Saturday, April 29, 2006

The days are definitely getting longer

I found out recently that Egypt changes time one month after the US, both in the spring and in the autumn. Since we changed time last Thursday night (we are now 7 hours ahead of the US), our body clocks are off to say the least.
We are adjusting to the new time change, and luckily we are still on a break from school. We return to school on Tuesday, May 2, and with that, we are all going a bit crazy here at home.

It is getting too hot to go outside during the day - it is currently 95F so we need to keep ourselves busy indoors until sundown.

Mira is bored senseless; she loves school, Alhamdulillah; she thrives on structure. And her friend Jasmine is off to Sharm for a week. Since Mira is bored, I pulled out the big guns to keep her occupied: my scrapbook supplies. Yes, I know, I shouldn't let her use them, but I haven't used them in one year since I've been here and she is thrilled when she is allowed to pick out her own photos to scrapbook. Mostly, she decorates pictures of herself when she was younger (I love watching her build her self-confidence and self-esteem), but once in awhile she includes pictures of Hassan and I when we were first married (she's currently working on one of our wedding photos). I would love to scrapbook, but it is process for me to start working on this craft. First I have to decide what photos to use, then I need to select the theme - yes I am very compulsive in this area. I am the only one I know who puts photos in chronological order.

I am trying to finish a cross-stitch cardinal afghan I started making for Hassan before we were married. It isn't difficult, it's on evenweave fabric, but I became complacent with it and put it down for many years. I'll post a photo when it is finished, which I hope is in the next two weeks. I refuse to start any other stitching project until the cardinal project is completed. After that, I will pick something much easier and quicker to stitch; maybe some guest towels.



Friday, April 28, 2006

Living a Super Sized Life

No one can avoid hearing about or reading about the current high cost of oil in the US. It is difficult to believe that the US economy can be so strong that Americans can absorb paying $3.05 for one gallon of gas. I doubt many Americans have down-sized their super-sized vehicles for more energy efficient models, so I presume that gas can cost anywhere from approximately $46.00 on up for one tank full of gas (based on a 15 gallon tank).

Since living here, I have downsized my house, my car, and even myself. It is not out of choice, except for the weight loss, of course, but conforming to the society in which we live. Our home is much smaller than our last home in the US. Our two cars are much smaller than the three cars we owned in the US - and looking back, why, we ask ourselves, did we need three cars? We were just part of the American society that more is better and bigger is definitely better.

Yes, the US is more spacious, the ratio of human population to land mass is quite different than that in Egypt.

There are many things Americans can do right now to stop the price of oil from rising even higher.

First of all, the American media ought not blame OPEC and "the Middle East" for the cost of oil. I read today that ExxonMobil reported a record profit of $8.4 billion in the first quarter of this year alone. There are Republican Congressmen/women who want to let each State determine how to cut the cost of gasoline, and the Democrats want the Federal government to stop charging gasoline taxes for a 60 or 90 day period. These ideas are just band-aids for the larger problem of having oil corporations rake in record profits.

Weren't Americans told that when the US went into Iraq and Saddam was ousted from power that oil prices would fall dramatically because the US would have control of the oil fields? I don't recall anyone talking recently about the oil fields in Iraq. All I can recall is that the oil pipelines were sabotaged by "insurgents" in Iraq and the story ended.

Being a child of the 1970's, remembering the gas lines and only being able to get gas on odd or even days, I fear that those days could be repeated. Yes, there is a strategic reserve, but with one more Act of God such as Hurricane Katrina, there is no avoiding the inevitable.



Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Mediterranean

We went to Marikiah (pro. Mariah) for a few days with Shabaan, Hayam and their daughters, Maryam (older) and Malak (baby). Uncle Yehia and Aunt Fatma let us use their chalet. It was a nice get away - just long enough. The weather was not warm enough to swim in the sea, but Mira, Maryam, Shabaan and even Malak managed to swim in the pool alongside the sea.



Sunday, April 23, 2006

A Birthday Party - Egyptian Style

Last night we went to a birthday part for Munno - Mira's cousin who just turned 4. It took place at the Cairo University Rowing Club downtown on the Nile. There was a DJ, cartoon characters, and a puppet show for the children. It was a wonderful evening.

Donald Duck kept pulling Hassan to dance, and of course Hassan never turns down an opportunity. I was a little jealous, but after finding out from Uncle Yehia that Donald was a boy, I was ok with it.

