We Four in Egypt

Now back in the US!


Road Closed

Originally uploaded by Jason L. Parks

I started this blog almost three years ago, when the Four Family was newly four, and as we were setting out to live for two years in Cairo, Egypt. It was an amazing two years. As I’ve been telling friends here in the US, moving to Egypt was the best thing we ever did–seconded only by moving back this past fall.

Dream Town is, yes, still dreamy. We’ve settled in beautifully. Bug starts kindergarten in the fall and Giggle will be going into grade two. Both boys have really grown and thrived here.

We miss our friends in Egypt, terribly. Bug especially misses his buddy B, and we all miss little Miss M and her parents (who’ve also left Egypt).

But Dream Town suits us quite well. We’ve spent lots of time outdoors, and we are living the life we want now. I’ve also lost about 20 pounds, from decreased stress and increased exercise.

I’m closing the blog to new comments and I suspect I won’t be back to post here very often. But I’ll leave it up, as a reference for folks moving to Cairo or interested in adoption or other issues I’ve discussed here.

If you’d like to get in touch with me, email me at egypt [dot] four [at] gmail [dot] com.

Thanks so much for reading this blog and sharing our adventures.

30 June 2010 Posted by | our life in egypt | Comments Off on Shuttered

Suspended animation

It’s been several weeks, and it’s still dreamy here in Dream Town. And life is mostly normal. I’m working (the job is great), the boys are in school, we bought a car (a Honda Fit, which I love), and we have all our stuff from Cairo and College Town.

Giggle and Bug love the sidewalks, parks, backyard — all great, seemingly normal stuff we didn’t have in Egypt. We’ve been able to spend our weekends visiting local parks and natural areas. The green here is so refreshing after all that beige. And it’s been an absolute treat to have fall colors.

Mr. Four is not working for now, which has been a huge help in getting us settled. He brings the boys to school and picks them up in the afternoons, and he makes dinner most nights.

The conventional wisdom in the expat world is that repatriating is harder than expatriating. Moving overseas was pretty easy for us–well, at least as easy as that big of a schlep can be–in part because my employer does a really good job getting new folks settled into comfortable apartments. The hard part for us was figuring out how to get the kids outside playing.

But that’s been so easy here in Dream Town. And most everything about moving back has felt pretty easy. Maybe because it’s only been a few years since we moved. It feels, in a way, like we were in suspended animation in Cairo, with a different routine, no car, and a full-time housekeeper/nanny. Here we’re back to eating the same meals we used to make, and spending our weekends outside mucking about at the park or in the woods. And it feels great.

We really miss our friends, and it’s small consolation that many of them will be moving on from Cairo in the next year or two. But otherwise, I don’t miss Egypt.

Moving to Egypt was one of the best things I’ve ever done–and moving back has been even better.

17 November 2009 Posted by | bug, giggle, home, race, repatriation, school | 5 Comments

Well, hello there 3am

Usually jet lag is easier going west, but we’re awake in the wee hours as it’s mid-morning in Cairo. But we had a great day Thursday.

We signed a lease for a rental house. It’s a bit snug, but nicely laid out with an open kitchen-living room (with a fireplace!)-dining area, one bedroom, and one bathroom downstairs, and two bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs. The closets are generously sized. The small, fenced yard has plenty of room for Mr. Puppy to romp and fetch. It has a one-car garage that will be perfect for storing bikes, skateboards, and Mr. Four’s tools.

The best part is the neighborhood, with mostly older, renovated houses and, based on stuff in the neighboring yards, at least a few other kids. The sidewalks are well-maintained and street traffic is light. I’m looking forward to walking the dog and checking out the nice yards and houses on the streets nearby.

Plus we’re just two blocks away from a funky commercial district with great restaurants and shops. We’ll be able to walk to Giggle’s school as well as public transportation.

After we signed the lease and had a delicious lunch (burritos with spinach! fresh-squeezed apple juice! fresh guacamole!) at a neighborhood restaurant, we went to a nearby park with a playground and a dog park. The boys ran around outside, on the grass, with the pup for the first time since we left the US in July.

In the late afternoon, we got together with some old friends from our raft guide days. Mr. Four and I haven’t seen these folks in years. The boys had a great time with their five year old daughter, who is just as crazy as my two, and we had a great time drinking local beer, eating Indian food, and catching up. It’s quite a treat to move to a new city with old friends.

Now we’re biding time til we can start our Friday. Our friends loaded us up with sheets and air mattresses, so we’ll set up temporary quarters in our new house; our furniture should be somewhere close to Dream Town by now and we expect it to be delivered in the next week or so.

We have to do all that new house stuff, like setting up internet, switching the electricity our name, forwarding mail, etc. And we’ll start the car search (as soon as we decide what kind of car to get).

I’ll also take Giggle to his new school and get him registered.

So far, so good. I’m so happy to be back.

9 October 2009 Posted by | repatriation | 7 Comments

Repatriation, part I

We made it to Dream Town. The trip was relatively incident-free, but we were all pretty miserable by the end. We’re now crashed out in a comfy airport hotel, watching TV at 3am because we’re still on Cairo time (and by “we,” I mean my children; Mr. Four and I easily could have slept through the night).

Since I moved to Egypt, I have always loved coming back to the US. (Even London felt homey and familiar.) Here I savor all the little familiarities: familiar magazines in the rack, familiar brands on the store shelves, signs in English, plugs without adaptors, etc. I wonder how long the familiarity will be refreshing. When will it become simply normal?

My notion of home also has expanded. It’s no longer a house or a town or a state, but rather the entire US feels like home–even in this city we’ve hardly visited.

In a few hours we’re meeting a landlord at a potential rental. It’s a newish duplex/townhouse with a small yard in a racially integrated, gentrifying neighborhood. I hope we like it because the location is excellent, and the local school seems good too. Mr. Four and I would like to own our own home again, but we’ll be renting while we settle into Dream Town.

Once we find a place to rent, our next big task will be finding a new (to us) car. We sold our truck and car before we moved to Egypt, so we’ll rent a car for the next few days. As I scour CraigsList, I’m having the same problem as when I last bought a car: I want a family wagon in an SUV world.

A Honda or Toyota wagon would be perfect. But they have small SUVs instead, and I don’t want that. I had a Subaru and didn’t love it, and hate wasting gas mileage on all wheel drive. Minivans are too expensive. So what’s the best combination of reasonable gas mileage and some storage/cargo space?

This and other exciting adventures await.

8 October 2009 Posted by | home, repatriation | 8 Comments

Leaving Cairo


The bags are packed (mostly), the house is empty (mostly), the boys are sleeping (soundly), and Mr. Four and I have a quiet few hours before we leave the house for our midnight flight back to the US.

We’ve had a busy few days, filled with lots of goodbyes. We met some wonderful people here in Cairo, and it’s hard to leave these friends.

Bug and I went with some of these friends on an amazing trip to the White Desert a couple of weeks ago, and I’m so glad I got a chance to see what must be Egypt’s most beautiful place. We drove southwest of Cairo and camped under the stars (a rare sight in Cairo proper).

This desert used to be the bottom of a huge sea, and the limestone rock is quite striking. These rocks are called The Mushroom and The Chicken.
mushroom and chicken

Bug was convinced the rocks were made of hardened snow (like lava).

snow drifts

It’s sad to leave. But we’re also very excited for the adventures ahead.

6 October 2009 Posted by | our life in egypt | 7 Comments

Packing day

As I type, there are two Egyptian men in my living room building boxes and packing most of our stuff into them. Mr. Four and I are drinking beers, Bug has already fallen asleep for the evening, Giggle is watching The Incredibles, and Mr. Puppy is observing it all anxiously.

Yesterday was busy, as we sorted through all our stuff and piled what we wanted to ship into one room. We left a few things to take with us in our luggage. It took most of the day, but this packing day is much easier than two years ago, when we came here. We were trying to sell our house, re-home our animals, and help Giggle adjust to life in our family, the biggest transition of all.

