Sevcik's Blog

A year in Cairo Egypt

Thursday, March 09, 2006

fish eyes

John Rubena, St. Andrew’s database manager, is moving to Canada next Thursday. After a long wait, he finally found out only a week or two ago that he has the visa and is set to go. It’s an exciting opportunity for John, as he will be able to work in Canada, hopefully find a school to further his computer science degree, and meet with his to-be wife. Still, to be honest I’m really sad to see him go. John has become the best friend I have in Egypt, and I’m going to have a rough transition without him around. In the meantime, however, I (and others from work) have been trying to spend as much time with him as possible. This weekend we are going shopping (some items for Canada), see a Sudanese band concert, and have a little party. And this evening Matthew and I had the pleasure of joining John to his favorite Cairo restaurant—The Fish Market on the Nile.

Like most fish you buy in Egypt, you get the whole fish. To see fish eyes peering at me as I pick through scales and tiny bones really doesn’t alarm me any more, but to be served this excellent meal with a good friend who I don’t know when I will see again was bittersweet. We had a wonderful meal of deep conversation and laughter, and I’m left feeling very alive and fresh but also sad. This is the reality of life, however, and especially the reality of working at St. Andrews. We (St. Andrews) exist to help people, and often that means letting people move on and being happy for their new life and exciting future. I keep feeling like the people I get to know the best are the ones to leave, but in the end I am so thankful to have been blessed by their presence in this world.

Anyhow, here’s a story from dinner that I just have to share. So, after our meal the waiter comes by to give us an evaluation form. Will we please fill it out? Okay, no problem. We marked the appropriate squares regarding whether the restaurant was clean or not, whether the service was speedy and friendly or not, and if the food was of good quality and temperature or not. Other than one “fair” we answered “good” or “excellent” to all questions. Then, in the comment section, I wrote, “Very good food and service! Thank you!”

As our waiter took the comment card, Matthew noticed him open it up immediately and read it as he walked away. We had a good chuckle about that,
but it became even more hilarious when the waiter came back and spoke to John (in Arabic) about the card. Matthew and I weren’t sure what was going on, but when the waiter gave John a new card to fill out we had a clue. He didn’t like our response and we had to write another evaluation—a more ‘appropriate’ evaluation this time! By this time we were roaring. So, we filled out a new evaluation, taking out the one “fair” for “good” and this time writing “il hum du ‘allah” [Praise be to God] in the comments. The waiter double checked this card, asked John to tell him what our comment said, and after being satisfied he shook his head with thanks and let us go.

We kept the old evaluation, and Matthew and I are going to tape it up in our office at work. For us, this experience totally exemplified so much of what I’ve come to see in Egypt. Rather than being able to have my own opinion, there is a ‘correct’ answer I must give—there is a uniform way of thinking. Instead of fighting against the system, I must adapt my feelings about it and say everything is ‘just fine’ and ‘malish’. This lack of critical thinking/independent thought has seeped its way into the educational systems and culture of Egypt in many ways, to the point of not being able to give an honest feedback about my dinner experience!


  • At 12/14/2007, Blogger sherif said…

    My mom worked in Ramsis College for Girls for so many years did yo know any of the teachers?


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