Teaching My Children to Jaywalk

The title of this entry popped into my head about a month ago, but I have not made the time, until now, to write.

To be sure, our Nile Cruise took up some time…wonderful time that cannot be fully captured by words or photographs.  Still, at some point, I will attempt to offer a sense of the magnificence of this trip.  Without having to make any crazy sacrifices (like uprooting your kids, taking them out of their really good home school, and, mid-way through the school year, plunking them into one that sees them crying every morning before school that they don’t want to go), if you have the opportunity to take this journey down the ancient river, do.

But jaywalking.

There are times when our actual shopping time can take fewer minutes than crossing the road to get to the market stall or store with the required provisions.

Crossing the road can be an overwhelming and terrifying experience here.  Coming from our follow-the-lines-on-the-road-and-stop-for-pedestrians Canadian backgrounds, it has been something else to teach my kids to judge when will be the safest moment to launch ourselves off the sidewalk (when one is available), scuttle across the road, all the while praying that someone on a motorcycle doesn’t appear out of nowhere, to the relative safety of the island or opposing curb.  I say island, because typically the roads we practice our gymnastic-like crossings are wide enough that they have a meridian in between (Al Hamdulilah–Praise God…I cannot imagine trying to navigate two allowable directions of traffic at the same time!  One must always be watchful, still, as it is not out of the realm of possibility to see someone backing up or driving in the wrong direction, on the wrong side of the road, pulling over to park, picking up speed when spying a pedestrian–especially a pale-skinned woman, or performing any other unexpected tricks).

Driving is so different here from what we see at home.  On the same highway, it is possible to see cars, trucks with cargo–fruit, vegetables, marble, workers, armed and masked police officers escorting a truckload of prisoners, you name it–donkeys pulling carts, motorcycles with helmet-free drivers and/or a full family going from point A to B, or taxis with luggage strapped to the roof rack, vans crammed with people, or buses–often belonging to one international school or another, or pedestrians walking with, against, or through the traffic.  And where in Canada there would be three clearly designated lanes, the maze of vehicles all (or almost all) heading in one direction on the highway here do so with one primary goal, to get there regardless of who is next to, in front of, or behind them. There is no neat and tidy order.

Somehow, as much as this jangles my Canadian sensibilities–taking my children’s and my lives in my hands to cross the road or go downtown–there is something exhilarating  about making it to our destination–near or far  from home.  I love that my kids now tell me what car to wait for before we hurtle across the road. As the car whizzes past, passers-by will hear one of us yell out, “Now!”

One time, we walked down to a mall on a Friday morning.  Unfortunately, we left our departure to too late.  Friday mornings are the quietest time around here, as people stay home and then go to the Mosque for prayers at noon.  (Seeing people drop everything and flow toward the mosque is a special sight for me.)  On that Friday, we were in the mall doing our shopping and likely stopped at Starbucks for a treat.  (The coffee does not taste the same, even if the beans are given the same name…but the logo makes us feel like we’re in a familiar place.  That was important when we first arrived.)  By the time we were ready to leave the mall, prayers had been out for a while and traffic was extremely busy.  (Possible Canadian equivalent…that would actually never happen–Imagine something like a 75% OFF MidNight Madness Sale at Walmart on December 23.)  I’m not kidding.  It took us between 15 and 20 minutes to get across both sides of the main road.  It was terrifying!!!!

But…WE DID IT!.

When we first arrived and the realization of what we were facing sunk in, the six-month future we faced was more overwhelming, terrifying, frightening, and disheartening than making our way to the safety of the other side of that road.

We have made it well past the half-way point.  We still miss home, that which is familiar, what we know as normal, and the safety that comes with these.  Despite the disappointments, stressors, and fears, though, we are crossing.  We are getting to the other side.  And now, we know we will make it to the safety of our home.  When we get there, we will be armed.  Not with automatic weapons.  We will be armed with knowledge and experience.  I hope, for all of us, that these translate into broader awareness, understanding, compassion, and respect for what we find frightening, what we don’t know, and that which is different from our norm.

Teaching my kids to jaywalk.

It may be the best thing I ever do as a parent.

 

 

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Making ‘Peace Be With You’ Meaningful

My original title was: Thanks For Not Shooting. I thought perhaps this lacked subtlety and might cause unnecessary fear.  

