Saturday, December 31, 2005

Happy New Year!

It's 1.30 am now in Cairo...just got home from a missionary-filled NYE party which was excellent....and all I have to say is:

kulu sanna wentu tayebeen! (Happy New Year to all of you, or more accurately, all the year be good for all of you!)

O Little Town of Bethlehem....part I

There's a lot to say from 7 days traveling in Palestine and Israel. I'll post by days, probably a day or two each day of this week. Here's day one...

December 22 and 23

After frantic packing (knowing you’re leaving at night is probably bad because you feel like you have this whole day ahead of you to do everything but then suddenly you have only one hour left to pack…), we left for the bus station about an hour before our bus was due to leave. Unfortunately for us, it turned out to be only about a 15 minute drive away. So we waited and waited, and finally were summoned to a bus that had been standing there the whole time—even though we had been told that the bus was not yet at the station! Anyway, we got on the bus and took off right on time. Interestingly, it seems that our bus had no heat and also no working door. The front door kept flying open throughout our trip. I don’t know if you’ve ever been in the desert at night in the winter, but we were definitely chilly. Needless to say (but I’m going to say it anyway), not a lot of sleeping happened on that trip.

We arrived at Taba and the bus driver was nice enough to drop us at the actual border rather than at the bus station (about 1km away from the border crossing). We waited about an hour on the Egyptian side because it was “not open.” Finally some guy came and took a few of our passports and disappeared, then returned with them and took a few more….and finally the last few people took theirs over to the “arrivals” side to get departure stamps. After two hours we were finally all stamped and ready to go—and a couple of our group members even managed to pull off a “please don’t stamp my passport”—something that was not allowed on my last time through this border crossing. Once we arrived on the Israeli side, things were...well…different. It was a clean and modern building, with people who were actually doing work. Unfortunately, it was also a place where apparently my previous trip to Syria and Lebanon was looked on even less kindly than last time. I got through the inspections just fine, but when it came to the passport stamping time, they took my passport and wouldn’t give it back. After waiting about 45 minutes, I was called into an office where I answered questions about my previous trip to Syria and Lebanon, my previous trip to Israel, whether I knew anyone in Israel or Palestine, what I was doing in Egypt, my family, my phone number in Egypt, my Dad’s phone number (dad, did you get a phone call from Israel?) and what I was planning to do this time. Then they sent me back out to wait some more. After another hour or so, they came out and asked what all these other people were waiting for, and my group was like “uh, Teri.” When Sarah (who had no idea what was going on b/c she was busy talking to some other friends who had traveled with us) heard that, she called out “Teri, what did you do now?” When I answered “I went to Syria and Lebanon” all the other people who were waiting too groaned and said “ooooh, you’ll never get in.” Great! Just what I wanted to hear. It was pretty interesting to me, though, that Jay (who is going to Lebanon next week and told the border guards about that when they asked why he didn’t want his passport stamped) had no trouble but I (who went there 18 months ago) got stopped for two hours. Anyway, they finally brought my passport back and told us we could go. Hallelujah! The length of this narrative should give you some feeling of the length of time we sat there in limbo. Oy.

Once through the border, Lynn decided that (since we had missed the connecting bus we were trying for) we would take a service taxi/minibus to Bethlehem. It ended up costing more than double what the regular bus would have cost, but we did get there a little quicker. After a stop in Jerusalem to get our return bus tickets, we drove right into Bethlehem because our driver had Israeli ID and could go through the checkpoints with no problem. We arrived at the Casa Nova (the Franciscan-run hospice that is connected to the Church of the Nativity….as in the Roman Catholic sanctuary part of the church shares a wall and a courtyard with our hotel) and promptly went to take naps and showers. Our driver haggled over the amount of his tip (even though he had already been paid twice as much as the usual cost for a drive from Eilat to Jerusalem!) and Lynn and Dick argued with him before paying it….bringing our total cost of the van ride to $400 US. Crazy! Anyway….there’s more drama about this day, so don’t tune out now. Upon waking up from a post-shower nap, I discover that my purse (containing my passport, my camera, and my wallet with IDs, money, and credit cards) is not among my belongings. I check my roommate’s stuff, my other traveling colleagues’ rooms, and then report to Lynn that it’s missing (just when we are supposed to be going to dinner at Niveen’s house). Luckily our tour guide for the next day had come to meet Lynn, so he was able to help. I promise to make this a shorter story than it actually was:
Most of the group went on to dinner, and Dick and I stayed behind to deal with the problem. It turned out that in the hurry to get out of the van (when we were all exhausted and when the driver was arguing over the tip) my purse had gone under the seat and I had not noticed that I didn’t have it. When our tour guide (his name was Nidal) called the driver, he said he didn’t have it. Then he called back after a little while and said it was there but it was open and things were “loose.” Right… Nidal didn’t trust the man. In any case, the guy said the camera and money were gone, but the passport and credit cards were there. He said he would bring it back to Bethlehem for 650 Shekels ($141 US). We told him to bring it, and we called the police. I gave a statement to them (via Nidal, who translated for me). Then I went to dinner at Niveen’s house—which was great. Niveen is a Palestinian woman who graduated last May from ETSC (the protestant seminary where I work). To go to her family’s house for a meal was fantastic! She lives in Beit Jala, a village just over a mile outside Bethlehem. We had good food, tea and wine, chocolates, and good conversation. It was fun. We went back to the Casa Nova just after 11, and my entire group came down to wait for this driver to show up. We read the Christmas story in the lobby of the hotel while we waited. Finally he came, gave me my purse (sans money and camera, but with passport, IDs, and credit cards), and the police were called. He was taken to the station, his statement was taken, and his info was taken down and given to me. The police suggested we pay the amount that is the “usual fare” from Eilat to Bethlehem, about 150 shekels. The driver refused and offered 300 (about $70), which Dick paid. All the time we were at the police station (about 200 yards from our hotel, right at Manger Square) the police were talking only to the driver, to Dick, and to Jason—they didn’t even look at me. Very frustrating. In the end I kind of broke down and stormed out of the station because they weren’t listening to anything I asked or said. Oh, and it was after 1am and I had only slept about 2 hours in the past 36 hours. Anyway, I got my passport back, which was good. I had no camera, which was both bad and good (as I’ll explain in another post). I ordered a new camera online and had it shipped to the home of a fellow YAV whose sister is coming to visit the first week of January (so I’ll have it before the Nile Cruise). And I went to bed. Chalas (finished).

Thursday, December 22, 2005

O Little Town of Bethlehem

We are off to said little town...then to the larger town o Jerusalem...

please pray for safe travels, for peace during the biggest crowds Bethlehem sees all year, and for a wonderful Christmas for all.

see you in a week!

gingerbread house

Last night I made my first ever gingerbread house. With a little help from my friends and from foodnetwork.com, of course! It turned out well, except that after a while it became clear that it was structurally unsound. The roof was collapsing and one wall was leaning inward as we put more and more candy and frosting on. However, the acessories were fantastic--a mailbox, a dog, a snowman, a frozen pond with ice skaters doing figure 8s, and even a gecko on the roof. Some part of it had to be egyptian, after all! Some in our group are highly unimaginative and did not see twizzler bites on end as rose bushes, but rather as parking posts, or the ice skaters built from twizzlers and m&ms were seen as fire hydrants! We worked with what we had--homemade gingerbread, homemade frosting, imported m&m's and twizzler bites, and some "local" gummy lizards. It was excellent. We even "sifted" some powdered sugar over the top so it looked like snow. I haven't had so much fun in a while. More pictures are in my photo albums, the link is to the left. Christmas party is in "Cairo 5." There are also new pics in "Cairo--Cooking and Eating".




Tuesday, December 20, 2005

max

my cousin max's website has been updated...loads of new pictures, and good news on the oxygen front! check him out.

Monday, December 19, 2005

liturgical confusion

I miss Advent. I know that sounds strange coming from a "pastor" but I really do. I love the anticipation and the advent carols and the candles and all that. I've never been to church on Christmas or Christmas Eve--ever in my whole life--so I've always (well, the past 6 years) done all this waiting and anticipation and preparation and whatnot, and then been home with my family and opened presents and cooked yummy food as the big climax. But I really enjoy Advent. The extra services, the devotionals, the way it's not weird to be spiritual, etc.

Here in Egypt the protestant churches don't observe Advent (and Christmas isn't a huge deal either) because it's "too Orthodox." Advent is what the Coptic Orthodox do: they fast, they have extra masses, etc. But protestants are still working on solidifying their identity and so they are using the negatives to do that--they are NOT orthodox.

Our English speaking church has tried to observe Advent--we've had the wreath, the lectionary, and even some of the songs. But this week we jumped ahead, not just to Christmas but to Epiphany too! We had the lectionary readings for the fourth week of Advent, but the hymns we sang were Christmas carols and even some about the wise men. We sang probably 8 hymns including the three at the beginning of the service, and not a single one was about Advent. Here we are in the very heart of the waiting, getting really close but not quite there, and we've skipped on to the good part. There's speculation that it's because we volunteers will be gone on actual Christmas, but I hope that isn't the reason for the rush because we are just four people in a congregation of about 40 or 50. I am saddened that we lost Advent at the time of the Magnificat.

I have tried to keep the Advent spirit in my flat, with the RevGal devotional and the devotional for students that the PCUSA sent us. I've lit one or two candles each night. I've talked about Advent. But not to have it in the church is really difficult for me. I wonder what it will mean for my first churchy Christmas that I have missed out on the season of anticipation and preparation. It's strange to be changing things so much this year. Granted, I'm purposely living in another country, experiencing things another way, but still. It's very strange.

