Category Archives: America

Is This The End?

Dear Reader,

So I know I said a little while ago that I wasn’t sure I’d keep the blog going after I arrive in the US, but I realized I have not been as diligent or inspired with my posting as before, and so I have a lot left to say about my experiences that might prove useful or interesting to other travelers (such as how to NOT buy bus tickets in Morocco).  This merits at least a few weeks of posts still to make sure I cover some of the remaining comment-worthy territory, which is another way of saying I’m not sure I’m ready to let go of this thing yet.  I am already going through some culture shock and though I’m ecstatic to be home with my family, there is a lot to process… and that’s why I started this blog in the first place: to process things in a healthy way.  I want to keep going to keep doing that for a little longer at least.

The results of this year have been UNREAL: I’m just shy of 12,000 views with 35 wordpress followers, 8 comment followers, and 743 facebook followers– humbling figures considering the simple aims of this thing and DEFINITELY not what I ever expected.  Thank you to all those who have followed along from the start and welcome to those who have just arrived here!   It’s been an enlightening adventure for me and I hope you’ve enjoyed it, too.

Love,

Thea

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America!

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Goodbye, Europe!

Tonight is my last night in Europe and I am spending it in a hostel room in Milan with a Parisian and a Moldovan/Swede engaging in conversation and laughing a lot.  I could not have asked for a better ending for a semester filled with educational moments and unexpectedly enlightening experiences.  Although it has been a totally different time compared to Egypt, I feel a similar sadness for the people I am leaving behind (though knowing this brilliant bunch, I’m bound to see at least some of them again– if on the cover of the New York Times) and a nostalgia for the places I’ve seen over this time.  I have dipped my toes in many waters this semester and knowing how anxious I was to travel before I left on this grand adventure, seeing so much will only make my list of future destinations longer.  After these nearly 9 months, the world feels only bigger, grander, and more beautiful than I have ever seen it.   I will be back to all of these places one day, in a different time and in a different context,  but with just the same excitement as when I first visited.

 

Thank you, France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, Ireland, Morocco, Egypt, Switzerland, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Austria, and (how could I forget!) Monaco for an unforgettable semester.  One day we’ll meet again!

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Essay Contest Follow-Up: I WON!

So, at your advisement, I sent in “A Haircut and a Lesson” to my university’s Study Abroad Office literary magazine and I got in!  Not only that, but they published one of my photos from Siwa as the cover!

Check it out here: the Road Less Traveled

 

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SACRE BLEU! an essay contest!

Hey guys and gals!  I need your help.  The deadline is fast approaching for the Road Less Traveled Literary Magazine run by my home university and though I want to enter, I have no idea what I should submit.  According to the website, “Diverse and unique submissions are encouraged, but must be related to studying, living or traveling abroad,” so that could really be ANYTHING.  Arrrr…

This is where you come in:  what was your favorite piece of writing or photography you’ve seen on this blog?  Was there a particular theme that touched you?  Was there a piece that made you laugh, think or view something in a different way?  Let me know!

The following are my favorites, but if you have other ideas, please leave a comment below.

Thank you! Danke! Bedankt! Grazie! Merci! Shukran!

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Goodbye, 2011!

I saw out 2010 going to the top of the Empire State building, watching Black Swan a block from Lincoln Center, seeing all of the major department store displays around New York City.  Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s, Lord & Taylor’s…

Dinner was Korean food at a fantastic little place in Koreatown, Woorijip, where I had kimchi, daikon wraps, sweet meatballs, spicy mackerel, cellophane noodles, sauteed bok choi and shiitakes, and a glutinous rice goop reminiscent of angel food cake combined with an eraser.

I began 2011 at 57th and 7th in New York City, just having watched the ball drop in Times Square.  I was exhilarated, having seen in the New Year in one of my favorite cities on earth with almost one million people.   Over the next year I would:

  • pass through Chicago, Rochester, Pittsburgh, Columbus (OH), Harrisburg (PA), New York City, Washington D.C., Baltimore (MD), Lancaster (PA), Boston, Cairo, Paris, Frankfurt, Zurich, Alexandria, Milan, Nice
  • taste camel, bison, squab, escargot, a hot pastrami sandwich, cuttlefish, prickly pear cactus juice, real New England clam chowder in New England, Ethiopian food, deep-dish pizza, an egg cream, authentic fool and falafel, bulgogi, whoopie pies, hibiscus juice, carob juice, guava juice, arugula juice, a Rochester Garbage Plate, sugar cane, fried cheese, jalapeño ice cream, herring stomach, chocolate-covered honeycombs, foie gras, kunafa, toasted sesame ice cream…
  • dye my hair red, ash blonde, add highlights and then chop off 13 inches
  • ride on a motorcycle, a camel, a TGV train, and a feluka
  • swim in 3 different oceans
  • visit one of the oldest markets in the world (the Khan el Khalili), the Hanging Church in Cairo, El Azhar mosque, the Saladin Citadel, the Central Park Zoo, both branches of Air and Space, Natural History, Newseum, the Freer Gallery, the American History Museum, Museum of the American Indian, the Alexander McQueen exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (life changing!), the Library of Alexandria, LOVE park, the Chicago Bean, Strawberry Fields, the Louvre, the Cairo Tower, the Jersey Shore, the Great Pyramids at Giza
  • see Dorothy’s slippers, Michael Jackson’s hat and gloves, Julia Child’s kitchen, and the original Muppets
  • feed a  fawn, a lama, and a dromedary out of my hand
  • witness an earthquake, even though I was in a notary’s office and didn’t really feel anything
  • figure out how to solve all the world’s problems with a 44-year old West Virginian lady who had never been West of the Mississippi and 75-year old African American lady who had seen Malcolm X speak on a Megabus ride to Pittsburgh
  • hear the story of a Romanian grandmother who had been a voice actress dubbing banned foreign movies in Ceausescu’s regime, but was now an aide to mentally challenged children in Quebec public schools–again, on a Megabus ride to Rochester
  • take belly dance classes
  • learn how to tie a hijab properly
  • witness just how low people can sink into desperation, namely the time I sat across from a woman on the New York City subway at 2 AM who was crying over the muppet puppet in her lap
  • stop biting my nails
  • totter around in 8 inch heels (3 inch platform, 5 inch heel) at the Topshop store in New York City
  • make some very bad jokes
  • learn about identifying human remains and all the icky stuff that surrounds it (yeah Forensic Anthropology!)
  • attend one of the last performances of the Merce Cunningham dance company
  • see Fleet Foxes, Ben Folds, Emmylou Harris, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Booker T, Ke$ha, a Sudanese music ensemble, and Jukebox the Ghost  live in concert
  • watch three separate whirling dervish shows, including one that lit up
  • spend 3 months living and studying in Egypt
  • lose 20 pounds
  • start this blog
  • witnessed a country remaking itself, from revolution to reaction to election.
  • meet a great many people, many of them movers and shakers or future movers and shakers in the world
  • open my brain a little further

2011 has truly been a fantastic year and (I hope) the start of a lifelong adventure.  I have done a lot, seen a lot, heard a lot, ate a lot, and met a lot of inspiring people who have helped me to open my mind and my perceptions of the world at large.  Thank you for being along for the ride these 3 and a half months and may your New Year be as incredible as the last.

!في صحتك Prost! Cheers! Skål! Proost! Kanpai! Santé! Cin Cin! Sláinte!

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” -Thornton Wilder

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When life hands you political unrest, make green bean casserole

Yesterday we went to celebrate Eid al Shukr (Thanksgiving) with a group of American students who study at our university.  It was great getting a little taste of home in the middle of this crazy week.  7 floors up in the Ibrahimiya neighborhood we munched on a potluck hodgepodge of Turkey Day Americana: stuffing, turkey, and apple pie, now and then heading out to the balcony to watch protesters walk by below.  I chatted with students and their Egyptian friends, feeling very much at ease.  The only moment when the current political turmoil really snapped back into focus was when one of the American students panicked over partygoers taking pictures of the protesters.  He told us later that one of his friends had been arrested (and released) for taking pictures of the Egyptian Interior Ministry building.  Despite this minor freak-out, the event was a lot of fun.

The second million-man march took place in Tahrir yesterday (CNN).  The military appointed a Mubarak-era prime minister, Kamal el-Ganzouri, to lead the new government (Al Ahram).  The police have offered weak apologies for the deaths of 40-plus protesters since last week.  Frightening images abound, from the assault of a female protester yesterday (please ignore the stupid music) in the Smouha neighborhood of Alexandria to a small anti-Israel rally in which protesters chanted “one day we shall kill all the Jews.”

Even with everything that is going on, our daily routines are not all that different.  We are still expected to go to class, which means writing essays and doing homework as usual.  Our guide urged us not to leave the apartment unless absolutely necessary and even that is not all that different because instead of staying home and doing work like any regular Saturday afternoon, we’re just doing that with the added benefit of staying out of harm’s way.

The main difference is that now I reflexively turn on the news or check The New York Times, Al Masry Al Youm, and Drudge Report for coverage of the protests (instead of reflexively checking them anyway).  This year more than previous years, I am nauseated when I see the idiocy that surrounds Black Friday in the US–SERIOUSLY, PEOPLE?! even if you really really want an x-box, pepper spray is a little much –receiving more media attention than all of what is going on here.  Usually I’d scoff and shake my head, but this year I feel I have a stake in getting airtime and headlines for ACTUAL NEWS *hrm* major and momentous world events and thus this year it’s more to the order of upchucking rather than simple cantankerousness.

However, a disclaimer: things are not as frenzied everywhere as the media might suggest.  Protests are widespread but in Alexandria for example they center around only a few places in the city and between certain times at that.  For some Egyptians, too, things are calm and life goes on.

Just mending pants. What protests?

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