Tuesday, November 29, 2005

November came and went . . .

Now that it's the holiday season in the US, I am becoming very homesick and meloncholy. Maggie's birthday came and went and I have yet to call and wish her a happy birthday. Thanksgiving came and went and I miss my family terribly beyond words right now. It's not that I don't love my family, I love them so much it's just that when I call it will be one of "those" calls where I cry and say "everything's ok" in between the crying.

First of all, Happy Birthday Maggie. Two years old what a big girl she is by now getting into everything and creating a marching band with all the pots and pans while she watches Barney.

And then there's Thanksgiving. Wow, our last Thanksgiving was at our house and we had a grand time. I made everything from scratch and enjoyed the aromas in the air that reminded me of my mom preparing the Thanksgiving turkey at 5:00 a.m. to put in the oven by 6 and on the table by 12 so everyone can watch the football games on TV the rest of the day and snack on leftover turkey for the next few days.

This Thanksgiving was spent at Amy's home. Amy is the principal of the school and invited all staff and their families to her home where she "whipped up" turkeys and all the traditional American fare including, yes, canned cranberry sauce and pumpkin and apple pies. Yum!! Amy had a lot of help from the school coordinator along with the vice-principal, his wife a teacher, and three of their children. Just walking into Amy's building reminded me of my mom. I could smell the turkeys roasting from five floors away. There was a good turnout of teachers at Thanksgiving dinner. I really enjoyed it, but Hassan and Mira decided not to come because we didn't realize how many spouses would be there. Now we know.

Thanksgiving at Amy's eased the pain of missing my family; and then I realized that I am on my way to creating new friendships and feeling a sense of community in the school where I work.

I just wished I could speak a little bit more Arabic to communicate every thought that goes through my head in an average day; and believe me there are many thoughts to be communicated but I don't always feel comfortable speaking through a translator. I hope that the people I work with understand me through my smiles and the little Arabic I know.



Saturday, November 19, 2005

Sometimes things just aren't meant to be

Driving in Cairo is like -- well, imagine the worst traffic jam you've ever been in and then multiply it by 100. Egyptians don't pay attention to traffic lights, streetcars, turn signals or lanes. So imagine . . .

Last night Hassan's friend Shabaan came over with his family to our apartment. We went to a local outdoor restaurant/sheesha bar (water pipe) bar and Hassan and Shabaan smoked sheesha, I craved for a cigarette which I do on occasion and Shabaan's wife who is lovely but speaks no English and I very little Arabic just sat there and smiled at each other while Mira and Maryam (Shabaan's daughter) played.

After smoking two sheeshas Hassan and Shaaban suggested we go to Al Abbas al Akkad -- now get this the "k" is not pronounced at all in Egyptian Arabic so it's pronounced (Albessra Edd). This area of Cairo/Helipolis is very popular for shopping. So we drove our used car (which we drive for such occasions) and Shabaan was driving his "rental" car (long story) following us in the traffic jam. Hassan becomes this alter-ego person when he is driving and riding in the passenger seat is not for the feint of heart. It is quite normal to come within millimeters of touching another car on either side of you. Anyway, the car in front of us stopped suddenly and Hassan hit his brakes really hard and then the car behind us smashed right into us. We haven't had this car long, it's a used Hyndai Excel but we use it for driving in case of accidents. Anyway, we caused a large back-up on Albessra Edd Street. So now we've experienced our first car accident -- I've heard about how things are handled here.

The man who hit us came out of his car - luckily he has money. Hassan drove directly to the car shop and got a quote to get the car fixed. So now he's been gone all day today getting the car fixed. There is no such thing as car insurance here, actually insurance in general is pretty non-existent except for some health insurance. So the man who hit our car did the right thing and paid to get the car fixed.

The point of the story is that I still need clothes and shoes and need to plan for another day. I think I'll ask a friend from school to go with me -- she lives around El Bessra Edd and she's about one size smaller than me at this point.

Another person came and looked at the apartment today when Hassan was out. Let's see there was an Egyptian man and another man who I thought spoke English but he's Egyptian and speaks Italian. In any event, whoever can find us a nice big apartment/house here in Rehab can buy our apartment. Hassan thinks the incentive program will work, I think we ought to just put an ad in the paper to buy an apartment in the area where we live and rent out our apartment and just sit on it until it doubles or triples in value.



Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Now's that is't finally "cooling" off . . .

My body is having a difficult time adjusting to "cooler" air. Cooler air here is about 75 degrees. Although it may sound very warm, there is absolutely no humidity here which makes it actually feel 10 degrees cooler. And since the buildings are all made out of concrete, it is difficult to have a warm home in the cooler weather. Additionally, the school where I work is "open" meaning there are no doors, so I go from my office which is quite warm and extremely sunny (my office faces south) to the cold hallways where the wind always blows from the north. I know it's no NJ, MD or PA, but it is still cold in its own way.
I've been either very warm or freezing, which has resulted in a cold.

We had our parents' meeting last night where about 300 parents descended on the school to sign out their child's report cards. What a fiasco. The Egyptians I'm dealing with are pushy and very persistent. You have to be pushy and persistent here or else nothing gets done. This place is definitely a good place to grow a backbone.

I have been working non-stop day and night inputting about 400 report card grades on excel. It was a terrific program to work with; the vice principal of the school created. I input the grades into a very general spreadsheet and then he converted the files to Access. I keep wondering why DateAble never used this approach in dealing with its database, but that's water under the bridge so to speak.

We are looking for a larger apartment to live in here in El Rehab, but the market is very tight. Anything that becomes available is gone almost the same day. We've missed out on two apartments. There is no sense of contract or allegiance when it comes to buying a place. One seller met with us and then he turned around and sold the apartment to someone else. We could look outside of Rehab but we're not giving up the fight right a way. If we look outside of Rehab we will have every convenience in the worl, moreso than what we have here, but we will be in the city - Heliopolis, the greatest area inmy opinion to shop in Cairo - next to the Khan e Khalili.

