Friday, July 30, 2010

Thought: Cairo's Night Life

One of the things that I will NEVER get used to in Egypt, is that Egyptians love the night-life. Now, I haven't really determined what the actual reason is, but I have a feeling it originates from the fact that it is much cooler at night. Our family still operates on a pretty typical American schedule. That is, we try to go to bed by 10:00 PM. Now one thing that helps us do that is we have to wake up pretty early. We have to be at school by 7:30 in the morning to attend the teachers' meeting, and school starts at 8:00. We leave our home at 6:45 AM to be able to arrive on time. It does not take us 45 minutes to get to school, but we have come to realize that if we leave any later than this, the traffic is already getting bad, and that can cause delays. So, Tim and I get up at 5:00 (sometimes Tim is up earlier than this), and we wake our son at 5:30. It is so quiet in Cairo at this time in the morning. It is actually quite nice.

Now another thing that is quite annoying to us Americans, is that most shops and businesses do not open till at least 10:00 AM. This, of course, is due to the late-night hours they operate by. Also, their meal schedule is quite different. Breakfast is usually around 10:00, lunch around 4:00 in the afternoon, and dinner is around 10:00 PM. Typically, lunch is their biggest meal, and dinner is usually lighter.

There are Egyptians, of course, who operate somewhat more on an American-type schedule due to their kids having to be to school early etc., and I do not want to lump all Egyptians into this "night-life" habit. I know I have some Egyptians who read this, and I would love to have some of their feed-back on this. I definately do not want to put across anything that isn't true. I'm definately not the expert on these things. I'm just writing what I have experienced.

Unfortunately, I do not have any pictures to go along with this post because I am never awake to take the pictures of how Cairo comes alive at night, but I promise to try my hardest when we get back to Egypt to get some.

Now, my "thought" on this: Sometimes people can tend to be a little judgemental when it comes to differences in the habits of other cultures. I know I have been on this particular issue. I have thought, in the past, that this habit is soooo wrong. Why do these people have to stay up and visit and socialize so late into the night, keeping me and my famiy awake. But here's what I have come to realize. (This is a "duh" moment here.) I am living among 18-20 million Egyptians in Cairo. Am I so ethnocentric to believe that they are all wrong and I am right? Well, I'm working on it. I think it has helped to live in another country, and to realize that people are people, no matter where they live in the world. I will never be able to change the way an entire people group live and function, so why criticize and dwell on something which just makes my life more miserable. I think it would do everyone a bit of good to be able to live in a different culture at one point in their lives and realize this. Maybe the world would be a better place.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Biscuits and Gravy

In the States, especially in the South, Biscuits and Gravy is a very popular breakfast food. If I were to mention "biscuits" in Egypt, that would mean something more like a cookie. This is something that originated from British culture, but the American biscuit is very similar to the British scone. It is a pretty easy meal to make, not to mention that it is also very inexpensive, and all of the ingredients are staples usually kept in all kitchens.

I'm probably a little prejudice, but my Mom makes the best biscuits and gravy I have ever tasted. Now, while this meal is fairly easy and inexpensive, if you make the biscuits from scratch it can take a while. One thing that can make this meal even quicker is that here in the States we have canned biscuits. Now don't get me wrong, homemade biscuits from scratch are always the best, but there are some brands of canned biscuits that are really good.

It's kind of sad that I have only had biscuits and gravy once since we have been back, and that was at a restaraunt. If you have never had biscuits and gravy, you should give it a try. I have supplied the recipes below.

Biscuit Recipe:
*2 1/2 cups (325 grams) all-purpose flour
*2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
*1/2 teaspoon salt
*1 tablespoon (14 grams) granulated white sugar (optional)
*1/2 cup (113 grams) cold butter, cut into small pieces
*3/4 cup (180 ml) milk
*1 large egg, lightly beaten

*1 large egg, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (205 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs (use pastry blender, two knives, or fingertips). Add the milk and slightly beaten egg and stir until just combined. (The texture should be sticky, moist and lumpy.)

Place mixture on a lightly floured surface and knead the dough gently until it comes together and is a smooth dough.

Roll out dough to 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) thickness. Cut out biscuits with a lightly floured round cookie cutter. Place on prepared baking sheet and brush the tops with the beaten egg and milk mixture and bake for about 10 - 15 minutes or until the tops are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of the biscuit comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack. Serve warm with butter.

Makes about 12 3-inch (7.5 cm) biscuits.