That's all. I hope the last week of your Advent is full of waiting and expectation, of holiness.

Friday, December 16, 2005

a Cairo high

no need for extreme sports, my friends. just come to cairo and see how many disgusting men you can take out, and while you're at it, dodge some cars!

on our way to church this morning sarah and i encountered a young boy, maybe 8 years old, who would NOT stop staring at us and making what we interpreted as rude hand gestures. he stared unabashedly in a really irritating way, and he did not appear to be accompanied by an adult. he rode in the women's car, as children often do. sarah and i discussed the things we would do if/when he looked again or if he came for us--children are often the culprits behind some amateur gropings. i suggesting just covering his eyes with a hand, since it's probably inappropriate to beat up a small child. sarah gave him a little push into the side of the train as it was approaching, but nothing major. he moved closer to us and we made fun of him but of course he couldn't understand. thankfully he wasn't going where we were going.

tonight on our way home from anna katrina's birthday party, we were coming out of the metro station and a guy was SO OBVIOUS in his groping attempt that I was able to very easily thwart him with a well-placed elbow to the stomach. I elbowed him so hard he may need a kidney transplant. Sarah even saw it because it was so beautiful. That's why i'm still awake now, though we've been home for an hour...because the adrenaline rush from actually getting one of these disgusting men is so great. it's better than drugs (which I've never done), better than rock climbing without a rope (which i've never done), better than extreme or ultimate ANYTHING (which i've also never done...). (in light of the parenthetical comments, I say "but"): trust me. There is nothing like knowing you're about to be groped or just having been touched and getting one in on the man--a slap on the arm, a smack with the purse or water bottle, an elbow, or if you're feeling particularly nice rather than violent, a nicely said "ayb!" (shame). Nothing. Sarah and I have become progressively more intense in our response to men on the street and their words/actions. We regularly see men masturbating as we approach, and we regularly get comments and sometimes accompanying reaches. it is in all ways disgusting. many of these men have probably never been taught that this is inappropriate, and they have probably never been stood up to. So for us to fight back is unusual, to say the least. i would like to think that they'll think twice before trying it again. Sarah and I figure we can probably fight back against all the men in cairo by the end of the year...we're guessing approximately 5 million men, bringing us 2.5 million each. no problem, since we run across at least a dozen a day. i promise we aren't beating up that many each day--probably just one a day, for me anyway.

it's hard for me to reconcile love for all god's children and the violence that is inherent in my fighting back here. the only way i have come up with so far is that if i only let me do what they want, i am neither loving myself nor the other women these men will victimize. that doesn't make violence okay, of course, because two wrongs don't make a right. But honestly, between the anger, the rush of a good elbowing, and the helplessness i feel in the situation, it's the only thing i can think to do. i only hope that a few men will be less obnoxious, even if out of fear. in the meantime, extreme men dodging/elbowing, here i come! let me at that metro! ;-)

i hope not to me!

Actual conversation had with older (maybe mid-40's to mid-50's?) Egyptian male church-goer but non-partaker of communion, during coffee hour...after my attempted brush off because my last conversation with this guy was never ending. and he stares. incessantly.

The Guy: blah blah blah listen to this about my great job...which i told you about before but i'm recapping for you now.
me: I remember, that's great.
Guy: Well, I'm looking to get married.
me: I hope not to me!
Guy: why not? You don't want to stay in Egypt?
me: no, I can't stay in Egypt. I am not allowed to stay.
Guy: but if you were married you could stay.
me: no, I'm not allowed to get married.
Guy: You could work here.
me: My church, the church that sent me here, doesn't allow me to get married or to stay in Egypt. I have to go back to the US.
Guy: well, maybe you could go back and then come back here to be with me.
me: No, I don't think so.
Guy: Why not? Just go, then come back and we can be married and you can work here for a church.
me: I don't think my fiance would be very happy about that.
Guy: Oh, you already have a fiance.
me (showing my right hand which does have a ring on it): yeah.
Guy: Oh. Well, what about Sarah? Does she have a friend too?
me: I don't know, but she isn't allowed to get married here either.
Guy: Will you talk to her for me?
me: I can't promise you what she'll say. (even though I definitely could)
Guy: you won't talk to her?
me: Oh, I'll talk to her alright. (side note: I don't think he caught my tone on this)
Guy: Do you have any other friends who are beautiful like you and live in Cairo?
me: No.
Guy: What about the girl who was with you last week?
me: She doesn't live here.
Guy: okay. Well, will you talk to Sarah?
me: We'll talk.
Guy: I'm going to get some coffee.
me: okay.
me: Sarah, we have to leave now. let's go. bye everyone!