Like most Egyptians, Hassan's family always talks about food. There was a huge birthday cake with fondant icing, and little sandwiches served alongside the cake. After everyone ate, we went upstairs on the boat which is stationed on the Nile, and everyone started talking about eating Tammayya or kufta. My stomach was reeling from the cake and I couldn't even stand to think about food. After deciding what to order, it was hot dogs and kufta for all, except me. I don't know how people can eat so much food, especially after such a sugary birthday cake. I always find it amusing how many people say they're hungry after being served food.

This is what memories are made of; and with Hassan's family quickly aging, we need capture all the memories we can.



Saturday, April 22, 2006


Since we have been in Egypt for one year, I have had many conversations with women and men concerning hijab, and their opinions. I suppose their opinions don't really count; what really counts is what I think and what is the right thing for me to do.

The Quran says: "And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands' fathers, their sons, their husbands' sons, their brothers or their brothers' sons, or their women. . ." Sura XXIV Aya 31

The aya is vague and referencing how "beauty" and "ornaments" are defined, and by observing women wearing hijab in Egypt, every woman has her own interpretation. Some women believe that full coverage is best -- niqaab, but most believe that hijab is best.

After speaking with many women, and I would say that almost all women in Egypt wear hijab now, they say it is a personal preference. I do not want to be persuaded one way or another -- either to wear hijab or not wear hijab. And this reasoning has left me in limbo. I respect women who decide for themselves whether or not to wear hijab. What I do not agree with is having one person persuade another person to do or not do something (redundant, yes).

An American friend of mine who lives in Alex, moved to Egypt to marry her sweetheart, put on hijab a day after she arrived and has never regretted it since. Actually, I have not heard from any woman who regrets wearing hijab. I hear that women wish they could wear shorts, or short skirts or something like that - but hey, I have only seen one woman in shorts over the past year, and she was British. And her shorts were longer than most skirts in the US - just past the knees (at least as short as skirts were when I was in the US last).

Spouses have a part to play in all of this decision making. While Hassan said it's my decision, he also brings to light the fact that once I put it on it stays on. When a woman wears hijab and then decides to take it off and not wear it anymore, she is asked many questions as to why, what made her decide, etc.

A woman I work with wore hijab before I met her, and no longer wears it. Apparently she was influenced by her father to take off hijab because he told her something to the effect that her wear hijab was preventing her from getting married. I actually didn't hear it from her, but rather second and third-hand so it has to be taken with a grain of salt.

Hassan challenges me each and everytime the topic of conversation arises. He always asks me why. I tell him, it's not because of peer pressure (although at first it was), but because for me personally it holds me more accountable for my actions and my behavior. Then Hassan said it will change me. Well, maybe it will change me, yes, but for the better overall.

I know people will see me differently, but don't they see me differently already? I'm a foreigner in Egypt, not just a foreigner, but an American, who is trying to be a better example of a human being for my family.



Friday, April 21, 2006

We are on Spring Break

We are officially on Spring Break until we return to school on May 2 -- a much needed and welcomed holiday by all. Hassan and I spent half the morning yesterday trying to decide what to do -- go to the club and swim -- go shopping to HyperOne -- go to Alexandria? We decided on HyperOne.

HyperOne is similar to Carrefour here. These stores are a new concept for Egyptian shoppers -- everything under one roof -- so to speak. Most Egyptians do their grocery shopping in the grocery store -- their clothes shopping in the various clothing stores (and even that is broken down into smaller stores for children, adult, women, shoes, etc.). Usually we go to Carrefour to hang out, but yesterday we decided on HyperOne.

HyperOne is located in 6th of October - we are in Rehab, so it is a little bit of a drive -- about 1 hour. We are used to it but to most Egyptians it is too far to travel. I don't know why we like HyperOne more than Carrefour, maybe it is because it reminds me of Target in the US with the store clearly divided between food and clothing. Mira enjoys pushing the shopping cart on the escalator (just like Target too) to go to the upper level to look at clothes.

The selection is better for us at HyperOne and the prices tend to be a little bit lower (5LE difference between Folgers in Carrefour and Folgers in HyperOne). Oh yes we must still pay for those few guilty pleasures and coffee is not one area to play around. There is excellent coffee here, actually better than American coffee, but we need to find out how to blend it, what kind, from where, etc.

