Still in Egypt

We’re still here. That’s not really news, but it will be news for some of you that we will continue to still be in Egypt for one more year. Seriously, Bethany’s blog about Greece was way more fun, but I suppose it’s only fair that I have to write this one. I’m afraid this isn’t going to be one of those cool, picture-y blogs that you’re used to, but for the few of you who like to keep up with what’s happening in our lives, it might be worth a read.

In short, we’ll be here for one more year because we were unable to find Bethany a good job outside of Egypt. We looked, believe me, but almost entirely unsuccessfully. Okay, there, now you can go back to whatever you were doing before if you’d like. Or you can read the significantly longer explanation below: Continue reading

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.

Leo

Here’s how we acquired our newest family member. 

Last week on Tuesday, I went outside to do my duty during recess and found a kitten being harassed by students. He was soaking wet and shivering so I spent the entire time protecting him from the kids. It was Pilates day after school and I thought about going to check on him when we were finished but I forgot and went straight home. 

  
Wednesday morning I got to school and went to put my lunch in the fridge.  He was still sitting there being adorable and miserable at the same time.  I had sorta avoided petting him the day before because I knew if I did I wouldn’t be able to leave him. You can guess what happened next…I started petting him and he rubbed against me and purred and purred. I texted Ronnie and asked him to come get this cat because I didn’t want him to endure another day of torture from the students. 

  In the meantime, I found a box and took him into my classroom.  Unfortunately, his back end was leaking quite a bit and he was pretty unpleasant. My principal said to just keep him in your room for the day, but that would mean we would accomplish absolutely nothing! Huge shoutout to Ronnie who came early in the morning and trammed poor leaky, dirty kitty home. 

  
That night when I got home I started googling veterinarians.  Something I would never be able to do in the states is Facebook message a vet and schedule an appointment time the same night. Mr. vet guy cleaned him up a bit, gave him deworming and anti flea medicine and reported that he was healthy. 

  
Since then, he’s fattened up and cleaned up even more (he sorta looked like an alien with huge ears). His butt stopped leaking and the fleas are gone. 

  
We’re still trying to get his back legs and paws cleaned up, but he’s very frisky and loves to attack things. He’s incredibly affectionate and lives to cuddle as well. 

Shoulder cat

Here goes…

As promised, here’s what’s happening next year.  Well here’s what we’re planning on for next year.  I won’t go into a lot of detail about the backstory but our reasoning more than anything is, why not?  We’ve always wanted to travel and we have nothing holding us here contract wise.  So Alexandria, Egypt (How’s that for a credible source?  A teacher using Wikipedia?) is going to be our new home for the next two years.

My contract consists of some relocation money, a two bedroom furnished apartment, a plane ticket there and back at the end, and a job!  We’re officially heading out of the country on August 10th and will be met at the airport by the principal of Alexandria International Academy.

What I know about the school is that they have three separate sections, the French section, English section, and Arabic section.  My position will be 4th grade teacher in the English section.  It is a fairly small school with 270 some kids which mean the maximum class size is 18 students.  I had a fairly small class all year, but that still sounds wonderful.  It is an International Baccalaureate (IB) school which means I teach in the Primary Years Programme (PYP).  This is all inquiry based learning, meaning that instead of having a list of standards to meet and tests to pass, you have a topic or theme and you fit in all the things that you can relate to that theme.  To put it simply, I get to teach them how to be an integral part of society instead of teaching them to pass a test (I bet you can all guess my feelings on the CCSS, and SBAC that I endured this year).

The salary is a few hundred less in US$ than what I made this year as a first year teacher, but the cost of living is much cheaper, plus our rent is paid for.  And let’s not forget the irreplaceable experience of living in another country...I’m getting sarcastic now because how many more times can we talk about how excited we are and what an adventure it’s going to be? 

Safety.  That’s the thing everyone is worried about.  It’s fine.  The majority of the things you hear about in the news happen in Cairo.  I won’t be in Cairo.  The principal assured me that at the most, I would be uncomfortable being stared at. Most of what I’ve read about says that excessive jewelry attracts unwanted attention and I never wear jewelry (I don’t even have my ears pierced!).  So I’m good there.

I like to joke that Ronnie’s job there is going to be my bodyguard.  Truthfully, we don’t have anything set up for him.  However, Mr. Arbour (the principal at AIA) has offered to help us find a job for him there.  Maybe he can learn Arabic in these last two months and be my personal interpreter.

