Kaddee’s Cairo Chronicles

January 8, 2010

I’m still here….

Filed under: Being There — Kaddee @ 8:05 pm

Seattle is still a bit of an oddity to me, but, only5+ months since returning, I am attempting to get things figured out again.

My job is going fine.  I haven’t seen my evaluations from last quarter, but I felt the whole thing went pretty well.  Only real issues: a LOT of students dropped the class or did VERY poorly.  Then again, I also had a substantial number of 4.0 grades – so perhaps it balances out.  The quarter system is REALLY FAST compared to the semester system.  And the breaks are so short!

Besides that, classes and students are much the same.  Upper class Egyptian kids or community college students, the problems are just about the same.  Language issues – both spoken and written.  Lack of study skills.  Outside time demands (my CC students are frequently raising families and have full time jobs – kinda different from my Egyptian students!).  Reticent attitudes about engaging in INQUIRY.

The last is the one that pains me the most.  The idea that people don’t want to find out the answer seems unfathomable.  Student attitudes of “Just tell me the answer/what is on the test” without an interest in the HOW or WHY is, literally, hard to imagine.  And yet, every term, there are a few students whose small epiphanies are sufficient to keep me at the job.

Then there is the personal readjustment.  I am dealing much better with getting out in “this culture” than a few months ago.  I’ve FINALLY gotten back to regular swimming at the Y and yoga – both are as much for sanity as for fitness – although I am certainly in need of the fitness.  We have been slowly refurnishing our house after purging nearly everything in the move.

Sunday knitting at our local is starting again and there is decent beer and wine here – so life is not too bad.  I still miss Cairo and the friends we left there.  Insha’allah I’ll get to go back soon for a visit, but in the meantime, Seattle is feeling a lot better (and wetter) than when we first got home.

December 28, 2009

Starting over

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kaddee @ 11:13 am

We got back in August. I’ve made very few posts since then. This was, in part, due to the overwhelming craziness of the move, the readjustment, going back to my former job, blahblahblah.

I was also not sure if we were going to “retire” Cairo Chronicles.

Well… it seems we are keeping it. So I’m going to start posting stuff, thoughts, experiences again.

Stay tuned.

September 1, 2009

Only makes sense to me

Filed under: Learning Curve — Kaddee @ 2:36 am

In that whole “Crap, I’m not dealing with this readjustment thing very well”, here’s my day.

We’ve been home for a month – OY, has it been that long? – during which I have been blissfully not required to go to work.  Jobs in education have a FEW advantages (June, July, August!).

Since our return, I have been the “stay-at-home” one.  This is a 180° change  from Cairo.  There, Jack stayed home and Kaddee went out daily to go to her job.  Now, I’m the one at home (temporarily).

I frequently prodded Jack to “get out more”, not to huddle in the flat for days at a time, without any social contact.

Today, HE prodded ME in the same way!

Since we got back, I’ve been avoiding the “real world” of life in the States – sometimes simply by getting TONS of stuff done in the house, sometimes by actively avoiding all contact with the outside world (except via the internet!).  The idea of going out into THIS country and THIS culture was becoming as unsettling as Cairo had been in the early days.

It is not that I am unhappy to be “home”, I’m just not sure anymore where “home” is.  I grew up with the saying, “Home is where you lay your hat.”  Meaning no matter where you go, there you are (Buckaroo Banzai).

Now, I am conflicted.  I had a good home in Seattle – a house, friends, routines and preferred haunts, with all the benefits and drawbacks of such a situation.  I left that  and went to Cairo.

I had a good home in Cairo – a nice flat (rent-free), friends, routines, and preferred haunts, with all the benefits and drawbacks of such a situation.  I left that and came back to Seattle.

Do you see some turmoil?  Both places have/had their shining moments and their dismal downsides.

