Kaddee’s Cairo Chronicles

January 12, 2010

All Growed Up

Filed under: Learning Curve — Kaddee @ 7:44 am

Yessir, that is me!

I am now the proud owner of a BRAND NEW (not even new-to-me) LEATHER chair for the living room!!!

I had a chair that I loved before Cairo.  It was called a “chair-and-a-half” and was big enough for me to snooze comfortably in.  I also had the hassock that went with it, so there was ample room to spread out.  AFAIK, our friends who bought it are still getting great, comfy use out of it.  But so far, I had not found a suitable (in comfort) replacement.

Since arriving Stateside, gozi and I had settled for the quick and easy Ikea solution

Cheap, mostly comfy and easily obtainable.  However  not a “hanging out reading for hours” sort of chair.  We’ve been looking on Craigs list, at used furniture stores etc for the right chair for each of us.  A few weeks ago, gozi found a leather wingback recliner at a consignment shop.  Nice looking, leather and a good price.  Only down side: babyshitbrown.  He is very happy with it.

Today I brokedown and spent more than I wanted to (I am VERY cheap since returning to the States!) and got the chair that I (not-so-secretly) knew I wanted.
Kaddee Chair

Mine is dark, espresso brown and really comfy.
Gotta go now, already falling asleep in my awesome, leather chair.
I’m so grown up now!  HEEHEE

September 1, 2009

Only makes sense to me

Filed under: Learning Curve — Kaddee @ 2:36 am

In that whole “Crap, I’m not dealing with this readjustment thing very well”, here’s my day.

We’ve been home for a month – OY, has it been that long? – during which I have been blissfully not required to go to work.  Jobs in education have a FEW advantages (June, July, August!).

Since our return, I have been the “stay-at-home” one.  This is a 180° change  from Cairo.  There, Jack stayed home and Kaddee went out daily to go to her job.  Now, I’m the one at home (temporarily).

I frequently prodded Jack to “get out more”, not to huddle in the flat for days at a time, without any social contact.

Today, HE prodded ME in the same way!

Since we got back, I’ve been avoiding the “real world” of life in the States – sometimes simply by getting TONS of stuff done in the house, sometimes by actively avoiding all contact with the outside world (except via the internet!).  The idea of going out into THIS country and THIS culture was becoming as unsettling as Cairo had been in the early days.

It is not that I am unhappy to be “home”, I’m just not sure anymore where “home” is.  I grew up with the saying, “Home is where you lay your hat.”  Meaning no matter where you go, there you are (Buckaroo Banzai).

Now, I am conflicted.  I had a good home in Seattle – a house, friends, routines and preferred haunts, with all the benefits and drawbacks of such a situation.  I left that  and went to Cairo.

I had a good home in Cairo – a nice flat (rent-free), friends, routines, and preferred haunts, with all the benefits and drawbacks of such a situation.  I left that and came back to Seattle.

Do you see some turmoil?  Both places have/had their shining moments and their dismal downsides.

Today, knowing that TOMORROW, I have to begin the REAL reintegration – at work – I felt more tumultuous than usual.  Anxiety was beginning to creep up when I decided to follow gozi’s advice and forced myself out of the house.  And onto the only registered motorcycle in our garage.  And around the small surface streets in my neighborhood, along my  commute and home again.

Seems pretty minor, but I have not donned gear or helmet in 3 years and I have not gone to campus in the same amount of time.  I had boogey men – I rode them away!!!

The bike, incidentally, used to belong to me, so getting back on it was SOOOOO familiar.  My brain and body were at odds with each other – brain picking early lines, body wanting to wait for the late apex and the SWISH feeling of the curve.

I laughed, I fretted, I waved at the construction workers.

I began to let go of my apprehensions and anxieties and enjoy the new adventure.

August 21, 2009

Things are Different Here

Filed under: Learning Curve — Kaddee @ 10:58 pm

NSTIW – we had been home for 4 days.  During that time, I’d freaked out numerous times because of the HUGE, shiny and expen$ive shopping experiences that were necessary.

