Friday, September 25, 2009

School's Out

If you didn't know it, I am teaching the 3rd grade in my son's school this year. I have taught part-time before, but this is my first year teaching full-time. So far, it has gone really well. I only have eight students, but that is enough to keep me really busy. We have a very big mix of nationalities at our school. My class includes 4 Korean students, 3 Egyptians, and 1 Swedish student. None of my students are native English speakers which can make it a little difficult at times. Most of them have been in the "English Speaking" school system for a while though and have a good understanding of the language.

I really wanted to have a picture of my class posted before now, but last week something unexpected happened. Most of the schools here in Egypt have been closed due to Ramadan that was going on, but also because of the H1N1 virus. We have not had any cases of H1N1 in our school, but this was just done as a precaution. Our school, which is a private school, started at the normal time along with some other private schools. Well, unexpectedly, the government has been able to demand that all schools shut their doors at least until after the 6th of October, which is a national holiday here.

Now this in no way means a "vacation" for us. We as teachers, hurried around and prepared 1 1/2 weeks worth of school work for the kids. This meant the teachers still had to put in 7 or more hours of work a day. Also, there are other things outside the class that have to be done such as long-range lesson plans, etc. So, this isn't a "vacation", but it is giving us some extra time to do things that have to be done.

It is a little frustrating, probably especially for the parents, as they have to oversee that their child is getting their work done, but....things like this happen, especially living in a foreign land.

Lord willing, here in a couple of weeks the school will open again and I will be able to take a picture of my students and you can see the sweet children (and ornery at times) that I have the responsibility and privilege of teaching this year.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Eid al-Fitr: "Festival of Fast Breaking"

My last post was on the Muslims' holy month of Ramadan, when they fast from sunrise to sunset as a time of spiritual renewal. Well, that month is now over, and Muslims celebrate what is called "Eid al-Fitr" which means "Festival of Fast Breaking". During the last few days of Ramadan, Muslims give to the poor what is usually a donation of food--rice, barley, dates, etc.--to make sure the needy have food and can actually celebrate at this time.

Families usually gather on the first morning of the Eid (festival)outdoors or at mosques to perform the Eid prayer. This consists of a sermon followed by a congregational prayer.

After this, they gather together as families and friends, give gifts, especially to the children, and make phone calls to distant relatives. This Eid lasts three days and in most Muslim countries is an official government holiday.

While things are getting back to normal after Ramadan, they won't be back to normal till after the Eid. Because this is a three day holiday, schools are out and lots of people are on holiday. During this time, people are out everywhere and during all hours of the night. It is celebrated with loud fireworks as well which make for a difficult night of sleeping. While this can be a difficult night for those of us who are not "night-owls" and need our 8 hours of beauty sleep, I know it is a special time for the people here.

Friday, September 11, 2009


I took this definition of "Ramadan" from Wickepedia.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. It is the Islamic month of fasting, in which participating Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, smoking, and indulging in anything that is in excess or ill-natured; from dawn until sunset. Fasting is meant to teach the Muslim patience, modesty and spirituality. Ramaḍān is a time for Muslims to fast for the sake of God, and to offer more prayer than usual. During Ramaḍān, Muslims ask forgiveness for past sins, pray for guidance and help in refraining from everyday evils, and try to purify themselves through self-restraint and good deeds. As compared to solar calendar, the dates of Ramadan vary, moving forward about ten days each year as it is a moving festival depending on the moon. Ramadhan was the month in which the first verses of the Qur'an were claimed to have been revealed to the Prophet Muhammad.

When I returned to Egypt from the States 3 - 4 weeks ago it was Ramadan. Now, I don't know what the Muslims' attitude of Ramadan is, but I don't particularly look forward to this time of year. For the non-Muslim, it means a few inconveniences in our lives for those weeks. Muslims do not eat, drink, smoke, etc. from dawn until sunset during this time, so sometimes there are shops, restaurants, and other things that do not open till later in the day. Also, the traffic in the afternoon is terrible. I usually leave the school I teach at around 3:30 in the afternoon. On a day that the traffic is not bad, I can usually make it home in 20 to 30 minutes, but on an afternoon during Ramadan, it can take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour-and-a-half.

As you read in the definition above, this fasting time is meant to teach patience. I think this is a great concept, and I really do hope it works, but sometimes during Ramadan we see tempers flare. Now I can't really say that I blame them. I try to put myself in their shoes. First of all, Egyptians drink a lot of tea and coffee, (as do I), and I just can't imagine doing without these things and not getting my caffiene fix all day long. Secondly, there is the added frustration for those who smoke who are not getting their nicotene fix. Now, add on to this the problems of hunger pangs and being thirsty, and right now we have the added struggle of Ramadan being during part of the hottest part of the year. I don't know about you, but I certainly don't think this would do much for my patience.

After this next weekend, Ramadan will be over. There is a celebration at the end of Ramadan that I hopefully will get around to doing a post on. So, hang on to your hats and let's get ready to celebrate.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

My Little Girl Turned 20

Wow! It just doesn't seem possible. That cute little baby I held in my arms, rocked to sleep, changed her diaper, etc. turned 20 years old today. Where does the time go? It seems like yesterday that she was sitting in front of me and I was putting her hair into pig tails. It also doesn't seem that long ago that her favorite things in the world were horses and "Tigger" from "Winnie the Pooh". We would sit for hours and watch "Winnit the Pooh", and oh how I miss those simple days.

But, it didn't take long until she was interested in wearing make-up, running around with girlfriends, and yes, even though she would not talk to Mom about it, boys!

Days like these are hard to be so far away from her, but, I keep reminding myself, she is an adult now. That strong-willed personality that we struggled with so many years ago is now something we are proud of. She was always "little miss independent"; sometimes more than we had wished, but now that has turned into a good thing.

I miss the little princess who used to run around our house and actually thought she "ran the house". She is still, and will always be "our little princess", and I feel comfortable that one of these days she will be the queen of her own household.

Happy Birthday Kaily! I love and miss you lots! Mom