me: Sarah, this guy asked me to marry him. I said no and he asked if you would marry him.
Sarah: I hope I get to talk to him so I can tell him that if I'm a second choice I'll never marry him!
both of us: ecstatic crazed laughter.

~~~~
Oh, the ways that this is wrong. I think he has been going to this church just hoping to meet a western girl he can marry. and that creeps me out. and he's creepy. and really, what kind of proposal is that? you have to be a little more romantic. oh, and i have to have had more than one bad conversation with you. i hope this approach never works for him.

I am simultaneously sad and happy that my mother will never know about this conversation.
And, FYI: no, Jason and I are not engaged. still just dating, and okay with that for now!

Wow.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

"tired"

One of many things different in Egypt is the way you deal with people. It is culturally inappropriate to "tell it like it is." If you have a problem with someone, you don't go and tell that person--you lightly comment on it to someone else, who might mention it in passing to the person in question. You don't say you don't know something--you make something up rather than tell someone you don't know what they are asking (this is a real problem when one is asking for directions!). And, if you are sick, you don't say you are "sick" or "ill" or even "unwell." You say you are "tired." In fact, even when people are really quite ill--as when the person in charge downstairs had a stroke--one still does not say he or she is "sick." There's some sort of superstitious thing involved--saying someone is sick means they are very sick and will probably die, and you caused it by calling them "sick"--but also there's a general hiding of the truth from the public. One's private or family affairs are not the business of anyone else, even close friends.

This week I have been sick for several days. Every time I've had to turn down an invitation or call in to the school, the people have said "oh, are you tired?" The correct answer is "yes" even though I wasn't tired. I'd been in bed for two and a half days and was ready to leave it, if only I could stand up and not throw up. You may be wondering what you are supposed to say if you really are just tired--you went to bed too late, had to wake up early, or didn't sleep well. The answer is....I don't know. But I understand why when the teachers have asked me in the mornings "how are you?" and I say "tired" they all look horrified and say "why???" When I answer that I simply didn't get to bed until much too late, they look relieved, but don't tell me what the appropriate word is. It's a very strange situation. Perhaps another instance of Arabic not having the same depth as English? Or perhaps that's a convenient way for the culture to continue to hide from the truth? I don't know. In any case...these last few days, I have been "tired" but I think I'm pretty much well now. I guess that means I'm "awake"?

Monday, December 12, 2005

What Christmas Carol are you?

Okay, now normally I don't do Christmas Carols before Christmas Eve. During Advent you should sing Advent carols, because skipping ahead to your favorite Christmas carol involves also skipping the waiting, preparation, and anticipation that are Advent. But...well, there was a quiz. And I took it. And, for the most part, it's right on. I'm not "really" irritated by the secularization of this holiday, I'm irritated by consumerism. But not just at Christmas. I'm "really" irritated by consumerism all the time. Also, I've never actually been to church on Christmas Eve or Day or any other part of Christmas. I usually go home and my family isn't church-going. This year will be my first Christmas away from home, and my first Christmas in a church...and I'll be in Bethlehem for two Christmas Eve services, including the midnight one in Manger Square. So we'll see whether Christmas Eve turns out to be a service I look forward to all year. Normally I look forward to Tenebrae all year. Anyway...this is also probably my favorite Christmas carol, so this made me happy.


Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
You are 'Hark! The Herald Angels Sing'. You take
Christmas very seriously. For you, it is a
religious festival, celebrating the birth of
the Saviour, and its current secularisation
really irritates you. You enjoy the period of
Advent leading up to Christmas, and attend any
local carol services you can find, as well as
the more contemplative Advent church services
each Sunday. You may be involved in Christmas
food collections or similar charity work. The
midnight service at your church, with candles
and carols, is one you look forward to all
year, and you also look forward to the family
get together on Christmas Day.


What Christmas Carol are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Sunday, December 11, 2005

happy birthday!

since I live in the land of on-again-off-again internet access, here is my birthday greeting to many of you. (also, I'm too poor to buy a membership for ecards and the free ones are lame.) Sorry for the lateness of three of you. But Dad, I posted it ontime! You just probably won't see it until tomorrow. Anyway....

Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday to you,
Happy Birthday dear Robert, Rachel, Adam, and Dad...
Happy Birthday to you.
And many mooooorrrrre......

Love,
Teri

Saturday, December 10, 2005

700

no, not the 700 club (ugh).

This is my 700th post on this blog.

I don't have anything particularly exciting to say...I just saw that the next post would be number 700 and decided to make a big to-do about it.

This is it.
The big to-do.

Ta-da....
:-)

RevGalBlogPals Friday Five

I know it's Saturday here. I think I have a couple of hours before it's Saturday everywhere though....

There's no snow in Cairo, so this is very much historical and hypothetical for me right now.

1) Snow: love it or hate it?
I love it, unless I have to go outside. If I need to drive, wait for a bus, or walk long distances with the intent of getting somewhere in a timely manner, I hate it. But if I can curl up in a blanket and watch it snow, or read while it snows, then go out and make snow angels, then come in and drink hot chocolate, I love it.

2) First snow memory
I don't know if this is actually my first snow memory so much as probably my favorite. I was definitely a kid--like under 10--so at least it's close to my first memory of snow.
I grew up in the country in Oregon and when it snowed the pipes from the well to the house often froze. This meant that we had to go find clean snow (ie un-dog-ified) to melt for everything. We would melt snow for soup, for dishwashing, for bathing, and for hot-chocolate-making. I have this vague memory of making candy by using snow to harden the sugar substance one time: you know, making some sort of caramelized sugar syrup, then pouring it on the snow in a pan in the kitchen in all different shapes, letting it freeze briefly, then eating it. Except this might actually be a Little House on the Prairie memory, because I read those books numerous times while I was growing up in the middle of nowhere. family members, feel free to tell me I made this up and to imagine it in the next question instead.

3) Best Snow Day ever (actual or imagined)
Any day that involves me putting on huge amounts of clothes, a couple of coats, and then going out in my parent's front yard to make snowangels, have a snowball fight with my brother, and possibly build a snowman. There are pictures of a day like this happening while I was in high school. We rarely got snow days from school because we were so used to and prepared for snow, so this probably happened on a weekend, but whatever.

4) Best use of snow in a movie, song, book or poem.
What about TV show? I think the best use of snow in a TV show is on Buffy, quite early in the third season. Buffy and Angel are standing on a hill overlooking Sunnydale, and Buffy is convincing Angel not to kill himself. It's Christmas eve or something otherwise wintery. Buffy barely succeeds, and as Angel changes his mind, it starts to snow lightly. In Southern California. It's beautiful.

5) What you are planning to do today, with or without snow?
Whatever I do today will be very definitely without snow. And actually, it's nearly 5pm so there's not a lot left to be done. I read to two classes, did some research for our upcoming trip to Jerusalem, and answered some email. I will probably still...read, make some plans with Jason about a January Nile Cruise or at the very least a trip to Luxor, and make dinner (baked potatoes with broccoli and tomatoes...except we might be having cauliflower too). I also have a ton of veggies to wash (I sent Naadia and Marsa to the suuk for me today so I have everything ready for Monday's dinner party with the ETSC graduate students). And there's always Buffy to watch. Sarah is just getting into the REALLY good part of season three. She's seen Faith kill a man, Faith not feel any remorse, Angel try to recover her, AND Willow get a vampire doppelganger. There are still, however, 6 or 7 really good episodes ahead in this season. And then...well, I can't tell you because Sarah reads my blog. :-)

Thursday, December 08, 2005

a land of contrasts

you have probably all heard me and a variety of other people say it: Egypt is a land of contrasts.

Usually people are talking about how there's a Pizza Hut next to the Sphinx, or how there are donkey carts and bicycle carts alongside very new and very old cars and buses.

This week I am thinking of a different kind of contrast--a contrast of behaviors.

Hospitality is a crucial thing across the Middle East. It's almost a way of life--you welcome people into your home or your shop with tea, food, and general doting. You can see my previous posts about hospitality to see what I mean. People will go into debt just to make sure they properly treat a guest in their home. Shopkeepers often ask you to drink tea with them. The guards at the gate of our school have passed many an evening buying us juice and tea. The friends we've made have had us into their homes for extravagant meals. Hospitality is done right here in a lot of ways.

This understanding of hospitality stands in stark contrast to the behavior you see on the streets of Cairo. Here it seems that it is everyone for him/herself--whether driving or walking, there is a complete disregard and disrespect of the "other." When walking on a sidewalk (or even in the middle of the road), people will not move to the side if they see someone coming toward them. In fact, I think one is more likely to simply get bowled over! There are many times I have been walking right up next to the buildings and had a single person, or a group of people, walk straight at me as though there weren't several feet of sidewalk available for them to walk around me. In cars, drivers literally push and shove to get ahead, though the traffic is so bad that no one is getting anywhere. Crossing the street is literally taking your life in your hands because drivers are so unwilling to stop.

Foreigners in the streets have it bad, yes--we get constantly yelled at, comments thrown our direction--often along with other things (garbage, rocks, hands). We can be treated horribly. But it isn't just foreigners. Egyptians also treat each other poorly--walking into each other, refusing to step around someone walking toward them, pushing and shoving, shouting, refusing to move if someone is behind them trying to pass by, etc. "Excuse me" isn't even a phrase in their language--they simply say "minfadlak" (if they actually say anything at all), which is the most common--and least respectful--form of "please."

It is a sad thing to be forced to observe--that a culture that places such a high value on hospitality also seems to have such a lack of hospitality outside the home. And actually, more than a lack of hospitality, but an actual disrespect of people who are "not me."

There are theories, of course....that it's about tribalism, and unless I know the people on the street are my tribe, I don't need to respect them--and maybe even shouldn't respect them....that western radical individualism has been adopted and even taken to new, destructive heights (which I'm not sure I buy because it seems that these behaviors are so deep-rooted that they can't be western in origin, but I wasn't here a generation ago to gauge if it's a change)....but frankly, my theory is simply that people here have not been taught to care about themselves--as a country, a culture, and especially as individuals--and so have no care for others either. The emphasis here is so much on the family rather than the individual, that perhaps people simply don't recognize the humanity in another individual. People as individuals are not important because importance is found only within the family structure. And so...voila! No recognition of what westerners would consider common courtesy in public places.

