Saturday, May 29, 2010

Summer Saturday bliss

Today was Saturday. And it was pure summertime bliss. This morning the three of us woke up, hung out, and went to the park. Well, first we went to the bakery around the corner and indulged in yummy bread and pastries for about 50 cents. After that, the park for some time, then home for naps. Well, Amir napped. We engaged in some... extracurricular activities. Wink wink.

After the nap came pool time. The weather was beautiful (hot and sunny, as usual, but less pollution and dust), the water was refreshing, and I made friends with a posse of adolescent girls who gave me their phone numbers to hang out later. We ate a lunch of falafel and delicious Franks & Creampy (no idea why it's called that... they don't sell hot dogs) ice cream. We came home, took cool showers, Amir pooped on the bed while we were having naked time, he took another shower, then he went down for a nap. Now, we're sitting under ceiling fans reading Emerson and Hugo (I'm zooming through Les Mis, I will one day post my thoughts thusfar, it's one of the most thought-provoking novels I've read). This evening will consist of vegetable shopping at the street market, peanut stew, and Tim hanging out with some Arab men after Amir and I go to sleep.

And if today was relaxing bliss, yesterday was crazy adventure. More to come on our lovely weekend.

Could life be any better? Today, I reflect on the grace of God, the circumstances in my life that have brought me to this point. Karma has been kind.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

"Grace amidst Genocide"

": A Liberal Hippie Mormon Guide to Reading the Whole Old Testament."

That's the name of the book I will write one day. The Old Testament is full of rape, racism, sexism and genocide. For a long time I've felt a deep connection to the Old Testament and a desire to understand its messages. But as I've become more of a hippie and especially as I've been working with Cait through some of the early parts of the OT I've realized more and more that a lot of what I view as God's nature is contradicted or wildly distorted by some of the events and teachings of the OT.

I still have no complete idea of how to reconcile my view of God with the God that the OT suggests, but someday I hope to, and then I'll write a book and help many of my fellow hippies, that is, of course if I become and remain a hippie. Here's a preview or a summary of some of my current feelings:

1) God doesn't change, His kingdom does.God will give his children just as much doctrine as they are able to handle, but not more. In reading the old testament it becomes obvious how basic the doctrines they were to follow were, mainly external practices. It also teaches us that this continues today. Christ came and focused on Charities (among other things), Joseph came and focused on revelation (among other things) later prophets on the family, on education. And future prophets will add more and more (which is hopeful for the future).

2) God is a lot bigger than we understand. He sees the big picture in ways we don't and allows things that we might view as distasteful in order to accomplish a greater good.

3) Imposing our cultural morals standards on a culture so separated from ours is a very non-hippie thing  to do.

There is still a lot I don't understand. Leave a great comment and I'll quote you in my book in 40 years.

In which I love my child's name

I think my child needs to attend this preschool (featured in the picture; also read the article, it's interesting). I think he'd fit right in if his classmates had names like Beulah Ellison-Tayor.

I'm currently toying with the possibility of having grandchildren with the last name Ellison-Tayor-Carroll-Browning.

For those who thought his name was weird: we have total hippie street cred with a baby name like that. We'd fit right in with the raw-foods-eating-cloth-diapering-nature-preschooling Seattle crowd. Our kind of crowd.

Stressed for no reason and the dishonesty of Provo landlords

I'm easily stressed (to some degree). Even though we're in Egypt another three months (one month down!), I find myself incessantly worrying about what happens when we get back to Provo. Where are we going to live? and where are I going to work? are the two main questions constantly streaming through my brain. As far as an apartment goes, we're thinking about Wymount. I never really wanted to live in BYU-style housing again, and I don't like the location of Wymount, and Melissa/Casey/AB aren't there, and it's a little pricey for what you get. But... benefits include you can do the contract online, pay your rent from your BYU financial center, only pay $100 deposit and not worry about getting cheated out of your money.

Which brings me to why Provo landlords are dishonest: TPM took 95% of our deposit, and then charged us extra for "unpaid rent", which we did not think we had to pay, and then charged us a $50 late fee on top of the unpaid rent and on top of the $50 late fee they already took out of our deposit for April rent. I didn't think our April rent was late... but maybe? Sometimes we had others drop it off for us, and I can't remember if that was the case for April or not (I had bigger things going through my mind then, like packing for Egypt). They also took $100 for a "get out of contract" early fee, which is lame since we found someone to move in after us. And $91 for carpet cleaning. They just suck you dry, these Provo landlords. And they can because we let them. They hold our credit scores in their bony little fingers.

