14 November 2019

The Rent Collector

I know I don’t post here much anymore, but I just finished The Rent Collector for my local book group and I really didn’t like it. And if I don’t get my dislike written down somewhere, it might come out at the meeting and that wouldn’t work in this case since someone in the group knows the author and we might have him Skype in with the group.  And it usually gets rave reviews, plus others I’m the group have already read it and loved it. 

The author is an American man who’s trying to write in first person as a Cambodian woman, and I thought he completely failed.  He might have managed white middle-class American woman at best. And the other characters just weren’t well-developed, including the other main character.  It was obvious there would be more to her story, but the telling was almost boring.

Except one part wasn’t predictable, and that was the worst part (trying to avoid spoilers). A very poor woman made a sacrifice that benefited a very privileged woman, because the poor woman “loved” the rich woman, someone she’d only known for a month.  It was so demeaning to read that section of the book and it just furthered this idea of requiring poor people to be grateful for whatever anyone gives them, even if it’s barely anything. It’s also heavy on this idea that if you just have the right attitude, everything will be okay.  So many warm fuzzies, nothing about real life, even though the main character was based on a real person (who the author never met).

The book also barely touches on so many real issues in Cambodia.  I think it would have been better to leave them out, or deal with them more completely.  Instead, you get quick snippets about child prostitution and the Khmer Rouge and gangs and life-threatening health issues which felt more like things added just to horrify readers than to further the story.  Those issues either just trailed off into nothing or resolved themselves so neatly that it was insulting to people who actually do face those things.

It probably bothered me more because I actually do know people living among trash heaps and sorting trash, which is the setting for this book.  I know people living in cemeteries.  I know refugees who aren’t getting enough to eat.  Learning to read isn’t going to fix anything for many adults (although I believe that learning to read is always beneficial, it almost never feeds your family or gets you a job by itself).  Literature is important and lovely, but until we have a system that actually prioritizes education and learning as a human right rather than requiring people to eke out a living however they can because they’re supposed to take care of themselves and not be dependent on government and NGOs, then I’m not really interested in a story about someone feeling like her life in the dump is so much better now that she can read.

20 August 2019

A Sudanese friend of mine taught me this recipe a couple of weeks ago.  This is how I make it, but if you have fresh raw chicken, just chop it up quite small and add it to the peppers after they’ve mostly cooked. Serve with flatbread and tomato cucumber salad.

Silvia’s chicken and peppers

Onion, one or so
Garlic, lots
Bell peppers, three or so
1/2-3/4 kilo chicken, cooked and diced
Coriander, cumin, salt, cayenne, maybe turmeric

Dice your onion and sauté it in some oil, then add lots of chopped garlic and a few diced peppers.  Keep cooking everything till the peppers are the way you like them.  Add the chicken and whatever spices you like, to taste.  Coriander and cumin are recommended.

It’s really up to you if you want this to be more of a vegetable dish or a meat dish.

15 July 2019

We just got back from a trip to the US.  Usually these trips are filled with lots of jobs, but this time I just wanted to see family and be in the mountains.  We did get a few things done, but mostly it was mountains and family.  I saw nearly all of my nieces and nephews living in Utah, which is quite a few now that so many are in college, met the new grandniece and grandnephew, played with the one-year-old grandnephew for hours, and I saw my husband’s LEGO design in the museum where it’s being displayed.  And I spent lots of time with middle son.  I’ll have to do some annoying jobs when we’re there at Christmas, but such is life.

I missed Cairo a lot. 

09 June 2019

We’re getting close to a year in Cairo.  Everyone agrees the time has gone by incredibly quickly, but I’m very much looking forward to the second year, because the second year is at least a little more predictable.  You know what to expect with the weather, you know what the produce seasons are, you know how the school works, and you’re not spending all day navigating completely unfamiliar situations.

I love the produce here. There are strawberries all winter long, then the peaches appear, and apricots shortly afterward along with plums.  That’s what we have right now.  Mangoes are just starting to appear and they’ll last till September when the pomegranates come into season until the strawberries come back.  I love coming home with two kilos of local fruit for $1.75 and 5 kilos of vegetables for $3.  

