I must admit, as a fairly coddled Canadian I had a few reservations about coming to the Middle East at this time, so I felt it only fair, and important to share some impressions that I have of my visit to Egypt so far.
First of all, I should preface my remarks by saying the my impressions of Egypt are based primarily on my time in Cairo and environs, which sounds dangerously like judging Canada after only being in Toronto, that being said, here goes…
I spent Thursday night after our first iEARN Assembly meetings walking with three iEARN friends from our hotel along the promenades and bridges that envelope and cross the Nile River. We were told that Thursday night is often a time when people will go out into the streets, children and family elders in tow, to stroll along the Nile, much like the boardwalk in Atlantic City or in the movie “Easter Parade“. How true!
In this massive city of some twenty million souls, cars teem through the streets, more often than not ignoring lane divider lines and using flashing lights and horns in sequences that were much too complicated for mortals less than William Stephenson, the Man Called Intrepid to decipher. BTW, did I mention that Cairo has no traffic lights?!!! If they did, every light of any colour would be interpreted as GO! If fears for my safety should have had some stronger basis in fact, it was surely not from the people, whom I have found to be most kind, generous and welcoming, but rather from the cocophanous ever-surging traffic. I was wondering if a six-foot, two-inch white male would have difficulties in standing out so much in the crowd, but MANY people flashed me smiles and more than a few extended peace signs my way rather than some other digits I thought might be more likely, as we navigated the downtown areas of Cairo. It was only in the tourist areas that I was treated like a dollar sign on legs.
Families walked together, teenagers sat and embraced on benches by the river, vendors roasted nuts and corn over hibachis, women made bread, young boys and old people sold smokes at a “Special Egyptian Price for you!”
Many people smoke in Cairo, mostly men it seems. Sucking back on a shisha water pipe and drinking Chai tea are the mainstays of Egyptian social networking sans computer.
We stopped at a cafe on a boat anchored on the Nile and tried an Egyptian beer called “Sakara“. It was VERY tasty indeed! the perfect antidote for a sultry summer evening in Cairo.
So how IS the weather in Cairo in July you might be wondering? Well, hot of course, but it’s a really “DRY HEAT!”;-)
So how does a coddled Canadian cope? (like the alliteration?) Do like the Egyptians of course, because everyone knows that only “Mad Dogs and Englishman GO Out in the Noon-day Sun” Stay out of the Sun during the day, thank goodness for AC, come out, enjoy life and “Walk Like an Egyptian” in the evening, (you just had to know that I was going to use that one didn’t you?!). With the days being so sunny and hot, Egyptians emerge from their homes and really flourish at night.
To try and stay cool, I also thought it would be a fun experience to visit an Egyptian barber for a haircut. I was treated like an (Arab?) prince! Ahmed, my very professional, extremely diligent barber and his family took turns washing my hair twice before he began trimming with GREAT care and precision. The haircut took about an hour, no smalltalk possible, and then finished with a kind of neck massage and a final hair wash, combined with a steady stream of nice cold drinks, all for about $5.00 CDN! I thanked Ahmed and his family with deep appreciation and a handsome tip. My barber back in Cochrane is going to cringe when I tell him about this!;-)
Okay, back to the conference…
We had a meeting of the Canadian teachers attending this year’s iEARN conference. We used the time to get to know one another a little better. We had nearly twenty attend, which is our largest contingent ever! During past conferences, I can often remember being the only Canadian there. This conference represents a wonderful step forward for us. Perhaps next year we can also have Canadian students attend the Youth Summit?
We enjoyed a brief visit from Losira Okelo. Losira formally is connected to iEARN-USA as Director of Online Professional Development, but Losira is currently living in Montreal, so she an officially adopted iEARN-Canada member! Losira explained that she would be pleased to work with iEARN-Canada to offer help and support to iEARN-Canada teachers if and when called upon.
We also had a personal presentation from Lev, am member of iEARN-Uzbekistan, the host country for 2008 iEARN International Conference and Youth Summit. They shared a wonderful video giving us a special introduction as to what we can expect when we come to Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, next July.
After our meeting, we attended various conference sessions. One session was about the brand new, and ever SOOOO cool iEARN Collaboration centre. This new resource, or should I say array of collaboration resources, will have an immediate, and very positive impact on the collaborative projects you and your students do in iEARN. The iEARN Collaboration Centre enables young people to learn with rather than simply about the world. Find project partners quickly. Read 200+ project descriptions and browse student-produced media. If you haven’t logged in recently, please do so as soon as you get a chance and look around.
I think it appropriate to let you know that the iEARN-Canadian members from New Brunswick have been out doing some serious cultural research. I will close for today with this image (NO Photoshop-editing) of Donna and Marc Savoie expanding their horizons as lifelong global educators!
Yours in friendship, learning and iEARN,