I'm an American with a crazy Cuban husband. This is the story of our lives as we hilariously live out a cross cultural, interracial, impossible without God marriage and raise our twins (coming June 2014). Meet the Chile family- Chile Chocolate (the mister) and Creamy Jalepeño (the missus).
Note the green internet signal, yet the circling Skype icon. We have come home to this all too many times in Egypt. Connected to the internet, but not really connected. Sometimes this problem is solved in minutes, sometimes days, sometimes weeks. Pain in the behind. Sometimes it's for no reason at all. Sometimes it's because they never brought you your phone bill, but because you haven't paid the phone bill (a whopping dollar a month). Sometimes you call, and right as you call the internet starts working again. But you've already waited on the line for 20 minutes, so you decide to find out why the internet wasn't working. The conversation goes like this:
Me: My internet wasn't working, and I don't know why.
Him: It is working now?
Me: Yes. But why wasn't it working? This happens all the time.
Him: It is working now.
Me: Yes, but why wasn't it working before. I don't want this to happen again.
Him: It is working now.
There are also times when there isn't any water or the electricity goes out. Usually these are at the most opportune times. Like when you're drying your hair before school. All of a sudden, no power. Or when you get home from working out and need to get ready for a dinner with friends. Turn on the tap... and nothing.
Yes, it could be worse, and these are definitely first world complaints, but I'm ready to be notified should my water be turned off by the city, my internet be shut off due to lack of payment, etc.
One day this year my kids asked, "Ms. Jen, why are all the other teachers in our class all the time?"
"Because I'm the boss of KG2." I answered.
It sort of stuck with them, and some of them were even a little prideful about it. To the point where I think maybe some of them thought they could be the kid bosses of KG2. I'll never forget one day when Mr. A wandered over to teach one of his students a little lesson. The conversation went like this:
Mr. A: Ms. Jen, I thought you said _____ was a really good reader in reading groups, but he can't seem to read this direction on his paper....
Me: Come here ____, read what this says.
(Child reads the sentence)
Mr. A: (Sarcastically) Wow Ms. Jen, I just don't understand why he can't do it for me, but he seems to have no problem with you...
Hannah: Maybe it's cause she's the boss of KG2.
I've greatly enjoyed my 2 years as the boss of KG2. I've had an amazing group of teachers to work with who are always willing to help (when I'll loosen control and let them). In my 3 short years here we've grown from 60 to 120 kids. We've changed the curriculum and upped the standards drastically, to where we're now par for the course with U.S. kindergarten. We've learned to work together, play together, and enjoy our jobs together. It's been nice to be the boss. We all know how much I like being in charge...
I move to a new school where things are unknown and I am certainly not the boss. I'll miss it. But hey, I guess if I have to trade being the boss for being able to go to Target and Chick-fil-a every day (except Sunday of course) then it's worth it.
I'll leave you with one of my very favorite photos from the year. I was looking through my 2000 pictures from the year to pick my favorite 30 for the slide show, and I came across this one that I'd forgotten about from Sports Day:
As mentioned in my previous post, we ride a bus to school. Imagine living in a place where you work together, socialize together, live together... This equals what I like to describe as AIS incest. Everyone is in everyone's business. Everyone dates everyone. No privacy. Now picture that each morning and afternoon you also pile onto a smelly bus and ride to work together for 45 minutes minimum. Imagine the tension caused by the person who's always late and running to the bus or making it wait (this has been me on occasion), listening to your coworkers talk loudly (AKA complain), smelling the scents of people's after school snacks... then imagine doing it at 7:00 in the morning. And imagine you ARE.NOT. a morning person. And imagine the bus often makes you feel a little bit queasy but "the ladies" race you to the bus in the afternoon to snag the front seat so they can (unsafely) talk to the handsome driver the whole time. And when I say talk, I mean yell.
We've had 3 drivers in 3 years. Here is my assessment:
Year 1: The 80-deuce as it has been referred to. Good driver. Not a lot of people on the bus. Shorter ride, whole seat to myself, quiet riders. I often found myself running to the bus this year. Still, not a bad year.
Year 2 (first half): Miserable. Loud and unruly children. Crazy driver. Long rides. Driver liked to off-road, cut people off, stop-go-slam the brakes-repeat. I have never felt more like barfing than I did that 1/2 a year. Every.single.day. Twice. I started taking motion sickness meds in the afternoons it was that bad. Finally, after many many complaints he was reassigned. To a student bus. Safety first people, safety first.
Year 2 (second half) and Year 3: Not bad. New driver is good. I rarely feel sick, as long as I sit in the front. New driver is not only good, but handsome. We call him the Silver Fox. Not to his face of course. And the unruly kids have become better behaved and I actually like all of them. Most of the time. But still, you're on a bus with 20 of your closest coworkers.
At home I rarely saw my coworkers outside of school. I barely remembered their first names because we went by our last names. Here it's the complete opposite. I not only know your first name, but I know the first name of who you did what with last weekend and where. I'm ready to have a happy balance.
