Thursday, September 30, 2010

Wind wind go away I don't like you today...

 ...Was our Mantra for tonight. Read on...

Driving in the Egyptian streets on a Thursday night is equivalent to Saturday nights in the U.S. Only much worse.

The sun was just leaving the horizon and I realized that I had forgotten my regular glasses at home. Well, I'll get by, I mean my eye sight is really not that bad. I thought to myself... "Well think again!" responded the angry wind. SWOOOOOSHHHH... A massive cloud of dust picked up and another descended from the skies and I was engulfed in this strange cloud.

visibility = ZERO.

At this exact moment the street divides into a tunnel on the left, a bridge ramp on the right, and in the middle the street continues-- I wanted the middle. So I put on my hazards, glare my brights, drive super slow and saiy to my two girls at the back seats "make du'a for Mama... here we go". . . . . . . . .

"Show your self street, this mama needs to get her little ones home in one piece, oh God please"

"...oh look girls, the cloud is lifting a little. Where are we?"... SWERVE.

"GOODNESS, we just missed the island by inches" Alhamdulilah.

Five minutes later I get a major leg cramp,  I slowly park the car on the side of the road, right by a graveyard and I sit there for fifteen minutes massaging my legs and taking my breath.

We made it home in one piece, all praise to God.

We experienced an unseasonal dust storm that engulfed our car and all of Cairo tonight. The dust storm has completely cleared out (well by normal standards, there's always dust here) the wind is still swooshing away and I am sitting here blogging about this strange night and feeling grateful for little ones fast asleep in their beds.

the one funny thing in this whole night was when I was stuck in this traffic, and I was trying to make out if the traffic cop was a little person or a little boy. I eventually drive to where he was standing and see this EIGHT??? year old boy dressed in a traffic police uniform and directing the traffic. So I roll down my window and ask this "are you for real?" He waves me off...


I found a link for tonight's dust storm.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

three days in

Mei has an interview for a new school tomorrow morning. The previous school she went to didn't work out. We had to deal with massive melt downs every single morning, plus driving to and back in rush hour in Cairo was just too exhausting. We ate junk food almost every single day. I had no time to cook, clean or just breath for that matter. Why am I doing this to myself (and everyone else)?

The idea of sending my girls to school was to find my sanity (the concept of babysitters is yet to come to Egypt, and Nannies cost a fortune, and they simply don't agree with our lifestyle.)

Homeschooling? Why in the world not?

We've been "officially" homeschooling for three days now... Remember this? Well my first born is completely if-you-will 'at home' with homeschooling. She and her sister LOVE it!

The girls are blossoming (despite the fact that they're still recovering from their gazillion's illness) I don't spray my house with toxic chemicals for cleaning and killing bugs, and we can avoid all the other microscopic bugs (not to mention the traffic) that schoolkids carry.

So why am I sending her to a new school interview tomorrow. Well, I feel like I don't want to deny her something that she might enjoy. My husband teaches at that same school. She could go with him on the school bus back and forth and they could even have their lunches together. Plus it's one of the best language schools in Egypt.

We had a conversation with Mei, and asked for her opinion. She would like to try out Baba's school but she still loves homeschooling she said. So we decided for a trial period, and if she's happy, then school it is. If not... she has choices. Which is a great thing to have in a place like this.

Also I arranged for a cleaning lady to come and clean for three hours every single day. (Trust me if you live in desert land you'll understand the need.) This gives us time to focus on what truly matters. I mean, who wants to vacuum and mop every single day, and with my youngest condition, we have no alternative.

Homeschooling :: Three days in

::cooking on painted cardboard stove
:: the play room
the doorman's kids come for daily visits for playtime with the girls (to all my Egyptian readers, yes they're super clean and lice free.)
:: mahshy making (stuffed cabbage leaves. YUM!)
 ::nature walks in our street (it's insanely dusty, can you tell? Also what's up with all the trucks?)
::running around in *a gated park next door
::our still very young nature table (we are hopeful)

So far I am loosely basing my homeschooling style on the Waldorf school. I follow my girl's interest, get them connected to their surroundings, have them help out in house chores when they show interest.

Mei is super interested in poop, so she now can differentiate between animal poop shapes and colors. And she has declared her choco puffs her goat poop treat. NICE!

 We are also learning about desert animals, Arabic and English alphabets and bones amongst day to day encounters.


