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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Fall (what a nice thought)

Recently I have been noticing a particular theme in many of my friends’ blogs: fall. I even have a few friends who have updated their backgrounds to coincide with the season. They speak glowingly of that crisp in the air, the leaves changing colors, the excitement for school to start, and all of those other things that are theoretically supposed to come with the end of September.

Last Saturday, we went swimming. It was 92 outside. When I woke up this morning, the air conditioning was doing its usual arctic blast right over my bed. I found some new bright-pink flowers on the bougainvillea plants draped over my balcony. Since the flowers are technically leaves, does that count as the leaves changing?


Today while reading Knuffle Bunny, Kathleen asked what that hole in one of the pictures was. I told her that it wasn’t a hole, it was the window of someone’s apartment.

Oh, she said, then where’s the elevator? They don’t have an elevator, I told her, they just walk up the stairs. Kathleen looked at me like I didn’t understand, and then pointed to another window. Do they have an elevator? Nope, just stairs. She looked nonplussed.

I guess that’s what we get for living on the fifth floor.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Convenience - and the lack thereof

Anywhere one lives involves a set of trade-offs; good for bad, pleasant for unpleasant. I have heard it said that you decide what downsides you can deal with, and choose the option that most suits you.

Living in Cairo has its trade-offs when it comes to convenience. Just about anybody delivers (including nurseries; who knew you could get a fully-grown ficus tree in our elevator?), and household help is inexpensive and plentiful. If one really wanted to, you could never actually leave your apartment your whole stay here. I’m really not kidding.

One downside, however, is medical care.

As we are here with the State Department, we have access to the vast bureaucratic engine that is the Cairo Mission. As this particular mission is one of the top three largest missions in the world, the array of available options is impressive. Included in our diplomatic goodies is access to post-provided healthcare. The only problem with post-provided healthcare, however, is that you get to do things on their schedule, in their own idiosyncratic way.

Yesterday I went for (I thought) a 28-week OB visit and everybody’s favorite drink-the-slightly-carbonated-orange-sugar-drink (why is it always orange?) test. However, after arriving (via private taxi-car that had to be ordered the day before) I was told that oh no, there was no OB visit, it was just the test. And the OB visit? Oh yeah, that had to be done up at the Embassy. So after spending an hour and a half at the clinic down in Maadi on Sunday, on Wednesday I get to Metro up to the Embassy for an hour-long appointment where we’ll start all of the paperwork trail that eventually will get me back the states in five weeks.

I knew this would happen, the point where nostalgia kicked in for those Springville days, the days of 5 minute (I’m really not kidding) OB appointments that I could drive to myself and spending the night before delivering in my own bed in my own house. If this is socialized medicine, I’m not interested.

Monday, September 28, 2009


For those of you who are wondering how our children are doing, I’ll tell you. For those of you who aren’t please wait until the next post to read something amusing.

The most important thing that Sophia has done is learning to walk. She had steadfastly refused to do anything even related to walking until right around the time we moved into our big, new, stone-floored apartment. Brandon still cringes every time he sees her walk, and can’t stand to watch her scoot forward down the three steps in our living room.

She has also finally decided to add to the four teeth that have graced her smile for seven months now and has added all four molars and two more bottom teeth. To make full use of her teeth, she has started talking and has far outpaced her sister at this age. Unlike Kathleen, who would only repeat ‘dada’ when asked to say anything, Sophia will repeat any one- or two-syllable word that she possibly can. I’m hoping that she can tell me what is bothering her by the time Edwin arrives. Here’s for hoping.

She has also become quite social, calling out ‘hi’ to everyone she sees, and is soaking in all of the attention that almost every single Egyptian that passes gives to her.

Finally my baby is starting to grow up – just in time for a new one to take her place.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Getting the Internet

When we moved into our new apartment, we knew it would take awhile to get internet.  But we didn’t anticipate how along ‘awhile’ would mean and all of the ridiculous steps it would take to have magic words, pictures, and sound pop up on the computer when you pressed a button.

 1. Find out who the previous tenant had internet with (the apartments are all from a pool, and so move from usg employee to usg employee)

2. Contact said provider about internet for oneself

3. Hear back from the provider that one needs a housing contract (right) or telephone bill (that come every three months) to switch internet contract to one’s own name.

