Saturday, November 28, 2009
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 – fiancée) 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
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
Thursday, November 19, 2009
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
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.