So we’ve got a list of things to do before we go and hopefully everything goes smoothly.  Passport applications are in the mail, an appointment with the health department will happen soon, and plane tickets are scheduled to be purchased tonight.

Name an emotion and I’m probably feeling it.  Let’s not go there.  I’ll just say that today I lost it and my poor husband had to endure it.

Hmm…what else do you want to know?  I feel like that’s most of everything.

Tri-cities people, keep an eye out for a garage sale date.  If you’ve got stuff you want to sell, send it on over!

Also our two kitties need homes (Henry will go to stay with my in-laws).  They can go together or separately, so if you know of someone looking for a cute cat, let us know!

2014 Review

2014 started out with a lot of frustration. Our living situation wasn’t ideal and jobs and money were lacking.

Now, as the year ends, I can only think about all of the blessings and support we have received from all sorts of people.

Henry joined our animal hoard in March.  Due to our the previously listed situations, I was not convinced that getting a dog was a great idea, but we have absolutely loved having him. He’s adorable and funny and tiny. He likes to play with big dogs, loves going on rides in the car, hates water, and is like an annoying little brother to the cats.

As for the music side of our lives, we were both thrilled to be a part of Mid-Columbia Musical Theater’s production of Les Miserables.  Aside from the regular symphony season, we did three shows with MCMT, West Side story for a high school, and the Nutcracker.  We also played with the Washington Idaho Symphony for their summer concert in Moscow, ID.  Mahler 5 with 8 horns definitely a highlight for me.

After a few months of waiting, my teaching career finally took off.  My certificate showed up in March and I subbed until the end of school in June.  I was very excited to get started and really wanted to quit my job at the hospital, but then I thought about what I would do in the summer and realized that it probably wasn’t a good idea quite yet.  Early in August, I got a message from Sylvan, a local tutoring center.  I had turned in an application 8 months earlier and they needed teachers.  Finally, after three and a half years, I said goodbye to Kadlec Regional Medical Center and customer service jobs. After they trained me as a tutor, I got hired as a 4th and 5th grade teacher.  I’m sure you will hear plenty in the future about that.  That’s pretty much my portion of the year…besides the two foolish self inflicted injuries.

In April we moved into a duplex in Richland that happens to be right around the corner from my school so my commute consists of bundling up (for now) for a three minute walk which leaves the car available for Ronnie.  We spent our summer doing housework and gardening.  The floors were replaced by the owner, but we cleaned out the front garden, painted four different rooms, made a garden, as well as many other miscellaneous projects.

As for traveling, we took one trip across the mountains and managed to fit everything in.  Of course we would have loved to take more trips…perhaps in 2015.

Ronnie also had an exciting year.  His symphony involvement increased quite a bit.  Something I don’t believe that I’ve blogged about is that he was a driving force in getting a youth symphony started.  From getting the approval from the board, to holding auditions, to being the contact in town, he’s been involved in every step.  The first rehearsals are set to start this month.  While he’s not one to show many emotions, I believe he’s pretty excited to see this succeed.  He also started teaching private clarinet and oboe lessons.  Other miscellaneous things he’s done are work at a local bakery and house/pet sit.

So far in 2015, we went to the park to run with a group of people to start off the new year right!  It was a total of 23 degrees, but Henry, Ronnie, and I all bundled up and took a stab at a 5k.

We’ve been having fun with my family over break, but I think I’ll save that for a different post.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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(I thought this picture was pretty good for wrangling three animals and getting a timer set up)

Check out my instagram. I’m still working on my 100 days.

Summertime

Not much new around here.  I finally hid the last of the boxes, so our dining room is completely visible.  The bathroom is still getting some finishing touches.  We had some electric wiring stuff done by a friend.  Don’t worry though, I have two things to write about that should (hopefully) be entertaining.

Henry has been doing great! A few weeks ago, he stopped peeing in his crate.  And even more recently, he stopped needing to be let out at 4 or 5 in the morning.  We thought potty training was going really well, but in the last few weeks, there have been mysterious puddles of pee.  First it was on the boxes in the dining room, then it was right inside the door to the backyard. Why mysterious? Because we try to keep an eye on him at all times to prevent puddles of pee. Just yesterday, I woke up and took him out and stepped in one of these puddles of pee (not my favorite thing to do right out of bed). Obviously this is not the dog peeing since he was in the crate all night. Those sneaky sneaky little cats….
So that’s our most recent pet problem. We have several theories, so hopefully one of them is correct and the cat will start peeing in the litter again.

