Tag Archives: strangers

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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The backpackers and the hag

We are in weekend now! The Egyptian weekend (and the weekend in other parts of the Islamic world) is on Friday and Saturday since church on Sunday isn’t so popular. Tonight I’m going to an electronic music festival, so no doubt there will be a post about that: I imagine glow in the dark hijabs.

When I was walking back to my apartment today after class and our “cultural exchange”, I  witnessed an interesting scene upon entering my street from the main square.

As soon as you turn left from Medan Messaha (or Messaha Square in English) there is a little kiosk and a flower shop, or rather, a flower kiosk. This kiosk by all accounts appears to be open 24 hours, and with good reason since many love emergencies happen in the wee hours of the morning or the late hours of the night. As I was passing by the flower shop, I saw three backpackers, probably European. They all had a very “natural” look and were laden with ridiculously huge backpacks, making them even more conspicuous than their mere colonizer-ish appearance. They were talking to a woman seated on a stool resting against the wall of the flower kiosk, and I swear this woman popped right out of a fairy tale. I know that she must be a lovely lady with a beautiful family and precious children, but she had the exact appearance of the hag that tricks Snow White into eating the poisoned apple, except for she was about three times as heavy and was wearing an abaya not a cloak. I wished to join their party just as an observer of the strange scene taking place: three clueless foreigners taking up with the ilk of the flower shop folk, but I walked on. I have a feeling the backpackers had left a trail of breadcrumbs or something of the sort. Probably as soon as I left, she fed them poisoned hibiscus flower tea and then stole their kidneys. Or took them to her house and fed them to be nice with the added benefit of fattening them up.

As I passed, I felt somewhat superior since, having lived here all of less than two weeks, I am obviously much better attuned to life here and almost fluent in the language and knowledgeable of every Egyptian custom. My confidence was brought down to size quickly, however, when on the way up the stairs to my apartment I almost went insane when a cat scratching its way down the stairwell came close to clawing my legs as it rushed past me. I think my heart exploded from the fright as well as the abundance of caffeine I’ve consumed today. I’m taking the cat as a sign from God that I shouldn’t drink so much caffeine.

If I’m still alive after the electronic music festival tonight I will write about it.

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The pajama-d strong lady

We finally moved out of the Mayfair hotel today, after eating our last delicious breakfast of bread and egg and cheese and coffee or tea and enjoying our last morsels of internet on the peaceful balcony amongst the trees (so we thought/hoped—more on this later. Cliffhanger!).

It was fairly simple for me to get out of my room….I just shoved my laptop into my backpack and neatly gathered my trash  into a plastic bag and that was that. For my future roommate Shawna, however, things were a bit more complicated since she’d not had the luxury of losing most of her luggage. She was burdened with a gigantic black bag that had originally been over packed by about 30 pounds, giving you a hint of its size, and a smaller bag that was probably filled with rocks.

However, we rose to the challenge of hauling these things down the stairs, down the sidewalk full of booby traps and curbs, and to the street in order to get a taxi,  accomplishing it with minimal complications and only the beginnings of major sweat stains.

The taxi we had hailed pulled over to the curb, breaking away from the street full of typical traffic, and out popped this bespectacled gentleman of perhaps sixty years. He hobbled around the car to the curb and took a look at the enormous black bag and realized it would not fit into his trunk (we understood this moment later on). It then appeared that he was indicating to the back seat of the car, which we knew wouldn’t fit the bag, and was also speaking to us in perfectly clear Egyptian Arabic, which we of course could not understand.

As we remained befuddled as to what he was trying to do, this sturdy Egyptian woman wearing an abaya (robe-like thing) over her pajamas strode over to us looking like she had just come out of her kitchen. Her face was friendly and familiar like a gingerbread house, and her eyes were all crinkly as she looked at us with a mixture of pity, mirth, and the desire to help naive foreign girls. She and the taxi driver stooped down, grasping and then heaving the suitcase onto the top of the car with the same ease as if she were kicking one of her kids away from the stove. I have a feeling she was actually held back by the help of the taxi driver.

Finally understanding what had transpired, I and Shawna thanked the pajama-d strong lady and our grandfather-like taxi driver profusely. She brushed it off lightly and walked away with a knowing smile. We got into the taxi, our lives changed forever.

I have been incredibly impressed by how genuinely friendly and helpful some people have been here in Egypt, and to complete strangers no less. I look forward to more of these experiences.

My baggage came today.

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