Friday, October 31, 2008
But then I read Bridget's blog and my memory was jogged, so I'll spare you the socialist story this week.
Instead I'll tell you about one of the scariest nights in my life, which is actually two nights, the second of which was a whole lot scarier than the first.
I don't remember what year it was, quite, but I was old enough to babysit and we still lived in High River so I was no younger than 12 and no older than 15. My friend Jocelyn had invited me to sleepover. She lived out by the river on an acreage. Her family had their own swimming hole that we frequented, a hot tub, a tree house, and many other cool commodities we in-towners just had to do without.
It must have been summertime because this particular night we decided to sleep out on the back deck. We built a fort out of sheets and blankets and put sleeping bags down. It was going to be fun, and just a little bit scary.
Maybe I'm a wimp, but I've always been a little nervous about sleeping outdoors under the stars. Tents make me feel safer, although I'm not sure why. That thin layer of nylon isn't going to do much against a cougar or bear.
So I was already a little nervous about sleeping outside when Carlee, Jocelyn's older sister, started telling us a ghost story. It was more of an urban legend, which for me is worse than a ghost story because it could actually be true. Although I don't believe in ghosts, I do believe in people.
In a nutshell, the owners of an old house had hired a babysitter and went out for the evening. The babysitter put the children to bed and turned on the television. She heard the pipes rattling around in the basement, blamed it on "house noises" and turned the television up a little louder. The banging pipes got louder, so she turned the television up again. And on it went. The banging on the pipes got louder and louder, and she'd turn the television up louder and louder.
Finally she couldn't handle it anymore, went and got the kids out of bed and ran over to the neighbour's house. They called the police, who came and looked in the basement and found an escaped serial killer banging on the pipes with a wrench, trying to lure the babysitter downstairs.
Just typing that sends shivers down my spine. I was so scared after hearing that story, but I somehow managed to make it through the night, outside, without getting eaten alive by a cougar or attacked by a serial killer. Two of my greatest fears, if you couldn't tell.
A few nights later...maybe even a week or two later...the Blocks asked me to babysit for them. I babysat for them a lot and always had a lot of fun. (As a side note, Camille, the older of the two kids I babysat, is apparently engaged. That also kind of freaks me out, but has nothing to do with this post.) She was like 10 at the time, and her brother was probably like 5. I really have no idea and it isn't really all that important. I was babysitting them.
Sister Block had made dinner before going out and the dishwasher was almost completely loaded. My instructions were to feed the kids, finish loading and start the dishwasher, play until bedtime, put kids to bed. Simple enough.
So we had already eaten and started the dishwasher and were on step three: playing until bedtime.
Most of the toys were in the basement, so that's where we were playing. The basement was mostly unfinished, so that meant there was a lot of room to run around uninhibited by walls and things. The only finished parts were the furnace room and an office, both behind closed doors.
We were having a great time. And then the noises started. Bang! Bang! Bang!
At first I was able to ignore them, passing them off as "house noises" and wishing them away. As seconds ticked by, though, I became increasingly panicked.
Bang! Bang! Bang! I heard again.
My heart stopped, but I tried to keep my thoughts logical.
"The dishwasher!" I thought. I ran upstairs and threw it open to see if anything was rattling around inside but the wash cycle had already finished and the dishwasher was silently drying the dishes.
I ran back downstairs and heard the noise again. A distinct banging noise. Bang! Bang! Bang!
All I could think about was a serial killer lurking somewhere in the basement.
"Let's go upstairs," I suggested to Camille and Hayden.
They insisted that upstairs was boring and that they still wanted to play. Could they not hear the banging noise? I didn't want to frighten them, so I didn't mention it.
"I think we should go upstairs," I suggested again.
They countered that it wasn't quite bedtime yet.
"Get upstairs now," I said, on the verge of screaming.
They hightailed it upstairs, brushed their teeth, and went to bed without even being told to.
The banging noise continued. Still trying to be rational, I checked the doors. The front door was locked, but the back door was unlocked. Not exactly an uncommon thing in the small town I lived in, but even there I was an obsessive compulsive door-locker and could not imagine that I would leave the door unlocked. But there it was, unlocked.
Bang! Bang! Bang!
Now I was completely on the verge of hysterics. I picked up the phone and dialed home. 652-5555. I'm dead serious. That was our home phone number. When my dad went in to set up our phone he asked for something easy. That's what he got. Another benefit of living in a small town, I guess.
My mom picked up and I'm sure she could hear all the emotion in my voice. I've never been very good at hiding my emotions.
"Can you come over?" I wailed, "I'm hearing noises and I'm scared."
"Where are the kids?"
"They're in bed." *sniff, sniff*
"What's wrong, exactly?"
"Well, the backdoor is unlocked and I keep hearing banging noises in the basement and..."
I was going to say that I didn't know what I was going to do but just then the phone went dead. I hung up and checked for a dial tone. Nothing. Someone had cut the line. I was doomed. I started sobbing like only someone who knows they're about to be attacked by a serial killer sobs.
Three minutes later I was startled out of my crying fit by heavy steps on the front porch and a fist pounding on the door.
This is it, I thought, It's over.
I ran to the door and peeked outside. It wasn't a serial killer. It was my mom. Yes, she loves me.
Another benefit of living in a small town is that your mom can come running to your rescue anywhere in town in under five minutes. She brought along our friend Joe Hirsche who was staying at our house for the week while his parents were in Hawaii. I don't know why she brought Joe and not my dad or my brother. I can only assume it's because Joe...well, he's big and slightly intimidating.
So my mom and Joe checked the whole house with me and we found nothing. No serial killers anywhere. Go figure.
But they did hear the banging noise and agreed that it did sound at least a little scary. My mom suggested that I just calm down and read my book and that if anything did happen to just run next door to where Constible Carpenter lived. Why hadn't I thought of that?
So that's just what I did. I'm not sure if I ever managed to calm down completely, and I didn't end up having to run over to the Carpenters, but I did sit on the couch with my paperback novel and pretended to read.
The Blocks returned shortly before midnight and escorted me home.
My mom met me at the door and asked me how things went. I told her things went fine. She asked if I had told the Blocks about the noise. I said I hadn't. How could I? It was far too embarrassing since it turned out that there was no serial killer.
