Friday, June 25, 2010

Coming Home Crazy Part 1

It is dark outside with the clock ticking a few minutes past 4:30 am but my body thinks it’s 10 hours later like it’s dismissal time at school. We decided to segment our journey home with a four-day stopover between Frankfurt, Germany and Gent, Belgium. I will be devoting a separate post to Gent when I’m more mentally together.

We checked in our bags at Brussels national airport, put or computers in the locker, and took the train into the city to for the afternoon.  

The Saint Michael and Saint Goedele Cathedral in Brussels

 Manneken Pis in Brussels aka the world famous peeing boy!

Belgium is known for Chocolate and Beer, here is the best of both worlds

For the record, if you have never flown another airline outside the United States, you are missing out. Ana and I learned that reality on the flight to Guadalajara, Mexico 5 years ago when we were fed a hearty meal including an open bar on a mere two hour flight. Three years ago on the last leg back from our honeymoon on the American Airlines flight between Chicago and San Diego we were given pretzels and water by a rude flight attendant. I’m not implying that all domestic carriers are as bleak; Southwest, Frontier, and Jet Blue are all fairly decent and I would pick them in a heartbeat over the likes of Delta. Board a plane in Laos, Thailand, Kuwait, Beirut, etc and not only do you get a warm meal and friendly service but stainless steel utensils to eat with. Compare that to American, Delta, or United who offer a light snack on a four-hour flight! I know some of you naysayer are going to say that the cost is built into the ticket and I would be a fool to say it isn’t but you aren’t really paying more, you’re just getting less. I remember an episode of 60 Minutes back in the 80’s with the CEO of American Airlines; during the interview he had mentioned the money the company saves by not painting their fleet but the part of the piece that really stuck out was the airline had the two black olives removed from their salads they served and saved two million dollars annually! Now if you want a sandwich on the four-hour flight to Chicago you can buy it for $6.

 The Grand'Place-Grote Markt-Market Square-filled with Guild houses, town hall, and King's house. It was pretty amazing to walk around.

A glass Delirium at Manneken Pis bar to watch team USA beat Algeria. As a side note working in Egypt we have learned that the Algerian team are cheaters and lowlifes. Their fans don't fare much better. Brussels was littered with Algerian fans as we walked through a North African neighborhood hoping to get out undetected. After the game on the way back to the train and there was a group of Algerian fans running around acting as if they had won the match. They went up to a guy playing guitar for pocket change, kicked his guitar case and stole his money then wanted to fight him. Locals had to step in. Such awful people, F**K Algeria! 

Cool painting on the wall...the husband is coming home, the wife's lover is leaving, and the grim reaper is coming for the wife.

Our itinerary out of Frankfurt read Lufthansa but in reality it was a United Airlines plane and flight crew. This meant only one free checked bag, $6 wine, plastic forks, and passionless flight attendants. I knew we were heading back home.


After the eleven-hour flight we were treated to customs and sent to secondary. Prior to arrival I had the feeling we might be in for a long Q&A session with Homeland Security; vacationing in the Middle East and a Communist country will earn you that privilege. After the first customs officer scanned my passport his eyes grew wide and he picked up the phone and mentioned something about the opera before hanging up and sent us to the second set of doors. The waiting officer yelled for us to go down the hallway to secondary. We walked into the secondary room and had two eager and friendly former San Diegan officers waiting for us and they compiled quite a list of information of how we got our jobs, where we live in Egypt, do we speak Arabic, the address and phone number to where we are staying…many of the question were asked repeatedly. Next we were sent to have our luggage inspected and round two of similar questions and ID checks. He was the serious type and cracked a smile when he saw the Islamic Barbie (Fulla) we brought for Ana’s mom. So there you have it, slightly short of having chip implants, we are being monitored.   

 U.S. Customs and Border Protection approved!

My cousins Mel and Rose leant me a book ten years back about an American teacher’s (Bill Holm) experience in China…from his perspective it was the teacher who got the education. I never made time to get through the entire book, but this summer and maybe even today I might hit one of the used bookstores in Hillcrest to find a copy of Holm’s Coming Home Crazy, because that is exactly how we feel. 

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Goodbye Alex

Our first year in Egypt is officially in the books and for the record it was an uneventful end as most of the last week was spent on campus finishing school related clerical matters.

Robin spreading the good word!

Little did we know that May/June is kite season!

World Cup fever has hit and is in full swing. We opted out of buying cable TV at the beginning of the year as not to become potential couch potatoes and only last week did we discover that connecting the cable to the back of the TV we get three local Arabic stations. One channel happens to broadcast almost every World Cup match or it’s pre-empted by the Hanna Montana show.  We did see the two Mexico matches at our friends Ji and Kanut place…Kanut bought a 42” TV flat screen for the event. It reminded me of the time several years ago when I invited Chikle, Sr. Lugo and other friends over for the Bronco-Charger game and all I had was a pitiful 23” Wal-Mart special with a green patch burned into the left side of the screen. So like any sensible man would do, I dropped a wad of cash for HD flat screen 24 hours prior to the game to save face.

