Kaddee’s Cairo Chronicles

February 21, 2010


Filed under: NSTIW — Kaddee @ 8:10 am
I *must* be growing up – I’m experiencing insomnia!  For (nearly) the first time in my life, I wakened around 1am, tossed and turned until I finally decided to just get up at 3am.  Here it is 8am, I’m STILL at my computer, and STILL wide awake.
The up-side is that I’ve managed to get a LOT of school work done, so that means that I can get lots of house work done later today.
HMMMMMMM, maybe I’ll learn to nap too!

July 24, 2009

Career opps – $0.25 at a time

Filed under: NSTIW,Travel — Kaddee @ 1:06 pm

Jack always says: “If something (I say) can be taken more than one way, I mean it in the best possible way it can be taken.”

If that is to be taken further, I should be pleased??!!

Phnom Penh -

No sh*t, there I was…..  We were in a pub called “Walkabout”.  Not a bad place, cheap beers, pool tables and all the women in the place (myself excepted) were “free-lance” working girls.

What does this mean????  They are not in-service to the pub.  They pay the pub nothing, the pub just lets them be there, play free pool, and drink water – the rest is up to the guys who come looking for them.  The men buy drinks and food for themselves and the girl(s) of their choice.

So…we stopped into this place on the recommendation of a Phnom Penh local and new acquaintance.  It was “Joker Night” – basically a drawing with even cheaper beer – good way to pack the place!

We’d just finished dinner, and Jack was feeling overstuffed from the great food.  We had ordered a couple of beers, found a seat at the bar when Jack excused himself to get some air.  Mish mushkela – I sat at the bar, chatted with the bartenders and watched the spectacle of girls and Johns.

The girls found me to be quite a spectacle too.  I was the only non-Asian, non-working girl in the entire place.  Mish mushkela.  As I sat and sipped my beer an older (perhaps mid-50′s to early 60′s) gent stood next to me at the bar to order a drink.  [cue the music, maestro]

This “gent” (who looked something like a cross between WC Fields and Archie Bunker) mumbled something to me that I didn’t catch.  I smiled and returned to my beer.

“Gent” said something again.  I ignored it and asked the bartender something inane to start a conversation.

“Gent” said something to the girl standing on the other side of me that caused her to fairly vibrate with excitement.  As she  bounced up and down, she leans to me and:

  • points to “gent”
  • points to me
  • points to her
  • makes a triangle/circular shape in between the three of us
  • lines her two index fingers together, separates them, puts them together, separates them, puts them together

Go ahead – try the motions…. I’ll wait…..

What do YOU make of it???

Yup – she was telling me that “gent” wanted a three-way with her and me!  LOL!!

The funny thing is, I wasn’t flustered, I wasn’t upset, I wasn’t angry – I just flat out said, “NO.”  Not harsh, just “NO”.

She burst out laughing and repeated my “NO” and “gent” skulked/sulked out  onto the patio.

I was still chuckling about this when my gallantly protective (NOT) husband returned and asked me what I was laughing about.  I recounted the story – punctuated by the girl waking behind him, giggling and saying “NO” – and what does my hubby do?????  Bursts out laughing.  Thanks!!

June 9, 2009

Lockdown Limbo

Filed under: NSTIW — Kaddee @ 12:54 pm

Yes – we are still locked in.  Every time we ask about WHEN we will know what is going on for the quarantine, we get a vague – “We don’t know”, “Mumkin in one hour”, “Soon, insha’allah“.

Of course, if you READ and have looked at any of a dozen articles published by the international news agencies, you will find very specific timelines:

No-one here will say it is for 7 days – but we JUST got the  news that 5 more students (all from one summer program) tested positive.  So it looks like we will be hanging out here for a while longer.  Perhaps even the full 7 days — so much for a relaxing week on the beach before departure.


June 8, 2009

More on TRAPPED!!!

Filed under: NSTIW — Kaddee @ 4:28 pm

No, that is not moron although I wonder….

So… Since our first post at about 9:30 this  morning, there have been many ups and downs.  Mostly downs – total, in the dumps, downs.  As I said in the previous post, we “did experiments”.  We went downstairs and attempted to get out of the building.  We were definitively denied.

We spent a couple of hours in the flat.  There is nothing that makes you want to get out more than being told you can’t.  We’ve spent ENTIRE happy weekends never leaving the flat or the building – but my stress mounts exponentially now that I CANNOT leave whenever I want.

The University/Minsitry guys had said that a doctor would be coming back around 10:30am to finish collecting samples from all the people that were smart enough not to answer the door att 3am.  Yes, those knocks were the Minsitry doctors.

We were just contemplating if it would be worse for our attempts to get out if we DID have the swabs done (with, of course, the chance that they could come back positive) or DID NOT get the swabs done (how likely is it that they have kept good enough records to KNOW who has been tested and who hasn’t) when the phone rang.  It was the Ministry officials – “Miss, you must come downstairs IMMEDIATELY to have a test done.  This is VERY IMPORTANT.”

Ok, apparently they HAVE kept records…. That was quite a surprise.  We went and got throat swabbed.  Most of the others were also smart enough to NOT answer the door at 3am.  Many of the Egyptians didn’t understand…

We’ve now been locked in – and conscious of our containment – for about 8 hours.  I am cranky and miffed and a bit concerned.  Mostly cranky and miffed, because I’m not convinced that what they are doing is really going to help AT ALL.

Luckily for us, they are allowing deliveries (like ~200 Pizza Hut mini-pizzas, supplied by Student Housing), so if this drags on, as it seems it will, at least we can eat.


Filed under: NSTIW — Kaddee @ 9:26 am

Last night, at 3:30am, there was a knock on the door to our flat.  A few minutes later, another knock.   Insomnia has been my constant companion, especially around that time, for the last few weeks, so I noticed the knock, but I CERTAINLY was not going to answer it at that ungodly time!

This morning, I  got up and was checking my AUC mail, when I found this in my Inbox:

Please be advised that overnight the Egyptian Ministry of Health confirmed positive H1N1 test results for two AUC students. These two students have been hospitalized and are receiving the necessary medical treatment. A third student was also hospitalized as a cautionary measure because she had  a high fever, which is symptomatic of this flu.
These students are all residents of the Zamalek dormitory and as a result the dormitory has been quarantined for 24 hours. The Ministry of Health has obtained samples from all residents of the dormitory and those results are expected later today.
AUC’s medical clinic is working closely with the Egyptian Miistry of Health to effectively manage this testing process and to provide the necessary care for all of our students.
This is all of the information available.at this time; as we receive further information, it will be shared immediately with the AUC community.

Imagine my surprise – I LIVE IN THE ZAMALEK DORM!!!  Upstairs from the students, but we share all the same common areas, elevators etc.  We were never tested!!!  How can you lock us in quarantine when we  haven’t been tested, let alone informed.

HMMMM – perhaps that was the middle-of-the-night knock on the door?  But who, in their right mind, would expect people to answer the door at 3:30am??  (I have lived here long enough to realize that, YES, it would be perfectly within the realm of possibility for the Egyptian authorities to expect people to answer the door at 3:30am – and within the Egyptian cultural mindset to do exactly that!)  Especially when there was no announcement or information about this prior to the e-mail this morning.  WTF????

We did experiments… we got dressed, after receiving the e-mail, and went downstairs to go get some errands done.  We were greeted by a phalanx of guards in front of a LOCKED front door.  We cannot leave.

Ministry doctors are supposed to be back soon to swab all those they didn’t get in the first round.  Insha’allah, the quarantine will be lifted by this evening some time.  If so, we are probably going to stay with a friend so that we can head off to Sinai, as planned, tomorrow.

Only here – welcome in Egypt

Remember….this is an adventure.


June 2, 2009

Don’t eat the food

Filed under: NSTIW — Kaddee @ 4:45 pm

I’m not talking about ALL Egyptian  food, or even all street food in Cairo.  I am actually referring to a recent Institution dinner that I attended.

Here’s the story:

There has been a tradition at AUC for many years in regards to the departing faculty each semester.  The administration hosts a dinner in honor of those leaving, says nice things about them, gives them a going-away gift and generally makes sure that everyone leaves with a good and rosy memory of their time here – no matter the reason(s) for leaving.

I think this is a very nice thing.  I’ve known many a departing faculty who spoke wistfully about the BBQ in the garden at the Provost’s villa, strings or an oud playing lightly in the background, laughter, wine, spouses, colleagues and Cairo.

There have been many changes at AUC in the years that I have been here, and apparently the dinner at the villa with spouse and friends is a thing of the past.

