Posted by len on 23rd February 2007
Just the other day as we strolled down one of the delightful shopping boulevards near the Mediterranean in Alexandria, Egypt what should we pass by? The Arabic Demi Moore Store! Holy nose job Batman!!
Maybe this is what’s replacing all those defunct Disney Stores across the U.S. but I’ve never seen one. In my wildest dreams involving has-been actresses I’ve never dreamt of such a thing.
We went in close to confirm there’s not some Egyptian starlet from the 40’s coincidentally named Demi Moore. Sure enough, I saw a few fashion glam shots of her on the windows.
I wonder if she even knows?
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Posted by len on 23rd February 2007
One of the first things we desperately wanted to set up in our new living space in Cairo was internet. Everyone said that DSL would be a sure way to go, as long as you have a phone line. However we discovered there was an internet wireless signal, and a fairly strong one, wafting through our apartment already. We connected and were online and happy. That is until we got sniffed out! A few days later the network stopped accepting our connections. That’s when my Egyptian friend Ahmed, at my coaxing, asked the proprietor of the “internet cafe” just down the street what had happened to the wireless that we assumed was emanating from his shop. He had no wireless, he said to our surprise. Must have been from some other tenant. But my friend Ahmed continues chatting with him and the proprietor proposed what has now become our internet solution: a 75 meter ethernet cable strung from his shop across the entire front of one building, to the roof of ours, then down onto our front balcony, in under the doors and into wireless router of our own (see photo and hover mouse). So far it works great. 40 pounds ($8) per month. Egyptians are a crazy people.
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Posted by sue on 22nd February 2007
It’s Thursday, which is the Egyptian equivalent of Friday, because Friday is mosque-going day. (And they broadcast the sermons given at the mosques at noon on loudspeakers throughout the city, so there’s no escaping Allah on Fridays. They didn’t do that in Morocco.) I have class Monday through Thursday, so Len and I treat Friday and Saturday as our weekend and Sunday as a work-at-home day.
On Thursday afternoons we have a habit of going over to the British Council, an institution that teaches English to Egyptians and otherwise promotes British culture. They have a library, which we joined for $25 for six months, where they lend books, DVDs, CDs, and even PlayStation 2 games. It’s nice to have a source of English-language books to borrow, because although there are tons of books in English for sale at various bookshops here in Cairo, they are rather expensive, and anyway we’re not into acquiring a bunch of books after unloading so many before we left L.A. The British Council is pretty strict, however, about stocking mostly British products. Much of their video collection consists on British TV shows we’ve never heard of, and their history section is U.K. history only—the closest thing they have on the history of the Middle East is a book or two on T.E. Lawrence.
Fortunately they do stock English translations of some novels by Egyptian authors, so I am now reading “Palace Walk,” the first novel in the “Cairo Trilogy” by Naguib Mahfouz, Egypt’s most famous novelist (he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1988, the first writer in Arabic to win the prize).
Thanks for the encouraging comments on my last post—from them, I have concluded that I should keep studying hard, relax about my speaking ability while I’m here, and then move to Hawaii. Not a bad plan.
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Posted by sue on 18th February 2007
You know that feeling you get sometimes on Sunday, when you look to the week ahead and the very thought of it makes you tired because you’re not ready for the weekend to end? I’m definitely in that mode today. This whole week I’ve been feeling more overwhelmed than motivated about my Arabic study—it just feels like it’s going to take much longer to get anywhere with it than I have the patience and stamina for.
And, I admit, the initial excitement of being in a new place has worn off. We take heat and restaurants for granted again after feeling their absence in Morocco, but that just leaves Cairo a big, noisy city where we hardly know anyone. We did go to a pretty rockin’ party on Thursday night, hosted by one of my classmates and his housemates—they have a huge party-pad apartment downtown with amazing Nile and city views. And while we had a good time and met some cool people, it’s a young and ephemeral crowd of Arabic learners, most of whom will go home (to the U.K., Germany, the Netherlands, the U.S.) in May or so. It’s weird to be in essentially the same boat as all of them, while still feeling a little too old for this sort of thing!
