Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A Lighter Semester Means a Spectacular Temple Visit


After many, many months of not writing, I'm back to say a quick hello. Things are not really that stable, and I'm sure you've seen lots of bad news about Egypt. But the large monuments are pretty solid, so I'm going to celebrate what I can by visiting one of them.

The temple at Abu Simbel is near the Sudanese border in the far south of Egypt.

It looks like this:

for a larger look click here

Now THAT'S what I call spectacular. Even better, I'm traveling with some Egyptology masters students who know all about it, and can even read hieroglyphics. We will be there on one of the only  two days a year when sunlight enters the internal chamber of Ramses the II. You can read more about it here.

Needless to say, I'm pretty excited to see something so amazing and to get to do it with such knowledgeable people. I'll post some pictures as soon as I can.

Arab "Thanksgiving"

[When I say "today" I actually mean many months ago. I just realized I forgot to hit "publish."]

Today is the Eid celebration, the Arab day of sacrifice commemorating Isaac's liberation from having to sacrifice his own son. You might remember from the Bible, that Abraham was tasked by God to sacrifice his son Ismail. But just before Abraham, in his faith, was about to do this, God relieved him of this great burden. Instead, a lamb was sacrificed.

To commemorate this event, Arab's all over the Arab world sacrifice animals and donate the meat to the poor, and their own relatives on this day called Eid. There are two "Eid" holidays; this one is associated with Haj, the journey to Mecca that one must make at least once. It is called Eid al Adha.

As I write this, the prayer for this special day is literally going on around me. I'm waiting for Ahmad to come and get me and my friend Tim. We are going to an animal butchering, and to deliver the meat to the poor.

This is a typical web e:card written in Arabic that says "Happy Ed"

At first I really didn't want to go, but thought I should out of sort of an anthropological opportunity. But then I thought; this is a lot like Thanksgiving. Millions of animals are slaughtered and served up all across the region to honor the idea of feast, plentifulness, sacrifice, God, and family. The only difference is that I'll actually see the slaughter, something I've never had the chance to do, and something I've always felt squeamish about. I'll let you know how it goes.

See Wikipedia for more.

This one is from the Port of Said, where the Suez canal is. So businesses, just like in the States, send out "holiday" greetings for the event. The word "Mubarak" means blessed. And yes, their former leader also had this name, but the word is like being named "Good," in English. It is more common in Arabic to have last names that also have religious significance, like Ramadan as a last name. This is like in Spanish where you can be named Jesus. 

Below is the basic image search for Eid. It has cartoon sheep, a lot of them with humor about which sheep will go first. All around Cairo are corrals of sleep (some even in grocery stores) ready for slaughter. 

Google Search

Saturday, September 21, 2013

NASA Lab 1: A live report from my Fellowship job


This is where the magic happens. Can you believe that NASA has a lab right here at AUC. And it's teeming with people pouring over important data, charts, graphs, and colorful tour brochures (gotta have those).... uuuuunfortunately none of them work my shift, but the NASA Lab is still pretty exciting. Come take a look.

NASA Lab 1 at YouTube
If you prefer the non- Tiny Town Viewer™then just click on the link. (Sheesh, you'd think Blogger could afford to host something larger than a postage stamp.)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Better Late than Never

This post is from last week, but still pretty applicable, except I don't have time too style myself anymore. I won't punish you with the evidence of my cosmetic slide into "just woke up" look.

For some reason, I can't link to YouTube, so you'll have to do this the old fashioned way! Link!

It's a video of me filling you in. Or filing you in; not really sure anymore.


Saturday, September 7, 2013

Raid.... It's Not Poison For Humans, Just Ants

My weekend. Ahmad and I hung out at Kristine's, had forgotten about the Friday curfew so dinner out of any kind was not an option. We tried to watch MAN OF STEEL, which I'm renaming MAN OF STEAL because we'll never get those two hours back. As Kristine said, How do you mess that story up? It's like changing Little Red Riding Hood, or the 3 Little Javelinas. Oh, wait, they did change that one.

Tonight's dinner with Ahmad (for which I had suggest McDonald's or AsYetMisunderstoodFishPlaceInFoodCourt) was filled with ants. Before we realized that they had chewed their way into the pasta bag, Ahmad had dumped the bag into the boiling water. No problem: Simply serve, liberally douse with pepper, ignore and enjoy! 

Part 2 of the entertainment was watching the boab (custodian/helper) climb on a chair and proceed to spray the hell out of the cabinet with Raid (they pronounce it Rid) Flying Insect Killer. I'm not sure if they understand the concept of 'spray lightly' vs. 'soak cabinet until dripping,' but I don't think any ants will come back until maybe Spring of 2047. 

