Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Garden Party

Hey, this will be a quick one I just wanted to put up a picture of the garden party from last night. It was incredible! We pulled up to the house and it looked like they were set up for a wedding or something in the backyard! There were at least a dozen tables set up with white tablecloths, waiters walking around with trays of food and drinks, and there was a big beautiful buffet set up in the corner of the garden. The property was amazing. The house was pretty, but the grounds! Maadi is a very green neighborhood, but this place made the rest of it seem barren! We sat with Behar, Villi, Amy, Leonard, Amy, Aras, and Katrina who we met last night. The food was awesome, and I even had some half decent wine, which I thought I would have to wait to have til we got back to the States. It was the coolest night that we've had so far, breezy and lovely. And being in that garden made the night seem almost magical. It was the perfect way to end our week of orientation.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Shipment is Here!!!!!

It's here! It's here! It came around 2:00 this afternoon. All 19 boxes arrived (relatively) safe and sound. The boxes were pretty messed up and couple of Ira's books were damaged, but other than that everything was fine. I have to say, it was a little less exciting than I thought it would be. I don't know what I thought I packed! haha I really should have packed more, oh well. So now that it's here, what am I most excited to have??? Here's the top 10 list...

10. shoes, the ones I have here are getting really dusty and gross
9. candles
8. clothes, I was really getting sick of the stuff I've been wearing for a month now
7. spices, especially chili powder
6. the wedding picture proofs
5. razors
4. Sex and the City DVDs
3. yoga books
2. My cookbooks, especially the Giada DeLaurentis ones
1. My quilt!
So now we have figure out where everything goes. Or agree on where everything goes! And then we have to figure out what we still need. We were kind of waiting for the shipment before we went on the Carrfour trip to get the iron, vacuum cleaner, etc. We have to take a break right now though because we have to get ready for the garden party at the Provost's house this evening. Pictures to follow!

Obama in Cairo

I know that most of you are reading Ira's blog too, but just in case you're not I'm going to re-tell a story he has on there about our trip back from Dahab...we were at the airport trying to get through security to get on our return flight, when a guard (with a big gun, they all have guns and supposedly they're not loaded but it still scares me) asks for our passports. This also still scares me a little because I've seen too many bad movies where innocent people are accused of crimes they did not commit in forigen countries. So, he looks at our passports and then back at us and says "America?" and we both nod "yes", and then as he's handing back the passports he smiles a little bit and asks hopefully "Obama?" And we both say yes with huge smiles on our faces. And then he says "Not Bush" and we just laugh and say "not Bush" back at him. So we walked away thinking that was one of the coolest interactions we've had with any Egyptian person since we've been here. Until, we had to hand over the passports again, and the same exact thing happened! Almost as if they are reading from a script! I swear, there are people here that get by with very little English, please, thank you, yes, no, but they can say "Obama"! Now, I guess he is on the news and all of that, but I just think that it's probably been a long time since someone just running for president has made it into the daily vernacular of the average Egyptian citizen. And I'm sure it's not just Egypt!
So, as many of you know, I've been pretty psyched about Obama since he came on the scene. I remember hearing his name when he won his first senate race and thinking "Well, that's a weird name to have in politics!" And I also remember the late Tim Russert saying at that time "this guy is going to be one to watch". And I did! And then when he stole the show at the 2004 convention, I was hooked. I wanted him to run so much, but in the back of my mind I thought it was too good to be true, but on the other side of the back of my mind (there's a lot of room back there) I also thought that it was exactly the time for him. So, cut to this convention, last thursday. I was frantic. I was watching CNN and BBC and Al Jezeera all day trying to figure out when they were going to broadcast his speech. I was also trying to figure out what the hell GMT is and what it had to do with me. Poor Ira was sick in bed all day but that didn't stop me from running back there every hour or so and loudly wispering things like "Psst! Hey! Do you think they're going to show his speech live here, or should I try and watch it online?!" So what I finally figured out was that it was going to be on here at 4:00am. So the plan was to set the alarm and watch it then. And it didn't help that we were setting the clocks back an hour that night so I was worried that we were going to miss it. So, I set the alarm, woke up instantly, and bounced down the hall to the TV. I turned it on just as he was coming onstage and I got goosebumps! I know this is all very corny, but it was like this crazy dream I had years ago had come true. And the speech was perfect. I loved all of it. I didn't want it to end. I wanted to stay up all night watching commentaries and replays but I figured I could do that tomorrow. Little did I know that Insane McCain was going to trot out his little gun toting PTA mom and ruin it for me...grr... Oh well. When you have nothing but an iffy war record to run on, strategically placed manuvers are all you have I guess.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

I am so very oriented...

