Tuesday, June 30, 2009

142 Years and Counting

O Canada!

Our home and native land!

True patriot love in all thy sons command.

With glowing hearts we see thee rise,

The True North strong and free!

From far and wide,

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

God keep our land glorious and free!

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

O Canada!

Terre de nos aïeux,

Ton front est ceint de fleurons glorieux!

Car ton bras sait porter l'épée,

Il sait porter la croix!

Ton histoire est une épopée

Des plus brillants exploits.

Et ta valeur, de foi trempée,

Protégera nos foyers et nos droits.

Protégera nos foyers et nos droits

Happy 42nd Anniversary Mum and Dad!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Beloved Sister

Twenty-nine years ago today, the amazing woman whom I call my neighbor was born. This fantastic person has made my time in Cairo so much better simply by being her fabulous self.

She has been my shoulder to cry on, my drinking buddy, my partner in (shopping) crime, and my confidante during good times and bad. This beautiful woman has loaned me clothes, turned me onto Twilight, let me beat her at Scrabble, and cheated on diets with me. What more could you ask for in a friend?

Happy Birthday, Adelpha!

Monday, June 22, 2009

And They’re Off!

We departed Egypt from Cairo’s new terminal three on Thursday morning and were left with no doubts as we boarded the plane that we both desperately needed a vacation. Although the first week of our European adventure was scheduled for work-related purposes (i.e., a conference), the rest won’t be.

Even from the air, we knew Austria would be different from our usual sand coloured existence. The windmill-spotted landscape was a sea of green beneath us. In some more forested areas, the ground looked like giant blocks of broccoli florets surrounded by rectangles of emerald fields. Sure, it sounds cheesily poetic but for people who have learned to discern shades of tan and brown, the sweetness of the raucous colours could not be denied.

The plane landed at Vienna’s International airport and we quickly set forth to make the most of our single day in this famed city. As our taxi took us to our hotel, we watched the city go by and enjoyed the almost seamless blend of new and old architechture.

At my mother’s urging, our first stop that day was the famed Sacher Hotel so I could have a slice of the chocolate cake they made famous. While Hubby sipped a glass of white wine with his apple strudel, I dug into my Sachertorte like a woman possessed. Of course, the hot chocolate with Sacher liqueur may have helped with that too. (For the purists out there, yes, I did try the Sachertorte down the street at Demel’s and have been forced to admit that it was indeed superior to the slice I ate at the hotel of the same name.)

Hubby and I spent most of Thursday wandering the tourist areas of Vienna, enjoying the busy pedestrian malls, and simply taking in the splendor of this old city. I ran through the sprinklers at Burggarten Park on our way to see the Mozart monument, and cooed at the beautiful horses at the Lipizzaner Museum. Due to the extravagant cost (and lack of love on Hubby’s part), we were unable to take a carriage ride through the city past famous sites like the Hofburg Palace although we did manage to wander around the Michael Wing.

During our walk though the ped-mall, we encountered everything from “robot guy” mimes and break-dancers to visiting high school bands. The latter were incredibly amused by the various street artists and were constantly getting in our way running and posing with every busker they could find. Thankfully, whenever the array of expensive shops and annoying tourists got to be too much, there were plenty of bars and cafés for us to duck into and enjoy a cold beer or cosmo.

Although currently undergoing a bit of a facelift, we were able to see St. Stephen’s Cathedral, which lies at the heart of this pedestrian mall. Despite the hoards of tourists wandering around and snapping photos, this Catholic church still celebrates mass daily and has managed to retain a feeling of religiousness (if that is the correct word) that similar tourist sites like Notre Dame have long since lost.

We enjoyed dinner that evening at a restaurant Hubby had previously discovered called Little Buddha, where we gorged ourselves on sake cocktails and obscene amounts of sushi. The latter was a real treat as we haven’t enjoyed sushi in ages and the offerings at Buddha were creatively wrought and tasty. Somewhere between the semi-finals of our usual wasabi eating contest and our fourth round of drinks, we came to the mutual decision that despite being stuffed, an extra plate of “caterpillar maki” was essential.

