American’s in Egypt

Annoyances and Great Things

 

One thing we quickly learned when walking in downtown Cairo, was everyone thinks you’re a tourist, and thus they want you to come to their shop.

The usual approach is to tell you that you “look like an Egyptian!” no matter what nationality you are, by the way.  Then you tell them thanks and laugh a bit.

After which they will go one of two ways.  They’ll ask you were you are from, and respond by telling you how much they love that country.  No it’s the money they love, especially if you say America.  You see the dollar exchanges at a really high rate over here.  Right now you can get around 16 pounds to every one dollar.  Not a bad rate of exchange, but these people want to free you from some of that money.

They will then tell you they have a shop, or they want to give you their business card.  You can say no, but they will continue to push it, by telling you they want no money from you.  (Don’t believe this comment, it is a lie)!

We’ve gone back to a few stores, and they will offer you a free sample, but then suddenly that free sample is something that costs you money.  If you get roped into going to a store, just keep telling them Shukrun, but La-ah.  You’re telling them thank you but no.

One guy had provided us with like three scrolls, even though we kept informing him we had no money to spend.  Finally, I told him we had to go meet friends.  He said do you have anything to give my sister she’s getting married.

I pulled out like six pounds that was all I had on me.  And he was offended, we reminded him that we had told him already that we had nothing on us.

We left the store, with one upset Egyptian, and without having spent a cent.

But you have to figure they are only trying to make a living.  We simply avoid them anymore by telling them we are busy and are on our way someplace.  They can still be pushy, but you can’t fall for these things, or you will spend way too much money.  By all means if you want trinkets, check them out!

ON the other hand each morning we visit a guy who has his business two doors down.  We get our breakfast of fool and salita (beans and salad) and spend only 10 pounds.  John always gives him a tip, he’s got amazing beans!

Now remember what I said about the exchange rate?  That’s less than a dollar for two meals that will fill you up.  Of course John gets paid in pounds, not dollars.  So it’s not a great deal, but it’s not bad at all.  We get full and start out the day with a nice meal.  If you are visiting Egypt though and have dollars, you’re getting one hell of a meal for a very inexpensive rate.  By the way GMO’s are banned over here, so you are eating healthy!

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American’s in Egypt

Learning to play real life Frogger

 

Crossing the streets in Egypt is no easy task.  Watch video’s online of the traffic and you’ll understand.  It’s quite the shock for people from the Western world too.

You have to time it right, because people won’t stop and simply let you cross the road.  Now we are just fine crossing the roads, but not at first.

The first hundred times or so, you’re quite worried you’ll be hit by the tons of cars rushing by.  You hold hands and try to make sure no one in your party gets hit as well.

Now we have a system to crossing.  We watch and pick the right place to decide to cross.  I’m honestly shocked I’ve only seen one person hit by a car since we’ve been here!

We walk everywhere though, yes sometimes we use the metro, but not too much.  So you need to find that part inside of you that doesn’t care about danger.

There are times when we simply walk through the cars, without a care in the world.  Though John still tells me to hurry up and not get run over.

People here are friendly, as long as they aren’t behind the wheel of a car.  Texting here is just fine while you drive.  We’ve seen some accidents, but amazingly not many.

There are red lights, but not all drivers stop for those, so you can’t even count on that as a way to cross the road.  Again, you get used to it and learn how to cross without help.

The trick is to simply step out and walk like you don’t care.  Or to walk at the same time as another person.  Perhaps it is the thought of hitting two people that make some slow down!

Anyway we walked downtown when we first got here, and found some amazing stores.  Many little shops will sell clothes and other items, and you can try and talk them down on the prices!

There is a market near our home that sells all sorts of things.  Clothes, fruit, kitchen utensils, and many other items.  We’ve met several people down there.

Now we deal with certain sellers, the ones who’ve dealt well with us in the past!  We get all our fruit from there, you can get some great deals on fresh produce.

No one is ever mean to us, they don’t try and convert us to their religion.  They have never tried to harm us, no beheadings, nothing.  Not like the people in the West are told can happen.

Believe me when I tell you, that you’ve been lied too about this part of the world.  What I offer you is a firsthand experience of two American’s living in the Middle East.  If you choose to continue to believe the lies you’ve been told over my experience, well it means you’re just deeply brainwashed.

I would suggest that everyone who thinks a religion is so violent, they come and visit Egypt.  You’ll find out the story is quite different here.

Gringo’s in the Middle East

Egypt Here we come

 

Last time I told you of the process of finally deciding our next stop.  So we booked a flight to Cairo, Egypt and packed up our bags.

We had a friend pick us up at the airport.  It was small and honestly, we weren’t one hundred percent sure what to expect.

Our friend had told us it was a huge culture shock.  Also that it was full of crazy drivers and there was trash on the streets.