The other day we were at Khan al-Khalili with our visiting friends when a crying and bleeding woman came into the shop we were in.  She’d been hit over the head by a man with a board.  I didn’t see any of it (and we quickly scooted out the other exit and left the area rather than find out more - I was glad that we were in one of the few shops that had a second exit) so I don’t know what happened, although my best guess is that the man didn’t like the woman’s clothing.  Our friends were more than a little surprised by all of this.  They’ve travelled extensively, but almost entirely in western Europe and east Asia, with just a quick trip to Morocco a couple of years ago. Egypt was a bit different from the other places they’ve been.  

There’s so much more going on, although I can’t really write about it.  This summer I can check out 25 books from the school library, and I plan to take full advantage of having plenty of Cairo books around all summer.  

06 June 2019

The visit to St. Simeon’s was really interesting.  When we arrived there was a lot of commotion below us on the path to the church, but people had pointed us that way and no one seemed concerned we were there, so we kept going.  We quickly realized it was a funeral, and the women were mourning.  I had read about Middle Eastern funerals many times and seen them from further away, but this was the first time I’d been right in the middle of one, especially a large funeral inside of a cave church with amazing acoustics.  It was honestly one of the most the haunting (in a good way) moments ever.

05 June 2019

We’ve had friends in town, the type who are ready to explore Cairo.  But because they’re only here for a week, and because their kids can only tolerate so much, I’ve been trying to do the best things.  We did Saqqara (since I think that site is more interesting than Giza) and Dahshur, but they also went on their own to the Egyptian Museum and Giza (and it was nice that I didn’t have to go).  There wasn’t much time another day and we only did Ibn Tulun and Gayer-Anderson, but yesterday we went to Coptic Cairo and Abu Sayfayn (we tried to stop at Amr ibn al-As but we weren’t allowed in because it was Ramadan).  We still need do Muizz Street, along with Haret al-Yahood and Haret Zuwayla.  Today was the randomest jaunt since we hired a car and driver (we can’t all fit in our car so we’ve been using many different transportation options) and drove   To Hosh al-Basha, then the Citadel, then St. Simeon in Manshayet Nasir, and last of all Farag ibn Barquq in the northern cemetery.  There was no traffic because of Eid al-Fitr, except by the Sayyida Nafisa and Sayyida Aisha, and we were able to zip around.  There were lots of Egyptians at the Citadel, and lots of people on the street in the southern cemetery.  I wasn’t at all sure if our driver would agree to go everywhere I wanted to, but he was great.  And we finished up with koshary at Abu Tarek’s.  Such a nice day.

The usual consternation over the last day of Ramadan happened again this year.  We went to al-Hussayn for what we thought would be the last night of Ramadan on Monday evening (everyone I talked to predicted an earlier end to Ramadan), but it went an extra day here.  So Eid al-Fitr was yesterday in the US and Saudi and many other countries, but it’s Eid today in Egypt.

27 May 2019

So, I use Uber all the time here, because it’s inexpensive and because it avoids most of the hassles of using taxis.  Namely, arguments over fares, keeping the correct change on hand, drivers not wanting to go to your destination, and having to navigate from the back seat.

It’s not perfect.  There’s still often not seat belts in the back of the car (sitting in the front seat isn’t a good idea if you’re on your own, but no selt belts in the back is probably a greater risk, but I sit in the back anyway) (and it’s more likely you’ll find seat belts in an Uber than a taxi), you still might have to navigate if the driver’s data isn’t working or if they’re not familiar with using a map app, and you can still get creepy drivers.  But an Uber driver is far more willing to turn on the A/C and is much less likely to be creepy. They just drive you places (and usually assume I don’t speak Arabic, unless I say something). The biggest issue is waiting for and meeting up with the driver, which for various reasons doesn’t work all the time, but usually it does.  And it’s improving all the time.