I found an area in Heliopolis that only sells sewing machines so I hope to pick up once again on my quilting. I met a seamstress who hemmed some pants for me -- now get this the pants cost all about $2.00 to hem, and $4.00 to put a new zipper in one of Mira's jackets, anyway the seamstress told me, "In Cairo, buy either a Pfaff or Brother sewing machine. Stay away from Singer." Wow, I can actually afford a Pfaff? Incredible. The prices are comparable to the US, but in overall assistance, they repair absolutely everything here. An item has to be in pretty bad shape to get thrown out.



Sunday, October 30, 2005

It is About Time!

There is no excuse for my lapse in writing. Well, no excuse except for the fact that I've been working full-time since August 16th. I'm the only Administrative Assistant for the American school Mira is attending. Currently school attendance from KG to G 12 is at approximately 496. My resopnsibilities take every bit of energy the Bishops' meetings used to require of me.

I will be re-naming my blog, possibly opening a new blog and new look. I haven't really decided yet. There is so much to write about regarding the newest chapter of my life. I hope to describe Egypt as best I can through my personal observations and experiences.



Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Keep on Truckin'

OK, I know it's been a week since I posted. A few things have happened. For starters, I met my friend from Alexandria and her husband. They came to Cairo for an interview at the American Embassy. They are so easy to talk to and we get along so well, I wish we lived closer. We went to Fuddruckers for dinner. It was really exciting to finally meet her since we've been emailing and exchanging blog entries for months now.

Secondly, I have been working on my resume. It is in desperate need of updating -- ok it needs a complete overhaul. I know it will take some time to completely finish the resume, but I have time because I want to put at least a couple of months of my new position here in Egypt on my resume to send to the US.

We have a small amusement park here in Rehab for children. It reminds me of what Sea Isle City, NJ used to have in terms of rides. Mira went on these two bunjy cords that sprang her in the air like Wile E. Coyote. She was scared to death after awhile but all in all it was a great time. She has no desire to do it again any time soon.



Monday, August 01, 2005

Where do we go from here?

I watched Willy Wonka last night and I've come to realize that there are many great lines in the movie. Mrs. T.V. said "Mr. Wonka I want to go back." Willie Wonka replied "Oh my dear, one must move forward in order to go back."

I think this is where we stand right now in regards to living in Egypt. I know we need to move forward in order to go back (to the US). Hassan is happy here, it's a good thing. I'm glad that Mira is having fun; the main reason for having fun here is that she swims just about everyday. And then there's me -- still grappling with the fact that we've been here almost four months (I can't believe it).

After doing some internet research, I've decided to go ahead and post my resume so I can find full-time work in the US with benefits. It is vital to have health insurance benefits for the family. Then I was thinking -- do I post my resume for the Maryland/DC/Virginia area? Do I post it for another part of the country? I told Hassan the other day this may be the "kick in the pants" i.e. the catalyst I needed to throw me back into the working world.

As for Mira, she would do fine in any school - but of course we would want it to be a good public school system.

A few of the American women I've met while here in Egypt are on anti-depressants to help them cope with living and trying to adjust to life in Egypt. I really don't want to go on anti-depressants because it won't solve anything for me, except for taking the edge off of life for awhile. One woman is from New Jersey and I just found she's returning to New Jersey with her 5 year old son while her husband continues to live here for a year. She will be staying with her sister.

Maybe that's the answer for us -- but for how long?



Monday, July 25, 2005

The Whirling Dervish

The whirling dervish twirls around onstage with two several skirts on around his waist. Then he lifts the one skirt up over his head - (first photo) and spins for several minutes as though he's in a trance. Then he takes off the first skirt, and twirls in just the second skirt until he takes that off too and walks around the room with the skirt over his head. This has always been a personal fascination of mine even before I met Hassan. I had no idea whirling dervishes were Egyptian in origin, courtesy of Turkey and Greece. The colors are magnificent and the embroidery unimaginable (to those of us who admire embroidery). Egypt can keep the belly dancers, just give me a whirling dervish anyday!

Ups and Downs

This past week has been interesting to say the least.

Mira handled her punishment very well. When Mira goes out to play, she will need to check in with us every hour until we decide she is once again "off the hook" as she likes to say.

Hassan hardly ever goes out with just his friends. He finally had planned to go out with his friends one night and was kind of in between on whether or not to go out to begin with, but decided to go which I thought was a good idea. He left, arrived an hour later at his friend's business. About the same time he arrived to his destination, Mira called him to tell him I was stuck in the bathroom. Yes, for some reason the latch was jammed and I could not get out. I felt awful. So, of course Hassan returned home with his friend, Shabaan, and they got me out. Hassan then took Shabaan home and returned around 2:00 a.m. with dinner in hand, and dessert.

Last night we went out with one of Hassan's friend, Ehab and his wife Jihan on a Nile cruise/dinner ship. It was really nice, except Ehab and Jihan do not get along. Mira danced with the belly dancer and other tourists on the ship and I stood underneath a whirling dervish (a lifelong fascination of mine). It's truly amazing how they keep spinning for minutes on-end.

We had a really nice time and returned home. For some reason we all feel like tourists and look every bit like tourists, but that's ok. I keep thinking this is one long vacation/sabbatical from life and someday in the near future we will return.

Mira has been battling allergies and/or her asthma over the last couple of days. We are still trying to get to see the doctor but he is not in until 7:30 p.m. so we will see.

All in all it was a very exciting week, with many reasons to be happy, but for some reason I've been feeling quite down nonetheless. I can't place my finger on it -- some of it is homesickness (which includes everybody and everything), some of it is still feeling like I don't belong, and some of it is just plain old sadness.



Sunday, July 17, 2005

"Eyes Optionable"

A few days ago Mira went out to play with a little girl from the neighborhood named Aya. Mira was playing so nicely with Aya. The day passed and as the sun was setting I was wondering about Mira's whereabouts. I asked Hassan and right before he took a nap he said "I'll go look for her in a few minutes." Well, a few minutes turned out to be at least an hour later. I wasn't worried about her safety because we have outstanding security where we live and everyone pretty much knows each other and children will come to your door if something is wrong with your child. I decided to go downstairs into the garden area and find out for myself what Mira was doing.

