Saturday, March 24, 2007

I am now officially awesome (or, Close as a Blade)

For a couple of years I have contemplated shaving with a safety razor, but have been too afraid to try it. I'm not one to follow trends, but the re-emergence of wet shaving is one that really piqued my interest. I read all the articles reassuring me that so long as I was careful, I would come through the shaving process without that many nicks or cuts. Considering that I pretty much always cut myself with "traditional" (that is, cartridge or disposable) razors, I figured that switching over would end with my lying dead on the bathroom floor in a pool of chin blood.

Well, I finally cashed in my guts certificates and went out and bought the whole mess:
  • An Omega shaving brush (LE 6.25)
  • A LORD safety razor, made in Alexandria! (LE 4.35)
  • A tube of herbal shaving cream (LE 2.70)
Following instructions as best as I could, I took a shower, lathered my face up, and hesitantly ran the blade down my face...

(dramatic pause)

...long story short, I'm happy to say that not only is my face clean-shaven, I have managed to avoid cutting myself! The only real drawback--the shave is not as close as I would like, but the overall effect is pretty good.

It's still probably something I won't be trying first thing in the morning, but I am happy to say that it is definitely how I am going to be keeping my chin hair-free for the forseeable future.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

I am SUCH a geek

So I've moved into my flat and my Egyptian flatmate is a Mac user and so we've been spending time talking about the different Macs we've used in the past. When I told him the first Mac computer I used was a Mac Plus, I got a high five. The apartment is nice and so far the flatmate seems very nice. It feels like home.

Oh, and bandwidth.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

I guess this makes me an expat...

Since I'm going to be living in Cairo for a while, I've decided to break down and admit my expatitude. Let's face it, I ain't going to be mistaken for an Egyptian -- at least, not for several decades, anyway.

That being established, I've gone ahead and posted my blog to expat-blog. The moderators took a look at my blog and decided it met their stringent requirements, which apparently are: a) it has to be a blog and b) the author has to be outside of his/her own country. Thanks guys, I'll try not to disappoint. :-)

Found my apartment

So, the good news is I've finally found a place to live, which is a relief. Apartment hunting has been a lot harder than I thought it would be. I'm very grateful to both Rachel and Catherine, two buddies from SOAS, who let me couch surf for my first week in Cairo. I haven't moved in yet but I expect it should be at the start of this week, hopefully. Rent is relatively cheap, even by Cairo standards: 1000LE a month, or around $200. Normal Egyptians pay much, much less, but many of these cheaper apartments are not in excellent shape. This apartment, in contrast, is practically deluxe--plenty of hot water, AC, broadband (!), a washing machine (although unfortunately it is not automatic and needs to be repaired), and so on. I have my own little balcony that looks down to an ahwa (Egyptian cafe) below. Best (?) of all, I'm sharing it with an Egyptian, which means that hopefully I will pick up a lot of ameya (Egypian Arabic) at the same time that I am studying fusha (Modern Standard Arabic, pronounced foos Ha) at the Arabic language school Kalimat.

Okay, gotta go. I will let everyone know as soon as I move in to my new place!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

In Cairo

Cairo is a large, exciting, dangerous city. That's pretty much the best way to describe it. From a crime perspective, it's probably safer than anywhere in the US, but crossing the road --- well, let's just say that it falls under the classification of "skill" rather than "normal everyday activity." Of course, you have no choice -- at some point, you must cross a road. Which of course, leads me to

How to cross the road in Egypt

  1. Look both ways. In disbelief.
  2. Look to see if there are any Egyptians nearby crossing the road. If there are, follow them unless they're standing in the road, in which case their route across the road may have a path wide enough for one person only.
  3. Scan the cars coming towards you in the first. Is there a distance of at least 2 car lengths between two of the cars? NO? How about one? There's your space.
  4. Wait until the first car has passed, then casually walk through the gap between the two cars, pretending that a huge car is not hurtling toward you. If you run, you will only encourage them to drive faster. Also, you have another lane to cross after this, so if you run you might overrun the middle of the road and get run over by the second lane of cars.
  5. Okay, you are now between two lanes of cars, who will run smoothly around you. Try not to panic. Look for a space as in step 3. When it appears, you have two options: a) casually walk across again, looking smooth, cool and Egyptian; or b) run for it, looking for all the world like a terrified foreigner.
  6. I always choose b.
I just want friends and family to know that I really am safe, and I only have to cross roads like this 3-4 times a day maximum. In general roads in Egypt are stuffed with cars going so slowly that you can glide in and out of them like a game of Frogger in slow motion.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

What happens next?

Today is the day I finally leave Alexandria.

I'm feeling a bit melancholy about it. I tend to take a while to adapt to a place, and after a month Alex was finally starting to feel like home. I can make my way around it fairly easily (here's a tip--just make for the Corniche or the tram), I actually know some of the people here, and of course I'm going to miss my fellow students.

But, especially since I don't have anything set to do here in Alexandria, I can feel my feet dragging. I love Alexandria, but the opportunities here aren't as great as they are in Cairo.

So in 2 1/2 hours I head to the station to get the fast train from Sidi Gaber station in Alexandria to the central train station in Cairo.

Everything is up in the air: I have a couch to sleep on tonight, but I have no apartment yet, no teaching job, and I haven't yet looked at language schools. I plan to get all this arranged over the next few days. The apartment is my first priority, and broadband is a must.

For those of you leaving comments: I do appreciate them but often take a while to read them. So if you want a response, please leave an e-mail. Most of you should have my e-mail address, but for those of you who don't, you can e-mail me at

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

A week has passed...

Last week, through Wednesday evening, was taken up with teaching lesson after lesson. Thursday I turned in my workbook with all of my written reflections on the course and had a brief exit interview with Khaled.

So, the good news is that I got my TEFL Certificate. The bad news is that everyone got their TEFL Certificate, so apparently I put waaaay more effort into this than I technically needed to. However, even if I am lazy, reckless, and a procrastinator there's one thing I'm not -- and that's someone who does something half-assed. Even if I don't become a teacher eventually (and due to time challenges, I probably won't be a full-time teacher near-term) I enjoy teaching and take it very seriously. I've had some excellent teaching experiences and I definitely think I learned a great deal from the course. Before the course I was pretty sure I could teach English; now I know I can. I know there will be plenty of challenges ahead of me but I'm excited about them.

Thursday evening, as part of the TEFL package, everyone on the course went to Sharm el-Sheikh, a resort town on the tip of Sinai. Sharm el-Sheikh is great for people who are living in Egypt and have gotten nostalgic for Western prices for everything. I general spent, each day in Sharm, about 2 times what I spent per week in Alexandria. Eventually to prevent myself from not buying anything I had to pretend that Sharm had a different exchange rate and that an Egyptian pound really wasn't as much as I thought it was.

On Sunday I went snorkeling for the first time and discovered an interesting thing about myself: I am afraid of depths. Looking down the coral reefs to the ocean bottom far, far below gave me some severe bouts of vertigo. By my third snorkel (the trip included 3 different locations) I was slightly calmer, but still only snorkeled for around 15-20 minutes. I think I could probably try snorkeling again, but maybe in very, very shallow water. Since I wasn't up for snorkeling for the whole 45 minutes, I spent a large portion of the boat trip soaking up the rays -- and getting the resulting sunburn and sunstroke. But I'm all better now and my sunburn has transformed into a glorious tan, bringing me just that much closer to prematurely aged skin.

Gotta go; laptop nearly outta juice.