Sunday, January 31, 2010

Church, Cold, and Bach (Jan. 24)

I debated long and hard about which ward I should attend for church this morning. Rome 2 is technically the official ward for tourists and is by far the closest to my hostel, but I spent the majority of my mission (13 months) in Rome 3, further out in the poorer outskirts of the city. Rome 2 = sleep in and take a quick bus ride to church. Rome 3 = wake up early and take the long train ride up Via Casilina. Amazingly, I opted for Rome 3—seeing old friends outweighed sleep.

Baby Steps

Is it so bad that I didn’t want to voice any resolutions before I made sure that I had a plan in place to keep them? Now that it’s the end of January I think I just might be on the way to keeping my goals.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Little Miss Calculating


If I gave you one word to describe the above picture, what would it be?

Miriam at Three Months

In the midst of our Roman Financial Crisis of 2010, this little cutie turned three months old. 

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010


If all goes as planned, Andrew’s plane will land in an hour and he’ll be home in less than two. But when does life ever go as planned?

Originally our plan was that I would go to bed and leave the light on for him, but since all the cash was stolen from his wallet he has no pounds on his person anymore. Pity the fool who took his pounds—you can’t really exchange them outside of Egypt since no one wants them. Oh, well.

So I’m up. Waiting for him.

He said I could go to bed and just leave the money on the table in the front room, but I was alerted about a family crisis a few hours ago and if I went to bed I’m sure, exhausted as I am, that I would just stay awake thinking about it, anyway, since it is most definitely weighing heavily on my mind right now. Bedtime is inevitable, I know, but it is also delayable.

Not only that, but flying makes me incredibly nervous. Being grounded while my husband is in flight also makes me nervous, apparently.

I may as well come out and say it: I’m a born worrier.

Monday, January 25, 2010


This morning the girls and I got up late. It took a lot of coaxing, but we did it. Miriam woke up at 3 o’clock this morning and was up until around 5:30. I had barely gotten her to sleep when Rachel woke up. Rachel had wet the bed, so I changed her and brought her into bed with me. I had barely gotten her to sleep when Miriam woke up at around 7 o’clock.

We got out of bed at 9:30. Andrew came online at 10:04.

Andrew: Oh. My. Goodness.

Nancy: What?


Nancy: No. I don't like conversations that begin this way...

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Photocopies and concerts (Jan. 23)

I had initially planned on going to the National Library as soon as it opened at 9:30. Out of all the archives and institutes I’m seeing here it’s the only one open on Saturdays, and only for reduced hours, until 1:30. I woke up and was down in the lobby of the hostel with plenty of time to spare, until I discovered my empty wallet.


Of old documents, churches, and sporting arenas (Jan. 22)

Today was a lot more relaxed than the past few days. Since I’d already gotten embassy approval and requested all possible documents from both the central archives and the foreign ministry, all I had left to do was go look through the documents. I was done hurriedly running around from archive to library. So I had breakfast at the local bar—a creme-filled donut and yet another cup of orzo—and got on the metro to EUR.

Melt my heart

This morning Rachel was helping to entertain Miriam on the potty. She was kissing her head, making funny faces, and talking baby talk to her. Then she looked up at me and said,

“Mom, do you know what? Miriam is best friends with me!”

She has been a great help while Andrew’s been gone—I wasn’t so sure that she would be and was rather scared to bid my husband farewell for a week, but the girls have both been great so far. Rachel really understands that having Daddy be gone is hard on everyone, so she’s trying her hardest to behave and make sure I’m happy.

“Does that make you happy, Momma?” she’ll ask after she cleans up her toys or takes her dishes to the sink or shakes a rattle for Miriam.


Until yesterday afternoon, hostel life hadn’t been all that different from hotel life. Apart from one Australian roommate who vacated the room before I even woke up the first night, I had the entire 4-person dorm room to my self, which was fantastic. Yesterday morning, though, when I paid for yet another night at the hostel, they moved me to a different room. The dynamic nature of hostels makes it so I can’t really stay in the same place, especially when I pay one night at a time.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Archives, archives, archives (and the Vatican, too) (Jan. 21)

Besides just looking at old documents, one of my goals in coming to Rome for this research trip was to talk to a few of the (very small number of) academics who know anything about Italians in Egypt. Few very Italian scholars have tackled the subject—none have done it in English.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Rome, day 2 (Jan. 20)

