Amreekia Min Bab Al Sharayah

That was the name of my old blog. Translated, it means an American woman from the old, poor and rundown district of Bab Al Sharayah in Cairo. I was given this nickname because although I was born in the USA, my mentality is more ghetto Egyptian. I'm a curious mixture of east meets west, and dont care if you call me balady!

I'm going to slowly bring some of the old posts from Amreekia over here (see archives), basically to give new readers some background. I hope you'll enjoy the old and the new and join me on this fascinating expat journey!

Monday, September 21, 2009

These really were the good old days!

Here's to US!!!!
No matter what our kids and the
new generation think about us,

To Those of  Us  Born  
1930 - 1969

                   1930's, 40's, 
               50's, and 60's!!
First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked
 and/or drank while they were pregnant.

They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing,
tuna from a can and didn't get tested for diabetes.
Then after that trauma, we were put to sleep
 on our tummies in baby cribs covered
with bright colored lead-base paints.

We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles,
locks on doors or cabinets and
when we rode our bikes,
we had baseball caps
not helmets on our heads.

As infants & children, we would ride in cars
with no car seats, no booster seats, no seat belts,
no air bags, bald tires and sometimes no brakes.

Riding in the back of a pick- up truck on a
warm day was always a special treat.
We drank water from the garden hose
and not from a bottle.

We shared one soft drink with four friends,
from one bottle and no one actually died from this.

We ate cupcakes, white bread, real butter and bacon.
 We drank Kool-Aid made with real white sugar.
And, we weren't overweight..   WHY?

Because we were always outside playing...that' s why!
We would leave home in the morning and play all day,
as long as we were back when the streetlights came on..
No one was able to reach us all day. And, we were OKAY.

We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps
and then ride them down the hill,
only to find out we forgot the brakes.
After running into the bushes a few times,
we learned to solve the problem

We did not have Play stations, Nintendo's
and X-boxes. There were no video games,
no 150 channels on cable, no video movies
or DVD's, no surround-sound or CD's,
no cell phones,
no personal computers,
no Internet and no chat rooms.

WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them!

We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth
and there were no lawsuits from these accidents.

We would get spankings with wooden spoons,

switches, ping pong paddles, or just a bare hand
and no one would call child services to report abuse.

We ate worms and mud pies
made from dirt, and
the worms did not live in us forever.

We were given BB guns for our 10th birthdays,
made up games with sticks and tennis balls and,
although we were told it would happen,
we did not put out very many eyes.

 We rode bikes or walked to a friend's house

and knocked on the door or rang the bell,
or just walked in and talked to them.

 Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team.
Those who didn't had to learn
to deal with disappointment.
Imagine that!!  
The idea of a parent bailing us out 
if we broke the law was unheard of.
They actually sided with the law!
These generations have produced some of the best
risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors ever.
The past 50 years have been an explosion
of innovation and new ideas..
We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility,
and we learned how to deal with it all.

If YOU are one of them, CONGRATULATIONS!
You might want to share this with others
who have had the luck to grow up as kids,
before the lawyers and the government regulated so much
of our lives for our own good.

While you are at it, forward it to your kids
so they will know how brave and lucky their parents were.
Kind of makes you want to run through the house
with scissors, doesn't it ?

Sunday, September 20, 2009


WOOHOOOOOOOOOOOO!  Read about it here!


Saturday, September 19, 2009

When did I become so Egyptian???

It would probably help if those reading this post were familiar with Egyptian culture, but hopefully you'll get the drift!

So here I was today...baking tons of Eid cookies. Every woman in Egypt was probably doing the exact same thing, except the lazy ones who go out and BUY them...sheesh! And I didnt just bake one batch, I made 3 batches of each kind!!! Women here brag of baking cookies in kilograms (2.25 pounds), as in how many kilos of flour was used in the recipe. I used a respectable 2 kilos of flour today (about 14 cups!!!) and will use 3 more tomorrow. I am a good mother.

So I'm thinking, I need to pack a box and take them to my kids when I go back to the states next month. And then I started laughing at myself.

