Snakes on a Plane

Kila and I have made it to American University in Cairo (AUC). It certainly was an interesting trip here. So bear with another unforgivably long post and you will be rewarded.

 

I left home on Saturday the 23rd. Saying goodbye was not an easy thing to do. But by mid-afternoon, after a last supper at Chipotle (obviously), I was on a plane headed to Paris. Kila, the other Concordia student to study abroad in Egypt, arrived within minutes of me and we went through security and everything together. The trip to Paris was rather uneventful as was our long 5-hour layover. I found myself extremely tired after our first flight (about 9 hours long), so I found a wonderful orange chair to pass the time in while sleeping. Thanks to Kila I have a couple beautiful pictures to share. As it came close to the boarding time we went over to our gate and waited. After remarking about how late the plane was boarding, we realized that our flight had changed what gate it was loading. We were going to be late! Grabbing all of our things, we quickly went from one end of the airport to the other in a high speed rush. When we got there, they were still boarding and we were nowhere near the last to board.  Also, did I mention how tired we were by this point? Really tired.

IMG_3446

It was the flight from Paris to Cairo where things really got interesting. This flight was one to remember, perhaps mostly due to the characters we encountered. During both flights people offered to move their seats so Kila and I could sit near each other, however this time it was just because of their plan to take our aisle seats. Either way we ended up sitting by each other and I still had my aisle seat (I really do always get what I want). As the plane took off and we ascended, a man diagonally in front of me began praying, reading his Qur’an, and stroking his beard. I do not get nervous easily, but seeing his nervousness manifested physically made me feel more nervous than I thought possible. He probably sent half of the four and a half hour plane ride to continue his nervous mannerisms.

Seated next to Kila was another interesting character; she was an elderly woman from Denver, who would be traveling with a group throughout Egypt for two weeks. She was very kind to Kila and myself but acted less than kind to some on the plane. Kila mentioned she may have been upset by the lack of English being spoken on the plane including the French announcements. As the plane continued, she added more and more layers and continued to comment on how cold the plane was. First she added a pullover to her outfit, then her winter jacket, and then a blanket. But this wasn’t enough. She began asking people around her for their blankets. I agreed to give her mine. Still cold, she began to desperately reach under a sleeping Kila’s legs to grab Kila’s blanket that lay on the ground. She struggled for a couple minutes, somehow without waking Kila, and then gave up. Although she wished for more, five layers was enough.

The last interesting character that I encountered was an elderly woman, presumably Egyptian, whom sat directly in front of me. There were no problems until I finally fell asleep, something I had surprising trouble doing, with my head rested on the seat in front of me. I will state that I did not fall asleep purposefully against the seat but it did not matter, I had upset the woman in front of me. She began to continuously move her seat from the upright position to the reclined positon, banging the chair repeatedly against my head with all of the force the elderly woman could muster. When I awoke and finally realized what was happening, I continually pushed with equal force against the seat each time it happened until she quit. I don’t understand why the woman couldn’t just turn around and ask me not to rest my head against the seat. She wins my “Worst Airplane Passenger Award” for the flight.

Overall though, the flight was amazing. I highly recommend flying Air France to anyone who is presented the opportunity. I’m not just saying that because my flight attendant was so French it almost hurt. I however might just be saying that because of the food. The food was so amazing. I felt as if I was sitting down eating at a French restaurant. The best part of the meal was the slice of camembert cheese that was served with the meal (a piece of a baguette was also served with the meal!) The elderly woman who I gave my blanket to didn’t eat her cheese and made up for taking my blanket by giving me her cheese. So yes, I loved my flight with Air France, but there was one interesting event. A snake. Well maybe. About two thirds of the way through, a flight attendant made an overhead announcement in only French. All I could make out was that there was an emergency. Everyone started to turn around in their seats and look around. Slowly, a large game of telephone began from the back of the airplane to the middle. By the time it reached me the person behind me said she thought that there was a snake that was misplaced. I still have no clue whether this is true or not, but it was partially confirmed to me when two women who appeared to be in their sixties began checking every overhead bin from the back to the front.

Finally, we reached our destination. When I stepped off the airplane to the outside staircase, I had my first impression of Egypt almost immediately – “Fuck, its cold. So much colder than I ever thought.” After being separated and then finding each other again, Kila and I changed our money to Egyptian Pounds, got our visa, and found our bags, all with the help of kind and hospitable Egyptians (the first of which was an AUC alumn). We couldn’t even make it out of the building without people trying to sell us things pretending to be from the Ministry of Tourism and a myriad of taxi drivers ambushing us with their inflated 10-times-as-much prices before we could tell them we already had a driver.  As we stepped outside I couldn’t help but smile. There were masses of people, twice as many shady taxi drivers, beautiful landscapes and buildings in the distance, and nothing but sounds of Arabic and car horns honking in the air. We found our driver who was, not surprisingly, smoking a cigarette. He helped us to his car as he dramatically threw his cigarette on the ground; before even leaving the airport parking lot we got a great taste of the notoriously bad driving in Egypt. There were many car horns honking and cars coming in close encounters (sometimes an inch) with people and other cars. Our driver, while leaving his parking space, came within a half a foot of hitting a group of children… knowingly. He just continued to back up until the children moved. You really can’t understand the driving here without seeing it (and I thought Palestinian and Israeli drivers were bad).

