Saturday, August 28, 2010

Booton Asir

Means orange juice in arabic. I'm slowly but surely making progress...

Another weekend in Maadi. Another series of lovely scenes captured through my lens. An exhaustion cold threatened to consume my body yesterday, I'm going to have to work a little harder on resting a little bit more. Week three starts tomorrow. This week my after school art club starts on Monday as well; Destination Imagination :) I'm going to teach these kids to be explorers of the world around them, Thanks to Miss Jordan Glaser for the inspirational book.

Yes, I still frequently visit the midan with the Ramadan lanterns glowing so beautifully at night. It never gets old. (Though I learned not to climb them after I found giant ants one night up in the branches and my friends expressed shock at my climbing the tree saying I'd be arrested because someone would think I was stealing the lanterns haha). I think I'll feel lost once this season ends in September. On the right is the overhead view of the ferry landing and passengers shuffling on and off as they ride to and from home and work on opposite sides of the Nile.

Today I went on an adventure with Penny and a few of the other teachers at CAC. We explored parts of Old Cairo and visited the Street of the Tentmakers (Sharia al Khiyamiya). These are probably the oldest streets I have ever (or will ever) walked on in my entire life. They are filled with vendors of tapestries, Ramadan lanterns, and any other textile or metalworking you can imagine. While the initial views caught my breath in their beauty, I quickly recovered my senses and joined in on a very successful shopping spree. After all, one can never have too many purses...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Q: "So Amy, what are your plans after December?"

(the question everyone seems to be asking me at the school these days. I have come to learn that question always comes with an idea or motivation, aka a school they have in mind for me somewhere in this world, likely where they have taught or have connections.. exciting and mind boggling at the same time)

A: what I'm sure I'll be doing is SLEEPING.

Teaching is exhausting-in the best of ways. I have really gotten off to a quick start, leading a LOT in my classes, "plowing" into is as my supervisor says. It's great; and I'm learning so much from being around my teachers and having them watch me.. but at the same time, I've been on the go (in school and beyond) constantly and it's starting to catch up with me. I'm wiped out. Quiet night in, writing up lesson plans, filling out reflections, reading, and getting to bed early.

PS. Tonight is the first SAA meeting at UNI... miss my ambassadors something crazy here
PPS. Cairo has really grown quite quickly on me...

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Working for the weekend

Had an amazing weekend. Went running at the waadi again on Thursday (big canyon).

Hung out with my new friends Thurs and Friday night, played in a fundraiser volleyball tournament on Friday at my school (5 hours in 110F heat=insanely good times),

and then ended up road tripping to Alexandria today with Adam and Kate. I could use another weekend to catch up on sleep but I had a great time and loved every minute of it!

Friday, August 20, 2010


Thank God it's Thursday. A new twist on working for the weekend as my school week runs Sunday-Thursday.

I just finished my first week of student teaching! Overall, it went very very well. I am in and out of the HS and MS classrooms, back and forth across the hallway, observing, helping, and actually teaching my own class already. Currently I am the lead instructor for HS Studio Design (formerly known as printmaking), Neil giving me the go to take the students from Day 1 and really run the class how I see fit. Naturally, I have learned a lot from my first week and know little things I should tweak from minor "mistakes" I've made in the room, but as Joan says, Mistakes are Miracles and I'm very happy with the way my first week went with these class. I am "observing but always prepared to lead" in Joan's classes... I never know when she's going to all of a sudden turn over her mixed media, sculpture or 6th grade exploratory classes to me, on the spot, in front of the students...

The students are great. I was a little anxious coming into Sunday for my first day to see what they are like. What I have found thus far is that I do absolutely adore middle school kids and these high school kids are very curious and eager to learn. It's a fun school to be teaching in.

Eventually through the next several weeks I will be adding classes one by one until I have a full teaching load at the school of 5 classes, taught in blocks mixed in with a floating observation period and two preps (one with each coordinating teacher). Right now we're focusing on identity in all MS and HS classes to start the year off with a collective theme to produce a body of work that can be displayed for the school.

I must say, I love this international teaching thing. Last night the PE teacher and I were talking when he made the comment "once it's [international teaching] in your blood, it's practically genetic and there to stay" I think he's right.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

"Be where you are otherwise you will miss your life"

..who else but Buddah would be so wise. (thank you Amanda Carls for bring that quote to my life)

I am really getting into being where I am, living in this moment-seems to be the theme of the lives myself and many of my friends these days. Skyping and thinking about home less (sorry loved ones), diving into local culture and exploration more and more. Last night I went to meet a new friend from church in downtown Cairo. After missing my metro stop, but about 10 stops, it took me over an hour to go 20 minutes from where I live. Oh, life's little adventures :) Chris and I explored the local markets and my mind and eyes raced from one insanely small jam packed shop to another. Local vendors claiming to have "just what you are looking for" and everything "for your smile, free!". I didn't buy anything... yet... it's going to take some processing what I can fit/hold/afford to bring back with me. But this was certainly the first of many market excursions...

Today I decided to fast for the first time in my life. I've attempted to respect the traditions of Ramadan in Iowa with my muslim friends by fasting-sort of.. but I always drank liquids. Today I did not eat any food or drink any water. It was 110F today. Great day to pick to start this practice. I doubt I'll pull through on a daily basis, but I am very pleased that I was able to and my mind did clear away things today that had needed to be cleared aside... Water has never tasted so good as it did when the megaphones transmitted the call to break the fast at Iftar around 6:40...I downed 32oz bottle of water in a flash. The lanterns will never get old. They put Christmas lights to shame. New mission: climb lantern tree in the little midan I found my first week here; tangent mission, get a hammock to enjoy in Cairo.