I found Mira sitting on the curb of the parking lot (gasp) with children she's not supposed to play with (double gasp). I asked Mira where her bicycle was and she said "I don't know." She gave me this look like she never owned a bicycle before in her life. One of the children that she's not supposed to be playing with, Zacharia said "My brother Mohamed is riding her bike." I just about blew a gasket. I said "You go find your brother right now and bring him back here. He is not allowed to ride Mira's bike." Eventually I found Mohamed and I said in a loud stern voice "You get off Mira's bike right now. You are never allowed to ride Mira's bike again because you broke it too many times. If you want a bicycle, ask your parents to buy you one." He just said "OK."

I took Mira upstairs, and told her she is punished from riding her bike for one week. Then I asked her to surrender the key to her bicycle lock, which she did. I told her, for the next few days she is grounded from playing with children. She is never allowed to play with Zacharia, Mohamed and their little sisters again. Mira JUST DIDN'T GET IT!! So we went back and forth for several hours of her crying and carrying on "Nobody loves me." "You don't love me." Unfortunately, she has no idea what kind of child I was because she met her match when I became her mother. I know every trick in the book, backwards, forwards, sideways and upside down. As my Mom used to say "Don't pull that crap with me."

Mira is the only child in the neighborhood who plays with these children. They trash all the toys; call kids really bad names and throw rocks at people. We've told Mira before not to play with these kids but we got soft on them for some reason. Never again.

So Mira went to bed that night with her eyes red and swollen from crying, hyperventilating one too many times (another old trick of mine). Usually we lay in bed and say "OK 5 minutes of quiet starting now." We rarely go beyond 5 minutes. We used to say "Eyes closed." Now Mira says "Eyes optionable." Oh, how can I be angry at a child who wants to use such a big word as "optional" and instead replaces it with "optionable." We love her so much and realize that she is growing too quickly for us to hold onto, but it doesn't mean that we stop correcting her and punishing her. It's all a part of love and wanting to raise her with a sense of responsibility and accountability; something I really didn't understand until I turned 29, but there's always hope for Mira.



Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Some Days are Diamonds, Some Days are Stones

Mira has been wanting to spend the night away from home for quite some time. When we were in the US we tried to get Mira to stay at my one sister's house, but when we would really talk about it, Mira would back out. Last night was the exception; Mira finally spent her first night away from home. She kept asking me: "Was Kelsey afraid?" "Was Frances ever nervous sleeping at Baba's?" (my Mom's house) Of course I told Mira that they were nervous. Then Mira told me how much she was going to miss me -- I really felt her words and just wanted to drag her home, but I knew this was a big step for everyone.

It was all planned (at least in my mind): we would drop Mira off at Aunt Olfat's, sit for an hour, maybe two at most, and then leave Mira with Aunt Olfat. After visiting for a little while, Hassan and I would go shopping for a few kitchen items, you know spending some time alone for a change. Let me just say that things never go as planned -- at least not in my case.

We dropped Mira off at Aunt Olfat's (that part worked out). We stayed for six hours during which time, Dalia (Olfat's daughter) and her son Omar went with us (Hassan, Mira and me) to the store to shop for kitchen items. There is never a lack of opinion in Aunt Olfat's family when it comes to anything especially shopping. I know that people are trying to help us, inform us about the items we were shopping for, but one would get an entirely different impression had they actually experienced it like I had.

We finished our shopping, went back to Aunt Olfat's and sat for another hour at which time I told Mira she can stay or she can come home with us; it was her decision. Mira decided to stay.

Hassan and I went downstairs, Mira went with us along with Dalia, and we said goodnight. Mira went upstairs with Dalia. We looked in the rearview mirror to see if there was a little girl with a cat t-shirt following us up the street. We were comforted to see the street empty.

In the car, I told Hassan that I cannot believe how people eat all night long. Then I asked him if he wanted to go for shrimp sandwiches. At this point I was trying to salvage any notion of a romantic evening; as romantic as shopping for kitchen supplies can be in my mind. After 12 years of marriage, I'll take what I can get.

Hassan and I ate our shrimp sandwiches in the car on the way home. We got home, Hassan went to bed and I stayed up until I thought Mira wouldn't call. Then I went to sleep.

This morning Aunt Olfat called saying that Mira did very well. Well, Mira's growing up and stretching her wings ever so slightly. I guess there's no stopping her at this point.

As for Hassan and I, maybe we'll spend time alone some day, without people, phone calls or children. I don't know when it will be; but I keep hoping.



Saturday, July 09, 2005

Counting the days . . . or not

I realized yesterday, or was it the day before, that I have stopped marking the days off the calendar since we moved to Cairo. Perhaps life is becoming a bit more normal for me, however "normal" is described by Egyptian society, and perhaps I'm really beginning to realize that we're here for awhile, so I might as well enjoy it.

Yesterday, Hassan and I dropped off Mira at Aunt Olfat's so we could do some shopping. We went into Cairo - an accomplishment in itself -- and met his friends, Ehab and Shabaan, who took us to a downtown shopping area. Our intention was to shop in a very famous area called "Attaba" for low-priced, high quality housewares. Needless to say, we never made it to Attaba. Instead we settled (unbeknownst to me) for shopping in another nearby area close to Attaba. We ended up purchasing one adult bicycle which Hassan and I will share, along with two cotton long sleeve tops for me which cost 15 LE each (equivalent to $3.00 each). We also managed to buy one chandelier for the living room, and two light fixtures, one for each bedroom. We desperately needed these lighting fixtures as we were tired of looking at raw lightbulbs hanging out of the sockets in the ceiling.

We ate shrimp sandwiches at a small cafe (seafood is everywhere here in Egypt), and then went to an ice cream shop for dessert. I've never seen two grown men eat ice cream so quickly as Ehab and Shabaan. Luckily the restaurant was air conditioned.

It was about 7:00 p.m. and as I was people-watching, which I love to do, I noticed that more and more people surfaced on the streets and sidewalks as the sun made its descent into the horizon. Sure it's great to go shopping in the late afternoon such as we did, but it's much smarter to start shopping after sunset.



Saturday, July 02, 2005

A Hen Party in Egypt

Over the past several years, I have been a member of a few email groups dedicated to women married to Egyptians and one dedicated to women living in Egypt.

Yesterday, I finally had an opportunity to meet some of the women with whom I have been communicating over the past few years. It was quite refreshing to finally meet these women I've only known by email names and addresses. There were approximately 15 women in attendance at a baby shower for one American woman about to give birth. While many of the women were from the U.S. (ok, here Egyptians say "America" I still say "U.S."), there was a woman from Iceland, one woman from Australia (of Egyptian parents), a Slovenian/Syrian woman currently living in Slovenia, and a woman from Germany. I was very nervous about going, but was put at ease after being given a warm welcome. There were no judgements made, no gossipping about others; just a room full of women speaking English, passing along motherly advice to the mom-to-be, and eating good food.



Sunday, June 26, 2005

Finding My Place

I think I am finally beginning feel a little less out of place as an American living in Egypt.

I went to sign a contract today to work at the school Mira will be attending in September. I will be the office administrator for the American section of the school. While I am enthusiastic about working full-time once again, I am hesitant in signing the contract because it commits me to one year of employment. I've always wanted to work at Mira's school, but I was hoping it would be in the U.S. I originally thought the contract was for 11 months, however, the contract is for 10 months. The contract begins August 15, 2005 through June 15, 2006 with two months of vacation without pay. I was originally told the contract was for 11 months and then they changed it to 10 months. I think this is still ok because I get 5 sick days during the school year and 30% discount for Mira's tuition.

I drove by myself (Mira was with me) to the main school office in Nasr City about 25 minutes from where we live. After meeting with the principal, we drove back to Rehab and went to the mall where we tried to do some shopping but to no avail, most of the stores were closed. I think the stores open later in the day and stay open until late at night because of the heat. I am overcoming my fear of driving in a city where the drivers make five and half lanes out of a three lane road. I am beginning to realize that my incentive to drive is two-fold: I re-gain my independence, and I can spend money.



Friday, June 24, 2005

Shopping for Clothes

I treasure my independence and I am used to shopping by myself. Relying on others here in Egypt to show me around has been quite a major adjustment. Hopefully I will not be relying on others for too much longer, especially Hassan.

Yesterday Hassan, Mira and I went shopping to buy clothes for me to wear. I needed some summer weight clothing, especially short-sleeve blouses that are not t-shirts. Women in Egypt tend to dress up whenever they go out. An American ideal I hold dear in my heart is "wear what you want as long as it looks nice and is clean." Oh, did I mention that most women in Egypt, except for a few of us transplants, do not wear shorts. In any event, I bought some blouses, coming out of the store with only one short-sleeve blouse. I guess there just wasn't much of a selection of short-sleeve blouses at this one particlar store. Still, I am quite thankful for the welcome additions to my wardrobe.



Saturday, June 18, 2005

Ain Sukhna

Hassan, Mira and I went to the Red Sea resort of Ain Sukhna on Thursday and just returned about an hour ago. We went with Hassan's friend, Ehab and his wife Jihan. "Ain Sukhna" means "Hot Springs." It was nice getting away to the beach, especially since this particular beach is only about an hour away.

As we drove down the coast, there are mountains of rock on one side of us, and the Red Sea on the other side with a winding road in the middle. It was so pretty to see the contrast between the rock mountains and the sea. I thought to myself "How would Bob Ross paint this scenic view?"

The water is very blue, and from the shore you can see the Sinai peninsula. I understand how Moses coule have parted the Red Sea. From where we were, the distance from one side of the Red Sea to the other is probably no more than five miles. The water was very calm and extremely clear, with small white fish swimming under us. There are no real waves; the waves would be similar to those of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland - almost non-existent. The only difference between the two bodies of water is that there is a tremendous amount of salt in the Red Sea.

So now we've returned with salty bathing suits and tired bodies from swimming.



Saturday, June 11, 2005

June 11 - Adjusting to Life for Now

It's been one month since my last post - - sorry for the delay. Mira finished school and will be moving to another school in September. Her new school is an American accredited school. They offered me the job of office manager/files manager for the American school section. I am just waiting to sign the contract. I think this opportunity is good for a few reasons: 1 I will be near Mira 2 I'm going to be working full-time and the job will keep me busy 3 I will be around American teachers and educators working and living in Egypt and 4 it will help me find a good job back in the US when the time comes.

Hassan loves it here; he is around his lifelong friends and family who care for him very much. Mira loves playing with all the children and believe me there are a lot of children. As for me I am pleased we received our boxes the other day so I am trying to keep myself busy by getting organized for now.



Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Is it May 11th Already?

Well we've been here for a month and are still awaiting our shipment of "stuff." It ought to be here on May 15. Knowing Egyptian time, it will be the 20th.

Mira's finishing school here - 1st primary - 1st grade. We took her to a new school yesterday to show her around and it seems like a much better place than where she is right now. Apparently this school where she's at, Futures, is turning in to a Government school - more of a public school than private although it's still considered private. It gets us to thinking about school vouchers in the US and what would happen to the public sector if vouchers are available. I wish the US Governemnt would admit that other governmental education systems push their children at least one year ahead of their American counterparts so that by the time they graduate they are better prepared for the working world. Enough whining from parents to give "Susie or Billy" too much homework on the weekends to interfere with soccer. Quit the whining and realize your kids are a few steps behind the rest of the world in childhood education which translates into competetiveness in the job market after college.