There is also the sheer population density here, but there's high population density in other cities that have nothing like the flat-out rudeness that can be seen every day here. It's very strange to me. I hope I don't end up rude forever simply because it's a behavior that has to be adopted in order to get around. Hmm.

Strangeness....

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

eloquence in grieving, from The King's Touch

Upon hearing the news of his father's sudden death, main character "Jemmy" (nickname for James) writes:
"The world had changed dimensions. I turned, blundering through the door, banging and hurting myself. Somehow I wanted to run, even as I knew there was nowhere to run to."

This seems to be pretty accurate, especially of the first days and weeks:

"The world had not ended. It was simply become a world lacking the sun. Only the moon left: only that light, chill and empty, to live by."

oh how well novelists can sometimes say things. This is why I read...both literature and scripture. This is why I sing psalms, because my own prayers can't come anywhere close. To take another's words to frame my experience is the only way I can begin to even think about the way this has gone, the way I feel about it (and the way I don't feel about it), to give any voice or shape at all to this experience. And, ultimately, maybe to think about hope again.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

another day in the grieving process

SO, i'm trying not to overburden you all with my grieving process, but a few interesting things have come up for me this week, reminding me that death casts a longer shadow than I would like.

1. For a while when I first got back to Egypt I was having dreams about things that were really frightening--me staring down the barrel of a gun, the muslim brotherhood burying our christian guards alive outside our gate, riots, etc. I woke up a lot during the night and slep really badly for about a week. One night I woke up at about 2 with the startling realization that "of course I'm having scary dreams...the person in whom i found my security, my courage, is gone." after I cried about that for a while, no more scary dreams. and also i'm beginning to learn to locate my security/courage somewhere else...and figured out why Psalm 46 is so commonly used with grieving people. "God is our refuge and strength."

2. Lately I've been having dreams about my mom being alive. Sometimes I know in my dream that it isn't real, and I cry in my dream and in real life. Sometimes it's more like a memory, or a hope that I had for being with her. This makes me both happy and sad.

3. Many days I only tear up a little, or have a little morning cry. But today I had a full-fledged bad day, with multiple crying fits that I couldn't identify triggers for, or figure out how to stop.

4. I have decided that somehow it's actually easier to be here, away from the house. It's easy to go on as though everything is normal, because I didn't talk to my mom every day while I've been here in Egypt (the way I used to when I lived somewhere else in the US). But when I do want to talk to her, it's that much worse with the realization that I can't.

5. It's strange what makes me sad and what doesn't....watching Oprah yesterday on our newly-repaired satellite tv (with the decorator who re-did a living room for a woman whose husband died of cancer, and he'd spent most of his time on the couch during his illness) (it was the only thing on in English) did not make me even flinch. But today I was just happily reading along in The King's Touch (a novel set in 17th century England, about the intrigues of court life and the issue (ha) of a king and a bastard (?) son and who will be next in line for the crown), and BAM i was crying. Jason walked in at just the wrong moment--for him. For me it was just the right moment. Too bad I have no idea what started it.

6. I have been trying not to inflict my grieving process on the other YAVs--if I'm crying or feeling fragile, I generally stay away from them or away from group things. I have yet to seek anyone out to say "I really miss my mom" and just cry with them--something I could probably do every day if it wouldn't creep them out. In fact, they are all acting refreshingly normal. But it's interesting because that normality is what I wanted all the time my mom was sick, but now that she's gone some part of me wants nothing to ever be normal again, just to recognize the fact that it's just not right, that there's a lot of pain. But at the same time I crave normalcy and going about everyday business. It's a strange paradox to be living in. (As though any paradox of life or faith were comfortable...)

7. Advent is a hard time to be grieving, because it's "supposed" to be all about waiting and expectancy and hope. But this year, it's not entirely clear to me what I'm waiting for--besides Jesus, I mean. It's simultaneously difficult and necessary to be hopeful.

8. When I first heard about my mother's death, there was a butterfly at the door. My devotional book, Incandescence, has butterflies sprinkled throughout the pages. Yesterday I taught a class how to make butterflies by linking their thumbs and fluttering their hands. I know that butterflies are a common symbol used at Easter time--I use them myself--as symbols of resurrection and new life and rebirth and all those things. And I love that. But I'm not sure what that means for me yet. My grandmother insists, for example, that her mother (who loved cardinals) visits her in the form of a cardinal every now and then, including on her (my great grandmother's) birthday this year while we were in Hilton Head. Actually, the only time we saw a cardinal in HH was on my great grandmother's birthday, and it was right on our back deck--with us and apparently unafraid--for several minutes. My mother never once mentioned anything about butterflies--aside from being a good camp counselor and nature lover and teaching me not to touch them--and yet here they are everywhere. Perhaps it's a reminder to me to be hopeful...a "witness to the resurrection."

9. I feel like I have to fill out ten things on this list. Silly duty-bound me. Just to spite the perfectionist in me, I'm not going to. It's ending at 8. So there. :-) I have to take my smiles where I can get them...or at least, the ones I mean rather than the ones that are a mask.

my yahoo mail kept pestering me...

...so i made my "avatar." Some kind of virtual me, only I had a few issues...

1. i couldn't have reddish brown hair--only BROWN or RED. I mean red like a fire engine. (or, of course, yellow blonde or blue-black)
2. I couldn't change what my body looked like, which was okay because frankly my body mostly looks like this, only not quite so skinny and not quite so tall.
3. I had a heck of a time finding egypt-appropriate clothes, but I did at last succeed.
4. There is no background that has a third-world city plagued by smog and garbage. I can't imagine why...I had to settle for a "city" at night...apparently a city without light pollution, but okay...
5. No good accessories. No crosses, no brown purses (to match those cute brown sandals that just appeared with the peasant blouse). No non-dangly earrings.
6. The hair. I tried and tried, but they just didn't have my length of hair in my type of curl. But they had about 15 styles of straight hair and only three curly and one wavy. I think we curly girls are being oppressed. Again.

Anyway, after all that, here she is. I think her name shall be....Dawn. In honor of the silly test that said I was Dawn. Plus, she kinda looks like her. :-)

Friday, December 02, 2005

things i love

1. Friday--no school! church! free time!
2. chocolate
3. cooking dinner...especially when my spaghetti sauce turns out so good! and my balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing is practically award winning.
4. reading
5. grape juice. (but boo on the wine at church today...ugh)
6. good friends.
7. silly movies

I think that's enough for today. Hooray for the bright side!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

wow...this makes me sad

Today a girl was brought crying into the teacher's lounge. The Arabic teacher was bringing her to see her regular classroom teacher because, it had been discoverd, the girl had "cheated".

A paper was handed back to the girls, and Girl had received 28.5 out of 30. Her Friend received 30 out of 30. Friend dropped her paper on the floor (as 1st graders often do) and Girl picked it up and erased Friend's name and put her own name. Arabic Teacher found out (accidentally, I believe) and dragged Girl down the hall to see Class Teacher, who gave her a lecture and required an apology in both English and Arabic, to Arabic Teacher and to Class.

Now, the papers had already been graded, recorded, and handed back...and yet this girl felt the need to take home a perfect score. Why? Why was 28.5 not good enough? What kind of pressure does this girl have at home that she needs to lie to her parents? And how did this all come to happen when the girl in question is 6 years old? I am saddened by this, and hope that there will be a semblance of reason and more unconditional love in Girl's life.

Perhaps this is what happens when grades are everything?

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

FYI

you cannot get my attention by calling me as you would an animal.
The sounds you make to call a cat, dog, horse, sheep, or anything else are not going to be effective--in fact, I will even more purposefully ignore and avoid you.

So there.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Pyramids and more!

Well, we finally made it. The pyramids! Not just any old Giza pyramids either, but older and less visited (supposedly) pyramids too.
We started off our Saturday at Memphis, the ancient capital of Egypt. The city no longer exists, having been moved and the stones reused and whatnot. Now there's a "museum" of sorts, consisting mostly of large stone things (statues, tablets, etc) outside. The sun was in exactly the wrong place for photos, so most of the pics aren't good, but check them out anyway. Heiroglyphics, huge statues of Ramses II, even a sphinx! Also, I learned that:

conspicuous consumption is not new!


It turns out that nobles often had a sarcophagus carved out of granite--a months-long labor for a craftsman and a very expensive thing to have done--only to look at it and discard it without ever using it, requiring a new one to be carved instead. Some of these empty and unused sarcophagi have been found. Maybe he didn't like the color, or shape, or decoration, or size. hmm.

We moved on from Memphis to Sakkara, just across the road and up/down a little way. Sakkara is the site of a bunch of tombs, some really old pyramids that are now little more than piles of rubble, and the Step Pyramid, which is, I think, thought to be the first time stone masonry was practiced--that is, the first time stones were cut to shape and purposefully placed rather than random rocks being piled up. It turns out that you can no longer go into that pyramid--not even archaeologists--because it's not safe anymore. That's right--after 5,000 + years, it's no longer safe. Why, you ask? Well, three words:

Aswan High Dam

That's right, the big engineering wonder. The water table has risen like crazy, and continues to rise, meaning that formerly stable land is no longer stable, and formerly stable rock piles (like pyramids, like ancient churches, etc) are falling apart. Also, the weather has changed significantly in the past few years because of the rising water table. Apparently humidity is relatively new in Egypt, and the haze we've been experiencing this week has more to do with humidity than pollution, though the pollution is HUGE. The humidity just means that the nasty pollution looks more solid in the air. It was the worst I've ever seen it, actually, on Saturday. The humidity is ruining thousands-of-years-old paint on tomb walls, icons in churches, and buildings everywhere. In addition to all that, of course the Nile no longer floods so there are no more rich silt deposits in the farm land, which means that now farmers need fertilizer. Fertilizer is expensive, and it contains all kinds of chemicals that the land here never needed before and has not known. And where are the chemicals going? Into the rising water table and the already polluted Nile. Who thought this dam was a good idea? Many Egyptians are calling it "that damn dam." Amen to that. you can kind of see the haze in the photo--the grey haze near the horizon...and this is fairly far outside the city.



