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Trials and Tricks and a Dearth of Treats

If you ask my children, this past week was a bust—at least on the Halloween haul front. It’s true, there wasn’t much candy to be had, but the local festivities were pretty great. There was a Halloween social in the middle school that T came home from perhaps more excited than I’ve ever seen him. He had been dancing all night and had lost his voice from screaming. He was elated.

I may have said this before, but I am continuously struck by it so will say it again: the middle school here is fantastic. The brilliance of it is that the emphasis is on making school fun. The kids are so happy to be there that they are open to the learning that comes with it. The teachers are terrific, and the administration has clearly spent a lot of time thinking about how middle schoolers work. There are only four classes a day, each well more than an hour long, with 20-minute breaks in between and, aside from (I think) three core classes, all the courses are electives, so the kids are fully engaged.

I wish I could heap such high praise on the elementary school. It’s fine, but not superlative. From what I can see (to be honest, I haven’t taken that close a look), it takes a less holistic approach to learning and puts more of a singular focus on academics—which is ironic, since the academics there, while surely sufficient, haven’t wowed me with their strength. And there isn’t the same emphasis and concern with a student’s individual learning style. Having said that, X is really happy there, he loves most of his teachers, and I’m sure he will get what he needs academically.

But who cares about academics when there’s Halloween candy to be had? Apparently the school usually has an adorable parade for the kids on Halloween, but for some reason it was cancelled this year. People were really upset about that, but since we had never seen it, we didn’t know what we were missing. On the weekend, the elementary school held a Halloween festival, with booths and games and food (although not enough candy for his taste). Again, people said it wasn’t nearly as good as it had been in years past, but we thought it was great fun. I couldn’t drag X out of there.

The reason I needed to get him out was because we were meeting our houseguest for dinner, @pfro. She was a fantastic first visitor, because she was fearless and traveled all over the country. She said she had a fabulous time. There are so few tourists right now that you can get first-class accommodation for a song, and the monuments and historic sites are all empty. She said everyone was very friendly and so happy to see an American tourist that they treated her like a rock star.

Yesterday was another no-school day, scheduled off for the Islamic New Year—although it seems that, because of the moon’s shenanigans, the holiday is actually today. The school, though, decided to stick to the plan and give the kids Monday off because it was the first day of deposed president Morsi’s trial. It was expected to be held close to the school/our house, and there were tons of demonstrations planned. We were warned stay close to home. As it turned out, our little corner was quiet, as it always it, but the wider area was, indeed, a mess. There was a massive demonstration on the Corniche, which is the part of the neighborhood that abuts the Nile, about a mile or two from here, and the ring road exits to Maadi were reportedly blocked off by demonstrators.

And the trial, you may ask? It was, perhaps predictably, adjourned until January, both because Morsi refused to wear the standard-issue white jumpsuit and because of the utter chaos in the courtroom caused by his 14 chanting co-defendants. And while there were clashes and teargas, I haven’t read that anyone was killed and the Brotherhood seems to have been unable to cause any significant problems, so that’s progress.

Things must be getting better here from the U.S. vantage point, because the big news in the past few days was that the Americans are coming back. Apparently the government has cleared their return. From what I hear, the first wave of them arrives this weekend. I’m sure many of those who enrolled their kids in school in the U.S. will wait until the semester break to return, but it seems that things are about to change around here. For most of the folks, that means life is getting back to normal, but the boys and I have no idea what to expect.

Here’s to still more transition…..

p.s. I realize that I didn’t take a single Halloween picture, but we friends took us hiking a couple of weeks ago in Wadi Degla, so I’m giving you a wadi picture instead. It was beautiful and there were tons of sea fossils. Amazing!

 

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