On my way home

Sitting in an American airport bar now, with a good 5 hour gap until my next flight, so just passing time. Now that the whirlwind of school work and internship work is finished, things feel oddly calm…in this almost unsettling way. I don’t want to go home, not at all. I miss Egypt and I miss this experience more than anything, and I won’t even reach my home city until the 31st of July.

Going to France/Italy straight after Cairo was very interesting. From a sustainability perspective, Cairo is very…unsustainable. The city itself, though rich in adventures, has many issues. I met a friend from the U.K. I believe, part Indian and part…Greek? Anyway, he is great, intelligent, and ended up ranting on for hours about the problems of Egypt and how difficult it is to accept them.

I can’t agree…I guess I’m too accepting of cultures, the good and the bad. But I can see where he’s coming from. It’s one thing to accept a cultural society’s issues, and it’s another to want to do something to change it…but what can we do, as outsiders? Besides, perhaps, “inspire” and bring “talent” to the community, if even. It’s almost arrogant. Is there even evidence of a want for change? Yes there is a need, but do the people even care? If not, it’s a moot point. I’ve learned this especially when working with sustainability.

Compared to Egypt – the dirty and dusty, poorly managed streets, single-use plastic norms (especially with the water), the lack of urban green spaces…France is like an absolute dream. Clean streets, even sidewalks, lots of greenery and trees…and charging for plastic bags? Supermarkets with actual quality food? And without unnecessary excess?

In a way…it made me appreciate both Marseille and Cairo more. 

I love discussing, listening to, analyzing societal issues. This was probably my favorite thing in regards to Egypt, especially in the first few weeks of my experience while everything was still so new and fresh, awe-spiring. Even with the ugly – okay, there’s a lot of trash on the ground? Well…why? Why is there trash? Why are people motivated to throw it in the ground rather than a bin? Why do products contain so much wrapping? Why is the waste infrastructure the way it is? Why does the government intervention work differently from the operations of the Zabaleen peoples?

 It’s beautiful. Especially at first. Curiosity is how we learn.

Coming back to the United States was interesting. Hearing southern accents again, seeing so many…Americans. The unhappy TSA and customs faces. The long security lines. Again, I feel a little bit out of place here with my Asian features and tattoos. It feels strange. In Egypt, it felt okay to stand out yet blend in at the same time. Here, it feels….

It feels like reverse culture shock. And I’m ready to go abroad again. 

I’ll be waiting. In the meantime, I’ll publish more things on Cairo and Egypt in general. By the way, Luxor is worth it, hot as it is in the summer (godawful), but very cool to history lovers.

Things I’m glad brought to Cairo / Things I wish I brought

I’m figuring now more than ever would be a good time to distract myself from work and create a little list of travel items for Cairo. Believe me, before I came, I was searching deep on the internet (and when I say deep, I mean up to page 4 of Google searches) for what items I should to Egypt. 

A lot of packing lists weren’t all too helpful and were too vague and general as to what I needed. Some only covered short-term trips (like, backpacking through Egypt for a week). 

While this list isn’t fully comprehensive of everything to bring, it lists some of the most notably key things I had brought or needed during my stay. For a more detailed list about everything you could possibly need to pack, there are plenty of blogs and sites available (do like I did, with maybe less excessiveness: “what things to pack for a long like 2 month trip abroad in egypt”).

 This will be very specific to my experience: a 21 year old American woman (girl, really), spending 2 summer months doing an internship in Egypt. 

The list is pretty long, so let’s break it down to the sections:

1. What I’m glad I brought to Egypt
   >Clothes
   >Technology
   >Toiletries
   >Misc.

2. What I wished I had brought to Egypt
   >Clothes
   >Technology
   >Toiletries
   >Misc.

3. What I’m glad I bought later on

4. What I didn’t really need

——

THE LIST


1. What I’m most glad I brought

Clothes:

  • Long black maxi skirts (especially one with soft, lightweight fabric)
  • Basic cotton t-shirts
  • Black pants – business pants, leggings, jeans
  • Light colored blouses – longsleeved and short
  • Light pair of jeans
  • Multiple pairs of sandals
  • Lightweight black sweater
  • Multiple pairs of sunglasses
  • Cropped jean jacket with 3/4 sleeves

The black maxi skirts came the most handy for blending in with other Egyptians and avoiding attracting attention to myself, especially when I paired it with long sleeved shirts or blouses or my black sweaters. Of course, people will still stare at you if you have non-Egyptian features or don’t wear a scarf, but this happens to Egyptians too. My Egyptian friend who doesn’t wear a hijab and dresses more Western (jeans and t-shirts), still gets stares when she rides the metro. Egyptians stare at everything. Not a big deal.

