Sunday, January 13, 2013

AFS Midstay Orientation - Zamalek, Cairo

So, as I had previously mentioned, I spent this weekend in Cairo to attend the AFS midstay orientation!
Let's see what there is to tell...
On Friday, I woke up bright and early (5:00) and got a ride from my endlessly generous host father to Sidi Gaber train station, one of the two main train stations in Alexandria, to catch my 6:11 train to Cairo.
I had a pretty pleasant train ride; I just sat, listened to music, and observed the scenery from the train window. The ride took about three hours or so, and when I arrived at the Ramses Station in Cairo, my wonderful friend Hady, who I've mentioned before here, very graciously came to pick me up at the train station and give me a ride over to the hotel where the orientation was being held. I was honestly SO glad to have a chance to hang out with him again. :)
We then headed over to the lovely neighborhood of Zamalek, to the hotel where the orientation was being held.
Let me just go off on a tangent for a moment and describe Zamalek: Basically, it's a really pretty neighborhood located on an island called Gezira Island, in the center of the Nile River. It's a very elegant, stylish neighborhood full of really nice shops, restaurants, homes, and a very large number of embassies. Many expatriates live in Zamalek as well.
So, it's not at all your typical Egyptian neighborhood, but it's certainly very beautiful and I like it a lot. :)
One thing that was quite strange was when I recognized streets that we had been walking around in, and even the Hotel President, the hotel we stayed in, on that incredible first day in Egypt, and it felt SO TRIPPY, because that first day here feels like it was an eternity ago.
In any case, we arrived at the hotel we were staying in this time around - Horus Hotel, which was VERY nice and I liked it quite a lot - I said goodbye to Hady, and then was reunited with Carson and Annika, and met one of the two volunteers that officiated this orientation, named Ahmed. We waited for a while until the other volunteer Habiba showed up, and then we went out to dinner in an American diner-style place called Grizzly's, where I ordered the "sizzling chicken" and a FANTASTIC smoothie. :)
We then returned to the hotel and did most of the actual orientation - talking about our experiences here so far, how to prepare for what is left of it, things of this nature - until the evening. Then we went out to dinner in a nearby pizza place, returned to the hotel, hung out for a while in this lounge on our floor, and then went to sleep.

The next day, we got up quite leisurely around 11, and then finished off the orientation by writing letters to ourselves to be reopened at the end of the program.
Then we headed off to eat lunch in an Asian Restaurant called Zo, where I ordered delicious coconut chicken soup, and Korean chicken rice noodles. And for dessert we all shared fried bananas with ice cream and honey, which were quite delectable. :)
Afterwards, we went back to the hotel to meet up with Hady, I said goodbye to Carson, Annika, and Ahmed, and then Hady, plus his sister Haidy and mother Huda, took us to a place where Hady and I got off and took the Cairo Metro - which was actually pretty nice - to Ramses Station to save time.
Then I said goodbye to Hady and left on a train to Alexandria at 4:00. Again, I had a pretty nice train ride. I just sat and listened to music, looking out the window, basically the whole time. I then arrived at Sidi Gaber at about 7:00, and then took a taxi myself back to my host family's home - I arrived there about twenty mintutes later.

All in all, it was a really, really nice weekend, and I greatly enjoyed myself. I always love visiting Cairo when I get the chance, but at the end of the day, Alexandria really feels like my home here, and it was nice to get back too. :)

Then today I took my French and social studies exams, since exams have officially begun at Taymour. >.<
Fortunately they were quite easy, and tomorrow the only exam I have to take is English, so I guess I'm starting off lightly. :)

That's all.
Thanks for reading!

A nice aerial view of Zamalek, courtesy of Wikipedia! xD