Monday, September 29, 2008

"Istanbul not Constantinople"

Sorry, that corny song has been going through my head all day! I have to admit, the only reason I know that song is because it's in the movie "Mona Lisa Smile". It's also referenced on a Gilmore Girls episode. Lauren? Heather? Who can tell me which one?? Anyway, we leave for Turkey in about an hour or so. So, I won't be blogging for about a week. Try to hold back the tears. Besides, it's Autumn, stop checking my blog and go for a walk! And have a good week...

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Islamic Cairo

Today we went on a walking tour of Islamic Cairo. As my friend Ralph said "what do you mean? Isn't all of Cairo Islamic??" Well, sort of...the area where we were today refers more to "Old Cairo" in terms of architecture and culture. So there are many markets and street vendors. Our tour guide from the university is amazing. It's the same woman who took us to the pyramids and she is just so full of knowledge and information. She felt that in order for us to get a true sense of the different types of architecture, we should visit many different types of buildings. We went to a Al-Azhar Mosque, Madrassa and Mausoleum of Barquq (school), an old merchant hotel, a sabil-kuttab (public drinking fountian and Quranic school) , and Beit el-Suhayami which was a traditional family mansion. They were all lovely and everyone kept remarking how much the new campus has been modeled after this type of architecture. It was another hot day, and we were pooped by the end for sure, but it was a great outing. As usual, I think the pictures speak for themselves...

We're headed back out there tomorrow night since it's our last chance to experience Islamic Cairo at night during Ramadan. It ends on Tuesday and we'll be in Turkey!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Domestic Diva-wannabe

Before I tell you about my domestic divaness, I'll give you a recap of the past few days...We had a meeting for The Breathing Room to talk about the October schedule and also about what we are going to charge the students now that the "introductory" month is over. As I mentioned before, my schedule was really wiping me out. So I was hoping to get an all evening schedule and I did! I will now be teaching sun-wed night. I think it's going to be so much better for me as well as my students who are trying to learn Primary Series and need to do it as much as they can. Amanda and I had our usual "Knitting Knight", but it took a downward spiral and we ended up drinking beer and watching SNL videos on the NBC site. Oh! That's the other big news! Ira, in his infinite wisdom, spent an entire afternoon setting up some thing that makes our computer think that it's in the U.S. and lets us watch all our shows!! Yay!! Up until now, we would get a message saying that "this is only available to viewers in the U.S." or something dumb like that. So this morning I watched the season premiere of the Office and Grey's Anatomy! Which also means I'll be able to watch the debate. Well, that is, unless SOMEONE chickens out! haha So, anyway, after Amanda and I hung out, Ira and I went upstairs for a Sohour. This is the meal that is typically eaten before dawn during Ramadan, but most people now eat it before bed because it's less disruptive. So we went upstairs at 10:30 and probably didn't eat until about 11:30. It was so much fun! And there was SO much food! Everything was delicious and we got to chat with a lot of nice people. We didn't get to bed til about 2:30. So yesterday I slept in knowing that I had a busy day of domesticity ahead of me. I shopped, cleaned, and cooked my way to our first dinner party and happy hour here in Cairo. Actually, I think it was the first dinner party and happy hour we've ever hosted as a couple! Anyway, Ira was on campus all day yesterday so I went to Seoudi and picked up some last minute ingredients and then came home to sweep the patio. This may sound like a quick and easy task, but it took me an hour and the dust pan was FULL of a lovely black silt, which I can only assume is not only coating our patio but also our lungs and nasal passages. Sigh. It looks great out there now though! Anyway, I made these awesome lentil burgers topped with feta cheese and some orzo with tomatoes, cucumbers, and olives. Ira also made his soon to be famous rice pudding with coconut, pistachios, and raisins. We had Amy and Aras over to tell us what to do in Turkey (Aras is Turkish) we got enough info to stay for at least a month! They brought a good Turkish wine (who knew such a thing existed?!) And now I'm excited to bring some back to Cairo, and home if I can wait to drink it til then. : ) After dinner, we had the Maadi crew come over for happy hour. We decided that we would all take turns hosting happy hour on Thursday nights and Ira and I volunteered to host first. It was so much fun! We had lots of good snacks and everyone brought beer and wine. It was great. I slept in late today and I've been doing laundry ever since, with our new washing machine! (See Ira's blog for a picture and more gushing) Ira is going to a concert tonight, but I'm going to pass because I'm wiped out from yesterday and we have a walking tour of Islamic Cairo in the morning. I'm also trying to get things in order before we leave for Turkey on Monday. I'll try to get another entry in before we leave because it'll be another week before I'm on again!

