August 30, 2006
Sabaah il-kheer! (Good morning)
We arrived last Tuesday, and have been in accelerated settling in mode ever since. The AUC orientation began on Sunday (Yes, Sunday is the start of the work week in the Muslim world). We have been inundated with information for the last 4 days. My tote bag weighs about 15 pounds, just from the paperwork and “helpful hints” that everyone has given us. We have had 3 hours of Egyptian Arabic lessons to help us: take a taxi, order in a restaurant and use the phone. We are in BIG trouble!!
Our orientation has done everything from tell us about the health insurance and retirement benefits to teach us Arabic to introduce us to just about everyone on campus. We have had lovely Egyptian lunches daily with Limon and mint (a wonderfully refreshing lemonade type drink with chopped mint) and dessert – LOTS of dessert! The “cohort” of newbies have gotten to know each other (and EVERYONE knows my “Trophy Spouse”, as he introduced himself!) and have shared lots of readjustment experiences.
Apparently, Jack and I are “mavericks” amongst the relocatees. Everyone seems to think that we have “figured it all out”. We managed to get mobile phones (thanks to Matt), find Drinkies (the beer/wine store that delivers), take taxis on our own, find the Fish Garden (see Jack’s post) etc,etc,etc. That seems to make us exceeding adventurous in everyone’s eyes. Our big score recently (actually, it was ALL Jack) was to get a copy of the key to the 7th floor terrace. It is supposed to be open to faculty for hanging out, but it has been locked since we got here, and no one, not even security, seemed to know why, or how to get the key. Jack managed it, and we are now Gods amongst the other faculty. Life is good.
Today (Thursday, August 31st) is a much needed day off. We are done with orientation, we have a “social” tomorrow on a Felucca.
NEW FELUCCA PICTURES (8 Sept)
School begins on Tuesday, September 5th. Luckily, labs do not begin until the following week, so I will have some time to get my schedule figured out, insh’allah. So far all is going well, I hope that the pace slows a bit!
August 25, 2006
Here are some photos
Well – I’ve been going thru a lot of the photos on my camera and found a few that kinda summed up the last few months. They are random, not-so-good, and those pictured have not given their permission. Oh well! You’ll have to come to Cairo to get me.
Hope at least one or two give people a laugh. Hope at least one or two get people to Cairo.
Just brain/camera dumping for my own sake.
August 24, 2006
As we were sitting in our brand new apartment, drinking scotch and physically and mentally collapsing, our doorbell rang. It was Matt. He is faculty at AUC and a volunteer mentor/friend for those just arriving. He lives in our neighborhood and knew we were scheduled to arrive Tuesday evening, so he stopped by to say hello and see if we needed anything.
Our original reaction was, “Are you insane? We just arrived and are exhausted.” But after chatting for a bit we decided to go for a quick tour around the neighborhood. Matt brought us to a little Italian place (?Didos?) not far from the Hostel where we had a light “dinner” of Caprese salad, mushroom and garlic salad and bruschetta. After gastronomic pick-me-up, we wandered around the neighborhood and found the grocery stores etc. We got back to the apartment, feeling a bit more settled and knowledgeable and promptly slept HARD.
We met Matt on Wednesday to go to the University to begin the paperwork bonanza. We got IDs, opened a bank account, found my office and got a brief look at the area of town where the University is located. On our way home, we picked up coffee beans (Nescafe is nasty), a grinder and a coffee maker! We are beginning to make our apartment into our home. We have COFFEE!
Matt has been wonderfully patient with us. He has helped us find many “odd” items that we’ve needed. Things ranging from coffee beans to where to get passport photos and how to work the taxis. We are still getting used to walking IN the street (necessitated by non-existant sidewalks or impassible sidewalks), and crossing THROUGH traffic – while it is moving! I’ve jay walked all my life, but this is ridiculous.
