Kevin W Roy Photography: Blog en-us (C) Kevin W Roy Photography (Kevin W Roy Photography) Fri, 20 Jun 2014 08:49:00 GMT Fri, 20 Jun 2014 08:49:00 GMT Kevin W Roy Photography: Blog 96 120 When in Rome, uh, er, Cairo When in Rome, er, uh, Cairo…

Warning: Explicit language and images.

When in Rome, or rather Cairo, do as the rest of the world does, and get infatuated with football, aka soccer to us ignorant Americans.

Friday. My flat is being painted and it’s a mess of paint, dirt, fumes, dust and everything out of place. I am relegated to living in my bedroom and kitchen, the painter even having partially coopting my bathroom. After an end of the school year dinner cruise I wander home to find Ahmed still working. I can’t bear to hang out so, remembering that the World Cup is playing at the local expat club, I decide to head out and be social. What I’m about to find is six hours of entertainment, and it’s not on the big screen.

I’m not drinking today so I walk up to the bar at the ACE and buy my first of many club sodas…glass of ice with some lime please…and wander to a table full of colleagues and local acquaintances from Spain (they’re playing tonight), Scotland, England, Canada, Egypt, and the US. The Mexico – Cameroon game is on, into the second half and there is no score, though Mexico will score soon and win by that single score.

I have always found football extremely boring, having not grown up with it at all, though I can think of exactly twice where the match I watched showed a high level of play that was obvious to even this ignorant neophyte. Still, if I hadn’t been having a conversation with someone, I’d have fallen asleep.

In my junior year of high school our school district began an intramural soccer league. It was at the insistence of a kid named Pete and his family, recent immigrants from Ireland. I did not participate, though I spectated, and the level of play was abysmal, made evident by how Pete danced around everyone, and I mean everyone.  The contrast was embarrassing.

Our school had three teams and the other high school in town fielded the same, so it worked. Most of the teams took it pretty seriously, but I was a fan of the hippie team, which ironically Pete chose to play on. They wanted to call themselves the Galloping Gonads (we were all so full of clever ways to offend authority in those heady late 60s) but the school nixed the name. So, they settled on the Nads, which I’m frankly surprised the school went for. Imagine cheering the team on…Go Nads, Go Nad, Go Nads! Was the administration as naïve as we were? Did we actually think ourselves clever? My girlfriend, Janet, an artist, designed the logo and tee shirts. She drew this little fat guy who was all body, little head, big sneakers, an enormous nose, and stubby hair kicking a football. His name… Harry Nadz. Needless to say the team name was retired at the end of the first year, but football had taken hold.

The second game of the evening is Spain versus the Netherlands. Tony, my half Spanish friend, is rooting for his home team. Most others appear to be rooting for Holland, including Mark, from Scotland. Mark is a sports junkie, probably gambles a little too much on sports, but is a wealth of knowledge about the game. We have dubbed him, “The Entertainment.” He is patient with my questions about the rules I know little of. Can you foul out like basketball, explain off sides, what’s with this extra time at the end that seems so random? He most patiently and with true interest happily answers my questions. Mark is also quick to give Tony shit about how his team is going down tonight.

…the game begins…Spain versus Holland. We’ve got two betting pools going, the first, ten LE each, pick a name, and whoever’s player scores the first goal gets the pot. The second, five LE in a pot that passes from person to person each time the ball goes out of play and whoever has the pot when a goal is scored gets the money, then refill this pot and keep it up for the game. When the first goal is scored I am holding the ante. All of a sudden 50 LE richer I am an instant fan of the evening’s match. The round of drinks I buy from my winnings costs me 90 LE. At this first goal, a penalty kick for Spain, Mark is on his feet. Fuckin shit call, that was no foul, oh my god (all with an incomprehensible Scottish accent). Fuckin refs suck. Where is that arsehole from, god damn… He reminds me of my father, not by any means due to his expletives, but by the fire of his emotion. Like my father Mark can go from sitting slack and comfortable to standing in animated rage in a nanosecond when his team is slighted. The Englishman, Stephen, sipping on his hookah, chuckles and tells him to sit down. Tony, the Spaniard, breathes a sigh of relief at Spain having this slight one goal cushion. His relief does not last long as Holland scores on a beautiful play, the club erupting with Holland fans, Tony subdued, and Mark in his face…Yer goin down, fucking Spaniards, no fucking way yer takin it twice, damn, that’s all yer gowin ta see tonight man, let’s go Holland! I am now amused and thoroughly enjoying my football match. Thus the carnage begins as Holland scores again and again, a header that the Spanish goalie watches helplessly float over his own crown, then tricking the goalie out of the net, circumnavigating him and kicking past two defenders, and again and again, until the bewildered reigning champions lose by an embarrassing 5-1. Tony slinks out of the club to the good natured chastisement of Mark as the game ends. Mark exalts and buys everyone a round.

I sip on my last club soda, with ice and lime slices, listen to the banter about who has a chance and who doesn’t, the game later this evening (0100 Cairo time) that only Mark has the interest to stick around for, and then say goodnight. Sadly, with the end of the school year, most of this gang is leaving in the next week. I’m going to have to find a new cadre of fans to hang with. I’m beginning to like the game, at least for the next five weeks.

]]> Fri, 20 Jun 2014 08:57:17 GMT
Inauguration #2: June 8, Inauguration Day            Hearing that the Corniche, the road along the Nile, is going to be close today due to the inauguration happening thereon at the main courthouse some kilometers away, we decide to wander down to experience the, most likely, one time in the four years I’ll be here where the road is not a cacophony of horns, racing engines, and screeching tires. We walk a railroad crossover I haven’t used before and find ourselves in a very poor section of narrow streets adjacent to and just north of the vegetable souk. The streets are too narrow for cars, of which there are none, and the area seems almost deserted, except for the faint sound of a few people inside run down buildings we pass. I notice one building leaning. The walls are covered with graffiti, mostly Egyptian flags.

            The people we meet are not unfriendly, but wary. I’m aware of being a westerner. I don’t blame them their pause. A very nice man comes along and welcomes us to Egypt. We tell him we are teachers and live here, in Arabic, and have lived here for some time. He doesn’t speak English, listens, and once again says, “Welcome to Egypt,” as he moves along.  From the flags it’s hard to tell what political sympathies the neighborhood holds, and its condition makes us aware of how much any new government needs to do to deal with the state of much of the population. There are no pictures of El-Sisi, so we make our way toward the souq and more familiar paths.

            Onto the main roads and through a more affluent section of Maadi we find ourselves turning left and toward the Nile. At the crossroad there is a roadblock, but people are on the other side, so we walk through. The police smile, “Sabah el kheir,” good morning. “Sabah el noor, “ morning of light.  There is a man adorning an old flat tired car with Egyptian flags. Other people are carrying flags. Something must be going on. More people walk past us, greeting us, invoking the name of el-Sisi. We find a flag salesman who begs we take his picture and as well we oblige his request that we purchase his wares.