Monday, September 22, 2008

I can't sleep so it seems like a good time to do a blog entry. I've been having some random bouts of insomnia lately. I think my weird yoga schedule may have something to do with it. I think the fact that somedays I teach in the mornings and sometimes I teach at night is kind of screwing with my energy levels and my sleeping and eating patterns. Which, by the way, were not exactly firmed up before I started this whole yoga adventure! I think I had finally moved past the jet lag and the upset stomachs and now I'm all messed up again. Sigh. Hopefully I'm going to start teaching more in the evenings and maybe that will help...
I've made a decision to join the Maadi House. I've talked about it a little bit on here. It's a sort of country club that's somehow affiliated with the U.S. Embassy (although no one seems to know how or why exactly) It's open to U.S. citizens and you have to join for a year. It's quite lovely there. There are lots of trees and grass and although it's in the middle of Maadi, the air seems a little different and it's more quiet for sure. They have a pool, bar, resturant, playground, and lots of other activities. A lot of people go there when Cairo becomes a little overwhelming, as it can be from time to time. So far my experiences there have been at night for parties or BBQs, but today I went to the pool for the first time. That's right, the first day of Fall and I was sweating poolside. Actually, it was cute, there was a lifeguard who was Egyptian and probably about 19 who came over to Amanda and me and said in broken English "The seasons, Spring, Summer, Winter, and one more?" Amanda and I looked at each other, trying to figure out where he was going with this, and said "Fall?" He kind of looked at us funny. So we said it again "Fall?" And he said "A-U-T..." and we finished "U-M-N" he smiled and said "Right! First day!" and walked away. We laughed, it was very sweet. I am normally SO excited for the first day of Fall. I guess it kind of slips your mind here since the seasons don't change, at least not for a while. I did see some clouds today for the first time since I've been here, that was exciting!
Other than that, we're getting ready for our trip to Turkey on Monday. Which means everyone should be getting ready for another slide show!

Saturday, September 20, 2008


I'm starting to get the hang of shopping here in Cairo. I know there are some of you who can't believe it took me this long. I should say that I haven't come CLOSE to getting the hang of haggling. So for those of you picturing me in a "Souk" (marketplace) talking some shopkeeper into giving me a pashmina for 10 LE instead of 20, think again. My shopping has, most often, taken place in stores with price tags. I wish I could say that the places I'm most fond of are truly Egyptian, but they're honestly more American with a little Egypt thrown in. There's "& Co.", which is a store that specializes in Egyptian cotton and handmade soaps and pottery. They have the most amazing sheets, towels, pajamas, and comfy clothes, as well as soaps, shampoo, jewelry...basically everything I like. I've been getting a few things for the flat to make it a little more homey. The prices are comparable to what we would pay in the States for those items. The sheets and towels are of especially good quality and would probably actually cost more at home. They have a store in Connecticut, I can only imagine what they charge for this stuff there! The other shop I like is a bookstore called Al Kotob Khan which means "bookstore", haha. It's very cool, it reminds me of a New York bookstore. They have a lot of English and Arabic titles and lots of very unique journals, cards, etc. My reading list is huge these days, thanks mostly to the "Visual Bookshelf" application on Facebook. My friends Shara and Kendra have been reading way to many interesting books! So I worked my way through the list just to see what they did have, I would say about half of the titles were available and I'm sure I could get the rest if I ordered them. They are A LOT more expensive though. I bought the "Omnivore's Dilema" and it was 112LE which is about $20.50. According to the back of the book it would have cost $16.00 in the States. Where as Ira bought a book on the History of Maadi that was only 55LE, about $10. But that book was published in Egypt. So unless it's printed here, I think I'll be stocking up on books while I'm at home, but the shop does have a lovely little cafe and the staff are very nice and welcoming. And the other items in the store will make great gifts!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Well, it was bound to happen. I honestly can't believe this is only my first entry on the subject! it's been almost exactly 6 weeks since we've been here. Everything is still very new and exciting, we're making friends and finding our favorite places, but honestly, the excitment is starting to wear off a little. I really miss my friends and family. This picture above was taken at one of our "men suck" nights. After one of us would go through a bad break up, we would all go out for dinner and drinks and hope someone better was on the horizon. That's Heather, Kate, Me, Lauren, and Michelle. I know everyone thinks they have the best friends in the world, but I really do. These women are my rock. They are my cure for everything. Any mundane little outing would always turn into something fun and amazing. From giggle fits in dressing rooms, cupcake cravings, yoga class, camping, moving days, dancing, job drama, they've been there for it all.
And then there is my crazy, fun family. My dad who is always there with a joke or a little bit of wisdom. My mom, who is my medical counselor and my gossip buddy, we can chat for days! And my step dad Paul who not only puts my bed together every time I move, but is such a part of our family it feels like he's been around forever. This is my brother Connor, we are like a weird combination of sister-brother/mother-son/movie buddies/gross joke loving pair. He is the smartest, funniest, sweetest kid I know. I miss seeing him every week and watching him grow right before my eyes. I'm afraid I won't recognize him at Christmas!
Here are my "Best Women" at my wedding. Well, this was taken at the rehearsal dinner. That's Rachel, Lauren, and Kelly. Rachel and Kelly have been my friends since high school (Rachel even longer) We've truly grown up together, although I still think of us as kids going to concerts and having sleepovers. Lauren is my "grown up friend", meaning I met her as a grown up (not that we're grown up, because we're not! haha). "Of all the yoga classes in all of the world, she had to walk into mine... "

