We Four in Egypt

Now back in the US!

It’s Blog Day!

So today is Blog Day, organized by some people who decided we should all get together and spread the word about other blogs we like to read.

Way back in January, I recommended some blogs written by expats here in Egypt. I’m supposed to share new blogs, and since lately I’ve also broadened my expat reading to include sub-Saharan Africa, these blogs reflect that.

First, from right here in Cairo: Khan-un-drum by Yasir Khan, a fantastically talented Canadian photographer, documentary filmmaker, and teacher. Read his blog for good writing, interesting stories (including one on Zahi Hawass, the director of among other things, the Pyramids complex at Giza), and amazing photos, including a series from a spring safari in Kenya.

Marc wrote the excellent Ferenge Addis Blog when he lived in Ethiopia. Now he’s back in DC, and traveling the world, especially sub-Saharan Africa. So check out Written in Caps.

I recently started reading White African, a blog that focuses on technology in sub-Saharan Africa. Really interesting stuff here if you have any interest in technology in the developing world.

I just started following the expat Bex in Moz written by a woman who is a mom and park ranger in Mozambique. They’re on their home leave now, but I hope soon to read more as interesting as this post on their newly built house.

Also new to me is Citizen Africa, which of late has covered Africans in the Olympics, but also covers other interesting news from sub-Saharan Africa.

Happy reading!


31 August 2008 Posted by | our life in egypt | 2 Comments

Ramadan Kareem!

The word on the street is that Ramadan starts tonight. The Grand Mufti will declare it so.

This means that expats have already stocked their kitchens and fridges with any alcohol they anticipate needing for the next four weeks.

It also means that, starting tomorrow night, the streets will be blissfully still at iftar, the break-fast at dusk, around 6:20pm. This is a perfect time to wander Cairo’s neighborhood streets and enjoy the festive lights hanging from trees, as Muslims celebrate with their families. Just don’t try to catch a cab anytime after 6.

Happy Ramadan!

31 August 2008 Posted by | expat scene, family, holidays | 2 Comments

Know any doggie mentors?

Puppy Four seems mostly healed. His vision is much improved, and he seems to have regained much of his energy.

But he’s still a puzzling little dog. He spent at least a couple of months with his parents and his litter mates, but it’s like he doesn’t know how to be a dog. He never lifts his leg to pee. He never barks. He hardly plays. He never notices other dogs. And he takes no notice of cats! He’s rather oblivious.

Could this be some of kind of Cairene dog survival strategy? A live-and-let-live sorts of approach to inter- and intraspecies relations?

He’s also the mellowest pup ever. Often, when I take him for a walk in the garden, he wanders a bit and then plops down on the grass.

But Puppy Four and I had a lot of quality time together this weekend. The more he’s with us, the more dog-like he becomes (which he’s learning from us, apparently?), and the more he wags his tail when he greets me. Tonight, I got my first face kisses–and no peanut butter was required!

25 August 2008 Posted by | pets | Comments Off on Know any doggie mentors?

Adoption in Egypt

Some housekeeping: I know some people find their way to my blog because of an interest in adopting from Egypt. This is close to impossible, as far as I know. I added some information on this topic to my adoption page.

24 August 2008 Posted by | adoption | 30 Comments

The Secret Summers of Expats

As I’ve alluded to, our summer wasn’t all berry picking and whitewater rafting (though those parts were great!), but also included some pretty major stress. I’m not going into details, but when I got back to Cairo, a little earlier than intended, and started chatting with some other expats, I found out the truth about these seemingly amazing six-week vacations and annual leaves back to the US.

A friend whose family works for the US government and has been overseas for more than 20 years told me that every summer she swears, “Never again!” Of course she finds herself on a flight home, doing the exact same thing, one year later. And swearing yet again it’s her last summer in the States. And did she tell me some stories.

The first, about a woman whose two daughters absolutely trashed their grandmother’s pristine, crystal-filled white-carpeted house, a debacle so terrible that the woman and her mother didn’t speak for months.

The next, about legions of expats who cut their summer travels short to get back to their overseas home. And not because they love it.

I’d been warned that our annual leave could be expensive (the car rental alone is a major chunk of money) and overwhelming, especially if we hopped from house to house, family to family. We tried to keep things pretty simple, but we still failed. Mr. Four and I realized that next summer, at the very least, we need to carve our more time for just the four of us.

The six weeks of leave is a huge draw of overseas employment, but it turns that out many expats view summer leave as Americans view their Christmas and winter holidays: an obligation filled with some fun and lots of stress. I never would have understood this, or believed it, before.

Now, I’m sure there are plenty of expats who have fantastic summers. I’ll let you know if I find any.

24 August 2008 Posted by | expat scene, family, holidays | 5 Comments

Introducing Star Wing

Lately the boys have been into super heroes. Today I found Hero Machine 2.5, an online program that lets you make them yourself. With me at the computer, Giggle pretty much ended up with the Incredible Hulk, and Bug made Star Wing (okay, I named the guy):

Star Wing

Star Wing

He’s pretty cool, eh?

16 August 2008 Posted by | bug, fun, giggle | Comments Off on Introducing Star Wing

“What’s a dibet?”

Indeed, what is a dibet? Well, first of all, it’s actually a bidet. Though Bug’s pronunciation is much more charming.

We have two bidets, once in each bathroom, in our new flat. They have attracted some interest from the boys, especially Bug. We have set firm rules for what you may not do in the bidet, but Bug is still curious about what you can do.