            At the Nile there is a sizeable crowd behind a line of soldiers guarding the road barricades. A look of “do we or don’t we” passes between us, but we are swept up in the friendliness of the people who invite us to revel in their joy at the inauguration of the new president. Please take my picture sir. Welcome to Egypt. Where are you from? What magazine do you represent? “Ana mudarras,” I am a teacher, we are teachers, and for once I see an almost look of disappointment at the realization that their picture will not grace the cover of Time or Newsweek. Children, women and men of all ages ask for a photo. People push their way into our field of view. “It is a good day,” shouts one man. Flags small and huge wave and people chant in support of the ex-general.

           Suddenly we realize that we are going to have to make a conscious effort to extricate ourselves from our overzealous new friends, who barrage us with requests for images with their friends and with us. We do not feel in danger, but do feel somewhat overwhelmed and know when enough is enough. So we make our way out of the throng of two hundred excited Egyptians and head for the quiet of the Nile.

           I was right, the road is empty and silent and the river has a different feel when modernity is not speeding and spewing beside it. For a good long way we enjoy the warm morning as balloons drift south on the prevailing breeze. After a while a horse cart approaches, passes, and we revel in the fact that this is the only traffic, the clop of the horse’s hooves the only sound on this day when the ex-general takes the helm of Egypt.

]]> Sun, 08 Jun 2014 16:44:48 GMT

On the eve of ex-general Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s inauguration I sit in my flat. The power has failed. It will be out for an hour or so as the blackouts roll through Cairo. I don’t know if this is part of the new president’s plan for the country, but it is a reality of living here over the last year and a half of three. The lights go out, the generator at the Italian restaurant next door comes to life, and depending on the day lately the heat settles with some haste into my room.  Some evenings my veranda offers respite, some nights it does not, the city just now opening its oven door to the clear atmosphere.

Not every building is without power and the ones across from my bedroom window, as well as many in view of my veranda, are still functioning normally. People walk about as usual, cars honk, voices rise. The drone of a radio, annoying, its speakers small and tinny, volume loud, the musical selection modern and local, the modern ruining it. Imagine that Bieber kid, sorry fans, trying to sing with a Middle Eastern flair.

A motorcycle roars by, the horn chanting beep - beep, be-be-beep. This is the local celebratory soundtrack. The Brotherhood used it when they were up, then when they were protesting being down, now the ex-generals followers have embraced it. Must be a Cairo hallmark. The junk man is out late chanting “RIK’ia,” pushing his cart over the pocked street. An impatient driver beeps at him. He continues unfazed.

With the inauguration there will be celebrations in many parts of the city. The day has been deemed a holiday and I will relish the long weekend. Tahrir is expected to have a crowd. Hopefully there will be no incidents of violence. “Foreigners are recommended to stay away from large gatherings of people,” reads the US State Department email to all us expats.  Most of my students will be celebrating. They almost have me convinced that in a few weeks things will be back to “normal” in Egypt, even better than before, and the crazy hard times will be over. Maybe it will be for them. I don’t know about the hard times being over, but the revolution almost certainly is. The crazy is here to stay.

]]> Sat, 07 Jun 2014 20:13:50 GMT
Sri Lanka #2 Galle to Tangalle


Hearing it takes forever to get anywhere in Sri Lanka I decide to spend the night in Galle. It doesn’t take long to get there on the new expressway and I arrive by noon. At my guesthouse early there is no problem, the room is ready, and I take a short “horizontal” nap before wandering about the city. On the peninsula at the south end of town, a ten minute walk from my hotel, is the Galle Fort, one of many remnants of the British Empire. It’s an impressive fortification covering a vast acreage, a small city in itself with a sea wall surrounding its entirety. Locals and tourists abound, as do small restaurants and guesthouses. I discover the roti vendors and nosh on a variety of spicy delights over the course of the day so that by dinnertime I’m not hungry. I walk in what passes for an evening cool, but the sidewalks pretty much roll up by 7 here so I retire early.


I’m up early to check out of my guest house, and head for the local bus. The owner of informs me that I don’t have to walk to the bus station, rather all I need do is head to the main road at the bottom of the hill and flag a bus going to Matara. The first bus comes along and I raise my hand. It slows, I prepare to get on. As I walk toward the door the bus keeps moving and the attendant tells me to get on in the back, but it never entirely stops. This takes me by surprise and I, with pack on back and camera bag in hand don’t want to risk being spilled either into or out of the bus, so I decline to jump on. No worries, in another five minutes along comes another. This one actually “stops,” but only long enough for me to step up into the back before it lurches forward, my grab reflex put to the test

We roll, or rather, careen along the coast road, stopping whenever someone wants on or off. It’s 45 kilometers to Matara. In that time well over a hundred people will enter and exit the bus. We pass villages where fish dry in the sun, men sit on fishing stilts rising from the surf, palm trees sway, and colorful boats bob among white caps. Sri Lankan music crackles over randomly places speakers. After a while the volume and throbbing drum and bass take their toll. I put in my earplugs. A young girl and boy peer from their mothers’ laps. We exchange smiles in a game of peek-a-boo. The bus attendant pushes his way through people sitting and standing and collects his fares. Seventy five rupees (57 cents) for my ride. The wind from the open windows evaporates sweat and the ride is surprisingly bearable.

In Matara I wait less than half an hour for the bus to Tangalle, my final destination. The bus arrives empty. I have a pick of seats and find one near the front, just behind the rows marked “Reserved for Clergy” and “Reserved for Pregnant Women.” As the bus fills I am aware of having a backpack and fortunately in this particular bus the aisle is wide so there is room for it, though I am still uncomfortable, taking up an extra space. Off again our new bus driver maneuvers even more erratically than the last, the bus groaning and whining as he grinds through the gears, alternatingly flooring the gas and stomping the breaks. The aisle thickens and thins through countless stops, the road leaves the coast, the music blares, the wind gets hotter, and I am happy that Tangalle is less than forty kilometers distant. The passengers bear the passage of time with a quiet calm and the attendant takes another 65 Rupees.

]]> Fri, 18 Apr 2014 09:14:47 GMT
Cairo to Colombo Thursday into Friday,

School ends and Kris and I catch a cab, not waiting until the next morning to leave town after a long and brutal third term in the middle school. Exit row to Doha, ah, where we part, him to Thailand me to Sri Lanka. The layover is short and spent with other colleagues headed to my same destination. Sleep on the plane and morning finds me in Colombo, where customs goes easy, and a cab, equally so, transports me to the public bus station to be on my way to Galle.

