Saturday, 5 January 2013

Where Can my Wife Find a Pigeon?

Our plans for Christmas gifts were relatively simple this year.  Shannon and I decided that we would do our shopping in Cairo as opposed to Canada.  Given that my Arabic and negotiating skills aren't quite ready for the local markets, this meant a trip to Sherra Tissa (road 9).  Now, I haven't done much shopping there so the locations of stores are still somewhat nebulous.  Although road 9 is one of the main expat shopping areas in Cairo, it has a mysterious quality similar to the Grand Mall - stores seem to move around and vanish.  In both places, I can locate a store one day and then won't be able to find it during my next three trips.  Well, we wandered through the silversmiths, scarf shops and alabaster shops looking for those ideal presents.  I knew there was a great bed and bath store on road 9 ... and it took two or three trips up and down the road to finally locate it.  During her time here, Shannon also realized that she would have a lot of trouble parting with all the scarves that she had bought as gifts so we made a return visit ... and the scarf shop hid from us for at least 45 minutes.

Before I forget, there is a 'delicacy' found on road 9 that all students love.  My tastes lean towards the Turkish bakeries as there's something wonderful about the honey they use here.  I can actually eat a piece of baklava here and not feel weighted down by a 50 kg meal - nor does my pancreas waive a white flag of surrender.  But for my students, the ideal treat is a cupcake from Nola.  All but one of my students are willing to admit that it's the icing and not the cupcake that make these wonderful ... the lone exception sees them as highly overrated.  Each time I wander by Nola, I'm tempted but have yet to give in.  (quick aside ... it's prayer time and the dog is howling along with the chant so please excuse me while I giggle silently).

Given Shannon's growing enjoyment of the local fruit juices, we stopped at Kiwi to grab a drink and consider further purchases.  We were almost shopped out so it was time to head to the Nile for dinner.  As it was early in Shannon's visit, we'd been sticking to western restaurants, so TGI Friday's on the Corniche (street that runs along the Nile) seemed to be an ideal choice.  She had already braved street food with me, a wonderful bakery on the way to getting my internet fixed, so she had enjoyed some of the local flavours; but TGIF is the ideal place to see the sunset over the Nile from Maadi.  The picture to the right was taken about 1 minute before
this one was taken.  Sunset to the right of the tree and typical afternoon view to the left.  So we sat back, chatted and considered what else was on the agenda.  Shannon still had some more gift shopping to do so I figured City Stars Mall in Heliopolis was next on the agenda.

During dinner, Shannon decided to mortify the staff working at the restaurant.  Service is always excellent so they really didn't know how to deal with Shannon's love of cats.

Shannon coaxed this little fellow over by offering to share her hamburger with him.  Unfortunately, he got a little greedy and left the wall to see if other patrons would be equally accommodating.  The staff chased him out of the restaurant, but politely looked at me as if I was slightly nuts when I told them during his second visit on the wall that he was ok there.

The next day saw us off to City Stars mall.  It's a huge and very western mall, but I figured it would be a great place to see and possibly grab dinner and a movie.  I knew that she still had shopping to do so we started on the 5th floor (I think) where they have a number of small crafts vendors.  Along the way, Shannon's stomach finally realized that she wasn't in Ontario anymore.  Maps at City Stars aren't the easiest things to find and once we found it, we couldn't make heads or tales of the floor plan.  So, with my limited Arabic in hand, I popped by a couple of the local vendors to see if they could help us find the bathroom.  I may have mentioned previously that one of the most difficult parts of Arabic seems to be the variety of ways that they pronounce the letter A:

  • hamam with a short second A ... bathroom
  • hamam with a long second A ... pigeon
It took me a while to realize why the first two vendors shook their heads in misunderstanding ... yup, I used the long A version.  During our following attempts to find the bathroom ourselves, I ran into a shopkeeper that helped Shannon out and reminded me of my pronunciation error.

Well, we had a great chat with the storekeeper and bought a couple of papyri from him.  Unfortunately, he ended the transaction with a phrase that always scares me:  "this is your store."  When Mr. Amir at the local stationery store uses it, I interpret it as "thank you again for visiting, you come fairly often and we appreciate your business."  I also have a sneaking suspicion that when the phrase is used at the end of your first visit, it translates as "thank you again for visiting, you didn't negotiate prices very well and we really appreciate your visit."  I've only run into this situation twice during my first visit and each time it signified my last visit to that store.

