Monday, June 28, 2010

Upcycling and book reviews

Here are some things for you to check out:

Our friend Wendy upcycles and is generally crafty. I want you to check out her site and see if you can't find something you want to give yourself or some significant female in your life, or male, if you have any into headbands.

Go Here: Some kind of bird and some type of fabric

And to the right of my page, I have links to reviews of books, so I don't feel obligated to post them here.

That is all.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

In de-nile

This either grants Atticus great fertility or immunity from the plague. Either way, we'll take it.

This post is about produce

I'm amazed at how many students eat out here. There are some people who have eaten every single meal not at home all summer. Besides the fact we simply can't afford to do that, I'm at a loss for why people are not taking advantage of the unbelievable produce you can get! I know some are nervous about getting sick from street food, but I'm totally willing to risk it if I can walk two blocks down the street to a little farmer's market-esque produce market, and pick up pounds of tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, carrots, potatoes, onions, zucchini, okra, cabbage, you name it-- for about 20 cents a pound. There is also plenty of fruit stands everywhere as well, and again, I can get bananas, mangoes, grapes, watermelon, cantaloupe, apples, peaches, apricots for incredibly low prices. Everything is flavorful, fresh, and free of chemicals (I think, I'm making this assumption based on the fact that everything goes bad way faster than I'm used to). We've been eating loads of pasta with tomatoes and zucchini, lentils and rice with mixed veggies, veggie-fried rice, homemade french fries (not as healthy, but for some reason we are addicted to these now...), and for lunch almost every day I eat about four tomatoes with soft cheese on delicious fresh bakery bread.

And we definitely eat our share of koshary and falafel (very, very cheap street food) when we're too lazy or it's too hot to cook, but I want to take full advantage of veggies before the dearth during the winter in Provo.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Halfway through

By Tim:

I wanted to write a post about my feelings about Egypt now that we're halfway through and haven't had our 5 day spring break vacation yet. Two words:

Utterly predictable.

The last thing you'd expect from a hastily planned, poorly prepared for, super-intensive language immersion study abroad is having it go exactly as expected. I worked really hard not to put any preconceptions on what Egypt would be like, so I suppose that rather than having predicted this trip accurately I've just substituted observations for predictions. But in some things I've been, if not let down, then surprised:

Heat: It's not really super hot here. Sure there have been some really warm days, but most top out at mid 90's which is just like Utah or my mission. The heat just came really early here and some days are really hot, up to 110 degrees.

Difficulty: Arabic has always been hard, and it is more intensive here, but I feel like I've made a lot of progress and kept up on my schoolwork without losing sleep or neglecting other duties.

Family problems: I was worried about bringing a family here, but we've all adapted well. Cait, after being disoriented for a couple of weeks is now thriving and Amir is taking to Egypt better than most Egyptian babies. For example, we were pretty worried about taking him with us for the 7 hour non-stop mosque tour yesterday, but he gave us no problems at all.

The Spirit: I've felt it here very strongly, but I'll talk about that in another post.

In fact, I struggle a lot more with the predictability of the days here than the unpredictability. I guess that's something to be grateful for though. Here's a picture:

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Gotta go, gotta go, gotta go right now

Atticus is a mover and a shaker. The kid is constantly squirming, scooting, cruising, pulling up, tearing up, and messing up. I can't seem to keep tabs on him from one minute to the next. He is fast these days. Not only is he fast, he loves ripping things that are important, biting things not meant to be bitten (like our friend's furniture... eek), eating anything that looks unappetizing, and falling on things that will hurt. We decided the only way to keep him content is if we create a room where everything is plastic/soft, very colorful and noisy, with lots of non-electrical cords/curtains/edible paper, that is constantly changing and where there is no way to fall over on to a hard floor. Then maybe, just maybe, I would get a moment's peace that does not involve him napping (oh, blessed sacred naptime, how I love thee).

