Friday, July 6: This morning at 6:30 a.m., I catch a taxi along Road 9 in Muquttum. I’m going to Ma’adi to run with the Ma’adi Runners. I feel pretty brave doing this as it is pretty deserted at this hour on a Friday morning (which is equivalent to a Sunday morning in America). I have to stand out on the road for quite some time before a taxi comes, and then it is difficult, speaking my limited Arabic, telling the taxi driver where to go.
Me sitting in the blue shirt, with Ahmed Seddick standing in the blue shirt, and Mohsen in the yellow shirt on the right
I am a pretty slow runner, so I am happy to find a few people who choose to hang in the back with me. Ahmed Seddick, an Egyptologist at the American University in Cairo, and a Dutch guy named Marcel hang with me at the back of the pack. We run 4 miles through the leafy neighborhoods of Ma’adi, and even at that early hour of the morning, it’s hot, hazy and humid.
After the run, we go to a potluck at the beautiful apartment of a Scottish woman. I am a little disappointed because after our meeting earlier this week, Mohsen, who is the “leader” of this running group, hardly speaks to me. It is a fun time however, especially talking to Ahmed whose English is amazing. As a matter of fact, this guy knows everything about everything, and is fluent in several languages.
Mohsen & Ahmed the Egyptologist
After the potluck, I return to Muquttum where I waste most of the day trying to email people in the USA on an extremely slow internet connection that keeps cutting off after I’ve composed long missives telling of my adventures. The power in the building goes out for a couple of hours, causing endless frustration. Then I make the mistake of telling the building owner I need to get a phone, and he insists on walking me around the neighborhood to every sleazy mobile salesman in town, each one of them trying to sell me crappy used phones for exorbitant prices. None of these people speaks English, so it’s frustrating and I feel like people are trying to rip me off at every turn. I finally refuse to buy any of the phones offered and decide to wait until someone who speaks English can help me!
Today, I write this email to R:
I am soooo sending you a big hug. I wish so much that i could see you! And be with you in every way…. and you DO know what i mean!
I’m sorry you’re having such a rough time with this woman who is causing you problems. I can’t remember her name but i think it’s some bizarre name. Just take a deep breath and relax this weekend at the music festival. Listen to music and close your eyes and think of me — at least for a moment! Think of our time in New York — that always works for me when I am stressed. And believe me, I’m stressed a lot here. However, I am growing to love it in a bizarre sort of way. Life is so different from anything I have ever known. Every single thing I do here is a grand adventure.
Last night Clint, Kevin, Tarik, Lisa, Shannon and I went on the felucca down the Nile at sunset. It was absolutely amazing. There was a lovely breeze, peace and quiet, and wonderful views. Relaxing:) All I could think of was that I wished that you were with me and we had a picnic dinner and a bottle of wine. It was quite romantic except there was no possibility of romance. We all decided we would do it again, maybe a couple more times, while we are here.
Then we ate dinner and had drinks at the Grand Cafe on the Nile. This was my second time there. It is lovely beyond words. I again could imagine you with me. This is one of our favorite places: view of Nile, Arabic music, lovely breeze, twinkling white lights, terra-cotta walls and tile floors. We also smoked some sheesha (apple flavored). Then we took cabs into Cairo and wandered the streets.
This morning I got up at 5:30 a.m., got dressed to run, then covered up with long pants, shirt and hijab. I walked to Street 9 and caught a taxi to Maadi, ran @ 4 miles with Maadi runners, went to a potluck breakfast at a Scottish woman’s (beautiful) apartment, and came back home. I’m going to go out to see some sights today. Tonight I may do a “hash,” where you walk @ 40 minutes, then go for beers. If not, I’ll try to go out with some of our group.
I should be spending more time studying because my spoken Arabic is still pathetic. I can read and write quite well; as a matter of fact, with the 1st assessment test they did, Ustatha Ahmed said I did so well on the test, he placed me in the advanced class. However, during the week I was demoted when they realized I couldn’t understand or speak very well! I actually was glad to be demoted, because I was getting lost already.
