Monday, 30 April 2012

Teaching in Egypt (9): Chicken is not meat

Today I was talking to my students about food. I asked them what their favourite food is, and why. One student said: "I love to eat chicken, because I don't like meat."

Wait, what?

Sunday, 29 April 2012

What I saw today (8) - Flowers on Zamalek

Flower 2 by Ester Meerman
Flower 2, a photo by Ester Meerman on Flickr.
Walking around Zamalek the other day, I found these very vibrantly coloured flowers. I love my new camera, even though I still barely know how to use it.

Saturday, 28 April 2012


Nederlandse PINDAKAAS!!! by Ester Meerman
Nederlandse PINDAKAAS!!!, a photo by Ester Meerman on Flickr.
The quality of my life in Cairo just increased ten-fold: I found Dutch peanut butter at the local supermarket. Peanut butter is a staple in my daily diet and this is infinitely better than that oily American excuse for peanut butter I have been getting by with up to now.

Friday, 27 April 2012

What I saw today (7) - Our house sheesha

Sheesha by Ester Meerman
Sheesha, a photo by Ester Meerman on Flickr.
This is the latest addition to our household. Can't live in the Middle East without having a house sheesha!

It was a gift from a friend to my housemate. It is one of the gaudiest sheeshas I have ever seen.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Teaching in Egypt (8): 'I play the faggot'

One of my previous classes had three girls in it that worked for the Cairo Opera House. Two of them were singers in the choir, the third played an instrument in the orchestra.

Me: "What instrument do you play?"

Student: "I play the faggot."

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Quote of the day (4): the definition of 'to faint'

"To faint means to fall asleep unexpectedly", one of my students told me today.

Somebody is getting extra points for creative thinking. 

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

The day the Egyptian cyberspace nearly exploded on the issue of women's rights

The Egyptian cyber sphere nearly exploded today over an article written by Egyptian writer Mona El-Tahawy on the treatment of women in the Middle East, provocatively titled 'Why do they hate us?'.

To me the article merely seems to state the obvious ('woman are second class citizens in the Middle East') and I am fairly disappointed it doesn't offer a broader solution than 'be vocal and demand your rights'.

What I saw today (6): Egyptian Donald Duck

Monday, 23 April 2012

What I learned today (6): about recovering pieces of dead people

There was a pretty serious train crash in Amsterdam when I was there. That same evening, when we were on our way back from another city by train, we met a train driver who told us all about the accident.

For some reason the conversation turned to people getting hit by trains and how that is obviously very traumatising for the driver. 'I imagine it is even worse for the firemen who have to come clean it up', the driver added.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Teaching in Egypt (7): The one guy that stands out

In the current batch of students I teach, there is one guy that stands out, because he is the only one that can properly argue his way around a debate.

Today I found out why. 

Friday, 20 April 2012

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Teaching in Egypt (6): Cairo on the sea

It can be very challenging communicating with people when you only barely speak each other’s languages. At the language institute, this is common day reality with the students in the lower levels. It can lead to some pretty odd conversations.

I was doing exams with my lower level students and with one of them Babylon almost won.

Monday, 16 April 2012

What I saw today (4): All hail the Egyptian people

"The people of Egypt are the greatest people on earth; and they deserve the Nobel Prize for Peace." 
I wonder if Fischer still feels this way today, after all the drama that surrounds the upcoming presidential elections. 

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Teaching in Egypt (5): ‘Are you Jewish?’

Because I share my first name with the queen of the Jews and my last name ends in ‘man’, I occasionally get mistaken for a Jew. Which, in the Middle East, is precarious, to say the least.

Every now and then I like to have some fun with that.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Quote of the day (3): Egyptian media are like porn

"Egyptian media are like porn: you can't stop watching and reading, but afterwards you feel kind of dirty and you wish you hadn't wasted so much time looking at it."

Source: once again, one of my insightful Egyptian students

Friday, 13 April 2012

What I saw today (3): Mr. Hasheesh

Noticed this sign on one of the doors in the office building I work at.
In Arabic 'hasheesh' simply means 'grass', but still, connotations abound.
I wonder what kind of engineer Mr. Hasheesh is? Biochemical? 

Thursday, 12 April 2012

What is 'blowsex' ?

Yeah, you read that right: blowsex. No, I have no idea what that is either.

Every time I walk home from work after ten pm, there is this car park attendant that asks me about it. "Hey, pssst! Blowsex?"

I find this very confusing, not only because I am unfamiliar with the actual meaning of the word, but also because of his phrasing.

Does he want it from me, or is he offering it to me? Is he inquiring where he might obtain it? Or maybe he knows I teach English and is he merely asking me for a definition?

I know the easiest thing would be to just ask him what it means next time I see him, but I'm shy around strangers and I don't want to come across as stupid. It might be one of those hip Cairo things only the in-crowd expats know about. Like boat parties and alcohol hook-ups.

I'm afraid to google it, mainly because it has the word sex in it (I don't want to get lost in the tripleX-www), but if any of you can muster up the courage and find something interesting, let me know.

I might make a new friend out of it. 

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Quote of the day (2): On voting in pre-revolution Egypt

"A ballot box in Egypt was like a magic box: you put the paper in with a vote against Mubarak and it would come out as a 'yes'!"

Hopefully they have toned down on the magic tricks this time around.

Source: one of my (Egyptian) students.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Shock doctrine in Egypt: post-Mubarak economic crisis and the upcoming elections

Very insightful.

Teaching in Egypt (4): What is karma?

A big part of teaching English is defining words. Some are easy (insult, conflict, debate), some are more challenging (imagination, rhetoric, influence) and some just simply take you by surprise.

The other day, just as I am about to take the lift down to skip out for a snack, a young guy standing in the hallway suddenly turns to me and asks: "Hey, what is karma?".

Monday, 9 April 2012

What I learned today (5): Hiring standards at Vodafone Egypt are low

Me, at my local Vodafone store: "Hello, I'd like to reactivate the internet on my phone."

Store clerk, looking at my iPhone4 with great suspicion: "You get internet on that thing?"

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Teaching in Egypt (3): Sometimes you've got to have some fun

This is what one of my fellow teachers taught her students the other day:

(I know it supposed to be 'supercalifragilisticexpialidocious', but still, I laughed.)

The most difficult word I ever taught my students is anthropomorphic and that actually came up in an article we were reading on the subject of alien life.

Quote of the day (1): Never trust a man...

"Never trust a man that keeps a drawer full of condoms next to his bed."

Duly noted.

Source: an anonymous friend (female, of course) 

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

What I learned today (4): To be in the know

‘When you know, you know. You know?’

- ‘Know what?’

‘Well, I don’t know.’

Thus my American friend's attempt at being philosophical during a late night discussion this weekend. 
No, he wasn't drunk. Or stoned. 

Sunday, 1 April 2012

What I learned today (3): Showing your penis to strangers is unacceptable

‎"See, every single male can remember the first time, when he was 5 or 6 years old, he showed his penis to a stranger and everybody started freaking the hell out."