Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Ignore that dude!

Cultural Liasion Mr. Kofta teaches "nafadlk"

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Coptic Monasteries

I've been suffering from a bit of writer's block so we'll keep it pictures and minimal text...sadly in addition to my head being slightly out of order so are the photos. I'll get my act together on the next post. Thanks to Kathryn's camera and Ana's phone some of the day was properly recorded.

Every year Nadia, one of the local teachers organizes a Coptic Christian related field trip. Last year it was Cairo and this time around we visited three Monasteries near the desert road between Alex and Cairo. If my attention had been with the program I might have learned a thing or two and you would be reading a more quality post. Here are a couple of main points I remember...The Romans were the bad guys and chased the Christians out to the desert and as a result built fortresses to preserve the faith. The Bedouins and Berbers also didn't care much for the Christians and raided often, really why work for something when you can just go and take from a neighbor. 

The first stop was at Abou Makar (Saint Macarius) and if you go to their website you'll learn more than what I could ever tell you...just be sure to click on the English translation or you'll be reading scribbles. Better yet go here to see pictures and learn about the Church of the Forty Nine Martyrs, etc. Rumor had it that they sold the best dates and olives around, but the store only had dates and I simply wasn't in the date mood. The land surrounding the Monastery is fertile and many crops are grown and sold thus providing the major source of income to keep it going. 
And now we are at Anba Bishoy (Saint Bishoy) the last stop of the day. Click here to learn more. It is said that Saint Bishoy (a hermit) was lead out to the desert by an angel to where the monastery was built. This was about the time I was feeling a little weird from the Foul (fool-fava bean dish) we had at Abou Makar.
The monk stated while showing us the wheat mill that it is now easier to drive down to the market and buy a 2 kilo bag of flour. After watching the effort put into working the mill I would have to agree with him.
At each Monastery we were assigned to a friendly English speaking monk.  
Detail on the door. One thing we did learn is that it is against the law to preach Christianity outside the church in Egypt. It is punishable by prison and/or death; if you are foreigner you'll kindly get deported. 
Each tile is about the size of a finger nail.
Saint Bishoy carrying Jesus. The saint met Jesus on several occasions
Painting of Saint Bishoy washing the feet of Jesus.

Abou Makar was definitely the most green of the three, but the amount of cement canceled it out. 
Each monastery has several individual churches.
The sign says it all. The siege occurred in the 5th century and you can blame the raiding Bedouins and the last monk who forgot to see if the draw bridge was raised. Doh! 

The 4' door leads to a room about the size of a bathtub.
Our favorite of the three stops was Baramous. The scene outside the walls was desert and the green inside was a nice contrast. After being on sidewalks all afternoon, we welcomed the dirt paths.  
Inside one of the churches. There are books on the sides written in Coptic script with Arabic translations. The script/alphabet looks like a cross between Greek with a jigger of hieroglyphics.  
Coptic water tower
It just looks and feels clean.
Relics are covered up with written prayers folded and tucked under. It is believed that the objects are sacred and have power. Ana mentioned that the Catholics like to show off their stuff and the Copts cover it up. Raiding Bedouins and Berbers will condition you to feel that way.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Introducing Mr. Kofta

Q: Who is Mr. Kofta?
A: Camels and Tacos cultural liaison.

Mr. Kofta will be regular guest this year sharing his insights about Egyptian life.

Enjoy the video.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

6th of October and Art Rooms

Happy 6th of October! We have 4th of July in the states and the Egyptians have their version of it...everything government related was closed except our school and the students weren't too pleased. Several seniors from last year came home from college in Cairo to visit, one even sat in on one of my classes and made art.

This posting will be devoted to our Art rooms.

We seldom hear the phrase "Egypt Rocks" but 7th grader Jomana made sure the message was heard.

When we left for the summer the upper school art room was white, now it has grown some nicely painted bricks.

Surveillance cameras were installed last year, but I didn't feel protected enough. I made large photocopy faces of some of my students to keep an eye on my room...many people think they are real.

Mr. Al one of the former art teachers painted this on the wall near the entrance. I met him at the NESA Conference in Bangkok last April and he asked me if it was still there. Yes Al, why would anyone want to paint over this masterpiece?

Inside the upper school art room.

Cabinets where I stash the goods. Made of real wood.

A view from the sinks. The tables, chairs, cabinets were all handmade by the carpenters at school. Need something made? They'll do it for you. My room reminds me of a 4-lane bowing from the 50's.

The ceramics room is located on the second level and only used in the cooler months.

There are two kilns, one works one doesn't. The crux of the mystery is how did they get both of them up the stairs and in the kiln room? The answer might reveal one the broken unit functions as a glorified shelf.

Broken kiln, pretty ain't it!

Ms. Ana's art room where the lower school students meet.

Mummy cats anyone? Meow meow.

Nothing goes to waste in an art room.

A guide to hand washing.

The wall of fame.

We got new computers this year!

We're watching you!

Dats right!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Sports Day and A Movie

Don't fear I have a quality posting coming up soon in the vain of an on-line learning activity, perhaps a "how to" those itching to learn some local culture. I am very excited about this project. Stay tuned. In the mean time there are a couple of items on the table worth noting.

Item #1. Movies. Last night Ana and I went to go see the cutesy
Despicable Me; a computer-animated 3-D film. Film times: 4:00, 7:00, 10:00, and 1:00 am. We opted for the 7 o'clock time as most people avoid early showings. A nice little feature at the box office is choosing your seats after paying. Movie prices are never posted so they tend to "fluctuate" and if you want the 3-D glasses that goes with the film be prepared to pay extra. When we saw Avatar we had to rent glasses by dropping a deposit and only getting a portion of it back at the end of the movie. The best part of the evening is the sudden interruption of film, which is a ten minute intermission of blaring gangster rap. I would consider Despicable Me a family film and Busta Rhymes rapping about "bitches" and oral sex tends to be a strong contrast. The irony is that anything beyond kissing is censored. Fo' shizzle!

Item #2. Sports Day. Remember back in Elementary school when we had Field Day? Sports Day is our version of it minus the ribbons. Do they still have Field Day back in the states or have academics replaced that as well? Teacher friends out there I need some confirmation-please post in the comment section to let my readers know. I remember back in the day it was a little more sports oriented, meaning the majority of the activities were centered around a skills such a running and endurance with ribbons going to first, second, and third place winners. Rumor has it that ribbons hurt people’s feelings so we don’t give those out anymore. Sports Day at Schutz consisted of soccer skills, basketball, musical hoops, bowling, etc. Each team’s make-up ranged from Pre-K 4 age students to high school seniors. Below are snap shots of the event.

Fashion super stars Hoda and Hussein modeling this year's popular wears.

Water Sports Station. The objective of this activity was for a team to get the water from one bucket to another via a sponge.

Making sure all the water was out.

Soccer skills.

The Penalty Shot Station was popular.

This was a fun one to watch.

No chairs? Musical hoops works just fine.

Want to make kids pass out? A favorite amongst asthmatics and heavy smokers. Using a straw to blow a ping pong ball through a maze.

One of the Red Team kids taking on the Grey team captain. And if you didn't have a grey shirt, black will do.

Red Rover meets anarchy and 90 degree heat.

Dingo is our new fearless leader of the Upper School.