Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Continuing Quest for Friends

I am on a quest for friends, or at least acquaintances. This requires me to be much bolder than I normally am and talk to strangers. On Monday, I met Nicole and her son Caiden at Mums & Tots. We had a nice lunch today and it fortified me for Bellydance class, especially since I saw someone else I know at the restaurant as we were leaving. Tonight, after class, I spoke to two people. They were talking about going to do hammam (spa treatment). One woman has been, the other hasn't. I am hoping that next week we can schedule a time to all go together and try it. I am getting better at talking to strangers. Guess I just need to keep practicing.

Tomorrow, we are going to the airbase in the desert. We know a few people there and they have a sauna I want to try.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Nationalism at Mums & Tots

Today, I went to Mums & Tots for the second time. There are a lot of new people and they seem to segregate by country or region. Last time, I was the only American and the French Canadian and I formed a little group until her friend, another French Canadian arrived. The British stayed together, the Germans, the Columbian and the Peruvian, the Iranians, the Japanese, etc. This time, I got there late, but in time for introductions and there was an American with a 3-month old. Realizing how the game is played, I made my move as soon as the group singing stopped. I got her e-mail and we are having lunch on Wednesday!

Over the weekend I was feeling down because I really don't have any friends here, yet. I made a few friends when I was here the first time through Arabic class, but they have all left Cairo. I have some acquaintences, but they either work or have older kids and are involved with other things. I just need someone to go to lunch with or call occassionally.

The woman I met today is leaving in June, but she has lived here for 5 years so she'll probably have good advice. Also, I hoping the Canadians will be there next week so we can build the North American block, and maybe in a few more weeks, people feel more comfortable and branch out beyond the comfort zone of their native regions.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

More Nile Cruise Pictures

Ian drew crowds of ladies everywhere we went.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Hangin' with the President

Everyone I've met in Egypt has told me to do a Nile Cruise, but we hadn't gotten around to doing it, yet. In the spirit of making things happen in the New Year, we decided to go. We chose the Sonesta St. George boat because it is the newest one. When we arrived, our tourguide, Mohammed, told us that President Mubarak would be visiting the boat. On Sunday, we got up early and saw the Temple of Karnak and Luxor Temple. Mohammed had us back to the boat by 9:45am because it was scheduled to leave at 10:00am with Mubarak. When Mubarak is on the move, no one else goes anywhere. The streets are lined with soldiers and shutdown to traffic and sometimes pedestrian movements. If we weren't back on time, the boat would have left without us. We made it, but Mubarak was late. When he finally arrived, he got on board and went to a 4th floor suite. He had some drinks and sandwiches, sailed to the West Bank (of Luxor) and back and then got off. As he was leaving, Curt got a picture of me holding Ian and shaking Mubarak's hand. We have him on video asking,"How is your baby?"

The next day, we visited Valley of the Kings and Mubarak showed up there. I got a picture of Curt and Ian with Mubarak. Condoleeza Rice was in town to meet with Mubarak. We were hoping to see Condi, but she wasn't scheduled to go to the Valley of the Kings until later. The video camera died right before he came through the new visitor's center. Mubarak's visit to Luxor did hold us up a bit, but it was cool to get the pictures.

Hathor, the Cowgoddess

We just took our first big trip with Ian after returning to Egypt. We took a Nile Cruise with a sidetrip to Abu Simbel. We flew to Aswan, switched planes and flew to Abu Simbel. From the Abu Simbel Airport, we took a bus to the Aub Simbel Sites where we saw temples built by Rameses II for himself and his wife Queen Nefertari. Queen Nefertari's temple is dedicated to the Goddess Hathor, Goddess of Fertility, Motherhood and the Milky Way, among other things. She is often depicted as a cow or as a woman, sometimes breastfeeding the Pharoahs. Mothering Magazine hosts live chats with Heather Cushman-Dowdee, creator of a character called Hathor, the Cowgoddess. She advocates breastfeeding, babywearing and attachment parenting. Just before I left, I was wondering where she got the name. What a spectacular way to find out! I couldn't take pictures inside her temple, but I did get some in other places on the trip.

