum exhibits are not to be touched so as to preserve them for the next visitors. For this reason, there is surveillance of some kind to prevent the most curious from overstepping their bounds.

In the Museum of Egyptian Agriculture, you are almost completely alone and can do whatever you want. The entire place feels forgotten if not yet abandoned. Climbing into the exhibits and taking pictures is encouraged, as well as exploring blocked off parts of the halls and rifling through anything that isn’t encased in glass.

6) The opportunity to interact with material not yet put on display is minimal.

At the Museum of Egyptian Agriculture, there is a cabinet full of documents and photos as well as bin full of antique cigarettes on the second floor of the Hall of Horticulture in a nook on the landing with some agricultural tools in it. Feel free to look at the photos and guess what they might be. Consider the very slim odds of them every being used or seen by someone who might actually be interested in the information.

7) The only fun to be had is through the joy of learning.

The best part of the agriculture museum experience was being able to run around in it like kids and cause a ruckus, feeling like we were breaking all the rules even though there were no rules to be broken in the first place. Also, the green space within the complex was a real joy, complete with nice trees, cool birds, and two little pergolas. Though using the word paradise might be too strong, it certainly felt like a land preserved outside of time and space, which I suppose is the purpose of a museum though in this case it was achieved accidentally.

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I’ll take the sidewalk on the left

After staying inside almost the entire day and immersing myself once again in the Yacoubian Building/other Arabic homework pursuits, I finally left the apartment in the late afternoon in order to purchase credit for my phone.

At the store, I boldly greet the employees and declare I would like to buy a sidewalk. They chuckle and look at me…and I say it again, “you know, sidewalk, like for 50 pounds” and then one of the employees helpfully says “a sidewalk is the thing you walk on” and then it finally clicks. Oops. The word for credit seems eerily similar. Unfortunately, I’ve since forgotten the proper word for credit but will remember quite clearly from now on “sidewalk.”

My next errand was scoping out the selection of a different grocery store for their selection of off-brand Nutella since I’m trying to discover the most delicious and cheap hazelnut chocolate spread. The store’s selection proved disappointing, but on the way there I saw 3 children in tae kwon do uniforms sitting with an older man wearing a black shirt with a dragon on it and smoking sheesha at a cafe. I imagined that after an unimpressive performance by the kids in tae kwon do class, he decided to give up on them and smoke a bit before their parents came back to get them.

I’m touring Coptic Cairo tomorrow, which is sure to be exhausting especially since I leave in about 6 hours and still need to take the long night-nap before then. Also, my feet are incredibly itchy. See my recent tweet.

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Here’s to vomit

Turns out there’s actually quite a bit of homework involved in this “fellowship” thing. I feel like I’ve spend most of the last 2 days plowing through the Yacoubian Building and I still have more work for tomorrow. Will it never end? Answer: most certainly not. But I’m not complaining.

After being stifled in my apartment all day aside from a misadventure to the grocery store that was characterized by paranoia, confusion, and congestion, I road a boat on the Nile for a little bit and then ended up having a fairly pleasant but perhaps not that interesting of a night with other human beings. We ended up at the Cairo Jazz Club and a really neat band, Station, was playing so we enjoyed moving to the rhythm for a spell before peacing. The band was a fusion of all kinds of styles and I could definitely feel a Sufi inclination in it…the beat in some of the songs felt like trance music and I wanted to let my hair down and float away.

But the story that I want to tell involves vomit and is from a few weeks ago. When we were still newly arrived to Doqqi, roommate and I were walking along one of the main streets and all of the sudden we saw a man that was ralphing up a storm right outside of a pharmacy. It was in the middle of the day and we weren’t sure what exactly was wrong with him, but out of nowhere he just started hurling almost directly in front of us into a drain. It was very strange. No one took notice, or maybe everyone turned a blind eye. I wish I could have done so.

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Walk around, get offered a job

After class today, roomie and I and friend walked to the Cairo Opera House since roomie had heard that a great Egyptian piano player would be there tonight and we wanted to see if there were any tickets left. Unfortunately, there weren’t any left, not for tonight nor for the 30th and that was a bummer.

But on the bright side, we got to see the Opera House which was quite beautiful, though the pop music (think N’Sync) that playing on the speakers didn’t quite go with the elegant buildings. Everything was made out of white marble and there were well groomed gardens throughout the entire art complex. All in all, a very impressive experience. If I ever have the inclination to pretend I’m interested in culture, I know exactly where to go.

As we were leaving the ticket office, a man with a folder approached us. The conversation went more or less like this:

“Do you want a job in event planning?” asked the man.

“Excuse me?” said friend.

“Do you want a job in event planning?”

“Uh….no we don’t really have time…”

“Well you should come to an exhibition on modern dance this Thursday at the Opera House”

“Okay. Thanks….do you know where the metro is?”

All in all, it was quite a strange conversation. Out of everything we could have been offered, why a job in event planning? He could have been saying he has an uncle with a great camel farm that we should visit, or maybe given us a restaurant recommendation, but a job that requires a skill set? Really? Anyways, we’ll see what happens on Thursday. Maybe I’ll bring my CV and resume just in case my American appearance isn’t enough.

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