26 October 2020

Some friends of ours are having a really hard time right now.  They have lots of family staying with them because no one can find a job, plus more family is here doing medical treatment for a daughter.  I honestly don't know how they're holding things together.  One relative is even going to go back to South Sudan because he absolutely cannot find work here. I went to a meeting a few months ago about food aid for refugees and there is dramatically more need right now, and it's not getting better.  Lots of children aren't in school.  

There are lots of reasons why I hope that Biden is elected, but refugee resettlement is a huge one.  Biden's election would change lives for the better here in Egypt. It would take till to undo all the damage Trump has done, but it would start moving things in the right direction.

25 October 2020

My son got an email on Friday from the middle school principal asking who he had spent time with during his breaks on Wednesday, which was clearly a bad sign that someone he knows had some type of corona exposure.  When the phone rang a few minutes later (again, this is Egypt, so Friday is the weekend) and the principal was on the line, it was definitely not good news, but they were still waiting for the results of a friend's corona test.  But in the end, everything was okay because only the parent tested positive and the children are negative, so they'll quarantine for a while and no one else was exposed.

But that principal spent a lot of time on a Friday emailing and calling students and parents, tracking down who the children in the family were in contact with, and generally dealing with corona stuff.  He sent out an email about it to the middle school just before 2am.  Just another reminder about how much harder schools are having to work even though it can look like they're doing less.  

I'm still very happy with the way things are going at my son's school and I am very aware how lucky we are to be here right now where the school is doing a good job of balancing so many things.  

24 October 2020

 I just finished listening to the first set of podcasts about Saints.  I haven't read either volume yet, but I was curious what the podcast had to saw about the series.  As always with podcasts, some episodes were better than others, but I liked hearing what the podcast people wanted people to for sure know about with this series.

A few complaints.  The main podcast host is a man, which is fine.  I'd prefer a woman, just because we never get to hear from as many women in everyday life, but a man is fine.  And the guests were a good mix of men and women, so that worked.  But there was always a third person there, and she was always a woman, and she always had the role of being impressed, needing to be educated, or bringing in some kind of emotional connection.  The role of the third person either should have alternated between men and women, or the role needed to be more nuanced.  There was even one time when the third person knew what she was talking about because she had spent time in the past learning about it, and she apologized for her knowledge.  So I mostly cringed through those parts.

They talked about plural marriage in several episodes and didn't avoid talking about Fanny Alger or Joseph Smith being sealing to women who were already married to another man.  They talked about Emma's feelings about plural marriage (although they repeated frequently that we don't have any records from Emma about this topic, which is very true, but we do have quite a few others sharing what they knew about her feelings, so you really can't just say that we don't know enough about her feelings to not be able to make any educated guesses).  

I was appalled in episode 27 when the hosts said that most Mormons (and it was interesting to listen to this set of episodes since they use the word "Mormon" frequently, way back in 2018) think that the creation of the state of Israel is the fulfillment of Orson Hyde's dedicatory prayer in "Israel." One host did read President Hunter's statement that Palestinians are good people too and we're not just on team Israel, but the entire discussion surrounding Orson Hyde's prayer needs some work.

The parts I liked best were when historians with the project were guests and talked about what might surprise people who aren't as familiar with church history.  

I'm going to listen to the second set now and I'm curious if they'll keep the same format.

22 October 2020

 I went to the Korean store yesterday for the first time since March.  It was so nice to be back there and get good tofu, dried shrimp, and mandu.  My youngest son had been asking when I was going to start getting mandu again.

Slowly, slowly, figuring out how things are going now.  Schools are open here again, more people have jobs.  I hope it can last.

21 October 2020

 Less than two weeks to the election.  I cannot wait for this to be over.  

I wish that the US had a parliamentary system.

I wish that we at least didn't use the Electoral College.

I wish that Trump wouldn't get so much media attention.  They love Trump in so many ways, even if they also hate him.

It's hard to imagine going back to political normalcy.  It's hard to even hope for that because it might not happen.

I just want a decent person in the White House.  I want Biden to win in a landslide.

