Ein Sukhna

We tried to take a vacation recently to Ein Sukhna, or hot springs.  It’s a spot near the Red Sea, where mostly Egyptians vacation, as opposed to tourists from outside of Egypt.  That means it’s more affordable, and with a more Islamic atmosphere. 

We basically went on the spur of the moment, because that’s how dh is.  He gets it in his head to go somewhere, and he wants to do it that day.  Unfortunately it was Friday and we couldn’t find a driver.  We did find one Egyptian brother, Usama, someone I’d dealt with before to go to Rehab.  He seemed pretty nice.  Dh makes the arrangements for the brother to show  up at 9am Saturday.  I shop, prepare food and get the kids ready.  Well, 9am Saturday, no Usama.  Dh calls him.  He apologizes and says he was out late.  Dh is like, ‘And?  We had an agreement.’ So he says he’ll call “Muhammad” to come get us in an hour.  Dh told him to call and confirm that “Muhammad” would actually be showing up.  We didn’t hear anything, so dh calls around and finds someone else, who shows up about 10am.  We’ve been traveling for an hour, when dh cell phone rings.  It’s Usama to let us know our driver is downstairs waiting!  Dh is like, brother, we left.  They go back and forth, dh letting him have to for breaking his agreement.  Finally Usama says, ‘Cancel my number from your cell phone.’  I think he meant erase, but his English is shaky.  Dh was like, shukran, wassalam. 

I was like, hold on one minute.  He’s in the wrong and is telling us not to call again!  As if we did him wrong!  The problem is that there are so many foreigners in Egypt now, that some people have started to have it a little good.  They don’t have to worry about giving good service, cause hey, someone new will come along.  But I just had to put our experience out there and we will definately not be calling that brother again. 

 On to the trip, the driver who actually took us was a brother dh had met previously while taking a taxi to the Cairo International Bookfair, two years ago.  The brother had welcomed us to Cairo, and actually treated us to a lunch of falafel.  He tried  to refuse the fare, but dh insisted on paying.  Fast forward two years.  He lets us know his rates, they turn out to be a bit more than the previous brother, but he says he’s giving us a discount on his normal fees.  Ok.  On the way he offers to rent us a tire from the car for 5 LE to swim with.  Dh is like huh?!  Later dh related the sad reality that the brother had changed.  From treating us, to trying to make whatever money he could.  The price even ended up changing at the end of the day, but we’ll get to that.  The point was dh knew an Egyptian that seemed different from the many that try to fleece you, but now he’s joined the mainstream, mashallah.  I viewed it a little differently.  The brother has married and has a kid, now.  He, probably feels he has to make every dime, or piastre he can.  I wish he could treat us like ‘normal’, but who knows how I’d act if the roles were reversed.

On to Ein Sukhna.  I’d heard you could rent a place for a reasonable amount, and have a good amount of privacy.  Try as we might, we could not find any place to rent.  We ended up just paying to sit on a crowded beach, which was none too clean.  Dh first refused to get out of the car.  When he finally did, he just sat there, cursing Egypt and Egyptians, and vowing never to travel again, lol.  He really likes many aspects of living here, but he hates getting burned.  LOL, when we got home, the brother upped the price of taking us there, reasoning, well, you didn’t have to pay for a hotel, so you may as well give it to me! 

We are used to just picking up and going someone in the States, but obviously it’s not a good idea in Egypt.  Plan in advance and prepare.  Alhamdulillah, all was not in vain.  The kids had a good time in the water.  The scenery on the way was beautiful, the roads cut right through the mountians.  Here are some pics. 

The Red Sea

Red Sea

The beach

beach

On the way:

A masjid on the road

Homeschooling in Egypt

Many people wonder about homeschooling overseas.  It is more of a challenge.  No libraries, fewer friends, fewer resources. 

I am passionate about homeschooling.  I feel individualized education is much better than sitting in a class of 20-30 kids who are at different levels of reading and math, all taught by one teacher.  I believe that you can influence your children much more strongly by teaching them yourself and spending your days with them.  And I absolutely hate the group mentality that sometimes forms from having lots of kids spending most of their time together. 

