Looking Back Six Months In

Mary sent a photo the other day that was a new one for us. She took it at the Ottawa airport while we were waiting there for departure. It made me think back. First we were off to Frankfurt, then Cairo, then who knew what? We’ll post it because it is interesting, the pensive but excited look on Judy’s face as she waited and the kind look on Brad’s. Did we have any idea what we were doing and what we were getting ourselves into? It is that kind of look. And the picture doesn’t lie. All we had were really a whole lot of visions that were based on two skype conversations with Darren Arbour, our principal, and more stereotypes than I cared to think about.

We were both 64 years old and out of the full time work force, happy with our busy lives in Manotick and with our children and grandchildren. Looking back, we took a big risk, but a calculated one. And I have to say, so far, so good.

Getting back to the classroom was challenging and exhausting at first. The children were younger than either of us were used to as students. They were not disciplined but they weren’t evil either. We both liked them and loved their enthusiasm but just quiet down a little please!! I have worked without text books for my Individual and Society courses but that meant I could create my own units of study. Judy was in the same boat. But now we are into a rhythm.

This city is big. Eight million people is a lot of people. And it is unruly in many ways with poor garbage collection, no apparent traffic rules or even lanes, very few building numbers. English is not spoken on any consistent basis but enough to get by in critical times like in the bank or the grocery store. The solution…take a Survival Arabic course! We now have enough Arabic to manage transactions in the souq. Judy successfully had a fishmonger clean and grill a couple of fish for us the other day, a first. What we did not realize was that it wasn’t filleted so when I unwrapped the packages, two little grilled sea bass were staring at me through a thick coating of blackened spices. But the fish was delicious.

We left behind family and friends and our favourite activities…Run Club, Tuesday night yoga and pot luck, the choir and gang at Manotick United and our neighbours of so many years on Hillcrest Drive. It isn’t possible to replace all of that in a new country and culture very quickly. But we have found our way and that feels really good. There are excellent cultural activities at the Bibliotheca and they aren’t as expensive as the NAC in Ottawa. Two weeks ago, we attended a production of Carmina Burana there that was amazing. A huge chorus, including a children’s choir, a full orchestra and a packed house. All for 25LE each or about four Canadian dollars. I don’t know how they do it but I am sure not complaining.

One last thing. It has been winter here for a couple of months, Egyptian style. Now it has changed as the days lengthen and today it will be 26 degrees. And yesterday I received this great photo from running pal Byron Boucher complete with a weather printout. -29 with a wind-chill of -43. They were still out there getting in their run those crazy run clubbers! Oh Canada!!