Sevcik's Blog

A year in Cairo Egypt

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Scottish dancing and Stephen's 23rd birthday!

On Monday night, Jennifer, Stephen, Carole and I attended the Scottish dancing session at St. Andrew’s church! About 25 people showed and all of us were foreigners—mostly from Europe (especially Scotland and England) and America. It was a blast! Many people really knew how to dance well and even had special Scottish dancing shoes. A few of us had no clue and spent the two hours hopping around and turning our bare feet completely black. (I’m surprised I didn’t have sore calves the next day.) I especially enjoyed spending time with an older generation; most people were in their 40s, 50s, or 60s. Next week we are going ½ hour early so we can get caught up on the steps and be ready to dance with our partners.
It was Stephen’s 23rd birthday yesterday! After sleeping in until 10, Jennifer and I spent the morning preparing for the celebration. In a chest drawer we found random bits of celebration materials for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and birthdays, including a big door sign stating “The party’s here!” While Jennifer chopped and sliced vegetables for dinner and made a birthday cake hat out of construction paper, I decorated Stephen’s room and traveled the Cairo streets in search of a package of balloons. I soon discovered balloons are not a normal part of an Egyptian celebration. Essam, one of our main guards, decided to join me on the excursion so we wandered up the street and eventually found a store Essam calls “the Cinderella store” (because it’s full of girly things) and found some balloons! But, rather than buying a package, the store owner just grabs a handful and you pay for each balloon individually. Okay, no problem, except for one thing; the balloons were filthy! So when we came home I tried washing and drying them. It didn’t work so well. The material was so flimsy and such poor quality that out of 8 balloons we could only blow up 2 and a half. On the positive side, “The Cinderella Store” also carried birthday cake candles and one big candle saying “Happy Birthday!” in English so we were set with that!
In Egypt it’s custom for one to buy gifts for others on his or her own birthday. Over the past few days our Arabic teachers joked that Stephen needed to bring baksheesh (a tip), food, or some type of presents for the teachers on his birthday. We all laughed it off, but when we arrived at class yesterday one of the teachers was seriously wondering where the cake was. After she spoke about it for the first two hours of class, Jay went to a store nearby during our break and bought some coconut pistachio cake for all the students and teachers. We sang “happy birthday” in English and Arabic and especially enjoyed the fact that this celebration was taking us away from being in class. ;-)
After class we came home to a decorated dining room and plates full of Egyptian-style macaroni and cheese, since Stephen’s favorite meal at home is corned beef and mac-n-cheese. Carole made excellent chocolate cake with chocolate-mint frosting and mango ice cream. After dinner most of the group went outside to Ramses’ front gate where Essam was waiting to celebrate the birthday. He bought everyone a flower! It was such a sweet gesture, but I felt pretty bad since I was the one who told him about Stephen’s birthday. Thing is, Egyptians are very hospitable, but I knew Essam did not have the budget to buy flowers for our group. We will certainly ‘repay’ him in the Egyptian way—buy giving him gifts from time to time as well.


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