We Four in Egypt

Now back in the US!


It’s been quite a Halloween here in Cairo. I suspect being overseas has we Americans overdoing a secular, kid-focused holiday like this one. Because who doesn’t love Halloween (aside from Giggle at the end of the evening after crashing from a sugar rush and staying up too late)?
Here’s Giggle, pre-crash, as his favorite super hero.

The kids had a total of four parties, one at each school, one at our club this morning, and then a big carnival tonight at Giggle’s school. You won’t be surprised to hear there was plenty of candy at each event.
bug as batman
Bug? Or Batman?

What was surprising, however, was our short walk at end of the party from Giggle’s school to our apartment. The sidewalks and streets were filled with young Cairenes. And, tons of police.

Last spring, during the failed national strike, I saw hundreds of police all gathered in downtown Cairo’s Tahrir Square. It was quite chilling.

The police out tonight weren’t in riot gear. And there weren’t that many. But they were conspicuous, lined up on sidewalks, shoulder to shoulder.

Our apartment building has security, but they’re usually pretty casual, sitting in an office next to our pedestrian gate. Tonight there were at least four of them standing outside the closed gates. They assured me there was no need to worry, but that it’d be noisy til at least 2am. Sure enough, at 11pm, it’s still quite loud.

Mr. Four and I briefly speculated about the extra police. Is there concern about threats against Americans? Or more of a general sense of keeping the peace when Egyptian teenagers are wandering the streets looking for candy? I suspect B.

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

The plans, they are a-changin’

You may recall a few weeks ago when I reported that Giggle has been saying he doesn’t want to visit Ethiopia. Well, he surprised us last week. Now he does want to go. And he’s kept to this for a bit.

So, our holidays plans have changed. Instead of Bug and I dashing down to Ethiopia for a week in early December (during the Muslim Feast of Abraham), we’re all four going for about two weeks, over Christmas and New Year’s. We’ll be with all the other holiday travelers, but so it goes.

I’d love to spend more time there but there are these two concerns called money and time. Mr. Four’s job means we have a bit more money than we did last year… and a bit less time. So it goes.

The best part about this trip? Last February, we decided to take a trip this Christmas to Ethiopia. Only more recently did that plan change. But we’re back on track to taking exactly the trip we hoped for.

Tentatively we plan to relax south of Addis Ababa around Lake Langaro for a few days and then visit some of the historical sites up north.

We are still hoping to spend next summer in East Africa as well, specifically Tanzania and Kenya. I’m really excited for these trips–indeed, they are a big part of the reason we moved to Egypt in the first place. I feel my writing should be more infused with enthusiasm, so I will end with this:


27 October 2008 Posted by | bug, ethiopia, giggle, holidays, tourism | 4 Comments

Mating by Norman Rush

(Here’s my fifth and final review for the Africa Reading Challenge, though I’ll continue to blog good books as I read them.)

“In Africa, you want more, I think.”

And so begins Mating, a novel that deserves more praise than I can eloquently offer. I read this book last spring in Dahab, and it absorbed me completely. It’s an excellent book, an amazing love story that is never sappy, but always intelligent and often funny.

Mating was published in 1992, when I was an undergrad. I remember seeing the paperback around the campus bookstore in College Town, and I never bothered to read it, but I always had the sense I should read it. A good friend at the time–a young man I adored–told me that the protagonist reminded him of me. Still I never read it.

After all that time waiting, it still didn’t disappoint. (And, actually, the comparison to the protagonist, a feminist who goes after love with everything she’s got, and is a wee bit self-absorbed, was really quite lovely to recall as I reflected upon my old friend and my old self. Old self? I’m still a feminist and I blog, which many consider a reflection of being self-absorbed. But let’s leave this discussion for, say, oh, never.)

The first-person narrative about this young woman, who chases her anthropologist love through the Botswana bush, is incredibly compelling and entertaining.

I enjoyed this book even more because I knew so little about it. So I’m going to end my review here. You can dig up some more information on Amazon, undoubtedly. Or, take my advice: find Mating and read it.

24 October 2008 Posted by | africa, books | 3 Comments

Everything Good Will Come by Sefi Atta

Nigerian writer Sefi Atta penned the novel Everything Good Will Come, which focuses on two women friends from childhood to adulthood. It’s a coming-of-age story of sorts, and intended to show different paths available to women in today’s Nigeria.

