A Day Trip From Cairo

It was confirmed yesterday that I am the world’s worst history student.

I am living in Egypt and despite a very talented tour guide, I struggle to retain historical facts. So as we ventured outside Cairo to visit more pyramids in the Saqqarah and Dahshur areas, I was probably more enamoured with the green fields, the date palm trees, the camels, the goats, the sheep and the donkey carts of everyday life in Egypt. Do I have pictures of those? Of course not. But someday… I will manage to get a few.

In the meantime, we saw a lot, we learned a lot and well… I retained a little. Jade braved the “bent down steep incline into a pyramid” while I waited outside. I did venture into one pyramid that involved “less folding over” and was rewarded by my first sighting of hieroglyphics. The pyramids are far from the hustle and bustle of Cairo, set quietly and elegantly in the desert.

Egypt is so much more than its pyramids but it is its pyramids that make it unique and extra special. Overall, a fascinating country with a history that amazes and confuses me daily!

Adjusting to Cairo?

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

Why?

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

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!

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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.

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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: Walking Home

Jade and I just walked home from our school. It is about a 2 minute walk from our house.

It doesn’t get much closer.

For a teen, she can roll out of bed, get her uniform on and dash to school in no time. When school starts that is… the countdown is on… Aug. 31.

She snapped this picture as we walked in the dark. We love the dark here. Dark means cooler and cooler means less than the 40+ temperatures we have been experiencing.

And if you don’t regularly feel 40+ temperatures, it feels like a hot yoga class that never ends!

In fact, last night when we walked home from the store with our Ikea rolling basket full of water bottles, mangoes and a chocolate bar for Miss Jade, we glanced at a few puddles on the road. Longingly, we considered stepping in them and even playing.

Dirty water puddles have never looked so good!

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 🙂

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?