Thursday, October 28, 2010

Marriage Proposals and CEGs

I don't want this blog to be about work, but you all know how much I love teaching and love being around the kids.  So this is a post about my day since it was crazy and exhausting, with the usual Egyptian flair to it!

Today was Sports Day for elementary.  It was a lot of fun, but i have never had so many kids cry!  I did not organise the day, so perhaps the organisers can take credit for the tears.  But it was full on lay on the floor and cry like a baby day.  By the end of it, that's all I wanted to do!  And it was bloody hot again, so everyone had a hard time.

Next, parent teacher interviews.  Egyptian parents are VERY overprotective and very involved in their children's education.  I have 18 children and they ALL complete their homework every week.  ALL of them.  I have never had that once in the last 2 years of teaching!  At least they are over and parents and kids are happy! (hamd el eh la- thank god).

Next, the ride home.  We find a taxi since our bus took the load of people home earlier.  The road is bumper to bumper, and it takes 1.5 hours to get home (usually 45 minutes).  I guess I am getting used to the traffic since the 7 cars across 4 lanes didn't bother me! I only cringed once when I thought we were going to get sideswiped-  I used to just cringe all the time...But of course a few things happened (oh this morning, I saw 2 camels in the back of a truck). A motorcycle wizzed past us at 110 km/h with no helmets on and the girl riding sidesaddle (it must not be modest to straddle a guy on a motorcycle)  with 5 inch stiletto heels on!

After our near miss accident (and believe me, these are a dime a dozen) the driver decided to start talking.  After many translations from the Egyptian teachers in the car, he tells me and the American that he loves Americans and Canadians and they are number 1.  He wants an American wife because he is very rich and looks at me.  I say I am a Canadian.  Then I get the whole spiel of you are beautiful and kind and you have beautiful eyes.  Will you marry me? Yes CEG (CEG= creepy Egyptian guy), I want to marry you, who drives a taxi and smells and doesn't speak English Canadian girls don't fall for that!  Thankfully we had pulled up to our drop off place and I could make a run for it...

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Pyramids Galore!

Remember when you were a kid, and you really really wanted something for Christmas?  And you wrote Santa a letter, and you were good the whole year round, and your parents warned you that Santa is very busy and he might not be able to bring you your present?  And on Christmas day you wake up super early, and just hope you find that Barbie house under the tree? And you walked down the stairs hoping for a glimpse of the tree, and there it is, under (or beside) the tree is the Barbie house of your dreams?  Remember that feeling of seeing something you wanted for so long?  Well, that was what I felt like the first times I saw the Pyramids.  And they didn't disappoint!  I have wanted to see the Pyramids all my life and there I was, going to the Opera to see Aida with the Sphinx and the Pyramids in the background.  It was awe inspiring! 

Not the best pic, but this is the return of the Egyptian army in Aida with the REAL
Sphinx and Pyramids in the background!
The next day, I returned to the Pyramids with a carload of Canadians (and an American) to go for a sunrise camel trek- which was so fun!  I felt like I was travelling thru time- no cars, just us in the desert. We did trek along side the pyramids, but the smog levels were pretty high that day, so I couldn't see them until the sun burned it off. When I finally saw the pyramids up close, it was something like a spiritual experience.  The feeling of awe at the immense work that went into building them 3000 years ago is mind boggling.  It was amazing.  Words can't describe it, but a photo is worth a thousand words...

A few photos of our adventures! As well as a few photos of the Red Pyramid at Saqqara and the BEnt Pyramid at Dahshur.

Camels and Pyramids

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

You Know You Are In Cairo When...

So, one of my earlier posts was about fighting the expat bubble- trying to embrace the culture and see past the Ace Club or the expat circle. This post is all about the fact that you will never forget that you live in Cairo because of the following...

1. They drive like there is a woman giving birth in their backseat...all the time! Zoom in and out of traffic and squeeze 7 cars into 3 lanes.

