This is not about rain, there hasn’t been any in Cairo in a few months. It’s about all of us (except dh) being sick as dogs from some sort of bug or food poisoning. I lean towards that latter and believe the culprit was a meat pizza. Try to imagine projectile vomiting by three kids, plus diarrhea, nausea, and fever and you’ll get an idea of the last three days. Just when it seemed everyone was getting better, I got the chills, nausea, running to the bathroom. Alhamdulillah, I feel somewhat better, after sleeping the WHOLE day and limiting my food to toast and tea. Good thing, cause after a hiatus, the kids started vomiting AGAIN. You can be sure it’ll be a loooong time before I order anything to eat from outside, inshallah.
This was one of those days. One where I start to wonder if the benefits of being here are enough to stay. My son had a cavity for a few weeks, so I took him a dentist I’d been seeing and requested she see him. He wouldn’t keep still, which really annoyed her. I can understand why she was bothered, but I also understood my sons fear. He’s 8 yrs old and someone is sticking a needle in his mouth! That would bother most adults.
Anyway, flash forward to today. We go back so she can fill in the tooth. While we are waiting for the doctora to arrive, ds says he has to throw up. I ask the assistant for a bathroom, she asks the receptionist. While they are standing around figuring out the reason for their existance, ds, true to his word, throws up. At this point, the doctora finally makes her entrance, and she is not pleased. Did he eat before coming here she asked? I apologized and told her he hadn’t eaten in hours actually. Unbeknownst to me he’d actually been feeling bad since morning. The whole appointment went downhill from there. She lectured me about how my sons ‘reaction is not normal’. I should have told her he was like this and she never would have started on his teeth. He needs a doctor who specializes in kids. Up to this point I’d been trying to keep my face neutral, but I had to agree with her there. If I’d know she’d have so little tolerance for a scared kid, I never would have brought him. When she finally finished, she rushed us out of the office, to the point of rudeness. Needless to say, ds won’t be back to her. My dilemma, is that I have an appointment with her tomorrow. Good doctors (meaning skilled) are hard to come by, but the lack of a good bedside manner is pretty standard. So, my feeling is that I’ll just have to suck up my distaste.
It might seem like something small and not important enough to question staying in Egypt or not. But it’s yet another fundamental difference in mentality and it’s very hard to get used to.
Finding decent clothes, especially for summer is a problem for me. For women it’s the arab style caftan dress, or basically night gowns. Those are usually inexpensive, but I don’t feel comfortable wearing a house dress ALL the time. Younger women wear jeans, skirts, or long tunic set with pants. A lot of the stuff is too trendy for my taste, looks like it’s hot to wear, and too expensive (you could pay about 200LE ($35) for an outfit, more than what I used to spend in the states. I admit I did mostly shop at Walmart.
Alhamdulillah, I found a place in Madina Nasr, haya thamin, called Tarzan. It’s almost at the corner of Mustapha Al-Nahas and Makram Albeid, right across from Tauheed wa Noor. They have really decent stuff for cheap. Lots of capris, both jeans and sweat pants kind, tank tops and dresses, and everything 25LE ($4.30) and under! Last night I got a pair of capris for myself and two daughters, plus 4 shirts and I spent 105 LE.
For the first two years we were here, we lived in furnished apartments. Unfurnished are much cheaper, but don’t include a refridgerator, stove, kitchen cabinets, or even closets. So furnishing an apartment involves a considerable outlay of money. Our very first apartment was pretty decent, albeit on the 5th floor with no elevator. It had three bedrooms (one with air conditioning), 1.5 baths, and something they claimed was a washing machine. Let me explain, they have two types of washers here. One is completely automatic, put the clothes in, the soap, hit the buttons, and wait for it to finish. The second kind, which we had, you put the clothes in a cylinder, fill it with water, let the machine agitate the clothes til you think they are clean. Then you must rinse and wring out the clothes by hand. I don’t know whose idea this was. It is slightly better than completely washing by hand, but only slightly. We were about 2 blocks from a shopping center, grocery store, and walking distance (a looong walk) from Fajr Center. We paid 1500LE (around $250).
Our second apartment was much worse. Roach infested, damp walls with peeling paint so bad that a mattress next to the wall had rotted. We had been in a big hurry to find a place, the previous landlord went back on his word and said we couldn’t stay. We ended up having to find a place pretty fast in the summer time, which is a peak time for renting, driving prices up. This montrosity did have more in the way of appliances, an automatic washer, two air conditioners, and satellite tv. We basically moved in after seeing it once at night. Big mistake. The roaches showed themselves after we moved in. I made myself sick spraying Raid everywhere. The first time I cooked dinner, I left the food to cool on the stove. When I came back, two homongous roaches were on the lid of the pot. My first instinct was to grab the poison, but common sense prevailed. Instead I started hitting the pot, hoping to knock off the roaches. I succeeded with one, but the second fell into the pot of meat curry!
The pitiful condition of this apartment was not because of lack of funds on the part of the owner. My dh saw his apartment and said it looked like a palace. Nor was it reflected in the price we paid, an ungodly sum of 1900LE ($333), mind you the average pay here is about $50/month. My purpose is not to complain, alhamdulillah I am very thankful to be out of there and in a decent place now. My main point is renters BEWARE. Do not be in a hurry to find a place. Look over the apartment carefully and in the daytime. People will basically get out of you want they can.
A furnished apartment makes sense if you will be here a short time, say less then a year. If you plan to stay more than a year, than I would highly recommend an unfurnished. The furniture placed in furnished apartments is usually not very good, either purchased used, or cast-offs of the owners. Besides this, the rental contract says you must leave the apartment AS YOU FOUND IT! That doesn’t sound bad at first, however most rental contracts in the states allow for reasonable wear and tear. So if the stuff was broken down, you are not going to be found responsible if it breaks a little more. Not so here. It is very rare to get a security deposit back, in my experience. Any little thing will be noted down, and used as an excuse to keep the entire deposit.
My experiences are basically limited to Nasr City, Cairo, which has a high number of foreigners and the most popular places to study arabic. I’ll leave you with few photos of last hated apartment.
I went to the hospital a few days ago to retrieve test results for my 6yr old. She’d had a fever for about 11 days, which continued even after antibiotics were started. Along with poor appetite, nausea, vomiting and sore throat. Ordinarily (meaning in the states), we’d have taken her to see a doctor after the 3rd day of fever, but dh and I both feel some hesitancy after past experiences with Egyptian doctors. The hospital was Cleopatra in Misr Jedida (Heliopolis). It’s one of the more expensive hospitals, catering to wealthier Egyptians, as well as foreigners. It looks somewhat similar to an American hospital and has an onsite lab. An appointment will run you about 60-80 Egyptian LE ($10-$14), not including any lab tests or prescriptions. A week prior I’d taken her to Markez Al-Tayseer, a clinic in Madina Al-Nasr (Nasr City) , which caters to poorer and middle class Egyptians. The appointment was 10 LE (>$2).
What was the difference? Well, Markez Al-Tayser was clean, albeit small and cramped. There is no onsite lab. I was instructed to collect a stool sample (at home), take it to a lab to be analysed and bring back the results. I didn’t have to wait long to see a doctor. So why did I take her to Cleopatra and pay more? Well you try getting a stool sample from a six-year-old who’s barely eaten the past few days. First find some container to put it in, then take it to a lab, pick up the results and take it back to the doctor, with said sick child. The American system of health care could use some improvement, but it is a remarkably easy system, comparatively speaking.