This week brought the official orientation given by AUC. Whew! It wiped both of us out, and everyone else we know. It started on Monday, we met at the Midan Victoria and caught the bus out to the new campus. There were some familiar faces, Mark and Gordana, Brandon, Malek, Steve and Stephanie, Hanan. And then we met LOTS of new people! Getting to know them has probably been my favorite part of the week. There's Amanda from Atlanta, she's going to be a librarian. She's super fun and I can tell we're going to be buds. Ana is a Fullbright here from Miami, she writes for the Herald (as well as having written a couple of best sellers!) and is going to be in the Journalism dept. Amy and Leonard both do Middle East Studies, Amy is in Ira's dept, Leonard is in Philosophy. There lots of others, but I guess I ended up connecting with them the most. So we made our way to the new campus. I'm sad to say that my camera battery died, I guess after all those pics in Dahab! So I don't have anything to show, yet. But it is amazing, an architectual feat to say the least. All the way out in the desert, a beautiful, sprawling structure with shade and light, green and sand. Although, it's not finished! There were dudes in hard hats everywhere and I would say that the overall theme of the orientation was "patience". I don't know how many times someone would ask a question like "when will we have computers?" "when can we get into our offices?" "Where can I print out my syllabus?" and they were met with "We don't know" I really feel for all of the new faculty. I can't imagine starting a job and not knowing where you're going to have classes, or how you're going to prepare for them. But everyone is taking it in stride, for the most part. So, the first day we heard from the provost and the president of the university. They were very enthusiastic and hopeful for the new campus and the new faculty. Then, we all stood up and introduced ourselves. I normally don't have any issues with speaking in public, but I have to say I was nervous. Especially when everyone that went before me had these amazing resumes. Even the interns are from Stanford, Columbia, Hopkins, Harvard....! So I it was finally my turn and I said that I worked with autistic children in the states and that I was hoping to fill the yoga void in our neighborhood by teaching. Well. Who would have thought that would have illicited such a response! Afterwards, I had few women some up to me and asked me to keep them informed if I find a place to teach. THEN, a guy named Jonah came over and told me that his wife is starting a "yoga co-op". I talked to her that night and basically what she's doing is renting a space where she's not charging the students very much but the teachers would still make more than they would other places because there's no middle man! Perfect! We're having our first meeting on saturday and it looks like I'll be teaching up to 4 classes a week! And then the president's wife came over and asked me if I could help out in the daycare if they ever have any special needs children. Ira was like "Did you know that was the president's wife?!" haha I have to say it felt good to have people talk to me about something other than Egypt for the first time all summer! The rest of the day was filled with (rather boring for non-faculty) tours and talks. And there was a nice lunch on the president's terrace. Nice, but a little hot baking in the 105 degree heat! We were all so tired at the end of the day that I can't believe the bus home wasn't full of nappers!
Day 2 was a little better. The bus came later and we were at the old campus. Not as hot, and we had some really useful presentations on health and safety in Cairo, and we had an Arabic lesson! Not easy, let me tell you. I don't know if it's my music backround, but it bothers me that I can hear the instructor saying it one way and then it doesn't sound like that when I say it. I guess I'm being too perfectionist about it...Later that night a bunch of Maadi people met up for Chinese and we had a blast. More and more people kept coming and we took over the place eventually. At one point, Mark and Gordana's boys were playing under the table and all of the sudden they each plunked a full beer can down on the table! We have no idea where they came from! Under the table, obviously, but we have no idea how they got there! It was hilarious to say the least. It's really great to be able to laugh again. Not that Ira and I haven't had our moments, but to laugh really loud in group of people like that, it was awesome.
Day 3 was great for Gordana and me! We skipped out at 10:30 after Arabic lessons! We met up with Kathleen and baby Andy for lunch and did a little shopping. We even went to the 2.5 pounds store! Like the dollar store! Well, the 46 cent store...anyway, it was just like it is in the states. I even saw a gift bag with a veiled Barbie on it! Last night we babysat the Wetmoreland boys, and had our "Ramadan Beer" delivered. Since they don't sell booze during Ramadan (which starts monday) we thought we better stock up. And just like almost everything else, we had it delivered!
And today, the last day, we had our last "Survival Arabic" class (we're both signing up for tutoring in the coming weeks) and then we had a lunch where they also had tables set up with different leisure activities in and around Cairo. Ira is sick now, I think he might be dehydrated. The heat is really bad but he's been resting all day (sleeping actually) and drinking lots of water. Hopefully he feels better tomorrow because tomorrow night we have a ride on a felluca! AUC has chartered a bunch to float down the Nile while we have dinner! I can't wait. And then Saturday we have a garden party at the Provost's house. I promise I'll be better about posting...and I'll charge the camera batteries!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Dahab is Da-Bomb!

