Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Industrial Village and More

Hi everyone.

I have had another very interesting day. This morning, Kristin told me we were going to a village outside of Cairo to learn more about the air pollution and other environmental issues. I wasn't so sure I wanted to spend the day learning about the yellow stuff in the air I see from Kristin's hotel room. But Kristin told me it was very important so I decided to go along.

Now I am really glad I did go with Kristin. Kristin and her group took a bus to a village called Kafr el-Elew. I have NO idea how to say that name so I will just call it the "village." The village is located near a number of factories including one that makes cement. A very nice American man who teaches here in Cairo took us on a tour to show us how the village is working to overcome air and garbage problems. Here you can see the cement factory behind the buildings under construction. See how dusty the air looks?

I was shocked at what I saw. The buildings in the village looked very old and rundown. People were selling food out of baskets in the street and there were flies EVERYWHERE! Plus, I saw many, many donkeys pulling carts. I asked Kristin what they were for and she told me that many people do not have cars so they use the donkey carts to get around the village. I had no idea! I thought every family owned at least one car.

Here you can see me standing along one of the main streets in the village. Can you see the donkey carts behind me?

Many of the streets were very narrow and filled with garbage. Our guide told us that the people living in the village have been trying to get help to clean up the garbage but there is no money to clean up the village.

I could tell this made Kristin sad. I asked Kristin if she has ever visited a village like this before. She told me she and Keith have seen many that are much worse in other parts of the world. Can you believe that? I can't imagine that there are other places worse than this village.

Our group attracted a lot of attention. Many children followed us as we walked through the village. They all seemed very happy but they were wearing old clothes. Many had backpacks just like I do for school but they told the group they couldn't go to school because they don't have a teacher.

I also noticed the children were not playing with toys. Then I remembered that Kristin told me the children in the pictures in her office also didn't have toys. I just can't imagine not having any toys to play with! Kristin didn't take many photos because she says the people in the village don't like having their photo taken.

As we left the village, I asked Kristin if I should give my new stuffed camel to one of the children. Kristin said that was a very nice idea but it would be hard to give just one toy when there are SO many children. She is right. I would need LOTS of camels to give to the children in the village and I don't have enough money to buy that many camels.

Kristin knew I was sad so she told me the best thing I could do is appreciate everything that I have. I think Kristin is right. I now know I am very lucky that I have toys, a nice home, and a school to go to. I don't always like school but I know it is important to learn how to read and write. Kristin told me that that's why she wanted me to come with her today. She wanted me to understand that I am very lucky. I promised her I would do my best to appreciate my life in Iowa from now on!

This afternoon Kristin's group met another very important person. They seem to meet a lot of important people don't they? Anyway, today we went to the United States Embassy in Cairo.

The Embassy is the building where the person who represents America in Egypt works. Did you know that person is called an "ambassador." I had no idea! The American Ambassador to Egypt is Francis Ricciardone. He must be VERY important. I had to go through an x-ray machine before I could go into the building and there were many security officers watching the embassy building. Kristin also couldn't take photos in the Embassy. Kristin says it is a security issue and that it is important to keep the Ambassador and the others who work at the Embassy safe. This makes sense.

I was too scared to shake his hand so I stayed in Kristin's purse but he seemed very nice. He talked to Kristin's group for a long time. I didn't understand what the Ambassador was talking about. Kristin told me that was OK. The group was talking about big political issues that can be very confusing. Whew! I was worried she might give me a quiz after the meeting.

I got very sleepy during the meeting and feel asleep on the way to Kristin's next meeting.

And, I have decided to go to bed early tonight. That's because Kristin says we are taking another trip tomorrow to a place called Luxor. See if you can find it on the map. I don't know why we are going but Kristin says it will be exciting. She also says we won't be able to use her computer there. So, it may be a few days before I can send you an update.

Until next time....