Christmas Season in Review

1 Jan

As it does every year, the holidays flew by quickly and now we find ourselves in a new year with new adventures ahead of us. We had a really nice holiday season, despite fears that it would be strange and lonely away from family. It was a little strange and lonely, especially after talking to people on Christmas Day and feeling so far away. We managed though and had an enjoyable time.

For Christmas Eve, I did what I love to do and hosted a holiday dinner here. We had about ten people over and decorated the table and put on some Christmas music. I relied heavily on LeAnn’s famous cookbook, which people are begging to borrow and have copied at the local copy shop. We managed to get our hands on some ham and added scalloped potatoes, roasted carrots, the famous holiday crab dip that rendered a food-infatuated friend speechless, fresh fruit, and various other dishes. My favorite part was the orange rolls. After years of being intimidated by them, I jumped in and attempted these little bundles of joy and they worked! We also enjoyed the traditional peppermint cheesecake which always reminds me of winter Sundays with the Andrews & Carriers. The company was great and we had a fun time, especially getting to know the new couple who is here with the church doing humanitarian work and the Heisses, who were in from Germany to train them. After some of the crowd left, the rest of us settled in for a game of Catan, which Patrick won using his usual sly strategy of quietly turning us all against each other without noticing the threat that he was. That man is a genius.

Christmas was low-key. We slept in, had leftovers, and put in A Christmas Story. It was a very relaxing day. That evening we went to see The Nutcracker at the Cairo Opera House. The Opera House is a beautiful building on Zamalek, an island in the Nile. It’s huge and has multiple theaters where various productions are held and gorgeous grounds to stroll around in. In honor of Christmas, the landscapers had strung (although it looked more like flung) pieces of cotton around the shrubbery in a sad attempt to look like snow. It really just looked like lint had escaped from a laundry chute and exploded everywhere.

The ballet was, shall we say, Egyptastic. Like everything else, it was just a bit sub-par. At intermission, Patrick turned to me and said “now I’m no ballet expert but…” There was very little grace, the Christmas tree in the background set was flashing neon lights, the spotlight guy couldn’t figure out how to make the spotlight larger so many dances consisted of the stage in darkness while a tiny light tried to keep up with the dancer’s face. Forget the feet, we had no idea what dancing was going on, we just saw a disembodied head bobbing around a beat after the music.

But the best part was the diva. She made it all worth while. A Ukrainian who danced the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy, this must have been her one moment in life to shine and she took it and milked it for all it was worth. After practically each leap and twirl, she stepped forward with a sweeping bow. She bowed far more than she danced and then came out and bowed some more. She loved forcing the audience to clap for her. After the show, when the dancers all came out for the curtain call, she swept in front of them all and bowed so many times, we lost count. When it was someone else’s turn, she stepped in front of them and bowed. When the conductor was climbing up the steps to take his bow, she bowed. When the curtain closed, she pushed it aside and bowed. When the audience started gathering their coats, she ran from one side of the stage to the other and bowed and bowed and bowed. When the orchestra had left and we were filing out of the auditorium that poor attention-starved ballerina was still bowing. It was a night enjoyed by all.

Just a few days ago, we celebrated our third anniversary. It’s amazing that it’s already been three years, but funny how at the same time it feels like we’ve always been together. We were reminiscing about our wedding and what a party it was. We had so much fun and loved seeing everyone there. We’ve had so many adventures and seen so many amazing things together since then. Now we have a whole new world ahead of us and are looking forward to discovering it together.

To celebrate, Patrick surprised me with a beautiful wooden rocking chair that he had a local craftsman custom build for me. I love it! It has a deep rock, a bar to rest my feet and a wide seat, so it just swallows me up. I’ve been spending lots of time in it, crocheting a baby blanket and feeling like the woman on the cover of What to Expect When You’re Expecting, sans the wretched cardigan. We went out to a nice dinner at a restaurant on the Nile called Fusion. It’s on the busy Corniche street, but once you walk down the steps, the noise disappears and you’re on this lovely terrace overlooking the river. We went in and got a chuckle when they asked us if we wanted the Chinese or the Japanese side of the restaurant. Obviously the concept of Fusion isn’t quite understood. We chose teppanyaki and were seated and treated like royalty by the staff. They were very attentive and our waiter kept joking with us and bringing us treats like complimentary lemon juice. Our table filled with a large Egyptian family who looked like they were at a funeral. Seriously, no one looked like they were having fun. It was a man, his wife in full veil, and their daughters, all of whom looked scornful. Teppanyaki tables usually bring people together, but unfortunately there was no cross-cultural dialogue going on. The cook was great, although he didn’t do the egg-flippy thing that I like. He did have a new trick involving a fried egg taco and some supersonic slicing. He was cutting so fast, I didn’t even realize it until the egg taco kept getting smaller. Anyways, the food was delicious and we had to roll ourselves out of the restaurant at the end of it.

