Saturday, June 27, 2009


So, last time I left off with the visit to Alex. That all happened in a day, so in reality I'm a week behind. A lot can happen in two weeks.

Two days later, I met with a friend of Andy's, who's name is Muhammed Ali. Yah, pretty cool. We did a language exchange and I really enjoyed it and felt that I learned a lot from him. I wish all the language exchanges I had were like that. We seem to work well together and I look forward to meeting with him more in the future.

Also, had two runins with the cops that week. First, got a knock on our door at 11:30 at night. I answered it to find our doorman and some guy I'd never seen before in my life on our doorstep. After I ushered them in, they started speaking to me in Arabic and I had no idea what they were saying so I went and got Andy. Turns out Mr. GuyINeverSawBefore claimed to be a cop, and even pulled out his laminated, photo copied ID to show us. He had no uniform, no badge, and no gun. If he WAS law enforcement, which I doubt, he was one of the least intimidating cops I have ever seen. Anyway, he asked us for our names (which we provided though refused to write) and then our passport information. When pressed for why, he said, "I'm a policemen." Andy asked for a specific reason and all he could get was "We're afraid for you." Hmmm... Sounds like the mafia to me. Anyway, Andy was a bit upset cause he was studying, and told the guy in no uncertain terms that if he wanted our info he could talk to the landlord. And then told him to get lost. And he did. After giving us both a dead fish handshake. Haha.

The other time we were walking home down the street we live on, and the random group of cops gathered together chatting decided to harass us. Mostly, they yelled at me for carrying a camera (in a case, turned off, and closed) past a government building. OK, guys, I'm not an idiot. I know you're not supposed to photograph military installations and stuff, especially in police states. They asked why we were on that street. We live here. We just kinda started walking and they left us alone. Egyptian cops... Boy...

Speaking of which, you see them do the darndest things with their guns. The army/law enforcement here is made up mostly of people "doing their time" in the armed forces, so they have little training and don't really care. Hence, you alternatively see soldiers/police sleeping on their guns (I saw one who'd borrowed his buddy's AK-47 and had it and his own propping up his shoulders as he slept), swing them absentmindedly around, or even pick their nose with them. It's amazing the mortality rate is as low as it is...

I've also had the opportunity to meet tons of new friends this week, though I may not get to see most of them again as they are leaving for the Summer and such. My roommate Andy has invited me to several get togethers, and I find I really like his friends. So now, they are my friends too. :-) At least we can see each other on facebook from time to time. Haha.

Oh, and I remembered another experience. Don't you ever tell me that tutoring English is a completely "safe" job. Cause it isn't. And I've got the story (and the scars) to prove it. Here's how it went down.

So, I was just doing my normal thing with Youjin, the Korean girl I tutor, and reading a book with her while helping out with particularly difficult vocabulary and such. And then, we got to this part about a wounded soldier struggling out onto the battlefield repeatedly to save his wounded comrades. And I felt my imagination running away with me. And I felt myself growing faint. And then I decided it would be a good idea to walk around and get the blood flowing a bit. (Note to self: this is a bad idea. Especially when the aimless, drunken wanderings get you into the vicinity of sharp-edged glass-covered tables. It's a MUCH better idea to lie down and elevate your feet on a comfortable couch and wait for it to pass.)

Anyway, the next thing I knew, I was having strange dreams and someone was shouting in Korean. As I came to, Mrs. Kwak was standing over me wondering if I was OK, and I assured her I would be, as I made my way to the couch and lay down for a few minutes. After that I was fine. Or so I thought.

i had noticed several injuries caused by the fall. I had a gash on my upper lip from hitting the edge of the table, a bruise on my chin, and my nose hurt like it had been smacked. My arm also had a nasty bruise, and at this point, I'm pretty sure I somehow managed to bruise my sternum. Later, I found a hole in the back of my head, which Andy and I promptly remedied by going to the neighboring pharmacy and buying antiseptic and antibiotics for it. Yah. So, don't do that. I'm lucky I didn't break my nose. I think I hit my chin, then my lip, then my nose, then flopped back and bashed my head into the glass table as I went down. I'm grateful I'm not more injured. Haha.

In other news, I'm moving. The landlord is remodelling our apartment, and much as I would have liked to stay, I have to leave. Andy is also going back to the states, and I will really miss him. He definitely makes the list of top 5 roommates ever. I have loved speaking with and learning from him, and will definitely try to keep in touch.

We got interviewed for a local TV station this past week, and saw the program this morning on public Egyptian TV. It was on foreigners in Egypt. It was kinda funny, cause they only showed Andy. I would submit that that was a good administrative decision, as his interview was MUCH better than mine, and he had a lot more experiences to share.

