Wednesday, February 29, 2012

What I'm Listening To

Tonight I went to check out Middle School at MCC. It's been five and a half years since I directly interacted with middle schoolers (aside from dodging them in the hallways at school). So trying to get a picture of middle schoolers in action looks a lot like this:

A lot of movement due to a LOT of energy. However, there are a few things that I remembered tonight:
- That squeal that makes you think these two kids are long lost friends when in reality they saw each other two hours ago at school.
- When playing a game where you have to take kids down, always go after the girls. The guys are proving themself and you may get smacked in the face.
- I don't think they stop moving. Ever.
- They (especially the girls) do not hold back.

While in many ways tonight further confirmed that I am designed for five and six year olds on a daily basis, I remembered a few things that I loved about my sixth graders. Their lack of verbal filter sure does result in some definite honesty. And this group of middle schoolers - they are something else. I remember watching my middle schoolers have that overwhelming feeling of loyalty to their friends. Quick to lavish verbal love on them to anyone willing to listen. But more than that, these are pretty amazing kids. They ask great questions. They want to know more. They are dealing with some serious stuff.

So while this is not a natural fit for me, I'm going back soon. I don't do the squealing and I don't know how to chit chat with them. But.... They obviously love to be there. They have questions. They need someone to talk to. So out of my comfort zone I go.

Random, unrelated video - For what I'm truely listening to lately, check out some Bob Marley. We have a four year old on our bus that is LOVING this song right now. Every day the headphones go in and he belts it out:

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


I'm not one who collects things. I'm big into living minimally so the thought of collections conjures up images of pack rats and hoarding. Don't get me wrong, if it's your thing, more power to you. It's just not mine. However, someone near and dear to my heart does do some pretty serious collecting. If you have been a long time reader, you may remember this post about a morning spent with my Dad digging through a serious mountain of coins. So while foreign currency is not his thing, coins always make me think of Dad. In my current chapter of life, I have coins from three different countries. In a few weeks, I'll add a fourth.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Photo Challenge Catch Up (Part Two)

Day 25: Green
This morning I met up with a friend for tea at a local coffee place. While there we talked about all things Cairo, school, and best of all - INDIA!

Day 26: Night
While tea was good, Saturday did not go down as my favorite day in Cairo. Then that night, I did not sleep well. I spent pretty much all day wiped out. I was honestly ready for bed at about 7:00. However, I plowed through and made it to Skype with the folks. As I was waiting, I set my alarm for the next morning so I could sleep in a few extra minutes. You may not be able to see it but at the bottom, it shares how long I have until the alarm goes off - eight hours and 53 minutes. I enjoyed every last minute....

Day 27: Something I Ate
Comfort food. I'm not one of those "chocolate comfort food" people. I love me some home cooking. (The Pioneer Woman speaks my culinary love language. While I'm nowhere near as good as she is, it is what I have the most experience with. Except for frying. I don't fry food. I just eat it if someone else does.) It tends so be my go-to when I'm not sure what to do for dinner. So tonight, it was meatloaf with zucchini and fruit. Nothing fancy but definitely easy and tasty. In my book, win-win. No, this isn't the first time you've seen zucchini on here. It is my favorite veggie.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Observations on Relationships

Two of my best friends are getting married in a few months so it only makes sense that the topic of weddings/relationships is a frequently discussed topic. Articles are shared, conversations are had, and books are read. It's the expected nature of this stage of life. We are all pretty close in age and the common belief is held that despite how hard it has been to wait for that someone, we are all thankful that we didn't get married earlier. Reasons vary from 1. the observation that we were not as ready as we thought we were to 2. the fact that we enjoyed our single years (and still are). In our little trio, I am doing the observing for this season as I am in this stage of waiting. I am enjoying watching all of this for Jen and Emily. I'm very thankful they let me tag long in it. All of this talk has had me thinking about relationships - how my ideas on them have changed, what I have learned, and what I'm hoping for. Be prepared, this is single girl rambling so take it with a grain of salt.

