Kaddee’s Cairo Chronicles

October 7, 2008

Thoughts from the Commute

Filed under: Being There — Kaddee @ 10:49 am

7September – first day of classes, first day of the commute:

Leaving the dirt and chaos,
Delving into newness, construction
Hope in the desert
Making personal oases?

Rising dread and fear,
This is NEVER what I wanted.

7October – just returning from the Eid break, one month since classes began:

Daily the ride is the same
Trip distance is a constant
The distance that changes
by magnitudes each minute
Is that of my heart.

My dreams, my Egypt
that which I had come to grips with
Recedes rapidly as I am transported
to the desert mirage.

Feeling suffocated in the openness
Wishing that, like the mirage,
this would evaporate as I approached.

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

May 15, 2008

Egypt as a metaphor

Filed under: Being There — Kaddee @ 10:23 pm

I read this article, “Egypt: the surreal painting” by Tarek Osman, and was pleasantly surprised. It did not paint the usual PollyAnna optimistic fallacy that is frequently expressed about the politics, social agendas and future of the country. It, in my not so humble opinion, spoke clearly and truthfully about the past, present and future of a wonderful, and imperiled nation.

May 8, 2008

How did I get HERE?

Filed under: Being There — Kaddee @ 10:16 pm

I often wonder that…..

If someone had asked me 10, 15 years ago, where will you be? What will you be doing? The current reality is NOT what I would have described.

The funny thing is that, although I frequently bemoan the tribulations of the day, I also truly enjoy what I’m doing. I am happy for WHERE I am right now. I am happy (most of the time) for my interactions with my students. I enjoy (and simultaneously dread) the intellectual gyrations (read: drain) of CONSTANTLY preparing new courses and content and learning even more about my chosen areas of interest.

I know some of you are chuckling, thinking “I know what she said to me YESTERDAY about…the hassles and inanities perpetrated by her students…the exhaustion of new preps EVERY SEMESTER…the anxieties about research and publications”, which are TRUE, and I still am happy about what I do.

The next year is going to be a challenge for me on a number of levels. First, I’m going to be working on a research project/grant for the first time in a LONG time. It is very invigorating and scary. Second, I am now coordinating a campus-wide CORE curriculum course that needs help. I believe in the educational benefit of the course, but it is going to be a struggle to help it reach its potential. Third, the new campus, its location and inherent “newness” would be difficult, in the best of circumstances.

A wise person once described my life as “Lurching from one crisis to the next”… I like to think of it as acceleration. :)

April 14, 2008

Other perspectives

Filed under: Being There — Kaddee @ 8:39 pm

A City Where You Can’t Hear Yourself Scream” is a NYT piece on Cairo. I received it today from my father, with a note:

“Dear Kate & Jack – Thought you’d find this interesting. Your apartment must have very good windows and thick walls. Love, Dad”

As I wrote back, we DO have very thick walls – all concrete – great for blocking out street noise, but terrible for hanging artwork. We are also lucky, in that our windows look out over a central courtyard. There is noise, from the students, but very little compared to the noise that the NYT article talks about.

When the article mentions Tahrir Square, that is where I work. I only have to spend a handful of minutes in the square while I am walking to work, hailing a taxi, waiting in traffic, or crossing to another destination. In the short term, the noise is noticeable, but bearable. I’ve learned to ignore it – even get used to it. (Friends and visitors are stunned that Jack and I don’t even flinch at car horns, even when they are only millimeters from our elbows)

The references to lawn mowers, freight trains and jackhammers may be accurate, but, in my (not so humble) opinion, make it out to be worse than reality. Yes, it is loud. Yes, the noise is tiring. Yes, I am probably irreparably damaging my hearing. And it is not that horrible – it is just the way it is. El donya kidda (Life is like that).

February 21, 2008

Flocking to Rehab

Filed under: Being There — Kaddee @ 10:43 pm

Like lemmings to the sea, or shoaling salmon in front of hunting orcas.

Not me, you can’t make me. I’m not going to Rehab. Rehab is for quitters (a very old joke, borrowed from unnamed sources).

Rehab – actually el Rehab city – is a gated, planned community about 4km from the New Campus of AUC. Housing is running a number of tours for faculty and staff to look at housing units there, so that when the new campus opens in September, employees can live close. Sounds great, right?

I have avoided suburbs, planned communities and gated enclaves for my entire adult life in the States. I accepted a job at the American University in CAIRO – not to live in “New Cairo” or any other part of the Eastern Desert. The move to Cairo, for me, was to be in it – be a part of one of the world’s largest, most vibrant, most polluted, oldest, most written about “centers of the civilized world” and experience all the good, the bad and the ugly of it. I have seen lots of all of it – good, bad and ugly, and I’m…good with it…happy about it….frustrated about it….in love with it and often ready to board the next plane home, all at one time. I think that is part of being in a HUGE metropolitan environment regardless of where in the world it is located. This is MY OPINION. Mine is not the only opinion, nor the “right” one for anyone but me. And for ME Rehab is not an option.

