Archive for December, 2010

Port Said

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

Here are some photos from my trip to Port Said.

Birds over the Suez Canal

My friend actually lived in Port Fouad, which is across the Suez Canal from Port Said. Ever day we would take the free ferry across the canal to Port Said. The ferry can fit about 50 cars and a good number of pedestrians. People would throw pieces of bread to the birds, some of which were talented enough to snatch it out of the air before it hit the water.

View from apartment at night

My friend’s apartment had a great view at night of the Suez Canal and Port Said.

Something is missing...

There used to be a statue of Ferdinand de Lesseps standing atop of this pedestal. De Lesseps was the French who was the developer of the Suez Canal. “His name was used in a speech by Egyptian President Gamal Nasser as the codeword to order the raiding of the Suez Canal Company’s offices on 26 July 1956, the first step to its nationalization. In the course of the raid and seizure of the canal by Nasser, the statue of de Lesseps at the entrance of the Suez Canal was removed from its pedestal, to symbolize the end of European ownership of the waterway. The statue now stands in a small garden of the Port Fouad shipyard.” (wikipedia)

Port Said Fish

I must return to Port Said now that I have eaten this fish. It was very tasty. One thing I miss about Egypt is the food and eating with my hands. Even though Egyptian food is fairly plain in comparison to other cuisines around the world,  it still has more flair than American food.

“Get up and flee to Egypt”

Monday, December 27th, 2010

December 26, I go to church with my family and as I pick up the booklet for the service, I can’t help but feel as though it is speaking to me. “Get up and flee to Egypt” Mathew 2:13. Not that I necessarily want to “flee”, but I do want to return to Egypt. Leaving was so difficult. I felt so unsatisfied, there were so many things I still wanted to do and see, and so many people I did not get to say good bye to properly, if at all. Throughout the entire drive to the airport, I was secretly wishing I would miss my plane so that I could spend just a little bit more time in Cairo.

I was unsatisfied too since I did not have a proper good bye to Cairo. I spent the last three days in Port Said at my friend’s place and returned to Cairo just a few hours before I needed to head to the air port. I spent those last moments buying last minute gifts and packing, and not in a quiet farewell which I would have preferred.

Despite those rushed final moments, I would not want to end my time in Egypt differently since I had a great time in Port Said and got a real Egyptian family experience for a few days. Her family was so big and warm, by the time I left I felt as though I was already apart of them.

I will return to see them someday. It is already predestined. My friend’s mom had made us fried fish and smoked fish for lunch (even though it was almost 5pm). As we were eating, she told me a common saying in Port Said. “Those that drink water from the Nile return to Egypt, and those that eat fish from Port Said, return to Port Said”. So I have no choice but to come back, hopefully sooner rather than later.

I am sorry that I haven’t kept up with my plan to post something everyday. The last week I rarely was in my room and on the computer even less. I will continue to add a few more posts about Egypt and upload more photos in the next days, or weeks, so keep checking back every once and awhile :)

Farewell thee Egypt

Sunday, December 26th, 2010

Dearest Egpyt,

I shall not miss:
your filthy over-crowded streets
the harassment
the smog-filled air
constantly being ripped off

I will miss:
the rich culture you hold
the friends I made
bargaining with shop keepers
traveling all around the region

I have learned so much during this study abroad semester. I have experienced things, both bad and good, that many people will never get the chance to do.  I feel as though I have been slightly changed by my trip abroad.

For someone who was already highly patriotic before this trip, my love for this country grew exponentially. I learned to appreciate the little things so much more. Things like: taxis arriving on time, being able to go anywhere by myself, things happening how they should, administrations working properly. The way things work in Egypt makes the DMV on the first and last week of the month look good.

Although I was constantly frustrated, my patience was tried over and over, and I missed so many things at home, I am glad I decided to study abroad this past semester. I now have first hand experience in a country that holds such a prominent influence in a region my studies focus on.

We had our issues dear Egypt, but I shall miss you…one day


Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

Chocopies are awesome.

