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August 28, 2006

I can’t sleep. For you all back in the United States, it’s a cheery 8 p.m. or so. Here its 3 a.m plus. And yet when I lay down in my bed, I can’t fall asleep. My roommate has had time to get lost, get her cell phone unlocked and take a shower in the time I’ve been trying to go to bed.

Part of this is trying to figure out what classes to sign up for tommorow. The ISSO head (that’s international student services office – where all study abroad students register) is infamous for her ablity to make new American students break down and cry if they are not prepared (complete with Facebook group!) and I am having a load of trouble trying to match up classes I got signed off on at GW to minor requirements to classes that haven’t been cancelled. Ancient Egyptian Literature in Translation was stolen right out from underneath me.

I also think I still haven’t adjusted to the time zone change, and I have had the luxury of sleeping in until 1 or 2 p.m. for the past few days. All that changes tommorow, as my cell phone alarm is set for 8:45. A hardship, I know.

But aside from my rampant insomnia, there is good news. Tommorow, the shuttle from our hotel to the school is officially starting. On one hand, I’m thankful to not have to walk in 104 degree heat for about a mile to get the school (or overpay for a taxi) but on the other hand, it seems to be another way that AUC self-insulates from its location.

Now I know myself in these matters, and I know I enjoy comfortable, shiny, structured paths in situations of the unknown, but I think I might miss the challenge of herding 8 or so Americans down the streets of downtown Cairo. It’s hard to say day to day whether its going to be hostile or not. Sometimes nothing happens, sometimes we get stared at. In particularly bad examples, one of my roommates got pinched walking down a main street, another one got followed, and yes, the comical-if-it-I-didn’t happen-so-often marriage proposal with dowries of “200 camels”. Please, we’re standing outside Egypt’s Italian version of Starbucks, we know you don’t have camels.

That’s annoying, and tonight, on my walk back from a Cairene diner-esque establishment call Gad restaurant, as usual I got cat-called from one of the street vendors (literally, like he was making noises to get the attention of a cat-a sort of tsk-tsk-tsky sound). Before I crossed the street, I turned back around and sarcastically made the sound back to him. The “ignore-it-until-it-goes-away” advice I’d been getting from AUC teachers just wore me thin. There’s inherant, systematic cultural biases against women and then there’s just being a jackass.

I never did see his reaction, but the reason I’m still (only slightly) bemoaning my daily walk to AUC is the interactions I had in the restaurant. A little kid walked up to our booth and tugged on the scarf I had around my waist and we all waved hi to him. We were being seated and a group of Egyptian women around our age stared at us (the three blue-eyed girls and a Korean) realized what they were doing, giggled and smiled at us as an apology.

Because there’s cultural differences, and then there’s people just sitting down in a diner.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Karly permalink
    August 29, 2006 12:51 pm

    Taylor! I’m thinking of you and your insomnia…..they keep saying things will get better, and they will!

    Keep people in line on that side of the continent and I will keep people in line on this side. how’s that sound?

    Miss you and as always, keep in touch 🙂

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