Monday, December 31, 2012

سنة سعيدة !

Or in translation, HAPPY NEW YEAR!

This has been a wonderful year, certainly one of the best of my life so far.
It's definitely been a unique one, full of unique and beautiful experiences. Getting to travel to Italy to visit my family back in April, attending the World Summit with my AFSer friends from the AFS Washtenaw Chapter back in Michigan, finishing an academically difficult year of school back home, then having a wonderful summer and a magnificent send-off, and finally the most significant event of all by far - coming here.
This part, of course, stands out as the most special one of this year. I had the luck of being able to fulfill the dream that I've had for four years: Going to Egypt for a year with AFS. I came to a country where I only knew three people - all former AFSers that had stayed in my hometown - from 82 million, that I had never been to before in my life, and where I didn't speak the language, to live with a family that I didn't know, and attend a school in which I knew nobody.

And now?
Now I have another family, and I love all of them to pieces. I have a routine, a life, hobbies, and good friends here in this city that may as well have well have been another planet when I first arrived. I know how to get around it easily. I know it well. And it feels almost like a second home to me now. I've been able to get to know and understand this country, this culture, this part of the world, from a perspective that not a lot of Americans or Westerners in general will ever be able to.
And although my experience at school has been far from perfect, I feel comfortable there now. I've made some really amazing friends that saved that part of my exchange. I've learned many things - both academic and life lessons - from attending this school.
I now know how to haphazardly understand and express myself in a language that sounded like COMPLETE GIBBERISH to me when I first got here.
And, perhaps most of all, I have made absolutely amazing friends.
From AFS, I have my incredible "German sister," as I call her. I have friends from both the USA and Germany in Cairo. And I have a whole horde of returnee-volunteer friends that went to places all over the USA.
And from school, I have fantastic friends from a surprising amount of places - Canada, the USA, Italy, Libya, Russia, Turkey (most born to Egyptian parents though), and of course Egypt itself, who have been wonderful to me and have gone out of their way to make me feel included and happy and make sure I'm having a good time here. They helped me out of the dark, unhappy first days of school, and brought me back into light and happiness. They saved my experience in my school, and I will forever be grateful to them for that.
I've been able to fulfill one of my greatest passions - traveling - in the extreme, visiting some pretty incredible places - all over Alexandria, Ismailia, Cairo - all of them beautiful and intriguing and fascinatingly new to me.
And overall, I'm living my dream.

Of course, there have been difficult times. I have missed family and friends back home. I have had difficult days. I have had frustrating and difficult experiences that have, at times, been quite hard to cope with. I have struggled with linguistic barriers and trying to learn how to speak a very difficult language. In spite of my awe of the amazing, new, and unknown realm I had just stepped into when I first arrived, in the beginning I faced overwhelming culture shock and strange, random mood swings. And I became intensely homesick at Christmastime. But I've gotten through the difficult things like these, and have experienced even greater happiness for being able to get over these problems.

All in all, it has been a wonderful year.
I can't wait to see what 2013, and the second part of my exchange in Egypt, has in store for me. :)

Happy new year! Buon anno! سنة سعيدة! Feliz año nuevo! Onnellista uutta vuotta! Mutlu yıllar! Frohes neues jahr! Feliz ano novo! سال نو مبارک! Boldog új évet! Gott nytt år! С новым годом! Gleðileg nýtt ár! שנה טובה!
Whatever language you speak and wherever you're from, happy 2013, everyone!

