Friday, July 30, 2010

Differences in Culture Part 4!

This post is special and wasn't planned. But I had the opportunity to go celebrate an Egyptian couple's engagement last night, and it turned out to be perfect for another post. When I found out it was for an engagement, I was thinking that it would just be a fun party with a cake and stories being told about how thy guy proposed.
Nope.
Engagements here are totally different from the US. It's more of a ceremony where they sign pledges (This is done in a more private setting than what I attended) then the two families of the couple get together and party. It felt like a wedding reception, though the actual wedding won't be for at least another year! Everyone was dressed to the nines last night, and the couple looked phenomenal.
Hopefully they won't mind I'm sharing this pictures...
Everyone welcoming the couple in. They had even hired string instrumentalists!
They shared a "first dance."
They even had cake!
This was just one of the courses, served around 11:30;
And yes, that is caviar in between the Shrimp and smoked Salmon.  I had SO much fun and ate some really delicious and unique food there. 

I also got to meet four girls my age who were just amazing! They spoke English and really made me feel at home. 
Here are three of them, they are beautiful ladies.
If this is what the engagement is like, I really wish I could have seen how an actual wedding reception goes down. 

P.s., I'm going fishing tomorrow! We are leaving at 5 o'clock in the morning which is a bummer, but I think it'll be an amazing experience. And my roommate Sharon is coming with me too! It's going to be a packed boat, but I don't care. I'm just excited that I am actually going to be in the Red Sea!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Almost done!

There really isn't a lot of time left of my summer. Tomorrow is the last day before the weekend, and then I might go to work one last time on Sunday or Monday. I have no idea where the time went. I've still got some big posts planned though, expect one either tomorrow or Friday.

Puppies!
These little cuties live in a pen by my work office. They are so friendly, but I can't pet them. :(

And will someone tell me what Grilled/Fried Viagra is?!

Lastly, I am looking forward to coming home. There is a lot going on this next week and I want to be there for it. I will miss the amazing people I have met here though. I wish I could have gotten to know them all better.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Random shots from my weekend

So it has been WAY to long since I have last posted. I'm to tired to write out any real updates or complain about the taxi driver who conned me out of extra five pounds, but here are some fun pictures and I'll write out a good one soon.
Grabbing coffee on Road nine. Cafe' Greco was a great place to just chill out! I needed it after that taxi driver. Grrr...

Here's my friend Nashaat who invited me out. It was his birthday yesterday!
I actually don't drink coffee, and so I got this delicious Strawberry smoothie thing instead. And I look surprisingly awake for having an insomnia attack and not getting any sleep. I've seen been sleeping much better since that miserable night, but I still am not sleeping as well as I should. 
 
And here we are, goofing off during a break on a shoot last week. They asked me to name the dog, so I suggested Snoopy. They all laughed like it was a bad name. The director said it means something different here, but I forget what.  Everyone still called him Snoopy though. 

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Newness

What do you guys think of the new layout? Or should I hit the drawing board again?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A quiet night...

The apartment was quiet tonight. Very quiet. I got back around six, Sharon got in around nine, and I never even heard the Dutch couple at all. I walked past their door and saw the light turn off. Who is the Dutch couple you ask? They arrived three days ago, so now there is four of us here. They are really sweet, but don't really speak English. The husband knows a bit, I think he knows about as much English as I do Spanish, which is basically enough to get what you need. The wife knows...maybe about five words? She always says hi and good morning to me, and she made me tea two days ago. I really like them, but since I obviously don't speak Dutch we don't see to much of each other.

Yesterday though was pretty busy. After work I went over to a co-worker's house and ate dinner there. He has a wife and a three year old, and I liked them a lot. His wife could understand English a bit more than speaking it, and my co-worker is trying to teach his kid some English (He's very fluent).

After dinner he had his kid sing the Arabic version of "Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes." I started to sing it in English and the boy flipped out! He didn't realize I was singing it in a different language, so he kept shouting "La! La! (Word for no) and telling me the right words. It had both of his dad and I laughing. I wish I had taken more pictures there, especially of the delicious food, but I didn't really get my camera out. I did, however, get some shots of this little cutie/monster.