2. Donkey carts

3. The language- its hard to forget you live in a different place when you hear and see Arabic all the time

4. taxis...everywhere...all the time

5. The sweet smell of sheesha

6. camels and pyramids

7. packs of dogs everywhere

8. Piles of garbage that people just toss on the ground

9. breathing air you can see its so dirty
10. cat calls, hissing, kissy sounds and general ways to get your attention- that could go to a girl's head if she wasn't so creeped out by it!
11. people used to walk down these streets 1000's of years ago
12. People try to cross the 100 km/hour 7 lane highways
13. I see dead people twice a week on the 100 km/hour 7 lane highways

14. Signs like these.  This sign was found on the stall door of the women's toilets at the Hard Rock Cafe!

Sunday, October 3, 2010


I like to talk about my experiences, but I don't usually like to brag about myself...but this time I am!  I usually have a good sense of direction, I can follow a map and directions someone gives to me to get me places at home or in NZ.  I get to Cairo and it turns out I have a great sense of direction- and those of you who have been to Cairo know how hard it is to get around and not a single road goes in a straight line.  I just seem to have a sense and know where to go.  I am the one giving the taxi drivers directions, and I am the one that tells our latest (we are onto number 7) driver to school which turn off of the Ring Road to take.  I figured out how to get to school after the first few drives- a few of the other expats and the Egyptian girl who comes with us STILL don't know how to get out there!  So I have earned the nickname Sacagawea after the Native American girl who was a guide for the Lewis and Clark expeditions in America. 

One day Sacagawea decided to go to Road 9 and do some shopping at the teacher supply shop.  4 of us took a taxi there, did our shopping and decided we would eat at Lucille's, a local burger joint (very good!) We were all tired after a long day at school, someone had a sore hip and I couldn't remember how far back Lucille's was on Road 9 (this is a road about 2 or 3 km long, with a lot of bars and restaurants on it as well as shops!) I was pretty sure it was in the middle, and we were at the end.  So we walked to McDonalds which was about 10 metres away from the teacher store and hopped in a taxi.  I said keep a good watch, I think its close!  Away we went, did a big loop since the road is a 1-way and travelled along...and kept going and going and going.  We finally saw a sign...for McDonalds (remember, we just jumped into the taxi at McDonalds)! and right across the street from McDonalds was....Lucilles! The restaurant was literally right across the road from the teacher shop. We just went around in a big circle. Needless to say, the taxi driver must have thought we had lost our minds...or how naive these "American" women are! (I can hide behind that when it is convenient!) I did lose a bit of standing as the compass of the group, although I have redeemed myself a bit after our driver got us lost in New Cairo! Lead on Sacagawea- most of the time!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Ana gate...and Sand Storms, Arabic and McDonalds!

Ana gate- I have arrived!  Really, I just mean I am back.  I really like this term, and use it in the bus when we arrive at school, as the driver honks like mad to inform all of the residents, guards and teachers that we have arrived. I fell of the blogging wagon since school has started, there just aren't enough hours in the day!  So this is just a big mish mash of a post. I have also been taking Arabic lessons, so that eats up even more of my time.  But I am really enjoying them, and trying very hard to learn it.  Arabic is such a difficult language, and Egypt has its lingua franca (basically its own dialect of Arabic- they can understand the rest of the Arabic speaking world, but the rest of the Arabic speaking world can't understand them- meshy? that means ok?)  I am practicing with the dedas at school (our maids) but they are a lower class so their language is different again...but more on the class system later.

Last night was the first sand storm I have ever seen!  We were sitting having a wine and dinner out on the patio at the expat club Ace and the wind picked up.  We all thought it was going to rain, instead it sanded on us!  I think half the desert ended up in my eyes and the other half was in my lungs.  Trees blew past and I am sure a camel or 2 flew through the air as well.  I wiped my face off in the bathroom and the tissue was black!  Needless to say, I had to have my third shower of the day!  Certainly not something that I really want to experience again, but we have been told to be prepared for March, as that is when the African winds blow and we will be sanded over!

Today I have been shopping at Carrefour (the big French chain) to get classroom things as well as groceries.  We always have lunch or dinner after braving that shopping experience, as it seems like all 20 million people from Cairo are always there at the same time.  There are many choices at the food court, but for some reason all I ever want is McDonalds.  Its not like I eat McDonalds a lot at home, but here I think its the comfort food thing, it tastes the same wherever you are (Canada, NZ, Egypt!). I rarely eat meat here, so sometimes I just like a crappy Macca's burger (if you can call their burgers meat!) It does taste the same, but of course has the "local" special meal- NZ had the kiwi burger, here they have the McArabia burger.  I haven't tried it yet, but then again I never tried the kiwi burger either!

Recognised the world over!