Welcome to the Wandering Drays!

Not all who wander are lost...

Welcome to my blog dedicated to my family and our crazy foreign service life. Never content with staying in one place, we are excited to share our journey. We've survived two unaccompanied tour (Baghdad 2010-2011 and Baghdad again in 2015-2016), multiple TDYs, and enjoyed a two-year family assignment in Cairo, Egypt. The fab hubby is currently learning Turkish for our next assignment...Istanbul, Turkey! We leave for Turkey sometime in summer 2017. I write about what I know. Which is mainly kids, tween drama, gross pets, dealing with lots of government info, our moving adventures, being a nurse, yoga, running, living on too-little sleep, and an addiction to coffee lattes. I hope you'll enjoy this glimpse into our lives.

Friday, September 9, 2011

First Week in Cairo

Magnificent view of the Nile.

After a long, but thankfully uneventful 24 hours of travel from Pittsburgh International to JFK to Cairo International Airport, we arrived in Cairo, Egypt on Monday.  Disheveled, cranky, hungry and truthfully a bit stinky.  As soon as we exited the plane, we were greeted by my husband's awesome sponsor - who helped us navigate the airport, deal with all 19 pieces of luggage, and load everything into two vans.  We then traveled to our new home.  Jason and the kids all fell asleep in the van. I was too anxious - taking in all the sights, trying to mentally accept this as 'home.'

Amazingly, it's felt like a perfect fit from day one.  So much of this has to do with our friends who have gone out of their way to help us get settled.  Groceries in our kitchen, beds with linens, internet connection at the ready.  A nice warm meal on the day we arrived with a beautiful dessert.  I can only hope that I'll be able to pay it forward next year when we're sponsoring an incoming family!

Introductions to our doorman were made, and he's been so helpful each time we've stepped out of the house.  And the house!  It's beautiful (and I promise to do a blog on it next week!) - 4 bedrooms, 2 living rooms, a ginormous formal dining room, beautiful kitchen, and 3 bathrooms.  I couldn't ask for more. But wait! There IS more --- A POOL ON THE ROOF!  With a gorgeous view of surrounding Cairo.
Not a bad place for a run!

On our second day here, our housekeeper/nanny arrived and I can't express how relieved I was to find out she is as amazing in real life as the recommendation we received.  She is easy-going, thorough, and absolutely loves the baby.  Who loves her in return! Within an hour of meeting her, the baby was giving her big sloppy kisses.  Jason started work the day after we arrived, and I start work at the Embassy clinic on Sunday, so having someone we could trust with the kids was essential - we've hit the jackpot with her; she is the perfect fit for our family.

I went with a new friend to the kids' school and we met with their teachers and got IDs for their school.  THE KIDS' SCHOOL IS AWESOME.  A beautiful international school, with kids who have been through so many of the same things our kids have dealt with.  The munchkins were immediately at ease (!!) and made friends easily.  We made arrangements for busing and then went for a latte.  Yum! It's not my usual Starbucks from the States, but it's definitely good enough that I won't feel deprived.  I can more than live with that.

On Wednesday I rode with the same friend to a local grocery store and then to the Embassy commissary. Both are great!  I will have no problem getting the groceries we'll need.  On the way back home, we stopped at a local market and picked up some fresh mango and canteloupe.  They smell so good. So fresh, so wonderful.  And they taste far better than any mangoes I've ever had.  Plus, I got to try my hand at price bargaining at the market. Considering my lack of Arabic, it's even hysterical.  But I did end up getting what I wanted for what I felt was a reasonable price. That's the most important thing in bargaining, right?!

Later in the week, I braved a solo taxi ride, and asked for the Metro on 9th.  I MEANT the Metro Supermarket, but didn't realize that metro also meant subway, and the taxi driver spoke as much English as I speak Arabic. [Bahahaha! I know about 4 words in Arabic: "hello", "thank you", "coffee" (of course!), and "market."]  I managed to squeak out 'souk' (market) with the word metro and he thought I meant Market at the Metro.  To his credit, he dropped me at an outdoor market right near a subway entrance.  I tentatively got out of the car, but realized immediately it wasn't the area I was familiar with.  And honestly, I can also say it wasn't an area I was comfortable with.  The roads were narrow, garbage piles lined the streets, and the sewage smell was nearly unbearable.