His yelling something in Arabic. I should also note that he was in the middle of a nap when I arrived, and had the hardest time waking up for dinner. A couple rounds of fighting with his father however...led to a very energetic kid!
One last picture, this is a warning to watch what happens when you let other people in the office take over your camera...
~Men, they are the same in every country. Many a time have I seen this exact thing happen back at school. Makes me feel right at home. :)

Oh a random note, I can't get this song out of my head. I accidentally found it, and now I just have to keep playing it and playing it...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HH7WXlf9WLk

Friday, July 16, 2010

Walking around Maadi and....CHURCH!

Oh church. I missed it. I've only been to one other church since getting here in Cairo and that was in June. So it's been awhile since I've been to worship with a community of believers and I've felt it spiritually. When I walked in with my roommate it felt like a breath of fresh air. There is nothing like a body of believers worshiping in the presence of God. Not everyone will understand just how much my spirit was affected in the short hour and a half I spent there, but man, it was powerful. And afterwards a big group met up and we all went out to dinner. Several of them were the same people I had met when I watched the world cup match. We went out specifically to celebrate/say goodbye to one of the girls who is going home to Sweden tomorrow. We ended up eating at this place called Gads, where they had some delicious food, but also had items like, "Bird Tongue Soup" and "See Food Soup."
Haha, alright it's not really Bird tongues, it's a type of pasta that looks like bird tongues (apparently). As for the See food...maybe it's just a typo???

Anyway, earlier today I ended up walking with Sharon ALL over Maadi, the area of Cairo we live in (kind of like Brooklyn is in New York) because all of my weekend plans fell through. I had three different options, but somehow by late Thursday night all of them were closed. So I slept in and and then walked a ton. Here are some of the really cool things I saw.
                                The awesome Hieroglyphics ran up and down the entire building!
                                And we went through a big street market. These were just chilling at the end.
Here is my favorite, I've been wanted a picture of this location since I've been here! But it's guarded by police so I never thought I would. But as we were walking back to the apartment there was no policeman! Sharon said they were probably changing shifts so we had a short window of time.
This area just has so much potential for anything. It's weird I know, cause it's just an old railway with trash all up and down the line. But wow, if I could just have free access to it for a good while, there'd be SO many creative things I could accomplish.

And finally, what happens after you walk around Maadi? You come home with dirty feet.
GROSS...but worth it.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Differences in Culture Part Three

I also think this post can be called, "Where's PETA when they are actually needed?"
                                                                  Case Number 1. 
Isn't this the saddest thing you have ever seen? I'm not going to lie, I about cried when I saw the kitten. There were two other kittens around it but this one came right up to me and meowed in my face. Oh it was so heartbreaking. It looks like it has a disease, but it's probably more from lack of care. I'd be willing to bet the momma cat has died.
 Stray cats and dogs are all over the streets;

 Dogs get much more sympathy here than cats do. They are more likely to get scraps of food handed to them, but cats will get chased after. And people will always tell me they love dogs, while if I show them a picture I just took of a cat they will immediately say they hate them. But how can you hate a face like this?

I think I am always amazed when I see so many strays around because they simply are just so limited in the U.S. I tell people about the animal control and shelters we have back home, but I just get looked at like I am crazy. Granted, when it comes down to feeding my family or a starving child over a dog, I'm going to pick people every time. Still, the memory of those little kittens haunt me. I just wish I could have done something.

Sorry if maybe this comes across as too negative. But in America (or at least in my household) the emphasis on treating animals right has been deeply ingrained into me, and my heart is just one big soft spot for the furry ones. One day I would love to see Egypt in a place where they can provide the same care of animals as America does.
Here are a few more pics;
Dog chilling on top of a car in Minya
Cat in a courtyard. She has found a safe haven. 
I'll post some more pictures randomly, I've been able to get pretty close to some of the strays. I'm watching out and staying my distance of course, but a lot of the cats I'm seen just want some love. Dogs are harder to get close to. And street dogs are way more dangerous.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A quick update

Wow my time here in Cairo is flying by fast. The last time I posted was just after the Holland versus Germany game but now the World Cup is over and Spain has won. And as of right now, I have just three weeks left. Though I am going to try to use up every last minute I have to really experience Egypt, I must admit that I am ready to come home. I miss America like crazy.