*Most of neighborhood parks in Cairo are gated and empty-- to avoid having masses of people loitering and littering. (I don't see the bother with a park if one intends to fence it and keep it empty) Having two blond kids who speak English in our neighborhood opens park gates amongst other things. Ah my exotic girls. Thank you!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Friday, September 24, 2010

this too shall pass...

When we were in the U.S, my mother called one day and advised me on installing natural gas pipes in our Egypt apartment. Why? because the gas tanks that we used to use were going to get obsolete in a few years, and if we decide to sell or move back that's the way to go. I took my mother's advice.
Little did I know then.

The natural gas pipes got installed when we were abroad, with only the doorman's wife supervising.

Since we've arrived we've been chasing the natural gas company to activate the pipes and most importantly we've been fixing our electricity. The electricity that the natural gas company workers sabotaged. How are the two connected you ask? well, since the pipes came in later they had to install them in the most primitive way ever, outside the walls, but in some parts they needed to drill in the walls to pass the pipes through from one room to the next.

 All over the world, it's human nature to get away with what one can. But in Egypt, oh-dear in Egypt, we take it to another level.

When one drills a hole in the wall and meets a plastic pipe filled with all the apartment's wires and electrical work what should one do? hmmn, tough right? Nope on the contrary, one cuts through the wires and avoids finding a new spot in the wall to drill. Easy. Peasy. Lemon-Squeezy!
(see the orange pipe,this is what once held all of our electrical wires)
We had two different electricians come several times, and both of them were pretty much (and I-kid-you-not) talking to themselves the whole time, trying to figure out how to remedy the situation. Also our electrical work was funky from the start. They had it rough I tell you. I should bill the Natural Gas company, but instead I am grateful that they showed up at all to inspect the pipes and then activate the lines.
(now this is how our wires appear, over the wall... not the prettiest sight but they get the job done!)

This part is behind us now, it has been behind us for the past three days now. We are enjoying the fact that we shall no longer wait for days and days until someone shows up to fix something (or at least for the time being. No, wait aren't we still waiting on the phone company and the internet company. Right!)

Amongst all the unpleasantness, I keep on reminding myself that, this too shall pass...

I mean, I don't want my readers to think that Egypt is an unpleasant place, on the contrary. It's definitely tough getting things done here compared to America, but there's so much beauty and hidden gems.
When I first moved to the U.S, I cried myself to sleep for the first three months (It's true) until one morning I  decided that home is where my significant other is. And I remind myself these days too. Maybe that's why I am into this song these days.

Transitions are rough, and getting settled in, I sometimes forget to breath.

 Tonight we decided that this is what we should do, breath, slow down, and take advantage of being in a magical place like Egypt. We sat down and wrote down a list of all the things that we want to do. And we'll be ticking it off (hopefully) together on this space... Once I get over carrying my big camera.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

What we've been up to...

...for the past two months, we've been re-adjusting to new (old) norms, dealing with homesickness for youngsters and grown ups, finding new (oh so loved!) pediatricians (my first born is a huge fan of our new pediatrician. why? well other than the fact that he rocks, he also and I quote "doesn't give shots mommy, only in Evanston they give shots, can I stay at his office the whole day. Mommy I love Dr. Hany!"... well, I think Dr. Hany has a new secret  admirer.
We've been driving every single day for hours upon hours in no-traffic-lights-land, the secret... MERGE PEOPLE, it surprisingly works!
Egyptians don't do well at intersections, so the Egyptian streets have been turned into one U-turn after the other (or rather we should call it the ME-turn according to a very witty little one.)

There's been tremendous progress, seriously. We had our very first hot shower this morning. YIPEE. The girls are both in pre-school (Mei is not very excited about school, too many changes I believe, Grabby is my mellow yellow, what can I say. She's chill this one)

We also have a working land line and we are still waiting at communications between the phone company and the internet company (the internet guy assured me that it could take from two day to 6 months... we're hopeful for something in between)
Meanwhile, we are enjoying indoor play:: giant cushions turned into playhouses, slides and what-have-you:: Resting on antique wooden benches in the streets:: Late fuluka cruises in the Nile::  and finally, huge masses of people roaming the streets.


FYI: all captures are by my old camera hence the not so great quality (I still feel conspicuous carrying my fancy camera. Like we don't grab enough attention already!) 