Given Shannon was feeling a little tired, we elected to head home instead of enjoying dinner and a movie in City Stars.  Unfortunately, it was dinner time, which meant that Shannon got to finally experience her first real taste of rush hour traffic.  Since the "convenient" taxis that the stores direct you towards come with inconvenient prices (about 20 LE more), we wandered out to the street to grab a taxi at normal prices.  Although it's a bit more of a crap shoot, since it's much more likely to find a cab driver that either doesn't want to go to Maadi or doesn't know his way too well, I do prefer to negotiate a lower price.  This trip came with a few more adventures than usual.  I don't know the way back from City Stars too well, so I figured the driver was taking an alternate route when he suddenly turned.  After 15 minutes, he'd finished refilling the tank with benzene (at a whole $0.50) and we were back on our way.  Our next stop was the local tire place to refill his tire after we bottomed out over a speed bump.  Finally, he missed my turnoff so we took the next one and I got to play the "does anything look familiar at night" game.  After an extremely lucky "schemel" and "yamine" ... I recognized the route to Grand Mall that our bus regularly takes and we were almost home.  On the way, I introduced Shannon to one of her favourite meals here, the chicken shawarma and we booked our trip to Giza and Memphis.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

A MISRable Sense of Humour

Around 4:30 on December 16th during the bus ride home, I finally understood.  Shannon and I chat regularly on Facebook, and some of her comments over the previous two days had confused me.  I figured that she was extremely excited to come so she was packing early and was saying her 'see you really soons' in case we weren't able to connect on the day before her departure.  I had it in my mind that I had a full day away from school before she arrived on the 17th.  Sometime just before stepping off the bus, my mind was awash in phrases such as "oopsie daisy" and "oh gosh, I haven't booked the driver for tomorrow yet" ... she was arriving tomorrow.  Luckily, I got the ride booked, and the Cairene dust hadn't yet started to hide my weekend mopping work.

Given the joys of arriving in an airport with no access to a telephone and difficulties speaking the local language, I'd promised her that I would be waiting on her arrival at the airport.  Traffic was good during the trip and her flight was scheduled to arrive at 8:00 so my 8:05 arrival at the airport seemed just right.  Until Mohamed, the driver, advised me that the flight board indicated that she'd touched down 30 minutes early. Given I didn't know the Cairo airport too well, as my first and only visit occurred after my own sleepless odyssey to Egypt, I wasn't able to arrange a meeting place.  Well, I spent the next 15 minutes pacing up and down the airport in frantic 3 minute bursts trying to see if she'd already cleared customs while ensuring that I wouldn't miss her if she was just clearing.  About 20 minutes after my arrival, she cleared customs, we successfully navigated the gauntlet of 200 LE airport taxi offers (should be 75-100) and we started the trip home.

Two of the three things that come to mind when I describe Cairo are traffic and feral cats.  Wouldn't you know it, our ride home was one of those rare "where are all the cars" trips.  Don't worry, our trip home from Heliopolis ensured that she got a proper taste of proper traffic.  Also, for the next two days, there were no cats to be seen on my street.  Given Shannon's love of cats, I was worried that she'd purchase all of the local store's tuna in an effort to ensure that the local kittens were properly fed for a while.  Shannon did get her fill of feline friends though ... but initially, Cairo showed its sense of humour (at least the pollution was still there).

Given how energized most people feel after a long flight, I didn't really plan too much for Shannon's time here.  I was tired and I knew she was tired, so we both had decided to play it by ear.  In the land of pyramids, temples and souks ... our first destination ended up being the Maadi Grand Mall.  Ok, it's not a typical tourist spot, but it is a great place to get a feel for being in a different city.  (also, I needed to pick up the printer cartridge I'd ordered).  I introduced Shannon to the joys of clothing shopping here along with my secret addiction.  No, I haven't developed a taste for Shisha and likely never will.  On the 4th floor of Grand Mall is the watch kiosk.  Shannon showed the same love of knock-off watches that I enjoy.  (Sandi - ignore the next sentence).  There is something special about a replica watch that costs less than most dinners out.

