10 Things I Miss Most about Home

Being away from home for 4+ months makes a person miss a thing or two. I wanted to share some of the things I miss most and wanted to go beyond the obvious friends and family categories. Did I? Not really. Also notice the prevalence of food on this list. It turns out taste is really important for memory.

10. Milkshakes – And I mean REAL milkshakes. The first time I noticed milkshake on a menu here in Egypt, I had to order it. What was brought to me was just liquefied ice cream. A milkshake should be thick…. so expect to see me at Dairy Queen for blizzards at least a few times when I get home.

9. DS Dates with Friends – Mac and Cheese pizza here I come!

8. Ice – Sure there’s ice here in Egypt. Frozen water wasn’t invented by America. However, it’s nowhere near as prevalent here. When your drink is served with ice it’s a miracle that just ends up reminding you of home.

7. Mandatory Family Functions – Yeah those really boring ones where I can’t wait to leave. Except for Christmas brunch. But the only reason I want to stay at that one is the quiche. Anyways, it turns out that those functions are a really nice way to see all of your family in once place.

6. Chipotle Burritos – If you ask me, these one-pound Tex-Mex delights are practically a human right.

5. Playing Violin in The Concordia Orchestra – I miss my violin enough as it is. Every time I see someone carrying a violin case in Egypt I freak-out. But besides the GOURD-geous instrument I haven’t played for 4 months, I miss the orchestra that has taken me around the US and around the world. I can’t wait to be reunited with the lovely humans (as nerdy as they are) in the fall for a final year with a domestic tour, retreat with these crazy humans, senior soloists, the famous Concordia Christmas Concerts, and a two-hour program of only Russian composers I have been excited about for about a year.

4. Late Night Perkins Trips with Kevin – Being I am currently in finals week, this one is particularly striking. These early morning trips (as late as 4am) are the mainstays of a good GPA.

P.S. It’s not just Perkins. We also frequent Village Inn, Fryin’ Pan (frin pan as we would say), and Pizza Patrol for our late night study snack desires.

3. Iced Tea – How many times have I had real iced tea in Egypt? And I’m talking about the REAL brewed tea WITH ice in it. Once. It was amazing. My friends were disgusted by how excited I was. I couldn’t handle it.

2. Hugs From Mom – Actually I think about it all the time. Most of the time I would love nothing more than to give a hug to my mom. Anytime someone mentions their mom, I think of mine. Love you, Mom.

…and…

 

1…My Roommates

This is a hard one to write about. When you’re around someone 10-18 hours a day you grow close to them. Then imagine choosing to spend that much time with them. We all live under one roof and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Alisa, Colten, Hannah, Kevin, and Steph (in alphabetical order because I love them all equally) have amazingly special places in my heart. I love and miss all of my crazy adventures with them. From getting drunk off of champagne during finals week for a Christmas goodbye for Steph and dancing a soul train around the house post-gift exchange, to late night cookie dough runs, to family dinners every Sunday, I miss them a ton.

The saddest part about it is that when I return next in the fall, the house won’t be the same. One of us will have graduated and two will have moved out (Kevin and Alisa). All of the memories I’ve made under that roof take number 1 for making “the best years of my life” an unforgettable experience.

Sexual Harassment

I have wanted to talk about a very big topic for quite a while now: gender and sexual harassment. But instead of a man talking about how he has witnessed his friends being harassed, I thought it would be much more powerful to open up the space to a woman to discuss her situation. If you ask any female international student in Egypt they will undoubtedly have a few instances to share with you. Today I am sharing one particular and frightening instance a friend of mine experienced.

As the International Student and Study Abroad office we went for a retreat and session to discuss our study abroad experience on the Red Sea at Ain Sokhna. Below is an account written by my friend to be shared anonymously. Hopefully it allows for thoughtful reflection on gender as it is a tricky subject in Egypt:

 

“What follows is the story of how I was stalked and harassed on a weekend getaway with a large group of friends geared towards combating exactly those prevalent societal issues.

            I’ve played it over in my head thousands of times. I’ve recounted it out loud to those brave enough to ask what exactly happened. Now, it’s become nothing but a monotonous task. So much so, that the most recent time I described the events to a friend they said, “It sounds like you’re reading this from a book.” I stopped and thought to myself, Am I really that detached from something that happened to me? My only explanation was that I had told the same story so many times that I didn’t know what else to say.

