Just a glimpse into what I see around here … courtesy of the iphone.
I will admit that ever since the crazy riots I’ve had a hard time deciding what to write about. It was hard for me to figure out how to transition from writing about riots to everyday life. It somehow seemed wrong to go from “Hey, life is great ..” to “Oh man .. they burned our flag …. “ But, you know what, that’s pretty much what happened. One day the American Embassy was in the midst of mass chaos and the next it was business as usual. I attribute this to 2 things … 1) (I’ve mentioned this a few times already) We had a great team on the ground doing everything they could to control the situation and 2) Egyptians are like toddlers — they sporadically burst into a fit and then — it’s over as quickly as it started.
So … it’s back to business as usual in my house too. And my blog post for today is titled “Pick that up!” because I was chatting with a friend last night, and I was talking about a couple things that … no matter what I do or how well I acclimate, I’m not sure I will ever get used to.
One of those things being the littering. I’m not talking about the piles of trash on the side of the road or the lack of organized garbage collection … I’m talking about the act of littering. The piles of trash have become part of the scenery for me ….. they now blend into the surroundings and it’s just part of what I see out here … But …. to actually watch somebody throw trash on the ground ….. UGH. I just can’t get used to that. I was driving the other day and all of a sudden a Coke can goes flying out the window of the car in front of me. I was appalled. Never mind that fact that there are families of four piled on tiny motorbikes on major freeways with no helmets … never-mind the fact that 2 dudes had a fender bender and are yelling at each other in the middle of the road .. or the fact the there was a guy in a hole in the middle of the street with absolutely no safety measures around him at all. Oh no … all this is going on around me and my jaw is dropped because somebody threw a Coke can out their window.
So anyway … the riots have subsided and life is peaceful, but the littering continues …..
Now, we carry on.
My kids went to school this morning. My husband went to work. I did a quick workout and picked up the house a bit. Truth be told, our life wasn’t really disrupted during the riots at the Embassy. It would be wrong of me to overlook the fact that there were many who were affected — mostly the Marine Guard force and the security officers — & their families who waited at home while they guarded the Embassy. But, as far as my little family goes, we were safe and sound thanks to those who were willing to serve to protect our interests. Isn’t that the way it always goes for us Americans. We often hear the phrase “freedom isn’t free” …. well, sometimes, neither is your security.
I still love Egypt. I want to stay. I’m still not scared.
I’m horrified and saddened by the events in Libya and Tunisia and around the Middle East. It was senseless and unreasonable and …. why do people have to die over …..what? … I’m not even sure. It’s just awful. It’s not right and It’s not fair …. but it is.
I now see how quickly things can change around here ….. How emotions and hard times can cause people to be unreasonable and irrational. I think the rioters were merely pawns in a much bigger game being played around the world. The Middle East — although it has been around since the beginning of time — still seems to have trouble defining who it is and what it wants.
I found this article very interesting You should really read it ….. Peter Hessler writes exactly what I imagine the atmosphere and attitudes of the Cairo protesters to be. There was one quote that just amazed me … this 18 yr old protester said “The United States says that they are the strongest country in the world, but they can’t stop this movie. How can that be true? They should either stop the movie, or they should stop saying they are the strongest country in the world.” Wow. It’s almost sad. Does he really think our “country” is going to stop this movie or that it’s somehow responsible for it? Obviously, he has no idea what it really means to have freedom of speech.
When we lived in Monterey, Ca we met many international students attending the Naval Post Grad School programs. I once asked some German friends we made “So, which do you like better …. US or Germany?” Her answer was very telling ….. She replied ” I think living in another country makes you appreciate all the great things about your country, but …you also begin to realize what your country probably needs to change.” Simple enough, but very true. So, today I fully understand what freedoms our first amendment rights grant us and what an amazing thing that is …. but, I also think we need to open our eyes to the fact that most people truly don’t understand that.
And just so we are all clear …… the Marines really did have ammo in their guns …..
Carry on ….
I find this picture disturbing. They are boys … young men … They are the future of Egypt. That thought plagues me.