No trip to Cairo is complete without a trip to the Cairo museum.  As life is much more fun taking the train, (and the 1 LE / $0.16 fare doesn't hurt), we hopped on the train and headed down there.  Well, despite having taken the train a few times to the museum area, I can never remember which stop to get off at.  They're both named after famous Egyptian leaders (Nasser and Sadat) and I completely forgot to check which one was correct.  Yes, I now know that Sadat is one stop too far.  Instead of getting back on the train, we elected to walk to Tahrir Square from Sadat station.  I'm not sure that my "this will be a great way for you to see the less expat areas of the city" excuse held water.  Eventually, we made it to Tahrir Square and got ready for the Government Store representatives.

Cameras are always magnets in Tahrir Sq.  Sometimes, they're incredibly helpful as you get help crossing an extremely busy street.  The rules for crossing the street are extremely simple.  Close your eyes, say a quick prayer to Allah, take a deep breath and start walking ... and never stop.  Cameras also seem to attract "museum employees" that are on their breaks.  Strangely enough the museum is always closed at the time of your arrival.  Sometimes it's prayer time, sometimes it's reserved for Egyptian residents only, sometimes it's closed that morning ... but inevitably, there is a reason why it's not advised to go to the museum quite yet.  Thank goodness, they always have a ready invite to an "art gallery", a "perfume shop" or a "jewelry shop" ready for you.  Each of these come under the umbrella of the "government shop."  Well, we dodged our couple of invites to the government shop and headed into the museum despite being told it was prayer time (at 10:30 instead of the normal 12:00).

So yes, even in the courtyard, Shannon was able to find a cat to say hello to.  I was glad to be returning to the museum as I hadn't brought my point and shoot the first time I toured the museum.  Given the multitude of replica statues in the courtyard, there were plenty of opportunities to take pictures of both of us in various poses.

The museum is an exhausting visit.  I find that my personal limit is about 2 hours before everything becomes a blur.  During my first visit, 2 hours hit while I was still on the first floor so I never made it upstairs.  This time, Shannon and I made it upstairs to see the two funerary treasures exhibits.  I hadn't seen Tutankhamen's death mask for 36 years and it's still as awe inspiring as the first time I saw it.

I recognize that cats are special, but the little tabby on the right might have taken elegance to a new extreme.  There were many places around the museum to sleep, and this one's tastes must have leaned more towards sculpture than most.

So, we left the museum and started the trip back home (this time via Nasser station instead of Sadat).  If I haven't mentioned it before, Egyptians are incredibly friendly people.  So, as we approached the entrance to the subway, we met Sherif.  After a brief discussion on our visit and the political situation, he asked us if we'd like to grab a drink.  I couldn't possibly duplicate the route (and I doubt that without him we would be welcome there), but he lead us through a serpentine trail of alleys & sidewalks and we ended up at an alley cafe where the real museum employees take their breaks.  Shisha pipes dotted the landscape where the three of us sat down to enjoy tea and mango juice.  We discussed everything from the geography of the Bible (as a narrative of people journeying between Egypt and Jerusalem) to politics to his job at the museum.  I'll definitely be arranging a time to see him again as he had previously discovered a mummified cat and would be willing to take me on a tour of the hidden exhibits (along with his cat).  It really was a fascinating discussion and if Shannon and I hadn't needed to rush back to Maadi so quickly, we likely would've spent more time chatting with him.

In the end, Sherif showed us one of the government shops that catered more to the locals than the one by the museum.  As his daughter was getting married, he was buying some orchid essence as a gift for her. During our discussions, he had commented on Shannon's Psoriasis as Egyptian herbal remedies was one of his areas of study.  He helped negotiate the price for us and recommended a sandalwood blend that should help Shannon's skin.  She'll be doing a test run shortly ... even if it doesn't work it smells wonderful and lasts far longer than other "essences" (wait for the Luxor update).

So, we rushed home as we had decided that we would take the Luxor->Aswan cruise and needed to get the deposit to the travel agent.  Overall, it was a great first couple days and ... Shannon hadn't even seen the Nile yet.  (coming soon ... sunset on the Nile).

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

With apologies to Karen Carpenter

Unfortunately, when the working week starts on a Sunday and precipitation comes in 15 second "do you feel something?" batches, she was wrong on both counts.  That being said, it has been a long month and a bit since I posted here.  This blog became as dusty as my apartment once I was able to leave the windows open on a regular basis.  The lifespan of a mopped floor in Cairo is about 9 days - by day 10 the frequently walked paths in my apartment are easily discerned.