I am having issues with a lot of Korean junk food. Not serious issues, just… minor taste things. ESPECIALLY Korean junk food that’s supposed to taste like American junk food. For the love of God never ever eat Korean cheetoes – they’re this rancid red color, and they taste slightly peppery and nothing like cheese. Other junk food I need to be careful about because a lot of it is squid or lobster flavored. Generally I avoid that by not eating junk food that has a weird cartoon animal on it that I can’t figure out. That’s a pretty safe bet anyway, no matter where you are I think. ChocoPies are different. There is absolutely nothing natural about a ChocoPie. It’s a milk chocolately shell over a cake like interior with a ribbon of marshmellow. I don’t tend to like marshmellows in any form (especially super-processed marshmellows), I’m a snob about my cake, and also I tend to like dark chocolate more than milk, so why do I like ChocoPies? I like them because they’re unabashaedly processed and horrible for you. They are exactly what they look like – chocolate marshmellow cake puff pie things.

I teach until Wednesday then I have no more classes until March. Today I was stopped in the hall by one of my co-teachers and she asked me to visit her class today during 6th period. I teach this class on Fridays so I said already said goodbye to them last week. This particular co-teacher actually isn’t an English teacher, she’s a computer teacher. This is class 2.6 (2nd grade 6th class), and they are my lowest level 2nd grade class (and one of my two super-low level classes). Because of their major, they don’t have time to take a normal English class, so instead of having my English conversation class supplemented by a normal English class where they learn grammar, vocabulary etc,  my class is the only English class they have. 

This of course makes this one of the most difficult classes. I know what their speaking ability is but I’m still not entirely sure what they’ve formally learned in a class in terms of grammar or vocab because they haven’t taken a single English class at Sapgyo High School (until now). Also my co-teacher for this class is not an English teacher, so though her English is passable she can’t really explain grammar points, and I can’t use difficult terminiology and then rely on her to translate. Anything I teach has to be very clearly laid out using simple vocabulary, or easy enough for her to understand and then translate. I have mastered the art of circumlocution and pantomine. However this also makes it one of my most rewarding classes. Sometimes I feel a little redundant as a native speaker – but in these classes I’m not just the Native Speaker English Teacher – I’m just the English teacher.

They hadn’t known that it was my last day teaching last Friday, so I guess they weren’t quite ready to say goodbye (because though I’ll see them in March I won’t teach them because they’ll be 3rd graders – high school seniors). I go to their classroom and see on the board they’ve drawn a picture of me with balloons and pictures of themselves with a sign that says “WE’LL MISS YOU EMILY! THANK YOU ENGLISH TEACHER!” Unfortunately, today was the one day I didn’t bring my camera to school. I stand staring at the whiteboard for a minute and as I turn to face the class I have a GIANT box of chocopies thrust in my face. Adorning this box are three individually wrapped chocopies on top, and an unwrapped chocopie in the middle of these decorations. I stand there, flabbergasted. The teacher tells them in Korean to ”say something” to which they all start stammering in Korean, until a student yells out:


and then I start laughing and he replies “Teacher! Cry!” with a demanding look on his face and I reply “No! Makeup!”

Then we said goodbye.

Man I love ChocoPies.

Travel Itinerary

Monday, December 20th, 2010

I received a lot of emails after my last blog entry so thank you for that ^^. It’s nice to know that people are reading my blog and either sympathizing or have had similar experiences. I see that class again tomorrow so we’ll see how it goes. However, it’s my last week of classes. Not even last week, really, as it’s a half week… my last teaching day is on Wednesday and then I’m off!

I’m probably only going to blog once more before I leave because I have too much to do before I leave! I have to pack, finish planning my winter camp, etc. However I feel that it’s necessary to update at least once more to give you pictures of my home, and a sampling of my travels in Korea where I’ve been because, gosh darn it, I can’t let half of my grant year slip by without posting any original pictures! That would be horrible.

So if I stop teaching on December 22nd and don’t teach until March 2nd, what am I going to be doing with my life?! Simply put – awesome things.

