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.


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.


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 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


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


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.

*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! :-)

Monday, October 17, 2005

too many internet quizzes

Your Hidden Talent

Your natural talent is interpersonal relations and dealing with people.
You communicate well and are able to bring disparate groups together.
Your calming presence helps everything go more smoothly.
People crave your praise and complements.

mmm, food....

You Are Japanese Food

Strange yet delicious.
Contrary to popular belief, you're not always eaten raw.

Sunday, October 16, 2005


my birthday is this Friday, the 21st (which you probably already know).
Some people have asked what they can do.
*You can send me a card. I won't get it for a while at this point, but I love mail and there is absolutely no shame in me spreading my birthday out for as long as the mail takes! Email me for the address if you don't already have it.
*You cannot send me a present or package. The customs people will open it and possibly steal it. If they don't steal it, they'll probably ask me to pay for it. This means you should not use my Amazon wishlist this year. sorry, folks.
*You can send me magazines in flat brown envelopes. I like Cosmo. (yes, I'm a dork, but I have to get some fluff somewhere!) We get Oprah, Time, and Newsweek (eventually). Again, email me for the address.
*If you are one of those bizarre people who insist that presents are required, you can send one for my parents. They need it more than I do, and frankly they probably deserve a present more because they've put up with me (and made me into the fabulous person I am) for 25 years. Email me for the address.
*If you are desperate to give me something, you can email me to ask for details about how to contribute to our Christmas trip to Bethlehem and Jerusalem.

Thank you for thinking of me as I have a birthday far away from home!
Thank you also for thinking of my mom as she is very sick on my birthday for the first time.

adventures shopping?

Here in Cairo there is a limited supply of English speaking churches, and while Arabic churches probably provide a great "in" to the culture and the community, I can't understand what's going on and I really need to worship in a place where I know what people are saying. So far we have been worshipping at St. Andrews, which is a Reformed church (started by the Church of Scotland, currently with a Lutheran and an RCA pastor) that is "international and interdenominational." It seems to be pretty expected that volunteers worship there, but the average Friday worship attendance is maybe 30-40, and Sunday morning is less than 10. Tonight Sarah and I visited the Heliopolis Community Church which is also an English-speaking international/interdenominational church. There are, supposedly, 22 nationalities represented in the people that worship there, and also a significantly larger worshipping community. Tonight there were about 20 people, and Friday they usually have over 100, apparently. There were some noticeable differences tonight compared to St. Andrews--first being that the people at HCC sing! At St. Andrews the worship is highly liturgical--in that everything-including-the-readings-and-prayers-is-printed-in-the-bulletin kind of way--and the average service includes two or three hymns that most people don't sing. At HCC tonight we sang about 8 songs--some traditional hymns (The Church's One Foundation was one), some more chorus-like (but none of the choruses that I normally rebel against)--and everyone was singing like they meant it. It was wonderful. The message was one I didn't completely agree with (big surprise there) but I was able to take something away that could be adapted to my understanding of God. The community seemed to actually care--there were concerns and celebrations, Sarah and I introduced ourselves, we were prayed for during the prayers of the people, we were welcomed profusely afterward. Though the pastor is more conservative than I am, and I think I like the pastor and pastor's family at St. Andrews more (as people and possibly as a preacher), I think I prefer the sense of community and the enthusiastic singing of HCC. I suspect I will split my time between those churches, because I just can't handle a year of a non-singing church. Singing is too important to me and my journey. Just saying.