If there were a teaching equivalent to baseball's 'dog days of summer', that would be an ideal description for my November.  When I returned to university, there always came a time around week seven when I just wanted the class to be over.  It wasn't close enough to the end for me to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and the novelty of the subject had long worn off.  Well I found myself feeling the same way as a teacher.  The daily routine of the class and the roles of each member were well-defined and lacked originality (including my own), and my sense of humour had evaporated.  Looking back now, I know exactly why the downturn occurred.  And during that stretch, at least I had been warned that you should never contemplate quitting during your first two years or I would have wandered down that path with foolish abandon.

In retrospect, I can give myself a gentle kick in the butt.  For those of you that don't know, I enjoy sleep apnea on a nightly basis, which means the joys of a CPAP machine.  Let's just say that someone forgot to check his machine's humidity level.  Along with that oversight, the dust in the apartment had helped clog the filter beyond belief.  Add a month's sleep deprivation to everything and yeah ... it was a long month.  At least it's over now.  I'm thrilled to say farewell to the depression-like symptoms and that overall feeling of bleech.

In the interim, my sweetie has come and gone and we had a fantastic couple of weeks together.  In many ways, she helped restore my enjoyment of living here I was once again able to remember my initial views of Cairo through her eyes.  Yes, there will be a few vignettes posted from our pre-vacation week along with one or two describing the cruise.  We only took about 500 pictures during the couple weeks (and I dread the thought of tagging and cropping them already).  I've increased my stock of Egyptian attraction ticket stubs fourfold and we enjoyed a ton of highs and lows during the cruise.  I'll throw in a few teasers now to whet your appetites:

"five star ... I wonder who was counting"
"you picked a fine time to leave me Lucille's"
"impressive handcrafted workmanship.  The Nefertiti statues even had the same flaws."
"how many camels did she cost you"
"Canada dry never die"

In closing, x-mas occurred while I was silent.  In the category of strangest associations, my step-mother always insisted on including her Boney M Christmas album in the mix.  So, despite it not being included in the compilation, the song below will always be associated with x-mas in my mind.  I hope that you all had fantastic holidays and (family members only), Shannon is returning with gifts in hand.

1970s baroque at its finest

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

First Principles Clarice ... Read Marcus Aurelius

Well, after the anti-climactic events of Eid, today's visit is brought to you by Thomas Harris and Meditations.  Despite the warnings of screaming livestock being slaughtered in the street and a bloodbath that would exceed the expectations for UFC pay per view (something) ... I really didn't notice that anything was happening that was out of the ordinary.  The only time that I realized something had happened that involved livestock was when I noticed my doorman selling a nicely cleaned lamb pelt to a local travelling merchant.  Oh, I did hear more mooing from the streets than normal, but none of the high-pitched wails followed by horror film pools of blood that I had expected.  So for me, there will be no more thoughts of fava beans and quid pro quo.

Well, I should be planning lessons; but, after a late night working at school, I needed a bit of down time.  Voila.  Ok, a slightly anticlimactic segue but it'll do the trick for now.  Overall, the classes went well today.  I had hoped for a lot more lesson planning time during my 5 day vacation, but exhaustion got the better of me. Somewhere around 6:30 last night I realized it was same stuff, different day - starting to plan 3 classes once the sun had set.
Never let the future disturb you.  You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.

So, the month of November has almost arrived.  During the obligatory late-work-night stroll from the school to the local store and back, I noticed the moon had turned a lovely reddish orange colour.  Although the size wasn't as large as the typical harvest moon in Ontario, the sight brought back memories of fall at home.  Strangely enough, it also conjured up thoughts of the opening of the 6th seal ... but given the impossibility of the sun ever turning to darkness here, those Revelations were short lived.
The universe is change.  Life is your perception of it.

The weather has gotten much cooler here.  Yes, everything is relative, especially in light of the daytime high of 12º that is being enjoyed in the Thorold area, but overnight temperatures of 19º are significantly cooler than the sweltering daytime highs of 42º that stressed my pores when I got here.  My cooling method of choice has changed from air conditioner to open window and, as I walked to the bus this morning, I realized that the weather had finally turned comfortable.  (later review ... I must have been tired - 'turned comfortable' is an odd grammatical construction)
Begin each day telling yourself:  Today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will and selfishness - all of them due to the offenders' ignorance of what is good or evil.

