Wednesday, April 20, 2011

April 20, 2011

Let’s start with yesterday. I was prepared to offer an undergraduate class a guided discussion on the subject of classroom effectiveness. Nooooo problem. The first hint was when they told me the room had changed and off we went. Entering the new room I found a lecture hall with approx 150 faculty and graduate students already seated. The situation was less than thrilling. Upon finding out that they were expecting a “Workshop” on the topic not a Lecture on Dissertation and Thesis creation comparisons between the U.S. and Egypt. It seems that in a lecture, the speaker speaks and in a “workshop” they can ask questions. Pulling up some slides from the Dissertation Seminar, off to “Workshoping” we went. End result – it is amazing how similar our methods are. There is some variance in Chapters 2 and 3 but much more similarity than difference. A request was made to continue next week. Will be interesting to see if the delivery changes with advance notice. Learning point: even if you don’t know what it is, prepare for it. Always, always have more material prepared than you think you will need.

That was yesterday. Today Badar, our driver, picked me up early and we drove to the sanctum sanctorum somewhere in the inner workings of Cairo. After carefully negotiating narrow streets reminisant of a Humphrey Bogart movie, we stopped and Badar gestured for me to get out of the car. We were at a sidewalk tea shop. Actually, there were two propane bottles each powering burners, one for water, one for some kind of bean looking almost soup. The “chairs” were concrete blocks from some long ago destroyed building, no tables and our roof was a tree. Several “working folks” were gathered and viewed the American with curiosity and sincere interest. Badar introduced me to several of them as well as the owner. The best part of the restaurant was the owners “hubblie bubblie” a large smoking devise which uses scented tobacco. I don’t know what he was smoking but he really liked it. He suggested that he was ready to move his restaurant to America since he had his first American customer. When the others told him he would have to leave his hubblie bubblie in Egypt, he said that he would stay. Everyone had a good laugh at the proprietors’ expense. Bader and I finished our tea and went on to pick up Dr Frahim. A great beginning to a great day.
Regards from Suez

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

April 19, 2011

Will have a free extended weekend this weekend. Friday and Saturday are the normal weekend plus Sunday (just sort of thrown in) and Monday is Easter. Yes, Easter is a legal holiday here is this predominantly Moslem country. Will be spending time in Esmilia. This is an old city, more to do there than in Suez. Will be visiting a High School there and looking forward to going. Have acquired two students here, one Master’s and one Doctorate. The Master’s student, Eman Yahya, defended her thesis proposal last Sunday. Three hours of grilling in Arabic and English. When it comes to defense or exams, these folks do not play games. Approximately 75 in attendance, a least 15 faculty and each of them had a question or comment. Fun to watch. Eman did extraordinary well, for which I am thankful because the process was turning me into a nervous wreck. That’s about all for now. Best wishes from the land of sand.

Monday, April 18, 2011

April 16, 2011

A little behind in blogging but will try to catch up. Class went well last Wednesday. On the way to Cairo, Dr. Frahim (Suez Canal University VP), another faculty member, and I stopped by a large steel producing firm. Dr. Frahim had an appointment with the managing director of the facility. We met in a large modern board room, all the electronic gizmos you would ever want and a setting that made the business world appealing. The four of us had coffee and the primaries engaged in small talk. During the conversation the Director reached into his pocket, produced a checkbook, and proceeded to write a check and hand it across the table to Dr. Frahim. The check was for the cost of a Mosque to be built at the University. One check: one Mosque. This had to be a fundraisers dream. The fascinating part is that the check originated in the hands of a Christian and passed to a Moslem. The Christian community in Egypt was present before the time of Mohammed, and remains a vibrant part of the Egyptian landscape. Unfortunately, supportive acts across faith go on typically unnoticed. While acts of terror and the stupidity of fanatics are reported with such frequency they almost appear “normal.” In my limited experience, I find caring acts across faith far outweigh the negative behaviors of the intolerant.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

April 13, 2011

Today was another fast mover in ole Egypt. Participated in an Open Seminar (about 200 faculty and students in attendance). Panel members included past and present Deans from Suez and other universities as well as a couple of university vice presidents. I find that there are times when the loudest voice is the one that speaks least. Besides my Arabic is not all that good, so it is easy to sit and look intellectual. Anyway I was struck by the common issues between here and at home. The topic for the seminar was “The Future of the College Of Education.” We discussed everything from staffing, salaries, community involvement, faculty development, governance and student involvement. It was very enlightening to find that we (at home) are not the only ones facing these issues. Seminar was long but very worthwhile. Rest of the day was spent with students or traveling back to Cairo. All is well.

Monday, April 11, 2011

April 9, 2011

Had a really great weekend. Started Thurs and Fri with Maysaa Barakat’s father. He is retired Egyptian General Officer (Engineers). We had lunch on Thursday at the Nile River Yacht Club in Cairo. Joined by the Club Master (another retired general) and spent the afternoon discussing lateen sails, light winds, cross current, big ships, small boats and just about everything nautical.

After lunch we drove to Tahrir Square (where the revolution began). All was peaceful.

Friday we went to the General’s home outside Cairo in Obari. Joined his neighbor and long time friend (another retired general) and later a third friend showed up. Had Brunch and then dinner. No restaurant could produce food of the quality we had there. Besides, I can’t remember when I have seen so many generals. We watched the Friday riots at Tahrir Sq with great interest and discussed history, government, and the future of many things. It was a wonderful intellectually exhausting evening.

Got up Sat in time to visit Tahrir Sq. When we got there (Dr Frahim and I) the major riots were over. Still had a burnt bus and a truck still on fire. Small groups debating things about which I am sure they knew less than I. Really an exciting time to walk around the birthplace of the Revolutiuon. Peace is coming slowly, only one killed the day prior. After taking pictures we had coffee and went shopping. Could not ask for a better day.

PS. Not worried about personal security. Very safe all the time. I also carry a nijab so if things get exciting they cannot see I am an American….

TA TA from Cairo

April 5, 2011

Trip over was great. Flew in on KLM. I was supposed to change planes in Amsterdam but Cairo was closed and I had to stay overnight in Amsterdam. Oh poor me. After arriving in Cairo the plane was greeted with the largest rainfall in the last 5 years (so I am told). Roads were covered with water, low areas became lakes. It was terrific. Puddles in the road were just another excuse for a vehicle wreck. Traffic here makes Rome, London, New York, and Tokyo look like kiddy land. I spend 4 hrs + per day being driven between Cairo and Suez City. Most of it is desert – all of it is traffic.

The Schedule: Our weekend is Fri and Sat. On workdays, I get picked up about 7:00 am and off to Suez. On Monday, I have a 10:45 am Adult Ed Class with Dr. Mohammed Sweylem. He has developed an excellent classroom style. The students have adjusted well to a little Arabic and a little English. Their questions are exceptionally well thought out and insightful. They are truly a reflection of the best of the Jan 25, 2011 Revolution.

Tuesday: Two classes; another Adult Ed Class in the AM and a Research Class for Faculty and advanced graduate students in the PM.

Wednesday: A research class for students in the PM.

Thursday: An advanced graduate student seminar. We have our own student developed agenda: presentation techniques, assessment, and what to do after a revolution (just kidding) and writing.

Camel loads of luv from Suez