I was sure it would not be exactly the same as it had been.  We have a new Provost with her own style and ideas, and her villa is in Rehab as opposed to Maadi.  But I didn’t think it would be too different.

Our dinner was held last evening.  Grades were due by Sunday (the day before yesterday), so most faculty are khalas with this semester and are not commuting to the New Campus if they can help it.  Our dinner was ON the New Campus, meaning that the half of the departing faculty that do NOT live in Rehab had nearly 2 hours of round trip commuting to get to the dinner.  Major Bummer.

BREATHE – it will be a nice, relaxing time with colleagues and spouses, a time to say goodbye etc.  UHHH, no.  The dinner was ONLY for the faculty – spouses were not invited.  This seems odd for a campus who is, at least, saying that they want to promote better balance between work and home for the faculty.  This is yet another AUC event that separates me from my non-AUC spouse.

BREATHE – it will be a nice dinner and event.  Well, it was hosted in the faculty cafeteria on campus!  Wahlahi.  This is a nice faculty cafeteria, however this is where many of us eat from the hot buffet most days in between our classes and labs.  It is not really a place that I think of to “take an honored guest”.

So…I was not really excited about attending this event – but many of my friends/colleagues who were also departing would be there, and it might be the last time I would see them (either for a LONG time or EVER).

In the spirit of full disclosure, I’d had a kinda rough morning, because I’d had a long night on Sunday with my friend BS, laughing,drinking wine and celebrating the end of the semester.  But by the time I had to leave for the bus, I was feeling fine.  No traces of the “night before”.

We all gathered at the faculty cafeteria.  Nice words were said.  We got a nice going away gift – no plaque or plate, as is a common custom around here.  We got framed Sufic calligraphy of our names.  Very cool.

Our dinner was a buffet, catered by the food service outfit that feeds us lunch every day.  Egyptian and Lebanese mezzas, kofta and kebab, and shish tawook.  SIGH.

Within about 1/2 an hour, my stomach was churning and I was feeling DISTINCTLY not well.  My friend and colleague, TV, offered to let me sit in her office and chat until my bus came.  In that short amount of time, whatever it was that I ate decided that it didn’t like me, and my stomach decided the same!

I had hoped that my “GI evacuation” on campus would be enough, but no!  I had to ask the bus driver to pull over, not once, but twice, on the elevated highway that runs through the middle of Cairo, so that I could vomit on the highway!  How lovely.  (This does lead me to wonder – if this had happened in the States, would the driver of an urban commuter bus have pulled over on the highway to let me out, wait for me, and then make sure I got home safely??)  Another friend/colleague, PS, who was on the bus with me, helped carry my stuff back to my building, and made sure I got home without incident.  I spent another 45 minutes or so wrapped around the toilet at home before I collapsed into bed for 12 hours of recovery.

I kinda wish I could blame it on the night before, but this had every indication of MASSIVE food poisoning.  Luckily I have heard about no-one else who got sick.  I was the lucky one.  Seems Cairo got one last shot in before I go.

But with the whole event, my general dismay about it and reticence about going, this just seemed to add injury to insult.

October 17, 2008


Filed under: NSTIW — Kaddee @ 12:46 pm

For those of you who know me, you know i adore my coffee. I drink all kinds of REAL coffee. I abhor what passes as coffee at many places in Egypt – Nescafe. That, my dear, is not coffee.

For the past 2 years, I have had the great joy and privilege of being treated each work day, upon my arrival at my office, to freshly made Turkish coffee (ahwa) delivered to my desk. This is a treat that I relish, and also about which I felt a great amount of middle-class-guilt. I have learned to get over the guilt, and just enjoy the coffee.

Since the move to New Campus, our labs (and therefore the alcohol burners that made the flame to make the coffee) have been in boxes, in chaotic messes, inaccessible to anyone. I have [sob] been without ahwa in the morning since school began!

*SIDE NOTE – I was so bummed by this, and so used to ahwa every morning (we’d been doing that in Dahab all through August) that I broke down and bought an alcohol burner for our flat! HEHHEH FIRE!

My coffee options on the New Campus have been less than stellar.

  • There is Cinnabon – LE17 for a cup of coffee (outrageous!).
    • I don’t drink this in the States, I’m certainly not going to drink it here.
  • There is Cilantro – LE19 for a cup of coffee (give me an aneurysm!).
    • Not only is the coffee stupidly expensive, it is TERRIBLE.
  • There is Jared’s Bagels – LE6 for an 8 oz. cup of so-so drip coffee.
    • Obviously this is the only reasonable option!

