Saturday, August 14, 2004

Let's have the Arabs cheer on the Israeli team in the UEFA cup

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Sakhnin's success brings cheers and jeers

Yeah, that's a switch but I love the irony. Apparently an Arab team has won the right to represent Israel in the European Soccer competition this Thursday. So I'm contacting all my local friends who would love to see the Israeli Arabs representing Israel. As it is half the French team are Arabs. I do enjoy irony.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Living in the Zoo

Blanca, originally uploaded by Miloflamingo.
When I rented my house in the country, I had them put in a 2 meter chain link fence with the base secured in brick. A lot of people made the assumption that I did so for security, and in a way they were correct. But it was for the security of my neighbours more than for me. You see, I have the dubious honor of caring for 18 dogs. Fourteen of them live at my house and four of them have jurisdiction over the horse paddocks. A neighbour has fewer dogs, but since his consist of a Great Dane, a Napolitan Mastiff, and a bunch of shepherd crosses, we joke that he has more by kilo, while I have more by foot.

It was never my intention to have 18 dogs, believe me. We started out with two baladi dogs, Stella and Milligan, sisters that we rescued from the stables at Smouha Club in Alexandria. Most stables here have attached baladi dogs because the dogs provide security and help to keep down the rats. As well, the baladi dogs are smart and tough, rarely needing any veterinary work, so they are extremely low maintenance.

For about five years, the household consisted of the two dogs and my son's cat who retired to his bedroom in her disgust, never to emerge again. One spring after we'd moved to Cairo, my daughter and I went to Greece for her spring break. My son was on a school trip to visit the US with some other students and my husband was, as usual, working. As we were driving through the mountains in the northern part of the Pelopennese near Patras, we spotted a small gold dog sitting by the side of the road in the snow. There was no one near by, no houses, nothing, so we stopped the car and opened the door. We figured that if she got in, she was meant to be ours. Molly (as we named her) took one look and hopped in. We went to the nearest town, found a hotel and then a vet and we asked around. Everyone told us that someone had abandoned her there, so we gave her her shots, bought a collar and a leash, and Molly spent a jolly week with us in village hotels dining on grilled octopus. The poor thing had been starving to death and it took some delicate feeding actually to get her system working again. We flew her home to Egypt at the end of the trip to the surprise of my husband, who was also a dog lover. Molly got along great with the other two and was absorbed into the family.

A few years later, my husband was having problems with rats in his grain discharge silos in Alexandria, so he asked me to do some research on rat control without poisons. We looked into re-introducing falcons to the area, cats, and rat-hunting dogs. The dogs, American Rat Terriers, finally won out, and we imported a pregnant female Terra and a young male Bluto from breeders in the US as well as two other females later. It took us a while to get the Egyptian workers to relax around the pack that we built up, but Bluto was the consummate rat killer and a sweet friendly guy as well. We soon had a pack of 6 at the discharge terminal and I'd prepared another 6 for the soy bean crushing plant that was under construction. Unfortunately, when my husband died, I ended up with that pack at home and after a couple of unneeded litters, the population had soared. I was lucky to find homes for many of the pups, but when I moved to Abu Sir, I still had 8 Terriers, Stella (whose sister Milligan died of cancer about 3 years ago), Koheila a rescued dalmation with one paralyzed front leg, Molly who had gone blind, and two baladi dogs (Ganja and Anzac) at the paddocks with the horses, Then my brother in law, who took over as manager of the silos and who never liked dogs anyway, transferred the dog handlers to other jobs and I got the 5 left in Alex. That's how to get 18 dogs.

During all of this I had also gradually begun collecting rescued parrots. I started with Ali, the African Grey male that my children bought me in Alexandria, and the next to arrive was Mona another African Grey, a female this time. Not long after I found a trio of female Cuban Amazons huddled in a dry dusty cage and I brought them home. Finally, a friend asked if I could take in Fritzi who had pulled every feather out of his body, so we moved him in next door to Ali and Mona. Mona subsequently decided that she liked Fritzi better than Ali, though I can't imagine why as he has a filthy temperament, and she sneaked out of her cage into his one day. When I moved, I was able to build the birds big flight cages, 3 meter cubes, covered with palm branches for shade, and relatively cool in the summer as they get a great breeze.

My neighbours are fascinated, especially the children. They live with chickens, ducks, geese, goats, sheep, cows, water buffalo, donkeys.... but that many dogs and a bunch of birds that talk and whistle are amazing to them. And try as I might, I have trouble telling the children that the reason I have a fence to keep my dogs in is to protect their chickens and so on. Mine are not country dogs and they would find chicken hunting very entertaining...and for me very expensive.