Which brings us again to a job: Anyone know of a place I could work come August? I have a Bachelor's degree. I have bakery/ice cream experience. I can recite all 50 states in alphabetical order. Surely SOMEONE wants me and will offer above-minimum-wage pay and some decent hours. Because we will be... kind of strapped for cash seeing as how we'll have none. Maybe another student loan and food stamps will be in order if I can't find a job? I don't know. I really don't want to have to work full-time or even some-time but I'm thinking that I want decent health insurance and financial security for the years until Tim is done with school and we figure out the next step.

On a less stressful note: I can't do anything about any of this for the next three months so I should RELAX while I have the chance and just hang out with this little guy:

On the Metro

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Egypt so far or Argentina part II (kind of)

A month into our adventure in Egypt I have many thoughts concerning the experience. I will record a few here.

Egypt is similar to Argentina:
1. Very structured days (2-7 hours of class, 2 hours of newspaper reading, 2 hours of speaking, 1 hour of other homework and the rest of the day with the family).
2. Environs (slow paced, kind of dirty, religious, full of personality and firmly third world)
3. Intensity (time moves by super fast and super slow, I fall asleep very easy)
4. Mixed emotions (feeling great to feeling like a failure,)
5. A reliance on the Spirit
6. Deep down, I really love both places

Other differences include:
1. Having a family here.
2. Not being sure if I'm really supposed to be here.
3. Having access to the internet.
4. Being 5 years older.
5. How crowded Egypt is.
6. Having a family here.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Ahlan wisahlan

15 minutes ago, I was sleeping, taking a little mid-morning snooze with my guy. Then, I was awoken by a loudly-braying seemingly distressed donkey outside my window. Usually we wake up to the gas man on a bicycle clanking a wrench against his gas canisters as he sells them throughout our neighborhood to households who do not have a hook-up to a gas line. Welcome to Cairo.

I'm no longer allowed to walk home alone with Amir at night because apparently EVERY Egyptian man wants to rape me. Welcome to Cairo, BYU-style.

My three friends were forced to disrobe in front of Maadi Club security men. Afterwards, they told me they wished I was with them because I would have just flat out refused. I do that a lot here. I just pretend not to understand and say no and walk away. No one at the pool messes with me anymore because I'm such a mean American woman (I learned the art of aggressive independence from my dear mom).

'Ahlan wisahlan.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Dinner with Hamdi's family

Today was Friday. Friday means Church, but today it also meant dinner with Tim's shopkeeper friend, Hamdi. Tim went to his house a few days ago to meet his children and his two wives (or so he thought). I was very interested to see Egyptian polygamy in action... but it turns out he only has one wife. And one teenage daughter that Tim thought was a second wife. And I did too, until we cleared that misconception up at the end of the visit (we didn't tell them we thought she was his wife... that would've made for awkward conversation). Speaking of conversation, it was pretty limited as they didn't speak any English and my Arabic is far from conversational. Tim spoke quite a bit though.

Some strange things that happened include the fact they made us put on their clothes when we arrived. We came straight from Church so we were in our Friday "best" (as could as it can be in Egypt), so we think they thought we dressed up for them and they wanted us to be comfortable. Amir was also having a rough time because he needed a nap, so I went back into the bedroom to help him go to sleep. I tried to nurse him but he was way too upset, but then Hamdi's wife came in and tried to force me to breastfeed him. And since I was wearing her clothes (which was like a long nightgown kind of thing), I couldn't really pull it down to nurse and so I had to pull it all the way up and I totally flashed my undergarments to her.

Overall, a fascinating cultural experience. I'm wanting to ask Hamdi's wife (I can't remember her name, sadly) to teach me how to cook her food, because it was amazing. I tried to mimic it last night and it tasted really similar, and was delicious. Pretty much, I sauteed peppers and onions, then added tomato paste, water, and a bouillon cube. We dipped our yummy and very cheap eish (bread) into it and ate it with Egyptian rice (a short-grain sticky rice). Cheap, healthy(ish), delicious. Yum.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Thank you BYU

I'm feeling financially sound at the moment. For the past few weeks I've been worrying incessantly about our financial situation since we have, um, zero income for four months and a lot of unexpected Egypt-related expenses that keep coming up. And the fact we have to move back, pay a security deposit and rent on an apartment, move in starting from scratch since we got rid of our furniture, etc.