Friday, September 17, 2010

heart shaped waffles

 My mother's house always seemed to me like one big giant storage closet. The beds that we slept on growing up have two different storage compartments, which consist of six drawers and a giant gap under the bed's wooden planks (what do you call these?) for storage. Plus a giant closet construction from floor to ceiling surrounding the beds that hold, oh many, many things. We also have a villa in Alexandria that holds several auction bought items (my dad was a fan.)

Naturally when moving back, before buying anything I check with my mother first:

Hey mom, I want to buy a sewing machine.

Oh no need dear, I have a very good one from the eighties, it's with it's wrapping paper, I never sewed.

Then why do you have it?

Oh I really wanted to sew but never came around learning.
 So my mom gave me her brand new eighties Pfaff sewing machine... I have grand dreams, once I finish yelling at workers, employees and random people down the street (the last one I was just kidding) to show up or simply do their job right. hmph!

So while poking about the many, oh many drawers that I just told you about. I came across something interesting. Hey mom, you know what this is?
I'm not sure, your dad brought it home back from one of his travels. He never explained what it was, so it sat there.

Did it not come with a manual?

It was in German.

Looking closely it dawned on me "hey mom, you know what this is? It's a waffle iron! a heart shaped waffle iron" my mom's response was "what's a waffle iron?"
My mother doesn't know what waffles are, or maybe she recently tried one, but it just doesn't ring a bell.

Today, that waffle iron that sat there for years and years waiting for it's mystery to be solved, was used for the very first time-- to make a very special birthday boy his very special breakfast. And what better shape to serve some hot crunchy waffles than this?
 (recipe from here, but my next trial will be this one, I just need to plan ahead)

My mother is trying these next!

Have a lovely weekend!


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Updates for family and everyone else...

... we are still here, only slower (internet) and dustier (country).
Things take their sweet time in Egypt, so we are still waiting for the good people at our local phone company to hook us up so we can give our business to one of our (hopefully) trusted internet companies, so THEY could hook us up. Till then, I check my email via my Blackberry (I so miss my iphone! but one shouldn't complain about owning a Blackberry, or so I keep telling myself) And we still have this strange USB (super slow and often time annoying) internet connection.

This week on the calender we have another electrician coming to fix what the first electrician pretended to fix.

Our brand new stove is getting it's oven checked by the stove company, because the oven doesn't work.

The cleaning lady (My youngest needs her room to get vacuumed and mopped at least every other day, also her AC filter needs to get cleaned every other day 'cause of her condition) I am looking forward to her.

Update driver's license. I am driving around with my old (expired 07) one!

 Couch? (we currently don't own one.
And last but not least I am hosting my brother's birthday at our place (I so wanted to bake him a cake, but we'll see what happens with the stove peeps, ey?)

I can't bring myself to take my camera for captures these days, hopefully the inspiration will come back soon.

Till then...


Friday, September 10, 2010

{this moment}

I am breaking the no words rule this week, to share with you an Eid tradition that started, oh about six years ago. Every Eid we eat out, get invited or simply make our own pancakes breakfast. The main two ingredient are all of our growing family must be present and it has to be Pancakes.
Eid Mubarak!


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Mokattam Hills...

...Is our old neighborhood here in Cairo/Egypt. The whole neighborhood is over a giant piece of rock. This neighborhood five years ago was dubbed-- by my husband and his friends: Middle Earth. Because five years ago this was exactly what parts of Mokattam looked like... dark, bare, rocky and completely alien... We've come a long way. Tall buildings stand where once giant ditches laid. Paved roads cross through giant pieces of rocks. The city has crept in. (or rather up!)

 Yet still we suffer from massive storms of dust, and right now they just started the yearly burning of the rice straws in the fields-- resulting in massive smog clouds traveling from the northern sea (the Mediterranean)  upstream (which is confusingly south, a unique feature for the Nile river) where the old city lays. Rice smog is added to the already existing pollutants and everything is trapped between mountains and beneath cool air.
 So far our whole family has been suffering from sore throats, coughing attacks and my youngest is on sever medications for her asthma condition. Egyptian buildings are not built to prevent dust or heat penetration. So when dust storms attack outside, there is no refuge. If it's hot outside, it's boiling inside. And in winters the weather is as cold inside as it is outside. It doesn't get to freezing temperatures here, but when it's in the fifties all the time, your bones start to complain, and smiles become a rare commodity.
There are of course solutions to conquer construction defects, but they come at a high cost and a long process of dealing with Egyptian workers, of whom their reputation of unreliability has proceeded them time and again.
The simplest solution for the time being are double layered super thick curtains. That we plan on armoring ourselves with as soon as this coming long eid Vacation is over (Eid Mubarak Everyone!)
 Complaints aside, I must say, I truly love our new home. There's still alot to be done, but we are now proud owners of (finally) a working natural gas stove, a refrigerator and one bathroom has a water heater.
Breath easy everyone.

