Scotsabroad's Weblog

January 1, 2014

Happy New Year

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fireworks

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June 21, 2011

See this Place

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May 11, 2009

Board and avoiding the Bar

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backgammon

What a great game. I think I have learnt the fundamentals of backgammon thanks to a great man called Otto. We went out to a restaurant in Heliopolis last Friday and I had a whirlwind lesson. All around us at tables outside locals played the game at speed, sipping sweet lemon juice or tea and sucking continuously on their sheesha pipes. My poor head was fuddled  so quickly I had to relent from drinking copious amounts of beer. However, I am now hooked on the game. I’ve had this beautiful board that Shona bought for me since Christmas but I’ve only just got round to using it. Just the whole process of throwing the dice, the sound that they make as they hit the board  and the click of the checkers. Even when defeat seems certain the tide can change and the underdog may win. They say it is a life’s work to learn the secrets of the strategy of backgammon. I would just like to play at speed and with a beer on the side. Thanks Otto. The Blog might be taking a back seat for a while.

January 20, 2009

Some days are better than others

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copy-of-lucascopy-of-lucas-1

November 1, 2008

City of Dogs

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June 14, 2008

Egyptian swimming lessons

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Lucas has begun Egyptian swimming lessons twice a week down at an open air pool in Maadi. My friend Aya arranged to include him in her son’s lessons as Lucas and Yassin get on very well together. Both boys go in the pool with their teacher – Captain Medhat. He is a large, youngish man with skin the colour of hazelnuts due to him being outside all day. As far as I can tell his job is to hang around the outdoor pool and give lessons. There are several teachers at the pool and so far we are the only non Egyptian people I have seen there so it would be fair to say that Lucas is receiving classic Egyptian style swimming lessons. Both boys are in the pool for at least an hour (completely contradicting the theory that ‘children can only concentrate for their chronological age plus one minute’) and have to copy each other’s moves. Yassin goes first so that the Captain can explain in Arabic what to do and then he tells Lucas in clear English, ”Watch, Lucas, watch.” Lucas has to do the exact same as Yassin and the Captain does not let them away with not doing it. So far he has had Lucas jumping in to both the shallow and the deep pool, floating on his back, and on his front with his face in the water, for 5 seconds, practising the breast stroke and kicking across the pool with a float. I would have caved in after 30 minutes of this but Lucas is just getting on with it as if he was born in the water. I am amazed at his stamina but as soon as we get in the car to go home he is fast asleep.

Lucas also was busy last week with his nursery sports day. He took part in throwing, running (he wasn’t first), an obstacle course and parachute games. I was at work for most of the time so a friend took some photos of him. He had a great time but claimed he missed me in the mummy’s race!

 

May 8, 2008

Domestic news

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I don’t have a visit to post about but just some everyday news of the things that the boys have been doing recently. I am conscious that when they do speak on Skype they don’t really tell you a lot. For half day at the weekend  Andy goes to work; the boys just play at home until he comes home. I potter about doing all those jobs that need doing. I’m sure I don’t need to explain further.

 The boys both went to ‘Bubble’ shows at school last week and so decided to give me a bubble show of their own at the weekend. Just as I took this picture a huge bubble on Cairo’s hand burst.

 

 

Because I am working part time (not sure if I have ever mentioned this before!) I get to collect Lucas from nursery three times a week at 1pm. Sometimes I have things to do in the kitchen and he just loves guddling there. He squeezed four oranges  to get this glass full of juice – but then wouldn’t drink it as he didn’t like the taste.

Of course guddling can have different consequences. Today Lucas was making nests for his tortoise with the paper from the hole punch. I warned him that if he made a mess he would have to get the hoover out and, sure enough, he had to get the hoover out. Perhaps I put the idea in his head, what do you think? How happy does he look doing this?!

 

     

 Judy and Alec always give super presents to the boys(of course, you all do). Lucas was given much played with meccano for his birthday and Cairo got a wooden model kit. He has started it and is very conscientiously gluing a section at a time and holding it in place for 30 seconds.  It is a work in progress still but will look great when he finishes it. In this picture he is wearing his pyjamas!

 

The final piece of news is rather fantastic as far as I am concerned. Cairo likes a new food. The photo tells the story.

 

P.S. I took a lot of photos of the flowers in the garden one afternoon when the gardener was here. I shall post some of them later in the week but thought you might like to know that we have a mango tree.

 

February 23, 2008

Aml

Filed under: the neighbours,Uncategorized — scotsabroad @ 8:27 pm

Today when me and the boys left to go to the supermarket Aml was proudly pushing a little plastic digger around outside the cafe. I stopped to congratulate him on his new toy. Cairo asked me whether it was his birthday but I said that I thought he had probably got a toy because his dad has a new job. Later, when Cairo had gone to a friend’s house, Lucas was asleep on the sofa and I was reading my book at the front door Aml appeared to show me that his digger was broken. I tried my best to fix it, offered him a banana (which he accepted) and then sat back down to read my book. There was silence whilst he ate and I read. I could then see him looking at me and he gave me one of his dazzling smiles. I tried to ignore this because I really wanted to read. Next thing? Aml lay down on the doorstep, closed his eyes and within seconds was fast asleep, pudgy little fist twitching with exhaustion. I left him for a good 30 minutes and then set off across to the cafe to tell his mother where he was. This was done in my very poor Arabic and a lot of miming. She hadn’t missed him! She came over, picked him up (still sound asleep) and took him home.

