We Four in Egypt

Now back in the US!

Packing day

As I type, there are two Egyptian men in my living room building boxes and packing most of our stuff into them. Mr. Four and I are drinking beers, Bug has already fallen asleep for the evening, Giggle is watching The Incredibles, and Mr. Puppy is observing it all anxiously.

Yesterday was busy, as we sorted through all our stuff and piled what we wanted to ship into one room. We left a few things to take with us in our luggage. It took most of the day, but this packing day is much easier than two years ago, when we came here. We were trying to sell our house, re-home our animals, and help Giggle adjust to life in our family, the biggest transition of all.

Things will be a bit crazy when we get to Dream Town (on Wednesday, inshallah), but for now, I’m glad my employer requires that they pack our things (for insurance purposes). It’s making these last few days in Cairo much easier for all of us.


3 October 2009 Posted by | expat scene, getting there | 1 Comment

THAT mother with THOSE kids

With no help from the horrid flight attendants on the Cairo to JKF flight (and I’m sure they felt the same way about us), we made it. I was starting to think maybe all Americans (like, had I maybe just forgotten?) were terrible until our second flight, when the lovely, wonderful flight attendant was so great with the boys and especially Giggle, who was having a very hard time waiting through a long runway taxi.

Now we’re here in College Town, at our friends’ house (they are out of town). It’s perfect and we’re so happy to be here.

More later when I have time.

22 June 2008 Posted by | getting there, giggle, transportation | 3 Comments

(Almost) on our way!

My cousin K is back from Luxor and Aswan and her cruise. She found some good folks on the boat and had a great time.

I’m just about packed. Mr. Four is working tonight, and the boys and I are headed out to a movie… then Saturday morning we leave for the airport. At this point I’m so excited my stomach is getting twisty. In a good way.

I’m so very fortunate to have some lovely people as friends, folks who are willing to buy us groceries in advance of our arrival, pick us up at the airport, and drive us around town until we get our own rental on Sunday. I’m looking forward to see them and everyone else.

So I’ll be offline for a few days, and (inshallah) will next post stateside. (And about that inshallah thing… after several months in Egypt, I feel like if I don’t say it, I’m tempting fate! Which I’m not inclined to do hours before boarding a transatlantic flight.)

20 June 2008 Posted by | getting there, transportation | 4 Comments

To candy or not to candy

Mr. Four thinks I shouldn’t bring candy on the plane, because once it’s out the boys are going to want it constantly and will go crazy if they can’t have it.

I’m inclined to bring it, something that’s long-lasting like hard candy, and let them overindulge.


20 June 2008 Posted by | bug, getting there, giggle, transportation | 8 Comments

Travel advice, please

I’m leaving for the US in about five weeks (but who’s counting), and I need some advice for our trip.

First, the rental car (or, more specifically, rental mini-van, which seems to be the only vehicle which will accommodate four people with bloated luggage).

Giggle, Bug, and I are scheduled to arrive at the airport near College Town, USA on a weekend night in June at about 9:30pm, so about 3:30am for our Cairo-adjusted bodies. We’ll have been traveling since early that morning, Cairo time. We only have one connection from Cairo to College Town, through New York City, but I’m sure we’ll be zonked, especially me, since Mr. Four isn’t joining us until about a week later and I’ll be on my own with the boys.

Here’s the question. Do I go ahead and pick up the rental car when we arrive at the airport? It’s about 30 minutes from the airport to the place we’re staying in College Town, including some interstate, so I’d be driving that stretch on my own (my first time driving in almost a year). I have never arrived in the US from a trans-Atlantic flight feeling like I was ready to drive, but I could inhale some sugary sodas and push it. Perhaps I’ll be so excited to be in the US that I’ll have some extra energy.

The advantage of getting the car that night is that, once we’re in College Town and have had a good night’s sleep, we can head right out the door to our favorite Family Diner and grocery store. We can start living right away.

The other options are to get a taxi to take us to College Town or to beg a friend to pick us up at the airport. Better in the short term, but then we’d have to get a taxi or friend to take us back to the airport to get the rental car the next day, which would involve schlepping the kids around yet again because I don’t want to leave them, jet lagged and over stimulated, with someone they don’t really know.

Next round: carry-ons.
My boys have each taken two trans-Atlantic flights, and they both did great. However, those flights left at night. This flight leaves in the morning, which means the boys will be wide awake. Giggle will entertain himself by watching every movie and listening to every music station (and he’ll complain bitterly when we have to get off the plane). Bug is less predictable, though generally easier to amuse.

So, what should I bring on the plane to entertain them (keeping in mind I’m limited by what’s available in Cairo)? And, more importantly, what should I bring it in? Should they each have their own backpacks, or will this just be more stuff for me to carry around? And do I bring the large carry-on that only fits overhead but holds lots of stuff? The boys could then drag this one around the airports.

The complicating factor is our short layover in New York City, which means there’s a good chance we’ll miss our connection and end up spending the night in New York (exciting at any other time! but not this one!), without our luggage. So, on the plane, I want to bring at least one full change of clothes for the boys, and something approximating a change of clothes for me. Any carry-on advice, whether about the bag itself or what to put in it, is welcome.

