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.