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Music explorations and newfound jazz fan

The past few weeks have been filled with exploring some new activities in Bangkok. I went to another art fair, Illust Fusion, at Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (I can’t get enough of the art events here haha). Illust Fusion is an exhibition of art and handmade products that brings together artists, regardless of their age, style, or experience. The event is held every year, twice a year, around February and August. The theme for this Illust Fusion was landscape of the art world. I met many new artists and really loved the element of mysticism in their work. I even bought Steven some treats while I was there!

Below are snapshots from a few cute pieces that caught my eye:

they always get me with the cat trinkets!

I also went to a jazz bar and discovered that I actually do like jazz! The bar featured a full band and DJ playing vinyl. The singer’s voice was beautiful, and this really makes me want to explore more live music venues in Bangkok. I think there’s many places here where you can see live music for a minimal cost. Another perfect example of this is the free concert in the park series I went to, featuring the Royal Bangkok Symphony Orchestra. This is another music genre I don’t typically listen to, but it was nice to be outside once the sun set and listen to classical music. The vocalist sang songs like “New York, New York” (substituting Bangkok in place of New York), “Fly Me To The Moon,” and “When I Fall In Love.” One of my favorite songs from the orchestra was one from Swan Lake.

music at the park

Aside from this, at work I’ve continued with pre-screenings, conducting interview prep, and preparing for upcoming legal clinics. I also accompanied another client to their RSD FI interview at UNHCR. This was a long day, as I wrote out by hand everything that was said in the interview. I spent the next day typing up the entire transcript. However, it was nice to be able to see the client in person and support them during the interview. Much of my client interaction is over the phone and not face-to-face because it can be risky for asylum-seekers here to travel unnecessarily, as their freedom of movement is extremely limited. Therefore, we try to reduce the number of clients traveling to the office or elsewhere, unless necessary.

Other than these developments, I’ve been planning some potential  trips and also thinking about preparations for the upcoming summer, including law school and which part of NYC I’ll be living in. I’ve been submitting required forms to CUNY and going through other necessities to get ready for the upcoming school year.

street food

a Thai soup with chicken, noodles, and veggies

scenes from jazz night

stumbled upon this local market in a side street in Ari

adorable limited edition Valentine’s Day Tao Bin cup from a local artist, Panaholooya

February Update :)

Hey Blog!

These past two weeks have been really good! I am in love with Egypt adventures and have been making good on a promise to myself to explore more while I am here! I had the awesome opportunity to go to a show at a local church that was put on by the kids who attend the church. It was really good and I enjoyed watching Egyptian theatre and comparing art styles with American ones.

I also have recently been going out to new cafes and restaurants with some friends I’ve made while being in Egypt which has been really fun. One of the friends I made while here got a visa to go work in Dubai so we threw him a goodbye party and I spent some time teaching him some key English phrases in order to help with the adjustment. I also have gotten really into Paddle and go somewhat frequently now to the local paddle court. I’ve always really loved sports and learning a new one with a few friends has been a fun way to pass the time.

I got to go paint some pottery recently which was also really fun and a lot harder than I thought it would be. I really like a challenge so I will definitely be going back. I recently said goodbye to a friend who was visiting Egypt who I got to see and it was really hard to not to miss her but the memories we made were so special.

The weather here has been slightly warmer which has also been helping with my good mood, and I am happy to report that I got into Vandy Law this past weekend which has been awesome as it has helped me not stress so much about the admissions cycle.

In addition to going out to the theatre, cafes, and picking up a new hobby in paddle I have been having some really fulfilling meetings at work. I got the chance to work on the presentation a monk will present abroad discussing orthodoxy in great lengths to a group of who has never heard of it before. It was really cool to learn so much more in depth about my faith and get to share this knowledge with others in an indirect way.


a colleague and I took a picture in the office

after photo of a shirt i decided to cut the neck off of

before photo of the shirt I decided to cut up for fun

group photo of the little get together for the friend leaving to Dubai

hang out in a cafe

donkey in the streets of egypt that looked kinda cute

photo of my friend Amira who was visiting from the States and has now gone back

Zatun in Egypt, a new city explored

pottery with Amira!


Church theatre performance


Thats all for now Blog,

Until Next Time,

Nardien Sadik

Cairo, Egypt

Thankful for recovery and Lunar New Year celebrations

I am feeling better now and luckily, I was able to make it to the last day of Bangkok Design Week (BKKDW). BKKDW is the largest design festival in Southeast Asia and presents more than 400 design programs from more than 2,000 participants. We started out the day by exploring Bangkok Old Town, including trying an amazing bakery/cake shop, A Pink Rabbit + Bob. From there, we took the ferry to our destination. Although Design Week events are spread out throughout the city, the location I went to had textiles, jewelry, handicrafts, pet accessories, ceramics, and all kinds of products available for purchase. There were also several music acts from Thailand, South Korea, and Taiwan performing – my new favorite is KIKI! We also went to a vintage swing fair, which had dancing with a DJ and live band, as well as a food market, vintage lifestyle market, and artists in the community (illustrations, painting, photography). I loved seeing vintage treasures, collectibles, and fashion, as well as having the opportunity to meet local artists.

perfect view of Wat Arun found in a little alleyway looking across the river

cute little bakery!

Also, it was recently Lunar New Year, and there were lots of celebrations throughout the city. I saw people wearing red clothes not just on one day, but spread out over two to three days. Although I didn’t go to Chinatown which I heard was packed, I did see a traditional dragon dance and acrobatic performance at Icon Siam.

traditional dragon dance

Lately, I’ve really been enjoying going to a local indie movie theater here, which plays both Thai and international movies. They are currently presenting a Japanese film festival, with over 19 films in a variety of genres, so I’m hoping to check out some of the movies playing there soon.

At work, I’ve continued with my usual tasks like screenings, providing interview prep, conducting reopening and appeal screenings, etc.

Around the end of this month, I will be going to immigration to extend my visa for the last time. I’m grateful for AAT staff who help make the process pretty streamlined.

Overall, I’ve been resting and taking it easy the past week or so, but I’ll be back with more updates in my next post!

January’s Excursions

Hi again!

I can’t believe the first month of 2024 is over and that Nardien and I are officially more than halfway through our time in Egypt. The past three weeks passed so quickly!

The first week:

I went with my siblings on a quick trip to Luxor and Aswan, two cities that hold a significant amount of Egyptian artifacts and temples. It was absolutely mind-blowing to walk around these temples and try to imagine what life was like back then, when they were being built and used as actual temples.

The weather there was in the high 70s, so FaceTiming my parents, who were snowed in in Nashville, while my siblings and I wore short sleeves out and about made them a little jealous.

We also took a short boat ride to spend a couple of hours at the Nubian Village and spend time with the people there. I never knew that people there speak a different language. The people exuded kindness and generosity. I also bought a Nubian galabeya (their traditional garb).

As for the office, I spent this week learning the ins and outs of their online system to set me up for next week’s task, which was to upload all the data entry tools for the field workers to keep track of their progress throughout the year.

The second week:

My siblings, a couple of our cousins, and I took a day trip to Alexandria, where we got to visit a few churches, eat some of Alexandria’s signature foods, and enjoy a nice walk along the sea.

We also visited places in Cairo that we used to frequent as kids. Most places, to my 11-year-old self, seemed huge, but now going back as an adult and seeing that everything is, in fact, of a normal size, was like someone telling me Santa isn’t real. Suddenly, all my childhood memories are slightly altered forever. However, it’s always a delight meeting people who knew our parents and listening to stories about them when they were younger.

We also visited the Grand Egyptian Museum with all of our cousins.

Last week:

Unfortunately, I was sick with a fever for the most part and didn’t go into the office at all, which is why this blog post is late: my laptop is still not fixed, and not being at the office, I didn’t have access to a computer to post from. (Stay tuned for pictures once I finally fix my laptop).

In other news, my siblings left last night, and I spent the last few days hanging out with them and doing any and all last-minute activities they wanted to do before flying back.

It’s also worth mentioning that we drank sugarcane juice every chance we got, because it’s sugarcane season right now, and it’s definitely one of the things I’ll miss the most when I go back to Nashville.

As always, please keep me in your prayers.

Ilaria Youssef

Rest, recovery, and reflection

It’s been a week – I seem to have gotten some sort of stomach virus and have been down for the count with it all week. On the third day of feeling unwell, I went to the hospital near me. Luckily, there is one super close; it’s a 4-minute walk. One distinction between Thai and US culture is that people go to the hospital in Thailand for both check-ups and emergencies, while in the US, the hospital is considered to be for emergencies. One of my friends went with me to the hospital and was so sweet to accompany me. It made me feel better knowing that I’m not alone here and am surrounded by such great support. I got medicine from the doctor and even though I’m still not feeling 100%, I’m hoping I’ll feel better in the next few days. This type of sickness really takes it out of you, so I’m definitely feeling pretty fatigued and ready to be better.