So my mom talked to Sister Block about it at church the next day. The noise was their cat playing in the rafters in the basement. She gets up in the ceiling and walks on the sheet metal heating pipes (whatever they're called--they're called "heating ducts," by the way. Thank you, dad!), making an awful racket. So there really was nothing to be worried about all along. The telephone going dead was just a strange coincidence, I guess.
Ever since that night, though, I always made sure to take a voluminous hardback whenever I went babysitting. A flimsy paperback novel is of no use against an assailant!
If you're up for more scary stories staring me thinking I'm about to be murdered by a serial killer, read about the near-homicide in our old apartment, again a memory triggered by one of Bridget's posts. Obviously Bridget is somewhat of an inspiration to me. Without her I would have died of writer's block long ago.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
My sweet little girl turned into a gremlin. She was growling and howling about everything that happened.
We kept reminding her that she needed to ask nice for things and not growl at mommy and daddy, but she kept forgetting.
At one point this evening I was in the kitchen/bathroom area of our house (cleaning up something, I'm sure) and I heard the following exchange:
Rachel (upset by something, probably, insignificant): Rrrrrawwrrrrr!
Andrew: Rachel! You know you're not supposed to growl at Daddy!
Rachel (obviously talking back): Rawr!
She got put to bed early.
I feel for her, I really do! She's still working on getting about 7 teeth right now. Her hand is constantly in her mouth so that she can chew on it, which just makes her even more upset. She comes to me throughout the day and holds her hands out to me, absolutely covered in slobber, as if asking me to wipe them dry for her. So I do. And I rub her gums. And I give her Orajel. And I give her lovely things to chew on.
But she's still just miserable. And miserable to be around. So she gets put to bed early.
Maybe, if she can keep from growling all the time, we can make some (invisible Kool-Aid) Popsicles tomorrow.
Oh, wait. There is a wild dance party at the nursery school on our street.
There are cars lined up from here to there, and people milling about everywhere. Most people are trying to get past the bouncers standing at the gates of the Irish Nursery. Slowly, people are being let in, but there are still a ton of people milling around on the street. There are policemen directing traffic--it's that bad. Usually you only see policemen directing traffic at traffic circles, so this must be something really special to have them on our street.
I sent Andrew out to borrow a muffin tin from Lora. Partly because I needed another muffin tin and partly because he just wanted to go out and see what was happening. He said it was pretty crazy.
All the invitees seem to be Egyptian, but a lot of them are speaking English and they're all dressed up as Halloweeners. Most of the girls are dressed up looking like American strippers, so that's kind of interesting...
Of course, they aren't playing any slow songs, because we really couldn't have hormone-crazed teens actually dancing with each other. So instead they are playing these completely undancable heavy drum songs. Very modern. Very annoying. I can hardly think anymore. They've been going since like 7 o'clock this evening and it's already 11. I wonder at how Rachel managed to fall asleep so nicely.
Maybe we need to switch out Popcorn Popping for Crazy Pop Drum Music and she'll go to sleep nicely every night.
The concept I struggle with the most, you know, besides seeing girls who I'm sure are Muslim walking around in less than what I wear as under garments, is that the party is at the Irish Nursery.
I will never see this school in the same light ever again. What kind of preschool lends itself out as a club? Really? A preschool?
When I had finished with the laundry I walked back into the house and noticed a firey-smokey smell. Andrew greeted me by the balcony door dancing and singing,
"Andrew started the fire! It was always burning since the world's been turning! Andrew started the fire!"
Long story short, he used a simmer ring to boil soup. This was a bad idea. The handle of the simmer ring caught on fire and now our kitchen smells great.
Andrew used to have this problem of turning up the heat so high that the flames would lick the plastic handles of our pot and they would melt and it smelled horrible. So I've been trying to train him to watch the level of the flame while he turns it up so that it all stays under the pot.
He thought the simmer ring would solve that problem. Today was his first time using it, though, and he seemed to be able to ignore all the very obvious labeling on the package.
"Heat defuser....Do not preheat....Use low to medium flame or heat....Do not use high flame or heat."
I could go on, but it's fairly obvious to me that this is a "simmer" plate, not a "boil on the highest temperature possible" plate.
"Wow, honey! This is the second time you've started a fire in our kitchen since we've been married," I remarked.
The first time was like a year and a half ago, so really I thought he was doing pretty good. Until he corrected me.
"Actually," he said, "I caught the popcorn on fire last night, too. So this is the third time I've started a fire since we've been married and the second time in two days."
I don't know how I forgot about the popcorn, but I did. Let's hope this seemingly new trend does not continue.
5 days left until November 4 and I'm going crazy! My discussions with Egyptians are becoming increasingly pessimistic, especially considering the recent neo-Nazi assassination attempt sting, which was, admittedly, blown out of proportion since Obama's campaign wasn't even informed about it yet.
Most Egyptians I've talked with so far, while optimistically hoping for an Obama win, believe that it will be impossible for him to win because of the fear and ignorance of the American people. I've been emphatically telling them otherwise, repeating that the Americans will pull through and prove them and the world wrong.
This American Life just did a show about the final electoral battle in Pennsylvania and spent a considerable chunk of it looking at the ugly role of racism among Republicans and ex-Hillary supporters there. It was disheartening. Combine that with Al Jazeera's recent piece on racism in Ohio:
It would be marginally okay if this anti-Black, anti-Muslim racism was fueled exclusively by general ignorance. With Sarah Palin using linguistic code-switching to insinuate Obama's exaggerated and false role as terrorist and the recent episodes of angry mob mentality at campaign rallies, it seems like they are inherently fueling this anti-Muslim, xenophobic sentiment. Even McCain's attempt at reigning in the hatred has had backlash--when an angry and confused supporter accused Obama of being an Arab, McCain responded "No, ma'am. He's a decent, family man," as if Arabs aren't decent. If only this was as ludicrous and lighthearted as SNL makes it out to be.
It now seems that the official final advertising push from the McCain campaign is focused on tying Obama to Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism, making him dangerously unprepared for the presidency. A campaign mailer in Florida and this McCain ad, released yesterday, show this terrifying rhetoric.
Don't you love the ominously eery Middle Easternesque music in the background? The scariest thing is that people believe this stuff.
We don't normally write about politics here on our blog. You may disagree with Obama on his policies, but please, do not buy into the serious fear-mongering promulgated by the McCain-Palin campaign.
Let's hope we can prove my Egyptian friends wrong.
We sat and sat and sat and sat and...nothing happened.
But she refused to get off the potty, so I figured that she really did have to go. So we sat and sat and sat some more. Still nothing happened.
Usually I sit with her in the bathroom until she's finished but I really wanted to get the kitchen clean, so I left her sitting on her potty with a little bowl of teddy graham rip-offs for company.
She sat in the bathroom, alone with her fake teddy grahams, for quite a long time.
I was beginning to wonder if I should check on her when I heard anxious screams resonating down the hallway. Then I knew I should check on her, and since she was already screaming I figured I should run.
When I got to the bathroom, nothing really seemed to be wrong, but she was really upset and stood by the tub squealing and whining and pointing accusingly at her potty.
I walked over and looked inside. She had dropped a teddy graham into her potty and he was currently drowning in her pee pee.
I was happy that she had finally managed to go. She, however, was absolutely distraught at the sight of that drowning teddy graham and looked up at me with tears in her eyes!
"It's okay, baby! We can get you another one." I told her.
When she heard the word "get," though, she stooped down to rescue that poor, innocent teddy graham.
I managed to snap this picture and stop her from actually saving the cookie all in about 2 seconds. I'm not sure if eating teddy grahams on the potty is actually a healthy activity but I haven't really found many other ways of motivating her to sit still on her own. We'll have to work on that.
Don't you love her hair, though? She pulled it out sometime during her nap but it had already dried in a ponytail from going swimming so it stuck straight up. When Daddy came home from school he messed up his hair, too, so that they could match. They're so cute together!
When she got to the bushes, though, and looked through them and saw the pool, she remembered that I had said we were going to go swimming and got all excited about that, again.
When we walked through the gate to the pool, Rachel ran right to the edge of a deck and almost started climbing into the shallow end with her clothes on. I was successful in convincing her that we she first don our bathing suits but still had to drag her past the pool and into the locker room.
I had her in her swimsuit and was halfway into mine when she couldn't wait any longer. She crawled out from under the changing stall door and ran away. Luckily the locker room door only has a two or three inch gap under it. She had her hands under the door and was trying to find a way to squish her head under, too, when I found her.
I opened the door and she was out like a rocket. I thought for sure she was going to fall into the pool, but she stopped right at the edge and leaned over to splash a bit.
I dragged her around to the shallow end and she walked down some of the stairs all by herself. She was such a brave girl the whole time we were swimming. She even let me swim around, with her just sitting piggyback, for a while.
It is getting colder here, though, so even though the pool was heated we didn't last very long in the water. Rachel was so cold when we got out that I even put a jacket on her. I know, I know. It's freezing out here!
It feels like a Canadian summer.
And if you don't believe me here's a picture to prove it, taken in High River, AB, on or around June 14 in the late 1990s. If I could see how many candles were on the cake I'd know exactly what year for sure, but I just can't make them out. Anyway, notice all the kids in long sleeves and sweaters? And they don't even have wet hair.
Rachel did have wet hair and she was purple and goosebumpy, so I put her sweater on and let her play in the field a little more.
There was this great jack-o-lantern beanbag toss stand that Rachel had fun hiding behind and peeking out at me.
Apparently the Maadi House is having a Halloween fair on Saturday. We won't be able to go, but since they had some of the decorations up already and we were there it just seemed logical to let Rachel enjoy them.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
That's because African flies are not like American flies at all. Oh, sure, they're about the same size, have six legs and wings, but they're like 500 times more annoying.
In America, even just talking about a fly swatter will clear the room of flies.
Not so here. Here they just don't care. You can bat at them to your heart's content and they just keep coming back for more. Once you become their target they will never leave you alone. They will follow you for blocks, continuously landing on you and buzzing around your head. They aren't shy about entering any body cavities, either: ears, mouth, nose, eyes. You name it, they'll go in it.
And they just won't leave you alone!
I finally got some good National Geographic worthy pictures of Rachel. It's a shame I didn't manage to catch her grumpy face. That would have guaranteed a front page of National Geographic.
We went to Maadi House today and the flies were just everywhere. Rachel was running around the park screaming and I was following her around, batting flies off of both of us. When she had all those flies on her hand, I picked her up, thinking that the movement would startle the flies. Not so. They held their ground and continued to torment Rachel. I took her bread away thinking it would help. It didn't. When the bread was gone they went after her face.
She certainly seemed to getting the brunt of it. It's like they somehow know that since she's smaller she must be less coordinated than I am so attack her first.
It didn't take us long to decide that what we really needed to be doing was swimming, not standing around getting attacked by flies. So that's what we did. There were a bunch of gross looking bee-wasp-hornet things (one day I will get a sweet picture of these things) but they weren't interested in us. They were just sipping the pool water.
My friend Lydia tells me you can tell it's really winter when there are no more flies around. And then can tell it's spring again when you see more and more flies. Good to know. I wasn't sure if we had seasons here or not. Apparently seasons here are measured in flies.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
They are so cheap here and so big and juicy! Last time we went fruit shopping we got three humongo pomegranates and a big mango, in addition to some normal stuff that we actually know how to use.
Mangoes aren't my favorite fruit in the world. I've never really known how to use them or cut them up or anything. I grew up in Canada and we just don't get a lot of mangoes up there. But once there was a huge sale on mangoes and my mom bought a whole box. They sat in our kitchen for a while until they started getting a little overripe. We had no idea what to do with them so we made mango pie.
This was before the days of rampant internet use and we had no idea what we were doing so we just cut one open to see what it was like. After sampling a little bit, my mom decided it was probably just like pumpkin...or sweet potatoe...or something, so we modified a pumpkin pie recipe and, presto! The rest is history.* We never bought mangoes again.**
So I don't really have much of a history with mangoes and I don't really care for plain mangoes, but I think they are great in things.
The mango we bought wasn't ripe yet, so I let it sit and ripen for a few days and it was absolutely perfect when we used it last night. It wasn't too mushy, which is one of my pet-peeves about fruit. I don't like my mangoes mushy. I don't like my bananas mushy. I don't like mushy.