I planned on getting up early to get a head start on the day, but like I mentioned before, it’s impossible for me to wake up. Impossible. Plus, I had an amazingly great sleep, which I chalk up to two factors: (1) I was scared to death of having someone else in my room, so my body totally shut down, and (2) the hostel is actually just one floor of a three star hotel—I guess the hotel wanted to get some extra money from cheap students. Since they still want to maintain their three star image, there’s a rather strict noise curfew from 10–8. It was deathly silent, which rocked.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Applesauce, Bath Time, and Bedtime

Four little apples have been sitting in our fruit basket for weeks, which is far too long. They were withered and shriveled and, as Rachel put it, “kinda scary” so today we decided to get rid of them by making applesauce. Rachel wanted to help cut the apples and threw a fit when I told her she couldn’t, so I let her stand by me and put each piece in the pot after I had finished cutting so she felt like she was helping. It worked.

“Oh, Mommy! Helping make applesauce is so much fun! It’s kind of like a game…only it’s not a game. It’s real!”

We sang songs to Miriam while the apples boiled down and then I took off the skins and let Rachel help mash them. She did more eating than mashing, I think.


While you were nursing…


“Mom! I accently [sic] dropped some toilet paper in the toilet!”

“Did you use it?”


“Then that’s where it goes.”

“But not all of it!”


Rome: First day of near-homelessness

After struggling to get Rachel asleep (she didn’t fall asleep until 11:45), Nancy and I counted down the time until I left, puttering around the house until 1, when, after a tearful farewell, I went downstairs to my waiting car. For the first time ever my driver took the Ring Road instead of driving straight through downtown Cairo. It only took twenty minutes to get to the airport. Incredible. Since I got there so early I had to wait in the lobby of Terminal 2 until the check-in desk opened. For some reason we’ve always flown through Terminal 2—it’s old, decrepit, falling apart, smelly, and rather third world.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Rome: The (really long) preface

One night a long, long time ago, in 2002 (last decade!), right before my second semester at BYU, I was up late with my roommate, Ross, trying to figure out my schedule for Winter 2003. I had one last class to find to take the requisite amount of credits, but had no idea what I should take. None.

Reach and Grab

Look what’s new on the Miriam home front:


So. This is rain.

Today it rained. Although to be more precise, I suppose it merely drizzled for a while and got everything slightly wettish. We had to go out for a walk this afternoon and I excitedly told Rachel that it was raining while we hauled her stroller down the stairs. She has no memories of rain. I got her all buckled in and headed out into the street.

“So,” she said looking only mildly impressed while assessing the dripping sky and her newly dampened surroundings, “This is rain.”


Monday, January 18, 2010

Unsolved Mystery

So, I’ve started tutoring a little girl after school. Both of her parents work and neither is available to help with homework—even though the father works from home he works on American time so is shut up in his office. They have a nanny but she is illiterate so while she loves the children dearly she can’t help them with spelling homework. I can.

It’s been working out great for me so far, although I’m hoping it will get easier as the girls get used to going over there everyday. I take them with me, which is nice.

Rachel usually plays around with the kindergartener while I help his older sister since he doesn’t usually have any homework.

Today Rachel was very shy at first, as she normally is, and was grumpy until she started playing. Then the sounds of laughter and rapturous screaming filled the house while they chased each other about, playing who knows what.

Then all of a sudden Rachel’s little friend ran into the dining room at full speed.

I ♥ &

The other day I was writing a reminder on the white board for Andrew and decided to leave him a rebus love note. He happened to be standing over my shoulder at the time.

I drew an eye.

“What is that?” he asked, “An amoeba?”

I narrowed my eyes in pretend anger and drew a heart. ♥

“Oh, okay. I love…I think I can figure this out.”

Since he had insulted me with his amoeba comment I decided not to make it so easy for him. Sure, I could have drawn a U and had it be over with, but instead I decided to have him sound out his own name.

I drew an ampersand. &

“I love and…” Andrew said obediently.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Camping at Wadi Degla

This weekend we joined some friends on a short camping trip in Wadi Degla, a nature preserve just outside of the city limits of Cairo and only a 15 minute drive from our house. We were planning on arriving around 3 o’clock in the afternoon so that the kids could play around, but the Smiths were the only ones with a vehicle, so Jill ended up taking three carloads of people into the wadi. We were the last ones to arrive and the sun was just starting to set.

