July 30, 2007
I think it is a natural reaction. We’ve all experienced test anxiety, whether at 16 for our driver’s license test or at 30 when defending our doctoral thesis. I’ve been “academically oriented” all my life, so testing has been a continual, and anxious, part of my entire life.
Yesterday, I was hit squarely with an irrational anxiety. I decided to take an Arabic course during the summer, and had to take and ORAL PLACEMENT TEST!!! I’ve had a semester of private tutoring (during which I was not a very dedicated student) and a semester of evening class (where I was a better student, but still not all that dedicated), and I LIVE in Cairo. Why am I so worried about a placement test?
I’ve been here for a year, managing as best I can with the language. I really don’t want to be placed in Egyptian Arabic Level 1 AGAIN. Two semesters of it is enough – even if I wasn’t a very studious student.
To my great pleasure (far greater than the accomplishment merited) I placed into Level 2 Arabic class!!! Major anxiety passed, I felt giddy!
Now I begin classes, 3 hours per day, 5 days per week, 3 weeks. If I don’t learn a LOT of Egyptian Arabic during this time, it is my own failing.
July 27, 2007
Background: I learned to knit when I was on a semester abroad during college – that was 1987. While in Wales, I purchased some GORGEOUS charcoal grey alpaca yarn and started making a classically styled cardigan. At some point, about 3/4 of the way thru making the pieces of the cardigan, I decided I didn’t like the pattern and would never wear it. That was 1988.Fast forward: Christmas break 2005 I decided to “take up knitting” again. I’d made random attempts in the intervening years, but now was time to get back at it. A few projects along, we began packing up to move to Cairo. I “found” the grey alpaca cardigan pieces again.
It is SUCH nice yarn. I’ve carried it around with me for nearly 20 years, I’ve gotta do something with it. I frog out most of the pieces (for those of you who don’t knit or crochet, frogging is unraveling the knitted pieces into yarn again – it is VERY wavy from being knit. Much like hair after being braided).
All “the experts” say that once you’ve frogged out the yarn, you have to soak it and hang it to make it flat again. What a PITA!!!! I’m far to lazy to be bothered with that, so I picked a basketweave pattern V-neck that may work with wavy yarn.
I started knitting it before we left the States last August (2006).
I JUST finished it (with a few intervening projects) with only a few modifications from the original pattern.
- I find full length sleeves annoying, so I shortened the sleeves to be 3/4.
- The neckline is supposed to have a “picked-up-and-knitted-on-after-the-fact” ribbed edging, which I could not, for the life of me, get to work. I recently retaught myself to crochet, so I put a simple shell edging on the neckline instead of ribbing.
The worst part of knitting a sweater, for me, is the finishing. Blocking, sewing the pieces together, weaving in the ends, etc. Today, I finished the last seams, crocheted on the neck edging and the sweater is FINISHED.
20 year old yarn, finally in a form that I will wear and enjoy it!!!
The completed sweater:
Neckline crochet detail:
I’m so proud!
Our (first) summer vacation was a mixture of work, errands and LOADS of Belgian beer (more about the beer in another post)! We departed Cairo, after a hectic and nerve-crushing couple of weeks, on June 21st. We left in the middle of the night, and arrived for a lay-over in Amsterdam mid-morning.
Nothing like a glass of decent red wine, some dutyfree salami and cheese at 10am (local time – we’d left our house nearly 10 hours earlier!) to get your vacation off on the right foot!
AT LAST – we were away from Cairo, from school, from our computers (at least for a day or two)! We were both excited, tired and a bit apprehensive. We’d not planned to go back to the States this summer at all, but work required Jack to make an appearance, so I went too, to get the errands done and relax/catch up with friends. Having not anticipated this trip, I was unsure if going home was going to be a good thing.
