Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Maa'a Salaama Masr, Ahlan Germany!

This is the last post from Egypt. Everyone is currently in the process of packing and cleaning the flat... It's quite depressing. I'm going to miss these people a lot. Inshallah -- we will all meet up again at Jon's wedding in May.

Anyway, as of tomorrow, I will be in Germany for 10ish days before arriving back in Iowa on the 22nd. Just in time for Christmas. :)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Secret Life of Daydreams...

The last week has been really bittersweet for me – the end of travel component and my “homecoming” to Cairo. It’s hard to believe that the semester is practically over – only the papers, debates, and Anafora to go, really, and then it’s off to Germany if a week and a half before returning home just in time for Christmas.

I go back and forth these days on whether I think that going home will be good. Yesterday, I could hardly stand the dirtiness of our flat and really felt like I needed a place to escape to – to think and clear my head. I have so many thoughts about what going back to the States will be like and if I truly will be able to keep in contact with my new friends like I fully intend to.

Kandyce (Jon’s – the PA – fiancĂ©e) leaves tomorrow. It’s weird to think that we’ve only known her for a little over a week, but she fits so well with the group dynamic. I was sad that Dr. Diaa and his family didn’t come to Thanksgiving last night. I really hope we’ll get a chance to see him again before we leave Egypt.

I’m really excited for my classes next semester, too. I thought about talking “Thought and Society: Modern Europe,” but thought about it and decided that I didn’t really want just another lecture class. I’m taking Photography I instead – and I still have room for Orchestra and private lessons. J

I’m really excited that Jungho Kim is conducting the NISO Pops Concert in January. He is by far my favorite conductor of the ones that we’ve had for NISO. I wonder if John Thompson will be back…

Although I’m missed my professors and friends and am excited for classes, I can’t really say that I’m too excited to go back to campus again. I’ve been opened to “big city possibilities” and I have to say that I’m going to miss them.

I haven’t gotten back to see my host family since homestay week, which is something that I’ve meant to get around to, but have just been too scared to call. (I told them I’d visit tem before travel component, but was just too busy and forgot.) I feel badly, so hopefully I’ll still get a chance to go. I miss them a lot.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what Ali (my host brother) told me – how he’s sure that I’ll come back to Egypt. I’d love to make that happen for the long term, but I’m still waiting for an opportunity to present itself.

On another unrelated note: I’m excited to be able to give my feet a good scrub when I return because my feet are definitely the grossest part of my body right now. (If anyone needs any Christmas ideas for me, foot care products are definitely acceptable! J)

Also – yesterday was the first day of Eid-al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice, I believe is the translation), which celebrates Abraham and Ishmael (the story Christians and Jews know as Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac). Anyway, we had the chance to go to morning prayers in the square, but people slaughtered animals in the streets all day. For example, a family brought 3 sheep to the roof of one of the buildings in Agouza and I watched them slaughter them yesterday morning. I wanted to go out in the streets, too, but I haven’t really felt well the past couple days, so I didn’t leave. I think I may regret that later…

Monday, November 23, 2009

Life Flies Past As I Watch From the Curb...

I can't believe that today is our last day in Israel and tomorrow we'll head back to Cairo. Katherine told me yesterday, "I can't believe we'll be living together again in a couple days." For a few minutes I was really confused, until I remembered that at some point in the distant past, I had lived with her in a flat in Cairo.

I am really excited to see Cairo and my Egyptian friends again. I have missed them a lot since coming on Travel Component. But, I am definitely not ready to write 4 papers and have a debate about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It will be nice, however, to be able to somewhat converse with people on the street, though, provided I haven't lost what little Arabic I learned in the first two months.

Everything for my stay in Germany has also worked out, which means that from Dec. 10 to Dec. 21 I will be in Germany, inshallah. I'm really excited to be able to see Germany at Christmas time, and hopefully there will also be snow. I've missed snow a lot -- as well as a wider selection of clothing (but that's unrelated to Germany).

Sunday, November 22, 2009

I Can Resonate...

Just wanted to post this link to my friend Hani's blog. I can resonate with a lot of what she says and what Elijah says after:

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Very Brief Travel Component Update

It’s been awhile since I updated this blog, but I promise that I have been quite busy doing homework, listening to speakers, and having grand adventures. It’s hard to believe that I’m already in Jerusalem and have under a month left on the program.

Istanbul was amazing and was by far the most Western place we visited. Sometimes, outside of the fact that the signs were written in Turkish and Middle Eastern food was being served, it was hard to believe that I was out of the United States. I did try roasted chestnuts for the first time, and I have to say that they were pretty good – as was the grilled corn. Unfortunately, it rained/poured almost every day that we were there, but I was grateful for the rain most of the time because I hadn’t seen rain for over two months in Cairo. Starbuck’s was one of the highlights for many members of the group that had been deprived of Western coffee while we were in Cairo, (In the Middle East, most “coffee” is actually Nescafe…unless you’re drinking Turkish coffee.) but I also really enjoyed the waffles with practically anything you can think of in them. I had one with Nutella, bananas, strawberries, and kiwi. It was pretty fantastic.

Ankara was very different from Istanbul in that it felt much more like a city that you would find in the Midwest US; whereas Istanbul had a much more cultural, European feel (Istanbul is currently the happening place to be). We also didn’t spend much time in Ankara, apart from visiting Anit Kaber (Ataturk’s mausoleum), which was a lot more grand and elaborate than I had expected it to be.

Damascus was very different, and now that I’m in Jerusalem, I would say that the Old City of both Damascus and Jerusalem have similar feels. I spent most of the free time that I had in the city wandering around buying things like scarves, soap, and ice cream (probably some of the most amazing ice cream I’ve ever had in my life). We also visited Ananais’ house and saw the chapel that exists in the house.

Next we went to Amman, but we didn’t really get to spend much time there. The hotel was really nice, but the food was less than the best. We survived, though, and also went to the Dead Sea. It was a lot more salty than I had expected it to be and my legs and feet burned where I had cuts, but it was pretty sweet to be able to float in the water unintentionally.

Israel has been pretty amazing so far, and I have to agree that the Austrian Hospice is the place to stay when you’re in Jerusalem (take note all you future Jerusalem pilgrims). We’ve been staying in the dormitories (I’ve been in a room with 11 other girls), which has definitely been a change from usually only having to share a room with 2 other girls and having a bathroom to only 6 girls. Oh well, soon I’ll be back at Dordt and sharing an apartment once again.

I haven’t had much of a chance to be a pilgrim to Jerusalem since I’ve been busy trying to keep up on all the readings I have to do for the speakers we’ve had. I have wandered the Old City of Jerusalem some, though, and have seen the Western Wall and Dome of the Rock/ al-Aqsa mosque from a far, as well as the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Hopefully on our free day on Sunday I’ll have more of a chance to explore the Christian sites.

