Autor: brandon

~ 02/06/09

Spring semester, 2009, is officially over.  Grades have been submitted, and the students’ pleas demands for higher marks have been steadily rolling in.  Why don’t I give a B+ or an A- “like the other doctors” for an 85%?  Because an 85% in a 100-level course is a B.  The sad thing is that I am sure they aren’t exaggerating when they claim other professors do grade according to that scale.  All your students are getting A’s?  You must be a great teacher! Here is tenure for you!


On an unrelated note, thats me 2 days ago standing beneath the burning bush.  Thats right.  The burning bush.  It looks pretty good for being 3000+ years old.  It is in the monastary of St. Catherine (as in Catherine Wheel) in the southern area of the Sinai peninsula, and at the base of Mt. Moses, aka Mt. Sinai (as in commandments numbering to ten at the top; false idol calves of gold at the bottom).  This trip was amazing and I am still pretty worn out.  Highlights included being let into the monastary outside of tourist hours and attending the Greek Orthodox service that has been repeated twice daily for over 1000 years; realizing that all of the decorations and lamps and candle holders and tables and frames and thrones and nearly everything in sight in the church are actually made of solid gold and silver; having the stereotypically monky Father Justin take us to see their library, filled with a few thousand books and hand-transcribed manuscripts, most of which are hundreds to a thousand years old, and listening in amazement as he turns the conversation to digitizing, Google, and optical character recognition; going to bed by 9:30pm in order to wake up at 1:30am to climb Mt. Moses; passing scores and scores of pilgrims, tourists, tourists on camels, and Bedouin trying to get me on their camels on the way up, illuminated only with my trusty wind-up LED mini torch, to reach the summit with less than a dozen people there before me, quietly bent over the side of the chapel wall at the top in prayer (or suffering from altitude sickness, I couldn’t be sure), thus allowing me a solid half-hour to lounge in peace gazing at the most illuminated night sky I have seen in a very long time, munching on some veggie jerky and watching satellites and meteors pass by, and wishing Emily was there to share it; watching as the sun slowly revealed the breathtaking view and incredible granite formations that we had been unknowingly surrounded by; the mysterious digital iconoclast of the mountain causing multiple cameras to stop working (thankfully, not mine); touring the monastary again (this time unfortunately with the hundreds of other tourists) and getting to see some of the worlds oldest, most beautiful, and most famous encaustic icons; mango push-up pops at the petrol station on the way home; and the open and frank discussion among colleagues on the current state of our institution, our roles, and our futures, which ultimately served to remind of the void that will be left after those who are leaving this year have gone.  More pictures and details below. (more…)

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Autor: emily

~ 08/04/09


That’s right. I’ll be the first to admit that I look like a huge dork in this picture. What can I say? I loved Cairo. Every single minute I was there. Sure I feared all kinds of things, and yeah, I did go through my fair share of pre-dining Purell, but I loved it.

Maybe it’s because it feels kind of like an adventure or maybe it’s just because the person I love happens to be there, but it is a beautiful place and I hope all of our friends and family can experience it with us at some point over the next two years.

So because I am officially done with being unadventurous and unfulfilled, I am officially moving there. And the best part about it, I’ll be moving with my husband! Aaaah I am so excited! Alie is pretty excited too. She thinks there’s hope for me because she was starting to worry about how much dialogue we were having and she made me delete the part I had typed about how she already asked me to get her suitcase down out of the closet.

So if you see me with this strange expression on my face, don’t be alarmed, it’s just a huge dorky smile and it’s because I am completely and totally elated. It’s going to be hard living my life looking this ridiculous, but I am sure that somehow I will be ok.

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Autor: brandon

~ 19/03/09


So I guess it has been a while since I have updated this.  To be honest, not much has been going on here since Emily left.  It seems most of the action is taking place in and around Portland now in the lead up to the big day.  School has been going well, and the general mood in the air around campus is much more pleasant than that of last semester.  It seems everyone has pretty well settled in to the new campus, with most problems having been ironed out.

