Friday, October 31, 2008
Monday, October 27, 2008
About three months ago, during my job interview I asked my colleagues about changing my visa into temporary residency and obtaining a work permit. I was assured that the human resources department at the university will deal with it. Two months later, I realized no one has done anything, and I was therefore technically “illegal” in the country. I couldn’t wait any longer, so I decided to go there myself.
The mugamma is a large building with various ministerial offices that has a terrible reputation for being the most bureaucratic entity in Cairo (imagine that!). The Cairo Practical Guide warns: “This daunting pre-evolutionary monstrosity on the south side of Midan Al-Tahrir strikes terror in the heart of any Kafka fan.”
I left early morning and headed to the mugamma. I arrived there at 9 a.m. and it was already packed. Of course I was given a million different directions of which way to go, but I finally found the right window, window 12. I explained my situation, and I was informed that it’s not a big deal, all I need to do is pay the fine (150LE, about $30), which includes the cost of a 6 months visa extension.
She handed me the form and I proceed to fill it out in Arabic assuming that will make things easier since we are in an Arab country and sine most of the staff do not speak English. I returned to the window and handed her the form. She asked me to please fill it out again but this time in English because I have an American passport so it had to be in English. I did as I’m told.
She then asked for 1 copy of the passport. (Oops didn’t know I needed that!) I asked where I could find a photocopy machine and she directed me to the first floor. I went downstairs and to be on the safe side, I asked for two copies of my passport instead of one! I returned to window 12 and handed her one copy. She then asked for a picture. (Oops I didn’t know I needed that either!) So I asked her half jokingly if I could photocopy my passport picture instead of handing in an actual picture. She said: ya course, anything will do! WOW, I can’t believe that worked! So I handed her my other copy! She then directed me to window 42 to buy some stamps costing 11LE.
I returned to window 12, and delivered the stamps. Then they gave me a ticket and asked me to go back to window 42 to pay my fine. At window 42 they told me this is NOT where I’m supposed to pay my fine, I should return to window 42. Back at window 42, they directed me AGAIN to window 12!!! I then went to a random window and asked them where I’m supposed to pay my fine, and they explained that I should go to window 33, not window 44, or window 12!
I paid my fine at window 33, then went back to window 12. They explained that I needed to get ANOTHER stamp from window 12. I went back to window 12 to buy the 3 LE stamp, but they didn’t have change, so I couldn’t buy it!!! Ahhhhhhhh At this point I wandered the halls asking random strangers if they had change for 50 LE, and in the process made some friends. I finally managed to get change, and returned to window 12 to buy my stamp.
I returned to window 42, and at 10:30 I finally submited my passport.
I was told to return in two hours. So at 12:15 I returned. I went to the window to pick up my passport, but there were MANY MANY people waiting there. I finally got my passport at around 2:20.
Of course since we waited there for two more hours, I ended up meeting a lot of the people that were also just sitting there waiting for their passport, including an Algerian man, a Jordanian woman, two Palestinian men, and an American woman. It felt great to see people from all over the world.
The funny part is that while we were waiting, three different guys asked me out! One was as old as my father, if not older (and my father is 751). The second was as old as my kid (if I had one), I know I always say I don’t care about age, but there are limits! The third was a religious Christian man who was talking to me about how much he loves Cairo because it has a large Christian population and how he wants to get married from here. However, before he left, he wanted my number and wanted to get together for dinner. Confused, I remind him that I’m from Yemen (not from Egypt) and that I’m Muslim!
2:15 I left the mugamma with some funny stories, and an extended visa until February. Alhamdulilah!
Friday, October 24, 2008
Walking to the internet cafe near the apartment I noticed dark clouds. Could it be? Could it rain? It hasn't rained since i got here! I sat at the internet cafe for 10 minutes, then the rain started to pour. Kids that were playing video games left their games and ran to the glass door to watch the rain. The young men that were chatting or on facebook joined the boys. They were all standing in a straight line watching the rain. An older man in the cafe told us all that we should start praying because prayer during the rain is mustajab or "answered."
Rain continued to pour, and the three kids couldn't sit still, they finally opened the door and went out to play in the rain. I really wanted to join them, but people would have thought I was crazy.
The heavy rain reminded me of a summer day in Washington. Except that here it doesn't occur very often, and therefore it is much more appreciated.
After 20 minutes, the rain stopped, but the laughter of the kids continued. This is something they will talk about for the next week.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
October 20th marks my two months anniversary in Cairo. I can now announce that I am officially in love … with Cairo… :) I know it’s not a person, but at least I’m in love right? hehe
I am still on a Cairo high, and I love every second of it. Well not every second, as there are moments when I want to scream and yell!! Whether its when I’m stuck in traffic, or when the guy insists on honking the horn NONSTOP for no reason, or when my NEW water heater tank breaks for the SECOND time. In the past two months, I wake up everyday praying that I have water in the morning. Sometimes there is no water at all; sometimes there is water but no hot water (I’ve learned to take VERY quick cold showers). Sometimes while I’m taking a warm shower, the water shifts between hot and cold, and sometime it just stops (reminds me of Yemen). I miss having reliable hot water anytime I wanted.
There are also days when I am so furious with my job. I work at a research center in one of the “best” universities in the country, the American University of Cairo. Before I arrived here I expected some disorganization, but nothing prepared me for the level of carelessness and disorganization that I found. (I hope no one from work knows about my blog, it would be quite embarrassing!). It took me about two months to get an email account and an AUC ID (which I need to enter the university) and I still don't have a bus pass!
Despite all this, I am greatly enjoying this lovely city, and I believe this is what unconditional love is all about. Accepting the “negative” because there is a greater good. Like any other city, Cairo has a lot of negatives, the pollution, the traffic, and the disorganization. But I will learn to live with that because Cairo is worth it, as it offers much more than that. And maybe this is what relationships should be like.
I love that my neighborhood has become “home” now. The pharmacist next door knows me by name now and insists on calling me “Dr. Atiaf” because I sometimes wear glasses and I work at a university. The man at the grocery store asks why I haven’t been there in 3 days, and the woman at the internet café asks if my father is enjoying his time in Cairo. Humanity is alive here.
I alos love that there is so much to do everyday. If you want to visit historical sites there are plenty to see, if you want to attend academic lectures, there are many everyday. If you want to pray and visit religious sites, you will find a place in every corner, and if you want to enjoy some music or party you can do that as well. If you want to do a little of everything you can certainly do that.
Yesterday the taxi driver said to me, “you’re not from Cairo right?”, and I said yes that’s right. He then asks if I’m from Alexandria? That made me very happy. He assumed I am Egyptian. J
Thursday, October 9, 2008
The worst part is this: All were cleared for release long ago. However, because of the stigma of their detention at Guantánamo and for fear of offending China, no other country had agreed to offer these men safe haven.