The internet has been a bit spotty, sorry. Perhaps it too is affected by the 45 degree heat… It is so hot.
It is hard to think of what to share about Egypt. I like it very much. It took a few days for our bodies to get used to the time change, the heat, the water, the food. I ate my first fruits and vegetables last night and I am still feeling well.
I would hate to be judged by any of America’s airports, so I will refrain from doing so about Cairo International. However, there is something mildly unnerving about having your body heat-scanned (there is a great deal of worry about swine flu) before entering that puts you a little on edge. They have been quarantining the students at the American University of Cairo (AUC). And then they loose the taxi drivers on you…
Driver’s Ed: One honk means “Hello, I am here”. Or, “American tourist I would like to give you a ride.” Two honks: “I am coming,” “I am about to run you over,” or “I am going to cut you off now.” Three honks is reserved for the most serious of offenses. Like the taxi that scuffed up a brand new bright yellow VW. Everyone stopped and watched that epic verbal sparring. Mostly, the cars just touch and go on. The best way to accurately describe the sight, smell, sound, and motion of all cars is the Autopia or bumper cars. We have ridden in a taxi once, to a bookstore the driver was not familiar with. He spent most of the trip out the window asking the passerby for directions.
I really like Maadi, the suburb where we live. It is certainly a very tame part. Originally it was home to mostly foreigners, but they have mostly moved to the newer areas and now it is a very nice (as shady as you get) suburb with middle-class Egyptian families. Most people live in apartment buildings though there are also some very nice villas.
The best time of the day starts about 5 p.m. That is when everything comes to life. We like to walk at this time. Stores reopen a little before this and remain open until midnight or so. People come out into the street and play soccer and cards and generally sit in the open park areas in the middle of the squares.
A few nights ago, we went walking out along Corniche Al-Nil, which is a walk along the Nile River. I won’t lie- I was so desperate for a form of semi-safe protein that we hunted down an American restaurant (TGIFridays) and indulged in a chicken burger with beef bacon. Until that point we had been advised by our instructors to be very careful about what we ate and I think we had eaten every form of cheap carbohydrate possible. We shop about every other day at the Metro (market) not to be confused with the Metro (train system).
I have been greeted with lots of fun English phrases. “Hello” and “blease” are most common. There is no “p” in Arabic script. People will also greet me warmly with “How are you doing?” and “What is the time?” or any other English words they know. I am sure I sound even worse. Fortunately there are about a thousand ways to say hello in Arabic, so I am just cycling through them all with our doorman.
One random story for Flem:
On Friday, we went to church for the first time. It was a little strange to walk in off an Egyptian street into a little villa they had converted into a church building. (Everyone in the branch is affiliated with the AUC or the government/embassies.) I felt a bit out of place dressed in traveling clothes until we sat down behind these little heads that looked a lot like the little Flemlings… There was a Casey with his arms crossed at the end, a mischievous looking Bridget (same haircut!) in the middle, and then a little Gillian and Meg trading off for Dad’s lap the entire meeting. Brought a little of the GV to Maadi for me. I was even more pleased to learn that over the summer they drop to the two-block schedule because so many of the families leave for the States.
I have lots of homework! Did you know you actually have to learn two almost separate languages to be able to do much? And, there are three different “h” sounds, two of which I am terrible at. I am having a blast in my classes. I am a super nerd, by the way. I am trying out all the vocabulary I am learning on my teachers. Yesterday I told one instructor that “It is hot. I love this fan.” (In case you need it: Il dunya har. Ana uhib hathihi marwaha.) That is practically a paragraph of speech. He laughed pretty hard.
BTW, all teachers of EL students should really be stuck somewhere where they know very little of the language. I am watching myself adopt all the random coping methods my students did. I am also identifying all the methods I used to convey meaning to students with little vocabulary as well.
So… what’s new with you? I could really use some English.