Transporting the children: child carriers.

Last summer, Mr. Four and I brought a lightweight umbrella stroller and the Ergo baby carrier on the plane. Either boy fit in either. What should I bring this year? I don’t think I want to deal with the stroller, and I could get one pretty cheaply in the US. But what about the baby carrier? Either boy could go on my back, backpack-style. What’s easier: one kid on my back and me hauling the luggage? Or two kids walking (or perhaps one being carried) and me hauling the luggage? Or maybe one kid in a stroller?

And, finally, car seats.

Mr. Four and I, in our naivete, brought the boys’ car seats to Cairo. They are now shoved in some corner of our spare room, collecting dust. I definitely won’t bring them onto the plane, but should I bring them back to the US? We’d probably save about $100 or so in car seat rental for the minivan and maybe $50 or so in car seat rental for when we’re at my mom’s house, but they are really bulky, even when they’re in bags to be checked. I was hoping to minimize the amount of luggage I’ll have to deal with when it’s just me with the boys. The distance from the car into the airport, and then from baggage claim to outside, can be the most dreadful part of any trip.

I probably won’t bring the carseats back to Cairo if we bring them to the US, so we could use the luggage space for Fig Newtons and maple syrup and other essentials. Which would mean that if we ever want car seats here, we’re stuck. But that seems unlikely. So, what do you think?

Last question: am I making this complicated or is it complicated all on its own?

18 May 2008 Posted by | bug, getting there, giggle, transportation | 17 Comments

Whither the menagerie?

A few months ago, we had a house full of animals. To answer a comment, here are their various fates.

The Old Hound
A legend in his own time, the old hound is now in that great woodsy romp-land in the sky. He retired into town with us a few years ago and had a month long wilderness adventure shortly after. Then the next summer there was the cancer scare. This past spring, he deteroriated quickly, and by June, he could barely stand on his own. He was a good dog, and we miss him.

Ms. Muddy Paws
This girl was with me a long time, really since a few months after Mr. Four and I started dating way back when. She wasn’t doing very well with the boys, first Bug and then both Bug and Giggle. She went to live with her big fan, my mother, so we’re hearing regular updates of her neighborhood adventures.

The Jeckyll/Hyde Kitty
My mom wanted a mouser and, since Ms. Muddy Paws was already loaded up, what’s one more? The Jeckyll/Hyde Kitty has since entranced my mother with her own brand of quirky affection. No word yet on her mousing.

Ms. Underfoot
My doggy soulmate, the dog we always thought needed to be around kids. Man, was I wrong. She never could give up being number one. This was the toughest one for me. In fact, the move here probably made this easier, as I had known for a while Ms. Underfoot probably needed a new home. And she has a wonderful family, a young couple with a house next to a huge field, near acres of woods where they walk regularly. She’s thriving, but I miss her terribly.

Iggy the Diabetic Cat
You’ll recall the good news was that Iggy’s limping was not related to his diabetes. The bad news is that his body, apparently, is too weak to fight the infections in his pads. He just came back from a doctor’s visit, and three of his four feet are bandaged up. He may have surgery on one pad this weekend. Poor Iggy–I hope he’s not too miserable. The boys, to their credit, have been very gentle with him.

So that’s how we went from five animals to one in a very short time. I know all the reasons we found new homes for them, but I still feel terrible. I’m trying to keep in mind my mother’s warning before we left: “Don’t take in any more animals in Egypt!”

Did I mention this is a country of stray cats? They are everywhere. But I am trying to be strong in the face of all that mewing.

10 September 2007 Posted by | getting there, iggy the cat | 1 Comment

Back to work…

I still have another week until my regular work schedule begins, but tomorrow, Mr. Four and I will start orientation. He’ll attend one day, and I the rest of the week.

It’s been great to have these two weeks here to settle in, especially after the spring and fall, filled with so much unknown. We decided to adopt Giggle in March and had some frantic weeks of paper chasing after that, and it was around that time that we first learned of the possibility of moving to Cairo, never realizing how snug the timing would be with both Giggle’s homecoming and our move.

Then we spent much of May wondering about the job here as well as Giggle’s adoption hearing, which seemed to take longer all the time. Mr. Four called me one day in May to say I had a call from Cairo. “You mean from the adoption agency?” No, from Cairo. It was all very complicated.

Things started calming down and ramping up simultaneously in early July, when Giggle and I arrived in the US from Ethiopia. We had a few intense weeks at first, when he seemed to experience every emotion to the extreme. Still, it was good to be together, finally.

But those last few weeks in our house in the US were overwhelming, as we prepared our shipment with its detailed inventory list, packed up the rest of the house, and stuffed our suitcases. In the midst of this there were house showings and tantrums and lots of shopping trips (often all at the same time!).

So here we are. And finding our way around a new town and culture feels a lot less overwhelming than what we experienced earlier this summer, perhaps because instead getting ready for something, we are living our lives.

