Wednesday, May 11, 2011

May 11, 2011

Been back home for a few days now, amazing how slow the transition has been. I am glad classes don’t start for a few days – allows for both preparation and recovery. In summary, time in Egypt was too short, time at home is too short, life is too short. Too many things to do and see. Just not ready for a rocking chair. Endless thanks to friends and family for their support. Most of all thanks to Maria, without whom none of this would have been possible. Till the next time, next trip, next blog.
Thank you for putting up with my babbling.


May 6, 2011

Well, here it is the day before departure. Yom El Juma (the day of prayer) is also a good day to protest following the noon prayer. And so it was--not a good day to go to Tahrir Square but a really great time to go poking around the old parts of the city. Shops are open, everyone gone protesting, no heavy pedestrian traffic down the passages which have seen hundreds perhaps thousands of years of people coming and going. I got to see this first hand thanks to Ibrahim and Hanna, new friends, they and their family were a delight and I am much better for knowing them. At Hanna’s suggestion we went on tour of the old section of Cairo, visiting places like the place of Sultan Ghori, and surrounding buildings and areas of ages past. A wonderfully refreshing time. Lunch with the entire family brought closure to our time together. I shall always be in debt to Ibrahim, Hanna and all the others who made my stay in Egypt most memorable.

The final meal in Egypt was spent just like the first: with Drs. Frahim, Ibrahim, and Mohammad. All of whom made me a part of the faculty at Suez Canal University. My thanks to each of them, to the entire Faculty and to each of my students. I was very fortunate in that rather than having 150 students I really had 150 Arabic instructors. My thanks for all you have learned and for all you have taught me.

May 4, 2011

As advertised, the cab ride to the Ministry of Education was totally uneventful. Meeting was the idea of Noha Labib who is actually the Academic Programs Manager for Microsoft and is, without question, one of the most knowledgeable, energetic and focused educators with whom I have had the privilege of association. I cannot imagine anyone who would not be caught up in her enthusiasm. So there we were having tea with the shakers and movers of Egyptian education. It was a thoroughly productive and lengthy session. People with vision are beginning to emerge and it is truly an exciting time in Egypt.

After the meeting I sort of roamed around the old downtown area doing more looking than shopping. While wondering wherever I actually stumbled upon a familiar place. The Café Riche. Jose Llanes and I were introduced to this place by Dr. Ali Sweezi, a fine arts professor at Suez Canal University. The Café is a watering hole for the fine arts folks and has been such for a long long time. While there I noted a bearded, long haired American debating philosophical thought with a young woman whose ethnicity was a complete mystery (since we were close to the downtown campus of the American University Cairo, I assumed they were from there). On a lighter note, there was a table of French people and one man insisted on complaining about some sort of food problem. It struck me as humorous that someone who might willingly eat snails and patties of frog grass would complain about food. That was the end of a delightful day.

Tomorrow is Friday. A day of prayer and rest. Saturday depart for the land of the round door knob. In many ways this trip has been all too short, in other ways all too long. On balance I am grateful for the experience, grateful to those who made it possible. If the opportunity arises in the future, would I do this again? You bet I would.

May 3, 2011

Last lecture today. Prepared exam questions, finished one of two after-action reports for Suez University. Now back in Cairo, well fed but tired. Have a scheduled meeting with the Vice Minister of Education and the Vice Minister of Technology tomorrow. It has been a long time since I have had an exit interview at the national level. If we have lunch, I hope it comes with a table cloth.

Note: I asked Badr to take down the directions in Arabic so I could just hand them to a cab driver. Well one of the hotel guys drives a cab on his days off (like tomorrow) and another one of the guys (good bi-lingual speaker) needs a ride, same area, same time. Now I have cab on call, with escort and the prospect of a delightful time. Ya gotta love it.

May 2, 2011

Lots going on. Let me start with a couple of nights ago. Long ride, got in from Suez later than usual. The hotel guys (Rafiq, Ibrahim, and Badr) invited me to join them for dinner. They prepared a special treat that I had never had before-- they called if “mackarona”. Honestly, it was an excellent pasta and would have been good in any language. I suggested some “gibna” (that is Arabic for cheese – please note I am getting sooooo relaxed with the language here). Gibna, min fudluck. Any way after the gibna/cheese thing I suggested catsup. That did not go over very well. Rafiq suggested I either finish eating or take a ride in a black cab. I immediately resumed eating, cleaning everything on my plate including the hard-boiled bayd. This was enjoyable but the true night of Culinary Delight was yet to come.

Last night Maysaa’s brother and his wife invited me to diner. By the way if you don’t know who Maysaa Barakat is, she and her family are wonderful friends of our family and she is an excellent Arabic teacher. Enough of that – back to dinner. Brother Asser and spouse (I think I have gotten worse with names. His wife’s name is not spouse) story line continues…. Picked me up and we went off into the dark of night and Cairo traffic. We arrived at the Automobile Club. Ha, you say, went to AAA? Not on your life. In the first place this is Egypt. So it would be the EAA! But I digress. We entered a building which once was the playground for the now long gone King Farouk. This former entertainment center for royalty has been transformed into one of the high end eateries in the city (and conservatively classed among the best worldwide). Salad was served in the Salad Room. It wasn’t really salad like “let-us” but rather 12 plates of the most wonderful appetizers one could imagine. All had names, all were exceptional, and I don’t have a clue what they were called. I do know that if I ever see anything like them again, I will claim it all for me. Fair warning. Remember I have been to a Bedouin wedding so I know how to eat with my hands. I wanted to impress my hosts with my cultural ability but after my second handful I noticed they weren’t using their hands – they were just staring at me. I think they were really impressed especially when I wiped my fingers on the back side of the table cloth so the stains wouldn’t show. Only a real international traveler knows these things. We seemed to have been quickly moved to the main course room and having established my internationalness, proceeded to dine with proper utensils and there were a lot of those.

In sum, the dining, conversation and pure enjoyment could only have been better if Maria were with us. By the way, I really did not do all the bad things. I just wanted to see Maria’s reaction after reading this.

Monday, May 2, 2011

May 1, 2011

Very quiet day today. Slept late had fuol and tamiea breakfast with the guys who work on the 6th floor of the hotel. One of them vaporizes and Schazam, he returns with food. I have no idea where he goes and being reasonably familiar with the neighborhood, I have never asked. Rafiq and I went to Khan El Khalily this afternoon. This is the old market area (I think just for tourists). I can’t imagine what everyday people would do with statues of Nefertiti (in varying sizes) or an endless supply of “I heart Egypt” t-shirts.

The great part about today was that I broke my self imposed “black cab rule.” Rafiq hailed the dreaded black cab and as I began to scream and cry, he pushed me into the back seat and off we went. I learned many things today. First of all, Rafiq speaks less English than I speak Arabic. Most of our conversations begin with incomprehensible mumbling and end with both of us laughing. We have a deeply bonded friendship. By the way, Rafiq is a very large person with all the attributes of a professional boxer. Most impressive is his language ability. The Arabic word for “No” is “La” a quiet, soft, gentle word. And so it is when Rafiq speaks. However, the second time “La” seems to come out in all capital letters and would be roughly translated as “not in your lifetime, pig breath.” Even the drivers of the black cabs were impressed with his linguistics and happily lowered the fares as a sign of respect. We had a great time being pursued by shop keepers for most of the afternoon. Had a quiet cup of coffee and/or tea in a local back street tea house with hubblie bubblies at each table. Ha – gotcha. They use some kind of sweet smelling stuff not the famous hubblie bubblie tobacco outlawed in most parts of the civilized world. Besides, all it was doing was making Rafiq cough. An enjoyable day with lots of work tomorrow.

Farewell from the streets of Cairo.

April 29, 2011

Life continues. Yesterday I joined Ibrahim and his family for a late lunch/early dinner which was thoroughly enjoyable. Amir is a friend of Essam Abouzeida and meeting the family lived up to all expectations.
We ate at a fish restaurant which is a branch of a restaurant in Port Sayeed. Extraordinary seafood. I have decided that there is no more fuol and tamayia on the street corner. No, Sir. From now it is only upscale dining for me. Like the restaurants that float on the Nile or the Fish restaurant which has a better sounding name in Arabic but I forget what it sounds like. Chili’s is good as well as Kentucky Fried Chicken which are closer. A whole new vista of culinary delights.

Today is Friday, the Moslem Day of Prayer (sort of like a Christian Sunday except there is more praying). Most shops are closed as is the school. Saturday is the second day of the weekend. Sunday is the Lord’s Day for Christians so I will observe Sunday. Monday is Labor Day (a national holiday – no school). Do the math. Four days off. Excellent time to read, write, prepare lesson plans and visit places or sleep. I really feel the need to bring back these cultural perspectives to share with all those I love and miss so much.

Warm regards till next blog time

PS. Will have internet on Tuesday.