I didn't have any problems or negative reactions breastfeeding in public on this trip. In fact, I got pantomine lectures in Italian, Arabic and Japanese telling to me breastfeed Ian because it was best. It usually involved the woman cupping her breast saying,"Baby eat only from mama" or some variation. I do try to be discreet while breastfeeding in public, but a baby's got to eat when a baby's got to eat. It is great to have positive reinforcement from strangers. Of course, women outside the US are much more comfortable expressing their opinions about your parenting than American women. Strangers routinely tell me that Ian is too cold, too hot, should be laying flat, etc. That can get annoying, but on this trip it was all positive.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Picture of My Ezzazit Maya Kabir (Big Bottled Water)

Tanya, from Motherwear, tagged me to post about my water consumption in relation to breastfeeding. Even before I had my baby, I carried around a big bottle of water that I drank from all day. The biggest difference since having Ian and breastfeeding is that I need water at night. Still, like Tanya I don't drink as much as I should. The water here is heavily chlorinated and even though we have a filter on our faucet, it doesn't seem to take the taste out. Maybe if I filtered the filtered water through a Brita that would help...Anyway, I stick to bottled water for the most part because of the taste.

I usually drink Baraka (pronounced with short a's and emphasis on the first syllable, the feminine version of famous Illinios Senator Barak Obama's name ) water and thanks to Ahmed, my teacher for the Pre-Modern Standard Arabic class I took at last fall, I can read the label. As a side note, the written and spoken languages in Arabic are different. Different grammar and vocabulary. On top of all that, Written Arabic does not always write the vowels. For example, my Baraka label has 4 letters: b, r, k and tamarbuda (a at the end of a word). It does have the "clues" that tell you the vowel is an "a" sound. A slash above the letter is an "a". A slash below the letter is an "e" and something that kind of looks like our number 9, is an "oo". The Koran has the clues written out as well, but the newspaper, most signs and most other writing does not. The other writing on the label doesn't have the clues, either.

I'll pass this challenge back across the Atlantic to Katy in Canada.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Sling Daddy

I got my first issue of Mothering Magazine yesterday and it contained a detailed article on babywearing. The cover pictured a father wearing a sling so Curt decided to try it out. We need to perfect the adjustments, but it looks good on him and Ian really does love the Kangaroo Carry.

I really needed the babywearing article. Slings do seem a bit precarious at first and if you don't have them adjusted correctly, you can feel strain. I wish I would have had this article before I had Ian so I could have done a better job choosing a sling. My ring sling is cotton, but I wish it had a little bit of stretch like the article suggests. I am getting better with my sling each time I wear it. We are going on a 4 day, 3 night Nile Cruise (leaving Friday) and won't be able to take the stroller to the sites, so I am going to bring the Baby Bjorn Carrier Air , my Ella Roo Sling and the tube sling that I made. Between the two of us and those three products, hopefully, we'll be able to manage.

Monday, January 8, 2007

Nefertiti's Christmas

We have Curt's office holiday party here Thursday and all we've done so far is make Christmas cookies shaped like Queen Nefertiti, King Tut and a camel. Most of them are Nefertiti because the others tend to break. The cookie cutters are made to cater to the American market and are a bit too high to make a detailed impression on the dough. It is kind of a fun, yet weird, twist on tradition incorporating the symbols of both Ancient and contemporary Egypt. Ian's first visit to Santa included Cleopatra and a camel.

Faces of Ian

Ian looks like a completely different person when he is screaming, smiling or sleeping. When angry or upset, he stamps his foot like Rumplestiltskin.The screaming photo shows his reaction to Michigan's loss. The smiling photo is old, but it is hard to capture a smile on film and I've already shown Christmas smiles. The newer smile photos are still on the camera. I thought I took a lot of pictures of Roxxy! At least I am using my camera equipment!

