Typed up at: home Posted from: home
It’s about time that I write something more on the blog. Since my blogs are very activity/travel oriented I have slowed down quite a bit while here in Cairo because just not as much events happen every day. Mostly the events are studying Arabic and eating. The most recent event is that maybe I ate something not so good, because on Sunday I woke up at 3am and took regular trips to the toilet (conveniently located adjacent to our bedroom) from then on. Danielle has had occasional stomach tenderness before and I hoped that I would be immune. Turns out that’s not the case, so now it is her turn to walk an extra 5 minutes to the far away grocery store that sells imported cans of Campbell’s soup.
Combined with sickness I’ve been feeling a bit down anyway. Arabic class is still fun, but studying outside of class is really starting to feel just like any homework I’ve ever done. It is rewarding though so (for now) we are sticking with it. I go back and forth between being appalled by how little we’ve learned in 40 hours of class time (plus at least that many studying) and being surprised that we are able to learn as much as we are, having had 0 exposure to the language (or any language like it) until we arrived in Egypt.
I feel, much like at home, that I don’t have the time to do all the things I want to do: play harmonica, blog more, read some of the Koran, learn about history, hack on mnemosyne, improve my web page, research where we might go next, fix the neighbor’s computer, and on and on. I suppose that is a sign that we’ve really settled here and are establishing a bit of a life. Buying tomatoes is no longer an adventure, it’s just another chore. We do still wander down streets we haven’t been down, but mostly we find the same things we’ve already found. If we were here for the long term this is when I would go and seek out friends with common interests. As it is it doesn’t quite feel like it would be worth the effort.
The recent big event was the arrival of my parents over a week ago now. It’s been fun for us to share what we’ve learned, and also motivated us to go see some of the sights we haven’t seen yet. We’ve visited Hussein’s mosque (featuring mister Hussein’s head in an elaborate silver box), the Citadel (where we saw another 2 mosques), and just re-explored some of the places we’d already been. It’s also been nice to have a conversation in English about more than just what we like in Egypt, although predictably that is a common subject of conversation anyway.
I haven’t really talked about the food here. Generally it’s good. Some of it is very good. There is not a huge amount of variety, though. There are some expensive upscale restaurants with foreign cuisine, but we tend to stay away from them. Common meals are roast chicken, kebab, served with rice, pita. Vegetables we see a lot are tomato, cucumber (mixed together with vinegar), and egg plant (fried or stuffed with rice). The spices used are quite tasty, but again without much variety. The candy is good but again, there’s not a lot of variety.
In general I do not see a lot of evidence of other cultures here. There are of course all the historical influences (Arab, English, French) but the vast majority of people that live here have lived in Egypt for generations. They have the same religion, roughly the same ethnic background, follow the same sports, and eat the same food. Not to say that everybody is the same, but even in fairly homogeneous Santa Barbara there are at least 2 religions, 2 ethnic groups, any number of non mainstream sports, and countless ethnic restaurants. I think we may have seen the same homogeneity in East Africa, but we weren’t around for long enough to really notice it. There’s nothing like travelling to make you appreciate home…