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One Month in Cairo: Katie

 

 

 

Feb. 16

 

Greetings again!  Lots to tell about.  Much will probably be repeat info if you’re following Mike’s blog (http:\\mikemcmullen.org), but I’m sure we’ll emphasize different things.  Mike avoids having too much about the girls on the blog, too.  They’re doing okay.  Maya seems to enjoy herself more than Ivy, although that’s typical at home, too.  I think Ivy is settling in a little more at school, though.  Maya is picking up various words (and numbers) in Arabic.  I’m pretty much limited to recognizing the numbers, after think too much about their names.  Here’s an interesting bit of trivia.  We use Arabic numerals (who wants to work with Roman ones!), but they use the numerals from India now.  Not sure when or why the switch was made.  The basic systems is still the same (read left to right), just different symbols.  1 and 9 are the same.  Enough of that.  Maya has started Girl Scouts (GS USA, just overseas).  This Saturday she’ll be going to Thinking Day.  I remember seeing something about this at home, but it’s never been a big deal.   Different troops are doing different countries.  Hers is doing Indonesia, where her leader is from.  She has several friends, though she does more with Alva (actually spelled Ailbhe, but I’ll continue to use Alva).  They exchanged Valentines in her class on Sunday.  They took a field trip to the Egyptian museum a couple of weeks ago.  She’s starting a project on rocks and minerals.  Spelling tests are very individualized.  The teacher had tested her on a bunch of spelling words the first couple of weeks.  I’m assuming her spelling lists are taken from the words she missed.

 

Ivy is doing a little better now.  They have a band concert Monday night (all bands).  They’re further along than her class at home, but she says her band at home is better, probably because they have classes of like instruments (her teacher is only teaching clarinets her period), whereas here half the band meets at a time and it is a mix of all instruments.  This trimester is about over, so it will be interesting to see what takes the place of Health in her schedule.  Another art class (ceramics or sculpture, something 3D) will replace Drawing and Painting, which is by far her favorite.  She enjoys Egyptian food a lot.  Her favorite is koshary, which is mixture of rice, spaghetti (or little thin spaghetti), little round pasta tubes, lentils, garbonzo beans, a red sauce (usually separate and similar to spaghetti sauce) and little fried onions (like Durkees).  She also likes hummus and the grape leaves things that every country seems to claim to have invented.  She’s tried lentil soup (with lemon) and tamia (Egyptian name for falafel, not sure on spellings).  She doesn’t like foul (not sure on the spelling, pronounced like fool, and basically mushed beans—I didn’t care for it either, though maybe from a restaurant and not from a can would be better) or French fry sandwiches (French fries in a pita with ketchup or ketchup-like sauce—I did like this one, hey what’s not to like about it!)  Sorry about the rambling sentence. 

 

Okay, now on to activities.  The weekend after the pyramids, we went to khan-i-khalili, which they claim is the world’s largest outdoor market (Mike says the Grand Bazaar in Turkey claims the same thing, but you get the idea, it’s big).  The girls liked that.  They counted something like 70 cats while we were there (they running total is around 210, many having been counted multiple times I’m sure to and from school; their favorite is Sir Jonathan Graytail, who unfortunately was not looking healthy last time we saw him). 

Anyway, the market is pretty touristy (you see the same things throughout the market, all geared to what tourists would want), at least the part we were in.  We did notice that the quoted price (or starting price) dropped the further you got into the market.  The girls got little camels stuffed with sawdust and little scarab beetle things.  We ate at a restaurant with great hummus, and Maya tried and didn’t like koshary, although she likes to crunchy onion things on top. 

 

The next weekend we went to see Grease in the theatre at the girls’ school.  Not a spectacular production, although they probably have a limited talent pool to draw from.  We all enjoyed it. 

 

The next weekend’s activity was a tour put together by Mike’s school to a Coptic monastery (established in the 4th century) in the Wadi Natrun (sp?) area of the desert between Cairo and Alexandria.  Coptic basically means Egyptian Christian.  Monasteries developed in Egypt, it sounded like as a way for hermit-types to help each other out.  One of the priests showed us around.  We heard very little of what he said, but there was a professor who explained stuff on the bus on the way there and back.  What was the most interesting in a way was how many families and people where there.  The professor explained that the monasteries are gathering places for Copts to come and just be themselves (surrounded by other Christians) on the weekend.  There were some groups listening to speakers, but mostly people just seemed to be hanging out.  The other interesting thing I found out is that to join a monastery you have to have a college degree.  On the way back we stopped at a rest stop—not like rest stops at home—there were places to eat, shops, of course restrooms, and a zoo.  The zoo was quite small and reminded me of old time zoos—felt sorry for the animals, but like I said, luckily it was small.