Relationships are about partnership. It's about two people who decide to fight for each other as a unit and as individuals. I love that HFBC's Pastor Gregg calls his family Team Matte. I love that Erin and Gregg high five and constantly call each other "Johnson" as if they are teammates - each other's biggest fans. That's what it boils down to - being a unit. Cheering each other on, working together towards each other's strengths, helping each other out as need be, and striving towards a common goal. Two people who will see each other as worth working for. Who sees the best in each other and fight for that. Two people who know that while they may not agree on everything, they can work towards understanding and solutions. Two people who support each other, stand beside each other, and partner with each other. Who will let his strengths make up for her weaknesses and who will let her do the same for him. Someone to confide in, lean upon, and share with. Someone to think aloud with. Two people who challenges each other to see other sides and correct lovingly when need be. Someone who loves too much to let the other stay exactly as they are but stretches them to be better each day. The best relationships I have seen are those that enjoy each other. Let's face it, life and relationships are hard enough. You have to know how to laugh together and play together to make the work worth it.

It's a choice. To love together and grow together. To listen to each other and laugh together. To be vulnerable together and strengthen each other. To pray together and play together. It's work and it's worth it.

February Photo Challenge Catch Up

I missed a few days so I thought I would just use one post to catch you up on the past few photos. I think this is how I'll do things from here on out - once a week, update the past few photos. So here we go:

February 22: Where I Work
After nine years of teaching, I don't bring work home very often. I've learned how to use my time and know what to expect now. However, there are still times that work does come home. There is where I do it:

School work isn't the only work that gets done here. This is where I do bible study, plan vacations, apply to grad school, etc, etc, etc.... This chair is where I work at home.

Feburary 23: Shoes
Today was our first practice fire drill of the year. My kids this year respond to bribery better than fear so.... I may or may not have told them there was a prize for the quietest/straightest line in KG2 during the fire drill. They did great and (or course) won the prize. They nearly screamed with excitement when I shared that they had won "Stinky Feet" (no shoes afternoon for those of you that are not teachers).

February 24: Bathroom Cabinet
We are lucky in our apartment. We have a hall closet. Most places in Egypt don't have built in storage so we know how lucky we are. So here is half of my shelf in our closet.

Since certain items are so expensive here, I bring in my own supply of things needed to get me though the next semester. Don't laugh. One of those bottles of mouthwash costs $14 at my neighborhood market. Believe me, it's worth it to use my luggage weight this way! The other half of my shelf is my own personal pharmacy and optical care supplies. I'm well stocked.....

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Favorite Photo

My current favorite photo is my blogger profile picture. Since I feel vain having it up here twice, I'm sharing my most recent favorite photo. This is a birthday dinner at Crave where Tessa and I celebrated. Our birthdays are about a week apart so we decided that instead of doing something for each other, we would just enjoy dinner together. Happy Birthday to us!

Monday, February 20, 2012


This week is a busy week. B.U.S.Y. There were some presentations and things to do for our team/admin. In order to stay relaxed and rested for the children the next day, I've taken up one of my favorite past times - planning a vacation! In two a a half weeks, I will be going with three friends to.... INDIA! I have very little idea about what to do there so I've been incredibly thankful for the internet. In true Dana fashion, I have been making lists of things I would like to do/possibly learn more about:

Yes, there is a mistake on the list so if you catch it, forgive my ignorance....

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Hate - aka Adventures in Dinner

I don't use the word hate (in thought or verbally). I think it is one of those words that carries significant weight and causes significant hurt. So when I saw "hate" as something we needed to photograph today, I was at a loss. I mean, I am pretty picky about things and people I allow into my life. So finding something I hate was going to be hard. Until it was time to make dinner.

I hate, HATE, H.A.T.E touching raw meat. Chicken, beef, fish, - you name it, I hate to touch it. I will (because I like to eat) but I wash may hands like I have OCD whenever I'm handling meat.