So yes, my students returned today.  Ok, most of my students returned today.  As with all holidays and extended weekends, many students undergo a painful change from Epicurean joy to Stoic attendance.  Some students helped their personal transitions by staying at home (likely due to the lingering ill effects of late nights and just-in-time meals).  Other students showed up sporting an aura of "anywhere but where I am now."  But, to their credit, most of them returned to school with a relatively positive outlook.  I made sure that my lessons today were relatively short to accommodate the frequent "what did we do over the holiday," and "what were we doing before the holiday" lines of questions.  
Humans have come into being for the sake of each other, so either teach them, or learn to bear them.

Yes, I've decided that as part of my stress avoidance regime, my occasional grumpy teacher self is going to stay in my back pocket far more often.  Somewhere along the way to my break, I definitely started to lose my sense of humour.  Were my high volume discussions warranted ... yeah, but I can't say they reflect who I am,  nor are they part of my "who I want to be as a teacher" paradigm.  So today, I opted for the route of acceptance.  I recognize that tossing them a larger share of their learning responsibility will likely impair their success in my class.  I also recognize that they won't be terribly excited when my prophecies of difficulties come true.  But, until they recognize that my student-centred performances will help their grades more than their personal conversations, I feel too often that I'm fighting an uphill battle.  Ask the Danes ... this approach didn't work out to well for them in 1066 and, if nothing else, I try to remain a student of history. Hopefully, the brief hiccup that they enjoy/suffer will be short-lived ... otherwise, there will be some extremely stressed out students come finals.
Do what you will.  Even if you tear yourself apart, most people will continue doing the same things.

Well, time to get back to lesson planning.  It's really not as bad as Marcus portrays it.  And it could be worse ... I could've used quotations from Augustine's confessions.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

OMG, Our science teacher has twitter.

Well, there are reasons why my blog has been silent lately.  Oh, it's not that I haven't had the desire to write, but I've been faced with the overwhelming desire to sleep.  I found a wall, hit it and haven't been able to get up for a while.

There's a point in every new teachers' life when he or she takes stock of his or her situation and realizes that they're living in a utopia.  No, not the Thomas More version with gem filled rivers that's more akin to John Lenon's Imagine than reality, but the true meaning of the word... no place.  Once I started doing my marking on the bus ride, the pyramids vanished from my consciousness and I entered a world of sleep, teach, eat prep, sleep ... (repeat daily).  It's so easy to lose yourself through the process of ensuring that you have the best possible lessons for your students that you end up spending all your waking hours focused on teaching.

And I have to admit that the new teacher chasm is incredibly enticing.  Oh, there are occasional grumbles, but overall, my students are awesome.  At least once a week, there'll be a class that goes exactly according to plan.  I see the growth in my students' knowledge and skills, and end up with a covert ear-to-ear smile.  Oh, that's not something that I could communicate to them ... I'm not sure that anyone but parents and teachers could ever experience that vicarious joy.  But, there does come a time when you have to realize that only by finding some measure of balance in your life can you continue to experience those moments.  Well, it's a 5 day holiday, and tonight is my designated sleep and relax night.

I haven't taken any real time off in a while, so I decided at school to take a peek at my g-mail.  Lo and behold, Twitter sent me one of those "here are some people you might know" e-mails, and one of my students was listed there.  Either inspired by fatigue or a very mischievous pre-holiday mood, I couldn't resist taking a peek.  Before I continue, as a 21st century teacher, I do recognize the caveats and protocols involved in social media, so I know how to deal appropriately and openly with my students through this medium.  So I was creeping through some of their profiles (modern day term for covert viewing - sounds far more malevolent than it really is) and noticed a reference to me.  Well, I couldn't help myself, I had to reply.  I knew it had to happen, and as word spread through the Twitterverse that I actually had a twitter account, eventually, someone tweeted the title above.  To safeguard my students' privacy (and due to my lack of time), I don't intend to view their profiles very often ... but a little reminder to them of the internet's "you never know who's viewing your messages" reality can't hurt.

Well, I've probably missed a number of pass-on-able things but in the interest of sharing some of the joys of living in Egypt ...

The second feast (Eid) is the major one and lasts for 5 days.  I've been warned that Friday morning will be filled with the bleating of sheep and that travel by foot thereafter will make me feel like I've stumbled upon one of Dexter's crime scenes.

I saw traffic signals for the first time but I still don't understand how traffic flows so smoothly.

There was something strange on the bus' windshield today.  It might have been vanishing stone chips ... or some kind of water.  I believe it is called something like ... rain.  I blinked and it was done.

