Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Fun Fact & A trip to the Bazaar

Last week wednesday i think, I went to a bazaar in the old muslim heart of Ciaro. It was pretty cool. There were lots of shops full of guys trying to sell you stuff. One of the coolest thingsi saw was a man making a backgammon/chessboard out of mother of pearl and various other really really small things. It was beautiful. The best part is that it cost 160LE or about 25US. Very cheap for such a fine made hand craft piece. I also saw some historical markers. I saw a mosque that was 700 years old. I also had a shiesh and some mango juice in a cafe that has been open continuesly for over three hundred years, take that George Web. It was a very nice outing with the girls and I am very glad that i went.

Fun Fact: People live in the city of the dead. As you can see from the photo, most of the tombs are above ground. Or so it seems. The bodies are underground in tombs. The upper portions used to be a place for family to stay for a period of time as they mourned their dead. They still are to some degree. Most are now rented to people who act as caretakers for the area. I must admit, at first it was a little discomforting to see all the people,cars, and satelite dishes in the city of the dead.

A Day at Ain Suhkna

This past weekend I got to go to Ain Suhkna. It's a beach front town about two hours from Cairo, or about an hour with our driver! We went to go to a fellow teachers family home. When we arrived they were not yet ready to receive us, so we hung out on the beach for three or four hours. It was very hot, but there was a breeze and the water was a nice bath water temperature. It was also very salty. If you look in the background you can see a lot of what look like long black lines on the water. Those are tankers, presumably they are waiting to go through the Suez.

The water was pretty clear up to about three feet and then you lost sight of the bottom. I saw a few fish, nothing bigger than my hand, and one of the other teacher found some sand dollars, but she didn't keep them because they were still alive. Mayumi couldn't make it, so part of my time i spent collecting shells, beach glass, and old coral to give to her on her birthday.

When we got to the house we were greeted by many egyptian women sitting about and the smell of something grilling. All the daedas, (spelling?)servants, were fluttering about getting things ready. We played a few games before eating. I played Pente for the first time with Tom. It was fun to learn, apparently it is a really really old game.

Then we ate. My favorite was Kofta, Jesse and i call them camel turds. They look like a turd and are beef, or camel, ground up with spices. They taste good! For most of the rest of the time we sat around listening to Jesse tell of life on a large pig farm and all the gruesome details that go with that. It was quite entertaining. We got home around ten on Saturday night with school the next day. It was a very nice day, but lasted a long time.

The Citadel

Can you see it through the haze? Most of the time we can see the citadel from our balcony. However, photos don't really capture it well enough for my satisfaction. I may be a little off but, I think it was built circa 1100 by Saladin (spelled wrong?). He was able to band together factions in the area to hold off against the invading crusaders. Soon enough I will go for a tour and get some better info. The best way to see it is to blow it up as your desktop. Then look in the middle. You will see a hill with a rounded object and two spires. That is the Citadel. It looks a lot cooler in real life! Condsidering its about a fifteen minute drive from here, I guess we can see it pretty well.

Mayumi's birthday party

On Sunday night we went to a birthday party for our favorite now three year old, Mayumi. It was a nice party. We had pizza, cake that was wierd and huge, and presents from all her adult freinds. Its too bad she does not yet have freinds her own age, but i think she had a good time.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Fun Fact

People don't wear shorts here. Unless you really don't care or you are out in the middle of nowhere, then it's ok. Short sleeves are ok with men and somewhat ok with the ladies. Yes, it makes it hotter, but you are pretty hot anyways so a little more doesn't hurt and it also protects your skin from the sun.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The Tea That Went to Everest Now Goes To Cairo!

I love sport tea, if anyone sends me anything, send me a case of sport tea. HMMM.... maybe if i send this to Alterra I can get them to send me a case? hahaha.

I got my room at school today. MY ROOM! ah... that feels good to say. It is kinda small but i think it will be fine. I have two large windows that face out onto..., you guessed it, the desert. Everything is going well so far. This weekend I think I am getting outside of the Belly of the Beast for a day. The school is trying to set up a weekend trip for the teachers to go to Ain Suhkna. It's a beach front town that is technically along the Gulf of Suez. One of the teachers family has a place there that maybe we can spend a day at.

Jesse and i got our hair cut today which was an adventure. (the picture was taken yesterday) The guy cutting Jesse's hair obviously had not cut his own in some time. My guy must have gone to Cairo Barber School for the Partially Blind. As soon as i got home I did some work of my own. I don't think my hair has been this short in ten years.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

On the Nile

I really wanted to post a short video i took with my camera, but it wouldn't work. I hope the photos do justice. These are from the Faluka ride i took about a week ago, since then i have gone on another. They are great, about fifteen dollars US for a two hours cruise up and down the Nile for a group of people. Very cheap!