So anyway, we didn't get to go inside the Step Pyramid. But we did get to go inside a tomb that's thousands of years old and inside the Pyramid of Titi. I don't know who that is, but it was cool. Apparently (just learned this just now--not while we were there, duh!) the the first-discovered full-text of the Book of the Dead is inscribed inside. It was a fun excursion down a narrow and very low slanted tunnel. It was interesting too because above ground the pyramid looks like a pile of rubble.

Moving on from Sakkara, we went to Giza--the place everyone goes. Literally. The place was packed. Anyway, we first went to the "panoramic"--the little plateau where you can see all three pyramids at once. It was so hazy you could barely see them all, actually, but that's okay. We took a group photo of us making a pyramid there--hilarious, especially since it was Jen, our "top" was a little off center and we became the Bent Pyramid!



From there we avoided the camel men and the men offering to take our pictures and headed back down to the pyramids themselves. You can drive right along the edge--literally within meters of the edges of the pyramids. We parked and walked around a little, taking silly photos of us "walking like an egyptian", etc. Then Jason, Stephen, and I went into the Solar Boat museum--the place where archaeologists found a boat made of cedar that was designed to carry the pharaoh in the tomb into the sun/afterlife. It was very cool. (good thing it wasn't supposed to be seagoing, though, because it was definitely not watertight.) Anyway, the boat was neat.

After a walk around the base of a pyramid, and a wonderful photo op lounging up against one of the massive stones of the pyramid,

we headed back to the bus just in time to visit the Sphinx for a few minutes before closing time. And, as promised, Egypt the land of contrast did in fact strike there, with a Pizza Hut/KFC just across the street from the Sphinx. I think you could actually gaze on the pyramids and sphinx from the pizza hut dining room. So bizarre.

So anyway, that was our trip to the pyramids. You can see the photos by clicking the link to the left. You'll see there some pictures of a stop at a carpet place--a place where children "learn" to make carpets. It wasn't clear to me we were being told the truth about how much the children work, and even if we were I'm sure there are many worse conditions at one of the other dozen or so "carpet schools" we saw along the same road. In any case, it was disturbing that we were taken around to view child labor making the carpets so many people covet. Beware those rugs you buy from Middle Eastern countries--who knows how old the person was who made them. Maybe 9.

I think that's enough for today. I'm tired--still a little jet-lagged--so it's my bedtime now. happy monday/tuesday to all.

Thanksgiving

Wow! We had 53 people on the list for Thanksgiving, and a whopping 47 attended (including YAVs). 47 people in our house! We had a ton of food too....three turkeys for those who are interested in carcasses, literally a VAT of mashed potatoes, two sweet potato casseroles, one good green bean casserole (mine, duh) and one that was made differently--not with onions--which I didn't eat so it was probably good too, carrots, tons of bread, lots of pies, and even a wonderful apple crisp. It was a good night full of festivity. The worst part was definitely the anticipation. "When are we going to eat?" was the most common refrain among the YAVs. 6.30 became 7 became 7.15 before the food was on the table and the buffet was ready. Then Victor gave a welcome speech, we prayed, and just when we thought it was food time at last, the kids got to go first! Finally it was my table's turn and I went through the line backwards (from bread to turkey) because, of course, I didn't want turkey. Unfortunately, this caused me difficulties at the mashed potatoes because they were between the turkey and the gravy. I was accused of cutting in line! oh please. Anyway....I ate two plates full of mashed potatoes and green bean casserole. I even ate some carrots. I appear to be working past my orange food thing, because I've also been eating some oranges lately. They are the fruit in season right now. Anyway.......the dinner was excellent. After dinner we had a hymn sing--with the old Red Presbyterian Hymnal, complete with patriarchal language, visions of rapture, etc. Good times. If anyone feels that they want to make a donation of blue presbyterian hymnals to the YAV program in Egypt, please email me. Seriously, we are so behind. Anyway....it was a great Thanksgiving. Yay for good friends and good food all in one place!

Friday, November 25, 2005

revgalblogpals friday five

The day after thanksgiving....

1) Did you cook or bake anything for Thanksgiving?
Green Bean Casserole. With a kilo of fresh green beans from the suuk and four little cups of fried onions (kusheri topping) from Nagaf's. And a touch too much soy sauce (it came out too fast!)

2) How was it received?
Very well.

3) Anything left over?
well, with 53 people at dinner and one double batch, no. sadly.

4) What's the best use of Thanksgiving leftovers you have ever seen?
I don't know...we aren't usually creative at home because I can't think of anything better to do with mashed potatoes and green bean casserole (my fave dishes) besides just eat them the way they are! Though potato pancakes are good....anyway, the last 7 years I've shared thanksgiving with not-my-family and I haven't had any leftovers to deal with--either there aren't any or they get left at the person's house. And most people I know, anyway, don't entertain during the weekend after Thanksgiving so I haven't had the opportunity to see what they do. I did watch a Food Network show a couple of weeks ago giving ideas for leftovers, and they looked pretty good. pumpkin pie turned creme brulee, and cranberry relish turned into a champagne drink. hmm...


5) And the worst?
Ditto.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

stuff...ing...

today is the day...the day we eat a lot. here in cairo many of the american missionaries are gathering here at RCG (at our YAV house!) for the big meal. It's mostly potluck, with turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes being provided and everything else being brought. Who knows what we will have here! I've been hungry since I went to bed. At 6 I couldn't stand it any more and got up and ate some bread and cheese. Now I'm waiting for someone to wake up so I can borrow some milk and eat breakfast. And in half an hour I'm going to the store. Thank goodness for that! I can't be starving all day while waiting for dinner. oy!

I've posted some pictures of our trip on the Oregon Coast, and also pictures of my cat. Feel free to enjoy them or to be saddened by them (as I am at the moment) as you like.

Today I will not be calling my mother, and that makes me sad. I miss her a lot. People keep telling me that one day the crying will be less. When that day comes, maybe I can take kleenex off my weekly shopping list. But, that day is not today. In fact, so far I've been awake about 3 hours and so far it's the worst day of the week. Great.

I'm off to dry my hair and steal some milk. Happy Thanksgiving! Someone watch the Macy's parade for me. Thanks.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

arrived

i have arrived back in Cairo. I am tired because even though I tried to go to bed last night at a decent hour...three in the morning was the reality. I am about to go out for the first time since arriving back yesterday afternoon. I need to get some food! Jason and I are headed to Zamzams and the suuk. yippee!

it's nice and warm here, by the way. :-) except inside, where I'm wrapped in the beautiful prayer shawl that Claire knitted for me. it's a happy thing.

Monday, November 21, 2005

newsletter

I have posted a new newsletter, which many of you may have gotten in your email. If you aren't on the email list, please check it out with the top link in my list to the left!
Amy, I put something special in it just for you!

I am headed out RIGHT NOW to get my hair cut, then to the airport to fly back to Cairo. By this time tomorrow I will have been there for a couple of hours already!

Pray for safe travels, and for my family as I leave them and as we grieve together but far apart.

peace!!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

atlanta

in atlanta, visiting with church family (which, beautifully, includes Jason's family!). Tomorrow afternoon I will return to Cairo. I'll leave ATL at 4.30 in the afternoon and will arrive in Cairo at about 2.30 Tuesday afternoon. Very exciting! I think I'm definitely ready to go back. I need a Jason hug.

See you all in/from Cairo...

Thursday, November 17, 2005

this is just about right...

i found this as i was doing my daily reading in incandescence: 365 readings with women mystics. It's the reading for November 12 (the one year anniversary of mom's diagnosis).

"As for heaven, I guess you've noticed, God put no doors there.
No, God didn't. and don't you wonder why?
It's because whoever wants to enter heaven, does.
That's how God's love works.
All-merciful, standing there with his arms wide open,
God's waiting--this very moment--
to embrace us and take us into his splendid beauty and kindnesses."

--Catherine of Genoa

(being just a little bit Calvinist, i would maybe even say that God isn't bothering with waiting--God has embraced us already. and being even a little bit more Calvinist i might even say that we aren't capable ourselves of wanting to enter heaven, so God does that for us too. But the point here is the idea, which i love. heaven is doorless (and maybe ugly-pearly-gates-less too!))

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

getting back to work?

i have been reading a lot.
so much that i'm down to the book i'm saving for the plane.
so today i am reading children's books--actually, "chapter books" so I can see if any would be appropriate to use with my kids at RCG. (Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little, etc) I have been thinking of reading a chapter a week with my classes, so they will want to come next week to hear the next part and find out what happens. I have, as I've been reading, thinking up activities that the girls could do to show me that they understand the story (and to make up for the fact that the books don't have pcitures). So far my favorite idea is to give them a piece of 8-1/2 by 11 paper (or A4, whatever I can find), divided (with a pen) into quarters, and have them draw a picture in each square--so each chapter would have foud pictures per kid. Then maybe have them explain to their partner what picture they drew to go with what part of the story. and each week one girl would come up and show the whole class her pictures and explain. All in English, of course.

Now I am kind of tired and am actively soliciting othe "activity" ideas to help me know they understand and to help them be more engaged. Please tell me your ideas! I know you people are out there, just surfing away....help me out here. y'all are fabulous. :-)

Monday, November 14, 2005

hmmm....duh!

Linguistic thinkers:

* Tend to think in words, and like to use language to express complex ideas.
* Are sensitive to the sounds and rhythms of words as well as their meanings.

Other Linguistic Thinkers include: William Shakespeare, Sylvia Plath, Anne Frank

Careers which suit Linguistic thinkers include: Journalist, Librarian, Salesperson, Proof-reader, Translator, Poet, Lyricist

what kind of thinker are you?

things that are good and make me happy

1. amy's black and white chili, which i made last night and was SO good.
2. the existence (and purchase) of great northern beans dried, so i can make chili in Egypt
3. Ollie
4. Good books
5. the fact that my friend Rachel is in a rock band. (hehehe)
6. Dr. Pepper
7. M&Ms
8. General Foods International Coffee French Vanilla Cafe (Decaf)
9. Neosporin and bandaids (for the mosquito bites-turned-festering-wounds that just won't go away)
10. someone else to wash the dishes

Sunday, November 13, 2005

things that will never be the same

1. Halloween
2. All Saint's Day
3. My birthday
4. Mom's birthday
5. All holidays
6. my parents' house
7. The beach
8. the telephone
9. cooking (at least, cooking things I've never made before)
10. badly dressed people I have no one to make snarky comments about to
11. my family
12. me
13. everything else

Saturday, November 12, 2005

kitchen questions

