Tuesday, August 22, 2006

I’m sitting on our front balcony from which, in the daylight, you can see the Chinese embassy (I think) and a zigzag of streets. The call to prayer is just ending, and horns are honking intermittently, but otherwise the sounds of Cairo are drowned out by the four air conditioners in the flat. We get our electricity paid for. I know that’s not a good enough reason to be burning energy like the stinking Americans we are. But then there’s the city smell – sort of ashy, both subdued and sharp. Not a bad smell. Definitely not as bad as Decatur, IL, home of Staley’s and ADM, two very stinky factories. Oh, yeah, and it’s hot here. And not as dry as we had imagined it would be. The August humidity is quite familiar to these Midwesterners.

Below, James will be detailing part of our journey to this place, so I’ll get back to the zigzag of streets. Today we decided to walk around the neighborhood. I kept my eyes to the ground, not only to keep from spraining my ankle on the ever-changing sidewalk-scape, but also because I just wasn’t sure who I should look at and how. A junior high self-consciousness came over me, and I followed James submissively, tried to cultivate the not-smile, not-frown that the guidebooks told me about, and searched for the memory of what Culture Shock! Egypt discussed about being a foreign woman in Egypt. My first experience: all the men who aided us in getting home last night did everything they could to avoid talking to me beyond a greeting.

On the street, there were mainly men about, sitting in chairs in front of stores, or guarding buildings with guns hung from their shoulders, or zipping by on motorcycles and in cars. A few of them welcomed us but most stared. I don’t know if “stare” is the right word because it sounds as if they were being rude, and I don’t believe they were. But we were certainly noticeable. Was it my denim capris?
It must have been. Those damned capris.
Stray cats, coveting little piles of garbage on the street, eyed us too. I don’t think those strays have ever been kitties.

By the time we had gotten to the end of the block, we were a bit lost. What I mean is that if you had asked me then, I couldn’t have picked out the front of our building.
Anyway, the men who greeted us at our flat last night had food ready for us – a bag of sugar, rice, pasta, eggs, a block of feta, vegetable oil, salt and pepper, milk, juice, bread, honey, butter, chicken, etc. It really was unbelievable how much was there to make us feel comfortable. Good thing, too, because I had planned on buying food on our first outing and I don’t think I could have. My body has been screaming for some fruits and vegetables, but down on the street – it was enough to just walk around. It’s hard to describe – that just getting out of the flat was a somewhat daunting adventure. Am I that lame?

Meanwhile, back in our flat, a stream of ants found the sugar that Phil Leotardo (see below) presented to us last night and were having an ant party. I pulverized them with the provided Raid and my thumbs and felt no pity.
Ah, jet lag. All in all, our move has been comfortable and smooth. Our flat is lovely and enormous, and the university has been quite helpful. Looking forward to tomorrow’s jaunt.



Megan said...

I am so excited for you both! It's so interesting to hear all about your new adventures. This blog will get many a visit from me.

Katie said...

Amanda! I have bookmarked your blog. It's great to read your voice (and meet James's, too!).

Mr. Grape misses you.

moonlight ambulette said...

yeah! use that electricity! you're still americans, after all.

this is very exciting.

post more.

right now.

K said...

Glad you guys made it, safe and more or less sound. Glad you're posting these dispatches.

About the more or less sound: even in a place as benign as London, jetlag made us feel positively incompetent, gravity-stricken, confused and cranky the first day.

Kim said...

Mandy - so nice to read your post. It seems as if you have been hidden from me and there is so much to say! I hope the both of you have an easy transition into this new culture. And, isn't the 'call to prayer' wonderful? I have to say that I really enjoyed experiencing the call in Turkey (absolutely no burkas there - many head scarves. I even bought one and was given a handmade head scarf by a new friend we made in Ankara). Have you entered into any Mosques? Can't wait to hear more. So happy you two are on this great adventure together! XO Kim and Family