On the day in question, I’d decided it was time to COOK AT HOME.  (For Cairenes you know how strange and impressive an idea this was!)  I’d found a marinade I wanted for our steaks and set out to QFC (large, chain grocery) to get the necessary stuff.  Which was EVERYTHING.

Soy sauce, garlic, ginger, beef broth, hoisin sauce and sherry.

OK – armed with a list (all y’all who know me can stop snickering about the list!), loins girded for the big market syndrome, I headed out.

On the way to QFC, I realized, “Oh Crap!  I’m going to have to go to the State Liquor Store to get the sherry!!  Damn – now where is the SLS?  I think there is one…..

Miffed that I had to make ANOTHER trip to ANOTHER shop to get the ingredients, I soldiered on.

Still miffed, I got my cart and walked into the QFC.  As I did, what to my wondering eyes should appear?????  A display, as tall as my shoulder and, perhaps, 2 meters wide, of………………..

You guessed it………………..


OMG – I can buy WINE (and thusly, sherry) AT MY LOCAL GROCERY STORE!!??

I got misty-eyed with the realization.

Welcome in America!

September 4, 2008

You may call me…MASTER!!

Filed under: Learning Curve — Kaddee @ 3:20 pm

I had my brief, stream-of-consciousness post about finishing my divemaster certification, but many people have asked, “What does that REALLY mean?”

So here goes:

The certification is through PADI (officially: Professional Association of Diving Instructors; unofficially: Put Another Dollar In), the largest SCUBA certification organization on the planet. I have been diving since 1987 (yes, there are readers of this blog that weren’t even BORN when I got certified!). My original Open Water certification was not through PADI, but all my subsequent certifications (Advanced Open Water, Rescue Diver) have been.

The certifications through Rescue are aimed at recreational divers. People who want to put a tank on their back and look at pretty stuff underwater. Frequently these dives are led by other people (“diving professionals”), allowing the recreational diver to concentrate on only one thing: RECREATION. Even Rescue Diver certification is merely a First Aid/CPR class designed for people in or under the water. Just like First Aid/CPR, there are problem solving sessions (What do I do when I come upon an incident?), they are just more involved because you are in a non-natural environment for Homo sapiens. Even so, it is still all about recreation.

After Rescue Diver (unless you like to collect pretty cards and pay PADI or whomever a LOT of money to dive) there are no other higher recreational certifications*. The upper levels in the PADI hierarchy are geared toward “diving professionals” or those who will work in the business of diving (read: business not recreation). Dive master is the “ground floor”, “entry level” professional certification.

What is required to become a dive master?

  • all the previous certifications
    • I finished all the recreational certifications in 2004, thanks to HCC and the MaST center
  • experience diving (60 dives must be logged prior to completion of the certification – these are ANY dives that you have done in your lifetime, if properly logged)
    • I had over 200 dives prior to beginning the month-long dive master experience, mostly from my graduate work, and managed to log around 35 more!
  • Reading and testing in eight (8) different areas of theory that relate to diving (Physics, Physiology, Equipment, Decompression Theory and Use of Dive Tables, Diving Skills and the Environment, Supervising Activities for Certified Divers, Supervising Student Divers in Training, and Divemaster Conducted Programs)
    • Funniest part is, as a university professor in the sciences, my WORST exams were those within my discipline. PADI aims their teaching materials towards the LCD (lowest common denominator) and frequently simplifies physics and physiology to the point of being patently incorrect! I had some issues with their “approach to learning”!
  • Mapping and preparing an emergency plan for a particular dive site
    • This exercise made me reconsider requiring group work for my students!
  • Stamina testing
    • Basic swimming, floating and towing within proscribed time limits. I am a life-long swimmer, so this was not a problem.
  • Rescue scenario refresher
  • In-water skills demonstration
    • This made me a bit nervous because, although I am not performance-impaired, I am rather type A.
  • Internship
  • Professionalism
  • Supervised Instructional and Guiding Experience

WHY would I want to do this??

