Adjusting to Cairo?

I have lived in 8 countries. I have worked overseas before. This time, however, “adjusting” is taking longer.


Other times I was less (or not!) reliant on computers, the Internet, or anything else electronic!

This time I am. And it is a game changer.

As I have limited to no wifi at home, my life revolves around my phone and/or my school computer. Both have their good days and their not so good days.

As a result, any ideas of “perfection” when it comes to my blog and/or keeping in touch with other bloggers through their blogs, have sadly gone down the drain. At least for the moment.This has been my first lesson in adjusting.

Adjusting is hard work. In fact in Egypt it can be very sweaty hard work.

I literally sweat all day! Living on the third floor and working on a fourth floor means walking up and down stairs all day long. Especially when you teach Grade 4s who need to be taken and returned to the classroom numerous times throughout the day. So the gym has become my flat and my classroom. It saves money and it saves time!

I have been teaching for one week now. A typical day begins early for me (my choice!) as I like to beat the sun and get to work before I officially become one hot sweaty mess. Walking to work is minutes away so I am very fortunate in that regard.

The teaching day is busy, loud, slightly chaotic and sometimes resembles what I have previously experienced in Canada. And sometimes not. It depends on the day.

I have a classroom with desks and 22 students. I have 22 students, some who love to talk and others who don’t. Those who love to talk are entertaining at times but of course, need to be managed. All teachers know the thrills and the lows of September teaching but how is it that I tend to forget what September feels like each year?

As my school has a Ontario curriculum this means some changes for me as expectations and procedures are of course different. And of course, this school is set in a desert like setting in the suburbs of Cairo.

Students get to swim each week in the school pool! For those who teach like myself in schools without pools, this feels like a weekly field trip! Our first visit went fine until the girls needed to primp after to get ready to return to class. Yes, another adjustment for me and one that will involve some creative solutions in the future.

Each day after school, Jade comes to my classroom. For the first time, I am teaching at a school that she attends. We love this! Her adjustment is extraordinary. She was meant to do this. Her classmates are curious and friendly. A perfect combination for a teen in a new country. Jade even loves her uniform and the food in the cafeteria. And of course, one week into school and she is already sleeping over at a friend’s house. Can you hear me sigh with relief and gratitude that she loves it so much already?!

Usually after school, we walk to our local market and stores to run our errands. We have our fruit man and our bread man that we buy from daily. We have our store now that delivers our water and our heavier groceries to our flat. Delivery for the cost of less than a dollar! We have our pizza take out place and our Italian restaurant for more relaxed occasions.

We are slowly but surely finding our rhythm.

And as we do, we will change it all up next week when we fly to Sri Lanka to backpack for one week. Now that is the adjusting that I can get used to pretty quickly.

Take care all and thanks for bearing with us as we find our Egyptian feet.

Cheryl and Jade

Adhan: The Call To Prayer In My Neighborhood

Last night when I was skyping my husband in Canada, the call to prayer began.

I took my computer to the bedroom window and opened it so he could share in my experience of listening to it.

A beautiful magical sound was emanating from the mosque beside our flat (pictured above). Although I was unable to understand the words, I imagine someday being able to comprehend a few of them.

As I write this at 3:35 PM it has begun again. Now more wake awake, I realize I can not only hear the mosque beside my flat, but also another a short distance away. The sound echoes through out our flat.

I love this reassuring calming sound five times a day that speaks “community” to me. Even if the “community” sounds sometimes begin around 4AM!

How To Survive The Pyramids And Stay Sane

Strange title eh?

My dad, a world traveller, hated Cairo because of the pyramids. Why?

The pyramids come with an army of touts and for those who don’t know what a tout is, they are people whose living depends on tourism but their approach can vary. Some touts will listen to you and others simply won’t. The touts at the pyramids have a reputation for being some of the most persistent in the world. For travellers who don’t enjoy the hassle, this can be concerning.

So I have wondered how I would manage the touts and still admire the pyramids in peace.

Tuck away any desire to politely respond and simply ignore them completely.

Do not look at them. Do not look at what they are selling. Do not respond. Move away from them if necessary.

Kind of surprisingly, this worked for Jade and I.

We saw the pyramids in peace albeit a very hot and sweaty peace!


It was a surreal experience that hasn’t really sunk in yet. All of a sudden, you emerge from the urban sprawl of Giza on the other side of the Nile River from Cairo and there they are. Just sitting there, famously, waiting to be admired. Despite having a guide to explain the history of them (or the many versions of stories attached to them) the information didn’t sink in as I stared at them in wonder.

The pyramids, right there, in front of my eyes and I couldn’t seem to absorb them.


Maybe for the first time, I have found a tourist site that really needs returning to after having researched them thoroughly. Maybe this will help to “take it in”. Maybe the pyramids just need to be seen more than once to fully admire their grandeur, their presence, their age.

