Cairo: First days

Insanely busy days. I moved into an apartment around the corner from the language school yesterday morning and am sharing the flat with a 23 year old German guy from Berlin called Sebastien whom I met at the school introduction session. We were introduced by the school (ILI) to the flat’s landlord who was an albino Arab called Yasser who cackled a lot and knew how to count money very fast, using a style that seems to be common to all Egyptians. It’s obviously evolved out of having a currency that is entirely note based and in small denominations. I attempted to haggle with Nasser but was on a hiding to nothing from the beginning and I think Sebastien accepted one of his offers just to get me to give up as I sat there trying to think of tricks I learnt from a negotiation training class at work. Given I am paying £150 for the month, it was more for the sport of it than the price.

The flat is reasonably spacious though decorated with furniture from about 7 fashion eras ago and, as with everything in Cairo, every surface is covered in a fine layer of sand and dust and I find myself constantly running a figure over things. Combined with the cockroaches in the kitchen and the mosque next door with the 6am call to prayer, it does sound very good on paper but is a reasonable base and its convenient location is a definite advantage plus there is the bonus of finding wireless internet access being served for free from some other flat nearby. Neither Sebastien nor I can cook so I don’t think we will be spending much time in the kitchen with the wildlife though I may crack and actually buy some bathroom cleaner…

School itself is enormous fun. Unlike the SOAS evening classes where most people weren’t taking things very seriously and didn’t bother to do any work between classes, leading to endless repetition, everyone here is into the language and here to learn. It’s mostly European and Americans, with a smattering of Asians, but there is a diversity of backgrounds which is very refreshing from the professional environment I am used to but the novelest experience is being surrounded by people who are actively trying to be talkative and make friends. There is a cafeteria which is a perpetual den of introductions and extended conversations as people get to know each other. There is a default reaction to introduce you to people you don’t know and bring you into conversations. Within 2 days of being at the school, I have got to know about 20 different people and am actively socialising with 4 or 5 of them. It’s really encouraging to know that there exist environments where building a social group is so easy and so quickly.

Classes themselves are quite tough but are in a format that I have always wanted: formal conjugations with 13 prepositions and formal vocab learning. There is obviously a tried and tested method of teaching Arabic and they have perfected it at ILI. The homework so far has been lightweight but it is proving tough to do classes, Clara work, learn vocab, do homework and socialise in 24 hours. Early days though.

One thought on “Cairo: First days

  1. eli bortman

    Hi, Neil — I must have missed the preface to the Cairo blog — why are you there, what are you doing besides going to language school, and how long do you intend to stay?


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