The riots in the Middle East continue today. As far as I know, the American Embassy in Cairo is holding steady and riot police are doing everything they can to fend off protesters. Tomorrow (Friday, 9/14) will be a tell of what’s to come. Morsi has released statements giving his approval of the protest, but, of course, he denounces the violence. He has actually encouraged and called for mass protests tomorrow after Mosque lets out. Things in Maadi remain quiet and we intend on spending the weekend with some good food, movies, and friends. As I wrote yesterday, I have complete confidence in the Marine Guard and RSO protecting our embassy and their personnel.
Just in case you were wondering, the US Embassy in Cairo is not issuing visas today. I seriously doubt they issue any tomorrow either ….
Incase you haven’t heard, READ THIS. …..
Just so you all know, Maadi is quiet and seems unaffected. Despite the turmoil the American Embassy endured last night, life goes on as normal. My kids went to school today, my husband went to work, and I went to the commissary & Carrefour. Actually, I drove around alot today and didn’t experience anything out of the ordinary.
I did spend about 3 hours last night following news stories and trying to figure out what was going on. I kept up with the news all day too. You need to understand that, in Egypt, demonstrations and protests are common. They happen weekly, if not daily. These people have new found freedoms and they like to use them … specifically the freedom to raise hell. They are like kids who are deprived of candy ….of course, all they want is candy. The thing about this protest is… it was targeted at the US Embassy. They were mad at us (Americans) … really mad.
They were mad (according to the news reports) because a few Americans made a movie portraying The Prophet Mohammad as a womanizing, homosexual, murderous, glutenous, lying fool. It wasn’t nice of these Americans to say such unkind things, but ….in the end, meanness isn’t against the law .. not in the US anyway. So … now the Islamist are mad at the US government because of something a few citizen of the country did. Seriously — It’s a mess.
But … I have complete confidence in the Marine Guard at the US Embassy. I happen to be good friends with an RSO’s wife. (oops … there I go talking in “alphabet” …. RSO = regional security officer) They are all smart and really good at their jobs. They are on top of the situation — I’m sure of it. They are keeping embassy personnel safe and guarding our compound. I’m alert — I’m aware — I’m not being naive, but — I’m fine — We are all fine. Hopefully this thing will all blow over before the weekend and we can go about our business. Inshaallah.
Keeps us in your thoughts and prayers, but please know …. We are all just fine and going about life as normal.
BTW — Thanks for all the kind notes of concern … I feel loved.
I don’t want you to get the wrong idea ….. I think my previous posts show that I am in no way miserable here in Egypt, but there are a few things that I do miss. So, here goes … I could only think of 5. ha.
1. Family – This is at the top of the list for a reason. I really miss the daily chats I used to have with my mom and sisters and good friends. I actually have the ability to call the states, but the time difference really messes things up. Email is good, but it’s not the same. I haven’t lived close to home since I got married, but I have never lived this far either …. It’s a small world we live in, but Egypt is still really far away from home.
2. Beauty/ Hygiene Products – Yes, we have soap. (I figured that would be the first thing that came to your mind) We have soap and we have not adopted any sort of love for
stinky people the all natural smell. But … we don’t have a very large selection of stuff to choose from in that area. The commissary does have a small selection of a few major brands, ie. Dove, Herbal Essence, Oil of Olay, but we certainly can’t get any high-end brands like Mac or Lush. Now, we can get all this stuff delivered via the APO, but we have to wait 2-ish weeks. I miss the convenience of walking into Target (oh, Target) or Macy’s and picking up what I need.
3. Easy Phone Calls – I know you’re thinking – Wha? Allow me to explain. If you have any experience at all with speaking to someone whose first language is not the same as yours, you know that it can sometimes be difficult. Accents and improper word use can make things confusing, but when you are face to face you have the advantage of body language and facial expression to help you communicate. All advantages are lost on the phone. I find myself speaking very loudly and sounding like a toddler who can only speak in 2 word phrases. Just to give you an idea of the difference …. here is a little mock conversation about getting the dry cleaning delivered ..
Now, the fun part is waiting to see what they bring. HA!
4. Lack of Boabs – I have already written about my boab beef so I’m not going to rehash it here, but I am also not going to encourage the rest of the world to subscribe to the idea of a boab. We have actually come a long way with our boab and everyone is getting along well now, but still ….. I could do without.
