Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘Moving with Kids’

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.

 

Advertisements

The Aggravation of Appliances

Ah, Cairo life. We’ve been back nearly a week and logistics continue to take up most of our time. Let me back up for a minute and say I’m loving it here. I love the challenge of penetrating a new culture. I love getting to know a new neighborhood. And making new friends. I am the happiest I’ve been in a long time.

But, gosh, nothing is easy here.

Somehow, none of it is bothering me—yet. Not the power outages, not the lack of furniture, not even the army of ants we’re sharing the villa with. None of it—except maybe the time our Internet went out shortly after we got it switched on—after four separate trips to the store and hours of hours on the phone with customer service (on Oliver’s part). The little adjusting-to-life-in-Cairo brochure they give you at the Community Services Association, a great resource for expat and the source of the closest drinkable cappuccino, warns that one should expect to only achieve a third of what sets out to do each day. Given our experience here, that seems ambitious.

Oliver has been great. The week the boys and I were gallivanting in Italy, he was trying to put the house together, all with a 7 p.m. curfew in place and a strict directive not to leave the neighborhood because it was potentially too dangerous further afield. Internet access was at the top of his list. I think he made two visits to the provider’s offices while we were gone, maybe three. When we came home he told me he’d been promised it would be switched on that day.

Fantastic. Only when I went to plug in the router I realized we didn’t have a modem. The next day, while I was out, Oliver got back on the phone with customer service. He spent two hours—maybe longer—on the phone with them. No one bothered to ask if he had a modem.

So the next day he went back to the store. Of course you need a modem, they told him. But they wouldn’t sell him one because he didn’t have a copy of his passport with him. So he went to three other stores. Curfew was nearing. No modem. He had to go back again to the Internet place the following day.

Finally we had Internet. But then the landline got knocked out. So we got back on the phone to customer service—I did, this time—and answered a litany of inane questions, such as, “What browser are you using?” and “Do you have the cord plugged in?” I did not have Oliver’s patience and, after irrelevant question #20 or so, asked for a supervisor. The supervisor told me that the problem was with Egypt Telecom, but not to worry, they would take care of it. An hour later we had no phone line and no working Internet. Welcome to Cairo.

I had read accounts of people being left in our situation for months on end, but Oliver got on the phone with customer service and in a few hours we were up and running. So, aside from the occasional lapse in service, we have Internet in the house, which means our Vonage works, which means our old 212 number works and is a local call from the US.

It’s not just getting wired that’s a challenge. The stove was delivered a few days ago but the delivery guys didn’t put the legs on or assemble the hobs. Oliver deciphered the Arabic numbers on what he thought was the receipt and had some very stern words for the guy on the other end telling him he had to send his crew back to finish the job. About 10 minutes later he got a confused call from the man we bought the boys’ mattresses from telling Oliver he didn’t understand what it was we wanted put together. Oops. So we asked the bawab (a doorman/super), who told Oliver that the delivery people don’t do that, the gas company does it when they come hook up the stove. Of course.

The dishwasher has been equally difficult to get working, but this appliance came with a dose of violence. The Zanussi guy didn’t come until a good week after he was supposed to. I couldn’t understand exactly what he was trying to tell me when he was here, so once again I turned to the bawab. There was some kerfuffle over a missing bag of dishwasher salt. I don’t fully understand what happened, but I heard the bawab telling him there would be no tip for him.

Zanussi guy left in a huff—supposedly finished with the job—and I went to pick up the boys from school. I heard some yelling when I got to the end of the street, and turned around in time to see Zanussi man jump the bawab. The two of them were in the middle of a full-on brawl when two local security guards jumped in and pulled them apart. High drama.

We checked in with the bawab when we got home. He was okay, apart from a torn shirt, but he had taken a sharp fist to the left eye. To top it all off? Zanussi guy didn’t even secure the hose, so water squirts all over whenever you run the dishwasher, and if you touch the metal door on the inside, you get little electric shocks.

And yet….the boys think their new school is the best ever and tell anyone who asks that they are enjoying Egypt, so it’s tough for me to get too ruffled about any of these little things when, so far, the transition has been such an easy one for all of us.

And oh….we have a new member of our household. Meet Samy.

Our latest addition.

Our latest addition.

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.
 
 
READ THE REST AT

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

033

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.

044 023

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.

%d bloggers like this: