Well, I’ve managed to get a mini-job… sort of. Now, don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t looking for one. I’ve overly content being the unemployed Dip Wife, but one was presented to me. My Arabic teacher, Suheir, asked me if I’d like to work with her cousin who was interested in honing her English skills. This had come up earlier as the head of the language lab at the embassy, Ahmad, asked me one day if I’d be interested in working with a local Saudi Arabian family on their English (they were friends of someone in HR). They were interested in meeting with someone for a few hours on the weekend, but with my schedule being so erratic, and me wanting to see Ron whenever possible on weekends, I didn’t feel I could be consistent (not to mention having no idea what I’d be doing). So I regretfully declined.
But then Suheir asked me the same thing, and said her cousin would be fine with an erratic schedule and would prefer to meet during the week. Since I adore Suheir, I agreed to meet with her cousin Hala. We arranged a meeting for today and she texted me her address.
Thirty minutes before our meeting, I hopped in a cab and told him approximately where to go. I had found the street on the map, but of course didn’t know exactly where the building was. The address was 238 Sudan Street, and before I left the house I purposefully looked up how to say 238, as my number-knowledge is weak. But when we got to Sudan, I just opted to get out of the taxi and wander. Of course, this is rarely a good idea as numbered buildings are few and far between. I ended up calling her and she directed me to go right… but she meant left. So she called a little while later when I didn’t show up and told me to turn around and she’d send someone to meet me in front of the pharmacy. She asked what I was wearing and I told her a blue shirt and I had blonde hair – there was no way she’d miss me in this neighborhood (if I knew how to say “neon sore thumb” in Arabic I would have). So a woman came and got me and I followed her the opposite way down the street. Honestly, I wouldn’t have found it had I headed in that direction anyway. I do wonder if we westerners are just childlike and need to be spoon-fed directions, or do Egyptians also wander around aimlessly trying to find an address?
So I met with Hala and her business partner, Gilan. They met in college, 20 years ago, and now run their own graphic design and printing house, with 15 employees and they own several apartments in the same building. Hala speaks excellent English, but she wants to get more comfortable with it, and Gilan’s English is like my Arabic, so we puttered along with Hala’s help. They’ve offered to pay me for the time, and will help with my Arabic as well, so it’s a win-win situation. I enjoyed chatting with them, though I have found that some questions Egyptians ask tend to feel a little too personal to westerners (like, “Why don’t you go out and find a job?”) and they were very interested to learn that I was 38 and had only been married a year. They are both in their early 40s and I don’t believe either are married. But they seem to have this idea that American women marry much younger than I did – which I guess could be true. But I think it’s closer to just being a misconception of American women, much as we have misconceptions about Egyptian and Islamic women. They wanted to know what I thought about Egypt and what I thought about living in an Islamic country, and I tempered my answers as I definitely don’t want to offend anyone and admittedly am quite ignorant on Islam. But one interesting comment Hala made was that she didn’t like Bangkok at all when she visited it. She said it was just too dirty and filthy. Having to circumvent piles and piles of trash to get to her building, I guess it just goes to show that one man’s trash, truly is another man’s treasure. I’m slated to meet with them again next Monday, so we’ll see how this goes. (For all of my concerted attempts to avoid ever being a teacher, despite a professorial lineage, here I go.)