We Four in Egypt

Now back in the US!

The Omo People of Ethiopia

I stumbled across an absolutely amazing series of photographs of the Omo of Ethiopia, by Hans Silvester. Here is some gorgeous body art. Take a look.

Tribus de L’OMO / Hans Silvester

Publish at Scribd or explore others: Other Presentations & Slid river corps

22 January 2009 Posted by | ethiopia | 6 Comments

Happy Inauguration Day!


20 January 2009 Posted by | our life in egypt | | 1 Comment

Honoring Dr. King

The boys had school today, and Mr. Four was at work. Like most other US federal holidays, it’s a regular work day in Egypt. I had off, but only because it’s the eastern Christian Epiphany, called Timket in Ethiopia (where it’s one of the most important holidays of the year).

But I didn’t want to let the day go by without talking about Martin Luther King. This is a tough one because so few people are talking about it here, and because it’s all very complicated. Giggle is a smart kid, but I think his language comprehension isn’t as strong when we wander into new topics.

In any case, Giggle and I chatted a bit about Dr. King (“he’s a doctor and a king?” he asked when I first raised the issue). When I said that in America, the people with white skin weren’t very nice to the people with brown skin, he said, “I know, I know, you told me!” But we talked about this a bit more, because he’s getting older and can understand some of this stuff better. Bug was still sleeping.

Then we turned to YouTube, and we watched Dr. King’s I Have a Dream speech. I think it’s really good for my boys to see people of color, and especially men of color, and especially black and African-American men, in positions of leadership. Bug joined us, and they were both impressed by the massive crowds and by the people (they noticed there were people with white skin and people with brown skin). And they really like the rhythm of the speech as well (who wouldn’t?).

Giggle also wondered why there wasn’t more color on the screen. So we had a mini technology lesson as well.

We talked about how in America today, many people dedicated the day to service and to helping others. Giggle said, “Hey, we do that!” and reminded me of some ways we’ve given to others here in Egypt.

I do wish Giggle’s school would discuss Dr. King. They go crazy over Halloween, Thanksgiving, Ramadan, Christmas–every holiday in the book, it seems, except this one.

19 January 2009 Posted by | bug, giggle, our life in egypt, race | 2 Comments

And the award for worst customer service goes to…

US Citizen Services at the American Embassy in Cairo!

I am furious at these people right now. A couple of times a year, they schedule visits to satellite locations to offer services to Americans. I desperately need new pages in my passport: Egyptian and Ethiopian visas are so big I’ve run out of room for any more stamps. The only option for me is to get this done at the Embassy; I can’t mail it like folks in the US.

The Embassy was scheduled, as recently as last week, to be in my neighborhood today. This works out well because I am off for today (for the Epiphany, Timket as its known in Ethiopia, the eastern Christian holiday) but the boys are in school.

But when I arrived at their satellite office, they weren’t there. I waited twenty minutes and finally asked… only to be told they cancelled and would be coming next week instead. Never mind that this date has been set for ages.

In early January, I scheduled my entire month around being able to do this today! Because otherwise I’d have gone downtown and waited two hours at the Embassy to do this back when I had a bunch of a days off.

This follows up on them not responding to an email I sent asking if my husband (who has to go downtown regularly anyway) could do this for me.

I’m also still mad that they didn’t help me vote last fall. The Embassy was making a huge push about how important voting was. So I sent them an email asking if I could mail my absentee ballot through their post office. I sent my email to the guy whose name was listed as being just the person to help US citizens in Egypt to vote. No word, no nothing. So much for the importance of voting. (I managed to vote anyway, no thanks to them.)

Here’s a basic customer service rule: if you’re not going to respond to email, don’t post an email address!

Right now, on the Embassy’s US Citizen Services website, if you click “Contact,” you get an email address. Which they won’t answer.

I’m not usually one to rant about the federal government because, well, I often like it (not in the Bush era though). And of late I have been feeling extra patriotic because of the inauguration. But right now I am burning!

19 January 2009 Posted by | expat scene | 7 Comments

Count your t-shirts

So, how many pairs of pants does a six year old need? How many pairs of socks will a four year old go through in a year? What sizes will my kids be wearing in 14 months?

In the US, I was always aware of Bug’s clothes: what fit, what was getting snug, what was dirty, what was clean. It was easy enough to pick up a couple pairs of shorts from Old Navy or Target when he grew out his old stuff.

Living overseas, without access to decent quality, affordable clothes for my growing boys, means shopping ahead when I’m in the US or in London. But I haven’t really figured out how to do this well.

Bug wears some hand-me-downs, but Giggle wears out many of his shoes and shirts and pants (with help from our heavily chlorinated water) before he outgrows them. So I can’t always count on having the next few sizes up.

Also, Giggle is still growing like a weed. He’s almost too tall for his size six pants (though the waist fits fine–I might be looking to buy Old Navy slim fit next time).

Add in the complexities of what these kids actually like to wear, and it’s tough.

Right now Bug has plenty of t-shirts but only one pair of swim trunks that fit–and the boys usually go through two or more swim trunks in a season. Last summer I made lists, but they weren’t specific enough. Instead of jeans, I need to specify sizes and quantity.

And part of this is figuring out how much I need in what sizes.

So, assuming we can get laundry done pretty regularly, what do you think? How many socks, shoes, pants, t-shirts, and underwear do kids need?

18 January 2009 Posted by | bug, expat scene, giggle, shopping | 4 Comments


We’re still having some real problems with internet connectivity at my house (seems to be a problem throughout my neighborhood, and perhaps the rest of the Cairo, though work is fine). I have attempted, and failed, to upload photos. So I’m giving up for a bit and am taking a forced hiatus.