In other news, I had my first visitors (who were not persons I wanted to spend the rest of my life with).  So that was exciting.  My great friend and peer-turned-colleague, Ira, decided to spend spring break here with me and Marti and 18 million Cairenes, along with another good guy, Jamey.  It turns out Ira and I have known each other almost 9 years to the day, having first met when I was a visiting prospective graduate student at Arizona State University, where he was a current graduate student in the department of chemistry!  How did we meet?  Ira was the guy who rode up to our picnic at Papago Park with his wife on the back of his Vespa P200, which sported the largest trunk I had ever seen on a scooter (the largest, that is, until moving to Cairo).  Years would pass by us and thousands of shared miles would pass beneath our 10″ wheels.  At one point, after Ira had graduated and remained on at ASU, I had the pleasure of teaching with him, as the TA for his Chemistry and Society course.  It was with even greater pleasure and honor, then, that I had the opportunity to invite Ira to guest-speak to my own classes and department, here at AUC.  In fact, Ira and Jamey pretty much gave me a day off altogether.  Ira kicked it off by leading a departmental seminar in a conversation on careers in science, which has since inspired a great deal of talk about potential collaboration between our schools and student exchanges.  Next up, Ira and Jamey together successfully presented a talk on science policy making to my Chemistry and Society class, despite the presence of one obnoxious heckler (and my own failure to inform them that humor falls upon deaf ears here; too bad, as the two of them seem to have refined their banter and timing down to pure comedic gold!).  After that, Jamey led my back-to-back Scientific Thinking classes through a talk on the Amish and their consideration for and use of technology.  It turns out that while the days of cowboys-and-indians movies are long gone, foreigners still “learn” a lot about American culture and subcultures through great export films and television series’, such as “Sex Drive”, “My Name is Earl”, and “How I met your Mother”.  Frankly, I was surprised no one named “Kingpin” as a source when Jamey asked the students where their knowledge of the Amish had come from.  In the end, I was quite pleased when my students managed to come up with some thoughtful questions for Jamey, well beyond simply the novelty questions of “do the Amish do this?” or “do the Amish use that?”.  Aside from that, the week was filled with cribbage, dominoes, french fry sandwiches, koshary, Stella, visits to the juice-man and the nut-man, sites I had not yet visited, hissing and tongue clicking, and good times had by all.  Way too many pics below: (more…)

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Autor: emily

~ 23/01/09

on a the nile

So I am still sick.  Black lung, bird flu, common cold, or whatever it may be, I am not letting it ruin the last few days I have in Cairo with Brandon.  Dr. Brandon has been great, and I do think the medicine is helping.  Brandon was kind of sick too, but I think he has developed a robust immune system living here, so he seems to be pretty much better.

At the beginning of the week, we spent a couple of days on the couch doing nothing except coughing, sneezing, and eating take out food, and aside from the persistent cough, I feel a lot better.

On Wednesday, we went to the Khan al-Khalili, Cairo’s biggest souk which dates back to the 14th century!  It was a lot of fun… tons of vendors, people, and LOTS of really cool stuff ranging from beautiful handmade wood furniture to pyramid snow globes.  Perhaps the most memorable moments however, were when… more than once… Brandon was… mistaken for Leonardo di Caprio, hahaha!  One of the times, someone said “Titanic.”  It was pure gold.  After a quick google image search, I’ve decided it has to be the hair and maybe his eyebrows, but otherwise, I’m not convinced.  It was funny.

Thursday was wonderful.  We picked up some fateer from the local fateer place in Maadi and had a picnic on a felucca on the Nile.  Feluccas are big, low sailboats, and apparently, the perfect place for a picnic, and fateer is somewhat like pizza in that it comes in a pizza box.  The dough is flaky, and the toppings are stuffed inside.  We topped things off with dessert… banana fateer which had powdered sugar and creme on top.  It was amazing.  Floating down the Nile was very relaxing, and slowly the noise of honking car horns and traffic (a constant anywhere in the city), faded away into near silence.  It was lovely!

P.S. I also got to experience the great winter storm of ’09 today.  I think I felt two raindrops and Brandon claims to have felt three.  Before it hit, I checked which said it was 70 degrees and the forecast was “SAND.”  I kid you not.  I never knew sand was a weather phenomenon, but apparently, it counts.  Now it says “widespread dust.”  We went to the store, and it doesn’t feel like a sandstorm… and having lived in Phoenix for nine years, I’ve been in many.  Definitely no haboob today.