Our first destination, once checked in at our hotel, was, of course, the Beveridge Place Pub. Our favorite pub, home-away-from-home, and adopted West Seattle family. Wild horses (and jet lag) could not keep us away. We did not last long, but we “reintroduced” our tastebuds to REAL beer, and hugged/kissed/socialized with long-unseen friends.
We were only in Seattle for 10 days. Our dance card was incredibly full! We spent the first weekend in Vancouver (Washington) for the Goat Roast. Martin and Carol blessed us with mounds of tahini, foul, baba ganough and tabouli! Just like home. Jack was relieved to discover the giant crock pot of pulled pork hiding under the table!
The rest of the week was work for Jack, with various lunch venues including 2 trips to Salumi!!! For me, it was running errands, meeting with friends (Thanks WendyR and Keri for the lovely evening in Everett!!), distributing small tchatchkis and trying to make sure that we accrued all the things we’d missed while in Cairo. HOW EXHAUSTING!
The finale of the visit was that our last evening was spent at the Seattle International Beerfest with friends, great beers and laughter. This particular festival was also one of our last hurrah’s last year before we left. How fitting!
To my great surprise, leaving Seattle THIS time was even harder than last time. I think it was because, in that short time, I’d realized the many wonderful things/people we are missing in Cairo. Egypt is a wonderful adventure, but my heart is still in Seattle.
July 23, 2007
From Wadi Rum, there is no easy way to get back to Amman. Our host, Zadane, suggested that we go to Aqaba, from which we can get a direct bus back to Amman. Sounds ok. Zadane “has a friend who runs a hotel”. How bad can it be?
Yet another taxi takes us to the hotel in Aqaba. Well….not really IN Aqaba. In all honesty, about 2 miles from the border with Saudi Arabia, and about 7 from town. It was billed as “on the beach” but was, actually, across a major highway from the beach. We decided to take our chances in town.
We made a few calls to places in Lonely Planet and found a couple of rooms. Back to town to check in. Well….this hotel wasn’t much better. Honestly, it was pretty nasty. Our room had a prominent wet spot in the rug just inside the door. CD pointed out that it matched the mineralized stalactite on our ceiling! Hoo boy!
We did some wandering in Aqaba, but there wasn’t much to excite us. It WANTS to be the Jordanian Sharm el Sheikh, but lacks the infrastructure and the investment. It was too over-run to be a quaint seaside town, but not built up enough to be a resort area.
Our hotel was one of the noisiest places I’ve stayed in a LONG time. Neither Jack nor I slept much, so we were ready to depart in the morning.
Arabic soap operas on the bus going back to Amman, but otherwise a quick and uneventful trip. We went back to the friend’s apartment where we’d stayed when we arrived. She wasn’t there, but had asked her landlord to let us in. It was VERY NICE to kick back in a familiar place and relax.
Our first outing from Amman was to the Dead Sea (7April). Taxis seem to be the way in Jordan, so we hired a taxi to take the three of us to one of the resorts on the Dead Sea Highway. Many of them allow paid entrance and use of their facilities.
As I’d heard from many before, once we got there and floated, there was not much else to do. Kinda cool. Glad I did it.
Dead Sea Pictures HERE
**NEW EDIT** for a very funny, albeit embarrassing, video of the difficulties of excessive buoyancy in the Dead Sea, click HEREÂ
Our second day adventure was to the ancient Roman city of Jerash, in the north of Jordan. We spent A LOT of time wandering in Jerash. The site is much larger than I’d been led to believe by the guide book. The ruins are well preserved and maintained. We did not pay the 20JD per person to see the chariot races, but better spent our time just enjoying and absorbing the atmosphere.
Jerash Pictures HERE
Our final evening was spent in lovely diversion as we went to Mt. Nebo to see the sunset and then dined in Madaba. I did not know that Mt. Nebo was where Moses was supposed to have viewed the Holy Land for the first time. We saw the lights come on in Jerusalem as the sun set on Easter Sunday evening. It was a lovely and moving experience.
