Category Archives: Beginnings

New Year, New Career

A Happy (belated) New Year to you all!

(And a Merry Christmas to everyone celebrating today!)

How has my first week in 2013 been? Pretty great.

New Year’s Eve, I met up with a friend-I-hadn’t-met-yet (we knew each other online), Jennie, and we went to the American embassy for their New Year’s Eve party. It sounds exciting; it wasn’t. Copious amounts of security, awful music, and a guy-girl ratio of 7:1. Not at all fun. However, we made it to midnight, loudly and obnoxiously sang Auld Lang Syne (when I say we, I literally mean only Jennie and I), drank our champagne toasts and then ran for the hills. The hills being the flat Jennie lives in currently. She works for the British Council apart from studying here (she’s still in university) and currently lives with her boss until she finds her own place. It is one of the nicest apartments I have ever been in. Ever. Simply gorgeous. Jennie and I watched The Little Mermaid (yeah we’re the cool kids) and then I headed home. Let me tell you, walking around in a short dress (not even that short it hit my knees) at 2am by yourself in Cairo is not an experience I want to have again anytime soon.

My friend Nora, who is Egyptian, was so kind as to buy me masa harina and sriracha sauce and send them to me when her dad came to visit his family. This means I made homemade corn tortillas – which were then fried into tortilla chips and made pico de gallo to go with it. Glorious. And that sriracha sauce has been going on everything. EVERYTHING. Rooster sauce, I love you so.

Thursday evening, I met up with my old bosses from AMIDEAST. They are here for the first summit of all the education abroad departments for AMIDEAST (it’s a very big deal). Luckily, they had some free time before the summit started. We all went out to Korean BBQ and caught up. I can’t believe I haven’t seen them since May! One of the first things they said was, “YOU CUT YOUR HAIR!” I did, way back in August, but they wouldn’t have known so it was quite funny, since it was old news for me but new information for them. It was however incredibly wonderful for me to catch up with them, and made me miss the AMIDEAST office quite a lot. And miss home. And DC. But made me happy I am here in Cairo too! It was a good night.

Jennie also started up a philosophy book club, and we just had the first meeting on Friday. Our topic was existentialism (although we didn’t discuss much of that) and politics (discussed a lot of that) based on Sartre’s play Dirty Hands. We had 8 people for the first meeting, which was a good turn out. Everyone brought snacks (I brought the homemade chips and salsa – huge hit, made it later for my flatmates, also huge hit) and we had a nice two hour discussion. As it wound down, Jennie asked if I wanted to go see Les Misérables in two hours. I said yes, why not. And then three of the other book group participants came with! Which was wonderful. The film was quite good, although holy smokes so much close-up framing. I have never paid so much attention to people’s teeth in a film in my life.

However, the biggest news is: TOMORROW I START MY NEW JOB! AAAAHHHHHH! I would be insane to say I’m not freaking out, but to be honest, I’m trying not to think about it too much. Obviously I am thinking about it quite a bit so I’m fluctuating between “I got this” and “What the hell am I doing”. Crazy mix of emotions.

Wish me luck for tomorrow!

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Rotation, Review, and Regards

It is the last day of 2012! Another full calendar year has passed us, the Earth has fully rotated around the sun, completing its orbit (from this point in the sky anyway, the calendar measurement of time is relative), and life goes on.

I’m a fan of lists – so here is my life in 2012, however self-indulging it may be. (Head to the bottom of the list if you want to read about my Christmas). Oh, and I put in pictures, so this post seems long but the reading is minimal (don’t be lazy).

January 2012: I begin my life as a college graduate by interning at AMIDEAST, working at the Supreme Council of the Scottish Rite, and babysitting (always the babysitting!).

January 16, 2012: I turn 22 and get to celebrate with so many of my closest friends. 

A birthday with some excellent ladies!

A birthday with some excellent ladies!

February 14, 2012: Best Valentine’s so far because my diploma arrives in the mail.

Spring 2012: Puppies. Volunteering with puppies. The best! Baked a ton. Including for Pi Day. And Leap Day (Leap Day William!).

April 2012: My APO family got a bit bigger! Went to Foxfield. So many preppy drunk biddies. SO MANY.

PEONS.

PEONS.

Thankfully I like horses.

Thankfully I like horses.

May 2012: The long, long goodbye to DC, filled with adventures, picnics, selling stuff and embraces you wish would last forever. And graduation ceremony times!