I'm nervous about the damage to be done in the next few months (and years for that matter). Not only to possessions, but mostly to him. He gets hurt on a regular basis. Toppling off of chairs on to the hard floor, bumping his head on sharp edges, rolling off the bed on to a semi-cushioned rug. I hope the damage will not be permanent. I see no way in curbing the injuries, unless I stand next to him with one hand on him for the rest of his life. And sometimes, you just gotta pee! And eat!! And blog!!!!

How does a mother do it? I'm totally exasperated. Just let him get hurt a few times. Submit to the crazy kid and bring a book while I'm monitoring his actions? I feel like my whole day is spent wrestling and chasing and putting things out of reach and kissing owies. Can I trust it will get better when I have my own apartment and can baby-proof? Please tell me this is not my fate for more than the next few months here in Egypt in a very un-baby-proofed apartment. I will go absolutely crazy.

Also on the table: keeping him content for three weeks of bus rides and one LOOOOONG trip back around the world. I am so dreading August...

Father's Day

We're usually not so into Hallmark-invented holidays around these parts, but I'll take any opportunity to express a little appreciation to a certain man in my life.

You know the one: my dad. Good old Dad. He's funny, he's laid-back, he always provided both financially and emotionally, he was around for us, he listened to us, and he loves my mom (even if I've never seen two adults drive each other crazy like they do). He's a pretty stellar guy when it comes down to it. When I was younger, we went on a few road trips, just the two of us. I remember one vividly: we ate a 20-pack of McNuggets and slept on the water bed at Grandma and Papa's apartment in Atlanta. Looking back, I really should've taken the opportunity to hang out with my dad more often when I lived at home. But some teenagers think their parents are the worst possible people in the entire world. I was not immune from that ridiculous perspective. Fortunately, I've matured, he's matured, and we're back to being friends because I think he's pretty swell.

Speaking of great fathers, you all know I could go on and on and on about how I married and procreated well, but I won't. Let's leave it at this: my husband rocks. Amir is crazy about his father, and so am I.

Our flat

This is not a complaining post. It's more so I can remember, and laugh about it in the future.

We live in a really nice apartment. One day, I'll post the pictures I took the first day. We have a fairly absentee landlord. He's a nice enough guy though, especially compared to other Egyptian landlords. He keeps trying to send his maid to clean, but we're always gone (but this week is the magic week, I think it will come together!) But... no matter how nice he is, he's kind of a slacker fixer landlord. Meaning, many things broken, few things fixed. So far, these have happened:

1. Our washer broke (fixed once, broken again)
2. Our light in our bedroom broke (still not fixed)
3. Our bedroom door broke and we still can't shut it, which makes for awkward roommate moments
4. Our bathroom door is sort of broken, still can be shut, but sometimes needs to be opened from the outside
5. Our air conditioner now leaks water continually, onto our bed so we have a bucket to catch it all night long (drip. drip. drip. you get the picture)

The most annoying things are the bedroom door and the A/C. The washer is usable still, if you stand next to it the whole cycle and make sure a part doesn't come loose (I usually have to stand next to it the whole cycle for fear of forgetting the water is on and flooding it, which happens pretty much once a week). The light in our bedroom almost feels normal because it stopped working the first week we moved in. The bathroom door thing isn't that annoying as long as someone is close to open it when you bang on it. I never shut it when I'm home alone.

Something else that happens frequently: we lose power. And it's SO. HOT. It usually comes on within the hour, but occasionally will be off for longer. That's when I jump in the cold shower with my PJs on and hop into bed completely wet. It works.

I like to think I'm living authentically Egyptian, albeit upper-middle-class Egyptian. I often have to repeat this to myself when the frustration mounts.