It is amazing to me how quickly one adapts to seeing armed guards when walking down the street or going to a mall. I do not know how many men with machine guns we have passed since we got here. I do know it is more than I have passed in my entire life. Quite honestly, I have no recollection of ever seeing an actual machine gun, presumably with live ammunition. The Changing of the Guards on Parliament Hill? I don’t think so. Well, there was the flight over here. We saw some armed individuals (women and men) at the airport in Zurich.

Lentil Soup

HeavenwardLast weekend, we had a delightful 30 hours away from our “home” neighbourhood, right down in Zamalek. Such an amazing area. Vibrant. Lots of shops, including bookstores!!! We made our way into three!! A good coffee shop! We went there three times!! Vendors on the main road. We went to the Anglican Cathedral for church.  And walked past embassies. Needless to say, the Algerian Embassy was heavily guarded. And there we were, walking down the street, not four feet away from those men and their big guns.

Yesterday, we went into Maadi, another happening region of Cairo with lots of ex-pats. The advantage of these types of communities is that, as a foreigner, one feels less foreign. That would be because there are so many of us milling about! We went to church at the community church. And it just felt so good. If I had closed my eyes during one of the hymns, it would have been easy to picture myself at one of the churches I attend back home.

Zamalek

We are missing home so much more than I anticipated. There have been challenges I could never have imagined before I arrived. I lost my voice by the end of the first week. Have you ever tried teaching a language class to a group of 24 elementary students that you only met three days prior? It’s not easy! And take away the teacher’s voice?! You can imagine!! One of my kids was complaining about a sore tummy for weeks. I finally got some tests on his waste products. Lo and behold, the poor child’s body had been invaded! Yes, a parasite. Lovely. The middle child also suffered from an upset tummy for the first few weeks. Thankfully, it seemed to be due to the change in water and diet and not some freeloading organism!! The oldest child was hit by an allergic reaction during our post-Pyramid luncheon. It was hard to know what to do, as no one seemed to be able to tell me what it was he had eaten. He has an anaphylactic allergy to peanuts, but nothing was said to have such an ingredient. Lesson learned. We will have to eat with more care when in unfamiliar surroundings.

A tangent that was. Yes, so here we have encountered health and vocal challenges. There have been some pretty lonely moments, too, when one or all of us moan that we want to go back home. There have been unexpected expenses. (I now own two washing machines! One here, one in the house we own. Maybe I have already said that. I’m still getting over it!) This has been Egypt’s coldest winter in ages (just like at home). The difference between winter here and winter at home is that our place here is not equipped for cold. We are finally warming up! In fact, the kids went for a dip in an outdoor, unheated pool today. Judging from their reaction when they first got in, it is safe to assume the water was not all that warm.

And so we made it to Church last weekend, in Zamalek, and again this weekend in Maadi. Different buildings. Different style of service. But in both, I felt I was welcomed. I felt a sense of the familiar. I actually felt it is too bad I will not stay here long enough to become a really involved member of both parishes. At last weekend’s service, the Anglican one, during the prayers, it was profoundly different to be here, in Egypt—where I walk by a man with an automatic weapon at the mall or on the street in front of an embassy, where German shepherds check the trunks of every vehicle going into a parking lot, where my taxi driver’s sister calls to see if he’s okay because two bombs have just gone off in his neighbourhood—and praying for peace.

It is true. We do not know what we have until we are without it. In Canada, until only a few months before we left, it was safe to walk up to an invisibly (at least to the average tourist or resident of Ottawa) guarded Parliament Hill until one day last October, it wasn’t. I remember feeling so shattered at the news of Corporal Cirillo. And this just days after the murder of another soldier in Quebec, Warrant Officer Vincent.

Yet here I am, walking my children past men with guns on an almost regular basis. (After the service and walk to get gelato, since we had a driver, we stopped at a mall and walked past more men with guns and armoured vehichles.) And I’m trusting these men with what is most precious to me. It’s amazing, really. That one can become almost blasé (not quite, only almost) about these weapons in such a short period of time. And to so fully trust the people carrying them that I walk past (trying to appear calm) with my children, instead of running in the opposite direction.

I haven’t wrapped my head around what this means. I just know that when I do go back home, a prayer for peace will be intensely more meaningful, more real, more of a prayer than when I left home.

Peace be with you.