But what to do? One big reason we left L.A. was to get out of a big city and find more livable places in the world, but the other big reason was that I wanted to go somewhere to learn Arabic. But these two goals right now feel mutually exclusive, and ultimately the big question is: Where can we live where both of us can find satisfying work and a good home? And what to do in the meantime?
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Posted by len on 14th February 2007
You’ve read it in magazines, you’ve heard it on the news, and we’re here to tell you, from first-hand experience, that the Middle East is truly the cradle of the squeegee. Ya see, bathrooms across the Middle East often have showers but the showers have no curtains (or doors, or water repellent plasma barriers, etc). So after you take a shower, even if you’re a paraplegic dwarf, water is going to be covering the floor. The next step is the squeegee phase. Often performed completely naked (as God intended) you grab the giant squeegee ‘broom’ and push all the water into the drain that’s always somewhere nearby. The positive side of this extra labor is that you end up cleaning the floor reasonably well (at least from most mens’ perspectives) every time you shower!
Oh yeah, and that’s us in front of the pyramid of Cheops, widely considered the most delightful pyramid in the world.
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Posted by len on 8th February 2007
Sue and I were just talking about how time seems to be sailing by here in Cairo compared with Morocco. We figure that the experience is probably due to a) we are more seasoned at living overseas and in the Middle East, b) we have heat so are not constantly struggling to stay warm, c) we can get a burger any time we feel like it. In any case, the days are moving quickly by (kind of like normal life). Sue is still liking her classes and I’m trying to get 30 hour weeks in on my animation project in addition to (very) slowly learning Egyptian Arabic and other miscellaneous tasks (like updating the Squid!). Here are some photos we took of our apartment (sorry we didn’t clean first) to give you all a taste of day-to-day life in the land of the Pharoahs.
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Posted by len on 3rd February 2007
DISCLAIMER: Sorry to all you non-nerds out there for the very nerdy computer-centric finish of this post.
As we were leaving the Egyptian museum yesterday, our legs sore from hours of standing and gawking, we noticed a map of the museum near the exit we had not seen before that included a summary of what you could find in each room. There were a couple of small things we noticed we missed: the Rosetta Stone and King Tut’s golden coffin! Oh yeah, just two of the most famous things ever discovered on earth. Woops! Well, we forced ourselves back in and saw the Rosetta Stone, a smallish black stone tablet on the wall (like one of the 10 commandments as portrayed by C. Heston!), completely under-promoted. It was easy to miss, if you can believe it. Then on to King Tut. I already had an inkling of what to expect from the map. This image was among the handful that sucked me into the world of computer graphics many, many years ago (I think this one was from 1987 or so). A rendition of it was used as the cover art for a paint program (like Photoshop) called Deluxe Paint II for the Amiga computer. The third computer I ever owned and the first with real, modern graphics capabilities. My parents bought it for me as a bribe to make sure I didn’t go to an expensive private college! I remember seeing the image and being in awe of what a computer could do. Looking around the web it seems clear that many other people had a similar response when they saw it. Similar to Star Wars. 9 out of 10 computer graphics nerds say that that movie marked the beginning of choosing their lifelong career. So seeing the true, real King Tut’s golden coffin was pretty cool.
It looked just like the computer image here but without quite so many ‘jaggies’. : )
Egyptian museum info on the king tut mask
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Posted by sue on 2nd February 2007
We have really been meaning to do some of the big Egypt tourist things since we’ve arrived, but hadn’t gotten around to it until today, when we went to the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities.
The highlight was probably the very famous golden mask of King Tutankhamun, which we had to look for a bit because the museum is a bit of a jumble. Lots and lots of statues and stone sarcophagi and jewelry and pillars and papyruses and hieroglyphics carved into limestone, etc. Much of it is unlabeled, so I left feeling more overwhelmed than enlightened. But, for so many of the items it’s just amazing to ponder how old they are—some are well over 4000 years old!
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Posted by sue on 1st February 2007
Len and I successfully extended our tourist visas today, and are now officially permitted to stay in Egypt for six months. All we had to do was to file an application with the immigration agency downtown, pay $2, wait a day, and go back in to have the visa stickers put into our passports. Pretty painless.
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