We Four in Egypt

Now back in the US!

Back in the USA

Phew. What a week it’s been. I am not going to write any more about the flights over as they are best left repressed deep within my brain.

Mr. Four arrived late last Friday night. Between our arrival and his, the boys and I did a lot. It was pretty crazy. We went shopping (Old Navy, Target, and Kohl’s, along with a dollar store and a funky local toy store), swam at the lake, swam at the pool, played baseball in the yard, hung out with my dad, celebrated my birthday, went to a great science museum, bought toys, attempted to eat out in restaurants, went to a movie, stocked up on College Town paraphenalia, chased fireflies, played with friends, visited with other friends, and ate pretzels and ice cream (though not at the same time).

Since Mr. Four’s arrival, we’ve done more of the same, but with a break here and there for me.

A couple of friends here have asked us how it feels to be back. The answer is that it feels totally normal to be back. Totally normal to be able to call my mom and dad and sister without advance planning or a check of the clock. Totally normal to walk on nice wide sidewalks. Totally normal to be able to buy soy products at the grocery store. Totally normal to have play dates with our old neighbors. Et cetera.

Of course what’s not normal is trying to cram a month’s worth of activities into a week’s time. Right now we’re in College Town, a charming area with lots of old friends and kid-friendly activities. In a few days, we head to the mountains, to a small cabin Mr. Four built there years ago. We have a lot of friends up there, including friends with kids, but we’ll be much more isolated. Mr. Four is envisioning canoeing on the lake with the boys. I hope we find enough to do. Giggle and Bug are both pretty interested in bugs these days, so maybe we can go bug hunting. Other ideas are also welcome!

What’s been most striking about our trip home is how much my kids had become city kids. Especially for the first few days, things that seemed utterly ordinary to me were quite remarkable to them. When we pulled into the driveway of the house where we’re staying, Giggle said the front yard, with a few trees, was like a forest. Every patch of trees became worthy of comment.

The next night they ran inside, terrified, screaming at me about some strange flashing lights which turned out to be fireflies (they got over this fear quickly).

They’ve loved seeing mailboxes and checking ours multiple times a day. Fire hydrants also earn a call out.

It’s been a bit rainy here, and Bug is particularly stressed by thunder. This was true last year when we lived in the US, but the absence of thunder from our lives has only increased his fear. I’ve never seen him so terrified. Any plane in the sky has him asking if it’s thunder. Suggestions for dealing with this particular fear are also welcome.

We’ll be mostly unplugged, I think, in the mountains. We have a TV there (our cabin is set up to be a vacation rental when we’re not in it), but no internet access except the public library. I’m looking forward to some long bike rides, now possible as Mr. Four was able to dig my road bike out of storage this morning, and lots of reading. Another big treat for me has been buying the Sunday New York Times, even though it took me all of last week to read it, and I still haven’t cracked this week’s.

I’ll post again before we head to the mountains. What are your questions about our time back in the States?

30 June 2008 Posted by | bug, family, fun, giggle, holidays, tourism | 4 Comments

THAT mother with THOSE kids

With no help from the horrid flight attendants on the Cairo to JKF flight (and I’m sure they felt the same way about us), we made it. I was starting to think maybe all Americans (like, had I maybe just forgotten?) were terrible until our second flight, when the lovely, wonderful flight attendant was so great with the boys and especially Giggle, who was having a very hard time waiting through a long runway taxi.

Now we’re here in College Town, at our friends’ house (they are out of town). It’s perfect and we’re so happy to be here.

More later when I have time.

22 June 2008 Posted by | getting there, giggle, transportation | 3 Comments

(Almost) on our way!

My cousin K is back from Luxor and Aswan and her cruise. She found some good folks on the boat and had a great time.

I’m just about packed. Mr. Four is working tonight, and the boys and I are headed out to a movie… then Saturday morning we leave for the airport. At this point I’m so excited my stomach is getting twisty. In a good way.

I’m so very fortunate to have some lovely people as friends, folks who are willing to buy us groceries in advance of our arrival, pick us up at the airport, and drive us around town until we get our own rental on Sunday. I’m looking forward to see them and everyone else.

So I’ll be offline for a few days, and (inshallah) will next post stateside. (And about that inshallah thing… after several months in Egypt, I feel like if I don’t say it, I’m tempting fate! Which I’m not inclined to do hours before boarding a transatlantic flight.)

20 June 2008 Posted by | getting there, transportation | 4 Comments

To candy or not to candy

Mr. Four thinks I shouldn’t bring candy on the plane, because once it’s out the boys are going to want it constantly and will go crazy if they can’t have it.

I’m inclined to bring it, something that’s long-lasting like hard candy, and let them overindulge.

Opinions?

20 June 2008 Posted by | bug, getting there, giggle, transportation | 8 Comments

More mundane details of my boring life

I’m almost packed. Most of the boys’ clothes are packed, and most of my clothes are packed. We’ll add in a few things from tomorrow’s wash. We’re bringing way too many shoes, as per usual. But packing is easy when you’re overpacking!

I packed both car seats for the boys. I realized that otherwise we’d end up paying at least $150 to rent seats when we have two perfectly good ones we can bring over for free.

Last summer I ordered car seat bags from One Step Ahead, to protect the seats and make them easier to carry. The seats made the trip last summer, but barely. One of the canvas bags has large tears in the front panel. I’ll duct tape it up for our trip back home, but here’s your caveat emptor: don’t buy car seat bags from One Step Ahead, which should definitely be able to last at least one international trip. I wish I could find consumer’s revenge more satisfying… but really I’d rather have functioning bags.

The boys, especially Giggle, are bouncing off the walls. “Two days, Mommy? Two days to America?”

On top of all this is our confusing move to a new flat. The boys are trying to figure out how we’re going to America, and moving to a new house which they’ve visited twice, and coming back to Egypt, and spending time with grandparents. Bug keeps asking who is coming to the new house. “Is Puppy Four coming? Is my nanny coming?” It’s a lot of change in just a few months. But all good, I think.

They both had their last day of preschool today. Giggle told me today he’s proud of himself for finishing up preschool and being ready for kindergarten, also known as “the big school.” I’m proud of him too.

So we’ll be hanging out with friends in just a few days from now. Mr. Four still has another week in Egypt, including my birthday, which is a bummer. However, my dad is coming to town to spend a couple of days with the boys and me, which will be great fun, and the first time he and Giggle have met. I explained to the boys the other day that we get our ice cream-loving legacy from this man. They were duly impressed.

I’ve also been overwhelmed by my very generous friends and family, who are offering up all sorts of inconvenient scenarios to help us out and make sure they see us.

And, wow, blogging is sure a great way to procrastinate.

19 June 2008 Posted by | bug, giggle, holidays | Comments Off on More mundane details of my boring life

No more JFK anxiety

My very smart mother informed me that the boys and I will be arriving into and departing from the very same terminal at JFK. How on earth did she discover this? She looked at my itinerary. Go figure.

Last night I gathered up most of the clothes for the boys for this summer. I know we’ll be buying things there, and I didn’t want to overpack, but I also don’t want to be stuck doing laundry every few days either. I’ve also heard from a few friends and colleagues that it’s easy to spend way too much money in a few short weeks on home leave. Expats often go on summer spending sprees, so expat kids get the sense that the US is all about shopping. While this is true for many Americans, I don’t want my boys to think this. Giggle already loves shopping too much. And me too.

Giggle kid is growing so fast though — last summer he was a perfect 4T, swimming in 5T. Now his 5T pants are almost too short, and I’m thinking I need to buy ahead in size 6 and (gulp) size 7 to get him through the next year. Bug is growing out of some of his 3T things, but at least he has some hand-me-downs from Giggle (which he likes, because he’s seen his brother wearing this stuff, which apparently makes it cooler).

