Sevcik's Blog

A year in Cairo Egypt

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Staff Appreciation and Closing Ceremony

In the past week St. Andrew’s has held two of the most important events of the year—Staff Appreciation and the Fall Closing ceremony. Both required a lot of preparation, and in typical Egyptian fashion there were a lot of loose ends until minutes before event time, but I’m happy to announce both ceremonies went really well and we had a great time!

Staff Appreciation was held last Thursday evening for both the Children’s Education Program and the Adult Education Program. Ahmed (Office Manager) and I worked together to prepare a night of food, awards, and entertainment. After rounding up some teachers to help decorate the hall with garland and balloons, we brought in loads of Pizza Hut and KFC. Even if you are Pizza Hut and KFC fans in America, it’s at least ten times a bigger deal here. McDonald’s, for instance, is quite high class for Egypt and people who eat there are either wealthy or celebrating a special occasion. Pizza Hut and KFC are similar. For some of the staff, the dinner was one of the best meals they’ve eaten all fall, especially since there was meat involved. (If that doesn’t but things into perspective for you, I don’t know what will!)

For gifts we gave women staff a large bar of Swiss chocolate while the men received three pairs of socks. Apparently we’ve given chocolate and socks in the past and it goes over well. Women love chocolate, of course, and most men could really use the practical gift of socks. Of course, since we are working with Muslims and Christians, these are not “Christmas presents,” rather “Year End presents.” Our volunteers received photo albums made from refugees in The Arc program.

A play entitled “A Recipe for Civil War” concluded the evening. It was written by the actors and actresses who performed in it—including two of my teachers, a few students in the Adult Education Program, our electrician, and one of the artists from The Arc. All actors come from war-torn countries; Sudan, Somalia, and Ethiopia were represented. The play was an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar since it deals with issues of civil war; that is, the need for revolution, the mind of the revolutionaries, the mind of the rules, the mixture of good and evil in all of us, and the consequences of war. We certainly have some talented people at St. Andrews!
The Closing Ceremony for the Children’s Education Program was held on Tuesday, and it turned out to be a blast! For the past month each class has been working with the music teacher a couple times a week to get ready for the big day of performances. It was such a joy to watch these kids get excited for their show! On Monday as I walked around the school I could hear the students practicing their songs and talking about what they were going to wear. Tuesday morning the nerves and energy was high as the girls gathered in the one small bathroom to get all dolled up while the guys played it cool out on the courts playing soccer.

Parents were invited to the closing ceremony, and I was pleased to see a good 30-40 parents show up! (For many it’s nearly impossible to leave work—they depend on that money so much.) After short speeches from Dick and me, and a long speech from Henry (who also had to say goodbye since he’s moving back to Sudan), the Flower class (youngest kids aged 6-8) started the event by singing “Head and Shoulders,” “I am a Child of God” and dancing a Shulluk Traditional Dance. (The Shulluk tribe is located in South Sudan.) From there we heard such songs as “You Are My Sunshine,” “Rain, Rain, Go Away,” and “Oh, Dear my Father, I’m Going to Leave You Now.” By the time the teenagers were performing we were hearing such songs as “My Heart Will Go On,” “I’m Walking Away” (Craig David), “You Are Not Alone,” and “Everything I Do; I Do It For you.” Between each classes’ performance we handed out blankets to each student in the class as their “Year End” present. We even gave a blanket to little Sarah, the 4-year old granddaughter of Atia (our Egyptian guard) who decided to take part in the ceremony by standing on the stage with the Flower class and touching her head, shoulders, knees and toes with the rest of them. Cute! J

We also gave out a lot of certificates this fall. Rather than just giving awards for good attendance and overall achievement, I decided to add awards for good conduct and each subject area (sports, language, music, art, computer, science, math, and general studies). In fact, I really had a good time making the certificates with a funky art program on my work computer, putting a graphic of a man kicking a soccer ball for the sports award and a new-age computer on the computer award…too bad we can only print certificates in black and white!

I think handing out certificates managed to do what we hoped it would—reward the exceptional students while motivating others to work harder. In fact, one student came to my office crying because she didn’t get a certificate. On the other hand, some students received their certificates and immediately just folded them up and put them into their pockets. Others received their certs with joy and brought them to their parents who showed proud, smiling faces. It was especially important since under the current curriculum we don’t give the students a grade. (I’d like to change this for next semester.)

The fall semester ended with a bang. Dick and I interviewed three candidates for the Program Administrator position to take Henry’s place. I’m excited to see all three of them would be able to do the job, and now it’ll just take a few weeks of Dick/Sarah discussion to figure out the best fit. I can understand how difficult it must be for people working in a Human Resource Department—sometimes the selection process is quite complicated and sifting through many good candidates (or no good candidates) proves to be a bit tricky (but fun!).
I also received some wonderful Christmas presents. One student gave me a matching beaded necklace and bracelet as well as an “evil eye” bracelet (to ward off bad spirits/omens) from her mom. A couple people from The Arc embroidered my name around a couple pens, and another gave me a black handkerchief and candy.


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