Here is a picture of us on a random summer day by her parent's pool. It's funny how days that you think are just simple and ordinary, turn into memories. That day turned into one of the few days that we spent together just the two of us this summer. There was nothing particularly remarkable about it, we just hung out by the pool, ate some food and maybe watched some Gilmore Girls. But now it's etched in my mind for some reason. I guess it exemplified so many other days that we've spent like that. I think that, to me, is the true marker of an amazing friendship, or a best friend. There are friends that you have to have "plans" there have to be tickets invloved, or reservations, or evites, and those are great friends. But when you have a best friend, it means they come and visit you in the hospital and it's fun for some reason, or you come over and hang out with them while they do laundry and you have the best time ever. Or even if you don't, you just love being around each other. That's what I have. That's what I miss.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Adventures in Cooking in Two Acts

I have been wanting to write an entry about cooking but I've been putting it off because it's not as exciting as the Pyramids or anything. So if you're not into cooking, this might not be the blog for you today!

ACT I The Market As I have mentioned before, going to the market can be quite a circus. I seem to either be frustrated or excited every time I leave. The great thing is, it's really close. (Sorry to those non-central Pa people, but I'm going to use Camp Hill landmarks here to show you how close) It would be like me walking from my old apartment, out to Market St., and up to that gas station that sits there on the corner, maybe not even that far. The point is, it's easy for us to get there and grab a few things when we need to. Which is pretty much everyday. You know when you go to the store and you do a big trip, like a weeks worth of groceries and if you're really on top of it, maybe even some things that you haven't run out of, but you think you're going to soon? I love that kind of shopping trip. I love knowing that if I want to cook and make something fun, I have lots of ingredients on hand. I love knowing that there are lots of options for quick meals or snacks, and plenty of household supplies. I love the kind of trip where you know for a fact that you haven't forgotten anything. I have not had the pleasure of that experience here in Cairo. Here's a good example, Early last week I thought I would make a nice big pot of soup (you can take the girl away from Fall, but you can't take the Fall out of the girl) So I went to the store looking for things to make stock like carrots, celery, onions, bay leaves, parsley, garlic. I found onions. That's it. Ok, so no soup. So I rearranged things in my head and tried to get some things that would make a few meals, which worked out ok, but left me feeling like I hadn't accomplished my goal. I did however go to the market a few days later and found garlic, parsley, and carrots. Which brings me to my next point...just when you think you won't find something here in Cairo, it will (sometimes) magically appear on the shelf. In the states we take for granted that things will be in stock. It's pretty simple, you bought ginger ale at the store last week, you run out, you go back to the store the next week, they have the ginger ale. There may be the rare "out of stock" sign on something but you can just get some other kind of ginger ale, and it's fine. We were buying ginger ale here almost everyday for the first two weeks we were here. Cut to a month later and we haven't seen it since. And then, this week, there was some random "White Rock" ginger ale on the shelf and a week later I'm still seeing it! I don't get it. Ok, so I get some ingredients that I can make some semblence of a recipe out what?