So we had this huge mango and this huge pomegranate and I thought to myself, "Self, doesn't mango and pomegranate together sound really good?"
Clearly I had to agree, so I went to the computer and searched for mango and pomegranate salad. After clicking around for a few minutes I found a really great (and simple) recipe. It called for green onions, which I didn't have, so I used a bit of a purple onion that we had. I think green onion would have made the salad prettier, but the purple onion did the trick taste-wise. I also left out the other spices because I didn't have them.
The recipe I found was so simple, in fact, that I feel no guilt in saying that I basically thought up the salad by myself. I just needed to find this recipe to remind myself that, much to Andrew's dismay, onion goes wonderfully well in so many fruit salads.
I just diced up the mango, which is really kind of tricky (curse that huge seed-thing!); separated out all the little pomegranate seeds, which is also rather difficult (curse those gross filmy white pa!); chopped up like not even a quarter of an onion, also difficult (curse those super-potent Egyptian onions); and squeezed out the juice of one lemon (that was the easiest part). Then I tossed it and put in the fridge to sit while Andrew and I made taco soup (out of an instant soup mix that Karen brought for us, so that was very easy as well).
Dinner was so good and really hit the spot on a chilly (20°C+ is chilly here) fall day like yesterday. I was so sad when dinner was over. It was all I could do to keep myself from staring forlornly into the empty salad bowl wondering why it had to be empty so soon while at the same time wondering how we'd managed to eat a whole pomegranate and mango and still have room for soup.
I might just be heading to the fruit stand tomorrow.
*From what I remember, the mango pie was actually pretty good. The pulp turned out to be a little stringy, almost squashlike, and really resembled pumpkin in both color and flavor. At least, I thought so. I still do. I don't really care for straight pumpkin, either, so maybe that's why I don't like plain mangoes.
**I actually don't recall whether or not we ever bought mangoes again. We may have, but certainly not by the boxful.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Well, it kind of rained. It was cloudy and we felt little drops of water hitting us. Indeed, drops of water were hitting us, so technically it was raining. But it would be more fair to say that it only kind of rained.
With the rain came a sudden drop of temperature that promised of cold, but wasn't actually cold.
We're missing autumn; both Andrew and I like fall. I like the crisp weather before it gets cold. I like the leaves changing color. I like Thanksgiving and (yes, mom) Halloween and Thanksgiving (yes, twice). I like pumpkins and apples and cider and the smell of cinnamon. I like a lot about fall. In fact, I think the only thing I don't like about it is that it leads to winter.
Here we've hit the chilly fall weather. It's in the mid-to-high twenties and people, locals mostly, are already digging out their winter coats.
One of Andrew's teacher's today remarked that she was shocked at how cold it got this early in the year. That it might get a little colder in December, but that this was pretty bad. She, herself, was sporting a winter coat.
I think it's odd that some buildings are still running air conditioners and people wear their coats outside.
But maybe that's just me.
I'm fine with it, though. I can feel the chill in the air. It's enough to make me want to put on a sweater outside at night. Not that I even have a sweater yet. But if I had one and I went outside at night I might want to put it on.
We did buy blankets for our beds, but that's just a joke. Andrew still has the fan on because he can't keep the blankets on unless the fan is also on because he gets too hot.
It's obviously not so cold that the leaves are changing color. I really doubt that will happen here. If it did get that cold I don't think the trees would know what to do, so they'd just stay green anyway.
So, we're missing the leaves changing color and there's really no hint of winter on the air, at least not winter as we know it. We aren't going to have any frosty mornings and we won't be going trick-or-treating, but we're still having a little fall fun.
We bought a pumpkin and it's sitting patiently in our living room, waiting first to be carved and then to be turned into yummy desserts. We bought some sweet potatoes (those have already been turned into yummy desserts). And we've been doing some fun crafts with Rachel. She still has no idea what Halloween is, but I think she's having fun anyway.
A few days ago Rachel and I dressed up in costumes and made a ghost together. We hung it up in her playroom. She thinks it's pretty cool. She points to it whenever we say "ghost" and we're trying to teach her that ghosts say "Ooooo!" She doesn't quite get that yet and makes the same noise that she makes for everything, which is kind of like a cross between a dog and a monkey.
Tonight for our FHE activity we made a family "thumbkin" patch. Rachel had so much fun that she threw a fit about having to go to bed. She wanted to keep making thumbprints and was quite upset when we tried to wash off her hands. Andrew was also pretty upset when it was time to wash off his hands, but for a completely different reason than Rachel. He was perplexed because the ink didn't seem to be coming off...so I had him wash some dishes. That did the trick!
It was nice to not have to worry about the details of getting around town or about getting ripped off.
When we got to the park there was a talent show of sorts going on. A live band was playing traditional drumming music when we arrived and we got to watch some Whirling Dervishes for a while.
I will never understand how they spin around for so long. I know they're supposedly in some trance-induced state of bliss and learning but I can't see how they don't get dizzy. These guys must have been spinning for at least an hour.
When we, ourselves, were getting dizzy from watching the Dervishes, we headed down to the lake with the rest of Andrew's classmates so that we could watch the sunset. There's a stream thing that runs down the middle of the sidewalk for some reason...it's kind of cool in a very impractical way...and every now and then there will be a fountain or a pool. Andrew was being goofy and straddling it while we were walking. Rachel thought it was pretty funny.
We found a nice grassy area and we all sat down to get to know each other. Many of us took off our shoes and enjoyed the grass barefoot. Rachel, of course, was swarmed by Egyptians wanting to take her picture, hold her, kiss her, play with her, and feed her. She was very gracious about it all and only kicked one man.
There was this one guy who had an uber swanky camera and he took so many pictures of Rachel and me. He showed them to us and they were just amazing. So Andrew gave him our email address and we're just crossing our fingers that he remembers to send us the pictures.
Rachel made really good friends with a girl named Hogar. At first she was pretty shy of her, but Hogar was persistent and Rachel eventually let Hogar carry her all around without me being right there. I had fun chatting with Hogar, too. She only spoke Arabic and I was able to answer most of her questions. My answers weren't very deep answers, but at least I understood what was going on! She was very patient with me when I didn't understand and would just shake her head and 'tsk' at me and then repeat herself.