I brought three skirts, one charcoal gray and two black. I only really wore the gray one to wash laundry once I ran out of all other clothes to wear. For the black, I found that one of my skirts had a softer, more breathable fabric and (honestly) looked a bit prettier than the other. I ended up wearing this skirt much more often to the point that it got a hole in it that I still have yet to sew up. 

The black pants aren’t exactly the most comfortable in summer Cairo heat, but they look natural and are a little bit easier to move around in. I was especially keen on wearing them at night, when going out for food or running errands downtown. The large pockets were great for holding my stuff on short errand runs – no need for a bulky purse. Just watch your surroundings and be careful of pickpocketers. 

I found that when I planned to go out and drink, I would wear pants more often, and when going on dates (not that I went on that many) or going to felucca, I wore the maxi skirts. I think it’s more of a self-perception things: Pants made me feel strong, more in-control of myself and surroundings. Skirts are harder to navigate in, but made me feel more feminine.

You want something that your skin will be able to breathe in. This is why I also wore sandals very often. Outfit wise, even in America, I love to wear gold or neutral toned strapped sandals and flip flops, especially in the summer. I wouldn’t recommend wearing sandals all the time, especially in Cairo, if that’s not your cup of tea….the streets and “sidewalks” can be very uneven, full of holes and missing tiles, piles of dust and dirt, and with pockets of sitting street water puddles. Your feet get dirty very quickly and you’ll find yourself stumbling everywhere…I bought a pair of sandals from H&M three weeks in, and by my fifth week in Egypt, they were absolutely ruined and torn up from walking to and from work everyday. 

I would recommend at least one pair of sneakers or tennis shoes, if not more. I hate ballet flats in the summer (they get so sweaty and gross so quickly), but outfit and walking-wise, these are probably the best choice to wear aside from sneaker if you want to walk around the city. I brought two pairs, never wore them, but others would probably say differently. 

Favorite weekend travel outfit: Black maxi skirt, black tank top or t-shirt, and cropped jean jacket, with sandals.

    Technology:

    • Multiple pairs of headphones / earbud coverings
    • Multiple USB cords
    • My tablet with keyboard
    • Mouse for tablet
    • Hair Straightener

    Most of this goes without saying, as I used these items for internship and university work. I wish I had brought a laptop which would have made work much easier to complete, but I better spent my money on the plane ticket to Egypt instead, so….that’s that. Egypt > Laptop

    For the hair straightener, I usually don’t straighten my hair while travelling, but a few months ago, I cut my hair very short and am currently growing it out. Because of that, it’s at this gross, awkward length where, if I need to look presentable, I’ll have to take the time to straighten it out. I usually don’t mind it being messy and natural, but sometimes business meetings require a clean appearance. With this, I also brought a small travel spray bottle filled with heat protectant spray. 

      Toiletries

      • Tampons
      • Nail polish
      • Makeup: stocks of my regular makeup products
      • Finishing powder and setting spray
      • BB Foundation Cream (8 in 1), Concealer, Powder Foundation, Eye shadow, Lip Balm, Contour pad
      • Multiple sets of makeup remover wipes
      • Nail clippers
      • Travel sizes of shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste & brush
      • Normal sizes of shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste & brush
      • Multiple sets of deoderant
      • Bug spray / Lemongrass spray
      • Sunscreen (especially for beach trips)
      • Large bottle of contact solution
      • Hair cutting scissors
      • Tweezers

      Fun fact: it’s pretty hard to find tampons in Egypt. I brought along extra just in case (the tiny O.B. ones), and am incredibly glad I did. It came in handy for a friend who struggled to find any during her time. The culture in Egypt just doesn’t really support the tampon market, and while I can’t stand pads, I’m sure this trip would have been a struggle otherwise. Also had lots of friends from India asking for spare pads, which I didn’t have, and they didn’t want the tampons. Moral of the story, bring both if you can.

