Welcome to Egypt

The post I had written earlier yesterday seems a little out of place here now as we watch the news with some anxiety.  That said, we are all safe and healthy, life goes on, and we try to keep a sense of normally as much as possible.

We are finally starting to feel more at home.  The apartment is looking more like a home every day as we decorate, put up drawings the kids made, cook our meals.  We have found a few local places to shop. My son is happy in his new school, and knows a few classmates.  We can walk around our neighborhood without a map.  I have made a few friends.  My husband loves his job.  Unfortunately it involves some pretty long hours, and an ever present blackberry, but he is following his lifelong dream, and there is always something to be said for that.

A few random observations:

Cats are EVERYWHERE.  I have to emphasize that – everywhere.  Calico cats, tabbys, beautiful bluish grey cats.  They are wild, aggressive, and can carry rabies.  We have been struggling with how to approach this with Jack Jr.  He loves grandpa’s kitty, and I want him to have good associations, but not befriend the local wildlife.  Telling him that the kitties are wild backfired – wild is after all a two year old’s natural state.  We have settled on telling him we like kitties that live in people’s homes, but the street kitties are not nice.  He now yells “naughty kitty, run away” when we see a cat.

Captain Jack went for a haircut last week and experienced what I can only deduce is threading.  His description?  “They pulled my ear hair and eyebrows out with some dental floss.”  Welcome to the world of pain women everywhere experience.  Apparently this is a normal part of men’s haircuts here.

I’m getting a lot of exercise.  I walk Jack Jr to school – not far, but certainly not a twenty minute walk down some lovely smooth suburban sidewalk.  Step classes have nothing on this walk.  The sidewalks are about a foot high (where they exist), and not continuous so I jump up and down repeatedly.  Add leaping across puddles of water and mud, dodging the crazy motorcycles and taxis and we have ourselves a serious workout, especially with a 30 pound toddler on my back.

Which brings me to water.  Cars here seem to be washed daily.  Yes, it is incredibly dusty.  But it is a desert, water should be conserved, no?  Then there is the watering of streets – not gardens, but streets.  It is probably to keep the dust down, and while I’m all for less dust, the waste of water is incredible to me.

There is a dead cat on the sidewalk on our way to school.  Death is a part of life, I respect it, I acknowledge it.  But part of me hopes every morning that some scavenger would have carried off the cat, because my little boy points at the cat sadly every time, and says, “Mommy, kitty dead?”  And then points out every kitty the rest of the way home.  “Mommy that kitty not dead,” with an emphatic shake of the head.  (Did I mention there are a lot of cats?) Yesterday he pointed at our dog and said “Uti not dead, no.”  It is a part of life, and I know he has to learn about it sometime, but my heart constricts just a little every time.

And so, we say welcome to Egypt.  We mostly like it here.  People are incredibly friendly, and at the risk of sounding “can’t we all just get along” naive, I do think people everywhere have so much in common.  We want to raise our families in safety, feed them well, we want what is best for our children.  It is easy to forget those most basic things in all the political discourse and anger, but I think if we all remember that a little more often, we could be more kind, give a little more grace.  (Exit soapbox.)

 

Hospitality

People here in Egypt are incredibly nice.  “Welcome to Egypt!” everyone says when they first meet you.  Everyone we meet loves my children.  Taxis will block traffic when they see me standing nervously by the side of the road with my giant stroller.  (Given how awful traffic is, that blocking of traffic is an incredible gift of grace for this still-nervous Mamma.)  The doorman kisses my boys while reciting short blessings every time we come home.  (Yes, I’m trying to not be germaphobic with the kissing.  I don’t know that there is a culturally appropriate way to say no kissing my children.)

The neighbor upstairs has sent us food three times now – first it was a box of cookies with dates for Eid, then a pastry with tuna and peppers, then a lovely cherry cake.  It was all pretty yum.  That gave rise to a dilemma – how do we reciprocate?  We still have a pretty limited kitchen here – no decent pots and pans, no baking supplies, no sharp knives, no cookbooks.  We settled on oatmeal raisin cookies.  One of our favorite recipes is on the oatmeal box, and it didn’t require any exotic ingredients or specialized kitchen equipment.

But oh, how I miss my mixer.  “Cream the butter and sugar together” has never been so painful.  I used one of the cheap forks supplied in our “welcome” kit.  The edges on that handle is sharp, and trying to cream butter and sugar left permanent gouges in my palm.  I stirred in the flour – ever so grateful when the last half cup was mixed in, and then realized I still had to mix in three (3!) cups of oats.  You would think that would be an obvious step given that they are after all oatmeal cookies.  I almost cried.  I am a wimp, especially if I think of how my grandmother kneaded loaves and loaves of bread, mixed cookies, and did all kinds of other things without any fuss or specialized kitchen equipment.

Cookies were baked, many were consumed, and some will be delivered to our generous neighbor later today.  Welcome to Egypt, indeed.

 

This Moment

{this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Inspired by Soulemama.com

A care package from Grandma.