But... today our SMART grants came through! We didn't think we'd be getting them for the spring/summer. But we did. And now we can eat something other than lentils and rice (though I bought them in bulk for the summer already, so we'll probably still eat them every meal... we'll just enjoy a 4-pound ice cream cone once in a while).

And, on a smaller scale, we thought we'd be paying $50 extra to the program, but it turns out the program can pay it (probably from the money they took from us for the club fees).

We must've paid our tithing or something.

Photoshoot at the Alexandria museum

We were waiting for the bus to head back to Cairo when this happened.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Atticus is hitting so many milestones all at once, and I feel like if I don't document this somewhere it will be lost in the abyss of time.

Atticus loves to talk. I was worried when he wasn't making consonant sounds at six months like all the other babies, but he has recently discovered how to babble. He doesn't do it very often, but you can tell he enjoys it. His favorite babble sound is "dadadada" which he does when Tim is gone, so I'm pretty positive he's asking "where's dadadadada?" He also says something that resembles "I liiiii ta" which we think means "I like it" whenever we give him chocolate or ice cream.

The other day I turned my head for a minute and Atticus had pulled himself up alone, which he hadn't been doing too much, and when he did it took him a long time. Now he's doing it all over the place, which is worrisome considering our apartment isn't exactly baby-proof (think very sharp metal edges, glass tables) and so now I have to be on guard all the time. He also is rocking back and forth a lot, and still scooting around on his tummy, but I think soon he'll be crawling more. He can go from sitting to a crawling position, but doesn't do that too often. He stood unassisted today on the bed for about 4 seconds! Way to go, Atticus.

Another milestone hit last night: his first time throwing up. Not spitting up... like legit puking his guts out all over me and the bed. It was disgusting, and luckily only happened once (I still had him sleep on a towel all night just in case). It was unexplained, but I think it might have been correlated with swallowing pool water earlier that evening. Or maybe the street food we fed him. Or maybe the whole thing of yogurt? I have no idea. I just am praying it doesn't happen again, and he doesn't get really sick next time.


On Saturday, we went on a loooooong bus ride to Alexandria on the Mediterranean coast. It looked pretty much like Cairo, with a beach rather than the river. The bus ride was freakishly long and boring, it wasn't very far but the roads are bad. For some reason there are speed bumps on the highway? I don't get it. Once we got there, we had a great time. It smelled like the sea.

Experiencing the Mediterranean coast from atop Dad's shoulders.

Egyptian men are suckers for those baby blues.

Engagement photos plus baby?

Huraches brought to you by Casey; Mei Tai by Melissa.

At the Alexandria Library

Embracing his tactile sense.

At the Qantay Citadel in Alexandria.

Amir with his best friend, Becca.

And his other best friend, Andy.

The Mediterranean Sea.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

My first photoshoot

Like every other Mormon mother out there, I decided I need to become a photographer.

Not actually... but I do have an Olympus DSLR to play around with for the summer so I thought I'd take it out for a picnic a few afternoons ago.

The camera is nice, but a little broken, so direct sunlight is a must or else the photos come out super dark. I know all about aperture and ISO and shutter speed now, but I don't know how to change them on my camera so these were all taken on the auto setting.

My subject=cutest baby ever.

My skills=need some improvement.

My fellow mothers, dressed in full abayas.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Amir at the shop

By Tim

As part of my daily schedule of homework I am required to speak with a native Egyptian for 2 hours a day. This has proved somewhat challenging for me, because speaking for that long in a language I don't really speak is hard and I'm a little too shy to make it easy to find people to talk to randomly every day for 2 hours. The other day though I struck what I see as gold when a shopkeep named Hamdi invited me to sit by him in his shop. I volunteered to help and soon he had me (trying to) sell all the various items in his store, which meant mostly cigarettes and Kleenex.  I went back tonight with Amir and he was a hit. He stayed out very late with me and ate crackers and drank juice the man from the store gave him. A somewhat typical and somewhat extraordinary Egyptian experience.

Why we should join the foreign service

Today was a great day. We woke up early, and Amir and I went to a cooking class for Relief Society (the organization of women at our church). Our host was hilarious with three adorable children (and I'm pretty sure I've read her blog before... but I need to find out how? She used to live in Arlington, so maybe from someone Lauren knows?) and she taught us how to make Julia Child-style puff pastries and croissants. And ohhhhh, they were delicious. I wish I had the time/patience to make them. The Provo Bakery doesn't come close to these things (though the Provo Bakery is very delicious, don't get me wrong).

