Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘Egyptian Army’

Urban Warfare

Well, I’d been concerned these blog postings had been getting a bit banal, but this week we have some real excitement in the form of ROCKET PROPELLED GRENADES. Ironically, although I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to distinguish between gunshots and fireworks (the popping sounds are usually fireworks), when I was awoken by two huge booms at 4:30 a.m., I told myself it was nothing and just rolled over and went back to sleep.

Wrong again. Good thing I’m not a war reporter. Turns out a couple of over-armed black-masked men decided to try to take out a TV satellite dish; the main satellite field is located uncomfortably close to our house. A couple of days later, video of the attack surfaced on the Internet. The guys behind it were members of a Syrian group with ties to Al Qaeda. Fantastic.

The assault on the satellite dish was the topper to the October 6 holiday, Armed Forces Day. There were festivities throughout the country. Needless to say, the MB thought the day presented a terrific opportunity to once again make their point that they are waiting for their democratically elected leader Mohammed Morsi to resume his rightful place at the helm of the Egyptian state. By the end of the day, more than 50 were dead and hundreds had been injured.

Also on the urban warfare front: we have defeated the army of ants that had invaded our home. O came from New York armed with heavy artillery in the form of massive doses of ant poison. The traps proved fairly useless, but the poisoned gel that we piped into their lair did the trick. We can now leave food out in the open for more than 10 seconds without an ant assault. There are still a few stragglers, but we have at least temporarily defeated the occupying forces.

O also brought with him a basketball hoop for T’s birthday. It was the one thing T told me he really wanted our house in Cairo to have, and he’s thrilled now that it’s here. He and X go out and shoot hoops nearly every day. And since there still isn’t a ton to do IN the house, it’s a relief that they have something to do outside.

On the household front: The couch is due to be delivered any day now. I can’t wait. The carpenter stopped by yesterday and said he had finished building the loft beds and now they just needed to be stained. He had come to the house with swatches so the kids could choose fabric for their desk chairs. The choices were pretty limited but they both opted for a funky 60s-style graphic black-and-white print with bright orange and red accents. Quite cute.

Finally, I realized I’d never closed the chapter on the shocking dishwasher. It’s still electrifying—apparently that’s just par for the course here, where nothing is grounded. But supposedly the previous tenants, who worked for a big oil company had an electrician who did ground the appliances, and there was some sort of extra wire that nasty Zanussi guy didn’t know how to deal with. So he attached it to the sink, and hence the jolting water. The electrician came and took care of that, but the dishwasher still zaps us. There’s a switch on the wall that cuts power to it, and he told me to just turn it off between cycles, which we now do. The one time I forgot, I got a little shock again. But now my laptop zings me as well, so I’ve decided to learn to live with it. Maybe all the extra electricity will be like getting hit by lightning and I’ll develop some sort of superpower.

 

Advertisements

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.

 

Ominous Arrival?

Well, we picked one hell of a day to arrive in Cairo.

The last 24 hours have been a roller coaster ride. We scrambled to get packed and out of our apartment on time for our flight, and would never have made it without the help of a few amazing friends who went way beyond the call. I felt relaxed for the first time in weeks as I sipped prosecco and watched the clouds outside the plane window.

Alas, that bliss was short-lived. After a layover in Zurich, we arrived in Cairo with two tired boys and two traumatized cats and heard even before we had disembarked that angry mobs had set fires throughout the city in retaliation for the violent dispersal of the Muslim Brotherhood protests. The man sitting behind me on the plane said a friend of his had booked him into an airport hotel because it was pointless to even try to get out of the airport—the unrest was just too widespread.

I called Marco, our driver, who would turn out to be more of a savior, and he said that downtown was a mess but the roads between Maadi and the airport were fine and he was there and waiting for us. We sailed through immigration and customs—our cats could have been foaming-at-the-mouth rabid for all anyone cared—and found Marco. A lifelong resident of Maadi, it quickly became clear that he is going to be my go-to guy on everything from where to buy a mattress to how to get my garbage removed every day.

Safely in the van and on our way to meet the owner of the villa, O started reading the news reports of the dispersal of the demonstrations—I was still without any kind of internet access—when I heard him gasp. A British journalist had been shot and killed. Mick Deane. Mick had been O’s cameraman at ITN when we lived in Hong Kong. They, along with correspondent Mark Austin, had traveled all over Southeast Asia together. Mick was a lovely, sweet man. We hadn’t even realized he was in Cairo. Needless to say, the blissful haze of the plane ride out of New York had fully dissipated by now.

There is more to the evening—I am writing this from a random hotel while Cairo is under curfew because we couldn’t get to our intended destination—but my battery is dying and I am fading. More tomorrow.

Revolution 2.0

Things have been busy here and obviously a lot has happened since my last blog posting—both in my life and in Egypt. First up, there is a new government in Egypt now and what that means for the country is still uncertain. One thing is clear: the Muslim Brotherhood ain’t happy about it.

A lot of my friends have been in touch asking if I am still planning to go. The short answer: for the moment, yes. What I mean by that is, I haven’t decided not to go, but I also realize that things could further destabilize there.  At this point I’m working under the assumption that I’ll be moving next month but am watching closely and am ready to pull the plug on our plans if need be. I guess I should start formulating a Plan B…

The truth is, much of what is happening is what should have taken place the first time around. There should have been a caretaker coalition government and a constitution should have been written before elections were held, which is hopefully what will happen now, although even that isn’t a foregone conclusion. Yes, Morsi was democratically elected but he was well on his way to becoming a dictator and was running a regime that was far from democratic.

It’s important to keep in mind that, with the Egyptian Army controlling about a third of the economy, very little happens there that they don’t want. Their hand just shows more obviously at some times than at others. How they integrate the Brotherhood will be the key to future stability. Sending them underground will have perilous results; the factions that are willing to be part of the political process need to be cultivated and included.

A lot has happened on the personal front as well. For starters, my grandmother died a couple of weeks ago. Needless to say, I am heartbroken.  I really wanted the boys to have a chance to get to know her, and I can’t imagine what it will feel like for me to be there without her; she was my anchor. But she was 95 years old and was ready to go and didn’t suffer too much in the end, so there’s that to be thankful for.

Despite the unrest, school is currently scheduled to start on time. We signed and sent the money for the villa, so we’re committed there. I was relieved to have a place to move into right away; now it’s feeling like a bit of a burden to be tied to a place—not to mention, I’m wondering if we could have gotten a better deal if we’d waited. But what can you do? It’s done. I haven’t booked our tickets yet, and I’ve noticed that airfares are dropping, so at least we’ll save money there.

The boys seem to be feeling pretty good about the move, although we’ve shielded them from news of the latest round of violence. T has been emailing with a couple of boys who are going to be in his grade, which has him raring to get over there and has even eased some of X’s anxiety. Now that school is over and he’s not being reminded daily of what he’s leaving behind, even X starting to look ahead with more optimism.

%d bloggers like this: