another day at al azhar

Monday, July 9:  Today is another miserable day at Al Azhar University in our derelict classroom with its barely functioning air conditioner.  We liven things up a bit by taking photos of our motley little class.

our teacher

our teacher, Heba, and Matiniah, Dr. Jones’ wife

Anita, the teacher, me and Matinya

Anita, Heba, me and Rabia

Matinya, Anita, teacher and me

Rabia, Anita, Heba and me

In the evening, I do some laundry and pay 15 Egyptian pounds for a dinner of meatballs, mashed potatoes, and carrots made by a local Egyptian woman. It seems a little strange to eat an American-style dinner made by an Egyptian, but it is good!

After dinner, I check my emails and am pleased to get an email from R, a man I started seeing in early June.  It is still early in our relationship and we are still in the heady days of mutual discovery.  There is no commitment on either side.  But in June, before I came to Egypt, we enjoyed each other’s company immensely.

He writes, in response to an email I sent him about my experiences so far:

Thank you so much for the details.  It is such a joy to be a part of your experience.  I’m not troubled by the details; I relish them.  I geared myself up for you having a full-blown, way-out-there, grab-all-you-can-grab experience in Egypt.  That is just what I would do.  In our race with death, I know that both of us are desperate to take advantage of every delicacy that life has to offer.  While I am surely of two minds on certain experiences, I fully anticipated that you would maximize all tastings that come your way.  And I would never want to be in the way of that.  “Of all the words of quill and pen,  the saddest are these, ‘It might have been.'”

I rather assumed that the fullness of your adventures by now would have moved me to a back burner, en route for the left-overs pile. That it seems not to be the case yet I take as a very positive thing for me.  And, as for details, it is so much better to know (and relish) what is going on than to imagine what could be going on.  Been there, done that, and I cannot tell you how special it is for me to have someone with whom I can be so honest and open.  I can now see why shrinks are so popular.

Moreover, it is such a joy to just read your words.  I poke my head into gmail several times a day just to check for the new and to re-read the old.  Makes me feel closer.  Envisioning the actual miles between us is a bit more than my 3-D mind can do.  But having you so close electronically is comforting.

Things here progressing well.  Same ole frustrations, and same ole positives.  All in all, I’m cool.  More disciplined now.  Writing on schedule.  Working out more.  Taking a bit more charge of my job environment with command decisions (which is annoying people) and some successful trouble-shooting.  So things better here.

But lonely.

Stay safe, enjoy to the max., and share as much as you are able.

MUM, ~ R

I email him back and, surprisingly, he calls me on my mobile.  I miss picking up the call and so I call him back.  He says, “Oh my God!  It sounds like you’re so close!”  He’s happy to hear my voice and I’m happy to hear his. We laugh a lot, as we always seem to do when we’re together.

After we hang up, I get to work studying my Arabic.  Later, R calls again to tell me is listening to the CD he gave me before I came to Egypt, the soundtrack from the Brad Pitt movie, The Mexican.  Since R and I met in Mexico in May, it was the perfect gift.  When he calls back I tell him the funny story about how I used “Dusharufna” with the Egyptians to say “Pleased to meet you,” and they laughed their heads off because the Arabic translation is something horribly formal, like “Honored to make thou acquaintance.”

In the earlier email to R, I had told him about my time at the Muquttum Corniche with Basim, the brain surgeon.  R tells me on the phone that he felt a “pang” to hear about the brain surgeon, but he loves my honestly and wants me to tell him anything and everything.

Later that same evening, he sends another email:

Thanks so much for calling.  It was great to hear your voice.  After,  I thought I’d listen to the album. Very comforting, and a connection.  Me gusto mucho.

I’ve a terrible feeling I’m not saying the right things about details.  Sorry.  It’s a knack of mine.

Well, good night (or good morning, as appropriate).  I’ve got some  listening, and remembering, to do.

Ciao.  ~ R

After hearing from him, I get back to some heavy-duty studying.  It’s hard to concentrate on my studies with all the daydreaming about R.

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Filed under Al-Azhar University, Cairo, Egypt, Middle East

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