After that, we walked over to another woman's house because her housekeeper was teaching us how to make koshari, the food of Cairo. It is so complicated a procedure, but the results are incredible. It's one of the most yummiest things I've ever had when it's made right. And boy, did Fatma make it right today. Yum, yum, yum. We ate our fill, then brought some home for "our husbands." I can't wait to make it in Provo for whoever wants to come eat it (Melissa and Casey I know will be there, any other takers?)

Which brings us to the title of the post: why we should join the foreign service. You get an amazing apartment, completely paid for and furnished. They pay your utilities. You get an American salary, but can pay Egyptian prices. All this means you have enough money to employ a full-time maid. For your huge and beautiful and furnished apartment. The government pays for your move, you can even bring a car and they pay for it. They also pay for you to fly back to the US once every few years. And every few years, you get a new post which you kind of get to pick (they said as long as you aren't picking Europe, you usually get one of your top choices). All in all, it's seems like quite the lifestyle. We'll see what happens though...

Why I will not write you emails

Dear mothers,

I will not write you emails. Do not ask again. I will post pictures when we actually have internet that is not "pay by the megabite" or incredibly slow. This is my life, not yours.

Be grateful I blog. Isn't that enough to satisfy your voyeuristic cravings?

But, seriously. I'm kidding. But I still won't write you emails.

Because that's what a blog is for.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mother's Day

Pretty uneventful, considering it was a weekday and Tim had class all day. We concluded my first real Mother's Day by getting lost and struggling to find our way home with a screaming and very tired baby. We had gone to a wedding party that was SO LOUD I couldn't in good conscience keep my child there without fearing for the future of his hearing. I think we offended the hosts though by leaving after five minutes. I'm sure it won't be the last time we offend people here.

Maybe next year I'll get breakfast in bed (crepes, perhaps) and a scalp massage. I can't really complain though since as I write this my husband is putting the babe to sleep. Mostly every day is Mother's Day for me.

And speaking of mothers, I have a pretty great one. So here's a shout-out to Suzanne.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Smith's on 200 W and Freedom is about a 2-minute walk from our old apartment, and where I went grocery shopping every week.

This is for all those "I can't believe you're going to Egypt, that's sooooooo dangerous" and the "you are crazy to go to Egypt because it's soooooooo dangerous".

105 degrees

Today it's 105 degrees. At the moment we are enjoying our A/C and hanging out inside, but I imagine after Amir has a decent nap we will venture out to the pool. The pool is amazing, so I plan on taking advantage of it. Especially since we are paying $400* for it this summer. We paid for membership to this club, but everything costs extra except the pool and the playground. It is lame. It's fun to watch everything though, we walked around last night and there was soccer, handball, croquet, and all sorts of other random sports being played outside.

This weekend I came down with another crappy case of mastitis. Luckily, I brought antibiotics with me, so when the fever and chills started late on Thursday night I took them right away and I've been feeling better since. I insisted on going to Church on Friday (Friday is our Sabbath... weird, huh?) and I am glad I did. Although I felt pretty horrible the whole time, I NEEDED Church at that moment in my life. The other moms were really welcoming, and this week I'm going to a cooking class and a playgroup so I won't be stuck inside like the past few days. Someone in the ward invited us over to dinner and it was delicious! Shredded BBQ chicken sandwiches and BREYER'S ICE CREAM. Amazing. They are with the embassy which equals commissary privileges. Also, their apartment was huge and beautiful. Embassy standard. I'm starting to think Tim in the foreign service wouldn't be all that bad. Tim decided after dinner that since their kids drink the water, he would do it too. So far, so good. I'm not brave enough/well enough to try this yet, but I'm kind of sick of buying bottled water. It's expensive and a pain to get home from the grocery store because we have to get a taxi (which isn't so bad, taxis here are ridiculously cheap, about the equivalent of a dollar or two to get anywhere in Maadi). Grocery stores do home delivery too, and it's about two dollars. This all seems very cheap, but when you're on our budget, and when it's in pounds, it seems like so much more than that. Because ten pounds could buy us ten delicious falafel sandwiches.