            The weekend was designed to be a time of relaxation and follow-up about our travel experience so far. We had sessions all day to discuss important issues and how to fix them. Dorm life, classes, security, psychological health, and many other topics were discussed; however, Sexual Harassment was the obvious, glaring topic on the mediator’s minds. Having experienced it in many minor doses, I gave a few words of input on the matter. It felt awkward to turn the light, joking conversation in such a negative direction to explain situations where I felt uncomfortable or unsafe. People taking photos of me when they think I’m not looking—and even when it’s obvious that I am— being whistled at, and hearing kissing noises every time I turn my back is nothing new. We had all seemed to have experienced this kind of harassment—if we can even call it that.

            After the long day of sessions, the first time I noticed that something wasn’t right, I was walking down a godawful yellow hallway that has now inserted itself uncomfortably in my memory. I was just making a quick trip to my room to change my shirt. This was the part that, to me, felt like a movie or a book. Every step I took, I could hear heavier steps shuffling at a short distance behind me. I would slow my pace, or stop altogether, and the steps would follow suit. My pulse slightly increased, enough to encourage me to turn around and confront whatever comical monster was attempting to sneak up behind me—apparently my ‘fight or flight’ response was at full confidence. I turned around, and I found a man who appeared to be following me. He grinned like a child who had been caught doing something naughty. I painfully blushed, out of my control, and immediately turned around to rush back to my room. In the solidarity behind the lock, I calmed down and thought, Did that really just happen?

            Oh yes, it definitely happened. In fact, the same instance repeated itself multiple times throughout the late evening. I would find the same man in the blue football jersey, with the same deceptive grin, trailing not far behind me wherever I went. Embarrassed, and not wanting to raise an alarm accusing someone of blatantly following me around the hotel, I began casually asking friends to come to my room with me if I needed to go back for any reason. I was too afraid of getting someone else in trouble, even if that risked my own safety.

            My mind was momentarily at ease when I went to the hotel bar with two male friends. I really doubted that anyone would pester me while I was accompanied by two guys. However, as we sat at the bar, chatting, I noticed the same grinning fool standing across the room, behind the bar. He wasn’t serving drinks or taking money, just standing, and smirking at me. I suppressed my feelings of discomfort and noted that if he was standing behind the bar, he most likely (hopefully) worked here. Maybe, I thought, he was following me because he’s a (casually dressed?) security guard. I said nothing to my friends, just hoping my imagination was running wild after a long day.

            When it was much later and much darker, I walked outside with one of the two males I’d been with earlier. We saw some of our other friends at a table smoking shisha; he suggested that we join them. I happily agreed until I noticed, across the patio, a solitary figure with a smirk plastered on his face. In my mind, I noted that I was with friends, in public, and therefore completely safe, right? As I sat down, I scooted my chair as close to my male friend as possible; then, my stomach dropped. The man in the blue football jersey had switched tables to be closer to us. Banishing my imminent panic, I attempted to avoid looking anywhere near his direction.

            About an hour had passed, and my male friend was ready to retire to his room for the night. In a moderate tone, I explained to him that I didn’t want anyone to freak out; however, I was under the impression that the guy two tables away from us had been following me around the hotel all night. My friend had frustrated look on his face and said, “I didn’t want to freak you out; but, he’s been staring at us since we sat down.” I felt nauseated. My friend said that it probably wasn’t a big deal, but he thought he should walk me back to my room. Mildly comforted, I agreed.

            My friend’s room was directly underneath mine. We walked back to his room on the lower floor, so I only had to walk up the stairs alone. I got to my door and felt my heart pound as I realized my key card would not work and my friend had already gone to bed. I didn’t want to be a pain, so I headed back towards that stupid, yellow hallway between me and the reception desk. I kept my head low and didn’t look up until I heard a tapping sound. I stole the briefest glance in front of me, and to my obvious dread, he was standing there tapping the wall with the back of his knuckles. I thrust my eyes back at my feet and willed myself to keep walking forward; the front desk was within reach.

            My chest throbbed and I could feel an infamous anxiety attack building inside of me as I got closer to him, but I still tried to keep going. The next thing I knew, the man broadened his stance to fill the middle of the hallway, and there was no getting around him. He asked, “Where are you from?” Head still down, I replied, “The United States.” I tried to step around him, but he shifted positions so I couldn’t go anywhere. The next question was, “How old are you?” My eyes stung with tears thinking about the weighted inquiry. I thought, He wants to know if you’re old enough to consent. At this thought, I shoved my way around the stupid, blue football jersey and ran towards the stairs to the front desk. He reached for my arm, but I jerked away, hard. All the while, the man shouted after me, “What is your name?” over and over again.

