Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Airborne

Free WIFI on Delta today. Hello from somewhere over Omaha, Nebraska.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Garbage. You don't have to put up with it anymore.

PSA from New York in the 1970's. Let's bring this current and apply it to Egypt in 2010. Egypt, let's clean up Cairo. Please don't litter.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Signs

Signs spotted at a construction site in Maadi. Of all the construction going on in the country, this is the only site I have ever seen safety signs posted.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

In Baghdad, Dreaming of Cairo: In Cairo, Dreaming of Baghdad

Either this deep desire of mine
will be found on this journey,
or when I get back home!

It may be that the satisfaction I need
depends on my going away, so that when I've gone
and come back, I'll find it at home.

--Rumi
From The Essential Rumi

**************************************************************

Someone asked me a while back if I love Egypt or hate it. After long thought, I would have to say I neither love it or hate it. So why did I come?

If I had to pinpoint the exact moment that things started to spiral downward in my life it would have to be October 4, 2004. Standing at my computer on the factory floor entering that nights scrap/loss data my boss came to me and whispered over my shoulder the words that would change my life forever. "Scott has instructed me to write you up for a second shift mistake." I knew what that meant. The company had been downsizing for a while and their end goal was to eliminate mid-level management positions without the benefit of having to provide unemployment payments, opting instead to set people up to be fired. They had been after me for a while. I was the last group leader left out of three shifts. Glancing over my shoulder at the clock on the wall I noted the time. 6:50 am. Ten minutes left on my shift. I finished entering my data, left my keys next to the computer, picked up my bag and walked to the door. Arriving at the time clock early was uncharacteristic for me and was noticed by several people who had also gathered at the time clock. "Third shift group leader is here before 7 am - that's a first." And it was. It was not usual for me to leave before 7:30. But I was leaving for good. I did not go in to work that night. Terry called me the next day and said that they had been waiting for me at the front door so they could "walk me out" upon my arrival. So that's the gist of how I lost a well paying job.

Like anyone who has ever quit, been laid off, or fired from a job, I did not feel bad - I felt energized. When one door closes another one opens. I was ready to try something new. I held out a great hope that things would be OK although I knew in my heart it wouldn't be. I chose instead, to be in denial about the situation. I didn't stay unemployed long. I started waiting tables for $2.13 per hour. Worked two jobs - the second one being a retail clothing store for $6.00 per hour. Retail generally does not allow full-time positions so the maximum hours I could get per week ranged from 15 to 20 depending on if I volunteered to cover shifts for other employees. I went from bringing home $1,000.00 per week to bringing home (between two jobs) $250.00 per week. Now, I'm not good at math so I will leave you to calculate the percentage that my salary dropped on your own. Each week I would have to take from my savings to pay bills. I knew this would not last long.

2005 was fairly stable for the simple reason I was still able to supplement my income with the money I had saved over the last six years. By the end of 2005, however, things went from bad to worse. On December 26, 2005 my son was arrested and went to jail. Without going into all the details at this time, by February of 2006 I had a nervous breakdown. It happened one night in the McDonald's restaurant in Princeton. I started crying uncontrollably and could not stop. I was yelling and screaming then just collapsed on a table. I had people trying to approach me and give me religious pamphlets "Jesus saves". All I could do was scream at them "get away from me with that shit!" I don't remember how I managed to leave the place or get home. I spent the next couple of days in a daze sleeping when I was not working and dragging myself to work. The thing about working in Customer Service and Retail is that you are expected to be happy and smiling all the time. I was reprimanded at work for being in a "depressed state" and this was bad for business. There was nobody I could turn to, nothing I could do but go home and sleep and cry and shake. I stopped eating. I stopped caring about living.

About two weeks later my income tax check arrived. I had made good money the year before, but was in a high tax bracket because of overtime so I got roughly around $900.00. This is a lot of money on one hand, but on the other hand it isn't. I sat one night in Panera Bread just staring at my computer screen. My mental state was deteriorating rapidly. Everything was falling apart around me and I felt I could not control it. Then I realized what I needed. I needed to get away. I had a standing offer from a friend in Ohio to visit her sister in Jordan. All I had to pay for was my airfare. I would take her up on the offer.

When I told my boss "Y" that I was going to Jordan he told me I should go to Egypt as well. I told him I would love to, but I did not have any money for hotels, etc. He offered to call his family and have me stay with them. So I booked tickets. I would fly into Cairo and travel overland to Jordan (a cheaper route than flying) and then fly home from Amman. I stayed in Egypt only a few days. There was no money to do touristic stuff. I left Egypt on the overnight bus to the the Red Sea and then took the ferry to Jordan. Another bus to Amman. My friend's sister was lovely. I spent most of my week there with her in the apartment. Again, there was no time or money for touristic stuff. However, it proved to be just the break I needed. When I arrived back home I felt ready to start over again.

2006 continued my the same way the previous year had. I had waiting jobs. Some days I would work a 10 hour shift and make only $50.00. Most of this would be spent on gas to get back and forth to work since I lived 45 minutes from any civilization this required driving 90 minutes per day to get to work. It wasn't the driving time that bothered me, I was used to that, what bothered me was that during this period gas had hit an all time high in the US. It was approaching $4.00 per gallon. At one time it would cost me $20 to fill my tank, but during this period it was closer to $45.00. I had to fill up the tank every other day. It got to a point that I became sick of pumping gas.

A curious set of events had been set in motion as a result of my trip to Egypt. One was that "S" felt sorry for the fact that I was unmarried and gave my email address to all his single friends. I would come home at night and find my inbox full of promises of love and marriage proposals from guys who were in their late 20's. Complete strangers. This may appeal to some 40 year old women, but it was a huge turn-off to me. First and foremost, I had no desire to get married. I was quite happy being single. If I was to ever get married it would be for love with someone of my own choosing and not because someone felt "sorry" for me. The other thing that happened was people began to try to convince me to move to Egypt. What could I do there I asked? You could teach English. I said it was a nice offer, but explained to them that I had no teaching experience, no college degree I did not see how logically this scenario could work. However, almost everyone I talked to assured me that fact that I was American and a native speaker of English was all that was needed for every school in Egypt to roll out the red carpet for me. I was told I would get paid 5 times that of Egyptian teachers. That I would have an apartment provided for me. I would have all kinds of benefit packages like plane tickets to my home country, etc. It all sounded too good to be true. I pushed it all to the back burner and continued to push my way forward any way I could in the US.