About 40 minutes later we arrived at AUC’s Pepsi Gate, where our bags went through searches and x-ray’s and we went through metal detectors. This is something I will need to do every time I enter campus. We had no clue what we were supposed to do from there. Presumably we were to head to our dorms, but we were given no information, even after requesting it, about which dorm we were in. Along the way we found many workers who tried their best to help us, but they all spoke very little English. It didn’t help that the little Arabic I know is Formal and not Egyptian Arabic. Thankfully, a student who is also an RA found us struggling to speak with a staff member and assisted us. After signing forms, and pounding on the doors because of a lack of keys, my sleeping roommate let myself and the person assisting me into the room. The bed was made, the dorm much better than I could have imagined, and my roommate extremely helpful. Oh yeah, and he’s an American named Adam too. It didn’t matter as we talked for two hours. He even showed me around a little as I asked every question that popped into my mind until I sleepily dozed off.

IMG_3445.JPG

Advertisements

The Mother of the World

“The Mother of the World”, “The Paris of the East/Nile”, Masr, or its literal translation, “The Victorious”. By whatever name you call it, I will be living and studying for the next four plus months of my life in Cairo. It is the largest city in the Middle East and the Arab word.  It has been a city of great importance and is home to more than 22+ million people in the metro area – making it the 15th biggest city in the world. As a self proclaimed city-person, I cannot wait to get lost in the crowded streets and sip coffees and teas in the famous coffee houses.

My home will be in a (at this point unknown) dorm on the campus of the elite and expensive American University in Cairo (AUC). At the school I will be taking 15 credits including an intensive accelerated Arabic course. Not to worry though, although I will have an opportunity to work on my Arabic, all coursework excluding language courses are conducted in English. I am told it is actually a little uncommon to hear Arabic on the campus. I guess I will be able to inform you in a few days whether this is true. Technically the campus is in New Cairo, a suburb of 2 million just a short bus ride from Cairo’s downtown. You can expect to hear more about AUC in latter post when I actually know what I’m talking about.

 

So I guess now would be a good time to tell you more about myself. My name is Adam Domitz. I was born on Labor Day 21 years ago and for that whole time my home has been in Lino Lakes, MN. Growing up my favorite things were playing with my sister (during the times we were actually getting along and not fighting) and doing crafts with my aunt Joan. And winning  board games. My least favorite thing was probably when my hands would get dirty. I am told I would cry whenever my hands had anything on them, including dough from baking with my grandma. My taste obviously refined as I grew; this is apparent in the fact that in Junior High I was obsessed with playing Dance Dance Revolution. In ninth grade I became addicted to my violin. Every day when I got home from school I would listen to an entire symphony or concerto. Later that day you could count on me practicing on average 2 hours on my violin. During Junior High, I also had my first “experience” with the Middle East, acting as the Sultan in the musical production of Aladdin (one of my favorite Disney movies despite its orientalism). I thought throughout high school I would major in Music Education once I got to college, which led me to Concordia College. It wasn’t until my second semester I realized Music wasn’t the right career for me but I didn’t know what what was right.

During a May international tour with the Concordia Orchestra to Israel and Palestine, I had life changing conversations and experiences. I realized that my passion was to explore – to learn about new things and to try new experiences. Perhaps, partially based on this I changed my major to Global Studies and Political Science after returning from the trip and now focus those studies on the Middle East. I also started to learn Arabic due to my exposure to a language I have always seen as beautiful. This all led me to choose to study abroad in Egypt.

 

I will end my first entry on a note about the blog itself. To be completely honest, I have absolutely no experience doing anything like this and have no clue what I am doing. I see the whole idea of a study abroad blog as cliche at this point. Yet I ended up creating my own blog. How? When I told people that I was going to by studying abroad in Egypt, they would react with interest – and many with faces of bewilderment. Family and friends would ask that I post on Facebook to see my experience and just because they will want to know that I am still alive. Many would ask that I show them pictures when I return. In a somewhat weird experience, someone even handed me their business card once saying, “Email me some pictures, I am interested in knowing what Egypt really looks like.” Some friends even gave the me idea and encouragement for a blog. One of them is a good friend who had a blog herself (https://shutupandfrance.wordpress.com) about her experience studying abroad in France. I suggest you check it out. She also encouraged my use of a pop culture reference for the title Walk Like an Egyptian. Long story short, I found myself searching for free blog sites with no idea what I was doing.

My hope for the blog is that it acts as a sort of extension of my journal. Hopefully, I will be a little funny but who knows. I also appologize in advance as I am a horrible speller. And most of all I hope that my post wont be as long as this one. Less writing more pictures. If you even read this far congratulations. If you have any suggestions or comments feel free to leave them below. Until next time.

 

Oh and to answer everyone’s question, yes, I do plan to go see the pyramids. (You have no clue how many times I got this one.