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June 2012: One of the best trips I have ever taken, with some of the best people I’ve ever known: California Road Trip with Sydney and Alex (how I miss you so).

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Summer 2012: Unpacking, packing, unpacking, packing. Spending time with my family and friends and my pets. (Also got into a car crash but whatever).

SMUTTY DOG.

SMUTTY DOG.

On a boat in a lake in a park in SoCal with Mitchell.

On a boat in a lake in a park in SoCal with Mitchell.

Late August 2012: My family and I say goodbye to California and hit the road. Destination: Springfield, Massachusetts, my parents’ new home! Driving cross country with 3 pets is a HASSLE.

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Early September 2012: Visit Arthur, Deepika and Sydney for one last time in Boston and Long Island respectively. Relish the last days with my family.

September 11-12, 2012: Move to Cairo, Egypt for a new adventure.

September-October 2012: Take CELTA course to become certified in teaching English.

October 1, 2012: Will’s (my brother) 25th birthday! ALL DOWN HILL NOW.

October 2012: FINALLY SEE THE DAMN PYRAMIDS.

Sphinx too.

Sphinx too.

October-December 2012: Crazy shenanigans in Egypt (see the rest of this blog, duh.)

November 2012: My APO family gets a bit bigger again (hello glittle!) and I have two Thanksgivings.

Family Name: Keefe No Shits Given. Represent.

Family Name: Keefe No Shits Given. Represent.

December 2012: Hired to be a Grade 6 teacher, job starts in January.

December 25, 2012: My dad’s 60th birthday! And Christmas. I spent Christmas with Melissa’s family. I went to their home in Heliopolis for evening tea and sweets. Melissa’s parents were there, and they gave me a beautiful silk scarf. Two AU alum came for tea as well and we all talked and talked and talked. The next morning (I spent the night), we had a big Egyptian style breakfast (with lots of adorable family bickering) with Melissa’s grandmother. Then her, her mom and I went to see The Hobbit. IT WAS SO GOOD. I got a big piece of homemade fruitcake (no really) to take home with me. A simple, quiet but wonderful Christmas. Thank you Mafouz’s!

Oh yes, forgot, Kate, Christine and I went to the Swiss Club Christmas bazaar. This is what happened.

Oh yes, forgot, Kate, Christine and I went to the Swiss Club Christmas bazaar. This is what happened.

Representing AU gorgeously.

Representing AU gorgeously.

Boxing Day Breakfast with the (adopted) family!

Boxing Day Breakfast with the (adopted) family!

December 27, 2012: My mom’s birthday! Happy birthday, miss you and love you!

And that, my friends, is 2012 in not-so-short. May 2013 be filled with the same type of love from family and friends I received this year! Here’s to tomorrow and every day thereafter.

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Bukra (Tomorrow) Begins a New Chapter

To my East Coast friends and family: Hunker down and have a nice Frankenstorm! Break out the flashlights and candles as needed.

I am going to try and keep this post short, for a change.

I accepted a job at a nursery in Maadi. I think it may only be temporary, because hopefully openings in schools for the new semester should be getting posted soon (and someone will love me enough to say yes), plus I have some other tongs in the fire, so to speak. But in the meantime, the nursery will do. My first day is tomorrow. I hope things go well!

This past weekend was Eid al-Adha, one of the most important holidays in Islam. It revolves around the story (if it sounds familiar, it’s because Christianity, Judaism, and Islam all come from the same root – and all believe in the same god.) of Abrahim (Ibrahim in the Quran) willing to sacrifice his son Isaac (Ishmael) for God, but God intervenes and Abrahim sacrifices a goat or sheep instead. The traditional celebration here is to slaughter a sheep (or cow or goat) and have a big festival with your family. In other words, LOTS of dead animals in Cairo this past weekend. Streets ran red and all that.

