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Monday, March 29, 2010

To continue bragging

Rere went to the market today and brought all this (plus 4 1/2 pounds of strawberries) back for the low low price of $5.45. I love you, Egypt.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

I hate to brag...

but I will. Recently Edwin has taken to being only waking up 3-4 times a day. And when I say a day I mean in a 24-hour period. For example: yesterday he woke up at 6:30 (and went to sleep at 7:15), 9:30 (and went to sleep at 10:15), 2:45 (and we took a walk previous to bath time and bed at 4:45), and 9:30 (and I woke him up then).

But don't get too jealous - I know that the wheel of karma will turn just as it always does and I'll get severely punished for bragging. For now, however, I'll enjoy it.

Monday, March 22, 2010

You're Hired!

This afternoon, I made potato soup. A key ingredient of potato soup is potatoes. Unlike some members of the Cairo Mission, I buy my produce locally. Local potatoes are quite tasty but come in varying degrees of dirtiness. Sometimes they’re just a little dusty and sometimes they have some caked-on dirt. Today’s potatoes had been pulled from a field and had a small amount of excess dirt knocked off. And Egyptian dirt is thick, black, and gooey.

Not wanting to spend the next three days cleaning the dirt from beneath my fingernails, I threw the potatoes in my sink, covered them with water and (remembering high school chemistry lessons about the differing polarities of water and dirt) squirted some soap in.

Sophia wandered up and used one of her newer phrases to ask ‘What are you doing?’ I told her that I was washing potatoes. She then stated that she too would like to wash the potatoes. Happy to concede the field, I pulled up a chair for Sophia and left her to her business.

Fifteen minutes later I came to take possession of the potatoes for chopping. Every one was spotless. Perhaps I can see if I can hire her out to the potato farmers for some extra cash.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Baggage, the end (hopefully)

Today I left my children with Rere (Brandon made up a song today that goes something like 'I've got clean floors, I've got childcare, I've got Rere, who could ask for anything more?) and went to claim my $56 owed to me by Lufthansa for losing my box.

Before leaving, however, I made sure to pull out my Cairo maps book. My mother once commented that taxis would have a much better time if they would just get GPS units. The problem with a GPS is that there would have to be some sort of database that had 1. all of the streets mapped 2. all of the streets labeled correctly 3. and all of the street labels spelled properly. So until that mythical day, Cairo maps is as good as it gets.

I found the Lufthansa address, and looked up the street name in the index. It wasn't there. I looked on the map. It wasn't there. At the early hour of my departure, 8 am, I knew the office wouldn't be open, so I wrote down the number, and figured I would call them after finishing some errands at the Embassy.

After completing my errands, I called Lufthansa. 'You have reached Lufthansa in Cairo. All lines are busy. Please try back later.' I called again. And again. And again. And again. Fifteen minutes later, the lines were still busy, so I started walking to Zamalek. Five minutes into my hike, the lines were no longer busy.

me: 'Good morning, where is your office located?'
LL: 'We are at the back of the Marriot hotel, across from cafe Bealos.'

I breathed a sigh of relief as I hailed a cab. Everyone knows where the Marriott is, even the cab drivers. It would be simple; I'd have the cab drop me off at the Marriott and I would take a walk around the perimeter until I found the office. It would make sense that their office would be near a hotel; most airline offices are around here.

The cab dropped me off, he didn't argue with the fare (you are expected to know the fare and pay the cab driver accordingly. Often they will take my white skin as an invitation to try to rip me off), I walked into the Marriot with no questions asked (a plus side of white skin), and the weather was even pleasant. Things were looking good.

I started my walk along a tree-lined sidewalk on a quiet street. No Lufthansa office. I walked past tourists leaving for their day trips. No Lufthansa office. I left the quiet street. No office. I crossed a busy street and walked through a commercial area. No office. I wandered through back streets. Nothing. Thinking that perhaps the office was inside the Marriot complex, I took another stroll through the gardens. Just people. I asked an attendant, he knew nothing of Bealos.

And so I called Lufthansa. And called. And called. And walked. And called. And wandered. And called. And considered cursing. And called. And dodged cars. And called. And fought back tears. And called. And tripped over uneven streets. And somebody picked up.

me: 'Hello, where is your office?'
LL: 'We are at the back of the Marriot, across from the Bealos cafe. Everyone knows where it is. Just ask someone.'
me: 'I've been walking around the Marriot for the last half hour, and haven't seen it.'

A lengthy discussion ensued about my location vis a vis the location of the office which required some consultation with colleagues about where exactly the Vodafone office was that I was looking at. But eventually, I understood and she understood and I found the office. While walking towards it, I saw a cafe. Beano's.

After forms, paperwork, and waiting, I walked away with the three hundred and eight pounds of blood money.

Later I consulted the map book. The street, which had a street sign on it, wasn't labeled. Sigh.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

What I like about thumbs

Thumbs are very useful. In fact, some claim, they are so useful that they separate us from, well, anything else that isn't a primate. I like the ability they give me to dial a phone one-handed while trying to fend my children off with the other hand. Thumbs are useful for pressing the space bar when I type. If I didn't have thumbs, I would be very hard-pressed to be able to apply lipstick.

But my favorite feature of thumbs is the wonderful way they fit right into a child's mouth. It is almost as if God created a perfect fit between thumb and curved palate, the fit that provides instant comfort in times of tiredness, distress or hunger.

