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Friday, July 31, 2009


For all of you who are wondering (and those of you who aren’t), we have made it to Cairo.  With the exception of two small children who decided that they didn’t like food anymore, and the subsequent frustration that it caused their parents, our trip went smoothly.  The planes took off on time – which is only what one would expect from a German airline – none of our luggage was lost, nothing was broken, and we didn’t even have to pay any overweight luggage fees.  I even managed to smile my way out of $250 for ‘extra bags’ also known as our car seats. 

Despite the new airport (I guessed correctly based on the lack of grime that is ubiquitous here), new houses, and newly paved roads, Cairo is the same Cairo that we left.  It’s hot, you can hear horns honking all hours of the night and day, and most importantly the mangoes are cheap, plentiful, and good.

We have begun to settle into our 4 bedroom, 3 full bath apartment with granite countertops and matching solid wood furniture that was clearly intended for someone more with more legitimacy and fewer smaller children than we have.  However, we will not become too settled as we will be leaving in a month or so to our real apartment (with even more space). 

So far, we are doing well and Kathleen is excited for her first trip to the pool.  For any who are hoping for outrageous stories on par with last time, give us some time until the nostalgia wears off and reality sets in.  It always does.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


Our lives consist of a long, unbroken string of changes.  We are born, we grow into adulthood, we have children, we grow old, and then we die.  Being human however, we are by nature resistant to any break in stability.  Someone may tell us that life is better on the other side of that door, but really who are they to say?  Things are just fine here, thank you.

And so, we are given transitions to help us deal with changes.  I remember being unsure of being a parent, wary of all of the stress and discomfort and annoyance that comes with children.  However, by the end of my pregnancy I was so uncomfortable that I would do anything to end such a state, even if it involved waking up at odd hours of the night and changing diapers.

Brandon and I are almost done packing.  He is sharpening the knives and I am supposed to be gathering up the odd effects that are still lying around waiting to be shoved into any available space that has a spare pound.  I have been packing, sorting, organizing, purging, weighing, re-packing, and deciding for the last three days.  Previous to that I was completing myriad odd other tasks that come with moving one's life overseas.  And I am in such a state that I will do almost anything to be done with this.  Even move around the globe to a city crammed with 17 million Cairenes, each and every one of which will stare at me with my blond hair every time I step out of my door.

And so, on the eve of the end of this phase in my life, I wonder: Am I nervous?  Afraid?  Wary?  Excited?  No, I'm just tired.  And let Tuesday afternoon bring what it may.  I don't care.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Conspicuous Consumption

Last Monday, I went to Costco.  While there I bought, among other things, two pounds of cheese and three dozen eggs.  Today, eight days later, I have six eggs and two ounces of cheese.

The Wednesday before that, I bought two pounds of butter.  Not quite two weeks later we have one and a half sticks.

Last Thursday, I bought four pounds of tomatoes and two heads of garlic.  Today, five days later, I have three cloves of garlic and Brandon had to run to the store for three more pounds of tomatoes.

I'm not sure how we're going to be able to afford a teenaged son.

Saturday, July 18, 2009


For those of you who keep track of our oh-so-exciting lives, I'll fill in the boring (and not easily made clever or funny) details.

We're leaving for Cairo in a week and half, Monday the 27th of July, and so have been tying up all of the loose ends involved with moving to another country. I am constantly amazed by how much one can spend at Target with a cart that really isn't that full. $15 for one Rubbermaid tote isn't that bad, but when you buy three, the numbers start to add up. And Old Navy must love me for all of the clothes I have bought in preparation for the next few seasons, both for the girls and Edwin. I've just come to accept that one of the prices of living overseas is paying more for clothes. Sigh.

To make room for all of the new clothes, we've been cleaning out closets. I've discovered, like my sister Laura has, that with every move one grows more ruthless about what you really want to haul around with you. That shirt? Sure, it I still could wear it, but do I want to? Off to Goodwill!

To make sure I still fit in all of the clothes I've been buying for next summer, we bit the bullet and bought a treadmill, something I'd never thought of owning until I added up some numbers: 1 me + 2 seats in the stroller + 3 children = not enough room. Sigh.

I'm also bidding adieu to the rest of my possessions for the next 2 or 3 months and trying to decide what we really can't do without and then deciding whether it is worth taking in our suitcases. I've decided to take my knives, and I'd really like to take my knife sharpener, but we'll just have to see.

In addition to bidding adieu to my possessions, we're also bidding adieu to all of those friends that somehow we didn't get around to seeing until the week before we left, which has involved a lot of cooking. I think I'll be ready to quit cooking for awhile (which incidentally I'm writing this post to avoid) after this last go and abandon myself to the luxury of everything-including-McDonald's-will-get-delivered-to-your-door when we get to Cairo. Ahh, third world countries....

And of course, we've been working our way through the requisite barrage of paperwork, shots (that was very popular with the girls), passports, visas, travel arrangements, moving arrangements, housing arrangements, disposing of everything we'd like to leave behind, and trying to think of anything else we might have forgotten.

