Sunday, August 24, 2008

Settling In

Always one to keep my promises, I am once again going to talk about Cairo now that our days as Cairenes have hit double digits. I am loath to make any solid assessments of the city, as we haven’t been here that long and my words will likely be used against me at some point in the near future. That said, I have never been one to hold my tongue (or keyboard) for long, so I may as well delve into some first impressions.

Thus far Cairo doesn’t suck. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t great (yet) by any stretch of the imagination but compared with our initial days in either Delhi or Nairobi, it could be far worse. As Hubby was quick to point out to me on Wednesday night as we watched our newly installed cable on our lovely new flat screen TV, he’s actually home to help. Unlike our previous international moves that required him to be at work the day after we arrived, being at the Institution means that our settling-in period has been relaxed and relatively stress-free. (Note that I said relatively and not completely.)

Take the aforementioned cable as an example. We emailed (!!) on Tuesday morning, they called on Tuesday afternoon, and showed up exactly when they said they would on Wednesday to install and set-up our cable. It was so scary easy that I didn’t even have to yell (or participate).

Thanks to Hubby’s fine sous-chef-like assistance, I cooked our first meal last week – a rather nice risotto that featured actual pancetta. (Go Maison Thomas!) Of course, to get to that point Hubby spent an hour cursing the pathetically lame knives we were given and wishing death on whomever designed our user-unfriendly kitchen. I then stepped in and cursed the lack of cooking space as I balanced half of my implements on our poorly placed microwave and the rest on my moveable island whose name is Hubby. Long story short, if we are expected to turn out meals that aren’t ordered on Otlob, we are going to need a kitchen redo.

Speaking of delivery – it works, and works well. We have already practiced our Otlob skills on both McDonalds and Chinese food. And Papa John’s got Hubby’s cheese-less pizza thing down in our first solo attempt. More importantly, however, is that we have tested and happily stocked our fridge with beer thanks to the services provided by the delivery beer guys at Cheers. Go Cairo!

Which isn’t to say that it has all been hunky dory – you have, after all, seen the photos of my horrific furniture. We have received promises that if we ask again next week, someone will come and see the problem in person and (hopefully) do something about it. The problem is that we have a laundry list of problems and, for fear of overwhelming them, have only actually mentioned two. The kitchen nightmare may be with us for far longer than either of us care to admit or contemplate.

In addition, while my new haircut looks great, it only stays that way as long as I don’t leave the apartment to walk in the billion degree heat that manages to leave me literally bathed in sweat in less time than it takes to reach the end of our street. I’m pretty sure that the policemen at the end of the street think that a really fat drowned rat moved into the neighborhood.

Also wonderful are the triple parked cars around which I have to maneuver in order to get anywhere in our neighborhood. Between the cars trying to run me over, the local men spitting at me, and the random puddles that I am I hesitant to question due to the lack of rain in the region, walking to the local shops has become an adventure that I look forward to every morning.

Honestly though, we shouldn’t complain. Tomorrow, we will head off to the Institution’s offices to meet the other newbies and begin our weeklong “orientation.” While I’m sure that the week will have its dull moments, it is far, far more than we have ever received from either of the Organizations Hubby worked for previously. In theory, we even have a “buddy” who will take us around the city and help acquaint us with our new lives.

So stay tuned for more photos of the fabulous view from my bedroom window, more tales of delivery food, and definitely more stories about how Cairo is trying my patience and driving me to the edge. Who knows, by then I may even have Internet that I’m not “borrowing” from a generous neighbor. Stranger things have happened.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Double Take

Yesterday I told you about the wonderful tours I was lucky enough to attend thanks to the folks at the Anti-Veg conference. What I didn’t tell you about was the bizarre woman who took us on those tours: Tourist Lady. A transplanted Namibian who moved to Cape Town as a child she has evidently hated it ever since.

Tourist Lady certainly knew the city and its history but her personal comments ranged from puzzling to outright offensive. Her explanation for District Six, for example, was that the government saw that there were slums in that area and bulldozed them to make room for more housing with better views. Hubby’s mouth sat agape during most of that one when he wasn’t spluttering and trying to explain the truth of the situation to the Korean gentlemen next to us.

She spent most of the week trying to convince the ladies on her tours how dangerous the city was. “After five o’clock stay inside unless you are with a man. You will get mugged or worse.” “Do not walk in this area as there are many immigrants here who will try to harm you.” By late Tuesday evening, I clearly wasn’t the only person ready to tell her to leave her editorializing at home.

Hubby’s favourite comment, however, came on Wednesday: “You know what a Rastafarian is don’t you? It is someone who smokes weed.” She then explained to us what weed was. “Rastafarians smoke a lot of weed. I know because my daughter is one. We all have our crosses to bear.” (Hubby edit: there are even more politically incorrect musings of this woman that have been omitted from this blog).

Sadly, I can’t make this stuff up. I’m just glad that having been here before I had some basic knowledge of the city before the tours began or I would have been locked in my hotel room after dark like some of the ladies. I’m sure that Tourist Lady meant well but her fear mongering and borderline racism only got her several annoyed customers and an official complaint from at least Hubby and me.

Overall, though, our time in Cape Town was wonderful. Hubby gave a fantastic speech that was well received. We purchased six bottles of wine, two bottles of MDC (sparkling wine), and lots of biltong. We also met some really interesting people and had a fabulous time. Sounds like a successful (and almost free) vacation to me!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Tabling the Agenda

When the media wants to define a city, they usually select one image to represent everything that location has to offer. For Toronto, its Harbourfront with the CN Tower and Sky Dome just off to the left. For Washington DC, it is often the White House or the Washington Monument. The Eiffel Tower usually stands in for the entire city of Paris. And for Cape Town, it’s Table Mountain.

This beautiful bit of rock defines not only the city’s skyline but also the demeanor of its residents (open but guarded) and its weather (cool and breezy). We were so grateful for the impressive view of Table Mountain outside of our hotel room window that we never closed the curtains during our weeklong stay. This allowed us to see the mountain shrouded in clouds when we awoke, bathed in sunlight at midday, and darkly imposing as the sun set each evening.

Sadly, we don’t have any photos from its peaks since, for the second trip running, we failed to to ascend Table Mountain. While the first time we had the excuse of a power cut in the area, this time we had only poor planning and ourselves to blame.

Which doesn’t mean that we didn’t see Cape Town – we did. Or at least I did. This conference offered a “spouse package” which meant that after I watched Hubby’s keynote speech, I was no longer obligated to sit around and attend the non-drinking, non-eating portions of the conference. The two-dozen or so spouses (mostly wives) were entertained each day by a series of guided tours throughout the area.

Monday’s bus tour of the city marked its first stop at the local version of make-out point. While that might not be the name or intention of the location, I nonetheless witnessed it serving as such. From Sea Point, we were able to see a panorama of the city with Robben Island out in the water ahead of us, the city below and behind us, and Table Mountain above. Despite the slight nip in the air, everyone made the most of this photogenic spot for the 45 minutes we were granted.

Tuesday was the much-anticipated wine tour to the House of JC LeRoux. While it may have been early-ish in the morning, I was disgusted by the number of people claiming that they could have done without the tour entirely or wish that it hadn’t lasted so long. I for one came to Cape Town to enjoy the wine and if they didn’t realize what they were getting into when they boarded the bus that morning, that was their bad.

During our wine tour, we were taught about the methods used in the region to make champagne – or MDC (Methòde Cap Classique) as they call it. Many of you may recall that I once studied this process (Dom Perignon anyone?) and I thus acted quite the brat when I politely inquired how their “Methòde” differed from the Methòde Champagnoise used in the Champagne region of France. If looks could kill, I would have died on the spot without ever having tasted (let alone purchasing) any LeRoux bubbly. They don’t differ at all, you see, but due to very strict international laws they are required to call it something different.

After we sampled several different lovely and dry vintages, our wine guide took us outside for one of the cooler demonstrations I have ever seen. Specifically, we were taught how to open a bottle of bubbly with a sword – or sabrage as it is known. After explaining the history behind this showy parlor trick, our guide proved how easy it was by having one us do it for her. Very cool.

Mid-week, the organizers planned a group event, which allowed everyone to choose their adventure… err… tour of choice. Hubby and I were assigned one that proved to be quite interesting and replete with things we had never seen on our previous visit to the city. Wednesday’s tour included a tour of some of the area’s bigger tourist draws including the Kirstenboch Gardens, Cape Point, and a visit to the local penguin population.