Things will be a bit crazy when we get to Dream Town (on Wednesday, inshallah), but for now, I’m glad my employer requires that they pack our things (for insurance purposes). It’s making these last few days in Cairo much easier for all of us.

3 October 2009 Posted by | expat scene, getting there | 1 Comment

Dream Town, here we come

Folks, we’re leaving Cairo. As in, forever. And we’re leaving next week. It’s been brewing for a while, and you, my poor readers, are the last to know. (Sorry about that.)

We’re not going back to our beloved College Town. We’re heading many states away, to Dream Town. It’s such a dream town that I can’t quite believe we’re actually moving there.

I have a new job, which I’ll start in late October. We’ve tentatively lined up a place to live (we’ll be renting for a while), and our stuff that’s been in storage for the past two years should soon be making its way to our new home. I hope to get Giggle enrolled in school late next week, and we still need to find a pre-K for Bug. Mr. Four, as when we arrived in Cairo, will be staying at home for a while, to help us settle in.

We are very sad to leave our friends, the boys’ schools, and our wonderful nanny. But we are excited to go home to the US, to have sidewalks and clean air and woods and rivers. We are hoping this is a very long-term move, like through Bug’s high school graduation.

So that’s the latest! More to come as we pack.

1 October 2009 Posted by | bug, expat scene, giggle, home, our life in egypt | 4 Comments

Pig flu fever, part 2

Egypt's goats can't keep up with all the garbage (photo from NY Times)

Egypt's goats can't keep up with all the garbage (photo from NY Times)

H1N1 hysteria continues to sweep across Egypt. Last week, the government postponed all schools until early October; many Egyptians schools were already set to open late, after Ramadan, which just ended last night. But they also went ahead and suspended classes for schools that were already in session. Giggle is on holiday for Eid el Fitr, the holiday after Ramadan ends, and was supposed to be back at school on Tuesday. But now classes are cancelled for two whole extra weeks. This is in a school which so far has had no cases of H1N1.

A lot of people in Egypt travel for Eid el Fitr, some to Saudi Arabia and Europe, where there have been higher incidents of H1N1. Apparently (?) the government is worried that people will bring back flu from their trips, so they’ve delayed school to give people time to recover.

Except now more people are traveling and many of those already traveling have extended their travels.

And, lots of kids are missing school, like Giggle, who has been learning so much in first grade. The teachers sent home lots of activity books and reading books for the break, but the work at home can’t replace the great things they’re learning in the classroom.

The H1N1 panic has another terrible consequence. In May I blogged about the government’s early reaction to swine flu fear: the slaughter of all of Egypt’s pigs, who were an integral part of the city’s waste system. An article in today’s New York Times discusses the results of this: garbage in the streets. The garbage collectors used to collect all organic waste to feed to pigs, who then became meat for the garbage collectors to eat or sell. Now, without any pigs, the Zebaleen aren’t collecting organic trash, and it’s piling up everywhere.

The New York Times says,

What started out as an impulsive response to the swine flu threat has turned into a social, environmental and political problem for the Arab world’s most populous nation.

It has exposed the failings of a government where the power is concentrated at the top, where decisions are often carried out with little consideration for their consequences and where follow-up is often nonexistent, according to social commentators and government officials. …

Cairo’s streets have always been busy with children and littered with trash.

Now, with the pigs gone, and the schools closed, they are even more so.

20 September 2009 Posted by | our life in egypt | 2 Comments

Crazy figs.

My kids like to go to Fagnoon, an art school for kids and adults outside of Cairo.

They also like to eat Fig Newtons.

Today I showed Giggle a photo of him working on a pottery project at the art school. “Fag Newton!” he exclaimed.


5 September 2009 Posted by | our life in egypt | Comments Off on Crazy figs.

Two years in

It’s been two years!

One year ago, and two years ago, I asked for your questions.

What questions do you have for me now that I can’t really remember what it’s like to be new here?

3 September 2009 Posted by | our life in egypt | 2 Comments