Later that night, and slightly tipsy, we walked back to our hotel that night, we both agreed that our Eurotrip was off to a fantastic start. Next stop: Budapest, Hungary!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

I am a very lucky woman who married a very wonderful, good looking, sweet, kind, and cheap man. I appreciate all of those positive qualities, but even he would admit that he brings the term cheap to a whole new level. (Hubby edit: No, I don’t!!!!!!) Doctor Cheapo, as I once dubbed him, enjoys looking generous while secretly being cheap.

You see, with a few notable exceptions, most of our wanderings are on someone else’s dollar. Generally speaking, if he can sneak me along on a business trip, Hubby will “kindly” let me tag along. This means that his flight, our hotel, and usually most of our food are paid for.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining and I don’t mean to sound ungrateful. (Hubby edit: Too late for that one …) I love traveling and am willing to do so pretty much any way I can. But every so often, I kind of wish our trips were for us. You know, romantic getaways that weren’t squeezed in-between meetings, presentations, and cocktail parties with the folks footing the bills.

Which brings us to today’s post. Even as you read this, I am currently flying to Europe for a fabulous combination business/romance trip. Hubby and I will be spending almost a week in Hungary for his work during which time I will get to meet the fabulous Nicole, whose blog I adore, reunite with amazing friends from our days in the Midwest, and hopefully sneak in time for some window shopping when Hubby isn’t watching.

The best part of our trip is that once the work portion ends the fun portion will begin! Hubby and I are planning to rent a car and go on our very own Eurotrip-inspired vacation. During that week and a half, we plan to drive through Austria, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Germany, the Czech Republic, Poland, and Slovakia. In each country, I have insisted to Hubby that we must complete at least one culturally significant task.

Normally when I travel, I forget about the blog because I’m a bad blogger. *shame* This time around, however, is going to be different. Stop shaking your heads and doubting me! You’re my Devoted Readers, you’re supposed to have faith! Hmmph!

My goal is to try to post at least once from each country. Sometimes this won’t be possible because we’ll be on the road (Liechtenstein) or because there is no Internet since Hubby is being too cheap to pay for ten minutes worth of access. (Hubby edit: Ummmm…) But I’m going to do my best to blog as often as possible during the trip. So keep an eye out, and you too can play, “Where in the World is Carmen SanDiego Typ0?"

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Stuck on Blank

As I was struggling to come up with something to write about today, I found myself Googling the words “writing prompts.” I don’t often find myself in desperate need of something outside my own craziness to write about, but suddenly with everything else going on in my life, I was truly stuck.

The first site I found, the Imagination Prompt Generator, allowed its users to keep clicking until they found that prompt that prompted them back to their blog. Here are first couple of ideas it came up with for me:
  • Activities I enjoy are: This one wasn’t going to work since, in addition to obstinately being a PG rated blog, my mother reads this stuff! No fun “activities” for this blogger, thank you!

  • People that irritate me: I started writing this one and suddenly noticed that I was on page 10. This taught me two things: I really know nothing about brevity. And I’m a hater who is irritated by a lot of things. In an effort to reform and not be so irritable I deleted the post.

  • I wish I could: fly, be invisible, walk through walls, read thoughts…. Basically I want to be a superhero, which made me realize I am kind of sad and pathetic. So I won’t be sharing that post either. (Rogue Rules!!!)

  • Close your eyes and count to ten. When you open your eyes write about what you feel: If I could do that, I wouldn’t need to use the damn prompting tool!

  • What do you do to help the needy: My husband says I’m needy. Does that count?

  • Why did you do it: You can’t prove that I did it, so I don’t have to answer your questions!
Obviously, I wasn’t meant to use machines like this since they only help prove how weird I am. Luckily, I’m okay with that. After all, if I were normal, would I really be wandering the world and blogging about it?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Lunch Time in Cairo

Some of you fabulous Devoted Readers have asked about the local foods here in Cairo. I have previously blogged about the yummy, carb-filled goodness that is Koshari - or as we like to call it in the Typ0-Hubby household “Sunday dinner before South Beach made us miserable.” But neither expat nor local can live by carbohydrates alone, so today I thought I would take you to visit some local snack shops.

