Wow I truly can’t believe it has been two months already, time is going by really fast and while I can definitely feel it, it is still shocking to think I have already completed a third of this trip! I am still really grateful for the opportunity to be in Egypt, and I am so happy to report that I finally feel like my Arabic dialect is becoming more authentically Egyptian rather than clearly an American who is speaking Arabic :).
These last two weeks have been amazing in terms of the work we are doing with Bless. I had the phenomenal opportunity to meet his Holiness Pope Tawadros the 2nd during our donor meeting where Bless was showcasing all of the work the nonprofit has accomplished this past year and shared the plans for the coming year with the donors. It was a really cool experience where I got to see how to learn just how much impact the organization has on the local communities. In addition to the donors meeting, I was able to help work on a proposal to help eliminate female mutilation which was such fulfilling work.
I have been enjoying the experience of finding new restaurants and areas of Egypt to explore. I recently explored an area called the zamalek with some new friends and tried a restaurant that sold Salmon on the Nile which was delicious with a great view.
It’s also been really amazing to be in the streets of Egypt, grab a cup of mango from a local vendor and visit a local church to see the expression of the Coptic faith so beautifully powerful and learn about the historical significance. I really love the moving stories of the people who died for their faith in Egypt as they make sure not to let them die in memory and honor them by telling their stories to visitors to inspire their own faith. It is a impactful and amazing tradition that I have gained much from.
Some observations that I have noticed while being in Egypt are that the people are extremely observant, they are friendly and welcoming and many are willing to help out strangers.
I also recently learned how to bargain which is a huge part of the culture here and is aiding me in integrating more and quite fun to do as it feels like a small win when the bargain goes my way. I enjoy the feeling of blending in with the people around me and trying to truly live as a native which is becoming easier and more enjoyable as the familiarity settles in.
Some recent life updates:
#1 I got a haircut in Egypt that feels really different and exciting that I am really happy with.
#2 I got Christmas nails that are making me feel festive and remind me of home a little as thanksgiving wasn’t really a thing over here and I wanted to still be in the spirits.
That’s all for now blog,
Until next time,
I am loving Egypt. The atmosphere in Shubra is very welcoming and community based and I am starting to feel like my integration into the community is paying off. I have mastered simple tasks like crossing the road, buying snacks from the local bodega, and having small conversations with my neighbors, and learning the bargaining culture.
Some honest thoughts continuing into month number 2 are as follows:
- The Arabic language is so versatile and I love learning the informal Arabic as much as I love learning new words to add to my limited vocab. Only being here for a short time has already made me feel more Egyptian than I ever have and fitting in with the locals feels like a small win every time. I learned not to pay in high number bills as it can come across as rude or inconsiderate irregardless of your intentions or the fact that you only have a 100 to pay with.
- While my accent is a giveaway that I am not a native some people simply think I am from a different middle eastern country and so more or less treat me the same as a local Egyptian. If I act with confidence it works out pretty much everytime.
- The bargaining culture is very fun but I’m still figuring out the prices of things as they sometimes change depending on what the seller is feeling that day and I never know when I got a good price.
- Another really exciting update is one of my friends from the United Kingdom was able to come visit Egypt for a few days and we got to meet up for a little dinner before she left again back home. Getting to see someone familiar and sharing this experience with them for a few hours was truly an amazing time and I am really thankful that I was able to do so.
- Another really exciting part about being in Egypt is the family! While I don’t often get to see my family as they all have busy lives filled with work and school and daily life, some of my cousins and I have gotten the chance to reconnect after church on Sunday which was a really fulfilling experience for my inner child who has always wanted to have a large family. I got to play chess, eat amazing Egyptian food, and just overall be in their presence for a little which was really exciting.
- Perhaps my most meaningful update is I recently took on a service at the local church on the weekends and some days after work to help teach English to children who are unable to afford a teacher, and whose parents are either deceased or illiterate. It’s been the highlight of my time in Egypt and truly amazing to get to be a part of as the kids are truly in need and feeling like I am part of the solution leaves a warm feeling in my heart. They are all extremely precious and graciously welcomed me in with open arms. Truly some of the smartest students I’ve ever had and while this service was unplanned it feels like it was meant to be. I love them deeply already and I can’t wait to watch their progress for the remaining time i’m in Egypt.
- The Cathedral where I work
- A funny shop name
- My cousin and I playing chess
- My friend from the U.K.
- My cousin and I reconnecting
- A fun activity I did over the weekend
- Office space
- family pictures I’ve never seen
- Another view of the Cathedral I work at .
Thanks blog thats all for now,
Until Next Time,
As I write this it is currently Halloween which isn’t really a thing in Egypt but it felt right to acknowledge. Blog! Egypt is a beautiful country and honestly it feels like the time has flown by. I have enjoyed getting into the rhythm of things and finding a routine for myself. I mistakenly thought the weather would be much colder than it actually is in Egypt right now, currently it still feels like fall and I am severely underprepared as I stuffed my suitcase with sweaters upon sweaters, but I managed to take a belmont shirt which thankfully has saved me on many occasions in this weather. I also got the amazing opportunity to visit a beautiful Coptic Orthodox Church and I have loved getting to experience the liturgy in mostly arabic and coptic as opposed to English, Arabic, and Coptic. It is hard to put into words how special it is to finally connect with this part of my identity and make it my own but that doesn’t mean I haven’t tried! I’ve been writing a lot of poetry making sure to process everything going on and really let it sink in that I am in Egypt. The entire thing has felt a little surreal even 3 weeks in but I am slowly grasping that this is reality for a while and I am loving it.