20 October 2020

We tried this the other day and it was delicious. https://www.tasteofbeirut.com/pomegranate-and-cream-pudding/

19 October 2020

How to Feed a Dictator

I picked this one up randomly and was surprised at how much I liked it. I mean, it's not necessarily pleasant to read about dictators, but it's a unique concept to talk to the people who cooked for them. It's not as complicated as talking to the people who killed for them so you get a rather different story about the dictator.

The author does a good job of balancing the stories of the cooks with either his own experiences travelling to interview them, or with the actual history of the dictators. He tells him cooks' stories without judgement or changes, but provides context in his own sections, for those who need it.

Pulling this book together would have been challenging. He covers European, African, Middle Eastern, Latin American, and Southeast Asian dictators. He was working through translators most of the time and there would have been a lot of travel.  But at all worked.

18 October 2020

Predictably, we were talking about the gathering in our online Sunday School class yesterday and I realized why I'm not really a fan of the limited way we usually talk about it, as if the end goal is baptism and getting more people to join your church.  I think that can happen, but that's not really the point.  Also, it's boring to have yet another SS discussion about how to get people to join the church or how you have to be creative about that when you live in a Muslim country.  Missionary work does not equal the gathering (although it's part of it).  

Yesterday, I was thinking about how refugee resettlement can be part of the gathering.  Not because people should be happy that horrible wars are happening so people move to new countries where they hear about the gospel (although I know people who do think that way), but because it's a way to care for others.  I love the verse in 3 Nephi 21:28 that talks about people being gathered home.  Helping people feel loved and cared for is part of the gathering, no matter what anyone believes.  Emotional gathering is part of this.

I was also thinking recently about a conversation I had with a Jewish friend online about a story from the BOM that wasn't the typical message we pull from it (if you're curious, we were talking about the implications of replacing war with famine).  I've had other conversations this year with friends who haven't ever read the BOM about its social justice themes that have been really interesting.  Honestly, I'm not likely to ever bring up the BOM in any conversation for the traditional themes we usually talk about.  But when I can bring about the BOM and we can discuss and compare how inequality creates oppression, I think that's part of the gathering.  In fact, I think that we could do a lot with the BOM right now that's new, different, refreshing, and appealing to a lot of people.  Intellectual or awareness gathering can be a thing.  

I think there are lots of other directions to go with this, including the idea that the gathering isn't just going in one direction.  I love so many things that Community of Christ does based on Joseph Smith's teachings.  We come from the same traditions and I think there's a lot we could learn from them.  The Church has been gathering documents and resources and posting them online, including things that haven't been available to anyone for a really long time.  Gathering ideas and knowledge is a thing, again in both directions. 

The point is to bring people to Christ and gather them home.  

17 October 2020

The Lying Life of Adults

I slogged through this for a book group.  I dislike plenty of book group books, but at least I have things to think and say about them.  I have nothing about this book. I’d hoped to hear about Naples, but there’s almost nothing about the city.  There wasn’t one single character I remotely cared about and several that I cringed when they’d appear.  I was stuck inside of a teenager’s brain with no escape.  But seriously, the worst fault is that this didn’t make me, or even invite me to, think.

15 October 2020

Amy Coney Barrett is a very interesting person and it has been fascinating to watch all of the cultural questions surrounding her. This post isn't so much about her qualifications for the Supreme Court, but what she represents in American culture.

I have a lot of friends, including some who are more progressive, who really love the fact that she's both the mother of 7 children and also has a very successful career.  It is extremely unusual to see a woman with that many children also having a high-profile job.  I can think of a few other examples, like Marie Osmond, but really, most women who have more than a few children don't have a high-profile career.  Plenty of women with many children have successful careers, maybe with breaks here and there, but Supreme Court nominee is a different level.

But why is it that so few women with lots of children also have prominent careers?  Many, many more men do, and people rarely comment on the number of children a man has.  Trump has 5 children, which is considered to be a lot by most Americans, but no one ever acts like he has a large family or that his children would somehow have affected his career.  Even the thought is ludicrous.