First up, we have The Juice Guy. These juice shops are a common sight in Cairo. For a nominal sum, you can have everything from a freshly squeezed glass of orange juice, to a bottle of mango juice for take-away. The fruit juices are incredibly tasty and since they’re made right in front of you contain zero preservatives.

Further along the street is The Nut Guy or as Hubby calls him the purveyor of Crack Nuts. They’re the ones with the silver spoon in the following photo.

If you visit this shop at the right times, you can actually see the nuts being freshly roasted and turned in the giant cookers. During the winter months, we would often buy a ¼ kg of chocolate covered nuts, a ½ kg of pistachios, and another ½ kg of the aforementioned Crack Nuts, which are candy coated, sweet peanuts. This week’s worth of fresh nuts would cost no more than 47LE or about $8.50 USD.

Our brief tour today will conclude with the Ta'miyya Guy. Ta'miyya is what the locals call falafel. He also makes sandwiches with the döner meat that turns on a spit in front of his shop.

Like the Nut Guy and the Juice Guy, every neighborhood has its own Ta’miyya Guy or two. Hubby’s favourite is located in Zamalek where he can get a falafel sandwich (4 falafels in a pita) for LE1.5 or about thirty cents US.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Quarantine Kids

As some of you may be aware, we recently had several cases of Swine Flu diagnosed here in Cairo. Several of these positive tests arose in people living the Zamalek dorms of the one of the local universities. In the hours after the first cases were diagnosed, the university closed its doors for a week and locked the inhabitants of the dorm in a quarantine that would eventually last more than a week.

As you read this, the inmates residents of the dorms are preparing for what is scheduled to be their first day of freedom since those first two students were diagnosed early last week. Two of our friends, the newly named Quarantine Kids, have been going slightly stir crazy since this all began. As a consequence of the quarantine, they have missed out on a fabulous trip to Dahab that they had been looking forward to for ages.

But luckily for our poor heroes, they have great friends like Little One, Adelpha, and me! I mean, having three awesome (yet humble) ladies like ourselves as friends would be enough for anyone to count themselves fortunate, but in this case, we decided to go the extra mile and keep the inmates from going too batty.

Early last week, we put together the care package to end all care packages. There was booze, knitting, games, and even a copy of the Kama Sutra. We didn’t bother with silly things like food – we were more worried about their ability to make it through the week with their minds intact.

The three of us cabbed it to Zamalek and generously allowed Adelpha to carry the 50-pound bag everywhere. We approached on foot and all noted how quiet the normally busy road in front of the dorm was. Barriers were set in front of the stairs leading to the front door and several surgical mask-wearing officers lingered next to the building.

We were immediately told to step away from the dorms. We explained we were there to drop off a gift for friends staying inside. Since food (and care package) delivery was ongoing to the dorms, they thought nothing of this and called out to the man inside the front door.

The guard told us to "place the bag on the stairs and step away" in such a serious tone that I almost thought we were dropping off ransom for the release of the Kids. When I tried to take a photo of the goings-on, we were immediately rushed by the previously sleepy looking officers and told to stop. When Little One innocently asked why we couldn’t take photos, the response was silence.

Upon hearing we were there, the Quarantine Kids came downstairs and waved to us from their side of the large glass doors. After a great deal of screaming, waving, and jumping up and down on all of our parts, Mr. Kid came very close to mooning everyone but stopped for reasons I have yet to determine.

But the best part of the gift was yet to come! You see, I had included one of my many copies of Trivial Pursuit in the bag and later that evening we put it to good use. With the Quarantine Kids in Zamalek on their board, and the three of us in Garden City with my board, we played a game of Skype-assisted Trivial Pursuit for several hours.

