Saturday, November 1, 2008

Good luck, Chuck!

Halloween itself ended up consisting of me hanging out in Mohandaseen with my friend Amanda eating Indian that we had delivered and watching a couple of episodes of Ugly Betty, which I'd never seen, not being a big TV guy. It was fun, low-key evening. My cab ride over there was illustrative of my earlier cultural lamentations--despite nodding and affirming he knew where to take me (Aswan Square in Mohandaseen), he ended up rolling down the front passenger window to make kissing noises at a fellow taxi driver. This, along with hissing, is an unpleasantly common means of getting people's attention in Cairo. "Gidu (grandpa)," he yelled. "Midan Aswan?" Clearly, he had no idea how to get there and this was further evidentiated by other episodes of yelling to other taxi drivers and passersby. Oh well, I got where I was going eventually.

Today, for some reason, I woke up in a rather optimistic mood. Impervious to swerving cars, honk-happy cabbies, stares, and the like, I greeted everyone and everything with a smile. Amanda and I hopped on the metro where, surprisingly, a young Egyptian guy with a 1000-kilowatt grin said to me in perfect English, "Crowded, isn't it?" Where on earth did that come from? Chummy, pleasant conversation from an Egyptian on a mode of transportation where you feel like you're going to be stampeded by overzealous passengers disembarking and boarding or harrassed by men trying hawk wares to a captive market. "Yeah," I said "it certainly is." He got off at the next stop, but not before smiley broadly and saying, "Good luck, Chuck." I was stunned, he must've been an American in disguise. It certainly made me laugh and made my metro ride.

We brunched at Lucille's where I made the mistake of ordering a side-salad. My omelette and hash browns were respectable, as before, but this salad tasted like weeds or grass (not that I regularly munch on either) which was strange considering it was composed of iceberg lettuce, cabbage, and shredded carrots. Not expecting any kind of American customer service, even in this bastian of American food and culture, I didn't feel like giving up. I very pleasantly told the waiter when he came to clear our food that the salad wasn't good. He offered to prepare me a fresh one, but somehow having a new salad with the same ersatz ingredients wasn't appealing. He told me that "this is your restaurant! I don't want you to be angry about the salad!" and subsequently began mentioning dessert, leading me to believe (silly me) that he was making up for my lettuce letdown with carrot cake. Amanda and I thus split a slice of pretty darn good carrot-cake with cream cheese frosting, amazed with this seemingly great service. Then, the bill came with both my side salad and the dessert listed. Undaunted, I called Eslam over again and said, "Seeing as how I didn't really eat the salad, would you mind taking this off?" He hesitated, mentioned having offered to make me a new one, but then said, "Okay, this is your restaurant!" and returned with a bill adjusted to include only the carrot cake. Simple as that. Marvelous. Oh, Lucille's, you've won me over.

The rest of our stay in Maadi involved bagel-buying and grocering. I replenished my coconut yogurt stock that had been decimated by the fridge failure and now all is well with the world. I also got some German dark chocolate to keep in the freezer for special occasions. Oh my gosh, I think I'm becoming a middle-aged woman. Annnyway, I'm back to the apartment, going to make dinner, and then look up some articles on the refugee community in Minneapolis to begin writing one of my papers. Tomorrow I have my two-day law midterm which will involve me analyzing cases and determining whether or not the people involved are legally refugees. Monday night I teach. Tuesday is, of course, the election and I'll be attending a get-together with a crowd of nervous expats watching anxiously to see who becomes the next president.

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