15 January 2009 Posted by | our life in egypt | | Comments Off on Sluggish


Of late the evening entertainment for the Four family has been cartwheels. But not from Mr. Four and me, as you might have suspected.

Both Bug and Giggle love cartwheels. We moved the coffee table out from in between the couches, and so now they have a dedicated gym mat — our living room carpet.

Giggle’s cartwheel, after weeks of practice, is great, really almost perfect. His legs stay mostly straight, and he lands on his feet.

Bug can pull off a surprisingly good cartwheel. Sometimes it’s one-handed.

9 January 2009 Posted by | bug, family, fun, giggle | Comments Off on Cartwheels

99 things

Seen around town: the 99 Things meme
What I’ve done: bold
What I’d like to do: italicized
What I haven’t done and don’t have any particular wish to do: plain text
It’s nice to realize that I’ve done many great things.

I tag you if you are so inclined.

1. Started your own blog.
2. Slept under the stars.
3. Played in a band.
4. Visited Hawaii.
5. Watched a meteor shower.
6. Given more than you can afford to charity. (Not really, but it felt like it at the time.)
7. Been to Disneyland/world.
8. Climbed a mountain.
9. Held a praying mantis.
10. Sang a solo. (Well, I’d like to sing well enough to sing a solo.)
11. Bungee jumped.
12. Visited Paris.
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea.
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch.
15. Adopted a child.
16. Had food poisoning.
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty.
18. Grown your own vegetables.
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France.
20. Slept on an overnight train.
21. Had a pillow fight.

22. Hitch hiked. (Across a large portion of the US Southeast.)
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill. (To buy a kayak.)
24. Built a snow fort.
25. Held a lamb.
26. Gone skinny dipping.
27. Run a marathon. (Not enough to train for it though.)
28. Ridden a gondola in Venice.
29. Seen a total eclipse.
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset.
31. Hit a home run.
32. Been on a cruise.
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person.
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors. (Some of them.)
35. Seen an Amish community.
36. Taught yourself a new language. (I don’t understand this. It’s better to be taught, no?)
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied.
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person.
39. Gone rock climbing.
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David in person.
41. Sung Karaoke.
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt.
43. Bought a stranger a meal in a restaurant.
44. Visited Africa. (Uh, yeah.)
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight.
46. Been transported in an ambulance.
(Mr. Four remembers more of this than I do!)
47. Had your portrait painted. (My sister and me, when we were kids. I have it, too.)
48. Gone deep sea fishing.
49. Seen the Sistine chapel in person.
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling.
52. Kissed in the rain.
53. Played in the mud.
54. Gone to a drive-in theater.

55. Been in a movie.
56. Visited the Great Wall of China.
57. Started a business.
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia.
60. Served at a soup kitchen.
61. Sold Girl Scout cookies.
(But not as many as I’ve bought!)
62. Gone whale watching.
63. Gotten flowers for no reason.
64. Donated blood.
65. Gone sky diving.
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp.
67. Bounced a check.
68. Flown in a helicopter.
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy.
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial.

71. Eaten Caviar.
72. Pieced a quilt.
73. Stood in Times Square.
74. Toured the Everglades.
75. Been fired from a job.
76. Seen the Changing of the Guard in London.
77. Broken a bone.
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle.
(Well, it wasn’t going that fast.)
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person.
80. Published a book.
81. Visited the Vatican.
82. Bought a brand new car.
83. Walked in Jerusalem.
84. Had your picture in the newspaper.
85. Read the entire Bible.
86. Visited the White House.
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating.
88. Had chickenpox.
89. Saved someone’s life.
90. Sat on a jury.
91. Met someone famous. (The feminist and writer Naomi Wolf, also John Edwards, when he was running for Senate.)
92. Joined a book club.
93. Lost a loved one.

94. Had a baby.
95. Seen the Alamo in person.
96. Swum in the Great Salt Lake.
97. Been involved in a law suit. (If class-action where I didn’t know about it until it was done counts, then yes.)
98. Owned a cell phone.
99. Been stung by a bee.

9 January 2009 Posted by | our life in egypt | 2 Comments

Scenes from the expat life

A few things I never imagined writing:

The other day I took the boys to the club for their tennis lesson.

Yesterday I signed our housekeeper up for a cooking class.* (The woman at the desk said, “So you are signing up your maid?” I cringed, but said, “Yes.”)

Oh what a strange world it is.

*Mexican food! We are all excited. Also, she’s as much our nanny as our housekeeper. Just ask Bug.

5 January 2009 Posted by | a little different, expat scene | Comments Off on Scenes from the expat life

Three paths

There’s always plenty of time to reflect over the holidays here in Egypt. Which is usually a good thing. Here are the options in the months and years ahead.

1. Stay here for at least another full year (leaving no earlier than summer 2010). This would likely include taking a fantastic trip to East Africa this summer. It’d have Giggle in his great school for another year, and it’d get Bug through preschool. The downside: another full year of this air. Another full year in a place we don’t love (a problem of the privileged, I know). Another year where I wonder if my job skills are growing obsolete. Another year I risk getting stuck here, professionally.

2. Look for a job back in the States. Be closer to family. Live someplace we love–or at least a place we understand. Someplace where people won’t stop us to ask if we are a family and then insist we can’t be because of the differences in our skin (sadly, this was not an isolated event). The downside: the end of the adventure.

3. Take the adventure another step and look for a job in eastern or southern Africa. Live someplace were we can travel even more easily to places we love. Be someplace where the boys blend in. The downside: a career shift for me that might be harder to bounce back from if I don’t love it.

Path number one is also the path of least resistance, and probably where we’re headed.

What would you do?

4 January 2009 Posted by | africa, expat scene, our life in egypt, race | 6 Comments