As Mother’s Day comes around I’m reminded of just how lucky I am to have the family I do.
At the beginning of last school year one of my fellow teachers was venting about the frustrations she was experiencing with her family. She hadn’t heard from them in weeks, not since she’d moved to Egypt. They hadn’t called, emailed, skyped, sent messenger pigeons…nothing. I tried to sympathize, but I realized that I had no idea what it was like to not have a supportive family. Sure, we have our ups and downs, but when the chips are down, we’re all there for each other. We call or skype on birthdays, major holidays, and just because. I probably talk to my father more when I’m on the opposite side of the planet than when I live thirty minutes away from him.
By the end of this week, every single member of my immediate family (mom, dad, and two brothers) will have visited me while I’m living overseas. How lucky is that?
There are downsides, of course, to living so far away. I haven’t gotten or given a birthday hug in five years, I’ve spent a few Christmases by myself, and I can’t be there when my brothers or parents need me.
In honor of my amazing family here are some fun pictures of the adventures we’ve had since I’ve moved overseas. More will come after Dad concludes his visit.
Mom and I on a horseback riding adventure.
Steady as she goes.
I got Mom on a horse!
Silliness in Mongolia. Who doesn’t need a decent fur hat?
Mom found coffee!
Mom and I attend a traditional Mongolian wedding.
Mom speaks to the Mongolian mother of the bride.
Everyone loves a good photo op.
Nick and I just after he arrived in Beijing.
Almost all the pictures I have of Nick involve food of some kind.
Nick explores Beijing.
Nick and I enjoy a beer on the Great Wall of China on New Year’s Day.
Nick at the Great Wall of China.
Cooking class with Nick in Beijing.
Where does my sister live?
Mom in front of the Great Pyramid of Khufu.
Mom and I visit the Great Pyramids of Egypt.
Walk Like an Egyptian!
Mom explores the spice market of Luxor.
Mom and I take a short boat ride to Philae Temple.
In front of the Muhammad Ali Mosque
Joe and I at the Pyramid of Khufu (aka Cheops).
This would look great in my backyard.
Joe and I visit the Great Pyramids of Egypt.
Where are these pyramids you speak of?
Joe visits Karnak Temple.
31 Important Things You Learn When You Move Across The World
1. You learn how much unnecessary stuff you own when you attempt to pack it into a reasonable, movable state.
2. And when you’re forced to get rid of some of it, you realize what is truly important to you.
*This process is particularly traumatizing if you’re a book lover.
3. You learn that somehow, every country in the world gathers to play football for a month, but we can’t all agree on one type of electrical plug.
4. So your entire home is littered with adapters, which are your new life support system.
5. You realize that while you thought you possessed a general understanding of money, you actually only understand value in your currency.
6. So, depending on where you’ve moved from and to, your constant conversions teach you how rich or poor you actually are.
7. As much as you may have cursed and loathed it in the past, you learn that Google Maps is a godsend in an unfamiliar city.
8. In fact, the internet in its entirety is a lifeline.
9. You learn that absence makes the heart grow self-aware.
It teaches you which of your relationships were most meaningful, and which ones were simply based on convenience and proximity.
10. To keep up the former kind, you get really, really good at constantly doing time-zone calculations.
11. And you learn, quickly, that conventional sleep schedules are a luxury afforded by people whose loved ones all live in one time zone.
12. All the mundane things you take for granted about a place become the things you miss the most.
13. Even if you’ve never, ever realized it before, you’re suddenly aware 24/7 that you have an accent.
14. And a couple of months after moving, you learn that it’s subject to change.
15. The things that stay constant from place to place – even if you didn’t love them before – are now havens of comfort.
16. You learn that a house is not a home until it has Wi-Fi that automatically connects.
17. And a bed you look forward to sleeping in.
18. You learn about the universe of free international calling/messaging apps that exist for vagabonds like you.
19. And, very soon after, you learn their limitations.
20. You learn that the most important words to learn in any language are “I don’t know how to speak this language.”
21. And, tied for a close second, are: who, what, when, where, and fuck you.
22. You learn that your passport is as important to you as most of your loved ones.
23. You learn that forms that ask for a “permanent address” are evil, and didn’t account for people like you.
24. You learn that the most acceptable and innocent acts in one culture are punishably offensive in others.
25. You learn that “where are you from?” is an incredibly difficult question.
Miramax Films/Paramount Vantage
26. You soon memorize a short answer and a longer, more honest one.
27. And it takes a long, long time, but you eventually get pretty good at figuring out who wants which.
28. Most importantly, you learn that to drop everything and move somewhere new is as rewarding as it is terrifying.
29. And you wouldn’t be half as brave, thoughtful, or self-aware if you hadn’t done it.
30. You learn that “home” isn’t a place – it’s the people you come to love there.
31. And you learn that the world is a huge, thrilling adventure just waiting to happen.
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?”
Categories: Egypt, Teaching
Tags: adventures in (mis)communication, Egypt, Humor, International school, life abroad, notebooks, parent, school supplies, Student, Teacher, teaching
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.
Categories: Egypt, Life Abroad
Tags: Cairo, Cairo Festival City, Egypt, expat, Expatriate, Friday, Friday prayer, IKEA, life abroad, New Cairo, pictures, prayer