My driver is Daya, a man somewhere around my age who asks if I might want to pay the toll on the expressway to save an hour and much traffic. For and extra $2… He reminds me that Sri Lanka is a Buddhist country. Most think it is Hindu being nearly attached to the southeast point of India. We talk religion and he leaves me with the phrase “Free of Mind.” “If only,” I think.

Daya deposits me at the Maragama Bus Station in Colombo where in the rush we say a short farewell. He hands me his card should our paths cross in the future. I stand in line for the express bus to Galle, an hour and a half to the south. People wait patiently under the sun, many with umbrellas. Buses come every ten minutes. What seats are available are quickly filled and the bus roars off. A guava seller wheels his cart quietly along the line, selling a few. I get on the third bus, find an aisle seat near the front, pay my fare of a few dollars for this air-conditioned express bus, and fall asleep.

]]> Sun, 30 Mar 2014 06:33:48 GMT
Booze in Egypt Booze in Egypt

The only place to buy real booze in Egypt is at the duty free. Here’s the deal. You have to purchase it within 48 hours of arriving in the country and you are limited to four bottles at the airport OR three bottles at the few duty free stores in neighborhoods. You may only do this four times a year, which isn’t that hard with traveling on breaks. After your four times are used you may still purchase alcohol upon entry, but you are limited to one bottle. A bottle of wine counts just as much as a bottle of hard liquor. A case of beer, when they have it, counts as one.

With the fall of Morsi this past year we ended up starting school two weeks late in September, so I had chance to leave the country an extra time. I did not yet have this year’s work visa so I had to purchase a tourist visa upon my return. This was not so great for my almost full passport, but, since the visa the agent simply handed me my peel off adhesive visa, I took advantage of the situation and covered my fourth liquor stamp. Result, an extra opportunity to fill my dwindling (empty) wine and liquor collection. I got to do this twice, once after the September trip to Ethiopia, and again after a school trip to a development conference in Dubai. Lucky me.

There are some locally produced quaffs. The hard liquor is unspeakably bad and not worth mentioning. One company, managed by Heineken, makes everything. That’s right, somehow the Dutch have a connection here. Wine, beer, you name it. You can actually buy Heineken, but it is the only foreign brand available. The local beers, Sakkara, and Stella give me a headache. They are lagers. There is nothing else. My kingdom for a porter or a brown ale. I believe there is a malt liquor, but it’s in the category of the local hard hooch, awful.

Now this all may make me, and my colleagues, sound obsessed with alcohol, and there is undoubtedly glee when one returns from a journey, but think about it. Four times a year times three or four bottles. That’s barely more than a bottle of wine a month or a couple bottles of wine and bottle of the hard stuff. How many times do you just wander down to the liquor store to pick up a bottle of decent wine? Imagine, “Honey, can you pick me up a six pack?” “Sorry dear, we’re going to have to wait until we take our next international trip.” Keep track of what you purchase for a while; add it up.  

Concerning Egyptian wine, the local stuff becomes palatable some weeks after you have had your last taste of real wine. I have been to the one and only winery in Egypt, again, managed by Heineken. Grapes come from Portugal, South Africa, and Lebanon. I have yet to find a white that I can tolerate, and a few reds are drinkable given the alternative, none.  On several occasions I have been brought to my knees upon the first sip of a good Italian, French, Greek, or California wine. The experience can be almost orgasmic, though a shock to the system.

Yes there is the pollution, yes there is the traffic and the honking, yes there are the bratty rich kids we teach, yes there is the call to prayer waking me up at 0515, but it is that first drink of decent red wine that really begs the question, “Why the hell do I live here?” The answer to that question is for other posts.

Oh, by the way, come visit, and don’t lose your boarding pass.


]]> Thu, 06 Feb 2014 12:33:15 GMT
Morsi: Day 2 Students don’t show for school this morning for the fear of violence on this day, the second day, of Mohamad Morsi’s trial. Turns out this part of the trial is for charges against him for breaking out of prison back during the Mubarak uprising.  It’s not the first time a jailed leader has become president, as we know, but how many have been “sprung” from jail and then become president? I’m not sure that this was common knowledge back when he was running for office. It may have been. It’s hard to keep up with all the details and the who’s who of the Egyptian Revolution, though I’ve been here long enough to have a pretty good timeline and participant list.

Our early bus is diverted from the usual entry point to school this morning. The frontage road is blocked with troops and barbed wire barricades. We are across the street from the backside of the Cairo Police Academy, a sprawling training facility for the, well, police, and the sight of the court in which Morsi is being tried. Mubarak was tried here as well. My classroom window overlooks the compound, from the second floor I can see over the walls and into the complex. I often hear marching and chanting, as well as gunfire from the practice range.

School begins with a new chapter this morning, as in Chapter 6, Section 1 in our Pre-algebra book. One of my students, also named Mohamad, sits by the window, staring through the blinds. He’s too smart for this class, so he’s bored. He should be in Algebra, but he never applied himself and so he’s here.

Mohamad is staring out the window while I am teaching.

 “Mohamad! Let us know if you see Morsi’s helicopter.”

He starts, as I wake him from his blissful reverie and, with a slight embarrassment, apologizes for not paying attention.

“No, I mean it, let us know if you see the helicopter that brings Morsi to trial.”

Used to being castigated for his lack of attention he is pleased that I am both not reprimanding him and giving him a task. I tell by his grin.

Decimals converted to fractions converted to percentages and vis-à-vis. “Mr. Roy! I think I hear something.” Without direction every student rises and walks to the windows. I am among them. We scan the distance and I spot it first, a large lumbering khaki colored helicopter moves slowly over the academy. It moves toward us, hovers, and eases down into the compound until it disappears behind a building. We stare for a while.

Homework is Page 267: Problem numbers 1-26…

]]> Sat, 01 Feb 2014 09:03:10 GMT
Jan. 24, 2014: Revolution Eve January 24, 2013, 10:00 a.m.: the eve of the revolution.

I wake up at 4:30 this morning and post some pictures on the web. As I am falling back to sleep around 6:30, my building shudders. I think, “It’s going to be an interesting day,” and go back to sleep. When I wake there is news a of a substantial bomb blast at a downtown police station. People are dead and injured.  Tomorrow is the anniversary of the protests that brought down Mubarak. If you’ve followed the news at all you know what I’m talking about. I was not here for it, but I was just previous, and it was the following August when I came here to teach.

It’s a beautiful winter morning, temperature around 20C as I walk to the gym. My neighborhood is Friday morning quiet. There are no clouds, the sky is blue thanks to the north wind, the police are on their usual corner (we exchange greetings), and a Korean man, looking rough from last night, carries a bin of booze bottles and glasses to the curb from his apartment. A cigarette between his lips, smoke forces him to squint. There are sirens in the distance. I think, “bombing,” though they are most likely going to a highway crash.

