Monday, 5 August 2013

5 in 400,000

McDonald's on the Nile

Last night John and I decided to venture out at iftar (the breaking of the fast at sunset) and eat at McDonald's.  Yes, I said McDonald's.  If anything our little part of the world is full of such paradoxical living.  While dining on a Quarter Pounder and a fountain Diet Coke, I watched a man dressed like he's from the Old Testament trot by on his donkey. Paradox indeed.  

We ate slowly and took our time because we knew it would be a while before the stores would reopen.  Around 8 pm we began the walk toward the souk (open air market) and were greeted by the owner of the Kit Kat dukon (small store).  I sometimes use his dukon as a marker because he has a giant KitKat advertisement over his shop.  It's my way of "landmark navigation."

He remembered us from before and soon engaged John in a political discussion.  Now if fast Arabic is difficult to understand, then toothless-cigarette-in-mouth-fast Arabic is almost impossible.  However, he would pump his fists, gain volume and refer to Mubarak (long-term former president of Egypt) and then to Morsi (short-term former president of Egypt).  He showed fists fighting by bumping them together and then said, "Here in town…no problems…but no business."

John shook his head while saying he understood.  (The sentiment of the discussion, that is…not all the Arabic.)  It's true.  While Cairo is the center of all that's happening politically, further up the Nile the "everyday" people are just trying to survive.

He shook his head and threw up his hands as it to say, "What can we do?"  We bought a couple things from him and continued walking.

Helping the local economy during a prior visit...
Another man who provided horse carriage rides approached us. His opening line was, "No business.  Nothing."  John nodded his head again.  The man continued, "So cheab (cheap)! Only 20 Egyptian bounds (pounds)!  No business.  No people."  John continued, "I understand.  It is a big problem."  Still the man pressed.  "Okay, okay.  10 bounds."  John shook his hand and told him thank you but said that we would really like to walk.

Finally, the man relented and said, "As you like."

The streets began to fill with people who had eaten and were now ready to shop.  I pulled out my list of things and asked John if we could stop at the Grand Mall to have a look.  I didn't really think that the Grand Mall would be grand, but it was worth a shot.

We walked inside and the place was packed with families looking at clothing and shoes.  I was shocked to see Adidas, Nike and Champion name brands.  Seeing no housewares on the first floor,  we made our way up to the second floor.  In my head I was saying, "Men's Wear: Shoes, Pants, Belts, Shirts."  We continued walking up the steps to the third floor until we saw pots, pans and rugs.

Oh, Egypt.  You so love your bright colors and gold trim!  On one side were shimmery curtains with lots of beading, edged in gold braid.  Further on were toasters and rice cookers.  Around the corner we saw skillets and soup pots.  Eureka!  We sorted through different ones trying to decide which would get us by for now.  (We have some in luggage that has not been brought into Egypt.)  Soon an older sales associate came to see if we needed help.  He began collecting our goods for us.

After a bit, a younger man appeared and greeted us.  He was the owner of the store.  He asked if we were from Germany.  (We have found out that it is more polite to ask people with our characteristics if we're from Germany rather than from America.)  We responded in Arabic saying that we were from America.  

"America?!  Oh, that's wonderful.  I lived in Chicago for 15 years," he said in brilliant English.  He began telling us how he missed many things in America even the cold.

I laughed and said, "I myself would like a shipment of cold right now, too."

He gave us a brief history of the store and asked us to sit and drink tea.  It was a polite gesture because he didn't repeat the offer.  John thanked him and we went to pay for our items.  He invited us to return "any time at all."

With bags in hand, we made our way back to the street.  John asked if I wanted to go into the souk to do additional shopping.  I told him that I was finished for the evening.  My Quarter Pounder needed rest.

He hailed a taxi (lots of packages and dark=taxi ride) and we were on our way back to the flat.  He introduced himself to the taxi driver who was a man in his mid 30s and wearing a broad grin.  The driver said, "My name is Yah-Yah."  John asked him to repeat.  He did.  John smiled and said, "That is my name, too!"  They both slapped hands and began asking each other questions.

Yah-Yah said that he was a professor at a university during the day, but drives taxi part-time.  John told him that he had worked at a school in S*dan and was hoping to be able to meet other teachers in town.  They continued talking until we pulled up to our flat.  John exchanged numbers with him and told him we'd see him again.

One walk into town and we meet 5 people.  Sometimes it's overwhelming to be in a country where we are minority everything, in a city of 400,000 and not to know or be known by anyone.  But we've been down this road before.  We have enough history to know that it takes time, purposed effort and the Lord's help.  I just have to remember that this time "in the middle" is part of it, part of the process, part of my growth in trusting Jesus.  

So…to all my future friends, I look forward to taking a carriage ride with you to McDonald's and over a McFlurry we'll discuss what items we'll buy at the Grand Mall before we take a taxi ride back to our place where we eat Kit Kats from our favorite dukon owner.  See you then!

Sweet taxi complete with a video monitor and stuffed parrot.

Today's BOGO Blog:  Koshary

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