While most people, from what I could gather, were busy enjoying the various local flora and fauna, Hubby and I found an incredibly cool sculpture garden. All of the pieces were locally made (and some for sale) and labeled with not only the title but also the artist’s own words about their inspiration or view point. We literally have almost two-dozen sculpture photos, as we spent the better part of an hour and a half enjoying their cold beauty.

This one is my favourite. While there were certainly better or more detailed ones, the look of happiness on this alligator mommy’s face is priceless. Motherhood is the same regardless of species or tendencies to kill for fun.

This one is one of Hubby’s favourite. Entitled “Beer for the Spirits” the artist claims that he was inspired to create this piece by his totem – the rhino.

Normally, Cape Point would have been a lovely portion of the tour but the power was out that day. This meant that the only way up to the summit to see the famed lighthouse was to walk. (Needless to say, Hubby took these photos.) Moreover, it was freezing and raining so even sitting back and enjoying the amazing views at ground level involved quite a bit of shivering and cursing under one’s breath. Complaining aside, Cape Point, which is famous for being the spot where the Indian Ocean meets the Atlantic was beautiful and incredibly peaceful.

Our final pre-dinner stop was one suitable for the whole family – a visit to see the local penguins. The n-guins (as Hubby took to calling them) were adorable and used to humans invading their space. While people were not actually allowed to touch or pet the small birds, we were certainly close enough to be a distraction to their cuteness.

Due to the time of year, we were fortunate enough to spot some baby penguins with their soft downy brown feathers. The young ones often stood grouped together as if hanging out after a long day at Penguin School. We saw the loners standing off to the side looking rather sad and friendless, while a few of their braver brethren were standing where the ocean met the sand as if bragging to the females further up the beach that they were the braver and cooler kids.

I skipped Thursday’s walking tour of the city so that Hubby and I could visit the V&A and do some non-typical tourist shopping. (No painted ostrich eggs us for us, just towels and crisps!)

The best part of Cape Town, as you may have gathered from today’s rather long entry, was the views. No matter where in the area you are, there is beauty everywhere. From the flat-topped Table Mountain watching over its charges in the town that resides in its shadows, to the two oceans that meet on her shores, Cape Town is a city to be consumed by all five of the senses.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Vegetarian’s Dilemma

As I have mentioned previously, Hubby was invited to be the keynote speaker at a conference of Anti-Vegetarians in Cape Town. While I may not have mentioned the anti-veg part before, it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure it out these guys’ agenda.

During the six-day conference, we were treated to three dinners all of which boasted menus of meat, meat, and more meat. I’m not even exaggerating for a change! Monday night’s welcome dinner was a carnivore’s delight as we were presented with everything from springbok sausage to antelope steaks. Two or three vegetables were served but they weren’t to be seen on many people’s plates. And when people got tired of eating dead animals there were some really cool dancers (and lots of random ducks) to amuse and entertain the masses.

Our second dinner was hosted by a government organization and bothered with only one small plate of salad for the entire room to nibble on between platters of springbok biltong, ostrich steaks, wild boar stew, and other yummy treats. To add insult to injury for any vegetarians in the vicinity, the décor for this particular meal included dead animal heads and skins on every wall. A gentleman who will, for a small fee, tile your home in animal hide supplied the latter. While dead animals may taste great, neither of us was too keen to use them in our decorating motif.

Until, that is, we were presented with an opportunity to buy a springbok hide for only $20. I’m not sure if it was all the game we had consumed, the wine, or simply a case of peer pressure, but before the evening was out, we were the proud owners of one female springbok hide. (Or as Hubby likes the tell the tale, it was the hide of a random Buck who spent too much time flirting with the HubbyBuck in front of the Typ0zelle. But we all know that I’m not the jealous type and he’s silly like that.)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Random Homey Thoughts

I didn’t know that ‘Ren owned a teashop in Toronto!

Ski Dubai at the Mall of the Emirates. I’m vaguely surprised it’s not pink.

Trader Vic’s in Dubai was the scene of many odd couplings…

…And a lot of rum cocktails. Woo hoo!

Always remember that if you’re playing darts against the dog and the dog is losing, he will eat the dart in order to win.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Cheers Cairo

Hubby and I arrived – again – in Cairo on Saturday and are already well on our way to almost being at home. Well, as at home as we can be without our own things that is. Rumor has it that our Air Shipment should arrive any day and the Sea Shipment… Well, we haven’t actually had any word on that. (No news is good news with Garry Gnu?)