We go swimming at our club almost everyday although I'm the only woman in the pool. I do like going to a pool that is more secluded than the pool with all the people sitting on the side. There were a few topless sunbathers here last weekend. Either women are completely covered or topless. Hmm, what's going on? A class of worlds I suppose. I will go swimming more when the women/children days start in June. I can't wait, but this means that Hassan, Mira and I can't swim together.

We plan on going to Alexandria for the summer. At least a month somewhere along the coast. We want to be in Alexandria, as we want to be able to walk around.



Wednesday, May 04, 2005

May 4

This is the first time we've been able to sit at the computer since the last post at the end of April. We anticipate receiving our computer around May 15. I don't know if I can wait 10 more days for our "stuff."

The weather is pretty nice here -- though the sun is really hot. I don't miss the humidity or pollen of Maryland that's for sure -- but I miss the greenery.

We bought a sofa and two chairs to make the place seem more like home. It's really nice. I need to be more patient though, I want everything and I want it right now. We bought a new car - a Hyundai Matrix - I call it "yabba dabba doo!" It's a rounded out version of Fred Flintstone's vehicle, minus the feet brakes. No, really it's a nice car. I'm afraid to drive because there are too many cars around me -- yeah sure it's all the other drivers in Cairo - not me.

I've had some tummy troubles probably from too much tamaya and fuul. I hope it gets better soon - I expected it but not for this long.

Hassan and Mira went swimming at the pool the other day. One thing I'm learning about living in Egypt is that we rarely do anything by ourselves - there is at least a small entourage of family to join in no matter what the occasion. When we went to the pool we were escorted by Aunt Olfat, Uncle Abazim, Dalia and her son, Omar (another story at least). When we went shopping for clothes for me it was the same above entourage with Olfat's one son, Walid, his wife and two daughters. When we went shopping for furniture it was with Olfat's other son Meedo, his wife, and their three kids! My goodness - where is the privacy and alone time? I appreciate their interest in our lives but it has become very overwhelming for me. We've spent some time with Hassan's friends - what a delight - life-long friends of Hassan's that now include wives and children.

I know it will take time for me to adjust but I need to draw some boundaries too - without insulting anyone or hurting anyone's feelings. I know Egyptians are very warm and friendly to a fault - but I need to stand my ground.



Sunday, April 24, 2005

Getting Adjusted

Asalaama Alaikum,

Well, we've been here in Cairo for two weeks and we've been through some interesting weather including sand storms and severe thunderstorms. Egyptians treat thunderstorms as though it's a light show. We were just by chance sitting on the Nile drinking juice when the thunderstorms hit -- Egyptians love it -- we were creeped out after living in Maryland. Regarding sandstorms I wondered why I was the only one in the neighborhood who hung out white towels or any laundry to dry in the nice "wind."

We are all doing well Alhamdullilah. Mira's adjusting to school better than at first. It is going to take some time and the only thing that will really help is understanding, patience and lots of rest. We are still getting used to the night living here--going out at night means napping in the late afternoon.

Our food is mainly consisting of fuul and tamaya right now. I've lost some weight already but can't tell how much-- as long as I keep walking and sweating it off I'll be ok, I guess. Mira's not eating enough to climb the 4 flights of steps -- but get this we're on the 3rd floor. Yes, it's Egyptian math.

We got our satellite dish and air conditioner. I like to spend alot of time in front of the TV just seeing what I can find in English - we get ABC and CBS news -- Bloomberg and CNBC -- I'm a news junkie by nature.

We're going shopping for some blouses tonight for me to wear. I only have 2 long sleeve blouses and really feel more comfortable in them rather than short-sleeve tops. One reason is for modesty, and the second reason is for protection from the sun. Although we almost always have a breeze where we live- the sun is brutal.

Hassan is doing well. He's adjusting in his own way. His family calls all hours of the day and night but mostly just to make sure we're ok. He's loving it.

I miss my family, Karen, and my 'stuff.' I hope we get our boxes soon - Insha'allah May 2 they'll arrive in Alexandria. Where we will put everything is another blog entry for sure. We managed to order a dulab (closet) for Mira's room. It will be ready in 10 days or so. Knowing Egyptian time it will be more than 10 days. I'm learning that I'm one of the few punctual people in Hassan's family, but that's ok for now.

I only drive in Rehab right now - I'm too nervous to drive anywhere else - one of these days I'll make it to Heliopolis.

Ma3salaama to all,


Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Greetings from Cairo!

Greetings from Cairo!! The flight went well, although, honestly Alitalia stewards were not very civil towards Americans. We will definitely not fly Alitalia again.

Our flight from Milan to Cairo was beautiful and the stewards were very nice. Maybe they were glad we weren't coming directly from the US, who knows.

In any event, we're quickly adjusting to the climate here in Egypt -- we arrived in 90 degree heat.

Mira's in school already here at Futures Language school, she seems to like it -- there are 7 other Americans in her class -- one boy arrived from Chicago just 2 weeks ago. So it's good to see that we're not the only ones.

I have to go -- Mira's antsy and we need to find shawarma for Hassan.

I will write when I get a chance. Maybe in the next few days -- our pc is still being shipped.

Ma3salaama and love to all,


Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Happy Birthday Hassan!

Happy Birthday, Hassan! April 4th seemed so far away and now it's almost over. I hope that with our move, Hassan has 100 more birthdays, or as they say in Polish, "Stolat!"

Tonight's our last night in "our" house. It's been an incredible run with the great memories we've made at 4305 Stillwater Lane.

In keeping with our move, this may be my last post for awhile. We will be packing up the computer (again) and getting it ready to go.

We fly out of Dulles on Friday afternoon and will switch planes in Milan, Italy, then onto Cairo. I am somewhat nervous about flying (Hassan gets a kick out of it, really).

Please keep us in your dua's as we travel and make our way to Egypt. Insha'Allah I will write from Cairo shortly after we land.

Ma3salaama and love to all,


Saturday, April 02, 2005

Saying Good-bye

On Wednesday, March 30, my Dad, two sisters, Laura and Elaine, and Elaine's daughter (my niece), Maggie, who is 16 months old, came down to see us. (Hassan was working.)