*Sorry for the shortness of this post. I had originally intended it to be longer, but there is just so much to do in the Middle East that I’ve been neglecting my blog…

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Istanbul, Turkey

I've been in Istanbul for a couple days now, but haven't written because I've been off exploring the city. The city itself is very Westernized and parts of it feel very much like the US (except that here, they speak Turkish). On Wednesday when we got to Istanbul, we took a tour on the Bosphorus and saw quite a bit of the city from the water. It's a very beautiful city -- the colors of fall are in their glory here, and it's rained quite a bit. It's not more beautiful than Cairo, just beautiful in a different way...

There are also about 3 Starbucks coffee shops within the general vicinity of our hotel, so everyone is very much taking advantage of that while they can. I had two hot chocolates yesterday, and I have to say that Starbucks hazelnut hot chocolate is amazing. We've also found a little clothing shop a few blocks away from our hotel that has very funky and brightly colored clothing. I found a shirt there that I liked, but didn't buy it, so I'm hoping that if I go back today, it will be open again.

Hagia Sophia, need I say more? We toured it yesterday, and I expected it to be beautiful and amazing, but what I saw was better than that (despite the scaffolding that reached from the floor to the top of the dome. It was beyond words and definitely a must-see if you're ever in Istanbul. I attempted to take pictures, but the lighting was awful and it was pretty dark inside, so they didn't really turn out. I did, however, take video that looks a little better, but still not very good...

Turkish Delight is ok, but definitely not my favorite by any means. Turkish coffee and apple tea, though, are pretty amazing. Drinking apple tea is like drinking a baked apple -- and it definitely is even better after a day of wandering around cold Istanbul.

Today is another free day, and although it's cold and rainy, I'm looking forward to having some more adventures.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Egyptian Culture (and other ramblings)

I thought it was about time for a comparison of the similarities/differences between Egyptian and American culture (and just in time for me to leave for Turkey!).

-“Egyptian time” – In Egypt (like many other countries of the world), you can say a specific time, but don’t expect people to begin showing up until at least a half hour later…if not longer. (Egyptian time comes in handy when you try to explain why the bus is a good two hours late. Yes this has happened.)
-Women – Egyptian women tend to spend most of their time in the home and don’t venture outside as often as the men. In addition, it is improper for me (and other women) to make eye contact with strange men on the street. This took a lot of getting used to at first.
-Traffic in Cairo is insane. There are no good ways to describe it, other than chaos. (By the way, I’m much more likely to get hit by a car here in Cairo than anything else that might happen to me.)
-The weekend is Friday/Saturday instead of Saturday/Sunday. People here go to church or to the mosque on Fridays and I have classes on Sundays.
-Egyptians are very generous and hospitable. On more than one occasion, I have been invited in off the street for tea or a meal and invited to engagement parties or weddings…
-Egyptian food is amazing! I love all of it and am excited to try to recreate some of what I’ve learned in cooking class for everyone when I return.
-Arabic is hard. But, learning Arabic has given me greater appreciation for what my refugee students are going through as they are trying to learn English.
-Plumbing and Electricity are definitely blessings. My flat has had plenty of problems with these two things, including losing electricity for almost 24 hours. I don’t know how my host family lives in the summer without air conditioning.
-Belly dancing is looked down upon in some forms; however, most Egyptians (men and women) know how and are quite good. I, on the other hand, need lots more practice.
-Ethnicities and backgrounds are quite varied in Cairo. For example, there is a significant refugee population (Sudanese, Eritrean, Somalian…), some of which I teach (soon to be taught) every Tuesday. They are beautiful people – all of which hope to be able to return to their homeland someday.
-I’ve never appreciated the various forms of precipitation so much. Every once it a while, it will feel like it’s going to rain, but it never does. I’m looking forward to lots of rain (inshahallah) in the spring.
-I’ve also missed the fall colors…trees in Cairo don’t change colors quite the same way that they do in Iowa.
-The pollution in Cairo is incredible – there are days that a thick smog descends over the whole city (like a fog). Statistics say that living in Cairo is equivalent to smoking a pack of cigarettes a day…

It’s hard to believe that I have very little time left in Cairo before Travel Component begins. Don’t get me wrong. I’m very excited about traveling through the Middle East and meeting even more new people, but I will definitely miss Agouza and the Egyptians that I’ve met here. I know I’ll have a few days left when we return from travel to be able to say goodbye to everyone I’ve met, but I don’t think it’s long enough – especially when we’ll have to be writing papers during that time, too…

I’ve had even more deep conversations with a broad variety of the MESPers, and I’ve realized that I’m not as alone in many of my struggles than I had thought that I was. Many of us are thinking about the bigger questions – What do I do after I graduate? What are my greatest fears? How do I follow a Middle Eastern Jesus (as opposed to a Western one)? What are the causes of Middle Eastern developmental issues? Is religion the biggest obstacle to minority and women’s rights? (The last two questions are essays for the Peoples and Cultures class.)

Most of the time I can’t believe that I’ve only known these people for less than two months…. We’ve done a wonderful job of living together as a community (in my opinion) and the question now becomes – How will I adjust back to life in the States without all of them?

On another note, people should read the book Taxi by Khaled Khamissi (I believe that’s how his last name is spelled). It’s a fictional collection of stories that have been told by taxi drivers throughout the city. I haven’t read the whole thing yet, just bits and pieces, but in my opinion, it gives a better insight into the lives of the Cairo population.

This weekend won’t be too exciting for me. I have 3 papers due on Monday and an oral/written Arabic final on Sunday. Needless to say, most of the weekend will be spent in my flat working out my opinions on development, human rights, and Muslim/Christian relations. Hopefully I’ll be more coherent and write better than I think I will. I can already tell that I’m out of practice with writing papers…

Tonight I’m watching an episode of Supernatural (Abby says so). The two of us are using it as motivation to get farther on our papers.

What I’m Currently Reading: The Body and the Blood: The Middle East’s Vanishing Christians and the Possibility for Peace by Charles M. Sennott

Monday, October 12, 2009

An Update!

It’s been awhile since I posted, but the last couple weeks have been packed full of adventures of one sort or another. I joke around with several of the MESPers about every day being an adventure, which is quite true. So anyway, here’s a glimpse of what’s been going on in Cairo over the past weeks…

My homestay was wonderful. My family lives in El Marg, which is a much poorer area on the outskirts of Cairo. My journey to and from the Villa each day involved a taxi, the Metro, and a microbus. The taxis and Metro were generally good, except for a few days where the traffic got really bad, but the microbuses were definitely a pain most days. Usually on the way to the Villa, I would have to wait about 30-40 minutes for a microbus that was a) headed the right way and b) not already crammed full of people.

I didn’t get much time to study each day, which made the ITP quiz and the Arabic midterm much more difficult for me than they would have been otherwise, but I think that the experience that I had staying with a Muslim family was worth it. I had three host sisters and a host brother, plus a plethora of host cousins, aunts, and uncles that I never really caught the name of. I was able to eat like an Egyptian – which meant a lot of fuul and tamayya (a bean mixture and fried bean patty things). I like fuul and tamayya a lot, but now, I think I can wait another week or so until I start to eat those foods again.