I leave the gym and the day is gaining momentum. Once home I sit on my veranda looking out on the green. Flags flutter and tree limbs pulse. Friday is a predictable and rhythmic build up from the one quiet time to prayers at noon, then festivities at night. What will happen today between prayers and the night is on everyone’s mind?

11:00 a.m.

Update: One confirmed, maybe two more bombings. The question is answered, for now. From my veranda two westerners ride casually by on their bikes, the neighbors clean the dust from their cars, and the bowab sits and slowly drinks his tea. Life goes on despite it all. Will be staying close to home today.

]]> Fri, 24 Jan 2014 09:12:57 GMT
Saturday Morning, Jan 18 Drag myself, winter glum, out onto the still dark and foggy streets of Saturday morning in the early quiet, the only quiet, that grows increasingly loud by the minute as taxis vie for my attention, persistent, I cannot blame their need to make a meager living, most honest, some, I hear, are thieves, never get into one with more than the driver, never pay until you have removed yourself, then hand the fare through the passenger window. Don’t be insulted if you give extra and get no response of appreciation. Most often you won’t. You are rich and they are poor.

I walk a different way today. After two and a half years there still seems to be one. At a familiar junction, where one should always turn right, I turn left, descending under tracks, up and across the official boundary of my neighborhood. From a café two women call and flash the four-finger salute of Morsi supporters. I wave and smile, then a voice in English calls to me. “Hey, you should stop and talk.” A man stares. Feeling no threat from him or his friends I sit, tea is set before me.

“You are American.” It is not a question. “Your government should have stopped what happened and supported Morsi.”

“They did support him…don’t you think Morsi, and the Brotherhood, was becoming just another dictator?”

“It was our turn. Nasser, Sadat, Mubarak!”

“That’s not how it works in a democracy. The president and his party can’t just make laws as they please.”

“We should be more like America.”

“You should be Egypt for everyone.”

“Inshaa Allah.”

The Corniche is loud with traffic. Walking past the military base I exchange greetings with the young soldiers in the occasional guard towers. Several ask me to take their picture, but the signs posted every hundred meters tell me otherwise and I decide not to get them or me thrown in jail, or chance losing my camera. At the first opportunity I turn into a neighborhood and the relative quiet of residential streets.

I take count of women who are not wearing the headscarf, maybe two percent. Back in my neighborhood I walk to the souq, then cross the tracks toward home, a young boy sweeps the garbage accumulated on the overhead track crossing. He puts his hand to his mouth and looks at me pleadingly. I give him five pounds and ask if I can take his picture. He obliges. Down onto the street I realize I am tired, hungry and need to get home. I hail a cab. “Shera mitan teleta telateen.” The driver is more talkative than most and though he speaks no English we get by. Arriving at my destination I make sure to get out of the cab before handing him the fare. I give him extra. He looks me warmly in the eye and thanks me profusely, “Shokran, Alhamdulillah.” “Thank you, and Praise God.”

]]> Sat, 18 Jan 2014 08:54:00 GMT
Cairo 2014 After a day and a half of travel, which included some anxiety about getting to my flight in Montreal, I am back home in Maadi, having just been dropped off by my friend Habib. I must admit it's actually nice to be back. Winter finds the air more breathable, the temperature cool, and the sky sunny. For a while these things will make a city that can be rather annoying with it's noise, traffic, and dirt, pretty bearable. The next week will be filled with checking in on people to hear about Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Tibet, and various places in Asia, Europe, and North America. Ideas will brew for future journeys. In a few weeks, facing a school term with no breaks for ten weeks, I'm sure I'll be ready to leave again, but for now the relative calm of my flat (the occasional horn honk, the neighbor continually calling for Ahmed, and the call to prayer) is a welcome respite after traveling.

]]> Tue, 07 Jan 2014 19:59:02 GMT
Christmas Cottage

I make the cottage as the day is fading and drive past it to Bernie’s house to pick up keys. Brian has plowed the first fifteen feet of the laneway so I will have someplace to park. After a short visit I leave Bernie’s and pull into the parking space. There is a lot of snow, at least two feet, with more forecast over the next few days. I wade through the white with my new snow shovel, clear the front door, turn the key and enter the cottage. The familiar greeting smell is absent. Being so intent on getting settled in this doesn’t even dawn on me until the next morning when knotted pin walls, emerging from their deep freeze, begin to offer up the familiar aroma.


Upon entry I am preoccupied with getting warm and getting my things in from the car. It’s 100 meters away at the road end of the driveway and just getting to the cottage door was a chore, wading through the powder. Fortunately the snow is light and easy to shovel. I turn on the electrical breakers and begin to plug in heaters and turn on lights. I stow my flashlight. I fire up baseboards and portable heaters immediately. I trip a breaker, turn off the portables, and reset the breaker. Reconfiguring the placement of the heaters around the cabin I try again. All is well. I hope by morning it’s warm.


I spend most of an hour melting snow on the stove. I think back to Cairo and the month of trying to get my landlord to fix my hot water heater. A week before I left he finally realized the old tank was spent and installed a new one. Finally I had hot water. Now I’m here.


After setting the wheel on the electric meter awhirl I don hat and gloves and start shoveling a path to the car. It is one shovel width, half a meter wide. The snow lifts easily, two scoops and I move another half meter. I find my rhythm and before long I am half way to the road. My path is not straight, in the dark I use the giant maples as a guide in my periphery. Looking up occasionally I just keep heading for the shadow of a car at the end of the drive. It doesn’t take all that long and I’m there. I have barely broken a sweat. How many times in the next two weeks will I clear this path? I make three trips with my belongings. My heavy bag comes first, then groceries, then water and finally the snow shovel.


I un-board the picture window that overlooks the lake and continue to melt snow, then stand for a while straddling the heater.


I have great intentions of hooking up my computer and settling in to start looking at photos and writing this evening. Water made, snacks eaten, I decide to sit under the warm comforter of my bed and write for just a while. A day in the air, and a night in the city conspire; ten minutes and one paragraph in I am asleep at the keyboard. Waking an hour later I turn off the light and fall asleep.

]]> Fri, 03 Jan 2014 21:30:51 GMT
Dec. 13, 2013: It rains in Cairo Friday, Dec. 13


Part 1:

For the first time since anyone can remember it has snowed in the higher elevations around Cairo. In my neighborhood it only hailed, Maadi being at a slightly lower elevation. In my 2+ plus years here up to this latest spate of moisture I have seldom seen rain, never this much and never this steady. It has now rained three times in as many days, the commute home last evening taking almost two hours instead of the usual forty minutes. Outside my window a car passes, sounding like it is fording a stream. Cairo dust has turned to muck, and there being no drainage system the neighborhood becomes a series of muddy puddles, wet trash, and street animals looking for nooks in which to stay warm and dry, as do I.

