Welcome to Cairo!

On September 1, 2004, I arrived in Cairo with 8 other young adult volunteers from the PC(USA) and the ELCA.  For the next year we will be serving in schools, churches, and social service agencies in Egypt.  

July 28 update:

I have only three days left in Cairo before I head out and I am both excited and a little sad.  It is hard to leave the place I have lived for an entire year and all the people I have met, lived with, and worked with.  However, I am anxious to get home and return to the friends and family who are waiting for me there.  

I just came back from a couple days in the Siwa oasis in the western desert.  It was a wonderful trip and my pictures are posted on the Siwa photos page.  Unfortunately, we had a digital camera memory card malfunction and lost many pictures, but are hoping to either recover them or get pictures from our Australian friends who we met at the hotel.  I have also posted lots of pictures from the Fairhaven school on my July photos page.  Enjoy!

July 7 update:

I've moved to Alexandria and am now settled into a new routine, working at the Fairhaven school.  The school is owned by a church, which runs a Bible school program every day for about fifty kids.  The other two volunteers (Karen and Aaron) and I lead singing every morning, play games, lead crafts and cooking activities, and help take the kids to the pool.  Karen and I have also started an English conversation class for the teachers at Fairhaven.  We're having a great time.  Check out my June and July pictures to see some of the fun activities we've done so far.

July 4 update:

Happy 4th of July!  Even here in Egypt we celebrated Independence Day.  In fact, I enjoyed my first hot dog in ten months and even listened to American music and ate cotton candy!  We had a great time at the party hosted by the US Embassy in Cairo.

June 21 update:

Happy first day of summer!  Today it is only 95 degrees in Cairo, which feels cool and breezy compared to yesterday's unbearable 103 degree heat!  Fortunately, the humidity here is substantially lower than in Virginia, so it doesn't feel quite as muggy, but there also is not much in the way of air conditioning in Cairo, so the heat is pretty uncomfortable.

After a couple of frustrating delays, I'm finally moving to Alexandria tomorrow.  The last three weeks have been an exercise in patience for me as I was stricken with some sort of heat-induced allergic reaction (to mosquito bites, according to one doctor) that caused the backs of both legs to break out into hives.  In the past three weeks I've gotten advice from four doctors, been given two antihistamines, four topical steroid-type medications, an antibiotic, a cortisone injection, and at least five anti-itching medications, none of which have helped.  Thanks to the most recent course of treatment, the rash still hasn't gone away, but the itching is now tolerable enough that I am able to leave the house and don't have to constantly bathe my legs in ice.

I'm not sure what my internet access situation will be in Alexandria, so my website will very likely not be updated until the next time I am in Cairo.  I am still hoping, however, to send out my June newsletter around the end of June after I am settled in Alex and have something to write about other than sitting around Dawson Hall trying not to scratch my legs!

June 5 update:

The May newsletter is really posted this time.  Enjoy!

May 26 update:

Josh is here!!  I'm a little excited to have him visiting me.  Today we spent the day at the pyramids and last week we were in Dahab for five days.  We had lots of time for relaxation and sunbathing and the snorkeling was great.  We put together some statistics from our trip:

Hours spent on buses:  21
Number of future Sinai bus trips Lisa has planned:  0 (hamdullah!)
Fish in the Red Sea:  too many to count
Jellyfish we encountered while snorkeling:  also too many to count
Times our hotel room A/C broke:  2
Steps we climbed to get up Mt. Sinai:  784
Steps we climbed down Mt. Sinai:  3570 (we took a wrong turn)
Number of camel rides offered to us on Mt. Sinai:  14
Number of camel rides accepted:  0
Number of blankets and mattresses offered before we gave in and rented some:  5
Number of blankets and mattresses offered after we had them
        and were trying to sleep:  28 (in the first 15 minutes before I stopped counting)
Temperature difference on Mt. Sinai between the sun and shade:  26 degrees F

We had a great trip and have some pictures posted in the Photos page.  Enjoy!  Tomorrow we're off to Wadi Natroun for the young adult group retreat.

May 4 update:

School is almost finished; the weather is warm; and seminary graduation approaches.  Spring in Egypt feels a lot like spring in the US, except that it is a little warmer.  This week began "summer schedule" at school and we get out one hour early every day from now until the end of exams in early June.  I finally finished and posted my March/April newsletter and I hope you enjoy it.

Apr 27 update:

After a wonderful week in Jordan, I have returned to Cairo.  Today was the second primary talent show at RCG and I spent an exhausting day helping girls change in and out of costumes and making sure everyone was where they were supposed to be.  Pictures from both Jordan and the talent show are now posted online.  I hope to have an April newsletter soon.  Enjoy!

Apr 17 update:

I've finally completed updating the website from my parents' visit, so I hope you enjoy the photos.  You may have noticed there was no March newsletter.  I've been so busy lately that March went by much too quickly and I didn't find the time to write about it.  I promise there will be an April newsletter and it should be posted before too long.  I've also (finally) finished my dictionary page, which is a collection of photos and descriptions of things that are unique to Egypt.  

For all those who are concerned, none of the ELCA or PC(USA) volunteers here in Egypt were directly affected by the bombing in the khan el khalili.  Four tourists were killed and a number of tourists and Egyptians were injured, so we continue to pray for all the victims and their families.  The bombing was frightening largely because it happened near my neighborhood and in a place that I visit occasionally.  However, it seems to have been an isolated event and, although we are being precautious, the bombing has had little effect on daily life in Cairo and I still feel remarkably safe here.

Apr 6 update:

Happy summer!  I know summer isn't quite here yet, but it's getting pretty hot in Cairo this week.  I'm still recovering from my parents' visit and trying to catch up on all the work I didn't do while they were here.  I added another set of photos from their trip and have only one set left, which should be posted soon, along with my March newsletter.  In addition to all the classes and lesson plans I'm working on, I spent most of this afternoon teaching the May pole dance to a group of twelve 8-year-olds, which is quite exhausting!

Mar 31 update:

My parents and I made it safely back from our trip to Luxor.  The long train ride went by much quicker in the sleeper cars, where were had beds and were served dinner and breakfast during the trip.  It has been brought to my attention that my parents' photo link wasn't working correctly, so I apologize for that.  The link has now been fixed and you should be able to view photos from the first week of my parents' visit in Egypt.  Hopefully the rest of the photos will be up soon.

March 26 (a little later) update:

After another day of sightseeing I had time to get up the pictures from the pyramids.  We had a wonderful tour guide and visited several sites.  Mom and Dad even rode a camel together!

March 26 update:

We've now climbed Mt. Sinai (with a little help from a camel) and spent a day at the pyramids.  My parents seem to be doing alright, but I'm exhausted.  It's a lot of work planning and carrying out these intense vacation plans!  I'm trying to keep the website up to date, but it's tricky with so much going on.  All the photos can be reached through the photos page.

March 23 update:

My parents arrived in Egypt Sunday afternoon and we've been having a good time touring around Cairo.  Monday I took them on the metro during rush hour.  For those of you who do not live in Cairo, my mother says it is the closest she has ever been to a thousand strangers.  My parents feel very welcome in Egypt as most of the residents of Cairo have greeted them with the typical, "Helloo!  Welcome in Egypt!"  They haven't quite gotten used to all the staring and I suspect by the end of their visit, my mother will be fully veiled and they will both have replaced their brightly colored American clothes with brown and gray galibayas.

Yesterday they went to all my classes with me and then one of my adult students took us out for some authentic local Egyptian food.  This afternoon we're heading to the Sinai Peninsula for the rigorous hike up Mt. Sinai in the middle of the night.  My parents are pretty enthusiastic now; we'll see how they feel at 5 AM.  I'm trying to update the site regularly so check back often.

March 11 update:

Last weekend all the Egypt volunteers got together for a retreat in Cairo and spent the day at Ain Sukhna, a beach on the Gulf of Suez.  It was a wonderful day of relaxation and a great opportunity to enjoy clean air, clear water, and lots of sunshine!