But today I gave a driver 4 stars for the first time.  Everything he did, or didn’t do, wasn’t new, but the combination was just not professional.  He told me he didn’t want me to pay with credit, he didn’t want to use his data, he commented on my appearance, there were no seat belts, he called before to check if he wanted to go to my destination, he asked me twice to give him five stars, and he was just a little creepy.  I wasn’t worried, but I was glad to be finished with the ride. And then I waited three hours to rate him before I was brave enough for not give him five stars or a tip.

That wasn’t enough to ruin a lovely morning though.  I went along Muizz Street on my own, sketching a bit (a friend here has gotten me hooked on that, and I’m learning) and enjoying the walk. And then while I was sitting outside al-Hakim, a woman sat down next to me and chatted for a bit.  She was born just outside the city gates and has lived there all her life.  We talked about her favorite buildings, like al-Azhar and al-Hussayn, and I talked more about Sayyida Aisha and Sayyida Nafisa, since those are the types of buildings she likes.  She told me she went to the pyramids once, many years ago.  It’s hard to tell how old she was, but she was older than me.  

And it reminded me how many different Cairos there are.  There’s my Cairo, full of all sorts of buildings and historic spots and nooks and and crannies and mostly stories, stories, stories tucked around the city.  Her Cairo is her neighborhood, a place that I love to visit, where she gets to live.  There are lots of other Cairos, full of shopping and lunches for some people, or ones that only take up a few blocks, and some that only include one street.  Some are full of foreigners where we don’t see people who aren’t like us.  Some Cairos are really horrible and limiting.

Mostly I’m out in Cairo with someone else, which means Cairenes are less likely to talk to me.  Today I got the good of being out by myself, and a little bit of the bad.

23 May 2019

It’s Saudi Arabia hot today, which isn’t pleasant, but it’s also not going to last for months, which it would in Saudi Arabia.  My expat friends are getting weird about it, which doesn’t make much sense since most of us have A/C, along with the school our kids are at.  But for the significant number of people in Egypt who are fasting and dealing with the heat, it’s dangerously hot.

All my friends cancelled today for our usual Thursday exploring, some because it’s the end of the school year and crazy, and others because of the heat.  So I went to the Coptic Museum to track down all the interesting things there.  I got there right at 9 to avoid the heat as much as possible, especially since most of the museum doesn’t have A/C, and it was such a nice time.  Then I stopped at a couple of my favorite churches and came home.

16 May 2019

I’m really liking Ramadan in Egypt.  The streets are quieter in the morning and I love being out during iftar.  It feels like the entire city sits down to eat together. We’re in the middle stretch right now so I see more people eating and smoking, but it’ll pick back up toward the end of the month.

Lots of exploring recently, especially in cemeteries.  Hosh al-Basha, the Nothern Cemetery, cleaning another cemetery, and a nice walk down Muizz Street with my middle son who’s leaving for college soon.  We have friends coming right after he leaves, then the end of school, then a quick trip to the US after that.  And then a good chunk of summer without much to do.  I like to have enough of summer than we get bored and are ready for school to start. But not too bored.  Cairo-bored, not Riyadh-bored.

I went through my lists of places to see in Cairo the other day.  My basic map has about 700 pins (how can that be?) and I’ve been to at least half of them.  It has all my stuff in Cairo, from Dahshur to Matariya, interesting shops, glassblowers, cordmakers, places to get Uyghur naan, mosques, churches, domes, minarets, so much.  And there’s still so much to see. But that map has completely changed my experience here.  From the day we arrived, I could go anywhere in the city (as long as my data works) and find something interesting to see. Usually lots of somethings.  I’ve been able to coordinate meet ups with people coming in various modes of transportation from different parts of the city.  I’ve found friends who are happy to go anywhere, as long as I know where I’m going.  Even though I hated being stuck in Riyadh with a broken foot last year, working on that map was at least something good that came out of it (and the fact that we were moving to Cairo was pretty much the only thing that got me through that, plus having my parents come visit in the middle of it).

Today we saw a man sitting on a couch in the back of a pickup truck.  It looked quite pleasant.  We also took a tuk-tuk today for the first time in Egypt.  We had a tired baby with us, and a not-too-long but very warm walk to a road where an Uber would be able to find us, so when a tuk-tuk pulled up, we hopped in.