            I sprinted down the spiral staircase to the front desk. Much too afraid to raise an alarm, trembling, I explained to the man at the front desk that my key card needed to be re-magnetized. He asked me what room I was staying in. Fearing the worst, I turned around and found the man from the hallway peering over the balcony at me, drooling for my reply. Feeling defeated, I told the man my room number, tore my card from his hands, and ran as fast as I could to my friend’s room on the lower level.

            I can only imagine now, how pale and frightening I must have looked. I pounded on the door, shouting their names, until they answered. They were both obviously close to sleeping when I ran in as soon as the door was cracked. I somehow mustered up a meek explanation that a man had just cornered me in the hallway after following me around all night. They both looked mortified and instantly reacted like they were on a mission. They each walked with me to find the rest of our group in order to contact any of our supervisors at some ridiculous hour of the morning.

            I spent the next 4-5 hours in and out of different rooms retelling the story to supervisors, hotel managers, and police. A friend sat with me all night, through every tearful recap of the previous hours. There was a small crowd of local males and a few females who also sat up all night waiting. They were concerned, protective and mostly furious at the actions of one stupid person representing their entire culture. I obviously don’t blame anyone else for the senseless actions of that one person. This could, and does, happen everywhere. Often, the situations are far worse than what happened to me. I just hope that stopping the situation where I did will prevent a far worse situation for some other unsuspecting victim. 

            The support system I had that night was astounding. I couldn’t have asked for gentler people to help me deal with that scary, shitty situation. After hours of questions, the one problem that I still couldn’t answer though, was, “Why didn’t you tell anyone?” … Why in the hell didn’t I tell anyone?”

Stayin’ Alive

I have had family reaching out to me assuming that I am dead because I have not posted recently. I am fine. Just really, really busy. Because of how intensely consumed I am with reseach papers right now, I will make this short. I am currently working on writting two lenghty papers in the days approaching spring break. It will be a rush to the finish line but hopefully I will make it. That being said, I am filled with excitment. On Friday, Bahar and I leave for a whirlwind 16 day trip in which we will visit Jordan, Israel, Palestine, Turkey, and Lebanon. Just to prove I am still alive, I will share two stories from this week. One for fun, the other for reflection.

Wednesday: Leaving AUC for the day, Bahar and I called a taxi to get food in the Rehab souq. We were begining to enter the car when the driver demanded almost twice as much for the ride as should be expected. Bahar and I stopped while entering the vehicle, climbed out, and headed back to AUC. As we walked back, the car backed up hap-hazardly almost running over Bahar. She reacted angerly punching the car and yelling at the driver “Why did you do that?!” The driver yelled back at the two of us, “You are crazy!” Jumping into action to defend my friend I yelled back “Inta bateekh!” While I was attempting to use the colloquial phrase, “You’re dumb!” I unfortunately said “You are a watermelon!”A man looked at me after my response disaprovingly.

Monday: After exiting our Egyptian Arabic tutoring, a woman came up to us begging for money. We said we didn’t have anything and that we were sorry walking a couple of feet in the other direction so that we would walk away. She did, but her little daughter, maybe 4 years old, moved in. We told her no once, twice, moved in another direction, a third time, walked away, a fourth time, decided to walk up the street away from her, six, seven, eight. Suddenly she began grabbing Bahar and moved quickly from the clothing to Bahar’s hair pulling and tugging and begging. We were distraught. Bahar could not pry her lose and I did not want to intervine and use excessive force with a little girl. Bahar finally resolved to give her one pound (12 cents) to get her off. She moved to me. I forcably yelled “Amshe” (run away) at her twice until she left. – Later that night, I almost cried as I reflected on the event realizing that shame is a privilidge.

If all goes well, within a few weeks I will be posting on a few different topics including gender in Egypt, my academics at AUC, and my travels around the region. But yes, I am alive and well, continuing to have an amazing and diverse experience in Egypt.

