Saturday, March 11, 2006

Ha: "'We have a major push into the U.S. coming up,' Clark said. 'I said to myself before that once the 'Bible Belt' starts talking about Dubai, we've won. And now, from coast to coast, everyone is talking about it. Is there such a thing as bad publicity?'"

That's from the director of Emirates airlines channeling Oscar Wilde.

Sorry I haven't written more on the blog. I recently realized there's so much to tell. So, so much.

And so I'm off to Dubai today for a three days (via Emirates airlines, surely you've heard of it!) for a job interview.


Adventures with Nadia, the maid (though I prefer "housekeeper")...

In Cairo, juice is cheap. They sell it freshly squeezed on the street for next to nothing. Yet for some reason Nadia, who is nice enough to go shopping for me, buys orange juice in a box, which of course is not actually orange juice at all but 50% sugar and water. Perhaps because I'm a foreigner, and she knows we foreigners all like our things in boxes and packages.

So I tried explaining to her, in the pidgin language inherited from the woman I sublet from, that it would be nice to buy the fresh juice from the street rather than the stuff in the box. So she goes out and gets a big load of oranges and squeezes me a fresh glass of orange juice.

Being thoroughly unaccustommed to being waited on in such a horrific fashion, I was pretty embarassed.

I let it rest, and later in the day I successfully managed to convey to Nadia that she had needlessly exceeded my expectations.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Hello, I'm back in Cairo after trips to Prague and Kiev, with not much new to report except that I'm going to Dubai for four days for a job interview, and then for a splendid little two-day assignment at the port of Sharm el-Sheik in Sinai, and in the second half of April I'm going to South Africa for two weeks to write chapters in yes another annual country report in an emerging markets series.

Further to this (losing my non-existent notes) and this (losing and then finding my coat)...

The keys to my Cairo apartment had been a source of low-level anxiety for several days in Prague, because I'd left the keys at my friends' place during my first swing through Prague on my way to Kiev earlier in February.

Turns out my friends had nicely packed all the stuff I'd left in their apartment into my backpack. I worried the keys might have been misplaced in the shuffle - a potential problem because the flight lands at 3 a.m. and I didn't have the number either of the landlord or the maid, the only two people with copies of the keys.

Luckily, we found the keys in the bad, and drank tea and relaxed and chatted and played with my friends' baby. I boarded the plane that evening, and about halfway through the flight, realized I didn't have the keys. It turns out I'd left them on the table at my friends' place whilst playing with baby.

Waiting at baggage claim at 3 a.m., scratching my head, I decided to send a text message to a friend in Cairo who often stays up late working. I don't have many close friends here, mind you, but this guy is often up till the wee hours working on his stuff. Immedaitely, he gave me a phone call back and said sure, I could crash on his sofa. Whew.

Next day, after much investigation, it turned out my neighbor had the phone number of the maid, who had a copy of the key. After a long, tired, and unwashed wait during which I bonded with Mohamed the doorman, finally, the afternoon after I'd arrived, Nadia, the maid showed up, I entered my long lost Cairo apartment, and it was a blessed thing. Elizabeth Bishop says to accept the fluster of lost door keys. I did, and it wasn't a disaster.