Monday, September 8, 2008

Shopping and a Felucca Ride

Immediately following the trip to sort through all the old interns' stuff, we took a bus over to Carrefour to do some shopping. However, as it was the Friday afternoon before Ramadan (the work week is Sunday-Thursday here), it was probably the most packed day of the year and there was literally no room to move around. If anyone knows the Rush Hour game where you have to move the cars and trucks around to get the red car out, it was like that but with shopping carts, and on the most complicated level (actually, now that I think about it, a lot of Cairo traffic is like the Rush Hour game, as cars perpetually try to squeeze into impossibly small openings). There were probably 30 checkout lines and all of them had at least 25 people in them at all times.

Two quick anecdotes from this trip:
First, there was a promotion of two 1.5 liter bottles of Pepsi and a bag of chips packaged together for the price of only the Pepsi. There were 8-10 large cardboard boxes filled with these promotional items. We were just pushing our cart trying to find the pasta aisle, when, about 25 feet away from us, the Carrefour employee opened the first box. All of a sudden, people who had been wandering around nearby raced to the boxes and started tearing them to shreds, trying to get the Pepsi and chips inside.
As the swarm grew larger, people were getting trampled and we couldn't see how many boxes were left until suddenly, the crowd dispersed and all that lay on the ground were a few trampled people and the discarded rubble of the cardboard boxes. And it all happened in about 45 seconds.
I don't know how many of you have seen the new Indiana Jones movie, but if you have, and you remember the scene in which the killer ants swarm the guy on the ground and carry him down into their hive, it was a little bit like that. Anyway, it seemed like overkill for a free small bag of chips.

Second, we were steering our carts down the condiments aisle when we saw a guy pick up a bottle of ketchup, pop off the top, stick his pinky in the bottle, lick his pinky, decide he didn't like that brand of ketchup, put the bottle BACK ON THE SHELF, and grab a bottle of another brand of ketchup. We were both incredibly amused and horrified by this, and vowed from then on to check the seals of everything we bought.

Anyway, we had about 45 minutes to do our shopping and all I managed to get was some juice, some pasta, and some peanut butter and jelly, because of the chaos of the pre-Ramadan shopping spree.

Next we hopped on our bus to get on feluccas (sailboats) for a dinner on the Nile with the new staff/faculty of the university. Given that we are the Presidential Interns, we got to ride with President Arnold and his wife Nancy (see picture below). It was very relaxing, and we managed to take home some of the food to eat later in the week.

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