Thursday, September 29, 2005


arabic is finished, finally. the "exam" today was bearable. tomorrow il-hafla! (party) Tonight several of us celebrated the end of Arabic class by going out to Chilis for dinner. Yes, you read right: Chilis, on the Nile (literally--on an anchored cruise ship on the Nile, Zamalek side). lettuce, mozzarella sticks, milkshake, and amazing dessert. Most of our group got a hamburger-and-fries fix. Good times.

Coming soon: a post about our trip to Coptic Cairo and a sidebar called 'adventures in arabic' which will showcase some of our arabic-language missteps.

FYI: Tonight (Sept. 29) the time here in Egypt changes away from Daylight Savings. So in half an hour we are all going to set our clocks back an hour. Which means:
mom--you are now nine hours behind here;
atlanta mom--you are now 6 hours behind here...
until y'all do your time change dance over there.
so if anyone wants to call, please take that into account. thanks.

I start reading stories on Monday morning! I got my school schedule today, and it looks pretty good. no early mornings for me! My first class is at 10 on Monday and Tuesday, and at 10:40 on Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday. I do four storytimes on Monday and two all the other days for a total of 12 40-minute periods, with 20 6-year-old-girls in each period. AAA!! In the afternoons on T/Th I'll be helping with the English-Enrichment-Activity period in three classes each day (30 minutes each class of 40 girls). Apparently part of my job is to come up with some of these activities, too. hmmm....

anyway, i need to go to bed. all that food made me tired. goodnight...

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Adventures in the Wilderness

This weekend we took quite the trip: to the Sinai, with our Arabic school (Dar Camboni). Dar Camboni is a Roman Catholic school that teaches Arabic--both classical and Egyptian Colloquial--as well as a variety of other courses in things like "Interreligious Dialogue" and "Islamic Studies". In addition to our colloquial class and the very large classical class, there was a group from the local Catholic parish (to which the school is attached) called St. Joseph's. So we were two large tour buses, headed out of Cairo. Each bus was completely full--47 seats, 47 people. We drove about two hours before reaching the Suez canal, which we went under. I didn't even know there was a tunnel there, but there is. About an hour later we stopped at a hotel/beach for the afternoon. We swam in the Red Sea (the Gulf of Suezpart), hung out on the beach, people-watched, and some of us (girls) got ogled and asked for photos and conversations. It was clearly an Egyptian vacation spot, because we were the only westerners there. It is also quite possibly the place (or very like the place) where Moses and the Hebrews crossed into the wilderness. It's a pretty long way across there--we could only barely make out the cliffs on the other side of hte gulf. It's amazing to think that even happened (or sort of happened) and that we have been to the place! it was a pretty fun afternoon, but long. We were at the beach for nearly 7 hours! "Hot" and "exhausting" are the two words besides "fun" and "gorgeous" that I would use. I like the beach, but not for seven hours at a time. Anyway, at 7pm we got back on the bus and headed for St. Catherine's. We stopped for dinner and everyone at our table got spaghetti (the cheapest thing on the menu) which did NOT make our server happy! It was good, but several of us had some issues with it later (stomach cramps and such). At that moment, though, it was very tasty!!

We arrived at St. Catherine's at 11pm, after two checkpoints--one that included passport checks--and we hung out in the little cafe area for a while. Jen and I had a definite restroom experience there at the monastery! We paid one pound each (about 20 cents US) to go in the restroom. Inside we found three stalls, each equipped with a lovely tiled hole in the ground. As we were both wearing pants (not skirts--who hikes up Mt. Sinai in the middle of the night in a skirt?) we had some difficulty with this. Luckily, I've experienced this before (anyone ever been to the bathroom at the Damascus airport? gross.) so when Jen called to me "uh, Teri, how do I do this?" I was able to call back "brace yourself using your arms and the walls. and pray." It was...ummm...gross. Luckily, neither of us peed on ourselves, so we survived. The scary part is that we paid to use this bathroom. anyway...