It is also a big time to travel (Eid al-Adha is a bit like Christmas break) in the Middle East. A number of Cairenes head to the Red Sea during this time. One of Melissa’s friends, Jumi, who is studying in Amman, came to visit her here. On Thursday I met up them and some of Jumi’s friends and we went on a felucca (sailboat) ride in Maadi on the Nile. Nice and serene. We had dinner at a restaurant along the Nile as well. Friday I met up with Jumi and Melissa and we had Yemeni food, which was an experience (no idea what we were doing) but incredibly delicious and I’ll be back again. We then headed to Melissa’s family’s place in Heliopolis, a suburb of Cairo. Her family home is lovely: three flats in a 60 year old building. We took naps, had a dance party, then got food in Zamalek, back in town (after a fruitless walk for koshari). I stayed the night with Melissa and Jumi, and Saturday we made breakfast, headed to Al Azhar Park, yelled at guys who are assholes (a majority of the young men here are assholes – as in 90%), had juice, then walked to Khan el Khalili, the most famous souk (bazaar/marketplace) in Cairo. The last time I was there was January 25, 2011. Jumi and Melissa shopped, I eventually got separated from them and sat on a curb. Amazingly, I was not pestered once. We then met up with some friends of Jumi’s who are studying in Cairo (actually at AMIDEAST, so I’d met them before – which reminds me, another story, another time) and went to Naguib Mafouz Cafe. Naguib Mafouz is an incredibly famous Egyptian writer, the first to receive a Nobel Prize in Literature. But the restaurant is now a (very nice) tourist trap – and INCREDIBLY expensive. But it was good to sit at a table with 4 other Americans and chat.

And there’s the weekend!

Remind me I have to tell you about: Noam Chomsky, AMIDEAST visits, and apartment shenanigans.

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When the Mummy’s got your Tummy…Write a Post

I apologize for not posting in the last 3 days since my arrival in Cairo. A number of not-that-great reasons are behind it, but right now, I have Mummy’s Tummy. Or, as we like to call it in the States in regards to Mexico, Montezuma’s Revenge. (Here it is also known as Pharaoh’s Revenge, Nile Piles, and the Cairo Two-Step) Meaning I am out of commission for doing anything tonight, in hopes of being well enough for tomorrow, which is very important.

Why? Because tomorrow I begin my CELTA course. The whole reason I’m here when I am, so yes, need to be well for tomorrow. But let’s talk about from touchdown on, and then get back to this sad, icky point. 

When I landed at the airport on September 12, I have been traveling for 17+ hours, was tired, smelly, disoriented and already wondering, “What in the world am I doing?” One step at a time is what. I got my visa, exchanged some cash, went through customs (“Where are you from?” “America.” “Go right through then.”), got my bags (they all arrived safely!), find the cab driver picking me up (arranged before hand), and head off into Cairo.

My goodness, I had forgotten how much sand is a part of life here. The buildings are sand-colored. The air is sand-colored. Even the clothes and people at times are sand-colored. And of course, there is sand. Everywhere. It doesn’t matter that Cairo is a sprawling metropolis, sand and dirt and dust are a part of the environment, a part of existence. If you don’t like being dirty, or having your surroundings be dirty, Cairo is not your dream city. 

We eventually, after getting lost a bit, arrive at my new home in Agouza. Matt, my British flatmate, was there to let me in. We chat a bit as I unpack (I promise, pictures of my room and apartment will follow). Alex, my Italian flatmate, gets home with his girlfriend, who is a British Egyptian and is returning the next day to England, where Alex will follow her in a month and we’ll get a new flatmate. Some other friends of Alex’s come over, and Matt kindly made me dinner, since obviously, I’ve nothing in the fridge. We watch Hunger Games, people order food, and as is the general way in Cairo, stay until 1 am. I’m beat at that point (beaten with a stick and a golf club, really), and crash in bed. 

Next morning, I get up super early: 7:45 (which is 1:45 am on the East Coast), planning to be productive. Instead, after 2 hours, I get the shakes and have to take a nap. I wake up early afternoon and decide I REALLY need to start my day, if only to get food. I walk from Agouza to Zamalek, my would-have-been old neighborhood, if the first time in Cairo worked. I walked to the Barclays, the bank I’ll be semi-using in Cairo, and walked to Alfa Market, a large supermarket. I bought my groceries, then caught a cab back – and was able to direct him in Arabic back to my apartment. Considering I didn’t have a smartphone telling how to get there or back, pretty impressive.

I made my first dinner that night, just a simply stir-fry of rice noodles, frozen veggies, and chow mein sauce. 

The next day (Friday, for those keeping track), was the first day of the weekend. Friday and Saturday are weekends here, by the way. I had planned on going to Carrefour, the French hypermarket (think Target or Walmart) with some branches in Cairo, to pick up some more goods. Instead, while trying to fix my web camera, I feel asleep. For 7 hours, and woke up around 1 am. Nutso. Went back to sleep, which brings me to….