5. Green Space – I really hate to even mention this because we are one of the very few people here who has anything resembling a yard, but overall there is a serious lack of anything green here. I miss parks and trails and wide open spaces for the kids to run around in . The other day I saw an Egyptian family picnicking in a 4 foot wide grassy median that divides a boulevard — serious lack of green space people.
I’m now curious see if this list will grow the longer I’m here ….. hum.
And …. whats behind curtain #3?!?!?! It’s a vacation to Egypt!!!!! (((and the crowds go wild)))
Now you’re excited!! Yep, because, if you are looking at the above picture, you think you’re headed to a land of beautiful people in vividly colored clothing that sing and dance and live fantastically care free lives near blue water while musicians entertain them all day long.
(excuse me while I laugh out loud)
ok. I’m better now.
Seriously, I’ve never seen anything in Egypt like those people. Egypt is awesome, but I’m not sure how I would feel if I just showed up here for a vacation. And by that I mean, being a tourist in the most traditional sense. Spending approximately 5- 10 days in a place seeing all the major sights — not knowing anyone. Now that I’ve lived here a while I am certain that every tourist gets continually scammed from the minute they step on the sand. Rest assured that the Americans are the only ones paying to use the luggage carts that the guy in the corner of the airport corralled and said you had to pay 20LE to use. Yeah .. they’re free. The cab driver who takes you to your hotel will charge you 150LE for a ride that he normally charges 70LE for. Then .. you get to your hotel. I’m sure it’s a nice hotel with a concierge. Note that when you ask the concierge for help with something ….. he is calling his buddy and they have made arrangements to split the hefty profits they will make off you. When you go to the Khan or the Pyramids or wherever you are wondering, you will be constantly harassed to buy something or just give money away. Every vendor will charge you three times his normal price. Egypt offers history and culture, but you certainly shouldn’t expect a resort destination that will soothe your soul.
All that being said, if (on the off chance) you were planning a trip to come see me, you would have an awesome time. Why? Because I’m awesome. Ha, no seriously, mostly because I’ve been here long enough to know when I’m getting totally hosed. I might pay more than the Egyptians, but I’m certainly not paying as much as tourists. Not to mention, I have a house that offers a quiet (well, mostly quiet) place to step out of the craziness Egypt offers. Egypt is fun, but it can also be over stimulating. I can also offer you legit Egyptian food courtesy of Rere. I can also plan all your tours …. get the best prices and know the best places to go .. courtesy of the Embassy resources & the fact that I’ve done several of them. I’ll give you a tour of the Khan myself. … if you insist.
Oh, and if I ever find the beautiful people pictured in this post I will be sure you give you info on where they are and how to get there.
First, let me mention, that if you were to come to Egypt as the employee of an oil company or a contracting company you would not necessarily enjoy all the resources I will mention. A lot, if not all of the things that make Egypt feel more homey are all entities of the American Embassy. Because of the hub’s job, we are directly linked to the Embassy, but just being American doesn’t always allow these privileges.
So, here we go in no particular order.
1. Embassy Switchboard. Yep, it’s a phone number — exactly what you are thinking — a switchboard for phones and offices — essentially an operator. They can get you a phone number or connect you to the office of any and all American personnel. But the true glory of the American Embassy switchboard personnel is that they speak great English and are fluent in Arabic …. and, you can call them for just about anything. For example, I was trying to order some meds from a pharmacy, but the language barrier was getting rather frustrating, so … I call up the switchboard … they conference call the pharmacy and translate for me over the phone. Score! You can call them if you are in a cab and are having trouble communicating with the driver. You can call if you think you are in trouble somewhere and need help. They can also dial up the United States for you and patch the calls through so you can talk to anybody. So … Who ya gonna call?!?!?! Embassy Switchboard!
2. APO address. This is a fave. It’s just like having an address in the states. Same postage rates, same boxes, same USPS logo. We can get anything shipped via Amazon, Best Buy, Target, Old Navy — not that I shop online all that much or anything ;). It’s pretty much awesome.