Part 2:

I decide to walk, something I haven’t done much of recently. I figure I’ll take some pictures of puddles, a phenomenon that doesn’t happen here usually unless a water main breaks, which happens occasionally. My short walk turns into a long one. Here, an hour after the rain the cats look amazingly dry, though the streets do not. Pools are everywhere and walking is an exercise in zigzagging across the street to make my way around ankle deep or deeper water. I pass motorcycles and cars, stalled in the humid day. They are used to running on dust.  Three men push one casualty to a dry place out of the temporary lake in which it found itself stuck. I see my breath, inhale deep and realize I’ve just enjoyed taking a full breath of rain cleansed air. It’s not often that we can enjoy this kind of a day.

There is no wind and so it is not really that cold as I walk, comfortable in a jacket. I have no hat. I make my way along, then across tracks, through a gap in a hedge, then down along the water main project, more complete than my last walk, past familiar photographs and to Road 9. It starts to rain. The vegetable man is there, smiling despite the sky. An abandoned villa has partially burned. Is there a fire department? As I move along the road it seems oddly busy for a rainy day. Farther along there is some kind of event going on. Businesses have tables out on a section of cordoned off road, handbills are distributed, groups gather, friends run into one another and near the market a band is playing. In my opinion, they’re not very good.

The rain is now steady. I duck into the market for respite, then I make for home. As I leave the store I find myself appreciating the rain, reminded of an autumn day in Seattle, my hair wet, the random drop sliding down my forehead. By the time I reach my apartment I am wet. It feels good. I take off my jacket and turn on the heat.

]]> Fri, 13 Dec 2013 19:25:52 GMT
Ethiopia Day 4: Lake Tana and the ride back to Gondar. Ethiopia Day 4: Lake Tana and the Monasteries


In Bahir Dar I board a boat with Josef for a tour of monasteries on islands and a distant peninsula in Lake Tana. Christianity’s roots go back to the first century in Ethiopia. It was declared the official religion in the fourth. I am visiting a string of monasteries dating from the seventeenth.

We take off across lake Tana through which the Blue Nile flows. The water is brown. It’s the end of the rainy season and if the water gets much higher I envision massive flooding. The lake is smooth this morning and birds skirt it’s surface. Egyptian geese, kingfishers, a variety of ducks, and birds whose names I hear in Amharic and as quickly forget. We sail for an hour. In the distance I see fishermen passing, paddling the same papyrus boats that have floated here for centuries.

The first monastery is Uhra Kidane Mihret, probably the most well known. We disembark and walk up the hill through artisan stalls. “I’ll give you a good price. Maybe when you are finished?” If I say yes I’ll be told I promised when I return. I am drawn to the colorful shawls, making mental notes of favorites for the way back. The monastery is relatively unassuming until I walk inside and see the floor to ceiling murals of Ethiopian religious history preserved in all their vibrance on cotton cloth laid over smooth straw and mud walls. The monasteries are round, a covered walk around them to shield the paintings from both sun and rain. At the center of each is an inner sanctum into which only the priests can enter for the mass. The history of the Bible is on the walls. Jesus, Mary, the garden, the Christian Martyrs, the monks who were influential locally through time. As in Egypt St. George slaying the dragon is popular here.

The monks are quiet, and friendly. Their life is tending gardens, keeping the grounds, keeping the buildings, and praying. Local and pilgrim donations support the twenty or so monasteries on the lake. UNESCO status helps and several are being restored or repaired by organizations from various countries. On the way back to the boat I bargain for some shawls. Buying four gets me a pretty good deal, I think.

We make two more stops at island monasteries, one of which, Kibran Gabrael, does not allow women. It’s a short walk up to the enclave to find the inner monastery closed for repairs. There are always surprises in Africa.

The lake is choppier on the way back but the ride is uneventful. After a leisurely lunch of grilled fish (“What kind,” I ask. “Fish,” comes the reply) and relaxing on the lake shore Ganano loads me in the van and we leave for the ride back to Gondar.

The road is less populated. There is no market today. The afternoon return is as visually beautiful as the previous morning. I stop to photograph the “Finger of God,” the light better going this way, and a boy materializes. He’s wearing a headscarf, more of a blanket. I ask if I can take his photograph. He nods yes, “for money?” After the first shot he tears off the headpiece and poses, quite seriously, thinking I would prefer a picture of him bare headed. I motion that I’d like to have a picture with the wrap and he begins to re-cover his head. I snap away. Afterwards we shake hands and I give him more money than advised. He stares at it for a long moment, gets teary, and hugs me. He lets go when more kids show up and we both know it’s time for me to go.

As we pass back through the mountains I keep thinking about the boy. I’m still thinking about him, in his worn jean jacket with the cuffs rolled once. Miles later, the sun now casting shadows, we pass a distant shepherd leaning on his staff at the crest of a spring green hill. In the flowing knee high grass he stands gazing toward the distant mountains, the same scene he’s been watching for the last five thousand years. Yes, this is where it all began.

]]> Sat, 28 Sep 2013 11:47:05 GMT
Ethiopia Day 3: The Road to Bahir Dar Ethiopia Day 3: The Road to Bahir Dar


I will drive this way twice, since the flights are full. I’m glad they are.


At the civilized hour of 0800 Ganano fetches me and we head toward Bahir Dar, a three hour drive. The road is amazingly good and will stay that way for the duration of our journey. I had heard Ethiopia was tough to get around. The road appears recently paved. Maybe things are changing. Given the green I expect it to be an interesting and pretty trip. It turns out to be much more.


We drive back through Gondar and out into the countryside traveling south. It’s all mountains and rolling hills, and it’s all a verdant green that, along with a good road makes for an almost magical ride. But then, it’s Saturday, market day and I encounter a phenomenon; throngs of people carrying their wares to market along the entire length of the drive. Again there is almost no traffic. What there is are an occasional tuk-tuk, the rare tourist van, a small amount of public transport, and a regular but sporadic line of large transports carrying goods. Besides that there are simply people, hundreds, and over the day, thousands carrying chickens, herding sheep, with bundles on their heads. Some carry umbrellas to shield them from the sun. It isn’t hot because we are at 6-8,000 feet elevation, but we are not far, relatively, from the equator and the sun is steady on this first day I encounter general clearing. We slow, occasionally stop, for a herd of sheep, a dozen donkeys, cows. I can tell when a village nears, the throng of people appears. In the villages we slow, the road a pedestrian mall, a hive of activity at each settlement. Over a high pass, down onto a relative plain and rice fields flooded in this late stage of the rain season. I’m in the valley of the Blue Nile and the water is at its highest. The crop looks good. The people keep walking, briskly, there is energy in their steps. They are working. I am enthralled, enchanted. I am also aware that I am just an observer who will leave as soon as I’ve arrived. I see not one private car along the entire length of road and when we arrive in Bahir Dar I am disappointed that the ride is over.