we began the hike around 1am. Several of our group members took off at high speed, while Jen, Jason, and I (accompanied by one of our Arabic instructors, Ashraf) took a more leisurely pace. Last year our group took camels up the first 2/3 of the mountain, when it's a sandy trail, so I had no idea what a hard hike it would be in the first part. We definitely had to rest several times. While it might be trail, it's sand and rock and goes at a pretty steep incline some of the time. The trail is about 6 kilometers long. It's a good workout, I can tell you that! Part way up I REALLY needed to use the restroom again (dang extra water bottle at the bottom! I was so dehydrated after the busride and beachy afternoon that I succumbed and bought a water bottle and drank it all before we climbed). I was contemplating going behind a rock somehow (I know I complained about the hole, but whatever) since we were pretty alone on the trail, when magically one of the bedouin cafe's had a toilet sign. I was so excited to see an outhouse about 100 feet down a little path behind the cafe, and simultaneously scared out of my mind that there might be a hole out there that I'd have to squat on. Luckily, Jen went with me and held a flashlight and sang a little song while I was inside. Also luckily, there was a compost toilet so I could cover it with tissue and sit down. Whew! It was dark out there, though! wow. after that I felt much better and hiked in the dark more cheerfully. I know a lot of this has been about bathrooms, so I'm done with that now (FYI). Anyway, we were hiking in the middle of the night and Jason (our resident astronomy expert) kept telling us what was in the sky. It was a convenient excuse to stop and rest frequently, because the sky is so clear and so dark and so beautiful that not to stop and enjoy it seemed like a crime. Absolutely gorgeous--we could see the seven sisters, every star in Orion, several of the astrological constellations, and thousands of other stars. We saw Jupiter too, very near the horizon when we began climbing. The higher we got, the more constellations we could see, too. The moon was pretty bright, though, so there were some that weren't very visible. Anyway, we kept on trucking (well, walking), occasionally being accosted by camels and their bedouins asking "camel, camel? very good camel. 4 more kilometers..." etc etc etc. Many times we were tempted but we resisted. However, we often turned around to look at something and found a camel literally inches away from our faces! The camels are sturdy pack animals, very sure footed and whatnot, but they do NOT avoid people. They walk wherever they're used to walking, and if you're in that spot than you're going to find a camel in your face, or a camel rider's foot brushing you, or something. So funny. Camels are simultaneously beautiful and awkward looking. They have cute faces with big eyes and long eyelashes, but they have spindly legs and a gait that looks like they're going to break something with every step.

After the camel trail ends there are 750 steps to the top of the mountain. Ashraf (who rode a camel halfway up the trail because of "leg cramps") kept saying that we should just go now, no more resting, etc etc etc. We just laughed at him. Jason still has a cough from his cold of two weeks ago, and I was fast nearing the end of my second bottle of water (I only took two up with me). We rested several times. As we got to the top, I waited for Jason to recover from a coughing fit and we took hands and took the last step together. It was about 4 am when we reached the summit. We took the "best spot" at the edge of the top, near the chapel, rented a blanket, snuggled up (Jen, me, and Jason, anyway), and attempted to sleep against a rock. It was so cold, and so uncomfortable, that not much sleeping happened. At 6 we were awakened by Ashraf's phone alarm and we sat up and watched the first light creep over the horizon. It was beautiful. So orange and blue. Jason was the first to see the sliver of sun come up, and after that everyone was taking pictures like crazy. I looked around and discovered that there were hundreds of people standing behind and around us, watching the sunrise. I could hear people singing on another part of the mountain top. We had no idea where the rest of our group was, but they were obviously (according to Ashraf) in an inferior location despite their early arrival. I took quite a few pictures, as you can see in my photo album, but I opted to watch the sunrise this time because last year I'd taken so many photos that I missed the watching. It was gorgeous and SO FAST! It takes only a few minutes for the whole sun to appear over the horizon. As light crept into the southeastern sinai, we could see in vivid relief all the mountains around us, and it was completely gorgeous. Incredible, really. It was worth the hard work to get up there, the scary bathrooms, the stairs in the dark, the sleeping on a rock in the cold, to see that.