      Mosquitos during the summer was pretty much only a problem whenever I would come back from Dahab or visit upper Egypt. I’m not sure why, probably just luck, but for the first two weeks, I had absolutely no problems with mosquito bites. Then, as soon as I left for Dahab and came back, BAM, weeks worth of mosquito torture.

      As someone who swells up into this sorry, itchy mess from mosquito bites in the states, I didn’t have that many allergy problems here in Egypt. Yes, I’d get lots of bites, but they almost never had an allergic reaction, which might be attributed to the different kind of mosquitoes here. The lemongrass spray I had helped a bit, and actual bug spray might have helped even more.

      I tend to wear natural makeup whenever going out, so transluscent finishing powder was the most useful item. Using it alongside with setting spray, my makeup stayed in place all day with Egypt’s summer heat and had no issues with smearing. When I ran out of finishing powder and couldn’t find more, everything just started to melt together within a couple of hours. I should have brought two containers of powder, truthfully. But also, don’t take this as the one true makeup advice for travelling to hot countries. 

      Honestly, know your skin type. Know its needs and know your makeup and skin routine (and stick to it when travelling, change won’t always fare well when in a stressed environment). My biggest struggle with skin came about a month in when I ran out of my nightly skin creme and started breaking out due to my menstrual cycle. I made a mistake: I used toothpaste on the pimples…for multiple nights…And my toothpaste is pretty harsh.

      And it’s honestly been a nightmare since then; my skin is just barely now starting to ease up on the acne. I haven’t really had major acne problems since the torturous days of junior high, but this was really bad. I didn’t have my usual skin products with the pH and strength my skin had adjusted to…coupled with the daily sweat and cycle of using more concealer to cover up pimples which is caused by more concealers to cover up more pimples…Take care of your skin, or it will bite.

      In addition to this, take care of your hygiene. When spending time abroad in different living conditions and different local hygiene products, for a longer period of time, it’s very easy to turn into a sweaty, gross mess of a human. I didn’t really take this into account because, well, I’m used to the Phoenix summer struggle and am used to just a simple rinse usually sufficing to clean off sweat.

      Wear flip flops in the communal showers. Wash with a body loofah, use body soap (I used shampoo for the first weeks, until I ended up seeking out a pharmacy to buy Lux shower gel). Wash your face. Wash behind your ears. Scrub your feet. Clean your nails. Everything your mum told you when you were growing up. It makes a difference, trust me.

        Misc.:

        • Travel / work notebook and pens
        • Microfiber Towels
        • Nonperishable snacks
        • Cold medicine, Stomach medicine, Pain medicine – Advil, Sleeping Pills, Bandaids
        • Backpack
        • Basic black purse
        • Small pencil holder tub

        I’m not a purse person at all. I prefer a backpack, or my pockets. But my black purse (basic, simple medium sized purse with both short straps and one longer, cross-body strap), was one of the most useful items….well, up until the zipper broke. But I used it for basically everything – weekend trips, work days, outings at night, etc. It could carry my wallet, my water bottle, gum, spare change, eye drops, makeup bag, phone, notebook, tablet. It’s much easier to navigate with (especially at the metro and through security scanners) than a large backpack. Also looks a bit more professional

        The backpack is great as an overnight bag for weekend trips though – same goes for the travel sized shampoo and conditioner and all. When going to Alexandria or Sinai or Upper Egypt for the weekend, you want to travel light. 