Stairway to Heaven

Two weekends ago I had what may be my most productive day of sightseeing yet. It was not until then that I had fully realized a sentiment that I have had ever since: there are many Cairos. There is the Cairo that I occupy most often – a bourgie and privileged segment of the population in which people are well educated, speak English more prevalently than Arabic, women typically don’t wear their veil, many young people go out to clubs or bars and drink (or even smoke hash) despite their religious view (or not), dress well or at least liberally, and in general have money to do whatever they desire. It feels weird for me to come from the middle-class in the Midwest of the United States and be immediately thrown into the most upper-class sector of Egypt just because of my university and to be frank my skin color. Hidden away in our walled-off city of the American University in Cairo (AUC), it is easy to forget about the other Cairos that exist. A Cairo where people with no means to a better life sit on the edge of the street all day to pedal fruit or tissues and are ignored by the middle and upper class civilians that drive past and try as hard as possible to avoid eye contact. A Cairo where your breakfast of ta3maya can cost you only 1 1/2 pounds (18 cents). A Cairo where people are forced to wear their same old and dirty clothing – the possibility of upgrading their wardrobe is almost as impossible as upward mobility. My productive day of sightseeing included seeing two disparate sectors of Cairene life.

I never thought that when I got to Cairo my best friend would be an Iranian-American from Oakland who studies on the East Coast. Somehow, though, Bahar Ostadan became the sidekick superhero to most of my adventures in this diverse city. She’s smart, and funny, and – all of the internationals agree – a sweetheart. All of these reasons and more make it more than worth putting up with her chronic cough and various health problems she has developed in this smoggy, smoky city.

After I was bummed about waking up too late to join AUC’s Egyptology Department’s visit to the National Museum, with one of the world’s best Egyptologist, Bahar cheered me up by offering an alternative adventure. We met up at Bab Zuweila, a gate to the Old City of Cairo that was built in 1092. We spent the first portion of the day walking around the old city. We tried sugarcane juice, had street food, and purchased fresh bread for less than about 50 cents apiece. After walking around and seeing the many vendors, we paid an inexpensive fee to climb the steep steps to the top of the minarets of Bab Zuweila. The views were breathtaking.

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We continued our travels by tuk-tuk (rickshaw) up the hill to the Cairo Citadel, Saladin’s famous medieval fortress. It is perhaps most well-known for the Muhammad Ali Mosque within its compounds, which we spend much time exploring and photographing. The visit to the Citadel was interesting from an architectural standpoint, but even more interesting from a people watching one. I am fairly certain that Bahar and I were in a minority because we were not wearing cheap cowboy hats sold in and around the Citadel. Someone asked me, for the first time, to take a picture with him. I asked where he thought I was from. After saying he didn’t know he continued to guess I was either from Costa Rica or Spain. Either way, he wanted the picture. Further along our travels, a boy asked an Asian man his name. When he said “call me Paul”, the boy laughed and turned to Bahar and me as if we were some sort of “Egyptian” insiders to his joke. Finally, when the time came to leave, Bahar realized that we were being followed for a long period of time. After stopping on a wall to see what the man would do, he looked around, looked at us, and then continued to keep walking. Up until the point he turned a corner far down a street he keep turning back and looking at us. After waiting a while we decided to keep moving and leave the complex, but not before a group of Egyptian boys yelled “Kansas!!!” at us.

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Continuing our day (it was somehow only 4pm by this point) we headed over to a small island on the Nile in Giza owned by the Royal Muhammad Ali Club. The event? Funk and Pop, a popular event for AUCans to head to every other Friday. It is most likely the most bourgie and hip place I have ever been in my life. Its downsides… the price. Entrance – 150/200pounds ($19.60/$25.50), glass of wine – 50pounds ($6.39), bottle of wine 250pounds ($31.94), gyro – 45pounds ($5.75). Ghali owi (very expensive).While I don’t have any pictures to convey the bourge exuded by this island, Bahar and I put together a list of our favorite Funk and Pop experiences:

  • Bathroom attendants mop the “porta-potties” after every use.
  • There is, at least we are 90% sure of it, a corner occupied by only gay men.
  • The grassed area is filled with bean bags, spread out hip blankets, Ping-Pong tables, and fireplaces that make you feel like you are really just an attendee at Project X.
  • “We gave our phones to a random employee and he charged them for us for 2-hours. It’s a literally a utopia.” – Bahar
  • Egyptians we had just met through mutual friends offered us absinthe. A separate group we met later proceeded to offer us Absolute Peach shots.
  • On the opposite side of the dj’s and dancefloor on the island, a drum circle emerges from nowhere every time.
  • Each of us have always seen at least one classmate who is less excited to see us than we are to see them.
  • “Sometimes you just need to nap.” – Bahar
  • There is never a taxi to leave. When I went to leave there was a 43-minute wait on Uber for a driver.