And do you know the coolest thing about HyperOne -- much to my surprise -- I found the exact same chunky candles at HyperOne that I used to buy at Kohl's in the US! Now if I could only find some decent taper candles to match.



Tuesday, April 18, 2006

One word can change the entire meaning of a sentence

I was watching the news today, ok, I admit it was FOX News, and saw a story from the US Pentagon regarding "the war." I heard the reporter say something about the Pentagon and the war against "radical Islam." I thought to myself, the war on radical Islam?? What happened to the war on terror?? Then I thought, well, maybe they're just being more truthful with themselves these days. After all, wasn't the war in Iraq always the war against radical Islam? No, the war in Iraq was supposed to remove Saddam and free the Iraqis. I'm certain the US military knew that there would be people who want to defend themselves in Iraq against the US. Then I thought, whose definition are they using with regards to "radical Islam?" I suppose they made up their own definition. I think the term has been changed from the "war on terror" to the "war on radical Islam" because maybe the government wants to include Iran and Syria.

Unfortunately, now Iraq is being "Balkanized" and instead of having one nationality of Iraqis, it's been turned into divided areas of Sunnis, Shias and Kurds. No one has ever reported on what the actual differences are between Shias and Sunnis anyways. (Ask me, I'll tell you sometime.)

I think President Bush said it best with the following quotes regarding the events of September 11th. "You're either with us or against us." OK, I can understand that type of quote; I mean after all countless innocent people were killed.

Then the next quote came out that ". . . we're on a crusade." A "crusade?" I couldn't believe what I was hearing. When I think of the crusades, I think of Christians long ago going out to convert and torture those who were not Christian. Is that what this is all about? What is wrong with Islam, or Buddhism or Hinduism or Judaism?

When the Serbs massacred thousands of Bosnian Muslims in the 1990's the Serbs were not called "radical Christians." (In fact, President Clinton was quite courageous to stand up for the Bosnians.)

Hitler and Milosevic were very much the same. Hitler first exterminated the Jews, then the Poles, the Slovaks, the Hungarians, and anyone else who didn't buy into his ideology. No one deemed him a "radical Christian" either.

One thing I have learned from living in Egypt is that we are all the same no matter what religion we are, what country we are from, or what language we speak. Maybe people ought to travel abroad to expand their minds a little and take off the blinders. Maybe just maybe people would like what they see.

First They Came for the Jews

First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.

Pastor Martin Niemöller



Sunday, April 16, 2006

It's Easter Sunday in America

Some of my fondest memories of my parents surrounds the holiday seasons and Easter is no exception. I remember wonderful Easters at home, whether it was in Johnstown or Olney, when we would get the food ready for Easter Sunday.

The food would include hard boiled eggs, kolbassi (the best is Froelich's in Johnstown), homemade cheese, horseradish, and the ever present holupki with saurkraut; oh and don't forget the "pink stuff" which is a jello salad made with cool-whip, any red jello on-hand, crushed pineapple, and a graham cracker crust. Somehow we would manage to eat the pink stuff with the holupki -- it sounds a little gross, but actually all the flavors blended together to make the taste buds dance.

I hold the title in my family for the best holupki. Of course I do, because Grandma Tomera's idea of picnic food was cooking a huge pot of holupki and mashed potatoes. Anna lives!

It is Easter in the Roman calendar, and Palm Sunday in the Orthodox calendar, which many Egyptians follow because they are Coptic Christians. I am not familiar with Egyptian traditions, but will always hold my parents' traditions deep in my heart, along with fond memories of the years we spent together around the dining room table.



Saturday, April 15, 2006

Rumblings in my Tummy

Somehow I've managed to have off and on tummy trouble over the past few weeks. I am trying to figure out if I've been eating differently, or not washing my hands enough.

I keep my hands very clean -- Monk in my own way -- always taking soap and a towel with me to the bathroom -- no paper products are provided at school.

I wash my fruit and vegetables as best I can before eating -- and usually eat homecooked food for the most part.

A friend of mine, Debbie, says it's quite common to get a viral infection -- amoebae (sp?) in the body. She used to get them quite frequently while she was living in Sharm. There isn't a whole lot I can do other than stay away from the Immodium and let nature take its course. I got some medicine from the pharmacy last night and the man looked at me in sympathy. I guess I wasn't looking my best.

