Category Archives: Emotions

Lessons from Teaching 3

As of 8 days ago, I’ve been in Cairo for 5 months.

And as of 16 days ago, I finally (or publicly) made the decision to leave Cairo this summer.

Originally, about a week ago, I had this long, detailed post going into my reasons behind why I am choosing to leave and the various responses I’ve gotten to my decision. But I deleted it.

I am happy with my decision. I know that the future is uncertain for me – I don’t have a job lined up, or even a country lined up (I’ve applied to jobs in some other countries already) – but I don’t feel afraid. I am happy with my choice, and that is enough.

Tomorrow I head off to the beach, to Ain Sokhna with friends. I’m excited to get out of Cairo for a few days.

The new quarter at my school has started, and while it is certainly no walk in the park (more like a walk in a pitch-black forest and I keep bumping into trees and shrubs, saying mild obscenities and then veering off in another direction), it is getting easier. Namely, my students are not as incredibly awful as they were the first few weeks I was their teacher. I think they’ve resigned themselves to the fact that the old teacher is not coming back and they’re stuck with me, so it is better to try and appease me than try and fight me (mostly). They are still rambunctious, disrespectful and lazy, but it isn’t like we’re pulling each others’ teeth anymore.

What I’ve learned in the past two weeks:

1. Be confident in who you are. Even if you are bumping around in that forest, say, “Meant to do that.”
2. Think like a student. What kept you engaged when you were in school? Children haven’t changed that much, what applied then applies now.
3. Tomorrow is always a new day. Don’t let the craziness of one day drag you down for the rest of the week. It isn’t worth it.
4. Be your quirky self. Don’t compromise your position as a teacher, but be yourself (relates to number one). Even if your students think you’re kooky, you’ll feel better being who you are.
5. Be organized. Makes life so much easier.

These past few weeks have been good to me, in many ways. I have gone out with friends frequently, made new friends, started a new tutoring job, and had time to think about my life. There have been some dark moments as well, ones that make me think on life all the more.

All in all, I am content with where life is at. Could it be better? Sure. But I am living with no regrets. And it is a glorious way to live.

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Lessons from Teaching 2

I’m now into my third week of teaching. Simple sentence, loaded meaning.

Today (apart from a bird crapping on me – people say it’s good luck but it’s happened to me twice here. First time a woman punched me in the head the same day and today…well, read on) was a hard day for me.

After lunch break, I’m sitting in class wondering, “Where the hell are my students?” Normally they have Arabic at this point, but we’ve switched up the schedule (which happens every weeks, sometimes two or three times a week, much to my confusion) so that I have all my regular sessions plus half the Arabic sessions in preparation for the students’ quarter exams next week. In any case, Ms. May (Grade 4 teacher and elementary department head) asks where my class is, I respond I don’t know, we find them downstairs telling us Dr. Laura (the principal) asked to meet with all of them. I’m thinking, “What the what did my class do?” Then Dr. Laura says I’m a part of the meeting as well. Oh shit. 

Apparently, my students have been complaining about me. All of them. That they can’t understand what I’m teaching, they don’t know what is going on, etc etc. Dr. Laura (bless her) told them that I am not Ms. Asmaa (their previous teacher), I will not teach like Ms. Asmaa, and that they need to get used to it. Dr. Laura then asked them to voice their concerns over specific things they are not understanding in class. Which they told me, and part of it is I very much need to grade my language, the same issue I had during the CELTA. Dr. Laura then told me, with the class still in the room, that they can’t understand things very quickly so I have to repeat things constantly and I shouldn’t try to be creative in my teaching (read: give individual work or group work too often…super creative?) because Egyptian students simply can’t cope with that. Part of me thought, “Well thank you for the advice, it will help me as I move forward.” The other part thought, You just called the kids stupid to a certain degree to their faces. Damn.