 

Last weekend we accompanied Mike to a 5K race through the girls’ school at Wadi Digla in the desert outside of Cairo.  Mike thinks wadi means depression or something like that.   Anyway we rode in busses into a canyon.  Then we climbed up the canyon walls to the area where the route was set up (shown with arrows made with flour) and plastic markers.  The girls were a little grumpy at first, but as we walked around and climbed (we weren’t completely out of the canyony part (I know that’s not a word)) they enjoyed it.  Just under the crusty top there was really fine sand.  There were also shell fossils around.  We went out to the desert and found shell fossils!  In the distance you could see some of Cairo (the newer part on the plateau) and if you climbed up some you could see some of the older part down in the valley).  I even heard the call to prayer echoing in.  I think we had more fun than Dad even.

 

The other thing we do on weekends is check out a movie DVD from the girls’ library (Mike & I also check out books) and watch it on the laptop.

 

Mike’s classes are going well.  They are both small.    I’ve been cleaning the apartment and figuring out what to do for supper.  The girls have been eating lots of plums.  I’ve been disappointed in the variety of produce.  Most of the fruit comes from elsewhere—some apples even come from the US.  One thing I won’t miss is having to soak the produce in bleachy water.  More veggies are local.  Nothing too exotic though at our local stores.  I did accompany some women to a market area on the “Egyptian” side of Maadi (we live in the “foreign” side), and got a large root ball thing that I have no idea what it was.  It was described as being like potato.   I boiled some pieces (very unappealing) and pan fried some.  Those tasted much like French fries.  I doubt I’ll get it again though because it was VERY hard to cut.  What I’ve made mostly falls into 3 catagories, tried and true recipes from home (Karen, I’m trying out some of the ones you gave me), new recipes from home that I selected because they had ingredients I thought I might be able to find (much of my guessing was incorrect though), and new concoctions I’ve thrown together from what I have.  One turned out pretty good, kind of like an Indian sloppy joe in pita.

 

There’s lots of birds in the area, although little variety.  I’ve had fun though identifying the new ones (house sparrows are one of the most common, I had to chuckle when I saw them—come half way around the world and the first bird I see is a house sparrow!)   The local version of the “pigeon” is laughing dove, although they’re more like morning doves at home in that they don’t flock.  Have also identified common bulbul, chiffchaff, hooded crow (Ivy has named the “one” at school Ashes), white wagtail (it bobs it’s tail a lot).  The “coolest” is the hoopoe, looks a little like a big orangy woodpecker (especially when flying, but it feeds on the ground).  It has a long beak and pointy crest out the back of it’s head (which sometimes fans up when it’s excited).  I’ve also seen one Nile valley sunbird, pretty little bird with long tail and yellow chest.  Sorry to bore you with bird, but it’s been a highlight for me.  Another thing

 

It’s beginning to get warmer, time to start pulling out the short sleeve shirts.

 

Still don’t have the internet situation worked out, run into a snag, so letters will probably continue to be long and far apart.

Dinner with Scott and Glen

This past weekend, we had dinner with Scott Hibbert and Glen Williams at Abu Sid on Road 7 in Maadi. Ivy at Koshary, a traditional Egyptian rice, lentil and noodle meal, but Maya only had white rice. Here is our picture from Abu Sid:

Glen, Katie, Me, Scott, Ivy and Maya at Abu Sid

Glen, Katie, Me, Scott, Ivy and Maya at Abu Sid

5K Run at Wadi Digla

This past weekend, the family went out to Wadi Digla in the Sahara Desert for a 5K run sponsored by Cairo American College. We had fun hiking up the canyon to the race site, and the girls had fun exploring in the desert for shells and rocks. Katie enjoyed looking at birds.