In the early part of 2007 it became apparent that all my efforts to get back on track or get ahead were going to be useless in the end. I was "pissing in the wind" so to speak. Borrowing from Peter to pay Paul. I finally made the decision that I had long put off and that was to put my house on the market for sale. Now, to my my house was nice. It was built in 1918 but had been well maintained. It was not perfect, but it provided shelter and warmth. The problem is, I had paid (and mortgaged) $50,000 for it and it was in reality worth much less. I also contacted an attorney regarding the possibility I needed to file bankruptcy. Now, in a perfect world, my house would have sold quickly and I would have made a profit of about $15,000 since I had some equity in it. I would then take this money and move into an apartment and start my life over. That was the plan anyway. But it's not a perfect world and the real estate market was just at the beginning of it's slow period. Months passed and no one even looked at the house.

Knowing that in a few short months, I was facing the possibility of foreclosure and being left with no where to live and no money, I began to reconsider those offers my Egyptian friends were telling me about. I began to search the web for "teaching in Egypt". I was led to a website of a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) training program that promised guaranteed results and job placement assistance. I talked to more people in Egypt, all of whom reiterated the same sentiments as those from before: you will have no problem finding a job in Egypt. I considered the scenario. I would go to Egypt, take the TEFL certification, get a job, be provided with housing and benefits on a two year contract. This would allow me the opportunity to save thousands of dollars after which I could then return to the US and start over once again.

In early June of 2007 I purchased a one way ticket to Egypt for February 12, 2008. I basically had to steal the money to buy this ticket. I stole it from myself. I sold all the appliances in my house. The stove, the refrigerator, the washer, the dryer, the dishwasher - I sold all my furniture. How was that stealing you might wonder? Well my house was contracted with the realtor as "including all appliances". If someone had wanted to buy the house and found all the appliances gone I would have been in big trouble. But I knew by this time the house would never sell. I continued to live in the house with no furniture and no appliances for two months until one day near the end of July, in a blistering heat wave, the air conditioner died. I would spend the next 8 months sleeping on a friends couch.

Shortly after I bought my ticket to Egypt, I knew the next thing I needed to do was find a place to live temporarily when I arrived in Egypt. I had planned to attend the TEFL course in Alexandria straight away and housing was included with that. I had already applied to the TEFL program and been accepted. I listed Egypt as my first choice and Argentina as my second choice. (A representative from TEFL who I spoke to on the phone helped me rule out a European location because of the difficulty involved in obtaining work permits and long term visas in countries in Europe since preference for jobs went to those with EU citizenship.) I figured I would be able to find a job shortly after that, and might need a place to live only for a month or two while I sorted out all the details with a school. I also began at this time contacting schools by email, sending my CV, joining FaceBook groups about teaching in Egypt, networking with my contacts in Egypt, etc.

A few days after I had purchased the ticket, I was sitting in Borders bookstore. This had always been my favorite place to go and it continued to be a sanctuary for me. I could only allow myself to buy a cup of coffee and wander around the store. I sat in the aisles and read all the books about Egypt because I could no longer afford to buy them. This particular day a magazine on the rack caught my eye. It was Transitions Abroad. I picked it up and flipped through it. It was chock full of tips and information for people who are considering teaching abroad. There were job postings, info on shipping companies, articles by ex-pats. I broke down and spent the $4.95 for the magazine.

When I got it home I read it cover to cover. I found an article about a website called "couchsurfing". It was like a backpackers dream. People from all over the world who have a couch or spare room in their home agree to "host" travellers usually on a short term basis. I looked up the website and found hundreds of profiles in Egypt. I created a profile and contacted those who had listings who were women or ex-pats. I did not want to contact any of the numerous Egyptian men who had profiles, because it appeared they were using the site as a way to meet foreign women. I did not have time for this. The people I had contacted emailed me back and told me they were unable to commit to anything with me because my request was coming too far in advance and they were not sure if they would still be in Cairo that far in the future. I was back at square one. I carefully began to look through and read all the profiles on the site. I only got through the first two pages when one particular profile caught my eye. It was a guy in Maadi. What attracted me to his profile was that he said he liked dogs. I was planning on taking my dog with me. I did not even look at any other profiles, but I sent him a message. I told him of my plans to arrive in Cairo and take the TEFL and that I would be looking for a place to stay for a week or two.

A reply came very quickly. I sent him my phone number and told him it would be easier if we speak in person. He called me right away. I explained my situation to him. He listened and was very helpful. He told me he has an extra room in his apartment and that he travels frequently for his job and would probably be in the Gulf at the time of my arrival. He told me I could have his apartment for as long as I needed it. Then I dropped the bomb. I have a dog. "Great. Bring the dog. I love dogs", he replied. He then offered to keep the dog for me while I was in Alex provided he was in Cairo at the time. This would save me a considerable boarding expense. I could not believe my good luck. What I didn't know then, was that I had just had my first conversation with the man I would end up marrying. Of course at the time there was no hint of a romantic relationship between us. We kept in touch by phone after that initial conversation. "W" would call me once a month of so and ask me if I needed anything. He helped me to arrange shipping some of my things through his company (sparing me yet another considerable expense) and answered all my questions. He was a nice guy and a decent guy and a huge help to me and that was the extent of it. But in my mind, things seemed to be going very smoothly with my plan to move to Egypt. I began to think it hadn't been such a bad idea after all.

Having the living arrangements and the dog situation scratched off the checklist was a huge burden off my shoulders. It was a good thing too, because things were about to get more difficult in my current situation. I had to sell my car at the end of June. Living so far away from any place to work, and in an area with no public transportation, I had to convince "T" to let me borrow his truck. I kept working at my job at the restaurant, and pumping gas into a huge gas guzzler day in and day out. Things were plugging along fine until sometime in July when a deer ran head first into the side of the truck one night on the way home. "T" was pissed to say the least. Even though his insurance covered it with no deductible he was the kind of guy who valued his cars above everything else. My driving privileges were revoked. After 3 days of having to call in "sick" due to lack of transportation, I convinced "T" that I would lose my job if I couldn't use the truck. He relented on the condition that I go straight to work and straight home.