For the record, the list includes washing your feet and shaving your legs (a tip I learned from my host sister during a high school summer in Spain), amongst the bidet’s more traditional cleansing functions.

Last year, in our old place, rather than stand alone bidets, we had toilets with a bidet feature. This is pretty common in Egyptian toilets (though sometimes you also see a hose with sprayer next to the toilet). The bidet feature is basically a hole at the back of the toilet. You reach down to the right, turn a knob on the toilet shaft, and a spray of water douses your nethers (or shoots out of the toilet and soaks the floor and your undies if your aim is off).

I’m not sure the boys made much use of the bidet feature on the old toilets. Just Bug, once in a while, when I would shock him with a little extra cleansing power.

The bidets have generated so much interest that I did a little research. Interesting stuff, especially in regards to the meaning of the French word “toilette.” Speaking of the French: while many Americans associate bidets with France and Europe, apparently they are pretty common throughout the Middle East as well as some parts of Latin American and Asia.

(On an administrative note, this post marks a new category of posts, one I’m calling “a little different,” as in, some things here are just a little different. I’ll eventually go back and tag some old posts as well. As always, questions about life in Egypt are welcome, preferably via a blog comment.)

16 August 2008 Posted by | a little different, bug, our life in egypt | 1 Comment

Mukiwa by Peter Godwin

My summer reading (of which there was little, unfortunately) centered on Peter Godwin’s memoir Mukiwa: A White Boy in Africa. I resisted this book because I’m far more interested in black people in Africa, and, frankly, I have my own prejudices about white Africans. I didn’t want to read an account of some idyllic, naive white childhood. But I was finally motivated to read it because it was on my shelf and because of the Africa Reading Challenge.

I’m pleased to report that my (completely uninformed) pre-judgment on this book was totally wrong. Instead, as Godwin recounts his childhood and young adulthood in then-Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, he also chronicles the end of white rule in this southern African country. It’s a fascinating story.

Godwin’s parents raised three children in then-Rhodesia, where they worked as a factory manager (dad) and doctor (mom). The first part of Godwin’s memoir comprises his mostly happy childhood in the rural countryside, when black Africans were family servants and factory workers. Even then, however, black African fighers were beginning to attack white settlers, and a sense of unease pervaded the white community.

The next part of the book focuses on Godwin’s post-secondary school obligatory national service with the militarized police. He served as a soldier, fighting alongside white and black soldiers and fighting rebel black soldiers, even though he and his family supported the rebels’ goal of black majority rule.

After leaving the police, Godwin left the country to attend Cambridge, and the final part of the book recounts his return to Zimbabwe briefly as a lawyer, defending his former enemies, and eventually as a journalist, uncovering atrocities committed by the army under Mugabe’s black government, for which he was expelled from Zimbabwe.

Godwin’s catharsis, near the book’s close, about his family’s role, and the whites’ role, as settlers in then-Rhodesia, is perhaps worth the entire read. I was fascinated to learn how the white Rhodesians viewed their grandparents as pioneers and themselves as settlers, as entitled to their farms as Americans consider ourselves to be entitled to our homes in the US. White Africans don’t have a monopoly on displacing and killing native peoples.

Books are my portal into learning about new countries and cultures. Godwin’s excellent memoir Mukiwa opened the door to Zimbabwe for me.

13 August 2008 Posted by | africa, books | 1 Comment

Lessons, Part 1 of One Million

Don’t bother with the stroller, at least not when the parent-to-kid ratio is 1:2. With a luggage cart brimming with bags, and two little boys, I never could have managed the stroller as well. (I didn’t take it.) The Ergo carrier was great, even for my 35-pounder. We only used it a few times, but it was essential during a few airport dashes at nap time.

The hardest part of the entire trip is getting from the car to check-in desk. Life is easier once you have boarding passes and no luggage and you can pay attention to your children.

On the plane, talk to the people sitting in front of your kids: “Please let me know if my kids kick the seats or are bothering you in any way!” Then you are their ally rather than their enemy.

On the plane, be extra friendly with the flight attendants before they even have a chance to not be friendly to you. “We’re here! My two tired kids and just me!” (Optional.)

Then, when the flight attendant walks by and your kids are behaving, comment on your “angels.” (Optional.)

To be continued…

7 August 2008 Posted by | transportation | 2 Comments

Still life with dog

Puppy Four is on the mend. His official diagnosis: a nasty bump on the head caused a concussion that gave him seizures and blinded him, at least temporarily. He’s still on a pharmaceutical cocktail that includes six pills and 3 servings of liquid medicine each day. Luckily he gobbles this all up in his regular food. He’s also regained some vision, which is great, and he’s well enough to play with the kids again, which is making us all much happier.

He’s still a pretty mellow pup, but then again, he’s pretty much on sedatives. So I suspect his energy levels will rebound when he’s off the meds.

Our new apartment is making life-with-dog much easier, because of our two patios and easy access to the outside. (And of course the boys love riding their bikes out the front door and onto the sidewalks of our small complex.)

I’ve been super jet lagged, in part because Bug has been jet lagged. But he’s slept through the night the past two nights, with only some midnight stirrings, so that’s promising for me. In any case, I hope to update you all more once I find myself awake more during the day than the night.

7 August 2008 Posted by | pets | Comments Off on Still life with dog