Archive | September, 2007

Little Gasps of Joy

26 Sep

Anyone who knows me knows I love those square Fresh Ink cards. One that I have tucked away for future use has a drawing of a little hamster and a photo of a ferris wheel and says “If I had a talking hamster, on his birthday I’d take the little guy to the carnival to see the Big Wheel. Upon seeing it, he’d be speechless, simply letting out little gasps of joy.”

I love that phrase “little gasps of joy.” Here are my little gasps this week: Continue reading


Bowling for Egyptians

22 Sep

Oh my friends, there are times in life where you wish you had a magic camera that would capture a certain experience and an atmosphere so you could keep it forever and share it with those you love. A camera that would take in not only the sights and sounds but the mood and surrealness of such an experience. Thursday night I would have given anything for that magic camera, because, dear friends, I want to share with you the total mind-blowing experience that is…Egyptian bowling.

That’s right, bowling, that beloved ancient pasttime of sweaty middle-schoolers and women named LaVerne. Last night we went out with a few friends to a bowling alley here in Maadi. We figured it would be a relatively easy thing to do, it couldn’t be that different from bowling in America, right? Continue reading

Lights! Camera! Action?

16 Sep

Last week I got a call out of the blue to appear on Egyptian TV. I looked at my calendar, and it wasn’t April 1, and after a little checking I found out that it wasn’t Egyptian Fool’s Day either. (Speaking of holidays, the holy month of Ramadan did start last week…more on that in future posts.) The producer didn’t really tell me much about what I’d be doing. In fact, every time he called me it seemed like he was more interested in getting off the phone than anything. Maybe he’s practicing for Hollywood. He did mention something about “the aftermath of 9/11,” appropriate since it was the six-year anniversary since the attacks on New York and Washington. Other than the fact that I had no idea how they found me, no idea what I would be talking about, and no idea what the show would be like, it seemed like a great opportunity. I said yes, figuring that chances were good that I’d embarrass myself, but relatively slim that I’d do anything to spark an international incident, so that’s really a plus at the end of the day. Continue reading

Patrick Mason: Spokesman for America

13 Sep

**UPDATE: the time is 9pm Egyptian time, making it 4pm Eastern.**

Tonight at 11pm Egyptian time (6pm Eastern) Patrick will be featured on Nile TV, one of the major networks here, on a news program called Frontline. He’s been given very few details, but we know that they want him to talk about the aftermath of September 11. He’ll be on with an Egyptian who works with the UN. We’re hoping this isn’t some crazy setup where they try to sabotage him and make Americans look like idiots. Little do they know who they’re up against.

Apparently you can watch Nile TV here, but so far I’ve only been able to get it in Arabic.

The First Day of Class

11 Sep

Or, Feminism, have I failed thee? (I say no!)

Yesterday was my first day of school in a long time. Besides a photography class at ND, I haven’t taken college courses since graduating several years ago. AUC was kind enough to offer free courses for faculty spouses though, and seeing as how Egyptian students are paying the equivalent of $120,000 per year in tuition, I figured that was a pretty good deal. You know, free. Always good.

Getting into classes was an ordeal in and of itself and I almost gave up and resigned myself to a semester of thumb-twiddling. After days of yelling at Admissions, and them yelling back (seriously, everyone yells) I was able to convince them that yes, I was capable of taking college courses, however it was established that they were not capable of running their own office. The problem was they had lost my transcript, found it, sent it to a completely random office, told me I never turned it in, found it after I pointed out that it was sitting in a random office, then told me that I couldn’t take classes because I had not yet applied, despite the fact that my application was attached to my transcript, had been sent in a month before, and was already entered into the system. Once this was all squared away, I asked how long it would take before I could enroll in classes. The answer? Not until you’ve turned in your application. I. kid. you. not. Continue reading

Pyramid sighting!

9 Sep


We caught our first glimpse of the pyramids yesterday! We were driving along the Nile and a friend was pointing out the bridge you take to get out to Giza. We looked over and beyond the tall buildings on the other side of the river, you could see the hazy outline of the pyramids. I squealed, it was so exciting! In the middle of the modern city, beyond skyscrapers are these ancient wonders. The contrast of them against the skyline was surreal.

AUC took us on a tour of the city yesterday and from a vantage point above the city, we got to see them again. Pretty amazing! We had decided to wait until the weather cools and we’ve learned enough Arabic to beat off the self-proclaimed guides before we actually go out to Giza. In the meantime though, it was nice to look up from the busy noisy city and see this.

Do You Speak English?

6 Sep

It all started innocently enough. Since I start teaching tomorrow, and I have all of two shirts and pairs of pants that I can teach in – thanks to our shipment, the same one that was supposed to be here on August 20, not being here (well, supposedly it’s in the country, but we haven’t seen it yet) – Melissa & I went out shopping for a few clothes to get me through the next few days (weeks? months? years?) until our shipment, loaded with such threats to national security as cloth diapers and history books (Melissa will tell you far too many history books), finally arrives.

It was a pleasant enough walk to the men’s clothing stores, which actually have pretty decent and good-looking stuff for very reasonable prices. The evening was just a bit warm and muggy, which meant that I, being the inveterate sweat producer that I am, was just starting to perspire when we walked in the door. You don’t have to know me very well to know that clothes shopping, even for myself, ranks on my list right around watching soccer. Some men like watching soccer. My theory is that they’re also the men who like shopping for clothes. But that’s another subject altogether. Continue reading

“Make Haste Towards Prayer”

5 Sep

Cross-posted at By Common Consent

Several times a day, I open our windows and listen as voices begin floating over the city. I look over the tops of apartment blocks and dusty buildings, over the many minarets and palm trees, and I visualize the calls to prayer. I imagine the voices as drops of water sprinkling over the city, spreading in little circles until they meet each other with soft bumps and then continue on, blending and flowing. The song sounds mystical to me, all words I don’t understand sung in dozens of different voices, different tones, different distances from me. Each of them from a single man in one of the graceful spires that shoot up across the skyline, claiming that part of the city for its own. Continue reading

File Under: We’re Not in Indiana Anymore, Toto

4 Sep

For your amusement, excerpts from our insurance policy:

“Excluded Risks:
The consequences of insurrections or riots…and the consequences of brawls.
The results of wounds or injuries resulting from motor-vehicle racing and dangerous competitions in which betting is allowed.
The direct or indirect results of explosions, heat release, or irradiation produced by transmutation of the atmoic nucleus or by radioactivity or resulting from radiations produced by the artificial acceleration or nuclear particles.”

In other words, don’t nuke us, Dubya, our insurance doesn’t cover it.

A Desperation Nugget

2 Sep

I’ve been reading the booklets on adjusting to a new culture that have been stuck in our welcome packets. It seems that we are currently in the honeymoon period. Everything is still exciting and we’re able to envision ourselves living here and being happy. This period supposedly lasts about 2-3 months. Then the bottom falls out. Apparently at that point, we will experience severe culture shock exhaustion and fall into a depression that only long periods laying on the couch eating McDonald’s and watching NBC reruns dubbed over in Arabic will be able to cure. It is a dire picture, but this is what the brochures tell me must come to pass. I hope to avoid this phase.

So rather than being happy and optimistic all the time and saving up all my despair for the big Three Month Crash, I’m going to mete it out in little desperation morsels, to be wallowed in for small periods of 2-6 hours on occasion as needed. My hope is that by doing this, I will strike a healthy balance of reality and optimism, perhaps avoiding that day several months from now when I wake up one morning and scream “what the hell am I doing here?!” Continue reading