Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Cars, passports, viruses and babies

It has been a strange week. We have had car troubles - no, we do not own a car - or at least, we thought we didn't. It seems that unfortunately we do. The gentleman who bought our car a year ago had put plates on his car from another vehicle he owned so he could drive it, but never changed the registration and customs clearances into his name. We had done our paperwork, and had given it to him in the approved way complete with two letters - one to the Ministry seeking permission to sell, and one receiving permission from them to sell the car. A month ago we heard through the grapevine that he was selling the vehicle, and then he left town. Then we received a letter telling us the registration was overdue and the story slowly emerged.

Luckily the car had not been sold and will be returned to us. We will sell it. This is a hassle we do not need at the beginning of Summer when everyone is leaving town.

The air conditioner in the beautiful round room on the roof with the big table tennis table for pinning quilts had died about six weeks ago. We were assured that it needed a new compressor and that it had to be ordered from Outside Egypt. This seemed extraordinary to me. There is an air conditioner hanging off almost every room of about a fifth of the buildings in Cairo - and the rest would have them but cannot afford them. You would think that with this meaning that about four million people have more than one air conditioner there would be a generous supply of spare parts from the biggest brand in town. You would be wrong. They had to order it - it took four weeks.

They came to put it in. Men worked in the blazing heat of the roof for several hours over an even hotter metal box, then they went away. I breathed a sigh of relief, waited an hour, scooped up Hashim and his batting and back and headed for the room. It was like an oven and the air con was clearly not working. I walked out to check. The 'box' outside was open and spilling bits and pieces around an area of about nine square metres.

I rang to see what was wrong. They needed gas. They hadn't brought it. They would come back tomorrow. I started to mutter about the lack of foresight that does not assume that gas might be needed when it clearly was, but gave up. Their ways, not mine. That was hard to maintain as I needed the room and would have dripped all over anything I tried to work on in it at more than forty degrees - inside. I insisted it be done that day. I don't often throw tantrums, but this was close.

It was fixed and worked for two days. Then it died again. The short story is that it is working again now, but I am starting to wonder about the wisdom of staying through summer to work.

Then I put in an application for a new passport - and I was refused. My diplomatic passport is full. My ordinary passport has expired and I let it die as there seemed no point in paying for a passport when I do not need it. I have to enter and leave Egypt on the passport that has my residence visa in it. My passport has been reaching the saturation point over the last few months, and I have not had a single block of the three weeks I needed to get a new one as diplomatic passports cannot be issued at the post. Apparently my birth certification submitted with the original passport (so many years ago that I hate to remember) has triggered an alert. There was a rather unpleasant mention of a 'backwash' and my lovely son has saved the day by digging out the original version from family files in Canberra.

Then - worst of all - I had a couple of reports of a virus on my website (not this blog). I whipped the signature off my emails, and warned my lists, but was horrified to think that I might be infecting people. It is now sorted out - a 'malicious' text was removed by my server after diligent work by my lovely webmaster. It is now safe - but it gave me that awful sick feeling you get when something you care about is violated.

This has been the fortnight of baby quilts. I have rattled off two quick quilts in the interims between bits of Hashim and waiting for fabrics to finish him.


This one is a gift for little Mohamed - the son of our chef, Ahmed. Mohamed was born just after Ahmed started work with us and I didn't make a quilt - I was incredibly busy, and did not feel I knew Ahmed well enough. Since then I have felt a bit guilty that I did not make one - so a fabric covered in cats triggered this quilt. Little Mohamed adores cats. The pattern is a brilliant pattern by Fran Williams and I have made it many times.


This Jewel Box is a bright and pretty pattern I also make fairly regularly as a gift. It is also quick and easy. I made this for a new baby born a bit early to one of my lovely drivers, Mohamed. Or perhaps I should say - to his wife. Adam is Egyptian and I thought that if I played a little with the placing of the colours of the triangles I could almost see three dimensional pyramids. They might never notice, but I liked knowing they were there.

You do not give gifts to local babies before they are born. I think there is a strong level of superstition that somehow you will ill-wish a baby if you do. Even in the first week celebrating is very low key. However at one week there is a Sebua - a huge celebration. A lamb is sacrificed and cooked with rice and served to anyone who comes - and people bring gifts to the baby. I have always felt that the last thing I would need to organise one week after the birth of my first baby is a huge party with masses of food to be prepared. Mohamed obviously felt this too as he has decided his wife is too tired and he is holding the Sebua a week later. From this point the baby is recognised. I handed over the quilt after the one-week stage when I lent him my little snappy camera - as it seemed so sad not to be able to record a new baby. The stammering and overwhelmed reaction on the phone (gifts in Egypt are NEVER opened in front of you) was delightful and reminded me of why I still give quilts as gifts.

I am feeling flat - just too many complex problems for one week - but - Hashim is almost finished. I have just the border to quilt, then bindings and he is done. I might put up some quilting details - so watch this space. I will not post the whole finished image as I am afraid of finding myself disqualified from competition because the image is deemed 'published'.

It is late and I am weary.


Blogger Alison Schwabe said...

I am a bit superstitious, too, and never give a baby gift until after the child is born - after all, most parents have laid in at least a few basics for the expected arrival.

11:23 am  

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