We thought we would finish our night up with a late dinner and some shisha (hooka), as the proper Egyptians do, so we headed to Zooba, a restaurant well known for offering gentrified versions of street food. After finishing at Zooba and skipping the shisha for tea instead, we thought the extremely long day would be finished. We were wrong. A friend, Robin, invited us to a house party. Because the Uber surge was around 1.6x we both decided to comply to his request. Next thing we knew we were on the rooftop of a Zamalek apartment surrounded by mostly international students and workers we had never met (except for Robin). We spent our time talking to an interesting group of people, including a large group of friends from University of Edenborough. One of the people we chatted with, Maddi, was from Texas and continually talked about how she longed for bacon, until it was confirmed that bacon was indeed sold on the black-market and in the back of a Christian liquor store in Zamalek.

Finally, we headed home and I reached my bed a little after 4am. A successful day indeed, but one filled with the immense diversity that exist in the huge yet crowded city I now call home.

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P.S. If you are interested in Bahar’s blog including a recent post of her experiences in Cairo, check out the link here: moldypomegranates.wordpress.com

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They Told Me To Go To Rehab

Apartment number 1 it is; my home for the extent of my Egyptian experience. I am now an official member of the Rehab community and to be honest, I fit in. With an unusually large number of Syrians located within the gated confines of a district of around 300,000 (more than St. Paul), my light skin blends in without much effort. The souq has become one of my favorite hangouts. I have extreme trouble saying no to a trip to this outdoor market; perhaps mostly because I know if I go there will be some tasty Syrian morsel in it for me; to name a few shawarma, falafel, and meze.

Back to my apartment though. It only took two days of homelessness – well couch surfing – before finding this gem. Really, all the work fell on my roommate Kobie. He found the place and Kyle and myself just joined in. We were all in the same situation and banded together. I moved in the first day I was allowed to due to my situation. I had to take all of my bags with me from Pia’s Heliopolis apartment to school. After classes, I headed out to the gates to catch a taxi back to my new home. Luckily an AUC student with typical Egyptian hospitality stopped me and asked if I needed a ride. Thanks to Farida, I found the well-hidden apartment. I haven’t seen her since, but if she somehow ever finds this blog: THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!

Since then I have lived happily ever after. Well, at least it hasn’t been that bad. The kitchen is extremely dirty after Kobie’s friends baked brownies in our kitchen and didn’t clean up. Well to be honest most of the apartment is dirty but that will change soon, inshallah.

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I don’t know if it’s the yellow Mickey Mouse curtains or the freezing cold temperature of my room, but I love my little light-tan room. It actually has some really nice features including a queen sized bed, bookshelf, and desk. Best of all, there are French doors in the back that open to our rare and spacious garden (a God-send in a country like Egypt).

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Sadly, my room has not kept up to this level of cleanliness with how busy I have been in the past month. However, it offers everything I could ask of it… well except for WIFI. The lack of internet access is one reason my post have been sporadic and few in number. Hopefully we will soon have WIFI after resolving just another issue with Egyptian bureaucracy. Never the less it is a step up from my situation as homeless the first day of classes.

So it’s official. I have traded the walled and secluded confines of the AUC community for that of the walled and secluded confines of the Rehab community.

House Hunters International

After a well-thought through hastily made decision, I decided to move off campus. While I am 98.7% sure that it was the right decision to make, it was an extremely impulsive one. Back when I first decided to study abroad in Egypt, my friends at the Concordia Language Villages told me to rent an apartment; I thought it wasn’t an option. My school encouraged me to live on campus and so I decided it would be the best option available to me. But after arriving in Egypt, all of the students encouraged me to live off campus.

There was the desire to better immerse myself in the culture and the language. The fact that I couldn’t have visitors in my room (not even to do homework). The fact that the dorms actually gave me a curfew of 10pm. The desire to eat real Arab food instead of the food on campus (which includes Baskin Robins, Subway, and Auntie Annie’s Pretzels -this is not immersion). The unbelievably astronomical cost of living on campus. Or maybe just the fact that I didn’t want to live in a walled-off school campus, however nice it is, effectively sealing me into the top economic tier of Egypt and thus never getting a feel for what living in Egypt really means.