How many times when I lived in the states did I see the mothers of my Egyptian friends come to USA to visit their kids and do the exact same thing? Bring "care packages" from home. In cheap, fake "Rubbermaid" plastic as my son pointed out.  Everything from holiday cookies to homemade basterma (pastrami) to freshly cooked molokhaya (mallow) to "mish" (stinky aged cheese)??? My God I have become a caricature.

So I called my son tonight to tell him about what's become of his hip, with it, modern American mother. I have become the Egyptian equivalent of a Polish studda baba! I told him I now fully expect to pack stinky cheese sandwiches to eat on the plane, and I'll bring a thermos of strong tea as well. And I wont wear shoes, rather plastic--most likely pink--plastic sandals so my feet are comfy on the plane. I'll clutch my prayer beads and if we hit any turbulence I'll scream "Ya Raab, ya Kareem" (O Generous Lord)!!! I'll waddle down the aisle to take a navy shower in the airplane's bathroom and bother the stewardess to turn off the air conditioning so I dont get a "cold in my back". I will talk to no one in particular incessantly. When I sleep I will snore loudly and my head will probably drop onto the shoulder of my seat mate. I may drool.  When we arrive safely I will again scream my thanks to God, fight to be be the first one to deplane and kiss the ground once I reach the terminal. I will wail and swoon when I see my kids, and lean heavily on my sons' arms because with my swollen ankles it will be hard to walk.

My son said he's not so sure he wants to see me anymore. And...then he called me "Ya Hagga"! That was the icing on the cake! When did I become so Egyptian???

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Winds of Change

Something is definitely in the my life, in my children's lives...I feel changes coming.  I'd be lying if I said I don't feel a marked sense of unease.  Transitions...I feel shifting in my life and maybe because I don't know exactly from where and how, there is also a sense of foreboding.

Ramadan is coming rapidly to an end.  This month always passes so quickly but this year it's just been unreal.  It's almost gone--only 3 more days most likely--3 or 4 depending on the moon, and then Eid will be here.  As usual, I am not satisfied with my performance this Ramadan.  I always think I could do better--in fact I know I could do better--but it's difficult for me to shift gears and concentrate only on Islam and worship.  I feel so many distractions...I was not myself this year--or maybe I was and that's what bothers me.  That I am not a better Believer.  That I let too many things which technically are unimportant in Ramadan take primary focus...and that sometimes culture takes precedence over religion.  But I digress.

I'm not doing anything for Eid this year.  I usually travel to family in Port Said but this year I wont.  I have many things to do to prepare for my trip home to the USA.  That's not to say I wont miss the chance to get out of arid Cairo and lounge around by the sea because I surely will.  Will also miss the marathon Eid cookie baking--and eating.  But I need to concentrate on the multitude of things I must do to prepare to go home for 2 months.  So traveling for Eid is out. The hubster is traveling soon too and we will meet up for 2 weeks in USA.  I sure am looking forward to that!

My friend D might come to stay with me over this holiday and I do welcome that idea.  I should know in the next day or 2 for sure.  If she comes we will make some cookies here--just enough to tide us over the holiday and some to leave for my husband when he returns while I am away.  And I imagine we'll go out to dinner at least once.....there's a nice outdoor club by the Nile--filed with lush greenery--I saw when I was going to Maadi a few weeks ago--I'd love to sit there for awhile and just soak in the fresh air and view of the water.

When one is in a state of transition, it's not a good idea to make major changes.  Better to let the dust settle and then calmly evaluate before making huge life changes.  One of my kids is facing a health issue--nothing serious but it needs some recovery time and in the midst of that, said kid is not happy in many areas of his/her life.  (I dont really want to identify which child.)  But I need to advise him/her to pass the health issue first, then make some other decisions.  Too much on one plate at one time isnt a good thing.  Big decisions need clarity--and calm thinking.

