We Four in Egypt

Now back in the US!

Suspended animation

It’s been several weeks, and it’s still dreamy here in Dream Town. And life is mostly normal. I’m working (the job is great), the boys are in school, we bought a car (a Honda Fit, which I love), and we have all our stuff from Cairo and College Town.

Giggle and Bug love the sidewalks, parks, backyard — all great, seemingly normal stuff we didn’t have in Egypt. We’ve been able to spend our weekends visiting local parks and natural areas. The green here is so refreshing after all that beige. And it’s been an absolute treat to have fall colors.

Mr. Four is not working for now, which has been a huge help in getting us settled. He brings the boys to school and picks them up in the afternoons, and he makes dinner most nights.

The conventional wisdom in the expat world is that repatriating is harder than expatriating. Moving overseas was pretty easy for us–well, at least as easy as that big of a schlep can be–in part because my employer does a really good job getting new folks settled into comfortable apartments. The hard part for us was figuring out how to get the kids outside playing.

But that’s been so easy here in Dream Town. And most everything about moving back has felt pretty easy. Maybe because it’s only been a few years since we moved. It feels, in a way, like we were in suspended animation in Cairo, with a different routine, no car, and a full-time housekeeper/nanny. Here we’re back to eating the same meals we used to make, and spending our weekends outside mucking about at the park or in the woods. And it feels great.

We really miss our friends, and it’s small consolation that many of them will be moving on from Cairo in the next year or two. But otherwise, I don’t miss Egypt.

Moving to Egypt was one of the best things I’ve ever done–and moving back has been even better.


17 November 2009 Posted by | bug, giggle, home, race, repatriation, school | 5 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

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

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

Around the web

I have about three big posts brewing, but until I have time to finish them up, I did want to share some interesting things I’ve read over the past few days.

Michael Slackman of the New York Times has an article today about noise in Cairo. Don your ear mufflers, and read A City Where You Can’t Hear Yourself Scream.

A young Egyptian woman named Pakinam wrote a powerful blog entry on her decision to wear hijab: To Veil or Not to Veil.

Jae Ran at the great blog Harlow’s Monkey gives some great advice to parents on how we can be allies to our transracially adopted kids.

14 April 2008 Posted by | adoption, family, in the news, our life in egypt, parenting, race | Comments Off on Around the web

Dr. King

Last year about this time, I took Bug, then two years old, to the doctor. In January we had been to a fun and memorable Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade and had continued conversations about Dr. King. So, when I told Bug we’d see the doctor soon, he asked, “Dr. King?”

The nurse, a black woman, and I both smiled. No, not Dr. King.

The past few days, especially since I’ve been reading the comments on the Why are we here? post, I’ve been thinking a lot about racism. Racism manifests itself differently in different cultures and countries, but can we escape it anywhere? Of course I don’t have an answer for that.

Today is the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. King. I remember when King’s birthday first became a holiday, but I’m too young to remember Dr. King himself. I do know that it’s incredible to think that my family wouldn’t have been possible then, in 1968.

4 April 2008 Posted by | race | 4 Comments

At the stroke of midnight

Today, while Mr. Four stayed home to catch up on some missed sleep from a very early morning with Bug, I took Bug and Giggle out for some swim and play time. Usually when we take a taxi, I sit in the back with the boys (car seats are not part of life here in Egypt, so the three of us fit easily). Today, I had so much stuff I decided to sit up front while the boys sat in the back. Perhaps this encouraged the taxi driver to be extra chatty (usually the conversation isn’t much more than a hello and how are you, if that).

He said, “Are they your children?”
I said, “Yes.”
He said, “But they are black.”
I said, “Yes, and they are my children.”
He said, “Is your husband black?”
I said, “No.”

He didn’t ask anything else. I’m sure that was all clear as mud to him, eh?

At the pool, I mentioned this story to my pal Cindy, who said someone here in Egypt, trying to understand her relationship with Maya, asked if Maya had been “born at the stroke of midnight.”

Who knew that pale skinned parents could have brown skinned children if they’re born at the right moment? Apparently, some Egyptians know this. I did not.

The other moral of this story is thank goodness for Maya’s family. We’d be lost in Egypt without them.

28 March 2008 Posted by | adoption, family, race | 8 Comments

Questions from strangers

“Is that your son?”

“Is that your child?”

“Is that your baby? Really?”

“Where is your husband?”

“Is your husband from here?”

“Are those your kids?”

“Are they brothers?”

“Are you his mother?”

“Is your husband Egyptian?”

8 January 2008 Posted by | adoption, family, our life in egypt, race | 3 Comments

Yet more about the TV

Two days ago Mr. Four and I were joking that even after months without TV, it still seemed like nothing was on.

That was ’til last night. I did backflips down the hall when I realized that my team had a game on, a re-broadcast of the previous night’s game. I’m a one-team, one-sport gal, and being able to watch my alma mater coast to victory was an absolute and unexpected delight.

(By the way, I didn’t really do backflips, but I did run down the hall, arms flailing, to tell Mr. Four the news of the game. It was quite undignified.)

Bug skipped his nap yesterday, so he went to bed right on time, but I let Giggle stay up late so I could indoctrinate him in the ways of our team. I think it worked, too. You gotta start kids young on sports fanaticism, you know. I still have warm fuzzies for the Boston Red Sox after my earliest childhood years in New England (I think of Roger Clemons as a Red Sox and have fond memories of Oil Can Boyd).

Of course, another reason to teach Giggle now is that even though I’ve watched this team and this sport for years, I don’t have a mind or eye for sports, so if I’m going to teach him anything, it’s now or never. In another year he’ll know more than I do. And he’ll have to explain it to me. I was bummed that he kept talking about the black men and white men playing, until I realized he was talking about their uniforms (the men in white, the men in dark). Heh.

Another huge treat was watching Barack Obama’s Iowa caucus victory speech with the boys this morning. The satellite news channel re-broadcast the speech, and I’ll confess I teared up with the hope that my boys might know a world where a black man is the American president. I’m not usually such a cheeseball about TV or politics, but his caucus win was momentous. I’m aglow.

So hurray yet again for TV! And let’s hope I’m done talking about it, eh?

4 January 2008 Posted by | our life in egypt, race | 2 Comments

The Jena Six

Have you heard about this case from Louisana? Here’s a great video summary (thanks to Carmen at Racialicious for posting this, as well as links to other news about the Jena Sex):

The narrator makes a great point: with all the media saturation of the Duke Lacrosse case, why was there no press looking at the Jena Six?

5 September 2007 Posted by | in the news, race | Comments Off on The Jena Six