This is probably the most distinctive moment I’ve had since I moved here that I felt a wave of homesickness – and craving certain restaurants/foods in the US ... Moe’s I’m looking at you, haven’t had it in forever but so good haha. I also felt a bit helpless to not be able to do much and to be stuck at home. But I’m thankful for the care I received here and hoping to be on the mend soon.

I was planning on going to some Bangkok Design Week events this weekend, but sadly it doesn’t look like I’ll be able to make it. Also, I had to take a few days off work and feel lucky to have such a wonderful supervisor and team. Sick leave is often nonexistent or too few in the US, so one thing I’ve really appreciated about being here is feeling like my well-being is really valued and taken care of. So, although I’ve had to miss work and some other events this week, it’s important to remember that my body needs all the rest it can get.

But for now, I’ll give you an update on my previous week

I went to Colorful Bangkok Expo 2024, which was full of activities like concerts, outdoor movies, and booths of artists and creators (artists from all fields). Here, I was so happy to see some of the artists that I met at the Bangkok Illustration Fair and to buy more of their products! The artwork at Colorful Bangkok Expo was heavily influenced by cats, and I am a huge sucker for anything cat related. I bought letters/postcards, stickers, keychains, and a delicate zodiac stamp book from some of my favorite artists. Pictures incoming below:

Also, last weekend, I went to Pattaya with some friends for a quick beach getaway and to spend more time together before one of our friends moves back to the US.

beautiful views from our Airbnb

In terms of work, I’ve been assigned another appeal case, continuing with pre-screenings, and giving interview prep to clients. Also, myself and the other VLAs will likely start scheduling and organizing more legal clinics in the upcoming weeks.

January was Great!

Hello Blog!

I’ve had the best two weeks and I can’t wait to share it all with you guys!

I had a really good time in Dubai it was really fun and something unexpected but really excited happened! Starting off with the fun I had a really good time with my family, and spent the weekend exploring Dubai with them.  My cousins had never been to topgolf before or tried boba so I spent the weekend exposing them to all these new things which was really exciting and fun to watch their reactions. I also got exposed to new things myself and got to see things like the Burj Khalifa and the Miracle Gardens which were very beautiful.  I tried Saudi Arabian food for the first time and got to play paddle in doubles which was also a first for me.

Moving on to the surprising thing that happened that made the Dubai trip even more interesting! For the past 2 weeks or so I have been working on this presentation for a conference on the Refugee crisis in the Middle East and specifically my work focused on Egypt on behalf of His Holiness Pope Tawadros the 2nd, and in partnership with BLESS. To my surprise the conference was held in Dubai and during the exact weekend  was in Dubai so I was invited to attend by the abouna who was presenting my research and speech! It was totally unexpected and super kind to be offered a place at this conference! I really enjoyed it and met some amazing priests and pastors from all around the world and despite the fact that I had no professional religious training they entertained my thoughts and included me in the panels which was truly amazing!

Other than the Dubai trip which was really the highlight of my weekend,  I also just received my engagement video back from the videographer which was really special and made my day! It has been rough being so far away from my Fiance but this made it a little easier! 🙂

In other news I had the opportunity to meet up with some church friends who invited me to a prayer weekend which I am really excited for and looking forward too. I really like attending the church services in Egypt and getting involved in services has been a huge blessing in terms of meeting up with people and expanding my social circles but also for the religious benefit as well. The group is all college aged like myself so it’s nice to be around people who have the same goals and are also in a similar place in life as the fellowship is much needed.

Lastly, although these past two weeks have been overall really good I also have had some lows which is life, but I wouldn’t feel right if I only mentioned the good stuff so I will share those things too! My fiance recently lost his job which has been really challenging and requires a lot of prayers, its rough not being there to support him but trying to be as present as possible despite the time difference and the ocean in between us.  Please keep him in your prayers!

That’s all for now Blog!

Until Next Time,

Nardien Sadik

Cairo, Egypt and Dubai !


Christmas and New Year’s Travels

Happy New Year!

**Unfortunately, I broke my laptop’s screen, so I haven’t been able to post the blogs I’ve been writing. Bear with me as I post them during my free time from the office computer. I’ll probably have to come back later, once my laptop is fixed, to add pictures. For now, enjoy this blog post I wrote on January 9th.

