Saturday, September 8, 2012

A Balanced Week: Students, Maadi, Egyptian Star Wars Bar, & Horseback by the Pyramids

This was a balanced week.

The students came back on Monday and I was slowly weaned into the teaching climate, having Kindergarten-5th graders in music. Each class sees me for one 45-minute block per week. Starting next week, I will add two preschool classes and five pre-K classes to my schedule. Though it will be an intense, full schedule, I still have a bit more plan time than I did at my last job (but also more classes for which to plan). It balances out.

With the students returning came an influx of frustrations with technology, resources (or lack thereof), procedures and diminished sleep. My days were rough, in between classes, and sometimes, the only saving grace was the surprisingly bright, in-tune voices of my students and their expert ability to echo rhythms on the drums. In the back of my mind I’m giving myself the same advice I give all of my students: It’s about song choice. If I choose the right material, they will surely excel. So, my daily stresses balanced well with my joyous and talented children.

In addition to those amazing kids, I have come to realize that I am working with some truly amazing, fun people. Monday, I spent the night in Maadi, an island in the Nile, further into Cairo, full of expats and city-dwellers. Justine, Chris and Beth showed me around, including a trip to the music store to buy a violin and the teacher store to get some much-needed decorative supplies. We ate dinner and toasted to our first day and I slept on a real bed that night (box springs and all).

My 12-year-old self is loving this swing at Ace Club.
Wednesday, I joined several new girlfriends for a girl’s night in that ended in going out for ice cream at Dairy Queen. Making connections and building relationships with strong women is so important to me, as I find that is where I learn and grow the most. It is also nice to relax, be silly (and sometimes inappropriate) with non-judgmental, hilarious people.

Thursday is our “Friday” so we met at Arkan for dinner and then I escaped into my Kindle for a few hours. Later that evening we went to Ace Club, a popular expat, members-only bar in Maadi. It took over an hour, four-to-a-cab, in horrible traffic to get there, but it was so worth it. We entered the Star Wars bar of Egypt, complete with people from all over the world, different languages, outfits (think: kilt) and attitudes. It was fun to hear familiar music, drink imported vodka and dance the night away. I also was able to spend time with a couple of returning staff members who are just as awesome as you might expect.
The dancing team. And some guy in a white shirt.
Me and my new friend, Peggy.
Beckie and Mariko at Ace Club.
Friday I convinced myself to stay in and relax, avoiding the temptation to go into work for the day. I knew this would leave several hours of work for Saturday, but I felt like I needed some alone time. I retreated into my Kindle and spent the day reading and thinking. That night, Krista came over and we ordered delivery. It was a pleasantly lazy day.

Saturday, as foreseen, was the opposite. I was up fairly early to do my weekly grocery shopping (where I spent a whopping $16 on groceries for the entire week) and then I spent the rest of the day on lesson plans. I first compared Virginia Standards with the familiar and more detailed standards of Shawnee Mission. Then, I chose songs, pieces, games and activities for the chosen standard of the week. I listened to the recordings carefully, typed up lyrics for second through fifth grade, and did some online research for game ideas, actions and other suggestions. Tomorrow, I will spend the morning organizing the songs into my plans and listening to them over and over to commit them to memory. It is a long process that might be shorter with sheet music and/or a textbook, but it also helps me feel completely prepared. I am a bit nervous about having the 3 and 4-year-olds this week, but I’m confident that my preschool music experience will come in very handy.

My horse let me sit and look at the pyramids.
I hate to bury the lead, but finally, this brings us to Saturday evening, when I did probably the coolest thing I have ever done. Fifteen of us met in a town in Giza and rode horseback through the desert by the pyramids. The entire experience felt so authentic and surreal at the same time. The town was full of horses and camels, both veering in and out of traffic with taxis and trucks. It took about 15-20 minutes to ride out of town into the desert and another 45 minutes to ride across and up a hill to a look-out point where we able to take pictures. Unlike many touristy horseback-riding adventures, this one had little to no rules. We were able to trot, cantor and gallop, as sand flew up around us and the cool Egypt evening breeze settled in our hair. My horse decided it was not going to race to the top, so it spent a good five minutes standing still. At first it was somewhat frustrating that the rest of the group got so far ahead of me, but then I realized he had stopped at the perfect view of the pyramids. I think he was letting me enjoy that for a while.

Somehow, Mariko got the job of stable girl.
We watched the sun set on the pyramid and as dusk fell, we rode back to the stables. On the way back, my horse was the opposite of the trip to the lookout. He ended up in front, galloping, trotting and willing himself home. We grabbed a quick dinner at a local restaurant where I got a falafel sandwich and a soda for 83 cents. We have already decided to take a longer horseback riding trip next weekend, which I’m sure will prompt another blog post.

As it is becoming clear to me that I really, truly am in Egypt, some of it still seems like an extended dream sequence. The reality is almost too amazing, too overwhelming to accept. So when I feel frustrated at work, I just think about the amazing things I’m doing. I feel great, I love it here, and that is enough to outweigh the stress of any lost internet connection.
One of our guides was obsessed with these pictures.
Joe and the Pyramid Girls.
My new friends Krista (Art) and Beth (Kindergarten).
Zainab and Denis are returning staff and have been a huge help to us.
Mariko woos the camel.
OMG it's the pyramids!
Perfect view.
The Horseback Group, all AIS West teachers.
Me and my slow/fast horse, Maradonna.

Stay tuned for Video Blog #3: Horseback by the Pyramids (with special guest, Brandon Bliss).


  1. Fabulous story, wonderful pictures. Glad you can ride a horse! Thanks for sharing your ongoing saga!

  2. I so look forward to your posts and they never disappoint! Glad you are having this adventure AND sharing it!