Anyway, so we go back to class. I tell the students we can review anything they want and feel they don’t understand. We start to go over English. They start talking and not paying attention. Which is the point where I sit down, say “You say you don’t understand. No wonder, because you don’t listen. Why should I waste my breath when you aren’t even interested in learning? Enjoy failing your quarter exams.” Then I just stopped talking. Everyone got upset with me (well then stop being disrespectful and listen). I started teaching again. Then they started talking again. So I just sat down for the rest of class. Didn’t teach. Told them I am giving them the opportunity to understand. They aren’t taking it. At this point, not my fault. The ones who were listening kept asking, “Why are you punishing us for others’ behavior?” I told them I’m here to teach a class, not tutor individuals.

In other words, a difficult day.

So in round two of lessons from teaching, here is what I have learned:
1. Slow down. Grade your language. Take responsibility for your students’ understanding.
2. But only until a certain point. Hold them responsible too.
3. Don’t reach for the stars, at least not in Egypt.

But I am going to try and remain positive. I have to, because self-pity gets me nowhere and is just incredibly draining.

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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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On the Need for Order

Idle hands are the devil’s playground. The Puritans certainly thought that, and perhaps for some individuals, it’s true. You have nothing to do, so you and trouble have a play date. Well, your rebel without a cause self can go off in a corner and sulk.

For me, idle hands are the self’s deterioration. In other words, when I’m inactive my soul suffers.

I am someone who tends to buck against the system, to find ways to bend the rules, to push the boundaries and make a life outside of expectations and norms.

One of the requirements of a life like that is you need norms and boundaries to push against. Right now, I am without boundaries. While I wait for my job to start in January, I am free to do as I please. I can make whatever choices I want, do as I want, live as I want. Within the confines of my budget (which is minuscule) and the cultural norms of the place I currently reside, of course, but by and large I can do whatever for the next two weeks. It is driving me batty. Loco. Nutty. Loony. And I don’t just mean the general stir crazy either, I mean the type of unhingedness that pushes me into a slump. The doldrums. Malaise. Ennui. I am stagnate and have little to shake the waters.

With so much free time (aka all my time), the creative outlets I normally use to bring joy into my life begin to lose meaning because they are not creative outlets anymore, but simply things I am doing. I need a schedule, a set path for my day-to-day life in order to make the moments when I do have the freedom to choose what I do have purpose and a freshness about them.

Without this, I question everything. About my life, my choices, my future, my personality, my capabilities as a human being – you name it, whatever confidence I have in my decisions gets thrown under the bus when I am left sitting idle for too long.

What this all means is that I am depressed right now and questioning my decision to come to Cairo. After thinking about it for a bit, I’ve come to the conclusion it is because I am currently thinking too damn much because I have too much free time and not enough daily purpose so that I don’t have to think about my reasons for being here, I am just living them.

I need something to do. My brain is starting to disagree with me on everything. I think various parts of my body are acting out in protest. I’m falling to pieces here for no good reason!

But in a few weeks, inshallah, as I start my job (which doesn’t mean it’ll be smooth sailing from there since lord knows I am going to have a number of issues with being a teacher namely that I have very few qualifications and little experience what-the-hell-am-I-doingohlordihopethisisntonebigmistake NO SEE THERE I GO THINKING TOO MUCH NEED TO STOP.), I’ll be in a happier place because I’ll have a schedule and something to build my life around. Right now I have no way to construct a life since there aren’t any bits to put it together with.

End moment of panic/depression/anger. Well at least for you all I’m still stuck with these feelings for the next two weeks.

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Street Smarts

One of the reasons I picked moving to Cairo instead of another Middle Eastern city was Cairo was and is in the midst of reinventing itself.  Of hopefully becoming a city and a country dedicated to preserving people’s rights, regardless of age, religion, gender, or heritage. You know, the things we want for our children.

Egypt is such a fascinating country in part because it is so many things, so many people, all clustered along the ancient lifeblood that is the Nile. The problem is (and it happens in the US too), is that the voice of one group has a tendency to become so LOUD that other voices, ones that are more accepting and progressive, can get drowned out.