These past couple of weeks have been thrilling. I traveled to Germany on Christmas weekend and stayed there until the day after New Year’s. I got to see my sister when I landed there, and just being together again was wonderful in itself. We stayed, for the most part, at friends’ apartments and city-hopped throughout the day. I visited Frankfurt, Heidelberg, Dresden, Colmar, Strasbourg, and celebrated New Year’s Eve in Berlin. I made new friends, some of whom live in Egypt, ate delicious foods, and visited multiple Christmas Markets.

A couple of days after my sister and I came back to Egypt, my brother also landed here! With the Youssef siblings reunited, we celebrated Coptic Orthodox Christmas, which is celebrated on the 7th of January, alongside aunts and cousins whom we haven’t seen since we moved to the U.S. Being surrounded by extended family was the highlight of my holiday season, as I was missing my parents a little extra. When I was a kid, I remember my parents taking me to my aunt’s house on Christmas day, and my siblings and I would run around and play with our cousins, and having that same experience now, as an adult, was such a healing, warm feeling.

Coming back to the office, I found a Christmas gift on my desk, even though I wasn’t involved in the secret Santa game. In addition, some of my colleagues, whom I had befriended and gotten close with, started reminiscing on our time together  over the “last year,” as they put their last touches on their end-of-year reports.

Since the New Year was only a week ago, and I am still in my reflective stage, I am going to share some of my reflections regarding this journey.

  1. Before Germany and meeting up with my siblings, I had found myself stuck in a routine, and I felt like I wasn’t taking full advantage of my time here in Egypt. However, I’ve set a goal for myself to try to go on more excursions on the weekends and to go out and meet new people during the weekdays.
  2. Homesickness, missing my friends, and being in a completely different time zone than all my loved ones is difficult. But I am trying to remind myself that nothing lasts. The hard times will fade away eventually, and so do the good times, so it’s important to cherish the good with the bad.
  3. I want to keep reminding myself that around this time last year Nardien and I were working on the Lumos application and praying that it all works out, so it’s important to be thankful and focus on the now rather than always planning for/ only looking forward to the future.

I didn’t mean to turn the blog into a TED talk, but I am hoping that writing these out helps me remember them often.

I hope you had a blessed holiday season, and I’ll write again soon,

Ilaria Youssef

Back to work!

It was a bit tough to go back to work after the two week break! But it was great to see all my coworkers after the break; I really missed them! I think everyone felt pretty refreshed because we were all in good spirits. It was back to business as usual, as myself and the other VLAs proceeded with client screenings. Although, of course, I still have areas to improve in when it comes to screening and interviewing clients, I am feeling more comfortable with what types of questions to ask. Also, in other news, one exciting development is that a client I gave interview preparation to recently got recognized as a refugee. It’s moments like these where I’m really able to see the impact that AAT has on our clients, and this was a huge highlight of the week.

We also had an AAT New Year celebration, which was another great way to kick off the first work week after the holidays. We did karaoke, white elephant gift exchange, and played games. We even FaceTimed in a coworker who is still back home and working remotely for now. Also, the New Year celebration was another chance to spend time with a coworker who is resettling to the US soon. Although this line of work can feel draining, particularly if one isn’t able to take the necessary time to rest and recharge, I feel really lucky to have met such incredible people. My coworkers are a great support system, and we all really look out for one another.

Aside from getting back into the work routine, I’ve also been catching up with friends here in Bangkok since I got back from my travels. Over the weekend, we went to River City Bangkok, which is a center for art along the banks of the Chao Phraya River. Here, art lovers can explore galleries, see international exhibitions, and learn more about Thailand’s contemporary art scene. A few of my favorite exhibitions were Tuagomstudio’s “On Cloud Nine” and “Come Rain or Shine,” which features the stories of nine artists. The latter exhibit poses questions about the success that we’ve woven and also distant dreams and unachieved endeavors. This was an interesting exhibit to see early in the 2024 year, as it led me to ponder about the previous year and my journey. Lastly, Stray Cat Tarot Studio was having a pop-up event at River City. It’s been really fun to explore the local artist scene here, and I hope to continue doing so when I’m back in NYC as well.

That’s all from me for now, talk soon!

catching up with friends

my favorite drink here – iced cocoa

trying Burmese food for the first time, yum!

tarot pop-up


A Sick Coptic Christmas

Hello Blog!

I have had a pretty tame two weeks as the day before Coptic Christmas I actually came down with a cold. I spent the next 11 days trying to fight off a cold that just wouldn’t go away and as a result I didn’t really celebrate much. This is of course with the exception of my extended family taking me to a roller coaster park in celebration of the holiday. We spent the time ice skating, riding the merry go round, and trying to see who was the bravest on the rides. It was extremely memorable and while I did get sick from this experience it was still worth having.

I am really into coffee lately, and have been challenging myself to go try new coffee from local shops in my area just to explore more of the city. I got to try the one pictured below before I got sick, but hopefully now that I am starting to feel better I can retry this challenge.

In other news, I have planned a small dubai weekend trip for the end of the month with my cousins who were also going and let me tag along, I am really looking forward too it. I’ve never been to dubai but I am excited to explore the country and since its a short 3 hour plane ride it felt very manageable. I am excited to share how that experience will be with you all as well!

I have discovered that being sick is very boring and so I took up poetry writing again in order to pass the time and I thought I’d share my writing with you all, important context is that I really hate how hard dust is to clean:

Incessant dust clings to every building on my street, staining every architectural structure unsightly yellow. 

The dust greets me in the morning with my first breathe and hides in every imaginable crevice irregardless of the attempts to rid it from my 4th story home. 

Daily, I walk in this Sahara turned city and marvel at the cars that carve out their own path, squeezing through the gaps in the traffic, loudly claiming their place via a honking system still indecipherable to a mere tourist, but admittedly effective. 

The sounds of horns blaring fades to a dull background replaced by the loud merchants rhythmic chants, announcing their product of the day, hoping to score today. The urgency apparent in their boldness,quickly looking away you pray they don’t notice you. 

Continuing my walk I rehearse the phrase over and over again, moving my tongue in foreign patterns in hopes I could cox out the authentic accent, and successfully play the part my looks help sell. 

I stand firmly in line, actively try to hide the annoyance of being cut in line again and again by more eager customers who push past me money in hand. Carefully I pull out a crisp 100 and make eye contact with the cashier, though acknowledging my presence she looks past me at the father whose yelling his order over my shoulder, his arm outstretched and his breath heavy on my neck. 

Attempting to reclaim the space I take a step forward and recite my order, the whole ordeal a bigger struggle than it ought be, but a sense of pride swells in me nonetheless, 

I had conquered the basics. 






That’s all for now blog,

Until Next Time,

Nardien Sadik,

Cairo, Egypt

Hello 2024!

Hi Blog!

I hope everyone had a good christmas! I know I sure did, I had the best time celebrating in Egypt with my friends, and getting closer to my coworkers through a fun secret santa!

In work news, I can finally say I feel like I have done meaningful work because I was assigned to write a letter on behalf of the Coptic church for a conference we were invited too that the Pope will speak at. To be asked to write this is an honor, and I am thankful for the opportunity.  The work has been challenging but is starting to feel fulfilling which I am thankful for.

In life news, I got into Law School with a full ride so that’s really exciting and something to look forward too when I get back to the States. In other news, the electricity has been spotty the last fews days which makes it hard to cook and sometimes the water also goes out which is slightly annoying, but nothing not manageable.

I have plans to travel over the long weekend after Coptic Christmas to Alexandria which is a few hours away from Cairo. I wanted to wait and write my blog after the new years as I had some really excited plans to celebrate with some friends and family and my fiance (virtually). The group I hung out with is pictured below and we went to a place called Maryland which was really nice.

Some highlights over the last few weeks have been the christmas celebrations in the streets, going to the cinema with some friends I have made here, and going shopping for my secret santa. Also pictured below is a trip I took to Bor Said to a church that has a picture of saint mary which is considered Holy and a blessing to visit on a day trip.

As much as I am loving the new experiences, I am also missing my friends and family at home and have felt it especially during the holidays a little extra. I am used to the constant buzz of people around me and with ilaria gone and my family an ocean away it has been a little more quiet than usual. I have taken it upon myself to go out more after work so I don’t feel quite as isolated but it’s definitely been the hardest time yet in Egypt .

My parting thoughts are that I am going to challenge myself for the new year to be more adventurous in Egypt, and to make the most of the remaining 3 months that I have here. I want to make sure that I get a well rounded experience of all of Egypt not just Cairo and my work and hopefully that will be reflected in the next blog post!

Sorry for the late post, had the intention of posting on the 2nd of January, but unfortunately ran into some electricity outage issues.


Until Next Time

Nardien Sadik

Cairo Egypt

My friends and I celebrating the New Year together

A picture of saint mary in Bor Said, about 2 hours away from Cairo and considered holy