Again bags stowed and we’re off. Josef joins us as escort to the Blue Nile Falls, an hour drive from town. I have the pleasure in this hour (each way) of having my first “African massage,” twenty five kilometers of rock strewn, washboard, dirt road that was last graded in the sixties. We finally arrive at the village near the falls, pay our fee and I expect to disembark for the hour long walk. Unfortunately the water is so high this year that we must take an alternate route which entails more driving. Fortunately it is not far. We meet yet another guide, Jacob, and walk a short half hour to the most amazing cascade of water I’ve ever seen. The Blue Nile, at the tail end of the wet season, water, some of which may just flow past my door in Cairo in some months is simply magnificent. In the dry season it is a trickle. I am fortunate to be here now. On the way back to the van I meet some fellow tourists. The man asks me how far it is to the falls. I beam, “it’s just a short walk for such a magnificent view.” Before I can even add, “about twenty minutes,” the man barks, “I asked how far!” I choose to ignore him. He will not ruin my reverie.

]]> Fri, 27 Sep 2013 18:59:04 GMT
Ethiopia Day 2: Gondar

Ethiopia Day 2


 At 0430 I’m picked up and taken to the airport for my flight to Gondar, an old city in the North of the country. Flights are cheap here and over the next five days I’ll fly three times for only $150 US. This first flight takes an hour. Flying in Ethiopia takes some getting used to. When the plane is barely meters off the ground it looks like you’re going to land in a pasture, then miraculously a landing strip appears. This is even true in the capital, Addis Ababa. In Gondar we are the only airplane. We disembark, our luggage is quickly removed, departing passengers and luggage are hastily loaded and within half an hour the plane is in the air and the airport is quiet once again.


Banta, my guide, and a driver take me from the airport, just as the plane I arrived on growls into the air. The road from the airport to Gondar is good, and is recently paved, for the first time? There isn’t much vehicle traffic. Through hills, past straw and mud stucco shacks, street stalls, and the road to Sudan, we pass into Gondar. Sheep, goats and cows, occupy equal place on the road with donkeys, some pulling carts, trucks, and the passenger vans which account for most public transport. There are people walking everywhere. Bags dropped at my hilltop hotel we are off for the historical tour of the city.


I visit three sites. The first, is the palace compound of Fasil Ghebbi built through the 16th and 17th century, when Gondar was the locus of Ethiopian power. Gondar’s protection is being surrounded by mountains and we weave through the city’s hills arriving at the palace, a well preserved set of simple stone castles, reminiscent, in this overcast and green, of Great Britain. Next we visit the Debre Berhan Selassie Church and Monastery where I first encounter Christian art from the era, and finally the Bath of Fasiladas, where each year on Epiphany local Christians, the majority of the population, gather to participate in the mass and swim in the bath’s waters, diverted into the compound this one time a year. Young men and women throw limes at one another at this time of year, and if the other likes who threw the fruit, then a relationship begins. Banta tells me he’s thrown limes seven times. All seven times he was rejected.


There are almost no private cars here, vans, feet, and tuk-tuks are transport.  Even bicycles appear rare. It is so obviously poor, but not trashy like Egypt or India, and everything is done by hand. A sand truck is loaded by a gang of men and women with shovels. In unison their shovels full of sand arc through the air and into the bed of a tall dump truck. A road bed is picked by a group of boys, litters of dirt carried by duos of girls. Men lay stones. There are beggars everywhere, always ready when I exit my van. Lunch is next to a soccer pitch devoid of grass, thought its condition  doesn’t curtail the activity or the excitement of the four games going on at once. The balls sound a dull thud, the one that rolls my way hasn’t held air for who know how long. The policemen salute me, and smile. A shepherd and his flock walk by. Everyone seems to be carrying something on their head. A young woman guides me to my table, another brings a smoking urn of roasting coffee for me to smell, a young man takes my order. “I’ll take the “National Foods” plate please.”  It comes recommended, a taste of all things Ethiopian. I hear it is spicy, and it turns out to be true.  


I say good bye to Banta, and my driver, Ganano, at my hill top hotel. Our timing is good. A storm is coming and the sky to the north and east is black. The Simien Mountains would not have been a good idea. I thank them for the day. It begins to rain, and thunder and lightning, the first I’ve seen since Canada. Tomorrow Ganano and I drive to Bahir Dar.

]]> Fri, 27 Sep 2013 18:49:10 GMT
Ethiopia Day 1 The situation in Egypt has us delaying the school year. We teachers end up working despite no students, but end up with almost a week off, before the kids start on September 15. When our break is announced I head for and within an hour I’ve booked a flight to Ethiopia for most of the week we’ll have off. I’ve barely settled back into my flat in Maadi, but I can’t bear the thought of just hanging around.

Day 1. I leave Cairo at 0200 and arrive in Addis Ababa at 0700. My ride isn’t there. My acquaintance in Addis is having Internet trouble and doesn’t get my messages of the last few days. Fortunately she has provided me with information on someone who can get me around the country, a small tour outfit near the Hilton, which has a booth at the airport.

In the visa line, which takes over an hour to get through, I meet a young woman from Seattle and two guys from England. By the time we’re through customs Oscar, David and I are on a first name basis and since my ride doesn’t show and we all need a ride to somewhere to get organized we ask the HIlton's driver if he’ll give us a lift. He is happy to oblige for a small tip. Once there we enjoy a couple early morning local beers (hey, we haven’t been to bed yet) and wait for things to open. Oscar and David connect with their friends, we bid farewell, and I wander just out the gate to the tour office where I arrange flights, guides, and destinations. The tour people find me a hotel for the evening, get me there, and I settle in.

It’s New Years here and the year is about to be 2006. Ethiopia, for local and religious purposes follows the Ge’ez calendar, which, like other pre-modern calendars, has twelve 30-day months. Do the math, eliminating the days in the modern calendar based on more accurate later scientific discoveries, and it works out. For official purposes, like international air flights, they use the modern calendar.

My hotel is typical of something I’d find in a US city. The staff is proud of its modernity. I find it out of place and start feeling a need to get into the country. I leave the hotel and walk around the neighborhood to find something to eat, wanting to avoid the colonial atmosphere of the hotel. There is an orthodox mass going on just up the street at a local church, which turns out to be the largest in Addis. There are bright and colored lights, and throngs in the street, people selling religious paraphernalia, most noticeable the two ended beeswax candles.

There is a mob of beggars. I think this due strictly to the celebration, which lasts for the entire 30-day month leading up to New Years. I’ll find out soon enough that this is not the case and they are not unique to this holiday period. I stop at a grocery store, then a sort of fast food place. Food is inexpensive and I decide to eat back at my room. By the time I arrive back at my hotel I’ve given everything away to the blind man, the woman with one leg and a cloudy left eye, and the filthy emaciated crippled guy on the hand peddle adult sized tricycle. I can always use to skip a meal and go to bed knowing I’ll get to eat in the morning. The alarm will ring at 0430.

]]> Fri, 13 Sep 2013 13:15:51 GMT
Lanterns and the tire man

 Seven thirty and it’s already dark, time to go looking for Ramadan decorations to photograph. This evening is hotter than previous nights; there is no breeze. This will keep lanterns from swaying, allowing my camera to better capture them in the faint light. Out my door, down the street, past a mall and square, I drop into an up until now unknown lane, and find a nestled bookstore. How do they stay in business, so hidden?  

Looking for lanterns I don’t find much. I’m sweating, no wind to fan my neck. I skirt a familiar area, using known roads as boundaries, exploring the unknown in between. For a moment I’m not sure where I am. There is a scattering of decoration, nothing distinct. Am I getting too picky?

Past a tire shop, I wave to the owner who, in his blue coveralls, sits quietly inside, bathed in a harsh fluorescent white. Why isn’t he at Iftar with his family? He waves back. Moments later I hear someone calling. I turn and the man in blue is motioning me toward him. He’s noticed my camera and is gesturing for me to take his picture. I am quick to accept his acquaintance. We shake. Esmak, eh? Ana esme Kevin. Enta esmak eh? Emed.  His raised palms tell me to stay where I am. He enters the shop and poses. I snap. He strikes another pose. He springs into action, waves me in, mimics taking a picture, then picks up a wheel with tire attached. He wants to demonstrate his prowess at removing a tire from its rim and starts right in. As he places the tire on his machine I slide into the shop, find a vantage, and begin to shoot as he first breaks the seal on one side, and then the other. Seal broken he lifts the tire onto a round metal bed to remove the rubber from its hub. A compressor fires, “badadada”, a “splish” of air as his flip-flopped foot steps on the activating peddle. “Splish” again as he slips a pry bar into the rotating disk.  Flip, “splish” once more with the bar and he’s done. The tire is thrown into a pile and the silver hub is placed on a stack just outside the door. Emed turns and grins. On the camera monitor I zoom in so he can see his expressions; posed, focused, self-satisfied. I sign my intent to develop the photos and return them to him. I’m not sure if he understands. We shake hands good-bye and I return to the mystery of the street.

Many Egyptians sleep during the day and stay up all night during Ramadan. Fasting is hard enough, and the heat. So, the day becomes night, night day, and the streets of a city that normally lives at night become even more crowded.

After leaving Emed, I continue down his street, and come to a scene that piques my curiosity. My gut tells me to turn around. I listen. I’m an outsider. I’ll take another way.

I cross into a neighborhood that’s familiar, though I take an unfamiliar path through it. A boy, his age indeterminable in the dim light, walks up beside me. I’m wary. Is he one of the many beggars? He asks my name and I ask his. “Mohamed,” like so many. But that’s it. He doesn’t beg, just walks next to me, a short foot away. One hundred, two hundred meters, for a stretch he is simply my kid, and we walk like two people well acquainted, silent. I feel bad that I am suspicious, but remain so, hand in the pocket facing him, protecting its contents. I detour toward a colorful lantern thinking Mohamed will follow, but without a good-bye he continues as if we had never met. I watch him. He doesn’t look back.

I reach the main thoroughfare but decide not to wade through  traffic. Around the block, and turning back into the neighborhood through which I have just been a gathering of men drink tea, smoke sheesha, and watch television at an outdoor café. Four young men nearly asphyxiate me with their cologne as they strut by.  

 Into the quieter streets again, I find more lanterns, but strangely, and unlike other nights, I am shooed away from photographing several. I encounter boys, aged 10 or 11, using the width of the road to play soccer. As I walk through their midst they are unperturbed, shouting, the ball passing between them. But I don’t get through them. The ball follows me, and they play soccer around me. I am either unnoticed or just disregarded. At the end of the block the ball flies in the opposite direction and they slip into my past.

Left, right, left, along a well known street I stop into the place we call the “dive bar,” where I have a beer and watch three guys play pool at the lone table I’ve played at a time or two. “Play the winner?” I decline. Finished, I walk, instead of hailing a cab, toward home, regretting it for the moment I attempt to twist my ankle in a pothole. I’m relieved there’s no injury.

At 10:30 I ascend the two flights of stairs to my flat. I turn the key twice, open and close the door, kick off my shoes, walk to my bedroom, and turn on the air. I pull the card out of my camera. I want to see how those pictures of Emed turned out.

]]> Sat, 20 Jul 2013 15:05:12 GMT
The Morning After Forgive me this one time for writing something that may sound a bit political. I don't usually express my views, but this morning is special.

The Morning After.

Quiet in my neighborhood after fireworks until 3:00 a.m. We'll see what the day brings. Might be out of here sooner than later, maybe not. The next few days will be telling. I like what this guy (in the following paragraph) has to say for the most part to the rest of the democratic world. My own country was a new form of an old idea when it was founded and there was much argument in the first few year as to what it should look like. It took us 80 years and a civil war to figure it out. Some still are convinced we haven't. Nice that those people have the right to feel that way and express it. Maybe Egypt can sort things out sooner than 80, maybe they can’t, but I have no time for people who write Egypt off after less than 3. Hard to say what will happen with all the problems facing the world in general and the influences and agendas from within and without. Call what happened what you like; a coup, a vote by overwhelming participatory consensus. I personally remember reading something in some document in grade school about when a people feel they are living under unbearable tyranny that they have a right and obligation to act...Good luck Egypt.


Hussein Marei: Manager at Marei Orchard and Nursery says this morning:


We have proven the will of the people is stronger than the theories or the rigid structures and paradigms that analysts use to look at things.. Yes the military ousted the President but not without the rallying of 30 million or more before they can do it... Yes the military suggested a road map but not without making sure that civilian involvement is the only way forward... Yes we overthrew a democratically elected government but it was the people that put them there in the first place... Yes what we did defies your understanding of democracy because we are creating is something entirely new; a lesson to be taught to any leader who goes against popular will a lesson to be taught in history and probably for your own comfort snuggled into a cozy paradigm your minds can wrap around...truly now or later with this kind of passion we will have a government united and representative of all people which will set a standard to aspire to and believe in... Thank you for the history Egypt.

