We Four in Egypt

Now back in the US!

Beer

After work this evening, I innocently stopped into a market to look for some cold water before the taxi ride home. The back corner beckoned, and, lo and behold: beer! I nearly fainted from the sight of it. And next to the beer? Shelves of liquor!

We’ve had not a drop since the night before we left the US. We haven’t sought it out, because (I’ll confess), we’re both beer snobs of a sort and we’ve been told that the beer here is either Bud or Bud-like. And we’ve been warned off the liquor as well (apparently there have been deaths from locally made liquor, and not from over-consumption).

My first thought when I saw the beer was, “Ohmygawd! Am I allowed to buy that?” And then I remembered I was in Egypt not Saudi Arabia or Swain County. (Little joke for you BC folks.)

And then I remembered another important bit of advice I was recently given: “If you see it, buy it.” Especially with Ramadan coming, it’s going to get very difficult to find any alcohol around.

And never has a beer looked so tempting as those Heinekens. I bought two. I had mine before dinner, and Mr. Four enjoyed his with pizza. Yum. I also bought a bottle of gin. If it kills us, at least we’ll die happy.

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30 August 2007 Posted by | our life in egypt, school | 3 Comments

Funny white man?

I regularly read a great blog called Racialicious. Carmen, the smart woman behind Racialicious, blogged about a YouTube video of a white comedian apologizing, on behalf of whites, for slavery and other atrocities. It’s funny and awful and hard to pinpoint.

Carmen’s readers and commentors are as compelling as her blog, so take a look, and let me know what you think, either here or on Carmen’s blog.

29 August 2007 Posted by | race | Comments Off on Funny white man?

Where do we go from here?

So we’re already thinking about some upcoming opportunities for travel. We don’t have tons of money, but we do have some time.

The best option for a couple of days is the Red Sea. Some spots are only about 1-2 hours away from Cairo, and others are a bit further. I’m hoping we can spend at least a day or two at the beach in the next few weeks. Apparently the coral reefs are amazing, as are the snorkeling and diving (for folks who don’t have a shark paranoia from childhood exposure to Jaws).

We, along with most of Egypt, have a long weekend in mid-October at the end of Ramadan. We’re considering a desert safari or perhaps a trip to Upper Egypt, home of Luxor and Aswan and the Nubian people. The big draws there are Nile cruises and historic sites.

For winter holidays, maybe we’ll go to Ethiopia. I’d love to see some sites along the nothern historic route, plus all the green will probably be a refreshing change of pace by then.

I’m also hearing great things about Turkey and Jordan, which are accessible and affordable from here. Europe is close, but pretty pricey right now.

Before we leave, I’d really love to go to Tanzania on safari.

Where would you go if you were here?

29 August 2007 Posted by | fun, tourism | 12 Comments

Good news!

So we thought Iggy’s insulin was messed up and his whole system was out of whack. (Iggy is the cat.) Turns out he had some problems with his nails (likely as a result of being in the carrier during our travels), which we’re remedying with some antibiotics, foot cream, and twice-daily foot soaks. Heh, he won’t like that. But I’m so glad his diabetes isn’t the problem.

Hurray for the (alleged) best vet in all of Egypt! (Mr. Four says he’s actually pretty nice.) Hurray for vet visits and medicine that only cost $10!

Oh, by the way, Mr. Four maintains he never thought the diabetes was the problem.

29 August 2007 Posted by | iggy the cat | Comments Off on Good news!

Health update

I may have given the impression I’m dying from an infection. I am not.

Three of us have colds (which came on about two days after the boys went to school), and one of us has been suffering from GI distress. All of us seem to be on the mend.

Iggy goes to the “best vet in Egypt” tomorrow.

28 August 2007 Posted by | sicknesses | Comments Off on Health update

The cloud behind the silver lining

It’s not all kushari and pyramids here, folks. Here are some of the tougher adjustments we still need to make:

Sidewalks
It’s great to walk to so many places (or easily hail a taxi if it’s further), but with a few exceptions, my area of town doesn’t really have sidewalks. At least not for more than a few feet at a time. Even downtown has roads where people mostly walk in the street. Plus cars have the right of way (seriously!). Our first few days, we spent a lot of time talking with the boys about this til Giggle started parroting, “Cars are dangerous!”

Outdoor play
Bug, on the deckWe’re really missing our yard, especially the boys’ easy access to it. With a fenced in back yard, they could always go outside on their own to play on the deck or in the grass. And our large front yard gave us even more play area. Plus we had a great town park around the corner. This is exacerbated here by the lack of public facilities: you pretty much need access to a private club (think YMCA, JCC, country club, etc) in order to have open space and a pool. We need to join one soon.

Pollution
Is that morning haze a lovely fog? Umm, no. Cairo ranks as one of the world’s most polluted cities.

Illiteracy
A personal problem we’re hoping to remedy. Actually, we’ll speak a few words before we can read very much. Conversational Egyptian Arabic is not really a written language. Arabic is pretty interesting, actually: it has one written language (well, two, if you count the ancient one), but so many dialects that speakers of one kind of Arabic (say in Lebanon) may not understnd speakers of another (say in Tunisia). All of which doesn’t help us get around town. It’s been particularly challenging for me not to be able to read the numbers, but I’m learning.

So those are the big issues. The other major issue we’re encountering is that none of our lovely friends are here, so won’t you read a happier post and then come visit?

28 August 2007 Posted by | our life in egypt | 2 Comments

The Mother of all Nations

In English, it sounds like a bad joke from the Bush I/Saddam Hussein era, but apparently Egyptians refer to their country as Misr Umm El Dunya, which means Egypt: Mother of all Nations. So I was told in my orientation.

I kept thinking of Ethiopia, which (as Ethiopians proudly boast) is one of the world’s oldest countries. And then I had to look up some info about Ethiopia, which is pretty lame considering I’ve made an amateur study of it over the past few years. And then I remembered that the Library of Congress has a great resource called Portals to the World, which promptly distracted me.

And finally I remembered that this isn’t a competition. Both countries can be old. Indeed, both are old.

Speaking of rivalries-real or imagined-during my lunch today, while chatting about colleges and such back in the US, someone commented to me, “You can’t really know college sports rivalries until you know Big 10 football.”

Oh really?

Oh, by the way, this conversation happened while I was lunching with the president. My employer’s president, that is. Okay, it was more like there was an empty space at the table where I was sitting, and he sat down. But, still, it was nice.

The president commented that today’s lunch was the only free lunch we’d receive there. This was somewhat refreshing, in a weird way, because at my last employer, there were so many “free” lunches some wondered if we couldn’t just be paid more instead. Also, who needs a free lunch when I can buy kushari around the corner for a buck?

27 August 2007 Posted by | our life in egypt | 4 Comments

Back to work…

I still have another week until my regular work schedule begins, but tomorrow, Mr. Four and I will start orientation. He’ll attend one day, and I the rest of the week.

It’s been great to have these two weeks here to settle in, especially after the spring and fall, filled with so much unknown. We decided to adopt Giggle in March and had some frantic weeks of paper chasing after that, and it was around that time that we first learned of the possibility of moving to Cairo, never realizing how snug the timing would be with both Giggle’s homecoming and our move.

Then we spent much of May wondering about the job here as well as Giggle’s adoption hearing, which seemed to take longer all the time. Mr. Four called me one day in May to say I had a call from Cairo. “You mean from the adoption agency?” No, from Cairo. It was all very complicated.

Things started calming down and ramping up simultaneously in early July, when Giggle and I arrived in the US from Ethiopia. We had a few intense weeks at first, when he seemed to experience every emotion to the extreme. Still, it was good to be together, finally.

But those last few weeks in our house in the US were overwhelming, as we prepared our shipment with its detailed inventory list, packed up the rest of the house, and stuffed our suitcases. In the midst of this there were house showings and tantrums and lots of shopping trips (often all at the same time!).

So here we are. And finding our way around a new town and culture feels a lot less overwhelming than what we experienced earlier this summer, perhaps because instead getting ready for something, we are living our lives.

Tomorrow begins a new routine for us all. Giggle has gone to school a few days, but I’ve been home in the afternoons after school. Soon I’ll be away from the house even when he gets home, and Mr. Four will be the primary caregiver for the boys. Bug is used to this arrangement, though I can’t say any of us love it. Not that I’d rather have Mr. Four out of the house all day–I just wish we could all have more time together.

Pleasantly added into the mix is our new housekeeper/nanny, a lovely young Ethiopian woman who was highly recommended by her current employer, an expat leaving the country. Hana starts in a week. Giggle wasn’t sure what to make of her til he heard the magic word: injera. She’ll speak Amharic to the boys and cook Ethiopian food, in addition to cleaning the house and sometimes watching the boys in the afternoons.

There are a few times that I’ve wondered if we have enough work here for a housekeeper. Then other times I’m worried part-time won’t be enough!

Of course, all this depends on gainful employment, which depends on the retreat of the bacteria currently invading my legs. The hypochondriac in me is wondering if I have the antiobiotic-resistant strain of something-or-other, which will require successive doses of IV drips while in quarantine. I told Mr. Four that if I languish in a hospital, he should send me to the medical center at my beloved alma mater, where at least I could wile away the days listening to the band practice the school’s fight song.

Let’s hope I stay here, if only so this blog will be more interesting for all of us.

25 August 2007 Posted by | getting there, giggle, our life in egypt, parenting | 5 Comments

A trip to the hypermarket

Yes, you read that correctly. The local superstore is called a hypermarket. And, really, could you think of a better name? It perfectly conveys the sense of urgency and anxiety and stress such stores engender.

So yesterday, I called up the trusty taxi driver and asked him to take me to the new mall that also holds the hypermarket (and that’s indeed where he took me, not to his friend the perfumer). I wanted to get some kitchen stuff plus a lunch box for Bug and it’s been quite a challenge to find this stuff closer to home. I know it’s here, somewhere, but where?

