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 ^^

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