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

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.

 

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!

 

2015

I have to squeeze in the traditional annual review before January is over. Our 2015 theme was adventure and opportunity.  As I look back on my posts from last year, I realize how much happier we are.  We hadn’t even dreamed of living out of the country last January and in February I was looking into getting a masters degree of some sort, possibly in TESOL. It was a relief to have a reliable and consistent source of income from my job at Lewis and Clark Elementary, but teaching there was stressful and not enjoyable. Not only was the job hard, the whole state was upset with teaching, resulting in the walkout.

I was part of an after school club that empowers girls to be confident and teaches them the importance of living a balanced life. This was probably a highlight of my year teaching at Lewis and Clark, getting to know more of the students and inspire them with physical exercise.

On top of finishing off a stressful school year, there was more stress with finding another job. A phone conversation with an acquaintance who works in Spain convinced us that teaching out of the country is doable.  It sounded crazy and impossible, but she was very reassuring.  So, I began to apply for jobs out of the country.  It all went very fast from there.  Within a week of finishing my application, I had people asking for interviews. My first interview in Kyrgyzstan offered me a job within a day. Not long after I had my interview in Egypt. People ask “Why Egypt?” and a very good answer would be that Egypt was more interesting than Kyrgyzstan.  So, my incredible husband and I have been here since August experiencing not just one, but several new cultures.  We’ve been slacking off on posting recently, but check back to pretty much any post since August if you missed out on those experiences.

Speaking of Ronnie, that brings to mind the musical side of our lives. The year started off with the Planets. Ronnie got to play a bass oboe and it was easily one of the biggest productions we’ve done.  Then for the final concert of the season, we played Beethoven 9. These were both amazing to participate in.  Other shows included Cats, Guns of Ireland, and the Music Man. In Egypt, we have both been involved in the Bibliotheca Alexandria Library Orchestra.  It’s a smaller group that is just starting up, but it has been a great experience so far.

We took a trip to Seattle to see the tulip fields during spring break and several overnight stays in Walla Walla. Plus there was a summer trip to Lake Chelan where we stayed in a friend’s house.  Our travels in Egypt have included the Pyramids, Hurghada and the Red Sea, as well as various sights in Alexandria.

We are sad to have left behind a wonderful community of friends in Washington, but it has been a invaluable experience living in Egypt.  There has only been one time (the second day) that I regretted this decision.  There’s nothing we can’t live without, but most importantly we’re both happy with what we’re doing.

We’re looking forward to more traveling and adventures in 2016! And for everyone who said this would be an amazing experience and wonderful opportunity?

You were right!

Pyramids

 

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

Summer 2015 books

When school ends and I run out of things to do, I turn to books.  This summer I read quite a few due to the fact that I knew I was moving out of the country and shouldn’t do any new art projects or home improvement. So here’s the list.

I feel like I should have a disclaimer about my book selection.  Before I left, I realized that my membership at both the Richland Library and the Mid-Columbia Library had expired.  When you move every year, you can maintain your membership in both because they last for two years, but I must have slipped up when living in Benton City last year. Anyway I could only update my Richland account because that’s what my address was. It turns out that Richland’s online assortment of books is much more limited than Mid-Columbia. So after placing several things on hold that I actually wanted to read, I ended up getting a few to try out. Many of them came from the “most popular” section…

Mean Streak by Sandra Brown. This is the reason for my disclaimer. I hadn’t really intended to read an adult romance novel, but this one was quite well written. I’m sure many of you are thinking, but look at the author, you should have known. I don’t pay attention to authors’ names. It’s a bad habit but it’s true for actors, composers, and singers too. It was very intriguing and hard to put down. It’s a good book if you like that kind of book…

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. To be honest, I don’t think I even finished the book. It was quite wordy, hard to follow and I eventually gave up and watched the movie instead. Shh. Don’t tell.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed. I loved this book! I know they’re making (already made?) a movie out of it.  I can’t imagine it’ll be any good, but the book had everything in it. Adventure, comedy, grief, celebration, depression, even a little romance. I was all ready to pack my bags and head out into the wilderness by the time I finished. (I decided to go to Egypt instead)

Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand. I really didn’t have any idea what I was getting into with this one. Mentioned in conversation around a campfire, I decided to check it out. You get a history lesson along with an amazing story of a racehorse, his owner, and his jockey. This one was also very well written and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. Non-Fiction book about people’s habits.  It was absolutely fascinating.  Ronnie probably got bored of me talking about all the different things involved with habits, but I thought it was quite a good way to pass time driving to Seattle.  Almost like a self-help book, but also incredibly interesting.

Still Life with Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen. This book was kinda blah.  Not very exciting and now I can’t even remember how it ended. No recommendation from me on this one.

In the Woods by Tana French. This book is written in first person and I began reading it from the perspective of a woman. It was very weird when I realized that it wasn’t a woman. It would be interesting to investigate why that happened… Recommended by a friend from the last book blog I wrote, I finally found it.  Once again I should learn to research my books (or possibly just look at the over before reading them) as it would have been helpful to see the part that says Dublin Murder Squad Series.  A thrilling mystery that ends a bit disappointingly, but left me wanting to read more. I will most likely look for more books from this author.

 

Esperanza Rising by  Pam Muñoz Ryan. We’re doing our first unit at school on migration and this looked like an excellent book to read aloud. However, as I began to read a simple book to my class, I quickly realized that they’re vocabulary is quite limited.  I am still hoping to read a portion of the book to the class, but the whole thing would take far to long, trying to explain everything. I preread it for school but really ended up enjoying it. A heartwarming story. It’s books like these that I hesitate to read to my class because I might start crying in the process.

AIA

  The school compound has a lot of history.  It was originally built to be a Greek school.  So you can find Greek inscriptions and busts around the property.  

  There is a church that is still used by the Greek community so when school is in session on Sunday mornings, we have to remember that they’re there.  There are seven separate buildings in the block that is walled in to make the Alexandria International Academy community.  Mine, unfortunately is one of the few buildings that doesn’t have air conditioning.  However, it’s a large, beautiful room with incredibly tall ceilings.

  Orientation is coming to a close and I am more than excited about school.  The IB is surprisingly similar to my homeschooling experience as a child, so I feel at home in this learning environment.  None of this Common Core, SBAC crap.  Yes. It has its flaws, but so far it has been a huge improvement over last year.  I’ve already had more than twice the amount of time to prepare!

What has been surprising to me is how much everything is in flux. This is partly because they are adding and entire middle school section as well as drama, and music. I’m sure it will continue to change as we see if it actually works when the kids arrive. It reminds me of preparing to come here…trying to think through what it’s going to be like when you don’t have the slightest idea of what to expect. 

Overall, I’d say my Facebook post a few days ago accurately conveys my feelings.  I love being surrounded by so many languages (I should have studied French).  I love being at a school where the teachers are excited. I love being treated as a professional (especially as I reflect on certain things from last year…).

September 1st I meet the students!

  I wrote this a while ago, but we didn’t have internet.  Now that we have internet, here you go! School was delayed even more because the middle school building was incomplete (see the incomplete pole building on top?) and today was the first day of school for us.