Once the sun is up, people immediately head down the mountain. We stayed a few extra minutes, taking pictures, looking around, seeing how Mt. Sinai casts a pyramid-shaped shadow on the neighboring mountain, getting some pictures of ourselves up there, etc. Then we started the trek down, with the 900 other people who'd come up. It was crazy and slow going, with so many people on the stairs. When we finally came to the bottom of the 750 stairs, there were lots of bedouins around trying to get people to ride camels down, or offering their guide services for those who wanted to take the Stairs of Repentance, or selling things. One bedouin offered to take Jen down on a camel for 60 pounds, which she refused and asked for 40. He stood around and finally offered 50, and she asked me if I wanted to go too. My response was, of course, "not for fifty!" I had been thinking of riding a camel down because last year's camel experience was so much fun. There was no way I was taking those stairs again, so the options were walking or riding down the camel trail. The guy continued to stand around even after we'd refused, and finally he came down to 40, at which point Jen and I took him up on his offer. Jason, Jennifer, and Ashraf walked down and Jen and I got hoisted onto camels. My bedouin put me on a camel, gave him a pat on the rear, and left. My camel and I were, once again, leaderless, and he went peacefully on down the trail without any help. So now both my camel riding experiences were sans guide, and I've survived. I threw my leg over the front and hooked my foot on his neck, I made all the right noises (clicking and slurping) whenever he stopped, and down we went! I was even able to take some photos from the camel because I didn't need to hold on. The only thing about coming down that was different from going up (aside from it being light and all that) was that down is much rougher. You bounce more in the saddle coming down, because they have to take steps down rather than up so it's just not as smooth. I definitely have some bruised thighs and lower back from the saddle. Having said that, riding a camel is SO FUN that it was completely worth the 40 pounds and the minor bruising. As I had no guide to ask, I named my camel myself--his name was Hawaby. He was a very good camel--"camela kwayes awy". Near the end of our trip--maybe 300 or so meters from the camel corral--the guide for the two british women behind me (on two camels linked together) came up to me and handed me the lead for their camels and walked off! So here I was, guideless, and now in charge of two more camels besides my own! I may be a minorly experienced camel rider, but not this experienced! The front camel of those two stopped and my left arm went behind me as my camel went on and I clung to the lead for their camels. I clicked and slurped and finally her reticent camel came on--partially, I think, because my camel wasn't about to stop! He could see the food and water ahead and was going straight there, not stopping GO or collecting 200 dollars! Anyway, we got to the camel corral safely and some other bedouin came up to help us down. My camel went straight for the trough, only to be rebuked by a slap on the neck and told to sit down first. He sat down and I got off, at which point the front british woman (who'd been commenting for quite some time that I seemed to know what I was doing..."she's even taking photos" etc) said "she can even get down by herself!" It was so funny, as I watched her try to finangle herself out of the camel saddle. Anyway, the bedouin who'd handed me the ropes was saying that my camel just wanted baksheesh (water, I thought, but whatever). I asked him if the camel did or he did, and he just smiled. I gave him a pound. I hope he gets some good bread or something. Anyway, it was a good time.

By the time we got down, Jen and I needed another trip to the hole-in-the-ground bathroom. On our way there, we passed Sister Enrica (the nun who runs our school and who organized this trip) as she was about to enter the monastery. When we came out of the restroom we passed her again on her way back to her room! Granted, there was a line in the bathroom, but still! She was quick. We went into the monastery and found HUGE crowds there, which explains her quick exit. we glimpsed moses' well, did a walk through of the church (avoiding the glare of one of the brothers whose job was obviously to keep people from touching or photographing any of the hundreds of really old icons in the sanctuary), visited the burning bush, took some photos, and got out. We were exhausted, and tired of people, and hungry and thirsty and ready to go. The monastery was packed with people, which made me sad. Also, the icon gallery costs 25 pounds, so we decided not to go in because we were too tired to enjoy it for 25 pounds. So out we went...we waited a little while, had some trail mix (pretzel sticks, dried apricots, golden raisins, almonds, and chocolate chips) was really good both on the mountain and at the bottom...then walked back out to the bus and were on our way. I was so exhausted that when I tried to look at my pictures on my camera I couldn't keep my eyes open. I was so glad I'd brought my travel pillow (mm...Fom...)! I slept almost the whole way back. Uncomfortable though I was, crammed in my little bus seat, I leaned against the window and barely even woke up when we had to show our passports at a checkpoint. We stopped for a long while somewhere, and I woke up then because it was hot with the sun coming in my window. There are conflicting reports about that stop--whether it was a flat tire on the other bus or a checkpoint inspection. In any case, it was half an hour with the a/c off. Later we made another stop for food, and boy was I glad that I brought so much food with me! The menu at this little cafeteria showed a price of 9.95 for some of the sandwiches, but when you asked for one at that price they refused and charged 20 pounds! A can of Sprite, a bottle of water, a small ice cream bar...these things all cost 10 pounds! It was ridiculous. I refused to buy anything when they were so obviously overcharging. In Cairo you can get a 1-liter bottle of water for a pound. You can get a liter of seven-up for 2.50. you can get a cup of the best ice cream you've ever eaten for 1.50. tameyya sandwiches are 60 piasters at the place down the street from us. It was insane, the prices these people were asking from the people on the tour bus. What made it worse was that a large percentage of the people on the buses paid it and ate there! I got back on the bus and ate my pb&j, my pear, my remaining cereal, some trail mix, a box of mango juice, and some water--all in air conditioned comfort (unlike the cafeteria) and all for less than a coke would have cost me inside. Crazy.