Love from Alexandria, Egypt,
Nico ^^

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

My Egyptian Christmas

Well, I'll probably not get around to finishing and posting this until tomorrow anyway, since it is quite late. But MERRY CHRISTMAS TO EVERYONE! <3

So, basically my Christmas started when I realized about halfway through the school day on the 24th what day it was - on the way back I listened to all of the Christmas songs on my iPod over and over again.
It was a little weird that this day that I used to count the days until when I was little, that I always look so forward to, had arrived, and yet here I really had to try to feel the spirit since so few people celebrate it on the 25th (the Christmas of the Coptic Christians of Egypt is January 7 instead).
I expected it to be a little sad - to just stay home, blasting Christmas music from my laptop, maybe watching "Elf", "Love Actually", or "The Polar Express", Skyping my family back home, being homesick..
And it looked as though that was what was going to happen, until I got an unexpected phone call from the always-amazing Regina, inviting me to go to Mass with her in a Catholic church near the home of our calligraphy teacher.
Now, as I have mentioned before, I am pretty much agnostic, but I originally am Catholic, and I have attended church very frequently in the past. I have some good memories of attending wonderful midnight vigil masses on Christmas Eve, so I very quickly agreed.
We attended our service in a church called the "Église San François Xavier," run by Jesuits. The service was in French, and a good number of the people in the congregation appeared to be from France itself. And oddly enough, a lot of them seemed to be speaking French and Arabic together!
In any case, it was a really beautiful and emotional experience, both because we were really feeling the spirit of this holiday we love so much, and also because it was incredible for me to revisit my religious roots a little bit, so to speak.
After wards, we bought some cakes to celebrate, and the whole way home we were singing Chrismas carols and hymns, seeing how they were in English and in German.
It was really a beautiful feeling, because after starting out that day a bit sadly, I really feel that I felt a genuine Christmas spirit. :')

Then today I woke up quite late since I had the day off from school, hung around home for a while. Then, as we were getting ready for the Christmas party that my local AFS chapter was holding, my host family had a beautiful surprise waiting for me:
It was such a gorgeous, thoughtful surprise; I loved it soo much!
Then my host mother and I went to the AFS Alexandria Christmas party, which turned out to be a wonderful experience as well.
Regina and I both (completely unexpectedly) received some lovely gifts, and then there was a really amazing time when, since no one brought any iPods or speakers or anything, we sang songs instead! I remembered words to songs I didn't think I would - I sang songs like "Angels we have heard on high," "Hark! the herald angels sing," "Silent night," "We wish you a merry Christmas," "Feliz Navidad," "Rudolph the red nosed reindeer," and such, while Regina sang their German equivalents.
And we just kind of hung around and talked with all of the beautiful people from the AFS Alex chapter.
It was fun, needless to say.

So, all in all, yes, I missed Christmas in general, and celebrating it with my family, and just the general feeling of this holiday season back home. I missed many things about it and felt a bit homesick.
I had a really beautiful Egyptian Christmas, a better one than I could have hoped for. So, I am happy. :)

Merry Christmas to everyone! Hope it was amazing.
Love as always from Egypt,

Yes it is sideways. Sorry. But either way, it's my lovely Christmas tree from my amazing host family, complete with the gifts from the party under it! :D

Friday, December 14, 2012

100 days in Egypt - مائة يوم في مصر

And I honestly will say that I could not have asked for a better 100th day here.
First, I decided to go with my host mother to the middle school where she works, where some teachers and a large group of kids were working on repainting some murals.
She invited me to come, and I accepted, so at around ten in the morning we walked over to her school, which is VERY close, and then set to work.
It was a great experience to meet the teachers, and all the kids. They were, like middle schoolers anywhere in the world, a bit rambunctious and nutsy, but kind, lovable, and friendly all the same. They were all shocked that I knew how to talk to them in their language! xD
One really interesting thing was seeing a school that was very different from Taymour. This school is almost all in Arabic, in contrast to Taymour (especially the American division), since most subjects there are, of course, taught in English. It's also much less expensive than Taymour, which charges a tuition of 20,000 Egyptian pounds (about $3240) every school year.
All around, it was a really great experience, and I'm glad I came. :) My new friend Mustafa, the university-age son one of the staff members in the school (who speaks good English, although he thinks it's bad!), who also attended, took a bunch of pictures that I really want to post here, so hopefully I will be able to post them and then remove this sentence soon ;)
Afterwards, I attended an 'aqeeqa, which is the name for the equivalent of a baby shower, for a host relative's new baby, again with my host mother. This was also a wonderful thing to decide to go to with her, because I got to see relatives of theirs who I've met before, and meet lots of new ones, and it was just such a good time and a wonderful cultural experience. And the baby was SO CUTE! ^_^
Afterwards, I stopped at the barber shop right next to our apartment building to get a haircut, and that was really cool because 1) they did a good job and 2) I ended up having an amazing conversation with the friendly barbers - in Arabic! :D We talked a lot about politics and culture and so a lot of complicated formal Fus'ha words were involved, which meant that I said "eh? (what)," "tani (again)," and things of this nature, quite a few times. But I'd say I managed it pretty well. Hehehe :D