Kathleen and Sophia are dealing tolerably well, although Sophia has recently decided that she only wants to eat food while sitting on our laps. Kathleen is coping by putting her swimsuit on every day in preparation for going swimming frequently in Cairo. She's also excited about eating all of the treats we bought at Target.

And my balm in Gilead? An Egyptian woman, named Re-Re, who will come every week and clean my house and do my grocery shopping for me. Although I don't deserve it, I sure will enjoy it!

Thursday, July 16, 2009


Almost three years ago, Brandon and I bought a new computer.  Our last one, a graduation present from my parents had survived single life and seven months in Egypt fairly well and had given up the ghost.  By that point I had given birth to Kathleen, but marching down to the Apple store and giving them a swipe with our credit card in exchange for a big box with an iMac in it actually made me feel more adult than having a child did.  After all 15 year-olds generally can't afford to buy new computers.

Our trusty, aesthetically pleasing iMac is still with us, and will continue to be a member of our family until it decides to leave us, but when arranging the logistics of our impending move, we ran up against a problem.  We will be flying to Cairo and don't favor the idea of our computer box being kicked down the tarmac.  Our UAB (supposedly the "fast" shipment) won't get there for another 2 1/2 months (thanks to Egyptian efficiency and Ramadan).  

So what's a girl to do with no computer for 2 1/2 months?  Brandon briefly tried to convince me that we could make do, but we both knew that wasn't an option.  And so, with a few (really too few for the amount of financial commitment involved) clicks of the mouse, another computer has joined our family.  And it's a MacBook, of course.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Can I see where they keep the ark of the covenant?

A few days ago, I made a trip to Hagerstown, Maryland. For those of you not employed by the State Department (most, if not all), you may not be familiar with Hagerstown.

Five months ago, some men came to our house. They packed up all of our things in boxes, some in big boxes, some in small boxes, and some of it not in boxes at all. Then they drove off. A few weeks later when we came to our house in Arlington, a few of the boxes showed up, but not most of them. They disappeared into the vast unexplored and unexplained workings of Government Bureaucracy.

This Tuesday I set out to find the actual physical location of the rest of my boxes. So I drove northwest into the mountains (ha!) of Maryland. At one point I passed under a pedestrian footbridge labeled "Appalachian Trail." After 90 minutes of driving, I turned left by a blue water tower and parked next to a very large building that I mistakenly took to be an airplane hangar based on its proximity to an airport landing strip.

Instead of housing airplanes, however, this particular large building turned out to be one of the Government Warehouses that contain, according to some, all of the interesting stuff that ever existed and has been confiscated by the Government. And upon looking, one indeed could not tell what treasures were contained in this particular Warehouse. All I could see were 4x4x8 wooden crates, neatly stacked to the ceiling. The only ones that I could have access to, however, weren't quite as exciting as Indiana Jones movies. They just had all of that stuff that disappeared. And the others? The guys at the Warehouse weren't talking.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Logic of Two Year-Olds

A recent conversation with Kathleen:

The scene: We are going swimming with a friend in the afternoon. Kathleen is wearing her swimsuit, as she does every single day.
Kathleen: "I'm going to pack my swimsuit in the suitcase."
Me: "You need to put it in the pool bag upstairs."
Kathleen (after 30 seconds): "It's in the pool bag."
Me (thinking that not enough time had elapsed to take off the swimsuit and actually put it in the pool bag): "What are you wearing?"
Kathleen (coming back downstairs): "I'm naked."

She may be immodest, but in this case, she wasn't lying.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

A Complaint (or two or maybe three)

Author's note: For those of you who have actual things to complain about in your lives, I ask you to see my complaining as a way to feel better about yourselves - at least you're not as wimpy as me. For those of you who live charmed lives, I hope this brings some humor to your day and an excuse to feel even better about your charmed life - than heavens you don't have so many self-created problems as me!

Sometimes in our lives we enjoy complaining. It doesn't make anything better, and it usually makes one more discontented in the long run, but it offers short-term relief. It's very similar to a bowl of ice cream. So I will now complain. It has less effect on my clothes fitting.

1. One day I want to own (or even just reside) somewhere where all of the things I own are located. And they aren't located anywhere else.

2. At this residence I don't want to have to call three different people and work the system so that I can go and get my stuff out of the basement. Or garage.

3. In my eventual mythical paradise, I want to be able to put things back in the basement without having two spend two years in a foreign country with the aforementioned things before they can go back to the basement.

4. I don't want to have to drive 1 1/2 hours to my basement.

5. I want to drive around, look at domiciles, and then just pick one and then know what to take and what to throw away.

6. I want to be able to take my newborn baby from the hospital, drive home with them, and that's it, instead of 1. applying for a birth certificate 2. using the birth certificate to get a passport. 3. using the passport to get added to travel orders 4. getting a medical checkup so that 5. I and the baby can get medically cleared 6. using the travel orders and medical clearance to get a plane ticket, and 7. using the plane ticket to fly 1/4 around the globe by myself with three children

7. I want to stay somewhere longer than three years.

Thanks for listening.