Anyways, I was told I had to move off campus in the first week in order to receive a full refund (minus a small deposit), so I found myself homeless in Egypt with two large backpacks and a suitcase. A new friend from Norway, Pia, saved my life by allowing me to stay in her apartment in Heliopolis for a while. In reality it was only for two days, but that was enough for me to find myself starting my first day of my new college semester homeless and living out of a hiking backpack.

I had started the apartment search two days before becoming homeless in Cairo, but had had no luck. The search started with a student from Virginia, Will, who had much experience living abroad, although he eventually decided to remain on campus. So I continued the search by myself and later found someone to live with. Below is my apartment search in HGTV fashion.


Apartment 1 –

Location: Rehab Extension (pronounced ri-haab not rehab), a gated city with ~300,000 people, many Syrian refugees and thus many Syrian restaurants. The walled city has its own security apparatus and everything you need in it. There are multiple malls and a huge traditional souq (outdoor market) which has hundreds of shops selling anything you can imagine.

Price: 5,000 LE (Egyptian pounds)/month ($638/month), three bedrooms

Pros: Very close to campus (9km), secure, buses that travel from all parts of Rehab to the shopping and food centers

Cons: Not as complete an immersion experience as other locations, as a “suburb” everything is driving distance


Apartment 2 –

Location: Maadi Sarayat or Old Maadi, it is a nice area fairly close to the Nile and Corniche with many expats and foreigners living in it, considered a pricier neighborhood close to the famous Road 9, which has all kinds of food options from Chinese to burgers, koshari to the renowned Maadi McDonalds

Price: 6000 LE/month ($766), two bedrooms

Pros: Hundreds of food options within walking distance, beautiful and quiet neighborhood, bawaab (doorman) for safety and cleaning purposes, huge balcony

Cons: The price is so damn high

 


Apartment 3 –

Location: Maadi Sarayat, also

Price: 5000 LE/month ($338), two bedrooms

Pros: Very similar to Apartment 2 for a lower price, also has bawaab

Cons: Father walking distance than Apartment 2, less space than other apartments


 

Just like HGTV, I will keep the suspense high and leave you waiting. Make bets about where I now live, twiddle your thumbs, watch paint dry, or partake in other time-killing activities because the next installment of this blog is still a few days away.

Orientation

“Welcome to ISIS… *looks around nervously* … I mean ISSA (International Students and Study Abroad)… *nervously giggles*…” – This was the introduction all new study abroad students received on a cold and rainy morning.

As promised I am keeping this post shorter with more pictures. This is partially due to the fact that I am having trouble remembering the whole occurrence of events while writing this two weeks later. I have also had a lot of trouble with my Wi-Fi connection. Long story short, I am alive and okay and have a lot of news to share in the coming posts.

Throughout the week of orientation I got to know the other study abroad students quite well (and many of the internationals for that matter). There is sadly only 9 new study abroad students this semester (one from Norway and the rest from the US). While there are many other internationals, we make up the group of new exchange students. We attended sessions and then in the afternoon ventured out into the city. Below are pictures from Old Cairo and Khan al-Kalili (an old and extremely large market).

The entire week was surprisingly cold and the first four or five days I spent in Cairo were scattered with rainfall. I still, like a true Minnesotan wore minimal jackets which garnered a plethera of questions from Egyptians including jealous “Where is your jacket!”‘s.

P.S. Special thanks to one of the most amazing humans I know Haleigh Gulden for a last minute gift of a selfie-stick which became a group favorite on our trip to the pyramids. See picture below for evidence I used it Haleigh.

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After a week of cold weather, I was rewarded with a comparatively warm and sunny Friday trip to the Pyramids. I know I would go, but just not so early in my stay. It was a nice surprise from ISSA. A morning trip in a small bus in the typical Egyptian traffic (yes it is worse than LA) brought us to our destination. The pyramids really are something special. They are so much bigger than I ever could have imagined. We spent the morning visiting the pyramids and the Sphinx. A large group of us even enjoyed a trip inside of the Great Pyramid. It however was an amazingly challenging workout that including crouching while climbing a steep “staircase”. Accompanied by an Egyptology major (who definitely has a future as a tour guide if he wishes – he doesn’t) we learned a few highlights of the pyramids history. The actual tomb was small and almost entirely barren. While the trip didn’t change my life, the mystical pyramids lived up to the hype.

Oh yeah and I made some new friends too (photo cred Hassan Elzawy).

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