It was a few weeks later that my air conditioner died. Now not only was I driving his car, I was sleeping on his couch as well. "T" worked at night arriving home at 9 am. I worked during the day arriving home after he left for work. It was a good arrangement in that our paths rarely crossed. But I still had to go to my house daily and pack up an remove the remaining items. I rented a storage locker in town for $30 per month. I would wake at 5 am everyday and go down to the house. Load up bags and boxes of stuff and move them into the storage locker. Other things that I couldn't bear to part with, but knew I would never see again, I hid in "T's" attic. I gave many things away, threw many things in the trash, gave some to my son, etc. The hot mornings of summer turned into cold mornings of the fall and each day would find me sitting in the storage locker sorting and re-sorting into "keep" and "get rid of piles". I had started holding yard sales earlier in the spring so the things left were the sentimental things. I would sit in the locker surrounded by what was left of my life. Boxes of photos and negatives. Boxes of keepsakes, artwork, and school projects my son had made from Nursery school up to 5th grade. Mountains of papers I had saved some from when I had been in High School. Little by little it was disposed of. The only way I could get through it was to tell myself over and over again that if I died tomorrow I could not take any of this with me anyway.

Eventually, it became too much to bear and I left the house one final time leaving much stuff behind. At the end of September my court date came up and I turned the keys to my house over to the bank. Even though "T's" house was only a few blocks from mine, I could not drive down that street again. One day I worked up the courage to and happened upon a scene that I had not expected. The bank had hired a company to come and clean out the remaining items from my house. I saw my things being loaded into a truck. Lamps, ice skates, jewelry, photo supplies, etc. What was left of everything I owned in the world piled into a trailer bound for Goodwill or the Salvation Army. I never went past my house again. (The bank listed my house for sale at the cost of what I still owed on my mortgage. It sat empty for nearly 2 years selling only in the spring of 2009. I heard this from a friend. When I visited the States in August of this year, I did drive by again. The bushes in the front had been removed and new flowers planted. But it was still difficult for me to see this.)

In the beginning of October I was growing increasingly restless driving to work everyday only to be turned away for "over staffing". I quit the job in the restaurant. It was costing me more to show up everyday than I was actually earning. Luckily though I caught what I thought was another break. I was contacted by a temporary employment contractor I had applied with previously. They were looking for temporary employees to work for a sub-contractor of Toyota. I would be earning $8.00 per hour. This was a higher salary than I had earned in the past 2 years. I would have 4 solid months to work before I would be leaving for Egypt. This would allow me to bring home around $275 per week. I would be able to save a significant amount of money to use for my TEFL course as well as living expenses until I could find a job in Egypt. "W" also called me at the end of November and told me he had to take a business trip to the States at Christmas time and he would like for us to try to meet. I searched for flights between Indiana and where he would be in Colorado and found the prices over $800. This was more than my ticket to Egypt. I had photographed a wedding at the end of October - the last piece of business that I had pending from my photography business I had tried to start earlier that year to supplement my income. So I had $500 saved from that. I told "W" that it did not look like I could justify flying to Colorado over Christmas because it was too expensive. He was very disappointed. He did not realize how far away Indiana and Colorado are and that there are no trains or busses in the US for cheap, fast interstate travel.

One day in mid-December I showed up at my job in Toyota only to be told that they were in a slow down (always happens when they hire too many expecting some to quit after a few days) and they would need to be sending people home for the day. Since I was low on the seniority list, I was chosen to go home. By some stroke of genius I had brought my laptop with me that day, so instead of going straight home, I went to the truck stop to use the wifi. While there, I searched a few different sites for prices to fly to Colorado. I managed to find a flight for $400. I decided that you only live once, and the plant would be shut down for a week at Christmas so I decided to book the ticket. I emailed "W" and told him the good news he was thrilled.

Now, you already know that this story has a happy ending, but it did not start off that way. When "W" and I met in person we hated each other. He thought I was a tough woman and thought I was fat. I was not particulary attracted to him either and found him to have some annoying habits. We fought rather frequently over the next few days, although remained cordial and friendly with each other at the same time. After all, he had been so kind to me and so helpful and I was forever in his debt for this. Nonetheless, we shared some memorable moments together including Christmas dinner at the home of one of his colleagues (the same one we plan to visit this year). I arrived back in Indiana on December 27 and reported back to work at Toyota on January 2, 2008 as scheduled. When I got to work, I discovered that all the temporary employees were being "laid off" temporarily. Great. Now I have only 6 weeks left in the US and no income coming in. I had been counting on being able to work right up to the very end and was counting on that money. (Ironically, I got a voice mail from the employment firm on February 10 saying that I could report back to work February 11).

So once again, I found myself unemployed. The last 6 weeks were hard for me because I would have to leave the house everyday to avoid seeing "T". Since I did not have a job I was not allowed to drive anywhere. The only place to go in this town was the public library which closed at 5. I would spend my days sitting in the library and then walking around town freezing until nightfall. I slept constantly just hoping for the hours to pass faster if I was oblivious to them. My mother had to send me the $800 I needed in order to put my dog on the airplane.

I arrived in Egypt on February 14, 2008 flat broke. "W" was a man of his word and picked me up at the airport, but if looks could kill... I'll skip all the boring details here in interest of making an already long story a little shorter, but we were married 6 weeks later. Stranger things have happened I'm sure. How we went from being acquainentces to hating each other to being married in the span of 6 weeks is beyond me. But I'm told there is an expression "out of hate comes love". We are living proof of that.

Three days after my initial arrival in Cairo, "W" had a contact at a school who who was in desperate immediate need of a native English speaker. I happened to be in the immediate need of $1,200 to take a TEFL course. I postponed my TEFL course from March to April and took the job. So here I was in Cairo less than three days, on a bus on my way out to 6th of October. The position was with a Junior Kindergarden class. It was at this moment that I discovered I suck at teaching and I'm not good with kids. The co-teacher had years of experience so I basically just became her assistant. I tied shoes, wiped noses, dried tears, broke up fights over toys, opened packages of snacks, etc. As the month passed, I realized more and more I was not cut out for this kind of work. But determined to finish what I had started, I decided to go ahead with my plan to take the TEFL. Perhaps I would be able to find a job working with adults. The temporary job gave me exactly the money I needed for the TEFL class. "W" and I got married April 3, 2008 and on April 4 th I left for a 10 week stay in Alex. (The TEFL certificate itself is only one month, but I had signed up to do the teaching internship afterward to gain practical experience.)