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Working Out Indoors

I gained almost 45 lbs during my pregnancy, though I have to thank Ian, genetics and luck for most of it taking the form of a big, beautiful and high belly. Once I crossed into the second trimester and the nausea stopped, I ate bigger portions than pre-pregnancy. I also snacked a little more than before, but didn't go crazy. Also in the second trimester, I resumed my yoga practice that had been put on hold due to the nausea and the placental hematoma. In fact, the last two months of my pregnancy, I did yoga at least 4 times a week at a great yoga studio in Erie called, The Barefoot Buddha. After Ian's cesarean birth in September, I was told to wait 8 weeks before resuming exercise. I returned to the Buddha in November, though not as frequently. I haven't been exercising since we came back to Egypt and I've definitely been overeating. Still, I've lost about 30 lbs since the birth. I'm not aiming for my pre-pregnancy weight while I am breastfeeding but I do need to tone up and prevent post-pregnancy weight gain.

I'd like to walk outside, but the sidewalks are in such poor condition and the people drive so insanely, that I can't navigate the streets fast enough for exercise. When you add in the pollution, I think running outside is detrimental to your health unless you are in a club, park or somewhere away from traffic. Cairo American College, the private American K-12 school, has a track where a lot of people go to walk. If you don't have a student there, you have to join. When they open back up after Winter Break, I think we will.

We have a treadmill and a Bowflex in the house. I also have yoga, pilates and aerobics dvds. For the past two days, I've done 25 minutes of fast walking on the treadmill and Helene Byrne's dvd, Bounce Back Fast! Post Natal Core Conditioning. I will follow the Bounce Back program for a month and report my progress. It seems a bit slow, but the movements are precise and I can feel the work.

Breastfeeding Resolutions

Yes, that is a picture of Ian nursing. It is our first little act of Lactivism of the new year.Motherwear, a great source of nursing clothing and information, has published a list of Breastfeeding Resolutions. They suggest 10 things you can do to promote breastfeeding acceptance and awareness. I'm fulfilling #6 by displaying the breastfeeding icon in this post.

Support is critical to successful breastfeeding because it isn't always easy. I committed to breastfeeding before Ian was born. I took a breastfeeding class at the hospital, discussed it in my childbirth preparation classes, read books, and visited the Lactation Center. The information prepared me for common difficulties, provided common solutions and encouraged me to ask for help early and often. However, breastfeeding is a two-person coordinated activity. Even with all the preparation, I had pain and soreness for the first 10 weeks. Sometimes you can know what to do, but you can't physically make it happen. Having support and encouragement really made a difference for me. I wasn't sure the pain would ever stop, but at about 10 weeks, it did. I used to laugh at the Follow Me, Mum video they showed us in the classes and at the support group where presenter Rebecca Glover said,"Breastfeeding should be pleasant and pain-free". By 12 weeks, I got there. I was lucky because I was staying with my parents in PA and didn't have to worry about getting back to work. Pumping isn't easy, either. Big props to working mothers who manage to pump for their babies! When I left for Egypt, our breastfeeding was confident, easy and established.

The Egyptians are very supportive of breastfeeding. Strangers ask me if I am breastfeeding and give me lectures on the street about it being the best for the baby. The other day I went to a shop to pick out some gifts, Ian started fussing, and the shopkeeper gave me a stool and encouraged me to feed him. He went outside the shop and told me to take my time. Even covered women breastfeed in public.

So, if you are breastfeeding and having trouble, hang in there and get help. It will get better with practice and time. If you need to supplement to make it through, don't feel guilty. I starting giving him one bottle a day at 6 weeks (the recommended age to avoid nipple confusion). It gave me just enough of a break to keep going until the pain stopped. I'm so glad I made it!