We Four in Egypt

Now back in the US!

We four Fours

The Fours are going out tonight. All four Fours, actually. We’ve been invited to some friends’ house for a party. The kids will be set up in a room with pillows, blankets, a TV, and lots of DVDs.

Bug has started in on the evening’s celebrations early by crashing out on the couch. Guess we’ll carry him over to our friends’ place. He’ll probably wake up when we’re about to put him to bed at home.

Giggle is chicly dressed in a black t-shirt and jeans. Size 6 jeans that are just about too short, by the way.

I’m not sure the last time Mr. Four and I went out for New Year’s Eve, but it could have been (no kidding) 2000. Quite the party animals, aren’t we?

Happy New Year! All best to you in 2009.


31 December 2008 Posted by | bug, giggle, holidays | 2 Comments

Turkey and creamed spinach enchiladas

Happen to have a whole lot of leftover turkey? Eager to use up the remaining creamed spinach? Give these turkey and creamed spinach enchiladas a try! (They’re based on an easy recipe from myrecipe.)

3 cups shredded leftover turkey
2 cups leftover creamed spinach
1 cup sour cream
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese (divided into two 1-cup portions)
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
12 tortillas*
1 jar (16 oz.) of your favorite salsa

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. In a bowl, mix turkey, spinach, sour cream, one cup of shredded cheese, and the salt.

3. Heat oil in an 8- to 10-inch frying pan over low heat. Dip the tortillas, one at a time, in the hot oil just until limp, about 5 seconds.

4. Spread a small amount of the salsa on the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish (just enough to lightly coat the bottom).

5. Fill tortillas equally with turkey mixture, roll up, and arrange side by side, seam down, in the baking dish. Pour salsa evenly over the top.**

6. Bake in oven for about 15 minutes. Remove from oven, and evenly sprinkle the remaining cup of cheddar cheese over the enchiladas. Return to oven and bake another five minutes or so, until cheese is melted and enchiladas are warmed through.

*The original recipe calls for corn tortillas. I found small flour tortillas, and those worked well.
** I ended up with leftover turkey/spinach mix (which I froze for a later meal). You might not, if you stuff them more fully or use bigger tortillas.

If you have suggestions to make this less calorific or better in another way (perhaps more authentic), I’d love to hear them!

27 December 2008 Posted by | food, holidays | 2 Comments

A merry Christmas

christmas in cairo

Christmas started bright and early this morning, when Giggle awoke at 4:50am. Mr. Four convinced him to keep out of the living room until 6:45, when Giggle and a newly-awakened Bug joined forces to drag me out of bed. (Fortunately, Mr. Four and I had finished wrapping presents during the day, so we weren’t up too late.)

And thus began a perfect Christmas day. The boys loved their presents, from the simple (tape) to the not-so-simple (remote control super cars). Mr. Four was the happiest I’ve ever seen him with any gift when he unwrapped his black metal forged coat rack (it’s the lump behind the curtain in the above photo). We left his old wooden coat rack behind in the US when we moved to Cairo, and apparently he’s been missing it more than I knew.

And even though Santa forgot to fill my stocking (which really upset Bug), I was thrilled with new boots, a beautiful onyx and pearl necklace, and some framed prints we’ve had sitting around forever (unframed).

The boys played and played all day. Some of their best presents were the ones I got in London in October (on the most fun shopping day of my life). And the tape, of course.

We also had fun tracking Santa, and watching some video of his flight over the Pyramids, as well as his path across the western US, including his visit to their cousin’s house in southern California.

Bug and Giggle were inspired by some new caps and gloves to become “Charlie” and “Farley,” sneaky spies who creep undetected around the house. I attempted to get some photos of these mysterious fellows.

the spy flees
Farley (aka Giggle) flees the scene

the spy hides
Charlie (aka Bug) eludes capture

I didn’t have the heart to tell them they looked more like burglars.

Dinner included a small portion of our 22-pound turkey, the smallest available at Carrefour, along with mashed potatoes, corn, stuffing, creamed spinach (a tradition from Mr. Four’s family), and gravy. All followed by Mr. Four’s famous apple pie for dessert. And with the delightful company of a few friends.

While Mr. Four put the boys to bed, I decided I didn’t have the motivation to make soup, so I gathered up some excess turkey skin, meat, and bones and played Santa to some neighborhood dogs and cats. I couldn’t bear to throw away that good meat. The animals were very happy.

Now we’re enjoying a relaxing evening. And thus ends a wonderful Christmas.

25 December 2008 Posted by | our life in egypt | 4 Comments

A real way to help refugees

We’ve met a lot of refugees here in Egypt who are desperately hoping for a better life. These aren’t people from Egypt, but from East Africa, who have gotten stuck here as they work their way through the very complicated UN refugee system. Egypt is not a great place for these folks.

