Friday, July 30, 2004

Momentsforeign, by the Rockwell Family

Momentsforeign, by the Rockwell Family

I met Rocky and Sally Rockwell in 1988 when we first moved to Alexandria. Rocky was working with a company that was rebuilding Alexandria's waste water system and Sally was a mainstay of the American Women's Associaton, a group that was infinitely more international than the name shows, being made up of women from all nationalities in Alexandria. This was one of the first contacts that I made in Egypt, and the women in the group were invaluable in teaching me how to get around and manage things for my family in Alex. I soon became editor of the monthly newsletter for AWA and a year or so later collaborated with Sally and other women in producing a guidebook that we called "Coming To Alexandria" for other families who might find themselves moving to Egypt.

Rocky and Sally had a rooftop apartment at the top of the hill in Kafr Abdou, the area of Alexandria that many of us lived in. The view from the terrace was of the gardens of the British Consulate, and it was the scene of many afternoon barbeques and evening parties. The entire old apartment building that they shared was a major social center with the Goulding family (British currently living in Portugal) on the ground floor. Rocky and Ben were co-owners with some other guys of a rickety old catamaran (I believe) and both families joined us frequently for sails from the Eastern Harbour to Montaza on our boat, the Peregrine. Peregrine, a 30 ft cruising boat, is still moored in Cyprus and is carrying her age well under my son's gentle care.

The Gouldings had been in South and Central America before Egypt, working with universities and fishery companies. Ben was teaching at the University of Alexandria. Sally's experience raising her children abroad was an immense inspiration and help to me, as was Rowena's practical knowledge as a nurse.

I remember the time in Alexandria as a special part of my life. Living in Egypt was an adventure that we had embarked on not knowing that it would take the rest of our lives. The children were four and seven and were attending the French embassy school in an old Greek section of Alexandria, Ibrahimayah, while spending Halloween with children from the British School and learning to trick or treat as they did...believe me, it is different. All the children had to be prepared to sing for their candy. For a brief time at the beginning, we had a donkey who lived in the back garden and took the children for rides to the ice cream store that was just opposite the American consul's home. The ice cream was fresh fruit juice prepared in the light Italian fashion, and the donkey (Homer) liked lemon. I would walk through the streets with my kids on Homer, usually trailing a string of local kids who were entranced with the idea of a foreign family having a donkey. Homer, unfortunately, got bored when the children started school and was sent back to the friend's farm to be more active. Donkeys really don't like sitting around alone much.

Sally was sort of a mother for Rowena and I, in a funny non-related way. She had been through it all, in the hard places and during the hard times, while we were relative newcomers. When Rocky retired and they moved back to Pennsylvania finally, she gave me a watercolour of her terrace in Alex. Right now, that painting is hanging in a nursery school run by a British friend of mine in Maadi. I only have so many walls in my rented house and Jo offered to keep and love it for me until I have more space. The children love the painting of the scarlet blooms overhanging pots of flowers on the terrace.

Rocky and Sally weren't any kind of heroic individuals. They were just great salt-of-the-earth normal folk. They did have the sense of humour, much needed when a cab driver's explanation for rear-ending Sally on a main street was that "It wasn't his fault. He had no brakes." The only damage was to the bumper so the story was told with great hilarity. They had the sense of adventure, a willingness to see the world from a different perspective. I think I'm going to have to order the book.


Mila said...

Dear Maryanne, I just created a blog for myself and yours is the first posting I read! I can very well relate to your story - I am born & brought up in Bulgaria, did my higher studies in France and finally fate decided that I should settle in Bombay, India, with my Indian husband. I am also a member of the American Women Association in Bombay & hey it is a great idea the guide you created for other women settling in Egypt - we should do a similar thing here. Thanks for sharing your story & I hope to hear more from you! Yours sincerely, Mila.

Anonymous said...

I dont have a blog account, so I am posting annonymously, but my name is Ariel (hi!). I have visited Egypt two times now, for a total of about four weeks. I just got back from Cairo about a month ago. I LOVE Egypt. I think about it everyday. I have had some truely wretched experiences with the behavior of some of the young men in the Khan, but regardless, I would and will go back. I miss it all, and I contemplate trying to make my own Oum Ali, Khoshury, and Mango juice on a regular basis. :)

I love reading your blog, it is very easy for me to visualize your stories and feel like I am there. Egypt feels almost like a second home. I am so sorry that there are a slew of ignorant people here that post ridiculous comments about something they know nothing about. Keep doing what you are doing!

Vladimir de León said...

They wrote about you on, though they don't actually mention you. The link is:

Ulf said...

By chance I read your blog. I wonder if the Waste water project was MacClean Groove. I worked for the Project myself back in 1987-90. Nice memories!

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Anonymous said...

Going to egipt is one of my dreams. Right after of going to Italy, I hope you know how lucky you are!

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Anonymous said...

Eu sou brasileira e sinceramente, não entendi nada do que você escreveu , pois, eu não sei falar inglês direito!!!!!E eu dúvido que você esteja entendendo o que eu estou dizendo!!!!Mas em todo caso visite meu blog!

Mary Read said...

Dear Maryanne:

I've reached your blog by chance, and was delighted to read "Momentsforeign".Memories kept flowing back from my years in Mozambique, where i was born.I'm Portuguese living now in the outskirsts of Lisbon, but wandered around a little. I was in Macao and Timor,and my experience is very similar to the one you wrote about.
From now on you will have someone here reading all your blogs!
Thanks for bringing back to me my own memeories!

rowena said...

I'm chuckling as a write this. When I read the sentence..." Donkeys really don't like sitting around alone much.", it reminded me of a scene in Shrek, when the Ogre shuts Donkey out of his house. Donkey sings (in the funny voice of Eddie Murphy)..."I'm all alone...."

Those who have seen the movie, will know what I mean. Great post!

th1nking said...

You live in Giza?

Yes, I know exactly where Giza is.

I was there to see Abuhol [(the sphinz)corn god] and achrahm (the pyramids) many, many years ago.

What you need to see - if you haven't already - is the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

You go up to the fourth floor balcony (inside) and you can look pharaoh Senoskit right in the eye because you will be high enough then to be right in front of his face and he looks like he was carved out of that stone yesterday it is so well preserved.

In the Egyptian museum I saw a stone from a Pharaoh that translated said, "I have given you sandals for your feet and brought you food and clothes from upper and lower Egypt so that you can carve my image into this stone so that it will be pleasing to the gods and we may all prosper thereby."

After I read that, I thought to myself, this is almost the exact same message that I saw on the walls posted to the workers in the General Motors assembly plant in Linden, New Jersey, when I was in that place with my high school tour group.

Nothing has changed much in 5,000 years.

The message to the troops is still the same.

I wish you well in Cairo


John said...

This post was very nice. I'd love to see more like it.