I also was able to have quite a few deep discussions with my host brother about Islam and Egyptian culture. He also helped me by translating some of the conversations that my family had in Arabic that I couldn’t understand, and by helping me improve my Arabic reading skills. My host cousins and sisters were also great fun to be with. Ahmed, my host cousin who couldn’t have been more than 6 or so months old, was a lot of fun to hold, but often he got taken away from me when I was supposed to eat or the other kids wanted me to play with them.

At the end of the week, my family spent the night at one of my host aunts’ flats. It was a very beautiful flat, and I soon found out just how rich my host uncle was. My host cousins were very intrigued by me and I did my best to answer all of their questions. They were also very set on getting me to belly dance. I tried out what little I know, but I know that they were much better dancers than I was. I also got to wear a gallebeya (a long, dress-like garment that both men and women wear) while I was there. It was very comfortable, and I plan to buy one for myself before I leave Egypt.

My host uncle showed up to the flat the next morning, at which time I realized that my host uncle had two wives in two different flats! I honestly don’t know how my host aunt puts up with this (apparently he was poor before and only married his second wife after he got rich). I know that I wouldn’t be able to.

The next week was more of a normal week, since everyone returned to Agouza from their homestays. The most interesting part of the class week was our trip to the Arab League where we got to meet with the Chief of Staff to the Secretary General of the Arab League, and he answered our questions about what has been happening in the Middle East. Following this, we also got to attend a panel discussion on the life of Gandhi and the opening of an exhibit on his life. In the process, we got to talk to some of the important people that attended the meeting and also eat some Indian food (which was really good).

This weekend we went to the Siwa Oasis, which is located in the Sahara Desert. We spent most of Wednesday afternoon traveling, but Thursday we rented bikes for the day and visited one of our friends houses in Siwa in the morning/afternoon. At first, we talked about Siwan culture as a large group, then the guys left and we stayed and talked to some of our friends female family members about what it is like to be a woman in Siwa (which is very different from Cairo – different language, culture…everything). Women in Siwa wear a full burka after they are married and must ask permission from their husband before they are allowed to leave the house. It’s very much a culture of protection and honor, which is very strange for people coming from a Western culture. The girls also got a chance to get henna tattoos. The process of allowing the henna to dry and absorb into the skin is very long, but I really enjoyed the result. I think I’m definitely going to have to take some henna back to the States when I return.

That evening we biked out to a lake where I didn’t go swimming, but from talking to others about their experience, it was very salty. And – minus the palm trees and water, it reminded me very much of the North Dakota badlands.

Friday we went sandboarding in the Great Sand Sea and swimming in several hot/cold springs. The trek out into the desert in Jeeps was thrilling – at least for our Jeep because the driver kept going to the edge of dunes that were close to a sheer drop down. It was a great time, although I now have sand in most of my clothing and in my backpack. That night we stayed at a Bedouin camp near Siwa. We paid for a Siwan band that came out and played Siwan music, which we danced to – it was great to have another chance to practice some of what we’re learning in belly dancing class. Afterwards, we spent the night in our sleep sheets laying out under the stars…which were breathtaking and beyond words…

Now that we’re back in Cairo, we’re doing a lot of classes and the usual. We went to Al Azhar yesterday, which wasn’t quite as exciting as I had expected, but I did meet a lot of really great Muslims that were a lot of fun to talk to over lunch. Also, last night we had a dance party with both of the girls’ flats and many of our Egyptian friends. There was a lot of Arabic and English music, and a lot of belly dancing – also a great time to practice.

Tonight is Canadian Thanksgiving…for which I am bringing kosherii with the rest of my cooking class. Not really a North American food, but good all the same.

Now…for writing my papers… :-S

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Best Place in the World...

...BUT, before I get there, let's talk about a few other things, shall we? :)

I'm doing laundry this morning in preparation for homestays that start tomorrow. Doing said laundry here in Egypt makes me so much more appreciative for the washing machine and dryer that I have at home. Whereas at home all I would have to do is turn the machine on to start the water, throw my clothes in, and add some soap; here I have to use a hose to run water from the bathroom sink into the washing machine for the wash cycle, throw my clothes and soap in, wait 10 minutes or so, drain the machine manually (another hose that hooks up to the drain on the floor--I'll take a picture sometime), refill the machine with aforementioned hose for the rinse cycle, wait another 10 minutes or so, drain the machine manuallly again, then switch the clothes in the washing machine half to the spinner half. Now, the spinner is significantly smaller than the washer, so basically, one load of clothes turns into about 3-ish loads in the spinner. Then after that, I hang all the clothes on a drying rack. Thankfully, here in Cairo, clothes dry much, much faster than in the states.

Anyway, homestays are next week, so I really won't be on the internet at all. Everyday after classes finish, I will leave almost immediately from the Villa to take a taxi/the Metro/a microbus to my homestay family. This family will be Muslim, and likely as not will speak very little English (the perfect opportunity to practice my minimal Arabic). I'm looking forward to the experience of feeling like a part of an Egyptian family, but I'm pretty nervous, too.

The results of the Zamalek football match: Zamalek lost 0-1 (which apparently isn't much of a surprise here). However, I had a great time with all of the other students and one of our Egyptian friends at the match. Many of us bought Zamalek flags (pretty cheap looking and 10 LE -- the tickets themselves were 15 LE) and waved them around during the game. To get to the game, though, we took a bus, and a bus full of white North Americans and one Egyptian looks a little suspicious to the police, so we ended up being quite protected. We even left the match a good 30 seconds or so before the end... Hopefully later on in the semester, though, we'll get a chance to go to an Ahly or an Egypt match...that would be sweet! :)


Ok. The best place on earth...(drumroll, please!)...Anafora. We went there yesterday for our meeting with Coptic youth (my Egyptian friend was unable to come--it was sad), and it's really hard to describe. The place serves as a retreat center for Christians (run by the Coptic church, but available to someone of any background) and is also a sustainable farm. They make their own soaps, olive oil, pesto/misto, dried herbs for teas and things, knitted items, the rugs and blankets of the kind that we have in the Villa on the roof and that are found all over...they're pretty sweet. I plan to lay out my living room like that when I have one. :)

Being a farm, the scenery is much more green than most of the rest of Egypt. We saw many fields and orchards--even orange trees! There is also a small canal system that runs around the building were we were for most of the day. I can't really compare it to anything I've seen before...we saw the stars, and the silence was heavenly.

We also met with Bishop Thomas (one of the Coptic bishops who founded Anafora) who is one of the most amazing Christian people I've ever met. We also spend most of the day in conversation with Coptic youth about their church and traditions, and the differences between their church and our church. Before we left, though, we had a praise and worship service and a Coptic prayer service in the Anafora chapel (which is one of the most beautiful chapels I have ever seen). The floor is made up of the rugs that I mentioned earlier, as are the pillows that we sat on, and the whole chapel was filled with candles... Again, it's hard to describe if you haven't been there, but the beauty of the place and the beauty of worshiping beyond doctrinal issues was wonderful and amazing. I hope you all can see this place someday... :)

Today, though, we're meeting with people from Islam Online and going bowling with some of our Egyptian friends. No real weekend for us this week...or next week either...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Thoughts and Impressions

It's been an eventful, but great week in Cairo. It's hard to believe that I've only known these people for a month -- it feels like we've been a group for a lot longer than that.

