In celebration of my birthday, I decided to knock off two more mini-accomplishments on my comfort-zone-expansion list. Now, when I say mini, I mean, truly miniscule, but they say that it’s the small things that truly matter – and in essence, it’s the small things that make the big things happen. So, I gathered my wits, money and sunglasses and headed out to Road 9 on my quest for a birthday bucket. I first stopped off at Radio Shack (yes, we have “Radio Shack”) to see if the shipment of compressed air had come in. I need some to clean my camera lens and when we stopped in last week we were told a shipment was coming “tomorrow.” So I popped in and was told, again, that the shipment was coming “tomorrow.” I explained that we had been told this last week and asked if this was a popular item. They said yes, but said there was one can in the Dokki store and would I like to have them hold it for me. I declined and said I’d stop in here again. Now, I’m no retail whiz, but if you have an item such as the Nintendo Wii, or say compressed air, that you just cannot keep on the shelves, wouldn’t you try to get maybe TWO cans in a shipment? The other issue, which becomes the flip-side of a good thing, is that Egyptians are very friendly and accommodating, to a degree in which they almost never say no, even when the answer is, No. So you will rarely, if never, find anyone who cannot give you directions, even if they’re wrong; and apparently the missing item you want is always coming in the shipment “tomorrow.” I will continue in my dogged pursuit of a can of compressed air.
Shaking off my failed purchase, I wandered over to a store I had seen before but had not yet entered. Outside there was an assortment of plastic-goods, such as bins, baskets, and buckets. We needed a bucket. We had been “assigned” a bucket in our welcome kit; a nice, big, sturdy, black bucket that I had used in my first attempt at mopping our apartment – and in true Egyptian-irony, I filled it up and promptly noticed the small hole in the side; essentially reducing said bucket to a trash can. (I never really appreciated the potential complexities in mopping until this attempt. Despite my education and length-of-tooth it took me a ridiculous amount of time to figure out how to use the mop; however, never let it be said that I retreat from a challenge, so eventually I figured out how to wring the mop without touching the moppy bits.) I picked through the stack of buckets and chose a blue one and took my purchase inside, which was made of up two rooms, one filled with toys, and one with miscellaneous kitchen gadgets. So this must be the “Toys, plastics & kitchen ware” store – good to know.
Now, these outings of mine are not just a means to explore and spend money (our bucket cost $3), but also an attempt at using my slowly growing vocabulary. However, whenever I attempt to use it, I tend to get English back. It seems we all want to practice. But I will keep trying (see “challenge” comment above).
I took my birthday bucket home, rinsed off the dust, and proceeded to get ready to meet Ron downtown for our birthday dinner out. He had chosen a restaurant others had recommended called, Sequoia. It’s located at the very tip of Zamalek (island in the Nile, which actually comes to a point). My second mini-accomplishment was going to be taking a taxi by myself. I had chosen to wear a new dress and strappy sandals, however I suddenly realized that I had paid for my birthday bucket with the one 20 LE note and only had 50s and 1s left. The issue here is that the taxi to downtown is about 25-30 LE (a little more at night), and taxi drivers NEVER have change (odd, isn’t it?). So, I knew I had to walk to the store, buy something and get change, before grabbing a cab. The secondary issue was that I didn’t want to walk to the store in my dress and strappy sandals (too many stares, too many craggy sidewalks, too dusty). So I changed outfits, chose less-cute but more-practical shoes, walked to the store and got change and grabbed a taxi. In my continued attempt at Arabic, when he said to me, “Where are you going?” I answered, “West ilbalad. Fondo Shebard.” He replied, “Hotel Shebard?” Slightly defeated, I said, “Yes.” (Note: It’s actually the Hotel Shepheard, but Arabic doesn’t have p’s, so they become b’s – Pepsi is Bibsi.) The ride in was uneventful, aside from his being a “weaver” who continually swayed back and forth across the lanes. I just swayed along with him and enjoyed the view, pleased in my mini-accomplishments for the day.
Ron met me at the Hotel and we grabbed another cab to Sequoia. The dinner was fabulous! We sat outside, watching the sun set over the buildings across the Nile, sitting on white-linen covered cushioned chairs, with a breeze and people smoking shisha all around (the water pipes are very popular, with men and women both, and they smell quite nice – with the tobacco often being fruity or flowery – it has been discouraged for us, as expats, though, due to the high rate of tuberculosis – discouragement achieved). We had some of the best mezza we’ve had in Egypt so far – hummus, tahini, tomato salad, fettoush – and in hind-sight we agreed that next time we’ll just make a meal of those and drinks. As the sun set, lamps and lanterns were lit, making it a wonderfully romantic setting. This will definitely be a favorite of ours. All in all, a very successful “Egyptian” birthday.