That said, since the tour, the caucusing has been FIERCE. From both sides of the fence. The Kool-Aid has been distributed, the red Kool-Aid kids and the blue Kool-Aid kids are both equally convinced that they “understand” things better than the other. And DAMMIT they are gonna convince anyone who differs in opinion.

I have to admit – I am my own kind of Kool-Aid drinker (I think mine is ORANGE). I think other people’s decisions are warped, yet I am also attempting to allow others to make their own decisions.

The convincing and proselytizing and one-argument rhetoric is the thing that I am having the most trouble with. If one truly feels that “I can’t handle the commute” (predicted to be 2 to 3 hours per day from my current neighborhood), then DON’T COMMUTE. Please don’t tell me that I SHOULDN’T COMMUTE because YOU feel YOU can’t. I know that the commute is going to be awful, and I would still rather do that than live in the gated suburb, 30km from Cairo.

I know FOR ME, that if I were to live out there, I would never see Cairo-proper again. If the commute was unmanageable to begin with then I certainly wouldn’t want to drive or taxi into town AFTER a long day of work and then back out again after dinner and visits. And, FOR ME, if I’m gonna have to spend 3 hours getting to and from Cairo, I’d rather be in the city for all my free time, limited as that may be.

I have made MY decision for next year – I will be staying in my urban oasis and suffering the commute daily. I may regret my decision, and wish for a stint in Rehab – but I’ll burn that bridge when I come to it.

December 28, 2007

Holiday Wishes to All…

Filed under: Being There — Kaddee @ 11:36 pm

From me and Jack to all – this is how we spent our Christmas, the two of us and my mom in Upper Egypt. Life is good.

Christmas 2007

Believe it or not, we were freezing our BUTTS off. Happy Holidays. :)

October 26, 2007

MotoGP: Sunday (Race Day)

Filed under: Being There,Travel — Kaddee @ 4:13 pm

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday – for most of the MotoGP calendar this is RACE DAY. So too in Brno. Once again, the day dawned clear and sunny, with only a trace of clouds (or was that just from Charity GP the night before??). We were up and out quickly to get on the bus for the track.

Same deal as yesterday, have breakfast, socialize with the other photographer friend we’ve made, make a plan for the day. (Little did I realize THEN that race day is more about watching than photographing. I’ve never been the one with a good camera at the track, I ALWAYS watch. This time is new. I’m learning) Unfortunately, the gods of organization were conspiring, and all of our “best laid plans” for the morning went out the window. On the positive side, there were happy surprises awaiting us. :)

We’d figured we would spend the morning (during warm-up) out on the service road, shooting. THEN we found out that the PitWalk was earlier than the previous day, so we really didn’t have time to go out on the service road AND do the PitWalk. Ok…watch warm-up, do the “paddock tour” (really just a “herded” walk thru the boring parts of the paddock, but occasionally you can see someone) and be ready for the PitWalk.

As we are signing up for the paddock tour, one of the VIP Village hostesses tells Jack to “pick out THIS gamepiece from the bowl”. (The VIP hospitality group gives away all kinds of stuff to people in the Village. Each morning when you enter you choose a little gamepiece and you might win something – ranging from a MotoGP cap to a Tissot watch). Jack did as he was told, and “won” a chance to watch the start of the 125 race from the Pit Wall! I was soooooo JEALOUS.

As we were trying to figure out what lenses he could bring down with him, the same hostess taps me and points to ANOTHER gamepiece. GUESS WHAT!!??

125 PitWall Passes
Yup, our whole day changed!

We went on the paddock tour. A HUGE group of people walk from one end of the paddock to the other, following a girl with a sign. Everyone is supposed to stay together and just look. *We* weren’t important enough (read: didn’t spend enough money on our tickets) to have paddock passes so we get marched thru to gawk.

Jack and I had our cameras, although we didn’t really expect to see anyone. As luck would have it, we did see Randy dePuniet going by on a scooter!
Randy DePuniet
Also, as luck would have it, Jack and I “got lost” in the paddock as we went looking for photo ops. OOOPPPPS! We went wandering off, between some of the trucks, towards the backdoors of the pits. Next thing we knew…the “tour” was gone. Drat!

We spent some time between the trailers and the garage doors, hoping to see *someone* to take pics of. There was not a lot going on – the riders were in their garages, waiting to head out onto the track. The one person I did get a picture of was Marco Melandri, who was injured and subsequently not riding.
Marco Melandri (injured)

When we left the paddock, to do the pitwalk, get lunch and get ready for the 125 race, a VERY germanic DORNA security guy gave us a bunch of hassle about separating from the tour, but eventually deigned to “allowed” us to leave. He tried to make us feel like he was doing us a favor by letting us OUT, since our tour had already left. Yeah! Sure.

The pitwalk was much the same as the previous day with babes and bikes and open garages. I took almost no photos. We had lunch and met up with the DORNA guy who was going to be our “host” on the pitwall for the start of the 125 race!