We just returned last night from our trip to the Red Sea! What a week! We arrived in time for breakfast on monday morning. The hotel had quite a spread for us each morning. Some of it might seem a little odd from an American perspective (grilled vegetables? potato salad?) but it became our favorite meal each day. We would spring out of our comfortable bed to go to the dining room! haha Some of our favorites were the rice pudding, warm hard boiled eggs, cheese, granola, and the best of all- Loukamades! I like to call them Leukatrienes like the allergy commercials because it's funnier, and it reminds me of Heather and the Greek Festival. But they are basically mediteranian funnel cake served with honey. Oh yeah!
So, I could go on for days about the breakfast but we did do other things. Like eat lunch and dinner! We went to several different places, that all served food along the sea and decorated in bright jewel tones and big cushions. There was lots of great vegetarian food and the fresh juices-everything from mango to watermelon-were to die for. At night we enjoyed the "Furry Cup" bar at the resort, it was a cool wooden building that had swings instead of stools at the bar, and a rooftop overlooking the sea. The Egyptian beer is growing on us. The two labels are "Stella" (not Stella Artois, sadly) and "Sakara". They're ok, a little bitter and boring for my tastes but they'll do...During the day we did a lot of plain old relaxing by the pool in big wooden chaise lounges with big blue cushions. Ira did some reading to prepare for the semester and I read David Sedaris' new book "When You Are Engulfed In Flames" which was hilarious, a novel called "Flower Children" about the hippie subculture of the 70's from the prespective of a child, and another novel called "On Beauty" by Zadie Smith.

When we weren't lying around, napping, or swimming lazily in the pool, we were busy studying one of the most incredible coral reefs in the world. Ira went snorkeling a couple of times without me, I was, uh, busy (see previous paragraph). But our last morning we woke up with the sun and went for a snorkel and we were the only people in the water. It was awesome! We saw dozens of different kinds of fish, including about seven Lion Fish which are poisonous, but very cool. And the coral looks like something in a science book, every color of the rainbow and just as many diffferent textures. We also got a chance to see the reef when we went scuba diving. We had a "lesson" before we went out in the water and then we had some more instruction in the bay, and then it was time to do it! Sadly, Ira had a lot of trouble with his ears so he couldn't stay down. He went snorkeling while I kept going with the instructor. I went down 30 feet below the surface! It was so strange and felt really unnatural to breathe when you feel like you should be holding your breath. But once you get the hang of it, it's truly liberating. I think i would like to continue on and get certified the next time we go.

We also took advantage of the yoga that's offered at the resort. The shala was up on top of the roof and had views of the mountians and the sea. It was hot! But, that's a good thing. I think we both enjoyed it. Our instructor was German and she would say things like "just take the posture a little bit furrrther" or "We'll do one more sun salute, yah?" Very cute...and as you can see I had some fun taking some picutres up there, too. By the way, it took me all damn day to figure out how to put that stinkin' slideshow on there so you better enjoy it! Just kidding...but not about the all day part. Well, I could go on and on about the trip but this entry is long enough and I don't want to make you too jealous. Now it's back to reality, still no internet, still no shipment, still no relief from the heat, and orientation starts tomorrow. I'll be sure to report back about the fancy new campus!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Guess who slept through the night like a big girl?!