3. Maadi House. It’s a club. They only let the cool kids, Americans people that pay in. It’s a mix of nationalities, but mostly British and American and even then … mostly American. What makes it so great is that it’s a completely walled in area with 2 pools, tennis courts, a playground, and a restaurant in it. It’s super family friendly and …. just for example … I was there yesterday from noon to 7pm. We ate a light lunch, the kids swam, there was a back to school party, they played on the playground, and then we stayed and ate dinner with friends. It’s one of those places where everybody knows everybody and there is always somebody to hang out with. And … I can let the kids run wild and play till they start droppin’ like flies from shear exhaustion … or the heat, whichever comes first.
4. Commissary. It’s a grocery store … just like what we have on our military bases … with American brands and products and American prices. And … they sell BACON. enough said. Pork is a hot commodity here. Oh, and … for all my Louisiana peeps, you know what else they sell … Tony’s! Can’t get that in California or Virginia, but I can buy it in Egypt.
5. Dip Id’s. It’s actually a tiny bit sad that I’m adding this to the list because the reason is so lame, but it’s my blog, so I’m doin’ it anyway. Dip Id is short for Diplomatic Identification Card …. and well, with a dip id you can park in the gated area right next to the Khan, and, Yep, for this reason, I find it to be a highly desirable little piece of plastic.
And, last, but not least,
6. Health care. I haven’t (knock on wood) used the health unit yet, but it is very comforting knowing that if we were to get sick or need basic medical attention, there are 2 health units here that are staffed and run according to American standards.
————— And, since I mentioned bacon earlier, I have to tell you that anywhere that you can get REAL bacon is a happy place to be. They sell this stuff here called “beef bacon” …. no matter what anybody says, it’s not bacon and it will never be a bacon substitute. People make t-shirts about bacon — nobody is willing to accept a substitute. —————
Thanks for reading my blog!!! I feel special!!
But, today is Saturday, and I am taking comfort in the fact that it is the weekend everywhere. Well, at least everywhere I have ever lived. :) Enjoy.
Lets think about this — Would you ever think it’s a “safe” idea to walk down a dark secluded alley alone in the slums? Would you ever think it’s a “safe” idea to meander alone through dark neighborhoods at night? Would you go to Burbon Street during Mardi Gras, flash your boobs and expect no one to look at you? Do you leave your front door wide open at night? Are you shocked when you see law enforcement with a weapon?
I’m gonna guess most of you answered NO to the above questions. If you answered YES, well, okay then. But, most of you will have answered NO … because none of those things are safe, smart or shocking –in ANY country. I don’t walk around dark places alone at night in the states. I certainly don’t dress like a skank. I always lock my door at night, and I expect the people protecting me to carry a weapon. This is all common sense.
The same goes for Egypt. Use some common sense and you will be fine. Do I go hang out in Tahrir square? No. That would just be ridiculous … but have i been there …yes, during the day with my hubs by my side. Do I plan on going back? Nah — it wasn’t that exciting. Do I walk down the road to the market alone after dark — not if I can help it, but if it’s close and well lit, I’ll consider it. Do I wear my shortest shorts and tightest tank tops? Absolutely not. That’s just plain rude and disrespectful to the local culture. If I did, would people stare — YES. Would it be my own fault? — YES. Does it scare me that the military walk around with guns? No. Cause they use the military around here like we use our police force. It is what it is.
The only thing in Egypt that makes me consistently uncomfortable is their complete lack of personal space. They don’t even remotely understand the concept of any kind of distance. Ha. But — they do this to EVERYBODY. It’s not like they are just trying to get close to me. It’s not personal and I don’t fell unsafe — I feel annoyed.
Generally, I stick out like a sore thumb. That being said, I also try not to drawn undue attention to myself. I pay attention to where I am and the general atmosphere. For the most part, the people are nice and helpful and if they talk to you it’s because they want to know where you are from or why you’re in Egypt. They are curious.
So, we are back to common sense. Don’t put yourself in a dangerous situation and you should be fine. Do bad things happen? Sometimes. (that “sometimes” applies to everywhere in the world, btw) You use common sense everyday where you live —- If you come to Egypt, use it here too. It’s that simple.
Ya know, now that I think about it …… the felling I experience the most in Egypt is Sensory Overload. It can be uncomfortable and, if you are a panicky kind of person, you will get panicky, but it’s not a matter of safety.
And, just so we can end on a personal note ….. I find it really quite insulting that anyone would think I would bring my children here to live in some horribly dangerous situation. Is it different? YES. Am I scared? Nope.