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Call the Bitch

First, I must apologize for being out of touch lately. Between Ronit & Shai’s arrival in Cairo, my parents visiting, and work stuff which normally keeps me busy, I haven’t found the time to write out this email, though I’ve been composing it in my head for the last 2 weeks.

Let me also say it was a real joy to have my parents visit. We showed them a pretty good time, and they saw tons: Pyramids, a Luxor>>Aswan Cruise, Alexandria, Khan il Khalili bazaar, Islamic Cairo, Coptic Cairo, the Egypt Museum, etc… They really packed it in, and were great sports about tackling everything that Egypt could throw at them.

During their visit, Ronit went back to work after three and a half months of maternity leave. She was able to do some work while she was in Washington DC, but she has been out of her office here in Cairo since mid-March. Aside from having 1300+ emails waiting for her, she also encountered an office going through a substantial summer turnover, plus the normal “flee Cairo during summer” mentality that leaves all offices in the mission short staffed and over-worked. But all of this is small beans compared to leaving our only son in the hands of a complete stranger for eight hours a day. I can’t even begin to understand how hard it was for Ronit to go back after spending the last 2 months with Shai almost non-stop.

Choosing a nanny was hard. This is the person who is basically a third parent raising our son.  We would bring over potential candidates and interview them for 15 minutes, and have to decide in that time if that person would either be a mass murderer or a loving influence to teach and nurture our child. In the middle of our search, one co-worker related a horror story from her aunt.  Apparently, the aunt had hired a nanny here in Egypt, and one day made an unannounced visit to check on the child.  She walked in to find the kid closed in the kitchen with the gas range running. To make an appalling story worse, the nanny’s explanation was, “It helps the child to sleep better.” The nanny was quickly fired and the family added another question to their nanny interview.  With this story in mind, we were VERY picky.

We ended up with a lovely woman named Josie from the Philippines.  She loves Shai as if he were her own, and he seems to have taken to her as well. Even better yet, Josie got the “Joan & Neil Stamp of Approval” so we’re feeling good about the choice.

Part of Ronit’s challenge is that she has to pump breast milk every day while at work. If breast-feeding is a beautiful chance for mother and child to bond with close contact, pumping breast milk is the ugly opposite; cold, mechanic, and annoying. She has a double pump, but only uses one attachment, otherwise she truly feels like a milking machine. To make matters slightly worse, the pump that we got seems to have its own personality.  When it is working, it makes a noise that sounds distinctly like a large, mean man saying, “Call the Bitch” over and over and over again. At first, I thought it was slightly entertaining. Whenever Ronit was pumping, there was a constant, “Call the Bitch, Call the Bitch, Call the Bitch” in the background, and I would take the opportunity as a reminder to call friends from our Vonage phone whom I hadn’t spoken to in a while.  Then, I took to putting music on in the background to drown out this foul-mouthed man.  Sometimes you can will your mind to hear “Piece of it” or “piece of Shit” but eventually, the voice morphs right back to “Call the Bitch.” So three or four times a day, Ronit closes her office door, pulls down her home-made construction paper window shade, and listens to “Call the Bitch, Call the Bitch, Call the Bitch, Call the Bitch, Call the Bitch…” as she provides our child with his meals for the following day. I have to give her all the credit in the world for putting up with this; it is truly heroic.

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