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Needs of a Being: Warmth and Shelter

(This is a slightly adapted version of what I posted on FB. An original post to come soon!)
Canadian Snowy Backyard...Cold on the Outside.  Woodstove Makes the Inside Warm and Comfortable!!

Canadian Snowy Backyard…Cold on the Outside. Woodstove Makes the Inside Warm and Comfortable!!

It is strange to know that it is freezing cold and momentously snowy back home!! This is my first winter without snow in my whole life.
Yet, I don’t think I have been colder!!!! We have heaters in the bedrooms and use hot water bottles. Keeping the bedroom doors closed at night keeps the heat in. So, if my feet aren’t too cold when I get into bed, I can get to sleep and wake up feeling comfortably warm.

Then, when I get up and come into the living room, sometimes I can see my breath because it is unheated and so cold in our unit.
I’m missing our wood stove and my warm clothes. I fantasize about my lovely Irish wool sweater and queen size wool blanket.  Yep! That’s as risqué as this Canuk’s fantasies get! Not quite sizzling!!!!

More seriously…..
I cannot even imagine how the people who live under plastic tarps or out in the open survive or cope. The other day, I saw a mother and her children taking produce that had spilled out of the dumpster. The same dumpster that stray dogs go to for food.  Our second week here, I saw two boys huddled together in the middle of a round-about.  There on an island of concrete with cars going round them.

Looks Warm on the Outside.  Without Heating...It's Cold on the Inside!

Looks Warm on the Outside. Without Heating…It’s Cold on the Inside!

 

Being warm. Being sheltered.

Two different things.  Two basic needs.

May the experiences of today wrap you in warmth.

May you feel sheltered from worry.

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Technonologically Induced Vitalization

I am sitting in Cairo, at 7:15 in the morning, listening to the same radio program I’d likely be tuned into were I at home!  Randy Bachman’s Vinyl Tap. And, I am not using a short-wave radio!! Through this same device, I can talk with people at home. I can read messages via e-mail or posts on Facebook or news items or alerts and warnings of places to avoid (this has become an issue in the last week). Last night, my husband took me through our house, and I was able to identify the exact things I was looking for. My oldest is coming over and will bring them.  This evening, I will even be able to partake in the memorial for my cousin’s husband.

Trying to find the right words for the title of this post, I came across the following description of vitalizegive strength and energy to yoga calms and vitalizes body and mind.  I thought about how I feel after ten minute

Photo 60

s of yoga, never mind at the end of an hour.  Or how I feel when I’m at church or singing in a choir or in the company of my beautiful friends or my delightful family.  I feel pretty blissed out.  I feel strengthened and energized.  I feel vitalized.  

And here, so far away from home, where I am a stranger, where I am finding my way, where I have not grown a community, I draw on technology as a conduit.  At the start or end of the day or on the weekends, the technology itself does not provide the shift from tired, lonely, overwhelmed to brightened, engaged, and sense of belonging.  The people who reach out to me or who I make contact with do that.  

Without a doubt, membership in this communication technology club, with social media, e-mail, and oh so much more, is a big part of my experience here.

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5 Airports: Montreal, Zurich, Geneva, Istanbul, Cairo

We took the milkrun to Cairo!

Arriving later than we had hoped in Montreal, we go to the counter and found out we needed a letter for me to take the kids out of the country. Just a warning, in cas you have plans to travel in the futre. Thankfully my husband was there, and we were able to accomplish that.

Once settled in, we all selected movies to watch and had quite a nice flight over. The only real problem was that we didn’t sleep. (Every time I dozed off, one kid or the other would wake me up with a question.) With the time difference, we landed in Zurich at about 6 a.m. There, we opted to put our carry-on in a locker and explore a mall attached to the airport. We bought bread and cheese, something that felt classically European,along with pastries and a cappuccino for me, and had a feast. Delightful!

DSC_0991

Our naiveté showed when we went back to the terminal and saw guards with guns. Big ones. The kids stuck close to me, especially any time we had to go near an armed person (men and women, no discrimination, were carrying them).

Once back in the airport, we learned that there had been some sort of technical failure with the tower and all sorts of flights were delayed. We were about 45 minutes to an hour late departing for Geneva. The down side of this was that we only had 45 minutes to get on our plane to Cairo. The kind of cool side was, after missing the plane, the wonderful Swiss Air counter attendant provided us with meal vouchers and re-routed us via Istanbul, Turkey. Since my cousing told me of her trip there, I had also added this country to my bucket list. As with Egypt, I did not expect I’d get there anytime soon. Some other great things about being in Switerland? We bought a giant Toblerone bar for about $9 at the Duty Free! Also, flying to Geneva provided spectacular views of the Alps. My kids had the window seats, but I managed to soak in the view. As I said, spectacular!!