I've spent the entire weekend lying down and now it's time to go back to work tomorrow for another week of school.

Insha'Allah it will be over by tomorrow morning and I'll be back to my old self.



Thursday, April 13, 2006

A funny thing happened . . .

A funny thing happened when we were buying our balcony furniture on Monday which was a holiday - the Prophet's (saw) birthday.

We were downtown on Ramses Street where a lot of bamboo (rattan) furniture dealers are located. I was sitting in the car waiting for Hassan and Shabaan to finish giving the deliveryman directions to our flat. They were parked two cars ahead of us. Hayam - Shabaan's wife, wasn't feeling well (sinus problems). She was in the backseat closing her eyes and Mira and Maryam (Hayam's daughter) were playing in the back of the car while little Malak (Hayam's little baby) was sleeping.

A youngish looking man - maybe in his late 20's early 30's walked in front of the car and made eye contact with me. Of course, me being the person that I am, smiled at him. Big mistake. He walked over to my side of the car (and me seeing him out of the corner of my good eye - haha), and stood there. I saw him but didn't want to make eye contact with him because it was a strange situation about to get even stranger. The man walked up to my car door - the window was down, and asked me my name. He said "Welcome to Egypt." I responded with a polite thank you. He introduced himself as "Engineer" - somebody - can't remember his name. Everyone here has a title - "Mohandiss" is "Engineer" so just about everyone is either a "mohandiss" or "doctor." Then he reached out to shake my hand and I shook his hand and then he went to kiss my hand. I pulled my hand back. Of course Hassan didn't see anything - his back was to me, but thank goodness Shabaan saw, told Hassan, and Hassan came and asked the man what he wanted then asked him to move along. The man said all he wanted was to welcome me to Egypt. Yeah, right. OK so I'm overweight and have gray streaks running through my hair -- best of all, I wasn't even wearing make-up that day. I guess it just doesn't stop some people. The man walked off - Alhamdulillah.

Then I started to think in a stereotypical type of way -- maybe it's a defense mechanism -- do Egyptian - Arab men think "western" or "American" looking women are easy? Who knows. I don't wear hijab or long sleeves when it gets hot, but at the same time I don't wear shorts either. I'm trying my best to dress modestly and compromise on my clothing, but I just don't seem to feel comfortable.

I've thought about wearing hijab and will probably wear it somewhere along the line. This is a different blog topic altogether which I will write about as the weather gets warmer.



Monday, April 10, 2006

Out and About on a Saturday

We went to get my Egyptian driver's license on Saturday. What an experience. First of all, we had to go downtown to Dokki because that's where Hassan's apartment is located. Secondly, to my surprise it is outdoors. I am not opposed to getting my license outdoors, because if it were indoors it would have been very hot.

Hassan took my information up to a teller window and she read my name. OK so my maiden name in Arabic translates to "peas." The teller started laughing. Little did I know that I had to move to Egypt to have people pronounce my Eastern European name correctly. Can you believe it? With all the Hispanics in the US no one could pronounce the name correctly -- go figure.

In any event, she was tickled and we immediately won her over with the name.

Next we had to go to another building where we waited for a man to call my name. We went in and sat down with this intimidating looking police officer who looked at my license, stamped my papers and sent me out.

Then we went back over to the same teller, gave her the papers and she started processing the paperwork. In the meantime, Hassan disappeared into a crowd of men (hardly any women there) and paid our outrageous fee of 45 LE ($7). He came back and then I went to get my picture taken.

While we were waiting for the license photo to be processed, Shabaan met us. What a wonderful surprise.

The whole driver's license process took about one hour.

After getting the license we were off to Ramses Square (where the original Ramses statue is located) to look for patio furniture. We looked at wicker and bamboo (or rattan) furniture and while looking w found a great set of bamboo furniture for the patio. The set consists of a sofa (or loveseat), four chairs and a coffee table. The furniture looks decent, but most of all it is very comfortable.

All Hassan needs to get now is his sheesha.



Saturday, April 08, 2006

Hassan and his "boys"

Here is a photo of Hassan with his best friends. Left to right: Gamal (who owns the store they're in), Hassan, Ehab and Shabaan. Whenever Hassan goes out at night he can always be found in Faisal with his best friends. Thanks guys! for making Hassan so happy.......