So overall, this one hundredth day, and this experience in general, have been better than I could have imagined or asked for. There have been ups, downs, good things, bad things, lessons taught and learned, lots of changes, and lots of things gained so far. And I CANNOT wait to see what the remaining 200 or so days have left in store for me.

To numerically celebrate this day, I am going to make one list of things that I would suggest to any future exchangers reading my blog/that I have learned from this experience. I will most likely not reach 100, but I'll put everything I can think of and we'll see how it turns out. :P Enjoy!

What I suggest:
1) Do not be afraid to follow your dreams.
2) Follow your heart and go to the country that you want to!
3) SPEAK THE LANGUAGE FROM DAY ONE. And don't be afraid to.
5) Embarrassing things will happen, so try to just kind of think "eh, whatever" and move on from them.
6) Learn tons of things about your host country.
7) At the same time, it is VERY important not to have expectations.
8) Keep an open mind at all times.
9) Don't be afraid to try to make friends, TALK to people as much as you can! But steer clear of anyone you dislike, of course.
10) Try to never say no to an invitation to do something (as long as it's safe and within the rules, of course), because you will see new things and meet new people that way.
11) Listening to music in your host language is extremely helpful in learning the language.
12) Try to learn how to get around your host city alone, no matter what the size, to be independent in getting around, that way you can have your own little adventures from time to time. :)
13) Alert your natural family of your safe arrival, but try to communicate little with people back home in the first few weeks, and wait until you have more of a routine and are feeling more settled in, as prolonged contact can intensify homesickness that you are likely to feel immediately upon arrival.
14) Missing things is natural - miss things, be proud of where you come from, and keep in touch with all of your family and friends. But live in the present and pay attention to what you have around you, because you will likely miss it very much when you have to go back home.
15) Teach people things about where you come from - teach them a little bit of your language, or practice it in English's case with people, answer questions, compare and contrast, clear up stereotypes, and foster intercultural understanding.
16) Returnees from your home country who went to your host country are walking encyclopedias when it comes to any questions you may have.
17) AFSers make great friends. :)
18) When you're suffering from culture shock, try to remember that someone who went from your host country to your home country is probably just as befuddled as you are.
19) Be friendly and open.
20) Look for help AROUND you when you're having problems.
21) Bring at least one formal outfit in case you have to attend formal events such as dances, weddings, or things of this nature. It may not seem that important but it really is!

That's all I can think of...I'll add anything else I think of :P
Thanks for reading!

Friday, December 7, 2012

The big three-month post!

Although, not so big maybe...We'll see what I'm able to come up with, haha! :P

But yes, as I nearly forgot, as of today, I have been in Egypt for three months.

Three months.

It seems really weird to say that. I know that I've said this before at different times and that it's more than a bit cliche, but it's definitely true:
Part of me feels like I've been here for so much longer than that, more like five or six months than just three.
And part of me feels like I've been here for a mere matter of weeks, rather than months at all.
But yet another part of me feels differently still:
It's hard to describe or put into words that make sense, but part of me doesn't recognize these measurements of time one way or the other. Part of me just feels like I'm here, living in the present, that everything is coming more and more naturally, that I am enjoying my experience and trying to get the most out of it that I can, and I therefore don't even feel that the time that has passed is long or short, it just feels normal.