Tday was fun. Jesse and I went to the center of the city along the Nile. A fellow teacher and freind, Ann, invited us to a concert under the 26 of July bridge. It was nice to be along the Nile, on some grass, listening to good music with good people. All is well and looks to continue that way

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Tonight..... I can write...

my arteries harden
as smoke pours from my mouth and life

sweat hangs from my forehead
like ripe mangos bobbing in from the trees

pollen drifting in the breeze
taken from flowers with relative ease

heaven restores you in life
coming with me through the fear the love and the strife

Fun Fact

Although the Arab world is well known for being Muslim, only about 10 percent of the world's Muslim population live in the "Middle East".

Thursday, August 18, 2005

check this out

a lot of people have expressed that they do not want create a blog to post. I have taken care of that, I think. You should now be able to post without having a password and all that stuff. Good luck, let me know how it goes.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

I saw a cockroach today that was huge, it was smoking a cigarette

Today i learned what i am teaching. 9th grade history, which is greek and roman, two classes a day. 10th grade literature, which is classics, two classes a day. One section of 11th grade PE. i couldn't really ask for anything more. I am very happy with what I have. Special thanks go out to my roomate who took a bullet for all of us and volunteered for five sections of English grammar and literature.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Fun Fact

Recently Cairo surpassed Mexico City as the most polluted city in the world.

it's only the next day, but

Well today I saw my school for the first time. All the teachers that live in Maadi gathered at the ACE club to wait for the school bus. Eight teachers from this area. Four American, one Canadian, one Filipino, one French, and one I think Czech. The ride took about 30 minutes and was not nice. I am not sure if it will be like this every morning, but the pollution was hanging low and it was very smoky and sickening. It is a big problem here. I said before that you can see the Citadel from my balcony. Which is true, if the dust and the pollution are not hanging low. Otherwise it is just fog in the horizon.

I arrived at the school around nine. First impressions were very strange. I thought it looked a little like a prison or some kind of fortress. In a way I guess it is and was built that way on purpose. The entire area of Kettamaya is filled with new foreign schools and as such could potentially be a hot spot for not nice activity. It was basically a square-ish sand colored building four stories tall. In the center is a large open area for lunch time play. That is where it struck me that it was kind of like a prison, the playground looked like “the yard” surrounded by tall turrets and dulled colored walls.

Most of the day we spent getting to know the school, other teachers, and what the school year will look like. I have a school calendar that can be changed at any moment because this is Egypt after all and nothing is for sure until it has already happened and even then is not always the truth.

I have a long weekend from Oct 6th to the 9th and also October is Ramadan so I have one less hour of school each day. November 3rd to 6th. November 10th to 13th. November 24th to 27th are all long weekends. In December I have Off for Christmas from December 23 through January 2nd. Long weekend from January 6th to the 9th. Somewhere in February I will have a long break like I had for Christmas but the ministry of education hasn’t decided yet when that will be. March 17-19 is along weekend. April 14th-16 is a long weekend. Then at the end of April another large break from the 21st-May 2nd. Then a straight shot til school ends on June 15th, but I have to hang around Cairo until the 30th because of contractual obligation.

I hope that is perfectly unclear and Egyptian for you. Maybe some of you will eye some of that time and decide to come. I think in November I am going to Beirut for a hash. I would also like to go to Turkey for some time but I am not sure when, maybe the break in April. Also I still plan to come to Germany for Christmas. So keep all of that in mind as well.

Of course I still don’t know exactly what I am teaching and the new building we are teaching in is still under construction so I don’t have a room yet either. I have a phone number now so I will send that number to anyone who wants it. The phone here is crap so don’t be discouraged if it takes a while to reach each other by phone. It is really funny and frustrating here. Anything you can think of, if you want it, multiply normal time allowance but three and Insh Allah (God willing) you will get what you need.