Today, knowing that TOMORROW, I have to begin the REAL reintegration – at work – I felt more tumultuous than usual.  Anxiety was beginning to creep up when I decided to follow gozi’s advice and forced myself out of the house.  And onto the only registered motorcycle in our garage.  And around the small surface streets in my neighborhood, along my  commute and home again.

Seems pretty minor, but I have not donned gear or helmet in 3 years and I have not gone to campus in the same amount of time.  I had boogey men – I rode them away!!!

The bike, incidentally, used to belong to me, so getting back on it was SOOOOO familiar.  My brain and body were at odds with each other – brain picking early lines, body wanting to wait for the late apex and the SWISH feeling of the curve.

I laughed, I fretted, I waved at the construction workers.

I began to let go of my apprehensions and anxieties and enjoy the new adventure.

August 21, 2009

Things are Different Here

Filed under: Learning Curve — Kaddee @ 10:58 pm

NSTIW – we had been home for 4 days.  During that time, I’d freaked out numerous times because of the HUGE, shiny and expen$ive shopping experiences that were necessary.

On the day in question, I’d decided it was time to COOK AT HOME.  (For Cairenes you know how strange and impressive an idea this was!)  I’d found a marinade I wanted for our steaks and set out to QFC (large, chain grocery) to get the necessary stuff.  Which was EVERYTHING.

Soy sauce, garlic, ginger, beef broth, hoisin sauce and sherry.

OK – armed with a list (all y’all who know me can stop snickering about the list!), loins girded for the big market syndrome, I headed out.

On the way to QFC, I realized, “Oh Crap!  I’m going to have to go to the State Liquor Store to get the sherry!!  Damn – now where is the SLS?  I think there is one…..

Miffed that I had to make ANOTHER trip to ANOTHER shop to get the ingredients, I soldiered on.

Still miffed, I got my cart and walked into the QFC.  As I did, what to my wondering eyes should appear?????  A display, as tall as my shoulder and, perhaps, 2 meters wide, of………………..

You guessed it………………..


OMG – I can buy WINE (and thusly, sherry) AT MY LOCAL GROCERY STORE!!??

I got misty-eyed with the realization.

Welcome in America!

August 13, 2009

Recycling overload

Filed under: How it works — Kaddee @ 7:49 pm

Our shipment arrived.  The boxes were a tad beat up, but nothing was falling out or OBVIOUSLY damaged from the outside (unlike our boxes from Namibia – but that is another story).

Nineteen boxes take up most of our living room – full or empty.

When they arrived – full – there was a mere path through the center of the room.  It has gotten no better since unpacking 15 of them!  As a matter of fact, I think it has gotten WORSE.  Before, all the haget was CONTAINED, now it is piled in every room of the house – mostly in my “office”.

We have no shelves or other horizontal surfaces to pile things on, so all piles are on the floor, making navigation difficult.

So far, only  one casualty of the trip!  One of my alabaster plates split and crumbled along a lovely translucent vein in the stone – oh well, could be worse.  My alabaster lamp made it!!!  As did all the ceramics and the mashrabiyya screen.  Mabsoota awy.

In attempting to “settle in” we bought chairs!!!  We can sit down comfortably in the livingroom (surrounded by boxes and stuff).  YIPPEE

With most of the boxes (not the plastic totes) empty, we have a GIANORMOUS pile of cardboard (from the boxes and wrapping of stuffs), a HUGE box of paper (from wrappings) and another IMMENSE box of bubble wrap to deal with.  I think the dump will take the boxes and paper as recycling, but what to do with the bubblewrap??  Where is TypO when you  REALLY need her??

August 6, 2009

Ramblings from ?home?

Filed under: Being There — Kaddee @ 1:35 am

It is true – we are back Stateside.

I’ve been relatively quiet lately due to lack of internet in some of our cool vacation destinations, only having one computer for both gozi and me (sharing is HARD), being busy just enjoying the vacation, and getting home to no communications opportunities in the house (no landline phone, no internet, no TV, no….).