Crossing the roads would be a challenge that we would have to get the hang of as well.

So we come out of the airport to find our friend’s waiting for us.  Getting into the cab, we were full of excitement and wonder.  It was another new city we had never seen before!

Okay so if you’ve never ridden in a taxi in Egypt, you’ll be like me.  You’ll watch out the window and almost have a heart attack!

Three lane roads are turned into four or five lanes of traffic.  People pull out in front of others and its utter chaos, well it looks that way to the observer.

More than one time I flinched as our driver cut off someone, coming rather close to hitting another vehicle.

“Don’t look out the window!”  That’s my advice to anyone coming to Egypt.  You’ll do much better if you simply look out the front window, well most times!

The city if beautiful, and even beneath the dirt and garbage that is carelessly thrown about by locals, you’ll see its true wonder.

Really, the architecture here is wonderful.  Some, well a lot, of buildings need repair.  However, you can still imagine what it was like several years back.  Too see Egypt in that glory would have been truly a wonderful experience.

We got back to our flat and unpacked.  All of us were a bit thirsty, so we walked to a koosk around the corner.  It was a bit sad to see the amount of trash lying in the streets.

The smell in the summer can be quite bad, but you know to avoid the large piles.  Experience will teach you a lot of things when you live here.

Trust me, we love it here.  It may not sound like it by this description.  But truly, through the stories I’ll share you’ll see what Egypt can be like to the foreigner.

John teaches and loves it.  I work from home.  Normally, I’m writing romances, but right now I’m focusing on this blog more.

I guess what I hope to share is not only our experiences.  But to maybe open up a few eyes.  The stories you hear about this part of the world are often made up and not true.  The people here have been quite amazing.  Through the coming weeks, I’ll highlight a few of our adventures.  Mention some of the good and bad things we’ve seen as well as the fun times we’ve had.

American’s In The Middle East

Various Dubai Stories

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(Stella: Our neighbors kitten)

When we left Tampa, we missed a lot of things.  One of those was our cat.  Our neighbor, who shared the balcony had an amazing kitten.  We got our kitty love in by buying treats and sharing her as a pet, at least a little bit.

So getting back to Dubai.  We still were waiting for the school to give John his residency stamp.  They kept telling him excuse after excuse.  So we needed to decide what to do next.  Honestly, our reserves weren’t a lot and every month we were using our savings, or a big portion, to pay rent.

John had taken his TEFL classes online and had just received the 6 certificates.  With those in hand, I redid his CV, and started to hit every ESL job I could find.

It didn’t take long and we got numerous replies back.  Places in China, The Czech Republic, and Russia were among the choices.  Of course, we had to research the places, and John had Skype interviews.

He was nervous on each interview.  He hadn’t done a whole lot of teaching yet, but of course since that time it’s changed a lot.

There were quite a few offers from China.  We had to admit it was exciting to think of seeing Asia.  It would be another continent, and new territory.

However, as I researched I found a few disturbing things.  The pollution was quite high there.  But more so was the fact that you needed a bachelor’s degree to teach.  The places we talked to had said nothing about this government requirement.

Not only that, but I found reports of teacher’s being arrested who didn’t have the right credentials.  I asked the place we had been dealing with and they simply said, “Don’t worry about the degree we have a way to handle it.”

I worried at that point, and we both decided it wasn’t worth the risk to take any of the offers.  China was off the table.

The Russia interview went okay, but we weren’t excited about the cold weather in Russia.  Thankfully, they didn’t offer him a job.

Another school in Vietnam wanted him as well.  We almost went with that one, I can’t remember the exact reason we said no.  However, another school in the Czech Republic wanted him.  Now this was something we gave serious consideration too.

We had also talked to a school in Egypt by this time.  Though they didn’t offer him a job.  It was implied that when you land, show up and we will hire you.

We were down to the two choices.  In the end the fact we had connections in Egypt made our choice for us.

It was at this point we began packing up and getting ready for another jump.  Off to Egypt and a new world.

On a side note.  I didn’t want to write this part of the story, but it’s only far.  You know how guys find farts so funny.  Well on more than one occasion John or even my son Ryan have farted and left me in the stink.  When someone walks up and smells their not so nice scent, the person thinks it was me.

Have you ever heard of the phrase sweet revenge?  Okay so yes women do sometimes have gas.  One night we were down in the little shop in our building.

We had a few things to buy, and my stomach was feeling somewhat upset.  In my defense I didn’t think it would smell.  But as soon as I allowed the gas to pass, I knew I needed the bathroom.

I turned to John, no smell as of yet, and said, “Hey I have to go up and go to the bathroom.”

He said, “Sure, I’ll be right up.”

When he came upstairs, he told me that the guys at the register had thought it was him.  They had given him dirty looks and mumbled a few things.