We also enjoyed a visit from Steve Nelson, who is the Director of International Personnel in the ELCA's Division of Global Mission.  It was fun to have a guest and was also a good reminder of the support we have from the church back at home.

Sunday morning, Dr. David Grafton, a Lutheran pastor who teaches at the evangelical seminary here in Cairo, took us on a tour of Islamic Cairo.  I had been on the tour once before, but there is so much fascinating history and interesting stories associated with the area that I was glad to hear it all a second time.  The pictures and some information from our tour is on my March picture page.  

Recently, I have been extremely busy with the new adult English classes I have picked up from an MCC (Mennonite Central Committee) missionary who had to leave mid-year.  The new classes have a much better curriculum and teaching resources and the students are highly motivated, so I'm having a great time with the class.  Several of the students want to improve their speaking and have asked me to start a conversation class one or two evenings a week.  Between these new classes, my RCG classes, the work I do at the seminary, and the new website club I have started at RCG, I'm really busy!  I feel like my students appreciate the effort I put into teaching and the seminary's website should be finished within a week, so I am really seeing some results from the work I've been doing over the past few weeks!

Lastly, my parents will arrive in Cairo in just over a week and I am very excited for their visit.  I plan to make them climb 3750 steps to the top of Mt. Sinai (in the middle of the night), eat all manor of unusual foods, and endure public transportation in the form of taxis, metro, trains, buses, and possibly a camel,  

March 2 update:

I'm wearing shorts (only indoors, of course); my windows are open; and birds are chirping in the trees.  It's hard to believe it's only the second day of March, but spring has arrived in Cairo!  As I recover from my cold, I'm finding myself knee-deep in work finishing the seminary website, helping a group of students make a Ramses College website, teaching two new evening English classes, planning activities for six science classes a week, and still finding time to write newsletters and keep my own website up to date.  Time is starting to fly and I think July 31 will be here before I know it!

Be sure the check out the photos from my latest travels on the February Photos page.

February 27 update:

I just got back from a weekend trip to Minya, where two of our volunteers live.  Karen and Laura were kind enough to share their flat with Matt and I for the weekend and show us around town.  There isn't a whole lot to do in Minya, but the corniche (walkway along the Nile) is nice and we had the opportunity to visit two monasteries outside of the city.  I returned to Cairo with a pretty bad cold, but am otherwise well-rested after a relaxing weekend in Minya.

View of the Nile from one of the monasteries we visited outside of Minya

February 9 update:

It's Ash Wednesday!  Although few people in Egypt observe Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent doesn't start for a few more weeks in the Coptic Orthodox church, we western Christians are beginning our observance of lent today.  In the Coptic Orthodox church, the 55 days before Easter, as well as a substantial portion of the rest of the year, are spent fasting.  The Lenten fast involves giving up all animal products.  In order to become more involved in the culture around us, a few of the other volunteers and I are observing the same fast during western Lent.  So, if any of you have any great vegan recipes you would like to share, please email them to me!  

February 7 update:

Sorry for my lack of updates and correspondence lately.  You might think that since I'm on vacation, I would have more time to get things done, but it hasn't worked out that way.  This month, since I haven't been teaching, I offered to work at the seminary a couple extra days a week.  I am rebuilding the seminary's out of date website, which is quite a large job, but very much needed.  I have also been continuing to teach my adult class at the cathedral.  This past week, I traveled to Luxor in southern Egypt with two other volunteers.  You can read about it in my slightly belated January newsletter, which will be posted soon.  

School started again on Saturday and my first day of teaching is Tuesday.  I am grateful for the time off and I have been surprised by the fact that I actually miss seeing my girls (all 240 of them).  I have some new ideas of things I might be able to do at the school and I hope my suggestions will be well-received.  I am also hoping to do make more progress on my Arabic in the second half of the year.  One of the students in my class at the cathedral has offered to help me learn English in exchange for extra help with his reading and writing.  I hope meeting with him will help me get a little more comfortable using the Arabic I know and help me learn more.  