Sunday and Monday were class days, so I had a lot of reading due for my Islam and Peoples and Cultures classes, and plenty of work for my Arabic class, too. I knew going in that living cross culturally would be a good experience for me for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that I'm not the "over-achiever" anymore. Meaning -- at home, people will come to me for study help and proofreading papers and such, but here, I'm the one asking for help and advice. The other MESPers are incredibly smart and talented people and it's been good for me to be able to get another perspective.

My service project has also been a wonderful experience for me. I teach ESL conversation classes on Tuesday nights to the people at Refuge Egypt. The classes are mostly comprised of Sudanese refugees, but there are also people from Eritrea, Somalia, and other countries in Africa that are experiencing conflict. I team teach the classes with three other MESPers, and the service project has also been a time to get to know them better, too.

Ramadan is over now. Yesterday was a holiday (Eid-al-Fitr) to celebrate the end of Ramadan. I had to go out to buy water, and I was a little shocked when none of the vendors that are usually around were there (I wanted to buy some aish (bread), but the lady I usually buy from wasn't out.). There were, however, small children riding horses in the streets and a man with an air horn carrying (what appeared to be) cotton candy on a pole... When I got to the store, I was able to have my first fully Arabic conversation. :) It was short, but I felt very empowered.

When I got back to the flat, my flatmates and I decided to order pizza. I ended up making the phone call and spent 20 minutes on the phone trying to communicate (in English -- my Arabic isn't that good) with the lady on the other end of the line... All became well, though, and we got our Papa John's pizza within a half hour. :)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Mount Sinai and Dahab

Last weekend the program went to Mount Sinai and Dahab. It was a long bus ride to Sinai (7 hours through the night), but climbing Sinai to see the sunrise was an amazing experience. We saw the burning bush at St. Katherine's Monastery...complete with fire extinguisher! It was an incredibly long day, but Dahab was beautiful. It's a resort town that caters to backpackers and is on the Gulf of Aquaba (the Red Sea). From the beach, we could see the shoreline of Saudi Arabia, and at night, we could see lights from one of the towns.

While we were at Dahab, we also went snorkeling at a place called The Blue Hole, which is supposedly only second to the snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef. The reef was pretty sweet and I saw some cool fist -- it was also weird to see scuba divers beneath me... Dahab itself is a pretty relaxed place. We got to swim and eat, swim and eat, and swim and eat some more. People were saying that it would be a good place for a honeymoon, and I think I would have to agree.

Today we had Arabic again (Yes, class on a Sunday. Church is on Fridays.) and we also heard from Hossam Bagehat who works for a human rights group based in Cairo. What he had to say was really interesting and I'm looking forward to being able to hear more on the subject. It's been nice to have a free night, though. So far we've only had one or five of us girls got a taxi and went to McDonald's for internet.

This weekend is the Luxor trip. Hopefully all will go well!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Classes Have Begun

Cairo is a bit different when you can't spend all of your time wandering through the streets and learning your way around. I now have homework... :(

Arabic class started last week and I have to say that I am feeling a little bit overwhelmed. I've really enjoyed getting a chance to learn, but it is going to take some time and effort to be able to communicate and read effectively in the language...probably more time than I'll have this semester...

My first service project was also this week. I taught English at a place called Refuge Egypt which is a place for refugees to go. The classes that I'm teaching are conversation classes on Tuesday nights from 4:30-8. The students are very nice and I'm looking forward to being able to communicate with them more as the weeks progress. They also have a very nice gift shop, so I'll be checking that out, too.

This weekend we'll be heading to Mt. Sinai and Dahab (where I might be snokeling in the Red Sea--how cool is that?). Having a free weekend in Cairo has been nice, but it'll be good to get out of polluted Cairo for awhile and see different parts of Egypt, too.

The Arab-Israeli Conflict has already "poisoned" our semester... We've already discussed it several times, and I can foresee some of us getting into heated debates over it. So far, the MESPers have been an amazing community, and hopefully that can continue despite our differences of opinion.

Sunday, August 30, 2009


Hey Everyone!

I've made it to Cairo and I'm loving it here! I'm living in a part of the city called Agouza that is predominantly Muslim (like most of the rest of Cairo) in a flat with 8 other girls -- the total number of students on the program is 30. Most of our time so far during Orientation Week has been spent in the Villa (where we will take classes -- it used to be the director's house) and learning our way around the city using taxis and the metro.

Classes start on Wednesday and Service Projects on Tuesday. I'm hoping to teach ESL to adults as my service project, and on Wednesday structured Arabic classes will begin, inshallah. I'm really looking forward to being able to communicate better in Arabic.

The Egyptian people are very welcoming and helpful. Although Cairo is a big city, I feel comfortable walking up to a woman on the street and asking for directions. Things are also a lot cheaper here. For example, the internet at the cafe I'm using only costs 3 LE an hour (the exchange rate is 5.5 LE to 1 American dollar). I haven't bought much yet, but soon we'll have to start buying some of our own food and stuff.

Last night, the group went on a felucca ride and to the Khan-al-Khali bazzar, which is huge and very hard to describe with out the aid of pictures. Since it's Ramandan and there are several mosques in the general area of the Khan-al-Khali, there were lots of people wandering the markets and smoking shisha (the Egyptian word for hookah). I sat down to talk with people and drank hibiscus juice, which was really odd at first, but quite good and supposedly lowers your blood pressure.

I've been hoping to post pictures on the internet for everyone to see, but that's going to have to wait until I figure out how to ask to hook my computer up to an ethernet cable... Language barriers can be difficult to work around.

I don't have wireless internet access in my flat, so I hope to be able to update again within the week.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

I'm Only Passing Through

Today is my last day at home. Tomorrow Dad and I head out to Milwaukee before I fly out to Cairo on Tuesday. I can't believe that the summer has flown by so fast and my time in Medora is starting to feel surreal. I know that it happened, but it doesn't seem like it happened. Anyway...

I've got all the items that I'm considering packing laid out on my bed. It seems like a lot of stuff (which it's really not), but I don't know what I wouldn't take with me. Some of the stuff will be used up by the time I get back, but I don't really want to have to feel like I have to leave stuff behind. Plus, since I'm spending an extra two weeks in Germany, some of the stuff I packed won't be used until December... Oh well, I guess I don't plan on buying any large souvenirs from the Middle East -- mostly small stuff.

I'm rather nervous, but also excited, and most of the time it's hard to distinguish which emotion I'm feeling. In some ways, it feels like a regular semester, but I'm not going back to Dordt. I'm sad that I won't get to see some of my friends until graduation, but excited to make new ones and experience a new culture and learn a new language.