It’s suddenly gotten quite warm here, but it’s still cooler than Riyadh, plus the heat isn’t as intense in the morning.  It’s actually been nice to go out in the morning because of Ramadan.  Everything still opens early, which was a happy surprise, so we can go out early and be home by noon before the heat is too bad.  And this is as hot as Cairo gets, so it’s not like Riyadh where May is awful, but you know June, July, and August are noticeably worse for weeks on end.

07 May 2019

We went to al-Azhar Park last evening with some friends for Ramadan.  It was such a lovely spot to go.  I’d been stressed about the logistics, especially since I thought the traffic would be horrible, but there was no traffic and everything worked out really well.  We watched the lights turn on in mosques and saw lots of fireworks and firecrackers, plus we heard the call to prayer, of course.  Then we ate our own iftar on the highest hill in the park where you can see all around Cairo.  The park was nearly empty, not surprisingly, and it was so fun to be there.  

We tried the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization yesterday.  We had no idea what to expect.  I knew most of the collections haven’t opened yet, and that the building has mechanical problems, so we were ready for most anything. Plus I wasn’t sure if it would open late because of Ramadan.  Our Uber driver tried to take us to the entrance, but that turned out to be impossible since the parking doesn’t seem to have much to do with the entrance.  We ended up entering through the basement and found people to get us to the right place.  But one we got out tickets (resident rate this time), we were the only people in the exhibit room and we had a lovely time.  There’s not much to see.  We read every word and looked at every object and watched every video and it took a little more than an hour.   But it was interesting and eclectic.  When it’s really open, it’ll have things from all the different museum collections around Cairo so it should actually be a really great place to visit, plus it’s easier to get to from where we live than most of the other museums.  There were Pharonic and Fatimid ceramics, Coptic woodwork, modern and ancient jewelry, a minbar, a reconstructed 18th dynasty chariot, and Pharonic furniture.  60 pounds is too much for this spot, but 10 pounds was reasonable.  I’ll definitely go back when it’s more complete, which might be in a year or so?  We heard different estimates.  I’m just hoping more will be open before we leave.

I also went on a school field trip a few days ago to Fatimid Cairo.  I didn’t have to worry about those with the older boys, and I’d never volunteered to go on them with my youngest.  Usually they didn’t ask for volunteers anyway.  But I’ve happily gone on both field trips this year, to Saqqara and now to Muniz Street.  I think this is the end of parents going on field trips since elementary school is over for us in a few week. It was a nice trip, especially since I didn’t have to deal with any logistics.  

03 May 2019

It’s been a long, long time since we’ve been in a country that really makes Ramadan enjoyable.  It’s barely a blip on the radar in Kyrgyzstan.  Almost no one fasts, there’s almost no decorations, and any festivities are saved for Eid al-Fitr, or Orozo Ait.  But there are Ramadan singers.

Saudi Arabia managed to squelch most of the fun out of Ramadan too.  The grocery stores were festive, and there were all kinds of private parties, but almost nothing public.  Life just flipped and everything happened at night.  School was shorter, work was slower, and hearing your doorbell at 1 am was completely expected.  It was somewhat interesting, but mostly it was a hassle since you had to remember to not ever eat or drink anything outside and it was hard to find food during the day. But the iftar specials were lovely.

Cairo has been getting ready for Ramadan for weeks.  Lanterns are everywhere, along with nuts and dried fruit.  There are so many fun decorations and I can’t wait to go out in the evening to see everything lit up.  A friend of ours told me that al-Azhar park is a great place to be at sunset, where you can hear the call to prayer from lots of mosques and watch the lights turn on, plus the park is nearly empty at that time the first week.  I’m hoping to go out a couple of times next week.

Ramadan in Jerusalem was the last night we really enjoyed it, with the Thursday night concerts and trying all the different Ramadan foods and drinks on the street.  I have high hopes for this Ramadan.

