It has been a while since I wrote, and I do apologize. The last month or so has been quite the whirlwind, as we took a program trip to Siwa, had two days of class, then two weeks vacation, then our last two weeks of projects and exams as well as trying to say our goodbyes to our adopted home. Unfortunately I did not really have much time throughout this to sit and collect my thoughts. This does mean I missed posting on Siwa, which was amazing, as well as my trip to Greece, also amazing–but I cannot take time to write about these now as I sit here in Cairo the evening before leaving this country for an as yet undetermined amount of time (I am telling everyone confidently that I will be back in a year, after I graduate. This seems like a good answer for now, so I will work on making that happen). For now I will share a few pictures of Siwa and Greece, but as I said that is not where my head is right now.
And then after a brief interlude for a few classes, two friends and I took off for Greece where we went to Athens and Santorini–and met up with a friend of one of my friends who knew her way around and spoke Greek (as well as being an awesome travel companion)!
Both of these trips were amazing, and either would deserve its own post, and not to short change them, but I feel right now like I need to write my thoughts on leaving this beautiful beautiful country.
My mom has been here this past week, and we are in Cairo now to see the pyramids and a few of the sites before I take off for Europe. We took a private car from Alexandria to Cairo (we had a lot of luggage, not to mention I was not sure whether or not my mom would be up for the rather overwhelming train experience), and one of the girls on my program who will be staying here for the summer hitched a ride with us since she needs to get her computer fixed. While it feels like the time has flown, reflecting back on the beginning of the semester on the four hour car ride with her made me realize just how much we have changed since those first tentative days in Alexandria, when taxi rides felt dangerous and Egyptian Arabic sounded like rhythmic gibberish. I am giving myself a moment to be proud of my ability to fly halfway around the world, knowing no one on the other end, with only two years of study in an archaic form of the local language to prepare me, and to end up having what is probably the most rewarding and enjoyable experience of my life. It will be hard to judge until I have returned to my normal routine this fall, but I feel like I have grown a lot this semester, or at least changed. I now know myself better, and what is best is that I know I have the ability to adapt to a very different environment from the one I am used to. On top of all of this, I have made so many friends here, and most importantly Arabic nerd friends. We are a small community in America, and it was so luxurious to have a whole group of us together to appreciate each others’ bilingual jokes. I will miss so many things about being in Egypt, but it of course will be nice to see home and Bowdoin again, for a bit. I say for a bit, because I am not sure how long I will be able to keep myself away from Egypt. I don’t think it will be very long–I truly have fallen in love with this country, and will miss so many tiny details of my life here when I get back to normal (that is not to say there won’t be details of my Bowdoin life that I am glad to get back to).
It is hard to imagine now how comfortable and welcome I felt in a place so very far from home, and that is something that I need to thank all of the Egyptians who were here with the Middlebury program–our roommates and professors and everyone we met along the way. I truly feel as much like I am leaving “home” as I did after my first semester at Bowdoin, which honestly is impressive given how easy adjusting to Bowdoin life was comparatively. I can never thank you enough for the warm welcome you gave me. Thank you for the many cups of tea, juice and coffee, the long conversations about anything and everything, your patience when I understood so little of your language, your shaaby dance lessons, and generally prioritizing spending time with us (even if it was to see an absolutely terrible movie). You did not only help me to progress linguistically, but you successfully made me feel comfortable in my new territory, and you are the true reason that I already want to return to Egypt before I even have left. I love Egypt so much. We had our ups and downs, and a few days of profound frustration, but on the eve of my departure all I feel is love, respect, and a tinge of regret that I will not be here longer right now. I know the country is going through a rough time, but I have nothing but the highest hopes for it. I sincerely hope that I will be back here to see a brighter day for Egypt in the near future (ان شاء الله), and of course to see all of your lovely faces again.
Thank you again to everyone who made my semester in Egypt such an enriching experience. Words cannot express my thanks (in either language). The very fondest of farewells, but I hope not for long, to Egypt and its people (as well as my fellow American students).