Here are some pictures:

Looking up the Canyon to the plain of Sahara Desert

Looking up the Canyon to the plain of Sahara Desert

CAC Buses arrive with the runners and their families

CAC Buses arrive with the runners and their families

Beautiful Formations in Wadi Digla

Beautiful Formations in Wadi Digla

Climbing up the canyon to the running site

Climbing up the canyon to the running site

Maya climbing up to the running site

Maya climbing up to the running site

Climbing to the running site

Climbing to the running site

Wadi Digla

Wadi Digla

Me and the girls before the run at the start line

Me and the girls before the run at the start line

Running through the desert (I'm the guy in all blue)

Running through the desert (I'm the guy in all blue)

Running in solitude in the Sahara

Running in solitude in the Sahara

Running in Solitude

Running in Solitude

Finally Finished!

Finally Finished!

Looking back down into the canyon, sometimes called "The Grand Canyon of Egypt"

Looking back down into the canyon, sometimes called "The Grand Canyon of Egypt"

The desert is beautiful

The desert is beautiful

Ivy, Katie and Maya on the edge of the canyon in Wadi Digla

Ivy, Katie and Maya on the edge of the canyon in Wadi Digla

Another shot of the exansive desert

Another shot of the exansive desert

AUC Trip to Monastery of St. Macarius in Wadi Natrun

Last weekend, we took a trip through AUC to Wadi Natrun, to the Monastery of St. Macarius.

 

 

 

This weekend we went to Wadi Natrun (a depression or valley northwest of Cairo) to where there are four 4th century monasteries of the Coptic Church. We went to the Monastery of St. Macarius, and John Swanson from the History Department of AUC was our guide. He is very knowledgeable about Coptic history, and lectured on the bus most of the way there and most of the way back. The concept of monasticism began in Egypt, and then was transferred to the Cappadoccia region of Turkey and eventually to Palestine in the Middle East.

What surprised me the most about the monastery was it was so busy! There were families there, children running around, and bus loads/car loads of people coming and going. We were in the main church, and one of the monks was giving a lecture (in Arabic) on some aspect of applied Christianity to Coptic life.  I asked John why would families come out here, and why he said on the bus that in some ways the monasteries were more important as an in Coptic life than were the churches. He said that since these 4 monasteries were revived by Father Matta El Meskeen, who lived here from about 1968 through 2006, monastic life has been the pivot of Coptic Christianity. In fact, Father Meskeen rivaled Pope Shenuda in popularity and authority during his day. Families come out every weekend in order, he said, to be Coptic without having to worry about being a minority in a Muslim country. This space is theirs, and they can be themselves. St. Marcarius is not a 12the century Medieval institution, but fully 21st century and monks and laity interact regularly. The monk that guided us through the Monastery was a former pharmacist in Cairo. We bought a guide to the monasteries, and a CD set of the monks doing their 4am chanting.

 

On the way back to Cairo, we stopped at the Master Rest Stop along the Alexandria-Cairo Highway. There was a zoo, restaurants, gift shops, etc. We had pizza at the same restaurant that I ate with Sussan and Richard and Vagi and Jian on our trip to Alex. We had lunch with Jerry Leach from American Studies.

Here are some photos:

Ivy and Me on the Bus to Wadi Natrun

Ivy and Me on the Bus to Wadi Natrun

Maya and Katie on the Bus

Maya and Katie on the Bus

Bell Tower of Monastery

Bell Tower of Monastery

Me and Nazek Nosseir (Chair of AUC Sociology) in courtyard

Me and Nazek Nosseir (Chair of AUC Sociology) in courtyard

Arch above Altar from the 10th Century

Arch above Altar from the 10th Century

Altar in Monastery Chapel

Altar in Monastery Chapel

Dome of Main church at St. Macarius

Dome of Main church at St. Macarius

One of many icons in the Church

One of many icons in the Church

Wall panel leading into the altar, nearly 800 years old

Wall panel leading into the altar, nearly 800 years old

Prayer rail leading to altar

Prayer rail leading to altar

Main Church in Monastery

Main Church in Monastery

Tower to Church of 49 Martyrs

Tower to Church of 49 Martyrs

Church of the 49 Martyrs

Church of the 49 Martyrs

Courtyard of Monastery

Courtyard of Monastery

Entrance to altar in Church of the 49 Martyrs

Entrance to altar in Church of the 49 Martyrs

Tapestry depicting the 49 monk martyrs

Tapestry depicting the 49 monk martyrs

Roman column used to build church

Roman column used to build church

Cross on dome of 49 Martyr Church with each end having 2 branches, sybmolizing the 2 natures of Jesus