I get to go to church at my home church for one of the only times this summer -- and my dad is back from sabbatical, so I'll get to hear him preach, too! :)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Home Feels Strange

I've found that every time I leave home for a semester or a summer, it feels strange and out of place when I return. Pella even felt like a large city when we pulled in because I've been so used to a small town of only 80-90 permanent residents -- without even a grocery store! The scenery is different, too, Iowa and much of Minnesota are flatter and much more open, and I found myself missing the "enclosed" spaces of the North Dakota badlands.

I miss being able to say things like "to infinity and beyond" and have people understand the back story in that phrase (it's more than just Toy Story). It's also hard to talk about the people that became my friends with people back home. It would be much easier if the people back here could just drive to Medora.

Dan didn't like it in Medora, which is understandable because it's nothing like a big city. Unlike me, he needs at least a bigger town and seems much more comfortable in the city. I loved the quiet nights (minus the train) and being able to see the stars right from my back porch -- something I can't do quite as well in Pella, and definitely won't be able to do in Cairo.

One week until I leave for Egypt. I can't believe the time has flown by so quickly!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Roseville, Minnesota

Well, I've made it to the Twin Cities. Dan and I left Medora around 6 this morning and got here about 15 minutes ago. It's still hard to believe that summer is already over and I'm headed to the Middle East. I'm excited that I get to go to Egypt (no question about that), but I miss the scenery and people of North Dakota.

The trip itself was pretty uneventful. We listened to Dan's iPod the whole way and Dan made fun of the songs we were listening to. Tonight, though, Grandma has invited most of my family to come over to the house for pizza, so I definitely won't be in bed early and Dan wants to leave at 4 tomorrow morning to make it home in time for church. We'll see how early we get out of here.

It's a bittersweet evening.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

To Infinity and Beyond!

Well, I haven't left Medora yet, but my last day at the Chateau was yesterday. So far, it doesn't really feel weird because I normally don't work on Thursdays anyway. I'm excited about what's ahead, but I'm starting to get a little nervous and apprehensive, too -- wondering whether I've studied enough Arabic, read enough of Gelvin, that sort of thing.

I have to go to the Chateau again today to pick up some things that I want to buy from the gift shop, and then I'll have to say goodbye again. The only good thing about saying goodbye now is that likely as not, I'll be back next summer and it won't be forever.

I work at the gift shop from 11 to close today, so I'll talk to George then about working at the gift shop next summer...

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Last Weekend in Medora :(

Well, my last weekend in Medora is drawing quickly to a close. It's strange to think back and realize just how eager I was to get to Egypt at the beginning of the summer (Not that I'm any less eager...I'm just realizing how much I'll miss Medora and the people here). If things work out, I'd like to come back to Medora next summer, too, and have one final summer job before I head out into the "real world."

However, this weekend has probably been one of the best weekends yet. On Thursday, Jim and Jerry let me drive the stagecoach for the first time, and then I got to stick around for a little while afterwards and feed the horses, too. Then today, Karen gave me permission to spend most of the day outside talking to the drivers (Jim and Jerry) and to the other people that came along. Some of the people that came by asked questions about the Chateau, which I tried to answer, but I figure that my day counts as research toward my time traveler character: Cowgirl Christine. Towards the end of the day, Jim even let me drive the team again.

Anyway, it seems that just as I seem to be fitting in and have found my place, then it's time to return to school (or go to school in Egypt, as the case may be). I know I'll have a great time in Egypt and make friends there, too, but it's hard to think that in a little over three and a half months, I'll be doing this again...

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Turnin' Cowgirl and Other Ramblings

I know that I swore to my parents that I wouldn't come back to Iowa with a cowboy hat and boots, but I've found that Medora and the whole ranch/cowboy thing has grown on me. Out here, it's much more than just the hat; cowboys have a lifestyle and culture all their own.

Like most girls, I've dreamed of having my own horse since I was little. Since I've always been a town girl, I've never had an opportunity to learn how to ride. Wilhelm (my family's exchange student last year) rides horses in Germany and my new friend Sarah also rides. Simply put, being around all these people that ride has renewed my desire to learn how to ride a horse.

Inspite of my current interest in horses and cowboy culture, I still don't like country music. Just saying.

On another note, I'm really sad to have to leave Medora next week. I've made so many new friends and seen so many wonderful places. I think that the words of the Marquis de Mores sum up my feelings to some extent: "I grow weary of civilization...I long for the wilderness." I love Medora--at least the historical and natural aspects of it. North Dakota may still be a relatively young historical location, but there is still lots of history to be explored.

Monday, July 27, 2009

All Good Things Must Come to an End -- But New Good Things Will Start!

It's hard to believe that my internship will end soon. Last week was the "Great Intern Tour of 2009," so Samantha and I headed to Bismarck to hang out with the other interns and tour some of the historic sites around Bismarck/Mandan. Many of the sites we visited used to be Mandan villages, but we also saw Fort Abraham Lincoln (where Custer was based for awhile) and Fort Mandan (where Lewis and Clark stayed for a winter). It was really interesting and has motivated me to look into more of the history of the area.

I finally booked a flight to Dulles airport in DC (ok, my dad did this one for me). It only cost $88, which isn't too bad. But, my dad will have to drive me to Milwaukee and I'll have to pay for my check-in luggage. I'm getting really excited to travel to the Middle East soon. So even though I'll have to leave Medora, I'll be starting a whole new (and challenging) experience.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Now I Become Myself by May Sarton

Now I become myself. It's taken
Time, many years and places;
I have been dissolved and shaken,
Worn other people's faces,
Run madly, as if Time were there,
Terribly old, crying a warning,
"Hurry, you will be dead before-"
(What? Before you reach the morning?
Or the end of the poem is clear?
Or love safe in the walled city?)
Now to stand still, to be here,
Feel my own weight and density!
The black shadow on the paper
Is my hand; the shadow of a word
As thought shapes the shaper
Falls heavy on the page, is heard.
All fuses now, falls into place
From wish to action, word to silence,
My work, my love, my time, my face
Gathered into one intense
Gesture of growing like a plant.
As slowly as the ripening fruit
Fertile, detached, and always spent,
Falls but does not exhaust the root,
So all the poem is, can give,
Grows in me to become the song,
Made so and rooted by love.
Now there is time and Time is young.
O, in this single hour I live
All of myself and do not move.
I, the pursued, who madly ran,
Stand still, stand still, and stop the sun!

Stormy Week

At the end of last week, a tornado went through Dickinson (the city that's 30 minutes away and where I get groceries). Most of the south side of town was hit and one of the house interpreters even lost her apartment in the storm. She and her husband are okay and are currently in the process of moving to Germany with the Air Force. We're supposed to get severe thunderstorms tonight and the next few days, too, so hopefully that will go well and we won't get the quarter-sized hail that they are predicting.

The stagecoach drivers and horses arrived today! It's really quite fun to have them around. They are very interested in the history of the house and once they finally get started (which will hopefully be soon -- it has to dry out first), we'll get a free ride in the coach. I'm also hoping to get a chance to go horseback riding this week, or if that's not possible, to finally hike out to Theodore Roosevelt's Elkhorn Ranch cabin. I've been meaning to do that for weeks, but it always falls on a day that I work in the gift shop, or a day that I can't escape from the Chateau for a few hours.