It’s been wonderful having Patrick home now that school is out. We’ve been able to spend some time together and get things done around the house. He got all his grades in and done and has moved on to various other projects. He got his evaluations back a few days ago, which were glowing as usual. There’s one quote I want to frame because I’m so proud of him. The student wrote “Patrick Mason may be one of the most inspirational and influential professors to ever step foot in this institution. Hold on to him because he has the power to make students actually go to class which is something professors here have been trying to do for decades.” Patrick especially liked the comment from a student who included the phrase “good old-fashioned Powerpoint,” which made him feel really old.

Despite crossing our fingers for the last-minute tax deduction, our boy has been shy and hasn’t shown himself yet. I’m convinced he’s going to be an obedient little guy and come right on January 6, just as predicted. As our earliest due date passed this weekend, I found myself googling natural ways to induce labor. Pressure points, spicy food, bumpy car rides, etc. Good information to tuck away for future reference.

The doctor says the baby is in the right position and has dropped and now it’s a matter of patience. It worries me that this person whom I’m placing all my trust in knows me so little that he would suggest patience. On Saturday night, Patrick and I went across the city to the cinema and saw the movie Elizabeth. When we were coming out, we ran into Dr. Tarek. In a city of 18 million people with countless theaters and movies playing at any given moment, we ran into my OB. This plus the fact that the ride home was perhaps the scariest, fastest, bumpiest cab ride of my life had me laying in bed wide-awake that night, gripping the sheets convinced that I was going to go into labor at any moment.

Mama De Leon gets here tomorrow night and we’re really excited to see her, but sad that Dad isn’t here also. We’re planning to front-load the trip with lots of sight-seeing and fun stuff. Wish her luck as she travels. She’ll be stopping in Amsterdam with a long layover and will be taking the train into the city to see the sights before continuing on to Cairo. Patrick and I did the same thing on our way to Jerusalem a few years ago and really enjoyed it despite the fact that I was sooo jet-lagged and sleepy.

So now it’s a waiting game. We’ll be updating frequently on the imminent arrival of baby Finshallah. We wish you a happy new year from Egypt!


18 Responses to “Christmas Season in Review”

  1. Aunt Yvette January 2, 2008 at 1:14 am #

    I want the crab dip recipe and what are orange rolls?
    I can’t wait to hear more.

    And are we really that “old” using power point? what else is there to use?

    Mel, I am so excited about the baby. By the way, grandma and I were talking about home remedies and the one that did the trick for her was drinking castrol oil with warm tea. The only thing is you have to be dilated for it to work, otherwise I think you end up with a very thorough cleansing. There is also lots of walking and vacuuming.

    Keep us up to date. Much love,

  2. DaD January 2, 2008 at 2:58 am #

    A Very Happy and Blessed New Year to All. Mama DeLeon has left the country! (and already being missed) A note to all that sent gifts for Patrick and Melissa, What could’nt be sent on the big shipment is now enroute as Mama’s baggage. Yvette, LeeAnn’s orange rolls are awesome. Let know when you make’m.

  3. Nancy Heiss January 2, 2008 at 6:54 am #

    I’m a castor oil baby, myself. πŸ™‚ Although my mom thinks it might have been a fluke (and she says it is nasty–not recommended). I did a lot of walking with my baby but that just made me tired. She just came when she wanted.

    Anyway, I’m glad you guys had a happy Christmas. Our Grandparents had a wonderful time with you; they can’t stop talking about it!

    They phoned us today and are already planning on coming to visit us in Cairo…I guess that means we’ll have to get accepted! (Just need to get some letters of recommendation, write a few essays and our application should be good to go!)

    Happy New Year!

  4. Melissa January 2, 2008 at 1:44 pm #

    Patrick was a castor oil baby as well. I’ve been doing lots of walking and I think we’ll try the acupressure points soon. If not, there’s a great Thai place in Maadi with a delicious spicy panaang.

    Oooh, Yvette! I’ll e-mail you both recipes. The orange rolls are these sticky, flaky dinner rolls that melt in your mouth. When LeAnn made them a few years ago for Mom & Dad, I think Dad ate about 20 and took the rest back to the hotel with him. They’re amazing.

    Mom e-mailed and is at the airport in Amsterdam. Apparently not only do Egyptians sleep till noon here, they do in other countries as well, so she’s unable to get her boarding docs until their ticket counter opens at 12. It looks like she’ll have to skip the sightseeing. When she gets here and has slept off the jet-lag, I’ll see if I can get her to post about her trip.

    Nancy, we’re crossing our fingers for you!! Let us know if you need any info, i.e. contacts in the department.

  5. Melissa January 2, 2008 at 1:49 pm #

    P.S. Happy Birthday Carrie!!!

  6. Aunt Yvette January 2, 2008 at 11:34 pm #

    I just realized that I was recommending motor oil and not the famed “castor” oil. Sorry, I guess it comes from being around it alot.

  7. Stacy January 3, 2008 at 2:16 am #

    Are you sure you went to a Nutcracker “Ballet”? hee hee It sounds like it was more of a modern version and those can be really funky. Remind me to show you Mark Morris’s “The Hard Nut” – it’s wild. Loved the ballerina – a girl after my own heart.

    I was a bumpy ride baby myself. Hope something works for you! Hope Luisa made it safe and sound – our prayers were with her and with you, too!

  8. Dre January 3, 2008 at 3:09 am #

    For one and all, this mom/grandma will be heading to Cairo on Jan. 22 if anyone wants to mail things to me to take.

  9. Kay January 3, 2008 at 4:30 am #

    I’m glad you kept busy for Christmas. From someone who has lived far away from family for years it always seemed to help me even if the entertainment was “Egytastic”. I hope Mama De Leon arrives safe and sound and has time to adjust before Fin decides to come. Wish I had advice to give you, but I think babies come when they come.
    I can also attest to LeAnn’s orange rolls also. They are terrific!

  10. Robann January 3, 2008 at 3:23 pm #

    Melissa, Carrie was beyond thrilled to find the birthday message!! πŸ™‚ We’ve got LOTS of snow and plenty of cold, and would love to warm up with some of LeAnn’s orange rolls. How about sharing the recipe?

    Carrie’s birth was the most amazing experience of our lives. I’m so glad your Mom is there. We had my Mom in with us for Carrie’s arrival. Treasured memories. πŸ™‚ No bumpy rides or castor oil for me, just rumaging in the freezer for something good to eat when things got started. Have fun!!

  11. Javi (the brother) January 3, 2008 at 4:27 pm #


    Ordering the “Special” seemed to work in the movie “Spaceballs”… you should try that.

  12. Cynthia Arnold January 3, 2008 at 6:13 pm #

    Let me know how Dangerous DeLeon did on her trip, she will probably be too tired to sit at the computer. I set my phone to Cairo time to keep track of her arrival.

  13. Bored in Vernal January 3, 2008 at 11:30 pm #

    Happy birthday to you, Melissa! I’m checking over here every day for news of the baby. Hope the dr’s and hospital over there are good — wishing you luck with the baby’s birth.

  14. Aunt Yvette January 4, 2008 at 12:19 am #

    happy birthday!!!

  15. Mickey January 4, 2008 at 3:05 am #

    I don’t think this started my labor but drinking/eating balsamic vinegar (it’s also in salad dressing) gave me contractions for a week. But this was also the third time when everything happened on it’s own. Don’t think about being patient, that’s one thing I’m not good at either. Just keep busy and try to relax, he’ll come when he’s ready.

    Good luck.

    P.S. Please include me in the mass e-mail with the roll recipe.

  16. DaD January 4, 2008 at 7:59 am #

    !! HAPPY BIRTHDAY !! It’s 12:01am in the time zone that whole
    universe uses to set their watches by…..TEXAS TIME !!
    Now I’m going back to bed

  17. Javi (the brother) January 4, 2008 at 1:14 pm #

    Happy Birthday, Melissa.

  18. Stacy January 4, 2008 at 3:18 pm #

    It makes me think of the good old days,
    Happy Birthday To You!
    You sure grew out of your baby ways,
    Happy Birthday To You!
    It’s your birthday, we wish you many more,
    Health and wealth and friends by the score!
    Cut the cake and let’s eat some more
    Happy Birthday To You!

    You know the tune, now imagine the Andrew Family doing the dance for you!
    Love you!

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