I have made some really good friends here and think that I have am on my way to establishing a good network to keep me sane. The strange thing is that I have no friends here who are under 27? except my roommate. Singles, male and female, are not too common. Most people are older men and younger women who are attached. Oh… another fun fact. I thought that Cairo was just under 20 million people. This is true, sort of. There are 20 million that are registered and pay tax. It is estimated that with the population that is unknown it probably reaches more like 40 million. That just blows my mind, but not entirely. I will say this a million….or 40 million times. Cairo is a giant beast of a city. Construction on housing and sewage cannot keep up with the growth. I really have to go to bed. I only slept 3 hours last night and I have to get up in about six to go to school again. Hope all is well at home. I have a funny story about a burning tire to tell, but next time. Although one parting thought. A truck load of soldiers with AK’s pulled up to the ACE club as I was waiting for the bus this morning and it occurred to me that seeing that is becoming normal. Almost everywhere you go there are soldiers with AK’s and tire strips at the ready. It is unsettling yet reassuring at the same time.
Much Love

Monday, August 15, 2005

after the first week

Ok, since the last log. Cairo is still hot and dirty. The basic principle here is, “dirty kings” I can really do what I like, but the catch is that I am a really hot and dirty. My apartment is huge; I played a game of cricket in the apartment. I paced out the cricket floor to see how long it is, forty three of my feet which I think is about forty actual feet. That is the dining room and living room which are right next to each other in a rectangular fashion. The apartment is huge. Other than that, we are dirty kings. One of the two toilets did not have a seat on it. The washing machine would not plug into the wall. The phone did not work. The TV did not work. Since then we have worked with the realtor and worked those things out. We still do not have sheets or dishes but here that is no problem. It is way too hot for blankets. Many restaurants deliver and you pay about three dollars a plate, delivery included. We have Hardee’s, Mcdonald’s, KFC, Quizno’s, Pizza hut, Domino’s, you get the idea. So I eat about once a day and then sweat out the twenty glasses of water that I drink. It is very easy to become dehydrated. The quoute of the moment is, “Does it hurt when you piss? Holy hell I’m dehydrated!” You are in a constant sweat. I have lost about ten pounds.

I have also got a membership at the ACE club. The association of Cairo expatriates. Basically the place across the street where all the Brits go and drink. That is where I learned much of the rules of cricket. It is a nice place to talk to other people who speak English. Since last time I also went on a hash.
A hash is led by the Cairo Hash Harriers. As I understand it there are several chapters throughout the world, basically every major city. I went out into the desert which isn’t exactly like you might picture it. Here it is very hot and sandy, but also very rocky. I went on a 5 mile hike which was mostly going up and down very steep rocky hills. It seemed kinda strange because at certain points you could loose your life if you screw up. We then gathered after the hike and formed a circle to ridicule some, name others, and induct a few new people (me). We had to get in the middle, explain who we were and why we were here, and then drink a beer very fast. Don’t worry guys, I didn’t let you down. I also met a couple from Oshkosh which is very strange because most people have no idea where Milwaukee is. After initiation we cooked out and got really drunk. Long story short, Jesse left his passport and I left my camera and about 900LE out in the desert in a backpack. It turned out OK! Mystic Meg and Underdeveloped had grabbed it.

Tonight I went on a Faluka ride; I have no idea if I spelled that right. We went sailing on the Nile. Can you imagine! Me, on the biggest river on the world. It was very relaxing. Tomorrow we go to the school for the first time. We have two weeks of get ready time and then we get students. Hopefully next time I will have some short video to post, but right now I am on a wireless connection which is cool, but it also cuts out all the time. Hope all is well in the States. I miss everyone very much and can’t wait until someone comes to share in my sweaty days.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

I am here

Hello to all,

Yes i have made it. It is hot and dirty. There is no way to stay cool or clean for more than a few minutes so i am giving up on that. Imagine riding in a metro car with 300 egyptians who don't bath that often and you will get the point. When i arrived they stuck me in a hotel with my roomate. They had not yet located an apartment for us but he and I are doing it on our own with help from teachers who arrived shortly before us. The search is going pretty good. It looks like i will get a 2000 sq ft two bedroom with 5th floor wrap around balcony for about 100$ each per month. So living conditions are good. The most important thing i see in a home now is the bide'. You have to have one, and since that is true it is good to have a nice on. I actually enjoy using it, it is very efficient and effective, more so than paper. I have drank the water and the food and I am not yet riddled with bacterial infections so that is well. The sun here is constant. I already have tan lines where i wear rings. For anyone who might want to come very soon October sounds like it will be a good time. It is cooler than and the month of Ramadan so i get half days at school. It is also then that i think i am going to take a horseback riding trip to the pyramids. I have yet to see the school but I am assured that it does exist, about 30 miles out into the dessert. I am going to live in a place called Maadi, it is in Ketteyama. I think you can find those on a map. I do my first hash run on Friday, so after that i think i will post again. Come check again on Sunday or so. Hopefully i will be fully connected by then.