 Maie, Mona, and half of Ana enjoying their principal's farewell dinner. 

Saint Malcolm checking out the view!

The talented Mr. C.

Last weekend our friend Robin shot me an email telling me that she was back from the states bearing “the most beautiful beer” for us to share. Hailing from the northwest, she knows her craft breweries. She blessed us with Arrogant Bastard Ale and Lagunitas Imperial Stout and we made quite an evening of it. 

One of the reasons why I don’t like going to movies, the opera, or ballet here is the lack of respect some people in the audience have. Last night at graduation there was a group of college-age girls sitting behind us constantly talking and laughing while my students were giving speeches. Since I was apart of the speech selection committee I was looking forward to hearing them. I finally turned around and used a harsh statement to end girls’ rude behavior. If I had used anything less they would have snickered and dismissed me. It was quick and effective. At the end of the ceremony one of the girls told me that her mom was on the school board and was going to tell on me. As promised she did and I was approached by the mom minutes later defending her daughter. We’ll see if this turns into a witch-hunt.

 Most of the graduating class of 2010!

Our School participated in the Art Miles Mural Project headed by our friends Joanne and Fouad. Check out their cause The two details above are from Ana's elementary classes. Our school did the Big Read Project inspired by the book Three Cups of Tea to raise funds to build a new library at one of the local schools in the community.

Ana and I raced around campus saying our goodbyes and unfortunately didn’t find everyone. We will miss our colleagues and students this summer. We are Germany bound for a couple of days then off to Gent, Belgium to visit friends we made in Morocco on New Years Eve. 

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Fridge etc.

First off-All The Bye Bye Birdie performance pix were taken by Nawara and the after party pix by Logina-and no I didn't ask for permission-I just took them off of Facebook because that is how we roll here in Egypt. 

News that is fit to print: Darth Seth and Kupcake Krystal are expecting their first born-we had pegged them next and they didn't disappoint. FYI-the Turkish Coffee grounds say Jose and Lili are next! The Nile is fertile and so is our school. No joke-if you have trouble baking a bun, a year or two here will fix that right up. 

The weather here has been great...nice breeze in the evenings, clear skies, low to mid 70's, CA weather. When we come back in mid-Aug it will be a different story. Ok, I took the camera to the kitchen for no good reason but there are some stories to tell. 

My parents had taught me to be a decent host and I have kept that tradition by keeping the fridge stocked with beer because you just never know who'll stop by for a cold one. The Sam Adams came from a parent connection! Luxor and Stella gets the troops by. Peanuts, no we don't like cold peanuts but the ants here like theirs room temperature. The butter below the mangos is salted-an expensive import here. The orange with the partial peel was done at the BBB after party by Dr. Greg who was the smoothie master of the evening. I'll explain more later. The Diet Coke is for our Egyptian guests, they love the stuff. 

Barberries and saffron. You think drugs are expensive, ever bought a gram of Iranian saffron? We were almost out and our friend Bob had to take students to Kuwait for JV Tennis so we asked him to pick us up an ounce of it. Did I say ounce-I meant gram. Well at a third of an ounce and $100 later he wondered why I needed so much AND why didn't give him money. A big lesson learned in conversion that day.  

Siwa Olive oil from the oasis. Good stuff. Stacks of different zatars, spices from Thailand, Laos, and Morocco. Crazy flavors to wreck your taste buds. 
Hugo Peabody and The Sweetapple teens pre show jitters.'s Kim, Ursula.....with the Police Officer???

You Gotta Be Sincere...

Moments after a jealous Hugo punches out Conrad Birdie on the Ed Sullivan Show as Mr. MacAfee is pleased that he is on TV. 

Heart Throb Conrad singing "One Last Kiss" to Kim.

The after party poster signing and fruit smoothie party. 

Dr. Greg serving up the smoothies. Greg thought that it would be cool to have the after party be somewhat of an intimate and healthy experience. So instead of the kids forking cash and going someplace impersonal for food and beverages we decided to invite the kids over to our place and let Greg have at it with the fruits and blenders. He had a great time chasing the cast and filling up their cups...he was a rare form and of course the life of the party. BTW Greg is a musical genius and I don't mean that lightly...he has conducted the Cairo Symphony etc. and is basically waiting for a conductor to retire or buy the farm. Hang in there Greg, your day will come!

All in a days work.

Showing Conrad the love!

In the 15 years of teaching I have never shown my tattoos to students. Of course we all think we are Conrad Birdie 

Most of the cast was ready while I try to remove my glasses. Epic failure!