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Catching Up

Hey guys!  Thanks again for coming back to check in!  I’ve been blown away by the number of people who have been reading, so I hope this has been both interesting and educational so far.  Also, sorry I’ve been so remiss in writing over the past few days.  The apartment search has been quite the experience (in a good way, mostly) and left me crashing on a friend’s couch for a few nights last week, which I think I’ve mentioned before.  Staying there forced me to pay to use the internet at a local café, which is a huge rip off I’m not willing to take part in other than to send a few brief emails each day.  Add to that the fact that my computer was only fixed today, and was unavailable to use for writing a draft over the past few days, and you’ve got my full excuse for not writing sooner.  My bad.  Hopefully that’ll be the longest time between posts that I’ll have for awhile.

Anyway, I’ve got a lot to tell!  To be honest, I’m not sure that I could really recount each day for you without confusing days, times and people, so I think I’ll just write about a few topics and try to share my experiences this week that way.  Let me start by saying that I’ve got a ton of thoughts that I’d like to post about a number of things, so this will probably be a pretty long post, or may even break down into a number of smaller ones.  Check out the order below and feel free to skip around as you like.

The first post below is about the happy conclusion of my apartment hunting experience.  The second is about my first few days at school for graduate student orientation.  Beneath that, you’ll find a bit about how incredibly different Egyptian Arabic is to the Fouhsa (classical Arabic) I’ve studied before.  Finally, at the end, you’ll find some of my more recent thoughts about Ramadan here in Egypt, which I had commented on the last time I wrote.

The Apartment:

After three days of nonstop apartment hunting, I had a beautiful two bedroom apartment, the entire East side of which was composed of windows, stolen right out from under me last week.  As frustrating as that was, it’s not really worth talking about save to say that I got lucky it happened.  Although it took me a few more days of searching to find another place that I really liked, I’ve now moved in to a great place.  The location’s awesome – I’m in the middle of one of the nicest neighborhoods in Cairo – and the apartment is huge.  We have 4 people in a 250 square meter flat on the 9th floor of one of the few large towers in the neighborhood.  There’s more than enough space for the 3, soon to be 4, of us, so you now know you’ve got a place to stay if occasion takes you over to this part of the world.  Also, both of my roommates seem to be good, easy to live with people.  Despite the setbacks I had apartment hunting on my own, once the three of us started looking together, things went relatively quickly, although a little dramatically.  That drama led to a story worth telling.

If you’ll recall from my last post, House Shopping, simsaars, or realtors, have a very unique position in Egyptian society.  Not only do they make a fee of 1 month’s rent off of the people whom they show a place to, they also make 10% of off the entire contract from the landlord.  In my opinion it’s really pretty absurd given the minimal amount of work that they have to do and the fact that they try to down play their payment until you’re ready to sign a contract with the landlord.

Unfortunately for us, we happened to fall in with a simsaar who I would say is at best a little questionable and at worst a complete scumbag.  With two or three different phone numbers and email addresses, as well as a number of different names, this guy was just a shady character in general.  So, after he had shown us our soon to be place, we tried our best to get rid of him by doubling back the next day to talk to the landlord on our own.  In the end, however, the only thing we succeeded in doing was creating a whole series of drama worthy of an episode of The Jersey Shore.  Without getting into the blow by blow, before we signed our contract with the landlord the day after that, my roommate Melissa minced words with the simsaar in question.  It was actually pretty funny to watch, to be perfectly honest, and if I hadn’t been worried we were going to blow the deal I would’ve grabbed a bag of popcorn and sat back to watch.

You see, the simsaar knows he’s a shady guy and knows that we know that, so he had one of his goons keep watch on the apartment the next day in case we showed up without him.  Just as we’re about to sign our contract with our landlord there came a knock on the door and ‘lo and behold our simsaar friend appears.  Three hours and one huge fight between a 5’2 110lb white girl and a 6’4 200lb Egyptian guy later, we managed to get back to signing the contract.  Had we not had an Egyptian friend with us to calm things down and keep us in the loop, however, I seriously doubt we would’ve been able to keep the place.  Language barrier and service charges… I feel like a broken record here; we really owe a huge round of applause to our friend Karim for helping us out.  In the end though, as you’ll see from the video below, it all worked out.  All’s well that ends well and I’m incredibly excited to be settling in, even if I did enjoy my apartment hunting experience over the past 10 days.

If you’re having a hard time imagining what this place might look like, as I imagine many of you are seeing as it’s in the middle of Egypt, check out the video MTV Cribs put together for us last night when they heard that my roommate Abe, “Mr. Hollywood,” Abed had moved into a flat in Cairo:

After writing this, and holding out till I could get the entire video set up properly, I’ve realized I’m going to have to wait till I have a faster internet connection to upload this.  Look for it soon.

Alright, thanks for checking in guys.  Check out the posts below regarding the topics I mentioned at the beginning.  Also, if you’re looking for more of a news and observations sort of post, check back in later today after I’ve assured my family that I’m alive and well; there’s a lot going on over here worth writing about.

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