  • December 24th – December 27th: \I’ll be in Seoul for Christmas with my lovely fellow ETA Michelle and maybe some KEP people. We’re going to watch the Nutcracker, ice skate, eat pie (I’m so excited for pie), and just relax.
  • December 27th – January 16th: I’m flying out of Incheon Airport and going to China! I’ll be in China with fellow ETAs Felicia and Amy. Expect a fair amount of radio silence, though I’ll update my facebook/twitter sporadically with things like “I’m alive! I promise.” If you don’t have a facebook and I don’t email you regularly (i.e. you’re not a relative) and you want to get my weekly short message of alivedness just send me your email address and I’ll try to be good about contact.
  • January 17th – 21st: I have a winter camp at my school. I’m still not sure of the details. Should be fun?
  • January 22nd – whenever: I’ll be in up in the frigid north for the Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival 2010 with random ETAs (but probably Megan and Corrie as our Hwacheonites, Amy and Felicia as my China travel buddies, and maybe Sam my fellow Baekje warrior)!
  • January whenever-I’m-done-with-Hwacheon - February whenever-I-want-to-go-home-and-rest-before-the-3rd: I’ll be traveling around Korea. Not sure where yet, seeing what I feel like doing.
  • February 3rd – March 1st: I’ll be doing an intense language program back in Goesan, which is where I originally did my F*bright orientation!  I’ll be studying Korean for 6 hours a day, 6 days a week along with 40 other grantees. It should be fun? Horrible, horrible, fun. The sad thing is I really do think it’ll be really really fun, but I guess I’m just a huge language geek. 화이딩!

I’m very excited about my schedule, even if it is a lot fuller than I realized. My school and homestay family have been nothing but nice to me, but I’m ready to take a break. It’ll be nice to get out of Yesan for a bit, even if I’ll be spending all of February in a place that’s practically the same, just a bit smaller. It’ll also be nice to spend some time outside of Korea. I’m sad that I won’t be going home and seeing my family/friends, but that’s life and if I had gone home I wouldn’t be able to do all these amazing things here. All of you reading this blogpost that have access to a Chipotle go to one and eat a burrito for my sake.

That being said, look for one more update then in all honesty I probably won’t update until March. Maybe once during my camp week, but don’t wait up for me. Be back in the spring! Love you all <3.

Sandstorm Pictures

Sunday, December 19th, 2010

Arabic Lesson 1- Texting in Arabic

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

When I text with my friends in Arabic, we use the roman keyboard. Since there are more letters in Arabic than in English and many unique sounds, numbers are sometimes used to express the Arabic letters. Here are some examples of words.

Sab27 2l ’7eir = Good Morning= صباح الخير
3mal eh? = How are you?= عمل يه؟
bet3mal eh? = What are you doing? = بتعمل يه؟
7ag2t katyr = many things = حجات كتير

It can be difficult at times to write with the roman letters since it is tempting to pronounce things in English and this becomes an issue with vowels and which ones to use.

For example, the word many is كتير which is pronounced like keteer (with the first “e” like the “ai” in “said” and the “ee” like the “ee” in “beer”. Yet it is spelled in Arabic with a fatHa which is often associated with the letter “a”, so should it be spelled with an “a” or spelled more like the way it sounds?

Also, the “ee” represents a single letter in Arabic the, ya or ي , so should it be represented with a single letter “y” or the double “e”? And how does this affect the way that we want to pronounce these words? Should we spell in a way that each letter in the Arabic alphabet corresponds exactly with one letter/number/symbol in the roman alphabet or should it be based more on sound?

In the end, it doesn’t matter too much since the meaning is understood and the pronunciation is already known, but still I often wonder if I am spelling things correctly.

Tannura Egyptian Folk Dance

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

A few Saturdays ago, I got to see a free Tannura show in Hussein, an old area of Cairo. Tannura dancing is a traditional Egyptian dance derived from whirling Sufi religious practices.

In this dance, men in giant skirts that twirl. The skirt can either be plain white or very colorful. Either way, it is absolutely mesmerizing.

During the show that I saw, one of the dancer whirled for at least twenty minutes non-stop. I was surprised that he did not wobble or anything after he had stopped.

