We Four in Egypt

Now back in the US!

Sipping tea in Ethiopia

I drink a lot of tea, usually black tea with milk, and Bug and Giggle always want sips. They often request and make their own versions, anything from warm water with honey to milk and sugar and probably a dozen other concoctions they have neglected to share with us.

When Bug and I were in Ethiopia in December, we’d eat breakfast each day at the hotel, usually sharing a meal. Each morning I’d order tea, which came with lots of sugar and rarely milk. Even with milk, it still needed some sugar. Not surprisingly, Bug really liked it. So he wanted his own. I eventually obliged. He enjoyed the ritual of adding the sugar and stirring the tea as much as actually drinking it: he’d usually stop after a few sips and I’d finish his tea and mine.

At lunch I’d often order a coke, and soon Bug decided he wanted a soda as well. I’m not a big fan of giving my kids soda, but it was a special trip, we were pretty active, and I didn’t want to keep fighting him… so I gave in. As parents, Mr. Four is usually a bit stricter than I am, but I tend to be more concerned about their nutrition, so I was a bit chagrined to think I’d get home with a kid demanding tea for breakfast and Fanta for lunch.

But you know what? It didn’t happen. At all. Bug hasn’t even asked. I suspect he returned to his regularly routines so quickly he forgot about the good life of tea and soda.

I haven’t blogged much about Ethiopia, but I will do more eventually. In the meantime, some photos.

A farmer at the market in Bahir Dar gathers his teff, the grain in injera.

Beans and grains for sale at the market in Bahir Dar.


24 March 2009 Posted by | bug, ethiopia, food, giggle, parenting, tourism | 7 Comments

Looking ahead to summer

Despite grand plans to take the trip of a lifetime through East Africa this summer, it looks like we’ll be heading to the US for the summer–and then back to Cairo this fall.

I could say it was because I read in the book Third Culture Kids that it’s important for kids who live overseas to have a home base to return to each summer. But it’s also in part because I have been feeling homesick. Also, the boys are growing out of their clothes. And, Tanzania and Kenya are looking to be more expensive than putzing around in the US.

Most importantly, the boys have been asking to go to the US. Giggle talks about visiting “America” and Bug really wants to go to the mountains. Sometimes he’s so distraught that we’re not leaving right away that we have to talk about what we’ll pack for our trip and what we’ll do once we get there (pick blackberries, play with the neighbor’s dog, go tubing).

The slightly troublesome logistics include Mr. Four’s vacation time, which is less than mine, which means we either spend more time in Cairo as a family, or I figure out something to do with the boys for about a week or two. I’ve been daydreaming about a European layover, which would be really expensive, which is why it’ll probably remain a daydream. But Mr. Four and I want the boys out of the city if we can afford it, since the air here is just so awful. Their little lungs need the break. And I really want to maximize my time away from Cairo, which helps me appreciate it all the more once I get back.

This is definitely a first-world problem however.

Last year at this time I was having another problem of the privileged: I was pretty unhappy in Cairo. I can’t pinpoint exactly what’s changed, except I’m pretty sure it’s me and not this place, but this spring I’m doing okay.

And, now, I need to get back to my daydreams. Prague, anyone?

23 March 2009 Posted by | bug, expat scene, family, giggle, holidays, home | 7 Comments

Roses and thorns

We Fours have a new tradition-in-the-making, inspired by the Obama family.

A few weeks ago, listening to Slate’s Political Gabfest podcast, I learned that each night the Obamas individually share a rose, something good, and a thorn, something difficult, from their day. (For more information, the Washington Post mentioned it here.)

Mr. Four, Bug, Giggle, and I have dinner together at home usually at least four nights a week, and often more (though sometimes we eat dinner at our club on the weekends). But the boys often acted silly through much of dinner, and while I tried to engage the boys about their day at school, I wasn’t always successful.

But now we’ve started our own roses and thorns, and it’s going great. In fact, the boys remember it at dinner before I do. Bug even wanted to talk roses and thorns at breakfast this morning.

It’s a great way to have some structured conversation, and I’m learning a lot more about what the boys are up to at school. Thorns often focus on difficulty with a friend. (In Bug’s renditions, usually his entire school is in time out except for him and his best buddy B.)

Mr. Four and I usually talk about work stuff, and I think this could be a good way for the boys to learn more about adult life.

And, I realized as I writing this, the boys’ dinner table behavior is much better now that they have something to talk about and share.

I’ve been wanting us to have some family traditions, and so far this is a great one.