Right before leaving for Alex, I was contacted by a school I had previously emailed my resume to while I was still in the US. I had an interview lined up and a potential job offer for the 2008 school year. I really thought things were looking up. My time in Alex went great, and my teaching internship was with an adult intermediate level class. I came back to Cairo in early July and had only 6 weeks before I had to start my new job.

I'll pause here for a moment and reflect on how nicely this fit into my original plan assuming I had not gotten married. It seemed to be working out rather smoothly. I would come to Egypt, take the TEFL, get a job, etc. Just like I had planned it. Had I needed it, this school would have secured housing for me. The salary was decent, transportation to and from school included. It was all as I had imagined it would be when I made the initial plan to move to Cairo and work for 2 or 3 years before returning to the US. I hadn't planned on getting married and that surely was not called for in the original recipe, but it was the icing on the cake.

Here's the point where it turns south. I soon realized I sucked at teaching even more at the new school that I had at the first one. I was a high school graduate, with no experience in education, only qualified to teach English and I was placed as a homeroom teacher for second graders. I was responsible for teaching English, Math, Science, and Social Studies. I was in WAY, WAY over my head. I gave it a concerted effort and was holding on and trying my hardest with everything I had in me. I was fired at the end of November after working only 3 months. Thus ended my teaching career in Egypt. I applied at some other schools only to be told I'm not qualified or to be offered assistant teaching positions for 1,000 LE per month. Granted 1,000 LE per month is what Egyptian co-teachers make (and some full teachers as well), I could have stayed in the US waiting tables for that much money each month. When you consider my original intention to come to Cairo and work was so that I could earn money to save and move back home, these latest developments reflect nothing short of a flat out failure. There is no way I would have been able to remain in Egypt past the day of being fired. I would have had to pack it all in and come up with plan B, find some way to get the airfare home and call it a day. I failed miserably at what I set out to do. Hindsight is 20/20 and in retrospect, I know I would have admitted my defeat and gone back home.

But in the end, one year later, I'm still in Egypt. I didn't come to Egypt so I could get married. I didn't get married so I could stay in Egypt. I didn't marry my husband because I loved Egypt. I married him because I love him. I know now that the certain something I thought was waiting for me in Egypt, was - only it was not in the form of what I thought it would be. I know now that my pull to go to Egypt was not to teach and earn money - but because it was my destiny to meet him. We will be married for 2 years this April and every day that passes our love grows stronger. I know that sounds so cliche, but considering we did not know each other very long when we married it is a positive thing. It may not have been my choice to still be in Egypt after 2 years, but I am, and having him by my side, being so supportive and understanding of my frustrations, makes it more bearable for me. I don't know what the future holds for us or where we will end up living. All I know is that I needed to make this journey.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Italian Mystery song

Neffa (More Italian Music)

This is one of the first videos I ever saw when I first started watching Radio Italia in 2006. I had to shut off my cable tv because I could no longer afford it. So I searched for something to watch online and I found Radio Italia.

A Quick Look: Ismailia, Egypt

My external hard drive crashed recently which contained every photo and video I have ever taken in my entire life. Including pictures I had scanned and VHS videos of my son when he was a baby that I had converted to digital. Of course I had no backup because when I moved overseas I transferred everything to the hard drive thinking it would take up less space than a box full of CD's. I'm hoping to get it fixed in the States. Fortunately, I had transferred some of the photos to a file on my laptop because I had planned to upload them to the blog. These were some of the photos that were saved.

A train station in Ismailia, Egypt. (circa 2006)










This is very helpful


Monday, November 30, 2009

Another Reader Comment Answered

A reader comment left the following comment on this post

Anonymous said...
dear madame, I'm an italian going to live part of the year in Cairo next january. I found your blog in catching informations about the common day x day life in Cairo, beside knowing egypt (no turistic areas)and seems to me that you, as an newyorkeers have a difficult feeling with the great muslim world of which Cairo is a flag.
Socially speaking, yes, the riots after the match ARE necessary due to the stress of unimployement and poverty. Yours replys to the post about Xmas are a bit arrogant, in my opinion. It's more important that you go around the most poor quartiers in Cairo to see the real life of people and not only going to Carrefour and back (like wal-mart) And, dont take this as a supponent suggestion, the italian rap is quite stupid for two simples reasons 1) Italy has nothing to do with rap and 2) the song is bad (fa schifo!)It's time to rethink the idea that in every corner of the world are imitating the "gringos". The USA are falling apart both economically and social quidelines. Europe is a usa colony as you know and many others countries included Egypt too, but at high level or political-military level but for the intelligent man of the street the way of life of "usacans" like spanish people call the americans (your country have no name even) is becoming more and more molesting. The times have changed. After the disaster of iraq and the bailout of banks managed by the top executives of the "nigger" amministration, american people and people around the world are sick and tired of this kind of supremacism. So, my suggestion is to take thing more modestly and in a critic way of weltanschaaung. I'm professor of philosophy and being italian I know well what means the fall of an empire. in every case take this just a contribution for your blog and meantime have my best regards



My Response:

For someone who claims to be a professor of Philosophy I expected a more coherent argument. I had to read your comment twice to understand half of what you were saying. Granted, English may not be your first language, but it is not the language or wording I have issues with - rather the content.

You indicate that riots after a football match are necessary due to poverty and unemployment. So this justifies Egyptians destroying their own buildings and setting their own trees on fire as well as throwing rocks at people from bridges? I couldn't disagree more. I'm not disputing the fact that Egyptians are frustrated, but why not encourage them to find more productive ways to deal with this stress. If they are upset about poverty and unemployment why then don't they organize protests about that instead of waiting for another excuse - like a football game to come along.

You find my comments about the Christmas tree post to be arrogant. Fine, that is your opinion. But I did not put that post on this blog in order to be proselytized by others. I know who I am and I am happy with that. La cosienza di se e fondamentale per ongi essere umano. I don't take too kindly to others who don't like who I am or what I do telling me how I should be living my life. We are only responsible for ourselves in the end.