THAT is a very good question. Most people who do this are in their 20′s and trying to get working credentials so that they can get a “job” in some tropical resort area for some (frequently undefined) amount of time. For me, it was all about my own edification, challenge and control. The training made me more confident in my own abilities, helped me learn how to manage other divers to allow them to enjoy the dive and put me in control of how I dive from now on.

Did I get what I wanted out of this training?

Yes and no. From an educational standpoint – I, personally. learned a lot – including that PADI does not understand the principles of learning and assessment. HMMM – maybe they need an educational consultant to revise their curriculum????? LOL

From an intellectual standpoint – I got a chance to stretch my brain in new ways, and feed the part of my personality that enjoys making other people happy.

From a physical standpoint – I am in better shape than I have been in a LONG time. And I did it by doing what I love to do – diving every day. Life doesn’t suck.

So at the end of the day, I am divemaster, hear me roar!

*You may choose to argue this point with me, especially if you are a PADI zealot, in that there are specialties in which you can continue your certifications. However these certifications are not NECESSARY to continue diving, nor to gain further skills – they merely extend your experience. Experience, IMHO, does not require paying PADI.*

August 30, 2008

I DID IT!!!!

Filed under: Learning Curve — Kaddee @ 6:54 pm

Most of you will think that this is a “mountain-out-of-a-mole-hill” thing…..


This is the “intro” level of SCUBA instructional levels. I can’t teach SCUBA classes, but I’ve learned how to manage other divers underwater, deal with stressful situations, and assist in the teaching of SCUBA. Basically I’m a SCUBA teaching assistant.

BUT – this also means that I can LEAD people on dives! I don’t have to pay to dive any more. :) I actually LED my first dive, unsupervised, this afternoon. Thanks to my dive buddies, my incredibly supportive gozi (husband – Jack) and my wonderful, diving colleague, TV.

I chose to spend my entire vacation doing this training to see diving from “the other side”. Kinda like academics, I now have a working understanding of how to SHOW divers what they want, rather than JUST being a diver who is led.

For most people, they don’t want this level of responsibility in diving – and I have to admit, letting someone else worry about the logistics and minutia is easier and more fun – but I really enjoyed this, and it makes me feel more confident about my own diving skills.

I feel like a freshly minted graduate of [insert whatever program/degree you have ever completed]. I have that goofy grin and am being silly and feeling euphoric. Like all hard work, I also feel personally vindicated that I could accomplish this challenge.

I think I will sleep well tonight.

August 4, 2008

Be careful what you wish for…

Filed under: Learning Curve — Kaddee @ 10:18 am

No, it is not as bad as all that!

I began SCUBA diving when I was 19 year old. I was Open Water Certified (Level 1) in university. At that time, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool to be able to dive for a living?”

Years went by. In grad school, I returned to diving (a lot) to support my research and other projects in my lab. Again, I thought, “I should get more certifications, and, perhaps, use diving as an alternate career path.”

During grad school, I began the 2nd level certification, Advanced Open Water. Due to research schedules, however, I never completed the course. I never really thought much more about it.

More years went by. I was teaching at Highline Community College. They have a Marine Science facility on the Puget Sound. A number of us were using the facility for teaching, sample collection and community outreach education – some of which included SCUBA diving.

We realized that it would be “prudent” for us to gain further certifications, if for no other reason than that we were LEADING dives with Open Water divers, and were not much better trained (although FAR more experienced) than they were. A group of us completed the Advanced Open Water and Rescue Diver certifications. This level of training prepared us for emergencies in the water, and gave us all more experience and confidence. However, none of that training really prepared us to LEAD dives and manage dive plans for others.

Fast forward to a month ago. Jack and I decide to spend a month in Dahab to get out of Cairo for August. I decide that, perhaps, this is the time to fulfill one of those long-standing wishes/dreams – complete DiveMaster training. With this certification, I cannot TEACH classes, but I can assist and I can guide dives.