January 4 update:

The Israel & Palestine photos are now up!  It took a lot of work because as a group we took over 1,000 pictures.  School has ended for exams and the winter break, so I'm not teaching again until February.  For now I'm working extra time at the seminary and various other odd jobs.  We're getting ready to celebrate Christmas again with the Coptic Orthodox church on January 7.  So, merry Christmas (again)!

The group in front of the Church of the Nativity in Manger Square

December 31 update:

After 17 hours of bus travel (ugh), our group made it back safely from Israel and Jerusalem.  The trip was wonderful and I'm hoping to post photos soon.  Although it was nice to be back in my own flat with my own bed and access to a kitchen, it was hard to leave the blue skies and clean, friendly streets of Bethlehem and Jerusalem for the grime, pollution, and chaos of Cairo.  It was nice to come back to a mailbox full of Christmas cards and letters after a long day on the bus.  Unfortunately, I  also came back to a massive cockroach infestation in my kitchen, which did not help keep me in the Christmas spirit.  Last night I had the opportunity to talk to many of my family members when they were gathered for a family Christmas celebration.  I'm feeling a little homesick this time of year and that phone conversation was a great morale-booster for me!

December 12 update:

It's Christmas time in Dawson Hall!  Amidst planning our trip to Bethlehem and preparing for a Christmas celebration that does not include Santa Claus, reindeer, snowmen, or snow, we took some time to decorate Dawson Hall.  Previous volunteers have left a random (and kind of weird) assortment of tinsel garlands, tiny trees, lights, stockings, etc. so we put on some Christmas music and spent a couple of hours hanging decorations and having fun!  We're told we will be getting an Egyptian Christmas tree soon, so I'll let you know what that looks like when it arrives.

A sample of the interesting decorations left over
from years of volunteers living in Dawson Hall

December 7 update:

Yesterday I experienced my first Egyptian protest when I went to teach my class at the cathedral.  I arrived to find lots of armed police officers lined up outside the cathedral and a large group of people inside the cathedral gates shouting and carrying banners.  I was quite apprehensive about walking through the demonstration since I didn't know what was being protested, but I managed to slip in and stay out of the way of most of the crowd.  Only three of my students showed up and class had to end early because the group of protestors was getting larger and more difficult to control.  Fortunately, one of my students was kind enough to walk me out and past the hundreds of police officers lined up outside the cathedral with their riot gear.  I found out later the crowd was protesting the "forced conversion" of a Christian woman (the wife of a coptic priest) to Islam.  It sounds like the woman disappeared and no one knows for sure if she was kidnapped or if she left voluntarily, but a large number of Christians from her village in upper Egypt traveled to Cairo to protest her disappearance and the demonstration has become quite large.  At this point, it is hard to know what actually happened and this isn't the sort of thing that makes the evening news in Egypt.  

November 30 update:

I hope you all had a happy Thanksgiving!  Here at Dawson hall, we had a huge feast with 40 of our friends.  Even in Cairo, we managed to come up with turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, applesauce, carrots, apple pie, and pumpkin pie.  It was quite a celebration and there are a number of photos from it on the November Photos page.

Thanksgiving feasting at Dawson Hall

Today was my first day of teaching the 2nd primary science classes on my own because the main teacher was absent.  The girls in two of the classes weren't bad, but the third class was totally out of control and my voice barely works from trying to shout over the raucous and regain control.  I'm hoping the science teacher isn't sick again for the rest of the year!

As you can see, I have changed my website quite a bit.  This year has been my first experience using FrontPage and I'm learning as I go, so it should be improving as the year progresses.  

November 22 update:

Have you ever wondered what happens when it rains in a country that never gets rain?  The way people deal with rain when they only see it once or twice a year is really fascinating.  In fact, I have only been without rain for three months and I still ran to the window when I heard it was raining!  Rain in Egypt, however, is quite different from rain in North America.  To understand Egyptian rain, imagine what your town looks like in the rain.  Now fill the streets with all the trash, dirt, sand, and debris that can accumulate in 12 months and remove all means of drainage (ditches, drains, graded roads, etc).  If you are now envisioning a giant mud puddle filled with trash, you know what Cairo looked like this afternoon.  The good news is, there is basically no humidity here, so all the water dried up in about 3 hours, leaving the roads covered with only dirt and trash, which is what they looked like before the rain. 