        Bring medicine, all of it, especially for a longer trip like this. I got food poisoning and used up all of my stomach medicine. I got a cold for two weeks and used up all my cold medicine. I got a few migraines (for variety of whatever reasons), and used up my Advil. Same with some scrapes and cuts, especially after snorkeling in the Red Sea. Sleeping pills were used for every 10-hour bus and plane ride. I’ll do a post about transportation in Egypt later. 
        I really liked this pencil holder – sized tub that I brought. I’m sure you can find one in any office store in the office supplies or plastic tub section of a Walmart / Target. I used mine to hold all the little things in place, like loose change, hair ties, my tweezers, nail polish bottle, pens, daily meds. Later on, I got a shoebox with a pair of sandals I bought, and used that just as much for holding all of my bottles and receipts and stuff together. —This is so, so useful when you’re living in a tiny room with 4 other people. 

          ——


          2. What I wish I brought

          Clothes:

          • A one-piece bathing suit (or two piece if you like)
          • Lightweight, patterned trousers

          Some of the interns, especially from India, brought these lightweight, breezy, patterned pants – the kind you would see in the World Trade Market or Urban Outfitters. Of course, try to buy them somewhere cheaper – and the markets in the beach towns like Dahab, Sharm el Sheikh, North Coast – even Khan el Kalili, will have them too. Just be prepared to bargain on the price. 

          I personally didn’t feel comfortable wearing a two piece suit in Egypt, and didn’t have a one piece – so I just wore black shorts and a tank top, and that was fine. You can wear a two piece suit at the beaches, especially in touristy locations, but be sure to cover up when going around town. One intern wore just a two piece bikini…everywhere. Everywhere we went in the beach town, even when wandering the streets and entering shops. 

          There were lots of disapproving looks from locals, so if you want the respect of Egyptians, I would advise against doing this. Always important to understand that as a tourist, you represent all tourists as well as the people from your country and will leave a lasting impression on others of what people from your country are like. If you don’t care what people think, then you do you. The choice is yours.

            Technology:

            • Powerbank
            • Otterbox case for phone

            The Otterbox is a godsend. I don’t know what I’d do without it. Since, I’ve had no issues with cracks and damages on my phone – however, since coming to Egypt, even with the case, I’ve accumulated several small cracks and chips in the top protective screen of my phone. It might be coupled with the heat, but Egypt has not been kind to my phone. I’m just grateful it hasn’t gotten stolen, however.

            My phone battery has significantly deteriorated since I arrived here, though, I don’t know if it’s from the constant use for communication and time-killing, or if it has to do with my outlet convertor, but it’s battery life has gone down from a new phone’s 2 – day duration, to a quick 8 hour gig. Because the new Samsung doesn’t have a removable battery, I can’t do much for now, but a Powerbank has been a life saver for other interns.

            Also, if you’re only charging electronics with USB chargers (like a tablet, phone, etc.), then don’t buy a convertor – it’s a waste of money. It’s better to come to Egypt and buy a USB Charging head from a store for about 15-50 EGP instead. Less bulky, more useful. 

              Toiletries:

              • Needle and thread
                (Many of my clothes ended up having holes in them, often because their fabric was so lightweight. The lightweight quality of the fabric was great in the summer heat, but terrible for wear and tear.)
              • More hand sanitizer
              • Makeup: More finishing powder / eyebrow pencil
              • Face moisturizer (lotion that won’t clog pores)
              • Foot scrub / body loofahs 
              • Makeup brush cleaner
              • Good smelling body spray / perfume
              • Lotion

              One week in, my single, small bottle of hand sanitizer‘s cap came undone and spilled out all inside my bag. Although it’s not the most necessary item, I would say it’s incredibly useful for staying healthy and keeping your hands clean around Egypt. 

              I thought my makeup brushes would be okay for just two months – I know, I know, you’re supposed to clean them like once every week or so, but usually I’m fine with going an entire semester with only one cleaning. I was wrong. Two months is too long to go without cleaning them out. If I had time, I would search the internet for makeshift cleaning solutions from perhaps white vinegar or of the such, but it hasn’t been a priority. Still, hygiene, hygiene, hygiene.

              With this, I also made a mistake in body spray…and trust me, you need it. I haven’t used perfume or body spray much in college since I’m usually so busy and on the go, and it’s never really a priority either. So, when I packing, it was the last thing I packed, and grabbed quickly from some moving box since all my other things were packed up and in storage. Mistake. Whatever I brought with  me smelled awful, like some animal died in a neglected flower shop, then sat there decaying with the roses for 3 months. I didn’t have luck with Egyptian perfume, so it took a while until I could go to to City Stars and buy some overpriced spray from The Body Shop.

