Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Busy Times

There have been complaints in our household, mostly from Andrew, that I haven’t been blogging enough. So what have I been doing instead? Applying for job after job after job, that’s what.

I have been spending so much time scrolling through job postings that my scroll finger hurts. Seriously. The pad of my index finger cringes every time I put it on the scroll button. I’m pretty sure it’s blistered or something.

Life has been going on in spite of the job search, of course.

Miriam chews on just about everything, including the floor.


It’s not like we don’t have any toys or anything. If anything we probably have too many toys.

Curious Mar Girgis


We went to Coptic Cairo today, which is flooded with images of Saint George, the dragon-slayer and Christian martyr. In Arabic he is called Mar Girgis, which also happens to be the name of the metro stop where you’ll find Old Cairo. There are portraits of Mar Girgis everywhere, gallantly sitting astride his steed, with red cape flowing majestically behind him and sword poised and ready to be thrust into the belly of a ferocious-looking dragon.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Light Bulbs and Train Tracks

Just so you know…I’m not usually the kind of person who waltzes into a grocery store to steal price tags from the aisles. But the other day I took one, anyway. I didn’t have my camera on me, see, and the hilarity of it had to be preserved. Forgive me.

I can now totally understand why I can rarely find the price tag for the items I want to purchase. People steal them because they are too darn funny not to. I will try not to complain about this in the future since I, myself, recently contributed to the lack of signage in Egyptian grocery stores…and all the chaos and confusion that entails.

It’s not like this sign was really helping anyone, anyway:


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Pinky and Yellow

We aimed to leave the house at 1:45 this afternoon but weren’t out the door until just past 2:00 so we were a little late joining our friends at the Maadi House, but most everyone else was late, too, so I didn’t feel too badly about it.

Rachel, for some reason, didn’t play with any of the kids we knew and instead was playing with two little girls that no one knew. That’s fine with me—I think it’s cool that she was brave enough to go off and make new friends.

When we were walking to tutoring after playing at the playground, Rachel, having exhausted her screams of protest, was chattering away about how much fun she had and how she wants to play again with her friends. Then she started talking about Pinky and Yellow and how she wants to play with them, too.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Birds of Passage

I just finished reading Birds of Passage by Robert Sole. It’s a work of historical fiction told in anecdotes of sorts so, naturally, I loved it. It discusses at length the theme of belonging, I suppose, versus being an outsider—in families, in school, in countries. Andrew was thrilled to read it because it was his “thesis in fictional form.” I found it very easy to relate to several passages in the book, particularly toward the end of the book. I’m not sure why.

The whole book was an interesting read, but I found the end very touching. Perhaps that is because that is how the end of stories are supposed to be, or perhaps it is because of what has been going on in my life while reading the last few chapters that caused it to resonate so soundly within me.

The one and only Cheerio

A while back my friend Jamie packed Cheerios for her daughter to snack on while we did yoga. Rachel, who is apparently top-chicken in the nursery pecking order, coaxed Sarah to give them up and immediately started consuming them.

“What are these, Mom?” she asked, “They’re kind of like cereal…but better!”

I tried to convince Rachel to give them back to Sarah, but Jamie insisted that Rachel keep the rest. She felt bad that Rachel didn’t know what Cheerios were.

A few weeks ago I stopped by Jamie’s apartment to drop something off for her and she surprised me with a box of Cheerios.

“For Rachel,” she said, “Since every child should know what Cheerios are.”

Monday, March 22, 2010

We regret to inform you…we’ve run out of ice cream

Plan A has been squashed like a bug—there will be no PhD for us, at least not this year. We were rejected by every school we applied to and, frankly, it feels awful. Andrew feels even worse than I do, I’m sure, since he’s the addressee of the letters of regret. What more could we have done?

He has a 3.933 GPA. He was awarded a research grant. One of his translations is being published in the upcoming Literary Atlas of Cairo. His GRE scores are competitive. I’m positive he had excellent letters of recommendation. And it isn’t like AUC is unprestigious.

As far as we can tell it’s this darn recession we’re in.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Safety First

Living in the Middle East has begun to rub off on me, I suppose, and I have developed this bad habit of neglecting to buckle my children into things. Cars, strollers, chairs…anything, really.

I am pretty good about remembering to buckle Miriam into her swing, but the bouncy chair? Not so much, no.

She’s even getting pretty good at purposefully getting out of her chair so she can roll around on the floor. She arches her back and then slides down until her head is where her bum should be resting and then she flips over and lands on the ground. It’s quite acrobatic in a slow-motion, not-quite-mobile kind of way.


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Thursday at the market

After yoga on Thursday, Jaehee, Jill, and I took the metro to the market at Dar es-Salaam. There are signs on the platform warning people not to cross the tracks. These signs are not very effective and people cross the tracks all the time. I don’t blame them because those stairs can be a real killer.


Friday, March 19, 2010

I’m a soap

Yesterday I did a lot of walking around carrying children and groceries. While walking home from the grocery store with Miriam strapped to my front and a bag of groceries on either shoulder I remarked to Andrew, “My shoulders are burning.”

At dinner this evening, Rachel brought that little phrase out. I can’t remember why. She was just being silly, I guess, or looking for excuses not to eat.

“My shoulder hurts!” she said, pulling her shirt to the side, “Look how it’s burning!”

Andrew and I looked at each other, confused, but then I remembered that I had said that yesterday.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Garbage City and City of the Dead

Today was quite a bit cooler than yesterday—it was only about 30 degrees today and is supposed to stay in the 20s for the rest of the week—so several girls in the branch and I got our groove on and headed out on a cheap adventure, which is the best kind of adventure to have.

