Thursday, May 11, 2006

Back to School

Hi everyone! I hope all is well.

Earlier this week, Kristin took me back to in Egypt! OK, I actually didn't attend class, but I visited two school programs in a district called Beni-Suef.

It took us more than two hours to get to Beni-Suef by bus. It was a VERY bumpy ride (plus Kristin and I were sitting in the back seat of the bus!). I could tell we had left Cairo because suddenly there were no buildings and all I could see was sandy ground for miles and miles. It reminded me of how the desert looked outside of Doha, Qatar on the day I went to see the camels there with Keith and Kristin.

But all of a sudden I could see a large patch of very green land in the middle of the desert. Do you know what that is called? It's an oasis...just like the name of the camel Kristin bought for me in Dubai. It was cool to actually see a real oasis!!

Then, as we got closer to Beni Suef city, the landscape looked very similar to what I see when I look out the windows of my school bus at home in Iowa. In fact, I thought I was in Iowa for a second. It was very green and there were many fields of various crops including sugar cane, wheat, and corn. Yes...they even grow corn here in Egypt! Here is a picture of a corn field Kristin took from the bus.

Kristin told me the area was green because the Nile River is nearby. She told me the farmers here use various ways to get water to the fields to make the crops grow including canals. She called this "irrigation." I think this is similar to the way farmers near Muscatine use big sprinklers to water their crops in the summer time.

We actually visited two schools. Kristin told me the first was in the city of Beni Suef but I fell asleep on the bus just before we got to the first school so Kristin decided to let me take a nap.

But I was wide awake when we visited a second school in a very small village called "Tonsa al Malaq." The village itself is small. The streets are VERY narrow. They were SO narrow that I was afraid the bus wouldn't be able to get down the streets. But we eventually made it.

The school we visited in this village uses a concept called "Ishraq." This is a special program that includes math and spelling classes and sports. This sure sounds like the classes I take at Louisa-Muscatine school! When we arrived, students in an upstairs classroom were sitting at wooden desks and they were taking turns writing Arabic numbers and letters on a chalk board with their teacher.

But I quickly noticed I was the only young boy in the room. Kristin says that's because "Ishraq" is a program for girls. Isharq means "enlightenment" in Arabic. The goal is to help teach young girls in Egypt how to read and do math so they can go to more official schools. I asked Kristin why the girls needed a special program. She says in some countries girls are not allowed to school. I had no idea! There are plenty of girls in my school!! Although the girls in my class at home sometimes drive me crazy, I guess they are lucky that they get to go to school.

While we were visiting the class, my friend Michael asked our translator to ask the teacher if I could have my picture taken in the classroom. I think the teacher was a bit confused about my flatness but the translator told her I was a young boy from a school in America. Here I am with the teacher.

And here I am with one of the students.

After the pictures I think the girls were curious about my school although I couldn't understand the conversation. Kristin and her friends promised to see if someone would take my picture in my classroom in Iowa so Kristin can e-mail the photo so the girls can see how my classroom looks. I sure hope my Mom or Aunt Lynn can take my photo at school before the end of the school year so I can show the class I visited how my teacher and classmates look.

Did you notice that the teacher and all of the girls are wearing headscarves? Kristin says most girls in Egypt wear headscarves to class. I still think this is odd. But, I guess the girls are just being respectful like Kristin was when she visited with the Grand Mufti last week.

After we left the village, we briefly stopped so Kristin and her journalist friends could take a picture of something called a "step pyramid." This pyramid looks very different than the ones I saw in Cairo. This one looks like it has GIANT steps. Very interesting.

That's all for now. Until next time....