Those of us who are accustomed to regular rain showers, mostly American ex-pats, were very excited to see the rain and I fully expected the Egyptians to share our enthusiasm.  In reality, however, I was surprised to learn that many Egyptians seem to fear rain.  A coworker expressed her concern that if we went outside or didn't shut the windows during the rain, we would all come down with pneumonia.  Another coworker told me that when the rain started some of the little girls from the lower primary school were outside having their class photo taken.  They reacted to the rain by screaming, crying, and running for cover.  Walking home from the seminary yesterday afternoon, I saw a woman lift her 5 or 6-year-old child over a puddle so his shoes wouldn't get wet and only half of the students in my English class showed up last night because the other half didn't want to brave the bad weather! 

Yep, that's actually rain out there!

November 16 update:

The MCC retreat last weekend was wonderful!  Despite the fact that I was primarily there as a babysitter, the weekend was quite relaxing.  Within minutes of our arrival at Anafora, Rachel and I were trying to think of ways to convince the church to let us live there instead of in Cairo.  I guess we'll just have to settle for having one of our volunteer retreats there.  Being in the desert surrounded by sand and open space, Anafora is almost completely silent, which was luxurious for those of us who live in the center of Cairo, between two highways, with school children just outside our windows.  The MCC kids were a lot of fun because they are such a creative and energetic bunch.  The biggest challenge was trying to keep them quiet, so as not to disrupt the peaceful silence of the desert.

Anafora, the retreat center and monastery where I spent last weekend

In other news, today is the last day of the feast, the lesser Bairam, that marks the end of Ramadan.  I'm so relieved that the feast will be over tomorrow because I am not a fan of the Egyptian practice (mostly teenaged boys) of "celebrating" by throwing lit firecrackers at people in the street.  It wouldn't be more than a nuisance except that foreign women seem, in my experience, to be the preferred targets for firecracker throwing.  Fortunately, I survived the feast unharmed, although a little jumpy, especially after a firecracker dropped from a window exploded directly over my head last night when I was walking to the cathedral to teach my English class.  Ah, good times in Cairo...

November 11 update:

Good news!  After a month and a half of ambiguity and frustration, there have been some promising developments in my employment status.  Monday night I agreed to fill in for one of the volunteers living here in Dawson Hall, Emily, who teaches an English class at the cathedral.  It was actually the first time the class had met and Emily didn't have the books yet.  So, I showed up to teach, completely unprepared, and found that my six to eight students were actually twelve students and I had no idea of their level of English.  So, I opened the book and started teaching.  It was awkward and I wasn't sure what to do, but the first hour went alright.  We took a break at that point, which gave me a chance to look through the rest of the lesson.  That went pretty quickly since I found out I had covered 12 of the 14 pages in the first hour.  Unfortunately, it was a three hour class and I had to use every ounce of my creativity to get through the last two hours.  Also, we were more than an hour into class when I found out that none of my students could understand me because I talk too fast.  It was a challenging evening and after class the director of the program informed that she couldn't change the class to an evening when Emily is free, so I am now the teacher permanently.  I think it will be easier and more effective when I am able to prepare a lesson in advance, so I guess I am now an English teacher.  I have been hoping for an opportunity to do some meaningful volunteer work, so even though I wasn't expecting the opportunity to come about like this, maybe it will turn out to be a blessing.  Many of the students are about my age and they are all Christian, so perhaps some Egyptian friendships will come out of the experience as well.  