I didn’t adore this book with all my heart, but it’s a good read, especially if you are a feminist who likes to read novels about women in different parts of the world. I did enjoy learning more about Nigeria, which seems to have an incredibly rich literary scene, but if you are going to read only one novel from a Nigerian writer, let it instead be Half of a Yellow Sun.

This makes four books I’ve blogged about for the Africa Reading Challenge, adding to the following:

Plus I’ve already read Mating by Norman Rush and just need to blog it. Coming soon!

23 October 2008 Posted by | africa, books | Comments Off on Everything Good Will Come by Sefi Atta

Looking left in London

London is so helpful. At crosswalks at busy intersections, a painted sign reads, ‘Look left’ ‘Look right.’ Of course that isn’t for Londoners, but we dumb tourists. But isn’t that terribly accommodating of them? Thank you, London. I wonder how many Americans got run over before they painted those signs.

I am having a great trip! I’m staying at a small hotel/large B&B, on the fourth floor, four flights up. That’s four sets of staircases up, since the hotel has no elevator. But the room is pefect, small but very comfortable. It only lacks a radio. So I haven’t been listening to the BBC, one of my favorite London activities. Otherwise, perfect.

Today was my day off. My work stuff here starts tomorrow and goes through Friday. Today, I shopped. I spent a good amount of time and money at the amazing, seven-story Hamley’s toy store. So much fun! Because I actually had a budget, I was able to buy some really fun stuff, guilt-free, for the boys for their birthdays and Christmas.

I also bought the boys some great clothes at H&M. Plus I managed to find a thing or two for myself.

And, I’m just about out of time at this internet cafe. So, more to come, but maybe not for a few days.

[Edited to add: One should not drink Guiness and blog.]

15 October 2008 Posted by | tourism | 3 Comments

Off to London

I’m in the midst of packing and suffering luggage angst. I wanted to travel light. I was so pleased with how little I was bringing that I tucked it all into a small rolling bag. Now I’m realizing that I have to re-pack into a larger bag to fit the birthday and holiday presents I want to bring back for the boys.

So that’s what’s on my mind.

What’s on your mind? Let me know in a comment, to keep the blog hopping while I’m away.

13 October 2008 Posted by | tourism | 2 Comments

Trip of a lifetime

All that Kenya and Tanzania talk inspired us. But a vacation like that is too expensive and too complicated to plan on short notice.

I do have six weeks off in the summer for home leave. And I will have a pile of money from my employer to pay for that home leave. And there are no rules that say we must actually go home on home leave.

You see where this is going, don’t you?

Mr. Four and I have decided, tentatively, to spend about six weeks next summer traveling around East Africa, probably Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda or Rwanda. With the boys, of course.

This gives us enough time to actually figure out what we want to do and where we want to go, and to save some money to supplement our home leave funds. And then take the trip of a lifetime.

I’m so pleased that Mr. Four finds all of this as exciting as I do. Hurray!

12 October 2008 Posted by | holidays, tourism | 8 Comments

Birthday parties, Halloween, and other adventures

It’s the weekend for the Four Family. The kids have a pre-Halloween costume birthday party coming up this afternoon. We don’t have a lot of dress-up clothes around the house, and the boys are asking for superhero costumes, so I hope to have a creative burst soon. Either that or we’ll be at the local toy store, buying some cheapie pre-made costumes they’ll probably love and wear to pieces before Halloween even gets here.

Last Halloween they had fantastic train costumes made by the then-unemployed Mr. Four. This year the adults have less time and the kids have more opinions. A difficult mix but I’m sure we’ll persevere.

The next adventure coming up is my trip to London next week. It’s for a conference, and it’s work, but who cares! I was so excited for London last December, and I was not disappointed. I’m not quite so desperate for a change of scenery this time around, but who cares, it’s London!

I’ll be spending some time in seemingly-dull-but-actually-thrilling places like Boots the pharmacy. Plus I’ll pick up some colder weather clothes for the ever-growing Giggle (4T last summer; now comfortably in size 6-7 tops), probably at H&M. I’ll also be buying presents for the November-December-February series that goes birthday-birthday-Christmas-birthday for the Four Family. And all this while trying not to spend too much money.

Most importantly, though, each evening I’ll enjoy a draught Guinness (or two) and fish and chips with some of those mushy peas. Yum.

We also have some family travels coming up, maybe. I have a week off in early December for Eid el Adha, the Muslim Feast of Abraham. It’s too early to combine with Christmas, unfortunately, as that’d mean Giggle missing more than a week of school. So Bug and I are thinking of taking a week-long trip to Ethiopia, where Giggle doesn’t want to go anyway (too soon for him). However, this might mean we can’t afford a longer trip for the whole family over Christmas.

