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!