Idioms are a weird thing in any language. They make total sense to native speakers, but are nonsense to language learners. For example, telling someone “I’m all ears!” means you’re listening intently, not that you’re made entirely of ears. Or the phrase “let the cat out of the bag” has absolutely nothing to do with felines or purses, but is all about telling secrets.
Have you ever had a minor problem just snowball out of control? I have. During my first week of school it happened in an epic way…
I have 18 students on my roster this year. A big leap up from only 9 last year, but still manageable. The first week is always the toughest, and on day 3, there was a bit of a mix-up that turned into a full-scale problem.
The school I work for sells notebook packages for each student. I decided how many notebooks students would need over the course of a school year and ordered exactly that many for my students. Parents then pay for the notebooks to be delivered to the students in class, or pick them up when at school. All fine and dandy. Students all have the same kinds of notebooks and there is no envy. (Of course there are always parents that insist on purchasing cheaper notebooks elsewhere, but it’s not a major issue.) This year, I’ve ordered exactly 222 LE (about $31) worth of notebooks for each student.
Over the course of the week I’ve met several parents who are concerned about not having purchased notebooks yet, and I assure them that this is normal, and the real work of notebooks won’t begin until the next week. No big deal.
Midday on Tuesday my students are all gathered in the hallway trying to get themselves ready for Arabic class. As I’m herding cats, er… children, into line one of my students, Sh, looks up at me and asks, “Miss where are my notebooks?”
I live across the street from a mosque here in Egypt. Since I’m not muslim, I’ve learned to ignore the calls to prayer, but my daily schedule more or less coincides with them. Early morning – time to get up, midday – lunchtime, after sunset – bed time. But what if you’re not a teacher? What if you’re a belly dancer or a singer who works nights? Then what do the calls to prayer signal for you?
Midday Prayer = Time to wake up
Wake up you lazy bones! You can’t sleep the whole day away.
If you’re going to go to Ikea, pick a time when it’s not busy. In Egypt (and most of the Middle East, I assume), that time is Friday mid-morning, before prayer. Friday is the holy day here, and is celebrated by Christians and Muslims alike. Most people sleep in leaving the streets bare and ghost town quiet. It’s a good time to go shopping at major stores and malls like Carrefour or Cairo Festival City (CFC), but don’t expect the corner shop to be open.
Therefore, at 11 am on Friday, I took a taxi with some new co-workers to Cairo Festival City to go shopping. As with the last time we came to CFC, it took the driver five minutes to figure out how to enter to the mall parking lot. There is plenty of parking, but most of it is blocked off, and no one really knows why. The cab driver finally determined that taking us directly to the door of Ikea was not an option, so he dropped us at the nearest entrance and we wandered through the mall to get there.
Ah, it’s nice to be back in Cairo. The longer I was away, the harder it was to come back. I had a great summer (England, Glastonbury Festival, Buffalo, Seattle) and I didn’t want it to end. Now that I’m back in Egypt I remember all the things I love about it here. The people, the culture, the sense of adventure…
That’s not to say that Egypt isn’t without its trials. In fact, I encountered a trial just yesterday: