Kaddee’s Cairo Chronicles


April 29, 2007

Unacceptable behavior

Filed under: Being There — Kaddee @ 10:17 pm

It, apparently, happens everywhere. In the last few weeks there have been multiple occasions where I’ve been expected (not asked) to either (a) give up my evening/weekend at the last minute for a school event, (b) drop everything I am doing to work on an EMERGENCY that needed to be completed yesterday (Makes me think of Linda Quick’s sign – A lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part) or (c) advise/mentor students or projects of other faculty because they are not present to do so (I live close and don’t have kids, so of course I’ll pick up for those with FAMILIES and longer commutes).

Now, I know I sound like I’m whining. And I am, to a point. [Whine mode ON] However, getting notified that “we” (the biology department) are expected to interview a post-doctoral candidate (or two) that we did not ask for, and the interviews begin in 4 hours – at 4pm on a Thursday, is in fact unacceptable behavior! (For those who don’t realize it, the Muslim work week is Sunday to Thursday). So we are being asked to stay late for a video conference interview on the equivalent of a Friday afternoon, and if we don’t, then people outside of the department will decide who they want to PUT into the department as a post-doctoral fellow! Can you say “Rock and a hard place”?

Then, we interview people, make decisions, justify the decisions and are told that the adminsitration really likes one of the candidates, and regardless of their incompatibility with the needs of the department, they are going to offer this person a position, and the department needs to “find a way” to make it work. Thanks for asking…

Add to this finding out that I’ve been added as a co-chair of a session in a weekend meeting that I didn’t even plan on attending, and I’m feeling a little miffed. I realize that most of this is end-of-the-semester stresses, perhaps mixed with a little I-still-don’t-know-how-the-system-works, however I feel like the assumption is that my time is valueless and can be manipulated freely and without my involvement in the decision making process.

(Stomping my not-so-little feet) And I don’t like it!! [Whine mode OFF]

April 27, 2007

Visitors!

Filed under: Friends — Kaddee @ 12:25 am

March madness has new meaning in Cairo. This has been the month for visitors. Not too many people have decided to brave the “wilds” of BFE (a.k.a. Cairo), but those that did chose March to do it.

Our first visitors, since my family left in January, were Beth and Flash.  They were unbelievable mules for us, bringing the most random, and sorely missed treats from the States. Think moto magazines, Almond Roca and salami!!! They arrived the day after we returned from Qatar, so we’d been home just long enough to make their bed and put out clean towels.

BrainDixon

Although their stay in Cairo was brief (who flies from Denver to Cairo for only 5 days???) we had an incredible time. The laughter alone will keep us going for months! I was in classes most of their visit, so Jack got to do fun things like go to Giza (or Geezer for Flash). Flash also renamed the Khan el Khalili to the Hannukah Lili.

We were sad to put them into the taxi at oh-dark-thirty for the airport. So, too, it seems, were the “powers that be” causing them many delays in getting back to Denver. Thanks, guys, for braving the “wilds”!

Our second March visit came quickly on the heels of the first (Beth and Flash left Saturday, Lisa and Dan were scheduled to arrive on Tuesday – they made it on Wednesday, after an unexpected layover in Doha, Qatar). Lisa is a colleague of Jack’s at work. She and her husband arrived in Cairo from Thailand.

Lisa&Dan

They had tourist places that they wanted to see, and tickets for “Upper” Egypt. In the time that they were here, we also dragged them along on (not one, but..) two AUC tours in Cairo! We were supposed to go on only one, but it got rescheduled for later in the day, so we did two! In the morning we went to Mohammed Ali’s Summer Palace in Shubra (northern Cairo) and the former port area of Cairo called Bulaq.

Pictures of the morning tour

We had a quick lunch of kosharee (yummy and filling bowl of PURE CARBS) before going on the second tour, to the City of the Dead – otherwise known as the Great Northern Cemetary. It is a cemetary, and there are fully active townships within the cemetary! Jack and I had been wanting to go, but without a guide (and an idea of where to go) it is not a very hospitable place for visitors. We had our favorite AUC guide for both trips, so we really got a wonderful experience in both places.

Lisa and Dan were troopers! They went everywhere! They were unbelievably easy house guests! Thanks for the visit

Pictures of the City of the Dead

April 17, 2007

Good to know

Filed under: NSTIW — Kaddee @ 11:04 pm

This morning, after 8 months of “commuting” in Cairo by taxi, my driver actually dropped the meter flag when I got into the car. This has never happened before. I didn’t realize the meters even worked. There are “standard fares” that one pays from point A to point B. The only taxis that USE their meters are the Yellow cabs that locals refuse to use.