You know sometimes things happen.  Ma3lish my habibi!  (Sorry my love).  Come to think of it, I don’t think he’s done the old fart and leave trick since though.

Next time I’ll talk about our arrival in Egypt.  Culture shock and trying to learn how to cross the road!

Dubai and Visa Runs

Visa Runs….

Yes since we didn’t have that desired residency stamp in the U.A.E, we needed to make a run every 30 days.  There was a way you could go a government building and pay something like 300 dirham, but it could only be done one time.

The fact that you could pay 120 dirham a piece and do the run every 30 days made it the best choice.  Of course, you have a bunch of places that offer to take you on the run, and the prices do range from the lower end to more expensive.

You could also rent a car and try to do the process yourself.  After our first run, half way through it, we were happy we didn’t rent a car and drive.

You have to stop at many checkpoints.  The driver handles the passports and questions at this point.  Nice when you don’t speak Arabic!

The van we rode in held about 15 people.  All of us from various countries.  Most of us just sat and looked out the window, not talking to anyone but who we rode with.

It’s an all day trip for sure, once you get to Oman, you have to go and get two stamps.  This was very important, that entry and exit stamp.  If you were missing the exit stamp, they wouldn’t allow you back into the U.A.E.

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(Some scenery from the visa run to Oman)

Thankfully, the driver of the van goes in with you and makes sure everyone has their stamps.  It was at this point we began talking to two other passengers.  They were a couple from the UK, and we had a lot in common with them.

This wasn’t the last time we would hang out with them.  We explored new places to eat with them, and saw some movies, and just hung out many times.

To this very day we Skype with them as well.  That one trip to Oman, gave us a chance to meet a great couple.

Also the drive back didn’t seem near as slow as the trip to Oman.  We talked and chatted the whole way back.  After we got back to the mall, we discovered that they lived about five blocks from us as well.

Talk about coincidences!  Colin and Judith were easily one of the best experiences we had during our stay in Dubai.  Lifelong friends that we met on a visa run, talk about luck!

Those visa trips for us continued, Colin and Judith had been making their last run.  Lucky them!  John and I had another 6 runs before we decided that Dubai just wasn’t the place for us and we moved on.

Next time a few little stories, some embarrassing, if I decide to include them!  Along with how the teaching academy he worked with dangled the residency for a few months in front of him.  This cost us another three months, staying in an expensive place, with hope of that residency stamp.

Also our choices after John got his TEFL, and various interviews, and choices of our next stop!

The Middle East As an American

Continue of Dubai

Before we moved to Dubai as I said many people thought we were crazy and that we wouldn’t be safe.  They claimed that we wouldn’t be able to attend church.  That I would have to be completely covered up when dressed, i.e. no shorts whatsoever.

Well I can tell you that there are plenty of churches to attend in Dubai, and we did go.  We were no harassed in anyway because we were Christian.  In fact, along the street to the many churches you found people selling food.  It was cheap and good, we bought some and had a rather nice meal on the walk.

So all those claims that you can’t be a Christian and go to church were simply propaganda, and lies.  Imagine that!  Western propaganda at its best trying to create fear among the population.  They’ve done a great job of it.

Moving onto shorts, you know what I wore them outside.  They weren’t short-shorts, but ones that came down to my knees.  They were fine and no one said anything to me about them.  Again another lie that is told about this part of the world.

My husband and I are the type of couple who like to hold hands when we walk.  Well this was one thing we could not do in the country, unless we wanted to possibly be fined.

So we still held hands from time to time and didn’t get caught.  Yes we were lucky.  But honestly, with everything we enjoyed was well worth the one thing we were not able to do.

Next time I’ll talk about our Visa renewal trips, fun times, and people we met along the way.  Possibly a few embarrassing times as well.  Along with our search for a place to live in a very expensive country.

Cat Bathing Day

Cat Bathing Day

Nothing says fun like the day you give your cat a bath. Thankfully our cat has no claws, so at least we don’t have to suffer from the scratches that a lot of other cat owners do. However, look at that face, this is thankfully after she’s forgiven her humans for the bath. But if you see the slight scrunching of the eyes, this indicates that she is still a bit pissed, trying to figure out, are you giving me another bath? Explicit words form in her mind, and with our cat, she swears she can speak human. Since I’m trying to keep this at least PG rated today, I can not state the words that come out of her mouth as meow’s and other sounds!!!
We love this cat though, she is old and set in her ways, but there is nothing with that, after all we spoil her as much as we can!!
I’d love to hear other tales from people about what their cat does when they bathe them. Oh by the way, our cat can be heard, no doubt about it saying “NO” when the water is running and we bring her into the bathroom. If I remember next time I’ll record her, so you can hear it, it’s cute!