Wednesday, August 22, 2012

More like Al Azhawesome Park!

Today has been a great day. I have a feeling I will be saying that a lot here.

We met Katharine, a second-year AIS-West teacher, at the gate of the compound. She walked us to school where we received a short, self-guided tour. I wanted to know the way to the school so that I can walk tomorrow morning.

I will take more pictures of the school later. For now:

We are allowed to use the pool in the evenings and on the weekends.
After venturing to the school (a whole 10-15 minutes away from the compound), Katharine showed us where to find the pharmacy, spa, cleaners and gym, all located within the compound. We made pedicure appointments ($8) for tomorrow and Peggy and I toured the gym. Though nice, it costs two trips to Europe to join (I’ve decided to start measuring cost in “trips to Europe” which are only $200-$350 from Egypt), so I will not be joining. Instead, I am going to continue to walk to and from school and all stores, and I hope to start using the pool once we are allowed.

We caught the school bus at 2:30 p.m. to Al Azhar Park, near Islamic Cairo. A recent grant allowed for this beautiful park to be built near Al Azhar University, the oldest university in the world. We walked on our own around the park for an hour and then sat on the grass in the shade.

The Citadel Restaurant, where we later ate dinner.
Al Azhar Park and The Citadel.
Seeing us as part circus animal, part exotic fruit, the locals, especially children, started to come up and ask for pictures. Their kindness and excitement was contagious, as they asked us our name and willingly tested their English skills. One young teenage boy asked Serissa, “What do you think of Israel?” And she skirted that question with extraordinary class, to which the boy replied, “It’s just, they are our enemy.” It was breathtaking to experience both the modern beauty of Cairo proper and have a glimpse of the historic religious feud.

Tomoko won the popularity contest and was extraordinarily gracious to all the children.
Johnnie, my principal, and Tomoko look as if they are leading a classroom.
All of the locals wanted to take pictures with us.
A panoramic view of the park.
Finally, we ate dinner at the Citadel View restaurant, which has a lovely view of the park (and the Citadel). I felt like an idiot last night when I exclaimed to Susan, “How is it that I didn’t know the Citadel was in Cairo?” But discovering that reality was a wonderful, unexpected surprise.

The Citadel (surprise!)
The sun setting over Cairo before dinner.
Tomorrow is our first day of school, but will mostly consist of orientation. I packed a backpack with my school items I brought from home, and plan to walk in the morning. I am excited to get back to work as I haven't taught since the third week in May. The children today made me want to teach.

Video blog tomorrow!

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