Clothes are going from Giggle to Bug so quickly that I’m the only one in the house who seems to know who fits into what. To his credit, Mr. Four did convince the boys that growing is fun, and so they are much better about letting go emotionally of favorite clothes that no longer fit. Bug likes to talk about how we’ll give their old clothes to other kids who need them (usually the neighborhood bowab’s kids or to our nanny for a refugee friend with a small boy).

The fact that we’re about to box up everything and move makes it easier to purge. For me too. I’ve passed to the housekeeper and her roommate some clothes of mine that just don’t (ahem) fit like they used to.

Today I’m also packing up my office at work, as it’ll be in a different place when I get back in August. So I best get to that.

18 June 2008 Posted by | bug, expat scene, giggle, holidays, shopping | 1 Comment

Packing

I started packing tonight. Hurray!

Of course, I’ve so far packed only for the boys, which is much easier because, well, it’s not for me. Still, I consider this major progress.

17 June 2008 Posted by | holidays | Comments Off on Packing

(Not) packing and more (not) packing

My cousin went south to Upper Egypt for a few days, which I thought would give me plenty of time to start packing. It has given me some time, but I have not done any packing. I’m sure you are as shocked as I am by this turn of events.

I did go shopping this weekend, with cousin K, at the Khan il Khalili, a big touristy market/bazaar in downtown Cairo. It was Saturday afternoon and hot as all get out. And of course I managed to wander us into the wrong neighborhood even though the Khan was about two inches away from us. We finally made it of course.

Giggle joined us willingly because he loves going new places and shopping (both boys got new Egypt/cartouche shirts, which had been hidden under the t-shirts of camels smoking shisha). Giggle kept complaining when we’d go into stores and not buy anything. I told him he had to pretend to be uninterested in things so we could bargain. He largely failed at this. Anyway, he’s very happy with his new shirt and has already worn it twice. I ended the day with a headache so throbbing that it took a shower, a couple of Tylenol, and a nap to make it go away. I’m just no good in the heat (to which you respond, then, pray tell, why do you live in Egypt? Which is a very good question).

Giggle and I also had a conversation this weekend about how no one is allowed to touch him if he doesn’t want them to. A very serious topic, indeed, but it started because Egyptian men seem compelled to touch his hair. And of course he doesn’t like it — would you? So now he knows to say “la! la-ah!” (no! really no!) when people touch him. Hair touching is a big issue in the African American community, and apparently it’s an issue for native born Africans in North Africa too. Seriously, folks, if you’re a hair toucher, you really should stop. It’s weird.

Deep down I have much anxiety about all the packing I need to do in the next few days. Packing for the States should be easy because the boys have new clothes waiting for us there, plus we’ll be going shopping, plus we can get anything we need there, plus we won’t really need all that much. But as a friend of mine used to say, “Should is a dangerous word.” (Okay, an old flame used to say that, and he probably still says it, but I haven’t talked to him in MANY years.)

I think really I’m anxious about the flights even though there’s nothing to be done except laugh instead of cry. A colleague of mine did tell me some horror stories yesterday about transferring at JFK from international to domestic. At most airports, when you land internationally, you collect your luggage, walk it through customs, and then toss it back on some carousel for the airport folks to transfer it to your next flight. But apparently at JFK you have to walk it to the next terminal. This guy told me that he has a distinct memory of pushing his trolley of bags uphill through a construction site (but at least not in the snow). And he didn’t even have two little boys with him. Eh, que sera sera. And maybe JFK is better now.

We leave on Saturday around noon. Giggle will watch every movie that plays, and listen to every in-flight music station. He’ll attempt to call the flight attendant multiple times and the flight attendants will ignore us. Bug will be harder to entertain but he is also more malleable. I’m also trying to get used the idea of being on my own, without Mr. Four, for the week. But I think I’ll keep us busy with swimming and visiting and movies. Hurray, movies! Will Kung Fu Panda be too much for Bug? Because Giggle and I would really like to see it.