Monday morning was also an interesting experience for me. There I was at working putting away the stock, helping customers, cutting open boxes with extremely sharp box knives…and the knife slips off the box and gets my finger.  It’s painful, but not a big deal, I’ve cut my finger before.  I grab a paper towel and ring up a few customers and start looking for a band-aid.  There aren’t any in the deli, so my co-worker suggests that I go to the ER to see if they have any.  When I ask for a band-aid, the nurse asks what happened and when I tell her, she asks to see it.  Her response was, “You need to get checked in like a good girl and have someone look at that.  Did you call your supervisor?”  “No. I was just looking for a band-aid.”  Jeez, I’ve never been checked in to the ER before, how exciting!  I called my co-worker and told her that I’d be about an hour.  So I got a nice little break during the middle of work.  It was fascinating watching the doctor numb my finger and stitch it up.  After it was all bandaged up, I went back to work.  Now I have three little stitches that will come out on Thursday.  I probably wouldn’t have gotten stitches if this happened at home, but after filling out a bunch of paperwork, L&I will take care of it.

 

Mahler and my pets

After 14 days straight of working, I think I deserved to party until 3 AM and sleep in til 11 AM today.  I worked at the hospital on the weekends and had subbing jobs everyday (except for one day when I was being picky about the schools and stayed home to work on some of our projects here).  Yesterday was the season finale concert for the symphony, thus the staying up past 2 and drinking more than one glass of wine…that’s about as crazy as I get.  There’s so much to tell you!  Perhaps I’ll have to write more than one blog.

Let me start with 8 French horns playing Mahler 1.  Being a horn player, I’ve always heard about how amazing Mahler is and how everyone wants to go to the MahlerFest, but not being a professional musician, I had never really gotten into it.  In college I believe I played the 7th part and I wasn’t impressed because I spent more than half of my time counting rests.  I also wasn’t originally very excited about this performance because only two of the seated horn players were going to be there and you can never be 100% sure that the people who get hired to come in will play well.  Turns out three of the eight horn players went to Hanford at some point and I felt a tiny bit of “Falcon Pride”.

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So how did it go?  It was the most excited about a symphony concert I’ve ever felt.  No, I didn’t play perfectly, but I can’t even remember the last time I felt like that after a performance.  I got pretty close when we played 1812, but you can’t beat playing with 7 other fantastic horn players and blowing the audience out of their seats.  Mahler wrote in that the horns should stand up on the last page of music.  Seems cheesy, and reminded me of high school marching band.  But, there was a audible, Whoa, from the audience when we did it.  I was all shaky from adrenaline and nerves afterwards and had the feeling of working as hard as I could to produce something awesome.

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Other symphony news…my own dear husband has been elected the president of the Mid-Columbia Symphony.  Mr. Vance gets to vote on the board now and  I’m sure he will do an excellent job of representing the symphony.

So last night when we got home from our party, we were horrified to see that the gate was wide open and Henry was not there to greet us with his incessant barking.  Of course something like this had to happen at 3 in the morning.  Thankfully, after calling his name a few times, he was just in the neighbors yard and we were able to find him by his usually annoying bark.  This is the third time we’ve lost our animals in this neighborhood.  Each time it was a new animal and we are so lucky that they’ve all come back.  2014-05-03 19.52.54

Sophie got lost in the basement for a day or two, but she showed up eventually.  We didn’t worry about her too much since she wasn’t outside.  Samson was left outside one day when we were painting and wanted him out of the way.  I kept checking on him because I knew it was just a matter of time before he found a way out of the yard.  Cats are sneaky that way.  Well we finished painting and closed the door and forgot about him.  I don’t know how he got out, but he was gone for several hours.  He got out at the last house once and came right back before we could miss him, so we were concerned but hopeful that he could get back.  Sure enough, a few hours later, I got a text at piano lessons that he came back and was sitting by the big shed.  He’s not allowed outside anymore without constant supervision (this makes us sound like terrible pet parents).  Then this happened last night with Henry.  I’m not sure if the gate just didn’t latch very well when we left, or if someone decided that his barking was too annoying and let him out of our gate, but I sure hope it doesn’t happen again.

Anyway, I’m happy to report that we are all home in one piece.

Stay tuned for more about home improvements…