There is nothing like cooking alone in the kitchen where you used to cook (learned to cook?) with your mother to make you think of some questions you wish you'd asked on a previous kitchen experience. Mom and I used to talk about everything while we cooked. If you have always thought you should ask these things but you/your mother are too young and there's plenty of time, you should ask now. Trust me.

1. how exactly did you manage to feed yourself and two children on food stamps during the recession in the 80's?
2. how do i pick a cantaloupe?
3. what's the deal with opening the oven while bread/cakes are baking? is it really that bad?
4. how did you do that egg thing in the "lotsa noodle soup"? (i was actually planning on asking this the next time I talked to her, as Ramen has recently become a part of my diet again. Unfortunately, there was no next time.)
5. what was the last straw that made you want a divorce?
6. what do you want us to do with your jewelry when you can't wear it anymore?
7. what's your favorite memory of my childhood? my brothers? yours? your sisters?
8. what's the most important thing I should do with the person I get married to?
9. was grandma always the way she is now?
10. besides the Bare Naked Ladies, is there any good music made by a group formed after 1988?
11. what do you think about those "new" grocery store membership cards? Are they actually just a way to keep track of your personal info? are they really about getting people to spend more? or are they okay?
12. is it true that bad cranberries float? or is it good cranberries that float? or is it about bouncing? And should you really be bouncing cranberries you're planning on making into cranberry sauce? how do you keep track of them?
13. How many spices in spaghetti sauce is too many?
14. is it actually possible to make just enough spaghetti for us to eat today, or is it literally impossible?
15. what's the weirdest fruit you ever ate? and what are you supposed to do with a pomegranate (the weirdest fruit i have eaten so far)?
16. How am I supposed to use the "back of the knife" if it has that weird "don't cut yourself, dummy" lip thing on the back of the blade?
17. Do you have any idea how much I love you and how much I love learning to cook from you?

Things you should definitely say now and I'm sad I never got a chance to say properly:
1. Thank you mom, for teaching me to read and to love reading.
2. Thank you mom, for teaching me that anyone who can read can cook.
3. Thank you mom, for teaching me how to cut things without cutting myself.
4. Thank you mom, for doing the dirty work of peeling potatoes even when i wanted to make the mashed potatoes "all by myself."
5. thank you mom, for teaching me how to love everyone regardless of what they look like or how much money they have.
6. In general, thanks, mom. I love you a lot.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

the coast

Well, we had a mom-worthy adventure at the beaches of the Oregon Coast. Low tides right now are not very low, and man it was a stormy sea for the few days we were there! our first beach for scattering, Heceta Head (the top pic is the beachwe were at), was beautiful and lovely, but lacked tidepools. We clambered around a little point to try to find some, but ended up scattering mom in the waves breaking on the rocks. I also ended up wet to my knees because the tide had literally just turned and some waves just snuck up on me. The water was warm but the air was cold...so my wet jeans were, well, chilly. Our second beach was Beverly Beach, which had beautiful sand. And the last place where we left some of mom to be swept out to sea (we stopped a lot of places but not all were worthy) was Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach. We went out for the night time low tide--10.46 pm--because it was actually a negative tide. We took flashlights and walked out there across the beach from our hotel. it was so dark, and the stars were incredibly beautiful, and my brother tried to tell me that orion wasn't orion, but he was wrong. We found some tidepools by almost-illegally clambering around at Haystack Rock (a bird sanctuary or something), poured out the last of the ashes, and looked at anemones for a few minutes before saying goodbye and walking back. In the morning Dad and I walked out there again, as the tide was going out again. It is significantly closer in the light. And, of course, she was gone. I mean, she was gone before too but now she's really gone. it's hard to grasp that I will never see or hear my mother again, that I will never have another argument, hear another "I love you", give or receive another piece of advice, comiserate about silly family members, or laugh about horridly dressed people with my mother ever again. it's not just something you take in all at once, you know? No more emergency cooking calls. No more "guess what I just did" or "what I just saw" calls. No more Christmas visits. No more inviting my mom to hear me preach. no more of her asking me how it went at church and me telling her "well, everybody loves me."

I keep thinking that maybe, just maybe, mom's ashes will spread so far and wide that whenever I go to a beach, she'll be there. And maybe she will be the grain of sand that becomes a pearl one day. Maybe. I hope so. I would like to think so. Because, as far as I can tell, that's the best that can come out of this situation. people keep saying she's better off now, there's no more pain, and that's probably true. But in my reality, the this-worldly dimension, there is no possible way that it is better when one's mother is dead. Especially at 47. No way. So please: it's not better. in fact, it's distinctly worse, possibly the worst. but maybe one day there will be some wonderful pearls and then, maybe, it will be better. maybe.

that's all for today. we are going to eat mexican food for the first time since mom died. We'll see how that goes. Maybe I've gotten the cryingout of my system while I've typed this. I hope so.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

going to the coast

i'm here in Washington. Right now we are leaving to go to the Oregon Coast and we'll scatter mom's ashes tomorrow at low tide.
That's all for now, except this:
I miss my mom.

Monday, October 31, 2005

dear mom

dear mom,
I love you so much.
I know you never got a chance to read the last entry I posted, but I want you to know that I love you.
You are an amazing woman.
You taught me to cook, and to love, and to be a good person, and to do anything I wanted.
I love you and I miss you already and it's only been half an hour.

love,
t

to mom

I know it's hard.
I know you are in pain and you are sick and you are scared.
I know it sucks not being able to do the things you want to be able to do, or even the things you need to be able to do.
I know it seems like it would be easier to stop.

But please, don't give up. Don't quit. I know you aren't a quitter. Remember when I was in 8th grade and you made me keep playing softball all season even though I hated every second of it? The uniforms, the other girls, the fact that I wasn't good at it, it was all awful. But you said I had made a commitment and you made me keep going. And I managed. You always said that I couldn't be a quitter, that our family isn't made up of quitters.

I know this is awful, and you didn't really make a commitment to this and nothing about it is good. But there is so much to look forward to.

Imagine these things and how much you would like to be there. Make a commitment to be there.
My ordination (maybe only a year or so from now!).
When I manage to get married (well, more than a year, anyway...).
See Scott graduate.
Read Scott's first book--you'll probably get a copy free.
See Max. Hold Max. Read to Max. Listen to Max read to you.
Hear Joseph in fifth grade band.
Love on Sammy and Ollie at the same time (well, I can dream!).

And mom, please, if it really is too much, if it's time, then please know that I love you very much and I'll miss you a lot. I think about you every day and people around the world are praying for you. I hope you have a better day today than yesterday. And if it's time, please tell me. I want to come. I love you.

love,
T

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Sabbath Keeping

There is nothing quite like declaring and actually keeping a Sabbath day or two. We talk constantly in the ministry about "boundaries"--about making sure we have adequate time for ourselves so we can actually do our jobs. But in most people's everyday lives, Sabbath is not something we do. Instead we (Americans/Westerners) have this idea that if you aren't doing something productive, you're "wasting time"--as though time were a thing, a commodity, you could throw away. And maybe it is. But I would like to say that I think keeping the Sabbath is one of the best ways to avoid wasting time. Instead of throwing the time away, we are making it holy and therefore it is the best use of time. In Sabbath time we are refreshed--we take time to rest, to play, to pray, to read, to nap, to snuggle up with a certain someone and watch a movie or two, to do things we enjoy--cooking and eating, just sitting, watching Buffy, blogging, or whatever. We do not do work. We do not read things we don't want to. We do not ever have to get dressed and go outside if we don't want to!
Maybe this sounds to you like I have spent too much time at home this weekend...like I've spent two days out of the past three being at home in my pajamas. Like I've been reading and sleeping and enjoying myself. You would be right. And maybe you're also thinking that I (or people who do this) must have the luxury of spending time doing "nothing." Maybe you're thinking "I have too much to do" or "this work can't wait" or "you don't know my schedule." And I will say: "so what?" (in Arabic: "yanni eh?")

I must argue that Sabbath is not a luxury we can't afford, but rather is a necessity we can't live without. If we don't spend time resting and being filled--reading/praying/being with God/being with loved ones/relaxing/etc--then how can we possibly hope to serve? How can we possibly hope to stay free from illness? How can we possibly hope to live? You notice that in the Ten Commandments God doesn't say "don't work on the seventh day, as long as you finished all the work for the week and are prepared for next week." Jesus doesn't say "okay, now that I've finished healing everyone, preaching the good news, feeding the hungry, liberating the oppressed, and teaching my disciples, I'll go off and pray and maybe have a nap." You notice that the monks don't finish everything they're doing before going to pray the daily offices. You notice that the Muslim call to prayer calls out at all hours regardless of whether there is work to be done or time to take out for prayer. The time is simply taken, and hallowed, and rejoiced in. The work will still be there. The work will always be there--if you wait for the work to be finished, then you will never rest until you die, and even then you won't have finished everything.

So maybe it's time. Time to take a day out for yourself and for God. If you don't have a day, take half a day twice, or a few hours several times (but don't underestimate the power of a whole day!) Stay in your pajamas. Read a novel, work a crossword, play a game with your family, watch a movie, take a nap, cuddle with your special someone or your special stuffed animal, order in or cook with what you have on hand. Pray. Enjoy yourself. If you think about work, push the thought out of your mind with a prayer or a glad turning over of your time to God. There will be those who call you "lazy" or "indulgent" or "selfish." It doesn't matter, because you are on holy ground.
You can't work if you aren't rested. And you can't fully trust God if you always insist on doing everything yourself in every hour of every day. You can't be a light if you never refill the oil in your lamp.

With thanks to many wonderful mentors, to Wayne Muller's book Sabbath which I read continuously for 8 months before moving here, and to God for a fantastic Sabbath weekend.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

adventures in an egyptian home

Today I went to my new friend Gigi's house. Gigi is the sister of Rania, the woman who works for Better Life (in Minya) and who organized the movie-dubbing-debut I had last month. Gigi has a husband and two daughters--Sandy, age 7, and "Zosa" or "Zazo" (nickname), age 3. Gigi is extremely nice and definitely shows typical Egyptian hospitality. On Tuesday night last week she picked me up from RCG and took me to a mall with her girls. She insisted that she would buy me anything I wanted, and I finally succumbed and allowed her to buy me a zip-up cardigan. She then took me to pizza hut (the girls' fave) and told me to get whatever I wanted--which turned out to be the salad bar and my own medium pizza (I did manage to get thin crust as my only decision in the matter). Then she told me to call her when I was free on Saturday and she would send a driver to pick me up and bring me to her house. Okay...

