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And the Pizza Hut and KFC that overlook it

We approach the pyramids…

Wow, it’s a pyramid! And you can like, touch it and stuff!


This one still has a bit of the smooth covering at the top. Historians say that originally the pyramids were covered in smooth limestone and were gleaming white. This picture was taken just before it poured down rain and Kostia and I got completely drenched and had to sit in wet clothes the rest of the day. We were like, “I can’t believe we got rained on in the desert next to the pyramids!”

The clouds dispersed as quickly as they appeared, allowing this lovely shot.

Someone asked what I thought of the pyramids because they had been disappointed when they saw them. I’ve learned not to have too many expectations when visiting famous sites. Usually I just feel pretty amazed when something I’ve seen in pictures and on TV ACTUALLY EXISTS IN REAL LIFE. That said, I can see how someone might be disappointed. Up close, the bricks of the pyramids are all kind of chunky looking, and there’s not much to do except walk around and get (really really) hassled by people trying to sell you souvenirs. Kostia wanted to go back to our van a few minutes after we got there, which in retrospect would have been a good idea because of the rain, but I said, “No, goddamn it, this is one of the wonders of the world and we’re going to freaking look at it for as long as we can.”

Cairo has a metro, but to my dismay, we didn’t get to ride it.

The museum of the Pharaonic Era. A dream come true for those geeks who are into Ancient Stuff. Endless numbers of statues, mummies, sarcophagi, bits of pottery and jewellery.

The courtyard of the museum. Central Cairo. It was as lovely as it looks.

On the way to the pyramids. Number plates with Arabic numbers. I sort of learned to recognize the numbers, so if I’m not mistaken, this one reads 89252.

On the edge of Cairo, in the direction of the pyramids, are hundreds, maybe thousands of half-finished brick buildings. Our tour guide said the developer didn’t pay his taxes and the project was abandoned. But people live in them anyway. It seems many of the buildings don’t have electricity or running water, and lots of them don’t have windows. They also don’t get trash collection so there are horrible makeshift landfills here and there. And this was built on precious fertile land.

Next up: pyramids!

Four jobs I’ve had:
– Dishwasher in a trendy Japanese restuarant
– Manager of national network of student housing cooperatives for hippies
– Financial manager for a US third-party presidential campaign
– Kindergarten teacher

Four movies I can watch over and over:
– The Royal Tenenbaums
– Antonia’s Line
– Triplets of Belleville
– Best in Show

Four places I’ve lived:
– Great Barrington, Massachusetts
– Chicago
– Washington, DC
– St. Petersburg, Russia

Four TV shows I like:
– South Park
– The Simpsons
– Curb Your Enthusiasm
– The Daily Show

Four places I’ve vacationed:
– France (all over)
– Spain (Madrid and Seville)
– The Baltic Sea (all over)
– Egypt (Hurghada and Cairo)

Four of my favorite dishes:
– Leniviye Golubtsi
– Baba Ganoush
– Palak Paneer
– Age-dofu

Four sites I visit daily:
Everyone Drunk But Me

Four Books I’ve Read This Year:
– Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
– Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, David Sedaris
– This Side of Paradise, F. Scott Fitzgerald
– Solaris, Stanislav Lem

Four bloggers I’m tagging:
W. Shedd

Once upon a time there was a Cheburashka, found in an orange crate, homeless, unemployed, and lonely. Eventually he created a sort of life for himself, well documented in Soviet cartoons

Then the 2006 Olympics came along, and a new breed of Cheburashkas was engineered

Now Cheburashka has a special friend

And can do all sorts of things Soviet cartoonists never intended

We flew from Hurghada to Cairo early in the morning and were met by a van with a driver and a Russian-speaking tour guide. There were three other Russians on the tour with us.

Cairo is a huge city. 16 million people, and currently growing by a million a year, according to our guide.

First we went to a mosque. This is the courtyard.

This is our guide, Nadia. She was really sweet. Her Russian was good too, though she’s even worse than I am about getting the accents on the wrong syllables of words.

Here’s the ceiling of the mosque.

They made me wear this robe in the mosque, though I’m not sure why. There were plenty of female tourists not wearing them. I suppose they didn’t have enough to go around, but it’s a mystery how they choose who will wear them. I wasn’t wearing shorts or even a short-sleeved shirt.

I forgot to mention yesterday: At the kindergarten on Wednesday, we talked to the kids about the Men’s Day holiday, that it was a day to congratulate their dads, and said a bit about military professions. Later, when asked what the holiday was called, Dima piped up: “День Защитников Любви!” — Day of the Defenders of Love. I suppose he was confusing it with Valentine’s Day. Anyway, I thought it was kind of nice, the pacifist’s version of the holiday.

Today’s a holiday in Russia. It used to be a day to recognize those who served in the armed forces, that is all men (and a few women). It became a sort of “Men’s Day” as a counterpart to International Women’s Day on March 8, which is a big deal in Russia too. Now that most men try to avoid “compulsory” military service (and for good reason), most young men I know feel kind of silly about this holiday, since they haven’t defended a goddamn thing. Nonetheless, gifts and cards and congratulations are given to males of all ages.

Here’s a greeting card I found in a shop. It says “To our classmate on the 23rd of February” and is probably for 10-year-old schoolboys. The text reads:

Having congratulated you with the holiday today,
We wish on this day
To defend your fatherland as you should,
Love your relatives, family and friends!

May your way be happy!
And may the light of our school friendship
Always remain at the heart of your
Success, happiness and victories!

More beach.

The view from our balcony.

The Red Sea at night.

A giant chess set.

What was the name of that Reader’s Digest monthly feature in which people write in with the funny things their kids say? Well, consider this blog the Russian version.

At the end of the day yesterday I was zipping up Vera’s jacket and noticed she was kind of looking down my shirt. We teachers usually wear a classroom key around our necks, so I thought she was looking at it. “What’s there?” Vera asked. “My key,” I said. “Нет, сиськи!” she said. No, tits! Then she asked “What’s your husband’s name?” As in, speaking of your tits, what’s your husband’s name? I said, “I don’t have a husband.” “Why not?” she said.

I can only imagine what she’s overheard her parents doing. Actually, it didn’t surprise me all that much. On the first day last autumn, when I was tucking her in for her nap, she was pretending to breastfeed her doll. And she’s got this little boyfriend, Gleb, and the two of them are always engaging in PDA. I must say that in every other respect she’s a really normal, sweet, clever and well-behaved girl, not one to worry about. She’s just really into imitating her parents’ behavior, I think.

About This Blog

I'm an American who started blogging when I moved to Russia in 2004. Eventually I moved to Sweden, where life is pleasant but uneventful, and stopped blogging for lack of interesting things to say. And then I joined Facebook, which further destroyed any motivation for blogging. Maybe someday I'll start blogging again, but for now, this blog is dormant, an archive of The Russia Years: 2004-2008.

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February 2006