Things that work great in our flat: the TV.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Luxor Day 2

We went to sleep early our first night in Luxor. We woke up at 5 am to begin our second-day of touring. Day 2 involved descending into deep tombs at Valley of the Kings and Queens. They are the pharaohs of the New Kingdom, as opposed to the Old Kingdom ones buried in the pyramids. I am lacking on my ancient Egyptian history, so I'll let you just read the Wikipedia articles for more information. The day was blazing hot and Amir was NOT happy by the end of it. We weren't allowed to take any pictures at the tombs, for fear of arrest. In fact, someone from our group was caught taking pictures, but he's so smooth he got out of it. The tombs were intense, deeply cut into the mountains and all the walls were decorated with hieroglyphics (Book of the Dead kind of thing). The tombs were robbed during antiquity, so many of the artifacts are scattered around. In fact, one of the mummies there (Ramses I, I think) was found not long ago at a freaky things museum in Canada! It now is on display in the Luxor Museum (which we visited the first day). I wanted to see a real-live (real-dead?) mummy, and now I have. I don't think I need to spend the money to go to the Egyptian Museum now.

After the Valleys, we went to a few other sites, including the Ramesseum and Hatsheput's Deir el-Bahri Temple.

Those concluded our ancient Luxor viewings. Although it was the worst time to visit (heat of the summer), I am glad we were able to have the experience. I wish I had read up a little more on the sites we were visiting beforehand, I think it would have meant quite a bit more to actually know where I was. Just thinking about how OLD these sites are is pretty amazing. 3000 years old, at some places. And preserved so well. It's absolutely mind-blowing when you think about it.

A very unhappy guy:

Luckily, he did this all the way to Hurghada:

Luxor Day 1

We took a sleeper train to Luxor. It was an 11-hour ride, but the train was SO COOL. You get a little pod of a room, and at first it kind of looks like the train in Harry Potter, but then the porter comes around and does his magic and you walk into a completely different room. It was totally rad. And then you tuck into your sheets all cozy, and try to sleep (if you're me). Amir was a trooper and slept all night cuddled up with us. We woke up, ate breakfast, and we were in Luxor. Apparently traveling by sleeper train is pretty pricey, and we're glad we didn't have to make the decision.

We started Day 1 in Luxor at the Karnak Temple. We spent a few hours wandering around the ruins (though they were very intact ruins). There were Egyptian hieroglyphics everywhere on the walls. There was a fertility section, so we decided to demonstrate our fertility. Also, at the temple, there was an idol of their fertility goddess, supposedly if you walk around it 5 times, you'll get pregnant in the next three months. We decided to walk backwards around it for birth control.

Amir either was exploring ruins or sleeping.

Touching hieroglyphics.

We also went to the Luxor Temple, but didn't take any good pictures. It pretty much looked just like the Karnak Temple.

That night involved a falucca ride on the Nile. It was hot, so Tim dipped the guy into the Nile to cool him down.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Masculinity is overrated

Valerie Hudson frequently sends interesting articles for her research assistants/former RAs to contemplate and discuss. This article from the Wall Street Journal is the latest. The findings show that women in more stable, healthier countries prefer less masculine-looking men. I must be particularly feeling like the future of mine and my children's health is secure because my husband definitely does not look very masculine.

Case in point:

Monday, June 14, 2010

Luxor and the Red Sea: A Preview

We are now officially halfway done with our stay here in Cairo and we celebrated it by going with our fellow classmates to Luxor and a resort on the Red Sea. The days touring ancient Egyptian sites were super long but very interesting and impressive. Amir held up like a trooper and only started whining after 6 hours in the sun on the second day. We managed to keep him hydrated and un-sunburned. Unfortunately, we were so concerned with his well-being we neglected our own a bit. We are now nursing burnt shoulders and resting from the long days.

Some photo highlights, we will need some time to get a large number of pictures up.

Amir on the sleeper train's ladder on the way to Luxor.

Amir hopes to be this tall some day.

Amir sees Egypt from Dad's back.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The FriendLEEs part 2

Highlights: :25 when Ann pretends to be happy about seeing the vacuum and 1:37 when the vacuum turns on.

So friendLee

What a terrible title.

As I was reading after church today in the copy of Selected Works of Emerson, I thought about what Emerson was like and decided he was probably just like Casey Lee, who loaned me the book. The Lees are pretty much our best friends in Provo and beyond, and we've always thought they deserved a blog post.