Since there were so many of us we decided to split the cost of a taxi instead of hassling with the metro—with three little kids tagging along we wanted our transit time to be as short as possible—and landed ourselves in Garbage City (Manshiyat Naser/Madeenat az-Zabbaleen). We decided to hike up through all the muck to visit the Church of St. Simeon the Tanner at the top of the Moqattam hills.

Walking through Garbage City is always interesting. It starts out tame enough but all too soon you find yourself surrounded by mountains of trash, sludging through ankle deep ooze, and feeling nostalgic for your own ripe kitchen garbage (which is pretty tame compared to this mess).


When I grow up

Our next-door neighbours moved a while ago but not too far. We went to visit them yesterday and I have to admit that I would have moved here, too, if I was given the opportunity. The whole building is owned by AUC, there is a big backyard with grass, a cement pad with a basketball stand and a barbeque, and a swing set in a sandbox.

It was awesome. Rachel and Elijah rode bikes, collected leaves in a wagon, played in the sand, tried to get brave enough to go down the slide by themselves, and had a great time. They were a sweaty, dirty pair when we took them back inside for lunch!


Saturday, March 13, 2010

Abayat and Nuqub

Last night after the fireside we had Hayley and Nacia and Jaehee and Aden over to play games, specifically Risk. In Arabic.

I’ve never played Risk before, but Andrew loves it and since I’m devoted to him I decided to give it a try. For years we’ve been pitted against each other in our game playing—scrabble, dominoes, fluxx, what-have-you—but last night we divided into teams. Andrew and I played on the same team. It was interesting to get to work together instead of against each other.

Andrew let me place half of our countries—I swear it took me like ten minutes to read the name on the card and then find the country on the map. Andrew finished his half in like 20 seconds…


Friday, March 12, 2010

Flashback Friday: Molasses and Grandma’s Hair

Right now I’m making ginersnaps for tonight’s fireside. Technically I suppose I’m writing a blog post…but I’ve already made the dough and now all I need to do is bake them so I’m kind of in the midst of making gingersnaps. I love gingersnaps.

And, actually, I love Kerr’s Halloween kisses.

And mostly I just like molasses.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Miriam is completely addicted to her thumb. Awake, asleep, happy, sad, bored, excited? Thumb in mouth. Nom, nom, nom.


Signs today was awesome

1) At 9:00 PM Rachel asked if she could go to bed.

2) We got our jogging stroller fixed. It runs as smooth as silk now.

3) We spent the afternoon at the Maadi House. Rachel ran in the grass and played at the playground and I chatted.

4) Rachel, Miriam, and I all had an early afternoon nap. That hasn’t happened in forever.

5) We spent the morning in the pool at the Maadi House. Even though the pool heater is broken it was still warm-ish (ie. not frigid).


Monday, March 08, 2010

Rachel’s first book report

Rachel and I started doing a St. Patrick’s Day craft today and were talking about what St. Patrick’s Day is about. She’s pretty much convinced that it’s Uncle Patrick’s birthday and that I know nothing.

Leprechauns, shamrocks, godhead, snakes, pot of gold?

Clearly I’m crazy.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

This week in pictures

Miriam took her first successful stroller ride this week. I tried putting her in the stroller about a month ago but she hated it. She did alright this time. Rachel sat on the foot rest when she got too tired to walk. Does anyone have any words of advice on double-strollers? I think we might want one at some point.


This week in words

At the beginning of the week both girls slept through the night and both girls stayed dry and I thought to myself, “This is going to be a great week!”


Saturday, March 06, 2010

Abu Zaabal Leprosarium

I was stressing all week about arranging transportation to get ourselves out to the leprosarium for the branch service project. We were told there was some sort of a list that we had to get on to get seats on the bus, but every time I called the Burtons, the humanitarian missionaries volunteers, no one would answer.

Sometimes when people say “bus” they actually mean “van.” Last year we also arranged a “bus” but it was just a twelve-seater van and some people had to take their private cars out to the leprosarium as well. This year we were shocked to see that we have our very own charter bus. Who knew?

Latter-day Saint Charities

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Them’s fighting words

Even after fixing our satellite a year ago, our television viewing experience has not been improved much. We don’t watch television much but occasionally there are things that we’d like to watch like, say, the Olympics. We didn’t get to watch those this year since our satellite isn’t working again and our internet connection is too slow.

Our landlord finally stopped by to see if he could fix the problem for us. He’s one of few people with access to the roof, which is sealed off by a locked door, which is weird because usually the roofs of buildings are open-access or private oases for penthouse residents.

Ours isn’t either of those things, although I suppose we could go up there if we wished since the door is only haphazardly framed by a pony wall of stacked bricks, dusted with mortar. With the aid of a stool we could scale the wall and see about the connection ourselves, but we are lazy.

Also, sometimes there are dogs on the roof.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Needs read

Sometimes I wish that I was the one in grad school, but not really. Not right now. One grad student is plenty for our household. Still, there are classes I wish I could take and things that I wish I could research and learn about.

For example, I really want to research how Arabic writers hold their pens. Since left-handed people hold their pens differently when writing left-to-right, I wonder if right-handed people hold their pens differently when writing right-to-left. I think I hold my pen the same way for both directions, but I’m not a “native” Arabic writer. I haven’t ever paid close attention to how Arabs write, though. Do they write differently? Should I be holding my pen differently when I write in Arabic? Is writing in Arabic easier for left-handed people?

So many questions, so little time.