I'm sorry that you find Mondo Marcio's song so awful. I guess you won't be buying his CD then. Mi piace. I like it. Italian rap emerged as a genre all it's own. I believe in creative expression by artists and apparently there exists a whole generation of young artists in Italy who are choosing to express themselves through the form of rap music. If it's not your style then feel free to listen to something more to your liking. But don't be so blind to the reality of what is going on in the world to make a blanket statement like "Italy has nothing to do with rap". Judging by the number of YouTube channels in Italy that are supporting Italian rap - Italy does have something to do with rap. The times have changed, haven't they?

When I first saw you call President Obama a "nigger" I considered just deleting your comment. African Americans, and people of color all over the world will be extremely offended by the use of this word. However, I don't believe in censorship. After I thought for a minute back to my childhood in New York it began to make more sense that you would refer to a black man in this manner. I grew up in the Bronx not far from Arthur Avenue - otherwise known as Little Italy. I saw the discrimination and the prejudice with my own eyes. It was reflected accurately in the movie A Bronx Tale. As a young adult out on my own, I was once evicted from an apartment in the home of an Italian couple simply because I was dating a black man. I have never been to Italy, but I sincerely hope that your degree of prejudice is not reflected by the entire population of the country. I'm the type of person who believes there is good and bad everywhere and I don't paint everyone with the same brush.

Your summation of the "state of the union" appears superficial and illogical in places. I also detect a hint of bitterness in your opinion. It seems as if you spend a great deal of time watching CNN and FOX News and forming all your opinions of USA based on their reports. Or have you travelled and lived in the United States of America? Seriously, a country with no name? Blaming everything wrong with the world on the economic crisis and bank bailout? Empires falling? "Gringos" (another derogatory term) and Spanish people? What ever are you going on about? And what, pray tell, does any of this have to do with me living in Egypt and shopping at Carrefour (which by the way is nothing like WalMart)?

If this is the brand of "Philosophy" you teach to your students then God help them. But if you want to wax philosophical then keep this in mind:

La realta e ben diversa da quello che pensi tu. Tutto e relativo a questo mondo.

Translation: Reality is quite different from what you think. Everything is relative in this world.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Italian Rap

I discovered something about myself yesterday. Apparently I really like Italian Rap music. Check it out:









He could be talking about the stock market and the economic crisis, but it still sounds great.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

If I Can't Be Myself - Who Can I Be?

I only follow three celebrities on Twitter. Bill Paxton, Demi Moore, and Kevin Spacey. I'm not really that big into the whole celeb craze. I added Demi Moore not because I'm a huge fan, but because after having a look at her profile, she seemed to be saying interesting things. Kevin Spacey was added as a result of watching him Tweet on David Letterman. Bill Paxton was added under slightly stranger circumstances. I became a huge fan of Big Love after MBC 4 began showing season 1 of the show earlier this year. No matter what I was doing, I would drop everything on Tuesdays at 11 pm and watch Big Love. One Tuesday at 11 pm, I sat down on the couch and prepared to watch the show, but much to my surprise and dismay - it wasn't on. How could that be? The episode from the week before was the one where someone exposed the family after Barb's run for some "mother of the year" award. A cliff hanger at best and now I was left hanging on a cliff. Turns out it was the final episode of season 1 and in true fashion of watching TV in a foreign country that meant it was time to change the programming.

My husband had a solution to the problem. He would download season 2 and season 3 for me. He started the download sometime in July and it took (I kid you not) 2 months to download. I went to the US for 5 weeks arriving back in Egypt at the end of September only to find that the download still had 3 days to go. When it was finally complete, and after having waited with bated breath to find out what had happened to the Big Love family - I watched season 2 and season 3 in their entirety over the span of two days. That's an awful lot of Big Love. One of the side effects I suffered as a result was a momentary lapse from reality in which I felt as if this fictional world I immersed myself into had somehow been real. I felt as if I somehow knew Bill Paxton, so I followed him on Twitter.

Bill Paxton does not Tweet much, but when he does he says profound things. I like profound. The other night he Tweeted this:

I told my wife that a guy on Twitter asked me if I was the real thing. She responded by laughing and saying, "Who would pretend to be YOU?"


Who would pretend to be you? That's so profound. But really, haven't we become a society in which we are running scared that there is someone out there who does want to pretend to be us? Aren't we being bombarded with information from the media and commercial after commercial about how important it is for us to protect our identities from the throngs of people who can't wait to get their hands on our identities and become us?

When I was twenty years old in 1986, I did not have any identity to protect. There were no passwords to memorize, no emails to guard from hackers, no FaceBook - no Internet period. I had only two things to protect: my bank ATM card pin code and my AT&T calling card. But we were still taught to be afraid that someone was after us. We were told by the media that when we use calling cards at payphones there were men in trench coats with binoculars standing in the crowd behind us waiting patiently for us to enter our pin codes on the touch pad. I heeded their warnings carefully. Making a call at a payphone became a covert operation for me. First, I had to slide my calling card out of my wallet being careful to keep the front of the card out of sight. Next, I had to look over my right shoulder and my left shoulder and survey the crowd. Was anyone staring at me? Was anyone standing too close? Were there any shady looking characters nearby or lurking in the shadows? When I had completed my surveillance and determined it was safe to continue, I would carefully cup my hands over the numbers on the phone while I dialed in my pin code, all the while being careful to move my fingers in such a way that would distract those with prying eyes. Fortunately, my pin code was never stolen and eventually the calling card was thrown in the garbage to make room for the cell phone.

But now we have the Internet to contend with. We are given advice such as: don't use your real name, don't show your picture, don't tell anyone who you are because there are people out there who want to pretend to be you. Really? So instead we hide behind avatars and cutsie screen names afraid to reveal a single factual thing about ourselves. I'm not advocating that we all publish our social security numbers and blood types, but common sense should tell us not to do this anyway.

When I first started this blog I did so anonymously. I was very careful never to show my name or real identity. But that quickly changed. After all, one of the reasons I started this blog was to showcase my photography, and how do most photographers copyright their photos? With their name. I poured over countless other blogs and photography websites to see what everyone else was doing. I found that the majority are using their real names. So I added the creative commons copyright badge to my blog complete with my real name. This was certainly easier than adding a watermark to each photo individually. Over time I became more comfortable with talking about myself and showing who I really am online.

