Saturday, August 28, 2010


Yesterday I took the boys to the zoo. It was the craziest zoo ever. As you walk around the kepers whisper to you like pushers in Washington Square Park: "ostrich, over here, ostrich." "Want see zebra? here, zebra, psss, pssss." If you nod, the guards will literally let you in with the animals. They expect a tip in return. Below we hang with the kangaroos and pet the lion cubs.

One guy encouraged Thomas to pose next to an angry mama tiger kept in a private cage in the back. He told me it was safe, while brandishing a stick menacingly at the cat. We did it but it occurred to me I had a lot more to lose from his being wrong than he did.

We also helped feed the elephant, but my hands were full with emmett so no pictures.

Since it was a Friday during Ramadan there weren't many people there. Again we were the only westerners there.

At one point a group of school children ran up and surrounded the boys. They were yelling hello and whats your name in english. I think they thought Thomas and Emmett were the best exhibit in the zoo.

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Days in the Garden

Here are some pics of us wandering around in the garden. It is really too hot to stay out there for very long, but we all like to walk around and check out the unfamiliar plants. Sometimes we sit in the sprinkler or chase Egypt the kitty.

There is a beautiful little arbor with a table. It will be nice to sit here on cool evenings. Assuming such evenings exist. I've heard things get cooler next month and are nice by October. If you look carefully in front you can see the nice blue tweety backpack that Grandma Susan bought T on Klima. We are getting lots of mileage out of it here!

Here are Mohammed (the driver) and Hamdi (the gardener) enjoying a small bit of shade. Mohammed has been sick all week so we've been taking taxis everywhere. Sometimes, Judy, our housekeeper comes with me and she gets in big arguments with the cab drivers. She says they are all cheats and lazy and they will rip us off if we aren't careful. Its true fares are lower when she rides with us, but the difference is mostly a dollar or two so its hard for me to worry too much. But is does give me a sense of what Judy's life in Cairo is like.

If this all seems very colonialist, it is. I saw a sign in Maadi (our expat neighborhood) yesterday for a pharmacy saying in English "Your health is our world." That would seem over the top if, say, CVS said that in DC, but here there does seem to be a group of people whose world (at work) is making things easier and better for foreigners. We're like these big babies who come here and have constant minders. But, since I don't know how to do anything myself, or even how to talk to people, I do need the help.

Here is Emmett on the seesaws at Thomas' school, the Cairo American College. It runs pre-K- 12th grade. The other day Dave and I were getting coffee at the stand in the high school building and we wandered into the college placement office. There was a big picture of the Bowdoin college campus. It was nice to think of the boys graduating from school in Cairo and going back to Brunswick for college. But I don't think we'll be here that long.

As Emmett and I were see-sawing, Thomas was showing off his moves for the youth soccer coach. We find out what team he is on this week. He's young for the league, and people here are great at soccer-- I saw some 6 year olds with mad skills at the try-outs, so we're hoping it isn't all too overwhelming for him. At his DC class last spring, they just had them run to different colored cones. That clearly will not cut it here. You can see Dave watching T in the first picture but sadly I didn't catch the little Ranaildo himself. Nonetheless E is in fine form on the see-saw.

Emmett is maybe the cutest thing anyone in Cairo has ever seen. Its normal here for people to come up and hug a strange baby, or pinch his cheeks. This happens a lot. All of the house staff competes for Emmett's attention and are very proud when he knows their name. If we ever want a special favor, say from the school administration or a shop that has already closed for the day, we've learned to carry Emmett in with us.

And then here's some shots from a water park T and I went to check out this week. Before we'd left the states, I'd found a list of fun kids activities in Cairo and read them to Thomas. I thought this was really good parenting to give him some concrete things to anticipate. Last weekend we asked him his favorite thing in Cairo so far, and he said, "the water parks." We were confused because we hadn't been to any. Then I remembered the list I'd read to him, which had included some water parks. So off we went after school on Sunday (Sunday is a school day here)--- when I told Mohammed where we wanted to go, he demurred that it was a little far-- maybe 40 minutes. I said it was Ok. Poor Mohammed-- it was really far through lots of traffic. I think we might have actually driven all the way to the Sudan. It was a big cheesy park by a random highway in the desert. Thomas and I were for sure the only westerners there. Thomas seemed not to notice and dove right in. I got a lot of bemused smiles from the other families.

The weirdest part was that I brought a t-shirt to cover my 2 piece suit since we were in a muslim country, but every lifeguard told me I had to take it off. Basically all the other women were wearing t-shirts too, so I just shook my head. But when we moved to a different splash pool the next lifeguard would come up to tell me that I couldn't wear a shirt. They also told me, after we'd been going down the slides for a while, that Thomas was too young to go down the slides. I looked around and all the other kids were around T's age. When I pointed this out (through pantomime and one-word English), the lifeguard shrugged, grinned and waved me past but said to hurry. I was glad to see Mohammed at the end of the hour, but was too shy to ask him about the weird t-shirt thing.

And here, for those of you with working zoom functions, is the first newsletter from Thomas' class at CAC. He's in the two group photos but you have to look.

Today he came home with a "Shokrun Splash" ticket. Shokrun is "thank you" in arabic, and they give out these slips when your child is "caught" being especially good. The teacher told me what Thomas had done to earn the slip, which I think amounted to following directions for the first time in 2 weeks. Yay Thomas!

And now, here is a memory from more carefree days, when there were no rules about t-shirts. xox

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Stepping back in time, let's remember fondly our first stop on our trip east. From Washington we set out first for Greece and the island paradise of klima beach on Ios. After 3 airplane flights and a ferry ride, We saw Grandma Susan waiting for us on the dock at ios. Hurray! Then it was only a quick bus ride and a zippy motor boat trip to the beach, where grandpa Peter waited in towering swells to unload our luggage from the boat.

Evidently I had made a promise that we would each arrive with only a small pack back of stuff. Despite the helpful loss of one of the bags by the airline, I am afraid we fell well short of my guarantee.

Thankfully klima was so gorgeous or I think my crew might have mutinied by the end of the trip.

It was a very nice way to introduce the boys to their new life. Emmett saw the house, the beach and his grandparents and yelled out excitedly "Egypt!" Until then I hadn't even known that he understood anything about the move. (alert readers may point out that Emmett seems to greet every new situation with a cry of Egypt! That,s not true. It was a only seeing his grandpa and then the kitty that got this reaction.) Thomas was also happy, especially about a pair of goat skulls on the stairs. He did ask quietly, "But why did we have to travel for so long?"

We spent a happy few days snorkeling, playing in the sand and learning chess.

Grandma Susan impressed us with her daily spear-fishing. Here she and Emmett compete to see whose dimples are bigger.

Another sign that emmett understood what was happening was that he clung to Clare like a little monkey. I thought it would be terrible when we had to say goodbye in athens. But when the time he let go and did not put up a fuss. It was nice for us to have such a special trip with her before she left us for sf. We Skyped with her yesterday on her birthday and she seems to be doing well.

See you soon klima beach! Thank you for the wonderful introduction to Mediterranean life! We want to come back soon. And we promise, only backpacks . . . .