In addition to my new Monday night teaching job, my 2nd primary science classes have increased from three to six per week.  With forty girls in each class, that is 240 girls who now call me Miss Lisa, or Mrs. Lisa, or Mrs. Leeza, or Miss science (that's my personal favorite).  Today I taught them the difference between wild animals, farm animals, and pets.  Next week I am meeting with the principal of the lower primary school and I'm hoping to start leading English activities for the same classes.  I am also responsible for an activity period every other week for a group of secondary girls (about 10th grade).  That doesn't start until after Ramadan, so I'm still working on the plans, but I'm very excited.  The Egyptian education system doesn't really encourage critical thinking as much as memorization, so I am working on a series of activities that will require the girls to design and build simple structures like bridges and hinges out of paper, evaluate the performance, redesign, rebuild, etc.  I don't know how it will go since it is difficult to get these girls to think on their own, but maybe they will learn something.

This weekend Rachel and I are going to a desert retreat center with a Mennonite group.  Although a quiet retreat in the desert sounds enticing, we will actually be babysitting the children of the people who are retreating.  We don't know any of the kids and a couple of them only speak Arabic, so it should be an interesting weekend.   


November 8 update:

My burned leg is healing, the October newsletter is finally finished, and I've seen the pyramids...things are going well.  Our group went to Giza last weekend, where we saw Memphis, the first capital of Egypt.  We then traveled to Saqqara, where we went inside a pyramid to see the carvings on the walls.  Finally, we went to the great pyramids after stopping at a weaving factory.  As expected, the pyramids are large and there are lots of tourists.  I know you will all be disappointed to know that I did not ride a camel.  I wasn't sure my leg was up to climbing on a camel and I'm sure I'll be back at the pyramids when I have visitors from the US.  

One of many great views of the pyramids and the sphinx; there are more photos on the Oct photo page

This weekend I had a chance to rest and relax.  Lachlyn and I visited Garbage City, one of three trash collection areas in Cairo.  I realize it doesn't sound like a great place to spend a Saturday, and it does smell pretty bad, but we got a really interesting tour of the school where girls are taught to make rugs and bags out of recycled rags and clothing.  They also collect used office paper and recycle it to make greeting cards and other paper products.


October 27 update:

More than a week has gone by and there is still so much ambiguity in my job situation.  I have been asked to help teach some primary level science classes.  The girls are 8 to 9 years old and my task is to teach them English words that relate to science.  The typical style of Egyptian teaching is to write notes on the board, make the girls copy them in their copy books, memorize them, and recite facts from memory on tests.  My job is to think of more fun, interactive ways to help them learn vocabulary in the hopes that they will actually understand the words rather than just memorizing them.  I haven't really started this job yet, but hope to get started Tuesday.  Mondays I will now be working at the seminary, where I will be helping translate scholarship applications, working on a quarterly seminary newsletter, and updating the website.  There is a lot of work to be done there and since I will only be there one day a week, I should be pretty busy.

I have not worked at all this week as I am still recovering from injuries I sustained during an unfortunate hot wax incident.  For those who have not heard the story, I was the victim (totally innocent, of course) of a kitchen science experiment gone wrong and will forever have the scars on my leg and hands to prove it.  I'm sure one day the story will be funny to me, but that will not happen until my wounds have healed.  I have only left my flat twice in the past week and am getting really tired of being home all the time (especially today when the electricity was out all day).  Unfortunately, the burns are still too painful to cover for any length of time and I can't go out until I can wear long pants or a skirt.  I am determined to be well enough by Saturday to join the group on our trip to see the pyramids.  

Why you should never play with hot wax at home

I hope to be posting my October newsletter this weekend after our retreat and visit with the Egypt volunteers who are living outside Cairo.


October 17 update:

This weekend was one of relaxation at the beach.  Kim, Rachel, Matt, and I took a train to Alexandria to visit Aaron, who is fortunate enough to be spending his time this year in a beautiful, quiet, clean city on the Mediterranean coast.  It was nice to escape the noise and pollution of Cairo for a few days.  

Blue sky, sand, quiet...we're not in Cairo anymore!

We also had the opportunity to worship with some very friendly young adults at a church in Alexandria.  The service was in Arabic, but we were sort of able to follow along and one of the leaders offered to translate the video for us.  Worship was followed by small group discussions about the merits and drawbacks to dating.  It was a fascinating cultural exchange with young adults living in a culture that discourages dating prior to  engagement.  We hope to return to Alexandria fairly often to enjoy a break from Cairo and to visit with our new friends.   