Breakfast on the road is $0.15.  In areas of bumper-to-bumper traffic, people wander along the highway selling bread, date buns and other breakfast options.  They're yummy.

Prices vary depending on location and mother tongue.  I stopped visiting my local convenience store as they charge 1 LE more per item than the kiosk that is a 3 minute walk away.  The kiosk doesn't adjust prices based on nationality but my local store does.  My $5 purchase at the local convenience store ends up costing $4 at the local supermarket.  Of course, they never did deliver it, but I'm sure it'll happen sometime and once they know where I live ... can the ultimate in laziness (calling in my grocery order for delivery) be far away?

Miscellaneous prices:

  • Gasoline:  $0.30 / litre
  • Fantastic Mexican meal that is too large for 1 sitting:  $9 with tip
  • Mars bars:  $0.60 
  • 1.5 Litre bottle of water:  $0.50
  • Yoghurt cups:  $0.30 each
  • Pepsi:  $0.75 / litre or $1.20 for 2 litres
Finally, the best part of today was my chance to make some of the Heritage employees smile.  The janitor who cleans my room and never stops working.  The security guard on our floor always says hi to me from halfway down the hall whenever he spots me.  I recognize that I couldn't do my job without them and they've done everything they can to make me feel welcome at Heritage.  So, to celebrate Eid, I passed them along a small gift.  Two dinners for me is the same as 5 days' salary for them - a small price to pay for the kindness they've showed me so far.

Well, time to leave the keyboard for a while and relax.  Sleep is not far away (I barely avoided it on the bus ride home).  Oh, it's a working holiday, which may not seem too exciting until you consider that the 40 to 50 hours I spend planning now will result in a month's worth of night's off in November.  Or ... I might even head out and enjoy myself ... naw, that still seems way too far fetched.

Friday, 28 September 2012

It's Trigonometry ... There's Nothing Obscene about Trig

Well, the routine has been set.  There are times when it results in far less sleep than I would like (and enough illness that I haven't been around much lately), but my teaching life has become somewhat predictable.

What's wrong with this?
Overall, Heritage did a fairly good job of preparing us to deal with our students.  We learned many of the do's and don't's of living in Egyptian society ... and they have helped a ton.  Not that I would ever refer to my students using an animal reference, but there are colloquial phrases that might have been uttered ... and these are seen as grave insults in Egyptian culture.

Similarly, never show the soles of your shoes to someone as it implies that they are worth what's stuck to the bottom of them.  Given the collection of refuse on the streets, I can see how this might be extremely offensive.  But ... what could possibly be wrong with trigonometry?  Seriously?

The unit circle is our friend too.
Well, for those who haven't heard about my teaching style, it's rare that I will resort to the pedagogy that I enjoyed as a high school student.  I have an intense dislike of drill work so my students will rarely get a list of 50 repetitious questions to do the next day.  I'm also not a huge fan of rote memorization of formulae - if it can be developed, discovered or learned in any other way, I'll always encourage my students in that direction.  Add my liberal arts background, and I'll throw anything I can at my students from any discipline I can think of to ensure that they find a different way of seeing things.

Well, in trigonometry, there are a group of "special" triangles.  Usually, these angles (30º, 45º, 60º) are taught as another set of rote formulae.  So when I learned about the trigonometry hand, I was immediately a huge fan.

My version's better
Without going into extensive details, point your baby finger horizontally, point your thumb vertically, and your fingers will naturally point towards 30, 45 and 60 degrees.  Even more exciting, if you fold over the finger of the angle you want to work with, by counting the fingers above and below that finger, you can find the sine and cosine.  Many of you may not be terribly excited, but I can assure you that the math and physics teachers out there are gushing with excitement once they learn this

So I'm in front of my class, showing them this for the first time, and I fold over the 30º finger and ask them what the sine and cosine are of 30º.  Since one of the girls in my class missed a significant amount of school, I folded over my 45º finger and asked her what that meant.  Well, she became very silent and looked down.  A few of the guys in the class started to giggle a bit ... and I knew that something was amiss.  Well, picture the middle finger's connotations in North American society, and add some parental nuances ... Once I realized what I had done ... I was slightly mortified and couldn't apologize enough.