*5 tbsp. unsalted butter
*4 tbsp. all purpose flour
*Approximately 2 cups milk (vitamin D milk, not skim, fat-free, fat-less, or other, and nothing heavier, it won’t work.)
*Freshly ground black pepper

Melt butter over low heat in a small saucepan. Add flour and combine. Add ¼ tsp salt and around 10 grinds pepper.

Stir until the flower is about the color of peanut butter and smells nutty. Add ½ of the milk and increase heat to medium.

Allow to come to a simmer, stirring constantly to avoid sticking. On the first run, the gravy is likely to nearly seize, be ready with more milk.

Add milk by quarter or half cups until gravy has thickened considerably. If using a whisk you’ll know the gravy is ready when drawing the whisk through the gravy leaves “tracks” from the wires that remain visible for at least 5 seconds.

Add at least 10 more grinds pepper and another pinch of salt, to taste.

Recipe can be doubled if needed.


If you like your gravy with a kick, feel free to add a dash of cayenne powder or ground chili. You may also add cooked sausage, or ground beef.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Then......and Now

This is the oldest picture I could find of all five of us together.

This is our family about a month or two before we moved to Egypt.

This picture was taken about midway through our time in Egypt together.

This picture was the last one taken of our family all together while in Egypt.

This is the most recent family picture. It was taken 2 years ago, so the kids have changed a bit. Hopefully, we will have another picture taken this summer.

I love looking at pictures of our family. Sometimes, I really miss the times when our kids were small. I miss holding them on my lap. I miss the funny things they said and the funny way they talked. I also miss the fact that I can't take care of all of their hurts with a kiss. (Well, that still works for our youngest Levi sometimes.) ;o)

On the other hand, there are advantages to having your kids grow up. You don't have to take them to the toilet. You don't have to get all of their food ready for them before you can sit down and eat your own. You also don't have to listen to them cry when you say it is bed-time. It is fun though (and sometimes scary) to see them devolop their independence and start making decisions on their own. It is also nice to see them develop into an adult and start to live "life on their own".

Our two oldest kids have started this journey. Our daughter, who is the oldest, is attending University and is getting a degree in English literature. Our second, just recently graduated from high-school. He will be going to a military academy this fall. Fortunately, the nest isn't empty yet. Our youngest still has three years of high-school left.

I was looking through some older pictures of our family the other day and I decided post some pictures of how our family has changed through the years. Hope you enjoy them.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Attending Church In Egypt

A picture of the cross on top of our church. I have always loved this picture.

The inside of the church building.

Two of our kids with some of their friends at a church camp.

The "church family" attending a conference about "being family".

The church pictured above is where our family sometimes attends church while we are in Egypt. The reason I say sometimes, is because it is a pretty far drive for us, but we have many friends here that we love very much.

We actually have two churches we attend. One of them is an English speaking church that our son Levi is very involved in, and the other is the one pictured above which is an Arabic speaking church.

The one I want to focus on here though, is the Arabic speaking church. We started attending this church back in the summer of 2002. The people were so friendly and welcoming, and the church and the people quickly became a very important part of our lives.

If you were to attend a service at this church, you would experience a very different type of service than you experience here in the States. First of all, the men and the women sit on different sides of the church. This is cultural. They do this in order for the people to keep their minds on the sermon and not on the other gender that might be sitting beside or in front of them.

The second difference you might see is that the people, including the youth, LOVE to sing, and they put their whole heart into it and sing at the top of their lungs. I love this part of the service in Egypt. It is so awesome to hear these people, who are such a minority, sing so loud, not caring who is outside the walls of the church listening. In fact, they want the people to hear the messages of the songs they are singing.

A third difference you would notice is that they are in no hurry to get the service over with, or to rush out of church once the service is over. The sermon always lasts at least an hour. They do not feel like they have gotten what they came for if it is any shorter. After church, it is not uncommon for people to stick around for a couple of hours. You hear about "church family" here in the States, but in Egypt, they are such a minority that this "church family" feeling runs much deeper. They start out getting to know each other when they are just little kids, going to Sunday school together. Then they grow up together and usually end up marrying someone within the church. It is not uncommon for adults to have many friends that they have known since they were small children.

In a way, yes, we are outsiders and always will be, but we have grown to love these people like family. In another way, we are insiders and very much a part of the family, the family of God, that is. We feel very blessed that we have gotten to know these wonderful people who live on the other side of the world, and that God has brought us together with brothers and sisters in Christ that have made us feel at home in Egypt.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Egyptian Engagement Parties

Tim and I with the happy couple.