Sure, we came nowhere near to finishing, and I forgot simple answers like “Niagara Falls” but a great and drunken time was had by all. The best part of our Swine Flu-free game was the simple fun of hanging out with good friends – even those separated by governments, guards, and the Nile’s waters.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Meet Ted

(To prove that I’m not always a Grumpy Gus as my more recent posts may have suggested, today for your reading pleasure, is the story of Ted, the puppet monster.)

Back in April when I was in Toronto, I attended the One of a Kind show with my parents. While there, I found the most adorable puppet for my young nephew.

I naturally tested the puppet’s voice and ability to groove at the stand before I handed over my money. The conversation I held with the puppet greatly scared the two men in charge of the stall although I think I amused my mother and the one or two people who had gathered around to see the crazy lady.

All the way home this purple monster and I bonded through conversations about the differences between Muppets and puppets and the state of the economy. We waved at cars going by and ignored my parent’s pained looks from the front seat.

By the time we arrived home, the monster and I had bonded. He begged to be allowed tot stay and travel the world with me and I found myself unable to deny his wish. Sadly this meant my poor nephew was denied a gift but since he’s still a baby I’m hoping he didn’t notice too much.

Ted the Monster enjoys his new home and spends countless hours watching television and enjoys avoiding my neighbor’s dog, Alex, who thinks he’s a chew toy.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Having a Good Day

Hubby and I are often asked by friends and family back home how our life in Egypt differs from the life we might have been leading had we remained in the States. These questions are usually prompted by kind folks who want us to move back home, settle down, have children, and hold down jobs like normal people do.

These kind folks have obviously forgotten that we are not normal.

Usually, my first step is to remind people what Hubby does for a living requires a great deal of travel and that I like seeing him more than one or two days a month. But today I’m feeling rather ornery so I’m going to explain some of the differences between our lives in Egypt and the lives of our friends and family back in the Real World.

Waking Up
You are awoken by your alarm clock.
I am awoken by a grumpy muezzin who no more wants to be awake at 4:30 a.m. than I do. On good days he doesn’t have the loud speakers turned up full volume.

Grocery Shopping
You go to one store and buy everything on your list. If you feel truly adventurous, you can also seek out a butcher or specialty shop but you don’t have to.
I go to nine different stores, none of which has the ingredients I need to make the dinner I planned for this evening. Just because they had my ingredient every day for the last five months means nothing. If I had truly needed this item, I should have bought nine of them the first time I saw them and known this day would come. It is, as always, my fault.

Repair Men
You call the repair guy who listens carefully to your explanation of the problem at hand. When he arrives, he removes his shoes and kindly asks you to direct him to the broken machine that requires his services. He fixes it and leaves.
I call the Housing Department and explain the problem. My explanation is ignored and five wrong guys show up and are angry that I didn’t correctly explain the issue to Housing. Two hours later they send the right guy who doesn’t want to talk to me because I am merely a woman. After discussing the issue with my husband who asks if it can be repaired the reply is, “Insha'allah.” Repair guy then fiddles with some wires, shorts out all the power to my flat, and leaves blaming me because I am merely a woman. (Repeat this scenario three times to ensure power returns but item is never repaired.)

Going Out
You get in your car and go where needed to complete your daily chores. Or, you hop aboard public transportation and the same occurs.
I flag down a black and white taxi. The fourth one finally agrees to take me where I want to go. He takes the long way there, almost kills both of us numerous times, and then demands an unreasonable amount of money when we arrive because I am a woman and foreign. I tell him where to go, throw the money through the window and walk off the opposite direction. Many hours later, hot, sticky, and not looking anywhere near as cute as I did when I left the house, I repeat these actions to return home.

You walk down your sidewalk, admire the scenery, and nod to the occasional person you see.
I walk down the road because the sidewalk is blocked by cars. I dodge moving cars whilst ignoring comments from men who disapprove of the full-length skirt and loose fitting, long sleeved shirt I am wearing.

