We Four in Egypt

Now back in the US!

Bad luck in threes? (11/9)

My friend A invited me to a movie yesterday. I’ve yet to see a movie in Cairo, so this sounded like a great idea. As A and I walked into the theater, I told her about my past two disastrous attempts to see movies in Egypt.

Last year in October, we four tried to go to a movie only to find out that the whole mall was closed for iftar (it was Ramadan).

A few days later, Mr. Four and I tried again, but this time I made double sure to check by calling in advance. Despite my best plans, this other theater was also closed.

A assured me we would get to see the movie because she checked the web and called ahead to talk with someone. Indeed, at the theater, the friendly sales gal sold us tickets for Momma Mia. Then, as we perused the snack stand, she came back over to tell us Momma Mia was not, in fact, going to be playing, but only Hell Boy 2. That was not A’s first choice.

So, no movie.

A and I did have a nice visit. We had a snack at Chili’s and then cruised the 9LE store.

But, Cairenes, please tell me: what is the secret to watching a movie in the theater in Cairo?


9 November 2008 Posted by | oops!, our life in egypt | 8 Comments

Wah, I just want to watch some TV.

When we first moved to Egypt, we decided not to get a TV. We didn’t want to spend the money, and Giggle had already proved himself quite adept at operating the TV and DVD player, and we didn’t want the kids watching TV all the time. Or either of us.

Lately, though, I’ve been missing TV a bit. Once in a while it’d be nice to curl up, all four of us, and watch some silly kids’ movie. We’re not really folks who buy DVDs, so our options have been limited. And Mr. Four likes sports, and he’s been stuck trying to follow games online.

So, about two weeks ago, Giggle and I bought a TV for Mr. Four for Christmas. The same day, right outside the Carrefour where we bought the TV, I signed up for satellite service with Orbit, one of the main providers here in Egypt and the one with more sports offerings. I was delighted when the Orbit guy arranged for installation that afternoon. It was a Thursday, and they were to come at 7pm. It all seemed too smooth and too easy.

Orbit called me to say the installers were running late, but that was no problem. They finally arrived around 8:30pm. I was surprised when two young guys wearing stylish jeans and dress shoes showed up with the satellite dish. They started the installation only to discover they couldn’t get onto the roof. We found the bowab, basically the doorman/superintendent, who also found the neighborhood super bowab (seriously, it seems like this guy subcontracts all the other bowabs). It turns out that roof access is through a key, and only two people have keys to the roof, including the woman who owns our apartment (my employer rents it from her). The bowab had me call her, so I did. She didn’t pick up. The bowab said to call again (many people here don’t have voicemail). So I called and called until about the 20th time, when she answered. Her English wasn’t great, so I handed the phone over to the super bowab. In the meantime, the two installers and two bowabs were sitting around our living room while Giggle tried to get them to play and Bug chattered away in his room, unwilling to sleep with all the excitement.

Finally, after a protracted conversation with both bowabs, the building owner agreed to come the next day, Friday, at 3pm.

The installers came back on Friday afternoon, but no lady and no key. The installer guys said to call them when we had the key. They were annoyed. They also wanted to be paid for the installation, so we paid them.

The super bowab told us he’d get the key from someone else, a man who also apparently owns part of the building. But he was out of town for a few days with the holiday.

Finally, on Monday, about a week ago, I contacted my employer, our landlord, who said they’d get the key and bring it over on Saturday. Which they did, hurray! On Saturday I heard from the super bowab that he had the key. So then I called Orbit. The guy I spoke with didn’t quite understand the situation but said he’d have technical support call us. This was yesterday.

Technical support called today. “So you want help with your decoder?” he asked. I tried to explain the situation. It sounded like he understood, but then he said he’d have to charge us for a service visit. He said it’d be a minimum of LE 25. That’s less than $5, but we had already paid for the installation even though the dish wasn’t installed, so I told the guy we weren’t paying for anything. He said he’d have the installers come by, so I thought.

That was this afternoon. No installers today. And we’re now about a week and a half into our first month’s contract with this company, which we paid in advance. Obviously the language barrier is a major issue here (my Arabic vocabulary includes about ten words), even though many folks involved speak English well. I should have gotten the installers’ phone number, but I didn’t. And now I can’t figure out how to communicate that we need these guys to come back. And I don’t even know if the technical support guys would know how to intall the dish in the first place.

It’s incredibly frustrating. Because you know, all I want is to cuddle with Mr. Four and watch a little TV. And it’s starting to feel like an epic miscommunication. All this is no doubt exacerbated by my flu last week and my homesickness this week, both of which have me craving some mindless TV time.

Of course in the big scheme of things this is all nothing. I know that. But darnit all. I’m feeling very irrirated and whiney and incompetent. Blech.

