Archive | June, 2011

It’s the little things that count

30 Jun

There are MANY things that make living in Egypt much different from living in the United States. Some of them are very big, obvious things (like the language) and other things are small.ย  Here are some of the small things. Not better, not worse, just different.

1. Pop tabs need to be ripped completely off.

2. Coffee = Nescafe (instant coffee). I haven’t seen a proper coffee brewer anywhere except the Keurig coffee maker at Shaun’s work. We kept asking the kitchen store lady about a French Press for the past two weeks, and she kept saying “Bokra, in sha Allah” which means “tomorrow, God willing.” Well, tomorrow finally came yesterday! Either way, Nescafe seems to have just as much caffeine as my beloved American brewed coffee, and that is really all that matters, right?

“Milk”

3. Milk – OK. this one might be a little worse… Milk comes in a cardboard box and doesn’t ever go bad. Nor does it need to be refrigerated. I am not really convinced that it is even actual milk from a cow…

4. Water Heaters – This one is actually a little bit better (as long as it works appropriately). The wateris heated as it runs through the pipeso you willnever run out of hot water! It just makes for a little bit of an eye soar in thekitchen and bathroom.

5. Air conditioners – Every room has an individual AC unit. And, they all hang off the outside of the building. When you are walking on the sidewalk, you need to look for the wet spots on the ground, and walk around them. Otherwise, you are likely to get rained on by the water dripping out of all the AC units on a given building. Gross.

Also, on a completely unrelated note, I have conquered my nervousness about walking around Zamalek alone. Yay! I bought myself this beautiful ring at the silver shop down the street. ๐Ÿ™‚

Rubies, Emeralds and silver, oh my!

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Rustic + a touch of Arabia? (wedding planning)

28 Jun

So, as you know, my wedding is going to on a farm in Wisconsin. Here are some more pictures that I took when I went to see the venue this past winter. The plan is to have a rustic theme and to incorporate lots of Wisconsiny things such as cheese and beer.

The whole “theme” ties together so nicely – wedding on a farm with good micro-brews, cheese and lots of ho-down fun including but not limited to square dancing, a hog roast and a camp fire.

BUT, I also want to include some Egyptian touches because well a. we are going to spend the year prior to our wedding here, and b. I can get things very cheaply here – always thinking about that budget ๐Ÿ˜‰

For example, they have these beautiful lanterns everywhere that make gorgeous patterns of light on the walls and ceiling. Can I put these in the barn for the reception and make it look like it fits in with everything else? Or, will it come off as scatter brained and out of place? Help, please!

Ras Sudr

27 Jun

This weekend was spent in Ras Sudr, a town located on the Red Sea – about a two and a half hour drive (without traffic) from Cairo. It is known for its kite surfing thanks to the very shallow water and steady wind. We rented a mini bus complete with driver for $20 USD/person round trip (SO CHEAP). We went with 3 Aussies and 3 Egyptians. Shaun and the Aussies went Kite surfing both days while I lazed on the beach with the three Egyptian girls. I felt pretty silly “relaxing” on the beach because I sit around “relaxing” all day while Shaun is at work anyway… I am looking forward to starting that job!

The weekend was very enjoyable. So much so that we are considering going back next weekend. There is going to be a kite surfing contest next weekend, so they will have a BBQ and beach games going on. Plus, it is the weekend right before my birthday!

Here is a picture of Shaun kite surfing. He caught on the quickest thanks to his snowboarding and wakeboarding skillz.

Here is a picture of me taking a break from my oh-so-stressful lifestyle.

I wish I would have gotten a group picture of all of us! It was great getting to know them all. It has definitely made the transition easier to have a group of friends already in place thanks to my wonderful fiance.

7 days in…

23 Jun

Well, I have now been here for just over a week, and I would like to write a very in depth post about all my thoughts about Cairo, and whether I think I made the right decision moving here blah blah blah, but that seems a bit too taxing for me at the moment. Rather, here are some things I really like about Cairo so far:

  • Shaun lives here – duh
  • Things are CHEAP! Cab rides, restaurants, groceries, etc – all very affordable
  • It is always sunny…seriously it never rains. It’s never even cloudy.
  • I am getting a JOB – starting in a week or two, once the paperwork is done.
  • There is always something to do, something to see
    • For example, I am going to the Red Sea this weekend to hang out on the beach with some of Shaun’s friends
  • The area where we live (Zamalek) is very cool – lots of restaurants and stores and embassies

Here are some things that make it a bit difficult:

  • I don’t speak the language yet. I canย  say thank you, hello and right and left although sometimes I get the latter two confused which makes for a bigger issue
  • Due to the above, I don’t go out exploring on my own
  • Due to the above, I spend most of the day confined to the apartment while Shaun is at work
    • BUT! I am hoping to learn more Arabic very soon and hopefully I’ll get the guts to navigate Zamalek on my own once I get some more of the basics down.

Many of the people I talked to about Cairo said, “you either love it or hate it”. Well, I don’t love it yet. But, I certainly don’t hate it. So, I guess the final verdict is still out….