How did we get to HCC? We took the tram. It's a part of the Metro system, I guess, but it's all above ground and it runs to places the Metro doesn't. For example, to Heliopolis. We got on around 5pm, which is really close to iftar (breaking the fast--when the sun goes down, Muslims eat at last). No one was on the train, and it started going at breakneck speed--literally! It went so fast that we were bumping and jostling around, as in boing! boing! boing! aaah! I was afraid one of us might just bounce out of the seat or even out of the window! It was crazy!! There was no traffic (everyone's inside getting ready to eat) so we didn't have to stop at street crossings...there was no one waiting to get on so we only slowed down and was quite the adventure. We couldn't talk to each other because it was loud (track noise and the wind literally RUSHING in the windows), but we laughed like crazy the whole way. We finally got to what we thought was the stop, but we couldn't find the church. We used our cell phone (thank goodness for the Cairo travelling mobile!) to call Nancy, who lives in Heliopolis and worships at HCC on Fridays, to ask for directions. When she heard where we were, she said "I'll come pick you up." She drives, so she came and got us and drove us to the church. She was right--we never would have found it. It is a nondescript building behind a big wall with no sign! We were very lucky to have her. After she took us to the church, she showed us how to get back to the tram stop we SHOULD have gotten off at--thank goodness because guess what? It's really close and convenient. And the tram only costs 25 piastres one way. Anyway, it was a big adventure, and one well worth it. The singing alone made it worth it. I'm excited to visit on a Friday when there are more people and even more singing, and real musical instruments (not just an electric piano). I think I can probably live with guitars and words on a screen (they're from the book, I think, but the books are expensive and there are apparently a lot of people on Fridays...on Sundays they use the book) and even with the conservative sermons to have people actually sing in church. I am that desperate.

A note about holy days: You notice that Friday is the bigger day...the weekend here is Friday-Saturday for most people and for the government. Most schools (except Christian-run schools like RCG), offices, businesses, etc, operate Sunday-Thursday. Friday is the Muslim holy day and is also the main church day, especially for protestants. Orthodox people worship primarily on Sunday and Wednesday. Friday is the first day of the weekend, and it takes some getting used to to go to church on the first day of the weekend, but it's worth it because there are more people. My weekend is Friday and Sunday, and I definitely prefer going on Friday because then I have Sunday (the first day of the Egyptian workweek) to do things, hang out, etc. It's much easier to go to the souk, visit the shops, and do fun things because they run weekday hours on one of my days off! I love it. Also, I can sleep in. yay. Anyway....that's the scoop on churches so far.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Monday, October 10, 2005

adventures with children

There is something amazing about children. They seem not to see the same divisions adults see, they seem to understand that we are all made in the image of God, they love everything and everyone. Every day I have at least a dozen 6-8 year old girls tell me they love me. Every day I get at least a dozen affirmations that I am loved and wonderful and needed, and that these girls are affected by the stories I tell them, by the things I teach them, by the way I treat them. They don't care that I'm American and they're Egyptian, they don't care that some of their classmates have travelled and others haven't, they don't care that 4 of the 240 of them look like foreigners, they just care that someone has come to take them to the library every week and read them a storybook. Someone who cares enough to ask "what does your favorite toy look like?" or "can you make the face your mom makes when she's mad?" or "do you know the sound a horse makes?" or to say "thank you! I love you too!" And they show their love--with hugs, with hundreds of "Miss, I love you!"'s, with shouts from their classrooms every time I walk by in the hall. It's fantastic. If only we could keep these wonderful 6 year olds away from their adult family members who often will teach them to hate Sudanese refugees, to laugh at western women, to dislike people of other religions...why can't they stay as they are now, loving each other without realizing that half are Muslim and half are Christian, without caring what they look like, without a sense that some people are worth less than others. I hope that in this year of reading stories to them and teaching in their religion classes, I can help them maintain some of this innocence that looks so much like God's wisdom, maybe somehow I can water the seed of respect and love so it won't die from the non-love that people can often display. Hopefully. These children are wonderful, and they show so much promise for the future and for now. I love them!


this was a fantastic recipe. Try it out! Especially good with mashed potatoes as the other part of dinner. mmm....

Sunday, October 09, 2005

for Buffy-philes

I / _ O N'T / E _ E N / _ N O _ / _ _ _ T / _ / T E _ / _ O _ _ / I S , / _ _ T / I / _ _ N T / O N E /.