On a side note - this dinner was an adventure. When I got home, I just wanted to make dinner and chill. It's a busy week full of responsibilities and even less time with my students than normal. Let's just say that this week, I am living for the weekend. Anyway, I put my things down, walked into the kitchen, flip the lightswitch, and there it was. The familiar pop of the light burning out. Decision time - do I forget it all and give in to Otlob or do the best I can in a dark kitchen? This is what I chose:

Thankfully I remembered my flashlight just minutes after I took this picture. Cooking by candle light and the glow of the computer. It's definitely a first. Based on the outcome, I'm thinking it was worth it:

(Honestly, did the fruit yesterday. Thankful for not too much chopping in the dark!)

Saturday, February 18, 2012


I love Miriam Market. They are expensive but they make my inner bratty American very happy. It's clean, organized (as organized as Egypt gets), the only market that doesn't stink, and they have the Mirry Men. I love the guys that work there. I can talk to them and they know how to interact with expat women. Interpret that to mean that they aren't creepy and gross. We are slowly learning their names and it is fun to get to know them.

Aside from the all of the wonderfulness that is listed above, one of my favorite things about Miriam is the fresh juice. Outside the shop, you see this machine.**

If you notice, there are oranges in this machine and they squeeze them on the spot as you order it. When you are finished shopping, you have your fresh juice waiting for you when you leave. It is YUMMY!

* Story of this picture: I was leaving Miriam and knew I wanted a picture of the machine to go with the post. Usually there is a woman there but today, it was Malek. I walked out and he was drinking tea. I asked him if I could take a picture of the machine and he got very excited. In true Egyptian fashion, he started posing for his photo shoot. He wanted to hold oranges and stand like he was working. When I said no, he tried different stances. I finally just took a quick picture and left (hence why its blurry). I think it totally made his day. On one hand, I'm glad you get to see an Egyptian picture. On the other hand, I'm going to be upset if he misread my wanting to take a photo......

Friday, February 17, 2012


The past few days I've been thinking about the past a lot. A. LOT. I've thought about all that has happened over the past several years, how the ups and downs have felt, how it all played out in the end, and how it is still playing out. When all is said and done, I'm thankful for every precious moment of laughter and every heartbroken tear I've cried. I don't know how a photo can capture that feeling of healing over time. So tonight, I cheat. This song is a new favorite and as cheesy as it sounds, it was the perfect Valentine's Day song for me this year. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 16, 2012


What is it about a new journal? I love the stiff spine as it opens - exposing sheets white and clean (or in this case, recycled). It is a blank canvas awaiting the possibilities of words, hungry for thoughts, and full with expectation.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


So technically these aren't all phones. However, I use them all. Kind of. The phone on the left is our home phone. Yes it works. We don't use it for calls but it is a necessity for internet. My cell is the nicest phone I've ever had and am officially spoiled. Then there is Skype. Thank you, Jesus, for Skype. And facetime.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


I have a pretty active imagination. I can out daydream anyone. This is a glimpes into one of those daydreams.

In my class I have these two students - Hoda and Kareem. They are the best of friends. They can't work together or sit by each other because they know they will not focus or pay attention at all. So when the opportunity arises where they are in the same group, they look at each other, smile, and say "YES!" They are sad when the other is absent and are pulled together like magnets.

In my mind, they are lifelong friends. They will go through AIS together and graduate in 2024 after a successful educational career together. They are both so smart and will go on to wonderful universities. They will stay in touch and get together once in a while. When they do, they will pull out these two pictures from Valentines Day in KG2. Neither knew what the other was writing until their amazing teacher pulled them aside and asked them to bring their work. They laughed for such a long time as they saw what the other had written. And then they will tell each other again how glad they were their KG2 teacher thought to snap a picture so they could look back on when their friendship began.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 13, 2012


This past weekend I finished reading Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller. Now, I know people who have loved his theology and others have put it down disgusted by his beliefs. So I wasn't sure what to think when I started it. In the end, I liked it. For one thing, Miller sounds like my best friend from high school. So fun to hear that again. For another thing, this was a memoir. I don't think it was intended to be a theology book. All of us have a unique story about how we came to our own set of beliefs. Miller just happened to get his published. I thought I would share two of my favorite quotes from the book. The first is serious. The second one is definitely more light hearted and makes me want to be his friend. Enjoy.