Pregnancy and childbirth is obviously a huge thing here.  Barrett gave birth five times, which nearly 4 years of being pregnant and could be years of breastfeeding, if she chose to do that.  That's a big commitment, and honestly, I think it's the main reason why women with many children don't get as far in their careers.  The physical act of creating children takes something out of you.

But after that, raising children can have a pretty similar impact on both men and women, although it rarely does.  And that's the real question to me. Why is Barrett being praised as a role model and a woman who has it all when women like her are actually discouraged from taking the route she did?  You're not supposed to spend as much time as she has working on your career.  You're not supposed to have it all at the same time.  So why is it okay that Barrett does seem to have it all?

(There's also the fact that the Barretts have had live-in, family-based household help for nearly 20 years.  This is not something that most women can count on.  Almost no woman has a relative who can literally drop everything and live with you for decades to take care of your children and your house while you work your way up to becoming a Supreme Court nominee.  Some women can pay someone to help out, but you're going to have a lot of turnover and it's expensive.  Hiring someone can't replace parenting.  But having another family member around all the time?  That's priceless, and I think it's important to realize that there has been another woman who has put her life into this family.)

So yeah, I don't think Barrett's story is very realistic.  Personally, I think we need more mothers involved in every part of society because their perspective is needed.  All kinds of mothers, and I do mean all kinds of mothers.  But religious mothers with many children are rarely given the support and encouragement they need from their religious leaders to actually have a high-profile career, and I honestly don't think that  Amy Coney Barrett's example will change that. She's just a unicorn unless conservative Christians decide to back up women to make choices like this.  And if you don't think that they should, then I think it's disingenuous to support Barrett's career choices because they make you feel good.


14 October 2020

Turns out that I get to have a day at home by myself again.  I still never have any idea when this is going to happen till it actually does, and it was close to not happening today.  But people were able to go to their things, and my thing was cancelled.  So I'm here using the under the desk elliptical so I don't have to leave at all.  I like that.

13 October 2020

I visited my friends yesterday whose children just arrived from South Sudan.  They are finally back together after 3.5 years.  It was so good to see them all together.  Their mother looked so much more relaxed and happy.  

But it highlighted again how bad the education system is in South Sudan.  These children are so far behind in school, as are nearly all children in South Sudan.  I wish we could have gotten them out sooner.

We also talked about how corona is not a big deal in South Sudan.  Not because people aren't dying of it and dealing with it, but because there are other bigger problems that a pandemic like this can't displace those problems.  

The children looked healthier than I had thought they might.  I hope that they can settle into this very new and different life in Egypt.

12 October 2020

It seems that most of the places with government tickets are open again, with random exceptions, like always.  We stopped at the Qaytbay sabil, Amir Taz palace, and the Mevlevi Museum and everything was mostly open, although Amir Taz had work going on and no exhibitions.  But they let us see the sabil so I was happy.  We climbed down into the cistern too.

A lot of these sites never got lots of tourists, in comparison to places like the Citadel, but now there are almost no tourists at all going to these places.  It's actually kind of fun, because everyone seems a little more relaxed about things.  Plus I know people at many of the sites so they're fine with letting me do my thing.  Egypt definitely needs tourists to come back, but until they can, I'm kind of enjoying this version of tourism.

11 October 2020

Cherimoyas are in season here, along with the end of the mangoes and the beginning of the pomegranate season. Also there are many sweet potatoes, but we're not really sweet potato people.

The cherimoyas I got last week had many seeds but they were still delicious.  We'll see what this week's look like.

There will be strawberries soon too.  We just finished out last strawberries from the freezer.

09 October 2020

So, we have church in person later today, for the first time.  I'm not really certain how it's going to go since there has been little information shared about how they'll handle the sacrament (I've seen what they've done in the other unit in the building, and I passed) and since they don't seem to have thought through the fact that more people are in here than can fit in the room where we meet.  Plus there are 20 people returning to Cairo in the next few weeks.  

But I am glad that it's starting up again for the people who don't have easy access to the sacrament.  And honestly, I've been really disappointed that so many women haven't had access to the sacrament since March, all over the world.  My widowed mother-in-law living in the middle of hundreds of men who hold the priesthood, a friend living on her own in the US, a friend whose husband isn't LDS.  