So today, my cab actually ran the meter as he took me from home to school. We went the usual route, and I paid the standard fare when I got out. The most interesting thing was to find out what the “metered fare” would be.

The standard fare from Zamalek to the University is 5LE. The metered fare was 1.80LE.

NO KIDDING

Khamiseen

Filed under: Being There,NSTIW — Kaddee @ 3:15 am

April 17 2006

We are having our first real khamiseen (sand storm) in Cairo since I’ve been here. The wind is whipping. The sky is an odd orange color, like Creamsicles. The sand in the air is thick enough to make breathing difficult, and seeing nearly impossible. It is not the “white-out” effect I had expected, I can see for a block or so, but the sand abrades your skin and eyes. The temperature is up, the wind is up, the sand is up – I’m hiding in my office.

In my office, even with the windows closed and the blinds drawn, everything is covered with a layer of fine, sandy grit. It’ll take another few days to get it off of everything. The students and Egyptian faculty seem to be taking it in stride, but I’m fascinated and horrified, simultaneously. There was a “sand-drift” in the foyer of my building that had formed in the hour that I was lecturing on the first floor. It is incredible!!

April 12, 2007

The Citadel

Filed under: How it works — Kaddee @ 6:49 am

We have been incredibly lucky to have the resources of AUC to help us get to know our new home. The Faculty Services Committee here arranges the newcomer orientation program and MANY tours and trips around Cairo and Egypt. The Arabic Language Institute (ALI) also arranges tours and trips – however these are primarily for the ALI students, and only secondarily for the “rest of us”.

There is an Arabic Art professor in the ALI who also guides tours on the weekends. She is INCREDIBLE. She is a walking encyclopedia of Egyptian history and Arabic art. We try to sign up for any and all of her tours.

She led a tour to the Citadel of Salah al Din (Saladin). We had been postponing a trip to the Citadel after reading descriptions in Lonely Planet and Rough Guide.

(LP) “Though this is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Cairo (particularly for Egyptians), it is relatively unimpressive and decidedly overpriced.”

The Citadel is a military fortress and royal city all in one. It has been attacked, partially destroyed, burned, etc. a number of times. After our trip, I believe that one of the reasons that it receives such a poor writeup in the guidebooks is the nearly complete lack of anything that resembles information on the site. Even with a good guidebook, there are a lot of buildings, gates, museums that are completely unmarked. My favorite was the former prison with the mannequin diorama of a prisoner being flogged – lifelike right to the armpit hair!

I really enjoyed the Citadel, but it was due to the vast knowledge of our outstanding guide.

Just a few pictures. Great architecture.

April 11, 2007

Qatar is DisneyLand

Filed under: Travel — Kaddee @ 10:44 am

So…only a month or so after the trip, and another trip since then, I’m finally getting back to the blog. Sorry guys, apparently the month of March just disappeared.

Yes – we went to Qatar from March 8 to 11. Why? you might ask. And, having been there, I have to admit, it is a good question. Qatar is not really a HOT vacation destination. It was not high on our list either, except that the opening round of the MotoGP season is held in Doha, Qatar.

Jack and I decided that, if we weren’t gonna make it to Laguna this year, why not Qatar?

I played hookie from school for 2 days to do this!! The races were WELL worth it. The track leaves a LOT to be desired, from a spectator’s point of view – great for TV though. We saw very little of Doha (not that there was much to see) but had a great time in the VIP suites at the track.

So why the Disney reference? Well…

  1. There is no trash in Qatar. Not on the street, not in the parking lots, nowhere – this is VERY unlike Cairo.
  2. There are no pedestrians in Qatar. Apparently everyone has a car and/or a driver, so not even the hired help walk anywhere.
  3. No-one uses their horn in Qatar, unless it is as an emergency measure. (I’m living in Cairo – the land of the continuous horn)
  4. No-one speaks Arabic in Qatar. All the workers are southeast Asian, Mexican or Indian. Most of the affluent Qatari speak English – there is no reason to learn or use Arabic.

Even the track was kinda Disney-esque. There was practically nobody there! We could walk the paddock any time with room to spare (see the photos). The racers were (mostly) very friendly and amenable to pictures or autographs. There were NO vendors – we have no schwag from Qatar except our passes and a shirt from the race-tour group where we got a lot of our passes. Not much material crap to show for the trip – but great pictures and memories.

Here are the pictures.