Assisting and leading dives is not my long-term goal for this training, I have a job that (most of the time) I really enjoy. My goal is more personal and educational. With this course, I shift from the “Look and swim” mindset of diving to the “Show and lead” mindset.

So, here I am in Dahab. We have been here for 3 full days. I have begun my DiveMaster Training (DMT) with my favorite dive center, Sinai Divers Backpackers Dive Center. On the second day after arrival, I assisted on 2 guided dives and an “Intro to SCUBA” dive. Yesterday I assisted on a “BubbleMaker” (kids intro) dive. Today I am up to my eyeballs in homework. The irony does not escape me!

I am doing EXACTLY what I’ve wanted to do for a VERY long time. OMG is it hard work. I couldn’t be happier. :)

July 27, 2008

More Chaos – and closure

Filed under: Learning Curve — Kaddee @ 9:45 am

It seems that everyone (especially Gozi - Arabic for my husband) knows that the idea of us moving to another flat, even within Zamalek, is INSANE. Everyone, that is, except me. Until last night.

Back story: in my last installment, I talked about us TRYING and being DENIED a flat in Zamalek. Just after posting that, I received an e-mail from housing. My complete raving b*tch, hissy-fit e-mail about how “…it’s not FAIR…” was received, and responded to. We could move to the other flat, on OUR schedule, if that was what we wanted.

Oh joy! Oh happiness! Oh CRAP!!!!!
This turnaround means a ton of legwork and packing as well as readjustment to a new physical space.
NO PROBLEM! We got the key and began taking measurements.

After a weekend of logistical nightmares, pages of notes about the items that needed fixing, changing or moving, and the realization that certain of our belongings (namely the dishwasher) could not be moved to the new flat (no room in the kitchen without a TOTAL remodel), the “light dawned on Marblehead”.

I cried.
Not because we can’t move – we can if we want to. I cried because of all the stress and wasted energy that had been put into an idea that was doomed from the start. Jack knew that and through it all was a trooper. He measured, commented, made suggestions, came up with harebrained solutions for problems with the flat. All that so that I would “be happy”. And instead I caused unhappiness to both of us.

Well… Closure has been attained. We are not moving. My decision. The problems with the current flat are far fewer and the fact of not having to move far exceeds the benefits of the other place.

Why are others able to see these things so clearly, when I cannot? Maybe it is time for glasses? :)

June 29, 2008

New Technology

Filed under: Learning Curve — Kaddee @ 8:53 pm

So I have a new version of the blogging software, with all kinds of cool, whizzzz-bangy features. I’m learning how to use them, so watch out!

One of the features is that embedded video is “easier” (for some value of easier). So I’ve been going thru all my old, short, point-and-shoot videos.

First point – my camera shoots in *.avi mode. “So what”, you say. Well, I’ve discovered that a 15 second video in *.avi is about 26MB, but if I change the format to *.wmv it is about 2MB!!! So I am in the process of editing and resaving my videos as *.wmv format, SO THAT I CAN POST THEM!!!

Second point – people (namely, myself) take video of some of the STUPIDEST things on the planet. This new technology is bringing that point home for me. I’ve been surreptitiously viewing and hastily DELETING a number of videos that are unfit for even my viewing. Be thankful.

Third (and last) point – videos shot with p&s cameras are, typically, CRAP. I know this, and yet will still be subjecting the vast blog-o-sphere to some of my masterpieces of crap. Thanks for understanding. :)

Video #1 – from Qatar: March 2007
We went 4-wheeling with some people from Pole Position on the dunes in Qatar/Oman. It was a lot of fun. This was shot by Jack as we drove/slid/nearly rolled down the slipface of a VERY TALL DUNE.

Video #2 – the Dead Sea, Jordan side: April 2007
This video is “not fit for prime time”. Everyone does it, but few put it online for others to see. I am embarrassed, and yet…..here it is.

Actually this was added to the original Dead Sea post, so some of you may have already seen it. In which case, do not feel obligated to push play.

