Another weekend in Cairo

Friday marks the end of another interesting week here in Cairo, or the beginning of a new one perhaps. The more time we spend here, the more desensitized we get to everyday occurrences that would probably alarm most sane individuals.

A few mornings ago, for example, our bus could not get down one of the crowded streets here in Cairo and so, after much gesticulating between the driver and the owners of a shiny ol’ Mercedes, we decided to just plow on through and hit the Mercedes. This did not go over well, and resulted in a handful of angry Egyptian men pounding on the side of the bus and chasing after us. Luckily we escaped unscathed, unless they can read English and understand the school logo that’s brightly painted on the bus.

Later that day, during our afternoon commute, we saw a new form of Egyptian carpooling, which involved four men sitting in the plow of a construction vehicle ambling along down a major roadway. We were ecstatic, but some of my more seasoned friends here did not share in our enthusiasm.

The school has been a bit rough at times, as any school in its second year might be. I’ve been booted out of classrooms by other teachers, called to sub/babysit, and struggled to find a computer with a printer. This has been the most difficult aspect of all, save for my rowdy children who have one thousand questions about nothing that they feel the need to ask. We were discussing the prefix “sub” yesterday and they were giving me some examples of words beginning with ‘sub’ such as submarine or subway. We moved on to a new activity, and five minutes into it, a hand went up. “Does this have to do with the current assignment?” “Yes.” “Okay, go ahead.” “In America, there is a restaurant, it is called Subway. It is very good, Miss.”

This is generally how my day proceeds, but on the upside, middle schoolers are very adorable and don’t have that cynical high school attitude where it’s uncool to say hi to your teacher in the hallway. Instead, they brighten up and wave. This is a pleasant surprise.

Most of the teachers there are very friendly and welcoming, save for the angry woman who approached me a few mornings ago with my student’s backpack asking, “Why is his backpack so heavy? Why is it this heavy?” I wanted to say it was because of the anvil I make him carry, but instead I just sighed and walked away. I do not know why it is heavy. It could be because he has his textbooks in there, but that’s just a shot in the dark.

I have decided that the women sweeping the floors all day long suffer a punishment not unlike that of Sisyphus from Greek mythology. I feel bad.

In other news, outside of school, rugby has been a blast. There are lots of cool girls on the full-contact league that I practice with on Tuesdays and sometimes Sundays, and our touch team is out of this world. Today we had our first matches; each match is comprised of two ten-minute halves, and we had two this morning.

at the rugby party

I woke up early again and ran with Judson. We somehow scored the slowest cab driver in Egypt, who would slow to a near stop to avoid pebbles in the road. We ran about 5 miles in the blazing desert sun and then hopped back in the same cab to get over to rugby. This time, the driver was passed out in the front seat and it took him a good minute or two to come to, during which he acted as though he didn’t know where he was. I had made up my mind that he was high on some kind of drug when he suddenly launched into an Arabic lesson that lasted the entire trip to rugby. Lucky for me, my vocabulary has expanded to include such helpful words like steering wheel, asphalt, truck, and I love you. Miss Nicole and Mr. Judson were pretty happy to get out of Mr. Mahmoud Mohamed’s cab. He was a halfway decent teacher, though.

The Untouchables – created by Valiha – won both matches, and I felt pretty good even though I didn’t score any tries. It was loads of fun either way.

I then scoured Cairo for cookie ingredients and somehow managed to bake a decent amount of Mom’s chocolate chip cookies. This was not easy. Susannah accompanied me to a market downtown, which she realized was a bad idea after we passed a few tanks and gunmen in the streets (there’s a protest today). We looked high and low but could not locate baking soda. I asked an English-speaking woman who replied, “Do you have a friend?” I was confused, and she explained that if I went to the Embassy I might be able to snag me some baking soda. I settled instead for baking powder.

After mixing the batter by hand and finally placing them in the oven – lighting the oven was a horrifying experience in itself, and Susannah stood back with some water in case I exploded – I delighted to see them rising normally. Then the power went out in the building, or at least on our floor.

Finally, the power came back on and the cookies are now out in little foil tins. My steak was just delivered to my door and I am about to go out to a barbecue and then a rugby girl’s birthday party.

Again, I promise pictures will come. We still don’t have internet and I’m beginning to feel like I’m getting too comfortable stealing other people’s wireless. Tuesday we get paid, and I’m getting a Vodaphone stick. And pictures will appear on my blog then.

Categories: Egypt

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