Mt. Nebo Pictures HERE
Our driver treated us to tales of Moses as we drove to dinner. Did YOU KNOW that Moses was a 10 meter tall black man? Me either! Some day, perhaps, Jack or I will tell you ALL about it.
After dinner, we retired to the apartment to pack and get ready to go back to Cairo and work. Our spring break trip was marvelous, full of adventures and memories, and completely exhausting!
I’d call that an undeniable success!
Still writing up the Spring break stuff from Jordan – one more post should do it. Recently returned from nearly a month out of Cairo. A brief visit back in Seattle, for Jack to deal with some “work related stuff” and then about 2 weeks in (mostly) Belgium.
The summer independent study is FINALLY done. Grade submitted. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I won’t hear any more about this – no calls from students or administrators is the goal.
I’ve been working on a number of “projects” – knitting, crochet – and doing a bunch of brainless reading. The change of pace has been welcome although I occasionally find myself restless and blue for no apparent reason. I’m pretty sure that it is simply due to the relative newness of a lack of time pressures and constraints.
That will end soon, however. Beginning next week, I’ll be taking an intensive Arabic course that meets daily. I’m looking forward to the challenge, and to increasing my ability to communicate here. I miss a lot because I don’t understand, or lack the vocabulary to really comprehend what people are saying and/or to respond appropriately.
July 20, 2007
After the beautiful sensory overload experience that is Petra, we, again, hired a taxi to take our group (now down to 3 – one headed back to Cairo) to Wadi Rum. The trip was slightly more comfortable, rather accelerated but generally uneventful.
We arrived in Wadi Rum and found Zadane’s house, where we met up with an American living in Kuwait who would be joining us for the day and at the camp. We had a great day driving around in the Wadi with Zadane, seeing the “Lawrence of Arabia” sites, the rock carvings, the natural arches and the open beauty of the Wadi.
The camp was well situated to see the majesty of a desert sunset, and keep the evening wind from chilling your bones. Dinner was cooked in a pit in the sand – chicken and veggies, it was DELICIOUS! We lounged about in the common tent, listening to Bedouin music and socializing with others staying at the camp.
We quickly found out that we were about the only people who would be remaining in the camp the next day. Most of the others were heading TO Petra the following morning.
The night was cold and clear, and the stars were as rich and deep in the sky as one could imagine. Even before the moonrise, there was enough starlight to see clearly across the sand.
We slept hard and rose to watch the sunrise. The colors of sunrise and sunset in the Wadi/desert are indescribable. Even the pictures don’t really do it justice. The other profound sensory realization was the silence. It is a silence that you can almost FEEL. For me it was reminiscent of being underwater. Like water, however, sound travels very well in the desert. The sound of the 4X4′s carried for (apparent) miles, so in the morning it sounded like there was a battalion of trucks about to run our tents over!
We spend the majority of our second day on camels. YUP – we are in the Middle East, we had to ride camels sometime, this seemed like a good time to try. Camels are NOT that easy, or comfortable to ride. Jack had an *issue* with his camel while mounting it (HEE HEE, I said “mounting”). This set a bad tone for much of the rest of the ride. Happily, he and the camel came to an uneasy agreement about midday. There were no more *issues*.
We lumbered along on our guided beasts (Not what we had expected – we figured we’d be riding and following a guide, not being led about by young camel-boys on foot) looking at the scenery and trying to find a comfortable position. I think you have to start riding these things about the time you learn to walk to find them easy or pleasant to ride!
The rest of the day was spend in quiet relaxation at the camp. Scrambling on the rocks, taking pictures, daydreaming. A new batch of people descended on the camp just before dinner. We were the ones heading out the next morning, so we socialized for a while and then went to bed. Another wonderful night’s rest – even on foam mats on the sand. I think the fresh air and great outdoors had a lot to do with it.
The pics from the Wadi Rum section of the trip can be found HERE.
From Rum, we headed to Aqaba and then back to Amman for some day tripping to the Dead Sea and Jerash.