Now, my blog has a feature that allows me to see the IP address of each visitor. I can also see what links they clicked to find my blog or what they were googling to be led to my website. There were a few that were slightly humorous. There was this one: dog fucks waife (which led them to this blog post). Then there was: sexi egipt gurl free porn (sic). That one still has me baffled, but I suppose I should be flattered that googling sexy Egypt girl leads directly to me! The number one thing that people google to find my blog is: showering without soap. They end up on this blog post. It concerns me slightly that the world is full of people who are considering giving up bathing with soap, but I suppose it is good for the environment. However, a few nights ago I found that someone was googling my name. Iman Satori. I stared at the screen in shock for a minute before the panic set in. Oh my God! Someone is googling my name. Instant fear began to set in. What should I do? Notify the FBI? Call the police? Is someone trying to steal my identity? After all, who the hell am I that someone should be googling my name. I am nobody.

I immediately woke up my husband from his nap. "Quick! Get up! Someone is googling my name!" He stirred briefly. "That's nice honey." He murmured as he rolled over putting the pillow over his head.

But then the words of Bil Paxton's wife came back to me. "Who would pretend to be you?" And she was right. Why would anyone want to pretend to be me? In order to completely understand the absurdity of that scenario you would have to understand who I am. So who am I? Well, let's see - I barely graduated high school by the skin of my teeth. I failed the SATs. I never went to college. I don't have a job and can't find one. I filed bankruptcy twice. I lost my house to foreclosure. I don't own anything (I don't have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of as my Grandmother used to say.) I live in a third world foreign country and can't get back to the US to save my life... So why would anyone want to steal my identity or pretend to be me? Maybe they would have better luck with my identity than I am having with it.

And while we are on the subject of putting our lives on the Internet - I am appalled that this teacher was fired because she had some pictures of herself sipping wine in Italy on FaceBook. Come on. Are we to believe that before the invention of FaceBook teachers did not sip wine in vineyards? Why the hell can't she post classy, tasteful pictures of herself enjoying her vacation and her life for her friends and family to see? I have friends who are paranoid about showing their pictures online. Not me. I know there are sick people out there, but my photos? What's the worst that can happen - someone will take a photo of me and superimpose my head over Pamela Anderson's tanned and airbrushed body? I would consider that an improvement.

I would not feel ashamed to show a photo of myself sipping wine in Italy. If I were fortunate enough to have taken a wine tasting tour of Italy, damn right I would put pictures of it in my FaceBook. I'm not ashamed that there are videos on my YouTube for the world to see. Videos that show my dog humping my leg, or me crying over losing my house, or even the one of me making a complete and utter ass out of myself lip syncing Yanni's Aria. This is me. This is my life. And what other legacy do I have to leave behind. Have we become so paranoid that we feel it's OK to live our lives but feel that we have to hide these same lives from the world because someone might see it? That's picayune.

Granted, identity theft is a horrible thing and a horrendous ordeal for those who go through it. But isn't worrying about it happening to us akin to worrying that a plane will fall out of the sky and land on our house? Sure they both can happen, but what are the odds? For the majority of us, our lives are so mundane that why on earth would anyone want to pretend to be us? If we can't be ourselves in real life and ONLINE then who can we be? Bill Paxton? Not that I wouldn't mind being Bill Paxton for a day...

Thank you Mrs. Bill Paxton for the words of wisdom.

Christmas - Cairo Style

My husband and I both love Christmas. It is our favorite holiday. When we met for the first time it was over Christmas in Colorado. However, since we have been together we have yet to spend a Christmas in Cairo. It's becoming a tradition to go to the US every year at Christmas time. Last year I wanted to get a tree after seeing them for sale at the florists around town. Having a real tree is out of the question since we won't be around to take care of it. I was willing to settle for a fake one, but for some reason we never got around to buying one last year. We spent Christmas with my mother in Florida but she does not "do Christmas" so there was no tree.

When we were on our way to Carrefour this evening I imagined how it would be if I were shopping in the US at this time of year. The aisles of every store would be filled with Christmas decorations and holiday items, cookies, wrapping paper and Christmas music. (In Egypt you can hear Christmas music by the pool or in the movie theater in July, but you don't hear it at Christmas time.) But we were headed to Carrefour in Cairo to buy cat litter. I told myself that it just wouldn't be the same and reminded myself that in just 30 days I would be in Colorado surrounded by snow and lights and the smells, sights and sounds of Christmas.

We walked into Carrefour and it's usual crowds and got our shopping cart and started to head to the back and over by the pet supplies. Suddenly in front of me I saw a whole aisle of Christmas trees and decorations. Ok, they were slightly cheap looking and pathetic but I started jumping for joy and squealing "Let's get a tree! Let's get a tree!"

The trees came in 3 different sizes but I liked the littlest one. I got one box of ornaments and a stocking. Overall, the stuff is way overpriced for the quality. I didn't buy lights because the tree is way to small for the strands they had available. I figured they probably wouldn't work anyway. Returning things that don't work in Egypt is quite a hassle.

So that was it. One aisle. A hand full of trees, lights and ornaments. They had a few tiny wreaths but they were also quite pricey for the size and quality. No wrapping paper, no musical cards, no fruit cake or sugar cookies or life size Santas and Reindeer...but it made me happy if for a brief moment. For a brief moment I was able to feel that familiar Holiday spirit.

So here it is - my Charlie Brown Christmas tree:



Sunday, November 15, 2009

Egypt vs Algeria

For my foreign readers who want to know what it looked like in Cairo yesterday after the football match between Egypt and Algeria, here is a video from Daily News Egypt with great footage of the festivities. You can read more about events that transpired after the match here.


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Still need a Halloween costume?

Sexy Policewoman or sexy devil...hmmm...I just can't decide.


Wanted: Window Dressers

Must have experience and be familiar with fashion and current trends. Duties include: Dressing and styling mannequins, preparing mannequins for window and storefront displays. Experience with HAIRSTYLING a definite PLUS.


Please submit photos of your recent work.

NOTE: Humorous advertisement and not an actual job posting.

Shut Up and Drive

Or if you are in Cairo: SHUT UP AND PUSH


Thursday, November 12, 2009

What Regulations?????