It's funny though...things--issues--problems--they don't just go away.  You can bury them for years, but if something's not right--they just keep popping up, and will never really go away until they are solved or somehow put to rest.  Life's tests are hard.  No one gets a free ride.  It's particularly sad when tests involve the happiness of your children.  Especially when their happiness means you have to let them go and be free to experience life on their own, without the shelter of your constant protection.  I am torn between encouraging my child to "go for it" and telling him/her to hold back and be "safe".  But in some cases, safe is not feeling alive--or happy.  And never taking chances, never depending solely on one's self, never making mistakes and learning from them--there's no room for growth in that is there?  And more than anything else, I want each one of my kids to learn, grow and most of all, be independent--able to stand solely on their own two feet whenever necessary.  I am trying to choke back the perhaps unrealistic fears in my heart and soul--the fear of something "bad" happening to one of my kids when he/she strikes out on a new path.  I want my kids to soar--and find joy in this life.  It shouldn't always be about what others think is right should it?  Shouldn't it sometimes be about what's right for each individual?

This is one of the drawbacks of living in one country while your kids live in another.  It's not like I can just jump in the car and get to one of them in a matter of a few hours like I used to.  At best--the very best--getting home would take a minimum of 24 hours and that's stretching it.   So I am so glad I am going back at this time.  One of my kids needs me.  I want to help, but I wont make the decisions for him/her.  I'd just like to be a gentle guide and impart some wisdom it took me much pain to gain.

My life certainly didn't go as planned.  And I guess if someone as sheltered as I was could find their own feet, then my kids should be able to as well.  I'm praying...and I hope to pray that prayer often until Ramadan ends.  These are the days for miracles.  And while I don't really need a miracle...I just want some Divine Intervention in the way of wisdom and strength to be gifted to this one precious, struggling child.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Nobody puts Baby in a corner

Click here to read a wonderful, personal story about Patrick Swayze by my friend and fellow blogger OTE

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Beyoncé Parody by Steeler Ladies..."Put a Ring On It"

"Steeler Ladies" is a parody of Beyoncé's "Single Ladies" conceptualized and written by Christine Nangle, co-written and performed by Addi Twigg, recorded and produced by Sean G. Donaldson.  From the website Steeler Ladies

All the Steeler ladies (7x) Now put your hands up

I wear black and gold - don't fit your mold - of what a lady should be
I live football, I yell at bad calls, wear Dad's Bradshaw jersey
I was raised this way, know every play, don't get me on the offensive
Look at me now, got my terrible towel, don't care if it's 3 degrees

Gonna win it and they're gonna put a ring on it
Gonna win it and they're gonna put a ring on it
In the superbowl, the Steelers will be bringin' it
Gonna win it and they're gonna put a ring on it

Here we go, oh oh ohhh oh, oh oh, oh oh oh (2x)

Gonna win it and they're gonna put a ring on it
Gonna win it and they're gonna put a ring on it
In the superbowl, the Steelers will be bringin' it
Gonna win it and they're gonna put a ring on it

Yes we can, we got Big Ben, Farrior, Miller and Reed
Holmes and Hampton, you know Tomlin came prepared to lead
Hines Ward grinnin', Willie spinnin', Lebeau is on a mission
Polamalu is gonna come through with another Super Bowl trophy

Gonna win it and they're gonna put a ring on it
Gonna win it and they're gonna put a ring on it
In the Superbowl, the Steelers will be bringin' it
Gonna win it and they're gonna put a ring on it

Here we go, oh oh ohhh oh, oh oh, oh oh oh (2x)

Gonna win it and they're gonna put a ring on it
Gonna win it and they're gonna put a ring on it
In the Superbowl, the Steelers will be bringin' it
Gonna win it and they're gonna put a ring on it

Here we go, oh oh ohhh oh, oh oh, oh oh oh (2x)

Don't you know we are champions of the world- see history unfurl
what we are plus what we were, makes us Pittsburgh
We're the team that takes the lead and makes you believe
in the destiny and the legacy of the Steel City and beyond!
It gets into your heart, it's a feeling all our own
We're back on the throne, with one for the other thumb

All the Steeler ladies (7x), Now put your hands up

Here we go, oh oh ohhh oh, oh oh, oh oh oh (2x)

Gonna win it and they're gonna put a ring on it
Gonna win it and they're gonna put a ring on it
In the Superbowl, the Steelers will be bringin' it
Gonna win it and they're gonna put a ring on it

Gonna win it and they're gonna put a ring on it
Gonna win it and they're gonna put a ring on it
In the Superbowl, the Steelers will be bringin' it
Gonna win it and they're gonna put a ring on it


Friday, September 11, 2009

It's that time of year again...

when I need to start paying attention to STEELERS football!!!