This past week included a holiday--the 6th of October--so I had two days off together (a rare and happy occurrence in the life of an RCG teacher!). I took the opportunity to go visit Jen and Jennifer in did Jay and Sarah! Jason was already there for work, so all four of us Cairo-ites were up in Alex for the weekend. It was beautiful--blue sky, blue Mediterranean Sea, clean air, nice people, and our friends to hang out with! We walked around the town, exploring Jen/Jen's neighborhood. They just arrived there on monday and we arrived Wednesday evening, so we had a lot of exploring to do! We walked on the corniche (the waterfront), we ate, we chatted, we hung out, we watched Buffy, we cooked together (pasta and garlic bread Thursday night, and Jason and I made an excellent pancakes-hashbrowns-eggs breakfast Friday morning), we slept, we had an all-around great time! We rode the tram places, we met people, we even entertained for some prayer-conference-goers (the conference Jason was there for...people unexpectedly showed up and we had to serve tea and whatnot..luckily Jay had brought a torta so we served that!). It was an all around good time. I hope to visit Alexandria several more times this year--anytime I can! It's only 44 pounds round trip to go on the train (with my new International Student ID card!), which is about 7.65 US. A good deal! We had a lot of fun. Alex is a place where people are used to tourists, so there's a lot less staring-at-the-white-people. There's less traffic, which unfortunately means that cars move faster. (no, we didn't get hit...we just feared getting hit more there than here.) Anyway, I don't have a ton to say because we were there only two days and didn't get to any of the major attractions (the library, the museums, the amphitheatre, etc.), partially due to lack of time, partially for local-neighborhood-exploration, and partly for sheer relaxation. Next time...

Coptic Cairo

Nearly two weeks ago now, our group took a visit to Coptic Cairo with one of the long-term missionaries (and scholars) leading our tour. We visited really old things--like the original Roman turrets that marked the entrance to the city--and lots of churches. It was all fantastic!

"Copt" is a derivation of a misprounciation of Egypt, and "Coptic" is the word used for people who would trace their lineage back to pharaonic times (the original egyptians, if you will), not to Arabs. Coptic is also a language similar to Greek, and the word used to describe things that are really old. Most people who identify themselves as Copts now are Christians of the Coptic Orthodox persuasion, and there's actually a small push underway to bring the coptic language back to the church (as a way to separate from Arabic-speaking Muslim culture or something). Anyway, Coptic Cairo is located in the heart of Old Cairo, the site of the original city--which is now south of downtown and a tiny bit north of the neighborhood where most westerners live (Maadi). We rode the Metro down there and, upon exiting the station we were immediately face-to-brick-wall with the old Roman turrets. It turns out that in Roman times Cairo was known as Babylon, (I can't remember why at the moment) and these turrets were the gates of Babylon--strategically located very near the Nile (where it used to be). Anyway, they're neat. We went down the steps into Old Cairo and found ourselves in narrow streets paved with stones--very Roman, perfectly cut rectangular stones--and we walked along to Ben Ezra synagogue. There used to be a substantial Jewish community in Egypt, until Nasser, I think. Anyway, ben Ezra was at one point a church but was given to the Jewish community because of Moses and Jeremiah being there, or near there. Supposedly Moses was found in the river near this place, and also Jeremiah (much later) was taken to exile in Egypt. Very cool. Ben Ezra has the Geniza (big room where papers were stored when they shouldn't be destroyed), and also has a substantial library of Jewish literature in Arabic and Hebrew, much of it dating back a couple of hundred years.

We also visited St. Barbara's church, at one time the largest Coptic Orthodox church in the area. There was a service going on (lots of incense and chanting, women separated from men, women with their heads covered, the whole thing) so I couldn't take pictures. Check the link for a few pics. After St. Barbara's we visited the church of the Holy Family, also called Abu Serga church (named for a saint). Unfortunately, the crypt where it is believed the Holy Family stayed when they fled from Bethlehem to Egypt is closed. Often it is under water due to the rising groundwater--a rise caused by the construction of the Aswan High Dam. It seems no one did the research on what would happen environmentally if there was a dam there. Not only does the Nile no longer flood (which means farmers now must use fertilizer, which is expensive, bad for the ground and the food, and is also depleting the soil) but also the groundwater downriver from the dam has been rising, threatening building foundations and putting some of the oldest parts of the city underwater occasionally. Ancient buildings that have stood for thousands of years are beginning to crumble because the water table is rising. Hmm...environmental impact study, anyone?