Aside from these very rare moments, I'm having a great time with my classes.  Oh, they have good days and bad days, but overall, they're an awesome group.  The hour bus ride to and from school has become my marking time and I'm hoping that I can finally start the habit of getting most of my lessons planned for the week on the weekend.  I finally learned the lesson that 4.5 hours sleep only does you for so long.  It took a week of stomach issues transitioning into a week of cold/flu issues for me to learn the lesson, but I did actually get some rest time towards the end of last week, so life is at least a lot more rested.  I also purchased a new course to help learn colloquial Arabic ... and this one doesn't seem to require an Arabic teacher.  Plus, I try to find a way to learn a word or phrase per day from one of my classes.

Well, paperwork is caught up so it's time for a quick nap before I start prepping my classes for next week.  12 smartboard presentations, 12 accompanying worksheets, some pencasts, and a few quizzes ... and I'm ready for the week.  Although I have a snowball's chance of completing all that tomorrow, I'm finally healthy enough that I can knock off half of that on a Saturday.  It's going to be a great week :)

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Like the Most Popular Youtube Video

No, this isn't a delightful moment with Buttermilk and her friends ... its me that has gone viral.  Or I'm finally facing the digestive adjustments necessary to get used to Egyptian food.  Either way, I feel like crap

I've known for a while that the candle was being burnt at both ends.  Between:
  1. Getting my major apartment issues dealt with (and losing 4 hours a night doing so)
  2. Getting some of the b-level apartment items purchased
  3. The typical day to day stress of a new teacher compounded by
  4. The typical day to day stress of teaching courses with which I'm not familiar
  5. My questionably-nutritious asap meal choices
My body finally screamed enough.  One nice thing about being a teacher - I'm typically healthy for 3 - 80 minute blocks per day.  The moment I'm in front of my students, my focus shifts to them and my health issues tend to vanish.

So unfortunately, there aren't too many exciting updates for this week.  As I've been sleeping a ton (multiple 3 hour naps per day are commonplace), I've just a couple point form items of interest to share:
  • Egyptians don't really have last names.  Their names consist of a first name and a string of patronyms.  Given that names such as Ahmed and Youssef tend to be popular, most of them end up with nicknames that may or may not have any discernible connection to their legal name.  One of my students chose Bonty as he liked Bounty chocolate bars ... and the name stuck.
  • Egyptian traffic never ceases to amaze me.  One day last week, we encountered some significant traffic issues on the highway.  Cars would turn around and drive the other way on our side of the highway.  Some cars drove over the 4"-6" high concrete divider / sidewalk to turn around.  And at least one elected to drive down the middle of that concrete divider (with about 2" to spare on either side of his tires).
  • Egyptians really are thrilled when westerners pick up a bit of their language.  When I said hi to someone washing a car as I walked during the morning to our bus pick-up, he replied "good morning" in Arabic.  When I replied "good morning to you.  how's it going" he broke out into a huge smile.
  • Egyptian handshakes tend to be critical.  When you meet someone or complete a purchase, you give handshake #1 - the typical business handshake.  Once they get to know you better - the handshake is preceded by an emphatic slap (think horizontal high-5).
  • It's tough to justify washing shirts when the laundry price is 5 LE ($.83) each.  As soon as I fully develop my Egyptian sensibilities, I'll be calling to get my laundry picked up.
  • is a fantastic organization when you're feeling under the weather.  Log on to their website, choose a restaurant, choose your dinner of choice and for $1 it will be delivered to your house within an hour.
  • I can call my pharmacist next door and describe my symptoms.  They will have the prescription medication delivered to my door.  If the general stomach antibiotic that I purchased doesn't do the trick (I am feeling slightly better), I may pursue that option.
Finally, for those of you who might be concerned about the current protests surrounding a poorly made US film ... please don't worry.  The majority of the protests are occurring the US embassy at Tahrir Square - 9 subway stops away.  Also, Egyptians desperately want to see the return of Western tourism $s so the people are surprisingly protective of us.  Even though the protests are becoming slightly decentralized at the government's request, I've yet to see any protests at mosques this far south.  As with many events, the papers are misrepresenting the amount of violence in Egypt (check the location of the photo - it is likely from a protest in another country) as the reality is not sensational enough for mainstream media.  This is not to say that I don't keep my wits about me ... but there is nothing to worry about.  I've become known by many of the doormen and storekeepers in my area ... so I always have people that can vouch for me.  Plus, I do know the important phrases (I'm from Canada, I'm a teacher) so were I to get into an uncomfortable situation, I always have someone to turn to in my neightbourhood.