Yesterday was the first regular season game and we won!!! STEELERS 13, Titans 10...ahhhh too bad Titans.

We won 3 of the 4 pre-season games...wish it had been all 4 but what really counts is the regular season and we're off to a great start. I'd LOVE to see us go all the way AGAIN this year, and be the first team in history to win 7 Superbowls!!! If any team can do it, the STEELERS can!  We're already the only team to have won 6!!!

My fave player, Troy (it's all about the hair) Polamalu, will be sidelined for a minimum of 3 weeks due to a knee injury...oh nooooooooo! You can read about the curse on Troy here!  What I love about Troy, even more than his hair, is his humility, spirituality and dedication to his family.  He's just an all-around great yet normal guy!

I cant wait to go back to the USA next month and watch the STEELERS on TV!!!  I so miss Sunday afternoon football, and all the great Pittsburgh eats that go with it, like stuffed cabbage, kolbassy, pierogies, hot wings, and in my case an icy cold O'Douls!!!  Start chillin' it kids!


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

My first day of Ramadan adventure...

So I was supposed to finish this and never did so here always , life in Egypt--or maybe I should say my life in particular--is never dull!

So first day of Ramadan, I hear my dog down in the yard barking.   So I look out and see some kid about 11 years old fooling around, pushing a stick through the bars in the iron gate to agitate her.  So I yelled at him to get away and he just looked at me with this strange look on his face.  A little while later I hear the gate being opened and look out again.  Lo and behold the kid is in my yard and there's an adult man in there with him.  So I go out the front door and yell in the hall for the bowab (live-in doorman).  I'm complaining to his wife that strange people are in my yard and up walks the bowab--telling me he opened the gate to get one of the bikes out and the kid followed in behind him.  So I remind him to be careful as the dog will kill anyone she doesnt know--hahaha--of course this is not true unless she licked them to death (!!!) but I want everyone to fear Alexa--this way I feel safe.  So he starts telling me this kid showed up in front of our building the day before, and no one knows who he belongs to, and he's not "normal".  He cant talk except for a few baby words for food and drink and "Mama".  His name and phone number were written in ink on his arm, but the number is disconnected.  So the bowab is just keeping him until they figure out what to do with him.  It's Ramadan and he's doing it for Allah, he says, which is really nice I guess but...

The older I get the less inclined I am to accept situations like this.  When I was younger, I most definitely would have done something like this, especially here in Egypt.  In fact I have done similar things before, sometimes with very bad results.  It's not a great idea to open your home to anyone you really dont know, even if it is a child.  You can imagine--anything could happen.

So I go about my business...I was working in the guest bedroom off the balcony that has stairs that lead to the back yard.  The doors were open, both the sliding glass doors and the iron gates.  I figured I was safe in the daytime--especially here in Egypt--and Alexa was in the yard.  Or so I thought!  (As it turns out Alexa was sound asleep in my Mom's room and the door was closed!)

I left the room to go get a wet rag and come back in the room and find this kid standing in the guest room!!!  He was a lot bigger close up.  He had this blank look on his face.  Saying he scared the crap outta me doesnt even begin to describe it.  I felt like I was in a Halloween movie.  Make that a Ramadan movie!  I can only imagine a series.  Ramadan1, I get killed.  Ramadan2,  the tenants that move in here after me get killed.  Ramadan3...well you get the drift.  Anyway...

I should preface this by saying my dear husband has a wild sense of humor and among other things, loves to scare me.   Because I am so gullible and easily panicked.  Even my mother used to pull pranks on me to scare me--she used to get a kick out of that "deer-in-the-headlights" look I am apparently famous for.  So I am basically wary anyway, always thinking my husband will appear out of nowhere like he so often does and I hit the ceiling.  So I am always on high alert, ready to jump out of my skin.

So what happens when I walk into the guest room and find this kid standing there???  Well I scream bloody murder of course.  Which is basically the last thing anyone in the neighborhood is expecting, especially in the afternoon of the first day of Ramadan!

