our first day!

26 September, 2009

I wrote this last night in my room where i don’t have wifi. I hear the call to prayer outside now.


I don’t know exactly what I was expecting to see when I landed in Egypt for the first time, but a horizon of tan buildings and dirt piles probably would have been in the top three. I was surprised by my lack of initial astonishment. Sitting in the middle row just takes the fun out of everything. After a 11 hour long flight which consisted of mediocre salmon, my passed out neighbor’s light shining in my face, outside magazine (the photo issue, oooo), Harper’s index and 30 minutes of sleep, Kenny and I were anxious to get picked up and go to Alexandria! The immigration process was fast enough, some people have to wait 2 hours, but for us it took only 20 minutes. They gave us a survey to fill out asking us whether we have or have recently had a fever, diarrhea, sickness, headaches, blablabla. It seemed like a really roundabout way of asking someone if they have swine flu. Maybe once someone is asked how their health is, they’ll come to the realization that they are indeed sick with the h1n1 (aka hiney). Maybe not. Maybe they should do these checks before people get on the plane so there’s no need to quarantine the flu spreader as well as those who he or she may have coughed on. Just an idea.

We took turns taking naps at the international arrival, fighting off the advances of taxi drivers offering us rides for a good price. We told them we were already waiting for someone. “Well, if that doesn’t work out, come find me [toots.]” When the time came for the TEFL international van to come pick us up, we dragged our luggage over to the information booth, the predetermined meeting spot and waited, and waited and waited. “Something doesn’t feel right” Kenny decided to go look for a payphone to call the number of the contact in the program, only to find out that this airport terminal didn’t have payphones. He somehow uses his charm, wit and menial Arabic to find not one but two people that offered to let him use their mobiles to try and figure out this mess. It turned out that the driver was waiting for us at terminal 2, while we were sleepily stumbling around terminal 3. Totally not our fault, we were just told to go to the information desk.

Relieved that the problem was solved, we sat by our luggage and waited and waited AND WAITED AND WAITED until it was 40 minutes after the phone call and Kenny decided that he was going to terminal 2 to see what the problem was. At that moment, a frazzled looking middle aged Egyptian man hustles over to us, waves the “TEFL international” sign at us, drags my 25 kg suitcase at warp speed and beckons for us to follow. We ran past more cab drivers. “Good price!” “Laa Shurkan (Arabic for ‘no thank you’)!” “Taxi!” “NO (New Yorker for ‘get of my way’)!” The van was there, surrounded by other vans, and filled to the brim with other people in the program and their belongings. Thank you Mr. Muhammed Van Driver for not abandoning us, even though we still don’t quite understand why you took 40 minutes to travel across one terminal. Shukran.

The nationality of the other program members ranged from British, Irish, Australian, Canadian, American to oklahomeyan. We shared our life stories and why we decided to do the program. We talked about how little or how much Arabic we knew. We learned dirty phrases in Arabic and shared our token Korean phrases that we’ve picked up throughout life. Driving through Cairo was everything I hoped it would be but better. Everybody honks at twice the rate than in NYC and we kept spotting ridiculous riding situations such as: the motorcycle on the highway with the mother, father and baby; the pickup truck with 10 or so dudes banging on drums and cheering and someone driving a Yugo. Drivers rarely adhered to traffic lanes and pedestrians frequently cavorted between the cars. It was terrifying and hilarious.

Once we got to the final location, we were taken to our rooms and left to unpack for 45 minutes until we met up for dinner. This is probably the largest living space I’ve ever had in my life. It’s a two bedroom with a kitchen (with counter space!), a dining area (with a table!), a living room (with a tv!) and a huge deck (YES!). I have my own room with two beds (I hope no one else moves in), two windows (they’re never closing, because I’ll melt), lots of closet space and a night stand.

Shaima, the lady in charge of residence life here in the palace / factory of English teachers took us around the neighborhood, brought us to a brightly lit restaurant next to a bowling alley and asked us “do you want to eat some real Egyptian food?” yes plz. Mmm

We had a typical Egyptian dish called Kushari which consisted of macaroni, lentils, rice, fried onions, chick peas and tomato sauce with hot sauce and vinegar on the side. It was awesome and tasty and filling and I was ecstatic to finally eat after being done with international planes, trains and automobiles. We wanted rice pudding, but they were all out, so we went a few blocks down to the “cafeteria” to meet up with some other people from the program and eat puddin’!

If only cafeterias in america had all the perks of this one. Cotton candy machines, hookahs, fruit juices, RICE PUDDIN’, go karts, big screen tvs probably showing Turkish music videos, arcade games and chairs you want to melt into after a long day of traveling.

Tomorrow Kenny and I are going to wake up and go to the beach which is a 5 minute walk away from the apartment. There’s also a mall in the area, maybe I’ll wander over there to gawk at things and take pictures. In the afternoon we have orientation which will probably be followed by us frolicking around in the neighborhood. Sunday is when the certification program starts, bringing my extended summer vacation to a victorious end and starting a new chapter of my life called “Setters and Kenny take over Egypt with awesomeness and English”



I’m at the computer lab now where they have wifi. There’s a little boy looking up lyrics to all american reject songs and it seems like it’s beautiful outside. If only kenny would wake up and get over here (he’s in the boys dorm, probably still passed out) so we could go to the beach. hmmmmm.

Here are some pictures from my first day!

1. the dudes on drums

2. the view from the back of the van

3. Kushari!

4. a shot from the arcade cafeteria.


One Response to “our first day!”

  1. yo-jin said

    set, you should write a book. your writing is always great and cracks me up

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