                Misc.: 

                • More gifts! Lots of them! More American things, esp. small American flags
                • Scissors
                • Neosporin / Other Anti-bacteria gel creams
                • Alcohol swabs
                • Tote bag (like the black purse)

                I didn’t bring enough gifts. I don’t know what I was thinking, but bring lots of gifts that represent your country. You will use them and give them out (if you’re a half decent person). Homestay families, coworkers, hostel friends, apartment roommates, internship / international friends, etc. Anyone you spend a little bit of time with and get to know, you want to share with them something from your country. I only brought like 3 magnets, a little scorpian filled rock, a t-shirt, and 2 bags of gummy bears (I mistakenly thought it was a very American thing to do, but every store here sells them). 

                Bring t-shirts. Bring post cards. Bring wrist bands. Red solo cups. Anything American. I’m not sure because, as you can tell, I’m terrible at homestay gift-giving. Google it. “What to give as homestay gifts when abroad.” Don’t be like me.

                Also, small American flags would have been great for the 4th of July.

                ——

                  3. What I’m glad I bought later on in Cairo

                  • Needle and thread (See above. Supermarkets, convenience stores, & metro vendors sell these). 
                  • Scarves!
                  • USB Charger Head compatible with South Europe / North Africa outlets
                  • More sandals
                  • Tea (Green tea, St. John’s Wort)
                  • Lux body shampoo
                  • Laundry detergent
                  • Face scrub
                  • SIM phone card
                  • Kleenex tissue packets

                  Bless St. John’s Wort and Kava Kava. Helps get past periods of stress and moodswings, which is important in an environment like this. Also, they’re legal, which is great. Talk to your doctor before adding St. John’s Wort or Kava Kava to your diet. 

                  I nabbed some scarves from Khan el Kalili and used them constantly afterwards. I used them everywhere. Whenever you feel uncomfortable or vulnerable, you can just hide into your scarf. You don’t need to cover your hair unless you’re at the mosque, but it’s nice to cover your collar bone / shoulders, and chest if necessary.

                  Don’t buy an international phone card or phone plan. It’s much cheaper and more sensible to just buy a SIM card / prepaid data plan when you arrive in Egypt. I would recommend Vodafone because their stores are everywhere and have fairly decent coverage quality. 

                  A lot of beggars will offer out kleenex tissue packets for just 1 EGP – you can find them around any metro station, or even on the train. Honestly, I’d say these also saved my life. It really helps to dab sweat away from the brow, or wash hands at the bathroom (paper towels aren’t a thing and hand dryers are rare), or just wipe off any dirt that collects on…anything you have.

                  Finally, use laundry detergent for cleaning clothes – and let your clothes soak. You will see the difference when you rinse out your clothes – there’s so much dirt and dust that just settles over everything in Cairo, you can trust that it will infiltrate everything you wear. After living through West Texas and Phoenix haboobs, I can honestly say Cairo’s dust is much worse. For 3 weeks, I used shower gel that another hostel guest left behind. The detergent was significantly more effective.

                  ——

                    4. Things I didn’t need

                    • 10 Tanktops
                    • Convertor
                    • Flats / ballet
                    • Lightweight hoodie
                    • Comb
                    • Small purse

                      I wear tank tops often in Phoenix, but 10 tanktops? Useless. Can’t wear it under shirts – it just traps heat and makes you all that much sweatier. I only needed probably 2 or 3 basic black tanks and only wore them under my jean / hoodie jacket and as a bathing suit at the beach. 

                      Because of my hair length, I didn’t use the comb a single time in Egypt. I didn’t need it. Only really bring if you have long hair and do comb your hair in your daily routine. Even when I had long hair, I liked to do that long, tousled, beach-wave look and didn’t need to comb much, but to each their own.