Should Bug and I go to Ethiopia for a week, or should we try to get the whole family somewhere for two weeks in late December and early January? The somewhere is unknown, but Europe is too expensive, the Middle East is too similar, and Kenya and Tanzania are too close not to go. Right? But can we afford them once we get there? Hmm.

10 October 2008 Posted by | bug, ethiopia, family, giggle, our life in egypt, tourism | 5 Comments

Salt in the wound

I wrote this blog entry about two weeks ago, in the wee hours as I awaited the first presidential debate, and never published it (I’m not sure why, but probably because I had already published something that day). I just noticed it and didn’t want to delete it, so here it is. It’s a bit melodramatic to publish this now, but, eh, it’s my blog, and I’ll cry if I want to.

Written around September 26
Sometimes blogging about my kids feels too personal. And sometimes I blog so I can stay up late to watch the presidential debates. So I dog blog. Just what you came here for, right? Good.

A few weeks ago I mentioned that a car hit Puppy Four, who ended up with some ugly abrasions on a paw. I later mentioned that he was having seizures again.

Well, the seizures were awful to witness. The poor pup would stiffen up, drool, shake, poop, paw for air, and more awfulness. He had been doing so well, too, up til the incident with the car. We were out walking that night for Giggle’s first soccer practice, and I wouldn’t have taken the Pup unless I thought he was up for it.

So what followed was a huge regression. The seizures completely wore him out. They seemed to happen more often at night, and he was lethargic and sensitive during the day–a huge change from his usually more energetic self.

We went yet again to the vet, of course. The doctor prescribed a new round of anti-seizure medication, which worked, but he was still really lethargic. He also developed an ulcer on his lip and nose, and he wasn’t eating very much. I took him back to the vet this week, and Puppy Four is now on a new medicine that’s working great.

But, at the vet that night, I finally asked, “Do you think he’ll be okay?” The answer is probably not. The vet suspects Puppy Four has permanent damage to his central nervous system and will never be “normal.” I was tearing up and didn’t walk to talk more about it, so the pup and I left to head back home, me sure he was near the end.

And so then, that night, the pup began a major personality recovery. He started following me around the house again and chewing on my arm whenever it was available to him. This morning, for the very first time, he play-growled with a pillow.

And tonight he found his voice: he barked (a first!) and worked his way up to a howl. Probably not so nice for the folks sleeping in the house, but it was fun to hear.

9 October 2008 Posted by | pets, sicknesses | Comments Off on Salt in the wound


Thanks, all, for the very kind comments and thoughts you have sent my way. Tuesday morning we told the boys about the pup. Giggle’s first reaction: “Can we have a cat?” So he’s either already moved on or totally repressed. I will note that when I was 9 years old or so, and my parents told me they were separating, I asked, “Will our new house have a pool?”

Kids do have their priorities.

Bug hasn’t been talking about it much, which is unusual for him, especially since he was back on the oft-visited topic of pet death last weekend (so intuitive of him!).

The kids haven’t seen too much of my sadness, and I’m not sure they noticed my moping around, either. This has hit me harder than I would have thought. Euthanizing a pup really sucks. (Especially for the pup!)

On Tuesday night, post-euthanasia, as we walked home from soccer, a stray puppy caught Bug’s attention. “It’s Puppy Four!” he said. The dog did look like a small version of our pup, which isn’t unusual at all. What was strange was when this puppy wagged his tail and started following us. Usually strays aren’t so friendly in Cairo. He was limping with an injured back leg and his ribs were showing through his fur. We crossed the street and he barked at us and we kept going.

I can’t imagine walking on by a pup like this in the US, especially when I have full bag of puppy chow at home, but here there’d be no where for the dog to go except to our house. And I kept thinking, “rabies, rabies, rabies,” since there are a lot of rabid dogs around Cairo (though not so much in our neighborhood).

We don’t need any more pets right now, and we really don’t need another sick puppy. And, I will admit with some guilt, life is easier without Puppy Four. But it’s still all very sad. I miss him.

Today, I do feel a bit better, probably because last night I fell asleep when the kids did, sometime before 8pm, and slept soundly all night.

We have a busy weekend ahead, with a dress-up birthday party and soccer, and then I head off to London for work next week. Plus we’re planning fall and winter travels, and work is busy, in a mostly good way, right now. So here’s hoping for some distractions and a better outlook.

9 October 2008 Posted by | bug, giggle, pets | 1 Comment