Besides, schools in Egypt have a lot to be desired.  The public schools are a joke; dirty, loud factories with underpaid, often unprofessional teachers.  Private schools are too expensive for what you get.  I don’t get the impression that they actually teach.  Parents have told me of their 7 and 8 yr olds having hours of homework, and falling asleep at 11pm while doing it.  This makes no sense to me.  If I have to teach them at home after school, I may as well do it in the first place.

Obviously one of the first difficulties in homeschooling overseas is how to get supplies.  One of the easiest, albeit most expensive is a correspondence school.  There are many, such as Calvert and Laurel Springs (I’ve used them and do NOT recommend them) who will send out supplies and keep records for your kids, as well as give teaching help. 

Another option is what we did, decide on the materials you want to use and bring them with you.  I purchased about 4 years of math, reading, science curricula before leaving the states.  I stocked up again on a visit last year.  You can also enlist friends or family to bring stuff to you when they visit.  Or buy on trips to the states.  The last option would be to buy online and have it shipped over.  Some companies, as well as ebay sellers will ship overseas, but this is the most expensive option.   

Yet another option for curriculum is the internet.  There are free sites such as Amblesideonline and Tanglewood.  There are also many pay and free sites which offer lots of materials for reading, math, science and more.

We are classical homeschoolers.  I try to follow the directions set out in The Well-Trained Mind.  We brought our curriculum from the states, four years worth.  I purchased more when I visited.  I recommend bringing books with you on the plane.  That is the cheapest and most reliable way.  Try and find an airline which allows boxes, you’ll get a lot more books within the weight limit, than if you pack them in the suitcases.  Most airlines allow you to bring extra luggage for a fee.  It’s usually cheaper than what you would pay to ship stuff otherwise.

Libraries here are few and poorly stocked.  Books are available online: 

manybooks.net

gutenburg.org

Before leaving the states,  I purchased a cd from ebay with 5000 books on it.  You can also find new and used books.  New books are pretty expensive.  Used books can be found for decent prices, outdoor stalls, shops, the Cairo International Book Fair.  The book fair is the event our family waits for every year.  You will find adult’s, children’s, textbooks, dictionaries, encyclopedias, everything.  The size is enormous.  The prices are usually pretty decent also, especially towards the end.  There’s also a bookstore in maadi that delivers AND takes paypal!

Outings and socialization

I find outings to be the most challenging.  In the summer it gets really hot to be out.  Transportation can be difficult.  I try to take the kids to visit friends once a week (or every two weeks if it’s hot or I’m busy).  There are swimming trips organized for sisters in the summer.  There are nadis, or sports clubs kids can join for a fee and take classes (swimming, tae kwan do, etc).  We haven’t done the classes yet.  We don’t have a car and I’m tired of dealing with drivers!  Not having a car makes outings more of a challenge even when the weather is cooler.  However, there is still lots of stuff to see and do depending on your stamina and budget.  There are places with indoor rides, but I believe they have safety issues, so we don’t go.  There’s horse back riding in Giza.  There is also a petting farm in Giza, but it’s quite expensive.  There’s an art center, again in Giza, called Fajnoon, where kids can paint, make clay sculpture’s, bake bread, and more.  Not to mention all the nature and historical stuff; the Red Sea, the Pyramids, the Citadel (fort built hundreds of years ago), the desert, the Swiss Canal.  Basically, you can find a ton of stuff, it’s just more difficult (and sometimes more costly) to do than in the states. 

Don’t expect people to understand homeschooling.  Most people believe education begins and ends in a school.  I have met a few people who think homeschooling is doable.  One former Quran teacher has her kids registered in a school, but teaches them at home.  She just takes them to school at test time.  Her reason is she doesn’t want them learning the bad behavior of some of the other kids.  Plus she says they memorize more Quran at home.  Makes sense to me.  She’d probably end up teaching them herself, may as well make a full time job of it.

It’s impossible to cover everything, but if you are considering homeschooling in Egypt, drop me a line and I’ll try to answer specific questions.