Monthly Archives: April 2016

Interesting bits

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There are some interesting new things I’ve learned since being here in Egypt (of course every time I come it is a learning experience!).

One time I heard my father in law calling my husband’s name. Except, my husband wasn’t here at the time. Instead, my mother in law answered. This happened a few times. I found out that there is a thing here where men can be so sensitive about drawing attention to their women, that they get in the habit of calling them by one of their son’s names when strangers are around. I suppose this is a way to keep unwanted attention from non mahrem away from a beloved wife. That’s kind of cool, I thought.

Last night we were in a car coming back home from an errand. Another car passed by us going the opposite direction, and a huge cloud of smoke followed him. The smoke was so thick it was like driving through literal fog! I thought, man, that is a terrible exhaust problem- truly the worst I had ever seen.

But it wasn’t exhaust. It was insecticide of some sort. Apparently when it gets to be this time of year, these trucks drive around town releasing it to keep the mosquitos and other pests down. My immediate thought was, isn’t that a bit unhealthy to be blowing it all over people who are coming and going on the street? I realized that was a silly question because when it comes to pollution, Egypt is terrible. Just terrible. Don’t even try to live healthily here because it’s pretty much impossible. Yet, Egypt’s cancer rates are lower than many developed countries. Hep C rates, on the other hand….well I think we are coming in at the worst for that.

One of the more personal lessons I’ve gotten is about looking around in public too much. To be honest, I never really noticed that I look around so much. It is really a mindless habit that developed easily over my years growing up in America. As long as I never stared, I was never urged not to look around at my surroundings.

And especially while here, while I am taking in what is still a relatively new culture, I tend to look around maybe a bit more than usual (being the curious sort I am sure that’s quite frequent already). What I learned, however, is that a woman constantly looking around in public tends to be interpreted as a woman looking for attention- particularly from men. Certainly that is not the impression I want to give.

So I have been working on disciplining myself in this manner, but it isn’t easy. I find myself doing it thoughtlessly, often. I guess it is one of many things that I have grown up with no practice of self control over, and that in itself is a bit of a frightening thought. How little self control over my innocuous actions might I really have? It’s been something I have been reflecting on a lot lately…but that’s what exposure to another culture will do. It puts a mirror in front of the way you’ve gotten used to doing things, and puts it under a light of examination and re-evaluation.

One of the nice things about being in Egypt at this time is that the economy is so bad, that my US dollars are exchanging at a rate over 10 times higher on the black market. The economic state is causing some stirs around here, because it’s only gotten worse quickly in the past several months. The government recently devalued the pound before my arrival, but I don’t suppose they can do that repeatedly. We don’t hear a lot about Egyptian goings-on in America but when I am here I hear about things that are truly significant, like that whole scandal with the murdered Italian. Between that and the economy, Egypt’s international standing has gotten a lot more shaky (not that it was most secure before). So it will be interesting to see how things progress.

 

 

 

Unsettled Egypt

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My husband told me about a line he remembered reading in an old arab poem about Egypt where it was written to say something like “Egypt, the land of everything and its opposite”. What that means is, Egypt is a bit inconsistent and dichotomous; and hence, chaotic.

And so it is and will be with my life here. We left the 10 day rented apartment….but….still have not been able to start moving into ours. There are issues.

Here in Egypt many apartments in a building share a main drain pipe for waste. In fact, in the last apartment I just came out of, I remember when I would go make wudu in my bathroom as soon as salat time came in, and I would hear the echo of draining water in my own floor drain. It was coming from the water of others making wudu in their own apartments.

So why do I mention this? Our apartment is on the first floor. The apartments above it share the drain with us. One of the families was pushing things (of whatever sort I don’t know- and don’t want to know) into it to jam it. What ended up happening is the backup would flow into our apartment (this was when it was uninhabited). This created a mess. The mess drew fleas.

Alhamdulillah, the drain in that apartment that connects to the main shared one has been plugged. Fortunately there is a second bathroom we can use with its own drainage system completely separate. But the residue and flea infestation now needs to be cleared out. In the mean time, I am back with mom/dad in law, eating well 🙂

The good news is, we got our kitchen appliances:

APPLIANCES

The washing machine, in the middle, is called a “two cycle” model. You put the clothes in one side to wash, and then when that finishes you load them in the other side to rinse and spin. This was a more affordable option than the “single” cycle model that is used in the US.

In the back you can see the cute water heater (with a face, I like to think). I really appreciate that they don’t use the tank versions here. This saves a lot of space and money. To be honest, all of these appliances- purchased brand new- cost less than $650 USD. You can’t beat that!

And So It Begins….

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I’ve officially completed my first week here. By now I can say I am more adjusted and starting a routine. Despite all the beloved familiarities,  I am still learning and experiencing new things, masha Allah.

My first few days here were spent at my mother and father in law’s home, mostly recuperating from the travel and enjoying some of the best food I’ve ever tasted. My mother in law is one of the best cooks I know, wallah. Already I am missing the varied vegetable and meat dishes, with plentiful rice and bread.

One of the new things I had the chance to try was a dish called ‘sharayah’. Basically it is cut spaghetti noodles, that you add milk and sugar to taste and eat for breakfast. It wasn’t so bad! Definitely filling.

Even though I hadn’t spent much time with my parents in law before, being there felt so comfortable and homey. In the evenings sometimes Tant Amal (mama’s BFF who lives on the floor below) would come up and together we would watch dramatic serials on TV. Their favorite seemed to be an Indian-produced one (voiced over in Arabic), whose main heroine was named ‘Solani’. It warmly reminded me of the days in my very early childhood when my own mom would watch her soap operas after I came home from school.

Shukurah has been reunited with her nanny who is really an unofficial auntie by now. She has small children of her own who play with Shukurah; she adores them. She spends plenty of time with them while I work during the week, so they really are like an extended family (which is so much a part of the main fiber of Egypt and Eastern countries in general).

On Saturday my husband and I shifted to a furnished rental apartment for 10 days. The main reason for this was because I was supposed to start back to work, and the internet connection at his parents’ home isn’t strong enough for it. Our permanent apartment right now has been in the process of renovations, so it is not yet equipped for habitation; but in shaa Allah by the beginning of next week we will be transitioning over there. A couple days ago we went and priced appliances to get the main things we need for basic living, then will add furniture and décor in order of priority over the coming weeks.

Interestingly, this temporary apartment is in the same building and is the same floor plan as the one we stayed in last April. In fact, the sofa set and bedroom furniture is identical as well! So that is a nice sense of nostalgia also.

Right now my routine consists of working from 4 PM to 1 AM Monday through Friday, spending weekends with family, and playing with Shukurah during the day before my shift starts if not running errands and getting things done for the apartment. There will be a lot of exciting details to share starting next week, in shaa Allah. Until then I am doing my thing, resting and getting ready for the fun of decorating a new home from scratch!