This afternoon I called around three (after taking a nap) and the driver was at RCG in less than 15 minutes. I was whisked away to Shubra, the largest/most populated area of Cairo--where more than 1 million people live. It is a heavily Coptic neighborhood, which means there are lots of Christians and lots of people who consider themselves native Egyptian (Coptic) rather than Arab. Anyway.... the flat this family has is HUGE by Egyptian standards--it's a corner flat with a large dining room and a living room, two large bedrooms, a huge bathroom, a balcony that runs the entire outer circumference--two whole sides of the flat--and a kitchen. The kitchen was a little cramped, but it was three times the size of my kitchen so whatever! Anyway, I got there and we hung out a little while. It had probably been half an hour (or less) before she said "would you like to eat now?" Before I had a chance to answer, she went away to the kitchen, as Sandy (older daughter). Zazo and I stayed in the living room playing with a ball and watching Egyptian Arabic Sesame Street. Yes, really. Then out came a plate of food that I couldn't possibly eat, as well as a "salad" (cucumber and tomato--yum!) and a plate of olives and a pepsi. A table was set just for me and the three women gathered round as I sat down to eat. Only I was eating--they wouldn't eat with me. I ate about half of what I was given, plus the salad and a few olives and the pepsi. Then I was so full that I thought I might explode, so I tried to beg off the rest. Gigi said "oh, it's not good. I'm sorry. I only usually cook meat so I know this wasn't good." I was all "no, it's amazing, I love it really, it's very good, but I just can't eat another bite!" I think I convinced her, or at least I hope I did. It really was good--macarona bechamel with cheese/tomato/olive. Yum. Plus homemade french fries! Anyway, she whisked that away and brought me a homemade fruit cocktail--also amazing. Then we hung out a little more, I read with Sandy, watched Zazo color, etc. Then she brought me mint tea. Husband came out and drank tea and played with the girls as well--including listening to Sandy read and even being nice to her about her reading rather than what I expected (harsh "can't you do better" etc...). Sandy is very bright and has amazing English and reads very well. Anyway...husband left for work and Zazo went to sleep. Sandy showed me her art supplies and the things she likes to do. Gigi said "you want to eat something? maybe small fruit. I will bring you." I'm thinking "oh my god no more food please!" She brings me a plate with not 1, not 2, not 3, but FOUR medium mangoes, peeled. I try to give one to Sandy. Another one appears on my plate. I eat them. All four. Good thing mango is good for you! Sandy took out her play makeup and put some on. I french braided her hair. Mom pulled out a video of Sandy and her hairdresser that was aired on tv--a show about how to make children pretty or something. It was cute. After that it was a show called "Art Attack"--a Dutch-language show where a guy makes fun art projects on different scales. It was neat, and Sandy really loves it. Then it was nearly 9pm! I had already consumed yet another cup of tea, and thwarted probably three attempts at more food and drink. Gigi asks if I would like to see her husband's supermarket. I say sure. She calls and someone comes over. In that time, Gigi offers me a banana she's already peeled. I manage to take only half and make her eat the other half--the first thing I've seen her eat all afternoon/evening. Zazo wakes up just as Sandy and I are leaving for the supermarket.
The supermarket--owned by the husband and his brother, I think (husband--Adl, works from 8pm to 5am and brother works during the day)--is only a 2 minute walk from the flat. It's a nearly-Metro-sized supermarket. It has literally everything--kitchen appliances, a full complement of imported shampoo/lotion/etc, tons of food, lots of imported cheese, etc etc etc etc etc. I was amazed at how many people were in the store at 9pm, and congratulated Adl on running such a successful business. He said the store was famous in Shubra. Then he asked me if I wanted anything, it was "no problem." I tried to say no, but he wouldn't take no. I came home with two boxes of sugar free 100% Apple juice, a box of tea, a package of dates and a package of apricot paste that is used to make the ramadan drink, and about 25 chocolate bars. Then I didn't see these things again for a while--I wandered the store, met people (including Adl's mother and brother), took some photos, and hung out drinking tea. When the driver came to take me home, the bags appeared in the taxi. I got home and dumped out the candy on the floor in the lounge and asked people to dig in with me! I was so full there was no way I could even think about eating more. It was exactly like halloween, only these were all full size candy bars! Amazing.

It was quite the afternoon, I must say. I spend over 6 hours with this woman/family today, ate more than I even knew I could, and got a ton of free candy and juice. Crazy. No wonder we don't stay with host families here--people will go bankrupt to host someone. Hospitality is so important, so central to the understanding of life, that having friends is a very expensive and very time consuming venture. It's amazing. One of the reasons I wanted to come here was to experience hospitality and hope that some of that would rub off on me because I think it's crucial to the future of the church. This, though, is so far beyond anything I ever expected that first I have to work on graciously accepting hospitality. Then maybe I can think about offering it one day. Wow.

(update: This morning I woke up thinking about this, and realized that it really is Biblical Hospitality (with capital letters). Think Abraham and Sarah going out of their way for three men. Think Zaccheus having Jesus in for dinner at the last minute. It's amazing what endures in this place.)

Friday, October 28, 2005

something interesting and humbling

I've never really thought about this this way. Usually I think about how poor I am, whether I'll be able to pay rent and phone and cat food and people food. This calculation is based on my YAV stipend, which is even less than a real paycheck (since they give us housing and all, and we're living simply in a foreign culture).



How rich are you? >>


I'm loaded.
It's official.
I'm the 892,729,625 richest person on earth!




The average Egyptian my age :

I'm the 4,997,590,362 richest person on earth!


Discover how rich you are! >>


Quite a discrepancy. The average annual salary for an egyptian woman age 25 is approximately two months of my stipend. Granted, if she were unmarried (as I am) she would live at home and would be completely provided for, but still. oy.

the Friday Five from RevGalBlogPals

1) Favorite Halloween Candy: chocolate bars, like fun size snickers/milky way dark/three musketeers. I also like Candy Corn in limited quantities. And M&Ms in unlimited quantities.

2) Least Favorite Halloween Candy: black licorice/good-n-plenty/etc

3) Best Costume Ever: Pumpkin. It was very realistic, I thought--and cheap because my grandmother made it. Also, I got to wear makeup (even if it was green and brown).

4) Worst Costume Ever: Pumpkin. My whole family dressed up as pumpkins once--once of the several times I did. The Pumpkin costume got significantly less appealing several wearings in.

5) A Saint you treasure (please feel free to use the definition of "Saint" that is meaningful to you and to your faith tradition and life experience): Presbyterians are kind of jesusy rather than sainty, not to mention that whole no-one-is-righteous thing, so i have trouble with the notion of a saint. I admit to being drawn to stories about Mary, and I love the Prophets. When I see icons, I usually go for holy family, or Isaiah (my fave prophet). Umm, saints: St. Columba, St. Brigid. (celtic much, teri?) And the story of St. Martin is quite remarkable and jesus-like. that's all.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

photos

okay friends, I have posted about a hundred new photos--especially in the albums "Cairo 4" and "Ramses College" so please go enjoy them! In the Cairo albums, please disregard the numbers. They are for organizing on my computer only--the photos are organized the way they should be in yahoo. Have fun!

stealth mosquitoes

I have been eaten.
Usually I'm the one doing the eating--a ton of it here, actually, because I'm hungry all the time.
Apparently the mosquitoes are hungry all the time too.

Now, you know that mosquitoes make an extremely irritating buzzing sound. Unfortunately, here in Egypt they don't, for some reason. Probably because if I could hear them I could kill them and they wouldn't get to eat me. So they stealthily roam around, unseen and unheard, and somehow even unfelt. They bite and bite--they can't seem to get enough of me. I have eight new bites on my left arm, including one on the knuckle of my ring finger and one on the inside of my wrist, right on those very obvious veins. I have ten on my right calf/ankle/foot. I am still recovering from about 10 previous bites that I scratched/rubbed in a futile attempt at relief--they became open wounds that take forever to heal, neosporin or no!

You might ask "what did you do with your AfterBite, that pen of ammonia you used to swear by?" I would respond, "I still swear by it. Unfortunately, during the past 7 weeks many of us have had bites and with 4 of us using it and the number of stealth mosquitoes (not to mention the biting black ants) it has run out and I'm still waiting for Brice to come back from the US with more." And I would show you my sad face. :-(

Evil mosquitoes.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

the top 100 books according to Time

English language books, yadda yadda, the one's i've read are in bold. what have you read? Was it good?

The Adventures of Augie March - Saul Bellow
All the King's Men - Robert Penn Warren
American Pastoral - Philip Roth
An American Tragedy - Theodore Dreiser
Animal Farm - George Orwell
Appointment in Samarra - John O'Hara
Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret - Judy Blume
The Assistant - Bernard Malamud
At Swim-Two-Birds - Flann O'Brien
Atonement - Ian McEwan
Beloved - Toni Morrison
The Berlin Stories - Christopher Isherwood
The Big Sleep - Raymond Chandler
The Blind Assassin - Margaret Atwood
Blood Meridian - Cormac McCarthy
Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
The Bridge of San Luis Rey - Thornton Wilder
Call It Sleep - Henry Roth
Catch-22 - Joseph Heller
The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger
A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess
The Confessions of Nat Turner - William Styron
The Corrections - Jonathan Franzen
The Crying of Lot 49 - Thomas Pynchon
A Dance to the Music of Time - Anthony Powell
The Day of the Locust - Nathanael West
Death Comes for the Archbishop - Willa Cather
A Death in the Family - James Agee
The Death of the Heart - Elizabeth Bowen
Deliverance - James Dickey
Dog Soldiers - Robert Stone
Falconer - John Cheever
The French Lieutenant's Woman - John Fowles
The Golden Notebook - Doris Lessing
Go Tell it on the Mountain - James Baldwin
Gone With the Wind - Margaret Mitchell
The Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
Gravity's Rainbow - Thomas Pynchon
The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
A Handful of Dust - Evelyn Waugh
The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter - Carson McCullers
The Heart of the Matter - Graham Greene
Herzog - Saul Bellow
Housekeeping - Marilynne Robinson
A House for Mr. Biswas - V.S. Naipaul
I, Claudius - Robert Graves
Infinite Jest - David Foster Wallace
Invisible Man - Ralph Ellison
Light in August - William Faulkner
The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe - C.S. Lewis
Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
Lord of the Flies - William Golding
The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien
Loving - Henry Green
Lucky Jim - Kingsley Amis
The Man Who Loved Children - Christina Stead
Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie
Money - Martin Amis
The Moviegoer - Walker Percy
Mrs. Dalloway - Virginia Woolf
