I’m a blog burglar. I met Katie through a mutual Facebook friend. She is also going to Egypt to teach, though at a different school. Recently, she featured a FAQ on her blog to answer everyone’s “burning questions.” I asked her if I could borrow her questions and add a few of my own to do a FAQ, so here it is! For another take on moving to Egypt from the Midwest, visit http://holmessweetholmes.wordpress.com.
Are you safe in Egypt?
Yes. Or rather, I’m as safe in Egypt as I would be in any other country. Prior to the revolution, the streets were extraordinarily secure because of the corrupt police and military state. Though crime has increased a bit since then, the overall climate is better. Safety is great, but not at the expense of democracy and at the hands of a dictator.
My friend, Austin, is in the Missouri Army National Guard and he was stationed in Egypt for the past year. When I asked him the same question, he replied, “I am going to say YES over all that Egypt is a safe place. I feel that it’s like any place back in the states. It has it safe areas and it has its rough spots. For the year that I was here in Egypt I never once felt harmed or unsafe.”
I plan on:
- Following the directions of people smarter than me,
- Avoiding parts of the city where I have been told not to go (or not to go alone),
- Finding strong, male and female colleagues to share in my adventures,
- Staying out of politics, showing my silent report and respect for the Egyptian people,
- Being careful, cautious and alert, just as I am in all my travels, and,
- Not jumping off any bridges (see me for explanation).
Will you have to cover your head?
Not now, and I honestly, probably not anytime soon. Though the new president, Morsi, ran with the support of the Muslim Brotherhood (which believes in instituting Sharia [Muslim Law]), he seems more intent on convening parliament, writing a constitution, and starting a country.
I will dress conservatively and professionally, making sure all skirts/pants are below the knee and shirts are to the elbow. I have two scarves to carry in case I enter a Mosque or more conservative area. I have no problem covering my head as a sign of respect for the culture.
Are you teaching English?
No, I will be teaching elementary music, similar, if not exactly like, what I do now. I will have preschool (ages 3 or 4) through 5th grade (age 11). The only change for me may be private tutoring in instrumental music and possibly leading an elementary band or strings program. The school has a computer lab with 12 digital keyboards hooked up to Apple computers, so I’m way excited about the use of technology in the classroom.
Pictures of the music classroom: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AmiyQVaYyds
Will you be teaching Americans?
I will be teaching at the American International School in Egypt, West Campus. It is located in a suburb of Cairo. The school is accredited through the United States with the understanding that its graduates will be prepared to attend American University. The majority of my students will be Egyptians who are paying to attend this private school. I’m sure that my TESOL (Teaching English as a Second Language) degree and certification will come in handy with the little ones, but it will be an English-only school.
More about my school: http://www.aisegypt.com/page.cfm?p=444
Are you going alone?
Yes, it’s just me. In fact, it is illegal for men and women to live together unmarried in Egypt, so even if I did have a boyfriend, he would not be coming with. There are many teachers just like me, though, and I’m confident I will meet new friends. Approximately 25 of us are on the same flight from Washington DullesàFrankfurtàCairo, so I’m sure we will be well acquainted by landing time.
From what I’ve read on the new teacher message board, there is a diverse array of age, gender and family status joining AIS West, including entire families making the journey with both parents teaching at the school.
How long is your contract?
I am under a two-year contract and I can renew by the year after that. I am open to renewing, or, moving to another country/school after my term is up.
Is the school calendar similar to the one at Nieman?
The amount of contract days is the same, but the school year is longer. This means, I will have a shorter summer (two months) and more days off during the year. I am excited about this, as I will have plenty of time to travel during long weekends and extended breaks. My roommate has already talked of getting a house in Cyprus for Spring Break. It’s very surreal that I can pop up to Europe for relatively low-cost.
The school week is from Sunday through Thursday, which might be a bit of an adjustment.
Do you have to find your own housing?
The school finds us a furnished apartment and Susan (my roommate) and I are hoping it will be within walking distance of the school. After a year, I can venture off and find my own housing if I wish to live closer into the city, but for now, I think letting the school handle it is a good plan.
Will you be able to see the pyramids?
I hope so. I’m planning on dining with Pharaohs on a regular basis.
Is the exchange rate in your favor?
Currently, yes. The exchange rate is $1 to 6 EGP (Egyptian Pounds) and the cost of living overall is lower in Egypt. Some things, like electronics, are more expensive there, so I purchased an unlocked iPhone before leaving and will be able to hook up with an Egyptian mobile phone provider.
Will you be able to call/text/write home?
I will likely try to utilize Skype and Google Video Chat for the majority of my one-on-one communication. I will also have access (both on my phone and in my apartment) to email, Facebook and this blog. Don’t worry, my over-communication style won’t be hindered much!
What are you packing? Are you shipping anything?
Shipping and mailing letters is a big no-no due to corrupt customs authorities. Packages rarely arrive and if they do, the receiver is charged hundreds of dollars before retrieval. I am packing two suitcases to check (and will likely have to pay a baggage fee for amount and weight), one carry-on shoulder bag and one backpack.
We know you’re obsessed with TV…what ARE you going to do?
I can use a VPN to access Hulu, Netflix, BBC Player and various other sites. Susan and I have also talked about getting a TV and some sort of cable service. A current teacher there said they have American TV packages, but we may not need them. I know I will be giving up many of the shows I follow, but I did that in college, too, so I’m not concerned. As long as I can watch Downton Abbey, The Newsroom, Glee and Criminal Minds, I’m a happy camper.
Will you come home at all during your 2 years away?
My current plan is to utilize the money the school will give me to go home for other travel. I would like to meet up with friends/family in other parts of the world, if possible, or perhaps I’ll stay in Egypt. I am keeping an open mind, though, and if I am very homesick, I will come home next summer for a month or two.
Thanks again to Katie for letting me borrow her questions. Less than a week until my departure! I promise another update soon, including some pictures from my going-away week here in the States.