Cross on dome of 49 Martyr Church with each end having 2 branches, sybmolizing the 2 natures of Jesus

Ceiling of Church

Ceiling of Church

Monastery keep - where monks went to escape attack in Middle Ages (drawbridge pulled up)

Monastery keep - where monks went to escape attack in Middle Ages (drawbridge pulled up)

American Studies Meeting/Film

Here are photos:

Hany and Student Workers in American Studies

Hany and Student Workers in American Studies

American Studies Center Director, Dr. Jerry Leach

American Studies Center Director, Dr. Jerry Leach

Students discussing American Studies with Jerry Leach at Oriental Hall

Students discussing American Studies with Jerry Leach at Oriental Hall

Ahmed at American Studies Meeting

Ahmed at American Studies Meeting

Students in American Studies

Students in American Studies

Talk at Oriental Hall on "A Crude Awakening" Film sponsored by American Studies

Talk at Oriental Hall on "A Crude Awakening" Film sponsored by American Studies

Jerry Leach leading discussion with Ahmed providing translation

Jerry Leach leading discussion with Ahmed providing translation

Family Trip to Khan-i-Khalili

Last weekend we took a family trip to Khan-i-Khalili, the great market in the Old Islamic quarter of Cairo.

 

Khan-i-Khalili is the largest outdoor markets in the world (same claim is made by the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul). We walked around most of the afternoon, shopping in the mahal and ate at the Naguib Mahfouz restaurant. Both girls bought Egyptian scarabs and small stuffed camels.

 

Here are some photos from our trip:

Crowded Market street

Crowded Market street

Streets teeming with merchants

Streets teeming with merchants

Mosque minaret in the market

Mosque minaret in the market

800 year old gate in Khan-i-Khalili

800 year old gate in Khan-i-Khalili

In the famous Naguib Mafouz restaurant in the bazzar

In the famous Naguib Mafouz restaurant in the bazzar

Beautiful ceiling at Naguib Mafouz restaurant

Beautiful ceiling at Naguib Mafouz restaurant

Busy market street at night

Busy market street at night

Gate at night

Gate at night

Katie and the girls waiting to get on the "women only" train car at Sadat Metro Station

Katie and the girls waiting to get on the "women only" train car at Sadat Metro Station

First Week of Family Move to Cairo: Katie

January 16, 2010

Hi!  All is well here.  We got here fine and the girls are ready to start their second week of school.  They’ve both had some homesickness, and we’ve all had sleep issues but that should get better before long.  We like the girls’ school.  Maya’s teacher is nice and she is starting to interact more with some of the kids in her class.  Since she’s never moved, entering an established class where she doesn’t know anyone was an adjustment for her, especially since she couldn’t figure out students names just by looking at them spelled out on the name tags on their desks.  There’re students from all over the world.  She goes to Arabic (which she picked over Spanish or French) three times a week.  The class has PE and music twice a week; and art, library and Egyptian culture once a week.  Ivy has pretty much the same classes she had before, minus a science class and a section of language arts, but adding health (for the rest of this trimester, not sure what she’ll get next trimester) and an art class (drawing and painting, which she especially likes).   It’s an odd schedule—four classes each day, with those rotating, so the schedule repeats itself after 8 days.  The four class sets are the same each time, so it’s just the order that gets confusing.  Luckily she can write down where she should be going each day in her calendar so she can refer to that.  Other than the rotating part I like it, especially since she always has 2 days to complete an assignment for any class.
Today we took a taxi to the pyramids.  They’re bigger than I pictured.  We were able to walk right up to the first one, and they’ve built steps up a little ways.  There was more there than I thought.  More than 3 pyramids, although three stand out, various other buildings, some of which you a can go up to, as well as the Sphinx.  We three girls each took lots of pictures, so we should get some good ones.  Ivy especially enjoyed taking pictures of camels.  Maya wants to take a camel ride, which we’ll do at one of the other pyramids.  Despite enjoying photographing camels, Ivy didn’t want to ride one, but maybe that will change.  We had lunch at a nice Egyptian restaurant before coming home.
You’ll never guess what we did last night—bowled!  We had dinner with a (Egyptian) friend of Mike’s (good food), also a German arbitrator.  Afterwards we went with his sister to a big place with bowling (I think he picked something the girls would enjoy).
The night before that we celebrated the girls finishing their first week of school (which had moments of drama for both) by walking to Lucille’s for dinner.  There’s an article from Time proclaiming it to have the best hamburgers in the world.  Of course, neither of our girls like hamburgers!  Maya thinks they make good quesadillas, and Ivy liked her spaghetti with grilled chicken.
While the girls were at school last week (unfortunately we arrived late in the evening and they had to get up early to start the school week the next morning—they hung in there well!) Mike showed me a number of local sights as well as taking the bus (AUC  bus) to his campus.  It would be very easy to get lost at his school!  It was fun having lunch, just the two of us, at some of the local restaurants.