                      I didn’t use the hoodie at much, except on weekend trips with other internationals. As an intern, whenever I was at work and in Cairo, or travelling alone, I tried my best to look like an Egyptian and blend in. It just helps if people assume you’re probably Egyptian – less likely to be harrassed by shop owners and Egyptian boys with a “foreign girl complex.” But, when we travelled together to tourist towns and to the beach, I had no problem wearing more Western clothing – I still avoided short shorts and just tank tops, but wore tighter jeans and leggings, short-sleeved t-shirts, and my lightweight hoodie. A lot of interns will wear whatever they want, and I feel fine with wearing my usual clothes when there aren’t many Egyptians around. 


                      That’s about it. I’ll try to make posts like these a little bit more organized and easier to read; I apologize for the mess of this one – this week is just very busy as it’s my last week in Egypt. For anyone who found this useful, I’m glad! If you have any other questions to ask, feel free to reach out to me and I’ll try to help you out the best I can! Safe travels and best regards.

                      Work, Ramadan, and Meeting New People

                      I’ve got to admit a little bit of a “young adult cliche” right now, I’m currently settling down in a Wifi-lacking cafe, using up all my phone data to, no, not do work, but download Pokemon Go. Maybe not the best use of my Vodafone data, but, I mean…how great would it be to say “yeah, I caught Pokemon in Egypt.”

                      Actually, trying to find the app was a bit difficult at first, had to reach out to a few Egyptian friends to find the right mirror app for the game. What can I say?  I’m not very underground-tech savvy. Side note: I just got the app to download.  I was going to type up a post about Cairo, but, oh my goodness, I am a Pokemon trainer. My chest is fluttering. This is so exciting. I can live my dreams through an app.

                      ——

                      Okay, I’m back. My character is created and I’m officially sucked into the game as soon as I choose a starter. I’m officially one of those people

                      Let’s get started on the post.

                      ——

                      I arrived in Egypt on May 21st, about two weeks before the start of Ramadan. For most of those two weeks, I either stuck to Downtown and Zamalek before work officially started, or I stuck to the Giza office. For only a few days before Ramadan, did I visit the office in Maadi – which is a farther distance from the metro station than the other office, so I was able to see more places and things through my daily commute.

                      I didn’t really notice it until after Eid, but Ramadan really did affect the city much more than I previously thought. I thought it was just in the office and in the Downtown streets, but everywhere, the streets had changed. 

                      After Eid, when I walk to the Maadi office, I have noticed there’s significantly more people walking in the morning – walking to work, walking to run errands, walking with friends. In part of my usual route, a cafe sprouted out. In my 15 minute walk, I tend to cut corners and cross the streets and take shortcuts at certain places. A few days ago, I noticed a cafe sitting in the way of one of my paths. It’s easy enough to walk around. But imagine my surprise when I walk a certain path 8 or so times a week, and there’s a sudden change.

                      There’s more energy around the office, and it feels great to be able to eat and drink again while doing my work. The work hours didn’t change, although I haven’t been working as much, since school work has been incredibly demanding lately. I’ve heard from others that their work gets highly restricted during Ramadan, and one Brit explained to me that his office would be open from around 11 AM – 2 PM, and then 8 PM – 10 PM, or something of the sorts. His coworkers would come in late, leave early, take a nap, and then come back in the evening to finish up work.

                      Ramadan around Cairo was great, however. At night, the streets were alive and everyone was cheerful, doing their own thing. Eid was hectic, especially downtown. Men filled the streets everywhere, going out to get food was daunting. Families and women were out as well, but that’s the thing about Egypt – you can’t escape the men. Or, perhaps “boys”. They like to hang out around the squares and watch others as they pass by…and I can’t blame them. I’d do the same if I were still a teenager. It’s just a bit awkward. 

                      On the last day of Eid, I went out to meet a friend for a visit to City Stars mall. (By the way, terrible idea. City Stars, on the last night of Eid, was packed. Uber prices surged like crazy too.) I was by myself, checking for Uber, checking for my friend, checking Whatsapp, “where are you?” etc. While sweeping the square looking for my friend, I noticed boys just outright staring me down, whispering to each other, grinning. No subtlety, like the other boys sitting on the fence, glancing my way, or like the boys crossing the street who glanced at me as they passed, hissing “habibi”. No, these guys had moved to stand right next to me to check me out and didn’t look away when I frowned at them. Too obvious. What did they expect?