It was such a beautiful day. The sun was shining, there was a warm breeze, and we just enjoyed each other's company. Maggie was wearing a new outfit we gave her; she looked beautiful. Mira was all over Maggie who was all over Mira . . .

Dad treated us to Randy's barbecue for lunch; it was good. Just about everyone took a turn at riding the scooter, even Laura. (I have photos, Laura, if the sisters ever need them.)

When it was time to leave, Dad sang a song that sounded like a WWII song. Then the crying started. As Laura said, it was heart-wrenching, but I wouldn't have had it any other way. Few words were spoken, but many things were said with the tears we shared.

It reminded me of Garth Brooks singing "The Dance."

The next day, Thursday, Tom and his daughter (my niece) Frances came down to pick up some things. We spent some time together just talking after the things were packed in the van. I told Tom that we may make rounds to say good-bye before we leave, but he said that it's ok if we don't because he understands everything we're going through. So many things can be said through the few words spoken.

After all it's not good-bye, just "I'll see you when I see you."



Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The Hokey Pokey

Here is something very interesting:

With all the sadness and trauma going on in the world at the moment, it is worth reflecting on the death of a very important person, which almost went un-noticed last week. Larry LaPrise, the man who wrote "The Hokey Pokey" died peacefully at the age of 93.The most traumatic part for his family was getting him into the coffin. They put his left leg in --- and then the trouble started............



"We may never pass this way again. . . "

The title takes me back to my oldest brother's high school graduation when they played the Seals and Crofts song (yes, I'm showing my age) "We May Never Pass This Way Again." I love music especially when it helps me relate to specific times in my life.

Sunday was no exception. Mira and I went to Elaine's and Jeff's house for Easter. Hassan had to work. Elaine is the youngest child. Almost everyone was there, except for my one brother Tom who was in Richmond visiting his wife's family. Mira had the chance to spend time with her older cousin, Kelsey, and her little cousin, Maggie. My dad and stepmom were there along with Kelsey's mom and dad, my brother Jim and sister-in-law Martha. My other sister Laura was there too. Even Elaine's friend Pamm and daughter Emma popped in for a quick "hello/good-bye." Mira and Emma could be sisters, they look so similar.

I realize that life cannot stand still and we must make our choices throughout our lives. When my mom died I never thought that holidays would be the same again, and they really haven't been the same. We've moved along and made new memories with the new people in our lives.



Saturday, March 26, 2005

"Spinning WheelsTurning Round"

We packed the boxes in the van today and drove to Baltimore to have our boxes shipped to Alexandria. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to us, the warehouse was closed. We live in Southern Maryland (south of DC) and the warehouse is in East Baltimore 80 miles away -- an area of Baltimore that is considered "industrial" in the most raw sense of the word. We just seem to spin our wheels in terms of shipping our belongings.

The boxes will sit in the van until I drive up with Mira on Monday to attempt to deliver them once more to the warehouse, Insha'Allah. For some reason, the shipping the boxes are a real roadblock for me.



Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Where's the kitchen sink?

As I finish boxing up everything to be shipped off to Egypt, I recall Meryl Streep with her fair complexion, wearing romantic outfits, speaking with her beautiful accent in "Out of Africa" where she shipped all of her personal belongings from Europe to Africa only to be destined to a life of heartbreak. OK so I'm no Meryl Streep, but there's this romantic notion of boxing up memories and belongings and taking off on some wild adventure. I'm 42 and a past the point of wanting to go on a wild adventure in my lifetime (believe me, surviving my 20's was adventurous enough), but a move to Egypt with Hassan and Mira is something that we will all experience together.

I don't think there is anything I've overlooked at this point. We even had (I use the term "had") some extra room in boxes that I managed to fill with miscellaneous belongings. I could probably find a reason to take the kitchen sink if I wanted, but I'll let it go this time around.

I reminded Mira today that she only has a few days left of school here in Maryland -- they're off next week for Spring break. Every chance I get, I try to weave in the understanding that yes, we are moving soon, and it will be a change for all of us, but to remember that change can be good too. It will take time for all of us to adjust to our new home.



A droopy day that wasn't droopy at all.

Spring finally arrived this past weekend, and it's about time. Thankfully, the sun rises before 7:00 a.m. and I actually want to get moving by 8:00 a.m. I am much more motivated with sunshine bursting through the windows.

Yesterday, Sunday, one of my brothers, Tom, came down with his wife, Missy, and their three children, Frances, Andrew and Peter. Before they arrived, Mira wrote a list of activities ranging from basketball to frisbee to TV. She was quite the activities director, as usual.

As we were playing frisbee outside Mira said it was a "droopy day" meaning it was kind of cloudy, kind of foggy, but not really cold, kind of warm.

Tom and I went to a local barbecue place, Randy's, to pick up beef barbecue sandwiches. Randy's is a local barbecue joint on the side of a major road that attracts a steady stream of customers from all walks of society. And we all have one thing in common: we love Randy's.

They stayed all day and we really had a great time. Mira was very sad to see them go, as was I. She is coming to the realization that we are moving and life is about to change.



Friday, March 18, 2005

Moving right along . . .

We are finishing up packing boxes and they are ready to be shipped. We spent at least an hour the other day at the Bryantown MD post office. That poor postal employee spent an hour measuring our boxes telling us "They're too big." I can't even tell you how many times she repeated herself. If we want to send anything in a box to Egypt via USPS it cannot measure more than 14x14x14. (It's very lucrative for the USPS, though.)

We decided to go with our original plan of shipping on a freighter using a commercial shipping company called uboxworldwide. Their rates are pretty reasonable at least on the US end, and our boxes should arrive in about five weeks. Hassan will need to drive to Alexandria to pick up the boxes and take a good businessman with him to talk down the customs agent. Customs taxes in Egypt are subjective; each agent determines customs -- there are no set guidelines.