TRANSLATION: There are no rules in the parking lot either.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Step Parents in Egyptian Culture

Wow. Over 100 hits on the blog in the last 8 hours - Thanks Visa Journey and ExpatGroups.com. Nice sites to visit by the way if you have questions about immigration.

An interesting point has been raised recently due to some comments on another post. Step-parents. When a divorced man or divorced woman with children remarries, his or her new spouse becomes a step-parent to the existing children. Well in most cases.

But let's look at this from an Egyptian (or Middle-eastern Islamic) perspective. In Islam, when a couple divorces the mother remains the primary caretaker of the male children until they turn six years of age and the females until age 12. After which time the father gains full and often physical custody of the children. While divorce is quite common in the Middle-east today, especially in Egypt, the concept of step-families is slightly different than it is in the West. Because of family ties and Sharia laws regarding inheritance, culturally speaking, it is harder for men to form strong bonds of attachment and loyalty with children who are not biologically their own.

In the West it is not uncommon for small children to start calling their mother's new husband "daddy". However, in Egyptian culture, it would be considered disrespectful to call another man your father. It would be more common for the children to call their mother's new husband "uncle" or a similar term that shows respect for elders.

In Egypt, it is less common for a father to lose any of his rights than it is in the United States.

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Since many of my readers are Egyptian or involved with Egyptians - I want to know what you think about this subject.

If you are Egyptian how would you handle this situation if you were divorced and remarried?

Men, would you allow your children to call your ex-wife's new husband daddy?

If you married a woman who had children would you want them to call you daddy?

Women, would you encourage your children to call your new husband daddy?

Would your new husband ever replace their biological father in any aspect of the children's lives?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Yankees Win the World Series 2009

Found out from friends on FaceBook the New York Yankees won the World Series 2009.



A proud moment for New Yorkers and all Yankee fans. Congrats to my hometown - the greatest city in the world, and all my friends in the Bronx and New York. Wish I was there to celebrate with you.





Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Truth in Advertising

While walking in Maadi today I came upon a scene which I found very funny. Because the picture is not clear (I snapped it with my phone camera), I will describe it to you. There were two driving schools located right next door to each other. Parked directly in front of each was a run down dilapidated car, one of which had it's hood up. Talk about oxymoronic juxtaposition. Or maybe it was very fitting. I don't know. Those cars might not have anything to do with the driving schools - but it's hilarious seeing them parked right in front. I was tempted to go inside and ask them if those were the cars they use for teaching, but I didn't. But I guess if you are going to learn how to drive in Cairo, you might as well do it right. If you click on the picture you can see it a little better.


It's a "Cin"

Found these bottles of Egyptian made Spirits in a back corner of a market. You kind of want to avoid these types of alcohols and stick to the stuff from the Duty Free or Drinkies. In typical Egyptian fashion the label contains a spelling error. What is even funnier is the screw cap correctly reads "Gin" while the label displays "Cin".

Anyone for a Cin and Tonic?




Buying Dog Food in Cairo

When I first thought about moving to Egypt there was no doubt in my mind that my dog would come with me. But there was only one problem I could foresee - on my previous visits to Cairo I could not find any dog food. I went up and down the aisles at Carrefour and Metro and every other grocery store I went to, but the dog food section (if it existed at all) was relegated to a dark and dusty area consisting of about 3 square feet. In this space I was able to find cat litter, cat food, cat toys, and a one pound bag of dog food. That one pound bag was about 30 LE. This would not work for me by any means. My Rottweiler eats about one pound per day!

Typical American rationale: the dog food will be sold at the same place the people food is sold. Whenever I went to WalMart to shop for myself I could pick up a 35 pound bag of Purina Beneful. For a long time I would feed her Canidea brand that I would purchase from a feed store in Newburgh which was a 50 minute drive from my home. Once a month I would make the long journey and pay $35.00 for a 35 pound bag. After a while the money got tight and I had to switch to the Purina from Walmart since it was a lot cheaper. Now would I have to go back to paying astronomical prices in Egypt? Would I have to make her home cooked meals? I moved to Egypt with a 5 pound bad of dog food in my carry-on luggage. I would worry about what to do next after I got there. At least I had a 5 day supply with me.

In Egypt I discovered, in typical Egyptian fashion, there are stores that specialize in selling only pet food. I also discovered they have big bags of dog food after all. I decided to go for the economical brand that seemed to be widely available. A Purina Dog Chow imported from Spain. I don't remember how many Kilos the bag was, but it was 140 LE (around $24.00) and this would last for about 3 weeks. So it must have been approximately 12 to 15 pounds in weight. Similar in price and size to the bags of Purina I would buy in WalMart for $12.00. One thing I did not like about it was that it was packaged in plastic. Not good for the dog. She stayed on this food for her first year in Egypt. After that time, she began to develop digestive problems and changes in her bowel movements. I decided it was time to take her off this food and in retrospect, I wish I had done it earlier.

My husband found a pet store in another part of Cairo that had a brand imported from the US. He took me to check it out. It was a brand I had never heard of but it was manufactured in Evansville, Indiana of all places. I had always tried to stay away from "Dollar Store" brands with her and being this was a brand I had never heard of in the US, I was a little wary of it. But at this point I wanted her off of the imported food that was causing her problems. This was American made so I decided to try it. Now here is where the whole story gets funny. The store had three 50 pound bags. We were afraid that we would not be able to find this brand again because it is hit and miss with many imports in Cairo. The stores get one shipment and have the item one month, but when it gets sold out you may never see it again. So my husband made a deal with the shop owner to buy all three bags. A six month supply for us. 900 LE for the store owner. We loaded up the car and lugged all three bags up the four flights of stairs to our apartment. One of the bags ripped in the process and I had to quickly shovel the food into a trash bag. I introduced the new food slowly into her diet, mixing it at first with her old food, and gradually increasing the amount of the new. But her reaction to the food only got worse and not better.

In the end, we took the unopened bag back to the store and traded it for the Purina Dog Chow. We gave the opened bag away to a neighbor who has a large dog. The food in the trash bag was carted out to the street, little by little, and was strategically placed around Maadi for the street dogs.