August 23, 2006
Sunday, August 20th -
We finished packing/organizing/moving our stuff in the house – thanks to Pat, we managed to keep our king size mattress in storage. Jack and I had “disagreed” frequently about this. I won.
We had an outstanding dinner at one our favorite restaurants – Harvest Vine. Many plates of tapas (Sardine fillets, stuffed piquillo peppers with salt cod, calamari with squid ink icecream [YES, icecream], chorizo, and the most OUTSTANDING venison) a lovely bottle of the wine that we drank during our wedding ceremony and espresso. What a delightful way to end our Seattle life for our Cairo adventure. We went back to the pub for a last drink before going to the airport – it was sad to leave, but a really great send off.
Monday, August 21st
SeaTac airport at 1am is pretty deserted. We drank port from paper cups (thank you Mark Alpen) and waited for the desk to open. Check-in was uneventful, I wish I could say the same for security.
Apparently, having a one-way ticket to Egypt gets one “extra attention” from security. We and our carry-ons got a FULL inspection. After that, however, the flight to Philly was wonderful. As I have said earlier, thanks to my mother we flew to Philly first class, and to Frankfurt in Business/Envoy class. The flight to Philly was lovely and comfortable.
We only had about an hour in Philly, so we found our gate (about as far from our arrival gate as possible) and waited briefly to board the flight to Frankfurt.
Being served mimosa as soon as one sits in thier seat on the plane is soooo civilized!! I wish I could fly that way all the time. Our Philly to Frankfurt leg was positively luxurious! I slept REALLY WELL on the plane – a couple of glasses of wine, headphones, a “sleep mask” and a seat that nearly fully reclines also help.
Tuesday, August 22nd
We arrived in Frankfurt as rested as any traveller could. It was early/late/who knows. It was mid-morning, Frankfurt time. We found our departure gate and had 8 hours to spend in the airport. We had received complimentary passes to the Lufthansa lounge while in Envoy class, so we headed there. The “Gold” lounge said that they would not honor the passes, but Jack was wise and suggested we try to use them at the Business class lounge next door. We wiled away the hours in the lounge – free wi-fi access, free snacks and beverages, showers, etc. That really made the lay-over manageable.
On our flight to Cairo we were back in coach, but it was a relatively short flight. Jack offered to trade his diminished hearing for my lack of sense of smell during the flight!
As we flew over the Mediterranean, I began to realize what we were doing. I began to feel slightly nauseated. My blood pressure went up. As we descended into Cairo, the pilot approached from the southwest, which gave us a loop around the Pyramids at Giza. When I saw them for the first time, at about 6:45pm local time, I could not breathe. I cried and yet could not take my eyes off the Pyramids.
“Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”
What have I done? There is no going back. I said I wanted to do this, and now look! Here I am, and I am scared!
Sheer stubbornness made me regain my composure before we landed.
As we walked off the plane, we joked about whether or not there would be an AUC representative there to meet us. Relief and joy are pale representations of my feelings when we saw Abdul with the AUC sign with my name on it.
Abdul was picking up another faculty member as well as me and Jack, and a load of students, so it took a while to get everyone together, give Abdul the passports for immigration clearance and find bags. Think herding cats – Abdul must know Bastet.
We got everyone together, and on to customs. As far as I can tell, customs was one guy, waving the lot of us with ALL OUR BAGGAGE thru a side gate and out of the area! The students left with one driver and Jack, the other faculty member and I waited for our driver. While waiting, Jack decided to wander around just a bit (cue ominous music here).
The driver arrived, the bags were loaded, and there was no sign of Jack! I went back into the terminal to look for him, but could not find him. I must admit, this was the first time I have wished for a cell phone. I began to panic. Where could he have gotten off to in such a short period of time? We’ve only been on the ground for about an hour! Just about the time I was about to completely freak out, he arrived, victorious, from Duty Free. His comment to me, “You will be so happy when you see what I got.”
