Let’s Get Real

Yes. There has been a massive lack of blog posts since we returned to Egypt. You can read about my school situation here. We originally thought that we could stay for another two year contract but things have changed quite a bit since then.

The main problem is that our money has been cut in half. Last year $1 was equal to around 8.5 Egyptian Pounds (EGP). This fluctuated a bit, but nothing drastic. In the last month, the government decided to float the currency which means that $1 is now 17 EGP. This changes daily, probably even hourly. This means that I’m making half the amount I was and all of our savings are cut in half. This puts a huge damper on our favorite part of Egypt…being able to save money to travel OUT of Egypt. Also sending money home to pay for bills is getting more and more difficult (If you ever do decide to leave the country, try to pay off all credit cards and loans before you leave).

Many teachers are planning on leaving (some already left) after Christmas because of the money situation.  Hiring more teachers is going to be almost impossible because they’ll want a decent paycheck which isn’t possible because the parents only pay so much and we aren’t allowed to raise tuition during the term. We’ll stick it out since I’m pretty sure we’ll be ok for the rest of the year, but after that we’re outta here!

In other news, there’s a sugar shortage (along with the foreign currency shortage) and I’ve heard rumors of other things running out as well. I never thought I’d be living in a country where people are standing in line for their allotment of two bags of sugar. For us it just means I’ll get creative when baking if I have to. Luckily we don’t use that much sugar.

We’re hoping to find a place in Eastern Europe for next year and we’re hoping that I can get a position secured early on so we have something to look forward to.

Now that the “silence” has been broken, perhaps we’ll write more.

After Summer

When you’re a teacher, after summer means school…usually.

We got back into Alexandria after an insane 48 hours of travel, including 12 hours in London. It was all pretty much a blur but we took the ‘tube’ into the city and photographed many of the famous things and ate some fish and chips. We will have to go back and do it properly one day.

Shortly after returning back I received an email saying that the government had sealed the gates of our school. Let me just say that the following two weeks were extremely stressful. Four of the other foreign teachers did not come back from summer break and I began to think that they had made the right choice. But I had signed a contract for two years and I intended to follow through. We started prep and training at a different location. We hopefully came in each day expecting to hear that we could enter the school and, in true Egyptian fashion, every day we heard, “Tomorrow”.

I worked prepping materials, making plans, and going through training for that week. When Thursday came (the last working day in Egypt) and they still didn’t have any real news about when we could get into the school, I decided to start looking for other jobs. Again they had promised that we could get into the school by next week. “Look for an email on Sunday. We can expect to be on campus by Tuesday.”

Sunday’s email said that we aren’t getting into the school any time soon and that we would be starting school after Eid (two weeks away). At this point I had two interviews set up with other schools and my fingers crossed that they would offer me a position. On Wednesday there was a meeting debriefing staff about what to expect. At this point I discussed with my principal that I was looking for other options because I can’t continue living like this, wondering what is actually going to happen.

On Thursday I sent in my resignation letter and was told that we would have to leave the apartment in two days.  An hour later I accepted a different position at a different school in Alexandria (and threw in the small detail about needing an apartment in two days). An hour after that I got a call from the new school saying that they found an apartment for us.

Whew! What a day that was! I don’t think I’ve ever gotten physically sick because of stress, but I definitely did going through this.

I am now happy to report that things are going smoothly at the new school and apartment.

Summer

We are in the process of doing a blog overhaul, but we’re so behind that I thought I should write a few short blogs to get you up to date.

After Hungary, we came back to Alexandria and, after finding out how much money we had spent while in Hungary, sat in our apartment hiding from the heat. Somewhere during those weeks we decided to spend some time figuring out how to properly use the camera that Ronnie purchased for my birthday a few years back. It’s free, and there’s a beautiful sea out there to photograph.

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The Cornish is the name of the street that runs along the water and it’s the busiest and therefore loudest street in the city. Surprisingly if you go over to the water, the waves are loud enough that you barely even notice that the Cornish is behind you. It’s actually quite pleasant.

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Following these two weeks, we flew back to Washington State. It was so great to see all of our family and friends, play with our dog, attend a wedding, eat good food, and enjoy the scenery.

We thoroughly enjoyed our time back “home” but we have no desire to move back, to the Tri-Cities, or even the U.S. It’s a wonderful place to visit, but there are too many other places to experience to stay there.

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?