Friday, August 31, 2012

♪ Kiss me goodbye, I'm defying gravity! ♫

Excuse the pretty cheesy title, but I feel that the song "Defying Gravity" applies pretty well to my situation right now, because tomorrow....

My last days here have been fun and calm. More goodbye parties, more touching gifts, that kind of thing.
Part of me still simply cannot fathom that tomorrow I will be leaving.
Today I had a pretty funny thing happen to me: I was walking around the downtown area of my city, and went to my local library (because I had to return some things to the library and eliminate my fines so I could leave with a clean account), and while I was in there, as I look into the teens section, when I was seconds away from leaving, I recognized my friend Nate's tell-tale hairstyle, and I found him sitting with my other good friend Donny and other people that they know!!!!!!!
I then proceeded to spend most of the day until now with them.
It was honestly one of the best ways that I could have imagined spending my last day in town. :')
We walked around, talking, bought some snacks, and even stopped in an archaeology museum with a cool Egyptian exhibit in honor of my final destination. As we walked around, I did my best to drink in all the sights of my beloved Ann Arbor, which I will miss dearly, but not as much as my amazing friends I was with. <3

But, as I said, part of me just can't fathom that I'm leaving tomorrow. I literally have not realized it. I think it will be clear to me when my dad and I leave for our interlude in New Jersey, and I have to say goodbye to my mom and sister, and give them their letters to be opened after I've gone.

So, Ann Arbor and all Ann Arborites, I guess this is goodbye for a little while.
I'll miss my quirky, unique little university town that I've been born and raised in, and all the beautiful people who inhabit it, to pieces, but I'll be back in time to watch the fireworks light up over my elementary school (it's a tradition) on the next Fouth of July.

Unfortunately, I have to deal with packing, because I'm not done yet. xDDD
So, I'd better go and finish up.
Bye for now!!

Like I said, I need to finish packing. TT.TT

A souvenir from the archaeology museum: a bracelet that says "love" in hieroglyphics! :D

True words. 

^The song.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Random Pre-Departure Stuff

I do have several things I should mention that have happened recently:
First of all, last weekend I traveled to Avon, Indiana, to visit my Egyptian host brother Gaser!!
It was a long drive, but it was so worth it! :D
I honestly can't believe we met such a short time ago; now it feels like I've known him for years.
We talked endlessly about our exchanges, and he told me a lot about his family and his culture. I'm sad I won't be living with him in Egypt, but I'm glad that I have someone who's in my shoes, going in the opposite direction, that I'll be able to talk to and relate to extremely well, because both of us will know where the other is and what he's going through very well. :)
the two of us :)

Next, I had a real blast to the past when, a few weeks ago, I met up with my student teacher from the fourth grade!!!!
In my city, Ann Arbor, since it's a university town, many elementary school classes also get a "student teacher," or in other words, a college student who's studying to become a teacher.
And it turns out that mine went on an AFS semester program to Finland in high school!!!!! Therefore we had  lots of things to talk about :)

I also had a "blast-to-the-future" of sorts when I met the Egyptian girl that my family will be "AFS cousins" for this year. It was really cool to meet her, get advice about Egypt, and practice some of my meager Arabic.  Haha!
I'm glad that my family isn't actually hosting an AFSer this year though, because I would feel like I'd be missing out!

And starting yesterday, began the long lineup of pre-departure parties! First my friend who I've been very close to since the second grade came over, and we had an amazing time. <3 We talked on and on about anything and nothing, laughed heaps, and never stopped having fun.
And then today I had seven of my amazing friends from my school come over! We went canoeing in a park near my house, and then came back to my house and simply talked and laughed for hours! We also had a birthday cake to celebrate my EXTREMELY belated sixteenth birthday. And, I gave everyone (my friend from yesterday included) personal letters to be opened after I've gone.
Many of them also got me gifts!
In short, this was amazing and beautiful in so many ways, and I feel so blessed to have all the amazing friends I have in my life. :')
I took this while we were canoeing, obviously

my delicious "birthday" cake!
my friends singing to me :')

all of us gathered in my living room talking :D

On another subject, one of the questions that I've been asked the most, even by my own family, has been "has it started to freak you out that you're leaving so soon?"
Until very recently, I would have said no. My departure was simply too far away to think about it very seriously.
But now, with only a week left until I leave my hometown, I'm beginning to freak out.
As my friends and I had many hilarious conversations and played all these fun games, I finally began to realize, "I'm going to miss this. And I won't see these people for a YEAR.