Top 10 reasons we love the Lees:

10. Melissa's food. Especially the bean dip.... mmmm.
9. Casey's wide selection of coats for Tim to borrow.
8. In fact, wide selection of EVERYTHING to borrow (maternity clothes, packing tape, screwdrivers, diapers, cradle, movies, books, couch covers, Chariot, cooking utensils, TV, camera, duffel bag, etc.)
7. Great teachers of sewing and photography.
6. Deep talks, about philosophy/green parenting.
5. Consistent walking partners, they love to travel by foot (preferably barefoot) as much as us.
4. The most entertaining kid in town, especially every time she opens her mouth, with another in the tubes.
3. Most likely co-founders of our commune.
2. And as the title suggests, friendLEEest people we know.
1. God wills it.

There's a video on the other blog. It had too many names to post here.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


I don't really have a theme or a great story of anything that has been happening. We continue to do quite a bit of pooling and swinging. Amir can slide down the slide now and rock-climb on the wall at the park (for more info and a nine-month-old update, see our other blog). The other day I went with some women in the ward to Kerdasa, the weaving capital of Egypt (for pictures, check out Nancy's extensive blogpost on the day since my camera broke*). They had some beautiful handmade wool rugs, dyed with all-natural vegetable dyes. I wanted one, but brought limited cash and was not convinced I really should buy one since getting it home would be a pain and would we live somewhere without carpet anytime soon? Now that I'm not there, I'm kind of regretting the decision and wish I had bought one. I bought two cotton rugs that are looped. They were only 10 LE each, less than $2. They are pretty big, but not as heavy as the wool rugs. I think we could get away with wrapping them up and checking them as luggage since we only have two big bags and we get four. But, we will probably never be in Kerdasa again so I should not even be planning my future life with theoretical handmade wool rug.

Today was a "tea party" for play group with moms in the ward. Amir loved playing with the toys that were scattered about, and I savored the adult conversation. Being a stay-at-home mom can get so, so lonely sometimes. Especially in Egypt. I need to make more of an effort to hang out with people in the ward, I'm just always afraid to annoy people so I'm hesitant to call and invite myself on a play date (since we'd have to meet at their apartments... no toys here!) After play group, I went with Karina, the pregnant wife, to buy a few things for herself (hairdryer**, spray bottle) and then on to Chelsi and Megan's apartment (more wives) for her hair cut. Then (it was a long day), I went with Megan to an art shop in the Degla area of Maadi. Degla is the posh area, walking around is pleasant and there are so many neat stores (but expensive). The artist whose shop we visited is named Elhamy, and I think he's famous. He had these beautiful prints of a painting of the Garden of Eden, and I'm coveting it now. It was a really large square print though, and while it only cost 80 LE ($16-ish), framing it in the US would be expensive. But again, now that I'm not at the store, I'm now wondering if I should have bought one. It was a really beautiful depiction of Adam and Eve in an embrace, surrounded by animals and under a beautiful Tree of Life. The title of the piece is "Paradise Before Sin," and Elhamy described his desire to turn attention away from the fall (which he thinks Christianity focuses on too much) and towards what life was like the Garden prior to the fall. It really is a beautiful piece***, and I think it would be great in our theoretical future bedroom of Amir, if we ever decide to have such a thing.

Friday I teach RS. I need to go prepare for that since it's already Wednesday afternoon and we have a very full day tomorrow (including a party at a fancy villa!)

* Our Canon point-and-shoot has something weird going on and won't focus anymore.
** I still can't understand why anyone wants to dry their hair in Cairo when it's a million degrees.
*** I found a tiny picture of it online, at his website, number 96.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A Tale of Two Fridays

Friday nimra waaHid:

We woke up and got to church almost on time for the first time. We had a good time in our meetings with a tour group from Utah wandering around making us feel like old hands. After the block we walked back to our apartment with our two professors from BYU who are our home teachers, after asking us during church if they could come over.