Today! Got up. Made breakfast. Left for Carrefour, which is a good 20 minute drive away in Maadi, the expat neighborhood. Get into a taxi, realize 5 minutes into it, “I need a restroom, now.” Tell the driver this, he pulls over and says we have a flat…which we do. I can’t wait, so I get out and start walking to the Four Seasons, which I saw we had passed. I can’t make it that far, I go into an office building instead. Find a different taxi, continue my trip. My taxi driver doesn’t know where Carrefour is and has to pull over multiple times to ask for directions. We eventually get there, I get sick again, then go shopping, then get my phone taken care of, then go and buy Antinal – the Egyptian version of Cipro. Get in a taxi, get back to the apartment, am overcharge by the driver (whatever). 

And that brings me here. Chilling as I wait for the medicine to do its job. 

I should mention we have two cats in the apartment, Stella, a SUPER FAT tabby name after the Egyptian beer, and Bob, a white albino cat with beautiful blue eyes. They love to hang out in my room – and fight. And run around. And in general be a very cute nuisance. Pictures of them soon, I promise.

I do have more to say, but I’m getting too tired to write more. But tomorrow is CELTA – and I’m sure I’ll have plenty to say about it after my first day.

Wish me luck in my health and luck in my program!

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Notes from the Airoad

If you’re reading this, it’s because I AM IN CAIRO! HOLY MINARETS! I’ll put up a post soon about my first hours in Masr, but for now, some observations from this journey half-way around the world:

Airports, perhaps to balance with planes being unnaturally cold, are uncharacteristically warm. So I go from sweating to cold to sweating. None of this is attractive.

At 5:30 in the morning, no one looks happy to be in an airport.

I miss home and my parents and my pets so much already. I haven’t had an all out breakdown and the only reason I think is because I’m trying to hold it in until I get to the apartment. Apologies to my flatmates if I become a hot emotional mess within 24 hours. Bring me juice boxes and koshari and I’ll cope better.

When thwarted by using WiFi in various airports, the experimental browser setting of my Kindle is wonderful.

The women on the bathroom signs in Germany have wider hips than the ones in the US.

I thought I was watching an ad for a Cirque du Soleil show. It was a commercial for a washer. I now want this washer.

No airport seats are comfortable. On the same vein, even if you get a whole row to yourself on an airplane, usually the seats are too narrow to realistically get comfortable lying down. Except for Emirates Air…that was just swank.

I am now going to judge how far I fly not by miles or hours but by number of meals served. I am currently at a snack, dinner, and a bigger snack. I’ll probably get lunch on the next flight.

For my CELTA program, I was a given a pre-course task that was supposed to take 20 hours. I did it in 2.5. Either I’m missing half the packet, I did it wrong, or hey maybe I’ll be wonderful at this teaching English thing.
Hope it is the last option.

Apparently, you aren’t allowed to have full water bottles in German airports either. How do I know? Because I had to go through security again to get to my gates…and the man said “You can’t have this” to my Alcatraz water bottle. So I drank it in front of him. Well, most of it, it was really full and he eventually said, “Good enough.” I proved it was not poison!

I used to play Mahjong on my computer all the time. I sucked Haven’t played in 2 or 3 years. First time playing on this computer? I win. I AM A GENIUS. Only reasonable conclusion. Nevermind lost second game it’s rigged anyway.

I’m so tired I want to gnaw on people’s faces. That’s not really true, I’ve just been doing bath salts lately. TOO OLD A JOKE?!

I’m so tired I’m using passe cultural references in stupid jokes.

 

And some photos of my first sight of Egypt after 21 months away:

My first sight of Egypt! The Mediterranean and the Nile Delta

My new home, Cairo, Egypt. Infinitely different from anything you can imagine.

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This Time Tomorrow

My brain has officially registered itself as: “I can’t believe I’m doing this.” And “I hoped I prepared enough. Probably not.” “Oh well, here  it goes!”

Because this time tomorrow? I’ll be somewhere in the skies above, en route to Cairo.

To learn how to teach English.

To teach English.

To learn Arabic.

To go on a grand adventure I can only hope and pray I’m ready for.

 

 

And to miss my family so, so much.

 

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The Sun, the Land, and the Rubber

My family and I are on the move! We’ve started our drive across the country to my parents’ new home of Longmeadow, MA with all our possessions (and pets) in tow. Thus my posting will be limited, being on the road.

Today we made it to Reno, NV after getting a late start, aka frantic packing and shoving packed items into the truck. Tomorrow my dad and I have set the goal of Rock Springs, Wyoming, an 11 hour drive away. Goodness.

Story of the day: got caught in traffic due to flying pig parts. Not a joke.

Peace from the road!

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