30 April 2019

Yesterday was Sham al-Nessim.  I love really old holidays like this.  We celebrated by doing some exploring in the morning, in Muqattam and then at Abusir.  We found lots of people taking their picnics to eat at Saqqara, and I liked thinking that the people who built those pyramids and mastabas celebrated the earliest version of Sham al-Nessim.  And we tried ringa.  I’m not interested in feseekh, both because it doesn’t sound nice and it kills people every year, but I decided we had to try ringa, which is smoked herring and very traditional for Sham al-Nessim.  It was super salty, but we had it with tahina, olive oil, and lemon and it was pretty good.  I doubt I’ll do it again, but I’m glad we tried it this year.

I spent tons of time in Coptic churches last week, for Holy Week.  I took quite a few friends with me who’d never done anything for Holy Week, so I’m glad a few more people know about it now.  It was lovely.

We’re nearly finished with our second phase of family life.  Since our youngest is seven years younger than our older two children, it was a big change for our family when he was born.  We were really comfortable with our two boys who were very close in age.  But, of course, we adjusted and loved having three boys.  And now both of our older boys are gone or leaving.  When you live far from where your kids are in college, they’re much more “gone” than they would be if we lived in the US. So now we have seven years with just one child at home.  I trust it will be good, but just like the last big change, it’s still a little scary, in particular for me because changes at home affect me a lot.

It’s warmed up quite a bit recently which isn’t lovely but is fair. There have been very few hot days since last October, and six months of nice weather is nothing to complain about.  And my children are tired of hearing this, but even the hottest weather in Cairo is better than a summer in Riyadh.

21 April 2019

I have a few extra minutes today that I usually don’t get on a Sunday morning, since people don’t have school but the husband does have work.  So I can do some catching up on odds and ends that I’ve missed posting about over the last couple of months.

I’d been looking for shoelaces for my youngest’s shoes and couldn’t find them.  We asked in one large store and they sent us off to another section, where I didn’t see any shoelaces.  But the original person who sent us there came over and told the man in that section what we needed, and he pulled out a bag of leftover shoelaces from the shoe section.  He rummaged about and found two black shoelaces (different lengths, but close) and gave them to us.

I’m working on a complicated service project.  I really want to do it and I think it will work.  But it’s scary.  I don’t like to be in charge of things.  But this literally is a thing that no one else would do, so if it’s going to happen, I need to organize it.

I tried loquats for the first time the other day.  I had no idea what it was, and then someone said they were kumquats which I was sure wasn’t true, but I wasn’t sure if the skin was edible.  So I did some searching and figured out they were loquats (which explained the kumquat mixup).  I liked them, especially when I figured out a better system for eating them.

There are lots of holidays coming up, and it’s a little complicated because everyone’s schedules are different.  One place is just taking the next two weeks off entirely, another has five of the next ten weekdays off, and another has three.  Almost none of these days are consecutive.

After six months, we finally have a functioning elevator again.

Today is Palm Sunday.  I’m planning to spend lots of time in Old Cairo this week since there will be lots going on, plus the security is probably best there. I went yesterday afternoon and there plenty of activity getting ready for Palm Sunday.

The weather has been so lovely for months, and not just in comparison to Riyadh.  It’s nearly the end of April and the highs are still around 25, and often lower.

I’m still exploring all the time.  We finally found the Karaite Synagogue in Fatimid Cairo I’ve been looking for.

A friend of mine who sketches told me about a sketching class she took online, so I tried it too and I’ve started doing some very tentative sketching when I go out.  I’m not very good but I do enjoy hanging out in buildings for a while.

09 April 2019

Yesterday I went to the Egyptian Museum, for the first time since 1997.  I’m sure I’ll be back, and I’ll be more organized, but it was fun to do an initial visit to see what we could find.  While we were getting an Uber we ran into some other friends who happened to be going to the museum, so we all rode there together.  

And that’s where we found all the tourists I hadn’t seen since moving here, except at the pyramids.  I keep reading that tourism is picking up here, but I hadn’t seen it myself. I also hadn’t realized how many tourists are here.  The museum was filled with people at 10am, mostly tourists, and it’s a large place.  I know I’m always making comments about how tourists only go to a few places in Cairo, but honestly, I hadn’t realized how true that was till yesterday.  It’s a mixed bag - I didn’t much like having so many tourists around yesterday, and Cairo would change if they went more places, but Cairenes could really use the money tourists spend. 

I need to spend some time figuring out what is hiding in the museum.  Their collection of the Amarna Tablets is completely nondescript.  If you didn’t know what they were, you’d never know that they’re really important so I’m glad we stumbled on them.  I’m sure there’s a lot more in the museum like that with really good stories, so that will be a fun project to work on.  Someday. :)

20 March 2019

Another thing I love about living here is that almost everything I’m doing is interconnected.  I read and discuss articles about Cairo’s history for my Arabic class, which I can then use in the Cairo map I’m creating, or as background information for the service project I’m organizing in a cemetery.  I go out to work on the map, and I get lots of changes to speak Arabic plus a fun time with whomever I’m with.  I go to church, and I hear Arabic constantly there and I get to speak it.  I’ve finally figured out how to do all the work on my map from my phone, so I can literally pick it up anywhere in the city and add to it, whether I’m out with friends or lost somewhere or driving along in an Uber (and speaking Arabic).  I go grocery shopping in the suq where, again, I speak Arabic, but also find new things to try and get ingredients for Egyptian food that we eat for dinner.

There are obviously other parts of my life that don’t fit in with all of this, but most of what I’m doing can only be done here.  That was one of the hardest things in Riyadh.  I wasn’t allowed to do almost anything I love to do, and almost everything I was doing could be done anywhere.  But I did have a chance to work on some different things there that I’d never have time for here, because Cairo.

10 March 2019

Six Months In

The Cairo version after living here six months.  Here are the posts from Guadalajara and Riyadh. I was still trying to be mostly positive in the Riyadh version.

Cairo requires no pretending though.  The other day I needed to make a list of difficult things about being here for a separate thing, and I made quite a long list very quickly.  It's not hard to think of problems here, from the rats to the traffic to the sexual harassment and air quality and the broken-for-five-months elevators and lots more.  But even after I finished typing all of that, I still knew that there is no place in the world I'd rather be right now.  I suppose I'll have to leave sometime, if only to visit family this summer, but I have literally zero desire to be anywhere else. The only thing that would be better is having my family come here instead. 

So the bad things.  Some of these are seasonal.  While it's nice and cool in the winter, and for quite a few months, the air quality is much, much worse in the winter.  There are days I stayed inside because of it (or really, that I should have) and measurements over 500 AQI aren't unusual.  But we have decent air purifiers at home and I can keep the air quality acceptable inside, which is a lot more than most Cairenes can say. And even on the worst days, the air quality usually improves in the afternoon (although just to non-hazardous levels- anything below 150 seems pretty good to me now).  It's too hot in the summer, but after Riyadh, it's not so bad at all.  The sexual harassment is noticeably worse in warmer weather though, unless you wear long sleeves to avoid it.  The rats are always a problem (but I'm learning how to deal with them).  The traffic is always bad.  The city is always dirty.  There are good reasons for people to not love living here, or to hate it.

But every single day I love being here.  My Arabic is improving slowly, but it is getting better.  I love grocery shopping.  I LOVE hanging out with my middle son so much.  There are some really great people here to hang out with.  I like using Uber to get around because it avoids so many hassles.  Church is fulfilling. I love where we live and am so glad we didn't end up in a different neighborhood that others had recommended.  I love exploring Cairo.  Honestly, I'm doing what I hoped I'd do as an adult when I made plans as a teenager.  It only took 20 years to get here, and it won't last, but I'm so very happy here.

09 March 2019

And another two weeks have disappeared.  I haven't even done a six months in Cairo post, even though I have plenty to say about that.  My husband's step-father died recently and we've been dealing travel and the funeral and the resulting emotions, but we're also going on at home mostly as usual.

There has been some tension at church recently regarding languages and translation, and some strong feelings about the subject. But this is likely not the place to talk about it. 

On Thursday I spent the most lovely day with a friend who sketches at Bab Zuwayla and Mu'ayyad mosque.  We didn't do much, but just sitting in old buildings is is wonderful.  The week before we did the same thing Abu Sayfayn and Anba Shenuda.  And others of us walked along the aqueduct to the Citadel and poked around there a bit, plus we did the Nilometer, Roda Island, and Mari Mina. 

If all goes as planned this week (and I keep thinking something is going to happen to mess it up again), I'll get closer to a cemetery project I've been working on for over a month now.  Coordinating schedules hasn't been easy.

Strawberries are still in season.  I really didn't think they'd last this long and it's very nice.

24 February 2019

I'm wondering if I will have to add blogging onto my list of things to do, maybe on Sunday when things are a little quieter and I can at least make sure I write about the things that happened the week before.

Yesterday we went to the churches south of the Babylon fortress.  It took some doing, and more time than we'd planned on, but we found everything in yet another very interesting neighborhood.  I'd noticed a lot of interesting street art from driving along the edges of one neighborhood and it didn't disappoint when we went inside (and I'd like to say the people sitting at the south entrance to the secure part around the fortress who told us there was nothing to see outside the fortress were wrong).  The churches were worth finding too, although I still think Abu Sayfayn is my favorite.

We also went Dahshur since I blogged last, where the Red Pyramid and Bent Pyramid are.

All this means that I need to spend a lot of time going through photos.

Strawberries are still cheap, at least to me.  40 cents a pound.  But others assure me the are much more expensive than they used to be.

I've started a weekly two-hour Arabic class.  It took some work to figure out a time that appeased everyone (and there are lots of everyones to appease, plus paperwork) but it's all set now.  And my teacher is happy to do whatever I want so we watch Haret al-Yahood and read about Cairo history.  Poor man.

13 February 2019

The government is saying a sandstorm is coming.  None of the weather apps agree, but they’re terrible with predicting sandstorms, or at least they were in Saudi and I haven’t heard of anyone who thinks they’re better here.  Thursday and Friday are supposed to be the worst, plus rain could come too.  Can I just say that mud falling out of the sky is not my favorite weather?  I like pretty much all weather, as in something happening from the sky, except that option.

But!  As I was poking around trying to find out more about this purported storm, I discovered that the Coptic month of Amshir started a couple of days ago and it’s the windy, stormy month.  Plus, there are proverbs about this month.  One is about a person who is like Amshir, because their mood changes every hour.  Another is about a person named Touba (the previous month, when it’s cold) and like Amshir, so they’re really not a very pleasant person.  Another is something like Amshir blowing so much that it even makes and old woman fly.  That is a major paraphrase and I’m going to ask my resident Egyptian friend about that one tomorrow.

Also, all the Coptic months have sayings. https://www.exploretravelandcruises.com/egypt-weather/  I’m fond of Tout, when the heat dies.

12 February 2019

Yesterday we were at Sultan Hasan when some smoke started coming out of an upper window, to the left of the qibla iwan.  But no one seemed concerned, and since I’ve decided that I won’t get concerned overseas unless the people around me seem concerned, we kept looking around.  After a few minutes, more smoke started coming out, plus a loud sound started from somewhere inside the building.  At this point, people in the building started to pay attention.  The sound got louder, more smoke kept coming, and then a bunch of men emerged from the door below the window and there was a bit of a commotion.

Since people seemed concerned at that point, we went back into the mausoleum because it was further from the problem and it’s been there for nearly 700 years so I didn’t think yesterday would be the day it would collapse.

The sound got louder and louder, and then it finally stopped.  And everyone went back to normal, except there was still smoke drifting out. We looked around for another five or ten minutes.

As we were leaving, a fire truck pulled up.  Two actually, one that was old and small and then a bigger shiny truck.  After much discussion, they pulled away, because apparently there wasn’t anything to worry about anymore.  I thought the response time was pretty good, given Cairo’s traffic and the lack of fire stations in the city.  I’m not sure what the fire trucks would have done though.  But I liked the idea of fire trucks coming to save a nearly 700-year-old stone building.