I'm very proud to be able to say that, because I feel like in three months, I have made this place that I had never been to and seen only in books and online feel like a home away from home. There have been ups, and there have been downs, although mostly ups. And now, I feel happy, comfortable, and at home.

And I love this feeling.

And this place. Elhamdulilah. :)

So that's all!

-Your very happy Eskendarani in the making,

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Well, I said I would make a real post sometime, so...

Sorry I've been a bit of a lazy blogger lately, but for a while there wasn't really much news to tell, because I was kind of getting into a period of not going out that much and was actually sort of bored a lot of the time.
I'm happy to say that that's over now. :)
That, plus the fact that I am procrastinating on my homework, is why I am currently writing this post. xD

Now, where to start...
On the 30th of November I had the privilege of attending a farah - the equivalent of a wedding reception - with Adham and Regina.
It was SO MUCH FUN! :D
We went over to Adham's home first to get ready and then headed over with him and his family to a place called "Downtown," in this area that was full of large, indoor venues that are used almost exclusively for the purpose of farahs.
We followed the very elegant bride and groom inside, as they were encircled by a large group of people that were drumming and ululating.
Then some food was served, and after that we got straight to the most important part of the whole party: the dancing.
There was a DJ and lots of music being played, and some very oddly dressed dancers that I suppose were there to serve as entertainment for the guests. There were also cameras all around to film the event.
But more importantly, as soon as the DJ started playing music (and sometimes even singing himself!), the vast majority of the guests promptly made their way to the dance floor and started to dance - very energetically.
It was so much fun! At first, I felt a little shy, as I'm not much of a dancer. But after a while I decided to let go and dance along a little, even though I'm probably never going to be able to dance like the people around me could.
Even so, I still had an amazing time, and am very grateful to Adham for taking us and allowing us to see this quintessentially Egyptian event.
(Weddings here in Egypt are very important events in people's lives, and it's a lengthy process with four main steps: The first is the engagement, or khutooba, which is celebrated with a party at home exactly like the first one Adham took me to. The second is the signing of the marriage contracts. The third is the religious ceremony, which is followed by a celebration in the street outside of the mosque for Muslim couples, or inside the church, for Christian couples. And then the fourth and final step, and perhaps the most festive of all, is the farah itself - the huge wedding party.)

And then December started, which is something that I'm still having a little bit of trouble wrapping my head around.
As a Michigander, I associate December with cold, snow, ice, skating, skiing, sledding, missing days of school because there's so much snow, Christmas, Christmas music, you get the drift. And there's not a lot of these kind of things here.
Although it is definitely starting to get chilly.
In the morning, it's actually quite cold out, and I need to wear my large Taymour jacket (we get in trouble for wearing anything out of uniform, so I had to get the jacket from school) to stay warm. At night it also gets quite chilly. But of course it seems like nothing compared to the Michigan winter - although everyone keeps telling me that the worst of the winter weather has yet to come.

In any case, I had a very awesome day on December 1, because first, I went alone by taxi to an event in the Alexandria chapter of Amideast, an organization that promotes cultural learning and understanding between the USA and the Middle East, and got to speak and present in front of a large group of students my age, most of whom knew Gaser, because he is an Amideast participant! And I got to meet one of the leaders in the Alexandria chapter, whose name is Mrs. Nadia, a very sweet American woman who married an Egyptian and has been living here for eight years! And who knows Gaser personally.
And then who should unexpectedly show up to give a presentation of his own, but ADHAM! That was quite fun.
Afterwards, I took another taxi and headed over to the Bibliotheca Alexandrina to meet up with Fatma and Regina to attend an event - the Closing Ceremony of the Model European Union, which has been going on for several weeks.
I had lots of fun there with them talking and enjoying the ceremony, and then what was really ironic is that I ran into Khaled, who was on the staff, and we both didn't even know that the other was coming!
I also met some pretty cool people: two Egyptian girls, sisters, that had lived in Alabama for eight years and therefore spoke really fluent English with American accents, and a nice girl named Mirna who's about to go on an exchange program to Poland for a few weeks.
SO,  that was an awesome week. :)