So my options have been determined – even though all of them are decidedly American-style food outlets, and I would really rather have Egyptian-style, seeing as I am in Egypt!

Recently, there has been some problem at Jared’s. When I order my small (8 oz.) drip coffee, I am told, “No small. Only large (12 oz.).”

So I ask, “Hmm, why only large?”

“No small cups.”

At this point, my American brain and my Egyptian training go to war with each other.

  • American brain – “That is STUPID, just fill the 12 oz. cup 2/3 full and call it a small.”
  • Egyptian training – “OMG, don’t try to explain that to them. It will take 20 minutes, and you will never succeed in making them understand. Just take the damn large coffee!!”
  • American brain – “But I don’t WANT a large coffee.”
  • Egyptian training – “Then throw out what you don’t want. It is faster and less stressful in the long run. You are only wasting LE1.50 ($0.25)!”

Egyptian training won out. Jared’s has not had small coffees since we got back from Eid. I’m just getting large now – it is so much easier.

We learn to comply with ridiculous situations, because it is easier than trying to fight the battle. Unfortunately each small compliance solidifies the ridiculousness into normalcy.

August 11, 2008

Sphyrna lewini

Filed under: Being There,NSTIW — Kaddee @ 8:54 am

10 August 2008 – near Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, off the backside of Jackson Reef aboard the Brina I

Photo from: National Geographic website

3 dives in the blue

last dive – 8 hammerheads

I couldn’t be more pleased

June 26, 2008

Jazz Masters @ Giza

Filed under: BONUS!,NSTIW — Kaddee @ 10:14 am

15 February 2008

Along the lines of “I can’t believe it!” NSTIW- sitting at my desk at AUC, when an e-mail pops up (GOD I hate Outlook) saying that one of the Uni offices has FREE tickets to see the Smithsonian Jazz Masters playing an outdoor concert IN FRONT OF THE SPHINX in Giza! Yeah – REALLY!

So I texted Jack, did not bother to wait for his response, and headed over to the office to get tickets. The were “First come, first served” so I went quickly! When I got there, they had a HUGE stack of tickets, but only allowed one person to get 4 tickets – so I got 4. (I had contacted AJ on the way over, and she asked for tickets, if I could get ‘em).

I got tix for all of us! (Unfortunately, a significant number of our friends did not manage to get tix – Sorry Guys. Apparently “important” people were allowed to PHONE IN ticket orders, even though the e-mail said you had to go in person.) The concert was the day after Valentines. It was a mixed day, weather wise, with breaks of bright, hot sun and clouds threatening imminent rain. Luckily for us, the rain never came.

The concert was OUTSTANDING. A marvelous collection of classics (Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald etc.) as well as more “modern” classics (Quincy Jones).

I managed a couple of pics with the point-and-shoot, and a quick video of the piccolo piece which many of you may recognize. Sorry for the quality :)


Sorry for the head in the way

PLEASE LET ME KNOW IF THE VIDEO WORKS!!! This is my first attempt at video on the blog, and…..I’m not convinced it will actually work!

March 20, 2008


Filed under: NSTIW — Kaddee @ 4:32 pm

Plumbing in Egypt is…..interesting. Appropriate elbow joints, couplers and teflon tape are NOT standard gear here. Flexible tubing, masking tape and silicone goop are the norm.

We have a dishwasher in our kitchen that has gone through many iterations of “add more goop” to keep it from leaking all over the kitchen. It has been marginally successful.

Two days ago, I got a call from Jack – “We need a plumber – call housing”. The sink connectors were leaking, the dishwasher wasn’t draining, and everything under the sink was a puddle-y mess.

Yesterday the plumber came. He tinkered, gooped and “fixed” the problems.

This morning, while having coffee with our lovely guests, I heard a SOUND. It was the sound of water spraying under pressure. “OH CRAP – the dishwasher is running, the hose has let go, and the kitchen is going to flood.”

I ran to the kitchen. Everything was fine. The dishwasher had finished its cycle. There was no water on the floor (although the dishwasher had not drained either).

What the HELL is that sound?????

I traced it to the front door.

When I opened the door to the hallway, there was one of the farash (custodians) with the FIRE HOSE in his hand. He was using the fire hose to wash down the long, stone-floor hallway, so that he could squeegy it.

No Kidding.