Craig's Travels
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Life in Cairo

October 2006
While Ronit and I trudge through our daily lives here in Cairo, we fall into a regular routine, not unlike how most of you live in the States. Some of you are probably thinking, “How exotic it is that the Gerards live in Cairo; a mere cab ride from the Pyramids, not too far from where baby Moses was plunked into the river and swept back up to change history forever, right in the heart of where beer was first brewed…” And yes, most of those statements are true and quite exciting, but we still must bypass the history lesson each morning and go to an office, and work from 8:00am-5:00pm.  I write you this email to dispel some of the myths, and give you a peek into our day-to-day life in Cairo.

I wake up first, the clock radio blaring Nile FM, a bad cross between KIIS FM and Euro-Trash Dance Music (still, this is better than recordings of the Quran, at least for me anyway).  The alarm time varies each day, ranging from 6:10-6:30am, depending on what time the Embassy Shuttle comes to pick me up, which rotates times and routes for security reasons.  Ronit has the luxury of an extra half hour of sleep, since the USAID building is a 10-minute drive, while it takes about 40 minutes to get to the embassy.  The shuttle is usually crowded, and either arrives 20 minutes early or 10 minutes late. 

The embassy compound is like a fortress of security, with three different layers to get through. Though with the proper badge, we just breeze by.  My office is on Floor 1 of Cairo II in the embassy.  The Community Liaison Office (CLO) is a social epicenter of the embassy since all the newcomers stop by our office, we plan all the events and trips, and we have candy, so there is constantly foot traffic.  We have two assistant CLOs who both work opposite schedules, a part time newsletter editor (all spouses of Americans) and a full time Office Manager, who is Egyptian.

My days are usually filled with meetings, writing memos or reports, some logistics planning and trying to decipher the bloated chain of command.  Mainly, it feels like any large company, with many layers or bosses on top of bosses, and each decision takes more time than it should. But some of the work is very exciting, and we do provide a very valuable service to the Embassy Community.  We have a large population to serve and are usually very busy.  I take the shuttle on the way home as well, which usually means a scramble to finish that last email, log off and do the “CLO Dash” (as one of my co-workers calls it) to the shuttle before it leaves the compound.

We live in Maadi, a suburb of Cairo.  It is about 6 miles south, and depending on traffic is either 20 minutes or an hour away from downtown.  The living is rather pleasant: tree lined streets, less honking, green spaces, plenty of delicious restaurants, good shopping.  Our apartment is nice; it has 4 bedrooms, and a spacious dining/living room area.  The balcony is the best part, overlooking Cairo American College, a highly competitive private school, grades K-12.  Wednesday nights Ronit coaches a girls soccer team (I’m assistant coach). Saturday afternoons there is an Ultimate Frisbee game near by. In general, life is fairly comfortable.

Now that we are set up, we are looking forward to our first visitors.  When you come, we can show you all of the rich history we get to see every day.

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