So  now (still no internet – using the wifi at the Seattle Public Library – GO LIBRARY SYSTEM!!) we are ?home? – back in Seattle, in our (empty) house – reacclimating to ?normal? life.  I think not.

  • Our totally cool vacation adventures make the “mundane”  return to Seattle disappointing.  Although there IS the Space Needle, it doesn’t really compare to Angkor Wat.
  • Not surprisingly, my shipment from AUC has turned into a total CF!  The office that takes care of these things says that there is nothing wrong, however:
    • My shipment arrived in Seattle BEFORE I did.  Only by a few hours, but by the time we got to our messages, there was already one from Lufthansa Cargo.
    • The cargo company was calling because my shipment arrived with no paperwork.
      • For those who don’t know – that means that all the pain and agony we went thru to make a detailed (kinda) inventory of each box, the multiple customs forms and power of attorney forms etc. were simply not sent.  My shipment arrived in the States as 19 boxes/630kg of “Personal Effects”.
      • This has caused  no end of problems – including my having to go to the cargo office to print out my inventory and then to customs to get the boxes released from AGRICULTURAL hold.  Apparently the US customs officials are MOST worried about plant/animal importation problems so if there are no papers, it gets held in agriculture.  Joy of Joys.
    • Lack of modes of communication (see above) has made the sorting of these problems more… exciting.  We have mobiles (Thanks Pat!!) and Skype,  but no internet at home to check Skype for messages.  Getting this worked out.
    • We can’t take delivery  of the shipment (should it be ultimately released to the forwarding company to be delivered) until next week due to scheduling issues at the house.
  • We (I guess I should say, I) made the mistake of suggesting to stop into our favorite watering-hold for “just one or two” the day after we got back.  OOPS.  We stayed a LONG time.  Friends kept insisting on buying us drinks.  I wasted most of the next day with a hangover – my own doing….
  • Shopping here is TOTALLY WEIRD.  Everything is BIG and BRIGHT.  There is TOO MUCH of everything and it is all TOO EXPENSIVE.  The shops DON’T ALLOW hagg^H^H^H negotiating on the prices!!!  Who do they think they are!?
    • Not news to anyone who has moved recently, but we’ve spent EXCESSIVE amounts of money on NOTHING lately.  Stupid stuff like cleaning supplies, paper towels and toothpaste.  It is mind-boggling.
  • Also not surprising, but frustrating, is that I don’t fit in a lot of the clothes that I left here!  That severely limits my clothing options until the shipment arrives (see above), which is not likely to be soon enough.

Ahh, welcome home!  Change is hard.  Life is an adventure.

I guess I live in interesting times.

July 24, 2009

Career opps – $0.25 at a time

Filed under: NSTIW,Travel — Kaddee @ 1:06 pm

Jack always says: “If something (I say) can be taken more than one way, I mean it in the best possible way it can be taken.”

If that is to be taken further, I should be pleased??!!

Phnom Penh -

No sh*t, there I was…..  We were in a pub called “Walkabout”.  Not a bad place, cheap beers, pool tables and all the women in the place (myself excepted) were “free-lance” working girls.

What does this mean????  They are not in-service to the pub.  They pay the pub nothing, the pub just lets them be there, play free pool, and drink water – the rest is up to the guys who come looking for them.  The men buy drinks and food for themselves and the girl(s) of their choice.

So…we stopped into this place on the recommendation of a Phnom Penh local and new acquaintance.  It was “Joker Night” – basically a drawing with even cheaper beer – good way to pack the place!

We’d just finished dinner, and Jack was feeling overstuffed from the great food.  We had ordered a couple of beers, found a seat at the bar when Jack excused himself to get some air.  Mish mushkela – I sat at the bar, chatted with the bartenders and watched the spectacle of girls and Johns.