Tomorrow begins a new routine for us all. Giggle has gone to school a few days, but I’ve been home in the afternoons after school. Soon I’ll be away from the house even when he gets home, and Mr. Four will be the primary caregiver for the boys. Bug is used to this arrangement, though I can’t say any of us love it. Not that I’d rather have Mr. Four out of the house all day–I just wish we could all have more time together.

Pleasantly added into the mix is our new housekeeper/nanny, a lovely young Ethiopian woman who was highly recommended by her current employer, an expat leaving the country. Hana starts in a week. Giggle wasn’t sure what to make of her til he heard the magic word: injera. She’ll speak Amharic to the boys and cook Ethiopian food, in addition to cleaning the house and sometimes watching the boys in the afternoons.

There are a few times that I’ve wondered if we have enough work here for a housekeeper. Then other times I’m worried part-time won’t be enough!

Of course, all this depends on gainful employment, which depends on the retreat of the bacteria currently invading my legs. The hypochondriac in me is wondering if I have the antiobiotic-resistant strain of something-or-other, which will require successive doses of IV drips while in quarantine. I told Mr. Four that if I languish in a hospital, he should send me to the medical center at my beloved alma mater, where at least I could wile away the days listening to the band practice the school’s fight song.

Let’s hope I stay here, if only so this blog will be more interesting for all of us.

25 August 2007 Posted by | getting there, giggle, our life in egypt, parenting | 5 Comments

Keeping it all together

Mr. Four and I share some mutual goals for the next 48 hours or so: trying not to get too tense, trying not to snap at chatty people who are being friendly when-don’t-they-know-we-have-eight-million-things-to-do, and trying to keep things calm and mellow with the kids and each other.

We’ll be quite a sight: we have eight checked bags stuffed full and we’ll be carrying on two kids’ backpacks, one rolling carry on (bought especially for this trip), one purse, and… our cat. Poor Iggy is the only one who hasn’t been prepped with lots of planning and excitement. There will be no new trains waiting for him in Cairo. At least he’s going to the land of cat worship and gets to ride in the cabin.

Thanks to all you folks who have found my little blog already. It might be a few days til I can next post. And, then, we shall actually be we four in Egypt.

10 August 2007 Posted by | getting there | 2 Comments

Why Egypt?

I’ve been hearing this question a lot lately. The biggest part of the answer isn’t terribly interesting: an interesting job in my field became available there, and the move seemed like a viable path for me professionally and for our family financially.

But of course there’s much more than that. There’s my parents’ year-long residence in a North African country before I was born, ever apparent as I played on the camel saddle in our living room. There’s a desire to travel but a lack of funds to do it. There’s a lifelong interest in living abroad.

But really there are two wonderful little boys. And moving to Cairo opens up some doors for us and them: because of our employer-supplied housing and the cost of living, Mr. Four won’t be working, at least not right away, so we’ll have a parent at home full-time, something we can’t afford in our charming yet pricey college town.

More than money, though, is the opportunity for my sons, born in Ethiopia and now US citizens, to have a perspective beyond that of being (relatively) wealthy Americans. My kids are American. That part will come easily enough to them. But I want them also to feel a connection to Ethiopia and Africa and life beyond the provincialism of the United States. From Egypt, it’s a pretty short flight to Ethiopia and much of sub-Saharan Africa, where I hope we’ll travel soon.

Finally, to answer the original question: isn’t it obvious? We’re talking about Egypt, the home of the Pharoahs and Pyramids. When I saw the job listing and mentioned Cairo to Mr. Four, his eyes twinkled. “Sure,” he said. “Go for it.” And, so, here we go.

10 August 2007 Posted by | bug, getting there, giggle, our life in egypt, parenting | 4 Comments

My little Bug

Bug and Mr. Four at the zoo

Bug is two years old and he’s been my son for just over a year. He’s a wonderful little boy, and I adore him. Giggle is four years old (or so), and he’s been our son for just over a month.

I was worried about how Bug would take to Giggle, and it’s been a delight and relief to see these boys playing together and loving each other. I particularly love how Giggle will show some real kindness to Bug after a disagreement, like when Bug wants a something-or-other that Giggle has. Giggle will protest, but often, a few minutes later, will say, “Bug’s turn!” and pass the treasure over.

Bug is also learning about being small–as the only child, he didn’t have anyone around who could do more. Now, he’s not the fastest runner or strongest climber. And he has quickly become a charmingly annoying little brother who knows how to make Giggle scream by chasing him around the house.

Mr. Four and I were concerned about Giggle’s adjustment to us, especially given this huge move. But it seems Bug is the more stressed. He’s at a tough age–old enough to recognize the changes, but too young to process his emotions verbally. So he’s been acting out a bit and yearning for his old routine, or so it seems.

Even though my focus has been on Giggle this past month, I have loved having some extra time to cuddle with Bug. And given all the upheaval approaching, it’s been good for both of us.

10 August 2007 Posted by | bug, family, getting there, giggle | Comments Off on My little Bug