Hamlet from the 11 yr olds

Judy had a magical teaching moment the last day of school. Her English Language Acquisition class consists of three kids whose native language is Arabic and who are French Immersion students. So English is their third language. And they had been reading an abridged edition of Hamlet. They have been mesmerized by the story, all of the terrible family dilemmas.

Their assignment was to re-write a couple of scenes, culminating in the stabbing of Polonius. I’m sure that you all remember all of the details!

Three classes were invited in to watch. And me too. I had a spare. The kids were a little nervous but they performed their scenes in their third language completely in character. And then their friends in the audience, who were visiting from a French class, started chanting “French, French, French!”. So without missing a beat, the three of them re-performed their scenes en francais. Still totally in character. No rehearsal time at all. And the crowd went wild!
They were so proud of themselves and very excited afterwards. They were peppered with questions and just stood there in front of the class calmly answering them. Then everyone carried on with their day. But those forty five minutes were a little piece of magic.

Pardon the Interruption

The blog is back after a few weeks of technical problems. Let me give a huge shout out to our great friend from Run Club Lyse Arsenault who has been with me on this blogging experiment from the beginning. We set it up together while Judy fed us fruit. And she performed some sort of magic to get things back up and running! And she just ran a 4:15 at the Philadelphia Marathon! A great person.

Shout out #2 goes to Manotick United Church. MUC is sponsoring a refugee Syrian family together with the new mosque in Barrhaven. This is not the first time the church has given a refugee family a hand up but it is good to see it happening right now when the need is so great. If you are interested in finding out more, contact the church or me.

Random notes

It is hard to believe that it is December. It seems like we just got off the plane from Ottawa yesterday in some ways. In others, it seems like we have been here forever. But Christmas is just around the corner and, although it is painful not to go home, we have a plan. And how it came about is a curious thing.
A friendship started in Sydney, Australia over forty years ago will result in us attending a Christmas Day pot luck here in Alexandria, Egypt, Africa in 2015 (inshallah!).
This is really a church story I guess. Judy’s sister, Catherine, who comments on here from time to time, made a great friend, Celia, in Sydney all those years ago. Cath and Geoff have just spent the last four months all over Australia and have spent lots of time with Celia.
Ok, so stay with me now. Celia remembered that her friend from church has a son, Mrs. Duke, with family living in Alexandria. She tells Mrs. Duke that her Canadian friend Catherine’s sister is living in Alexandria and undoubtedly is bereft and lonely in this strange Egyptian city. Mrs. Duke emails her son Tim and his wife Kylie and tells them of our sad plight. Kylie emails Judy a very warm message inviting us to lunch.
Turns out they live around the corner so we saunter over, have a great visit with these great people, and, as we are leaving, I mention to Kylie that I am an old choir hand. Several days later, an English fellow phones me and says that he understands I would like to join a choir. Choir practice is Friday at 6:30 pm, meet me at 6 on the corner. I do this and off we go to an Armenian church in the middle of the Ibrahamia souq. And now I am singing with them on Christmas Eve at St. Mark Anglican Church deep in Manchiya, the only building the British didn’t bomb to smithereens in 1882 according to David Thomas, my English friend who would know. He has lived here for forty years.
Oh yes, and Kylie and Tim invited us to a Christmas Day pot luck at their apartment with some other expats.
And then Mary and Brad arrive, probably on the 27th!
So now we have a Christmas to look forward to, probably unlike any other.

Cairo: “Can I Help You?”

The Russian Plane Crash

First, there was the terrible Russian plane crash on the Sinai, which happened about a week before we were to leave for Cairo. We live in a bit of a bubble here both at the school and at home and in the community. English papers exist but they are hard to come by so there is the BBC World News on tv and internet info. I read the Globe online daily and the Guardian when I think of it but that is it. The plane crash did not have nearly the impact emotionally one would have expected. There wasn’t even any real discussion at school.

Travelling and Accommodations

So off we went to Cairo on the train. It departed on the minute and arrived in Cairo early! When we returned, same thing. The travelling went tickety boo. That was one relief.
The other was our hotel. We avoided the big, monster international hotels and stayed at an unusual downtown place called the Hotel Talisman de Charme. We were dropped off by our taxi on Talaat Harb Street and told to walk down this alley, turn right into an unmarked building and take this creaky old elevator up to the 5th floor and all would be well. Ok then, no problem. Trust in the Lord and your local friendly Egyptians.
All 24 rooms were on one floor. We were given a suite even though we reserved an ordinary room, which was a treat. It was clean as a whistle with a new bathroom. The colours were exotic and Egyptian with beautiful pieces of original art on the walls. We loved it. We were also the only patrons in the place. That was a little strange. I tried not to think of The Shining, Stephen King and his books and the demonic Jack Nicholson.
And then the next morning we emerged from our room to find the hotel grande dame sitting and watching us as walked down the hall to breakfast. She was well made up, maybe seventy-five years old, Maggie Smith from Downton Abbey keeping a watchful eye over the proceedings. Judy was worried that her face would crack when she smiled.

Of Papyrus, Snake Oil and Magical Lanterns

Sunday afternoon and evening and all day Monday and Monday evening we were on our own. We just wandered. We had been warned that the Egyptian merchants were very aggressive, trying to lure you into their shops. And we were to simply keep on walking, oblivious to their blandishments ( I always wanted to use that word!).
That was the theory. The reality is that we got fished in not once, not twice but three times!
Here is the thing. Never stand around in the middle of a crowded Cairo street looking befuddled and, shall we say, non Egyptian. You might as well be wearing a tee shirt that says “Sitting Duck”.
So there we were. Downtown Cairo, Population twenty three million people give or take. Trying to find a restaurant called Felfella with very dubious directions. This very friendly fellow with bad teeth asks us my favourite Cairo question:
“Where are you from?”
“We are from Canada.”
“ Great. My favourite country.”
And then:
“ English or French?”
Anyway, he agrees to lead us to the restaurant. But as we get close to the restaurant street, he says; “ Let me show you my brother in law’s shop. You’ll love it. He sells real papyrus.”
Even with four alarm fire bells going off in our heads, we head off down a little side street and into a tiny shop full of art on papyrus sheets. Many of them are beautiful. The owner is full of enthusiasm, sending out for cups of tea, asking us to sit down and stay a while. We spend a good half hour looking at various pieces of art. We send him outside. We talk. We see what we want. Judy (master negotiator) haggles like crazy. She brings the guy down to 425 LE from 770 LE for two pieces and he finally gives in. We walk out the door, looking at each other and thinking: “ That was great but exhausting. Have we just been had?”
So we headed off, still not sure where the restaurant was and, what do you know, another new friend finds us, shows us where the food emporium is and…
“Would you like to see my family’s perfume shop? Everything in it comes from our 150 acre farm out in the country.”
“ Sure, we will have a quick look.”
Fifteen minutes later, Judy walks out with a little bottle of lotus oil, “ the ancient flower of Egypt” minus eighty pounds. We call it snake oil now. Oh man. And then we finally made it to the restaurant! Which was great…darkish inside with stone walls, bird cages filled with budgies and doves, fish tanks with turtles, professional waiters in their fifties, and great food. This was our reward for our back alley adventures. And only the start.