                      I crossed the street next to a few older, calmer looking men.

                      ——

                      One thing I did not anticipate: Egyptian hospitality in the workplace. My coworkers are very nice, and although I’m not too sure how sincere their offers are, they do offer to grab me coffee, grab me tea, grab food, etc. During Ramadan, they would go out of their way to leave the office and buy me juice and bread (or biscuts or sponge cakes) from the store. I’m not quite used to this, it makes me feel a little bit like…almost as if I’m a burden. But I know this is not what they intend. I’m very grateful for their kindness.

                      Many offices also have workers, like office boys for small things like cleaning up, maintaining the space, and washing dishes. At first, leaving my coffee cups and any other dishes to sit in the sink made me very uncomfortable. I got used to it.

                      On this note, I also felt very uncomfortable asking for help at my apartment. It runs like a hostel, so they provide services. However, I felt very guilty asking for the staff to do my laundry, help me order delivery in Arabic, to even borrow a tub for washing my clothes. My roommates would ask the staff to clean their rooms, sweep and take out the trash, and this just apalled me at first. I know it’s a bit of a cultural difference – I’m so used to the idea of doing things yourself. 

                      I’ve noticed that Americans try to be so independent, and this in itself has its own pros and cons. But, unless we’re just feeling outright lazy, we like to clean and take care of things ourselves. While speaking to both a friend from Egypt and a friend from India, this is what they told me:

                      In this culture [Indian / Egyptian], kids tend to live with their parents until they get married, and their parents take care of them in the meantime. In this sense, a mother might do all of the chores for her son or daughter, like the laundry, the cleaning, changing the sheets. Because of this, sometimes the kids can be very demanding and can’t do as much on their own, or else they go off, start their own family, and then dote on their children in the same manner their parents did on them. Some young adults travel to America with the purpose to learn how to be independent. 

                      Whether or not that’s entirely true, it’s been very interesting to observe the living habits of my roommates and friends. Everyone is different, and although sometimes it can be very, very subtle, culture affects so many parts of how we live and how we interact with others. I have a friend who hates some of the other interns; he said some pretty derogatory, racist things about them and their nationalities. It’s definitely not ok to have that mindset, but I understand he’s a bit frustrated and tense from living so closely with people with different habits and customs.

                      That’s why it’s so important to be very mindful of yourself when you’re abroad. You represent yourself and you represent your country. It’s so, so critical to be mindful about our actions and interactions with others while we’re travelling.

                      Depending on how we act around other people, we may represent the best of our country, or the worst. 

                      And this way very easy for others, who have not met anyone else from your country, to assume “oh, is this what all Tunisians are like? What does that mean for Tunisia as a country?”, along those lines.

                      But, easier said than done. Nobody is perfect. It’s difficult, but patience is everything.

                      Thanks for reading! I’ll be back with more posts this week about living in Egypt!

                      Eid Murbarak!

                      I have less than three weeks left in Cairo, and it actually feels a bit strange – I don’t wish to leave at all. Sure, Egypt has its problems, but to me, this place feels like home. Something about it makes it feel very comfortable and at ease.

                      I say this, while the horns are blowing outside my window. Today is the first day of the feast, Eid, following 30 days of Ramadan this year. I had Koshari for the first time since before Ramadan started on June 6th, and it was great. It wasn’t the best I’ve had, just the basic street Koshari, but great considering all I’ve been eating is ful, tammia, and shwarma for the past month.

                      We went out last night before prayer to celebrate Eid, going to a bar to drink tea (or beer for us foreigners), and chat. When the last of us finished around 3 AM, we grabbed some food, then walked back to our apartments before first prayer at the mosques. I noticed some stares. There were definitely the usual (if not more) Egyptian men passing comments in my direction, and I think some of the other girls might have received worse earlier in the night as some were wearing short shorts and tank tops. But my friends with me were male and I’m glad for that.

                      I wouldn’t say that Cairo is more dangerous to walk in as a woman (or anyone, really). It feels the same as Phoenix – just stay safe, have street smarts. Be aware of your surroundings, don’t listen to music, keep your purse close to you, avoid dark alleys, try to not walk alone. I’ve had more nervous situations in Phoenix, with cars attempting to follow me to my home, men threatening me at the light rail stations.

