Monday, June 3, 2013

The month of May and my Egyptian birthday

*I have become a worse blogger than I had ever expected to. xD This post has been sitting around as an empty draft under the title "Shem el-Naseem vacation and updates" for nearly three weeks. My bad.*

{And NOW this has been sitting under the new title "The month of May," almost completely edited, for another week or so. Therefore I have edited the title even further. Sorry my blogging skills have officially gone south.} 

Well, since I last left off with my update about Carson and Annika's visit to Alexandria, which took place in the final two days of April, I figured that it would be appropriate to call this post "The month of May," and update you all on everything that happened in it.

The first thing worth talking about was that, for the first two weeks of this month, I was on vacation for an important holiday called Shem el-Naseem.
Some background info: The holiday's name translates to "the sniffing of the breeze," which is a holiday that dates back to Pharaonic times and is meant to be a little celebration of the beginning of spring. Its name is derived from the name of the Harvest Season in ancient Egypt - Shemu - which means a day of creation. Ancient historians wrote that the Egyptians once offered salted fish, lettuce, and onions to their deities on this day. When Egypt became Christianized during Roman rule, this holiday eventually morphed into its current date (Orthodox Easter) and form, and even after the Islamic conquest of Egypt, this holiday remained. It is celebrated as more of a national holiday, by Egyptians regardless of their religion, than as a religious one, even though Coptic Easter does fall on the same day. In modern times, it is typically celebrated by picnicking outside in parks or public gardens, eating feseekh (salted grey mullet, which I tried and admittedly did not like so much xD), lettuce, and scallions, and younger children often color and decorate eggs.
It fell on the 6th of this month, and although my host family and I didn't really do much to celebrate it other than eating some lettuce and feseekh with our lunch, I did have the opportunity to go to an Easter celebration in a Coptic church with my kind neighbor and friend Youssef, who took me to his church with two of his friends, named Abanoub and Mina, and I got to meet lots of very nice people and get a look at how Copts celebrate Easter. It was a great experience. :)
After that we ended up hanging out together for a few more hours before going home. I'm very glad that I had the chance to see and learn about all of these unique Egyptian celebrations.

Me and Youssef :) 

From left to right: Youssef, Abanoub, me. :)

The lovely chocolate egg that Youssef brought me. It was delicious. :3

The rest of the Shem el-Naseem vacation was fairly uneventful, and I went back to school on 12th.  Their scheduling of the vacation had been pretty inefficient - we essentially had two weeks of vacation right before the end of the year, and then came back with only two weeks to go - and one of them reserved exclusively for the fourth quarter exams. So we only had a week to cram in all of our lost lessons before testing, which, of course, ended up being extremely chaotic.
But, in any case, we somehow managed it, and then the following week we took our exams, and then it was over for me on May 22.
On that day, when I stepped out of the room in which I took my final exams, I was finished. Finished with school for the summer. The end of my time in Taymour English School was fairly unceremonious, and at first it didn't really feel real that I was done. But, as I've said before, although I've made some very good friends from my school that I'm very happy to have met, school has definitely not been the best part of my experience here, so in many ways I was relieved to be done. That, and the fact that my desire to study pretty much died during the Shem el-Naseem vacation, contributed to my relief. xD

In any case, I've been finished with school for ten days now, and it feels very nice to be on summer break. Although many of my friends are still not done with their exams and are not free to hang out with me, I've still been able to do some pretty great things since I finished school.

On the 24th, my host brother Loay took me to a resort on the Mediterranean coast about 20 kilometers outside of Alexandria, called Sidi Krier, with a group of his friends. First we swam in the large, connected system of swimming pools, which was refreshing. Afterwards, we headed to a nearby mall to grab a bite to eat, and then headed to a place inside Sidi Krier called Amoun Cafe, which is right beside the sea. Loay and I ended up running straight to the water's edge together. :) And oddly enough, as soon as I saw the place, I realized that I had been there before! I went there, with the same people, all the way back in September, in my first week here. So I subsequently kept flashing back to that whole evening to that night.
That was a fabulous day. :)

A few days later, my host father's brother and his family came over for a little while, and since there was a power outage at the time, I ended up chatting with them for a long time and we actually hit it off quite well. I remember thinking at the time that it was quite comical - bonding with people I had only just met, in the dim candle light of a power outage. xD

Then, on the 29th of May, to celebrate their final day of school (since all the grades bellow high school finished on that day), I went out to an open air mall within walking distance of where I live, called Green Plaza, with my Egyptian American friends from school, Youssef and Hashem. We saw Iron Man 3, ate at a Pizza Hut for dinner, and then made use of the large trampolines in a part of Green Plaza called Karamantas. It was a great day out with two great friends, in spite of the intense heat that day.

Then, June 2nd was my 17th birthday! In order to celebrate, Youssef and Hashem took me out to San Stefano, another large mall that I've mentioned before, and we kind of just walked around, talked, and had fun. And in the middle of our time there, my AFS returnee friend Adham surprised me and showed up with his brother Ahmed and a friend of his named Salah. It sounds pretty simple, but it really was a good day. :)
Although I must say that I really feel no different yet, now that I'm seventeen. I guess it just has yet to sink in? Perhaps...
In any case, I had a very simple but very fun Egyptian birthday. :)

That's all the news that there is to report at this point...I'd say that I'm doing pretty darn well in general. I have been sick on and off a bit these past few days, but hopefully that will pass. And today I guess the universe decided to make up for the scorching heat on my birthday yesterday ( the high temp was 107 Fahrenheit -.-) and offer a much more pleasant 82. :)

Sorry I've been seriously slacking lately when it comes to blogging. I will try {note the word try} to be better about it in the near future, starting with writing a couple of posts from that list of ideas I had back in March.

Thanks for reading!

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