Typed up: at unnamed Internet Cafe in Cairo Posted from: the same place
We’re living in Cairo now, kind of. We don’t have jobs, but we do have a 5 day a week obligation to go to Arabic class (for 2 hours). So we have a little bit of a routine, while we spend the rest of our time trying to make the TV work and figure out other things about Cairo life. It’s great to have a home, but in many ways it doesn’t feel like a real home and we’re constantly reminded of all the differences. We’ve both noted how much we sleep and how tired we feel despite all that sleep. It’s still just like traveling, seeing new things, and just being in a foreign environment.
While everything is different, a lot of it is also really neat. It’s frustrating when we’re woken up at 9am in the morning because it’s pay day for the garbage man and we need to give him LE 10. And this afternoon the gas man made a house call to read the meter (which is inside) and to collect his money (LE 4). The other day the groundskeeper’s wife came by to collect LE 5 so the stairs could be washed. None of these people speak any English, so there’s usually some pointing and maybe some miming involved. While it breaks the illusion of being in a normal place, it’s also interesting. I know the garbage man now. I’ve spoken to him several times. Same thing with the groundskeeper’s wife. I don’t know the gas man but I would get to know him if we lived here for several months. You really get to make a small but personal connection with the people who keep things running smoothly. At home I (of course) barely know any of these people, and it sure took more than a week to start getting to know them.
There’s a grocery store just around the corner from us. There is another one 5 minutes walk away. Two blocks away is a farmer’s market that’s always on. There are any number of stores that sell household goods, bakeries, butchers, and anything else that you might want in daily life all within 5 minutes walk. I routinely go out at night to grab a sugar cane juice at the juice stand. The guy there knows me and I think he understands that I am slowly learning Arabic. There’s a bakery that makes the awesomest little pastries (2 for LE 1) and if I feel I can take the sugar I pick up a few of those as well. Likewise I am now a familiar face to him. The guy who mans the Internet cafe I go to (13 minutes walk because I’m picky) also knows Danielle and I. And all this without being able to make small talk due to language problems. It feels like there is much more of a community feel here and we are, just a little bit, being part of it.
On a sad note, Danielle has started to dress more conservatively (beyond simply covering shoulders and legs) because of occasional touching by young Egyptian men. I don’t want to exaggerate the problem. It’s only happened twice (and I didn’t notice anything), but it annoyed her enough to go on a shopping spree. We’re both more aware of where we stand/walk now. While actual violence is extremely rare here, this kind of harassment is apparently fairly common.
Our Arabic classes are going alright. We’re taking small-group (a group of 2: Danielle and me) lessons at Arabeya 5 times a week, 2 hours at a time. So far we’ve focused mostly on reading/writing, learning a few words on the side. We’re getting into grammar now, but there’s been very little practical things we’ve learned at this point. The script is hard and weird, but it does look cool and given 10 minutes we can usually read a company name and then decide that it’s just phonetically what the English name is.