After this fiasco we tried her on Royal Canin and she adjusted well to it (after eating cooked rice for a week). It is packaged in a foil bag and not plastic. The Royal Canin is available in a 17 Kilo bag (38 pounds) for the hefty sum of 480 LE which translates to a whopping $85.00. Nearly 3 times what I paid for the fancy organic food in the US. But she's worth it. :)

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We also found a great pet food store on Road 9 - Amin Pet Food & Accessories. They are very knowledgeable about pets and pet care and have a wide variety of foods and supplies for cats and dogs of all sizes. If they don't have something in stock they will try to get it for you. Of course, delivery is available.

Amin Pet Food & Accessories
76 Road 9 (across from Beanos)
Maadi, Cairo, Egypt

Telephone: (202) 23582857 - 23596182
Fax: (202) 25167837



A Quick Look: H1N1 Prevention

An H1N1 prevention banner hangs outside a school in Maadi.




Tuesday, November 3, 2009

My Dream Dinner Party

If I could have anyone to dinner I would like to have:

Sharon Osbourne
Paris Hilton
Victoria Gotti
David Lettermen

and I would take them to the Thai restaurant in the Four Seasons Hotel in Cairo.

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If you could have dinner with anyone (living or dead) who would it be?
Where would you take them?

Hijabs and Marriage in Egypt

Recently I was out with a group of women in Cairo. The discussion eventually came around to hijab when an American (who had only been in Egypt for a few weeks) asked "why aren't any of you Egyptian women wearing hijab? It seems like every woman in Egypt wears it."

Our group had three Egyptian women in it. Two who were full Egyptian and born and raised in Cairo. They were both young and unmarried and neither was veiled. The third woman was half Egyptian and half British and had spent most of her life living in the UK. She was in her mid 20's and had recently moved to Cairo on her own. She admitted to being veiled in the UK but had removed it upon moving to Cairo and was now unveiled.

We began talking about why women wear hijab and the point was raised that many women believe being veiled will help them find a husband. I mentioned the time that "G" and I were walking around in Tahrir one night in August randomly interviewing people on this very subject. We asked men: would you marry a woman who was not veiled? Surprisingly enough the overwhelming answer from men was a resounding NO. One young man, selling books on the street, said he would not even marry a woman who was wearing less than Khemar. In case you don't know what Khemar is, take a look at this photo. The two women on the left are wearing Khemar. This young man seemed to think that if his wife was only wearing hijab or not wearing it at all it would be an indication that she was "unreligious" and would not pray or fast.

"G" and I walked around Tahrir for hours that night trying to find an unveiled woman so we could ask her if she would become veiled if her husband requested her to. But we could not find any unveiled woman in Tahrir that night. So I asked the three women in my group.

Their response was all the same: No. But the one who was from the UK said that when she was previously veiled she had been proposed to by a man who told her he would marry her on the condition that she remove her veil. She refused. She did not want a man telling her what she could wear, but also did not want him telling her what she couldn't wear.

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What do you think about this subject? Women, would you become veiled for your husband? Would you stop wearing it if he asked you to? I want to get opinions from Egyptian women as well as foreigners. I would also love to hear from Egyptian men. Tell me how you feel about marrying a woman who is unveiled or how you would feel if your wife chose to stop wearing hijab.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Discussion About Marriage Proposals in Egypt

A comment was left on the post Email from an Egyptian Guy:

Anonymous said...

Hi, thanks so much for your comments, and I know it's very much about 'carrying on the family name and having children to look after you when you get older'. By the way, I don't live in Egypt, but have known my man for 2 years & gone back twice to see him - we are in process of doing his immigration papers. Believe me I was VERY CAUTIOUS at first(so many bad stories western woman & Egyptian men), but after all this time and what we've gone through it's finally sunk in that he really does love me genuinely. Last time I was in Egypt we married at lawyers office - his nephew is a lawyer (I guess you call it Orfi style). We could have done properly at Embassy / Ministry of Justice, but alot to organise and just didn't have the time etc. He always says to me that the worst mistake he's ever made in his life is that he didn't marry me properly the first time and that in his words 'he doesn't want to have an experience with another woman, only me'. Because of his past experience with women he is so cautious, especially about 'arranged marriage'. He is a lovely man - real honey! and always very honest with me about what his family put him through. So I would like to say that there are some really good Egyptian men - not all are bad, just unfortunately some (especially some in the resorts etc) give you guys a bad name (but this happens throughout the world, not just in Egypt. Can someone please tell me exactly what happens at first 'salon meeting' when you men have to meet a woman. Do you actually have to propose to her at first meeting, or do they just meet and say 'yes or no'?, then go back for a yet another meeting? We have talked about this, but not much as he knows it upsets me. He says he just has to go along 'to please his mother'. He has assured me not to worry & has promised he will not marry another woman. Even though he doesn't live at home (he has just moved to a flat), he still depends on his family (takes his washing to mother's to do) - that's when he gets 'hassled' about finding a wife - it's a bit like bribery - unless he marries an Egyptian, then he can't take his washing there! (Can you understand? They make him feel so uncomfortable and not nice to him. He says he will get a washing machine very soon - so hopefully that will solve the problem! Would love to have some more comments from Egyptians (men or women) about all of this. PS I'm from New Zealand (not United States or United Kingdom). Hope to hear from you soon - take care!!

October 31, 2009 9:26 AM


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Our reader wants to know about "salon marriages" and what happens during the first meeting when the man goes to the girl's family for presumably the first time.

It appears from her comment, that the man is being pressured by his mother to make these visits. Is anyone else (male or female) going through this experience now perhaps being pressured by the family?

What is your feeling and opinion on this?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Cairo Hash House Harriers

Walking or running in the desert might not be your cup of tea, but anyone living in Egypt for any length of time should check out the Cairo Hash House Harriers at least once. It's not for everyone, and certainly not for the faint of heart, but you might be pleasantly surprised at just how much you enjoy yourself. Bring your children, bring your dog, and bring LOTS OF WATER. Some of the trails can be quite long and grueling, so if you have any doubts about your ability to complete the walk you may want to hang back in the parking area and just enjoy the socializing afterwards (as I had to do on one occasion). The Cairo Hash House Harriers is a great way to combine exercise with meeting new people, and enjoying Egypt's breathtaking desert scenery.

Below are some photos from the 18th Annual Rehydration Run held on October 23.