The guard didn’t want to let us in since, he claimed, the park closed at 5:00 PM. Jill had talked to him when she left to pick us up and he promised that she wouldn’t have a problem getting back in since part of our group was already inside.

“But you are late,” he said all too coolly, “It is 5:00.”

Jill pointed at the digital clock on her dashboard.

“It’s 4:58,” she said with a smile, “We’re still on time!”

He consented that was true and after a bit of finagling we settled on a price to pay for camping and drove into the valley. Rachel was a little disappointed.

“This isn’t the desert!” she said accusatorily as if we had lied, “There aren’t any camels! There’s no sand! It’s not hot! Let me out of the car!”

She lightened up when we started a fire and started setting up the tent we borrowed from the Houses (thanks, Amiee).


Saturday, January 16, 2010

To suck or not to suck?

Miriam is a great sleeper. She’s recently taken to sitting up and rather enjoys being propped up in the corner of the couch where she can sit up and watch what’s going on. She finds it thrilling. Leave her there too long, though, and her head starts to droop a little and then her breathing gets deeper and deeper until her whole body is bobbing up and down with each breath and she rocks herself to sleep.


Friday, January 15, 2010

Flashback Friday: Pachelbel’s Canon

Andrew thinks it’s time that I get back into this whole Flashback Friday thing after my long, unplanned, unannounced Christmas hiatus. Since I can’t quite remember the last time I wrote a Flashback Friday I can’t help but agree with him.

Sometimes I lose track of myself and he likes to take the opportunity to nag me a bit. It kind of turns the tables in our relationship.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Sounds the same, but…

Since we are constantly surrounded by language barriers we often find ourselves repeating parts of conversations over and over again.

“Is this Rachel’s first time here?” asked the receptionist/nurse at the doctor’s office.


“So she’s been here before then?”

“Yes. She’s been here before.”

“No!” Rachel interjected, “I’m just two! Only this many, see?”

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Zabiba Baby

Like Rachel, Miriam was born with some stork bites—salmon coloured birth marks—on her face and the back of her neck. Over time the marks  fade away, except, apparently, for the ones on the back of the neck (sorry, girls). Rachel’s stork bites were mainly on her eyelids and although they are mostly gone you can still see a bit of what’s leftover in her eyebrows.

Monday, January 11, 2010


We have been called on the carpet by more than one relative for favoritism. It’s not our fault, precisely; it’s just that we’ve been blessed with a calm, quiet baby who loves to sleep. So she doesn’t exactly do much yet. So there isn’t much to report.

She rolled over this morning, for the second time in her life. Again, I don’t think she was aiming to roll over, necessarily, but she was sucking her hands so vigorously and they kept moving away from her face so she’d chase after them and before she knew it she was on her side, but those pesky hands kept moving up toward her forehead so she chased on after them. Then she just popped from her tummy to her back (where at last her hands stayed still long enough for her to catch them and stick them in her mouth).

She can stick a whole lotta hand in her mouth. She loves sucking.

Also, she’s getting really good at blowing bubbles.


Double Doctor’s Appointment

Both Rachel and Miriam were due for shots today; we’ve been prepping Rachel for it all week. She was so worked up about it last night that she couldn’t sleep and didn’t sleep. She fell asleep around midnight, only to wake up two times in the wee hours of the morning. She was beyond nervous when we were sitting in the waiting room so we started to remind her of everything the doctor would do, most of which is completely innocuous.

“He’s going to listen to your heart like this,” said Andrew, demonstrating with the toy stethoscope.

“I don’t want him do that!” she said.

Sunday, January 10, 2010


For starters, let’s all enjoy a snippet from Rachel’s bedtime prayer this evening.

“Please help me to know the truth. And help Mommy and Daddy give me more candy. And…”

I don’t think a more sincere prayer has ever been uttered.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

AUC Campus (Jan. 3)

The truth is out.

Now when I suggest/plead/beg Andrew to stay at home to work/study/research and he says,

“I think I’ll just go onto campus even though the commute is a bear. It’s less distracting there. No offense.”

I know that what he really means is,

“You want me to keep holed up in this cave of an apartment when I could go to campus? Who are you kidding?!”

I always knew about the free air conditioning but I didn’t know that campus was akin to a palace. Sheesh. I’d choose campus over me, too, given the choice…which I’m not.