"The first thing I had to do after God provided a church for me was to let go of any bad attitude I had against the other churches I'd gone to. In the end, I was just different, you know. It wasn't that they were bad, they just didn't do it for me. I read through the book of Ephesians four times one night in Eugene Peterson's The Message, and it seemed to me that Paul did not want Christians to fight with one another. He seemed to care a great deal about this, so in my mind, I had to tell my heart to love the people at the churches I used to go to, the people who were different from me. This was entirely freeing because when I told my heart to do this, my heart did it, and now I think very frondly of those wacko Republican fundiamentalists, and I know that they love me, too, and I know that we will eat together, we will break bread together in heaven, and we will love each other so purely it will hurt because we are a family in Christ."

"I understand you can learn a great deal about girldom from Pride and Prejudice, and I own a copy, but I've never read it. I tried. It was given to me by a girl with a little note inside that read: What is in this book is the heart of a woman. I am sure that the heart of a woman is pure and lovely, but the first chapter of said heart is hopelessly boring. Nobody dies at all. I keep the book on my shelf because girls come into my room, sit on my couch, and eye the books on the adjacent shelf. You have a copy of Pride and Prejudice, they exclaim with a gentle sigh and smile. Yes, I say. Yes, I do."

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Things that Make Me Happy - aka Anafora Retreat

I spent this weekend at Anafora - a Coptic retreat center just north of Cairo. A group of us are reading through The Good and Beautiful God together so we took off for the weekend to gel as a group. One way that I really get fed is by getting alone in nature. I took a lot of time to do this around their farm. Thankfully, I had my camera handy. I took well over 100 pictures but the blog is being stubborn. Here are a few of my favorite shots:

Blooming trees
I spent quite a bit of time in this chair soaking up the green fields, blue sky, clean air, and quiet. None of which I get in Cairo. It was so wonderful!
Palm lined path:
Palm leaves against the sky:
Palms in a green field:
The main chapel:
Baby wheat blowing in the wind:
Our rooms:


In Egypt, we don't really have closets. We have wardrobes. I have three. Very lucky me! And this just goes to show you how good of friends we are - I even humble myself to share the dirty clothes. Sorry!

Self Portrait - or Not

I spent a lot of time today walking around and taking pictures of the farm. Only got to about half of it. As I came to what looked like a repair shop, I saw these two girls taking turns pushing each other in a wheelbarrow. They let me take their picture and then chased me down for this one. So technically this isn't a self portrait. But how could I not show off the lovely Mary and Eva?

Front Door

Today (Thursday, February 9) we went to Anafora for a retreat with our book group. Here is the front door to the room/suite Jen and I shared for the weekend.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012


The sun in Egypt is an interesting thing. I think the word oppressive is the best way I've hear it described. It is ever there and in the summer, it radiates heat like I've not experienced anywhere else. However....after yesterday's sandstorm that kept the little five year olds inside all day, I could have given it a hug - if you could hug the sun - and survive. So here it is in all of it's glory:

Tuesday, February 07, 2012


Okay - so technically they are called keys.....

Notice the Arabic symbols on each letter? Not to mention the dust all over the keyboard. I obviously live in the desert

On a side note - this is what my students do to push MY buttons....

It's NOT difficult to push. in. your. chair.

Monday, February 06, 2012


People often ask me what I eat in Egypt. So on this Monday filled with report cards, weigh in, retreat planning, and missing my amazing assistant, we ended it by going out to eat. People often ask me what I eat in Egypt. Let's play a guessing game....

Clue 1:

Clue 2:

Clue 3:

Clue 4:

If you guessed:

....YOU WIN!

Not every day is like this but it sure is nice when it happens!

Sunday, February 05, 2012

10:00 a.m.

As my students enjoyed their snacks outside on this beautiful morning, I worked on report card comments. The life of a teacher is so glamorous......