Walking through the Istanbul airport was amazing. Beautiful shopping areas and wide, brightly lit corridors. Where we went to wait was completely different (If I haven’t mixed up my airports!). It was like a pie. In a circular area, they had about five different gates. And a few delayed flights, including ours, that were sending lots of passengers to different parts of the world. I’m glad we did not have to wait in this space too long. There was no available seating. We were tired. It could have become overwhelming, if we had had to stay longer. The kids had been so tired by the time we got on the flight in Geneva that they fell asleep right away. It took a lot to wake them in Istanbul. Fortunately, they had eaten well beforehand, thanks to the Swiss Air meal vouchers!!

The flight from Istanbul to Cairo went smoothly. We had delicious food. Again each of us took advantage of the screens in front of us. In the first leg of the journey, I watched Jersey Boys, while on this flight I got to see The Butler. I found both to be absorbing.

We left Montreal on Monday at about 6:00 pm local time (our flight was delayed a bit. They couldn’t close the cargo door. I hear that’s not great for flying.); arrived in Zurich somewhere around 7:00 a.m.; left there at around 1:15 pm, arrived in Geneva at about 2:00 pm; left for Istanbul at 7:00 pm and landed at about 10:30. We finally took off for Cairo at 00:30 (half-past midnight) and landed at about 3:00 a.m. on Wednesday! (That would have been 8:00 pm back home.)

A long journey, yes. It’s all part of the adventure!

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Introducing Girl Goes to Giza

Good Morning,

A quick introduction before we set out to explore!  K & G

After teaching and living in Northern Canada for about ten years, I moved “South.” Having spent time working in a non-teaching job (there is a shortage of such positions in my current area), I returned to school. Recently, I completed a Master’s in Communication.

In this period of transition, the timing feels right to go on a journey. I have been offered an opportunity to travel to Egypt. While I did add such a trip to my bucket list after a friend sent me photos of her family by the ancient Giza pyramids, I did not expect to be traveling there at this juncture. When the possiblity did arise, my husband and I discussed it, I asked people who had been to the country what their thoughts were, I set up appointments for vaccines, got passports in line, perused the Internet and took out books from the library on travel in Egypt…and I began to dream!

Still in my home turf, I do not know what direction this blog will take. I do know I will use it to share photos, experiences, and thoughts throughout the time my companions (ie the kids) and I explore this ancient country that is brand new to us.

As I said, I have just completed studies in communication and have a background in teaching. I am certain the questions bubbling in my brain stem from the years back in the classroom (as a student and a teacher). Some of these include:

  • What are my impressions about Egypt before I leave?DSC_0910
  • What are my impressions about being Canadian before I leave?
  • As I move about in Egypt, how will these perceptions be challenged?
  • Why do I think of Egypt as ancient, but I don’t automatically remember that Canada has a past much older than the mere 400 or 500 years since Europeans arrived?
  • I expect my understandings of Canada and Egypt to shift. What will spark these shifts?
    • something subtle,
    • the news,
    • social media,
    • people,
    • what I see,
    • what people tell me,
    • what remains unsaid?

One thing I know already, and it can be seen in what I have written so far, I know less about Egypt of today than I do about Egypt from thousands of years ago. I jumped to thoughts of the Pyramids in Giza, of Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat (Once upon a time, I was in the musical.), of hyroglyphs, the Nile, and the Valley of the Kings. I went to the library. I tried searching Egypt on the Internet. I wanted to find literature for my kids to read. The antiquity of the region was reinforced in these searches. So, another question should be:

  • Why don’t North Americans tend to explore the present and the past when it comes to Egypt?
  • (Is my assumption correct that we [that is North Americans–is it ever possible to avoid making us & them categories?] do this?)

I’ll stop there for now. I look forward to having more to write and sharing photos with you.

For now, here are a few Canadian scenes I’m leaving behind. (What might their selection say about my understanding of “what is Canadian?”)

Fall Foliage

Fall Foliage

Northern Beach

Northern Beach

DSC_0747

Winter Wonderland

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