Friday, January 30, 2015

Learning to Read Signals

When grass starts to grow under your tires, it signals that you have parked in the same spot for too long. 

I needed to get an official letter from the Canadian Embassy, which is closed for security reasons, so I called the non-emergency phone number and got a recorded message telling me it was closed. I sent them an email and got a reply within 15 minutes telling me that "for this week" they were operating from the Cairo Conrad hotel and would be open two mornings from 9:00-noon. I went today and had my letter endorsed within 15 minutes.  That included the 3 different metal detector security checks that I went through. (I regretted wearing all my bracelets and my jacket with metal buttons!)

The sign reminded me of my very own Conrad. 

When you park your car on the street in your home neighbourhood, there is a person who comes around to wash and dust your car. As a signal to you that your car has been cleaned and that they would like to be paid, they leave your windshield wipers sticking out. 

Time to pay up, Arthur!

I got a very cool app specifically for Cairo that tells us about all of the restaurants in our vicinity. We were astonished to learn that there were some restaurants within 0.2 km of our flat. Sure enough, when you walk slowly and look down the alleys, you see some things that you otherwise miss. 

Tonight we had light and tasty shawarma.

It was tasty -- I'm not sure about the light, though. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Chocolates, Rice, Signs and Oranges

Today we went to a chocolate shop to select party favours for the Partner and Friends Reception that we will host early next month. It took four of us to sample the quality of the chocolates. They were very good. 

The displays were awesome!

We also saw their chocolate hazelnut spread for sale in a handy tube. (You saw it here first.)

Then we headed to the department store nearby to buy a rice cooker. We know we've lived in Asia too long when we struggle to make rice without a rice cooker. 

Arthur's dad asked about street signs. Most of them are in English and Arabic. This one is from our neighbourhood, Heliopolis. 

Karla, who lived in Egypt for a year a long time ago, asked about whether it is orange season. 

YES!  The oranges are great and there are a wide range of varieties to choose from. We are getting our vitamin C!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Settling in

We have done a lot of things in a short time.

We are learning many new things and meeting new people. On our walk to work every morning we are greeting the same people and are starting to become part of the landscape.  We take a longish route to work because it is difficult to cross eight "lanes" of traffic ( lanes don't really exist). We cross under a bridge where there are less lanes to contend with and the traffic is forced to slow down.

We celebrated Epiphany at Anafora, a Coptic orthodox retreat centre along with 350 other people.  We took most of the team with us and got to know them a bit better. The evening service was four hours long, with a lot of standing and incense and liturgy.  The climax was a processional following the cross to the swimming pool where it was launched.  This year the entire evening was being broadcast on television, so who knows, maybe all of the Middle East saw us there. Everything was candle lit, even the edges of the pool, so it was really beautiful. 

We attended a funeral today for a member of the Sudanese church. That was a solemn experience, as the woman was burned in a cooking gas explosion with a number of other people, so this was the fourth funeral in two weeks for the congregation. 

We've had power outages at our flat three evenings already. They only last an hour or so, so not a big deal, but summer is supposed to be the time of power failures, not winter, so we weren't expecting that.  The evenings have been pretty cold in the flat, as ther is no insulation in the brick walls, and no central heat. Our air conditioner can heat the bedroom, so we have used that a bit to take the chill off before bed.

We were at Sun City Mall one evening where they have an indoor skating rink. It was amusing to see all the non skaters shuffle around the small ice surface with orange plastic chair like things to assist them.

We've had fun finding food in our neighbourhood. We have a range of stores to choose from, from upscale to stall on the sidewalk. Everything we need is close by.  Our most interesting find was mini egg plants with the centres hollowed out so that they can easily be stuffed with rice and seasonings. We made a delicious meal out of those.

We've rearranged furniture at home and at the office to our satisfaction and have found a place for most things to be. 

We've made friends at church and plan to go back again tomorrow. 

We've skyped with some of our family in Canada and have been able to show them where we live.

So far, so good.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

I've got the Keys

...the keys to the kingdom.  
O, yes, I have.

Here they are:  These are only mine.  Arthur has a complete set like this of his own.  They weigh about 175 gm.

I don't know which key does what exactly, but in broad terms: The keys for our flat are in the top right.  The bottom set with the yellow Egyptian tag is for the office.  The third set is for the 2 guest flats.  The office set is numbered by the order that you use them on the way OUT of the office.  That is helpful if I need to lock up.  Then to unlock, I just use them in the reverse order.   To add to the challenge, the doors to all 3 flats and the office are in dark hallways.  I guess what I'm saying is that just because I have the keys, I may not be able to actually get in.

Update about our Travel:
We arrived in Cairo yesterday, on time, with all of our luggage.  Passport control and customs went without a hitch and Ayman was happily there to pick us up.

One of the first things we did when we got "home" was to make a pot of tea.  It served multipurposes: something to do to keep us awake, some thing to drink (after 2 dehydrating days of travel) and something to help WARM us up.  It  was plus 16 when we arrived and if you are a Manitoban you think that is warm, but in our flat it seemed really cool.

We are now at the stage of ths adventure where things are way more easily said than done.  "Let's have a cup of tea" turns into a search for tea, tea pot, pot to boil water, cups and a discussion about which water to use (filtered, tap or bottled?).   Then we try to get the stove to work.  Panic sets in as it smells like gas but isn't lighting.  We use the clicker and then matches.  Finallly it works. Poof.  

Saturday, January 10, 2015

And we are off!

After days of saying heartfelt "goodbyes" to friends and family plus packing, sorting and giving things away, we are ready to leave Winnipeg and head to Cairo. 

 Conrad dropped us off at the airport this sunny and cold morning. As soon as we passed security we found ourselves a sunbeam to sit in while we start our waiting travel game. 

The photo above was taken yesterday in a different sunbeam. 

We've stored some of our stuff in boxes and have numbered each box which is cross referenced to a master list of contents. The theory is that if we want something later, we'll be able to find it easily. 

We used the same system when we went to Sudan for 3 years and Laos for 6 years and it works for us.