February 23, 2007
Well, actually, we are moving for the first time SINCE arriving in Cairo. AND the move is not that catastrophic, in that it is within the same building AND on the same floor. However…moving still sucks!
I’m not sure if I’ve posted about this before, but our previous apartment had a distinct flaw in its design. Namely, the end wall of the apartment, which was in the master bedroom, was shared with the elevator shaft. We live on the 9th floor. The building is only 10 living floors and the roof, where the elevator mechanism is located. The elevator is UNBELIEVABLY LOUD, especially when the brake mechanism is activated and the doors open or shut. This whine is transmitted INCREDIBLY WELL thru the elevator shaft wall, and into our (previous) bedroom. We’d asked others about it, some had been bothered by it (mostly on the upper floors), others had been annoyed by it, Jack and I were being kept awake by it – Frequently!!
We talked to housing. They replaced the motor oil in the mechanism and declared it fixed. Neither Jack nor I could ascertain any difference in the WHINE/THUNK that marked every elevator ride after the changing of the oil.
So….back in late-October, another faculty member on our floor announced that she was leaving her apartment. In early November, just after she’d left, I asked housing if Jack and I could move into her apartment. Her roommate was still in the apartment, and she is a friend, so we asked if we could have the apartment as soon as it was vacant.
Fast forward to January. The apartment is vacant!!! We begin making arrangements to move in when I get an e-mail from the office of the Provost asking if we’ve been promised the apartment, or are just asking for it. (Apparently a Program Manager was looking to get another apartment…) We sorta figured that all was lost, even though housing had said (and I had the e-mail) that we could move in as soon as it was vacant. In an uncharacteristic turn of events, the e-mail trumped the PM, and Jack and I began the process of having the apartment cleaned and readied for the move.
What housing called clean did not meet our expectations, so rather than moving LAST weekend, we had Genet clean and we started figuring out what each room would be used for. By Tuesday, we’d begun getting some of the little, personal stuff over. Wednesday, housing sent some guys to move big things, boxes, mattresses, rugs etc. Today (Friday) we moved over the last stuff. We are OFFICIALLY now in the new apartment.
And the elevator noise? In the living room, it is just as bad as it was in our bedroom in the old apartment. In the bedroom, it is audible, but barely. We are sleeping like babes!
I hate moving. Yet if it is for the right reason(s), it is SOOO worth it!
February 16, 2007
It is mid-February.Â The “changeable” weather is here.Â Warm one day, cold the next, windy the following.Â The nasturtiums are blooming – I had to smile at their happy flowers.
Somehow, I got “finagled” into going to AUC’s winter graduation. REMEMBER, I’ve only been at AUC for 1 semester, I don’t know any of the students graduating. But, as is so often the case with faculty and graduation, most of the faculty DOESN’T GO. The AUC graduation is split into 2 parts: the awards and speeches, then an intermission (where lots of faculty leave and lots of family arrive) and lastly the presenting of the diplomas. Many “warned” me about the graduation – long, boring, loud – more of a hafla than an academic event. Ahh well, here we go.
AUC busses all the attending faculty to the convention center, much like Highline does. Unfortunately, unlike Highline, the pre-event hors d’oeuvres do not include wine. We all got into the academic regalia and waited and waited and waited. We had arrived at 4:30 for a 6:30 graduation. As we were paraded into the hall, past the families and the graduates, we were directed ONTO THE STAGE. Apparently AUC has it’s attending faculty on stage throughout. Under the lights, in the academic gowns, on uncomfortable chairs, with nothing to do but stare into the lights and try to look engaged. Gee, I wonder why most of the faculty has “other committments” on graduation day? Then the intermission. There is snacky food and water and juice. the lobby is PACKED and LOUD as graduates take pictures and family coos over their accomplishments.
The presenting of the degrees was, suprisingly, coordinated and fast. Only a little over an hour for 448 degrees. The reader kept people moving even with the hoots, screams, whistles and ululations from the audience. It was loud, it was genuine, it was joyous. I have to admit, it was fun! By the end, I must also confess, I had a raging headache from the lights, noise and lack of food, but I didn’t have the intense adverse reaction to the event that so many people expressed. I think I’m going to try to avoid summer graduation (twice as many graduates and three times as hot), but not from some visceral aversion to the event. The heat, lights and length of the event will keep me from attending – not the event itself. The winter graduation had us leaving AUC at 4 and I didn’t get home until after 10. It makes for a VERY long day.
I honestly think that my reaction to the chaos of the AUC graduation stems from having been at Highline for so many graduations. The same pride and excitement from the families was present at Highline’s graduations. They too were loud and slightly chaotic. The emotions were genuine though, so, to me, they were not distasteful. I enjoy seeing the excitement, there and here.
February 9, 2007
The first week of the new semester is over. I only put in about 50 hours this week – getting the kinks worked out, dealing with the students trying to either add or drop my classes, finding my way again. It is the same everywhere, and yet I sometimes wonder if I have it better or worse here. My answer depends on the day/time. Some things are SOO much easier here, others….
General thoughts – I am very excited about this semester, AND I think I’m gonna be working my butt off. My Scientific Thinking class is already, somewhat, pulled together from last semester. However, I learned alot from those classes and am already implementing some changes in how and when I present things. My Comparative Anatomy class is both thrilling and terrifying to me. I’ve NEVER been solely in charge of the lecture and lab for a class like this. I, thankfully, have tons of information from the previous professor. I have learned from past experience (THANKS WENDY) that it is very important to “make the material your own” as opposed to working directly from someone else’s notes/handouts/slides. So I am currently reading 3 textbooks, scouring the web for appropriate figures and rewriting most of the handouts and labs for the course. WHEW.
I had a real OMG moment yesterday, sitting in my office. I was frantically trying to finish my slides for class (in 45 minutes!) AND get the information straight in my head so that I could present it coherantly when one of the lab staff came in to ask me how long I was going to be in my office. “How odd. Why would he want to know that?” About 10 minutes later he arrived triumphantly in my office bearing a steaming, fresh cup of ‘ahwa (Egyptian/Turkish coffee). I was FLOORED. I adore this kind of coffee and had recently asked him if he knew where to get the implements for making it. Apparently he took it upon himself to collect up the gear (some he admited he borrowed from Chemistry to see if I really liked the coffee) and make me coffee. I ask you, can you think of anyone on your staff who would go out to get special ingredients to make you your favorite kind of coffee, and then bring it to you just before you were going to lecture? I nearly wept I was so flattered/honored and taken aback.
This is part of why people come here and stay. I know I am unbelievably well taken care of (ok, spoiled).
February 3, 2007
Jack and I knew we needed a “vacation” after the family left. We’d been trying to decide where to go/what to do since early December. The first thought was Petra, Jordan. Everyone we spoke with said we’d freeze our butts off in Jordan in January. We contemplated “Mombasa, in a barroom drinking gin” – you can’t get to Mombasa easily from here. We honed in on Sinai – snorkeling, diving and sitting on the beach sounded great – but where? People talk about Sharm el Sheik as the resort capital of Sinai – we aren’t really resort people. Lucy had talked about Dahab – more laid back, but also the scene of the March bombing last year – would it be safe? We read, we talked.
We blindly decided to made reservations in Dahab at the relatively up-scale, Swiss/Egyptian run Christina Beach Palace. We “splurged” on a real hotel instead of a “backpackers” or a “camp”. We had no knowledge of the hotel, or Dahab, but asked the (nearly always loaded) question, “How bad could it be?”
IT WAS AMAZING. I’m not just talking about the hotel, which was great, but the whole experience was incredible. The hotel was clean, friendly and nearly empty. Our room had a tiny balcony that looked out on the Gulf of Aquaba.
Our breakfast each morning was included, so we enjoyed fuul, taamiya and ahwa in the open-air dining area. There is a pedestrian (and occasional horse) walkway that runs along the water for the entire length of Dahab. The walkway is lined on the land-side with hotels, camps, shops and dive centers and on the sea-side with restaurants and cafes. We spent much of our week in Dahab walking along the “ramblas” and hanging in this or that cafe. It afforded us a great vantage for watching the Russians get dive instruction or the street-girls hassle khawaga touristas in bikinis into buying bracelets or just relaxing with the cats.
We both got “back in the water”. The Red Sea is known for its myriad corals and fish, beautiful, clear water and innumerable places to dive or snorkel. We took advantage of this. We eased our way in by spending a day snorkeling at some sites that I’ve read about for YEARS (Canyons and Blue Hole). We canvassed the dive centers and finally booked dives with Sinai Divers. They were slightly bigger and more expensive, and were very concerned about safety and proper preparation for diving. For a new diver (Jack) and a new-to-this-venue diver (me) the focus on protocol and safety was comforting. Our dives were great. We both struggled with different demons. Mine were primarily the demons of new gear and buoyancy. Learning a new regulator set-up AND going back to diving wet AND a new BCD gave me a lot to think about.
The demons were quickly dispatched as we began moving around the reef. I saw my first lionfish!! I’ve only ever seen them in commerical aquaria – on our fist dive, I saw 3 of them! (I’ve since come to find out that they are as “common as goldfish” here!) It was sooooo nice to be back on SCUBA. For me, SCUBA feels completely natural. Of course I can swim AND breathe. My pulse, blood pressure and respiration drop when I’m diving. I finish a dive tired and completely relaxed. I always sleep well after diving.
The total lack of schedule, fresh air, SCUBA and snorkeling, good food and the best company was just what the doctor ordered. The Cairo homecoming was appreciated. Life had more color. Some semblance of balance was restored. We’re already trying to figure out when we can get back to Dahab!
Just thinking about it drops my respiration and blood pressure. Life is good.
February 2, 2007
Yes, it is true. My absolutely wonderful, Ethopian maid has forbidden me from watering or otherwise tending to my house plants. The one that started this whole thing is my “Devil’s Ivy” (Epipremnium spp) plant. They are EVERYWHERE here and I, apparently, nearly drowned mine. She gently rebuked me and said I was not allowed to water the plant anymore. Recently, that has been amended – her most recent comment was that I was, “Khalas (finished) with the plants – she would take care of them”