I tried to stay awake for the last part of the journey, but I just couldn't. I missed the tunnel under the Suez canal on the way back, and I woke up somewhere around Heliopolis. I watched our bus pass by Ramses College (where we live) and head back to Dar Camboni (on Zamalek, an island in the Nile). When we finally got there, we got in taxis and headed home. Once home--at about 8pm--a few of us ran out for food (mmmm...tameyya and fuul sandwiches!) and ice cream (two sandwiches and a scoop of ice cream for 3.70 LE), ate, showered for a long time (to get off the beach/ocean/sweat/dirt/mountain/bus/sleeping ickiness), and went to bed. I went to bed at 10, the earliest I've gone to sleep since arriving here, and I got up this morning at 10 when the sun coming in my window was finally unbearable. I studied not even a little bit this whole three-day-weekend, so tomorrow morning after our breakfast meeting I'll be studying like crazy! I know I'm either the best or second-best student in my class and our main teacher assigned me some homework: to write (in arabic, obviously) a narrative about our journey to Mt. Sinai. I need to do that tomorrow morning. I only hope I know enough words to do it without having to constantly look things up. :-0 send me happy thoughts and good brainwaves...I need them!

This post is so incredibly long that I'm stopping now. I hope you got a glimpse of our trip into the Sinai wilderness....goodnight!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

buffy character personality quiz


Dawn Summers
54% amorality, 63% passion, 63% spirituality, 72% selflessness
Dawn is a person driven by her love for her friends and her desire to make a difference. Perhaps you are, too. You're willing to do whatever is necessary to do what is right for those you care about, and sometimes this can get you in a little bit of trouble.

Most of all, however, you have a heart of gold.


busy week

it has been an insanely busy week. It was our first week with five days in a row of Arabic class. That was not very fun. It got progressively hotter all week long, until friday was easily 100 degrees with humidity--ugh. It was literally oppressively hot. All we wanted to do was sleep. The power has been going out a lot lately too--today it was out for two hours. Overnight it often goes out and I wake up in the morning to an un-air-conditioned room.
This week I have:
had a birthday party for one of our fellow YAVs;
Had dinner with a PCUSA mission coworker;
had a group dinner with some ELCA and RCA missionaries, the St. Andrews pastor, and some other people;
met with the head-honcho principal and the primary school principal at Ramses College for Girls;
attended the RCG graduation ceremony;
had 5 days of Arabic class;
studied Arabic approximately 10 hours outside of class;
eaten pizza hut twice and kraft mac-n-cheese once;
been to the suuk twice;
walked to the protestant seminary;
found our local "department store";
went to church on friday;
visited a western-style grocery store (not the two chains we've been to before) and bought balsamic vinegar to make salad dressing;
watched 9 episodes of buffy the vampire slayer, and converted at least two people to buffy;
watched a movie (how to lose a guy in 10 days);
slept a little;
checked my email more than I ever did at home.

It's been a busy week.
This coming week we have a busy week as well: I'll be at a workshop for RCG english teachers monday morning, CEOSS (Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Services) on Tuesday morning, Egyptian museum one morning, plus Arabic class four afternoons for four hours each day. Friday we take our trip to Sinai! We leave Friday morning (with our Arabic school), go to a Red Sea beach for the middle of the day (like 7 hours or something), then continue on to St. Catherine's, arriving about two hours before we begin the climb at 1am. We'll reach the top for sunrise, have mass (our arabic school is a roman catholic, vatican-sponsored, run-by-a-nun place), come down, visit the monastery and the burning bush, then get back on our bus and come home on Saturday by dinner. fun! We aren't sure yet whether there will be some arabic-only rule for speaking on the trip--we hope not!

