Flexiblity

I know I wrote about yoga in the last blog, but this is about a different kind of flexibility.

It’s about that unique kind of flexibility you gain from teaching and living abroad, especially in a developing country. I can’t even count how many times our plans have changed in the last two years. It seems as though every single plan we made didn’t actually happen.

This has been a valuable experience for both of us, learning to just let life happen. Go with the flow (this is sounding more and more yoga like). Both of us were raised in families love to plan things, yet our plan changes daily so we can’t exactly organise anything.

I know this is all very vague so I’ll give you some specifics.

I supposed you could say the first year in Egypt went according to our plan, but this second one has been insane. We originally came to Egypt with the idea that we will be here for two years without going home. Both of my younger sisters were getting married during summer, so we went home (probably the best change of plans ever!). Then we came back to a school that was shut down by the government so I switched schools. Then in November our money was devalued, throwing our travel plans out the window. By January I’d had 0 interviews for next year and by February we had decided it wouldn’t be the worst thing to stay in Egypt for another year. Now I’ve had a few interviews as well as a job offer but we still have not made a commitment to leave Egypt.

So here’s the current thinking. We would rather stay in Egypt a third year than move to another difficult country or a difficult school. Only if an IB school with good reviews offers me a position will we be moving out of Egypt.

 

Resolutions

I’ve always kind of laughed off other people when they make new years resolutions. I am very practical so if there’s no real reason to it, why bother? I mean, you’ll do it for a month but then you’ll completely forget all about. Anyway, I decided to actually try it for once.

This year I had three resolutions that I thought were practical, reasonable, and worthwhile.

One: Complete Wanderlusts 21 day yoga challenge. Check. I did complete it although I did take a day or two break in between the last few days. I’ve been doing yoga on and off for the last few years. I love it but I didn’t seem to be getting much better at it. So I took it on for 21 days and after 1 week I could see a difference! Since the challenge I’ve tried to keep up but I definitely haven’t been nearly as diligent.

Two: Don’t eat any chocolate or dessert for one month. Check. I only cheated once at a friend’s house when she was baking chocolate chip cookies. This one came from constantly coming home from school craving sweets. All I wanted to do was eat chocolate. So I took a month off (obviously this couldn’t be a permanent thing because I like baking too much). It was harder than I thought it would be, but I satisfied my cravings with sweet potatoes. Of course I had to make a cake for Ronnie’s birthday at the end of January, but my takeaway from this experience was to only eat dessert after dinner. It was very tempting to eat that amazing German chocolate cake for breakfast, lunch, or snack time. I’ll have you know that I resisted and only ate cake after my dinner.

Three: Keep the house clean. Many of the teachers here have hired a maid to clean for them. My good ol’ Dutch heritage can’t imagine me paying someone to do something I’m perfectly capable of doing myself. However, we are very bad at keeping up with things. It generally sits around until we need it or it’s very disgusting. I read a blog once that suggested 20 minutes of cleaning when you first get home from work is a good habit to get into. Because really, cleaning isn’t all that bad, but finding the motivation to get started is what gets me. Unfortunately this has been the least successful of my goals. But we shall continue to work on it.

Anyone else have a New Years resolution?

2016

2016- The year of many travels.

I know it’s late, but better late than never, right?

Here are some of the hi-(and low)lights for the year.

My parents came to visit us the last week of February. After showing them around Alexandria, we went camping in the desert. This was probably the best experience we’ve had in Egypt. We saw and experienced things you couldn’t find anywhere else.

The last week of April we went to Rome. Our first time in Europe was incredible. We took a cooking class, ate good food, drank good wine, and saw lots of old things.

After school was out, we took off for Hungary. This was another fabulous trip that we immensely enjoyed. I think it is the only place that I’ve been where I never wanted to leave.

We came back to Alexandria for a  few weeks and played lots of video games to pass the time.

Then we took a trip back home. This was a welcome surprise for me as I didn’t realize how hard it would be to go 2 years without going home. It was so great to be able to go to my sister’s wedding, and see our niece, families, and friends. Plus we got to enjoy all of the good food that we miss.

When we came back to Alexandria, there was a lot of tension due to the school issues. After moving apartments and schools, things got back to normal.

The next major event was the devaluation of the Egyptian pound. This was disappointing, but thankfully the country was not thrown into chaos.

Ronnie played with the Bibliotheca Alexandrina Orchestra throughout the year and I played a few concerts as well, one of the major ones being Beethoven 9.

Christmas was spent in Alexandria and it turned out, it wasn’t the worst thing. We enjoyed seeing new places and meeting some new people.

For 2017 we’ve got tickets booked for Spring break in Greece and hopes to move on to a new country next year.

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Christmas in Alexandria

Last year we went to Hurghada for Christmas and spent our time enjoying the Red Sea. This year, we’ll be staying at home. Christmas in Egypt is very weird to me. Because most of the population is Muslim, most Egyptians don’t actually celebrate Christmas. However, you can find cheesy Christmas decorations for sale in every market and toy store. It’s as if they like the idea of it, but don’t actually do it. Then there’s our normal Christmas on Dec. 25th, and the Coptic Christmas on January 7th. However, many Egyptians seem to think that Christmas and New Years is the same thing. Perhaps it’s a nice thing in the middle to celebrate? Maybe someone can explain it to me…

At least this means we can enjoy our main Christmas traditions, decorating a real tree with lots of lights and eating certain foods. Our first tree was a palm tree, true Egyptian style.

15355776_10155272165325400_357986429991628504_nWe went to visit our local plant guy and caught him bringing some little juniper bushes inside. One example of the incredible friendly Egyptian types, he sold us a tree and pot with dirt for less than $5. We bought some white lights and silver ornaments and I made some small snowflakes. So far, Leo has only knocked it over once.


The baking part got more challenging this year. The usual cream cheese braids that are a family tradition had to made without cream cheese. I had been thinking about Banket, a Dutch almond flavored pastry, and decided to make something almond flavored to put in the middle of the braid. I found a recipe that didn’t require almond paste, but failed to read the reviews. So I made the almond filling and realized it wasn’t sweet at all.  I ended up experimenting with various sweeteners and it was still good stuff.

We were able to find ricotta cheese to make the traditional Christmas Eve lasagna and eat it before rehearsal.

My favorite cookies are the white Christmas crinkles which I haven had for two years now. A white chocolate cookie coated with sugar, drizzled with dark chocolate and sprinkled with candy cane pieces. Alas candy canes do not exist here.

But I did make cream puffs and was surprisingly successful.

Besides there’s more to Christmas than just eating.

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.