And so far, this week has been pretty typical.
I've been feeling really comfortable, even in my class! :)
And I received my report card from the first quarter - I will post a picture.
Today I was supposed to go to an event in the Bibliotheca with the other people from AFS, where we were going to hear an imam speak, but the event was canceled.
But the ironic thing was that I had missed the day of school in order to go to the event, since it was starting while I was still going to be in school. And we didn't know until it was too late...So I suppose I was absent for nothing. Although not really nothing, because catching up on sleep is always important. ;D
Then Youssef came over for a while, and we went out together a bit to get two very tasty (and, admittedly, a bit unhealthy xD) things: a falafel sandwich, and Boreo juice!
For those of you that don't know, Boreo is basically a rip off of Oreo's that are more like little cakes. They still sell real Oreo's here though, which I find a little ironic.
But either way, Boreo juice was delicious and reminded me quite a bit of a milkshake.

OK, that's enough procrastinating, I should go do my homework now....
Bye everyone!

PS: I've decided to make a tumblr, where I will be sharing random photos and the occasional blurb. Feel free to take a look at But don't forget to follow me here! Haha ;)

The sunrise has been looking really pretty lately when I get up for school. 

The farah

Me and Regina :)

Regina dancing with the bride!

Another pretty sunrise picture

My first Egyptian report card! I'm proud :) But please discount computer, art, and music, as we don't take them and I don't know why they're included. Also, discount the grey subjects at the very bottom, because they're in Arabic and I'm therefore exempted from them. Overall, my total grade was an A-. :)

Friday, November 30, 2012



My reaction?





This is the picture that was shared if you're curious. :P
Their caption: "What's this, Photo Friday? Oh, just AFSer Nico. In Egypt. Chillin' on a camel. In front of the pyramids. Just flashin' a peace sign with his pal Regina from Germany. NBD."

Also, here's the link to the Facebook page that I mentioned if you're interested at taking a look at it for any reason:

I will make a real post some other time. 
Bye for now!
Nico :)

Monday, November 26, 2012

Belated Thanksgiving brownies

Well, this is an interestingly titled post, isn't it?

Anyway, firstly I wanted to mention the way in which I belatedly celebrated Thanksgiving yesterday, as I was unable to celebrate it on Thanksgiving itself due to the fact that it was my host brother's birthday and we had organized a surprise party for him. 
Basically, what I did was make brownies for my host family! 
I wanted to make something typically American for them in honor of the holiday, and since most of the quintessential Thanksgiving meal ingredients are either non-available or non-existent here, I decided to make do with what I had, as I'd brought a large bag of brownie mix to bake for my host family as one of my gifts to them.
And today I finally got to put that mix to good use. :)
After some issues with the absence of essential ingredients (which I was luckily able to solve by walking to a large supermarket located conveniently close to my house), I was able to easily whip up a decent batch of brownies within an hour! :)

I was also able to combine this with a bit of Skyping, first with my friend who I hadn't heard from in a long while, and then my parents and sister! So apart from the fact that we finished very late and I was very tired today because of it, I had a wonderful day hearing from people and making some edible American culture to share with my host family. 

So yeah, that's really all that I have to tell right now.
Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving!



Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Well, today of course is Thanksgiving back in the US. And I just wanted to take a moment to write here about all the things that I have to be thankful for:

I am thankful to have the best family I could ever hope for, both immediate and extended, who love me and raised me to be the person that I am today.
I am thankful to have been born and raised in such a beautiful and highly cultured city.
I am thankful to have all of the amazing friends that I have back in the US, who love me for who I am, and care about me.
I am thankful to have been brought up with two homelands, which has motivated me to explore other cultures and lands throughout my life.
I am thankful for AFS, the amazing organization which made it possible to realize this dream of mine, for fostering cultural exchanges and promoting peace since the 1940s.
I am thankful to AFS Egypt and AFS Alexandria in particular, for making the adventures that we have had so far and will still have in the future exploring this beautiful country possible, and for organizing fun events and such for us to participate in.
I am thankful to the people of the Global Leaders scholarship, who were able to take the edge off of my tuition and make it even more possible for me to come here.
I am thankful that I was so easily and readily accepted into the country that was my first choice, fulfilling this dream of mine that I have had since age twelve.
I am thankful for my incredible host family, the beautiful people that willingly volunteered to take me in for a year, for opening their home and hearts to me. I adore them.
I am thankful for the amazing friends that I have here in Egypt, AFSers, returnees, and schoolmates alike, who have already given me incredible memories to cherish my whole life, and are always there for me.
I am thankful to my friends in Taymour specifically for making going to school worth it in the hard first days, when I was feeling so alone and in the dark.
I am thankful that I decided to learn Arabic for such a long time before I came, which has made it SO much easier for me to communicate with the people here.
I am also thankful that Palestine and Israel have come to a ceasefire agreement.
I am thankful for all that I have, as I am very lucky to have it.
And I am thankful for choosing to come to this amazing country.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The follow-up post

Sorry that my title is not particularly creative today, guys. :P
Anyway, the engagement party was very fun! I arrived not knowing anyone, except Adham, of course, but they were really friendly and eager to have me there, and impressed with the amount of Arabic I know (although most people are impressed that I as a foreigner know any Arabic whatsoever..).
It was a fun night, full of good food, lots of dancing and music, ululating, and a very elegantly dressed and happy-looking bride and groom to-be. :)
In my opinion it was actually really cute. It was a nice evening.

Afterwards Adham and I went with his brothers and stayed for the night in the home of his grandmother, who was a very sweet woman, and her home was absolutely beautiful! One thing I found really beautiful about it, outside of the apartment itself, was the fact that the view overlooks a mosque and a church that are mere meters away from each other.
It was extremely moving to me, seeing as I am quite devoted to world peace, cultural understanding, and the like, to which I think this sight was quite relatable. :)
I will include a picture in the end of this post of that.

The next day, we didn't really do much. We relaxed in the home of Adham's grandmother for most of the morning, and then went for a pleasant stroll on the Corniche and saw the sun setting and stuff (pictures of this will be included as well :P).
Then I went home.

The next day I really didn't do much of anything except wake up EXTREMELY late, fool around on the computer, and study for my final round of quarter exams.

Yesterday I took those final three exams, which were social studies, chemistry, and physics, and then today I had another day off.
And, as of tomorrow, normal school will resume.

That's really all there is to say...
Well, here come the pictures!

Me looking all patriotic in Adham's souvenir glasses

The church and mosque

The beach!


PS: Take a look at this trailer and this movie.
I think the whole world should watch this movie, especially now.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Happy 1434!

Well, let's see what there is to talk about...
This week, I've started to feel so much more comfortable in my school. It's a really wonderful thing, especially considering how hard the first days there were. :)
This week was also the week of the first quarter exams, which basically worked like this:
Everyone got placed in a class that was not theirs, with all the grades mixed up together, to take tests to minimize any cheating. There were three or four tests every day, and after each one there was a half-hour break.
And here's the REALLY awesome thing:
The day after one round of tests, there was a day off to prepare for the next round of tests! :D
So that was really awesome, because even though I had these quarter tests, I basically only went to school twice this week. Although I will have a final round of tests on Sunday.

Moving on, tomorrow is the Islamic New Year!
That is the reason that I titled this post "Happy 1434," because according to the Islamic calendar, in which the Year 0 was 622 CE, the year of the Hejra, or in other words, when the Prophet Muhammad fled from his home city of Mecca to the city of Medina to escape persecution.
So again, HAPPY 1434! ^_^
Tomorrow will be vacation for everybody, so I'm happy.
And my awesome returnee friend Adham, who was hosted in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, last year with the YES scholarship, will be taking me to a [I forgot if it's an engagement or wedding xD] party!
I'm interested to see that, as both weddings and engagements are seriously celebrated here. Haha! :D
I will make a post soon to talk both about the wedding-or-engagement-party, and also to talk about if there were any specific celebrations for the Islamic New Year itself.
Bye for now,