The other day a little boy of about 7 years stood near the fence corner barking at the dogs to see their reaction. Naturally the racket brought me out of the house, so I talked to him to explain that this wasnt' such a great idea. He looked at me with his big brown eyes and said nothing. I went back inside only to hear an even greater racket, so I went back out on the verandah from where I saw young Magdy Ibrahim climbing the fence to perch on top. At that point one of the adults came by and hauled him down. Poor kid got the scolding of his life from his mother, but if he'd fallen it could have been disastrous.

Still, every day the kids come by and sometimes just sit under a tree in the field next door to watch the parrots in their cages and the dogs chasing the hoopoes and crows out of the garden. Just like a trip to the zoo.

Google Search: Blandot

Google Search: Blandot Who is Blandot anyway and why is the name connected with blogs?

Not essentially Egyptian but it's a reasonable question. As I was talking on the phone to a friend this evening, she mentioned looking up the name, which she had been told was the name of an actor, on Google but finding only a series of references to blogs that all seemed to have the same text but just different words inserted. The name Blandot was one of the few constants. Having come down to Sharm where I actually have a connection with a decent speed, I decided to look it up myself. The first reference on Google is to an H.P. Lovecraft story (never liked the writer much personally) and then just the situation described to me. Each site has a comment or two with a different variation on the theme but the inserted words refer to financial advice, dating and sexual activities, prescription painkillers, and online gambling. My friend asked if blogs had to do with coding messages or something, but I had to admit that mine certainly don't. These would appear to have them.

So what's the story/stories with Mr. Blandot? Looks like blogspam to me.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Comments on Comments

Having changed the format to have comments, figuring out what to do with them, or even how to find what post they are referring to, has become an interesting task. Most of the negative posts are from Mr/Mrs/Ms Anonymous and many of them seem to indicate that the poster hasn't really bothered to read my blog.

One of the latest went on about Americans who were rich enough to "pick up and move to a foreign country". My old format mentioned that our family is Canadian/Egyptian and I think that I have to fix that on the first page. Not that I have anything in particular against the US, but we are Canadian and that isn't American. A minor but important point often missed south of the border. Actually, I live here partly because after my husband's death, I couldn't afford to live in North America. At 55, I'm not exactly prime employment material, especially since I've lived here for the past 16 or so years and I was a fulltime mother for 7 years before that. With my husband traveling so much for his business, we both felt that our kids deserved at least one fulltime parent and I got picked. I didn't mind, since by that time I was in my early 30's and had plenty of job experience under my belt. I had also met my husband while doing a graduate degree in social psychology, so being a mother was essentially having my own lab to work with for 20 years...but it wasn't as horrible as that sounds. I did find my training extremely useful in easing the transition from one culture to another very different one and in observing the life around me. Here, my experience, familiarity with local custom, and language skills are marketable skills. I wouldn't want to go back to Toronto to try to start over. Besides, it's too cold.

But "picking up and moving to a foreign country" is easy if you can arrange...and be surrounded by your compatriots, their customs, their language. That's like buying a house in a compound in a tourist area, like the Brits in Marbella. There is a compound like this in Egypt for Italians in Sharm el Sheikh, and we happen to own a house there, but the hassles of having to explain that I don't speak Italian and I don't want to pay for something in Euro's for heaven's sake are taking its toll. I have to admit the look on the face of the Egyptian staff when I speak to them in Arabic and they are trying to figure out why my Italian is so weird but understandable is priceless. There is always a moment of total linguistic non-comprehension before they realise that I'm not speaking Italian. We keep the house because it was my husband's favourite getaway and the children use it as a base when they visit, or for my son, who is working here now, his favourite getaway. For myself, the Sharm house is getting to be too organised, too Italian, too European for my taste. I'd rather have tea with my neighbours here.

ermyrukmana asked what hotel or what kind of house I live in. No hotels, thank you. Much too expensive and impersonal. We have plenty of Saudis and Gulf Arabs to fill our hotels during the summer and the tourists the rest of the year. My house is one story, a bedroom with a guest room/library, a bath room and a kitchen. Only one person can fit in the kitchen at a time and two people can fit in the bathroom, but they'd better be well-acquainted. About half the area of the house is taken up by one large room with my desk and computer at one end and some daybed-type sofas at the other end. Most of the time, there are dogs all over the sofas and floor. I have a verandah out front with some palm branch chairs and tables and some of the same up on the roof. No air conditioning although we have been trying for the sake of my daughter and her friends. The temperatures are supposed to go up to 39 C this weekend and I suspect that I will drive them down to Sharm where there is air conditioning in the house. I don't mind the lack of airconditioning as I've gotten used to the heat and I have ceiling fans to keep the air circulating. Real luxury there. But the parrots have room for big flight cages and the still of the night with the palms silhouetted against the Cairo glow more than make up for the lack of space and amenities.

One of the interesting things about the comment from ermyrukmana was that I have no idea what post it was attached to. I get the comments in my email and when I check back to my blog, I have no idea where the comment is posted. I'm sure that there is some very simple way to find out and if any more experienced bloggers can help, I would be most grateful.