October 10 update:

I have now been in Egypt forty days and I officially started my job on Monday, October 4.  In the past week, I have been sitting in on classes to observe how Egyptian schools differ from American schools.  I don't feel very useful at this point, since I rarely actually help with the classes, but I am getting to know the science teachers and I am hoping to have some sort of schedule for myself soon.  If this doesn't work out, I may end up with a different job, but I'm still working out the details.  Currently, my work schedule is 8 AM to 3 PM Monday through Thursday and Saturday.  The split weekend (holidays on Friday and Sunday) is a result of the Muslim holy day on Friday and the Christian holy day on Sunday.  It feels a little strange right now, but I guess I will get used to it as time goes on.  

Last week, one of the science teachers, Nivert, invited me to her house for dinner.  She showed me how to make molokheya, a traditional Egyptian soup made of leaves.  The leaves have to be chopped very finely using a tool made just for that purpose.  I gave it a try, but Nivert did most of the work (it's good for upper body strength)!  The soup had a great flavor and I enjoyed it once I was able to get over its (very) slimy texture.  I hear everyone either loves it or hates it, so I guess it's good I liked it!

Chopping leaves for molokheya at Nivert's house

Today I went to church twice.  In the morning I worshipped at All Saints Cathedral, which is an English language Episcopal congregation.  After the service, we met a young British pastor and his Canadian wife who are traveling throughout Africa visiting churches.  We also met an American guy taking a year off from work to travel around the world.  He turned out to be a Hokie who graduated the same year I did!  The three of them went out to lunch with us and we had some good conversation (especially about how Virginia Tech beat WVU).  In the evening a few of us went to worship with an Evangelical Arabic congregation, where we ran into the couple we had met in the morning!  The pastor and his wife were extremely kind and invited us to their house for dinner after the service, where we feasted on a huge quantity of Egyptian food!  It turns out that the Canadian woman we met in the morning went to school in Grand Rapids, MI with the pastor's daughter, who I spoke to before coming to Egypt because she is a friend of Josh's mother.  It really is a small world!    


September 30 update:

After a month in Cairo, I have finally gotten my website up and running.  This has been a busy and challenging month as we moved in and started getting acquainted with our surroundings.  I am living at Ramses College for Girls in the Ghamra section of Cairo.  School started on September 18 and since then the campus has gotten quite a bit more lively.  We are awakened every morning by buses and the chatter of students.  Below is the view from my bedroom window.

The RCG campus as seen from my bedroom window

A primary focus of this first month in Cairo has been learning Arabic.  We have been attending classes at Dar Camboni four hours a day five days a week.  Classes have now ended and we are again in transition as four of the volunteers leave Cairo for placements in Alexandria, Tanta, and Minya.  All nine of us will be starting our jobs in the next week.  

My placement is with the science department of Ramses College.  I have met the science teachers and sat in on two middle school level biology classes.  At this point it looks like I will be a classroom assistant, helping out with hands-on classroom and lab projects.  I plan to start Monday and after that I should have a better idea of my role in the department.

When we aren't busy learning Arabic, we have some time to be tourists.  We visited the Egyptian museum, sailed on the Nile, attended a performance of the Whirling Dervishes, and have had a number of other opportunities to visit interesting sites in Cairo.  Last weekend we visited the Sinai peninsula, which I described in my September newsletter.  Pictures from most of these activities are on my Photos page.

The rest of our time is spent resting (very necessary with all the tiring things we do here) and learning Cairo survival skills (like crossing the street without getting hit by a taxi).    Obtaining food can be an interesting challenge here since many vendors do not speak English and I barely speak Arabic.  The street market (souk) where we buy our produce is a fun place to visit because it is very colorful and busy, in addition to being extremely non-western.  I have not yet convinced myself to buy a live chicken for dinner, so I'm mostly being a vegetarian for now, but maybe by the end of the year I won't mind seeing my food alive before I eat it!   

One of many fruit stands at the souk




This page was last updated on 07/28/05.