FYI: All captures are from our old Cairo place


Sunday, September 5, 2010

Cairo time...

Blogger speaks Arabic now...

It always throws me off when I look at my page and I am asked to sign-in in Arabic. I mean, what's up with that?

(my mother's chandelier)

I have good news for everyone. We are finally moved into our old mokattam apartment from my mother's place. It's insanely dusty, the girls are coughing right and left, but we are content... well for the most part.
It's true that we are currently  still waiting for a working stove, so we could rest our guts from places like this one:
Yet we are thankful for the fact that we could eat meat outside. (it's quite tricky to find vegetarian options in Cairo. With the exception of koshary and ful)

The above part was good news for us. The good news for you is I actually found (stole) sometime to upload of photos to my computer. Hooray for that!

Unfortunately I realized I didn't capture any major Cairo scenes. (hmmn?) well, we actually still haven't gone sight seeing yet, since we are here to stay, we figured take care of business first and then act like tourists. My photos seem to be exactly the same like American photos... how did I manage? I do not know!

:: At a private sporting club near my mother's place (the girl's favorite spot in Cairo so far)
:: The girl's gave away most of their fries for little miss whiskers here. She was quite the character.
:: Fanoos Ramadan, or noos ra dan  a la Biba pronunciation.
:: Getting on the Egyptian highway to the other end of the city for an iftar (breaking fast meal) gathering.
:: Egyptian sunset in said gathering.
:: Exotic rides.
:: and finally a girl getting off her car ride.


Friday, September 3, 2010


... I was told I wasn't clear yesterday about our move, so here it is in simple form:

We moved to Egypt from the U.S about twenty days ago. We are still in transition mode, and we are parked at my mother's place until we fix up our old Cairo apartment. Maybe another week or so.  Until then, my posts will be sporadic. Check on us, we are still here.

Leaving you with my latest Egyptian band discovery:


Thursday, September 2, 2010

A bumpy ride

Dear Readers,

Thank you so much for your patience. I have no photos to share with you today (not because of the lack of photos, or subjects to capture... on the contrary, it's just a little bit too complicated right now) we are currently living out of suitcases (twelve to be exact, why all the luggage you ask? ... read on!) in Cairo/Egypt at my mother's place. We found out that our path shall take an extreme turn sometime early June I want to say... hence the strange scattered sentimental blog posts here and there for the past couple of months.

We are here (in Cairo/ Egypt, my homeland) to stay, until our path takes us to another adventure.

A few things to share::
 Jet Lag::

Jet lag = not fun
Jet lag with kids = extremely challenging
Jet lagged kids = Oh my goodness! (we are over this stage now, thank goodness)

The Holy Month of Ramadan::

We are currently in the last ten days of Ramadan. trying to get things done during this month is extremely challenging. Ramadan this year fell on summer months: long days+ soaring temperatures. In a place like Egypt this means weird working hours, so say you're trying to fix up a place to live at. tough luck, wait until Ramadan is over.

Transitions for little ones::

All of us are still adjusting (and re-adjusting) to Egyptian bugs and Egyptian food. We are hopeful that "this too shall pass."
Homesickness-- Mei is hit the hardest I think. She told me she misses trees! I mean Cairo is quite green for a city in the middle of the desert (God bless the Nile River) but we can't compete with the land of the great lakes. Palm trees anyone?

Language-- again Mei is trying and is not very happy about it. She picked up on people with an accent in English, so now she thinks she's speaking Arabic when she uses broken English or rather Engelesh! (she never fails to make me laugh this little one, even in times like these!)

Right now we are doing some more waiting... waiting to move to our place, waiting to settle, and waiting to start new routines.

I should tell you about driving in Egypt, but I figured it's so interesting, I might dedicate a whole post for it.

Till then...

Peace *wink*

(sorry for the awkward format today, can you tell we are all over the place? can you?)