Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Lyon day 119

Tuesday LYON

well, actually, I'll start with a quick Monday night. Dinner at Antoine's. His dad, mom and sister were there. Thibault arrived an hour after me, around 20h15. Since I last saw him, Antoine started a 'real' job in a laboratory analyzing water. It's not paid as well as his job at the library but, or course, it's what he likes and it's in his field of study. He's being trained in a variety of specialties as well. This is the kind of job that trains you for a few years, if that, for you to then go on to something that requires more experience, thus more pay. So yea, he managed his time pretty well. He worked at that library place until he found a real job, keeping a steady income, all while living with his parents and keeping expenditure low. smart kid. :-)
I turned antoine to my yoghurt currency :-) he kept on joking about how many yoghurts something costs. :-) fun kid
they also showed me Call of Duty 4 Modern Warfare, which is an awesome game. ULTRA realistic and super well done. The first mission is like BLOW your mind away.
well, cool night. And then Thibault and I hung out more at his place... showed me some of the pictures from his past semester, exchanged some stories about the girls in our lives... fun stuff. and when internet was finally back online again I got some emails done.

We went to an old teacher's place around 17h30. Mr. Montanari. Super nice, spent a nice time, listening to his stories of high school. Saw Elsa and Emmeline again for the first time in a long time.
Loic drove me back over to Pauline's place because he was going back home anyway to study. This was fun. Lucie and Pierre were there. I enjoyed talking to them. We made crepes. Of course I ate way too many which subsequently put me into a food coma for the rest of the night (anne-claire's) at which were Florent and Philomene.
Antoine got a freak migraine attack right before Montanari's so he missed out on all of this. i hope he' s better by tomorrow for the party.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Day 118 Gap--> Lyon

Gap--> Grenoble--> Lyon
again, woke up really late/discovered that the alarm does not go off on my ipod touch if it is turned off.
Finished the last stages of the shaving of my super developed beard, which I really miss.
Oh, and had waaaay too much bread from one of those huge bread balls that are deelicious and only cost 7 euros. Tartines covered in lavender honey, nutella, butter... hmm... and made some egyptian Aroza tea for my sister and I. messed up on the proportions though, should have only used one teaspoon of tea per cup, instead used two.

To be honest, and not meaning to sound so maudlin :-), goodbyes sucked. Well at least partially.
I remember I used to be all tough about stuff like this -perhaps I still am.
But more precisely, goodbyes with my Grandma were sad. Goodbyes with the rest of my family were fine, carried out in alacrity -especially with uncle Alain, he asked me to get some sand from Egypt for a friend of his who collects sands, and my sister who asked me for an advance birthday "present" ($$) so she could buy a purse she likes...
Yes, saying adieu to my grandma was actually quite sad. When I said we would see each other again soon, she replied "si dieu le veut" (if god wills it) in a pretty dejected way, to which I replied "inch'allah" -Getting the feeling someone might be gone before you see them again, is not something I can deal with as easily as simple farewells.

Overall, I'm very very happy with my five-day-long stay in Gap. I'm really happy that I came there for Christmas and very happy I left a day after was planned, even if I missed a nice "apero" with some friends from Lycée. I realized that Christmas, holds a very important symbolic importance to me. A symbol of family and being together with the ones closest to you. I find it funny that Alain's dad and my Grandma have probably spent all of their christmases with at least one of their children. I think I will be spending Christmas together with family for the next five years at least.
So, despite my French family being chaotic, I am very pleased with my Christmas spent in France. No regrets as far as Bethlehem goes...

That reminds me, one last thing for now. At midnight mass, both priests (the one giving the sermon and the one I talked to after mass) claimed that Bethlehem [in arabic, Bait Lehm (بيت لحم)] means house of bread. I still have to look up where they might be getting that, because in church, I laughed (at least I was paying attention) because in Arabic 'bait' means 'house' and 'lehem' means 'meat'... something to work out...

day 117 Gap

Sunday Gap

Three days after xmas

reaaaally lazy day.
went to see a movie, secret defense in the town center. pretty good. fun because some of it was in arabic. About an biochemical terrorist attack on France and its dismantling. More than 15 terrorist attacks have been stopped by the french secret services since 9/11, according to the last sentence of this movie... "une solution..."