It was one year ago today . . .

It was one year ago today we left the US. I don't remember much of the flight except for the fact that Aliatalia will never get our business again. The attendants were rude and non-caring. They treated Europeans one way and Americans another way -- definitely not better than the Europeans on the flight.

I remember flying over Europe and seeing the Italian Alps. That part of the flight was beautiful.

It was difficult not talking to my family the day we left -- but something I felt was better than calling them because I would have been in tears. I called my Dad and said good-bye once again. Lainie called me and we talked and cried. I miss them terribly.

There are things I wish we would have brought which we didn't and things that I brought which I wish we didn't . Does that make any sense?

Overall, this past year has been a tremendous learning experience, but I suppose life is one large learning experience.

My international driver's license expires tomorrow so we are going out today to get my Egyptian license. We need to go downtown to Dokki Street to get the license -- it's crowded to say the least. Egyptian government buildings have absolutely no comforts for customers. It's alright, though because once this is over and done, there isn't much left to do in terms of the Egyptian government. And we need to take care of this today or else I will need to take the driving test all over again.

While we are downtown we hope to find the section of Cairo that sells the garden furniture -- wicker or rattan for our front balcony. Because the weather is so beautiful here, the balcony is an extension of the home -- an additional room where we can sit all day and all night. Our front balcony faces north so we shouldn't get too much sun in the summer -- maybe just the sunsets if we're lucky. We have been going back and forth on what type of furniture to buy for the balcony -- wrought iron is very popular here but not very comfortable. I wanted to make the balcony "baladi" or local, like an Egyptian sheesha bar, but after we got the dining room it wouldn't be as appropriate. So we're going for wicker and rattan which ought to be nice and comfortable. Everything and anything is available here we just need to know where to find it.

That's where Hassan's friends Shaaban and Gamal come in. They have been very helpful in guiding us through the neighborhoods of Cairo to find exactly what we are looking for. Not only have they been helpful but they have also been extremely patient as we try to decide what we want for the flat.



Thursday, April 06, 2006

I fixed it!

I just fixed the comments section so anyone can leave a comment on the blog --thanks Lainie :)

School Daze

Another school week is over. Let's see now, it's April 6 and the first full school week of April is over. Alhamdulillah. Wait a minute, we are into the 4th term - or quarter (and final term of the year), and we have a parents' night next week. After that it's all downhill.

I agree with our school's policies in terms of discipline, but as the year moves along it is easy to just let some of the student behaviors slide by without noticing. And again, if I let something just slide by me, I'm giving into the students. I'm stubbourn -- anyone who knows me can attest to this, and I have learned to stand my ground and even dig in my heels at times in regards to students.

For instance, one of my routine jobs at school is to get the girls out of the bathroom between classes. Every period, I see the same girls in the same bathroom primping themselves day in and day out. I tell the girls "Why do you keep looking at yourselves in the mirror, you all are naturally beautiful, you don't need to come in every hour and look at yourselves." They just smile and move along to their next class. Other times I find myself yelling "Move along to the next class! Get out of the bathroom now!"

Some days I get to take a mobile phone away from a belligerent 12th grader. How many times have we discussed the issue at school that mobile phones are not permitted; or that students must wear the full school uniform everyday? Too many times to count, believe me, but I keep telling myself to stand my ground, be firm, show respect and in turn hopefully receive respect. I can't believe this is coming from me!!! The girl who couldn't get up for school in the morning; whose mother used to yell "Marian, the bus!" I would run downstairs in 5 minutes to catch the school bus. Someone who would never be home on time and then face the consequences of my Dad. I'm the timekeeper at school! Can you believe this? Can you believe I am one of the first lines of authority when it comes to asking students why they skipped class, why they didn't wear the school uniform, why they use their mobile, why they eat in class?

If you are young and reading this blog let me give you a piece of advice from my own life experiences: If you are lucky enough, you will mature into the opposite of what you were in your youth, especially if you were irresponsible and immature.

I am grateful for the person that I am, and I have my experiences to thank, no matter how petty or how serious. I can't imagine what I would have been like had I not experienced life the way I did when I was younger.



Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Happy Birthday to you!

Today is Hassan's birthday. April 4th is a great time of year to be born - actually any time of year is great time of year to be born.

