11 July 2009

A Day at the Director's Beach House

Yesterday was possibly one of the best days I’ve had in Egypt. Our school week is Sunday to Thursday, so on Thursday nights we’ve developed the tradition of going as a group to the Greek Club to eat a fabulous dinner and enjoy some drinks. Last Thursday night was no exception, but we did have a larger group going than usual, and since we couldn’t get through on the telephone to make a reservation, my friend and I decided to go earlier than everyone else and give them a warning and time to prepare a space for us. We decided to take a microbus down, so we crossed the Cornish and hailed one of the white 15-passenger vans that roll around town. We hopped in the front seat, but soon realized the traffic in the street was going to slow us down. Then the van turned much sooner than we had expected, so we jumped out, paid our 20 cents and began searching for a new microbus to take us the rest of the way. The new bus we found was nearly full, so we squeezed in the back. He and I were trying to speak in Arabic, and I think the other passengers appreciated it. In any case they laughed at us, and we went along our merry way. Again we got about half-way to our destination when the van stopped and emptied its passengers. At that point we gave up and decided to walk the remaining half-mile to the club. When we got there, the rest of the group had beaten us and had already gotten a table. After a while we ordered, some more people joined us, and we had a really great time. I especially enjoyed the evening since I was able to talk to a few people I normally don’t see very often.
At the end of the night I was left with three friends, and we decided it would be fun to throw a small party in the hotel, so on the way home we picked up some drinks then had a fun time with many CLSers in the larger corner room of the hotel. It really was a very fun evening, and again I was able to spend time with some people I normally don’t see very often. Plus, it was just nice to relax and not think about Arabic or school.

So I woke up yesterday already in a good mood from the previous evening when the hotel maid came to clean our room. We had been slowly becoming more comfortable trying to talk to each other for a few weeks, but yesterday we truly bonded. We chatted for about 20 minutes, all in Arabic, hand gestures, and giggles. She told me her name is Sahr, and she is married with three children, aged 9-14. She was also really nice to me and washed some of my clothes and frequently told me how pretty I am, once even comparing me to the moon, which I think must be an Arabic phrase along the lines of “your face is like the moon.” Needless to say, the interaction put me in an even more cheerful mood, so after I had showered and gotten ready for the day, I spent some time chit-chatting with friends in the lobby of the hotel and in general having fun until about 2:00 when the group piled on a bus to spend the afternoon at Mahgda’s house (Mahgda is the director of the language center here and is a really wonderful person all around).

The bus ride took about an hour, and we were able to see the outskirts of Alexandria, some of which were nicer than others. I had fun talking with my friends and learning how to tie cherry stems with my tongue (I was successful twice!). Even so, the real fun began when we arrived at Mahgda’s glorious summer home. Her home is large with a pool and a garden and plenty of space to entertain. I think all of our jaws dropped when we walked in. We immediately felt at home, and after a few minutes of settling in, we made our way to the beach. There were some great waves, the sand wasn’t too crowded, and the weather was perfect. The water was a perfect temperature for swimming, so I was fully immersed within minutes. Two of my friends were body surfing, so, interested, I asked them to teach me. I spent the next hour trying to “catch some waves” with my friends, and in general having a blast. I think I was successful two or three times in body surfing, but I definitely need some more practice.

After swimming we ate lunch, which ranks as the best meal I’ve had in this country, hands down. We had baked rice, eggplant, kabobs, and all other kinds of delicious Egyptian food. I ate way more than I should have, and loved every bite. After lunch we hung around, occasionally laughing when someone walked too close to the pool and was pushed in. I wandered around from group to group and eventually ended up holding the baby (Khamsa) and playing with the kids in the grass. After a while I gave the kid back to his mother and I began playing Frisbee with some friends and some of the Egyptians. A bunch of the kids wanted to play with us, which worked out really well since every time one of us threw a fly-away disc there were 6 or so children chasing after it for us. As we were playing we heard drums and music begin in the garden, so we ended our game and returned to find 6 Nubians playing traditional music and dancing. I danced with my friends and the Nubians for a few hours, and we were all exhausted after the show was over.

The evening was settling in by this time, so we all sat down and socialized for a while. When the sun had set and the stars were out, one of Mahgda’s relatives began playing the Oudh (I have no idea how to spell that one, but it’s a stringed instrument like a banjo or guitar). We listened to music and relaxed until very late in the night. I was sitting in the grass and watching the Egyptians sing along with the Oudh player, who was himself an amazing vocalist, when I felt completely happy and at peace with where I am and what I’m doing. I just sat in the grass and fully experienced how lucky and happy I am with how things have turned out and are turning out. I only hope I remember times like these when I face my next challenge in life.

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