The girls found me to be quite a spectacle too.  I was the only non-Asian, non-working girl in the entire place.  Mish mushkela.  As I sat and sipped my beer an older (perhaps mid-50′s to early 60′s) gent stood next to me at the bar to order a drink.  [cue the music, maestro]

This “gent” (who looked something like a cross between WC Fields and Archie Bunker) mumbled something to me that I didn’t catch.  I smiled and returned to my beer.

“Gent” said something again.  I ignored it and asked the bartender something inane to start a conversation.

“Gent” said something to the girl standing on the other side of me that caused her to fairly vibrate with excitement.  As she  bounced up and down, she leans to me and:

  • points to “gent”
  • points to me
  • points to her
  • makes a triangle/circular shape in between the three of us
  • lines her two index fingers together, separates them, puts them together, separates them, puts them together

Go ahead – try the motions…. I’ll wait…..

What do YOU make of it???

Yup – she was telling me that “gent” wanted a three-way with her and me!  LOL!!

The funny thing is, I wasn’t flustered, I wasn’t upset, I wasn’t angry – I just flat out said, “NO.”  Not harsh, just “NO”.

She burst out laughing and repeated my “NO” and “gent” skulked/sulked out  onto the patio.

I was still chuckling about this when my gallantly protective (NOT) husband returned and asked me what I was laughing about.  I recounted the story – punctuated by the girl waking behind him, giggling and saying “NO” – and what does my hubby do?????  Bursts out laughing.  Thanks!!

July 14, 2009

Thailand – better late than never

Filed under: Being There — Kaddee @ 4:33 am

HERE are some photos from Chiang Mai.  We didn’t do ANYTHING in Bangkok, so there are no photos from there.


Still working on photos from…Hanoi, Hue, Hoi An….

Still taking photos in Saigon.

More to come.

July 1, 2009

Headed to Vietnam

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kaddee @ 1:42 pm

After 6 days in Thailand, Bangkok and Chiang Mai, we are now sitting in the airport waiting for our (delayed)  flight to Hanoi.

Bangkok was fun, relaxing, it poured rain one night, and we ate ourselves silly.  Chiang Mai was much the same – mostly eating and sleeping, some shopping and a lovely spa treatment for me!

Pics to come.

June 25, 2009

Can’t fully grok this

Filed under: How it works — Kaddee @ 3:21 pm

Our AUC car will be here to pick us up in about 3 hours.  This is nothing new or different – but it is.  THIS TIME we don’t have a return flight.  THIS TIME we aren’t coming back.

I am having a lot of difficulty with this, for many reasons.  I am not fully prepared to leave.  I don’t mean that I’m not packed, or anything like that, but I am not chomping at the proverbial bit to hop on a plane while doing the Happy Jig.  This feeling is rather new for me.  Just about everywhere I’ve ever left, I’ve done so with a clear conscience and narry a backward glance.  The only exception was Seattle because I knew I was going back there.  Leaving Cairo is not like leaving Hamilton, New York or Albany or even Ports-mouse, New Hampshire.  When I leave Cairo, as sappily melancholy as it sounds, I’ll be leaving part of me here.  That is new.  That is hard.

And somehow the people here have become intricately intertwined in our lives in a very short time.  We have friends in Seattle that I’ve known for 10 years that I don’t feel as tied to as some of our Cairo friends.  Is that “trench mentality” (as a friend recently put it)?  Is it part of being an ex-pat?  Is it just the way that things are in Egypt?  I am already missing some off the friends, and we haven’t left yet.  And some we didn’t get to see.  Perhaps we never will.

There is also a complete and utter cognitive disconnect with our imminent departure and its reality.  I’ve watched my 603kg in 19 boxes disappear.  I’ve sorted, shipped or sh*t-canned all my stuff – AGAIN.  I’ve gotten the signatures and given back the keys.  And yet it isn’t real.

Perhaps it is simply the exhaustion factor.  Perhaps it is three years living in Da-Nile (heh – Zamalek is an island!).  I don’t know, but it isn’t real.