Saturday, February 04, 2012


Every building on our street has a doorman called a boab. These men and their families are employed to assist with building maintenance and assist residences as needed. Most of these individuals work very hard and live on very little. Being a boab is a stable job in a rather unstable world. Here are the sweet faces of the wife and children of a family on our street.

Friday, February 03, 2012


Tonight after church, we were trying to make a decision about what to do about dinner. By trying I mean that after the guys left, we girls couldn't make a decision about what to do. So we finally decided to just go to our neighbors' place and order dinner. As we waited, we all got something to drink and started catching up on life. Two of the girls had to step out of the room briefly and so Jen, Jenna, and I had some time to chat.

****Now, this is Jenna's first appearance on the blog so let me tell you some fun facts about her: Jenna is super welcoming to anyone she meets. She's got the gift of hospitality down. She loves her roommates and it shows. She's just a fun girl. We recently had a moment of shared Disney love that was fun. She loves Jesus and wants to love others as He loves them. Overall, I like her!

Back to tonight. Jenna will be leaving us this summer :( but she has some amazing opportunities before her :). So she got her tea, settled in, and started telling us about them. I'm not sure how it happened but the opportunities discussion turned into a prayer discussion that turned in to a "How we hear from God" discussion. As we talked, I remembered. I remembered what it's like to be vulnerable and frank about things like that. These conversations about God don't happen often here in Cairo let alone something as personal as prayer or hearing from God. This one lasted a matter of minutes before life/dinner turned the conversation. It was warm and comfortable. It was a moment full of trust - each one of us sharing our experiences - our pieces of us. It was a much needed few minutes. So here are Jenna's hands as she shares her upcoming opportunities and holds her tea. And we all know how I feel about hot tea.....

(I apologize for the dark, grainy photo. The camera in my bag died. Yea for phone cameras!)

Thursday, February 02, 2012


I'm not sure if it is cheating to have more than one picture of the day. I'm not sure if it is cheating to use photos taken previously to define a day. Both are true of today's post. Good thing you all love me.....

While I was in Singapore, I spent my last afternoon there hanging out with Caleb and Levi. We made cards for Jen because within minutes of her heading to the airport, she was missed. Like all moms are. As we were straightening up, I noticed this card sitting on a shelf:

I read it and thought, "Yes!" I have thought about it each day since I read it. It has made a HUGE difference in my attitude and outlook. SO many times, people ask me how I am doing in Cairo - Am I safe? Am I happy? What will I do after my contract is up? I simply answer with, Yes. Yes. and Who knows? All very honest and peaceful answers. Why? Because I am learning what it means to be content. I'm still working on the first one and am currently practicing the last one because......

Last night was a big event for the country of Egypt. Riots broke out at the close of a soccer game and the dominos that have fallen since then have been big. People are sad, angry, and frustrated. Therefore, they have taken to the streets - again. There are rumors about what tomorrow after noon prayer will hold but do not worry, we are away from the area where this will happen. So tonight, it feels as if this holds true again:

In my part of town, people painted graffiti all around the softball fields after the revolution. Some are beautiful. Some are heartbreaking. Some are honest. This one is a call to stand up for today.

Keep up with Egypt using Al Jazeera English's Egypt Live Blog.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

My View

In an effort to appease my stateside friends, I have decided to join the photo a day challenge. I've been struggling with blog topics anyway so this will help a lot.

For the first day, we were asked to share our view. This is what I get the privilege to see every single day.

Each and every day I go to work with the sweetest group of 5 year olds in Cairo. The best part of my day with them is watching them bloom as readers. I have the very strong conviction that reading changes people's lives. By teacher a child to read, you are teaching them to problem solve, try new strategies, and THINK. They are reaching back into themselves to converse with an author - an idea. They are reaping new information and growing by doing the very thing they are learning to love. Because that is what reading is - love. It nourishes the soul and makes your imagination come to life. It makes your heart skip a beat and laugh out loud. It makes you hold your breath in anticipation and lose hours of your day to check in on a character or person you only encounter in the pages of a book.

So this is my view of the day - two energetic boys falling in love with a book on their lap. It's a pretty good one.