Part of accepting reality is acknowledging that Egypt has a border with Gaza and that there is so much happening a mere country over. My thoughts often go to how I can support those affected in this time during my freetime seeing as I am so close geographically, and I care. I find myself praying for peace.
Another really cool aspect of this experience thus far is learning how to be self sufficient. The other day I was making nescafe, a common Egyptian drink and I learned how to light the stove top which uses gas with a match. While it doesn’t seem like a huge deal the fact that I sat there and figured it out felt extremely satisfying afterwards when I finally produced the desired coffee and it definitely tasted even better.
To speak about the internship experience so far, its been really cool to meet my bosses Safinaz and Ghada, they are both incredibly humble people who volunteer their free time to Bless in order to an their home country a better place. So far I know there is a huge event on Nov. 27th that requires the majority of Ilaria and I’s attention, and I have been trying to learn as quickly as possible in order to switch gears. I wanted to see if there is a way to support the Gaza humanitarian relief that Egypt is doing currently for the civilians affected by the war and am still ironing out the details so hopefully I will be able to update the blog about that soon!
In more personal news I get my LSAT score back tomorrow which is my last step before submitting applications. I hope the best and will update the blog as decisions come in!
Thats all for now blog,
I am so happy to share that I safely arrived in Cairo, Egypt on the 11th at 1 am. Although it hasn’t been that many days on paper, it feels like a lifetime has passed since I was packing for Egypt. So far I have had the first few days to unpack and settle in before the volunteer work starts, and have taken the opportunity to explore the city and learn how to get around the streets near the place i’ll be sleeping for the next 6 months.
The area that I am in is very lively, and as it turns out there is always something going on. The car horns beep constantly as they drive through the relatively narrow street next to the apartment, and its taken some adjusting but I really love how alive the city feels. I tried a new shawarma place the 2nd night as I didn’t yet have groceries and it was fantastic. Something kind of shocking was the power went out while I was eating with Ilaria and although it wasn’t scary it was just unexpected as it turns out this happens regularly by the government in order to cut down on energy bills. I found it sad that this was happening to these small business owners but was quickly cheered up by their contagious positivity. In addition to eating I was able to take a walk around the neighborhood and saw that many of the nearby streets functioned as a sort of farmers market/ street vendor hub with each blanket or small store selling one type of thing. I was again really struck by how different it was, but also excited that the culture I was looking forward to being immersed in is already proving to be extremely accessible.
I am happy to say that I was also able to check seeing the pyramids and riding a camel off of the bucket list on the first night. It was an entirely unique experience to Egypt and definitely something every visitor of Cairo needs to experience at least once. It was interesting to me seeing how the vendors reacted to my attempted arabic while still very much looking like a native, it was as if they were confused if I was a tourist or simply didn’t speak very fluent Arabic but lived in Egypt. As it turns out, they were trying to decipher my country of origin to determine if I was to be given the Egyptian native pricing or the tourist price. It was definitely fun trying to blend in and relieving to get to settle into the country before starting all of the amazing volunteer work after the weekend ends! I am most excited to finally get to work on the service project I designed and see it through. It is starting to feel very real that I am no longer in Nashville, and I am ready to embrace it full heartedly.
I’ve attached 2 pictures, 1 with my name on a store sign which was just really neat to find and unexpected, and the other from my Pyramids visit that just really screamed, “Welcome to Egypt” to me so I felt compelled to include it.
That’s all for now blog,
Until next time
Nardien Sadik 🙂
This is my pre-departure post and I cannot be more excited for Egypt! I am currently about 2 weeks away from departure and i’m feeling a lot of things such as excitement, curiosity, and definitely some uncertainty of what to expect. Out of excitement I have made a list of restaurants that I want to visit in the 6 months while in Cairo as well as followed a few instagram accounts that offer advice on how best to integrate better with the locals. My goals for the trip are to walk away with a strong understanding of the Egyptian culture and to truly be a part of their community in a helpful way while abroad. I cannot wait for the challenges and for the growth that I hope will be apparent when looking back at these blogs as well.
In terms of preparation I feel like I have done all I can and yet that I could not possibly be ready, all at once. I’ve been speaking only Arabic at home in order to get used to the language, and every once in a while I realize how truly crazy it is that I will soon be in Africa working with a nonprofit on a volunteer trip that I meticulously planned for months. Its surreal truly and in all honesty a tad overwhelming but nonetheless bound to be an experience I will never forget.
The non-profit organization has been really helpful in communicating that they will teach us what is needed along the way which is a relief because it takes away the stress of trying to figure it all out alone. I also think it’s really great that I’ve had the chance to apply to law school during the few months after graduation before embarking on this journey so that I can be fully committed to this experience for the next 6 months. Finding out decisions while abroad will be interesting and potentially a little lonely at times but having something to focus all my attention on rather than anxiously waiting for decisions to come out every day will be a blessing.
Speaking of blessings, another thing that has given me some comfort is getting to go with Ilaria on this trip as I know we can look out for one another and that it’ll be easier to feel safe and secure with a little part of home always around. I couldn’t be more thankful for this opportunity to grow as a person and work within the human rights field before law school, and I am so grateful to Belmont and to Lumos for offering this once in a lifetime opportunity to their students because I don’t think I would have ever had the chance to do this in life if not for them.
Send your prayers that the flight there is safe and painless, and that the layover provides an opportunity to explore london for a few hours before arriving haha.
Until next time blog,