4. Consult with fellow employees and discover that switch isn’t that necessary.

5. Contact internet provider contact about routers

6. Wait for contact to never get back to one

7. Finally give up and hitch a ride over to provider’s office.

8. Discover that internet can be turned on without name switch, but no router can be rented.

9. Go to Maadi Grand Mall to buy a router.

10. Find that all stores are closed (despite the mall being open, at 4:30 in the afternoon) because of something to do with Ramadan

11. Go to Radio Shack and spend 50 pounds on a useless cord, but no router

12. Go back another night and get router

13. Plug in router, fiddle with for several hours, never get the internet to work

14. Contact customer service and spend 30 minutes trying to understand what technical help is talking about

15. Finally get internet working after obtaining internet provider’s username and password, which was never mentioned when said service was paid for.  In advance.  In cash.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

What was she thinking?!?

As a parent, I could probably just start an entire blog entitled ‘What was he/she thinking?!,’ and this particular incident would probably be in the top 10. 

Prior to our things arriving, Sophia and Kathleen slept in government-provided beds (which are now in the ‘furniture room,’ one day to be Edwin’s room along with three other beds and various other furniture).  Kathleen had a twin, but Sophia was in a folding port-a-crib.  Cribs generally aren’t particularly fascinating, but this crib had an attractive (to Kathleen) feature: wheels.

Many an evening we would find Sophia wheeled over next to Kathleen’s bed and sometimes Sophia would be woken from a sound sleep by her sister playing bumper cars with her crib and the other bed in the room.

One afternoon, I took a nap.  Kathleen and Sophia also took a nap, but evidently they woke up before I did because Sophia’s crying woke me up from my nap.  Groggily (after trying to ignore the cries for a few minutes), I went to find what Kathleen had been doing to bother her sister.

When I got to their room, however, they were nowhere to be found.  Continuing down the hallway in search of my misbehaving three year-old, I saw something odd: Sophia’s crib, in the kitchen.  When I looked further, my pace increasing to a run, I saw things in Sophia’s crib other than just Sophia.

Upon arriving in the kitchen, I found Sophia sitting partially buried by piles of clothes.  Kathleen had decided to amuse herself by emptying the entire laundry bag into Sophia’s crib and then adding their entire winter wardrobe that had been in their closet on top for good measure.  Figuring that Sophia would need some shoes to go with her clothes, Kathleen threw in all of the shoes she could find for good measure, too.

Not content with merely clothing her sister, however, Kathleen decided that Sophia needed fed.  And that’s where the kitchen came in.  Not only was Sophia under piles of clothes, but she had several litres of UHT milk, ketchup, lemon juice, Worsterchire sauce, cheese, butter, green beans, okra, peppers, tomatoes, and about twenty packages of yogurt. 

By this time I was livid.  Kathleen knew not to put clothes in Sophia’s crib (she learned that from my reaction several days before when she had put everything in their room in Sophia’s crib), she knew not to leave her room during naptime, and she knew to leave the food in the refrigerator.  What was she thinking?!?

But the last, the ultimate, the final outrage, the one that left her in the dark hall bathroom for three hours until her father came home, the one that left me with an hour and a half of cleanup and two loads of laundry to wash, fold, and put away, was the eggs.

Yes, eggs.  Eggs are funny in how easily they break.  They break when cracked in a bowl.  They break when dropped on the floor.  And they most certainly break when tossed into a crib full of sister, clothes, and food.  And when they break they get on everything: clothes, sister, crib, food, and floor.

Our new place

For all of my female readers, I will address the most important topic first: our new apartment. Brandon and I are of two different minds: he prefers our old apartment, and I prefer our new one. He could, however, live in a cave in complete happiness, so for him the smaller the better, especially considering the vastly better plumbing fixtures in the old one.

I however, can live with the quirky Egyptian fixtures in exchange for the extra space we have. If the girls ever had a mind to wander, there’s plenty of space, and if I can teach them ‘hide and seek’ they could spend a good amount of time trying to find each other. Kathleen likes the nice, long hallway to play ‘red light green light’ in and the girls like riding the trike around our living/play/library area in the front. And I have enough cupboard space in the kitchen that I have an entire cupboard devoted to plastic bags.

I haven’t taken any pictures yet because our front hall is filled with boxes and the nursery is filled with extra furniture. I am happy that the State Department furnishes our apartments because we would go broke trying to fill our apartment so it looks like somebody actually lives here.

So, we’re here, our stuff is here, we like it, and we’re not moving for another two years. Thank heaven.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Hello Again

For those of you counting, it has been a month since any updates on our fascinating lives here in Egypt. My apologizes, especially as I confess that we've had the internet for a week now.  It's been an eventful month of silence for us here in the hinterlands - we moved one day, got our UAV (air shipment) the next day, got our first HHE (boat) shipment two weeks after that, and our second HHE shipment a week after that.  Combined with giving talks last Friday on the first day of our primary callings, it's been busy.  But don't worry, I'll catch everyone up on the highlights.