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Autor: emily

~ 14/01/09


On Sunday, we went to an Egyptian Premier League soccer game with Brandon’s Egyptian friends Mustafa and Aiman. The game was between Alahly and Zamaalek who are apparently huge rivals, and this was the big game of the season.  As we moved through the line toward the ticket-takers and started seeing more and more police in full riot gear, I began wondering if we should perhaps rethink our plans.  Fortunately conservative-and-cautious-little-emily lost to why-not-emily, and after about six friskings for the men, and only two for me, we made it in.  Mustafa is a big Alahly fan, and he had to go through extra security because he had face paint on.  I think they were trying to prevent any over-excitement that might taunt rivals because it sounds like last year’s game was a little wild.  I think people ripped up seats and threw them last year… but with all those riot police around this time, no one was tempted to do anything beyond wave a flag or banner and subsequently be taken away for doing so.  Not sure how you smuggle a huge flag in with six thorough security checks, but I guess we can tell the fans are passionate.  Fortunately, our team won 1 to 0.  And we quietly and peacefully left and returned home.

Today we went to check out some souk action with some friends.  Following our trusty Lonely Planet book’s recommendation was somewhat of a bust, although we found a wonderful junk shop and stumbled across Coptic Cairo (expect more on that in a future post after our inevitable return trip).  We hopped back on the metro and headed for the markets near the Khan Al Kalili (and expect more on that later as well!).  There is just so much to see it is impossible to even begin to describe it all.  You will all just have to come visit to see it for yourselves!

Anyhow, I will say that everything is oddly arranged rather disadvantageously for the vendors but quite conveniently for the shoppers — every store on a block sells pretty much the exact same thing.  We went through a block of curtain rod shops, a whole block of baby shower trinkets, a whole block of party supplies and fake flowers, etc.  Check out the photos below for some oddities from the block of spice shops.

We also purchased and started to eat something that resembled koshari but alas was not (and probably had meat in it).  Then we tried some of the corn I previously mentioned in another post and we were pretty disappointed (we’ll have to find another feather-fan-corn-roaster to try later), and then FINALLY, much like goldilocks, found the street food that was JUST RIGHT.  I forget what it was called, but it was a delicious whole grain, wheat berry type of porridge with milk, coconut, chopped nuts, raisins, shredded wheat, and who knows what other delicious goodness… served very hot, YUMM!

And now, Brandon is making pizza dough again, and since I am apparently trying to eat as much food as humanly possible while I’m here, I am going to go help however I can by eating toppings while the dough rises.

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Autor: emily

~ 09/01/09

a camel picture

We woke up early and hopped in a cab and headed for Giza today.  Driving through Cairo, the huge office buildings and thirty-story apartment buildings began to fade into smaller (10 – 20 story) red brick and gray concrete towers with patches of bright green Nile delta farmland disappearing in between the buildings.  Almost all of these buildings, while appearing to have already been occupied for a long time, seem to be unfinished, with rooftops ready for additional development with concrete supports and rebar reaching skyward awaiting further growth.

It was a very hazy day (a euphemism I like to use in place of “smoggy”), and the atmosphere was beautiful with the morning sunlight streaming through the dust and haze. Brandon kept saying we should be able to see the pyramids looming over the horizon, but the haze prevented us from seeing anything.

After about 30 minutes in the cab, driving incredibly fast most of the way, we exited the highway and soon slowed to join the traffic of braying mules, clopping camels, and other erratic drivers and pedestrians.  I was shocked to see how close the city creeps up to the pyramids, but it was a beautiful sight nonetheless!

We started our morning at Naser Bresh stables.  There are dozens of stables around the pyramids, but this stable was recommended by our trusty Lonely Planet guidebook and was noted as having healthy, well-fed horses that are treated well.  Naser Bresh got us all set up.  My horse was white and as far as I can tell was named Ahmed Moon, and Brandon had a brown horse whose name I didn’t catch.

Our guide, like pretty much everyone else in Egypt, could not say “Brandon,” so me and “Bred” headed out with him into the desert.  After passing some trash piles, a modern day city of the dead, and lots of peculiar graffiti of many-humped camels, we were trotting along in the desert at last.  It was beautiful.  Brandon’s horse spooked my horse a few times, which sent my horse (and me!) flying through the desert at top speed… it was a little scary to tell the truth, but a lot of fun.

Our guide led us to a little hut atop a dune where we sat on a fallen palm trunk and drank delicious hot tea in the desert wind.  We got scammed by a heckling camel rider who talked us into getting on the camel and made me wear his scarf on my head.  Let’s not talk about it.  It was enough of a challenge to tell him NOT to lead Brandon out into the desert on his camel and leave me behind at the hut.  Lu’h!