Jan. 18
Mike will be going in to school tomorrow, and it’s easier to email from there, so I’ll finish this up so he can send it out.  I’ve met a number of his co-workers and/or Fulbright people.  Today I’ll learn about the laundry.  The girls are getting very crabby; I think homesickness has set in.  We’re going to see about Maya getting together with a friend from her class—Alva from Ireland.  Yesterday she was playing on the merry-go-round (don’t see those much anymore at home!) with Sarah.  Several girls said “hi” to Ivy after school, and that’s how we got to meet the girls she eats lunch with—Elana, Alyssa, and a name I can’t remember.  They were staying after school, so if Ivy wants to, she can see when they stay after, and that would be a good social “thing” for her.  Later this month we will be going to Grease (the high school is doing it).  Mike may go to a wresting meet Thursday night.  I think the girls and I will probably pass on that.

Sorry this is so long, later letters will probably be shorter.

Love,
Katie

Family Trip to the Pyramids

Here we are

Katie and the girls climbing up the Giza Pyramids

Katie and the girls climbing up the Giza Pyramids

A great photo

A great photo

The family next to the Sphinx

The family next to the Sphinx

Fulbright Reception at the Lohofs’

 

October 30

 

The Fulbrighters met at Bruce and Annamarie Lohof’s house for a Fulbright dinner tonight. I went with Sussan Babaie and Richard in their car. This night was for the scholars (the students had another night at the Lohofs). I had an extended conversation with Bruce (director of the Fulbright Commission of Egypt) about the state of “American Studies” at AUC. While he likes the fact that AUC pays for half of my Fulbright costs, he is not sure how much use they actually put me to in American Studies. I said that because of turf wars between American Studies and Sociology, there was little coordination between the departments, so I am left a little in limbo.

 

I also had an extended conversation with Samr, who told me about the Islamic/Middle Eastern Studies department at University of Texas—Austin. He also told me that his parents are Egyptian, and came to the US back in the 1970s. His parents still own some apartment buildings in downtown Cairo, and he explained why the once glorious European-style architecture of downtown Cairo has deteriorated: because of Nasser’s socialist reforms, apartments underwent rent control that neither Sadat nor Mubarak were willing to reform. Thus, renters pay only $12 or $15 dollars a month for rent in downtown Cairo—with that little money coming in, there is no incentive for building owners to make sorely needed renovations. Thus, buildings fall apart and the rich move out to the gated suburbs, leaving just the poor behind. What needs to happen, Samr said, was for rent controls to be lifted, and allow the market to stabilize the rent prices. There will be economic dislocation, but then with rent money flowing, there will be funds for upgrading the declining city center.

Dinner with Sherif and Ahmed

 

 

November 14

 

I went shopping at the Maadi Grand Mall today looking for a stocking cap to wear on the desert campout next weekend. I couldn’t find anything, but got a call from Ahmed Hamdan (Sherif’s prosecutor friend who has studied social theory) and he was going to pick me up from the Muhammad Naguib Metro station earlier than expected. I rushed back to my apartment, got dressed, and walked to the Sakanat Maadi Metro station and took the train to meet him. We went to Sherif’s house, where we had a sumptuous feast (and I could name almost all the food in Arabic!—even bitingen!) with Sherif and his sister Sunduq. His mother, as always, observed, but did not join us in the feast. We sat around talking about ADR, and Sherif invited me to give a talk at a Legal/ADR conference next March here in Cairo. (He even asked what my fee would be, and I said normally academics in the US don’t charge fees for academic talks—but this is a normal way Egyptian academics must supplement their low salaries to feed their families.)

 

We were concerned about the soccer match here in Cairo between Egypt and Algeria (to qualify for the 2010 World Cup) which was being played right there in Nasser City, so we left early for the 60th anniversary concert for the Fulbright Commission at the Cairo Opera House.