Hungary

We’ve just returned home from Hungary. I know you’re used to seeing us post a blog after a trip, and probably expect it by this point; and really, we were there for almost two weeks, so we have plenty to say!

But what I really wanted to avoid this time was a long, droning description of every, single thing we did, maybe with a few pictures sprinkled in. So this time, we’re going to try something different! We’re going to go the purely pictorial route, using a combination of a map and Imgur albums. This way, you get the same long, droning descriptions, but with more photos!

Here is our little project. It will work well on both desktop and mobile. Work your way through the entries on the bottom (which are in no meaningful order, but they had to be in an order). The descriptions can be raised and lowered by use of the small, black arrow button on the bottom left of each picture. Click on the image for a full-size version.

The links within the descriptions will lead you to various albums on imgur.com, a convenient place for us to dump pictures we may or may not want others to see. Some pictures are captioned, so read them at your leisure. If you like it, you’re welcome to let us know; if you don’t, how about you just keep it to yourself, ok?

So there’s Hungary. Our next trip is to America in less than two weeks, and then we’re stuck back in Egypt at least until January, when we’ll go to London to get a job!

The Miss

It’s official! School is out! I don’t think I’ve done much blogging about school besides my first impressions. So here’s a (hopefully) short summary.

First of all the title of this blog…All (female) teachers are referred to as “The Miss”. The Miss of Arabic, The Miss said you can’t do that, “Miss! Miss! Miss! Miss! MISS! MISS VANCE!”.  I generally like to wait until they use my actual name.

I had students eager to learn and students who tried to get me fired.  Students who loved me and wrote that I was her role model and students who told me that he didn’t respect me at all. Students who thanked me for teaching her and students who (in the end) got himself expelled from the school (really all the negative parts were from one particular student).

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Some vibrant spring flowers

I don’t know if I’ve written before that we (Ronnie and I) feel like Egypt is making us angry people.  But really it’s just a loud culture.  I really don’t like raising my voice, but it’s so much a part of the culture here that you don’t really get noticed if you don’t do it.  Especially as a teacher.  So  maybe I need to figure out how to be loud without being angry?  Ronnie kept track of how many times I cried last year (6), I kept track of how many times I completely lost my cool and screamed at the kids (4).

The International Baccalaureate (IB) system is much more my style.  It allows you to teach the kids in a more natural way. It’s hard to explain besides it’s a lot like homeschooling. You have a topic that you’re supposed to learn about and a few objectives to reach, but the ways of reaching those objectives are numerous (field trips, visitors, blogs, books, family, etc) Then at the end, they do some sort of final project to show their learning. My class was incredibly creative and we had a lot of fun creating all sorts of things. I can only sit and smile when I see friends on Facebook complaining about the SBAC.

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Beach day by the Mediterranean

Ramadan, a holy month for Muslims, started at the beginning of June. For those who are as clueless as I was, the people fast during the day and aren’t allowed to put anything in their mouths.  At 7ish in the evening, they wait for the call to prayer which signals Iftar, or the breaking of the fast. Then they stay up all night to eat more before the sun rises again and they’re back to fasting. This starts around grade 3.  So for the past three weeks, many students just decided not to come to school, and the ones who did come complained that they were too tired, and hungry, and thirsty to do anything.  It was frustrating and seemed like a waste of time. I taught them some games, made some crafts out of recycled paper, listened to music with them, but really did not accomplish anything during this time.  I had one students on the last day of school.

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Streamers to decorate for Ramadan

As with every job and school, there’s a mix of both positive and negative things, but there’s one huge thing that’s different at the end of this year. And that is the fact I’m not left wondering if teaching is the right thing for me. I’ve found my groove and I’m happy to stick with it!

 

Diet

Here’s another interesting thing about moving across the world that you don’t really think about, your diet. You’ve had the blog about the Egyptian food here so you know what that’s like, but our home cooking has changed too.

I learned how to cook based off of a type of meat. Say you have some ground beef, so you could make tacos, tamale pie, stroganoff, or hamburgers depending on what you feel like. Then you’d add in the appropriate vegetables and sides to make a meal.

The problem with Egypt is that you never know about the meat. One of the grocery stores nearby has a meat counter with beef, lamb, turkey, and chicken.  However, we just got home from shopping there where I had to swerve around a shopping cart with cow parts sticking out of it. In the middle of the store. I should have taken a picture. Also, one of the ads we’ve received from this store has a picture of a chicken that’s greenish blue.  We’ve bought beef from them once and it was impossibly chewy.  The ground beef has chunks of…stuff in it.  So we pretty much stick to the chicken which must be frozen or eaten that same day.

The freshest meat in Egypt is the seafood.  The market by the school has plenty of fresh shrimp, crabs, and fish of all kinds…there was even a live turtle one day.  So you pick the vendor with the most ice to buy your dinner.

The other safe meat option is ordering from a place online.  They deliver from Cairo, but it’s a bit pricey.  We’ve gotten some delicious salmon, tuna, and beef steaks from there. But I’m also convinced that the beef just tastes different here.

And then there’s the pork store where almost everything is already cured so you can’t really go wrong there.

Aaanyway. All that was to point out that I can no longer plan my meals around meat.  So we turn to vegetables.  My goal is to eat vegetarian at least once a week.