We visited Maadi this week--our Friday dinner with a group of people was down there. Maadi is the suburb (to the south) that is almost entirely populated by westerners, especially american expats. Maadi is like a different world--it was quiet, had little traffic, lots of trees and other foliage, people had domestic animals and SUVs, there were grocery stores that sell mostly imported food...there were no people out in the streets, no horns honking, less was crazy. I think I prefer living where we do--in the heart of things, where Arabic is necessary and the people live like Egyptians because they are Egyptians. Maadi was like being in Oak Park, IL or Decatur, GA. Not like we were in another country at all. very strange.

I think that's all for now because I have much studying to do. happy sunday, all!

Saturday, September 10, 2005

adventures in uploading

It took several tries on our severely-slower-than-usual internet connection, but I have posted new photos, including the attempts to take pics of the pyramids from a moving bus, pics of last night's visit to al-azhar park, photos of some of the other YAVs, and a few pictures of the neighborhood. Enjoy!

In other news: 5 of our group have just left for the opera Aida, which should be good. I've elected to stay in tonight because I'm tired and I've seen the opera before. It's great and I love it, but I need a night off!! The past two days we've been in all-day training for teaching English as a foreign language. That means that our weekend has been reduced to Sunday only--which is a work day here in Egypt! We'll go to church in the morning (which is strange, actually--most people go to church on Friday, the first day of the weekend, and what we did last week), and in the late afternoon is our group reflection/etc time. So I'll have to try to get some Arabic studying in between all that!

You can tell that Cairo is used to foreigners: when we have been out to nicer restaurants (like last night at the Lakeside Cafe in al-Azhar park, and last week at ferfelas) they have menu items marked "vegetarian" and the waiters will often make last-minute changes for you. Last night we used a set menu--people in our group of 20-ish chose from mixed grill (various meats) or veal. When I said I was vegetarian, not only did they come up with a pasta dish that was great, but they asked me precisely how spicy I wanted it. When they brought appetizers, I asked if what they put in front of me was vegetarian, and the waiter immediately looked horrified, said no, and took it away. A minute or so later they brought me one that was all cheese, no meat. (Vegan would probably be harder!) Anyway, it was so nice. Being vegetarian here is not hard at all--especially if you mostly cook for yourself. Fruits and vegetables are abundant, they are local, fresh and beautiful in season, and you can easily wash and cook them. Also, bread is very cheap, the local pita-type bread, called aysh baladi, is government subsidized and costs between 5 and 25 piastres per "loaf" (pita), which is less than 5 cents even at its most expensive. The meat you can buy from a western-style supermarket is "probably" safe, but the meat at the suuk or from street shops and vendors sits out, there are flies everywhere, it's hot and sunny and polluted, and there's no way you could pay me enough to eat meat from one of those places. I would rather die, since eating it would probably give me some horrendous disease that would cause immense pain and a prolonged dying process. ugh.

Anyway, that's enough for today. I need to study a little, and relax more.


teacher training, arabic class, meetings, dinners, studying, cooking, shopping, oy!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

adventures in suuk shopping

This morning we went to the big suuk in Abbaseya, a fruit/vegetable/everything open-air market that runs several blocks long, about a 10 minute walk away from where we live. On the way we passed either a polling place or some kind of political gathering--a bunch of people talking excitedly, and with Mubarak posters and postcards everywhere. We got stared at and talked to a lot, but I don't know enough Arabic yet to know if it was good or bad.

At the suuk we saw all kinds of things and all kinds of people--tomatoes, potatoes, greens, grains, pasta, zucchini, cucumber, mango, pears, apples, grapes, onions, eggplant, etc etc etc, plus kitchen utensils, pans, colanders, bowls, etc, plus hair bands backpacks and housewares--it was crazy and fun and wonderful. Prices are quite low--I got a kilo of potatoes (three very large potatoes, with which I'm making potato salad this weekend), a kilo of onions, a quarter kilo of grapes and a kilo of apples (split with Sarah), all for about...mmm...less than 10 pounds (3 of which sarah paid me for apples). That's less than 2 USdollars. Amazing! Other group members got green beans, zucchini, bell peppers, eggplant, and tomatoes. We made a stir fry and served it over rice with fresh tomatoes on top. It was SO GOOD. Garlic powder, salt and pepper, basil, emeril essence and soy sauce can do amazing things. Tomorrow night we girls (all four of us, assuming Jen feels better) are going straight from Arabic class to a new huge western-style supermarket while the boys take the van home and maybe, god willing, make dinner! Excellent.