May 29, 2008

Life’s path and its flowers

Filed under: Learning Curve — Kaddee @ 5:38 pm

I received an e-mail today from a dear friend. Her great excitement of the day was a gift from her Northwest garden, the opening of a beautiful poppy, the first of the season.


That got me thinking of flowers and how certain regional flowers have marked my passage thru life and geography.

I grew up in the Northeast – and when I think of “home” from that time in my life, my first thoughts include the lilacs that would bloom around Mother’s Day, and the dogwood tree blossoms from around my birthday.

lilac.jpg dogwood.jpg

Graduate school was still in the Northeast (at least on paper), but farther north, with large spans of time in the Northwest. The floral memories from that period are Tiger Lilies in New Hampshire, California Poppies in Washington, and Nasturtium everywhere.tigerlily.jpg CalifPoppy.jpgGraduate research in the PNW convinced me that it was there I had to go next. The sea and the mountains, the rain and the green-ness. I moved before I even finished my thesis! The flowers of my PNW home are callas (which I thought were hot-house flowers when I lived in the Northeast, but found to be virtual WEEDS in the PNW!) and poppies.


I’ve left the green, wet PNW and moved to Egypt. The two could not be more different, in aspects of culture, terrain, weather or flowers. The flower that defines my life here (again, something I thought was too delicate to grow outside – but is EVERYWHERE here) is the Bird-of-Paradise


Life is full of moments, memories, thoughts and emotions – and every stop on my life’s path brings new flowers. Each of my migrations has been a roller coaster of experiences, and out of each I remember the flowers.

Images from:

  • Pink poppy – dear friend SwtP
  • Lilac – leslieland.com/blog/lilac-timeing/
  • Dogwood – http://dsf.chesco.org/
  • Tiger Lily – http://www.biosurvey.ou.edu/okwild/tigerlily.html
  • California Poppies – http://www.deserttortoise.org/awards/photo2006win.html
  • Calla – http://www.nps.gov/archive/prsf/nathist1/wildflowers/non_natives/calla_lily.htm
  • Bird of Paradise – http://www.eastmidlands.info/skegness/stock/bird-of-paradise.html

May 4, 2008

What’s the difference?

Filed under: Learning Curve — Kaddee @ 8:51 pm

Jack and I began taking Arabic lessons as soon as we arrived. I have had a number of different tutors, gone to a language school for “intensive” Arabic, and have amused my co-workers with my attempts to speak their language.

From the beginning, Arabic has been a challenge. First, it reads from right to left (except the numbers, which read left to right – no kidding). Second, there are NO letters that are shared between English (or Spanish, or French, or German, or even Czech – the extent of languages in which I know even a few words), and the forms of the letters are, initially, unrecognizable to Western eyes.


Then there is the issue of the vowels, which aren’t written, you just need to “know” what they are supposed to be. And finally, Egyptian is VERY different from classical – to the extent that other Arabic speakers can understand Egyptians and their dialect (Egypt produces most of the movies and music in the Arabic speaking world) but Egyptians don’t understand ANYONE else!

So, here I am, learning Egyptian arabic. My first tutor, who taught me the letters, “explained” to me that there are 2 “H”-sounding letters (ha, haa), 2 “T”-sounding letters (taa, teh), and 2 “S”-sounding letters (siin, saad). She carefully pronounced each variation and waited for my indication of clear comprehension – which never came.

“Can’t you hear the difference between Hassan and Hoda?”
“It is sooooo clear. Listen again.”

This went on for months. I memorized where I could, and guessed the rest of the time.

Finally the tables have turned, and I have my moment. My current tutor was explaining that she had an American friend coming to visit. She carefully wrote out the woman’s name and asked me to pronounce it.

After I’d done so, she asked, “Isn’t that a MAN’S name????”
I explained, “No, this is a woman’s name. The similar, but CLEARLY different man’s name is pronounced differently.”
She could not differentiate between the names.

What are they?

Joan and John

No kidding