Literally half an hour after signing a lease for my new apartment, which I had found in Maadi so I could be closer to tutoring and not have to commute 5 days a week, Mrs. Kwak informed me that I would only be tutoring for 2 hours a week instead of 10. This really messed me up, cause I was planning on having a steady income for the next two months, to support an extended stay here. I've had to do some rethinking, but I think I will just go ahead with the plans I already made and stay till early September. Insh Allah. I hope something works out, cause else I will have little money left when I get back to the states.

Well, that's about all. I need to do some last minute packing and then off to the new apartment. Not sure how often I'll be able to update from there, as I don't know what the internet situation will be, but I'll see what I can do!

Friday, June 19, 2009


This week has been full of interesting people and experiences, some sad, some glad, and some just generally ridiculous.
Let's start with the beginning of the week. Well, the beginning for me, anyway. If I have time, I'll go further. If not, you get Alex till the next installment. My "weekend," as it were, is kind of backwards, as we have church on Friday, and the Saturday is off. So, this Saturday, I went with a friend, Tegan (that's her in the pic, so you know what she looks like. She's squinting cause the sun is bright...), who I met at one of Lindsey's parties a while back, to Alex(andria). Everybody here just calls it Alex, because we're all lazy, so we all know what it means.

Anyway, Alex has been a place I've always wanted to go. Not only was it founded by Alexander the Great, and rumored to house his tomb, but it was also othe home of the famous library, the Pharos lighthouse (my favorite of the seven wonders of the ancient world, I'll have you know), as well as the site of the epic sea battle which cemented the power of the Roman Empire, and lead to the suicide of Cleopatra, last of the Ptolemaic rulers.

After arriving from our 2.5 hour train ride (I write to point five because 2 and a half is so much harder to write...wait...and now I just wasted all that energy explaining it... *angry face* >:-( we decided to hit the catacombs first. Consulting our handy-dandy guidebook, which Tegan was nice enough to bring along. We headed in what we though was the right direction. Which, as it ended up, was, of course, NOT the right direction. But with the help of random Egyptians, who all seemed to know where we were going without us asking, we somehow found Pompey's Pillar, which was the site of the temple of Serapis (Roman equivalent of Osiris) and the ruins of the daughter library, where they put all the overflow volumes from the ancient library. To give you an idea of why they needed it: It was the law, in ancient Alex, that whenever you came into port, you ship was searched, and any books were confiscated until they could be copied and returned. The goal was to collect every book in the world. They did a decent job, because at it's peak, the total amount of volumes exceeded that of known works of the time. There must have been some duplicates somewhere. Anyway, the library was underground, in a kinda cave-like-ish room, with cubby-holes on the sides that looked like they could have been used for copying/studying.

After that, we headed to Antonio Fortress, a medievel fortress built in the 1400s on the foundations of the ancient lighthouse. We tried to hail a taxi, and the first guy we found didn't want to take us. Luckily, there was a very excited taxi driver that volunteered. In fact, he was SO excited that he would stop and shout to everyone he knew, in Arabic of course, HEY I'VE GOT FOREIGNERS IN MY CAR! It was hilarious, and we didn't even really mind when he got a bit lost. Haha.

Arriving at the fort, we tried to find the entrance. Not knowing where or what to expect, we ended up paying to get into a very ghetto Egyptian "aquarium." I guess here that means second-rate dioramas of moth-eaten mounted ocean life interspersed with grossly out of proportion shipwrecks and divers. The only cool part was the HUGE whale skeleton. The great white shark, which looked a little like a cross between my little pony and gumby, was much less impressive.

From there, we actually found the entrance we wanted, which led up to the walls and the inside of the citadel. The lighting within was extremely surreal. Long halls, flanked by innumerable rooms, were lit by high, slot windows allowing the light to stream in in rays. In the rooms, many of the windows were covered by intricate laticework, which added to the aura of sultan-ness. We walked all the way aroudn the walls, watching the fisherman on teh wave-pounded rocks. They had twenty-foot fishing poles! I wanted to fish with them, but we had a lot of other things we wanted to see.

Made an icecream stop, then headed to a restaurant for lunch. The Arab pizzas we got were HUGE and we couldn't finish everything. (Though I came close.) We then walked down the shoreline, chatting mostly about the church and my mission, which I found a rather random subject of conversation, but really enjoyed answering Tegan's questions. She's had some LDS friends before, and had some things she wanted to know, and it was good for me to be able to remember the experiences I had while I served.