Hassan keeps telling me "I don't know where we're going to put everything." OK we are taking more than originally planned, but we are paying for the space on the freighter and whether or not we use it is entirely up to us.

I am able to take all the china and dishes and many other things I thought would have stayed behind.

Since our new pc is packed we are using our old pc which is very slow, and not very well protected from viruses.



Wednesday, March 16, 2005


My dad called this evening and informed us that my stepmom's surgery was a success. I was very relieved. I have been thinking about her so much before the surgery and then didn't realize that the surgery had already taken place. She will be in the hospital until Thursday when she will be released and then she will recuperate at home. Time is escaping me to the point where I imagine specific dates to be almost a week away and then they are upon me.

In our phone conversation this evening, my dad offered to take us to the airport. After we spoke, a tremendous amount of peace and acceptance came over me. We will all go to the airport together, which will be very special and sentimental for all of us. I am already on an emotional rollercoaster and Hassan knows I'm just warming up.

Thanks Dad for your support.

Ma3salaama (go in peace),


Sunday, March 13, 2005

Logistics - Departing and Arriving

The last night in our house in Maryland will probably be April 5th. We hope to have the house empty of all the furniture by that date except for two mattresses, pillows, etc. Mira will go to school as usual on April 6th, we will settle on the house while she's in school, then we'll pick her up from school. This may be better than picking her up from the bus stop only to drive away from the house that isn't ours anymore. We will stay in a hotel on April 6th, so Mira can go to school April 7th, which will be her last day of school. On April 8th we'll go to the airport and fly to Egypt. I hope it is as easy as it sounds.

We will arrive in Egypt on April 9th at approximately 2:15 p.m. Now unlike in the US, everyone (Hassan's family and friends) will be at the airport to greet us. They were at the airport fighting over who would drive us back to the house. I think we may have even split up in separate cars, but I can't remember -- it's a little foggy at this point. Hassan's friends are rather insistent on renting a minivan -- or in Egyptian a "microbus", and taking us to our apartment. This would be great because they can help us carry the bags up the three flights of stairs. The only drawback is that we do not have a car to get around the next day.

We need to be at our apartment because Mira needs to be at school almost immediately, but before we get her enrolled in school we have to go to the Ministry of Education to obtain a special exemption so she can attend school for the last month of the school year.

So, one more item to think about is what kind of car to buy. There are many cars in Egypt (an understatement entirely), but we need a car almost immediately to get around and get Mira settled in school. We are thinking about buying a used car until we can find the new car we really want, then we will each have a car. Just what Egypt needs, two more drivers . . .



Friday, March 11, 2005

A little bit of everything and nothing

There is something going on with my blog. I don't know exactly what it is but I may have to re-work the blog. I thought it was my pc, ran ad-aware and deleted all the "tags" but still have problems with the blog.

Hassan bought the airline tickets today. He has them with him at work. He said it was a 2 mile walk each way to the travel agent in DC from his office (the office seemed closer to his office than it actually was, I guess). I told him to get used to it because we'll be walking quite a bit after we move.

Mira came home from school today and seems to be in a good mood. We need to finish the "Malcolm Author Book" assignment. She is writing a book about traveling to Egypt. I'm going to help her put it together with the scrapbook supplies and stickers.

It is really difficult to cook dinner at this point because I just don't have the energy to clean-up. So, I need to think of some quick dinners for Hassan when he gets home from work.



Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Ready . . . Set . . . Go!

We purchased our airline tickets today. Wow, what a relief! We are leaving on the 8th of April instead of the 7th because it will give us one more day of tying up loose ends. Hassan will pick up the tickets on Friday when he goes to work. The travel agent is not far from his office.

Hassan called the Futures School in El Rehab this morning. Apparently we will be able to enroll Mira in the remainder of 1st grade in Egypt (the month of May) and she will take the final exam along with everyone else as long as we obtain permission from the Ministry of Education. So, I need to call Mira's school here in Maryland and get a copy of her transcript along with a letter stating that she has been in school and is a student in good standing. Alhamdulillah. This education hurdle has been just that for at least a year. Every time we thought about moving to Egypt "Mira's school" was always the one topic that would derail us from moving. Now there is no turning back and we are moving ahead as planned.

The rocker is disassembled (a little scary to look at honestly) but ready to go in a box along with the quilts and comforter. I have all the photos in order and ready to go. Wow, what a lot of pictures. I'll probably go through them a little more before they end up being shipped. No sense in paying customs or postage on photos if they're just going to be thrown out.

Hassan spoke with Aunt Olfat today. We told her that we will arrive in Cairo on April 9 at 2:15 p.m. She said she will be there to greet us, but we asked her to stay home because she is still recuperating from radiation treatments. We told her that she will be our first stop after arriving in the airport.

Mira was invited to an ice cream party at school this evening for completing at least seven activities in her school's literacy quest. I keep calling it "literary quest" and she keeps correcting me. She is going along with three other boys in her class. She is the only girl in her class who completed the assignment. Each class will be represented by students who completed the assignment.


Thursday, March 03, 2005

35 Days and Counting!

Thirty-five days from today we will be on our way to Cairo, Insha'Allah. I packed my first box today and it weighs 40 lbs. The box consists of a quilt I made for Mira, and my milkglass collection from my mom. It will definitely be worth the price we pay for weight.

I have my clothes packed. I may even leave some of the clothes behind because I'm going on what I "might" wear and not what I actually "will" wear. I prefer Egyptian clothes for women rather than American clothes (well at least for my size).

Even though Hassan and I are still sitting in disbelief, every minute we sit in disbelief is a minute wasted that we could be doing something constructive. We find ourselves waking up excited in the morning, and excited, but completely exhausted at night. The exhaustion is not from the physical toll on our bodies, but rather the mental and psychological stress that we put on ourselves as we attempt to process all the responsibilities we are currently puting upon ourselves.

Yesterday we went shopping and bought a lot of little things for our trip. Hassan's cousins want the Crest spin brushes, Listerine breath strips, individual packets of Splenda, and Glad bags.



