It’s official, I have moved to Cairo, Egypt. My next adventure has begun. Though not without a few bumps along the way.
It started in late June when I received an email from the director of the International School of Egypt asking for a Skype interview. I had to backtrack and lookup who was emailing me and from where. In the process of leaving my last job at Disney English I had signed up for a number of programs that aid teachers in finding international jobs and ended up emailing every school with a position and an email address that I could find. When ISE contacted me, I had to look back and remember just what I had signed up for.
The interview went swimmingly, and a few days later I was offered a position as a 5th grade teacher in Cairo. Calling my mother to let her know that I would no longer be spending a few years on her couch, attending graduate school was a tough conversation, but overall she was incredibly supportive. She posted this on her Facebook page:
Anybody else get a call from their daughter today saying that instead of coming home from Beijing for good, she just may be here for ten days before taking a job. In Cairo. Like, as in Egypt. No one? Just me? Thought as much…
People’s responses upon learning I was moving to Cairo, especially when things started to heat up, were varied and often funny. From my fellow expats in China I got mostly surprise and congratulations, though my dear friend Tom, upon hearing that I was moving to Egypt, said “Really? Why? Aren’t you afraid?”
My favorite response that I’ve heard is this one: “Wow, KIRO! Will she be working as an intern? Will she be on television?” KIRO is the local television station in Seattle, where my family lives, and both my mom and brother heard this response when describing my good fortune. Hilarious.
As my time at Disney English drew to a close I did my best to tour Beijing and see things I’d previously missed, including the Temple of Heaven, an acrobatics show, and 798, the art district.
Beijing’s Art District, better known as 798, has street art, galleries, restaurants, and endless knick knack shopping.
Two local artists spray paint a wall mural in 798, the art district.
These kitchen bowls are made to look like drops of water. Just one of the many things for sale in 798.
What do you see?
A dozen women balance on a bicycle as one of them pedals it around in circles. Very impressive.
7 people on 7 motorcycles managed to fit in that tiny cage and fly around.
7 motorcycles ride around in a sphere in the dark.
My friends and I after an acrobatics performance.
The Temple of Heaven.
Finally it was time to fly to Seattle and spend some quality time with my family before moving to Egypt. The 13 days I was in Seattle flew by in a flurry of shopping, laughter, and misadventures. There was so much to do, and quite a bit was left undone. I spent a lot of time with my family, but alas I did not get the chance to visit with many friends. They’ll just have to come visit me!
My last night in town my brothers, parents, and I went out to dinner and spent a few glorious hours reminiscing about our childhoods and our collective family memories. I haven’t laughed so hard or enjoyed myself that much in a long time. I will surely miss my family with an ache that cannot be measured.
My family. My support system.
Mom’s new death-defying hobby: motorcycles.
Fresh fruit for sale at one of my favorite places on the planet: Pike Place Market.
No trip to Pike Place Market is complete without a quick stop to the original Starbucks. Note the original logo, quite different from the green one we see today.
Signs found in Pike Place Market.
Vacuum (or pump) seal bags that suck out extra air are lifesavers for packing.
All of my stuff, carefully laid out for packing. None of it would have been possible without Mom’s help.
My flights to Egypt were rather uneventful, though it took 22 hours. Seattle to Chicago, Chicago to Amman, Jordan, and finally Amman to Cairo. In the Chicago airport I had a little trouble finding the connection to Royal Jordanian airlines, so I stopped to ask. In my tiredness (I hadn’t slept much the night before) I mistakenly asked for directions to Air Jordan, “No wait, that’s a shoe. I need to get to Royal Jordanian airways.” The woman smiled and pointed me in the right direction.
In Amman I met up with a few other teachers on their way to Cairo. Guy and Lindsey would be working with me at ISE as the music and middle school language arts teachers, respectively. The few other foreigners would be teaching at the American International School of Cairo. We almost missed our flight to Cairo because we misunderstood the final boarding calls. We were all sitting in the airport checking in online and dawdling on the Internet when a Royal Jordanian crew member came over and let us know that we were about to miss our flight. We all made it to the mostly empty flight, though.
We left Jordan just as the sun was disappearing over the horizon so my first view of Cairo was a little disappointing, just lights in the darkness below the plane. The heat hit me in a wave as I exited the plane and I said to myself “Welcome to the desert.”
We rode a bus to the terminal and before we could pick up our luggage the three of us teachers for ISE had to buy tourist visas for $15 each. Due to some confusion in finding the bank we were a little late to the baggage carousel and there were no luggage carts available. Not a big problem for me, having learned my lesson flying from Beijing to Seattle. While heavy, I could still move my entire luggage myself if necessary. Not so with my companions, whose baggage reached epic proportions. I began to worry that I hadn’t brought enough with me. Oh well, too late to do anything about it now.
After a brief stop for inspection (backpacks only) we made it out to the kiss and cry area of the airport and were met with signs with our names on them. The head of school was there, along with her husband, the art teacher, and their daughter, the 3rd grade teacher, another weary traveler, the middle school social studies teacher, who had arrived a few hours earlier, and an Egyptian logistics expert, Margaret. We piled our luggage into the school bus and journeyed to our apartment building.
On the bus ride Luke, the middle school social studies teacher, and I discovered we had both served in the Peace Corps. Myself in Mongolia, he more recently in Indonesia. It also turns out that on his post-service travels he had toured Mongolia and met a friend of mine who still lives in the city. *Cue music: It’s a small world after all…
Construction at Queen Aliya International Airport. My first thought was that perhaps a bomb had gone off.
The combined luggage of three people moving to Cairo. Minus a few carry-on pieces.
My first encounter with Egyptian hospitality (and tipping). Many of the porters were eager to help us with our multitudes of luggage.
The school bus.
My apartment’s living room.
My kitchen. I look forward to making some excellent meals here.
My bed is huge, an extra large King!
Lots of closet space.
The mosque across the street. I look foward to the call to prayer every morning.
First impressions of Egypt:
- Friendly, helpful people
- Construction everywhere
- Curfew (7 PM to 6 AM)
- Huge apartment