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After a wonderful vacation with family in the UK and sight-seeing in London, I have returned to the reality of my every day life. It was a much needed break from my routine and I feel as though my energy levels have been revitalized and I am ready to face another year of teaching, studying, self-improvement and writing but I come back wishing I was still in England and questioning what possessed me to return. 

The BMI flight to Cairo from Heathrow was fantastic. It didn’t feel like a four hour flight and getting through immigration and customs at Cairo Airport was a piece of cake and stress free. It was quick and pain-free. Usually it’s a bloody night mare! 

My mother and I made it back to Alexandria in one piece and settled in like two peas in a pod.  By this time I’m thinking…’maybe this isn’t so bad’, that was until I was sent out to do the grocery shopping because the cupboards were bare and the fridges were hollow. So, I hopped in to my car and make my way to Carrefour, park the car, enter in to the building, and walk over to the hyper market and that’s when it hits me. ‘I AM BACK!’ 

The scene before me was one of shopping chaos. It can best be described as a shopping competition to see who can get the most groceries in their trolley. Why? Well, the Islamic month of fasting, known as Ramadan will be starting in about 2 weeks time. For some unknown reason it sends everyone in Egypt in to a frenzy! If you could see the way they shop you would swear that they were going to go in to hibernation for the Fall and Winter or they were going to go underground and want to take as many provisions as they possibly can. The pasta and rice section of the supermarket was as bare as the cupboards at home. What really boggles my mind is that they know Ramadan is coming, it’s not a surprise and the supermarkets aren’t going any where why do they have to by 20 Kilos of rice and pasta in one shot? They aren’t even on offer! 

As I stand at the entrance trying to regain my senses I get a cart and enter the Ramadan shopping madness. I felt like I was in a Play Station Game going around scoring points for every item I was able to find on the shopping list. I don’t think I would have been as calm as I was if I hadn’t had my iPod to listen too. The noise level in the Hyper Marché was as bad as the sound of Cairo traffic. I took me 2 HOURS to get the shopping done!! Why? Well, at first I was still in Euro mode, waiting patiently in line and following the universal rules of shopping etiquette, but when it’s Ramadan Madness shopping you throw those rules out and go in to defense shopping. You edge your way sneakily towards the items that you are targeting and as quick as a pick pocket you put it in to your trolley before anyone else snatches it. When you wait in line to have your veg and fruit weighed or when you are paying for the groceries you block any potential line cutters with your cart or your back. 

By the time I got home I wasn’t in the best of moods because the porter/bowab/care taker of the building was nowhere to be found, (surprise, surprise) and I had to make 3 trips from where I had parked the car up to the apartment to get everything home. Without a word of a lie, I remained silent for the rest of the night and didn’t utter a word. 

I just couldn’t believe the contrast in shopping at Tesco’s to shopping at Carrefour! I don’t know why I get culture shock every time I come back. I know how things are done here, but I suppose that I get used to a simpler and polite way of dealing with people on my trips abroad that I come back hoping that things have changed here.

To avoid the Family Fued of shopping, the best time to go shopping is at 10am when the shops first open.  Actually make it a GOLDEN RULE to shop at that time all the time!

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From standing on the balcony of my parents apartment building and watching from the window of my flat in Cairo, I have come to the conclusion that there is an ‘ART’ on how to cross the roads in Egypt and on top of that it is also of entertainment value if you are a voyeur

This summer I have had the pleasure of being in the United Kingdom for almost three weeks for my summer holiday and during my time there I have noticed many things that are very different to how things are done in Egypt.
One of the many things that caught my attention, (it wasn’t that hard to notice if I’m going to be completely honest) is how people are able to cross the roads safely!
I still can’t believe that the drivers in England would break for pedestrians and not speed up when they see someone crossing the road or when the traffic light turns red. They actually stop before the marked yellow line and at a zebra crossing and politely wait for you to cross the road safely to the other side. How Bizarre!
I have grown so accustomed to the chaos and reckless driving of Egyptians that I can’t help but be filled with anxiety when I come to cross any road any where. Even, when I come to a country where I know and I’m comforted in knowing that there are STRICT traffic laws, I can’t help but look at the drivers with distrust because I can’t get used to the fact that they really won’t attempt to run me over.

When I cross the streets here I use a technique I like to call ‘the owl’. As I’m sure you already know an owl’s neck can rotate almost a full 360 degrees. When you come to cross the road here, you have to be prepared for anything coming or going in any direction. Owl vision helps you see the traffic from all possible directions and be prepared for the unexpected. On many occasions you will find that a car may come in the opposite direction of where it shouldn’t be coming from or an anxious driver has forgotten where his breaks are and has pushed down on the gas pedal as you happen to be crossing. Some drivers will drive will even speed up while your foot is in mid-air between the curb and the road and you will swear blind that he or she was aiming for you.

You are probably wondering how to use this technique of mine. Let me tell you. Your head can only turn as far as your neck will allow. So, you have to rely on other senses not just sight. Your hearing is very valuable, because like a driver you have a blind spot, your ears make up for that by picking up the sound of the wheels on the tarmac roads and the revving of the car engines. Your eyes and ears give you a 3D CineMax experience. So, if you have your i-pod in your ears when you walk the streets to avoid hearing the buzz of the city or the harassing comments, pause the tunes when you come to cross the road. If you don’t you will put yourself in jeopardy and ruin the CineMax experience. (Honestly, I some times wish I could strap a camera to my head just to show people what it is I am trying to describe)

The Rules of crossing the road in Egypt are quite different. For people who have never been to Egypt this will probably be one of the biggest shocks you get when you first arrive. The best way to describe it is ‘taking your life in to your own hands’. If you are a risk taker or a dare-devil, you may get some enjoyment out of this but it won’t compare to sky diving.

Most people are familiar with the rules of crossing a road at a designated area better known as the zebra crossing, standing on the side-walk and looking both ways before crossing the road and wait for the light to turn red so that you can make it to the other side safely. Those you ‘may’ use here but that doesn’t mean it will always work and that the drivers and other pedestrians will abide by them. People in Egypt cross the road at any given time, even when the traffic is at its busiest and cars are rushing by at top speed. They will step off the side-walk and walk across the road without a side ways glance at the incoming traffic.  They will even stand in the middle of the road as the cars whizz by them as they rapidly and mentaly calculate the speed, distance of the vehicles approaching and the time they need to make it safely to the other side. They have it down to a fine art. Watching them makes my blood turn cold, but I have to admit that they do have balls of steel. Personally, I would much rather wait for a BIG gap in the traffic before trying to cross the road. So, please don’t attempt it!

I have also noticed that when the pedestrians walk across the road, they have no fear in their stride or in their eyes. They walk across the street like they own it and that the cars are the ones who are intruding on their domain.  That is a look that you do need to have down pat because the drivers here smell fear and if they think you are afraid they will not slow down, they will intimidate you by speeding up.
You need to make eye contact with the driver and stare them down so that they know that YOU ARE GOING TO CROSS THE ROAD AND THEY ARE GOING TO SLOW DOWN. Think of it as a kind of Wild West show down.

Another tactic is to stand near a local who is about to cross the road and move with them as they cross. It will guide you and teach you how to make it across to the other walk path safely.  Like everything you do in life, it takes practice!

I could spend all night trying to describe the scenes along with various methods of how to cross the road but the only way you will understand or believe me is to see it for yourself.

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