Friday, April 30, 2010

A Nice Surprise!

Being a teacher can be stressful at times, but sometimes it can be very rewarding too. Last Monday was my birthday. After lunch time, I went back to my room to find it all decorated, a chocolate cake sitting there, and all of my kids jumped out from behind their desks and yelled "SURPRISE"!!!!! It was a wonderful day, full of chocolate cake, cheese cake, dinner out with my husband and son, and then another chocolate cake when we got home.

We will be flying back to the States here soon because my oldest son is graduating from high school. It will be a bitter-sweet time because I am looking so forward to seeing my son and daughter that are in the States, but my school year will be ending early, and I will miss this wonderful group of kids.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Field trip to the Recycling Center

The room where they sort the paper.

Sifting the paper onto the screen-type strainers to make it into flat pieces.

Laying the flat pieces of paper out to dry.

A woman assembling the paper into one of their products.

One of the beautiful bags they make by placing flower pedals onto the paper while it is still wet.

Most of you know that I teach 3rd grade. Yesterday, the 3rd and 4th grades at our school took a field trip to a recycling center where women actually recycle paper by hand. This recycling center is in "Garbage City". I did one of my very first posts on this "city". It is an area where most of the trash collectors in Cairo live. The people travel into the city and then bring the garbage back to be sorted through and recycled.

One popular tourist attraction is a recycling center where the women recycle paper by hand. I don't know about the 4th grade, but my class has been studying about recycling so we thought this would be a cool place to go. The women there make cards, pictures, bags, and other interesting things out of the paper they recycle.

Above are pictures I took of the process they go through. The paper arrives in bags, and the women sort through these bags by hand and have to separate things that aren't actually paper, such as plastic, cardboard, etc. Then, they put the papers they can use in piles. Then they put the paper through a shredder. After the paper is shredded, they put it in a machine with water that mixes it and makes it into a mushy mixture. After that, they move the mixture into more water where they use screen-type strainers to make the paper into flat pieces. After this, they take the flat pieces of paper, that are still wet, and lay them flat on a table where it takes one to two days to dry, depending on the weather. After the paper is dry, it is sent to a room where women assemble it into the products they sell.

Of course this is not an official recycling center, but it is a place where they teach women to do this, and it gives them a job. Plus, they use the profits from their products to give back to the community.

They also make rugs, quilts, purses and other things out of recycled fabric. They put the women through a 3-month training course, and after the course they either work for the center, or they are able to go out and use their newly acquired abilities to get another job. But that's another blog for another day.

Monday, April 5, 2010

An Interesting Holiday

These pictures are from a couple of years ago when we traveled to the Red Sea with some friends. You can see in the bottom one a man holding up the faseekh, or salted fish.

Yesterday, of course, was Easter, and I do hope everyone had a great one, but here in Egypt, today is another holiday that is celebrated only in Egypt. It is called
Sham el-Nessim. In English this means "smell the breeze". It is the holiday that signals the beginning of Spring. It always falls on the day after the Eastern Christian Easter. It has nothing to do with the Christian-related date, and
Egyptians celebrate this holiday regardless of their religion.

It is a holiday that dates back to 2700 B.C. when it was a religious festival celebrated on the vernal equinox by the Ancient Egyptians. They used to offer salted fish, lettuce, and onions to their deities on this day. Because of this, these foods have become the traditional foods of this Ancient holiday.

The salted fish is called fiseekh. It is prepared in a traditional process, passed from generation to generation. Grey mullet is caught, piled high in containers, and left out until decomposes. When there is sufficient evidence of its putrification, salt is added and the fish are left to pickle for a few more months. Sounds yummy, huh? I have never tried it. I can hardly even stand the smell.

Another tradition on this day is to be outside. Anywhere there is a nice place to sit, people take their lunches outside and enjoy the outdoors. Others travel to the Sea or other popular areas. We are kind of party poopers on this day, because being from a small town in America, we do not like the huge crowds of people everywhere. Also, if you travel anywhere, and plan to return that night, you might as well plan on getting home rather late. The traffic is always bad due to so many people returning home from their holiday outing.

So, even though we didn't really do anything special for this Ancient Egyptian holiday, we still enjoyed having an extra day off from school and work. And, with this holiday comes the feeling that summer is almost here. Any you know what that means? Summer break! Can't wait.