Kaddee’s Cairo Chronicles

May 29, 2008

Life’s path and its flowers

Filed under: Learning Curve — Kaddee @ 5:38 pm

I received an e-mail today from a dear friend. Her great excitement of the day was a gift from her Northwest garden, the opening of a beautiful poppy, the first of the season.


That got me thinking of flowers and how certain regional flowers have marked my passage thru life and geography.

I grew up in the Northeast – and when I think of “home” from that time in my life, my first thoughts include the lilacs that would bloom around Mother’s Day, and the dogwood tree blossoms from around my birthday.

lilac.jpg dogwood.jpg

Graduate school was still in the Northeast (at least on paper), but farther north, with large spans of time in the Northwest. The floral memories from that period are Tiger Lilies in New Hampshire, California Poppies in Washington, and Nasturtium everywhere.tigerlily.jpg CalifPoppy.jpgGraduate research in the PNW convinced me that it was there I had to go next. The sea and the mountains, the rain and the green-ness. I moved before I even finished my thesis! The flowers of my PNW home are callas (which I thought were hot-house flowers when I lived in the Northeast, but found to be virtual WEEDS in the PNW!) and poppies.


I’ve left the green, wet PNW and moved to Egypt. The two could not be more different, in aspects of culture, terrain, weather or flowers. The flower that defines my life here (again, something I thought was too delicate to grow outside – but is EVERYWHERE here) is the Bird-of-Paradise


Life is full of moments, memories, thoughts and emotions – and every stop on my life’s path brings new flowers. Each of my migrations has been a roller coaster of experiences, and out of each I remember the flowers.

Images from:

  • Pink poppy – dear friend SwtP
  • Lilac – leslieland.com/blog/lilac-timeing/
  • Dogwood – http://dsf.chesco.org/
  • Tiger Lily – http://www.biosurvey.ou.edu/okwild/tigerlily.html
  • California Poppies – http://www.deserttortoise.org/awards/photo2006win.html
  • Calla – http://www.nps.gov/archive/prsf/nathist1/wildflowers/non_natives/calla_lily.htm
  • Bird of Paradise – http://www.eastmidlands.info/skegness/stock/bird-of-paradise.html

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 9, 2008

Seasonal food

Filed under: How it works — Kaddee @ 10:01 pm

Jack posted recently about eating seasonally, in reference to an OUTSTANDING Tomato Lime soup from the Moosewood. We have come across certain recipes, over the years, that we really enjoy during “season”.

Egypt is all about season. Eat the mangoes/figs/apricots when they are in season, then you don’t have them for another 3 or 4 months. The fruits are incredible, but the seasons are short. Luckily for us, here most of them have more than one crop per year (mangoes have 2, tomatoes have 3).

Right now is prime watermelon season! They are as big as a basketball and so juicy that you can’t eat them (modestly) in public! Before we left to come to Egypt, a good friend, LindaF, made dinner for us including the most exquisite watermelon salad.

This evening, I made the salad for us and AnneJ, to great raves. It seems an odd combination – watermelon, cucumbers, blue cheese, vinegar, honey and tea. The end product is a sweet/savory tastebud sensation.

In the States, we frequently forget what is “in season” because we can get things year-round. I have to admit, I enjoy varying my diet to match the best fruits and veggies available. We eat fresher, and the food tastes better! Go figure.

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. :)

May 4, 2008

What’s the difference?

Filed under: Learning Curve — Kaddee @ 8:51 pm

Jack and I began taking Arabic lessons as soon as we arrived. I have had a number of different tutors, gone to a language school for “intensive” Arabic, and have amused my co-workers with my attempts to speak their language.

From the beginning, Arabic has been a challenge. First, it reads from right to left (except the numbers, which read left to right – no kidding). Second, there are NO letters that are shared between English (or Spanish, or French, or German, or even Czech – the extent of languages in which I know even a few words), and the forms of the letters are, initially, unrecognizable to Western eyes.


Then there is the issue of the vowels, which aren’t written, you just need to “know” what they are supposed to be. And finally, Egyptian is VERY different from classical – to the extent that other Arabic speakers can understand Egyptians and their dialect (Egypt produces most of the movies and music in the Arabic speaking world) but Egyptians don’t understand ANYONE else!

So, here I am, learning Egyptian arabic. My first tutor, who taught me the letters, “explained” to me that there are 2 “H”-sounding letters (ha, haa), 2 “T”-sounding letters (taa, teh), and 2 “S”-sounding letters (siin, saad). She carefully pronounced each variation and waited for my indication of clear comprehension – which never came.

“Can’t you hear the difference between Hassan and Hoda?”
“It is sooooo clear. Listen again.”

This went on for months. I memorized where I could, and guessed the rest of the time.

Finally the tables have turned, and I have my moment. My current tutor was explaining that she had an American friend coming to visit. She carefully wrote out the woman’s name and asked me to pronounce it.

After I’d done so, she asked, “Isn’t that a MAN’S name????”
I explained, “No, this is a woman’s name. The similar, but CLEARLY different man’s name is pronounced differently.”
She could not differentiate between the names.

What are they?

Joan and John

No kidding