Tuesday, March 01, 2005

A plan coming together

Today was a very busy and productive day. First of all it was Mira's third snow day in a row, 5 days off total including the weekend.

Hassan and I woke up very early today (who can sleep) and called several schools in Egypt. There are two schools that will admit Mira for the remainder of the school year; we will follow-up with a third school tomorrow morning. This was very good news. Alhamdullilah.

We booked our flight for April 7 on Alitalia out of Dulles to Milan, Milan to Cairo, so we will not need to lug our bags around in JFK. What a relief. We are flying out in just over a month's time. I called the airline and found out that we are able to carry 140 pounds per person in luggage (2 bags total), but the luggage cannot be over 273 centimeters; so it's weight vs. size. This actually turns out to our advantage in case there are smaller, heavier items we want to carry with us that won't be shipped. We are also allowed one carry-on per person, weighing no more than 11 pounds. Gotta love those Italians. Mira said "Oh no, Mommy, not Italian, I don't want an Italian coldcut sub."

Tomorrow morning at 9:00 a.m. the buyers have their home inspection so we need to be out of the house early. We think the house is in good operating order, I mean no bubbling septic and we're not growing gills, so the well must be safe. Insha'Allah everything will go well.

We will purchase our airline tickets after the home inspection report. (OK now I'm about to faint).



Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Playing the Waiting Game

I couldn't wait yesterday for our real estate agent to call, so I called her about 3:00 p.m. She said that she does not have a contract in her hand yet and doesn't want to get our hopes up. She told me she spoke with the buyer's agent and he said the contract is written; they are going to meet late in the evening to sign the contract and send it to Gemma (our agent). Gemma said for us to sit tight and she will call us when the contract comes to her office. She said if they're meeting late Tuesday, then she won't get the contract until some time on Wednesday. I agreed not to expect anything immediately. Gemma is very hands-off but very professional when it comes to real estate agents.

So we sit and wait.

Anticipating the contract raises an entirely new set of questions; questions which I'm still trying to formulate in my head. First I have the issue of work. I have pretty much decided that once we get a contract on the house, I am quitting without notice. Then there's the packing, the tickets, the settlement, the transfer of money, the school . . . the list goes on and on. I will wait with patience and perseverance. If this contract does not come through, I am grateful that we got this close to a buyer after only 1 month. Alhamdulillah.



Tuesday, February 15, 2005

This may be it!!

There have been a few people to come and look at our house over the weekend. One was a real estate agent and his client, a married woman with two little girls (really cute girls, one is Mira's age). They looked around and she seemed to like it very much. The agent took photos, which we allow because we did it too when we were looking for a house. The woman said she would show the photos to her husband and he would come back to see the house.

The wife and husband returned the next night looking at the house, and chatting with us a bit. Then, the husband said he would come by on Tuesday to look at the lot. Our lot is very level and because it's on a corner, we do not live in an environmentally protected area as many of our neighbors do (there's another house down the street for sale that's environmentally protected). The husband is a police officer and said he would "drive by" to look around. Of course we told him that he is welcome at any time.

Last night the real estate agent phoned and said that the couple will be by Tuesday morning at 9:30 a.m. to look at the lot. The agent then went on to say that they are probably going to "write" and that the agent will be phoning our agent Tuesday.

Well, we are just besides ourselves. I leave it to Allah because I cannot get up my hopes, and Hassan, well, let's just say he took off into outer space just like an Ariane-5 rocket. Hassan has been up since 3 a.m. and just left for work. Me? I slept like a baby but now am showing my nervousness by writing this entry.

Our one concern is the train. We have a train that comes by once in awhile. It is not very loud maybe because we've become accustomed to the sound, but to a newcomer it may scare them off.

So, I pray that this is it, Insha'Allah. I will write as soon as I hear something one way or the other. Allah is the best Planner.



Cooking Egyptian Food

Ahh, one of my favorite topics -- food and Egyptian food at that.

My mom always cooked, but I never envisioned myself as a cook -- I never thought I would get married, so why would I need to cook? Let's go over some of the great Egyptian dishes.

When Americans think of good "ethnic" or "Middle-Eastern" food, Egyptian cooking is not on the list. Heck, Americans probably think it's the same as the Lebanese or Moroccans, after all, we're all from the same part of the world.
After being married awhile, and traveling to Egypt, I realize the sacrifices that Hassan made in terms of food. He never really pushed me to cook Egyptian, and I thought there was no need to, until we went to Egypt on vacation. I came back with an entirely different mindset. All we do is eat Egyptian now. We ate Egyptian food before, but now it's All Egyptian all the time.

Some of our favorite dishes are mese'ahh (yum), Mira's favorite (or beef stew), chicken and kishk (my favorite), baked fish, baked leg of lamb with garlic, fettah, chicken pane, bittengen mekhalel, tamaya and the ever present fuul. I even cook it from scratch now that I know how easy it is to make. Basically, all I do is soak the beans, then drain them, add 1 garlic, water and let it cook for an eternity. Egyptian feta cheese and zetoon, although I don't cook them, are staples at almost every meal.



Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Hassan at his grill -- there is no other place he would rather be on a warm sunny day. Posted by Hello

Warm weather in February, about 60 F, was a welcome change to unbearable cold we have been experiencing. 02/06/05 Posted by Hello

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Here is a photo of three cardinals perched outside their nest on the side of our house, photo courtesy of Hassan. Posted by Hello

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Our house on the corner of the street. . . hmm, reminds me of a song . . . Posted by Hello

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Mira Posted by Hello

Friday, January 07, 2005

Cairo Nightlife

I just uploaded a photo from our last trip to Cairo. It was Hassan's birthday and we went out to dinner with Hassan's best friends and their wives. We went to a restaurant called the Happy Dolphin. It was a restaurant along the Nile. The nightlife in Cairo is something to enjoy since that's when the city comes alive.


Hassan and Marian 04/04/03 Posted by Hello