During their spinning, the dancers may do a variety of things. Sometimes they will hold some large drum-like disc and hold them in various formations, or they will release their outer skirt and twirl it above their head, or they will twirl while moving in a huge circle around the stage, along with various other feats.

One dancer had a look of pure joy and contentment on his face and it was hard to help but smile while watching him.

Here is just one clip that I found on YouTube as an example.

El Día E, 2009 Tannura on YouTube

Vacations in Equador: Monkeys and Machine Guns

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

So, the rest of my vacation: Pretty great.

I decided I didn’t like Tena or Misahualli, and moved on to Puyo. Misahualli I was in for about….20 minutes. I stepped off the bus, and immediately was hounded by men from 10 different tour companies wanting business, and a good 20 or so different men started catcalling me. I was like….um…no. And went back to Tena on the net bus.

Puyo was great, though. There was soooo much to do, but most of it was well outside of town, so I didn’t do most of it. The nice thing about Puyo is that they have this Pedestrian Walkway by the river where they’ve allowed the natural Amazonian fauna to grown back, allowing tourists to see a beautiful view of the river. It’s all done up and touristy, but does give a little bitty taste of the Amazon. It’s great, because you get to walk over these ricketty old bridges, etc. But the best part of the path is that it goes to an ethno-botanical park called Omare which is run by an American biologist and his Shuar wife. They are absolutely wonderful people who lead people on tours through the park, explaining aspects of Shuar, Huarani, Kichua, and other indigenous cultures. They built the park themselves, and in the last 16 years have turned what was cow pastures back into its native rain forest. So, as they lead you through the park, they point out various  medicinal and ceremonial plants and explain exactly how the indigenous tribe used them. It was amazing learning about the various native jungle cultures of Ecuador. My guide even explained to me the basis behind the Shuar shrunken heads. Fascinating. Absolutely worth it.

The best part of Puyo was the monkeys. I went to a monkey rescue place where you could hang out, and play with the monkeys….WAYYYYYYYY back on a dirt road outside Puyo. In fact, you couldn’t help but play with the monkeys…the second that they saw you, they were climbing your leg to sit on your head. At first: terrifying and amusing. Then: so much fun. The only problem is when they don’t want to let go  – they pull hair….hard. THe funniest part was that it was almost eactly like being back teaching kindergarten. I mean, you had whiny, needy children climbing all over you, begging for attention, and WANTING TO PLAYYYYYYYY. I walked out of there like I walked out of my job every day: tired, dirty, and with my hair all messed up. Some of the monkeys were so sweet. Many of them had disabilities that prevented them from ever being released – such as two monkeys who were born with no bones in their forearms. But the monkeys ADORED us all. Even better, the reserve backed up on the Amaon forest, so I actually got to walk in it with two other tourists. The funniest bit was, this other female tourist had a monkey on her head that wouldn’t get off. So, she hiked the entire trail, with a monkey on her head looking every bit the wide-eyed little child discovering a new world. It was fabulous. I even made new friends with a vacationing Ecuadorian couple, who may invite dad and I to watch the burning of the old year with them. :)

Then…banos. Now, I know that the Volcano is erupting – but it had been erupting for a week, the threat was gone, I went anyway. And, I got to watch the volcano erupting at night from the overlook in a Chiva – sooooooooo much fun. They even gave us canelasso…and this time I was prepared. The first time I’d tried that particular drink, I was in Quito and bought it because it was a traditional drink that smelled like apple cider. I knew I was in trouble when the woman asked if I wanted it strong or weak. So, she made it half water, half canelasso. I tasted it and was like….”OMFG. THIS is WEAK??!!”. I think the weak one was still about 2/3 alcohol…oh my god. So, this time…didn’t get it with was tasty.

Then, I went off to Ambato, a Sierra town 2.5 hours south of Quito. It’s smaller and nice. My favorite part was the Quintas…old country estates on the edge of town. A single enterance fee covers two Quintas and their gardens. Remember the movie the Secret Garden?? Think that – only Bigger and tropical. It. Was. Fabulous. I spent hours getting lost touring the gardens and the houses. It seemed like the paths for the gardens never ended. And the homes themselves were GORGEOUS. I was like – why can’t I live here????!!! Just, stunning.