I spent most of the afternoon studying, so no pictures loaded today. Maybe tomorrow. Also tomorrow, hopefully: Adventures in Arabic...once I've studied enough to be able to tell you something intelligently!

This is random, but fab: tonight I watched Buffy (1.1 and 1.2) with Sarah, a Buffy virgin. I'm evangelizing for Buffy, since evanglizing for JC is illegal. :-) She's converted, I think!! yay!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

adventures in photo ops

Today we took a trip to Fayoum, a city about an hour and a half south of here. We went to celebrate the laying of a cornerstone of a new Synod of the Nile School--a secondary "language" school. It will be built behind the "American Mission School for Girls." While there, we were treated like celebrities--incessantly had our picture taken by the "official" photographer, constantly followed and videotaped by the TV man, introduced and asked to stand during the speeches by the mayor/clergy/principal/president of schools/etc. It was crazy. We also "toured" Fayoum a bit--we visited the famous water wheels (only a few left now, none in the city functional, just decorative and historical). Several in our group got their first taste of being a westerner in a middle eastern country--we were besieged by street vendors trying to sell us baskets, toy camels made of reed, etc. they just kept coming and asking and asking and asking--even when you say "la" they simply lower the price, hoping that you are just bargaining with them. Two of our group members bought baskets--bargained to GREAT prices of about 50 piastres apiece (down from 15 pounds as the merchants first offer!).

On our bus trip to Fayoum I got my first glimpse of the Pyramids. I knew how big they were and everything, but the road goes so near that you can actually FEEL how big they are!! These things are huge. And let me just tell you about trying to take a picture of them from a moving bus on a crowded and lumpy street. We had the windows open, so I was standing at my seat, my camera cord wrapped around my arm, with my camera out the window, trying to get a photo of a pyramid between trees, cars and trucks, the plateau, etc. It was insane. I probably took about 15 pictures before I got one that actually had a pyramid in it. Perhaps tomorrow I will load all of those pictures, just so you can see the process I went through trying to take a picture of a pyramid. It was hilarious and frustrating all at the same time. Every time I thought I had it, we sped up, slowed down, got passed by a truck, or my camera reacted too slowly (no flash (daytime and all that)=slower shutter speed). OY!!

In other news, Arabic class is okay for now. Crazy fast, and with one teacher so mean he borders on evil, and with a book that makes me crazy because the script is so small that it's impossible to read the vowel signs, but okay. I am good with languages, so I've been having a relatively easy time. Also, I've studied Hebrew (obviously) which is a sister tongue to Arabic. Some of our group are really struggling, so they need some supportive thoughts and encouraging prayers.

Tomorrow is the big day--Election Day in Egypt! We have no arabic class, government offices are closed, and no one knows what the Muslim Brotherhood is going to do, so we've been warned by nearly everyone to stay inside tomorrow. Carole says, however, we can go out, just not to downtown. Our neighborhood is harmless, and we need to eat, so we're going to the fruit and vegetable market tomorrow morning. I'll be very interested to see what happens with this, and even more interested in what happens after the election--particularly with the US pressure to have "democracy" here. We will see!!

I think this is enough for now. Not pretty and not well written, but a few snapshots of life in Cairo today. Visual snapshots coming soon...

Sunday, September 04, 2005

adventures in kusheri...long term

Kusheri is an egyptian dish made with macaroni, vermicelli, spaghetti (sometimes), fried onions, tomato sauce, lentils, the occasional chickpea, and "spices". It is one of the best foods I have ever eaten. It costs 1 Egyptian pound for a dinner-sized portion. With the current exchange rate of approximately 5.8 pounds to the US dollar, I could eat Kusheri every evening for dinner and spend about $5.50 per month. That is roughly the same price as one venti caramel mocha frappucino from Starbucks, including Chicago taxes and a small tip for your local barista. One coffee, or 30 nights of dinner. It's insane.
However, the average young person working a government job (ie tourist police or some such thing) makes about 40-50 Egyptian pounds per month. So for him it would be 3/4 of his monthly salary, just spent on dinner. Teachers normally start out making 200 egyptian pounds per month, which would make a daily kusheri meal about 1/7 of the salary. No wonder bread is subsidized by the government and costs 5 piastres per "loaf" of aysh baladi--the brown pita bread. 5 piastres is roughly half of 1 cent. things here are very cheap...but then you realize that people get paid so little that even very cheap things are too expensive. it's crazy. To compare: the 50 LE per month salary for the tourist police, the 200 LE per month for the teacher, and 1300 LE a month for the PCUSA mission volunteer. Granted, the idea is that we'll save money to travel in the country (so we can get to know more about where we live and the people in the country) but still. It's a little insane. I was thinking I could save half my stipend every month for travel. Now it seems maybe more than that would be appropriate, if I really want to understand what people's lives are like here, to really be a part of the community. Hmm...

