I know, we’ve been back from Italy for a whole 10 days and I have yet to post a single snippet. Bad blogger! But I’m having a hard time readjusting to life back in Cairo, and apparently am not fully ready to resume it. Plus we had Christmas, a cookie party, an outing to the cave churches and recycling center at Moqattam, "The Nutcracker" at the Cairo Opera House, and none of that would have been complete without a sprained ankle on Ron and a bad 48-hour cold on Julia. Happy Holidays!
Our Christmas Day was a bit Dickensian, minus the dirt and poverty of 19th century living, wait, we’re in Cairo, so it’s EXACTLY like a Dickens tale. It was visions of our Christmas future… Ron laid up with tender ankle, ice-on, ice-off, and me moaning in and out of consciousness on the couch. We had plans to have a friend over for dinner, but had to bail on him and cancel. If we weren’t so completely pathetic I would have invited him down just to hang out, but we were way beyond casual, into the grubby. So we owe him. I’d even forgotten to get anything for the cats, but luckily our friend Teresa had not and mailed us a stocking full of toys and goodies for them, so at least they were active on Christmas.
I’m going to blame our complete holiday apathy on the weather. I mean, surprisingly Cairo at Christmastime is full of colored lights, Christmas trees for sale, as much purple and green tinsel as you could need, plastic Santas lined up in the windows and everyone offering a “Merry Christmas”. It’s a city-sized Dollar Store of Christmas delight. But for both of us, neither of who has ever spent a Christmas in a non-cold state (Massachusetts, Ohio, New Jersey, New York, Maine, Virginia or Maryland), having glorious 70-degree weather with sun, sun and more sun, just left it all a bit hollow. Okay, maybe it was more of missing friends and family, and fighting a bad bout of homesickness (in addition to the cold), but it’s less mushy to blame it on the weather.
So Christmas passed with ice packs, ibuprofen and Kleenex. Not quite the stuff of catchy carols, unless you’re Ron, of course. You should hear his one that goes, “We can make a snowman in the litterbox… He’ll be made of poo and urine, too.” Yes, our children will be socially stunted, but hopefully they’ll have their father’s sense of humor (and maybe some musical talent).
So our outing to the cave churches in Moqattam on Christmas Eve day, was to take three of our friends out there who had never seen them. Ron arranged for an embassy driver and van – no matter how long we live here, we have vowed to never drive through Garbage City/Moqattam (yes, I know I still have to post my Garbage City piece, blame it on the weather). As we were all wandering through the first church, Ron managed to accidentally slip off one of the stone steps and twist his ankle. Unfortunately this was the same ankle just two weeks prior he had fallen on when we were in Rome when he caught it on an especially cobbled sidewalk. So needless to say, he was in significant pain, again. He sat in one of the seats and immediately a very kind and “helpful” Egyptian man came running up. We were all standing around Ron and this man asked if he was okay and if he could see Ron’s foot. For whatever reason, four of us, including Ron, admitted afterward that we all felt that maybe this was a Shaman of some kind, and with a wave of his hand, rub of a magic herb and his folkloric knowledge of ankle injuries, Ron would be cured. Instead we all stood there and watched this man grab Ron’s injured foot and without hesitation wrench it right and left and right again before any of us could utter, “STOP!” Ron’s face of anguish was heartbreaking. When the man wandered off and left us, Ben, the one voice of reason (albeit delayed reason), said, “I knew that was a bad idea.” Always the pessimist. Unfortunately, he’s more than often right.
So we managed to get Ron back to the van, where the driver kindly went and got him tea (Egyptians and Brits – tea cures all). Ron insisted that we continue to explore the other churches, so I directed the others where to go and made sure Ron got settled. We didn’t spend too much time there, but did manage to find one more church that I had not seen before (along with two monkeys (possibly gibbons) in a large metal rusted cage – I can’t even fathom why they’re there). We did a quick stop at the recycling center (yes, a future post awaits, I know), and then finally a stop at the alabaster factory.
At this last stop Ron was waiting in the van chatting with the driver and I came out to check on him. I propped the passenger door open and was leaning in as Ron was telling me about a little fan club he had just before I came out. Apparently he was quite the object of fascination of a group of young girls. They stared at him from across the road, and ever so slowly ventured closer, and eventually got close enough to ask the driver whether Ron knew English or French. I believe the driver told them English, to which they just smiled at him a lot, giggled and stared. As I was listening to this, I glanced up and on the fourth or fifth floor roof of one of the buildings on the edge of Garbage City was a group of small children waving furiously at me. So I waved back enthusiastically, which merely resulted in more waving. I finally ceased the waving, sensing that it could be endless. And a few minutes later a young girl holding the hand of her younger sister, I presumed, were peering at me from around the back of the van. I asked Ron if these were his fan club members and he said yes. I said hi, and they smiled and replied hi. The older one asked me in broken English if I spoke French. I said no and smiled sheepishly (I will apparently never live down my lack of language ability). At this point an older man sitting around (one of the thousands of examples of “older man sitting around” that are liberally sprinkled all over Cairo) yelled at them and in no uncertain terms shooed them off. But as they scuttled away I yelled goodbye and gave them a big smile – I didn’t mind them gawking at us.
So, we made it home, got Ron’s foot propped up and started the icing procedures (with ice cubes, not confectioners sugar). By Christmas Day he was definitely feeling better, so we’re hopeful he’s on the mend. My cold snuck in Christmas Eve, stayed for 48 hours, then departed. I would rather have had jewelry.
Despite our ailments, we had extended an invitation to Ron’s office to come to our place on the 27th for a Holiday Cookie Bash, which was essentially a very belated Open House. I spent the prior week figuring out the menu, making 2-3 cookie batches per day (to which Ron always asked if they were “test batches”, and I always replied, no), and trying to keep the house tidy after our housekeeper spiffed it up on Wednesday. The party went off really well, with fifteen people showing up, four of whom were kids, ten and under. Ron hooked up the Wii so that kept the kids, and the men, entertained. One of the girls who is about seven was utterly enchanted by Chuckles, who remained the entire 3+ hours in a large cat lump on the back of the couch and willingly put up with her tapping his nose, ruffling his fur the wrong way, and squeezing him with great delight. She wasn’t malicious and her mother kept instructing her how to pet kitties, and I was certainly watching for annoyed-feline signs, but maybe after dealing with Albert’s antics for the last month he was just glad to not be gnawed on.
Following the sugar gluttony, a few of us went to see “The Nutcracker” at the Cairo Opera House, which is located on Zamalek. It’s celebrating its 20th anniversary this year and is a really beautiful complex. It was apparently built by the Japanese following the demise of the previous opera house by a fire. I really didn’t know what to expect from the performance but I have to commend it. It might have been good to see it before Christmas to help with the lapsed holiday mood, but it was still enjoyable afterwards.
So now we prep for the Islamic New Year, which occurs tomorrow (December 29), then our New Year on the 31st. No big plans, but we’ll see what we can conjure up between now and then. And I will do my best to get caught up with past postings and finally get back into my Egyptian life.