Shopping trips to City Stars and Carrefour have resulted in a flat screen TV (still in its box after two weeks), a food processor (to be tested this evening on salsa), and a microwave that thinks that popcorn can be made in 2 minutes and 15 seconds. Which it can’t.

These trips to the shops have also demonstrated that Egyptians take their dairy seriously – the cheese aisle alone was two sides of a 150 foot refrigerated case. I could see Hubby getting nauseous the further up the lane we walked.

Our apartment, for those of you who have been wondering, is a furnished two-bedroom flat, which spans ½ a floor of our building. We were told that it was originally meant to be used as the landlord’s flat and appears to be about twice the square footage of most of the other flats in the building.

That said, it needs A LOT of work starting with new curtains to replace the Hawaiian-themed ones in the living and sitting rooms and the rust-stained ones in our bedroom. We then need to work on obtaining new couches, as it appears that prior to our arrival Smurfs lived here. As it is now, both Hubby and I require cranes to hoist us out of our low-rise seats in the evening. Finally, we need to do something about the kitchen, because it currently sends me into fits of sobbing when compared with The World’s Greatest Kitchen™ back in Nairobi.

But enough of my kvetching – you’ll hear enough of that later once our days in Cairo actually reach double digits. Before I finish telling you about our Home Leave, and regale you with tales of our awesome trip to Cape Town last week, I want to leave you with a story about our first full day in Cairo two and a half weeks ago.

Upon arriving in Egypt, you are entitled to either four bottles of liquor at the airport Duty Free or three bottles from one of the city’s many Duty Free shops. Since we had successfully smuggled... er... liberated four bottles from Frankfurt, we opted to go to the shops with our friends Black Beard and Adelpha. Little did we know the adventures that awaited us.

Due to poor research on our part, it took two taxi rides, four hotels, and a stroll across the Nile before we finally found the correct Duty Free. (For those of you who need to avail yourselves of its services, the correct location would be the Cairo Sheraton. Or better yet go to City Stars as we did yesterday.) Confronted with a blissful assortment of overpriced liquor, we told the Beards to pick two bottles as a thank you for being generally awesome and proceeded to stare blankly at the shelves to make our own final selections.

At this point, Black Beard asked if we would allow him to buy some cigarettes. I had the grace to look apologetic when I gave his polite request a rather blunt, “No.” While I would happily help him kill his liver, I refused to annihilate his lungs, I explained. He pouted, asked if I was serious and shrugged his broad piratical shoulders.

(Smoking is the one vice I can’t stand. It smells and causes yucky diseases not only for the smoker but also for innocent people in their vicinity. Be a serial killer somewhere else please.)

Five minutes later, the group had made its selections and our six bottles sat on the counter ready to begin the lengthy payment process. That was when the Kid at the first stop asked me flat out to buy him three cartons of cigarettes. I laughed and said no, assuming he had overheard our earlier conversation.

He repeated his question a little more firmly. The incredulous look on my face even had Hubby giggling quietly. “I just said no to my friend and you think I’ll buy you cigarettes instead?” “No. No. Is no problem,” he replied. “Only three.” This Kid was not too swift on the uptake. “No cigarettes. Just booze. No!” I glared and used my best B!tch Voice to make my stance clear. The Kid shrugged and probably gave some thought to not letting us take our allotment but in the end made due without his cigarettes.

Less than 12 hours in Cairo and I had already been hit up for baksheesh. I guess that makes me a local – or something.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

In Which I Am Going to Hell

One of the non-Triplet highlights of our trip to the Midwest was hanging out with our friends at my favourite bar in the university town where we used to live. Meeting up at Guido’s over large martinis and the world’s most awesome nachos has become an annual tradition during home leave. Sadly, as most of Hubby’s friends are at or near the end of their PhDs, this may be the final such outing.

That said, while I love seeing Sconni Boy, Mrs. Sconni Boy, Not Joseph Smith, Edgar, Lola, (our kind hosts for the evening), and the rest of the crowd, the real highlight of the evening for me was hanging out with my old friends from CT&T: Wheels, Tech Girl, and Framboise. I hadn’t seen this merry trio of misfits since I left CT&T three years ago and it was a wonderful reunion.

The first bit of props for the evening have to go to Wheels who not only looked amazing after losing an insane amount of weight but also left work early for an “appointment” in order to join the festivities! He and I sat and chatted for about an hour before the girls showed up during which time we gossiped like in the old days while I sipped on martinis two and three and he drank lemonade number one.