At home finished reading what I deemed fit in the december issue of le monde diplomatique. It's quite good, I think I'll buy the January issue if it comes out while I'm here. I also want to get a copy of "le canard enchainé" because it was cited in one of the souces in the monde and because my uncle robbie used to read it religiously.
Also, started watching Paradise Now in Arabic with English subtitles.
Also started putting my ipod to use with Arabic podcasts from

Leaving for Lyon tomorrow. Being welcomed by a nice meal at Antoine's. Thibault will be there as well. Should be good times, let'em roll.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Day 116 Gap

Saturday Gap

two days after xmas.

woke up at 7h for a head start on a day of skiing. Woke up all of my cousins soon thereafter. We only left from the house at 9h30 though. Still got a good day of skiing in. By the time we rented everything and were on the slopes, it was only 10h30. Rather impressive given the size and inertia of our delegation.
Leopold took an hour long lesson. After lunch he came with us which was slightly annoying but made fun anyway by my sister and I distracting ourselves from the slow pace by playing tag. I ran into her and made her fall once. We also kinda sandwich a poor innocent lady.
One noteworthy event: on a two person ski lift, I started talking to a man from Marseille. First I told him about my Marseille argot book that I got for xmas. Then I told him I'm from Chicago and it turns out he's a Cubs fan. Totally french, but a total cubs fan. He got a subscription to a US sports channel just to watch them. And he just sorta got turned on to them. Partly because they're such underdogs. So funny happening, it's a globalized world?... sorry for the redundancy...

tonight, raclette. soooo yummy, I prepared the cheese. couldn't help but eat a few pieces from each of the three... life's good.

Day 115 Gap

Again, coffee in bed. I love my aunt.

For breakfast, I had a few tartines. But the time had come to summon the mustard from Ghent. I ate a few tartines with it and Camembert. This made me cry a number of times equal to the number of tartines I ate.

Dad got his christmas present. I know because he sent me an email telling me how happy he was with it.
Sat around and read the newspaper. underlined some words I need to look up and go over.

might i mention that my little terrorist cousins were out for the afternoon so the house was really peaceful. Around16h my aunt and I left to go return a few things and also to find a book I wanted to get for my sister for xmas called "la couronne verte" ( we could not remember this title, but I described the plot to the woman working there and she was able to find it... some people... :)

cool thing: My aunt and I go for a beer in a Irish pub to chat a little. We talked about my grandma, she's been living here in Gap for some time now, since November I think, with my family and might be needing to move in permanently, not just for the winter, sometime soon, or into an apartment she bought in Gap. We talked about my sister, how she has practically no memory of our mom, or how my aunt doesn't feel connected to her. Right at this moment, my sister pops her head into the little corner we were sitting in and then runs of. She was looking for the bathroom and had not seen us. So then we got up to see what was up. They were there in the bar, drinking hot chocolate with this ex of Emma's. Guillaume. we heard a lot about him over the summer... or made fun of him a lot... not sure which as they got confused in my head.
anyway, we stopped by at their table as we left. Said hello. Guillaume felt pretty awkward when Aunt/da mom came over. anyway, funny coincidence.

later that night we went ice skating. It was fun being in charge, getting everyone to leave on time so they'd get to bed early for our day of skiing tomorrow. and here I am, up until 2am... such a hypocrite.

a plethora of entries

Day 114 Gap

Man did it feel good to be with family on Christmas. Last night we had a delicious meal. Oysters, foie gras. delicious, what more could I ask for?

Also got a cool gadget from my dad and myself, an ipod touch. have been fooling around with it quite a bit and it's very fun.

i think everyone was very happy with their presents. DragonballZ has been secretly my favorite these past two days even though it's leopold's. I'm going to miss it...

oh, and it's nice having coffee served to you in bed.

Well, it only took me about 30 minutes to switch out from "ana assif" mode into "Oh pardon" mode when bumping into people in the streets here in Europe.
However, I think, never, again, I hope not, will I be able to switch back into "cross streets when cars are NOT speeding at you" mode.

Day 113 Paris 9h38 ---> Gap 16h30

On the Paris-Grenoble train ride I was surrounded by beautiful people, namely a baby whose cuteness was only intensified by his adorable rapport with his mother (totally attractive in a motherly way). omg he just burped up this lovely white liquid all over his shirt and mom's sleeve and was just waiting to get it cleaned up. SO BADASS.