Wedding planning so far

21 Jun

Taken from Cedar Hill website

So, one of the topics I want to cover in this blog is wedding planning. I have lots of ideas and thoughts about the whole process, and I hope my experiences can help other couples doing the same thing. So, here are the basics of what I have done so far:

  • Chose the venue – a farm in Wisconsin – and date – 7/7/12
    • This was the very first thing I did AFTER coming up with a budget ($16k) – more on that later
    • I love love LOVE this venue! Here’s why:
      1. Everything will happen in one location – the rehearsal dinner, getting ready (in the farm house), the ceremony and the reception. This makes it easy and more enjoyable for our guests, our vendors and not to mention me and Shaun!
      2. Renee and Gary, the owners of Cedar Hill Barn, are SO nice! It makes the whole process SO much more relaxing to feel like I am working with good midwestern folk rather than some crazy vendor who wants to get me for all I am worth with hidden costs and rules.
      3. Everything in this venue is beautiful – from the quaint farm house, to the oh-so-lovely barn to the immaculate grounds. Look at those multi-colored chairs!
      4. Oh, and the barn was built using old fashioned post and beam methods from cedar in the area. Pretty cool.
      5. It has a keg-orator. ’nuff said.
  • Having the venue and date determined made it easy for me to pick a theme (Summer in Wisconsin/Rustic) and food (Hog roast, of course!)
    • See my inspiration board here
  • Compiled the guest list
    • This, by far, has been the most difficult task to complete so far in the process – who to invite? who to NOT invite?
    • The venue seats about 175-180 comfortably and considering weddings at home are usually more in the 350-400 range, I had to make some difficult decisions
    • Adding to that the fact that a vast majority of our guests will need toย  travel for the wedding (Shaun’s family is mostly in Indiana and mine in Ohio) – how many can we invite under the assumption that they won’t be able to make it?
  • My uncle is a DJ – so I contacted him to do my wedding
    • His availability was critical to picking the date
    • At weddings in my hometown (where he normally DJs), we always square dance – it was important to me to have that incorporated into our reception as well and Uncle Slick can help us out on that front!
  • Our friend Lexia is an AMAZING photographer – so we contacted her
    • I am not just saying she is AMAZING because she is a friend. It’s true! See some of her past weddings here and here.
    • Oh, and some of her photos have been featured in Martha Stewart Weddings and she is going to be in SMP this week. How awesome is that?
  • Picked out my wedding dress
    • The designer is La Sposa and that is all I can tell you right now – I want it to be a surprise!
    • My mom (being the maven that she is) found a sample dress that has never been used on preownedweddingdresses.com for less than half the price of what the store would charge me (remember that budget?). It’s 2 sizes too big but I have a tailor that says she can get it down to the right size without issue.
  • Picked out bridesmaids dresses
    • I went shopping with the women in my family (sister, mom and niece) the weekend before I left. We narrowed it downto four styles and sent them to the other bridesmaids for opinions.
    • Dessy styles 6609 and 2787 won the vote (in midnight blue)

My first DIY project

  • Made (yes, MADE) my save the dates
    • I used wallpaper, card stock and a custom rubber stamp to make these beauties

So, as you can see, I have a lot done so far. My plan was to get alot of the big tasks checked off before coming to Cairo. Mission accomplished, I think. There are still some pretty major outstanding questions like, um, what kind of ceremony/officiant will we have? This task is so overwhelming to me for many reasons, and I just haven’t had the patience and energy to deal with it quite yet…

Overall, though, I really want the wedding to be practical, pretty and personal. How do you think I am doing?

First weekend in Cairo

19 Jun

I did lots of things this weekend. I will illustrate this through pictures. BTW, this being a Arab country and all, the weekend is now on Friday and Saturday instead of Saturday and Sunday. This is going to take some getting used to.

Dinner at Sequoia on Thursday night. A little Oasis in the madness that is Cairo.

A little champagne to celebrate my arrival (on the felucca on Friday)

Our trusty captain

All the peeps on the felucca

Lunch and beers at the British Club in Maadi

Supper on our terrace!

Shaun with his coworkers at the end of the party at the Maadi House Friday night

Went to check out the Marriott on Saturday - this is the entrance

Juice in the courtyard at the Marriott on Saturday afternoon

Egypt has really good fresh squeezed juice - yum!

A very impressive stairway in the Marriott

It was a great first weekend. I’ll write more about my thoughts about Cairo in a later post. This will suffice for now!

I am HERE!

16 Jun

I am finally here in Cairo! Very exciting. My favorite part of the city so far? Shaun. Hands down. ๐Ÿ™‚

But, seriously, the trip made for a very LONG day. There was no night time for the whole of it (22 hours). But, I did manage to sleep on the flight from Amsterdam to Cairo, except for the 20 minute drama of the lady next to me spilling red wine all over me and her. That part was not very enjoyable.

When I finally got in, things moved very quickly. I bought my tourist visa, got my luggage and went through customs in about 15 minutes. Customs took a bit of time because they had a hard time believing that all 4 of my bags contained “mostly shoes and clothes”. Maybe I should have packed a bit lighter…

After customs, Shaun was waiting for me! We had about 200 men ask us if we needed a taxi and following us around. Shaun was leading me out and saying no to them and telling them we already had one in Arabic while I followed behind him. I kind of felt like a superstar with body guard leading me through a crowd of paparazzi, except that there were no cameras.

Once we got to the cab, it was about 45 mins to the apartment. And, that 45 minutes is pretty much all of Cairo that I have seen so far. All I can say is Cairo is… interesting. For example, I saw a building that had trees growing inside of it. And the trees had burst through the ceiling but nobody really seemed to care to do anything about it. Immediately after that, I saw a horse drawn carriage. But, instead of a carriage, it was pulling a tank of gas, I think. Like the kind you see in someone’s back yard. Like I said, interesting.

The area where we live is really cool. It kind of reminds me of China town in NYC. But, I haven’t seen much of it yet. I want to learn some Arabic basics before venturing out on my own.

OK… I have put off unpacking for long enough now. I should go do that! Tomorrow I am going on a Felucca ride down the Nile and then to a British pub with some of Shaun’s friends. Yay!