Anyways...we also visited the Hanging Church, which is very famous I guess. It's beautiful and, I think, is the oldest church here? Lots of amazing architectural detail, and great icons showing the move into the common language (Arabic). Also lots of saints relics--fingers, etc. Our last visit was to St. George's Greek Orthodox church, which was large and full of metal-plated icons. There's also a chapel where the very chains said to have imprisoned George are kept, and faithful people will often come to have the chains put on them as a blessing. It's a little strange, but cool. The chains are really heavy and make horrendous noise in the small stone space, but people come nonetheless. Amazing.

You'll see in my photo albums a picture I've titled "ecumenical crosses." You can see in it the large Coptic-style cross, some smaller Orthodox-style crosses (with equal arms), and two protestant-style crosses. Very neat.

Speaking of photos, make sure to check some of the alread-posted albums because I occasionally add new photos to an existing album. Cairo 3 is most of my September photos. Cairo 4 will be most of my October photos. etc etc etc. enjoy!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

adventures....a post from yesterday

(we didn't have internet yesterday, so I'm posting this on when it says "yesterday" that means Monday, and "tomorrow" means Wednesday...yeah...)

Last night I had a very exciting experience: I made my cinematic debut! Well, I recorded the narration in English for a video for a non-governmental organization. That counts. The video is kind of like a fundraising/prayer request/recruiting video for the Arabic Christian Centre in London. The Better Life Association in Minya is closely related to the Centre and is the organization that got me involved. (Well, actually, they called Carole looking for someone with an American accent and I happened to be standing nearby at the time.)

I was picked up from RCG and taken up on a hill to the Sat7 studio. Sat7 is the local satellite TV station run by and for Christians in Egypt. When the station was first started several years ago, some of the non-Christians were really upset and there was a fire at the studio, causing the entire thing to be condemned and requiring a complete rebuilding. They needed to raise money all over again, and many people donated things like their personal jewelry in order to have the station. Now it is stable, well funded, and even mildly popular, at least among the Christians who have satellite TV. Their studio was very modern and technologically up to date—it was quite exciting to be in a TV studio and to be the one working, not just touring! I went into the studio, received a script and a set of headphones and off we went! It took about an hour to record the narration for the video three times in different moods and with no rustling sound as I turned pages on my script. The recording technician/editor (Andrew) then put it all together nicely and the NGO people will add it to the video clips they have. Andrew said I had a lovely voice and that I don’t have much accent—I explained that west-coasters don’t really have an accent, unlike many other parts of the country (think South, Midwest, Boston, New York, Texas, etc). In fact, studies show that west-coast-americans have the clearest and most understandable English, so apparently I was a good choice/excellent coincidence! The whole narration is probably 10 minutes long, and the video maybe 20 or so minutes. It was a great time and I also got to meet people in the process! Good times. SO…..since this video is being made to show to Americans (in hopes of getting funding and missionaries) maybe one day you’ll see it, and you’ll say “hey, that’s Teri! I knew her when…” yay. ?

In other news, I went to the suuk today and picked up a pound of green beans, two pounds of zucchini, a pound of tomatoes, and half a pound of green bell peppers for approximately 75 cents US. So excellent! Then I spent 1.25 on two pounds of pears, but they were worth it I think. Very good pears. Anyway…tonight Sarah and Jason and I made a great dinner: white sticky rice with a tomato sauce chock-full of veggies, and a side of green beans sautéed with balsamic vinegar. YUM!

