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Posts from the ‘School’ Category

Gaining Speed

The pace of life here is starting to pick up. The kids are in school full-force; T’s after school activities started this past week and X’s start this week. I’m working more, exploring more and socializing more. Still no more furniture, though. I’m determined to remedy that tomorrow.

The boys continue to love school. T had a school social this week. He’s becoming increasingly independent. On Thursday X didn’t have classes because of parent conferences, so T went to school by himself. He left early in the morning, stayed afterward for sports practice, and the social was at 6 p.m. that evening so he hung around for that. I didn’t see him until 8 p.m. that night. He had a blast. He’s loving how much more independence he gets here.

I spent the morning exploring Road 9—our neighborhood’s main shopping road—with X. We started out at Lucille’s, a restaurant famous among expats for their breakfasts and burgers (okay, I detoured to Café Greco for a good cappuccino first…), then meandered up the street. We found what looked like a fantastic bakery and a cupcake store that wouldn’t be out of place in New York. I stumbled upon Saad Silver, the new outpost of the small chain of silver stores where my family has been shoppingfor years. I went in and introduced myself, and I happened to be carrying a key chain I bought from their store decades ago. The owner claimed to remember my parents, and promised me great prices. They have beautiful stuff.

That afternoon I met with X’s teacher for my parent conference. He seems to be adjusting remarkably well. I continue to be impressed by the school and at how much fun they manage to make everything for the kids.

When I was coming back home I heard what sounded like a cat massacre. I didn’t think too much of it, because with all the wild cats in the streets there’s always a lot fighting going on. Still, it was the most intense cat screaming I’d heard so far, and it sounded like it was in our next door neighbor’s yard. This morning when we woke up, our wild kittens were nowhere to be seen. I put some food out for them—I’d done that yesterday and they’d gobbled it all up—but as of this writing at 9:30 p.m. I have yet to see a kitten and the food is still all there. I have all the garden lights on and keep peering out the back windows, but there is no sign of them. I fear the worst.

I went on my first-ever felucca ride this week, organized by the school for new parents. It was beautiful. I can’t wait to take one with the boys.

A Nile Beauty

A Nile Beauty

We spent much of today with an old friend from NY who’s living here now. She has an adorable little boy who X got along with well. They don’t live particularly close to us, but I hope we manage to see them regularly. Tomorrow I am determined to decide upon a couch—particularly now that I have managed to open a bank account, which involves a somewhat complicated and abstruse approval process.  Then the boys have some sort of sporting day at school, so we’re likely to be there for much of the afternoon.

We continue to be infested by ants. Tiny little black ones and big giant light brown ones. The black ones are fast little suckers who will swarm any stray crumb within moments of its deposit on a floor or counter top, and can get in to anything (including sealed Ritz crackers and cat food, we learned the hard way). Supposedly, they are seasonal. We also have giant golden-brown ants. They are bold and undeterrable and seem to live in the walls. A nightmare. I’m worried about spraying because of the cats and, without knowing what kind of ants they are, I’m concerned that I’ll do something to make things worse.

The dishwasher and sink continue to shock. The boys refuse to put plates in the dishwasher at this point. The electrician is supposed to come Sunday morning. And then I am meeting with the country representative from Medecins du Monde to learn more about what they’re doing here (I’m on the U.S. board). And on Monday—hold on to your hats—I am venturing outside of the Maadi bubble into downtown Cairo for a meeting and then lunch with a friend of a friend of a friend. I grow ever bolder…

On the political front, well….the government/army crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood and militants in Sinai continues, as do the attacks on army troops in Sinai. The tougher the army gets, the more popular they seem to be. Houses all over Maadi sport Egyptian flags; one taxi driver told me that they are displayed in a show of support for the army overthrow of Morsi.

There certainly does seem to be a feeling of nationalism pervading the country. One Coptic leader I spoke to said Christians have been careful not to turn to outsiders for help in light of all the recent church burnings, because they want to emphasize their solidarity with all the other anti-Morsi Egyptians, of any religion. There is an emphasis here these days on Egyptian identity and a bit of an insider vs. outsider attitude—which creates a quandary for a government that is also trying to lure back tourists who are, by definition, not Egyptian.

 

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A Typical Weekend in the Bubble

Saturday night. The end of our weekend. The boys go back to school tomorrow, and afterschool activities start this week, which we’re all looking forward to. T is going to be doing soccer and flag football, which we both find a bit amusing. He’s come to Cairo to learn how to play American sports. X is going to be taking cooking and baking.

Weekends here are relaxing, at least for now, despite the errand running. Fridays we have to stay close to home because of all the demonstrations and the early curfew. I know this is a bit perverse, but I enjoy our Fridays all the more for their limitations. Yesterday, for example, the boys watched a movie on iTunes while I slept in. Then I got up, we tidied up a bit, walked over to the CSA where I could get a decent coffee and the boys had an early lunch. We walked home and I read a little, wrote a little, and took a nap. Then we went over to the school were I swam laps, X played basketball in the pool and T played soccer on the field with some boys he knows. I sat on the bleachers and read a little more as the sun set. Glorious, really.

Afterwards, we wandered over to one of the local grocery stores that caters to expats. X was thrilled to find Double Stuff Oreos—something that, as far as I knew, he’d never set eyes on in the U.S. Like a good Egyptian, I slipped the produce guy and the meat guy each a little cash so they’d pick out the best stuff for me. Before I knew it the produce guy was going through my baskets checking out everything I’d bought to make sure it was all up to snuff. He got one of the shop hands to swap out a few items for me.

While we were checking out I started talking to the manager as part of my personal crusade to persuade one—any—of the stores here to carry Greek yogurt. The boys were chatting to him and as a gesture of what he undoubtedly saw as kindness he gave the kids a big bottle of Coke. They were laughing, because they knew I wouldn’t offend him by saying them they couldn’t have it. So there was soda at home that evening.  The boys, needless to say, were thrilled.

Saturday morning we spent moving the furniture I’d bought from departing expats into the house. I am now the proud owner of a desk, a bed, a chair and a rug. It’s all terribly exciting. We had an encounter picking up the furniture, though, that is best described as awkward. A friend’s housekeeper here had recommended a friend of hers—let’s calls her Penny—whom we tried out for a week. She wasn’t great so we told her we were going to try someone else the following week. (Which we did, and she was terrific.) Penny was not pleased.

When I was buying the furniture from the outgoing Brits, they told me they were leaving that day but I could meet their housekeeper “Penny” on Saturday. I mentioned I’d just tried and not hired someone of the same name. “Oh, ours is fantastic,” they told me. So I figured it couldn’t possibly be the same person. But when we rang the bell to pick up the bed and desk on Saturday morning, who do you think answered the door? Of course, it was the same woman we’d let go only a week before. Just my luck.

When we were done moving furniture, Marco took us for breakfast to a tameya (Egyptain falafel) stand under a bridge, where we ate street food like real Egyptians. Even more exciting than the new furniture, really. Then home to set everything up, more napping, some of FaceTiming with NY friends on Theo’s part and dinner at a delicious new Greek restaurant with newly made friends. All in all, a terrific weekend.

Finally, we have more additions to our menagerie. Kittens. They’re not ours, really, and I will do everything in my power to keep it that way, but there’s a cat who seems to claim our back yard as her home who has adorable offspring. Three or four of them, as far as I can tell. The boys want me to buy food for her.

And, oh. The dishwasher continues to give us little electric shocks from time to time. As does the kitchen sink. And possibly the running water. I’ve put the bawab on the case.

That’s life in our bubble. Outside of the neighborhood things remain less than idyllic. There was an attempt on the interior minister’s life on Thursday when a bomb detonated near his convoy, and on Saturday an improvised hand grenade went off in a police station. These are new developments in Egypt and no one knows quite what to make of them yet.

Return to Cairo

More from Today.com…..

 

Mom in Cairo: Back in our home, we’re adjusting to new normal

Monique El-Faizy
TODAY contributor

Author Monique El-Faizy moved, with her two young sons, referenced as X and T for privacy, and husband, Oliver, to Cairo on August 14, just as tensions reached a fever pitch. She’s there for a two-year stint while working on a book about Egypt. The delay of the kids’ school year rattled her nerves enough to take the boys and head to Rome but now, they’ve returned to their new home. Read the latest on her family’s progress. 

We’re back in Cairo.

Arriving this time was different from any other I can remember. I didn’t feel any of the anxiety I usually do. We were coming home.

That’s not to say I hadn’t worried we might not be able to return to Egypt. While we were in Italy, having fled with the kids when the kids’ American school announced it was delaying the start of classes, Mubarak was released from prison and the self-described anti-coup alliance announced a “Day of Martyrs,” calling for multiple demonstrations. The stage was set for some serious bloodshed.

 

                     X and T, walking to school in Cairo on their first week.

Monique El-Faizy
X and T, walking to school in Cairo on their first week.
 
 
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Out of Egypt

More of our saga from Today.com….

Flight from Egypt: As tensions rise, American mom and kids depart Cairo

Monique El-Faizy
TODAY contributor
Monique and her two boys in Rome.

Courtesy of Monique El-Faizy
The author and her two boys in Rome, where they flew to after leaving their new home in Cairo.

Author Monique El-Faizy moved, with her sons and husband, to Cairo on August 14. She’s there for a two-year stint while working on a book aboutEgypt, but tensions in the country rattled her nerves enough to take the boys and head to Rome while her husband stayed behind to continue setting up their new home. Read the latest on her family’s progress. 

Well…we fled. Temporarily.

I’m still not sure it was the right call, although our friends and family seem terribly relieved. The truth is, our little Cairo bubble was as quiet and safe as ever. I’ll admit — I felt edgy every time I turned on the news or heard about another company evacuating employees, but had I not known about those things, nothing in our neighborhood would have indicated to me that we should get out.

http://www.today.com/news/flight-egypt-tensions-rise-american-mom-kids-depart-cairo-6C10967778

Great News

We found out last weekend that the boys got into the school we wanted them to go to in Cairo. Rationally, I knew they would, but until the acceptance notice came there was always a lingering fear. I think T was most relieved. He’s so excited to be going. He loves UNIS but I think that after seven years there he’s ready for a change. He’s really looking forward to perusing the elective offerings and choosing his courses. He’d leave tomorrow if he could.

X is also getting excited about the new school. I came home from Egypt with a bunch of photos, and when I was putting him to bed after I showed them to him, he told me, “Mommy, I might be feeling better about moving to Cairo.” It’s no surprise. The school looks like a summer camp. It’s huge—I read 11 acres somewhere—with soccer fields and playgrounds and basketball courts and volleyball courts and ping pong tables and foosball tables and an outdoor Olympic-sized swimming pool. I think it was the photos of the swim class that got X over the hump. The teacher was in the pool and he was squirting a bunch of kids who were lined up at the side—all wearing goggles, which is X’s prerequisite for going in the water. The kids looked like they were having fun.032 107

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I think it also helped that the school looked so much like UNIS. I’d taken a photo of a wall mural detailing the UN Rights of the Child. “We study that here!” X exclaimed when he saw it. The classrooms had a similar set up, too, with cushions in the book area and math and reading prompts taped to the walls. It was helpful for him to see that the new school wouldn’t be the alien experience he’d feared it would.

The boys also enjoyed seeing the pictures of the houses I’d looked at. Of course, it would be too much to ask for them both to like the same place. T preferred the villa and X preferred the penthouse. I’m on the fence. The villa is sweet. I love that it’s on a quiet street and feels like a house, which we’re unlikely to ever live in otherwise. It’s great space without being ostentatious or over the top. High-end places in Cairo tend to have gilded furniture and shiny marble floors and feel more like bank lobbies than homes. While this place has marble floors on the ground level, they’re white and worn and don’t feel overly fancy. The kitchen is huge and filled with light. The stairs are rose-colored marble and a little cracked, and while it’s four bedrooms there are only two bathrooms upstairs, so it still feels fairly modest. Overall it’s got all the space we need—including an office and a guest room—but it has a warm and homey feeling. And the huge garden is fantastic. On the downside, though, the street is quiet and I wonder how safe I will feel there.

Bedroom013 KitchenLiving room section 1

The penthouse, on the other hand, has a doorman and is far more secure. It’s also great space, five bedrooms in total, so we could have a guest room and an office there, too, and it’s on multiple levels. The roof deck is amazing, with a built-in barbecue and lounge chairs. It would be a great place to throw parties. On the downside, it isn’t as light, the kitchen is smaller and darker—though still large by NYC standards—and the floor of the entire, enormous, living/dining area is a highly glossed marble. The space is fantastic but it’s hard to imagine it ever feeling like a home.

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I haven’t done anything on the housing front since I got back. I will soon, but I don’t feel too worried about it. I could take either, and others will come on the market once school lets out in June. I’ll get back in touch with both agents in the next week or so. In the meantime I have to wire the deposit for the school, and now my father tells me my grandmother is unwell again, so there’s that to worry about.

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