But I digress, I was planning to post Cultural Differences part Three now, until I discovered I forgot my flash drive back at the apartment. That means no pictures in this post. But if you love me you'll still keep reading, right? :D

I have two HUGE things to talk about. The first was that I worked all day on Saturday for a Christian concert (Think Middle Eastern Hill Song). I was in charge of capturing all behind-the-scenes footage which the company hopes to use for promos and whatnot. It was really neat to see the once empty stage slowly fill up with lighting, props, and musical instruments. There was always something going on and the men were constantly moving around with heavy equipment.

It being such a long day, I really got a chance to sit down and talk with the guys from the company. While I couldn't understand them much, and their English skills weren't quite fluent, we had a lot of fun joking around and making funny faces. They taught me some new Arabic words and laughed very hard when I tried to pronounce them.

It wasn't all fun and games though. I have a hard time sleeping here in Egypt, and the night before I had only gotten maybe two hours of sleep. Periodically throughout the day I would feel a major headache coming on and my blood sugar drop. Those times were miserable and very, very tough to keep going. And then once the lights dimmed down and the music started, it was hard to stay awake. Not that the music wasn't amazing, but I'm sure you have all been there and know what's it's like. So I went outside and ate a snack and when I went back inside I was feeling SO much better. The rest of the concert was great and even though I couldn't understand the words I could see people just moved to tears throughout the hall. I also know that it was a benefit concert for the Children's Hospital in Cairo so that made the concert even more special.
*Haha as I finished typing this I heard the concert music being played in the other room. They have officially started the very long editing process. They used six cameras.

And secondly, last night I did voice narration for a woman-at-work's husband. He is a freelancer and was hired to create a presentation for an African bank. The bank wanted an native English speaker and we had met before at a party so he knew that I would be available.

After work we drove 45 minutes to the recording studio. Cairo traffic is awful, it would've taken about twenty minutes back home. But it was really cool because the sound designer recording me had also been wthe sound designer for the concert! I didn't recognize him at all, but I kind of stand out here so I wasn't surprised he remembered who I was. Soon after introductions we got to business and I talked through the most ridiculous paper I have ever read. There were words in there I haven't had to use since A.P. English Lit (Props to Ms. Reed!). It was hard reading through such vocab so recording took about two and a half hours for about 7-8 pages. But it went really well and at the end both of them said that I did a great job and I have a fabulous voice. Not going to lie, that compliment made my night. I hate hearing my voice and I know it does not always come across as very pleasant to listen to. But they were happy with it and I got some great experience! I would totally do this again in a heart beat and I hope to do more recording work in the future. I have a feeling I will be. :)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

"We are all Dutch tonight!"

This seemed to be the theme of my evening yesterday. I moved into my third apartment, where my roommate is a really cool American girl named Sharon. She's from Georgia. And even though we had just met, she invited me out for the evening to watch the World Cup game with her friends. She had met them all from her church's life group (for those who don't go to church, it's the name for a Sunday school class). They are a hodge-podge of ages and nationalities. Two were Egyptian, Two were Swedish, two were American, one was German, one was Ugandan, and of course there were two Dutch guys.

I wasn't even sure who was playing, but I decided to go and meet new people. The first thing I saw when meeting up with Sharon's group of friends was a lot of Orange. I quickly found out that it was Holland vs. Uruguay and we were going to watch at the Dutch Embassy.

Turns out the Dutch Embassy was packed and by the time we got there they were barely letting people in. You had to have a strong Dutch accent to pass by security which meant that half the group (two dutch guys but many had great accents) could get in. So the half that got in came back out and we found a nice restaurant to watch the game.
Every time there was a great play the table would erupt in cheers and someone would exclaim, We are Dutch tonight! Go Holland!!!! It was great fun. The woman sitting next to me kept making fun of the Uruguay players. Her insults were hilarious.

And when Holland won there was cheering and celebrating all around.
                               *Note the Orange suspenders! He also had an orange cowboy hat
After the game we made our way back to the metro. As we passed by a lot of people would cheer or shout congratulations. Riding back on the metro was kind of a downer, but really, it's Cairo. Had to be expected. 
Well, I didn't get back to the apartment till after one in the morning, and had to be at work by 9:30, but I think it was worth it. I feel like an honorary Dutch now. Personally I think it's pretty fitting since my favorite color is orange.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Quotables

There have been so many amazing quotes since I've been here that I had to take the time and write some down.

