Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Day 5 in Egypt

Day 5 in the land of the Nile was another company visit day for the KFBSers. I tried no hybrid meats, as I figured strawberries would do me right. I also got myself an omelet from what we have all so callously referred to as the Omelet Nazi. I ask him for an omelet with onions and cheese. Paul then asks him for onions and ham......first, I am pretty sure they dont have ham, second, I want ham. So I ask him for ham....he wags his finger at me and says very sternly "No Ham For You!" Ok then.

We then take off for our company visits. The first company we visit is a microfinance company in a small suburb of Cairo. It is run out of a small house, by a pretty sweet guy that is straight out of the Cairation mafia. The company was originally funded by the Egyptian government, but it is now self sustaining. They make small loans to Egyptian entrepreneurs that are anywhere from 1,000 pounds ($167) to 10M pounds ($1.7M). However, most of their loans are less than 10,000 pounds. They charge a lot of interest, but most of the loans are paid back in a very short amount of time. He claims the default rate is only 2%, but I think he is counting loans he has to take to court as "good" and they write off a lot that they dont count as "bad" Anyways, he is a super bright guy, and it is an amazingly interesting business. Maybe the most interesting of the companies we have visited just from an "i have never seen this before" standpoint.

Next stop....IBM Cairo. Go Big Blue! We have a long bus ride ahead of us, but no worries. Essam is so damn funny, that the bus rides end up pretty entertaining. I will write out this story because I want to remember it, but it won't sound funny as you read it. However, it was the funninest thing to happen so far on this trip, and the hardest I have laughed in a while. Essam is passing out Pepsis and Pepsi Lights in a plastic bag and Susan leans down to look in the bag. As she does this, he brings the bag up and one of the cans slams into her face. It clearly hurts, and you can tell Essam feels bad, but instead of trying to apologize, he looks up and says "aww, you hurt my cans" The combination of the spontaneity/wittiniess, his accent, the fact that it was perfect comic relief, and his contagious laugh (up there with thorstads) had us all dying. There is no way to do it justice, but it truly was hilarious. Essam is the best. The other entertaining moment had to do with Rob running up to the front of the bus and throwing up in a trash can that he didnt even know was there. His original plan was to try and get the driver to stop....thank god there was a trash can there or the sequence of events might have gone

a) Rob throws up on Ahmed

b) Ahmed draws automatic weapon and puts 45 bullets into Rob's chest

c) Egypt trip ends early

Anyways, IBM Is pretty boring and uneventful. They act all excited that I worked for IBM In the states, but what they do at this plant is stuff I have no experience in whatsoever, so there really isnt anymore connection than if I had worked at Jiffy Lube before coming back to school. Oh well, the nanotechnology stuff is kinda cool. Joe asks a couple of the dorkiest questions I have ever heard, but at least he didn't ask them if they spoke Egyptian.

Our last stop for the day is Free Trade Egypt. This place sounds really cool. They have basically unionized handmade artisan crafts in Egypt. They have 40 different groups of artisans that handmake crafts, and they are basically their distributor. This has dramatically helped save the handmade craft business in Egypt by actually driving competitive prices for these goods instead of them just having to give them away. The woman in charge is so cool, and she is so bright. Then, we get to shop :). I have long since conceded that I am a sucker for these Egyptian goods, so I stock up on some cool stuff. They even have a handmade chutes and ladders board made out of cloth (i didnt buy that, dont worry), but if i said it didn't cross my mind, I would be lying. Joe and I then peruse down the street to find a store called "Drinkies" that we passed on the way. A case of 50 centiliter (17 ounce) beers is $24. yes sir. we were paying 35 pounds ($6.5) each at the hotel. Now we get them for $1 each....yes.

We get back to the hotel and we are all psyched for our last night in Cairo. Joe, Paul, and myself decide we are going to brave the street kabobs.....stomachs be damned. This is an even more interesting decision given that Rob just threw up on the bus and had to be sent home. Oh well, when in Cairo.....so we walk down the street, crossing through traffic like we are pros. I almost get hit by a car, and shake it off as only a true Cairoian would do. We stumble upon a street vendor that also has a storefront to sit down in. It is the smokiest place I have ever been in, but we really want kabobs. Paul and I order the Chicken Schewarma and Joe orders the Meat Schewarma....not sure I want something just called meat. We also get french fries. The meal is unbelievable, and I finish it up with a scoop of ice cream. To my very surprised delight, this is the best ice cream I have ever had. We shall see what the stomach does with street vendor kabobs and dairy.....but regardless, I did it, and I wouldnt trade it for anything.

Once back at the hotel, the group gets together to rehash the trip. All in all, Cairo has been unreal. I have learned so much about a country and a culture that I can honestly say I never thought I would. Our tour guides have just been out of control amazing. I have said it once, but I will say it again. I cannot believe how funny and lighthearted the Egyptians are. They have the most amazing senses of humor. I have laughed so much so far on this trip, and it is bonus as it was not something I was planning on. Thank you Egypt for having us. The impression left on Kenan Flagler is 100% positive. We have to wake up at like 6 for our flight the next day, so after chatting for a while, we all hit the hay. Everybody is ridiculously excited for Istanbul!!!!!

1 comment:

  1. Sounds amazing! I am impressed you braved the street kabobs. I have been eating lots of meat that I do not know what it is. Yesterday at lunch we had something we thought could have been chicken, eel, fish, or frog. Who knows? Oh and your strawberries is watermelon for me here. Really they serve it to us so many times a day. Its amazing....I love reading your blog! Where are you headed next?