At the hypermarket, I went first to the back-to-school section. How did I know it was the back-to-school section? There were banners all over with white kids and English writing that said, “Back to School!”

The place was riddled with backpacks and pencils and crayons and pen holders and paper and other school supplies. And it seemed every backpack featured either Barbie or Spiderman. There was also the obligatory local version, with a pale girl wearing a head scarf. I suspect that the Egyptian princess may be more popular with the parents than with their daughters. It’s sad that she’s so fair. Not that every Egyptian is dark, not at all. But most are not what we’d think of as fair-complexioned. (But most of the men do not have beards, which is what someone asked, so perhaps you were wondering, too.)

I finally found the lunch boxes, which were plastic cases featuring, yes, Barbie or Spiderman. There was not one single plain box there. Honestly, it was worse than in the US. Folks, this is cultural imperialism at its worst. No wonder the whole world hates Americans but wears American crap–sometimes it’s the only stuff you can find!

Some things here are so cheap, while others are ridiculously expensive. I needed some skirt hangers, the kind with clips, but it was going to cost something like $8 for two. So clever me, I bought regular plastic hangers and some clothespins. I’m know I’m not the first person to figure this out, but I sure felt like a genius!

I gathered my things and spent my money while navigating the shopping cart with four rotating wheels, which makes it feel like it’s on ice. I then went to the very expensive children’s store and paid something like $9 for a plastic Pooh lunchbox, officially licensed and all that. I’m not sure why Pooh offends me less, but there you go. And Bug is thrilled with his lunchbox (if he even knows it will hold his lunch–that much is unclear).

You can find just about everything here. We bought and shipped tons of stuff that now seems unnecessary–lots of toiletries, for example–because it’s available locally, if priced a bit higher. Though I’m glad we sent diapers. Local diapers aren’t so great, and the American brands are priced very high. I haven’t yet located a file cabinet or manilla file folders. Hanging file folders, yes, but without a file cabinet, they’re not much good, are they? I finally (because this was starting to feel epic) chose some plastic file folders and a small plastic file box, which are fine, but how do people here organize their papers?

These exciting mysteries and more perhaps I’ll solve over the next few months. Or maybe tomorrow: I’m going on an employer-sponsored shopping trip around town. I can’t wait.

24 August 2007 Posted by | our life in egypt, shopping | 5 Comments

Giggle’s milestone

Giggle takes a picture

Mr. Four and I first met Giggle in June, on a ridiculously short weekend trip to Ethiopia taken to facilitate a certain kind of immigrant visa for Giggle that makes the citizenship process easier (all complicated bureaucracy stuff). We had a wonderful time with him over two days, and I was smitten. It was partly the honeymoon experience, as it’s known in adoption circles: he was on his best behavior. So were we! Leaving was absolutely miserable. He had seen enough kids leave with their new parents to know he wasn’t supposed to end up back at the care center. He sobbed. And I sobbed for much of the plane ride home, feeling like the crappiest mother ever, and wondering if he’d ever forgive us.

Indeed he did. I went back in late June to spend several days there and then bring him back to the US, and we had a great week. We co-slept, and every morning I’d wake up to a beautiful smiling face. Giggle was so ready to have parents again, and so ready to be adored. We bonded that week, and despite a challenging trip back to the US, we had developed a good foundation for our relationship.

Giggle was thrilled to see Mr. Four and Bug, and Bug smiled and smiled at his new big brother. And Giggle has been a great big brother in most everything. Except one: sharing Mommy.

We’ve always put Bug to sleep with one of us there. And we planned to do the same with Giggle. So Mr. Four and I have both done the bedtime routine together for these past few months, and when it’s time to turn off the light and go to sleep, inevitably I’ve been with Giggle. He just would never go to sleep with Mr. Four there. He wanted Mommy, and that was that. It’s been a bit sad for me to miss some of the cuddle time with Bug, but I also had to remind myself that that’s part of having two kids instead of just one.

Last night, Bug was in a mommy mood. I cuddled with him while Mr. Four helped Giggle brush his teeth, get into jammies, and so on. Then Giggle insisted I go to bed with him and almost threw a tantrum over it. So Mr. Four and I switched places while Bug cried, “Mommy!” and Giggle ignored him. Giggle and I chatted a bit about how he’d need to learn to share Mommy, that’d soon it’d be Bug’s turn. Giggle hated the idea of this.

Until, after Bug cried more and more for me, Giggle finally ordered me to Bug’s bed. Mr. Four was allowed into Giggle’s bed. And, eventually, both boys fell asleep, with Giggle quite proud of himself.

This morning, the first thing he said to me was, “Giggle shares.” Indeed, he does, and I’m so proud of him for two things: one, letting his brother’s needs take precedence, and two, letting Mr. Four parent him.

Going to sleep with your father instead of your mother might seem like nothing in most families. But this was a huge milestone for my Giggle.

23 August 2007 Posted by | adoption, bug, giggle | 2 Comments