At home I was able to go to work when I was ready, and leave work when I was ready, as long as I was there from 7:30-3:30. I could leave in the middle of the day *if* I had time, and go grab something I forgot at the store. Here you leave when the bus leaves. If you want to stay late, you stay an hour and a half until the next bus leaves (and you then double your ride home because of rush hour). No freedom. And you can't just run somewhere during the school day because your vehicle is parked for the day.
I'm ready for CONTROL again. (I know, shocker- ME, ready for control)...
When I first arrived in Egypt I thought any foreigner would be crazy to drive here. I was shocked when I found out our demure, 60-something, pearls/heels/suit wearing, "plantation" principal actually had a car and did indeed drive. As I learned my walking routes and how to cross the street, I began to understand that both foreigners AND Egyptians driving here would actually have to be just a little bit crazy. I knew I would never do it. I was far too cautious for that!
And then the next 2 years happened. I traveled by myself, grew up, learned to live in another country, and became a real "grownup". And then I became a crazy grown up. In all fairness, I was driven crazy by having to ride a school bus each day with a group of my closest 20 colleagues (and even their ever endearing children), often a/c that wasn't sufficient for the temperatures outside, feeling like I might vomit at any moment... But let me stop here. There's a whole entry about the bus coming up.
So crazy new me and also crazy Emily decided to team up with a few of our friends and rent a car this year. The first time I drove I was terrified. I was timid. I was pale-faced, gripping the steering wheel with all I had in me while attempting to u-turn and merge onto the busy highway in the morning rush hour traffic. And let me tell you-- American people, you don't know the kind of merge I'm talking about. I can't describe it. It is a merge into chaos, and a merge without rules or order. Over the next few months I braved the roads and the traffic, first in a manual, and then (THANK HEAVENS for my poor clutch foot!) in an automatic. I learned the 'rules' of the road. There may be no written rules, but there certainly are 'rules'. Though there are no lanes, there actually are. If it is a 4 lane highway, it is actually 9 lanes- the 4 plus 5 more for one on each side of the lane. Driving within an inch of another car is acceptable. In fact, if you're scared to do it you'll probably get honked at. I have driven down the wrong side of the road not once, not twice, but every single day on the way home from school. In fact, I have given dirty looks and gestures to people coming the correct way down the road at me too quickly. I have learned to drive with no speed limit. The only speed limit is the one set by the amount of traffic. I have learned how to slap on the hazard lights in 0.002 seconds when the cars in front of me are slowing. I have learned to use the horn without fear, sometimes just to warn people of my arrival. I have avoided people, other cars, and debris on the road. I have braved speed bumps that might as well be called speed mountains. I have parallel parked on the wrong side of the road in a space big enough to fit a child's Little Tykes car. I have been in a near accident involving a car bouncing off the cement divider of the highway and spinning out of control toward my car. I have learned my favorite lane is the one 2nd from the left. That way I can get around people to the left or the right, but avoid exiting/oncoming traffic, gas lines, people standing on the side of the road, and the carts/humans selling treats/cowboy hats/tissues/flags/flowers, etc, etc, etc.
I'll miss driving in Egypt. I'll miss no rules. I'll miss no fear of being stopped by the police. I'll miss the crazy and the chaos. But have no fear Houston, I'm bringing my new skills back with me. Traffic? No problem. My brain is trained in this puzzle. I will get there, and faster than you. ;)
If you want an idea of a taxi ride in Cairo, here's a little clip I found on You Tube:
Don't get me wrong, it could be a lot worse. I have hot water every day, good pressure, and it's actually in a tub so I don't have to clean the floors every day like you do in Kenya. This is what I won't miss:
Yes, I'm standing up straight and tall and normal... and my shower head comes to my eyebrows. What this means is that every day I manage to squeeze in just a tiny bit of exercise before school because I have to do squats in the shower in order to rinse my hair out. Fun stuff. Won't miss it. And dude, I'm only 5'7'', what if a guy moves in here next?!
This is something I get to miss about here, but also enjoy when I'm back home. The last 3 years at school I have been blessed with the most wonderful parents I could have asked for. Many teachers say that dealing with parents is one of the worst parts of their jobs, and though I can think of a handful that fit that category, I can honestly say in 8 years that it truly is just a handful.
Last year I had the most amazing group of moms. I enjoyed getting to know them at birthday parties, and we laugh and say that truly if we had met randomly we would have all become friends. I so enjoyed them, which helped me survive my rowdy class of 15 boys and 6 girls.
The first year and this year I got to have 5 of the same families. This is always something I enjoy because you get to grow with the family and really know them. I have enjoyed the best farewell/thank you lunches with families this weekend(People, Syrian food is GOOD. Go find some!). I will really miss all of them.
However, I look forward to spending time with the amazing families I left behind in Houston, and making memories with new ones at The Village School. I've said it before, but one of the biggest blessings of prolonged singleness was the ability to really be a part of my students' lives. This will change some as I get married in the fall, but I have been ever so grateful for the last 8 years.
Enough with the sentimental. Back to the funny posts bukrah (tomorrow for those of you who don't speak transliterated Arabic). Yani, bukrah inshallah, malesh. Khalas.