Despite the camel scammer, it was a ton of fun.  We galloped at top speed toward the pyramids and then headed back.

There were far fewer tourists at the pyramids than I expected.  I’ll let the pictures tell the story.  The one thing we could not capture was the most amazing moment of sound I may have ever experienced.  Today is a Friday, a holy day for Muslims.  In addition to the call to prayer, there is more beautiful singing and sermons in Arabic projected on loudspeakers on Fridays.  Generally you can only hear it coming from your closest Mosque with a few other Mosques a little more quietly in the background… but today, on top of the Giza plateau, the acoustics and the wind carried the sounds from hundreds of Mosques in Giza and Cairo up to our ears all at once.  The clock struck noon, and slowly, one by one, more beautiful sounds piled in on the cacophony.  It was amazing.  And slowly, as the sermons wound down, the din of the overlapping language and song died out.

It was a beautiful day.  I never knew I’d actually get to experience these things in real life.

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Autor: emily

~ 02/01/09

so happy together

so happy together

Greetings from Cairo, everyone!  I will be writing from Brandon’s blog over the next 24 days until I head back to Portland.  Cairo is amazing.  Some may say it’s third world, but I like to think it’s the best of both worlds… a little first, a little third.

The last couple of days have been amazing.  Nothing is quite as I expected it to be.  The traffic is certainly crazy, but really not all that bad.  No close calls yet, although I know I haven’t seen the worst of it.  The people here have been wonderful.  Everyone is so welcoming and friendly, and although I know I am obviously a foreigner, I feel quite comfortable. And I am getting to use a little Arabic.  Brandon’s Arabic is pretty impressive!  I feel pretty good having such a wonderful guide.

Brandon’s neighborhood is really neat.  There are beautiful villas, embassies, big apartment complexes, some great clothing stores, various little markets, and as I discovered today, the banana man.  The above photo was taken on the balcony with the midan (or traffic roundabout) and the mosque behind us.  There are lots of mosques, and we hear the call to prayer five times a day.  So far, I am enjoying it!  It is nice to take a moment every day to pause and appreciate things.

Today we took the metro and walked to the Nile.  It was really impressive and beautiful, but the most impressive part of today’s adventure was the souk we explored.  We were both hungry and looking for lunch, but surprisingly couldn’t find anything, so when we stumbled across the crowded alleyways of a souk we decided to check it out.

The souk was incredible.  As you can see from the picture below, there is amazing produce here!  Those strawberries looked delicious, and I have seen cabbages that are probably more than 2 feet in diameter.  Anyhow, there were tons of chickens, whole cows or goats, fish, lots of rabbits (but Meredith, I am pretty sure they were just selling them as pets), clothing, housewares, and yes, fresh made falafel.  Knowing I have had all my shots, we decided to eat some right there!  Anthony Bourdain take that!  It was so good.

I almost forgot, we had some incredibly fresh juice too.  The best… sucre.  It’s a drink made from sugar cane that tastes deliciously sweet and kind of surprisingly planty and green.  Not surprising I guess when you consider how it’s made: the juice vendor take several stalks of sugar cane and feeds it into a big machine and voila, cane juice!  Amazing.

Tonight we are going to plan the rest of my trip.  So far, I feel like I have had a good taste of day-to-day Cairo life without much touristy stuff, but I have to see the pyramids, the museum, and of course ride a camel, so stay tuned!  There will be much much more!

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Autor: brandon

~ 13/12/08

I went on a trip to the Fayoum, or Fayyum, a couple of weeks ago.  I thought it was an oasis, but it turns out it is just a big, salty lake.  Saw some more pyramids, but didn’t get to see the highlight I was looking forward to:  Wadi el-Hitan, or the Valley of the Whales.  This is a giant open-air museum where Jesus or the devil or someone scattered about fossils of whales with vestigial hind legs to test our faith.  Or something like that.  Anyway, we got turned around about 30 km before we got there because the bus drivers and the bus company decided we would not make it on the sandy road.  Supposedly this was all checked out beforehand and the green light was given, but arrangements have a way of changing here.  Anyway, it is something I definitely want to check out at some point while I am here.  Maybe if/when I ever have visitors we can hire a 4×4 and make a weekend of it.

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