ACT II The Kitchen The second act is always shorter, right?? All I can think about is what my friends would do. Kelly and Heather would be fine, I think. Lauren, I'm sorry to say would probably have been able to write "the Cairo resturant Guide" by now. I'm starting to realize that you have to have some cooking backround before you get here, or it will be very difficult to figure out once you're here. Even following a recipie isn't enough, they might not have the indredients! (see above) All of that being said, I have managed to make some pretty good meals in the past week or so. The best was probably an Eggplant Caponata of sorts. A sort of rustic Italian stir fry. That's what the picture is by the way, in the early stages, anyway. I have discovered that Egyptian olive oil is some of the best olive oil I have ever had. I know this sounds strange, but it doesn't even taste like oil. It has so much flavor and it makes the food taste awesome. And the balsalmic vinegar is also outstanding. Ok, back to the what I had on hand were eggplants, tomatoes, onions, and mushrooms. I thought about doing a pasta thing, but then I decided that the veggies could stand on their own. I put the recipie below...enjoy!

Cairo Caponata

2 small eggplant, peeled and cubed

2 small red onion, sliced

one container musrooms (whatever looks good), sliced

2 or 3 small tomatoes, diced hapazardly, the chunkier the better

Tbs. fresh rosemary (you could also try basil or oregano)

Olive Oil

Balsalmic Vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

Coat the bottom of a medium skillet with olive oil. Place all the vegetable in the skillet. season with salt and a little bit of pepper. You may need to be generous with the salt in order to break down the eggplant. You really want them to cook down and get soft so give them a toss every few minutes, but for the most part just let them hang out together in there. When they start to look pretty mushy and the eggplant has softened, toss in the fresh herbs. Then, transfer to the serving bowl, toss with the vinegar. You can serve it with crusty bread, pasta, rice, or as a side dish, but it is delightful on its own...and even better the next day for lunch!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Pyramids-Take 2!

Well, today was our second trip to the pyramids. It was a totally different experience this time. First of all, I have never been so beat upon by the sun in my entire life. How those guys managed to stack all those limestone boulders on top on one another in this heat is truly one of the greatest feats in history. It was a lot of fun. As you can see from my slide show (I'm sorry, but I continue to impress myself) Amanda, Ira, and I had a blast taking lots of silly pictures. The Solar Boat Museum was pretty amazing. I don't think I knew that such a thing even existed. There were lots of tourists of course, we were all wondering how much longer we have to be here in Egypt before we can start busting on the tourists. We were doing it already anyway. I'm sorry, but if you're going to wear a tube top to the pyramids, you're asking for it. That, and a sunburn. There's really not much else I can say, the pictures really say it all. When we were pulling out of Giza I said jokingly to the bus "you know we're going to have to come here with everyone who ever comes to visit us" and everyone kind of groaned. But then I started thinking, I'm going to get to come here with everyone who comes to visit us!! I can't wait!

Friday, September 12, 2008

On the Town

Although that IS the title of my favorite Gene Kelly movie, that's not the subject of this post. ; ) Last night was the first AUC Happy Hour of the year. It was at a hotel in Zamalek called Longchamps (pronounced Long-Shaamps) They have a rooftop terrace type thing and we all had a few Stellas and some fun conversation. Then we all made our way to Tabasco's. South Mex?? Alas, no. More like random Egyptian food, pizza, and pasta, which is what a lot of places serve for some reason. And, like most places, you're never really sure what you're going to get. I ordered a lemon mint juice and what I got was some sort of toxic green color. And then I ordered a tomato and cheese sanwich off of the "sandwich" part of the menu. I was served a cheese dip of some sort with pita chips and topped with chopped tomato. Huh. Ok! It was good, don't get me wrong, it's just funny watching a table of 10 people gambling on the their food order. I did eat some of the best pickles ever off of Ira's and Amanda's plates. Yum! By far the funniest part of the night was when we were trying to figure out how to divide up the group by neighborhoods to get cabs back to Maadi. A station wagon cab pulled up and ALL NINE of us got in! I swear, that thing must have been dragging on the ground. Ira and I sat in the front seat next to the driver and I have a bruise from where the window-roll-down-thingy was jamming into my hip. There were 4 people in the backseat and then 3 in the seat in the waaay back. It was quite hilarious.

Today Amanda and I are going to get pedicures and then we have a BBQ at the Maadi House. Tomorrow is another trip to the Pyramids! This time we're going during the day and I don't think the Sphinx will be doing any narrating. I will do my best to get the pictures up in a timely manner!

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Breathing Room

Here it is! As I mentioned in earlier posts, there are some women in Maadi who were eager to start a yoga space, or "co-op" as they've been calling it. It's been wonderful, everyone has different talents and interests and we each bring something to the space. Gordana has been so great about the admin. side of things. Everything from making sign-in sheets, to crunching the numbers, she's been working hard. We had our first meeting on Saturday and talked about things like keys and money and all the boring stuff, and then I gave everyone a class. From a teaching perspective, it was very easy because all of them had experience. Last night I taught the first "real" class. That was a lot of fun! Mark, Amanda, and Ira came out and then there were a couple of the women from Saturday as well as some new faces. I did a led primary class and it was great, a lot of work, but great. Everyone was VERY sweaty, which is the whole point! I was very impressed with the whole group, there was a lot of "I haven't done it forever...blah, blah" but they were wonderful, and followed the cues perfectly. This morning was a much smaller class (although, I think this time slot will grow to be one of my biggest classes) there were only 3. Belle, who is also a newbie to Maadi, Wendy, who I met on Saturday, and Alice, who was new to me but not new to the space from last year. This was more of a Mysore class. They didn't need me to cue very much so I focused on assisting and "encouragement", haha. It was a different feel. They were still sweaty (it is Cairo) but I felt that the energy was a little less exciting than it was the night before. That could just be because there were less people, it was early, etc. So it's been a great experience so far. I have another class tomorrow night, and then another on wed. morning.

Ira and I have been eating in a lot. I've been too tempted by the veggies at the market so I've been making some stir fry and some pasta dishes. Although tonight I'm a little pooped so I think we're going to get some yummy La Rosa pizza delivered!

Friday, September 5, 2008

a plug for ira...

Check out Ira's blog if you want to see pictures of the new campus!

Make new friends

So, last night Amanada and I were supposed to go get beers. I arrived at Hubbly Bubbly a little bit before she did. I noticed that the clientele was a little...young. Not in the "I'm 30 and these 21 year olds look so young" way, more in the "my 13 year old brother Connor would fit right in here" way. It was tween central. Then Amanda walked in and said "why is everyone 12?" Then she went up and asked if they serve beer (I'm sticking with this girl). And they said no. They probably could have been rude and said "look around, you American idiot!" So then we were stuck with what to do. We could go to Shanghai and have beer there, but it seems weird to go to a Chinese place and just have beer. So we decided to just go back to my place and sit out on the deck. It was so much fun! I miss my girls so much and it was really good for me to have some fun girl talk and relax. Amanda is great, she's funny and smart and reminds me a lot of home. We talked about Cairo, and boys, and what stores they are rumored to have at the big mall in Heliopolis (so far the word on the street is Banana Republic, H&M, and Sephora!) This was after we got done talking about politics, literature, and avant garde cinema, of course : ) I guess I knew I would make friends here, but that's really hard to think about when you're still saying good bye to your old ones. Not that you guys are old! But I didn't want to think about all the new people I would meet, or how cool they would be. I know that's bratty of me, but it's true. But now I see that this place isn't so bad, and there are lots of great strangers that could be friends.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

One of the seven wonders of the world...or Epcot Center?

We went to the pyramid light show last night! It was a trip. We were warned that it was going to be cheesy, but I had no idea. Now, any of you who have been to Disney World or even a planitarium when you were a kid will have the general idea. First of all, the whole thing is narrated by the Sphinx! So he's like "I have seen so many walk through this desert!" and "I'm so tired after sitting in the sand all these years!" "Cleopatra was so pretty!" And it's Omar Sherrif's voice! I'm not making this up! And the best part was after the Sphinx said something dramatic, like someone died or something, the music would go "BUM BUM BUUUUUUM" really loud. It was a riot. Little Velimeir and Vojo loved it. Veli was sitting behind me and he kept going "oh wow!" it was cute. And it was another cool night, a great breeze, I could get used to this. Ok, now all that being said, the pyramids themselves are amazing of course. We were walking over towards them and I just caught a glimpse of one and it was just so exciting! And then you're sitting there and they're right there looking at you! I know I sound like a nut, but it's weird. You see them in books and movies your entire life and then you sit in front of them and you still think it's a movie set. They looked too real! We were on the Sphinx side so we weren't able to get up close to them, but since we live about 30 minutes away I'm pretty sure we can go back another time. Even lit up with the lasers they were awesome. As you can see by my other cool slide show!! haha This one only took me about 45 minutes instead of all day.
So, tonight I have plans with Amanda and we're going to the "Hubbly Bubbly", a neighborhood bar, although we like to call it the "Hobbly Wobbly". It looks like a bar at home! I'll take pictures!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

yoga playlists

I start teaching yoga next week! I'll be teaching four classes a week, Sunday and Tuesday night and then monday and wednesday morning. I am a big fan of playing music during yoga. I know feelings are mixed about this in the yoga community among teachers as well as students. I don't even know how my students here are going to feel about it, but I hope they'll keep an open mind. It's a challenge for me to make really good playlists. There's nothing worse than holding a pose that's not your favorite while listening to a song you can't stand. But there's also something to be said for being able to block things out while you practice. And it's a good tool for the teacher to see if she can hear your breathing over the music. If your not a yoga student, you might find my lists unconventional. But I would rather practice in silence than listen to "yoga music". All the chanting and bells really gets to me after a while! haha So instead I go for strong beats in the begining of class at least through standing poses, then I take it down a notch for seated poses and closing, finally, I play tracks that very little or no words for savasana (relaxation). I try to stay away from anything cheesy, or too lovey-dovey, or anything too songs that talk about breathing and relaxing a lot. Anyway, if anyone is interested, here are the 2 lists that I've put together so far...Even if you're not into yoga, maybe you'll find something new to listen to!
Cairo Yoga Mix 1
15 Steps-Radiohead
7/4 (Shoreline)- Broken Social Scene
Bodysnatchers- Radiohead
By Your Side (Cottonbelly's Fola Mix)- Sade
Jigsaw Falling Into Place-Radiohead
Bend And Break- Keane
Move By Yourself- Donavon Frankenreiter
Like a Feather- Nikka Costa
Brighter Than Sunshine -Aqualung
Keep It Loose, Keep It Tight- Amos Lee
Chasing Pavements- ADELE
I'm Yours-Jason Mraz
Island in the Sun- Weezer
Put Your Records On- Corinne Bailey Rae
Better Together- Jack Johnson
Half Acre- Hem
Say-John Mayer
Speak Into The Microphone- The Dining Rooms
M.Dupont-The Dining Rooms
Walnut- Moby
The Blue Terror of Lawns-Moby
Love Song for my Mom- Moby

Cairo Yoga Mix 2
Going On- Gnarls Barkley
Flight in Dub- Wax Poetic
I Feel It All-Feist
Maybe Tonight-Nicole Atkins
Somewhere Only We Know-Keane
My Little Corner Of The World- Yo La Tengo
Let Go- Frou Frou
A Long Walk-Jill Scott
(Nice Dream)-Radiohead
Endless Song Of Hapiness- Yael Naïm
Idle (The Rabbit Song)- Hem
1234- Feist
Breakdown -Jack Johnson
Bottom Of The Barrel- Amos Lee
Blackbird- The Beatles
Love Like Laughter-Beth Orton
We Are One- Kelly Sweet
Breathe Me-Sia
Three Little Birds- Bob Marley & The Wailers
False Start- The Dining Rooms
Chorus Of Flames- The Dining Rooms
Cosi Ti Amo-The Dining Rooms
Verso Il Sole-The Dining Rooms
Namaste-Beastie Boys
Burying Song- Hem