Oh you thought this was going to be one of those posts filled with the positive things about living in Egypt? As soon as I remember any, I promise to blog about them. Until then, I’m going to stand in front of my air conditioner, ignore the thermometer that reads 110F, pray the power doesn’t go off again, and hope tomorrow will bring better veggies to the market and saner drivers to the road.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

I Am Not PMSing

The following is a brief list of things men don’t have to go through. Things men don’t get. And most of all, things men need to learn a little bit more about before they complain about anything to any woman ever again.
There’s the bloating, the cramps, that time of the month, and all the euphemisms that go with it.

During the summer, there’s the bikinis and the bikini waxes.

At least those are only in summer. Because all year round we have to deal with lip waxes, high heels, and eyelash curlers, all of which go with the dress you can’t sit down in anyways.

Don’t get me started on childbirth.

In the workplace, we have charges of being b!tches when we fight the glass ceiling. While on date night we’re called sluts for smiling at cute boys, or frigid for not giving them our numbers.

And at home, we’re accused of PMS just because we want to eat everything in sight, write bitter blog posts, or snap at our loved ones who dared to suggest that books don’t always have to be in alphabetic order. Just because I’m cranky doesn’t mean it’s PMS! Maybe you did something wrong!

Oh and I’m never, ever cranky!

But when all is said and done, I have to admit that I wouldn’t trade it for all the Y-chromosomes in the world. You see, I enjoy being a girl!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Log Cabin Update

Those of you who knit may find today’s post interesting. You’ll mock my skills and feel far better about your own but hopefully you’ll enjoy the post nonetheless. Those of you who don’t knit will hopefully forgive me for my bragging posting about the project I currently have on my needles.

Since this afghan is going to take several years months to finish, I wanted to document my progress. Hopefully this will inspire me to keep going when it doesn’t seem to be growing no matter how many stitches I pick up for each new log.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I am working on a Log Cabin Blanket. I decided to try this pattern after seeing several amazing finished blankets online. I like recipes with photos so I know what my dinner is supposed to look like, and the same goes for my knitting patterns.

The first (vaguely geeky) thing I did was to play with colours in Excel. I copied the pattern into Excel and popped different colours into the rectangles until my mother, father, and I were finally able to agree on a colour scheme.

Next, I did something I never do – I knitted a swatch. Swatches or gauge squares are much talked about and beloved in the knitting community. I for one have never believed in wasting good yarn and, better, time on knitting a tiny square whose job it is to tell that I knit too tightly. But I’m weird like that. My goal for this swatch was to learn how to pick up stitches – a fairly common knitting skill I had managed to avoid thus far.

With a firm plan in mind, my mother drove me to Mary’s Yarns – our fabulous LYS – where we bought three skeins of Cascade 220 in each of the needed five colours. (Remind me to tell you about the rather interesting economic reasons behind yarn being sold in skeins rather than the easier-to-use balls.)

Each block or “log” is twenty rows or ten bumps high. I finished the first complete round (one block of each colour) before I left Toronto at the end of April. Now a month later, I just finished my fourth complete round and am still miraculously on the first ball of each colour. The afghan measures 57cm by 63cm. This thing is going to be huge by the time I’m done!

I’d blog about my blanket some more but I obviously have some knitting to get to.

Monday, June 08, 2009

An OMG Moment

Yesterday I blogged about my recent trip to the opera. What would have been an otherwise overall fantastic experience and rare cultural treat was marred by one tiny, little detail: blackface. Let me leave you to think about that word for a moment before I continue. Blackface.

As the curtain rose on the second act of Aida, we were greeted with gorgeous scenery, beautifully costumed handmaidens, and two groups of children representing Ethiopian slaves, dressed in brown bodysuits and wearing brown makeup on their faces. It was horrific. Sitting on my right, Adelpha turned to me and whispered, “Is that what I think it is?” I was too shocked to respond.

Midway through the scene, the children stood up and performed a primitive dance at center stage. When their part of the performance was over, the applause was uneven as people throughout the theatre worked through their shock. (To be fair the dance could have been blamed on their age and ability, or the overall poor choreography rather than attempt to make the dance look "primitive.")

A few minutes later, Little One leaned forward from her seat behind us to whisper what we were both thinking, “I’ve heard of blackface but I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen it before.”

Sadly, that was not the last we would see either of these children or of the outdated use of blackface and it overshadowed what was an otherwise fun evening. No one in our group was able to understand how anyone allowed this to make it to the stage. “Surely a discussion period or editing process should have taken place at some point?” posited a still shocked Adelpha.

The next morning, I tried to look up reviews of the current run but failed to come up with any that raised the issue I wanted to discuss. Then I broadened my search and was amazed to learn that having people appear in blackface and “afro wigs” to portray Ethiopians during performances of Aida was common. Not just in 1871 but in modern productions in the US. To quote one American reviewer, “Could you not, in Los Angeles, find 8 black dancers?”

Descriptions of this particular “artistic choice” abounded. I was flat our astounded. It’s 2009 yet opera and dance companies think this is appropriate?

I was so flummoxed by this discovery that I immediately called Black Beard and Adelpha. BB claimed this was an artistic choice and was in keeping with the way the opera would have been presented back in the 1800’s. I challenged him to visit a doctor in the 1800’s to determine if medicine too should be “historically accurate.”

This sparked a debate that ran for several hours about the cleansing of history versus artistic freedoms. I understand that modern productions want to be as close to the original as possible but I sincerely believe this is going too far. This may have been a valid artistic choice in 1871 or even in 1909 but bonehead moves like this today are flat out racist and offensive. Hire black actors or dancers, or if you must use white actors costume them in a manner that does not make me want to run up on stage and give a lecture about civil rights in the 21st century.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

A Night at the Opera

Two weeks ago, I joined several friends, including Little One and Adelpha, for an evening of culture, music, and dance. The Cairo Opera Company was staging the famous opera Aida and, we were told, there were still tickets available. Although Hubby was unable to go (he was busy with elective open heart surgery, exams, and washing his hair) I was thrilled to be included.

The chance to see an opera about Egypt, that was first performed in Egypt, while I was living in Egypt was too much to pass up. So that Tuesday night we all got dolled up and set out for the theatre. I was surprised to hear there were so many seats available for what I felt was an rare cultural opportunity.

Cribbing from the notes in the program a little, Aida is an opera in four acts by Giuseppe Verdi (Rigoletto, La Traviata,) with an Italian libretto by Antonio Ghislanzoni. This opera was first performed here in Cairo at the Khedivial Opera House on December 24, 1871. That opera house was later turned into a parking lot but the new one is lovely and more than up to the task of staging this revival.

Verdi’s opera tells the tragic story of Aida, an Ethiopian princess, who is captured and made a slave in Egypt. She falls in love with Radames, a military commander, who struggles to choose between his love for Aida and his loyalty to the Pharaoh. Since love is never any fun unless three people are involved, the Pharaoh’s daughter Amneris is also in love with Radames who doesn’t exactly return her feelings.

Before I go into the negatives of the night, let me first mention the things I loved. Despite amusing details like the Colossus of Memnon being on the banks of the Nile, the sets were flat out amazing. The costumes were equally sumptuous if slightly ill tailored for some of the performers.

The symphony was fantastic and truly shone during Aida’s famous Triumphal March. I don’t think I was the only one humming along to this majestic piece of orchestration.

The soprano who sang the part of Aida, Julie Karagouni, was fantastic. I have read reviews that indicated that her Typ0-esque size deterred from people’s ability to see her as the heroine, and I have to disagree with those narrow minded people. The singer’s voice was exquisite and she was one of the few people up there trying to act.

Which brings us to some of the not-so-good parts of this almost amateurish production. There was the crew who could be seen running around backstage; the rather unimpressive tenor, Walid Korayem, who played the hero, Radames; and the initially disappointing performance of Amneris. The latter was swapped out in the final act due to health concerns and replaced by a fantastic singer named Dragana del Monaco.

As Little One noted, Egypt isn’t exactly famous for its male ballet dancers, which must be why the choreographer seemed to give the men very basic steps or strength work to perform. I love ballet and was greatly disappointed by the choreography in general.

Despite the uneven performances, I had a fabulous time out with my friends. Attending the opera is something everyone should do at least once. You may not like it in the end, but at least you can say you tried. That said, I guarantee that if you try it at least once, the thrill that goes through you when a great soprano holds an impossible note for an impossibly long time will stay with you forever.

All of which brings us to the biggest “Oh my God is that what I think it is” moment of the evening. Since I think it deserves more than just a paragraph, you’ll have to check back tomorrow to read about the moment that left everyone scratching their heads.

(I should note that none of today’s photos were taken by me since cameras are verboten in the theatre. That, naturally, must be why we heard cameras going off almost constantly during the performance. But given my history with forbidden photography, I decided not to risk taking my own camera out. Sorry!)

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Cyber Love

Despite the fact I should know better, I have always assumed that Hubby and I were somewhat unique. Yes, I know our mutual freakishness makes us unique but I’m talking about the way we met. When I blogged about this topic in May, I was shocked by how many people responded by saying they too had met their significant others online.

Hubby and I were early players in the game of Internet relationships yet we’re certainly not the only ones. Even in Hubby’s own family, we weren’t the only ones. Not only did BIL meet his lovely wife, Fiona online through an RPG, but my MIL met her new husband through eHarmony.

Even with the proof in my own family, I remain amazed at how many people have met their soulmates online. Whether by chance like Hubby and me or guided by a higher power like eHarmony, millions of people right now are using the Internet to find love. Based solely on the number of commercials I saw for Internet matchmakers when I was in Toronto, I can only conclude that the “stigma” once associated with online love is a thing of the past.

And yet when people ask “How did you two lovebirds meet?” the Internet still receives more shocked and dubious looks than either “at a drunken wet t-shirt contest during spring break” or “he was in the cell next to me during that time I was arrested for indecent exposure during Mardi Gras.”

When people hear “Internet romance,” I can usually read the myriad of thoughts that flash through their heads: pedophiles, nerds, geeks, freaks, netsex, and perverts. My response to which are: eww, thank you, hell yeah, what’s your point, NOT, and no comment.

The unkind, if silent, accusations are probably why I always follow up, “We met on the Internet” with a rather defensive, “Oh but it wasn’t one of those chat rooms.” Do other cyber lovers go through this? Am I simply imagining the judgment because I’m such a neurotic freak?

I knew I should have married the guy I met in prison! At least then I wouldn’t be judged.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Au Revoir

Those of you who read expat blogs are probably sick of the chorus of goodbye blogs. Reading about people who live in cool locales bitch about leaving friends behind probably seems a little ungrateful. I get that.

But it doesn’t make the suckiest part of the gig any less sucky. I hate saying goodbye to people I’ve grown to love and call friends. Folks with whom I’ve shared a bottle of Pledge Egyptian wine, or melted with during a walk along the corniche.

The cruel Catch-22 of expat life is that you have to make friends to feel at home and fit in. You welcome strangers into your home and by the end of the night you realize how much you have in common with your fellow travelers. You attend faculty “dos” and leave with phone numbers and promises of future shopping trips with fabulous people who know the ins and outs of Cairo better than the locals. Occasionally you are even lucky enough to have neighbours that turn into best friends and the sister you never had.

And then one of you leaves.

It’s amazing how easily I forget this part of the job. ‘Cause it really, really bites. Over the next month I will be saying goodbye to several friends, all of whom have proved to be fabulously cool.

They’re all incredibly excited about going home and have started counting down the days and hours until their flights take off. They’ve started selling off those items they don’t need to take back to the Real World and pack up those items that do. I understand: I’ve done it numerous times myself. But it doesn’t make it any less suck-tastic.

Going away parties have become the new happy hour in Cairo as more and more people say their final goodbyes. Well, I refuse to say goodbye! I’m drawing my line in the sand and saying that goodbyes are a thing of the past. Instead, I will opt for “see you soon,” “until our next Scrabble game,” or a simple and plaintive “don’t go!!!”