This one is from the guy who handed me my horse at the Pyramids. He passed me the reins, looks up at me with a big smile and said,
            "Nice to see you, my name is (something in Arabic), my American name; Michael Jordan!"
The second one would have to be when I played Monopoly with some Egyptian teenagers. I believe this one is more of an accent issue than a word issue, but still just as funny.
Passing out the money, one kid was explaining the rules and I would comment on how it was either the same or different in the English version. We started playing and I was trying to play like I normally would but had to go back to the beginning for some reason or another. I was fighting this rule when I suddenly hear;
            "No, this is the Egyptian virgin, not American!" Just to make sure I heard right, I asked. "What?" I had heard right. :)
The next one is from this awesome tour guide who led us through the Mountain Church. He just had such an great and humble spirit. And he really wanted us to know the history behind the miracle of this mountain, not just get us to buy something or give him money.
          "There are three words the same in English, French and Arabic. Amen, Hallelujah, and....Coca Cola!"
I think this quote is my favorite so far. And it's 100% true.
The last one is also the most recent. I was on a photography trip through downtown Cairo and we went to a touristy area where it was an open market. We were walking through the shops and browsing (I bought some small items, nothing crazy) then I heard a seller say;
         "Excuse me, how can I take your money?" 
I kept on walking, but I nearly stumbled after hearing this question. I immediately had to laugh, but I was also thinking, 'Did he really just say that? Who taught him that it was acceptable to say that sentence?' I told the Egyptian friends I was with and they laughed about it but didn't really believe me until we walked back through and he said it again! This time another guy heard it as well and just about fell over laughing. I would never EVER buy something from a person who asked me that. Wow. Really, this one takes the cake. 
      I really got a serious amount of attention walking through that place. I think that the seller just saw me and figured I was an easy target. Ugh, pushy salesmen with no people skills was the majority of the sellers in there. But like my friends said, "Welcome to Egypt!"

*I would post a picture here, but it's getting quite late and the pictures from this day are still on the memory card in my camera. I'll try to get some of them up soon.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Cultural Differences Part two

Ok, well last time I talked about drinking, so I guess it's only right to talk about food for the second in this series.

There are a few basic staples that you will find at almost any Egyptian meal. There is always cheese, and bread. To start off, I have to talk about breakfast. But here "breakfast" isn't until noon. Some people eat a small bowl of cereal before coming in to work, while others will just grab a coffee or tea. But then around noon (at least at work) we all get a break and there is bread, eggs, and cheese always available. I'm not sure if this is a seasonal thing, but included in this is a plate filled with sliced tomatoes and cucumbers. This I absolutely love because tomatoes are one of my favorite fruits/vegetables, and I eat cucumbers all the time at home. Then sometimes I'll be given a mango, or they will cut up a watermelon. Now I have to mention the last item that can normally be found at breakfast. Foul, or Fava Beans, is a part of the national Egyptian breakfast. I started eating it on my second day here and I do prefer the fresh ones to the canned. But in general, Foul (I pronounce it similarly to fuel) is not something I would eat at home. And I really don't like it by itself, but when I eat it in the bread it's really good. I also don't like cheese, not even at home, but when I put some of the cheese on top of the foul in the bread it gets even better. I guess I should have a picture to explain what Egyptian breakfast is like, but by noon I am usually starving and just want to eat.

Then lunch is after work, which can be anything. And it typically will be wrapped up in bread. If it's a delivered meal, I've gotten both subs and containers filled with different types of meat and fries. There is this one fast food place in particular that people seem to like called CookDoor. I have no idea why they have that name but the food is good! Last time we got food from there I had a chicken sub. They also offer beef and seafood ones too.
Photo by Nashaat Neshan


For dinner it's typically fried food or pasta. Both delicious but outside of my typical healthstyle. Fish is also a popular meal and one of my favorite dishes so far was this beef goulash type stew. One side dish that most families cook is this amazing minced spinach soup that you pour over rice. There's a specific name for it, but I can't even begin to guess on how to spell it. And I really like the spices that they have here. Sometimes it can be a bit to spicy for me, but the vast majority of the time everything is just really tasty.
Photo by Nashaat Neshan; Sesame sauce


And of course, everything that I would eat in America is available here. Especially of the fast food variety. This is all I can think of, so...ff you have any questions for me about the food, feel free to ask!