By the time Tech Girl and Framboise arrived, we were all ready to order food and get down to some serious drinking. Eating the giant plate of nachos that was put before me was only slightly better than the fun the four of us had reminiscing about the old days. Much of said reminiscing had me saying things that will be played back for me in lieu of an explanation when I get to Hell. These conversations included choice tidbits like, “I can’t believe they did that! What about Gangrene Boy?!” “He died.” “Oh crap.”

One of the things I enjoy doing while I drink is ripping up the paper coasters they give you into tiny little pieces. Bars that know me well usually stop giving me coasters after a few visits but evidently Guido’s had forgotten, and I was able to sit and shred paper all evening. Perhaps the best part of the shredding (other than sharing my coaster with Tech Girl) was raining bits of shredded paper on the table of girls behind us. Sadly, they never responded to our confetti gifts so I kept raining bits of paper on them throughout the evening. I will not be ignored!

By the time martinis four and five had been consumed, the girls and Wheels had to go home. Something about having “jobs” to go to in the morning. I didn’t quite understand but I let them go after much hugging and groping. I cannot tell you how much fun it was seeing those three again. Gossip, drinks, and causing trouble – it was like the last three years had never happened and we were all back at CT&T again. I miss them.

Of course, I really missed them when the boys decided to move locations and try out a new piano bar on the other side of town. To say that we were overcharged when we paid the $5 cover charge to get in was an understatement. Two pianists singing off-key and only playing the correct song about 40% of the time is not what I’d call a successful concept. Other than flashing (upon request from the boys) my new purple polka-dotted bra for the umpteenth time that night, the piano bar was pretty much a bust (pun unintended).

Worst of all, since I was thoroughly sloshed from Guido’s, I opted not to drink at the second bar so I was sober for all of the bad music. *shudder* Luckily, no one else in our group was terribly impressed so we left after about an hour or so. Of course, being the smart-ass girl I am, I made a point of filling out a request card before I left and left it on the piano. “Stop playing and learn to sing in key. Please.”

Hell, here I come!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Three Times the Fun

Since I’ve mentioned them at least six or seven dozen times since they were born in June, I thought that it was finally time to actually tell you about The Triplets. Our two new nieces and one new nephew belong to Hubby’s brother, BIL, and his wife, Red, who live in the middle of nowhere in the Midwest which is just over an hour away from Bee’s house where we stayed during our Midwestern sojourn.

As they are currently less than two months old (and born a month early too), The Triplets were still being bottle-fed when we saw them. And while it might be easy to avoid picking-up, holding, or feeding babies when there is only one of them around, when there are three you get roped into helping whether you like it or not. Although Hubby managed to put off his Uncle duties until the third day, I was roped into holding and feeding early on day one. I managed to feed all three of them at one
point or another during the three times we saw them. Thus, the photos here of me feeding the babies are real and not doctored.

Although it was not my favourite activity, I also helped burp them after feedings but only after I had long chats with them about the torture that they would endure as teens if they spit up on me. (Brand new, tricked out Porches for the good children, rusted out 1981-era Hondas for bad kids.) The one activity I managed to avoid, however, was changing diapers. Despite getting a good whiff of their toxic nappies, I never had to actually touch a dirty one. Thank god.

In all honesty, The Triplets are cute and my BIL and Red are good at pretending that they are not in over their heads. Thanks to a steady stream of helping hands from everyone from Aunt Bee and Red’s dad to church members willing to wake up at 2 a.m., they have thus far managed to keep insanity at bay. When BIL heads back to work in September, it’s possible that the asylum won’t be too far behind for poor Red who will be the sole caregiver for the three infants while he is at school. As I said, they’re doing well right now but the real tests are still ahead of them.

All in all, the kids are cute, they don’t cry, they don’t spit up on their favourite aunt, and Hubby looked really cute when he was holding them. That said, as I mentioned a few days ago, I’m not pregnant. Don’t have any plans to be pregnant. And, when all is said and done, better them than us.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Baby Fever

If I had to sum up this year’s home leave in one word, it would be “babies.” We played with them, bought gifts for them, fed them, burped them, and even tried to kidnap one. Alas, for those of you who were “in the know,” there are no little Typ0s on the way. Thank god!