30 December 2007 Posted by | oops!, our life in egypt | 7 Comments

Foiled again

I’ve been craving some sort of escapist fantasy, and, given that Cairo’s theaters are teeming with “foreign films” in the form of American blockbusters, Mr. Four and I planned to spend the kids’ naptime today watching Matt Damon run and shoot his way across the movie screen. Given our Friday debacle, I even called ahead to confirm the movie times.

Alas. We arrived at the movie theater only to discover the place was closed, with the next showing at 7:30pm tonight. Who did I call and why did they give me the wrong information? I have no idea but was very disappointed.

The same mall had a Chili’s Restaurant. Yup, the American chain. It even had the same blue and brown tiles on the tables. So Mr. Four and I shared some nachos (and they did taste good) and chatted because I didn’t want to flag a taxi and head back to the apartment right away. It was a nice afternoon, actually. But what’s it gonna take for me to figure this place out?

The lesson from today is that Egyptians don’t go to the movies on national holidays. Ah well.

We have a short week ahead: just four days of work (since today is a holiday), and then on Friday we leave for a long weekend at the Sinai Peninsula. We’ll be within a few kilometers of Israel, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia (though I suspect we won’t be leaving Egypt). Mr. Four is planning to scuba dive a day or two, and we’re all going to relax and play. Maybe we’ll even catch an old Matt Damon movie on the TV.

7 October 2007 Posted by | food, oops!, tourism | Comments Off on Foiled again

Holidays and celebrations

We are enjoying a long weekend because of the Armed Forces Holiday on Saturday. The Egyptian government officially declared the holiday only a few days ago, so it was an unexpected treat (except apparently it happens this way every year) to learn we have Sunday off.

Plus today Mr. Four and I celebrate five years of wedded bliss. We only remembered our anniversary a few days ago and today we forgot til the afternoon.

For our first anniversary, we took a long drive through our local mountains to the nearby national park and promptly got stuck in traffic for about two hours on the way home. And then we went to the local pizza joint for dinner.

One year (I think it was anniversary number two), we forgot it completely.

Mr. Four says we had a nice dinner out two years ago.

Last year, we went out to dinner with Bug to a nicer place than we’d been going with him. We ordered his food right away so he wouldn’t fuss, and he finished his food before ours arrived. Also the restaurant had NO baby changing table in the men’s or women’s bathrooms; they referred us to the market across the street. So we didn’t really mind leaving and taking our food to go.

This year’s debacle involved an outing to a big local mall with a fancy food court, movie theater, and kids’ indoor playground… and it all closed for iftar about two seconds before we arrived. I should have guessed this would happen, but a local woman had told me that the building usually stays open even when the stores are closed. Alas, that was not the case.

We instead went into the swanky international hotel next door (we benefit from white/western privilege here in that even when we’re wearing jeans, we can easily walk into a fancy hotel) where the kids had some (very tasty) ice cream.

Then we schlepped back to our town via taxi and went to the local American restaurant. The boys shared some spaghetti, Mr. Four had a burger, and I had chicken souvlaki. Just a typical fancy anniversary dinner!

Back at home we enjoyed a rousing game of Dora-themed Chutes and Ladders. Bug likes to spin the spinner and send his playing piece down the slides. Giggle likes counting and moving his piece along the board. Mr. Four doesn’t like it because it the game requires luck, not scheming and manipulation, his forte. I totally dominated but was a good winner about it except to Mr. Four who REALLY hates losing games. Heh heh.

We have two more days to make up for our disastrous outing today, and then we have another long weekend next weekend. Ramadan will end on Thursday or Friday, and we’re going with some friends to the Sinai Peninsula for Eid El Fitr, the feast that celebrates the end of the holy month. And celebrate we will: we all have Ramadan fatique, and by all, I mean the entire country. Or at least our household after experiences like today.

5 October 2007 Posted by | family, food, holidays, oops! | 2 Comments

Silly American!

We went to the hypermarket and brought all our produce and other things up front to the register and unloaded it all on the belt. And then realized we needed to get the produce weighed and wrapped in the produce section. So we held up the whole line and the cashier as we trudged back and forth with our veggies. Silly American!

Mr. Four wondered what the handle was on the side of the toilet, so he turned it, and the bidet feature promptly sprayed all over his shorts. Silly American!

I went to take the metro for the first time but wasn’t sure if the price of 1LE (Egyptian pound) was correct, so I handed the ticket guy 5LE, wanting change. He told me something I didn’t understand, so I gave him more money, thinking I had the price wrong and indicating two with two fingers. Now I realize he was just trying to tell me he didn’t have change. Generous guy, he was perfectly happy to give me 2 tickets for the vastly inflated price I paid. Silly American!

(Without a doubt there’s more to come!)

2 September 2007 Posted by | oops!, our life in egypt | 1 Comment