At least Jade and I now know one thing. We are definitely in Egypt!

(And for those of you who have heard the stories of the garbage around the pyramids, I am very happy to report that the garbage has mostly been cleaned up thanks to the government’s decision to implement such needed changes.)

Have you experienced touts before? What was your worst experience with them?

Cairo: A Felucca On The Nile

So as the heat wave continues, we ventured out to the Nile for some respite. I am not sure a breeze was actually felt, but seeing the water cooled us down…slightly.

It is hard to get your head wrapped around the “This is the Nile River!” fact as water is water but the surroundings made it known that we were indeed in Egypt. Looking out to the shore, it was easy to decipher that this was no river in Canada. Palm trees, brown sandy buildings (they scream, we are in the Middle East now!), and cars honking were left behind as we slowly drifted down the river. Fishermen (fisher people?) were out in their long thin boats sometimes used as their homes. Address: The Nile River 🙂

What was most outstanding was the sun set. A spectacular orange foggy glow appeared as the sun set. As this was the first teacher event, I spent most of my time conversing with new colleagues and discovering what drove them to teaching in Egypt.

Jade, on the other hand, spent time at a special place at the back of the boat with another teen which of course made her experience even more wonderful. Her words after we docked the boat, “This was the best day in Egypt so far!”

I love those words.

Wonder when I will hear them again.

Maybe tomorrow at the pyramids?

Arrived in Cairo: First Impressions

We have landed! After so much time thinking about and preparing to leave for Cairo, it seems surreal to actually be here.

Air Egypt was very good to us. No one looked twice at our massive carry-on luggage and one poor flight attendant even survived lifting it above his head to get it into the overhead bin. Jade and I together had massively failed to do the same!

I cursed at myself a few times as I tried to manage the luggage cart leaving the airport.. 5 huge bags leaning off to the side as I maneuvred the cart through sand, dirt, potholes, cars honking to get me moving faster which of course, made me falter and begin to drop said bags onto the ground.

Sweaty and tired, Jade and I managed to find our way onto the school van, pleasantly pleased with ourselves to have finished stage 1 of moving. As we glanced at the terrain from the airport to our new home in New Cairo, we both thought of Morocco. Hot (like heat wave hot, like “I forgot to turn the oven off on the hottest day in Canada” hot), sandy, slightly windy, dusty and yes, dirty at times, was what it looked like from the van’s windows. All this was immediately confirmed in minutes when we arrived at our flat.

Glancing up at the building, I reminisced of places lived in the world. Other than my home in South Africa, I haven’t lived in such a grand looking building. Elaborately designed and coloured to melt into its surroundings, homes seem to be one colour in our neighborhood…a light brown that makes home and earth look like one.

Trudging up the stairs to the second level was a work out. Second level being a misnomer as it feels much more like 5th level. If I decide to “cheap it out” and not join a gym, I think I could leave my flat and return to it various times through out the day and call it “even”.

As Jade and I entered, we were slightly blown away. Appearances wise, the flat appears decadent, spacious and cool. Air con will do that! Marble floors, huge oversized furniture, deluxe heavy curtains reminiscent of castles in Europe make our flat far from any hardship posting I might have encountered in my past!

Our landlord seems “hands on” in a good way. Available when you need him and with the added bonus, of being able to speak English. Immediately Jade and I collapsed onto our beds in a sweaty heap. Nothing elegant about how we felt or looked by this point.

After a few hours of sleep, we ventured out to do some shopping in a loopy kind of comatose state. Struggling with the currency (never my strong point), we found some basic items (plastic containers for our food to set parameters for any future insects who desire to eat their way through our home, adapters that didn’t work, and plastic cups because one can never have too many plastic cups!) Satisfied, I ate my first Egyptian veggie burger with some other teachers and enjoyed our first dancing water fountain that came complete with Michael Jackson tunes.

So far our suburb doesn’t come with camels, too much noise or too much chaos. In fact, it seems safe, quieter than expected and very manageable. The mosque is next door but because our building resembles a castle with fortress walls, we can only vaguely hear the call to prayer. The dogs are much louder but then again, dogs in the countries that I travel to, always are!

Contemplating going outside to take a picture of our building, I realize that I have to go through 3 sets of locked doors and the “which key is it?” as well as the numerous stairs…uhmmm…we will see.

Ciao from Cairo! I know Italian seems strange but it is short and I know how to spell it as opposed to my Arabic which consists of 1 word at the moment! Yes… it is on my To Do list 🙂

Yes! Time To Move From Canada To Cairo

The world of travel is unbelievable.

Monday, I am living in the familiar. My world in Canada.

By Friday, I will be living in the unfamiliar. My new world in Cairo.

Hard for me to comprehend beginning the week in one country and ending it in another.

You step on a plane and a mere 12 hours later, you exit to a different life.

So as we get ready to make the move, I want to thank you all for supporting me and my family!