THIS was exciting. We got back down onto pit lane as the MotoGP warm-up was finishing up. We walked in front of the garages, as riders were coming in and going out for last minute setup adjustments! The photos from pitlane during MotoGP warmup are here, but below is (IMNSHO) my best shot of the weekend.


After MotoGP warm-up, we got to see what we’d gone to pitlane to see – the start of the 125 race! We were at the beginning of the pit wall, not far from the start/finish line. We could see everything! The pics of the grid are not bad, but we were (literally) so close to the racers that the actual race pictures are blurry! I learned a bit from my pictures the previous day, so hopefully these are better! :)

The rest of the day was primarily spent as a spectator. I took a few shots during the 250 and GP race, but nothing really worth posting. I simply ENJOYED the races. What a concept!

October 7, 2007

KNITTING: Feel free to skip if you are not a knitter

Filed under: Being There — Kaddee @ 5:43 pm

I really enjoy knitting (and now, crochet, since I’ve “retaught” myself how). I find either to be very relaxing as well as producing cool things (although, in reality the outcome is not the reason I do it – see 20 year old yarn post).

I did not bring yarn with me. I figured that, people HERE knit and crochet, especially crochet, I should be able to find some decent yarn here.


I’ve been searching for yarn for a couple of projects (baby blanket for my maid, slipper socks to felt for me, scarf for Jack) and have only found crappy Chinese acrylic (it is crappy because it is acrylic, not because it is Chinese), super fine crochet thread and rope. No kidding, rope!

A friend left us a bunch of stuff when she moved. It included some yarn! I’m desperate for some needlecraft project to keep me sane, so I figured I’d try out some of the yarn that was left, even though I don’t particularly like it.

IT IS HORRIBLE!!!! It is a double strand, with “confetti” on one strand. It is a hideous color and it feels terrible! I’m soooooo frustrated!

Yucky Yarn

So much for relaxing while knitting!!! Can’t crochet with this stuff, knitting with it is like wrestling with an ornery prickly squid. Guess no knitting until I find somewhere to get yarn.

Maybe during Eid…

September 28, 2007

Coptic Wedding

Filed under: Being There,Friends — Kaddee @ 7:53 pm

Jack and I belong to the British Community Association, a British ex-pat club. It is a relatively small club where we go to escape the (often incestuous) tendrils of AUC as our only social outlet. The staff at the club are a marvelous group of Egyptians. Somehow they manage to put up with a lot of colonialist tendencies from the club members with great elan.

We really enjoy the club, the staff, the atmosphere. Last weekend, we were informed that one of the barmen was getting married. “Mabruk” (congratulations) we told him. The next time we saw him was on Monday, when he asked Jack if we would come to the wedding. So on Monday we were invited to a Thursday wedding. This is normal here. Wedding invitations are frequently oral, and, even more frequently, extended up until mere hours before the ceremony.

So…Jack and I had to scramble to find appropriate attire for a wedding! Jack found a shop with summer suits on sale, and got two (yes, two) beautiful new suits! I scrounged in my closet and made due with what I had – off-white linen dress and Egyptian blazer. I would have LOVED to find something new, however the week was incredibly busy and I had no time to shop.

Last night was the wedding. We met up with some others at the club, and went to Heliopolis (where the church was) from there. Apparently in the “good” Coptic churches weddings are scheduled practically on top of each other. Our friend’s wedding was at 8pm. We arrived at 7:30pm, and there was a wedding in progress. We walked into the church and watched the end of that wedding.

While wedding A was going on, minions were scurrying around in the aisles, setting up for the next wedding! New arbors were being erected, flowers were being set out, runners prepared. As *soon* as wedding A finished, wedding B decorations were hurriedly put into place and wedding B began! It was a model of time-efficiency that I have rarely experienced in Egypt!

Our friend’s wedding was beautiful. Very Egyptian. Children were running around in the church, going up to the altar/wedding party to join in and pose for pictures. The bride and groom were smiling and laughing about the whole thing. We understood NONE of the service, since it was Coptic AND in Arabic. The bride and groom were “sermoned to” and then put on ceremonial capes and crowns (I didn’t get a crown for my wedding! pout). The bridesmaid was ululating during the service, followed by most of the women in attendance (including myself – on at least one occasion!)

After the service, everyone was hustled out into a courtyard for the receiving line and pictures while the next wedding was set up and begun. Our friend seemed truly happy that we had come. We had a good time – it was a VERY different experience than any other wedding I’ve been to.

**Interesting side note – An Egyptian friend had once commented to us that if we went to an Egyptian wedding, the photographers and videographers (‘cuz they are ALL filmed) would focus in on the khawagas – foreigners. It was VERY true. In the “other” wedding that we saw, before our friends’, the videographer was panning the crowd and got a good ZOOM in on Jack before continuing the pan. There were a number of khawaga at our friend’s service, and we ALL got a bunch of face time on the film, as well as being photographed with the bride and groom in the receiving line.**