Our very good friend Mike has posted an idea to change.org as part of a larger campaign to find the best ideas for the new Obama administration. Mike, who is an expert on international refugee law, has a great proposal to help refugees get to the United States, including through individual sponsorship by Americans (which is already done in Canada and Australia). Mike wrote the following:

Our proposal to revitalize US refugee policy started several weeks later than others in the Ideas for Change program, but it has been moving up. We’re in third place now in the “humanitarian relief” category, and we are just 70 votes out of first place. But in just 10 days, we need to make the cut for the final round of voting.

Many of you have already voted, but some are still waiting. Now is the time. There is an opening to make a change for US foreign policy and for refugees around the world, but it won’t last for long.

Just follow these steps:
1) Join Change.org at https://www.change.org/admin/sign_up
2) Vote by going to: http://www.change.org/ideas/view/usa_refugee_corps_-_export_hope_and_revitalize_our_national_moral_standing You should see your vote register and the number of votes go up! If you don’t see that happen, try voting again.

If you have already voted, then please – please – find some colleagues or friends, and tell them about this idea. Ask them to vote. 70 votes is not very many. We can win this election, and give ourselves a major boost in the lobbying we will need to do in Washington.

And, finally, make this proposal your own. Add your input on the change.org website. There has already been a good discussion, and a lot of good ideas, and as this proposal is developed over time we will be incorporating them. And the more people discuss and debate it, the stronger this campaign.

Thank you. Mike

Please take a minute from your busy holiday season to vote to support refugees. Thanks!

22 December 2008 Posted by | africa, in the news | 1 Comment

Christmas in Egypt

I like Christmas in Egypt. In the US I often feel like the Grinch (before his heart grows two sizes), but here I find only joy in the holiday.

In Egypt, Christmas is whatever we want it to be. Very few people here are celebrating Christmas (Egyptian Coptic Christians celebrate in early January), so we aren’t competing with crowds of grumpy holiday shoppers. And perhaps because expats spend a lot of money, shopkeepers are extra friendly and offer enthusiastic holidays wishes. And, most importantly to me, other people aren’t telling us what Christmas should mean to us.

The Christmas spirit isn’t just felt by expats in Egypt. Many Egyptian Muslim families buy trees, and Santa brings money to many of these kids.

There are some challenges. It’s tough to find good quality toys here, at least without a major schlep to the big mall across town (I’ve been there twice and really the only thing that’d draw me there again is the Mexican restaurant). But I bought most of the kids’ presents in London in October (the most fun shopping day of my life), so right now we’re mostly shopping for stocking stuffers and a couple extra small things.

We’re also not sure where to find a turkey, but if we substitute a chicken (of which there are plenty) and still have the other traditional fixings, we’ll be fine.

The biggest challenge is that we can’t be with our family. On the plus side, we don’t have to deal with the stress of holiday travel.

So really the challenges are pretty minimal. What is great is how much time off I have to spend with the boys. This week we’re going to head out to Fagnoon, one of our favorite places, where the kids can paint and screen print and shape clay on a foot-pumped wheel, and hang out at our club and maybe even bake cookies.

The irony is that in this Muslim country, I finally have the time and space to celebrate Christmas just as we want.

21 December 2008 Posted by | expat scene, holidays | 10 Comments

The intertubes are jammed

Last February, quite mysteriously, three different internet cables under the Mediterranean Sea, from Egypt to Europe, were damaged within a few days of each other. Apparently a huge percentage of Egypt’s internet services went through those cables (I’m remembering something like 90%). We had crawling internet for days and slow internet for three or four weeks. Ripples were felt throughout Africa and into other parts of the Middle East and Asia.

It seems the same thing has happened again: three internet cables have been damaged or cut. In the same place, apparently. I’d tell you more about it, but I can’t read the news!

But it’s mighty suspicious, don’t you think?

Anyway, it took quite a few hours on Friday before we figured out the problem wasn’t just our internet connection. I was able to get online early Saturday morning around 1-2am (Bug woke me up for some water and I couldn’t get back to sleep), and now I’m back online again, on Sunday at 3am (Bug woke me up because he was hungry, and I couldn’t get back to sleep).

This means I will probably not be batch-posting any photos Ethiopia. But I also know most folks are traveling or hanging out with family and not necessarily sitting around waiting for a trip report.

In the meantime, I have one more day of work (which may well be a waste without any internet) and then most of two weeks home with the boys.

They are very excited about Santa. Our little Charlie Brown tree is looking particularly fancy this year with all sorts of school-made decorations.

In any case, have a great holiday! And check back once in a while for some photos.

21 December 2008 Posted by | bug, ethiopia, holidays, this blog | 2 Comments

We’re back!

Bug and I had an amazing trip! It was the trip of a lifetime.

We spent most of our time in Lalibela and Bahir Dar. (Photos to come.)

Let me whet your appetite with this photo, from an apparently recently re-named establishment in Bahir Dar. Bug and I did not actually dine there.

The Obama Bar & Restaurant in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia

In Bahir Dar, Ethiopia

Now I’m off to bed, at 4 or 5pm in the afternoon, after a very tiring nighttime flight.

13 December 2008 Posted by | ethiopia, tourism | 9 Comments