While the biggest baby news of the trip (aside from my NOT being pregnant) occurred in the States, we’ll talk about the triplets later. Today is all about the cutest baby in the whole wide world, Carlos Jr. The first time we met him last year, he spent a lot of time regurgitating his food for us. This year we were treated to his “Bob the Builder” dance, which, in addition to being cute, Hubby has now adopted and is sadly an improvement over his usual “moves.” Despite Jr’s efforts at teaching Hubby to dance I still wanted to kidnap him and take him home. Of course, his parents, Care Bear and Carlos, would probably object to that.

Another of our many home leave traditions is getting together with C&C (and C) to hang out, eat Chinese food, and talk about the good ‘ole days when Care Bear and I were in high school. These conversations always include a recap of the first time I met her and called her a bitch, and how I totally outed her class skipping ways during her wedding. (How was I supposed to know that her mother hadn’t figured it out yet?!)

Of all my friends, Care Bear has probably known me the longest. (On this trip, I attempted to connect with someone who has known me for even longer but it never happened because I’m a huge loser.) (You can disagree about that last part now.) Together, we have lived through flashing boys playing tennis (that may have been more me than her), incredibly whacked out mutual friends, super short kilts, apple hair spray, and more.

I know that it drives our husbands crazy that we talk about the exact same things every time we see each other but I don’t care. Seeing C&C is the best trip down memory lane anyone could ever ask for. And seeing little Carlos Jr. – the World’s Cutest Baby™ - is the icing on the cake as he looks like the perfect mix of both of them. (The old me would have said that he was lucky that he got his looks from his dad, but I’ve turned over a new leaf. Or something…) Plus the kid is super smart and knows not only how to throw magnets at his mum, but that when he does so he should run straight to the naughty corner. That’s my kind of kid.

Friday, August 08, 2008

The Buck Reunion

One of our big plans every year in Toronto includes going downtown, eating fried pepperoni at the Nova Scotia bar, and hanging out with our good friend SGH (aka the HBuck). Even though she has been actively trying to steal my husband for at least a year or two now, I still look forward to this annual tradition and spent quite a bit of time planning our nightlong pub-crawl ahead of time. I even booked a room at the King Edward Hotel downtown on King so that we wouldn’t have to go all the way back home and lose our buzz mid-commute.

Having made a point of wearing the shoes my mother said would give me a blister mid-crawl, I headed downtown to check-in and get an early drinking start to my day. First of all, my mother was wrong – they gave me TWO blisters, both of which showed up before I even reached the hotel. Second of all, there is nothing wrong with $1.99 socks that have teddy bears on them (these purchased to alleviate said blisters).

In any case, we met SGH at the hotel where she proceeded to undress my husband with her eyes while he undressed her with his hands. Okay, maybe neither of those things happened but that’s because I was there ready to “beat that Buffy down” and she knew she couldn’t take me. Or something…

Our first stop of the evening was the Irish Embassy, a bar near King and Yonge where we proceeded to down numerous pints of beer (for them) and cider (for the blogger with good taste). At one point, when it appeared that the gentlemen at the table next to us had left without paying their bill, we suggested that our waitress steal the laptop they had left behind. It turned out that the Dine and Dashers were actually the owners so we opted for merely increasing her pay scale.

(Random: My mother and I actually saw someone Dine and Dash at a rather nice restaurant in North York one day. We were shocked that anyone – even this obnoxious woman – would ever do that. Even more amazing is that the waiter seemed to have expected it and just shrugged when he saw his one-dollar tip/payment.)

After an incredibly long walk up King, we went in search of the Nova Scotia bar only to discover that it was gone! *sob* The stupid glut of condos that have been going up all over the downtown area took over our beloved bar and were using it as a construction office. Thus, it was three highly
annoyed people who made their way further down the street to a Firkin where we did not eat fried pepperoni with our many pints of cider and beer. Stupid condos!

The next bar we tried to go to was also closed – but this time it was a private party for federal government employees. (Your tax dollars at work, eh!) Down but not yet drunk or defeated, we went to our usual sushi place and didn’t eat any sushi with our fancy martinis. All during dinner, however, we were interrupted by this little kid selling chocolate covered almonds. Now, I love chocolate covered almonds as much as the next Fat Girl, but bugging drunken people is not a good way for an 11 year old to make money. So I started speaking Kiswahili to him and when he couldn’t respond, I simply shrugged and went back to my endamame beans (which weren’t chocolate covered).

Our final stop of the night was a very subdued 1 Blue Jay Way, also known as Wayne Gretzky’s bar. We have had really great drinks and dessert at this bar in the past but were greatly disappointed by the poor service and what we were told was the “new menu.” That said, Hubby still managed to drink an $11 glass of Wayne’s finest ice wine, which he declared to be “nyeh.”

Overall, it was a fabulous night, even if the HBuck lied about her bra size. (Size 32D? Pu-leze!) Hubby and I both agreed that this is one home leave tradition we look forward to every year. Drinks, good friends, good food, and blisters from walking all over downtown Toronto – it sounds like the perfect night to me!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

North American Odysseys and other Oddities

I thought I would kick off the great Home Leave Recap of 2008 with news about the wonderful people who live forever in shame because we share DNA – my family! We spent our first two weeks back in the Real World™ with my parents in Toronto where I was forced to do all the painting on the newly renovated basement. While cheers of “No more red shag carpeting!” could be heard from one end of the city to the other, my father’s impressive vocabulary could also be heard by those who asked about the workmen who dry walled the once large room.

By the time I left, the walls had been painted, the new white carpeting had been installed, and the new leather furniture had been delivered at 8:45 a.m. on Sunday – aka 24 hours before we left for the States. The room looks fantastic and is highlighted by the world’s largest flat-screen TV, which will someday find a home on a wall once everyone can agree where it should go. (I like it on the table right where it is, thank you.)

Keeping the news in the family, I met my newest nephew, Clan, who was born last October. This brings BBA’s total to three cute kids (after my nephew Mile and my niece Yemil). Mile is a particularly good kid whose obsessions include his Nintendo DS (a next Gameboy-like device that everyone we met seemed to own) and “versing” people. For all that I enjoy tormenting the kid by correcting his grammar and being a general Pain in the Aunt, I really hope that BBA will agree to send him to Egypt to us for a short trip sometime. If he’s really good, I may even decide not to abandon him in the desert.

When I wasn’t drinking, eating Harvey’s, or playing my mother’s electronic Soduku game (so much fun that I actually bought my own), I kept busy shopping. Since I only basically shop once a year, I usually go a little crazy in the stores, which is why Hubby *always* goes with me. He claims it’s to be supportive and help me pick out clothes but really he’s afraid that I’ll spend more than $2.50 on any one item of clothing. (Hubby Edit: That’s harsh. I usually let her spend at least $5.50.)

The other big news out of Toronto is that we’re thinking of buying a condo. We’re thinking of buying a condo that we will never live in and whose rent will not cover all of our expenses. Ok, put like that, it doesn’t seem like a great idea but it is an amazing two-floor loft/condo in a really nice part of downtown. The condo is incredibly nice – if tiny – and our biggest issue in making the final decision is whether or not we want to sink our non-existent savings into a place that we can’t live in and won’t be ready (knock on wood) until 2011. What do you think? Should we make the move into becoming real-live adults who own things larger than an i-pod? Or should we continue our portable existence and keep our Peter Pan status intact?

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Denial and De Nile

Bless me Readers for I have sinned. It has been almost a month since my last post and these are my excuses…

Ok, so my plan to blog at least once a week has gone up in plumes of smoke like most of you predicted. Buy hey, I did blog from Indonesia and I totally *thought* about blogging while I was at home in Toronto and later in the Midwest. It was simply that my busy schedule of shopping, drinking, and playing with the triplets interfered with my ability to commune with my laptop. Mea culpa.

For those of you who don’t keep up with my Facebook updates, I have arrived in Egypt and can now call my flat in Cairo home. There was even “food” (aka frozen, breaded chicken and feta cheese) and water in the fridge to greet us when we arrived. Even better than that, our friends Black Beard and Adelpha arrived just moments after that with beer and chips!

Before I start telling you about our incredibly amusing first day in Cairo, I had better catch you up on how we spent our three weeks of Real World™ freedom. Chances are, however, that these stories will be interrupted briefly due to our upcoming one-week trip to South Africa, which begins on Friday. Hubby is going to be the keynote speaker at a geek-fest conference and talk about things I don’t understand. Yay!

So stay tuned for lots of fun stories about how I single handedly renovated my parent’s basement; my many hours spent shopping, drinking, and hanging out with friends; and the new triplets which precipitated even more drinking!