Stars in Alignment
Today is my mother's birthday. She is not young - up there in her eighties but bright and sharp and enjoying life - and she cruises the internet, occasionally even doing a project for me. My father's was a couple of weeks back. They have not been together for a long time but he is also well and happy. I have great genes.
Today my youngest daughter (I have three daughters and a son) won a prize which had her scrambling for tickets to Quito in Ecuador in two weeks. There she will pick up her free Peregrine cruise of the Galapagos Islands. I have threatened to buy her the "Nice Boobies" t-shirt from Threadless, but she is resisting. I think I do not blame her.
Today my second daughter, in the process of moving her family to Canberra to join us all again, had a telephone interview for a job she would very much like to get. Before the day ended they had rung to say they will fly her to Canberra and would like to meet her. This means, to me, that she is shortlisted. Better still, it means that her qualifications are right up there with the others in the race for positions in Canberra, so if she does not get this one there will be others.
I have also been waiting for an order of fabric, carefully ordered from the States almost nine weeks ago and anxiously awaited. I thought it would be here when I returned from Spain and Turkey - but it wasn't . Then I thought it would surely be here when I returned from Dubai - but it wasn't. I left for Kuwait with that nagging drop in the pit of my stomach, having talked to the company. We had all generally agreed that it was probably gone. It turned up two days ago. There is still a bit of time to go with customs clearances to do, but I have felt really desperate about this - I have elected to stay in Cairo through the heat of Summer, when I will actually have some time to work - and thought I would not have the fabric I needed to do the work.
And finally and thrillingly , the long and complex case my husband has been working on in Sudan is over and went well. He is thinner, but mutters that he needed to be. It is not something I can talk about, but I am pleased. It is nice to be home, and to have him home too.
Today I went into one of the areas of Cairo that I tend to drift to when I want plastics. It is a street market area which has lots of food and vegetable stall tucked between tall buildings which afford some shadow except when the sun is directly overhead. It has shops too, tucked into the ground floors of the buildings and all are small, and most sell cheap plastics. I like the area as it is full of people and always interesting.
I was with a driver I really like. My young drivers have, in many ways become my best friends. They are my window on the way young Cairenes think. As we travel we talk, and I really enjoy the frequently philosophical conversations.
On the way today we saw a taxi carefully pull level with another cab. The driver dropped back just a tad, then his hand (and a large lump of his body) came out of his window, and he opened the back door of the other cab (which was not quite latched), then slammed it. All of this happened while the cabs were moving, not fast, but steadily. The surprised passenger in the back of the cab waved her thanks, as did the driver, and the other car accelerated off.
Then a man walked along the path beside us and stepped out in front of us to cross. We stopped. He was carrying a shop mannequin, without her arms. Perhaps this was why he had her in a grip that curled under her crutch with one hand and with his palm spread on her bottom. The other arm held her firmly around the waist. My friend and driver muttered that he would have to marry her now, as no-one else would, and we laughed, as did many others watching.
Half a block further a man fell off his bike. He was not hurt - he stood and brushed himself off, but two drivers were out of their cars and helping to hand him things that rolled from the baskets slung on his bicycle.
I like Cairo. I struggled with the traffic at first - especially while I still had a car. It is irreverent traffic. I watch friends keep up constant running commentaries along the lines of "Look at that idiot ... what does he think he is doing... why can't they just stay in one lane??" I have almost decided that to cope with Cairo you have to learn to accept that the traffic will never behave as you would expect it to in your own country. Accepting that a different and entirely 'organic' (my Brother's term but I really like it) system can also work is almost essential to loving this city.
We parked. We had driven past a few shops that seemed to have something like the plastic rectangular 'baskets' that I was looking for and which I use to store fabric. Once we walked back we found that what looked similar when stacked was actually a pile of drying racks.
Then came the incident that managed to caste a pall over my marvelous day. Do not read on if stories about animals might upset you - as it upset me.
We passed a woman with an enchanting small desert hedgehog in a cage. It was young and lithe and climbed the bars of the bird cage and clung, then dropped down to find another side and repeat the exercise. There was a good amount of fresh vegetables and food in the bottom and fresh water, so I assumed it was a pet, then wondered if it was for sale as this was a market. I had the sudden idea of buying it and releasing it into my garden.
My friend spoke to her. He talked at length and looked rattled - and seemed to be arguing. Mind you, Arabic frequently sounds like arguing and I often ask a driver what is wrong, when he has just been having a discussion. He turned abruptly and started to walk on. I asked what she had said and he said "It is not for sale." I asked what was wrong.
He shook his head. "I don't believe in these things." I pressed him. I wish I hadn't.
"Her sister is very sick. She says if she kills this animal her sister will get better." He was visibly upset. I asked if he thought she would sell it to me if I was very generous with money. He answered very slowly and thoughtfully.
"What is the point? She will take your money and find another of these animals. Then she will kill that one. Either way one will die. When someone you love is sick, then you will try anything, and believe in anything. If you take this animal and she cannot find another one and then her sister dies she will always believe that her sister died because she failed. Then she will live with guilt and despair."
He was so right that I was silenced. We saw her again, still looking for someone to kill the hedgehog for her, and I am still struggling with the fact that I did not try harder to save it.