Let this day, January 23, 2011, be marked as the day that Devon William Armstrong officially started his study abroad experience! I have laid out hints for people to read about this development, so here it is: I got lost in Cairo!
OK, I get it. It seems like something that would be horrific, scary, and not at all prideful, am I right? Well, ordinarily I would say yes, but in this case I disagree. I had gone downtown to Zamalek to get some money, as my card is not working at the New Campus. I had taken the Zamalek bus down, believing that I would be able to make it back in time for the 10:00 bus, which was the last for the night. I was with two other people, who had also decided to wander downtown. We started walking to the Marriot, but eventually took a taxi to save on time. There, I attempted to finally turn my traveler’s checks into cash (by the way, don’t EVER bring traveler’s checks to Egypt. They’re useless). Unfortunately, the bank in the hotel that does it had their system down and were unable to cash them, so I went to the ATM and withdrew some money from my account; though I could not get the amount I required for AUC. Eventually, I got locked out of the ATM, after withdrawing a few times. It turns out, as I found out from phoning Chase, that my temporary card is screwing me over every which way. Not only will it not work on campus, but there’s a $300 limit for withdrawals per day, not that I knew about it. Tomorrow, it will be reset, but for now I’m in a pickle.
So, leaving the Marriot, I go with the two girls to a Subway to snag dinner, then continue on, calling Chase to see the problem. In doing so while walking, I stopped paying attention and made a wrong turn. Eventually, I asked someone (fe il-aribiyya) where I should be going to get to Zamalek, with a worried eye on my watch, now saying that it’s almost 5 til. He has me get in a taxi, and this is where it gets awesome!
The guy I talked to goes and talks to the driver for me, who was willing to give me a free ride to Zamalek, strictly because I had spoken Arabic ( a key piece of advice to anyone studying here…Speak Arabic to the taxi drivers!) The entire way, he had me speak Arabic to him, who then responded in English. His name is Osama (and no, before you ask, NOT bin Laden, though he did joke about that). Unfortunately, he seemed to like talking to me too much, because he drove around in what must have been a big circle (there is NO way that I was that far from the University, and the building he dropped me off at I didn’t recognize). Then, I went to the security guards at the gate to find the residence, the building I actually know, so that I could catch a bus (still speaking Arabic…however shoddily). They sent me toward the bus stop, but I was so confused that I came back, and was then informed that the bus had gone, and there was not to be another one until morning, so I’d have to take a taxi.
**Point of information: One should never accept a taxi ride from Zamalek to New Cairo for more than 50 Egyptian pounds.
So I hailed a taxi, who was willing to take me for 70 pounds, but then Osama came back to where he’d dropped me off (without charge remember) to see how I’d got along. When he saw me talking to the other taxi driver, he hailed me and agreed to take me to the New Cairo campus for 50 pounds. We settled into our routine conversation: me speaking broken Arabic intermixed with English words when I didn’t know the translation, and he speaking English in return. Though he had to ask a motorist for directions (which I understand fairly well I might add), he got me back to New Cairo safe and sound. And I? I got probably two hours of real-world experience speaking Arabic in a foreign country! How’s that for “Survival Arabic”? hahahaha!