Still more news: tomorrow Jason is headed to Alexandria for work, and Sarah and Jay and I all have a few days off so we’re going too! October 6th (Thursday) is a national holiday here—to celebrate the liberation of the Sinai from Israeli occupation. As far as I can remember, during the six day war Israel attacked and took the Sinai (as well as the Golan Heights). Then, later Egypt took it back. Anyway, now it’s sometimes referred to as Armed Services Day. Basically, it’s a Memorial Day/Veterans Day kind of thing. No school, no government offices are open, nothing’s really open. Sarah and I will ride the 7pm train to Alex, arriving at 9pm. Jay will come on Thursday morning. I’ll be back in Cairo Friday night (gotta work Saturday), and Sarah will be back Saturday. It will be so fun to get out of the pollution for a little while, to go to the Mediterranean, and to see Jen and Jennifer in their new home. They left on Monday to move to Alex for the rest of the year. Stephen and Eric left this morning for Minya, and we probably won’t see them for at least a month. It’s strange to be around here with half our group gone…so it will be nice to see a couple of them for a few days in their new surroundings!

Probably no internet while I’m gone, so…enjoy the Egyptian holiday in the middle of your work week!


Monday, October 03, 2005

"If" of the week...

If you could permanently eliminate any one type of insect from the earth, what would you get rid of?


I have debated a long time (well, three weeks) about whether to write about this topic or not. I know many of you who read this are church people or people who are really concerned about my safety and welfare and whatnot, and also that you want to know what it really is like to live here. SO: with all those things in mind, I'm going to go ahead because this is a part of life as a Western woman here. PLEASE keep in mind that I live in a culture where violence is rare and violence against women (other than domestic violence inside the house) is non-existent.

Men here have seen too many of Hollywood's worst movies. They've seen Baywatch. They've seen all those sketchy media things we like to export around the world regardless of their cultural appropriateness. And they haven't seen many women who aren't covered, and even fewer white women, and even fewer blonde-and-curly haired white women. Culturally, women are to cover their shoulders, not show midriff, not wear skirts that fall at the knee or above. Many tourists, however, can be seen in short shorts and tank tops, or in sheer shirts with no bra, or other horrendously inappropriate clothing. When men here see them (who are awfully dressed and are here for a few days), and then see us (who are appropriately dressed and who live here), they think we must all be just like the women in the movies and tv shows they've seen, or else we must be part of the sexual tourism industry. What that means to them is a) we're all "loose" and b)we like to be treated the way they've seen western women treated onscreen. They are, of course, wrong on both counts, but no one seems to have bothered to set all several million of them straight. So there are many men (not all, and this certainly doesn't happen ever day) who think that it is okay to say inappropriate things to women, to shout obsenities, or even to grab their bodies. In addition to the constant staring, I have had men on the street tell me they love me, tell me that they want to love me, tell me I've broken their hearts, tell me that want to f*** me, tell me they want to lick me, grab my behind, rub their forearms on my chest while talking to me (that happened in the Egyptian museum, actually), or rub themselves (you know what I mean) on my leg on a crowded metro train. It is not a pleasant experience. Sometimes I think it is simply funny and pathetic--that the best they can do for themselves is get half a second of gratification from touching a white woman on the street. Sometimes I think it's disgusting and all I want to do is take a shower. Naturally, the word "no" comes out quickly, as do the dirty looks and the moving away. Sometimes that is not enough. I have learned the Arabic word for "shame" as well as the phrase "would you do that to your sister?" Luckily, this is a culture so based on honor and shame that any man who gets called out on doing something like that is likely to run off, humiliated. If their sister were to get treated that way (and they were to find out about it), they would be likely to go out and beat up the guy...and then keep an even closer watch and tighter control over their sister's movements outside the house.

So anyway, this is a real problem here. Remember: it will never go beyond this. I am not afraid to walk in the streets (though I don't go places by myself, really, or at least not very much) because they may yell or grab, but they won't assault me. There's no possibility of rape or injury, other than to my psyche--which is pretty strong. Normally I laugh it off, because it's so pathetic. As if any of those men would even have the remotest chance with someone cute (and taken) like me! Anyway...yeah. Should you come to visit, be aware of this and PLEASE dress appropriately--for the sake of those of us that live here. That's all I have to say about that for today.