It has been one crazy week. And you’re getting one crazy long post for it.
Last Saturday, I met up with Kate and Christine (the AUC interns) in Zamalek and we went to a breast cancer awareness fundraiser that was a 5 hour Zumba marathon. Zumba is a dance/aerobic exercise program that is incredibly fun but man is it a workout. About 700 women were at the event, which was wonderful, and quirky because a number of women were still covered or wearing jeans and heels and Kate, Christine and I are thinking, “Who the heck are you trying to impress?” as we are in our sweaty clothes dancing our butts off (almost quite literally). We only made it through two and a half hours before we realized we just didn’t have the stamina for 5 hours of dancing. But it was great fun, and hey, for a good cause.
Sunday I started my job hunt in earnest. I replied to four advertisements…and had four interviews set-up by the end of Monday. Ridiculously easy, surprisingly easy, and a relief for me – even though people told me, “You’re a native speaker, you won’t have a problem finding a job.” No, it is still worrisome until you actually start having interviews.
And getting job offers. Every single place I interviewed at offered me a job. But let’s talk about the experiences in detail:
1. Monday I interviewed at a nursery in Maadi (the expat neighborhood 7 miles outside downtown Cairo). I took the metro, which comprised of me walking 25 minutes to the metro station nearest me (and walking here is a bit different that in the States – you’re lucky to find sidewalks for more than 20 yards), catching the metro, switching lines, getting off, getting incredibly lost 3 times, and eventually the owner coming to find me and lead me to the nursery. She was a pleasant woman, and said I would be in charge of 5-15 1.5-3 year old kids. Which is a bit insane. However, she offered too little for me to consider the offer.
1.5. Between my first interview and my second (in Heliopolis, a planned suburb on the complete other side of town from Maadi), I had about 6 hours to kill. So I contacted Sharon, an AU alumna another AU alum got me in contact with. Bill (another AU alum) and Sharon live in the American compound in Maadi – Bill is a foreign service officer at the American Embassy. Sharon currently is a stay-at-home mom, with their 3 year old son Andrew to look after. I went to her flat in the compound, and let me tell you, it is odd. Not the flat, it’s very nice, but the compound. Americans everywhere. EVERYWHERE! In fact, Maadi was a bit odd. For those familiar with DC, it was like an Egyptian version of Glover Park/Wisconsin Ave. Just make it a bit dirty/louder and you’ve got Road 9 of Maadi. Lots of shops and restaurants and everyone just hanging. Odd. But Sharon was lovely, Andrew was adorable. Sharon and I talked about AU, living in Cairo and just general things while Andrew watched a Tigger movie and bounced along with Tigger. It was wonderful and I am excited to meet up with Sharon again sometime soon.
2. My second interview Monday was in Heliopolis in the early evening. I got off the metro, called the guy who I was supposed to meet up with, had him talk to the taxi driver – who got more and more frustrated. Since I had no idea where I was going, I just figured I’d sit back and eventually it would all sort itself out (the very essence of inshallah). At this point it started raining. Yes, raining. In Cairo! It only lasted for a few minutes, but hey, I live in a country that is 90% desert. Ten minutes of rain is a big deal. Eventually, I get to the language school. I’m told to give a teaching demonstration, which I do and I thought I failed at miserably, but apparently not, since I was offered the job. It’s part-time, works on my schedule, and I can add classes as needed. It’s very tempting, but I’m hoping I can do better.
3. Tuesday I had an all day interview in Maadi again, at another nursery that was semi-Montessori in style. I tagged along with a university student who is helping out currently at the place. I would be in charge of 15 1.5-3.5 year old kids, but since they are just learning to talk anyway, I wouldn’t have to create a lesson plan, just play games, sing songs, dance, be creative with them. I’d have assistants to take care of the nasty stuff (anything bathroom related really) and help if the kids get hysterical. The people working there were wonderful, very friendly and young – there was even an older Jamaican woman who has lived in the US for years who was awesome. Of the 4 places, I like this one the best, and depending on what happens this Monday, I will accept this offer.
4. Wednesday I had an interview in a neighborhood a bit north of downtown Cairo at a language school. Honestly, it came off as super sketchy. But they were so desperate! They want me to help create a curriculum and materials – which if they were paying a good salary, I would. But they’re asking for long hours, a lower salary than nursery number 2, and I will tell them no (I’m calling everyone this Monday to let them know my decision). They even called me multiple times later Wednesday to tell me they’ve upped the salary – won’t convince me.
There you go. Regardless of what job I take, I’ll have to pick up some private tutoring to supplement my salary (which is totally in cash by the way. Fun times!)
After my last interview Wednesday I caught the metro to the Opera at the southern tip of Zamalek and walked north to the neighborhood where the shopping is. The last time I did that walk was on one of my last days in Cairo almost two years ago, in the middle of a revolution. The streets were silent then. Not so now. Strange duality in my memories. I completed some errands (finally got a webcam!) and did a lot of things in Arabic, which was great.
Oh! And sometime this past week I went to the Netherlands-Flemish Institute and saw an old Egyptian film with Omar Sherif. Melodramatic, horrible acting – it was a hoot.
Thursday I got up early and headed to Heliopolis again, to meet up with Debbie and her sister Bonnie, two older American women who have lived in Cairo for 15 and 20 years, respectively. I was with them to work on getting my visa renewed (something I’ll have to do every 3 months here). Usually you get this done at the Mugamma, a bureaucratic beast of a building in Midan Tahrir. But you can also get it done in Heliopolis – if you live there (or have someone’s address, thanks Debbie). I have to go back this Wednesday to pick up my visa.
Friday I got up early and cleaned the falala out of the kitchen. It’s still not totally clean, and probably never will be, but I feel better. I’m tackling the bathroom next. Later, Melissa and I met up in Tahrir, where a big protest was going on (or as my cab driver said, “There are the problems there, miss.”) but it was fine. We went and got some food, then headed over to Darb 1718 (where I went to that film festival) for a concert. The opening act was an Egyptian singer named Abo who sung about the revolution and things, all in the Arabic. It was wonderful. Then the main act, Romano Bebop, a Czech gypsy band, played.
As Melissa pointed out, we’ve found the Mecca for hipsters in Cairo – and they brought their expat friends. Luckily, we were in our hipster disguises:
(Melissa wearing the ubiquitous plaid and I with a super ironic cat scarf)
We blended right in. But then I convinced Melissa to buck the system (that’s right hipsters, you’ve got a system): we needed to DANCE.
With music like that, you are MEANT to dance and no one was. So I pulled Melissa to the side and we started dancing. And eventually, EVENTUALLY, other people started dancing too. I love to dance, and when music is playing that you’re meant to dance to, I have to get up and do something! So, sorry hipsters, but I’m too cool to be cool like you. I don’t need to dance ironically, I just need to dance.
After the concert was over, Melissa and I caught the metro and started to have some fun, doing fist bumps and acting all thug. The women on the car thought it was hilarious.
Melissa had been talking about how living here makes you shy – you are so conscious of how everyone looks at you, how you dress, what you do, what you say. Life here makes you so aware of others around you. For the two of us, who normally show no fear (and by moving here we’ve sort of proved that), we feel stymied to certain extent. But I’m glad last night we could be quirky and goofy, even if just small amounts.
And that about does it for the week.
Oh, this morning I made pancakes. I don’t have any measuring cups (or really any baking type items) so I had to eyeball everything. The pancakes turned out great. VICTORY!