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Friday, January 08, 2010

Ibn Tulun and Gayer-Anderson (Jan. 2)

We spent New Year’s morning at church, after which we broke our fast with a delicious meal of potato pancakes. Then we wasted away the late afternoon by napping (me and Miriam) and playing Risk (Andrew, Jacob, Grandpa, and our friend Joseph from the branch) and colouring (Rachel and Grandma). 

It was nice to have a low-key day again so that we could gear up for another full day of touring the next day.

Andrew estimated that Saturday’s activities should take no longer than three hours. I scoffed at him and suggested we’d be gone for at least six. We were, in fact, gone for seven.

We took the metro to Mar Girgis and walked from there to the Nilometer on Roda, first passing over the metro and through a crumbling neighbourhood full goats, children and a few spontaneous garbage dumps…

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Heissatopia Zeitgeist 2009

Yes, my guest, it’s that time again.

In what has now become a steady tradition (see 2007 and 2008), here’s our annual omphaloskeptic statistical zeitgeist, wherein you can see all sorts of interesting and useless data about us (and you too!). 

Enjoy the nerdiness :)

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

New Year’s Eve 2009

This was a day of nothingness for me. The past few weeks had been all too exhausting and had taken their toll on Miriam and me, so when we were getting ready to hit the town Karen suggested,

“You can just stay home and sleep. We’ll take Rachel.”

Mother-in-laws are full of such good ideas.

The day that almost wasn’t (December 30)

Our itinerary for today was light and easy compared to the previous three days: swing by the Suez Canal, relax by the Red Sea at Ain Sokhna, finish off the day with a swim at the Maadi House.

It should have been an easy day. But it wasn’t.

We loaded into the van bright and early once again and set off through the desert. Everything was going just fine until we got to the checkpoint/toll booth onto the Suez road.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Conversations with Rachel

Our little Rachel is becoming quite the conversationalist, mostly when she thinks it will prolong bedtime.

She came into our room this morning and climbed onto our bed, whimpering about Grandma’s departure. She hid her head on my shoulder and said,

“Grandma’s gone!” sniffing all the while.

Then she lifted her head, got a wicked smile on her face and said quite happily,

“But guess who’s tomin’ in Dune?! Dachel’s tomin’!”

Super Pyramid Day (December 29)

I’m not sure whose idea it was to do the Dashur, Saqqara, and Giza Pyramids all in one day. It was an exhausting venture, to say the least, and much colder than we had planned on. That desert wind just rips through you!

We learned today that neither of our girls like wind very much.

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Monday, January 04, 2010

Alexandria, Day 2 (December 28)

At the insistence of our driver, we started our day bright and early by checking out of our hotel and loading into the van by 8:00 AM. He drove us over to the Fort of Qaitbay in the maniac fashion of his and dropped us off by the ticket booth where we were informed we had to wait until 9:00 AM when the citadel opened.

We had wanted to wander around on the harbour for a while, anyway, so that’s what we did instead, much to the annoyance of our driver who seemed to want us to be on the go the entire day.

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Saturday, January 02, 2010

Wadi el-Natrun and Alexandria (December 27)

We left in the thick early morning fog to drive up to Alexandria. It’s often foggy in the late evenings and early morning here, but I’ve never seen the fog quite as thick as it was today. Everyone was driving with their hazards lights blinking and we couldn’t see across the Nile, let alone a hundred feet in front of us. It was eerie.

When I woke up from my car-nap, though, the fog had dispelled and the trash-filled desert splayed out in all directions. We still had a couple of hours worth of driving in front of us but were stopping half-way to visit a Coptic monastery.

Our driver pulled into a rest stop/gas station for a twenty minute “smoking break.” For him, of course. We just used it to stretch our legs and let Rachel play on the—get this—playground! This rest stop just sprouted out of the middle of nowhere and came complete with playground and Western shopping outlets. I can’t, for the life of me, understand why they would have such a nice playground out in the middle of the desert. Nothing like that exists in Cairo.

Rachel enjoyed the swings but she doesn’t have very much experience with swings, since Maadi House doesn’t have any, so when she wanted to get off she just let go. The result was a little traumatizing for her—she learned that gravity is still in full force.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Islamic Cairo (December 26)

My friend Jill’s in-laws arrived in Egypt the same day that Reid and Jacob arrived. We flew down to Luxor on the same flight that they did and bumped into them at almost every tourist destination down there. We had talked about setting up some tours together but it just didn’t happen. Finally on Boxing Day we had Andrew take everyone on a little tour of Islamic Cairo.

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