It's not like it was news to me, but it really sunk in for some reason.
But we will keep in touch, and I'll be back for the next Fourth of July to watch the fireworks with them. :')

On a final note,
If you are an AFSer, you will know that this has a huge significance.
And if you're not,
now you know. XD

I don't think I need to explain what these are. 
Well, that will be all for now.
Ila al-liqaa'!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Taymour English School

Yup, I got my host school!!!
Or more appropriately, my host mother sent us a message telling us about the host school and giving us the link. xD
If you want to check it out, the link is "".

It has two locations, one in the Abees district of Alexandria and one in the Roushdy district; I will be attending the Roushdy branch of the school, since it is closer to Smouha, where my host family's home is located.
It looks like there is a uniform, but, based on the pictures posted on the school's website, it seems to simply consist of wearing jeans and a shirt with black and red stripes, so it doesn't seem so bad.
I've read the site quite a bit already, and it looks like a really awesome place! The "school at a glance" part of the website cites "Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Compassion, and Honesty" as their "five core values."
The campus is complete with a theater, a gymnasium, basketball courts, volleyball courts, tennis tables, libraries, computer rooms, horseback riding and art rooms!
This sounds like a nice place!

It appears that the school is at least mostly in English. And I'm not sure weather I should be relieved about that because it means that my first month or so of school won't be a game of charades, or disappointed because my Arabic might not be as good in the end because of not having to use it in school.
There will be plenty of other places to develop that, of course. (:
One of the things that I think will be very interesting is that Egypt has a different weekend from the United States: Instead of being Saturday and Sunday, their weekend is Friday and Saturday! That stems mainly from the fact that Friday is basically the Muslim Sabbath, where everybody goes to the masjid (mosque).
It feels so cool to know where I will be attending school for this coming year. And so oddly surreal!
My school looks like a wonderful place and I'm very happy to be going there!!
I'm definitely one of the luckiest people I know :D

I'll leave you guys with some pictures of the school...Or things related to it...
A picture I found of the website!
One of the few actual pictures I could find/was able to post. Not sure if it's the Abees or Roushdy branch of Taymour.

The logo of the school
That's it for now.
I'll be back soon enough!!!
Ma as-salama!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Christmas in Egypt

I know that it seems a little weird and unseasonable to be writing about this, but I got this idea from a Malaysian AFSer who's a returnee from Germany-
we were chatting about the experience of exchange and he asked me how it will be for me to celebrate Christmas in a land where the majority of people don't celebrate it.
And I actually found this to be an interesting question.
It's something that I haven't really thought of. I'm sure that I'll be feeling a bit nostalgic on December 25 itself, because I won't be celebrating Christmas with my natural family.
But I'm looking very forward to celebrating Muslim holidays that I've never celebrated before! Ramadan will have been over for several weeks when I arrive, but I will be able to celebrate Eid al-Adha, which marks the end of the Hajj, a sacred pilgrimage in the Muslim religion, with my host family! :D
Another holiday I'm looking forward to spending with them is Shem an-Naseem, which literally translates to "the sniffing of the breeze." This unique Egyptian holiday marks the beginning of spring, and is thought to have originated all the way back in Pharaonic times! It falls the day after Easter. Although the Easter in the Coptic Church, to which the Christian minority in Egypt belongs, is probably different from Catholic and Protestant Easters....
That reminds me, another thing I'm looking forward to is Coptic Christmas, which falls on January 7. Even though my host family is not Coptic, it would certainly be an interesting thing to see!
I'm not sure how, if at all, Christmas is celebrated on December 25 in Egypt...I'll look into it :3
Until next time!! I'll leave you guys with some pictures of the holidays I've mentioned - or maybe things related to them, since I'd prefer not to post pictures of people worshipping, out of respect for them.

Only 21 days until I leave Michigan and only 25 days until I leave for Egypt!!!

Ila al-iqaa'!
a special Coptic Orthodox Cross

Shem an-Naseem- people often celebrate by picnicking  in green spaces 
a greeting card for Eid al-Adha

Sunday, August 5, 2012

27 days

That's how many days are left before I leave Michigan.
The countdown has begun.
I will leave on September 1.
I have to be at the pre-departure orientation in New York on the 5th, but I'm going to visit a few relatives in New Jersey before that. I'll be dropped off at the airport hotel where the orientation is happening on the 5th.
I still can't quite believe that I'll be leaving in 27 days.
It still seems somewhat unreal, and I think it will only really truly kick in that it's real when I'm about to go.
But that will come soon enough!
I CAN'T WAIT!!!!! Even though I have some things I'm worried about, as I've iterated before, I've been waiting for this experience for years and am not about to let anything stop me. :)

On another subject, I Skyped my host brother Gaser a few days ago!!! :D
It was very fun. He seems like an incredibly nice person. And he's about to be an exchange student himself, in Indiana. And he leaves Egypt tomorrow!
His English is also impeccable. I was surprised because he told me that AFS Egypt expects exchange students to not know ANY Arabic when they arrive. They were surprised when they heard that I even knew how to say hello and goodbye!

On another subject, I think I've found out why my visa application was so easy:
Technically speaking, it will only be valid for a month. I will renew it with help from AFS Egypt when I get there.
I reckon now that the reason everyone else's were so hard was because they actually are valid for the entire year.
Oh, well. :P

That's it for now.
Ila liqaa'! (another Arabic way to say goodbye)
What I'll be sending in an application for tomorrow.
New Brunswick, the town in New Jersey where I'll be visiting relatives before the PDO! 

Friday, August 3, 2012


Well, not a ton has happened lately.
A few small, somewhat insignificant things unless you're me.
I returned to Michigan a few days ago.
I got a new laptop for my exchange, from which I'm typing this post. :D
And my blog also reached a thousand hits!! Thanks guys :)
And I have continued to communicate with my host brothers on Facebook. :)
Another thing that I've done lately has been starting my visa application. And let me tell you, I was dreading this, because AFSers going to other countries had horror stories to tell about getting theirs.
But mine was so incredibly...EASY. 0_0
It consisted of the following: the visa application itself, which was actually just a one-sided piece of paper that requested only basic information, a check for $15 to the Egyptian Consulate, some new passport photos, and my current passport itself. And now it's done! I just need to figure out where it has to be sent, send it off on its merry way, and I'll be good to go!
And another thing I've been doing lately has been...worrying.
I mean, I'm incredibly exited to do this. This has been my dream for years and I can't wait to go. I want to go; I want to live in Alexandria with my host family, learn the language, become Eskendarawi and Egyptian, have my experience there become a permanent part of who I am, as I'm sure it will.
But I'm a bit worried about the language and school. I mean, I know some Arabic. But I simply don't know enough to express myself well. And that scares me.
I'm also a little scared of entering a school where I most likely will know nobody.
And I don't even really know what the language situation in that school will be. According to AFS,  it could be mostly in Arabic, mostly in English, or a mix of the two depending on the classes.
But for now I'm trying to push all that worrying into the back of my head. :)

The other day I also had to fill out the "activity waiver" for Egypt that talked about activities that we might do, courtesy of AFS Egypt. And it included activities like snorkeling, scuba diving, CAMEL RIDING, camping, hiking, and swimming in a sea, pool, river, or lake.
This makes me happy to be going to Egypt. :D

I still have yet to book my ticket to New York City for the orientation or receive my host school information from AFS.
Hopefully the next time I post it will be because I have one, or preferably, both, of these pieces of information.
And from checking my email while typing this up, I now know where to send my visa documents! There's a start :)
Well, that's enough for now.
Ma as-salama!

It would be quite nice to make the obligatory visit to the Pyramids of Giza on camelback :D

Lake Qarun, another potential destination for swimming - I've heard it's a petty nice place! 
the RED SEA, where I wouldn't mind the whole swimmming/snorkeling/scuba diving thing happening :3
Also, here's a nice picture of where I was in North Carolina! :)