She ran back to us frequently. Just to check up on us. When she was sure we were alright she'd go off looking for Hogar again.
The sunset was beautiful and we had a lot of fun playing together in the grass. Grass is such a luxury here!
When the sun had gone down and we were all getting a little chilly we left the park and headed down to Khan al-Khalili to get some fateer (Egyptian pancakes). We've never been to Khan al-Khalili after dark so it was interesting to see how different it was. The shops were all lit up--the gold and silver shops looked particularly impressive--and there were fewer shoppers out so the streets were empty enough for kids to play soccer. Quite the contrast what we've seen before.
The pancakes were good, although all our orders got a little mixed up. I suppose dumping 20 people on a little street restaurant was shocking for our servers. They didn't seem prepared to wait our tables even though our tables had been booked in advance.
We got a ride home with Dr. Kholoussy in her private car. She lives just one street down from us and we thought this would be a great arrangement. But we ended up squishing two other girls in the backseat with us and then the driver got lost and it took us over an hour to get home. It was quite a miserable ride, but nice of Dr. Kholoussy to take us!
Sunday, October 26, 2008
"I hope it's not the middle of the night," she started.
"Oh, it is," I told her.
"No, it's really like 2 in the morning."
"Well, 1:30, yeah. But don't worry. I'm still up."
"You sound up."
"Oh, I am up."
I probably should have been in bed. But I wasn't. Instead I was IMing my mom. I haven't been sleeping well the last few nights. I've been pretty emotional so talking with my mom felt good. And when you live this far away sometimes it's just easier to stay up late chatting than it is to chat during normal wake hours. There's a little give and take. Either I stay up late or my mom has to. And I needed to talk.
My sister ran away 16, almost 17, years ago and my family has been haunted by the effects of this ever since. I was 6 when she ran away. And I was hurt. Badly. I wanted her back.
At first we thought that she had been kidnapped, but then when she was found and refused to come home we began to believe that she had willfully left our home.
She came home eventually, only to run away again. Time after time. I stopped wanting her back. I was still worried about her. Always worried. But I was also afraid of her. Her life had taken a bad turn and she was not the person I once knew and I did not want her to come back.
And, oh, how I hated her!
I hated her for leaving me, mostly. I hated not knowing where she was. I hated wondering if she was dead or alive. I hated driving through Vancouver and looking at all the woebegone teenagers living on the streets and wondering which one was her.
But I hated other things, too.
I hated her friends. I hated when she'd bring them around the house. I almost died of embarrassment when she and her current boyfriend showed up at my baptism dressed all in black and smelling like I don't even want to know what. You'd think that I would have been happy to have my sister come to my baptism. I should have been. But I wasn't. I was mortified.
I hated her choices. She just did bad things. Lots of bad things. I hated that I couldn't trust her. I hated that she scared me. I hated that my sister left one day, out of the blue, and a monster returned in her place.
She's improved over the last few years. First she got worse, a lot worse, and then she got a bit better. Then worse again. And then better. She's been steadily better the past few years and although I wanted to forgive her, I've been having trouble doing so.
I've been working on it for years and years, but the effects of what happened seemed too far-reaching in my life. D&C 64:9 has never been too far away from my mind: Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin.
Unfortunately, forgiveness doesn't always come easily to me. It's something that I have to work at.
A few days ago, though, she explained some things that she probably should have told us 16 years ago, but couldn't.
When I read what she wrote the anger that I had been carrying around for most of my life dissolved. I mourned for my sister. I mourned for the sisterly relationship that we haven't developed. I mourned for my angry inner six-year-old.
And then I rejoiced because I was, at last, free. I no longer blamed my sister. She hadn't meant to hurt me. Just knowing that made it possible for me to forgive her, for real this time.
I feel like I can be a better person, a better wife, a better mother, and a better sister because I'm no longer carrying around this mammoth-sized grudge. The feelings I had were, truly, miraculous. I felt so touched by the spirit, and so happy.
So, I was talking to my mom, trying to help her cope with these new facts, trying to convince her that it wasn't her fault and that she's a good mother. Because she is. She's a wonderful mother.
I'm not sure whether I was able to convince her of that before she signed off, but I hope I was.
Andrew and I were getting ready to go to bed when the phone rang. I looked at the caller ID and noticed that it was my sister. And for the first time in years I picked up the phone without groaning first. I wanted to talk to her. I was excited to talk to her.
We had a good conversation.
But, our family isn't the greatest at communicating. I've been reminded of Over the Hedge the last few days, every time I think of communicating because we're really not good at it.
- Verne: If you needed the food, we would have let you have it. That's what families do.
- RJ: Wish you'd have told me that sooner.
- Verne: Yeah, well that's bad communication. Another thing families do.
I was bothered though, when she said that she didn't feel she was Celestial Kingdom material. She said that Heavenly Father probably reaches a point where he has to lay down the line and say "enough is enough." She said that she keeps repenting but then making the same mistakes.
I told her the rule of 70 times 7. But I still didn't tell her how I was feeling right then.
So I want to tell her here how I feel.
I blamed you for things I shouldn't have, probably. Definitely. I wrongfully accused you and I hope you can one day forgive me.
That said, for years I've been angry and unable to forgive you. No matter how hard I tried, how hard I prayed I just couldn't find any forgiveness. And then you shared a few of the thoughts and intentions of your heart and I was able to understand (a little) and forgive (a whole lot).
I never thought I'd be able to forgive you, truthfully. I thought it would take superhuman powers. I'm convinced that without the help of the Lord I wouldn't have forgiven you. So in fact it did take superhuman powers.
I realize that I'm not in charge of saying who God forgives and who he doesn't forgive, but I do know that he hasn't given up on you.
I was amazed at the feelings of peace I had when I finally forgave you. Forgiveness isn't tangible, but for a minute there I was convinced that it was.
Heavenly Father loves you more than I do and He knows all the thoughts and intentions of your heart. And He's patient. So kind and patient. He gives us a whole lifetime to work things out.
I am an imperfect person, as are you. We belong to an imperfect family. We love you imperfectly. We never gave up on you and pray for you every day.