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A day in the City of a Thousand Minarets

Here, as promised, is the real post about the trip to Cairo yesterday!
So, in the morning my host mother and I woke up early, and, as we were running a bit late, rushed to the meeting point, which was a train station in the Sidy Gaber neighborhood, and then boarded the microbus that we had again rented for our little day trip.
Those present with us were: Regina, her host sister Reem, an aunt of theirs and her four children, Fatma, her mother Nagwa, and Melanie.
We then had a very fun and surprisingly short ride over to Cairo. We were notified of our arrival by someone calling out "look outside!"
We were greeted by the Great Pyramid of Khufu staring down at us.
Afterwards, we payed our tickets and such, and entered the main complex of the pyramids.
It consists of the three main, largest ones, and then several smaller ones that were used to house the wives of the pharaoh.
It was honestly...breathtaking.
It's one thing to read about these things in history books and see their pictures in Google, and then to go and see them towering above you. It's incredible.
It was something that I had dreamed of doing since I was a very small child, seeing the pyramids. And it was so worth it to go see them.
I stared up at them in awe, imagining how on earth people had built these things FIVE THOUSAND YEARS AGO, with only the technology available to them at that time. It made me feel so small and humble.
We then did something that is pretty obligatory for someone visiting Egypt:
We rode camels. :D
It was a little nerve-racking at times, to be honest.
I mean, camels look a little intimidating. I realized yesterday that they remind me a bit of dinosaurs. XD They have very sharp teeth, and can at times be pretty temperamental.
Getting on and off of them were the worst parts, because it feels like you're going to fall off!
But once we had been moving for a while, it was ok. :) We then rode them around the pyramids to a point where we could admire them from afar, then went back to admire them from close up. Then we finished and left.
One thing that I will say, is that there are a lot of people there who try to rip off unsuspecting tourists. The pyramids are stunningly beautiful and amazing monuments nonetheless, you just need to learn how to deal with those people. :)
After that, we entered Cairo, and met up with Hady! We proceeded to the Nile, to ride a felucca there. And before we got on, who should join us, but Ahmed, the boy from Cairo who was in Ann Arbor last year!!!! :D And two other nice returnees.
I was very exited to see him again at last, as I had not been able to see him since he left Ann Arbor back in June.
Then the felucca ride was very fun also - very slow and leisurely, as the felucca had only sails, no motors. And, mercifully, no shaabi music was blasted at full volume!

Afterwards, the whole group proceeded to the Saladin Citadel of Cairo, a medieval Islamic fortification on the Mokattam Hill near the center of the city.
It was absolutely beautiful, from the inside and outside.
On the inside in particular, the designs on the floor and ceilings were mesmerizing.
And there was a moment when the muzzein, the main who makes the call to prayer, did his job, and hearing the sound of the call to prayer echo though the mosque gave me the chills.
It was an honestly mesmerizing experience.
And we were very lucky to have Hady there with us, because he used to give tours in there and was therefore very knowledgeable about it, able to tell us things that we otherwise wouldn't have known.
After that, we wandered around Khan al-Khalili, one of the most famous souqs (markets) in Cairo, and that was very interesting, because it was a fun place that looked like a very stereotypical Middle Eastern marketplace.
After that, we made a quick stop in Islamic Old Cairo, then we got into the car, said goodbye to the Cairenes, and then stopped in a mall on the outskirts of the city to eat - ironically - the only thing available in the mall: fastfood. -_-
We then headed back to Alexandria, and once again, the way back wasn't as fun as the way there, because everyone was so tired.
But I was in the very back of the bus with two unoccupied  seats next to me, so I put a quiet song on replay on my iPod, lied down, and did my best to get a little rest. :)
Then, once we arrived, I had just enough energy to get cleaned up, say hi to my host brothers (as they had just gotten back from a week in Hurghada a resort on the Red Sea, so I hadn't seen them in a while), and collapse into bed.
Now, today will consist of three S's: Sleeping (finished that already xD), studying (for my quarter exams this week), and Skyping! :D

Not to mention uploading a load of pictures into this post, which will likely take a while.
BYE for now :)

The Great Pyramid of Khufu in all its glory. 

From small tomb alongside the pyramid, that we were allowed into!

My German friend Regina and I, on camel-back :D

Fatma's picture of me and Regina on the camel :)

Tani (another one)

'Alatool fil gamal - wa 'alatool btaat Fatma (Again on the camel, and again the picture's Fatma's XD) - this is one of my personal favorites :)

Fatma and Melanie on theirs

Just us bein' weird :D -courtesy of Regina's host sister Reem

HSM style XD again by Reem

Just to give you an idea of how big it is!

Amal and I :)

A fountain in the middle of the Nile

From the felucca ride

The lovely Ann Arborite-Egyptians: from left to right - Fatma, Hady, Ahmed, me :)
I like this a lot. I'm not sure why I like this picture a lot in particular, I just do. :3 

The outside of the Citadel

The ceiling 

Khan al-Khalili

Islamic Old Cairo! 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

A brief blurb about some FANTASTIC NEWS!

In short,

This is a realization of an almost lifelong dream for me, oh God I can't wait!

That is all I will say for now, but I promise to make a real post about it after I get back.
That is all.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

I'm back :P

Well, after another payment-related misunderstanding, I have returned to the world of blogger. xP

First, I'll write about the weekend, I guess:
So, first up, on Thursday (which, very strangely, was my first - and only day- of school last week) night, I went to a concert with Fatma and a friend of hers named Mohamed in the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, which was WONDERFUL. Here's why:
There were two bands; one was an Arabic one called Wasla, the other was an American one on tour in Egypt called the Boston Boys. At the end, they played a piece that was written especially for that occasion, with a country tune, and Arabic lyrics! :D
Then afterwards we went and ate some koshary in a nearby restaurant.
Koshary is basically a quintessential Egyptian dish that is described (very accurately) by my Lonely Planet phrasebook as: "a carbohydrate extravaganza of rice, macaroni, and lentils topped with fried onions and a spicy tomato sauce"
And it's such a common dish here that no one could believe that I hadn't tried it in the almost two months I've been here! So now I don't have to disappoint anyone anymore. :)
Then the day after I went out with Melanie to the Corniche, and we bought some ice cream, which was also a fun evening, even if we weren't able to stay out very long. :)

Now, a little update about little things that have been making me very happy:
I am realizing how independent I'm starting to become now, and it's making me SOO happy!
I'm noticing this by way of little things: my host family asking me to go out and buy things for them, feeling confident going to buy stuff, no longer being terrified about answering my host family's phone, getting mistaken for one of my host brothers (or even my host dad!) when I answer their phone, feeling comfortable riding taxis alone, having an ever-more developed mental map of this city, being able to ask people for directions all in Arabic(and UNDERSTAND them!), so on and so forth.
And moreover, I just feel so much more comfortable here now. I know more or less what to expect from, where to go in, and how to get around this city that so few weeks ago may has well have been a different planet. And I'm very proud of that.

On that happy note, I will leave you for tonight, my beautiful readers, and try to get to bed early.
Since I took a nap today that was originally intended to last a half hour - and ended up lasting THREE and a half - we shall see how that goes. XD
Tisbahu 'ala khayr!
Good night everyone!
-Nico :)


The Boston Boys

Also, I took some videos with my camera. But sadly, blogger is being mean and won't let me upload them, so I guess we'll have to do without them. :(
But I do, however, have two other videos I'd love to share with you guys!
The first is an English song called "Home" by Phillip Phillips, which is another song that I think beautifully describes the exchange student experience.

Now, for an Arabic song by Amr Diab, who's one of my favorite Egyptian singers. The song is called "Heya Hayaty," which means "She is my life." 


That's all.
See you guys!