The drive into Cairo from the airport gave me a glimpse into why it is that most people I’ve talked to say never to drive in Cairo. More on driving later.
We dropped off the other faculty member at her housing complex and then it was our turn at the AUC Hostel in Zamalek. Two men met us at the curb and brought all our bags up to the apartment. Nabil was waiting for us at the apartment to show us around and give us the keys.
FINALLY we have arrived! As we took out the laptops to check the internet connections, Jack pulled out his “suprise” from Duty Free. Sherry wood aged single malt scotch! I did a little happy dance as we sipped nice scotch in our new home in Cairo.
August 21, 2006
Warren Zevon has been Jack’s and my hero for a long time. This trip is no different. After much craziness with flights thru Heathrow and trying to get to Cairo on time, we got rerouted through Frankfurt. OUr tickets were booked SOOOOO late, that we could not get seat assignments until the day we flew. On a fluke, Jack figured he would try to get us upgraded from Cattle Class (MOOOOO!) to Business/Envoy. We knew it would be expensive, but some things are worth the money.
First class from Seattle to Philly and Envoy class from Philly to Frankfurt was DEFINITELY worth whatever they wanted. However, my mom (thank you Mommy) gave us the frequent flyer miles that we needed to “pay” for the upgrade. We toasted her multiple times as we enjoyed large, comfortable seats, good food and real dishes, glasses and SILVERWARE!!!
We are now killing 8 hours in Frankfurt before our flight to Cairo, however (again because of my totally awesome mother) since we had Envoy class tickets, we can use the Business class lounge for the time we are here. Jack is currently showering in the lounge, so that he will be fresh and clean (ok, he’s ALWAYS fresh!) for the leg into Cairo. I’ll get a chance to shower once he is done. This has been the most unbelievably intense run-up to a trip that I think I’ve ever experienced. Then again, this is the most intense trip I’ve ever experienced. So to have such an incredibly smooth and relaxing trip (at least thus far) has been an unexpected blessing.
We both have some really bad “travel photos” that will go up soon. Keep watching – same Bat time, same Bat channel.
August 20, 2006
It is FINALLY here. Departure time. Not the actual, “OMG, the plane is taking off” departure, but we are stripping the bed, doing the last load of laundry, cleaning out the last bits of personal minutia. We will be off for dinner and the airport this evening.
This long-awaited moment arrives, bittersweet, as all departures are.
August 10, 2006
Today, the last pieces of our shipment were purchased, and are making their way into the boxes, to leave us tomorrow.
The cats move to a new home to live happily ever after.
I am drinking a lovely $25 dollar wine out of a plastic cup because all of our non-essential possessions have been purged or packed.Â Jack is drinking the “garage beer”.
The time for departure is upon us.
August 8, 2006
Yes, in fact, this is what our lives have been reduced to for the next few years. Of course, this is ONLY worldly belongings. Life is, after all, about the experiences that you can’t put in a box, and yet are always with you. The freight forwarding company picks up “our life” on Friday. At that point, all our belongings, save what we bring in our luggage, is in the hands of (pick your diety here). I am sure that there are things that we don’t know we will need in Cairo, and there is no way to prevent that. Thanks to those who are coming to visit – we’ll send shopping lists before you leave the States!
I am stunned at how LITTLE we are actually bringing. We did not use our entire 748 pound allotment for freight AND we each have two HUMONGOUS suitcases and carry-on bags! What the heck are we forgetting that others remember to bring????
There is a great sense of accomplishment in having our stuff ready to go, and there is a simultaneous sense of panic about what “should” or “should not” be in the shipment. At this point, there is no changing what is in there, to any great extent, so… I guess it will suffice. How is it that we are “supposed to know” what we will need in a country/culture that we have never been to? There are no universal guidelines to follow – apparently, one just punts! We do have the advantage that we are not going to a place where supplies are scarce. If we need something, I am sure we will find something to suffice in Cairo!
OMG it is really happening!