Christmas in Cairo, Part Deux

Happy New Year! We had a really busy two weeks full of food, presents and family time. My mom arrived on the 21st and definitely made the most of her visit.

She brought some holiday cheer in the form of Christmas light necklaces, headbands, and one bag completely full of presents, crafts, and my Grandma’s famous peanut butter fudge.

She made crafts and tons of cookies with the kids.

       

We tried our best to get a decent photo of all three kids… It is what it is.

We marveled at the Christmas morning gift-opening aftermath and wondered where we would put ALL THAT STUFF. The size of our apartment already has us limiting the amount of toys that are out at one time and I had a toy-rotation even before the holidays began. So that continues to be challenge.

We took my mom around to the sites, visited a few pyramids, and Abby posed with another camel.

We played a lot of Guess Who?, which brought back some great childhood memories for me. Abby also received the game Outfoxed from her Aunt and Uncle in Kansas City, and it’s a really fun game for kids. Highly recommend.

Took my mom on a felucca ride on the Nile. The kids loved the ride but William was sad he didn’t see any crocodiles.

Didn’t want to let a whole holiday season pass with no snow, so we visited Ski Egypt, an indoor snowpark/skiing/tubing place at the Mall of Egypt.

Skiing in the desert. Go figure.

My mom constantly put JR and I to shame and gets an A plus for effort at all times. She even brought out some science experiments, including constructing and painting a volcano that they  “erupted“ outside the apartment.

JR and my mom took them to the Children’s Museum in Heliopolis. They learned about tombs, mummies (maybe a little too much detail on the mummies) and digging for artifacts.

We were really impressed with the ease in which my Mom became accustomed to Cairo. She downloaded Uber and WhatsApp and had no trouble making her way around our neighborhood. Which is amazing considering it took us months to feel at home.  She had several massages since she was, technically, on vacation.  She took Abby to the hair salon for blow outs, manicures, and they even went back a second time with William and both kids got haircuts. All in all, a pretty impressive showing by mom.

It really was so wonderful having her here and we can’t wait to see her again!

Christmas in Cairo, Part 1

I’m calling this part 1 in the strong hope it will force me to write a part 2 in a week or so. We’ll see.

This weekend we held our Embassy Christmas party, celebrated here as a Breakfast with Santa.  My office is in charge of the party so there was a lot of prep work and cajoling to find just the right Santa Claus. We had around 100 adults and 75 kids turn out for crafts, pancakes and eggs, cookie decorating, sending a letter to the North Pole, and of course a photo-op with the big man himself.

A really cool thing here is that Santa arrives to the party on a camel! I was pretty pumped about this. Abby came with me an hour early to help set up and we passed the camel sitting outside waiting for his grand entrance. He seemed grumpy but aren’t camels always grumpy? Anyway, I mentioned it to my coworker who informed me that the camel had diarrhea.

Yep, you read that right. Of all issues I expected to face in my professional career, camel IBS was not one of them. The handler walked him around for a bit to help settle his stomach, hosed him off, and we all hoped for the best.

Thankfully the camel rallied and delighted all the guests. Abby surprised me by wanting to sit on him alone and even having him stand up. These things are really tall and it’s not super smooth as they maneuver up and down, so I was a little nervous. William played true to self and was scared of both the camel and Santa. Jake just napped and took it all in like a pro, third kid style.

It was a fun – but exhausting – party. Definitely a highlight of our time here so far and new memories we will treasure.

Now the real countdown to Christmas is on. Nana arrives in a week!

 

First Impressions

One whole month of living in Egypt! Here are my first impressions:

  • It’s hot. I mean REALLY hot. I’ve basically stopped checking the weather forecast because it is hot and sunny everyday. People say it’s different because this is dry heat, but I think when it’s hovering at 100 degrees (or more) daily, calling it dry heat doesn’t matter. I’m certainly not dry, because I start sweating the moment I walk outside. Straightening my hair is pointless.

  • It takes a lot longer for mail and shipments to arrive. We were spoiled in Tbilisi! Our UAB (smaller air shipment meant to hold you over until the rest of your stuff comes) arrived at the same time as our HHE (all of our household goods, aka, the rest of our stuff), three weeks after we landed in Tbilisi. Now I know that was a fluke, but the wait for our UAB, or any planned delivery of it, is wearing. We are tiring of the same clothes and toys, and very much ready to make this apartment our home.
  • We also won’t have our car for 3-4 months, so we are walking much more than we did at home. Our neighborhood is nice and it’s been fun finding new places to take the kids or go out to eat. There’s something like a country club that we joined nearby (but not as fancy). They have a swimming pool, lots of green space, playground and restaurant as well as offering classes and other events for kids. It’s a 15 minute walk from our place which isn’t too bad, and we are enjoying all the opportunities to swim with the kids.
  • The work week is Sunday-Thursday. I wonder how long it will take until that feels normal. The schools are on the same schedule, so what’s interesting is I suspect when we leave here Abby will be surprised to learn that Monday-Friday is the norm back home.
  • Speaking of school, Abby had her first day of Kindergarten! The school told us that we could ride the bus in with the littler kids on the first day, so I planned to do that. When the bus pulled up she turned to me and said, “Mom, I think I want to go alone.” So I did what any helicopter mom would do and raced to the school in an Uber to walk her into her classroom and take a few photos. So far we are really impressed with the school. The campus is really nice, and everyone we’ve met there is super nice and welcoming. She is taking Arabic 4 times a week, plus an Egyptian culture class. Gym is twice a week and includes a uniform, definitely not her favorite as it cramps her style. But right now the school is offering their swimming courses and we’ve already seen a big improvement in her freestyle stroke after just a few classes!

  • The commissary (a grocery store on a nearby government compound) is amazing. We have had commissaries at our previous posts but they weren’t like this. The sign at the entrance says “Where your dreams come true.” You can get most of the American groceries you need there, and there’s a wide selection of brands. Wonder sandwich bread! Doritos! Tyson chicken breasts! The best thing is that the prices are reasonable, as opposed to a huge mark up usually found on the local markets.
  • We have a really nice apartment. The layout works for our family, and the people in our building are all friendly. I think we’ll always miss our house in Tbilisi  with all of the green space but the kids are getting along just fine here. As an added bonus, our good friends and next door neighbors from Tbilisi live directly below us with their two kids!
  • Grocery and food delivery are affordable and super convenient. Jake was low on diapers, so I used an app to order a pack and they were delivered 2 hours later. The store charged me 134 Egyptian pounds and I tipped the guy 30 pounds. Grand total was $9.91 for delivered pampers! Last week I used a different app to order from Gourmet Egypt, kind of a smaller version of Whole Foods. They delivered bananas, onions, bread and sweet potatoes quickly and pretty cheaply. It’s so convenient to order groceries from your phone – I could really get used to this.
  • JR and I celebrated our anniversary with a felucca (traditional wooden sailboat) ride on the Nile. It was relaxing and a great way to spend the evening.

On to month two, and if we are really lucky, we’ll get slightly cooler temps and the rest of our possessions!