]]> Thu, 04 Jul 2013 08:44:43 GMT
Details: Eggs



Growing up in North America we all, except those of us who raise our own, know that you buy eggs in the refrigerated section of a supermarket. They are offered next to the butter, cheeses, yoghurts, milk, and other prepackaged foods that “need” to be kept cold to remain fresh. One of the first things I noticed when traveling to the less developed world was that eggs are not refrigerated. First thought was, “no way am I taking the risk of eating those.” I had a vague recollection of a fellow traveler sick with salmonella in Mexico and he blamed it on the eggs. However, I like eggs and the fact was that if I wanted to eat them I was not going to find them in a refrigerated case, even in the occasional very western supermarkets around Cairo.

So, I bought some eggs. They were brown, as are most eggs at my local market, though white are available. There’s nothing special about the eggs I buy. They look and taste just like the cold ones I buy in the States and Canada. I do keep mine in the refrigerator once I get home and I wash them before I crack them into a pan or bowl, given sometimes, even though they come in a nice commercial package, there is still the stray feather or undesirable looking fleck of who knows what clinging to them upon removal from their carton.

One thing that is different about eggs here is that they don’t come in sizes. In any local market at home you can buy small, medium, large, or extra large eggs. You can buy organically grown, free range, no hormone, cruelty free, chickens get a massage every other day eggs, and more. Here, they’re brown or white. Some claim to be organic, but when I talked to a guy who works for an agriculture related NGO he said that organic in Egypt pretty much means that it is simply an agricultural product, and producers know that the word organic markets well to some westerners. They’re not big on regulation here. The eggs here are relatively the same size, however, in a single package you’ll find one that has room to jiggle around in its berth while others are like the person in the middle who needs two seats on an airplane.  Forgive me if I’ve offended anyone here.

Just this morning, after sleeping in, it being the weekend, I had two eggs for breakfast. I slow fried a potato in a small amount of olive oil and water, threw in a few onions, garlic and fresh ground pepper. When the potatoes were tender and the onions just starting to brown I cracked a couple brown eggs (after cleaning them of course) over the whole mess and using my trusty wooden spoon turned and mixed my concoction until the eggs were perfectly done. Out of the pan, topped with a small amount of green chili salsa, I ate. A few hours later here, I’m still standing.

When I was in Vietnam I saw lots of eggs for sale at street food stalls, my preferred places to eat most everywhere. Besides chicken eggs there were typically goose eggs, duck eggs, and more. I figured the eggs were hard boiled, but soon noticed a local cracking one open, in which was a partially formed chick. Both curious and mildly alarmed I watched as the woman gobble down the wet furry little creature. She noticed me part way through crunching the contents of her egg and during the final moments of masticating started to laugh, held my eye, said, “delicacy,” and motioned that I try one. I raised my hand, gestured no thank you with a smile and walked on. I have my limits. At least at this point.

]]> Fri, 21 Jun 2013 11:22:34 GMT
The One Cool and Quiet Time

The One Cool and Quiet Time        


I don’t usually get up early on the weekends since I’m up at 5 during the week to catch the early bus to school. But, with it being so hot, and my apartment being hot even in the morning (elsewhere I’d open the windows at night to cool it down, but here there’s too much dust) the only alternative to the dreaded air conditioning is to get out. So, this morning I walk out into the one cool and quiet time in Cairo, between 5 and 7 a.m., the fact that it’s Friday, prayer day, turns 7 into 9.


The street is empty except for a few taxis, all of which, even at this hour tap their horns upon approach, then stop beside me to beseech my business. I kindly say la’a, no, and walk on through the cool morning. Walking along my neighborhood sidewalks is not like walking in the west. Curbs are monstrous, sidewalks are uneven, with stumps of trees, whole trees, nubs of cut off old signs, and garbage making for an obstacle course. It is preferable to walk in the street, and at this hour I do so. Even there one learns to lift his feet. Shuffle, and you’ll find yourself guaranteed horizontal in no time.


The street is never completely empty of people. This morning as I walk by a pharmacy there is a boy sitting on the steps, one hand holding his patchwork bicycle, the other hand lifting a cigarette to his lips. He pays me no heed. He looks twelve. Bowabs wash cars, a woman walks to somewhere, and this morning there are three teenagers on the corner of Roads 233 and 200. I believe they have been up all night.


I walk a familiar route this morning, enjoying the cool and quiet, as always looking for photos. None pop out at me today, though I do see some I’ve taken before. Sadly one of them, a decrepit black VW bug that sat beautifully in front of an orange corrugated construction fence has been destroyed by the removal of the fence and the partial crushing of the car. I am happy I found it previously, sad that it is now gone. Half way through my walk, along Road 9, Shera Tessa, I’m reminded of the calf muscle I pulled the other day. I ignore it. Maadi is waking up. A familiar woman who sells whatever she can, sits in her usual place, this morning selling large fluffs of steel wool. A bakery owner sweeps his sidewalk. The vegetable man sits, leaning back on two legs of his chair against the wall, his hands intertwined on his belly, feet dangling. He is asleep. Already men are smoking shisha at a café. Everyone has a cell phone.  A train, unseen behind the façade of businesses passes.


I’m still without a photograph and my calf is encouraging me to go home. I push on, farther down Shera Tessa into the more Egyptian part of Maadi, along the Metro tracks. At a convenient point I turn right and head for home. It’s beginning to get warm, the quiet starting to dissipate. I’m pulled out of my morning bliss by the honking of, and need to avoid, the morning’s first blue and white transit mini-buses; the drivers of which always seem just as inclined to run you down as let you live. They own the road and their day has begun.


My focus is now on getting home, but then my eye catches a street I haven’t walked, and so I take it, relying on my geographic sense, or if I do get lost, a taxi, to take me home. This, I think, is a good street for pictures. There are men at cafes, shops beginning to open despite it being Friday. Automotive stalls occupy a short stretch and I find muffler trees adorning the curb in front of two shops, their dull silver gray sheen flying every which way above the sidewalk. I wonder when they bloom? I meet a mat/carpet seller, and examine his wares. He offers. I decline. I ask if he’ll let me take his picture. He chooses not, but encourages me to photograph his wares, then gives me his card and asks that I tell my friends. I find a green door that begs to be known and I snap it, twice. I head down side streets, mostly empty, keeping right so that eventually I will weave back toward my neighborhood. Laundry hangs from verandas, brightening the dull and dirty beiges of buildings, dogs and cats roam casually keeping their distance. Two men eye me blankly. “Sabah el-kheir, good morning,” I say. They smile and shake my hand.


Three more blocks and I am all of a sudden in familiar territory.  My calf says, “It’s about time.” I say, “Soon enough.” We stop at the local kiosk for two bottles of water. At the entrance to my apartment I see my neighbor in his pajamas and flip flops watering the green space he keeps so nicely outside our respective buildings. I wave good morning. He smiles back. I walk up the two flights to my flat, open the door, and turn on the air.

]]> Sat, 15 Jun 2013 09:02:17 GMT