Walked to the modern library at Alexandria, which sits on the site of the ancient library, which was burned by an invading army in the mid-first-century AD. No one is quite sure who to blame for this blight to history, but most agree it was related in some way to the Roman conquest of Ptolemaic Egypt. (Speaking of burning, I somehow managed to burn THROUGH the 50 SPF sunblock I was wearing, though, thankfully, not too seriously! :-) The modern library itself is a wonder of architecture and style, with wide, open spaces within it's multi-tiered reading levels. It is very quiet, and the sound of chairs scraping periodically is about all that can be heard. Usually you have to have an ID/ticket to get in, but since it was near closing time, the guards let us in for free. It was awesome just wandering around. I want to live there. Haha.

After that, our stay in the marvelous city of Alex was at a close. Made our way to the train station, and ended up having to take a taxi there cause we got lost (although we saw a really awesome statue of Alexander the Great holding a miniature statue of Athena Nike (it looked kinda like Tinkerbell, actually. Maybe he could fly too...) and made the trip home.

Coming in the next installment. Egyptian cops. And why they are ridiculous. Stay tuned for more!

--Joseph in Egypt

Friday, June 12, 2009

Ramses and Regulators

The tea seller at El Monib, near the Pharoahnic Village

Because those are two of the things I will be reading/already read about this week. YES, I am preparing for my Open Water SCUBA Certification, and picked up my manual this past week. And, I am reading a book about Ramses the Great, just because...he's cool...and was a redhead.
This week saw the end of this block of Arabic class, and the next one doesn't start until the 25th of June. Hopefully by that time I'll have another apartment lined up in Maadi, close to the church and where I tutor four times a week. It's kind of a drag having to make the forty minute trip 5 times a week, especially when the subway is packed (and not air conditioned...) Speaking of packed subways, I had to wait for 20 minutes to catch the one to church this morning. As you can imagine, being the only subway for 20 minutes, it was DANG crowded, and hot, and uncomfortable, especially because I was bringing my computer and scriptures to church for my Sunday school lesson.

However, that aside, this week has been a string of one awesome day after another. I've enjoyed studying my manual, which helps me to avoid such things as the bends, popping my eardrums, and exploding my lungs accidentally while diving. Those, I believe, are definitely good things to avoid. I just hope I can remember all the little random things I need to do for diving to be convenient/safe/fun. Well, I think it would be fun for me even without the convenient/safe parts, but those would be nice, too!

I also got my certificate for the 3rd level of Arabic recently, on which I was ranked as having overall "excellent" performance. Woot!

As far as other happenings, I was able to go to the Pharoahnic village yesterday. It's an island in the Nile, surrounded by a dike, and thick with papyrus plants. Dr. Ragab (the father of the current Dr. Ragab who I spoke with) discovered the lost art of papyrus making, and made the island as a place for people to come see how life was in ancient Egypt. The tour starts out with a boat ride around the canal, passing various statues of the ancient gods and pharoahs while a recording tells their stories (over techno music. Haha.) What's better, there are HUNDREDS of white ibises roosting in the papyrus marsh behind the statues, or even perching on their heads, which makes it that much cooler! Then, there were the shoreside reenactments of ancient life, including farming (plowing with oxen, sowing followed by sheep to tamp down the soil), honey making (beehives of clay tubes, still used today), weapon smithing, weaving, reed boat making, and...Moses? Yes, Moses too. Dr. R must be Coptic...

Landing on the island, I was taken around by Neesa, an English speaking guide, who explained the replicas of a rich and poor home, the temple (based on Karnak, though to a much smaller scale), and the exhibit displaying what King Tut's tomb looked like when it was discovered. It was pretty well done, and I liked it, as , of course, you all knew I would. :-D

I also enjoyed seeing the museums devoted to Nasser and Anwar Sadat, the two most famous presidents of Egypt. The Village boasts the only Nasser museum in Egypt, and has such artifacts as his glasses and pajamas, as well as providing a lot of information about his life and administration.

The same kinds of things are on display at the Sadat museum, though this also has a diorama of the 6th of October war, where, using Russian equipment, the Egyptian army under Sadat pushed the Israelis out of the the Sinai. There's even a district of Cairo called "6th of October City" (and another one called "Sadat") Anwar Sadat was assassinated in part as a result of peace overtures to Israel and the Camp David Accords, during a festival by three military officers. They have pictures of the assassination taking place. Over 3o bullets were removed from his body. Two of the conspirators were hanged, and the third remains in prison to this day. (No one knows why he's still there.)

While in the museums, I met a girl who is training to work there as a guide. She used to be a newspaper reporter, but is stopping for the time being at the behest of her father, I think because he believes it too dangerous. She, however, plans to resume writing under an alias. I really respect people like that, especially members of the press, because I believe the public has a write to know what's happening. I told her as much! :-)

Went around on my own a bit, then headed back to the main desk and talked with Ahmed, the director for half an hour. He wants to meet up sometime just to chat. Hopefully we can, cause he's cool! Then went on another boat ride around the whole island, and saw some kids swimming in the disease infested Nile. Not a good idea. Really, not a good idea.