20 March 2009 Posted by | bug, family, giggle, in the news, our life in egypt, parenting, school | 3 Comments

Baby buying in Egypt

As I’ve written about before on this blog, and as people have discussed in comments, international adoption from Egypt doesn’t really happen. Not legally anyway. (Domestic adoption, at least in the western understanding, doesn’t exist either.)

But there are rumors of baby buying rings. And now it seems like some Americans are caught up in one such scenario.

This was first covered in the Egyptian press, and then Reuters picked it up, including in two good stories, one that focused more on the news and one that focused on one of the jailed couples.

According to Reuters, the couple from Durham, North Carolina, an American citizen and a green card holder with Egyptian citizenship, paid an orphanage $4,673 dollars for two infants and received forged papers listing them as the birth parents. They brought these papers to the US Embassy, to get (edited) some sort of official paperwork. The Embassy fished out the truth and turned the couple over to Egyptian authorities.

Apparently there are also two other couples who arrested around the same time, with similar charges.

The local news channel in Raleigh covered the couple’s first appearance in court on Saturday. This couples faces jail time of up to 15 years.

The real victims are the four children, now back in Egyptian orphanages. I wonder about their first moms. Did they sell these kids knowingly, thinking they’d have a better life as Americans?

A friend of mine here speculated that because so many things in Egypt, even legal processes, require a little baksheesh (a tip or bribe), perhaps this couple thought it was all legal.

But in case anyone is still wondering: you may not adopt (or buy) children from Egypt.

Edit on March 23: Please note that there are some very strongly worded comments on this post, some of which may come across as anti-Islamic. These are not my opinions, but I generally allow comments as long as the language is somewhat respectful. I’d be interested to hear folks’ responses to Mary’s comments.

17 March 2009 Posted by | adoption, in the news | 27 Comments

The Parenting Hall of Shame

Sometimes I can’t believe a licensed social worker actually approved Mr. Four and me to be parents. Not only one, but twice!

I nearly did a backflip yesterday when Giggle came home from school missing one of his top two teeth. This is his fourth, including one that fell out just a few weeks ago.


He was so excited for the tooth fairy to come as he’s been saving to buy Hot Wheels cars. The tooth fairy would contribute a good chunk of the cost of a new one.

But last night tooth fairy one and two went to bed without remembering they had teeth waiting for them. Giggle was awfully disappointed this morning.

But it turns out the tooth fairy comes during the school day as well. Phew.

12 March 2009 Posted by | parenting | 5 Comments

Sick puppy

Mister Puppy and I rushed to the vet this evening after he (skip ahead if you don’t want details) vomited several times. I’m glad we went the other night for his vaccinations, as it meant tonight they recognized us right away. He should be fine–poor guy got three shots, including one that had him yelping–and we’re going back tomorrow to make sure.

The good news is that I like the new vet. The office is really clean and it’s set up just like an American vet’s office (plus some marbled tile for an Egyptian twist). The evening vet is friendly and great with Mister Puppy. He called him “Honey” and apologized for each shot. And he hasn’t said anything about any Africans — imagine that!

Now, for today’s quiz-contest:
How much does Mister Puppy weigh?

Leave your guess in a comment.

11 March 2009 Posted by | pets | 4 Comments

Race and the vet

Mister Puppy needs to go to the vet, for his second round of shots (the woman who owns his mom took him for his first round). We used a good local vet for Iggy the cat (deceased), our other cat (missing/presumed dead), and Puppy Four (deceased), but I’m not sure I want to go back to him. Is it because all my animals are dead? No!

The more I spent with this guy (and it was quite a bit towards the end with Puppy Four), the more stories I heard. Including the one about the attractive white woman in England who married a dark-skinned African man. The vet couldn’t possibly understand what any fair-skinned woman would see in a black man.

My impression is that this is a fairly typical, or at least not uncommon, view amongst educated Egyptians. And the kind of thing I tend not to hear from people who have actually met my kids.

I didn’t correct this guy, or tell him I disagreed. Lame, I know, but I was also in the throes of Puppy Four’s dying days.

Now, however, I’m disinclined to go back. This guy may be a good vet–he came to our house to euthanize the pup–but I prefer to bring my business elsewhere, to someone who, at least for a while, isn’t an espoused racist.

So Mister Puppy and I are going to visit a new vet tonight. One who is reputed to be good but perhaps pricier. I’m crossing my fingers.

8 March 2009 Posted by | our life in egypt, pets, race | 5 Comments