Saw this friendly guy while running.
Hoping his fate isn't what I witness in the market...
Despite the amazingness of the city, please also understand that I fully recognize that Cairo has an enormous population that lives in poverty that most of us cannot even fathom; that there are some who do not welcome Americans in their country; that there are plenty of areas which are not safe.  I don't speak the language; I have short, vibrantly blond hair; I dress conservatively enough for the culture, but I don't wear the local garb; truthfully, I probably couldn't stick out more I tried.  I decided I wasn't ready for exploring this area, so I hopped another taxi and this driver spoke quite a bit more English and he laughed at me and drove me to the area I was looking for.  In fact, he spoke English, French, and Arabic, so I ended up having a great discussion with him about politics in Egypt.  Good stuff.

At the market, I purchased some more mangoes and some persimmons; found some trinkets for the kidlets; and saw a butcher shop with donkey meat for sale.  I mean literally donkey butt meat.  The tail was still on! I make no judgments on meat, and I would actually try it in a restaurant, but buying a piece of butchered donkey is so not my style. I wouldn't even know what to cook it with!  I also found a "Cilantro" coffee shop and got a tasty espresso drink with Nutella.  Nutella is really popular here, so I thought I'd embrace it in coffee drink; that's definitely Heather-style.

That's right! Donkey tail.
Today I decided I'd brave the traffic on foot and try a little bit of running. I mapped out a run to the Nile, wrote out my address and Jason's cell phone on a piece of paper, and headed out of the building. I spoke with the doorman using some of my patented foreigner communication - English mixed in the few words I knew in Arabic, making wild waving motions with my hands and arms.  He's always amused by me.  He understood I was going running (easy charade to figure out, right?) and confirmed my suspicions that the Nile was in the direction I thought I was.  About 25 minutes into my run though, after playing many a game of 'frogger' on the road with the million honking-not-following-any-traffic-law cars, I was LOST. Super lost.  And the road I was on trapped me between garbage and cars.  So, I hopped a taxi.  Who drove me to the Nile and dropped me off!  Success!  I ran for about 15 minutes more and just as I was giving up all hope --- spotted a STARBUCKS!  Exactly what I was looking for!  Oh, happy day!

But I have to say, the latte I got was an afront to all lattes.  It had no espresso taste.  Only heavy sweet soy milk and overly sweet hazelnut syrup.  Oh, well.  I'm actually not heartbroken.  I've found another coffee shop I like to buy my latte at here in Cairo.  And of course, I'll be with my BFF latte again in the States someday.  I played another game of frogger and took some pictures across the street with the latte and then grabbed a taxi back to the house.  I spent the rest of the day with the fab hubby and the munchkins at the roof pool.  Perfect.  So far, Cairo is a good balance of what we'd consider "regular life" mixed with a new culture.  That's really what we've been hoping for.

Quite possibly the ONLY Starbucks latte I'll
drink in Egypt.  Has been added to our world
latte page as well!

End of run in front of the magnificent Nile River.

Rooftop pool.  Dude. How lucky are we?!

Some views of Maadi (our area of Cairo).  It's a beautiful residential area.

Maadi towers in the distance.  They are huge!


  1. Yay! Sounds like a great week settling in! Hope the honeymoon period continues a while longer - Cairo is a lot of fun :-).

  2. And on a happier note ... so so glad that your first week there was great. That you love your house. Enjoyed the markets. And most importantly - found Starbucks. I am surprised though that your drink didn't taste the same as in the States ... I've been to Sbux all over the Middle East - and they ALWAYS tasted the same. Go back and give it another try ... maybe another barista. Or better yet - ask them to give you a tutorial ... you may be able to see what they're doing wrong! :)

    Welcome home!