16 July, 2011

Our First Expedition

Awake way earlier than our tired bodies want to be, but we are up and at ‘em for 12:30 pm.  The outgoing staff at Scott’s work takes us for a walk around our neighbourhood to get set up with groceries.  The grocery store we go to is like a boutique store, like a little Italian grocery place.  We find everything we want and that we are accustomed to, except milk and eggs are not in a refrigerated isle.  Different!  Plus there is no peanut butter without sugar (possibility for our first shipment from home?) and the All Bran is a bit more sweetened than at home.  The only other thing is that we have been cautioned by some about the quality of the meat so Scott is pondering at-home vegetarianism (though he is perfectly comfortable eating restaurant meat and has done so many times with no ill-effect).   Before grocery shopping we went out for coffee with two outgoing staff members.  It was difficult to order a black coffee – they kept saying “ice?” and we kept saying “no”.  We asked for the house blend, they looked confused, so we pointed to the big sign that said “House Blend”.  They said they were all out or didn’t have any or something.  We finally settled on Americano which we eventually conveyed and somehow it worked out okay.
After parting ways, Scott and I decided we wanted to go to a bigger grocery store for all of our cleaning supplies.  We ventured by cab to Carre Four in Ma’adi.  It was over a half hour and we were charged LE50.  Still not sure if that was a good deal or not.  We’re not sure if the driver spoke English since he did not speak with us at all.  We ate lunch in a restaurant out front which had both North American and Egyptian food.  We sat outside which was shaded and a beautiful temperature.  I have been pleasantly warm since arriving.  The lower humidity in comparison to Southern Ontario keeps it quite comfortable.  I tried to order a chickpea dish and a black coffee.  Instead I got a chicken dish and a chocolate milkshake.  Apparently this happens to people here a lot.  I happily gulped the chocolate milkshake (hey – I tried to make the healthy choice, what can I do if it got lost in translation!) and tentatively ate the top layer off the chicken dish which was a delicious yoghurt, cardamom pod, and cheese concoction.  We also ordered fatoush (a fresh salad with bread in it) and an eggplant dish with pita bread.  We left very full and excited about Egyptian food!
We then went into the Carre Four which at the entrance was a shopping mall with many familiar stores (signs in English and in Arabic) like the Body Shop, Nike, and Starbucks.  We entered the grocery store part and were awed by how packed it was.  It was truly amazing how many people fit in there.  Here most shoppers were locals and most women had their heads covered (though those that didn’t were doing fine too).  We had a few traffic jams.  One nice woman took the front of my cart and guided it between a seemingly impossible gap.  Two sweet kids did the same when we were in the checkout line.  We found everything we needed, though we weren’t sure if the prices were good or bad, or if we definitely had all the right products.  But it was a success – we were even able to pay with Visa.  We have since been told to go on Friday mornings if we actually want to be able to manoeuvre around.  That was good to know since we were planning to probably never attempt that again due to how busy it was.
We then took a cab home.  This guy spoke no English but somehow got Scott to barter for the price even though there was a meter in the cab.  We have since been told that we can insist on them using a meter, or just get out and use another cab.  Once they had settled on LE50, we headed out - a completely different way than the first time.  We saw SO MANY crazy things on the drive.  First of all was the driving – they do not adhere to the lines painted on the road, the weave in and out, they go very fast, they reverse on the highway if they miss their cut-off, they use their horns to communicate (it sounds like a wedding is going by constantly).  If you can get past it being scary, it is actually really fun.  Then there was what we saw on the road – nice new cars, very olds cars, motorcycles pulling trailers with people in them, a motorcycle with three people sitting on the seat, horses pulling carriages, open trucks with people sitting on the sides and holding on, random piles of garbage on the sides of the road, random herds of goats being fed on the side of the road.  Lastly, what we saw on the sidewalks – tea booths set up on the sides of the highway, chairs lined up on the sides on the bridge for people to lounge and enjoy the tea, long eared cats roaming around freely, row upon row upon row of brick apartment buildings as far as the eye can see, lots of cheerful clusters of people out walking.  It seems that Cairo at night is the most interesting of all!

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