I was happy to finish my first week of classes. Three more weeks to go. I have such a fun time in Tajweed class (Koranic recitation). I am so pathetic at speaking! My teacher, Ustatha Mona, calls me “Cassie.” She says, “Cassie, Look me.” She speaks very little English. Lisa, my crazy roommate is the only other student. Poor Mona is a saint putting up with us. Mona keeps trying to get me to make the proper sounds and I botch them every time. Then she says, “Relax, relax.” And when I do, the sounds come out right! Then she is so happy. The other day she was talking on and on about something and had her back to us as she wrote a bunch of stuff on the board in Arabic. Lisa and I looked at each other and we made these goofy faces, like we didn’t know what the hell she was talking about. Well, I cracked up laughing and couldn’t stop. This is bad, because Muslims take their Koran recitation very seriously. I was laughing so hard, I was crying. I had to leave the room! I am utterly hopeless. Lisa thinks I’m the funniest person on the face of the earth. It’s so much fun to be around someone who thinks I’m hilarious.
Well, I’m going on and on…. and now I’m soooo nappy! Have to go shower and sleep a bit. Then on to conquer Cairo. All our accommodation problems have been fixed for now, so I am happy. Except for the fact that you’re not with me, I’m having the time of my life. Each day is a new and wonderful, yet bizarre, experience.
So, dear R, have a nice weekend, and I hope we can talk sometime soon. You never gave me a good time to call you. When could I? Give me several times, knowing that I am gone from 8-4 Sun-Thurs.
Salaam Alaykum (Peace be with you) Professor
The fakin’-it Egyptian
Soon after sending this email to R, I got a reply from him as follows:
So glad you’re having fun, and suds. I still envy you, and even more, those near you. I so admire your independence. Just hearing about your scaling the peaks is a thrill. I am enjoying my envy, and even my jealousies. It all helps me feel alive. The occasional sharp pangs are becoming old friends that make me feel in touch.
Things good here. I’m way behind in grading but have overcome the spectre of sloughing skin, amputations or worse. This a.m., the Dr. confirmed that I have conquered the beast and has released me. His earlier experience with a spider bite victim who died on the operating table was an old button that I apparently pushed. I thanked him for his precautionary attitude and his wise drug application. Bottom line, I’m alive and kicking. Still awaiting superpowers.
Work on the book progresses and I’m designing some business training/consulting products to bounce around.
Getting out of DC is always a good thing. I appreciate your ‘good wishes’ re: the weekend. I empathize entirely since… well, since I can empathize entirely (damn that felucca). Not to worry too much as the roughly once quarterly intimacy cycle hasn’t even begun approaching and is often skipped.
I’ll try to stay in touch, but it may be monday. I’m glad you feel safe; but be sure to ‘stay’ safe. 5 weeks is enough.
I write him back:
Oh boy, another email and all at one sitting. I’m so excited! You make my day!
OMG, that spider bite sounds like it was extremely serious! Are you sure you’re okay? I hope so. I wish the best for habibiti (my darling!-ha). Did the doc determine what kind of spider it was? How do you think it happened?
I’m so glad you’re making progress on your book and other projects. Good for you! I’m glad I’m helping to push you. You are amazing and have so many dreams of your own. I love that about you. I love it that you’re always pushing yourself to experience and accomplish more in life. You inspire me as well.
Since I know I won’t hear from you till Monday, I probably won’t check my computer after today. It’ll be too disappointing not to see your name in my e-mails. So, I’ll check again in the morning or late tonight, and if nothing, not again till Monday.
I have tons of homework this weekend — lots of memorization, but I have so many exploring plans. How on earth will I fit it all in? I tell you, Cairo is so weird. Everything is so out of the realm of things I know that I love it… in all its filth, chaos, beauty, and discomforts. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to anything. You should see the roads. People drive like there are no rules at all. Lines on the roads mean nothing. People drive the wrong way down one-way streets and honk the entire time. With Egyptians there is a veritable cacophony of honks in the air.
I can’t imagine doing that silly “hash” tonight. Walking 40 minutes in the desert at 5:00 in the evening doesn’t at all appeal to me, but the beer afterwards draws me like a charm. If Mohsen is going, I will go. Otherwise, I know no one, so I won’t. I’m sure something else will come up.
Lisa’s supermarket boyfriend Mahmud is very nice and handsome. She sees him every night! I can’t believe she met someone the first day we arrived. He was quite charming to all of us; taking us out to the Grand Cafe and taking good care of us. If I come away from anything on this trip, I will have wonderful memories of all the kind Egyptians I have met.
Today, when I ran, I was with Ahmed (27) and some Dutch guy. We were the slowpokes. Ahmed is very smart and does private tours for pretty cheap. I think I’ll arrange to have him take me to the pyramids because then I can get any information I want; besides, he’s very nice. He reminds me of Charlie in Mexico b/c of all the information he carries around in his head.
Oh well, off again. Still feeling soooo nappy….
MU2 (sooo much),