My favorite of Hassan's birthdays was the the one we spent in 2002 at the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, DC. I distinctly remember it because Hassan, Mira and I went to the Tidal Basin in DC and rented a paddle boat and just paddled our way out into the water of the Potomac -- don't worry it wasn't too far. We enjoyed the spectactular views of the cherry blossoms against the backdrop of the Washington Monument and Jefferson Memorial. It was so picturesque that I have never seen a postcard as beautiful as that day. It was a beautiful sunny spring day with a few white puffy clouds in the sky. The sky was an awesome shade of blue.

Not only is it the time of year for the cherry blossoms in DC, but it is also the time of year where pansies have outlasted winter and the daffodils are blooming in clusters, if one planted them properly in the autumn.

I have learned to grow plants and flowers at which I succeed, and perhaps that is the way I ought to look at life -- dwell on the successes in life no matter how small, and learn from the challenges that face me from time to time.



Monday, April 03, 2006

Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear . . .

I do not consider myself a high-maintenance person in terms of make-up, hair, or even clothes. I have always worn make-up, trying to keep it at a minimum because as Hassan says "You don't want to look like an Easter egg." I think if a person takes care of themself, it will show in their face. In terms of hair, I'm a horse of a different breed. I've permed, colored, and now have natural streaks of silver in my hair. All I can think of when I look in the mirror is the Eagles song "Oooh, ooh witchy woman, see how high she flies..." although I've been told by friends that it's actually the contrary. I suppose we are our own worst critics, indeed.

It is well-known that the ancient Egyptians used to remove unwanted hair by using sugar. Oh, we have all been victims of Nads, haven't we? It is a commercialized product that is supposed to remove hair like the famous sugar concoctions of ancient Egyptians, but Lainie and I found out the hard way that it is extremely painful.

Maybe it's because my face is exposed to the sun all the time that it has a natural glow to it; I'm not sure. In any event, as my face glows, the little fuzzies glisten blonde. Oh, did I say fuzzies?

I recently went through my second "stringing" at the beauty salon. Yes, the lady gets a very long piece of string, puts it through her teeth, twists it (imagine 'cat in the cradle' with yarn with half of it in her mouth) and then rolls it over the face removing all the little fuzzies. I never realized how many fuzzies were on my face until I experienced the pain first-hand.

It wasn't too bad along the cheeks (does fuzz actually grow there?), but when it came to the forehead, goodness gracious, I pictured myself as a wolf-woman. Let me say one thing: if you're going for a stringing, prepare yourself for the upper lip. The first time made my eyes water, and the second time, I was gritting my teeth in pain trying to be strong but cringing inside. The most satisfying part of the whole experience was having my eyebrows shaped. Finally, someone can do something with my eyebrows. It can't get any worse than when I shaved my eyebrows in the 8th grade.

After it was all done, my face was red but glowing, of course.

Whenever I return to work after my stringing, people say "you look different" but don't actually know what I did. This past time, a friend of mine at work said "Your face is gamila -- very beautiful." I said "Thanks, I'll let her know."

I am supposed to go to the beauty salon once a month for my stringing. I have to remember the end result is worth the pain.

Oh, the price we pay for beauty.



Sunday, April 02, 2006

When it rains, it pours

If anyone is old enough to remember there is a song " . . . it never rains in California, but boy let me warn ya, it pours, man it pours. . . " or something to that effect. The same is true here in Egypt; at least in Cairo.

We have had rain around Cairo over the past several days, almost a week now if I remember correctly. There are no drains on the roads here in Cairo, so the water puddles and then turns into a sort of flash flood.

We were driving in Nasr City (a suburb or section of Cairo) yesterday on our way to visit Aunt Olfat, and I got a glimpse of how puddles are cleaned up. The government hires people to take big buckets -- imagine the huge 5 gallon buckets you buy from Lowe's or Home Depot; they scoop up the water with the buckets and throw it in the grass. The puddles are few and far between here, but wherever there are puddles, they are usually large enough to stall the small sub-sub compact cars many Egyptians drive.

The rain storms here remind me of the tropics - not that I've ever been to the tropics but living around DC is as close as I want to get. The sky clears quickly, the sun shines with big white puffy clouds in the sky and a brisk feeling of spring is in the air -- OK, so brisk in Egypt is 70 degrees Farenheit.

It reminds me of May in DC and Maryland and the clean smell of flowers blooming. Ahh, the smell of flowers . . .