Today we took a trip to Fayoum, a city about an hour and a half south of here. We went to celebrate the laying of a cornerstone of a new Synod of the Nile School--a secondary "language" school. It will be built behind the "American Mission School for Girls." While there, we were treated like celebrities--incessantly had our picture taken by the "official" photographer, constantly followed and videotaped by the TV man, introduced and asked to stand during the speeches by the mayor/clergy/principal/president of schools/etc. It was crazy. We also "toured" Fayoum a bit--we visited the famous water wheels (only a few left now, none in the city functional, just decorative and historical). Several in our group got their first taste of being a westerner in a middle eastern country--we were besieged by street vendors trying to sell us baskets, toy camels made of reed, etc. they just kept coming and asking and asking and asking--even when you say "la" they simply lower the price, hoping that you are just bargaining with them. Two of our group members bought baskets--bargained to GREAT prices of about 50 piastres apiece (down from 15 pounds as the merchants first offer!).
On our bus trip to Fayoum I got my first glimpse of the Pyramids. I knew how big they were and everything, but the road goes so near that you can actually FEEL how big they are!! These things are huge. And let me just tell you about trying to take a picture of them from a moving bus on a crowded and lumpy street. We had the windows open, so I was standing at my seat, my camera cord wrapped around my arm, with my camera out the window, trying to get a photo of a pyramid between trees, cars and trucks, the plateau, etc. It was insane. I probably took about 15 pictures before I got one that actually had a pyramid in it. Perhaps tomorrow I will load all of those pictures, just so you can see the process I went through trying to take a picture of a pyramid. It was hilarious and frustrating all at the same time. Every time I thought I had it, we sped up, slowed down, got passed by a truck, or my camera reacted too slowly (no flash (daytime and all that)=slower shutter speed). OY!!
In other news, Arabic class is okay for now. Crazy fast, and with one teacher so mean he borders on evil, and with a book that makes me crazy because the script is so small that it's impossible to read the vowel signs, but okay. I am good with languages, so I've been having a relatively easy time. Also, I've studied Hebrew (obviously) which is a sister tongue to Arabic. Some of our group are really struggling, so they need some supportive thoughts and encouraging prayers.
Tomorrow is the big day--Election Day in Egypt! We have no arabic class, government offices are closed, and no one knows what the Muslim Brotherhood is going to do, so we've been warned by nearly everyone to stay inside tomorrow. Carole says, however, we can go out, just not to downtown. Our neighborhood is harmless, and we need to eat, so we're going to the fruit and vegetable market tomorrow morning. I'll be very interested to see what happens with this, and even more interested in what happens after the election--particularly with the US pressure to have "democracy" here. We will see!!
I think this is enough for now. Not pretty and not well written, but a few snapshots of life in Cairo today. Visual snapshots coming soon...