Woo hoo! Finally! I had a theory that maybe I should stay up really late so I was good and tired, and it worked! I went to bed at 2 and got up at 8! Yay! Now of course, we have to wake up at 3am tonight to catch our plane to the Red Sea but I'm happy with one night of normal least for now. So, we are leaving tomorrow for Dahab, a Bedouin beach town on the Red Sea. We'll be staying at the Blue Beach Club, a resort that has scuba diving AND a yoga shala! I'm very excited to relax and swim and read, etc. So, due to this little getaway I probably won't have any new posts for at least a week. But you will have lots of great photos and stories to check out when we return! Have a great week everyone!
The pictures above are just some silly neighborhood and apartment shots. Ira doing the dishes, a dessert plate that I put together last night. Those are "Hit" cookies (our version of Oreos, only way better), grapes, dried apricots, dried figs, sesame candy, and pistachios. Quite a feast! Then there is a cool house in the neighborhood, the outside of our building, and our staircase/hallway. Oh, and I put a link below to a map of Egypt so you can see where Dahab is located (or Cairo for that matter!)

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Maadi Bus Tour

Hello! Today we took a bus tour of Maadi (our neighborhood) that AUC provided. We met some other new staff-Brandon from Portland, OR is starting in the Chemistry dept., and Steve and his wife Stephanie from D.C., he's starting in the Finance dept. There were others, but those were the lucky few who happened to be sitting near us and had to listen to my witty quips about the heat. The tour confirmed that I have no idea where I'm going, and probably won't for a long time. Sigh. But, we did go to an AWESOME book store that also has a little cafe. It's open early and late (I can avoid the heat!), they have all the new titles, cute journals and cards, and some knitting books that I've never seen before! Yes, I think this may be my new hang out. So, enjoy the pictures. From left to right, top to bottom they are, the Maadi Grand mall, the bookstore, 2 pictures of the Seoudi Market (which is where we buy our groceries), and the Median Victoria (where the tour began).

Friday, August 15, 2008

Korean food with the Westmorelands


Vojo and Veli

Cairo kitty in front of Gaya

Here are some pictures from our dinner tonight at Gaya (a Korean place on our block) with the Westmorelands (Mark, Gord, Velimier, and Vojo). They are a family that we met on the plane from Amsterdam to Cairo. Mark is going to be starting in the Anthropology department in the fall. They are from Austin, TX and they have the cutest little boys!

Early morning laptop sessions

When people use the term "jetlag" you think that if you haven't been on a jet for a week or so, it shouldn't be an issue. I beg to differ. My friend Kathleen here in Cairo said something like "oh you'll be waking up in the middle of the night" I thought "that doesn't sound right". Usually when you have jetlag, or at least when I have in the past, you either can't sleep or you wake up early, right? Not here! Apparently, traveling here from the states causes major sleep issues for most people. Not my husband, which is kind of annoying...could he BE more adaptable??? Anyway, this heinous breed of jetlag involves going to bed a normal time, sleeping for anywhere from 2 to 5 hours and then waking up. Then, feeling tired again a few hours later and sleeping most of the day. Awesome. Let me tell you it does wonderful things for eating, interacting with other people, exploring foriegn lands, and just generally feeling like a productive human being. There is one saving grace in all of this. My laptop.

Those who know me, know that this whole computer thing is pretty funny. And bless Ira for having the foresight to say "no" when I innocently asked him "but can't I just use your laptop in Cairo?" We would be killing each other if we had to share! I think that most of my friends are pretty amazed that I can turn this thing on let alone "blog" and "upload photos". But this damn thing has become my best friend. Mainly because it lets me "talk" to my best friends! Skype, or Gmail, whatever, I am addicted to staying in touch with everyone I love. If I wake up at 5 in the morning I am secretly excited because there is a chance that someone will still be awake over there for me to talk to! And if I wake up at 6 in the morning that means that I will keep clicking "Refresh" on the New York Times website to see if Michael Phelps won any more gold medals. And then on the flipside, when I finally wake up mid-afternoon my friends are bored at work and I am the welcome distraction! I know this can't go on forever, but until my body gets adjusted (which I've heard can take up to an astonishing THREE WEEKS!) I will be happy to stumble out of the bedroom, down the hall, to my shiny blue friend waiting for me on the couch.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Day 10...

