Settling, Unpacking, and Creating a Home

So, essentially I think we’re settled in Zamalek. We’ve gotten the major things done, painting, electricity issues, furniture swap outs, and glee of glees, we finally have our own DSL line! It took two weeks of Ron sending emails and waiting to hear that the line for our house was finally “released” and we could go open our account.

Mini adventure in that task. After work one day, with the “released notification” in hand, Ron and I walked across Zamalek (it’s narrow), across the bridge over to Mohandiseen where we kept walking, and walking, and finally saw the “TE Data” building. We crossed a very busy street, with Ron kindly holding my hand and placing himself in the position of being the impact-person. As I was racing in front of one car, then pausing as another one whoosed in front of me, then racing off again, I realized that my body has started to instinctually react to crossing Cairo streets. When stepping off a buns-of-steel curb, immediately my toes curl under in a protective stance and I balance on the balls of my feet. I just cannot get past the fear that my toes are going to be run over at any minute. I wonder what the toe-casualty rate is here in Cairo?

Considering what we had heard from others who had attempted to get DSL and cable set up, we were both emotionally prepared for this not to work. We thought we were ready for any problem, hassle, hurdle or whatever they could throw at us. However, we were not prepared for what actually happened. We got an account set up, paid for, our router thingy activated and were told that by the time we got back home, it would be operational. And they were right!! Ron noted that it was the largest collection of Egyptian nerds he’d seen, and I noted that other than one or two women who came in, paid a bill and left, I was the only female there. I actually think it was far easier than dealing with Verizon back home. We did the appropriate happy dance for an operational DSL line – apparently it’s similar to an impromptu haven’t-practiced-in-ten-months foxtrot. Now the next stage is setting up our Vonage phone so we can call and be called from our old 301 (Maryland) number. One hindrance to this is that apparently we didn’t bring any phones with us. Smart.

I know I’ve blamed our lack of clear thinking throughout the pack-out process for many things, and sadly, our forgetting to bring a phone is not the only evidence of this. Now, I have to say, that I’m not completely convinced that all of the issues were caused by us. I do think that some things that were labeled “Cairo” went to “Storage” instead. Or they’re sitting in a box on the side of 495 in Virginia. Either way, we’re missing an odd assortment of items, such as: trash cans, a pasta strainer (now, why would I have selected that for storage?), blankets, most serving dishes, and some basic chach-ka (like Ron’s beautiful Moroccan tea set). So we’ve been making some varied purchases from Amazon and I’ve been making a list of things to acquire when I head back to the states, probably in October. In addition, I’ve been exploring Zamalek looking for replacements, and often ending up heading to Maadi where I know the stores better.

In contrast, Ron has made fun of some of the things I did pack and that managed to get here, including several hundred cotton balls, Q-tips, Tums, and vats of shampoo and conditioner (and he still brings up the cupcake wrappers). However, we must also point out that we have two brick-like structures made up of dozens of Irish Spring bars, which are not for me. So to each his own. Basically I just didn’t know what we would be able to get here and how easily (and delightfully) accessible Amazon would be – thanks solely to our access to the APO.

Moving into a new place always creates a need for, or an excess of, certain items. We went from a one-bathroom place to three bathrooms, so inevitably we needed bathmats. I could never have guessed it would be so difficult to find bathmats in Cairo. They do have them, but they’re either towel-like, which just won’t stand up to Ron’s use and typically end up balled up in the corner, or they’re sets of matching bath mat, toilet cover and toilet wrap-around, and they’re made in the USA and cost over $60 (not to mention they’re ugly)! So, after a week of looking everywhere, we relented and bought some through We got our bathmats the other day and I was far more excited about receiving them than anything “fun,” but then again, I have been climbing out of the shower with great care, not wanting to slip, fall and have to exclaim in Arabic, “I’ve fallen and can’t get up.” The other item we are unable to find is a kitchen trash can. Maybe my desire for a tall, metal, step-can, is just too extravagant, but the few that we have found are outrageously expensive or plastic. I think we’re going to have to rely on the wonders of Amazon for that one, too.

Oh, and in that same vein of figuring out a new home, after sleeping in the Arctic Zone for the first two weeks as we awaited delivery of our vent-deflectors (thank you, Amazon merchant), upon receipt Ron was told by someone in the office that the vents could be adjusted by hand. So that night, with the deflectors in their newly arrived box, we dragged the ladder from room to room and manually adjusted all the vents. Eventually we’ll figure it all out. And in the meantime, we’ll rely on the kindness of Amazon merchants’ return policies.