This weekend, a girl was playing her violin for tips just outside of the gift shop. Apparently, she did quite well, so I've already asked George if I can set up there if I return here next summer. I wouldn't be a Chateau intern, so I could work in the gift shop and at the Chateau 3 days a week each. It might not happen that I get out here again, but I'm looking forward to the possibility.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Trip to Bismarck (Part Two)

I've been asked about the story of the bass and violin, and I can't say that I remember them very clearly. The bass was used on a ship during one of the wars the US fought(see how little I remember? :)) and the only reason the bassist survived (everyone else was killed) was because he was a member of the band. The structure of the bass was pretty well preserved, but it was missing two of it's strings. The Hardanger fiddle was brought over from Norway by a family, and other than the family's travels through Minnesota and North Dakota, it's life has been rather uneventful.

We met so many of the people that work in the Heritage Center, and so far, I like them just as well as I like the people I work with at the Chateau. And, while we were in the archives, we saw Frank Visraylek (most likely spelled wrong) who is a North Dakota researcher and has written some works on the Marquis. I haven't read his work yet, but now I'm interested and hopefully, I'll get a chance before I leave.

We also got a chance to go part way through the main gallery, which interprets North Dakota history from the time of the dinosaurs to the present day. The State Historical Society has set up a new program called "History on Call" and we had intended to try it out by finding the parts that Ed and Don (the assistant site supervisor and one of the interpreters) had worked on. We found the man that Don portrayed, but couldn't find Ed's. After asking around, we realized that the "History on Call" program has sort of been put on hold.

Around 2:30, the lady that works in the Heritage Center gift shop loaded up Karen's truck with all of the stuff that needed to be transported to the Chateau. We soon realized that we wouldn't be able to continue exploring Bismarck because of the amount of stuff that we had to take back. So, we went to eat lunch and then went back to Medora.


Since that point, Samantha and I have had our first oral history interview with a man that worked on restoring the Maltese Cross Cabin (Theodore Roosevelt's first cabin in Dakota) and also on some aspects of the Chateau. It was really interesting and he had plenty of stories about what life in Medora was like years before I was born. I would have liked to have seen it.

Last night we had a really bad storm -- tornadoes were sighted in the national park and up at the golf course. It was very windy and there were sheets of rain for awhile... It was incredible!

We've also had quite a few bull snake and rattlesnake sightings in the last couple weeks. There was one over by the bathrooms near the taffy shop, and we apparently have a nest of baby rattlers under the porch, even though we've sighted bull snakes in the area, too...

Monday, July 6, 2009

Trip to Bismarck (Part One)

Today I went to Bismarck with Karen and Samantha. I've never been to the Heritage Center or met any of the people that work there, so it was an adventure. Samantha and I left Medora around 7:30 am (MDT) and went with Karen from Dickinson to Bismarck. We didn't arrive in Bismarck until 11 am (CDT), though...

Anyway, when we got there, we met some of the more important people in the Heritage Center and we took tours through the Collections and Archives areas of the center. We saw several of Medora's riding habits, and also some of the the drapes and bottles on the shelves. On the way to see "Medora's" horse (it was used in the Chateau in the 40s to show off Medora's sidesaddles), there was a double bass on one of the shelves. I gasped from surprise and excitement and Jenny (the lady that took us through) told me the story of what happened to the bass...and then told me that there was a Hardanger fiddle in the collections, too. And then, Jenny gave me her white gloves, and I got to HOLD the fiddle myself! :)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Not What I Had Expected

Well, when I said that I was ready for the challenges that lay ahead, the last few days weren't really what I had in mind. Yesterday went pretty well for awhile, but then I ended up having to drive to Dickinson because my brother ended up in the emergency room for pesticide exposure. He's doing just fine now, but we (at the Chateau) wanted to make sure that he would be ok, so we sent him in the ambulance (a half hour drive). He was released about 2 1/2 hours later, and I've been trying to text him every once in awhile to see how he's doing. Hopefully he'll feel well enough to head back to work in the taffy shop tomorrow...

A couple days ago, my roommate had surgery on her back to insert some kind of a monitor. I think the surgery went well, but she has been having some bleeding issues and went into the emergency room herself last night. She seems to be doing a little better today, but she has to go into Bismarck tomorrow to get the monitor-thing removed...

Other than these things, work today went pretty well. I really enjoy Tuesdays and Wednesdays because Don, Linda, and Maxine are all up at the house at the same time. It's always a great time when those three are up there...and Maxine's always telling me how "cute" my smile is. :)

I've really been looking forward to going to Egypt this past week -- more so than usual. It's always there in the back of my mind, but I've just been daydreaming about it a lot. Maxine is going to try to work something out so that I can talk to her students while I'm there. I'm really curious to see what kinds of questions they will come up with...and excited to have something like this to share information. :)

Monday, June 29, 2009

Time Passes Quickly

It's hard to believe that it's already the end of June and that I'll be heading to the Middle East in a little less than two months. My reading and studying for that venture have been shortened and I'm looking forward to having the time to study again.

Yesterday I got into a discussion with one of the interpreters at the Chateau about the status of Palestine and the Palestinians. Like Northwest Iowa and Pella, North Dakota is pretty conservative and republican and my (more or less) pro-Palestinian arguments were met by very pro-Israel views. It's been awhile since I've had a discussion with someone that was pro-Israeli (aside from my grandma, that's a different case)...quite possibly since before I took History of the Muslim World. This interpreter is headed to Afghanistan sometime in the fall with the military. It seems like we will be seeing the Middle East from completely different will be interesting to get his take on the situation later in the year -- perhaps well have to swap stories.

Thursday is one of my first full days off from work and I'm sincerely hoping that it won't rain during the day. I was hoping that the hike to Theodore Roosevelt's Elkhorn Ranch site would be on Thursday, but it's on Wednesday, plan B. I'm hoping that I can find my way through the scenic loop drive in the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park (henceforth referred to as TRNP) back to the Wind Canyon trail. Unfortunately, it appears to be that part of the season when all of the baby rattlesnakes begin hatching. We've already had run-ins in the park and at the Chateau and have even heard mention of some within Medora! If I go, I'm starting to think that I'd want to bring someone with me...

I left work at the Chateau early this afternoon because I wasn't feeling well. After spending most of the day sleeping, I feel refreshed and ready for work. Unfortunately, I don't think I'll sleep very well tonight.

I'm excited and ready for the challenge that awaits me, both tomorrow and beyond.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Uneventful Week

I've posted some of my Medora pictures on Facebook and hopefully I'll start a Picasa album soon.

I'm getting really frustrated with living in a dorm again and I'm really missing REAL food! I see the types of lunches that my colleagues bring to work and I start wishing that I had quick and easy access to a kitchen. I also have to move my van out of the Bandlands Motel lot tomorrow because of the car show that's coming to town this weekend. I already have to walk a decent ways and now I have to walk even farther to get to the van.

