Saturday, September 26, 2009

Luxor/Anafora/General Life in Cairo

Another week of classes down. Awesome lecture from Dr. Heather’s husband about how to live cross culturally. Fantastic engagement party for Jeem’s sister (our belly dancing teacher): I learned that white girls just really can’t dance, and that Egyptian guys can shake their hips better than I can, which is a little disturbing. :) Intense grilling of the poor guy who came to talk to us from the American embassy – I think he’d been in the bureaucracy too long because he seemed unable to answer a direct question. We took the night train to Luxor and I took an excessive number of pictures of incredibly old statues/temples/etc. They no longer allow pictures in the Valley of the Kings, unfortunately, so I don’t have any pictures of Ramses’ sarcophagus to share with you. Our hotel had a pool on the roof, which was fantastic. The only down side to Luxor was that the harassment was worse there than it is in Cairo – or maybe we just realized it more because they spoke more English so we understood more of what they were saying. We took the night train back to Cairo, and a wonderful free day to sleep/do homework. Service project day – I usually get to hang out with adorable Sudanese preschoolers for 5 hours. When Kelsey and I got there though, the school was closed because of Eid (the end-of-Ramadaan holiday). More classes. Crazy lecture from a pastor who seemed to be arguing that one could be a Christian without accepting your need for salvation. Belly Dancing – Jeem yells at us a lot, and we never really understand what she’s saying. Cooking class – my favorite part is trying to identify ingredients since the teacher doesn’t speak enough English to say what it is. Pretty sure I’m not going to be able to find everything for these recipes in Anchorage. Seattle maybe, Anchorage no.

Yesterday we went to Anafora, which is a Coptic retreat center and hung out with a bunch of Coptic Christians all day. Bishop Thomas talked with us in the morning about Coptic identity and the challenges the church faces, so we all got a little insight into why Dr. Heather always says “Bishop Thomas for president”! He had some pretty amazing stories about his encounters with Muslim extremist groups – most of which are not supposed to be “published”. We spent the afternoon talking with the other students about our different faith backgrounds and trying to explain Protestantism to them – which was difficult since none of us had the same definition. In the evening we went to their prayer service, which none of us understood a word of, but the singing was amazing! We also spent some time just worshiping God together – we sang a few songs in both Arabic and English, but then we just took turns singing one of our songs, and then one of theirs. It was really beautiful, and Anafora is an amazing place. It’s far enough outside of Cairo that the air is actually clear, and it’s pretty green too – they have orchards and stuff. We get to go back to there for a 3-day retreat right before we come back to the states…so good.

Tomorrow we start our weeklong homestays which is really exciting and a little terrifying. All of the girls will be with Muslim families – it’s harder to get Muslim families to take the guys since the women in the family would never be able to unveil – and most of us will be in poorer neighborhoods really far away from Agouza, and there’s a good chance our families will speak no English. So yeah, I’m sure I’ll have some pretty amazing stories after this week.

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