22 Signs You Were An International School Kid
Originally from Buzzfeed
Originally from Buzzfeed
I was sorely tempted, but I would be taking the same trip with my mother less than a week later, so I declined. Later, I found out that it wasn’t just a trip for teachers; it was a school-sponsored trip and Mr. A needed a few more teachers to chaperone the 16 middle and high school students going. Again, I declined. I’m doing the same trip a week later, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to hang around with a bunch of middle and high school students for four days. So, how is it that I found myself packed and ready to leave for the airport at 2 AM on December 22? I’m not really sure, but I’m glad I went.
The first day of school is always nerve-wracking, but it never really occurred to me that teachers might be feeling some anxiety as well. Now I know the truth: teachers are just as nervous (if not more) than the students!
Schools in Egypt were scheduled to start on Sunday September 1st of this year, but the curfew has wreaked havoc with daily life in Egypt. The start date was eventually pushed back to Saturday September 14th, and we all prayed that school would start. The extra time to plan, decorate, and panic was much-appreciated, but two weeks of sitting around in a school without students gets old fast.
Because we lost two weeks we need to catch up in any way we can, and one way was to start a day early and have a six-day work week. Not everything was working perfectly, though. Curfew may have been extended to midnight, but it didn’t end until 6 am. 6 am, though early, is not early enough for all students and staff to be at school by 7:45 am. So, to compensate for the first week we started late and cut a few minutes out of each period daily. This caused no end of confusion in hallways as some classes are showing up early while others are late. But we muddled through.
The administration realized that the curfew may never be lifted so a new plan was implemented: keep the old schedule, just push everything back an hour. More confusion, and drama as kids are kept until 3:30 pm.
Finally, the curfew was pushed to 5 am, allowing kids and staff to get to school by 7:45. A day of sleepy faces and we were all right on track. Just in time for After-School activities to start. These are mandatory and mean that everyone stays at school until 4. Joy.
I teach 5th grade, which has a total enrollment of 9 students. That’s right, NINE kids in the whole of the 5th grade. It’s awesome. In less than a day I’d memorized my students names and gotten to know their personalities. They get a lot of individualized attention, and grading nine papers is no big deal. My students are a bit of a challenge, being at an awkward age, but we’ll learn together. I’ve also heard some stories about their antics last year and they’ll definitely keep me on my toes.
On Mondays I teach drama to 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th graders. They have so much energy! Thankfully I have an ‘assistant’ in the form of a reluctant middle school teacher: Mr. Luke. Mr. Luke’s activity (debate club) was canceled and his choices of activities to join were: drama, girl’s soccer, or preschool water fun. So drama it is, with my group of 6 students, all under the age of 8.
On Wednesdays I wanted to do drama for older students, but not enough kids signed up. So, I’ll be doing the yearbook, instead. Hopefully that will go well.
Curfews suck, whether you’re a teenager, on parole, or especially if you’re living in Cairo.
Due to the political instability over the past few months the Egyptian government has imposed a curfew on the city of Cairo. From 6 pm until 6 am, no one may be out on the streets of Cairo. This measure was taken to curb the number of protests that have occurred, particularly on Fridays. Friday is a holy day for muslims, and many go to protest after attending prayers in a mosque.
Why is a curfew so devastating to the economy and people? you ask. Well, Egypt in the summer is a hot place; too hot to do many things during the day. To beat the heat most Egyptians become somewhat nocturnal in the summers, going out to dinner at 9 or 10 and staying out until the wee hours. A curfew means that people cannot go out and socialize, restaurants and cafes that rely on evening business are like ghost towns. No one is making money, and everyone is grumpy.
Curfew at 6pm doesn’t mean that you can be out until 6pm, though. It means you have to plan your day carefully, and very far in advance. For instance, you need to go grocery shopping for your family. You’ll have to go before noon, because the shops will be mobbed by two. All the shops will close at 4pm to allow staff the time needed to clean up and get home. Taxi drivers start heading home around 5 or 5:30, and if you can’t get a taxi, you have no choice but to walk home, risking being arrested for breaking curfew. So, you and a million other Cairenes are heading to the markets and grocery stores praying you get there before they decide to close.
Thankfully, the government realized that a 6pm curfew was incredibly damaging to the economy and the people and they pushed the curfew back to 9pm – 6am, except Fridays, when it is still 6 pm – 6 am.
Yet, I tried to go to Carrefour the day before yesterday at 6:30pm, and the staff were already rolling down the security gate. Curfew may not be until 9pm, but all of the workers still need to restock, clean, clock-out, and go home. Some of the workers may live as far as an hour away… Nothing to do about it but go home and try again another day.
Extending the curfew until 9 pm alleviates some of this annoyance, but not all. On the other side of the day, no one can leave their homes until 6 am. This poses a problems for schools, which are scheduled to begin on September 1st. At my school, we have 8 busses to pick up our students, who live in many different parts of Cairo. Some children have rides as long as an hour to get to school by 8am. These busses require drivers and matrons,* who must be on the bus and ready to go get students before 6 am. But staff can’t be on the bus by 6 am if they can’t leave their own houses before 6 am. You with me so far?
This means that school cannot start on time. The Egyptian government decreed that schools must push back their start dates from September 1st to September 21st. A loss of three weeks would mean Saturday classes and long days, a fate that no one wants. All of the local international schools got together to petition the government to open earlier, say the 8th. No luck, any school opening earlier would be breaking the law and subject to serious consequences. Yikes.
Eventually a compromise was reached and school will officially begin on September 14th. Perhaps the curfew will be lifted by then as well.
So what do we do in the meantime? Well, we are going to participate in a Lock-In! A local club is sponsoring an event for teachers this weekend, where we will be locked in to the facility from 9pm until 6am the following day. Drinks will be had, games will be played, friends will be made, it’s going to be great.
But, it would be nice to see Cairo as it is meant to be seen: as a thriving city with a vibrant nightlife that brings color and life to the everyday.
*a matron is a local woman who rides the bus with the children. She will use a cell phone to call parents and let them know the bus is around the corner, and also help keep order on the bus.
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.
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 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…
First impressions of Egypt:
Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day
Like stuff adults write. But funnier.
The Best of the visual Web, sifted, sorted and summarized
AS I TOLD THE GIRL THAT I LOST MY VIRGINITY TO, THANKS FOR LAUGHING AT ME HERE TODAY.
still an outsider in my home country
An American expat living in Kuwait and totally clueless!
A peaceful place to relax while on my wild joyride to Egypt from South Carolina.
He likes movies. She likes baking. They YouTube.
Lost and found in translation - my expat life in Mexico