Well, I think that's enough musing for tonight. My kusheri-filled belly and I are going to fill up water bottles at the filter and head for bed. My air conditioner stopped working last night, so if it gets hot i'm coming to sleep in the very ac-ed computer room. If I can't sleep, you may hear from me again. lol!

tomorrow: grocery shopping in our neighborhood! woohoo!

adventures in internet quizzes

Your IQ Is 120

Your Logical Intelligence is Exceptional
Your Verbal Intelligence is Genius
Your Mathematical Intelligence is Exceptional
Your General Knowledge is Above Average

well, that was fun.

Adventures in Sufism

Last night we went to the citadel (fortified by Saladin to fend off the Crusaders, but never actually needed because they were fended off in Palestine). It's huge and amazing and well preserved. It is also where the Sufi Dancers (Whirling Dervishes) "perform" their prayers three nights a week, for an audience. It was AMAZING. The music was awesome, the dancers were great, and the whirling dervishes could whirl forever. The first one (who came on about 40 minutes into the evening) whirled solo (with some surrounding dancers/drummers) for 30 minutes without even thinking about stopping in spite of coughing. After he was done there was a musical interlude, then three dervishes came out and whirled together for about half an hour. It was very cool.
Sufism is the mystical branch of Islam, kind of like the mystics of medieval Catholicism. The Whirling Dervishes are, I think, a sect within Sufism and they use whirling as a way to work themselves into a trance and thus a deeper meditation, which brings them closer to God. It felt kind of weird to watch this as a performance, and then to applaud at the end, but it was amazing and beautiful, so I did. And I did so with only a small amount of shame at being a witness to something like this. Here are some pics, and there are more in my yahoo photos (link on the left sidebar).


In other news, I hope you are all thinking about ways to help Katrina victims. It is such a huge disaster that it's all over the news here too, and I've been reading the NY Times coverage. I am appalled at the way the situation has been handled, and especially with the news (news to me, anyway) that funding for the levee system to be finished was pulled in order to fund the war in Iraq. UGH!

Also in other news, I heard that a few hours ago Chief Justice Rehnquist died. This makes me sad on so many levels, from his family's grieving to the pain he was in and the lengths he went to to try to heal, to the fact that there are now two vacancies on the Supreme Court and an imbecile president in charge of filling them. I hope this goes better than I think it will.

Now I am hungry, and Jason just walked in with a sandwich that made me extremely jealous. I'm going to eat now. And to try to stay clean. ha!

adventures in boxed beverages

This week we have done a lot! We've been to the grocery (a western supermarket, sadly, because our local grocer is on vacation until monday), ridden the Metro (the mass transit train system, partly above and partly below ground), visited Care With Love (an organization that cares for children with cancer, that trains home health care workers, and a variety of other of the volunteers (Jay) is going to be working there this year) to attend a graduation ceremony for the home health training program, taken a felucca (boat) ride on the Nile, had several fabulous meals, and started Arabic class.

For this post, I first want to share with you how grocery stores work. They look just like ours, except almost all the product packaging is in Arabic. Duh. Luckily, the back side is often in English or French, so I'm doing okay with that so far. Beverages here (juice, milk, etc) mostly come in hermetically sealed boxes. I purchased a box of mango juice and a box of milk. When I went to open them in the morning so I could have breakfast, here's what happened:

I pulled the plastic tab. The milk one broke and I had to cut a hole in the top with a knife. The mango juice plastic opening came completely off, leaving me with just the hole in the box, which I am now covering with the plastic tab when it's in the fridge. Great. It was a fantastic introduction to the ingenuity and flexibility needed to live in another country!