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.