They did both laugh at me as I grabbed hand towels, the cutting board, and porous foods like onions from the counter-top yelling 'enough! enough! it's poison.' 'Poison!' they laughed, 'You Americans. It's just ant killer. It only kills ants.' Um, yeah, that's why Mr. Yuk Mouth is on the side of the can with emergency warnings and instructions on stomach pumping and hotlines. If Rid' isn't poison, I'm not sure what is. 

p.s. SC Johnson company has this to say about their lethal product:

 Raid® Flying Insect Killer: Precautions


CAUTION: Causes moderate eye irritation. Avoid contact with eyes or clothing. Wash thoroughly with soap and water after handling and before eating, drinking, chewing gum, using tobacco or using the toilet.

Have the product container or label with you when calling a poison control center or doctor, or going for treatment. 

IF IN EYES: Hold eye open and rinse slowly and gently with water for 15 — 20 minutes. Remove contact lenses, if present, after the first 5 minutes, then continue rinsing. Call a poison control center or doctor for treatment advice. 

IF SWALLOWED: Immediately call a poison control center or doctor. Do not induce vomiting unless told to do so by a poison control center or doctor. Do not give any liquid to the person. Do not give anything by mouth to an unconscious person. Note to Physician: Contains petroleum distillate. Vomiting may cause aspiration pneumonia.

ENVIRONMENTAL HAZARDS: This product is highly toxic to fish and aquatic invertebrates. Do not apply directly to water. Drift and runoff may be hazardous to aquatic organisms in water adjacent to treated areas. This product is highly toxic to bees exposed to direct treatment on blooming crops or weeds. Do not apply this product or allow it to drift to blooming crops or weeds while bees are actively visiting the area.

PHYSICAL OR CHEMICAL HAZARDS: Contents under pressure. Do not use or store near heat or open flame. Do not puncture or incinerate container. Exposure to temperatures above 130°F may cause bursting.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Whew! What a first Week!

There are times at the beginning of a semester when if feels as if I just can't get started. I look at the clock and think "....ok, two hours before class starts. I can..." and then I start trying to fill in the blanks, complete my class roster

  • complete my semester due-date calendar
  • see if the book store has the books in
  • see if I can find PDFs of those wow, really expensive books at the book store
  • find falafel at the small food place called Beirut. They are often out later in the day
  • get supplies for my students
  • complete my lesson plan befor--
What? It's five minutes to class? Ok. New plan. I'll take my laptop, and while the professor is giving opening remarks and people are asking "is it going to be on the test," (yes, this still goes on at the graduate level), I'll just whip through my 37+ items on my to-do list. No prob.

A Welcome Video for incoming students. watch.

Well, five days later, I'm still working on my list.

So the first week is over. The Islamic week is Sunday through Thursday, with mosque on Friday. So I'll be done a whole day before the rest of you lot!

This first week was tough! It started with a student Welcome Video that I was assigned to shoot and edit for my department. I shot footage all last semester, and then did a marathon 72-hour-no-sleep-class-meetings-editing jag. It was mostly editing. I actually really got into it, staying up with no sleep and no caffeine even, just high on pure tension and energy.

The students I interviewed are really inspiring, especially one student named Hadeer who is blind. Egyptian primary schools do not provide much support for handicapped students, and she only knew Braille. The university oddly enough, does NOT provide Brialle, so Hadeer had a bit of a problem. But with her own determination, and the support of her teachers, friends, and siblings had gone from not being able to turn on a computer, to actually skipping a level in our program just four months later. When students tell me that the work is too hard, or they just can't do something, I bring Hadeer in, and together, we scream and yell until the student caves in and begs for mercy!

The finished video is pretty good, just interviews with students about the Intensive English Program, which is the department where I teach. These incoming freshmen (and graduate) students need more English instruction in order to become proficient enough to take courses at the university which is an English-only environment. We teach reading, writing, vocabulary, grammar, and catch-all course called Study Skills. It's time management, ethics, oral presentation skills and listening.

Other than that, I'm catching up. I teach one hour a day, take classes 9 hours a week, spent time doing lesson planning, doing homework, and time on something called "release time" which is a 2nd hour per day for projects the school needs done. This could be editing the worker-training manuals for a program to teach the AUC (American University Cairo) workers better English so they can learn a new skill, and help with the 7,000+ student body and faculty, many of whom do not speak Arabic. The worker/teacher book is 800 pages of text and photos. It needs to be edited for content and clarity and I also spent summer hours completing this project from last semester.

This weekend, I'm taking some time off. My friend Kristine who lives in a part of Cairo called Maadi (a nice part of town with restaurants, stores, and greenery) invited me over for the weekend. Because the Friday curfew is at 7pm, we will be spending the night making dinner and hanging out. I'm dating a guy named Ahmad, and he's going to come over too. Kristine doesn't like scary movies, so we'll probably be stuck watching something like Tomas the Tank Engine, or some Oscar pick that nobody really liked, but they all had to see, because, well, it IS the Academy and all.