I'm opening the gift shop on Thursday for George, so hopefully that will go well. So far, business has been pretty slow overall. Hopefully we'll get more people soon.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Clean Up on Aisle 7

(written Friday night)

I worked at the gift shop today and it went pretty well, but we had a rather eventful morning. Eleven boxes of t-shirts arrived for us today and Carol and I managed to fold and “put away” four of those boxes. Unfortunately, the washer and dryer weren’t hooked up correctly in the upstairs apartment and we had water on the floor under the t-shirts in the store. We then had to remove all of the medium-sized t-shirts and some of the x-large ones, too. It took a lot of effort, but hopefully tomorrow we’ll be able to put all the t-shirts back and organize them.

Speaking of tomorrow, I’m working 12 to close… Not exactly what I had planned, but George is short people and Carol has to train another new person in the store…and we’re expecting about 300 masons in town tomorrow, too. So, in short, and for tomorrow to run smoothly, George wants an extra person in the store. Thankfully, I was able to get off until noon, so I can still walk out to the site where the duel between the Marquis and Riley Luffsey took place and I can also go to the History Alive! program at the Chateau, make some spaghetti, and take some pictures at the Chateau, too. Most of the other things that I intended to do will have to wait yet another week.

I’m really glad that I can say that I enjoy both of my jobs here in Medora. If things work out, I’d like to work at these places again next summer…although I’ll probably try to find different housing. Anyway, I’m getting tired and I don’t have internet to post this… :(

Friday, June 12, 2009

A Post

On Sunday, I worked box office at the Billings County Courthouse Museum and after one of the shows, Karen took me up to the top of one of the bluffs to see the cemetery that is mentioned. The view from the Chateau is still one of my favorites, but you can see so much more from up there (it's a higher butte). Coleen also brought Papa Murphy's pizza to work (yum!).

Tuesday and Wednesday I spent a lot of time getting ready for or doing the senior and children's tours. As of now, I've written/worked on 3 of 5 of the travelers' "speeches." I've also got to spend a lot of time up at the house this week, which makes me pretty happy. The house is my favorite place to be...

Yesterday, I was at the gift shop again. It was a pretty good day overall, and I'm getting used to the different rhythm of that job versus my internship. There are different people at both places (obviously), but I have a great time working with both sets of people.

Anyway -- I have work at the gift shop again today and tomorrow's my day off. The list of things for me to do on my day off just keeps growing...

Saturday, June 6, 2009


My first official day off work and it's snowing. How crazy is that?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Dakotah Territories

I had my first day of work at the Dakotah Territories Gift Shop today. It went pretty well (only an 8 hour day, compared to my usual 10), but I didn't really have much opportunity to sit down at all -- so my feet really hurt tonight. I learned the cash register operation fairly easily (with only a few errors) and I am getting much better at counting back change. Unfortunately, I have about 5 or 6 things that I want to buy now (from that shop alone) and I still have no money...

Hopefully I'll be able to get to the grocery store in Dickinson on Saturday. I've been craving pickles since Sunday when Sharen (one of the ladies that works in the gift shop at the Chateau) was talking about them. I'm also running pretty low on food, but I should be able to make it until Saturday. I might go over to the Chateau to make pasta salad and spaghetti tomorrow morning, though.

The Medora Musical started last night and apparently it was pretty chilly. (I haven't gone yet. I plan to wait a few weeks -- and I haven't gotten my free ticket yet.) Carol (the lady I work with in the DT Gift Shop) said that lots of people were in the store yesterday buying jackets and sweatshirts. I don't blame them... This weekend it's supposed to be chilly -- only 50ish degrees during the day (I'd like to compare that to temperatures in Iowa).

Anyway, I'm pretty tired and I'm working again tomorrow at the DT Gift Shop (not until 10:30, unless I go to the Chateau).

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Back in Medora

It was a little surreal to finally be back in Medora after this weekend. Oddly, it sort of felt like I had been here forever and was returning after a long time away... It was good to be back, though. I missed having something to do during the days. Yesterday, Samantha and I organized 3 of the file drawers full of research and information and went on the mp3 walking tour. I got a sense of accomplishment out of organizing all of that information into an index, but I still have to say that office type work is not my favorite (although it is a necessary part of life).

Karen is letting me work on some of the Time Traveler scripts for Tuesday/Wednesday tours through the house. It's been a good project and a chance to use some of what I've learned from the writing courses I've taken over the years. Karen knows a lot about the subject and has been a good guide.

On Saturday I'm headed to Richardton, ND for an Oral History Conference (at an abbey!). Dee was talking about getting a tour of the abbey itself and I'm really excited about that possibility. I'm also thinking that this oral history project that's currently in the works will be a good experience for me. I'm hoping that I'll be able to use what I learn at this conference, and throughout the summer, for family history and/or possibly church history (haven't discussed that one with anyone yet...).

I'm thinking that working for the SHSND might be a good job for me next summer, too (provided they would employ me) -- perhaps I could get a position as an interpreter at the house. Who knows? But first I have to learn the secret handshake....

Sunday, May 24, 2009


After a long bus ride from Dickinson to Des Moines (about 24 hours in total), I am home. I was actually pretty sad to have to leave Medora Thursday night -- and I'm definitely not partial to sitting in the Dickinson bus stop for 4 hours... Regardless, I've already seen Dan graduate from high school and this morning he'll make Public Profession of Faith at church. It's hard to believe that he is old enough.

Some of my relatives made it out to celebrate with us, too. It's been good to see them this weekend because after this, I won't seen any of them until Christmas. I spent most of yesterday putting together Dan's picture board. (He wanted to leave it plain white on the back, but I got colored construction paper and put borders around the pictures.) After church, we're having lunch in the church basement and then after that is Dan's open house (root beer floats, like mine). Having both events in the same weekend has made it kind of crazy, but it's been good to be here for both.

Most of all, it's hard to believe that Dan is going to college next year (Northwestern - IA - for History and Education). Perhaps it's best that I'll be in Egypt for the first part of the semester so he can feel like he's all alone out there...

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Delayed Posting

Apparently the wireless internet cut out sometime around 11:30 PM two nights ago and I haven't been able to get internet from my room until this point.

My internship has been going quite well and Samantha and I seem to get along just fine. She and I were a little nervous yesterday when the interpreters of the house threw us into the midst of interpreting the Chateau. I was scared stiff that I would say something incorrectly, but the other women up there were very patient and encouraging. After all, we have to start sometime...

While we were waiting for the next tour, Coleen (she's in her 30th year of interpreting at the house) told us the ghost stories from the house. There are only 3, but apparently there have been a couple sightings of some nuns and one sighting of a cowboy. The cowboy one is my favorite -- apparently one of the interpreters was giving the tour and when they got to the upstairs bedrooms, a cowboy (a head taller than anyone else) joined the group. When the interpreter went back downstairs, the man wasn't with the group any longer and she assumed that he was still looking around. However, when she went back up to look for him, he wasn't there.