After home teaching, we walked up to Road 9 to meet Hamdi at his shop. He wanted to take us to his mother's house in Cairo, and we happily went along, not even really knowing where she lived or what it would be like. We got in his car and started driving. We drove a while, then came to a parking lot. But the parking lot wasn't near any apartments, so we were a little confused. Our confusion quickly turned to comprehension when we realized there were boats, and people entering the boats. Much to our delight, we were going to the gazeera (island) where Hamdi was from. We got to ride in an old sail boat across the Nile and it was so picturesque. Unfortunately, we forgot our camera. But I'm sure Hamdi will take us back.

Highlights of the trip to the gazeera: lunch of eggs, cucumbers, tomatoes, chips, and eish. Interesting combination. Visiting Hamdi's mother's shop (NOT kiosk). Having a million children hover around Amir as we walked through the streets. Visiting an old Coptic church. Seeing women washing their clothes in the Nile, like we were in the olden days. The Island was quiet and humble. We liked it compared to the craziness of Cairo right across the water.

Friday nimra itneen:

Today we went over to Tim's security guard friend's apartment, which is literally a hop, skip, and jump away from ours. It's in the slummier areas right behind where we live, and the building looks homemade from bricks and concrete goop. The stairs were uneven and roughly constructed, and I decided that if an earthquake hit, I would rather not be here. Amir started screaming when they greeted us with loud exclamations in his face. He calmed down after about 5 minutes or so but was still a little shaken up. We weren't expecting dinner, but as soon as we arrive anywhere, the food starts a-flowin'. Fried fish from the street, rice and lentils, tomato and cucumber salad, and eish of course. After we ate as much us our stomachs could possibly hold, we sat around their living room and chatted. The conversations went as follows:

Said's wife (pointing at my arms): Arabic, Arabic, Arabic.
Me: Eeh?
Wife (pointing at herself): 'Ana "sweet."
Me: Sweet?
Wife: Yes, sweet. Arabic, Arabic, Arabic.
Me: What?
Wife (making motions that indicate spreading things on her arms and ripping them off): 'Ana sweet. You need sweet.
Wife (pointing to my face and presumably saying in Arabic): Yes, that's what we need to do because I saw how hairy your legs were and also maybe your upper lip could use a waxing too.

Said's mother (all in Arabic, later translated to me by Tim): I read tea leaves.
Tim: Oh that's nice. What's our future like?
Mother: One more baby only, two babies is enough. And it will be a boy.
Tim: But my wife really wants a daughter.
Mother (after much deep contemplation): Yes, it will be a girl. But only if she prays a lot.

I guess the sex of our next baby will determine how righteous I am.

Monday, June 7, 2010

9 Months + 1 Day

At 9 Months and a day, Atticus loves:

- Koshary! (as do his parents)
- Swimming around the pool in his float
- Rock-climbing on the wall at the playground
- Riding on dad's shoulders
- Our new JW friend from Gabon
- His photo book compliments of Grandma Betsey
- Sleeping on top of mom and dad
- The computer mouse
- Door handles
- Anything metal and shiny
- Sucking on the Camelbak
- Wrestling
- Being "eaten" (he has the craziest laugh when I bite him)
- Swinging, sliding, playing at the park
- Other babies, especially Miriam

Atticus despises with all of his being:

- Wearing clothing, including diapers
- Sleeping alone
- People all up in his face (which happens often)
- Saline spray for his nose (this could possibly be the MOST hated thing he has ever encountered)

Friday, June 4, 2010

Culture shock

There are four stages of culture shock:

1. The Honeymoon Phase: Everything is beautiful, romantic, so full of promise. Everything is fascinating, the food is great, the people are interesting and so welcoming.

2. The Annoyance Phase: Frustration, feelings of inadequacy and exhaustion, general disgust/dislike of the culture, stark differences and comparisons between the new culture and the familiar, depression.

3. The Adjustment Phase: The culture begins to appear normal and the individual can relax into it.

4. The Mastery Phase: Also can be called "biculturalism," when a person can easily switch between two cultures. Not achieved by most.

