Borg El Arab

So, this is the airport that I had considered to the be worst airport I’ve ever been to. It’s the airport we flew into when we first moved here, and we hadn’t been back since. It’s old, dirty, unorganized (not to mention that they lost our luggage.) But since Bethany’s school purchased our tickets to Greece, we didn’t really have any say in the matter, and Borg el Arab (HBE) was it.

Usually, when we leave the country, we have to pay a fine because our one-month tourist visas have expired, usually 150LE. A month or two ago, Bethany actually got her work visa after 18 months living here illegally (hooray!!) That meant she wouldn’t need to pay a fee.

The rumor was the fee had increased to several thousand pounds. So many thousands of pounds that it would have made it more expensive to leave Egypt that it cost to fly to Athens!

By some weird miracle, passport control at HBE decided not to fine me! Of course, they tried to make us sweat a little bit (even Bethany, who has a legitimate visa), but we made it out of the airport and on the plane for free! The best possible news we could have gotten.

So basically, HBE isn’t really that bad. Customs sucked, though.

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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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.

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?

Romeo & Juliet

A short blog to pass the time while I wait for the third performance. It really is time for Bethany to write something, and I’m not sure why she hasn’t.

You already know that I’m in Cairo, playing principal oboe for the Cairo Ballet’s production of Romeo and Juliet. You likely also know that it hasn’t been going very well. Very few of you know that this has been one of the most embarrassing – if not the single most embarrassing – experiences of my entire life. No hyperbole, really.

For the most part, the musicians around me are fairly nice. The vast majority of the orchestra, beyond the four or five closest to me, I’m too humiliated to even make eye-contact with. It’s especially sad because before the first rehearsal, I was really looking forward to meeting more Cairo musicians; now I just need to make it to Tuesday, after which I can go back to Alexandria and pray that they completely forget I was ever here.

The conductor is a mixed bag. People seem to respect him more than they respect the conductor in Alexandria, which is interesting to me. I struggle not to take anything he says too personally, because I know he’s only doing his job, but it’s quite difficult at times. For instance, after the Friday performance, he interrupted his bravos towards the other musicians to turn to me and announce (loud enough for all to hear), “Oboa, intonation and play louder.”, before moving on to congratulate others. I know I didn’t deserve any congratulations, but it seemed unnecessary for him to do that. It stung, and I can only hope that it’s the low point of my time here. I fear it may not be.

I’m more aware than anyone that I’m failing. I know I should never have agreed to come in the first place. (As an aside, I only agreed because I assumed that I was a last resort, what I now know wasn’t the case.) The damage this has done to my confidence (if I had any) really outweighs whatever benefits I had to gain from coming.

I don’t think musicians read our blog, but just in case: I’m really sorry. I’m also sorry to all my wonderful friends who had to endure my unwavering negativity and self-deprecation while I’ve been here. I really should have just kept my thoughts to myself, but I’ve been having such a terrible time that I couldn’t even manage that.

And thanks to Bethany for coming to Cairo to console me and spend my day off with me. Tonight’s performance, then two more, and then I’m back in Alex on Wednesday, before coming back to Cairo on Friday to fly to Rome for a week. It will all be over soon, but not soon enough.