Saying goodbye sucks like no other part of this expatriate life. The monthly bouts of ghiardia, the ridiculous oven-like heat, and complete and utter lack of even semi-decent pizza are all things you can get used to. Watching friends head off to the airport for the last time isn’t.

See you soon guys!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

It’s a Celebration

Like most children, I have a difficult time accepting that my parents existed or had lives before I was born. Sure there are those nebulous years between when my older brothers were born and my birth but I’m not sure those really count. After all, since the world revolves around me what was the world doing before I was me?

As I got older, I realized the world didn’t revolve around me. Worse yet, there still remains a small chance that I am not the centre of the universe.

This time every year I am forced to recall that the world is not a giant holodeck that exists only when I am in the room. In fact, the world and the people in it exist entirely separate of me – or so I’m told. You see, on this date back in 19*cough*cough* a great and wondrous event occurred in a small town in Wales that would later impact my life. My mother was born.

In so far as mothers go, mine isn’t half bad. She’s a lovely lady who puts up with nonsense like children who show up on her doorstep with 24 hours notice. She’s also an amazing cook who should someday write a cookbook to share her fabulous recipes with the world… or at least her children.

Mum is good looking and thin (see photo below taken less than a year after the birth of her first child) and gave none of the lovely thin genes to her only daughter. Not that I'm bitter.

This lovely lady is also a sharp dresser who taught me that if you buy a purse at half price and pay $100, you should only mention the half price part to your spouse when you later discuss your purchases. She also raised me to believe there is no such thing as a stupid question; however, if you ask the same “smart” question enough times, you deserve whatever you get.

My mother is one of those people who knows someone everywhere she goes: shopping at the local supermarket, parking her car at a random lot downtown, and even a museum halfway around the world – this lady knows everyone! My mother is well respected by people who don’t live with her. (And by those that do, she is both respected, loved, and feared.)

Today, on the anniversary of my mother’s birth, I would like to raise a glass of her favourite Champagne and toast this amazing lady. Sure, I wouldn’t exist without her, but more importantly, I wouldn’t be who I am today without her.

Happy birthday, Mum!

Monday, June 01, 2009

The Stupidest Person in the Room

The world I live in is a little different from the norm. No, I’m not talking about the traveling or surviving in different cultures every few years. You see, I live in a world where 90% of the people I know have PhD’s.

Pretty much since the moment Hubby returned to grad school to finish his doctorate, I have been surrounded by people with more letters after their name than I have in my name. Like Hubby, these are über smart people who have decided, for one reason or another, to enhance their smarty status by attending school for an extra six years.

I cannot tell you how many events I have attended with Hubby where I was literally the stupidest person in the room. A fact that was only reinforced by the pitying looks I would receive from some people when I told them what I did for a living and it didn’t involve being a professor or Nobel Laureate.

(Before I get too far into this sulky pityfest allow me to clarify one thing: 95% of those 90% of people are amazing folks I have adopted into my own personal world. They are, for the most part, simply awesome people who happen to be brilliant. I'm just annoyed by the other 5%.)

Where was I? Oh yeah: I’m still the stupidest person in the room. Among the Master’s candidates, ABD would be PhD’s (all but dissertation), actual professors, researchers, and genius’s there I stand: the blogger without any letters after her name. Most of the time this doesn’t bother me that much but it all came to a bit of a head last week.

I was being introduced to someone who works at the Institution and the person making the intros literally paused for ten “um” filled seconds before making something up to justify why I was with them. “She works as a consultant with her husband.”

I know I’m not an awesome, internationally recognized smart guy like Hubby. Nor am I busy publishing papers on world issues like my wonderful friend Adelpha. I’m not a stay at home mother. I’m not even writing the great Canadian novel.

I’m just Typ0 and most of the time I’m totally okay with that. But sometimes it takes ten seconds for someone to justify my existence. I’m sorry I’m fat and unattractive and don’t fit in with your group. I haven’t found my niche in life – but I’m looking.

Sorry to dump on all of you. Tomorrow we will return to our regularly scheduled unwhiny posts.