Read the copy of le monde that I picked up yesterday and worked on a Sudoku in vain. Read a few things in Le Monde, namely that:

-In Mozambique: "Et Albertina Bivea sait desormais faire de la confiture a partir de la patate orange. 'C'est vraiment bon, et mes huit enfants adorent ça', dit-elle."

-Francois Mitterand was a badass whose chef, Daniele Depluche, should be studied for all those applying to become my grandmother.

-both Washington (C. Rice) and L'Elisé (N. Sarkozy) estiment qu'il serait légitime d'examiner l'entée du Brésil au Conseil de sécurité, dans le cadre d'une "réforme globale" de l'ONU" (p.8)

Seeing family again will be nice. The whole hectic, crazy, but somehow functional Luyten family vibe definitely came off on the phone when I called them to ask to be picked up.

Day 112, Brussels,
What a bitch! it is to deal with train tickets when you're buying them at the last minute!...
Finally arrived in Paris. I called stephana and Doumitra to see if they could hang out for a bit, unfortunately they were both out of town. I might see Doom when I come back through though. Gave them a thorough phone-bisous session and headed to Cat & Pat's.
When I arrived they were drinking Champaign... so nice. We also ate some salmon on little tartines of bread covered in either soja sauce or salted butter. Man do I love

day 111 Ghent

Ghent. What a nice town. The people seem welcoming and in places cozy.
Unlimited ribs =pork. I really don't know why Muslims have not moved on and began to eat delicious pork. Two hoofed animals are sooooo in now-a-days.

writing this in the Brussels airport while waiting for my baggage in front of the conveyor belt. Met a nice 28 year old who still smelled like wiskey from her night before. God do I smell, I really need to buy some deoderant... jeese, this bag is takning a while but i still recognize people from the airplane so I don't feel lost yet.
That wine on the airplane was a good idea. I wish I remembered the 28 y-o's name. Hopefully I'll meet her again in Cairo at nightspots. I should really turn on my phone but I really don't feel like it. Maybe techonlogy shouldn't have anythign to do with this one.
At least the Cairo international airport had FREE wireless internet.

I've probably missed my bag like 3 times already although that's surprising judging by this shit that i'm writing... let it FLOOOW
oh! there it is!
picked all 16 kgs of it up with one hand and my mac in the other. I have a HUGE adrenaline rush and my heart is THUMPING off the charts.
maybe this is the start of a new blog profusion, now that Maggie's got picked up and she wrote about me in hers...
time to go meet what's coming!

This evening I ate a delicious meal at a Franco-Greek restaurant in Brussels on rue de Flandres/ Vlamsesteeweg. J'ai choisi un menu a la carte commencant par des cuisse de grenouilles (la premiere fois que j'en mange), suivit d'un HOMARD? au Poireaux avec en dessert une patisserie greque a base de miel. Delicieux, puis un acceuille chaleureux en plus... j'ai finit par faire la bise au proprietaire/serveur et salue sa femme qui etait dans la cuisine...

day 108
woke up at 10h even though I had set my alarm for 11. couldn't sleep any more. feeling slightly depressed. tried to stay busy. couldn't. tried to sleep. couldn't. called Angela to see if I could come over to use her internet. Anyway, internet was down for all of TEdata's users all across egypt. Supposedly the same thing happened in February, for three weeks, all of Africa had no internet because of a severed cable connnecting Europe to Africa...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Cairo Day 102

did homework until I went out to talk with Atef. got back and did more homework. tried calling tareq to meet up for foosha talk tomorrow but his phone was off. Also got a call from Luther who wanted to meet up for me to visit his architecture firm.

on the minibus ride to tahrir a niqabi woman gave me a small orange book entitled "protecting/making chaste the muslim". Atef thinks she gave it to me thinking I'm muslim, mislead by my beard.

Splurged on two irfas with atef and two hawaushees (which is finally open, after about 6 days of vacation) by myself around 22h.
The problem with anything less than three hawauwshees is that you eat them before you even have time to get back to your apartment. Just too good.
Jeremy and I both agree that koshary and hawaushee would be perfect college food to export to the US.

يوم السبت

فعلت الوجبات حتى حرجت مع عتف لالمحادثة. رجعت إلى شقتى و فعلت وجبات اكثر. حاولت اتصل بطارق لتقابل لفصحى ولكن هاتف المحموله كان مغلق. كما لوثر من سنت كثرينز اتصل بي لان يريد ان نقابل فازور شركته المهندس المعمارية.