Heavenly Father is perfect. We are His children and belong to His family. He loves us perfectly and I know that He wants us all to return to live with Him someday. He hasn't given up on either one of us.
So, please, keep trying. You keep trying and I'll keep trying. I want our family to be together forever. It's exhausting to be good, but it is so worth it!
I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me
Confused at the grace that so fully he proffers me
I tremble to know that for me he was crucified
That for me, a sinner, he suffered, he bled and died.
I marvel that he would descend from his throne divine
To rescue a soul so rebellious and proud as mine
That he should extend his great love unto such as I
Suficient to own, to redeem and to justify.
I think of his hands, pierced and bleeding to pay my debt
Such mercy, such love and devotion can I forget?
No, no, I will praise and adore at the mercy seat
Until at the glorified throne I kneel at his feet.
Oh, it is wonderful that he should care for me enough to die for me.
Oh, it is wonderful, wonderful to me!
I believe that through the atonement of Christ all mankind may be saved by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel. Including you and me. Thanks for being my sister. And thanks for calling me at 2 AM. I needed to hear your voice.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
Friday, October 24, 2008
She sat so nicely during sacrament meeting--singing during the hymns and folding her arms for the prayer. She only yelled when the deacons didn't bring the sacrament trays exactly on her schedule and we only had to go out when she said she had to go potty (she didn't).
After sacrament meeting she started dragging me towards the stairs. She knew exactly where she wanted to go. When I was lingering longer than she wanted me to, she let go of my hand and went to nursery by herself.
By the time I caught up with her she was already fully involved with Sam, Jacqueline, and the toys, but I poked my head in the room, anyway.
"Come here, Rachel," I told her and then explained to Brother Gerrard, who was substituting until Sister Hall arrived, that she isn't actually old enough to be in nursery yet.
"Oh, let her stay. She's having a good time!" he insisted.
Twist my arm, why don't you?
"Alright," I gave in, but only maybe a little too quickly, "We're potty training her, so if she starts shaking her fist at you, that means she has to go potty."
And then I left and went off to primary.
Sister Hall showed up after we'd dismissed the kids to classes and were about to start our presidency meeting. We told her she'd be in nursery.
I gave her some cookies that I'd packed for Rachel since no one had brought treats this week. Oops.
"Rachel's not really in nursery," I told her when I walked in the nursery with her, "I can take her if you'd like."
Rachel ran to stand behind Sam. Because somehow he'd protect her from having to leave nursery...or something.
"Oh, let her stay," said Jennifer, "She's cute."
Again, with the twisting of my arms. Oh, alright, fine! Keep her so that I don't have to entertain her and chase her all around...
I gave Jennifer the potty training talk.
"So, if she does that, run!"
"That's right," I said.
And I had a blissful hour without Rachel. Not that Rachel isn't great. It's just that when I'm trying to be all secretarial she kind of cramps my style. It's hard to take notes when you have a 15 month old grabbing at your pen because she wants to draw. It's just hard!
At the end of the hour, Jennifer opened the nursery door and sent Rachel running to me. She had to go pee. I gave her to Andrew and I had another blissful hour.
Rachel got several compliments on her hair, which managed to last all through church--much to my surprise. Many comments about how cute and grown-up she looks!
She really is looking grown-up these days. But she'll always be my baby. Maybe, though, if we keep doing her hair on Fridays they'll keep letting her go to nursery...
Weevils just don't bother me that much. They bother Andrew, though.
"Pour slowly," he instructed, "So that I can make sure there aren't any more bugs..."
I poured slowly and we didn't find any more bugs. That said, our flour might find its way into the freezer for a few days just to be sure. Andrew was really grossed out by these little bugs, which I thought was so funny because he deals with cockroaches just fine. I don't, but I can do weevils.
Of course, I do know the bug-eater Jim Thompson of High River, Alberta. I've even eaten dinner at his house, grew up playing with his boys, and helped skin a badger or two. And I survived it all.
Not that I actually enjoy the thought of eating bugs. It's just that these things have been known to happen.
Now, onto my flashback, which for once doesn't occur in Russia, but in good ol' Orem, Utah.
My cousin Heather had slept over the night before. As usual we'd talked well into the night before falling asleep, but not as usual I had to get up in the morning and get ready for my wedding.
I got married in the late afternoon, which was an awesome time to get married, I think. I got to have a very leisure-filled morning. I didn't feel stressed out at all. Well, at least not very much at all. Plus, by the time I was married all the other brides had finished with their pictures and I had the temple to myself.
So, Heather and I slept in. I showered when we woke up, and then she did my makeup because I don't know a thing about how to pretty up my face. We decided, around 11:00, that we should eat brunch. Heather makes a mean mac'n'cheese. Another something that she can do, and I can't. Not even from a box.
She grabbed a box and started some water boiling. Then she dumped the noodles in and left them to cook. We went to work on my bouquet while we waited.
When we went to check on the noodles I noticed a bunch of floaties in the water. I pointed them out.
"What are those?" I asked.
"I dunno," she said. And she probably honestly didn't know what they were. So we just kept cooking.
We drained the noodles and made up the cheese sauce and then sat down to eat. Only then did we have the opportunity to really inspect what the little floaties were. They were still all stuck to the noodles after we'd drained and rinsed them, so they were still stuck to the noodles when we were eating them.
Our mac'n'cheese was covered in boiled-to-death weevils. And, country girls that we are, we ate it, anyway, after only a moment of hesitation.
And then I skipped off to say, "I do."
Don't worry, Andrew. I brushed my teeth. Scout's honour.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
So Andrew decided to self-diagnose our problem. In doing so he discovered that he has no idea how to fix a faucet and that there's a neat little knob by our toilet that controls the water pressure of the bathroom.
He was playing with that this morning and after he'd finished I tried washing my hands, but there was hardly any water pressure, so I started playing with the knob, as well.
Andrew stood by the sink, turning the tap on so that we could tell how high the water pressure was. I turned the tap looser. Andrew told me that there was no change. I turned the tap tighter. No change again.
"I'll go into the kitchen to see if there's any water pressure in there," Andrew volunteered.
A few minutes later I heard him holler something from the kitchen. It's just down the hall from the bathroom but I still couldn't hear what he said. So I walked to the kitchen to ask him.
"What did you say?"
"I said that there's no water in here, either."
"Well, that stinks." I sighed.
And then we prepared to go about our day, without water yet again.
When we'd gotten back from Road 9, after visiting a carpenter's shop, a fruit stand, and finding the underground tunnel to the other side of the tracks, we were pretty grimy. It's easy to get grimy in Cairo.
"Man, I wish I could shower," Andrew whined, "I'm so dirty!"
Perhaps we both just felt more dirty than usual because we walked through some raw sewage. At least, that's what I think it was. There were some pipes just outside of the tunnel on the other side where people had, no kidding, set out their goods--like fruits and vegetables and things--and at the end of the pipes was this little cement thing that looked like it used to be a pump but was really just spewing nasty smelling, thick, dark-coloured water everywhere.
Needless to say, that's not where we bought our fruit.
But we had to walk through a puddle in order to go anywhere from the tunnel so we braved it. And it was gross. I wanted a shower, too.
"Let's see if we have water now," I suggested.
So we walked into the bathroom and looked at our tub. That's how we test to see if whether or not we have water. If the tub is leaking, we have water. If it isn't, we don't.
It wasn't leaking. We still didn't have water. So we continued to live our life waterless.
Finally, just before dinnertime, Andrew decided that he'd check the "water pressure" tap himself.
He turned it. And the tub started leaking.
I had turned off the water for the whole apartment. And we left it off all day. Oops.
It doesn't help that Andrew, who is so erudite and deliberate in his academic papers, is a little less attentive of his dinner table conversations.
Last night we were talking about the Israel/Palestine issue. It's a common topic at our house. These things happen when your husband is majoring in Middle East studies and happens to be taking a Palestinian Refugee course.
Andrew's ancestors on his father's mother's side are Jewish. That is only slightly interesting until you consider his father's father's side. When you learn that his ancestors on his father's father's side were from Nazi Germany things get a little comical. No wonder Andrew's always confused.
Anyway, sometimes we joke about moving to Israel and living on a kibbutz if nothing else (like a job or future education) works out for us. It's kind of been our pseudo backup plan. Of course, it's all just a big joke. But we only joked about it because he is a Jew by heritage and Israel offers citizenship to Jews, so it was kind of a real possibility.
At least, we were under the impression that it was a real possibility. Andrew learned in his Palestinian Refugee course, though, that it's actually not a possibility. He's not religiously Jewish and so we're already out on that count, but even his "racial" Jewishness doesn't count because it's on his father's side.
According to the 1950 Law of Return, section 4B (of the second amendment), "'Jew' means a person who was born of a Jewish mother..."
I was naive enough to ask why.
My knowledge of Judaism is pretty rudimentary, but from reading the Old Testament I'm pretty sure that they recorded their genealogy father-to-son. Movies like Fiddler on the Roof seem to confirm such patriarchal notions.
Apparently, though, you can only become an Israeli citizen through your mother.
"Why?" I asked.
"Because," Andrew said, "It's easy to verify who your mother is because you come out of her butt."
See what I mean about his lack of eloquence at the dinner table?
"It's not so easy to know who your father is," He continued.
I was a little annoyed, both at his use of the word "butt" and that Israel would question the fidelity of their women. Of course, Andrew and I both happen to descend from illegitimate children on our fathers' fathers' sides so maybe I can understand how and why they'd question the both the fidelity of their women and the Jewishness of their offspring. I mean, maybe the fathers of our illegitimate ancestors were Jewish. We have no way of knowing for sure.
Rachel looked a little confused about the whole conversation so Andrew decided he'd give her a lesson about babies, using the word "butt" several more times.
"Babies come out of their mommy's butts. You came out of Mommy's butt and I came out of Grandma's butt."
"Thanks, honey, for that wonderful explanation," I sneered sarcastically.
"No problem," he said.
And with that we continued our dinner.
Later that evening when I had already completely forgotten about our dinner conversation, Rachel ran up behind me and started pushing on my rear end. She does that a lot when she wants me to go somewhere or do something with her. I turned around to see what she wanted.
She had her baby doll.
"Oh, do you want me to hold the baby?" I asked her, reaching down for her baby doll. Sometimes she likes me to hold it and burp it for her.
She shook her head and yanked the doll away from me. Then she ran behind me again and started pushing the baby into my rear again. When she was satisfied that she'd pushed it into my backside hard enough, she let it drop to the floor.
"Stop that, Rachel. What are you doing?" I asked.
For lack of ability to explain herself any other way, this question prompted another episode of Rachel smashing poor baby doll into my rear end and dropping her to the floor.
It took us a few minutes to realize that Rachel was enacting the birthing process as she had come to understand it at the dinner table that evening. Wonderful.
Thanks, honey, for that wonderful explanation. Now she "knows" where babies come from and I know that she knows the word "butt." By the way, dear, I so much more prefer the word "bum."
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Now it was around 1:30 AM. We quickly finished getting ready for bed and were just about ready to lie down when the phone rang.
We had to listen for a minute to determine which phone was ringing: our Utah phone or our Cairo phone.
It was our Utah phone. We looked at each other slightly panicked.
Karen had said that she would call if she had any problems, but she wouldn't be able to call our Utah phone, would she? Maybe it was Reid calling. Maybe there was some problem and he wouldn't be able to meet her in India. Maybe it wasn't either of them and it was someone at home calling about a family emergency.
It was 2 AM and our imaginations were running wild. Andrew raced to the phone.
"Hello!?" he asked, trying to sound calm.
"Hello," the voice on the other end responded, "This is Mary* calling on behalf of UCCU. I was wondering if I could have a few minutes of your time to complete a survey about how we can better your banking experience...."
"Actually," said Andrew, "Not right now. We're in Egypt and it's like 2 AM."
"Oh, alright then," said Mary. You could hear her brain working harder than it was used to. She didn't say what she was thinking but I'm sure it was something along the lines of "I swear this was an 801 number..."
What she actually said was, "Ummmm...sorry about that..." Then she hung up. And we went to bed laughing about the brilliant idea we had to keep our Utah phone to make family communication easier, all the while completely forgetting about telemarketers. Our family is thoughtful enough to not call us at 2 AM. Telemarketers bother me, in general, but I couldn't really blame this girl for calling us this late...after all, it was a reasonable hour for her.
