Highlights from Abroad: Africa

GiraffeThe 60-or-so percent of the junior class abroad ends up being the group we hear the least about on campus, or at least until they get back – that is, after this years’ seniors have graduated, and next years’ juniors are gone.

In an attempt to keep everyone a little bit more in-touch and to give underclassmen, discerning their own study abroad decisions, an insight into “what happens where,” I’ll highlight a few MiddKids in diaspora around the world every so often. Despite the tragic misfortunes (1 and 2) that have struck the Class of 2011 this year, good and exciting things continue to happen nonetheless.

MiddBlog wants to know: JUNIORS, where are you studying abroad? What have you seen, done, accomplished, grown to love, grown to hate? Care to share? Leave a comment or email tips@midd-blog.com to be featured on “Highlights from Abroad.” Next stop: South America.

This post’s continent: Africa, with stories and pictures from Shannon Engelman, Abe Katz, Hannah Wilson, and Ben and Sam (Georgetown students on a Midd Abroad program).

Safarijeep“We are NOTHING”: Shannon Engelman, enjoying the spring months of the southern hemisphere, takes away the philosophy of the African safari while in Tanzania, writing…

To all of you out there who are considering safaris […], you absolutely should do it. It is one of the most humbling experiences you will ever have, because you realize that even though our human species dominates earth, we are NOTHING against these animals without weapons.

But don’t get me wrong, Shannon and her cohorts are doing a lot more than sightseeing on their SIT Coastal Ecology and Forest Management program: read on at http://shannonintanzania.blogspot.com/. (Photos right and above courtesy S. Engelman.)

In the desert for the year: Abe Katz ’11, in Alexandria, Egypt for the year, enumerates the rare “Small Delights” of daily life while studying abroad, felt by all of us living outside our native borders…

1. When Abu Rabee3 (lunch place) is empty and I’m not crushed trying to order my falafel.

2. When the taxi from the dorm to the university takes about 15 minutes, as opposed to when it takes about 40 minutes, and when I can get away with paying 3 or 4 gineah instead of the full 5, if i’m traveling alone.

3. Rain! It rained once on Monday and my entire fosha class crowded around the window to gape. The city felt fresh and relieved, and it only lasted five minutes. The professor asked us why we were so excited, Vermont gets lots of precipitation after all. Well, we’re not in Vermont, and Masr DOESN’T get lots of precipitation!

4. City Center / Carrefour… This is the guilty pleasure of all guilty pleasures. A huge mall, shiny marble floors, bright florescent lights, stores like Mont Blanc (learned today that’s a PEN store! That’s right, $300 writing utensils..) and Cinnabon, all the signs in English or Bilingual […]

5. Speaking fast in Amiyyah – when the subject happens to be something I’ve had enough practice saying (for example “Yeah, I asked him that, but I still don’t understand, whatever, we’ll see tomorrow god willing, say it again? thank you goodbye,”) I jet along, and feel like I’m actually creating organic language rather than regurgitating recited phrases. Alas, when it comes to actually “creating organic language” and articulating interesting ideas and recognizing and, more satisfactorily, producing colorful vocabulary, I am still completely frustrated. Also frustrating are words I have practiced and still don’t quite like, words like “We didn’t explore it yet” – Maistakshaafnahash lissa – in regard to Alexandria and my generally zift knowledge of its geography. […]

9. Literal translations that actually STAY idiomatic, such as “hit two birds with one stone” and “no benefit from crying over milk spilled.” These are few and far between, believe me. […]

Abe chronicles his journeys to Upper Egypt, the Western Desert, Cairo, Mt. Sinai – basically, anywhere and everywhere – at http://abesjunioryear.wordpress.com.

FishingFrench, but not in Paris: Hannah Wilson, on a fall-semester SIT Gender, Health and Development program in Bamako, Mali (not that far from Timbuktu!), takes time out to post some great pics from her travels and add some insightful commentary on village food, healthcare, politics, unemployment and lots more. Check out this Photo Essay from the market next door to her house; see the rest of the fun at http://hannahblogs.wordpress.com/. (Photo right courtesy H. Wilson.)

Quarantined in Egypt: Ben and Sam, two Georgetown students on a Midd program in Egypt, found out that the H1N1 threat was going to temporarily limit their study abroad (as reported here on MiddBlog), and humorously comment. Jon McKay, MiddKid ’11, says, “…It sums up our experience here.”

Today began like any other day in Egypt. I woke up. Then I ate a meager breakfast of stale pita and Nutella, because there is no such thing as eggs, pancakes, and bacon here. I can’t even get any [. . .] oatmeal in Egypt, my fiber-laden, daily shit-inducing breakfast of champions. Nor can I drink the normal, delicious black coffee that I love with my breakfast in America. […]

All of the kids in my program got the same email from our director. The subject: “all classes cancelled Tuesday and Wednesday […].” This is awesome. I guess its time to go drink at one of the only four overpriced bars in this city of 4.5 million people. But then I read on… One of the students in the male dorm has H1N1 (not a problem, I have a drawer full of Tamiflu)… the college has cancelled all classes (I win!)… and then residents of the men’s dorm are SUBJECT TO A QUARANTINE LASTING FROM NOW (MONDAY) UNTIL THURSDAY EVENING… the male students will not be able to leave their building except for meals (at the dining hall, which is connected to the building, but with a different entrance).

About an hour later, the Arab students informed us that the university/Egyptian authorities decided to extend the length of the quarantine to seven days. At this point I was already delirious, and the reality of seven days in this building is only beginning to sink in. I’ve decided to blog the experience in all of its soul-crushing misery, so here goes.

I’ve taken an inventory of my possessions relevant to this task: two boxes of corn flakes, six cigarettes, half a jar of peanut butter, bleach, some fresh water, Ben, 1/3rd of a fifth of gin, and two terrible towels. How will I use these in my epic quest to survive? Allah only knows.

Read their posts from their week indoors (and escapades out) at http://quarantinedegypt.wordpress.com/.

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