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Sunday, June 15, 2008

First week of EGYPT!

June 20, 2008
So I have been in Egypt a little over a two weeks now and I LOVE IT here. Its a breath of fresh air getting away from Asia for a while haha. The airplane rides here went smoothly. Taipei to Hong Kong was good, the only problem is they didn't transfer my bags automatically at Hong Kong. I hung out in Hong Kong for about 4 or 5 hours... but I forgot that HK (and Dubai) us the UK style plug, and I packed my adapter so I couldn't watch any of my movies I had downloaded for the trip. So I tried to nap/read until my plane came. My flight to Dubai went well, the food on Emirates air was amaaaaazzzzing and the service was really good too. And I arrived to Dubai about 430 AM and hung out in the airport and waited in line for a long time to use one of the free computers because some people wouldnt get off them. My flight to Cairo went smoothly too and I arrived about noon.

Egypt and Cairo info:

I got my luggage, luckily it all came no problem, and headed out to go through customs. It took me a while to figure out where to get the visa... but once I got that I went out and found my driver and he took me to my dorm. My roommate wasn't here... and there weren't very many people here actually so I just kinda unpacked my stuff and went outside to walk around the area for a bit and find food. I tried to stay up as late as I could because I heard that is good for the first night when dealing with jet lag... and then I made it to about 10 pm and went to bed. The next day I slept in pretty late then unpacked and went out some more to walk around and find food. And then later on my roommate showed up and I went out with him and another guy to have dinner and "drink" shisha and have tea at a market.
The dorms are ok, I am in a 3 person room with only 2 people, so we have a bit more space. Everything in it is really old, and we have some REALLY loud arabs in the room next door who like to blast their music LOUDLY between 11 pm and 4 am. I don't know whats gonna happen with that. The dorms and the school have a lot of security. At all the entrances there are metal detectors and guards who usually check through all of your bags before you can get in.
Class started Sunday, but they didn't feel the need to let us know they changed the times of our classes until EVERYONE was there, so we basically had a couple of hours to hang around and then our classes started. Here is my schedule
Egyptian Arabic 1130-100
Spoken Egyptian Arabic 215-330

Standard Arabic 900-1100
Egyptian Arabic 1130-100
Media Arabic 105-205
Quran Class 215-330

Standard Arabic 900-1100
Egyptian Arabic 1130-100
Spoken Egyptian Arabic 215-330

Standard Arabic 900-1100
Egyptian Arabic 1130-100
Quran Class 215-330

Standard Arabic 900-1100
Media Arabic 1130-100

Basicaly Monday's suck and the rest of the week isn't too bad. All my teachers are amazing (some a little heavy on the homework though) except my Media Arabic teacher that kinda sucks. The first week of class went well, there was a little shuffling of classes, but for the most part it went smoothly. The school here is really unorganized (thats Egypt as a whole I guess), the classrooms are a problem, and no one ever knows anything, but I'm used to that after China I guess.

The first full weekend in Egypt we took a trip to Alexandria. Here is some info:

We took a bus to Alexandria from Cairo... took about 3 or 4 hours, luckily it had A/C. I didn't notice this until later but they had security guards on our buses, and from what other people said they usually put security guards or even police with AK-47s on buses if there are foreigners. We spent 2 nights there in a REALLY nice hotel. The school must have some kind of deal with the hotel because the posted rates are $280 a night and our whole trip total was $150. We visited some things you can see on the link to wikitravel. We went to the Citadel, the Library, the Roman Catacombs, Pompey's Pillar, and Montazza palace. Alexandra was a bit more conservative that Cairo I think. I saw a lot more mostly or completely covered women (not even slits or holes for their eyes). It also seemed to me a bit more poor and run down that Cairo, but with a lot of beaches. We went back on Saturday and then I had class on Sunday.
This week of class went by well, I had my first test and lots and lots of homework. This weekend we are going to Sharm el Sheikh for 3 nights. Here is info:

I'll put later what I am going to do there.

So thats my stay so far in Egypt! Leave a comment!

Last days in Taiwan...

June 5, 2008 (its really June 14 but i forgot to write in this before i left taiwan)
Our last trip we took together in Taiwan was fun. I was gonna write about it right after it was over but I kept putting it off and now its like 3 weeks after... oops. But it was a really great 2 night trip. The first day we went to Ling Jiu Mountain which is a Buddhist monastery and we had a tour and met the founding monk who lived in a cave on that mountain by himself for 2 years fasting and meditating. After that 2 years was over he founded the monastery there. It was really nice and they had their free vegetarian lunch for all of us which was also very good. After that we went to the beach... but since it kept pouring rain and thundering and lightning I didn't go in the water. After spending some time there we headed to our hostel that was pretty far away which I was excited for since it had its own hot springs. But since we spent too much time at the beach we arrived at 1030 and they closed them at 11 :( so we only got to spend a few minutes in it. So instead of just going to sleep me, Phil, Zoe, and her boyfriend played mah johng all night (for money of course) and I won the most, 70 Taiwan dollars! (thats only about $2.10 US dollars haha) but it was fun.

The next day we had to get up early and head to the water rafting place. I was really excited for it cuz I have never done anything like that before. But I was also just a little worried to. So we got there and had a little training and got some life jackets and helmets and went out to the boats. In my boat it was Phil, Alyssa, Cala, Olivia, Mr. Zhang and Dan. It was pretty slow going at first... the water was slow and we were just paddling, and the life guards in their boats kept splashing us and then pushing us back in line with the others. There were a lot of boats, maybe 50 or so. Every once in a while we would get to some rapids and it would go a lot quicker and we had to dodge rocks and things but then it would go back to slower water. And then there was one part of the river where the rapids were a bit bigger and faster... few more rocks... ect and we saw a boat stuck on a rock ahead and then another one run into them and get stuck and then we were heading towards them. And we had been doing this for a couple hours now and had hit a lot of other boats so I wasn't worried or anything... and then we hit the boat and ours decided to flip over and throw us all into the water and come on top of us. And so I was in the water and could come up because the boat was on top of us. So then I tried to go down into the water a little deep so I could get out from underneath the boats, but the water was really fast and deep and there were lots of rocks everywhere and I was flying down the river coming up barely enough to just get a breath of air and then going back under. And then finally one of the life guard boats pulled me into their boat. And then we got everyone else and flipped our boat over and got into it and then I realized I lost the helmet that was wearing and my glasses :(
So we finished up the boat trip with no more problems and then left to go to our hostel for that night. But before we got there we stopped at a glasses store and I got some contacts to last me until I could get some new glasses. So basically we were all really tired so when we got to the hostel we just crashed. The next morning we got up early and left to go see Taroko gorge which is basically a giant grand-canyon-esque kinda thing that was nice, and then headed back to Taipei stopping at some sight seeing points on the way back. And then when we got back we basically had a week left to finish our projects... which I hadn't really started. But it went surprisingly well. I wrote mine about the declining use of Taiwanese language among the people of Taiwan... if you wanna read my paper just ask and I'll send it to you :p and basically I packed up and left Taiwan on June 5. I am really happy I had a chance to go to Taiwan and improve my Chinese a lot more, I guess it didn't turn out so bad after all not getting into Egypt last semester. It will be nice to leave Taiwan I think but I'll probably start missing it after a week or two... especially the food haha.