في الطريق إلى عتف، بنت نقابي عتيتني كتايب اسمه "حصن المسلم" . عتف يفكر برتوقال و ممكن هي فكرت انا مسلم بسبب لحيتي.

اليوم اشتريت قرفتين مع عتف و هواوشيتين بنفسي في سعة ٢٢ بالمساء (الحمد لله، هو مفتوح بعد ست ايام اجازية)
المشكلة مع أقل من ثلاث هواوشيات هو التى تأكل كلحم قبل ان الرجع إلى البيت. لذيذ قوى. جريمي و انا ينتفاقوا في كشري و هواوشي سينجحهوا جيد جدا في الجمعات امريكيون.

Cairo day 101


Homework day, until Ashref called me to go to Alexandria for xmas carols. This was really fun except for the bus rides there and back. Although the whole thing only cost me about 60 pounds.

يوم الجمعة

يوم الوشجبات، حتى اتصل بى اشرف لالذهب إلى يسكاندريا لالغناء جماعي في مكتب اسكاندريا. كان ممتع جدا إلا الركوب الميكروبوس. برغم أنه كل الرحلة فقد ثمنني ستين جبيه فقط.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Cairo Day 100

Jeremy's last day

Before class, Jeremy and I visited the Citadel, and Ibn Tulun Mosque. The Citadel was nothing special and 25LE. I was not that impressed by Muhammad Ali Mosque.

Ibn Tulun, on the other hand, never fails to impress me. I discovered a 2km frise of the koran encircling the mosque. ALSO, the freaking MINARET was open! I did not know this is open to visitors! We also walked on the roof top. So cool. I think Ibn Tulun is my favorite place in Cairo.

Went to class. Heba is so alseep these days. She's boring and it doesn't make class very dynamic.

Came back home for about an hour. Took J to my local ahwa. He met Islam which was nice. had him try a plain sheesha and a shai along with another turkish coffee.

Then we flew over to al-Azhar park. Watched the sunset and listened to Cairo's calling to the prayer. Hung out in Khan for a bit, 'raced' back home by metro, bought a blank dvd on the way and packed stuff. He gave me his Fordors guide to Egypt which was so good that it would not put me to nap as I was hoping. I did, eventually, fall asleep. only to wake up at 2am with a big FUCK! I was not 5 hours late to a going away party. oh well, went anyway. Had fun, met some cool french/libyans. Might be going to a party with them on Sunday.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Cairo Day 99


Hung out with Jeremy Baraka, downtown, khan. We would have seen the whirling dervises but they were on vacation for Eid. Ashref and Ahmed came a little later. We came across a book store that engraves things on the covers of books.
I went home early but Jeremy and co stayed out late. I think they went to the Odeon hotel and tried to find Valium...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Cairo day 98


Had the day off because of Eid. Visited the Egyptian Museum with Jeremy. This was better than I thought, there were more explanations than I expected. We spent about 3 hours there. After this we went for Koshary and coffee at hurreya. Parted ways, he went off to the Coptic Cairo area and I went home to type something in Arabic.

Hot water was fixed. I could go into this happening for 2 paragraphs but that wouldn't be good for my zen level so I shall keep it at that.

After this we got ready for taboula, a nice Lebanese restaurant in Garden city. Angela, Chris, Jordan, Tara and her visiting friend, Asma. Ashref and Rahmo joined us later. Food was delicious, service was typical for Egypt, and the company was great.
Rahmo has officially declared himself a vegetarian as a part of his new trainer's weight loss program. I finally paid Ashref for the new hard drive is friend installed and advance for the old hard drive's recovery...

This was followed by a trip to Metro, the supermarket, because Angela absolutely needed to buy brown sugar... and rolling tobacco... part of her two addictions, caffeine and occasional rolled cigarettes... (all my friends are a bad influence/ I can handle it because their smoking after our meal was gross.

Then we went to the Cairo jazz club... they had some awful live rock band playing there. stayed WAY too late... 2h... sigh... Wednesday's going to be a struggle with more khan al-khalili running around with Jeremy plus a mountain of work which keeps on piling up, almost as high as the bloody pile of sheep/cow innards I was on the street Monday afternoon...