* We are actually paying $610 dollars for it. BYU took that much money from us, but it turns out the married membership is only $400, but we weren't allowed to keep the extra money. OUR extra money. I was pretty annoyed by this, but "it's how the budget works." Psht.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

8 Months!

Atticus loves:

- Pulling himself up
- Standing
- Bananas and yogurt
- International plane rides
- Cords
- BBC News
- Swimming
- Strangers kissing him

Atticus hates:

- Teething
- Falling on our hard floor
- Sitting still
- Being kept out past his bedtime

He continues to be a very pleasant baby. Last night, he didn't really want to go to sleep because he took a late nap after Church, but he just laid in bed with us for an hour or so while Tim and I had a long chat. He is so fun to hang out with. He still is really quiet for an 8-month-old. He doesn't really babble at all, but I wish he would because he has such a nice-sounding voice. He has six teeth now, two just poked through this week. He likes to use them to chomp on bananas and anything else we will let him stick in his mouth. He loves hanging out in the streets of Cairo with his dad, and has met many interesting characters.

Damage control

Back in the States, I'm very concerned with health and safety. Maybe borderline obsessive on some things. I had Amir's carseat checked at the health department for correct installation (twice), we don't use any chemicals for cleaning instead choosing vinegar and baking soda, we use all-natural, biodegradable laundry detergent, and Burt's Bees and California Baby products. I tend to shy away from anything antibacterial. Here, however, there is no use worrying about parabens, BPA, and phytlates. Instead there is worrying about salmonella, hepatitis, tuberculosis, asthma, lung cancer, getting run over. No use worrying about the chemicals in Clorox when the vegetables could make you very, very sick.

I feel like I'm doing damage control all day long, attempting to avoid the ever-present cigarette smoke and reckless drivers. I've realized that triclosan has its place, and that place is in your hand soap when the lady next to you walking by the metro is coughing up blood. I've become quite attached to my hand sanitizer, and it has a permanent, very accessible place in our backpack. Would it be rude to require people to use a little before they touch all over my little baby with their grimy hands? The best ones are the butchers, go straight from touching raw meat to grabbing my baby's cheeks. Mmmm. E-coli.

I think it's ironic that they are very protective of their babies, they are all wrapped up in blankets when they are out to protect them from the sun, but you see toddlers hanging out of car windows as their parents go zooming down the street. The other night we had to take a taxi to get to the Carrefour, and I thought I might have a panic attack as we sped down the highway with my baby completely unrestrained in the backseat. I'm a nervous wreck here.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

This post is about sex

I will try to keep this tasteful :)

My cousin Shay has an advice blog of sorts, and she ran a recent column on sex within marriage, specifically keeping things spicy after babies. We were discussing a different topic and she said that I should comment because I probably have a lot of insight into this subject. Maybe theoretically speaking... I may? But from experience, maybe not.

Honestly, we are not really sexually "active" at the moment, whatever that means. We're on a once every few weeks kind of schedule. There are probably a multitude of factors affecting our sex life, from finals to working at 6 in the morning at the bakery to moving across the world. You can blame it on the co-sleeping, but I think it has more to do with lack of desire than anything. I don't think if we really really wanted to Amir in the bed would not stop us. Because there are other places to do it besides the bed.

I'm convinced, and I've heard from a few very authoritative sources, that a side effect of the IUD is an unbearably low sex drive. I'm blaming it on that for now, because my body/sex drive does feel messed up and whacked out, not just low or on hold for a little while.

Maybe it's the breastfeeding hormones or maybe it's the mere fact that I have a parasite hanging from my body 16.7 hours a day, but I just have ZILCH sex drive ever since I had him. Even after a romantic date (ok, maybe we haven't been on any) or a night on the town (with baby in tow) and even when I'm well-rested and feeling pretty good, I still have no desire for sex. I'd rather clean the kitchen.

I'm sure all my readers are out there thinking "oh, poor Tim!" but honestly, if he was wanting it more often I would probably oblige him. Not because I have to though, according to my mom. She is of the perspective that a wife's duty to her husband requires regular conjugal visits or else he has a good excuse to find it somewhere else. While she later recanted that statement after a good rant from me, I am firm in the belief that a marriage does not require regular sex, and I don't think a husband needs regular sex to be satisfied within the marriage. Again with the readers thinking, "but what does Tim have to say about all this?" but he is actually firm in his belief of the same principle. He actually is more passionate (haha) about the fact that sex is not required for intimacy. we've had discussions and he can pretty heated about the fact that he does not want to have sex if I don't want to and will not be pressing the issue because he doesn't think it's necessary to be content in our marriage. Don't misunderstand though, we both think sex is great and beautiful and sacred, but if one or both parties has no desire then it's none of those things, it's just obligatory and boring.

And this is why the IUD will most likely be coming out right around with Amir turns one (I would like to wait longer... much longer, but I also really want to have sex with my husband and enjoy it). But if it does come out, we WILL be finding an alternative method because I will NOT be having another one of these precious little parasites anytime soon.