But hey, have a revolution once, you can have one again. A week of protests has been happening here in Cairo and throughout Egypt in response to Morsi’s declaration saying he can essentially do whatever the hell he wants (no, really) and no authority in Egypt can stop him. But wait! It is only a temporary measure, people, so it isn’t in any way like being a dictator. …You don’t see other nations with new presidents going, ‘Hey. No branch of the government can tell me to sit down and shut up. I do what I want.’ It’s ridiculous. Obviously, many, many people were upset by this, feeling it is both Morsi becoming Mubarak and the Muslim Brotherhood taking over Egypt. Protests everywhere!

So how to solve that problem? Oh, well, if the declaration is only in effect until a new constitution is passed…let’s just speed up that process and get it passed so everyone calms down. Because writing a constitution is such a simple matter. Thursday the assembly writing the constitution voted on each article and passed it. Everyone is happy now, right? No. The assembly was largely (as in pretty much everyone) Islamist. Most non-Islamist members had left the assembly in protest of their voices being superseded by the MB. The few women (in a country of 80 million only a handful of women were to help write the new constitution? Shameful.) on the assembly walked out in protest as well. Which means, right away, half of the Egyptian population was not represented. Add in the Christians, Coptics, secularists, moderate Muslims and others who walked out and you’ve got a good chunk of society missing from forming what will be the most important document in Egypt’s new history. Once again, protests.

But there are those who support Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. Blindly, even. And today they are coming out in full force to show their support. While in Tahrir, anti-Morsi protesters continue their sit-in.

What does this all mean for me? It means I’m not hanging out downtown any time soon. It means going about town can be impeded by wondering how crazy it could get in the streets on any given day.

But it doesn’t mean I’m in danger. It means this country is loudly and vocally fighting to define itself after three decades of being defined by one man. It is exciting, it is frustrating on many levels, but it does not mean I am in danger. I am safe, I am well, and I am not planning on joining the protests any time soon. As much as I want Egypt and its people to realize their full potential (ladies, this means you. Men, this means you in regards to the ladies.), this isn’t my fight. Me going into the protests would just be me being a spectator. That’s not what these protests are for. It isn’t a tourist attraction. It is people who are recognizing their ability to speak up, and are willing to risk injury and worse to see it happen.

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In Such a Short Time

When I last updated, I was about to begin my job in a nursery.

Since then, I started the job and as of yesterday quit the job. Without going into too much detail, working in a nursery is not for me. Particularly when the pay is bad, the commute is long, and the owner/Egyptian staff are incredibly unpleasant. I came to Egypt to make a life I want to live. I don’t want to waste time in a place that consistently makes me miserable.

However, it means I’m currently unemployed (still). I am looking for jobs again, and hoping something better turns up. If not, I will soon begin working on building a tutoring schedule, where I teach students one-on-one (depending on how you work it, you can make just as much or more than an average English teacher here). I say I’m not too worried, but of course I am. No work = no money = homeward bound.

In other events:

  • Melissa and I had a Halloween sleepover where we ate candy, made the worst Rice Krispie Treats ever (Egypt’s fault not ours), and watched movies.
  • A random crazy woman punched me in the head on my walk home one day.
  • A random guy masturbated in front of me and I smacked him in the back of head.
  • I dropped my keys down an elevator shaft and retrieved them with a fishing pole.
  • My roommate and I have rearranged our flat, getting rid of furniture (putting it in storage), getting rid of random junk (why the hell was there a bag of concrete in our apartment) and are soon planning on having it painted.
  • I have a cold (caused by working in the nursery I’m sure) which has led to a persistent hacking cough.
  • Tomorrow I’m going to Alexandria for the night with a few friends. I’m excited to get out of Cairo – I haven’t left the city since I’ve been here.
  • The 12th marked my two month anniversary of being in Cairo.
  • The 8th marked my parents’ 26th anniversary (love you both).

And that about does it. I could have done more detail, but hey, when you haven’t posted in a few weeks and your internet is slow as molasses anyway, sparse is better.

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