Now to make things worse, the kid doesnt turn and walk--or run--away!  What does he do???  He starts coming towards me!  With this empty look on his face!  I swear.  And so I screamed longer and louder, and I mean it was this deep, gutteral scream...I am sure everyone thought I was being killed!  Finally I had the sense to turn around and run--and out I went through the front door,, screaming for the bowab!  Once I got over the fear, I got angry.  I needed this like I needed a hole in the head.  I just wasnt in the mood--first day of Ramadan and all.

It seems the boy squeezed through the iron bars in the gate of the yard.  So I tell the bowab to call the police and I go in to call my husband.  Better I tell him I scared the whole neighborhood than he hear it first from the neighbors!  He doesnt answer.  So I called the police myself.  To come and pick up the boy.  And all this time I am still shaking like a crazy.  Did I mention I peed on myself when I first saw that kid in the house???  I did!

So I call the police.  The biggest mistake I made was speaking in Arabic.  I told them exactly what happened and when I finished they asked me what my citizenship was. ???  I can speak Arabic fairly well but of course I have an accent.  I definitely dont sound Egyptian.  So I told them American. Apparently they got a kick out of this, because instead of coming to deal with a stranger having been in my house, they called me back 4-FOUR-4 times (!!!) and I had to tell the story to someone new each time!  And the last question was always...what is your citizenship???  The last time they asked I got really angry.  I told them...I told you this story 4 times--what more do you want from me???  The man said--you called us--what do YOU want??? Can you imagine???  I told him I want you to come and take this boy to his family where he belongs, and WHY do you keep calling me to hear the story again and again???  Do you want me to call my embassy or are you going to come???  He said they would be right over.

They never came.  It was the first day of Ramadan.  Who wants to deal with crime?  Certainly not the Egyptian police for heaven's sake!  What was I thinking???. On top of it, I had spoken Arabic with them.  I have been told I should have only spoken English, and then curse them when they didnt understand me.  Seriously, an Egyptian official told me to do that!

In any case, the bowab took the boy to the police station himself.  No one was at the desk.  The officer's chair was empty.  So the boy sat in it!  Something NOT done here in Egypt--kinda like sitting on the king's throne.  Now I imagine the officer, when he returned, knew exactly how I felt.  Hahahaha!  Do ya think???  Problem is he could make heads roll and I cant.  Moral of the story, hmmmmm, there's many in this tale, but my first thought is if you want something official done, speak ENGLISH!  And scream maybe...I shoulda screamed to them on the phone!  Anyway, that ended my first Ramadan adventure this year.  Wonder what's awaiting me next?     

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Kirdassa, Egypt

Close to the pyramids in Giza is an amazing little village called Kirdassa.  More pics here.  It's truly a village--a very rural and countrified kind of place--it's almost like stepping back in time a 100 years or so.  Dokeys abound, children run barefoot in the streets--not just playing but many working as well, selling kleenex and bottled water mostly to tourists or helping out in their families' businesses.  Kirdassa is famous for its women's clothing.  Long dresses, called "galabyas" in bright colors with heavy embroidery which at one time was all done by hand, but now done by computerized sewing machines.  These days women mainly wear galabayas in the house, and abayas outside (see below), but in Kirdassa it's common to see the women walking in their bright dresses outside the home.  This is great for me because I love that local color kinda thing, and also because I have long tired of the oh-so-snobby, fakey-wakey dress code in force here in Egypt.  Clothes highly determine how you are viewed here in Egypt.  There is a horrible class system here, where the locals basically categorize everyone as being chic (these nouveau riche hicks pronounce it "cheeeeeek") or not cheeeeek, and oh rue the day when you are considered not cheeeeek!  You become a social pariah.  Or horror of horrors you are called balady (countrified)!!!  But I digress--which I tend to do here when discussing the hoitey-toitey--and haram--class system here.

So here are some pics of Kirdassa, and my new purchases...enjoy!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009



Well I finally managed to add pics, but I dont know how to size them or move them around in a post--gotta work on that!  And still cant find a spellchecker!

A lesson best learned...

"Whatever you give a woman, she will make greater. If you give her sperm, she'll give you a baby. If you give her a house, she'll give you a home. If you give her groceries, she'll give you a meal. If you give her a smile, she'll give you her heart. She multiplies and enlarges what is given to her. So, if you give her any crap, be ready to receive a ton of shit."