We've been in Cairo for 10 days and so much has happened that it feels like at least 100. For those who know me, you know the last 3 have been the hardest. We found out the pregnancy wasn't viable any longer so I have to have an operation yesterday. No one likes to have surgery, and surgery in a foriegn country is even scarier. Nurses who don't speak English wanting you to strip down in front of them (at least that's what I think they wanted), everything is stored in glass bottles and rubber tubing like it's 1953, and there are people smoking. In the damn hospital. In the damn maternity wing. Which, by the way, is where they put me, quite literally adding insult to injury. Now the good news, I feel ok and I can already tell that I am going to have more energy and feel more like myself in no time. The even better news? Ira and I leave for a resort on the Red Sea in 3 days!

So what else goes on here in this city BESIDES half assed medical care, you might be asking??? Here are my initial impressions in "blunt" format...
1. It's freaking hot. If you're on the east coast (as I know many of you are) you are well versed in the god-awful humidity that we experience there. That's oppressive and all, but feeling like the sun might just make your skin bubble up and fall off of your body is a whole different experience.
2. Our immediate area called Maadi, or more specifically "Maadi Digla" is a little like a cross between a posh suburb and a third world city. And it's a little confusing to get around...some of my favorite quotes about Maadi...from our upstairs neighbor the doctor "...and just because you've found road 15, it doesn't mean that road 16 is anywhere near it!" and in very sweet broken English from an AUC driver "...someone was I think drinking wine when they made the plan" Someone was drinking something! In spite of all of that, we have great places to eat, markets that will deliver our groceries, nice shops and even nicer owners, and there are a lot of trees.
3. We have found the best taxi driver in Egypt. His name is Mema, he speaks great English, and he is really funny. He calls everything "crazy". "Crazy driver!" "Crazy traffic!" "Crazy house!" and my favorite, when we were driving past a movie set "Crazy cinema!" Now he does point out the same tourist attractions to us every time, but that's ok. We love him!
4. This is actually an observation of a friend of ours...but I'm going to steal it because he really put in to words what I had been feeling. There's a lot of down time in Egypt. First of all, I wasn't on a good sleep schedule until about yesterday and I'm still waking up after only 5 or 6 hours of sleep. So that meant that for the first week or so I was sleeping and eating at weird times and the rest of the time kind of just hanging around. I thought I was just being lazy, but I think it's like that for a lot of ex-pats. It's either too hot to go out, or it's sabbath, I can't even imagine what Ramadan is going to be like! Now having said husband is of course the exception to this rule. He will go out at the hottest part of the afternoon and stay out for hours and love very minute of it. But we all know that he's like the poster child for living in a foriegn country. But it's nice to be getting settled into our new place and making it feel like home.
5. Everything is truly inexpensive. Now, I have travelled quite a bit. Mostly in the U.S. but I 've been to Europe and Mexico, etc. You think you know what "cheap" is, right? It's those pants at the Gap that used to be $58 and they are now on sale for $19.99. That's cheap! Or paying $5 for 2 pints of blueberries at Giant. Cheap! Ira and I have been here for 10 days and I don't think we've spent more than $150 on food including meals out and all of our groceries (and including me accidentially over tipping the delivery guy). That's cheap.
6. Pardon the schmultz, but I have fallen deeper in love with Ira on this adventure. I adore that man with every bone in my body. He is caring, attentive, loving, the truest, most honest human being I know. He loves it here, and even though I'm still on the fence, he doesn't push me or try and make me see the city the way he does. He's giving me the space and time to figure it all out for myself. That's some love right there. That's why I (over)use the "best husband in the world" phrase. And I know that's why he's going to be the best dad in world too...
7. Everyone does their own thing here. It feels like everyone has a purpose, or at least they do things purposefully. I need to find my thing and I'll be right there along with them.