Last night, the boys and I went to a local toy shop tonight to pick out a few things for the airplane (I said so many times that they wouldn’t get the toys until the airplane that Giggle started saying, “I know Mommy! It’s for the airplane!). We couldn’t find many small toys. So we bought some real cheapies that probably won’t last much past JFK, but the boys seemed happy enough until this morning, when Giggle cried because he wanted his new airplane toys. Bug has mostly forgotten about the new stuff or is taking “for airplane use only” very seriously.

Bug also decided last night that he’d rather be in the sling, really an Ergo baby carrier, on my back than in the stroller. He really likes being carried sometimes, especially in crowded places or when he’s tired, and I think the sling will work better for me as it’s more comfortable for longer distances than our basic little umbrella stroller. Plus he’ll be able to watch the crowds.

So, we’re not packed, but we’ve got some toys and made some very important decisions.

Today or tomorrow is my last day at work… probably tomorrow since I’ll have still have some stuff to finish up. That gives me two days to pack and plan and make sure I don’t forget anything important like my driver’s license. It’s so quiet at work many of my colleagues have already left for the summer.

17 June 2008 Posted by | bug, family, giggle, tourism | Comments Off on (Not) packing and more (not) packing

Room with a view? Deluxe a/c?

Puppy Four has a vacation coming up. Or at least that’s what the boys think. Poor guy is going to a kennel for about a month while we’re out of town. Isn’t that terrible? But with the move happening while we’re away, I just don’t know what else to do. He’s staying at the nicer kennel in the area, and he does get at least three or four walks a day, so I hope it won’t be too awful for him. Actually, with three walks a day, he should be fine… right?

But, I have a choice to make. Should Puppy Four stay in the indoor air conditioned kennel? Or in an outdoor kennel “with an outside run overlooking the garden”? The outdoor kennel sounds hot to me, but it’s also 10LE (about $1.75) more a day, so I guess it’s nicer. So, readers, where would you rather stay?

Speaking of Puppy Four… he and the boys have been playing together a lot lately. It’s really funny to watch. The boys will try to get the pup to chase them, and then they dash to the couch and jump up as if they’re escaping some vicious beast. And then the puppy runs into the kitchen to see if any food has been added to his dish in the last minute or so. Then he comes out, and the boys will try to get him to chase them, and so on.

Bug is sometimes a bit intimidated by it all, because he initiates rough play and then can’t quite handle it.

But Giggle really loves the game. He told me tonight that the puppy is really funny. And they both love to feed him. Sometimes they dump about four cups of dog food and a pint of milk into his bowl.

The puppy’s favorite chew toy continues to be my arm. He loves to gnaw on me. And pull on my clothes. So he’s fitting right in.

16 June 2008 Posted by | holidays, pets | Comments Off on Room with a view? Deluxe a/c?

Waiting for an Angel by Helon Habila

The Africa Reading Challenge asks folks to read five books about Africa or by African authors in 2008 and then review each book in a blog post. I’m good at the reading part, and I like the blogging part, but I’m a miserable reviewer. So you’ve been warned.

I found Helon Habila’s Waiting for an Angel on some list of great African literature somewhere linked from the original Africa Reading Challenge blog post. If for only this book, I am glad to be focusing my reading on Africa.

Waiting for an Angel is a short book, closer to a novella, really, or linked short stories. It focuses on a group of young people during a coup in Nigeria. Habila’s writing is quite lyrical. I’d say it reads like a poem, except poems aren’t always easy to follow. How about it reads like a flowing stream? Or maybe more like a whitewater river: always downstream, but big nasty rocks along the way (in the form of some really tragic happenings).

Okay, no more river metaphors from me. I’m trying to say this was a great book about very sad things. The end.

16 June 2008 Posted by | africa, books | 2 Comments