Three Weeks Down
So three weeks are in the books (more or less) for my Egypt trip, marking (more or less) the halfway point of my time here. Culturally, things here continue to baffle and confuse me. Despite being told constantly that certain things are "normal cultural practices" here, I have a hard time not trusting my American instincts on certain things. Perhaps the best example is the Egyptian trend that we lovingly (derisively?) refer to as "The Manwalk." The manwalk is essentially two (or more, we have witnessed a three person manwalk) men walking down the street arm in arm as if they had been dating for many years. Apparently this is a common cultural practice in Egypt, and who am I to doubt that since the penalty for being a gay here in Egypt is death (that's not an exagerration). However, when I visited Alexandria last week, I couldn't help but have my doubts. First of all, the number of manwalks increases exponentially as the night goes on. You may see a few here and there during the daytime, but at night, LOOK OUT, because you are in a sea of manwalkers. Secondly, the number of men participating in manwalks who appear to be suffering from limp-wrist syndrome seems highly disproportionate compared to the rest of society. Third, why the hell were all these manwalks occurring along a gorgeous, romantic stretch of beach? Color me skeptical.
Alexandria was last weekend, and the day was supposed to start with a trip to the pyramids. Which I guess it did, for everyone not named me or Mike Menter. We had gone out the night before until about 4:30 AM? I don't know, that's a rough estimate. Truth is, we went to this bar Deal's, which seems to be the intensity capital of Zamalek (the island in Cairo that we're on), had about 7 or 8 Meister Max beers each (which weigh in at an OE High Gravity-esque 8% alcohol), and proceeded to go off the reservation. Next thing we know, we're in the casino at the Marriot, I win $100 in roulette in my first play at the table, and 30 minutes later I walk home, alone, without the original $100 I even started with, and don't remember any of it. This led to: a) Not making the trip to the pyramids and b) A hangover.
However, at 3 PM I rallied to make the trip to Alexandria. It was a nice city. Alexandria has an absolutely beautiful coastline along the Mediterranean and has some amazing architecture on its buildings. Our hotel, the Windsor Palace Hotel, resembled something that you would see on Ocean Drive in South Beach. The Alexandria Library was also breathtaking as well. All of these photos are on facebook so I won't bore you with descriptions. The highlights of the weekend were teaching our 28 year old Egyptian program assistant Ahmed various dirty phrases and sayings in English. For example: Queef, skeet, donkey show, etc. I think he likes us. Probably not. Our trip was capped off Sunday with a trip to an amazing resort along the beach that had a swim-up bar at the pool. After about 10 minutes on the Mediterranean we gave the sea the old Dwight Schrute treatment and moved poolside to enjoy the swim-up bar. I took over DJing behind the bar and soon Alexandria was well versed in the lyrical stylings of 50 Cent. Sadly, our bus had to depart at 3 PM otherwise I would've spent upwards of 15 hours drinking beer, smoking shisha, burning my skin, and bumping beats.
I guess I take classes too, I've skipped a few of them, and I still haven't read the night before a class yet. I guess I should get on that eventually, but going out to a shisha bar two doors down from your dorms or going to Deals aka Rick's All-American Cafe: Middle East is far too appealing.
Also, I've had diarrhea for two weeks. Seriously. Do not come here unless you enjoy shitting like I do.
This past weekend we went to St. Catherine's Monastery (the site of Moses' burning bush), Mt. Sinai (where Moses received the Ten Commandments), and Sharm el-Sheikh (where Moses may have received the clap). The bus ride to St. Catherine's was awful. The bus left at 2 AM Wednesday night/Thursday morning, so obviously I was drunk to start the trip, as were a handful of others. The trip took 9 hours. NINE HOURS. I cannot begin to describe to you how awful the leg room situation was on this bus. I know Egyptians are short but Jesus Christ this was bad. Eventually we got there, but St. Catherine's Monastery was less than impressive. Yes, it was cool to see the burning bush. No, the rest of the Monastery was not that sweet. There were some old gospels and shit that were there, but after a 9 hour bus ride, I honestly did not care that much. After that we did absolutely nothing, because this place is in the middle of fucking nowhere in the desert. Also, we had to prepare for another 2 AM trip, this time a hike up Mt. Sinai. In order to prep for this climb, I watched the final two episodes of the Sopranos.
Wow. Those final two episodes of the Sopranos were amazing. Yes, the final scene was abrupt. I agree, could've been done a little better. However, I didn't need closure on all the storylines. It would have been impossible for that to be done. You'd have had to kill nearly every character in the damn show for you to know exactly how things turned out. I don't think Tony was going to be killed at all, not with his family present. It leaves a little to the imagination, and that's fine by me. My only quibble is with Meadow. How fucking HUGE was that spot she was parallel parking into?! Jesus, Meadow. Also, how could anyone complain about that finale after we just watched a fucking MOB WAR breakout over the final two episodes. Are you kidding me?! Does it get any better than a mob war?! I was getting goosebumps all over the place during those final two episodes, especially during Leotardo's poetic (if not, comedic) death.
Anyway, so the trip up Mt. Sinai was probably one of the most physically exhausting things I've ever done in my entire life. An absolute endurance test, pain everywhere, but whatever, I made it to the top in about 100 minutes. Immediately upon reaching the summit I commanded that Phil break out his loudspeakers and iPod and that "Africa" by Toto be played for all to enjoy who had reached the peak. Pretty sure that's the first time anyone's ever done that, and if not, it's certainly the first time anyone's ever played "Welcome to Miami" by Will Smith on top of Mt. Sinai. The view was amazing, and we got to watch the sunrise over all of the surrounding mountains. After that, we had another hour or so trip down, at which point I realized I had no more cartilege left in my knees. Needless to say, I slammed 3 advil and passed out immediately after we got back.
Sharm el-Sheikh came next, and it was amazing. We stayed at the Marriot which had huge rooms and gorgeous pools. The Red Sea was phenomenonal (though saltier than day-old semen), and featured some pretty cool snorkling along the reefs with lots of exotic fish. Also featured: jellyfish by the thousands that don't sting. This led to a fun game of, "See who you can hit in the face with the most jellyfish." We were chastized by our program director and other caring souls (also see: pussies) for this, but it was just way too much fun. Also way too much fun? Getting free weed while we were in Sharm el-Sheikh. I'm not getting into the details, but yes it was shady. However, it was free, and it wasn't oregano, so fuck off.
Spent Friday night at this sick open-air club called "Pacha" just completely blazed face and drunk. There are A LOT, and I mean, A LOT of attractive girls in Sharm el-Sheikh. The hottest of all the Egyptians are there, and more importantly, Eastern European women on vacation. I spent about a half hour dancing with some British blonde, and something somewhere went wrong (note: she probably saw my face for the first time a half-hour in), and a couple of us left to go find the casino. Blacked as we were, we couldn't find it, and instead blazed more. This is pretty much how Saturday went as well. Red Sea, pool, blaze, food at the beach, blaze, drinks at the beach, blaze, rinse, repeat. All in all, a pretty sweet weekend.