And that is the fit that my youngest has discovered and exploited. Thanks to his thumb, Edwin can now sleep from when I put him down at 5 pm (with a feeding when I go to bed where he may or may not wake up) until I check to see if he's still breathing around 6:3o or 7. Orthodontia may be somewhat expensive, but as my mother has said before, long-term psychiatric care is very expensive.

Monday, March 15, 2010


For those of you (Laura) who are still holding out hope that I will post pictures of our apartment, your hope is finally being rewarded. For the rest of you, you may skip if you like. These are only the highlights; the remainder are in our long-ignored Picassaaccount.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Just so you know

We actually do (rarely) leave our house. And occasionally we go places that Egypt is known for (well, okay maybe Ibn Toloun mosque is not the first thing that you think of when you think of Egypt). And we have pictures to prove it.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Recent Conversation

Kathleen: (sounding alarmed) mgffhegs mffmgemrmm memmrsm!
me: (in the shower) What? I can't hear you!
Kathleen: mgmmermmsgms mrmgf broken!
me: (alarmed at the word 'broken')I still can't hear you. Open the door!
Kathleen: mfmfeg msrrmmg back is broken!
me: (very alarmed) What?!?!
Kathleen: Mrs Potato Head's back is broken!
me: (relieved) Oh, I'll fix it when I get out of the shower.

You never know what they're up to while you're in the shower.

Monday, March 8, 2010

I knew this day would come

Yesterday afternoon (things get done early around here), I bathed the children. Edwin was hungry, and so I asked Kathleen to get her sister Sophia dressed. The girls happily ran off to their room and I got Edwin dressed and fed. After a few minutes, two dressed girls cheerfully came back, complete with brushed hair.

I knew that I was getting a good deal when I found out that my oldest was going to be a girl.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Dear Lufthansa,

I am writing this e-mail to express my disappointment with the service I have received regarding two pieces of lost luggage. I live in Cairo and was traveling back to Egypt after having recently given birth at home in the United States. When I arrived in Cairo two pieces of luggage had been lost which, while troublesome, was not terribly distressing because they had been lost by you, Lufthansa, and your airline has a fine reputation when it comes to taking care of your customers.
Unfortunately, my experience trying to get them back did not match the service I have come to appreciate and rely on in my dealings with your airline. Lufthansa apparently contracts with Egyptian Aviation Services here in Cairo to deal with baggage. They were unable to even take care of the claims of those who had lost luggage. My flight had been delayed due to weather and it had been a difficult time for my newborn, myself and my mother who had kindly consented to travel with me. I left my baby with my mother while I went to submit my claim.
I lined up at the claim desk behind four other customers with lost luggage. I stood stupefied as six employees took twenty minutes to deal with one customer. At that rate I would have been in line for eighty minutes and decided for the sake of my mother and baby I would have to take care of my claim later. When I left, the six employees had not yet finished working with the first claimant.
Imagine my surprise when I called Lufthansa and was bounced from office to office, five different offices in total, before I was able to speak with anyone who knew about my luggage.
I was missing a car seat and a box with some food items and baby diapers. I was told that the car seat had been located but that Lufthansa was only going to do a courtesy tracking of the box. When I asked Egyptian Aviation Services about the box I was told it wasn't their problem but that I should call Lufthansa. I will not repeat here the story of retrieving my car seat from Egyptian Aviation Services but suffice it to say I spent 70 Egyptian pounds to grease the palms of those working there and was marched all over the airport from office to office and back again before anyone could locate my car seat. Now I have been informed by your airline that my box is lost indeed and that I must travel to your offices on my time and at my expense to get compensation for something that you lost in the first place. Needless to say, I am truly disappointed in the speed and quality of the service from Lufthansa in this matter. (To say nothing of Egyptian Aviation Services.) I understand that contractors are probably in limited supply in Egypt but a thorough review of their practices is probably in order. Additionally, I will think twice before bringing my business to Lufthansa and will advise my friends to do the same.

With sincere regret,

Ashley Sherwood

Friday, March 5, 2010

Baggage part II

After all of the trouble, however, I had only retrieved one of the two lost pieces of baggage. Still missing was my box containing dried black beans (unobtainable in Egypt) and diapers (not quite as problematic). After talking with EAS who disavowed all knowledge of my box, I called Lufthansa.

They sent me an email which had an attachment which really didn't, which I replied to which never made it there, and then they sent another one with the attachment after a phone call which I finally filled out and emailed back.

That same afternoon I received a phone call
Lufthansa Lady: We received your email, and checked with EAS. They said you picked up the box.
me: No, I didn't.
LL: Well, they have on record (i.e. the book) that you did.
me: No, I went to the airport, looked in their cage, and only saw my daughter's car seat. There was no box.
LL: They said that your record was closed and the box was picked up.
me: There was no box. They wouldn't trace the box, and to me to call you.
LL: Ok, thank you. I will call them back.

The next day:
LL: We have traced you luggage and it cannot be found.
me: As in it is lost?
LL: Yes. However you can come to our office and we will give you the value. Do you have any receipts?
me: No (incredulous). I bought them in the states, and it was just black beans and diapers.
LL: Well, if you have any receipts, please bring them. We are in Zamalek (a 30-minute drive away) and open Monday through Thursday from 10 - 1.

So I get to find some way to get up to Zamalek to pick up money for a bag they lost, after having paid $40 to retrieve the car seat.

I just want to know who is eating my black beans and wearing the diapers.