February 21, 2008

Neighbours

Filed under: the neighbours,Uncategorized — scotsabroad @ 7:17 pm
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We have quite a few neighbours. Our house is semi-detached to the house of Mr. Ahmed and family. He has a wife, Nella, and two children, Ahmed and Cherie. We are not sure what Mr Ahmed does for a living but his jeep has black number plates and we think that this means he works for the government. He also has a pick up truck which is driven by one of our other neighbours (more of them later) and this pick up varies from day to day – either full to the brim with goods (covered up so we don’t know what they are) or completely empty.  We think that the Ahmed family are a bit weird – they play their television very loudly at 2am, are rarely seen outside and when they are seen they are usually in their pjs. The exception is Mrs Ahmed who, when out in public,  is fully veiled in a black hijab. I guess we think they are weird but they probably think we are weird. Once, when I was walking with the boys , who were cycling, Nella drove past me, stopped and asked me where I was going. I said, “Out for a walk” and she looked at me and then drove on without another word.

We used to have a family downstairs in the basement but they were sacked by the family next door and have been gone for a month now. The day they left Madame Fatet, the mother, gave me two tiny little photos of the family in a photo studio. She also gave me her mobile telephone number. They have gone back to their home town of Menia in Upper Egypt and we have no idea what has happened to them at all.

 We are getting to know the children of the family two doors up. Cairo was invited to Youssef’s 7th birthday party and since then has played every now and again with Youssef. His big sister, Dalia, has also been round and once she came over and did some baking with me.  That was a quite surreal experience as she spoke to me as if I was a teenage agony aunt and I had no idea what to say. As soon as her cakes were iced I accompanied her back home!  A bit cowardly of me, I know, but I didn’t want her to start quoting lines back to her mother. They live in a sugar pink enormous mansion with a swimming pool in the back garden.

The other neighbours are the doormen and their families. The house diagonally opposite from us on the corner is empty and awaiting tenants/buyers but a family live in the basement. They are ‘minding’ the building but they also run a street cafe. The wife does the prep, cooking, serving and washing up – everything basically. The amazing thing is that she does this fully veiled with a large overdress on top of her clothes. Andy and I joke that this is our local chip shop as she serves home made chips – but we have never eaten anything from it as we have seen her son use the street as a toilet and this has put us off slightly. I do buy tomatoes, onions and potatoes there sometimes but always give them a good peeling and scrub before I use them and I think that this makes them perfectly safe.  The cafe lady’s husband now drives Mr Ahmed’s pick up and the first day he started this job I met him as he drove out of the basement. He was absolutely delighted with the job and was smiling at me and talking. He looks very severe as he has a huge black beard and his wife dresses very conservatively but he is actually quite nice which reminds me that appearances can be deceptive.Perhaps I shouldn’t classify the pj wearing neighbours as weird!

The final set of neighbours is the family who look after the other house diagonally across from us. They have taken over the role of Madame Fatet and her husband Ale, and now water our garden, clean our car, wash the stairs and generally look after the grounds. They have two sons – Ahmed who is quite a serious nine year old and Muhammed, a 2 year old tearaway who almost never wears his trousers, hates getting washed and shouts “Hallo” at the top of his voice whenever he sees me.

I have had Muhammed and Ahmed over to play with my boys quite a few times and I always feed them with biscuits, chocolate or fruit. They don’t really play with Lucas or Cairo due to the language barrier but they do ‘side by side’ play with whatever toys I have brought out. We always play in the front garden as that way I can see them all and make sure that they are all okay as I am very conscious that I have someone else’s children in my care. Because I am slowly learning Arabic I can communicate a bit better with them now, too, which helps for games and toys.  Last week we played football out on the street and had great fun with Muhammed as every time he got the ball he would run as fast as his little legs would carry him towards the huge building site hole across from our house and try to throw the ball into the hole. There were howls of laughter as I ran after him and pretended that he was too fast for me.

I have one other neighbour. He is a little boy who appears at the gate and says “Nellahab” which means “Lets play”. I asked him his name today and he replied with Aml but when I tried to say it again he got quite annoyed that I wasn’t pronouncing it properly. I did really try but couldn’t get it right so I am not very clear what his name actually is. This sounds terrible but I am not totally sure who he is. I think he might be the son of Dalia’s doorman but maybe he is the cafe owner’s son? I shall try to pay more attention to who belongs to whom. He is the most adorable boy with big brown eyes (yet filthy dirty with grotty hair) and today he followed me everywhere and was quite upset when he had to leave.

I am not quite sure about the ethics of putting photos of these people on the blog so have left them off for just now. Maybe when I know more Arabic I can ask them for permission.

February 1, 2008

Arabic lessons

Filed under: Uncategorized — scotsabroad @ 6:54 pm

I have, at last, started Arabic lessons. They are twice a week at night and are really enjoyable. I now know how to say “where is the hospital?” in a soviet gulag style voice as the teacher was a huge woman with a severe face who intoned “mustashfa” with the intonation on the m, tash, fa. I don’t know how I managed to keep a straight face but I did control myself long enough to repeat it three times. Apparently she was just a stand in teacher and we get to meet the real teacher this Sunday. Knowing how to say “where is the hospital?” is not really that useful (in my humble opinion) as by now we know where the hospitals are but when I asked how to say “turn right” (to a taxi driver for example) I was informed that this was too complicated to learn. I can say right, left, straight ahead and lots of other, social nicety words to taxi drivers and other workers but I do feel like I am speaking pidgin as I can only say the word rather than a full sentence. Learning how to put sentences together is what I really need, and I did learn that at my first lesson, so I really shouldn’t disparage the teacher too much – or else she’ll send me away!

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