After taking the first part of the school year off and living in Boston, I was offered a position at a school in Cairo where I could start early because the counselor got sick and left. So in April I packed 3 suitcases and moved to Cairo to start a job as a Middle School Counselor at an international school. I was both ready to get back to work and to get out of Boston. So far the transition has been good which was surprising even though it is my 8th year, 5th school and country. These transitions can often be difficult personally because you are not only getting to know a new school, colleagues, systems, students, but you are also settling into a new home, neighborhood, and finding your stride. It can often feel like too much is going on. I was lucky this time around in that before I arrived in Cairo I connected with a sista Laura online who lives here. She added me to a what’s app group which made for an easier transition for me personally. Because of these ladies I have gotten out of my apartment and been to a variety of social events for which I am so grateful 🤗 otherwise I might hibernate most weekends.
Cairo is a combination of the last two places I lived – Ethiopia and Thailand. Like Ethiopia it is dusty and dirty – there’s literally trash in the streets 😫 probably more than in Ethiopia yet like Bangkok it’s convenient and hot as F – the weather right now ranges from 90’s to above 100 degrees. When I say convenient I mean you can get most things here in big stores like Carrefour, the malls are huge, there are American stores (albeit stuff is more expensive) and you can get anything delivered which has been nice for me. I don’t have to go to the grocery store and I don’t have to cook unless I want to. Despite being an inexpensive place to live, Cairo is also a tough city to live in because of the horrible traffic and driving, the huge concrete neighborhoods, the heat, the stray cats and dogs, the trash, and the sexual harassment 😫 😫. So far it has been manageable for me: I had an African guy follow me down the street trying to get my attention despite ignoring him for several blocks until I finally turned around and yelled at him to stop following me 😫 😫…WTF? #Stalkermuch?
What I find difficult besides the trash in the streets is the smoking in public places like malls, salons, grocery stores 😫 😫; I have had to leave nail and beauty salons on a couple of occasions because customers were smoking…Ugh. But these are minor irritations.
So I started a new job in a new city with new colleagues and then there was the stress of looking for an apartment🙄 something I didn’t have to do before. I didn’t enjoy this process because it’s hard to know if you’re getting a good deal and I had to pay a security deposit which is equal to a full month of rent which was not fully covered by my settling in allowance. Rent here is pretty inexpensive compared to other places I have lived but it is above the stipend given by the school so most new staff are coming out of their pocket to cover it. The school set me up with a realtor and I looked at apartments while dealing with jet lag which was not fun. But I survived, I found a place and learned an important lesson – the next school I work for has to take care of housing, it’s a challenge I don’t want to deal with ever again.
I just moved into a new apartment at the beginning of this week because I didn’t like my first apartment. It was on the 10th floor, the elevator had been broken twice, it needed painting, the furniture was old, uncomfortable and old fashioned and the windows rattled at night from the wind 🙄 which affected my ability to sleep soundly at night. The new apartment is smaller, more modern, a bit nicer, only on the 6th floor and closer to the bus stop. The bougie in me is unimpressed with apartments here in Cairo that are within an affordable price range because I have lived in nice apartments in Ethiopia and Bangkok; but this is part of the international experience c’est la vie 😛.
I live in Maadi where I can get around easily walking which is important to me but it is far from the school so the school provides transportation to and from school. This is a challenge only in that the bus picks up at 7 am even though we don’t have to be at school until 8 am but we get there around 7:35 am which makes me think of the 20 more minutes of sleep I could have gotten…lol 😂😂
My colleagues at work are friendly and helpful, the students are kind and welcoming and the work is busy but not very stressful which is a change from the last place I worked. It’s nice that students say hello to me when I walk into a classroom or down the hallway; it’s a small thing but it helps you to feel like part of the community. The biggest difference is that the work week is Sunday through Thursday and Friday is a holy day so most places don’t open until after noon. Right now it’s Ramadan which is a holy month of fasting and so alcohol is harder to get even at restaurants but school gets out an hour earlier which has been sweet. Uber is easy to use here in Cairo and it has been a life saver for me since I don’t speak Arabic and often have no idea where I am going. After almost 3 months in Cairo I am feeling more confident in my navigation around my neighborhood.
Since moving to Cairo I have been to some social events 😍🤗
the Opera to see Aida – it was great except for the black face children used to portray Ethiopians 😫
had a lovely dinner at ESCA restaurant in Heliopolis
had a wonderful photo shoot at the Pyramids
saw the Avengers in 4D at the movies – loved the physical special effects
eaten twice at Lucille’s a local favorite
been on a Felucca dinner ride – great food, company but no alcohol allowed because Ramadan
visited the Khan el Khalili market – definitely sensory overload but worth the trip for the prices
I even found a salon where I got my hair washed for cheap
In my neighborhood there are many massage, nail and hair salons, restaurants, markets and little stores all in walking distance so I can venture out at my own pace and find everything I need. This weekend I just found a small health food market that sells shea butters, almond and coconut butters, oils, natural soaps, healthy drinks and food items. So far life in Cairo has been good, even though it is far from perfect I look forward to venturing out beyond my neighborhood when I return from summer break in August. This week is over tomorrow and there’s one half week of school left and I look forward to the summer break 😍🤗.
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