Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Rain, rain, go away… no, really… it’s time to leave

Last night it rained pretty steadily for about an hour. I saw the results this morning on my way to work. One street near Dawson Hall was completely flooded, and only a handful of drivers were willing to risk driving through the lake that had appeared overnight. You see, it rains so seldom in Cairo that city planners (if they even exist) never bothered to install any drainage systems. So, when it does rain, there is nowhere for the water to go. Naadia has lived here for several years and told us that it will take several sunny days for the water to evaporate. Until then it stagnates and breeds all kinds of mosquitoes. I thought we had it bad enough around Dawson Hall, but apparently the mosquito battle is just about to begin.

Tonight Teri and I are headed out on a bit of an adventure. At 11:30pm, we are boarding a bus to Sallum, a small Mediterranean town just a few kilometers from the border with Lybia. If you have been paying close attention to the news you know there is about to be a total eclipse of the sun and it passes through Sallum. I have been into astronomy for years and I am thrilled at the opportunity to experience a total solar eclipse. I saw one in Atlanta in 1982, but I was all of four years old and barely remember it. On our way back we are going to stop at the Siwa Oasis where we hope to find a guide to take us out into the Sahara desert. Our friends Jen, Sara, and Jennifer spent the night out in the desert, which is something both Teri and I hope to do. I imagine the stars will be brilliant out there, so this is going to be a very astronomy-oriented few days for me.

Yesterday was the 93rd birthday of Martha Roy. She is the organist at St. Andrew’s in Cairo and was awarded the highest honor a foreigner can receive from the Egyptian government. She received personally it from President Sadat. She was born in Tanta, Egypt to missionary parents and grew up in various places throughout the country. She left for only a few years to attend University in America and then returned to Egypt. Dr. Martha Roy is a musicologist and she collaborated to publish the first written versions of Coptic Orthodox masses. Before she and her team wrote the masses down, including words and music, there were no written records of them. I suppose the words and music were just handed down orally generation after generation for hundreds of years. Martha even told me that copies of the Coptic Orthodox masses are available in America.

After we worked on the Habitat for Humanity project in Minya were told that the villagers went into a panic when they saw so many foreigners. It seems they thought we had come to cull their chicken population after the recent discovery of bird flu in Minya. I imagine we looked like a bunch of people from a foreign agency, like the CDC, coming in to take away their livelihoods. We were told they madly started hiding chickens everywhere they could. On the one hand it seems rather humorous, but in some ways it’s sad and even a little frightening. It’s horrible to think we caused so much of a commotion simply by being there. Plus, assuming there were a real threat and the chickens really needed to be culled, hiding an infected bird could have disastrous results.

I recently set up an account over at MySpace.com and discovered several old friends from high school. It’s really good to get in touch with folks I haven’t seen for years and to catch up with them. It’s really hard to imagine all of those gangly, pubescent people that I once knew have all grown up and gotten jobs and are now responsible members of society. Well, most of them anyway. ;-D I suppose I’m still hanging on to my carefree days to some extent.

I hope all is well with you. Take care.

Jason Clay

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