I can’t wait to begin sharing our Egyptian adventures with you as soon as we:

  • finish Canadian check list ( I can always hope, right?)
  • drag our 5 bags and 2 of the heaviest carry-ons the world has ever seen to the Toronto airport
  • find (hopefully) our 5 bags on the Cairo carousel happily waiting for us to retrieve them
  • drag said baggage to our furnished (thank goodness) flat in the heat wave
  • unpack baggage, sleep, and try to find something to eat and drink with their currency
  • begin to make the new Egyptian check list which (from what I have read) will be never ending!
  • and when I accomplish my first task (Internet), you will be certain to hear from me from Egypt!

So until then, have a great rest of the summer and be happy and healthy 🙂

Talk to you later from Cairo,


(PS. A special thanks to my husband for the going away gift. He grew the sunflower for me. It looks like he has successfully replaced me after all!)

International Paring Down Day

Did you know there is a National Hug Day, A Purple Day (and I have been missing out on this for years and I am obsessed with purple), A World Turtle Day, and even An International Left-handers Day?

So I have decided to declare June 15 to be International Paring Down Day.

I usually love to pare down, to minimize, and to declutter my wardrobe on a regular basis.

Two words…cheap therapy.

Well usually…

Unless the paring down involves what will go on a trip and what will stay behind. And when it is not a trip and more of a move, this whole paring down thing begins to suck.

Unlike the old days when I could sweet talk the person at the airport counter into looking the other way at the amount of luggage I came bearing, there are rules now… and strict ones at that.

So no suitcases are going. Only hockey bags for all that hockey my daughter and I play… NOT!

And even though Cairo has 4 seasons sort of, I have deemed their winter not a true “winter” in my books, and have pulled the plug on all those bloody thick sweaters that take up way too much room.

Yay! Back to having some space.

Now what am I going to do about these boxes filled with my wonderful teaching crap materials? I can’t teach without this stuff, whatever it is!

2015-06-14 14.27.53

Out goes more clothes. Books out rank clothing any day! Unless you are talking about anti-bug clothing which my daughter wants to take.


Just kidding 🙂

Are you a pro at paring down when you move/ travel or do you struggle and resist? Have you ever been stuck paying extra charges at an airport for overweight luggage?

When Saturday Becomes The New Sunday

When Thursday is the new Friday and Sunday is the new Monday, then hump day becomes Tuesday.. – Cheryl

Confused? Me too.

In Egypt, the school week ends on Thursday and begins on Sunday.

You know how many times I have taught the calendar in Canada? Colouring it, labelling it, playing with it in Grade 3 land? I have this calendar thing totally memorized.

And now… at the ripe old age of (be kind), I have to relearn it?

Chris and I have been practicing. When it is Sunday, I remind him that I will be working. When it is early Saturday afternoon and his weekend is just underway, mine will be ending. The more we practice, the worse I get.

I simply can’t imagine beginning my work week on a Sunday.

I guess Mondays are going to be a whole lot better!

And Tuesdays which are no big deal in Canada have now been upgraded to a much higher status.

And no more TGIF.

It is all about TGIT.

That has a good ring to it.

Yikes! It is Saturday already. My weekend is almost over 😦

(Thanks to My Spanglish Familia who sent me a ticket to quote land. I have had fun travelling there. I may not come back.)

What is your favourite day of the week and why?

In Training for Cairo

So it just hit me.

This Cairo move might just require some practice.

So as I walk downtown in my town of 18 thousand people, I try to imagine a city of 17 million. So for every person I meet in my town, I need to add 944 people to that person.

Ok. That didn’t go so well.

I try to encourage people in my town to honk like crazy, ignore all traffic rules, and drive in multiple lanes going in every direction.

That didn’t work too well either.

I just read that flying ants and big butt spiders are par for the course in Cairo. Yuck!

But no polite request to my ant hill in my front yard results in any flying ants so I am out of luck there as well.

Apparently sand coats everything and constant sweeping is required to get rid of that gritty feeling on the floor.

I try to get my dog to bring in some dirt but she just looks me and goes back to sleep. So nope that didn’t work either.

In Cairo you haggle and bargain for a lot of goods such as fruit and veggies in the market.

I try to negotiate with the clerk at the grocery store and she looks at me like I have 3 heads. That didn’t go down too well.

I have read that I will need to lower my expectations when running errands. I guess one errand per day in Cairo is a lot.

Yay! Finally I meet with success. I am totally capable of running only one errand a day. That sounds just like me!

Oh? You say that one errand can take all day to complete and tons of patience? And maybe some Arabic thrown in? Darn! I knew there would be a catch.

So much for the training. I will be winging it I guess, along with the flying ants!

(On the bright side, Cairo has a delivery culture where almost everything can be delivered… so maybe we will just stay inside with the sand, the flying ants, the big butt spiders and have everyone come to us instead. That would make for a very exciting travel blog. NOT!) 🙂