I also met some interesting people. I must say, the absolute best come-ons I’ve heard in Ecuador were from this man I met in Ambato. To strike up a conversation with me, he honestly said (in Spanish): “You are a Gift to Ecuador!! Ecuador SHINES with you in it!!!.” I laughed. It was so ridiculously funny, I had to. But then I talked to him. Hey – he was nice, and polite – and complemented my rather than hissed at me. He deserved it (even if I did refuse to give him my phone number). He even asked my permission to sit next to me on the park bench. Then, when I told him I was leaving Ecuador in February, he was stricked and like “The soul of Ecuador will suffer because you are no longer with us!!” Hahahahah.  So. Freaking. Funny.

And, I got to have traditional LLapingachos in the central market…yum. They’re potato and cheese pancakes served with an egg and avocado. Also there…fresh juice. I mean, seriously fresh juice. The women are surrounded by fruit from local farms, which they use to make jugs of juice with fresh water. When you order a juice, they use a ladle to pour the juice into huge beer cups. It is delicious…a wonderful and cheap lunch or breakfast.

Then, I headed back to Quito. Now, this is the most terrifying part of my trip, if you’ve read my facebook status.

So, we were about 30 minutes south of Quito on the Panamericana, on the bus heading to Quito when we saw a platoon of 20-30ish soldiers and police blocking the road. THey pulled over every bus and car, including ours, and most of them were holding automatic weapons. When our bus stopped, one of the gun-totting soldiers got on the bus and said something along the lines of “Everyone get off the bus. Have your ID cards ready. Bring your bags. Now.” So, when machine-gun-totting soldiers tell you to do something, you do it – immediately. So, we all got off the bus, where we saw the other bus passengers being searched. THe soldiers instructed the women to go to one side, the men to go to the other.  Then, they lined the men up, with their hands against the bus, where they hand-searched their bangs, and patted them down. They also searched the bus. In the mean time, us women were all being guarded by soldiers with machine-guns…pointed at us. Then, they turned to us. The female police officer checked our IDs, searched our bags, and patted us down. As each woman was searched, she was then allowed back on the bus. During this time, the machine-gun guys had moved on to guarding the buses lined up behind ours. The men were kept guarded, standing along side the bus. Then, they were allowed to board the bus, and we went on our way. I don’t know why it happened, I was concerned in the moment that the military and police had decided to strike and take over the roads….again. But, they hadn’t. The nearest we can figure was that it was a random drug/weapons/security inspection that happens every once and a while. Whatever the reason, having your bus boarded and searched by the military, and being held by men with guns was frightening. And not something that I want to repeat. But, hey to new experiences.

So, not quite the way I wanted to end my overall wonderful vacation. But, I’m safe, I had fun, and I have plenty of stories to tell.

Till next time…


Sunday, December 12th, 2010

Whoever said Egypt is never cold is a liar. It is freezing here today. Walking through campus in my winter coat, I confront a bitterly cold and harsh wind. I feel like I’m walking through ice water. No one stays outside longer then necessary, so the campus is eerily empty between classes since people normally congregate in groups scattered all over the place outside.

It is 57 degrees Fahrenheit in Cairo right now and New Cairo, where the campus is, is colder still. I’m sure all the people in the States reading this now are laughing, since its at least 30 degrees warmer here and I’m being spoiled in comparably warm weather. I don’t know how I’m going to adjust to the temperature when I return home.

On another weather related note, there is a sand storm today. Everything is a brownish-yellow color. I feel like I’m in a movie depicting a future dystopia, with a dreary, polluted sky, run-down and decrepit buildings, and people scurrying about with heads bowed, just trying to make it through the day. Everything is the same color, brown, or some close relative, yellow, tan, beige, faded and dusty. Even the leaves on trees are coated in dust, appearing as though they have been left in an attic for too long.