In addition, there are three types of people that emerge from living in a new culture: the rejectors, the adopters, and the cosmopolitans. Most people fall into the rejector category; that is, they isolate themselves while in the country, and feel they need to return to their own country before they can feel ok again. The adopters take on the new culture completely and have trouble accepting their own again. The so-called cosmopolitans can switch back and forth seamlessly. Apparently about 30% of expats take on this personality. I plan to make an effort to be in that group.

This is my second experience living in a foreign country/culture. My first was in South Africa, when I was young and naive and adventurous. I experienced a classic case of culture shock. The first few weeks were amazing and intense. I had never felt more alive. I loved being out of the country, creating my own adventure. After a month or so, I began experiencing homesickness. I desperately checked my email for letters from home. I wanted to talk to my parents. I couldn't help but think about the future in Provo. Some days I stayed home and slept. That did not last long though, and I was able to jump back into life as I adjusted to the culture. I really do not remember feeling like I hated South Africa, ever. I attribute this mainly to the facts that BYU took good care of us, we lived in a nice home (though our host family was a little strange), meals were delivered to the table twice a day, I had three great friends living in the home with me. Our neighborhood was one of the best in East London. I worked at an AIDS clinic where everyone spoke English, and I had rides to work almost every day. Mind you, I had experiences in the slums, the squatter camps, the townships but they were every so often and were a sort of novelty (I hate the idea of that, but it's true). I never remember thinking South Africans were dirty or lazy or stupid. I always loved the food (as evidenced by my 20 or so pounds I gained that summer... I'll never forget my dad's statement when I returned: "No wonder there are starving kids in Africa... you ate all their food"). By the end of the summer, I was excited to see my family but I was sad to leave this country I had come to love.

This time around... the honeymoon took place before the wedding. I had a romantic image of Cairo before I traveled there. The first night we were here we had to go on a walking tour of the area we lived in. My first thoughts included: this place is dirty, disgusting, there is garbage everywhere, I hate it here. I had an incredibly hard time those first few weeks. I was depressed, I cried a lot. I could not believe how poorly I was handling the whole experience. In fact, one of the other wives commented she would have never guessed that I would handle it like that since I was so adventurous and laid-back, and especially since I have lived in a developing nation before where poverty is quite evident and as an American you stick out like a sore thumb.

But.... this time around is a whole new ballgame. For one, I have an Amir. He changes my perception of germs, of filthiness. I'm more isolated. I live with Tim and another couple, but they are all in class all day. There are places to go, but there is no one to talk to and we can't stay out long because some days are just so flipping hot. Most of the mothers around here do not speak great English. A few times I spent time with the other moms from the ward, but most of them are now leaving for the summer so no more playgroup at the Maadi House or yoga class at the Church. We're also living in a more “authentic” location. Our apartment is nice, but we're close to the slums and in the middle of a huge city.

Fortunately, the rejection phase lasted a week or so and I've long entered the adjustment phase. We're in a better groove now. We've started exploring the area where we live and found excellent vegetable stands, a supermarket, and two bakeries. There's a great park nearby that we go to pretty much every day. There's two great swimming pools right by the park. I'm embracing the heat, the dirt, the dust, the pollution, the grime. I'm beginning to appreciate and love the nuances of the culture and the religion. We've become friends with a few families that invite us over for dinner often: the food is great, the cultural experience even better. And there is much that I know I will miss when we leave. I look forward to hearing the reassuring voices emanating from the intercoms all over town during the call to prayer. I love learning Arabic. My language learning is coming along at a snail's pace (as everyone's is) but at least I can get around and understand a bit of what people are saying. I'm better at following conversations that Tim has when we're out. We get less stares now that people are getting used to us. I no longer feel overwhelmed at buying vegetables or bread. I'm comfortable now with everyone wanting to hold Amir, kiss him, snap at him, feed him random things. Now is the time to sit back and enjoy (well maybe not sit back, but explore and venture without coming home so upset and overwhelmed).