I learned to steam vegetables and eat them.  No seasonings or salt or butter or anything. This is fine, but it gets old.  Especially when you’re trying to make a meal out of it.  So one of our recent purchases was The Vegetarian Option. I found it in a bookstore in Cairo and it seemed to be good, edible vegetarian stuff.  No weird tofu, fake meat, things we’d never find in Egypt type stuff. So far we’ve only made one thing, but it was delicious so I’m planning to make more.

It’s still very much a work in progress, but I’ll keep you updated on how our vegetarian adventures are going. I’m finding it harder than I thought. Of course I’d be happy to eat potatoes every day, but I’m not the only one who eats around here.

Home

It may not be news to most of you–but surely some–that we will be coming home this summer for a wedding. It’s very exciting. I’d be more excited if I hadn’t spent the last 9-ish months resigning myself to not seeing home until next summer. Now that the tickets have been bought, though, I can’t stop thinking about one thing.

It’s not all the family and friends we’ll finally get to see, even though that will be pretty fantastic. It’s certainly not the weather, which will likely be just as bad in the Tri-Cities as in Egypt. And it’s definitely not the wedding (Sorry, Bekah.)

No, it’s not any of those things. It’s wine tasting and Irish Death. It’s Atomic’s potato soup and Mexican food that doesn’t suck. It’s whatever Ethos is serving. It’s barbecue. It’s not a short list. Hell, there’s even a spot on it for Arby’s and Taco Bell.

How many meals can we fit into two weeks?

Gender roles

Here’s another interesting cultural tidbit about Egypt.

Men are almost exclusively involved in women’s beauty products and processes. I went to get my hair cut for the second time and, for the second time, it was cut by a man who looked like a biker. Tattoos, slicked back hair, kinda short, wearing leather, you get the point. Perhaps this is to make up for the fact that he does women’s hair for a living. Also men and women have separate salons…it’s very awkward for me to sit in a men’s salon and vice versa.

Makeup counters frequently have men behind them and lets not forget the piles of bras out on the street, also sold by a man. Personal trainers at the gym are mostly huge buff men.

My most recent theory is that since men can have more than one wife, they don’t get jealous.  Who cares if my wife is out getting beautified by some other man? I’ve got two more to keep me happy.

Of course I have no idea, but it’s something that seems very odd to me having men so involved in what many people consider something quite personal.

Roma

One of the most ironic things in my life for the last 6 years has been my degree in European Studies.  Why? Because I had never been to Europe.

I guess I can’t make that joke anymore because we just spent the most amazing week in Italy. Ronnie even surprised me with the plane tickets as a sort of 5 year anniversary present. Best present ever.

If you know anything about my life growing up, you’ll know that I was homeschooled and that everywhere we went, there was a lesson to be learned.  I had  been to more historical sites, State parks, National parks, etc by the time I was ten that…well that it’s hard to stay interested. Let’s just say that history was is my least favorite subject. There are millions of dates and people and places and events that I should have memorized, but I don’t.  That being said, I was a bit ashamed when we went to Rome and more than once I said, “Oh! I didn’t know that was here too!”

I stand by my statement that I went to Rome to eat good food and drink good wine. However, there were some other interesting things as well. Rather than bore you with any historical details (that I don’t know), here are some photos.

Our airbnb was an adorable “loft” with a kitchen. We cooked several meals there because there was a Carrefour a few blocks away with amazing Italian ingredients.  It was a bit far away from things, but it was nice to see what an actual Roman neighborhood looked like instead of all the touristy stuff.

My mother asked me what my favorite part was…besides the food (she knows me too well). I didn’t really know what to say, but now that I’ve thought about it, I think it was going to see the Symphony.  There’s not much I like more than sitting and listening to live, professional, classical music. I’d say it gives me goosebumps (which is true), but it’s much more than just goosebumps.  And it’s weird because it’s a completely different feeling than being in the symphony playing the music. Enough sappiness. It was excellent.

The pasta making class was also super fun and educational. The problem is that it was the night before we were leaving so when they had all these suggestions for where and what to eat, it was a bit disappointing. However, we had plenty of good food thanks to Facebook and Pinterest.

We didn’t get to many things that we would have liked to see, but according to legend, if you throw coins in the Trevi Fountain, you’ll be back.  I wonder if it matters that we threw in Egyptian pounds…

I know the last two blog posts that we’ve written sounded like we were depressed being in Egypt. But it isn’t really all that bad and I think we were both pleasantly surprised at how we were relieved to come back to something familiar.

 

 

Staring

There was a time in my life about 10 years ago when I avoided contact with other people at all costs. I walked through the halls of my high school staring at the floor. Something happened (I don’t remember what) and I realized there was nothing to hide from. I started looking up at people in the hallways as I slowly learned how to socialize. It was a painful process that I was horrible at. 

After college, I moved back to my hometown, got married and realized that all the people I grew up with were gone on their own adventures. Again, we (Ronnie helped quite a bit) slowly began to make friends again as we became a part of the music community. 

Jump to September 2015. We moved to a place where I stick out like a sore thumb and everyone stares. It’s incredibly uncomfortable and I have been tempted to make faces at them and stare back. Instead, I avoid them. I can’t communicate with them and even if I could, I would have a hard time trusting what they said. So, once again, I go through public avoiding contact with people at all costs. 

If only I had more time to learn Arabic properly. That might help a bit. It’s quite exhausting spending your time avoiding people. And it’s extra miserable when your husband is gone for two weeks. I’ve even considered dying my hair darker to see if it would help me to blend in…Don’t worry though. I haven’t considered wearing a head scarf.