*Name has been changed to protect the innocent.
Rachel won't let Finn crawl anywhere--she pushes down on him until he can't move anymore. Finn then feels like he needs to push on Abby a little bit so that she knows how it feels. And thus the pecking order goes. It would probably go further but there's no one smaller than Abby yet and she can't really move around too well.
When the kids (ie., Rachel) seemed to be getting a little too restless to stay indoors we decided to head out to the playground. We gathered up the kids and all the necessary hud and walked out to the elevator.
After I'd opened up the outside door, I pushed the inside doors open and started to walk inside. That's when my well-attuned cockroach sensors spotted a gigantic cockroach. It was probably at least as long as my index finger and, as per the cockroach usual, sickeningly gross-looking.
"Ew, there's a cockroach in here," I said as I stepped inside.
Lora and Melissa peeked in to look and decided that we could all still fit inside the elevator and avoid the cockroach. Fitting three women and three babies in an elevator here is tricky under the best of circumstances--the elevators are teeny tiny--but we'd fit that many people in before so we knew it could be done. We just weren't banking on having a cockroach running around our besandaled feet.
All of us were watching the ugly thing, trying to anticipate its next move, as the elevator started its descent. We'd huddle together in one corner of the elevator and then the cockroach would charge at us and we'd scamper around to avoid touching it/having it touch us.
"Hey, it's coming toward your foot," one of us would warn another.
That one would shriek and jump out of the way and we'd barely have time to readjust ourselves before it happened again.
"There it is!"
"Where is it?"
By the time we'd reached the ground floor Melissa, Lora, and I were laughing so hard we could hardly control ourselves. Finn, Abby, and Rachel didn't find it so funny. Finn was screaming his head off and Abby just looked confused. Rachel understood was going on better than the other two--she doesn't even like it when ants encroach on her play space (unless we play the "Let's smash them!" game) so seeing this huge cockroach kind of scared her--and she was screaming along with us whenever the cockroach charged.
We used a different elevator to go back upstairs and there were no cockroaches. Rachel was still nervous about it, though. I'm not sure elevators will ever be the same for her.
They're doing construction on our building, and on the building across the street and I seem to be waking up every 10 minutes all night long to hammers and saws and drills and yelling. It's driving me crazy.
Anyway, even though we didn't get dressed until after the sun went down, I decided to do Rachel's hair all fancy. My sister linked to a hair blog and I was looking at some of the hairdos on various blogs linked to this one and was feeling lazy because I only ever put Rachel's hair back to keep it out of her face. I rarely try to make it look nice or even spend time on it because she hates having it done.
But she actually sat still for me...actually, she sat still for Sylvester and Tweety...and I was able to get a braid in her hair. It lasted the whole time she played at Lora's. I was amazed it didn't fall out with how rambunctious she gets.
I'm not sure when Ill be able to do anything like this again. I'm not even convinced she has enough hair yet to really pull off a nice braid--she kind of looks half-bald with it braided, actually...but oh, well. I think she's cute all the time whether her hair is done or not.
She flipped the cube over so that a green side was facing up and then she separated out all the green pieces and proceeded to try to shove them in. The problem is that the shapes and the colours don't match up...
Here she is trying to shove a green square in the hexagon hole. See how she has a green circle ready to put in next?
And this is the face I got when she realized that the square just wasn't going to fit in that hexagon hole:
Sorry, baby! It just isn't going to work no matter how hard you push!
Monday, October 20, 2008
So Karen, Rachel, and I had a little fun today. We went over to the CSA bazaar and did a little shopping. Karen bought a cute dress for Rachel that was made in a village oasis called Bahariyya. The proceeds of the dress go back to the woman who stitched it, which I think is cool. It's really cute!
Rachel was having a bit of a grumpy day so we had to come home and take a nap; Karen was brave enough to venture out into Maadi all by herself in quest of more band aides. She successfully navigated the streets, although she didn't turn up many band aides.
When Andrew came home from school (he left class early...he said it was because he missed me, but I think it was because class was boring) we went out to have dinner on the Nile at TGIFriday's. Rachel insisted that she sit in a regular chair and climbed out of her high chair and onto my lap and then proceeded to kick and push me until I stood up and said,
"Fine! You can have my chair!"
She just looked up at me gloatingly and very self-satisfied. I ended up sitting across from her and she was very well behaved for the entire meal, besides trying to climb on the table once or twice.
When we came home Andrew and Karen went into the kitchen to caulk the splash board for our sink. The old caulk was long since gone and so water had been splashing and dripping down behind the faucet, rotting the wood and creating all sorts of mess for who knows how long. It was one of the cockroaches' favorite places so, even though we haven't seen a cockroach in over a month, we decided that we needed to patch up all possible entry points.
We bought a caulking gun a couple of weeks ago and Andrew's been so excited about using it.
"This is the first caulking gun I've ever owned! And we live in Egypt!"
I can understand his amazement. I didn't ever think I'd be buying a caulking gun in Egypt, either. But here we are and we have a caulking gun.
They did a great job! The sink area looks so much better. Hopefully the rotting smell will go away soon...
And after that it was bedtime. Grandma helped once more with getting Rachel ready for bed: brushing her teeth, and giving her lots of hugs and kisses goodnight.
Rachel is going to be one confused girl in the morning, even though we've been talking about Grandma leaving all day today. Maybe I'll just tell her that Grandma went to school. That's what I say when she asks where Daddy is and she rarely gets upset about that...
With Rachel in bed and a few hours to kill before Karen's taxi arrived, we decided to play a game of Hand and Foot. Karen won, which I'm very happy about because Andrew totally whipped us the first round and took a huge gamble the last round. He beat me...but only by one book (which, by the way, I totally had but decided not to take because I wanted to see what was in my foot...so we'll pretend that I had it and that I came in second and that he lost).
That game took us right up until quarter to midnight, so Karen just had time to do another inventory check before we were out the door and saying goodbye.
There were hugs, there were tears...and now I think I'm the most homesick I've been since coming to Egypt. We'll miss you, Karen! Come again soon! (And anyone else in our family that wants to visit (apparently the spare bed isn't too comfy...but we can work things out) we'd love to have you!)