I get that's it's difficult to get the sacrament to women who don't have someone in their home to do it for them.  Do you know why I know that's hard?  Because I have organized almost every single sacrament opportunity for most of those women in our branch since March.  I shouldn't be the one doing that.  But I did, because no one else was.  We have had the sacrament at home with just our family a handful of times in 7 months.  My husband blessed the sacrament, of course, but I did all the rest.  And not because I was asked to, but because men weren't doing it.

So yeah, it's inconvenient to make sure women have the sacrament.  But it's part of the deal of holding the priesthood.  Because we can't do it ourselves.

08 October 2020


 I loved this book.  As usual for me the last few years, I had no idea what it was about going into it. I listened to it, but I'm not sure it's not better suited to a paper book.  They used a variety of different readers and performers for the audio version which was very good, but I had to find the family tree online about halfway through the book to pull everything together.

I loved this.  The future parts didn't quite work for me, but they were still interesting and the rest of everything was so good.  So many things to think about.  This would be a good book to discuss for a book group.

07 October 2020

 We went to the Northern Cemetery today and both Farag ibn Barquq and Qaytbay were kind of open, at least enough that we could go inside and look around.  We weren't allowed to take photos inside Qaytbay or go in any locked doors anywhere, but it was so nice to be back inside the buildings.  And we stopped at the glass shops, of course.  Khaled's shop is improving every time we go and they had a lovely glass mosaic of square kufi on the wall.  I got some more things in my favorite Uzbekistan blue color.

06 October 2020

I ordered something from souq.com today.  It's basically the Egypt version of Amazon, and I've been resisting ordering from them.  But I needed printer toner and paper.  I can easily walk to get paper here, but getting the right toner is not so easy.  So I tried souq, and it worked.  I'm not exactly sure how I feel about this, but if it's just for toner, it's okay.  It would be too easy to just stay at home in Maadi and never really be in Egypt/

05 October 2020

 I've been thinking about the term "living wage" recently, especially after I read a discussion with a group of expats over how much to pay household help.  Some people thought you should pay the "going rate," others said you should pay a "living wage," some said to pay the minimum wage for the country you're living in, and so on.  I don't have household help so I don't have skin in that game, but I do have a lot of friends here who work as household help.  And this is the kind of thing I have opinions on anyway, although I certainly didn't get involved in that online discussion.

It seems to me that there are three basic wage levels.  There's survival level, where you are barely making enough money for food and shelter and basic education for your children.  In Egypt, for a refugee family that can't send their children to public school and who gets charged a higher rent, I think a survival income is 4000/month, is basically two full-time jobs for what a refugee can get paid.  6000 pounds gives you a little more room, but you're still at risk if there's any kind of emergency so I'm not sure you can call it a living wage, although you could make a case for that.  Then there's a thriving wage, which is probably anything above 10000 pounds, although even 8000 pounds would seem like thriving to many families here.

Men can hope to get a job that pays 2000 pounds/month here for full-time work, say 10 hours/day, six days/week.  Women can hope for a job that pays 3000/month for about 30-40 hours/week of work, which is usually the most that they can work outside their homes.  You can see the conflict here, because neither parent in a married couple can make enough to survive, and there's always a problem with childcare, especially during a pandemic when schools are closed.  You don't have to pay tuition right now, but one parent is completely out of the labor market.

So yeah, 25 pounds/hour isn't even a surviving wage here, even though it's the going rate.  50 pounds is considered to be a good wage, but it's not going to get you to a decent living standard in my opinion.  If you could find someone who would pay a man 50 pounds/hour for his usual hours, then you'd be at a living level, but that's almost unheard of.

Egypt is a hard place to live, so I don't get why people who have plenty of money pay their household help a low wage "for their own good."

04 October 2020


 This was another book published by BBC Press.  I didn't like it as much as Sylvia (that was a pretty high bar), but I did enjoy it.  And again, a book set where I grew up is always a nice break.  Even if I don't want to live there again.