So that was my main adventure this week. Hopefully next time, I can tell you about SCUBA!!! :-)

Monday, June 8, 2009


I am...AWESOME! I actually felt like sauntering today, and it probably carried into an extra bounciness in my step as I chawed my bubblegum down Nubar street. Haha.

Today was just great. Had my last day of class for this run at things, and did really well. Got a 91 percent over all. My teacher, Khaled, also wanted to exchange skype addresses, so now I'll have someone to practice my Arabic with. Then had to go get a few pictures taken, and was able to explain what I wanted and how many to the clerk, and though I got overcharged a bit, I was still happy :-) After I returned to give documentation to the center I study at, I had a wonderful conversation about religion with some of the teachers at the school, who are Muslim. I really felt love for them and these people here, and it was great. I know God loves people that are devoted to Him, as they do their best to show it through their actions.

After that, I rested a tad, then tutored for three hours. The Korean family I teach is just great, and I really like them, though it is difficult to tutor sometimes, as I don't speak Korean. But I am learning a few basic phrases here and there. :-) An yong yi Kae sey yo! (Goodbye, to a woman) Komsomeda! (Thank you!) and such.

Then I went and found the scuba shop I will be getting my certification through, and chatted with the clerk for a few minutes as we waited for the head dude to show up. After a while, Sam, aforementioned "head dude," called and said he was stuck in traffic, so I went and ate at a local Chinese restaurant, run by a family from Harbin, China. They speak no English. Awesome. Chatted for about a half hour, then headed back to the shop where I picked up the course manual. I am way excited as I've always wanted to do this. I only worry because one of the dive days is a Friday (the Sabbath here.) but I feel like this could be another one of those once in a lifetime opportunities that God seems to drop in my lap every once in a while. Seriously, it just fell in my lap, as things usually do. :-)

And then, I headed to another tutoring appointment for math. And had a great time eating my take away Chinese food while discussing the law of Cosine. Most excellent. :-D

Rode the subway home, polishing off the latest batch of vocabulary words, chewed a big wad of gum, and bought peppermints from a handicapped guy hawking his wares on the train. Then I sauntered home and helped my roomie figure out how to get pinyin based Chinese to work on his computer, all the while chatting in Mandarin, cause it's Chinese day. In honor of Chinese day, I drank some Chinese medicine I got from a friend who recently went back to the states (thanks, Daphne!). Tomorrow is Arabic day. Maybe I'll eat hummus. Oh wait, I do that every day...

So yah, I'm doing pretty well! :-)

Friday, June 5, 2009

Testing, 1, 2, 3....

OK, so, I know I didn't write last week, but I hope you will all forgive me. Things have been a bit crazy as I have started tutoring in earnest. I am extremely grateful to have a job, but it does take up quite a chunk of time, especially since I have to travel to Maadi, a trip of about 40 minutes each way including the walking, to get to and from my students' house.

I am teaching a family of Koreans, transferred to my by Jaehee before she and Aden left for the states. I teach three of them, the 12 year old daughter Youjin, her 16 year old brother Jaewon, and their mother. They are all at different levels, so it makes for some interesting times. The nice thing is that I get paid $25 an hour for 10 hours per week, which is more than enough to cover my classes and rent, and leave some left over for fun.

Speaking of fun, I'm planning on going to Dahab, the number two spot for scuba diving in the world. And, I plan to go there to get certified. It costs around $400 total, but it is way cheaper there than in the US, so I figured I should do it while I have the chance. And the certification is good for life, with a few refreshers of course. I am way stoked cause that's something I've always wanted to do!

In other news, I'll be taking the US Foreign Service Officer exam tomorrow. If I pass, I will have a chance at landing a job in the State department (after a few more levels of the selection process of course...) I fully expect to fail miserably, but I figured it would be worth it for the experience, especially since the test is free, and I kinda like tests. Because I'm weird like that.

Andy and I have been alternating days in our apartment between Arabic and Chinese. That way we get to practice both languages and it's pretty fun!

Pres Obama came to Egypt this past week, and I took the opportunity to watch the address he gave to the Arab world live on Egyptian TV. It was interesting, because for the first time, I sorta felt the Spirit while he was talking. As most of you know, I have an intense distrust of politicians in general, and so it was rather odd. I felt that, if he was serious and committed to the foreign policy goals he stated, than I would be able to enter government service on morally stable ground. We'll see. If I pass the FSO test, then I'll worry about it.

Other than that, a new group of students i in Egypt now for the summer, I'm looking for an apartment (did I say that already?), and my Arabic course ends this week so I have to figure out what to do during the summer break. Probably hire a tutor and go through Al Kitaab. We'll see! Keep in touch.


PS. Pictures will come when I have some applicable ones :-p