Final thoughts on Egypt

Then: So. 2:26 AM, Cairo International Airport, Terminal F. We are at the end. I’m at the end! It has been a crazy, crazy couple of days here in Egypt, and those crazy, crazy days are ones I’ll never forget.

Tonight we celebrated at the house of one of our choir members who lives in Cairo, and whose parents have made much of this amazing trip possible. We ate traditional Egyptian dishes and sat outside listening to a band and talking and just enjoying the presence of the amazing, talented, warm friends we’d been making over the course of the trip, of the year, and for some for four years. While listening to music with my friends, we could hear the surrounding mosques go off for the evening prayers, which was just… a cacophony of brilliant sounds, which echoed around our garden party in the heat and made for quite an ambiance. It was a good night, reminding me why I love choir, why I love my school, and why I love travel.

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Now: It was bittersweet leaving Cairo because it was final. It was an end to my undergraduate career and and end to my time in collegiate choirs. Some people I spent time with I may never see again, but I’m grateful to have shared this crazy awesome experience with them, regardless. Now, back in Portland, I’m disoriented from jet-lag and from a lack of belonging – I have more options and opportunity ahead of me than decisions under my belt. All in all, though, Egypt was a great extended graduation party! I’m somewhat glad I have more travel to look forward to over this summer, just so I can adjust more to being alone, while also having these amazing, once-in-a-lifetime learning experiences.

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A high point: I thought I’d end on a high note, though. Just before leaving Luxor to come back to Cairo, we were able to meet up with the supervisor of Karnak Temple and visit some of the areas of that 30-some acre ruin that everyday tourists don’t get to see (because the supervisor had seen our concert the night before – perks of being ‘famous’). We got to see some of the restoration of the paint in some of the smaller chambers in the main building, which was spectacular. One chamber in particular we ventured into, awed at the natural sunlight that lit up the small space and the intricate, precise hieroglyphics and reliefs of the pharaoh and gods. Naturally in the spirit of choral singers everywhere, we decided to sing “Lay Me Low” from our set of Shaker songs.

“Lay Me Low” arranged by Kevin Siegfried, as performed by the Washington State University Concert Choir

Around twenty seconds in, we were experiencing one of those moments that’s hard to describe, a moment that makes you choke on emotion and feel a certain connection to everyone who is participating. I had to pause a couple times during the song because I couldn’t quite get control of myself, the feeling was so strong. Think about doing something that’s a part of a close collective, that involves physical exertion and emotional investment, and think about doing that in a space that is acoustically brilliant and also happens to be 4,000 or so years old. You’d be choking up, too! The host of our final party (the one at my friend’s house in Cairo) described it like this,

“I genuinely believe that you all were touched by angel’s wings.”

Regardless of belief systems that anyone has, to hear that from someone who was not participating in the actual singing is a compliment beyond any I’ve heard in a while, and one that I will remember for years. This whole trip will be like that, in my mind, and as much as I’ve mentioned I’m thankful for sharing it with my choir, I’m also glad to have shared it with you! I think I’ll leave you with that.

See you in July, when I’m off to Florence, Italy for a monthlong stay!

nile

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Reflections on the way to Barcelona:

-3:40-

Am I looking at the Cliffs of Dover from an airplane?

Airports are the same everywhere. You’re stressed and your flight’s delayed and there’s minimal information or cooperative personnel to reassure you that you’re on the right track. You end up hunched over a table for two with your carry-on as your date and a caffeine-boost as your only solace. There’s shit music on the speakers overhead, downing out airport announcements. The only thing that changes is what [insert country here] considers “shit music.”

Now, I’m sure that’s not exactly what my blog followers were expecting in my next update – I was in much more amiable mood last time I checked in – but this post is NOT about me bitching about travel. Promise.

I’m headed to Barcelona this evening on an easyJet flight (which I would recommend when emergency evacuations AREN’T happening on the runway), and I’ll be sleeping in a lovely beach hotel with my own room (NOT sharing with two other women in a room of the same size) and will be greeting my friends, Ian, Mixtli, Nate, Nick and Molly at our hostel near the beach for a two-night stay. I AM EXCITED ABOUT THIS. I AM! But I’m also stressed out, so bear with me.

Hopefully the weather will be nice enough to sit out on the beach for a day, sit and relax and be in a wonderful and different place with my friends. It can only get better after the sickening but tasty pizza from Garfunkel’s in the duty free north terminal. Unfortunately I’ll be getting in around 11-12 tonight, but there’s not much a girl can do in a strange city by herself after dinner time, anyway. I plan on crashing like I’m gonna sleep forever, and wake up in the morning afresh!

There’s an Adele song that just came on the speakers, which I’m taking as a good omen.

Gatwick's glitch cause much chaos. I swear I checked the departures board eighty times.

-5:15-

Bye bye, England!

On the flight (SUCCESS!) with too much caffeine and carbs in my system and not enough energy to feel anything besides a vague sense of sadness that I’ve just left a special place and a vague sense of paranoia that the airline will have misplaced my baggage when we land.

I’ve spent what little time not spent thinking up worst case scenarios thinking about my time in London, and how I took advantage of so much and so little at the same time. What I took from my contemporary Britain class is a sense of citizenship and politics I didn’t know I’d had. Music history didn’t teach me much about history other than a sense of why I do and don’t like certain types of classical music. Theatre inspired in me a want to see all the theatre in DC while I’m home, to take advantage of and support the arts where I live and to make more out of my leisure time instead of lying about. Fine arts taught me that you have to have a sense of humor, even if you happen to be discussing a piece of arte povera and its statements about consumerist culture. And I learned to sometimes put myself first, to say yes, to make friends, to relax, to let go, to simply be happy. Basically, I learned a lot.

The clouds over the Pyrenees look like sea turtles.

Hello continental Europe!

-8:05-

Sunny late afternoon over the Balearic Sea as we landed at BCN.

Things I miss already:

Being called “love” by strangers. Cider. Being with my friends (soon to be remedied). Knowing my surroundings.

The first differences I noticed:

German comes before English on many signs. Personal space is much smaller. People drive on the right (right) side of the road. Palm trees are normal. They have a sky.

Sunset in Barcelona

-more to come soon-

To start – a quotation from Eve Ensler

“Cherish your solitude. Take trains by yourself to places you’ve never been. Sleep alone under the stars. Learn how to drive a stick shift. Go so far away that you stop being afraid of not coming back. Say no whenever you don’t want to do something. Say yes if your instincts are strong, even if everyone around you disagrees. Decide whether you want to be liked or admired. Decide if fitting in is more important than finding out what you’re doing here. Believe in kissing.” – Eve Ensler

This is a draft for a first post. I will not begin blogging until January, 2012 but need a few posts to figure out the aesthetics and user-friendliness of my blog.

But, on a side note, this quotation seemed important at the time of its addition to my info on my Facebook page, which may or may not lessen its strength. It both inspires me and holds me accountable, however. No matter how hard my days get, I would like to think I can refer back to this quotation and imagine I am not doing so badly, after all. It also calls out to the wanderer in me, to do things on my own, to travel far and fearlessly, to discover. This is a staple of my study abroad diet – to eat up as much as I can of wisdom from others who took the path I am just embarking on, as many emotions as I can of those who dived in, while I have just a toe in the water.

Just some thoughts.