Today we were up at the house again, but this time it was the two interns and Jane (one of the interpreters). Yesterday I had only interpreted the second half of the house and today Jane had both Samantha and I try the front of the house. I was a little more nervous about the front of the house, but it still went pretty well. I'm nervous for tomorrow though, I may have to try the porch (the first place the guests stop -- it needs to be the strongest).

Saturday, May 16, 2009

2nd Job

Mom and I wandered through Medora today. The Chateau de Mores (where I will be working -- look it up) has an even more beautiful view than my window and the house and history are fascinating. I have so much to learn from the people here and about the history.

We also wandered through town for most of the afternoon and ended up in one of the gift shops. Mom started talking to the man that runs the store and now I may have a 2nd (part-time) job lined up for the summer, too. This should be good because I'm not sure what I would do with three full days off otherwise. It looks (right now) like I'll be working 6 10 hour days (possibly some work in the evenings) and have a day off to go to the grocery store in Dickinson, explore the park, or whatever else I might want to do.

Anyway, I'm tired (my body clock is still in Central time), so I think I'm going to bed. I plan to go to the Lutheran church in the morning, so I'll let you all know how that goes.

Medora: Day 1

I arrived in Medora, North Dakota around 5 PM yesterday. It was a long drive from the Twin Cities to Medora (6:30 AM CST to 5:00 PM MDT). However, North Dakota really isn't as flat and boring as some people might think. The western half is quite beautiful and hilly -- the speed limit's also 75 mph for those who are curious.

The dorm room is small (for those of you who know West Hall at Dordt, think one of the rooms for two people). Thankfully, I'll have AC this summer, since it will get quite hot eventually.

I start work on Monday at 7:30 AM and work until 6:30 PM. It'll be 4 10 hour long days and then I have to find something to do with my free time. Mom and I are going to the Chateau de Mores today to see the women homesteaders exhibit and then at some point we'll have to go to Dickinson to go shopping (there is no grocery store in Medora) and I have to drop Mom off at the bus stop.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Last Weekend

Well, it's the last weekend before exams and my mom and little brother are coming in about 40 minutes to get all of my stuff and take it home. It's a little depressing to have to still be here without my stuff, but on the bright side, I'll have A LOT more space. Also, rearranging all the furniture will be a lot easier once my stuff isn't an issue.

I've been trying and trying all week to get my passport, but first I had trouble printing pictures and then I found out that, because I was under sixteen when my last passport was issued, I need my birth certificate in addition to my driver's license and passport. So far, I haven't had any travel adventures, but getting the IDs required to travel has been a little bit of a hassle.

I have so much to do as far as homework is concerned in the next week -- including about another 50 pages of writing for my Screenwriting class. I love that class, but I think the amount of work left just might kill me -- or at least make me very sleep deprived.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Bridge to Terebithia and paper writing

Well, I'm sitting on the couch trying to write a paper and watching Bridge to Terebithia at the same time, which probably isn't the best idea. However, I'm within about 500 words or so of being finished with the paper. Unfortunately, the topic for the paper (Herbert Butterfield) is a person that my professor knows a lot about -- most of the sources I came up with, he wrote... So this paper is a pretty intimidating challenge.

It's still hard to believe that the school year will be over soon. Last night I was feeling a little depressed, so I spent most of the night watching Howl's Moving Castle (I should have been doing homework). But, I'm confident that I will be able to finish the paper in the next hour/hour and a half and then I can focus much more on packing. Mom and Sam will show up on Friday to take most of my stuff home, then I'll be home for Tulip Time the next week.

Watching movies like Howl's Moving Castle and Bridge to Terebithia makes me wish that I was making better use of my creative talents. Unfortunately, I have very little spare creative energy because I have to write papers and write a movie script (a large undertaking, I must admit). Hopefully this summer I will have the opportunity to write more poetry and fiction...that sounds so good.

Back to Butterfield and reality...

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The End of the School Year is Approaching

Although it sometimes doesn't seem like it, the end is approaching more quickly than I had expected, and it seems more difficult this year because of all of the other stuff that I have to plan for in advance. I have a lot of paperwork that needs to be filled out for MESP and I have to figure out all the logistics of getting me to and from North Dakota and to and from the Middle East.

It's hard to believe that this weekend and next weekend are the last ones that I'll spend with some of my friends until graduation (which is also approaching quickly...). It would be fun to get together and hang out, but we're all so busy that there is no time for that.

I'm hoping to get most/all of my homework for the rest of the school year done in the next couple days so that I can pack next week without worrying about homework. Everyone else in my apartment hasn't really started packing yet, but at least most of my stuff will be gone when they do.

Less than two weeks and I'll be home -- excited and nervous for the summer and fall.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Reliving Childhood

Tonight, I was reminded of one of my favorite TV shows when I was little: Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? Needless to say, I've had the song stuck in my head since getting back from NISO rehearsal and I haven't gotten very much done.

However, I have figured out my independent study for my English major. This summer, I plan to read books about the American Civil War and historical fiction based on the time period, as well as write two or three original pieces of short historical fiction. Since I'll only be working four days a week, I figure this might be a doable project.

I still have so much to do to get ready for the summer and for fall semester. It feels like the mountains of paperwork will never end. And I have to fill out this paperwork and finish up all of my assignments and tests for this semester at the same time.

Either way, it's a "Middle Eastern" week. Wednesday my Modern Middle East class is having a Middle Eastern dinner and Friday is the Cultural Fair on campus -- the Middle East will be represented there, too.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Best Laid Plans

It's been awhile since I've posted on here, but I've been hard at work today researching and writing papers. This is a welcome break.

I found a job for the summer -- an internship with the State Historical Society of North Dakota and I start in May. This isn't what I had planned for my summer, but I'm looking forward to meeting new people and experiencing different things. This summer will certainly stretch and challenge me in new ways.

I found out on Thursday that I have been accepted to CCCU's Middle East Studies Program (MESP) based in Cairo, Egypt for the Fall 2009 semester. I originally applied for the program back in January, and while my friends Cheryl and Betsy were accepted at the Early Application Deadline, Ryan and I had to wait. I was very disappointed and questioned why I hadn't been accepted, but I dealt with the disappointment and learned to trust God for his perfect timing (Proverbs 3: 5-6).

At the regular application deadline, I honestly wasn't expecting to be accepted to the program. I didn't want to be disappointed like I had been the last time. This time, though, I was accepted (and so was Ryan). Four people from Dordt will be on MESP next semester! :)

The end of this semester is bittersweet. Some of my good friends plan to study abroad in Spring 2010, so unknowingly, this has been our last semester together. We'll make what we can of what's left and we'll see each other at graduation next year, but it's hard sometimes to grow up and move on. It's definitely been a rollercoaster. I've had some great "highs" and some terrible "lows," but I wouldn't trade this semester for the world. I've learned so much, not only academically, but also about God and his goodness! However, I'm ready for this semester to end and have my adventures begin. There's so much beautiful and vivid culture to experience, so many things to see -- and so little time to do it!