Living Off the Nile

Typical Wednesday

October 23rd, 2010 by asmetana · 6 Comments

Here is a peak into a normal Wednesday, my busiest day of the week.

Its 6:45am. Groggily, I fumble with my cell phone to turn of the alarm that reminds me a new day is about to begin. After showering, eating, and packing my bags, I stride down three blocks to catch the 7:40 am bus. The ride to the new campus can take anywhere between 45 minutes and an hour and 15 minutes. Luckily, it is only 50 minutes today. I read a book for a class, dozing in and out occasionally. When AUC’s campus looms ahead, I pack my book and prepared to disembark. Once at the campus, I pass through the bus pass checkers, then line up to go through security where I scan my ID, pass through a metal turnstyle, place my back pack on the x-ray machine conveyor belt, and walk through the metal detector. My smiling face shows up on a computer screen so the security can confirm my identity. I walk through the campus, glancing at the workers sweeping up orange flowers that have fallen from their trees. I make my way to the KwikMart stand where I buy thick and delicious mango nectar in a bottle. Its not as good as the fresh stuff served at fresh fruit stands, but it still beats anything else in the States. I make my way to the library to finalize an outline for my presentation for my Palestinian and Refugee Issue grad class later in the day. Once 9:50 rolls around, I gather my things and head across campus for my ‘amiyya (Egyptian colloquial) class. Today is a bit cooler than yesterday, but still, I can barely keep my eyes open as I cross the giant stone courtyard, the bright, white sun beating down on me. At 11:15, the class is over. I make my way to the thick, stone stairs that will lead my to my Third World Development class. Class is very interesting today because the professor shares some personal stories of his trip to Saudi Arabia when he was conducting research for his dissertation. Its 12:45 pm, and people are getting antsy to leave, so he wraps up and sends us on our way. My Modern Standard Arabic class begins in just over an hour and since I have a presentation on Qatar today, I return to the library to look up a few more facts, organize my slides, and practice my speech. By 2 pm, I’m sitting in class, chatting with the other students and the TA as we wait for the Ustaaz (“professor”) to show up. The presentations go well, and since there are only six of us, we finish before class is over and can leave early. After class, I head to to Al-Omda, the most Egyptian and cheapest food joint on campus and order t’amiyya, the Egyptian version of felafel. I savor it in peace while over looking the desert and a few distant buildings in the distance. My bus to the old campus, where my Palestinian class meets, is leaving in an hour. In that time, I make minor changes to my outline then make copies for the class. At 4:15, I am seated in the back of a large van. The shock absorbers are not the best, so we bounce around and occasionally fly off our seats. Traffic is pretty bad. Stop and go, stop and go. As I look out the window, a car of young men pulls up beside us. The shotgun passenger tries to make eye contact and flirt with me. I turn my attention to some papers in my lap, pretending to be occupied. After a few minutes I return my attention out the window. The sun is starting to set, warming the sky with rich colors. The tan, old buildings look shabby and out of place against the sky. We are getting closer to downtown. 5:30 is rapidly approaching and the traffic has only gotten worse. Weighing my options, I decide to ditch the van and head in the direction of the campus. At first the van is behind me, then traffic moves and it passes me by a few feet. For a while we play catch up with each other, until it finally turns down a side street and I continue straight ahead. I’m not entirely sure where the campus is located, so I hope that I am going in the right direction and did not foolishly ditch the van. I see a massive Coca-Cola sign glowing in the distance and relief floods me; I’m going in the right direction and I’m getting closer. A few minutes after 5:30 I make it to campus, went through security, and settled down for class. The next two and a half hours are filled with student presentations and a guest speaker. The speaker is really passionate about his research into the distribution of aid to Palestinian’s in the West Bank and Gaza, so the last half hour flies by as he enthusiastically shares his ideas. A little after 8, class is over. My friend and I head to another guest speakers presentation on campus about urban refugees. We go to the wrong place at first, but finally find it. It is just wrapping up as we arrive (it had begun at 7:30). However, we get to listen to question and answers. Since the room was only reserved until 9, we have to leave although questions were still being brought up. My friend and I set out into the streets of downtown, wandering and searching for a new place to eat. On the way, we pass by various street vendors selling books, lighters, office supplies, and souvenirs. I greet a book seller in Arabic and proceed to look at some books. He shows me an Arabic children’s book that teaches kids their letters. Each letter has a word beginning with that letter and a corresponding picture. I flip through the alphabet reading the words. He helps me to read and pronounce them properly. Yay for impromptu Arabic lessons! After we finish the book I told him “Shukraan Ustaaz, Ma’a Salaam!” and we head on our way. We spot a fruit shop and get fresh date milkshakes. The worker just plops dates in a blender with some liquid (milk and sugar I presume) and before we know it we have deliciously thick and rich shakes. We wonder where the dates are from and the worker goes to the back and hands us each a chilled, brown date. Yum. But, now for some real food. We come across a small restaurant and I order a liver sandwich. One of the men working there asks me if I am Egyptian. Jokingly I say I am, but moments later I tell him I am American. I find it interesting when people think I’m Egyptian. I’ve gotten that comment a several times and have had people just start speaking Arabic to me. Anyways, while I wait for my sandwich, I start talking to the cashier and attempt to read some signs around the restaurant with his aid. Finally, my food was ready. The chef is a jokster and holds up my sandwich really high as I go to get it. I play along a bit. Soon, my sandwich is nestled snug and warm in my hands and we began our trek back to Zamalek after a quick perusal of an Egyptian bakery. Our journey takes us across several lanes of traffic, under an expressway, past a bus station, across a bridge spanning the Nile, and finally, on the streets of Zamalek. After quick stops to an ATM and a small grocery stand for some water we had arrive back to the dorms. Our bags are checked and we walk through the metal detectors. As we are about to enter the lobby, we are stopped. “You need to sign in” we are told by one of the guards. “What? What time is it?…11:20 pm!?! No Way! How did it get so late?”. It feels much earlier for some strange reason. We shrug our shoulders and go to our respective rooms to begin out homework. On the way to my room I chat with some floor mates. Finally, I settle down in my room around midnight. Oh, Wednesdays.

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6 responses so far ↓

  • Justin Mattos // Oct 23rd 2010 at 7:52 pm

    Neat! You take a grad school class?

  • asmetana // Nov 2nd 2010 at 9:06 am

    yea, its got a TON of reading so I’ve had to develop my skimming skills better. What I like the best about the class is when we have guest speakers come in. we’ve had about three so far and it is interesting to hear about their experiences in Palestine and their viewpoints.

  • chaaarle // Oct 26th 2010 at 2:49 am

    quite a lovely narrative

  • Elisa // Oct 31st 2010 at 3:05 am

    yikes that sounds like a crazy busy day … but super interesting too! it’s really neat to read about your life there. hope you’re doing well!

  • RS // Oct 31st 2010 at 5:58 pm

    Dude. Dude.


    Date Milkshakes?…That is super amazing and sounds so yummy. Falafel and date milkshakes I could live off of that.

    You actually do kind of look egyptian! If your hair was really really dark I bet more people would think you are egyptian. I feel like egyptians come in all shapes and sizes tho.

    I’m glad you are keeping busy!

  • asmetana // Nov 2nd 2010 at 9:09 am

    They are super amazing! All the juice here is amazing. Egyptians do come in all shapes and sizes. I know some that have reddish hair and freckles. I know some with Turkish blood, American blood, and Russian blood. There is quite a bit diversity.