                      Maybe why Egypt doesn’t necessarily scare me much more is because….I don’t speak Arabic. Yes, I know, I know, I should try to learn the language before visiting the country – we were also told our program would have Arabic learning classes, but that didn’t happen…but that’s on me. Do what you can to, learn the culture the best you can. 

                      With street harrassment, however, I don’t really understand what the men are saying aside from “yala habibi” and “ya sukkra,” so it’s easier to play dumb, look down, and quickly walk away. I do get some English comments, although these are usually from shopkeepers attempting to hustle foreigners into their shops. Foreigners typically aren’t good at bargaining against their heavily inflated prices, or else don’t know better, so we’re always targets. Most shopkeepers I’ve interacted with have actually been respectful, friendly, and very hospitable. It’s nice, but for a tip – don’t go into their shop if you’re not planning to buy. Just say no.

                      Sometimes, I’ll walk and hear shopkeepers and men place their hands together in a praying motion, bow towards me, and loudly say “Ni hao!”

                      Haha, no, I’m sorry. I’m American. Even then, I’m a very white-washed half-Japanese woman. I don’t speak a lick of Mandarin Chinese, but I understand that my Asiatic features have been a bit hard to grasp for some. And to our Indian interns, the men say “Namaste.” Most other interns don’t get profiled and usually just get hit with a “hello” or Arabic greeting. 

                      I’ll probably be venturing out later today for Shisha and the cafe, however, and I’m not too sure what to expect. I just need to be around my friends and be smart. I’m a bit tired of hibernating in the apartment, however. All day long, all I hear on the streets are the vuvuzela trumpets playing out. Cairo is quite a busy city – full of people, full of noise, and never sleeps. Most Egyptians have left on vacation, many out on the North Coast, but still many are left downtown to roam around.

                      My classwork and internship work are picking up quite a bit right now, so I’ll be posting more things once everything ends after July 13th. I definitely will include a list of things that helped me survive in Cairo, along with things I desperately wish I had thought to bring and other cultural experiences.

                      Eid Murbarak and best greetings!

                      la première

                      To start this off, I’d like to leave a little disclaimer – although I will attempt to be as objective as possible in my posts, these writings are primarily based on my opinions and past experiences in life. Despite the importance of being open-minded, my experience in Egypt does not represent every traveler’s experiences to Egypt.

                      As I’ve spent my time here, in the heated summer of 2016, I’ve been coming across different challenges and events which have made me think a little bit more – about myself, and about society. I wish to record my experiences so that others wishing to visit Egypt can get a taste of what others have seen, and done. Essentially, this blog is just another little drop into the pool of information on the net.

                      For my background, I am currently a 21-year-old university student about to finish her last year in undergrad, and am interested in global studies, sustainability, international development, and urban planning. I grew up in the Midwest and West Texas, although my college years have been spent in the lovely oven of Arizona.

                      For context, I’m a bit short, and have hapa roots. I look like a petite little lady, sometimes still mistaken for a younger teenager, but actually feel a little bit more like a tomboyish kid. My personality has recently become ISFJ, and I’m a bit more introverted, stern and serious, but still up for a good time and good experience!

                      I have been in Egypt since May 21st living in Downtown Cairo, and will leave July 24th for a few days to visit my host sister in Marseille, a stop by Rome, and then back to the states. I am currently doing a volunteer internship project with a global youth leadership organization and spend most working hours completing projects and office work I can talk about a little later!

                      Lastly, I have been very fortunate to travel abroad before. Although Egypt has been the longest experience abroad up-to-date, thanks to school trip opportunities, I have been to Japan, Australia, and France, as a one-to-two-week student ambassador for each.

                      Here are some topics I’ll be hitting upon: Food, social interactions, metro, Cairo, sustainability, the Red Sea, living with international interns, hostel experiences, work experiences.

                      I hope that in the future, these experiences become useful or interesting to someone and help them with their own travelling experiences!

                      Stay tuned, and happy 4th of July!