The young lady at the hair salon. It is a very special day for her, so she wants to look her best. BTW, this is my hair dresser Osama.

The women's room.

You are never too young to dance.

All over the world, I'm sure that all little girls like to think about getting married in the future. From what I've seen, this is an understatement in Egypt. Marriage is considered one of the most important, if not THE most important event in a person's life. Little girls are taught from a very early age that their goal in life is to be a wife and a mom. Now, I am not saying this is wrong, but to plant the idea in a little girl's head that she will amount to nothing unless she is married is wrong, and this is exactly what they are taught.

While I am no expert on the subject, I am writing about what I have observed since being in Egypt. You have probably heard yourself that most marriages are arranged. Arranged marriages still do go on today, mostly in the villages and among the poorer and more conservative people. From what I understand, things have changed some, and young people now have a little more say in the matter of who they marry. It is still a very strict routine though of how they go about this. If two young people start to have an interest in each other, they are not allowed to date, at least alone that is. They may go places with a group of friends, but you would hardly ever see them holding hands or even sitting close to each other. Usually the girls stick close to the girls and the boys stick close to the boys. (This is changing somewhat though as Westernization slowly creeps in and among the wealthier and more liberal.)

When they are old enough, and the young man has purchased a place for them to live, the parents of the young man go to the house of the young woman to get her family's approval to begin wedding preparations. After this meeting, the young couple is considered engaged. Usually a big engagement party is held with dancing and very loud music. For the most part, men and women are separated into different rooms for this, but there is a little intermingling allowed depending on how conservative the family is.

We had the privilege of attending one of these engagement parties while in Egypt. It was definately an amazing, cultural experience. While it was amazing, I don't think I would want to attend many of these. First of all, this particular engagement party was held in a small apartment on around the 5th floor. (Some are held in hotels or clubs.) The apartment was packed to what would probably be considered over capacity. It was hard just to move because of the number of people. Secondly, the music was very, very loud. Finally, the party went on till the wee hours of the next morning. Now, I don't mind being around people, but I am not a fan of anything loud, and I am not a night person. Needless to say, we left before the party was finished, and I do have to say I had quite a headache when we left.

Monday, July 5, 2010

More of my Favorite Things

Aren't they adorable? These kids live in a very poor area of Cairo called "Garbage City". I've done a post on this city before. It is an area that is predominantly Christian, and the people here are the garbage collectors of Cairo.

This picture was taken right outside of the gates of an orphanage in this poor area. The kids are used to foreigners coming into this orphanage to volunteer their time. Volunteers come in and just spend time with the orphans. Volunteers come in and play with the toddlers, or they can help with the babies. Unfortunately, I have only been to the orphanage once. I helped with the babies. When you help with the babies you can hold them, help feed them, and then help with changing their diapers before they go down for their nap. I was not even aware of this orphanage until a friend took me there this past year. Hopefully this next year I will get to go back many times and I will be sure to take pictures and do a post on this very special place.

Back to the kids in this picture. Even though I love to stop and talk to kids like this, one has to be careful in this area. Not because it's dangerous or anything, but if you stop, pretty soon you could find yourself overwhelmed by the number of kids that will be surrounding you. These kids were asking for "hagga helwa", or candy. I had some mints and was handing them out. I had to do it quickly and discreetly so as to not draw too much attention to myself.

What I love about the kids, or even the adults, in this area is that they don't seem to let their circumstances get them down. The people in this area are very poor, but they are always happy and very friendly. Just goes to show you that money and riches are not what it takes in this world to be happy.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

A Few of my Favorite Things

My 3rd grade class from last year.

Me, with my 2 nieces and a friend's 4 daughters.

Some of the "special needs kids" I worked with.

The kids from the daycare in Egypt.

One of the cuties at the preschool I work at now.

Another cutie from the preschool.

No matter where I am in the world, one of my favorite things in the world is kids. If you know me at all, you know this to be true. While in Egypt, there were several things I did to work with kids. I taught the preschool class at our church. I worked with special needs kids in a very poor area of Cairo. My husband and I helped some friends start a daycare, and I taught 3rd grade last year, which I will be doing again this year.

While in the States, it is no different. I try to spend as much time with my two nieces and another friend's daughters as possible. There are six of them, and they are all 8 years old and under. Also while here, I am working at a preschool with two-year-olds. I am only working 2 1/2 hours a day, but it gives me the "kid fix" that I need.