Naked Lunch - William Burroughs
Native Son - Richard Wright
Neuromancer - William Gibson
Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Ishiguro
1984 - George Orwell
On the Road - Jack Kerouac
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest - Ken Kesey
The Painted Bird - Jerzy Kosinski
Pale Fire - Vladimir Nabokov
A Passage to India - E.M. Forster
Play It As It Lays - Joan Didion
Portnoy's Complaint - Philip Roth
Possession - A.S. Byatt
The Power and the Glory - Graham Greene
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie - Muriel Spark
Rabbit, Run - John Updike
Ragtime - E.L. Doctorow
The Recognitions - William Gaddis
Red Harvest - Dashiell Hammett
Revolutionary Road - Richard Yates
The Sheltering Sky - Paul Bowles
Slaughterhouse-Five - Kurt Vonnegut
Snow Crash - Neal Stephenson
The Sot-Weed Factor - John Barth
The Sound and the Fury - William Faulkner
The Sportswriter - Richard Ford
The Spy Who Came in From the Cold - John le Carre
The Sun Also Rises - Ernest Hemingway
Their Eyes Were Watching God - Zora Neale Hurston
Things Fall Apart - Chinua Achebe
To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
To the Lighthouse - Virginia Woolf
Tropic of Cancer - Henry Miller
Ubik - Philip K. Dick
Under the Net - Iris Murdoch
Under the Volcano - Malcolm Lowry
Watchmen - Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons
White Noise - Don DeLillo
White Teeth - Zadie Smith
Wide Sargasso Sea - Jean Rhys

23. I think this list has changed in the past few years, because I thought there were books on it that aren't on this list. Hmm.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Ramadan

Well, it's been two and a half weeks since Ramadan started, and here's what I have to say about Ramadan in Egypt:

I don't like it.
Why?
Well...

*There's no prepared food available during the day--most restaurants are closed until after sundown.
*There's no kusheri even when the restaurants open. Apparently it's not what people eat for dinner.
*People are mostly grumpy during the day, because they're hungry and thirsty.
*The traffic during the day, especially around 4, is REALLY REALLY bad. worse than usual.
*Muslims are supposed to abstain from eating/drinking/smoking during the day, and from all sexual activity the whole month. This means that the first two weeks or so were great as far as the harassment on the street goes. But last week was a record high in comments and touching and other inappropriate activity. I think it's finally gotten to them.
*No one does anything. It's like a monthlong vacation. Stores, businesses, government offices, schools...they open late and close early. Loitering on the sidewalk or in streets, which is like the Egyptian national pastime (in a way that puts US professional sports watching to shame), has increased about 100%.
*It is impossible to get anything done because everyone is too tired. Maybe they should eat.
*this month of fasting is supposed to be about God--about giving something up so one can focus more on prayer...about solidarity with the poor and hungry (at the end of ramadan there is a big alms-giving thing)...about giving something to God as a sign of trust that you will be provided for. Unfortunately, in Egypt it's mostly a big party. Streets are decorated. Elaborate feasts are prepared every evening. Many people eat most of the night. More meat and more sweets are eaten during Ramadan in Cairo than any other time of the year. Estimates are that as much as 85% of the meat eaten during the year is eaten during Ramadan. Most people gain weight during the month they are fasting. (well, between eating bad-for-you-food all night and being lazy during the day, duh.)

This is my outsider perspective, of course, but it's definitely my experience. oy. Thankfully, Ramadan will end on the third-ish of November, and there will be a big three-day feast, and then life will go back to normal. Thank goodness.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

soul restoration

So, I've been reading Psalm 23 today. You know the one, the same one we repeat ad nauseum at funerals, and at my home church has been liberated and is used every time we have communion, and at CNC I preached on--rather memorably, if I do say so myself. It's the longest bit of Scripture I have memorized, and definitely the only King James thing I'm likely to know. So when I read it this morning, i was trying really hard to pay attention.

What did I find? "he restores my soul." (or, in King James, restoreth) I'm not really sure what this means, but I suddenly had a sense that my soul needed some restoring. After that, I couldn't read it without stopping there. And tonight, as I was cooking, I was listening to David Crowder. He has lots of songs I really appreciate in spite of their gender exclusive language (I know lots of them are about Jesus so it's okay, and some of it I just overlook). Some things, like the first line of the first song ("Lord, I'm tired"), were just affirming and healing. And some were remarkably profound, like the affirmation "you are the greener pastures, you are the quiet waters." Talk about something (or someone) that can restore the soul...even when you didn't know it was heavy and confused and maybe a little stress-fractured.

I was asked to think "where am I?" as I read. All I could think was that of all the places mentioned in the psalm, they were probably all soul-restoring. Amazing.

The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside still waters,
he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths for his name's sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me,
your rod and staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies,
you anoint my head with oil,
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.

bet you thought that was out of style...

Just a few minutes ago I saw some kids playing kick the can outside. I'm not even kidding--four boys were kicking a fayrouz* can around the playyard outside. Hilarious.
(*fayrouz: a carbonated fruity beverage, rather like fanta, but comes in a wider variety of flavors and isn't as syrupy nasty as some fanta is.)

In other news, I wish I had camel eyelashes. Today was windy and the sand/pollution was blowing right into my eyes as I walked the classes to and from the library--because we walk behind the bus yard, which is covered in dust and sand. ugh.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

day in and day out

Here in Egypt I definitely do a lot of the same things I would do at home or probably almost anywhere else in the world, but often these things take much longer, take more effort, or are simply so different that it's a little mind boggling. Here are just a few of those things...

1. Taking a shower. You may have seen the pictures in my first photo album. My shower is approximately 2' by 2', and has no shower curtain. I am happy not to have a shower curtain because the shower is so small that I would probably have panic attacks if I was closed in the space. However, it is very interesting to take a shower in this space. The shower head points straight down and often splashes onto the floor or sometimes even the toilet. When I am under the water, it flows freely out onto the floor. By the end of my shower, there is probably a gallon of water standing on my bathroom floor. I have a squeegee on a long handle, which is supposed to enable me to move the water into the drain on the floor. Unfortunately, the drain in my bathroom is on the other side of the toilet from the shower, and my squeegee is probably 5 years old. Not much water gets moved, though I do it anyway to pretend that the grout in the tile is going to last forever. For some reason, taking a shower and squeegeeing the floor takes about 10 minutes longer than taking a shower at home. I don't understand this at all, but whatever.

2. As Egypt's culture becomes more conservative, one of the "new" things that has happened is that going outside with wet hair is a huge faux pas. Apparently it means you've been up to something inappropriate, because why else would you need to take a shower? Since men here already think western women are loose and can be treated as such (see earlier post: "eew"), it's best not to test this whole wet-hair thing. Which means that I must get up about 2 hours before I need to leave, so my hair can dry. This week Sarah and I bought a shared blow dryer, with a diffuser and everything, so I can damage my hair to once again cave to cultural norms. I don't plan to use it every day, but even this past couple of days I have noticed that blowdrying my hair takes longer than I remember it taking at home. The electrical system here is different and appliances work differently. hmm.

3. Crossing the street. Most of you have read already my newsletter in which I discuss the perpetual game of frogger that is Cairo city streets. It is very dangerous out there, but I have become quite proficient at dodging cars, motorbikes, donkey carts, bicycles, horses, and McDonald's delivery mopeds. However, it takes quite a bit of effort to cross the street, and sometimes it takes several minutes, so you have to really want to go somewhere.

4. Eating. One must first go to the store to get food--no easy task. Leave the school compound, cross the street, wend your way through the large groups of people at the bus stop right in front of ZamZams. Get inside, beware if it's prayer time because the shop owner spreads his prayer rug in the middle of the store. The shop is about 12x12 (feet) (maybe) and is crammed with stuff. You can get sandwich bread, beans/lentils, pasta/rice, tomato paste, ketchup and mustard, NesQuick, candy and cookies, milk and juice (orange, apple, mango, pineapple...only sometimes can you find the no-sugar-added kind which is best), yogurt and two types of cheese, toilet paper, and a strange variety of other things, most of which you don't need, at ZamZams. For eggs you go to the egg man, a few doors down. For bread you normally go to the bakery just a few doors before ZamZams, but during Ramadan the bakery is closed. For fruits and vegetables, you go to the suuk--about a 15 minute walk and another street crossing away. For other items (like cereal, a wider variety of juice, peanut butter/jelly, sandwich meat (which I obviously don't need but some of my fellow YAVs do), "normal" cheese, any western food like Mac-n-Cheese, or Dr. Pepper) you must go to a supermarket--like the MetroMarket, AlphaMarket, or Carrefour. MetroMarket is easily accessible by metro (25 minutes, 1 pound 50 round trip), by the tram (20-ish minutes, 50 piastres round trip), or by taxi (about 15-20 pounds round trip). Alpha Market is only accessible by taxi or really long walk. Carrefour requires a car. What I'm trying to say is: you don't just run out for something. You have to plan a little bit, run to the right place at the right time, and be prepared for them not to have it/not to be open.

Once you've got the food, you have to cook it. Now, I'm the first to say that cooking takes time. But when packaged food is readily available you forget how much longer cooking from scratch, with extremely fresh ingredients, takes. At home I might use a pre-packaged tomato sauce, add sauteed veggies, and put over pasta. Here I have to wash the veggies really well first, I have to make the tomato sauce from paste and fresh (and sometimes canned) tomatoes, cook pasta/rice (no instant rice here), and then I'll be able to eat. And when you live in a culture where prepared food is common (fuul, tameyya, kusheri, etc) and ridiculously cheap, then when you have to take time to cook fresh food it seems like such a hassle. Now that it's Ramadan and prepared food isn't available, eating is taking much more time and effort than it did in September--or than it will in November through August!

5. Washing dishes. This is such a hassle it's ridiculous. I make so many dishes with all the steps in cooking (see above) that my dishes pile up like crazy in my one-part-not-very-deep-sink. The faucet is placed much too high for a sink so shallow, so water splashes everywhere as soon as I think about turning on the water. Should water hit a dish or, god forbid, a spoon, then not only will my dishes NOT get clean but my entire kitchen and most likely all the clothes I'm wearing will get drenched. It's quite an experience.

~~~~

This is just a small glimpse of everyday life. I am not saying these things are bad in any way (except the dish washing, maybe), just different. I have noticed I am more tired here though I feel like I do less, and I think it has much to do with how much more effort it takes to do things. Combined with the heat and the pollution, it's a very interesting life here. So far, so good! :-)