More on my classroom in the next day or so. Week one is off to a great start. I absolutely love the middle school kids... I taught E Block printmaking this morning- 1hour and 25 minutes all on my own with high schoolers. I must say it went quite well... I was relieved. Fingers crossed this is a trend that continues... Below are a few simple shots in the classroom with the kids for a sneak peak, but I'm taking my cameras to school tomorrow and Thursday to collect photos for the back to school art room slideshow we're making for Tuesday next week.

All for now. Ramadan Mubarek...

Saturday, August 14, 2010


Means beloved friend in Arabic.

It's been a weekend full of relationship building. CAC emphasizes this in the classroom constantly.. "You can't teach a student you don't know"... But for me, it's so important to build relationships in every part of my life to feel "me".. to feel at home and really hone into who I am and how I function day to day. The past two days have been filled with wonderful people one right after another. More people my age. New faces, hopefully the makings of some really wonderful friends... Insha'allah...

School starts tomorrow. My sketchy arabic is slowly slowly coming, shway shway...and I'm beginning to get my bearings...I have made my room my own.. I'm nearly there. Adjusting quite nicely to this life I've been dropped in.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Ramadan Kareem

Today marks the first day of the Islamic season of Ramadan; a time of fasting and focusing... I was hoping to break the fast in an Egyptian home tonight, however, to deserve such a treat I should have fasted today anyway...I am looking forward to seeing these festive lights and lanterns all over Cairo for the next month though. This is just a sneak peak at the entrance to my apartment from my balcony.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

on your marks, get set,


"Sabaah Ilhxeer! Ana ismi Amy Martens, and that is how much arabic I've learned in Cairo this first week. I'm from the States, in Iowa, Bridges of Madison County anyone? Yup, that's my hometown. I'll be student teaching at CAC this semester, working with Joan Knox and Neil Crouch in MS/HS Art. When things are going well in life I like to say I'm blessed beyond belief and that is very much how I feel at this moment. Very glad to be here!"

That is more or less how I introduced myself this morning along with all of the new teachers in front of the auditorium at CAC during our first all faculty meeting. Seriously can not even put words together for how incredibly this placement is working out thus far. I get along with my two cooperating teachers, as well as all of the other art teachers, faculty and staff working at CAC this year unimaginably well. Joan and I really do seem to be two peas in a pod, which may be dangerous...
Lesson plan ideas are literally spilling out of my head at the moment, I'm adjusting my plans to fit the incredible annual budget of *thousands* of dollars in *each* classroom (aka I don't have to worry as much about lack of resources). A little different perspective and supply base than my days at Longfellow in Waterloo. Class starts one week from today, next Sunday... Here goes nothing!
View of CAC from the top of the Administrative building. The elementary to the right, health building across the way, art building back in the forest of trees on the left... more photos to come.. too tired and too much to process at the moment :) Mas salama!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The pyramids sure are great...

... I'll have to go back another day to take my time and explore and maybe get on a camel and see the museum, but this morning we went out honestly for a few photo opps... sporting my purple polo and khakis completely intentionally... miss my fellow panthers....

Tomorrow all of staff returns, today was the last day of new faculty orientation. What a blessing this week has been, time to adjust, settle in (at least the baggage I have), get my bearings, and most importantly, get to know the other new staff members. We have one week now of planning and preparing in our classrooms before the students come next Sunday, Aug 15 for the first day of school. Ramadan starts Wednesday this week as well, that should be an eye opening experience.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

I haven't quite figured out exactly where I am in Maadi... I decided to go for a walk this evening. I set out equipped with my handy dandy book of maps, my cell phone, my arabic cheat sheet, and less than ideal sandals...and 2 hours, lots of wrong turns later, I showered off all the dirt and grime I had collected on the streets. I made my way to road nine, a big shopping district where you can get on the subway system that runs all throughout Cairo. At one point, I ran into the same darling little park in the center of a midan (roundabout) with lit up lanterns in the trees. Getting lost isn't all bad. I am getting really darn good at Arabic numbers now, and I quite enjoyed the little park I found (too bad I don't remember how to get back to it.. yet).

(PS--for those of you worried about the fact this photo was taken at night, the streets are actually really incredibly safe and I asked around the school to make sure it would be alright...just have to use common street smarts about you as you would anywhere..)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

#10A Road 251 Apt 6

My home sweet home. It's really ridiculous and incredible how nice the flats are here for residence. I'm living with Penny in her single-person appartment with 3 bedrooms, two bathrooms, full kitchen, dining room, living room, AND balcony. Rough eh?

Here are a few photos of our place.. I honestly don't know how much rent is, the school pays for it, but my limited expenses to contribute to for the maid (cleaning, ironing etc), utilities, air conditioning, clean water... will amount to no more than $100 per month for this incredible living situation literally 3 minutes walk from school.

PS> I CAN GET SNAIL MAIL HERE IN CAIRO!!! Send me love and letters to the school:

Miss Amy Martens: Middle School
Cairo American College
PO Box 39

Pretty please and thank you in advance!

Class of 2010 more ways than one....

Part of my welcoming package at CAC was a monogrammed class of 2010 polo. In CAC, incoming teachers come in classes, just as we consider the peers we graduate with in the US. The incoming classes form tight bonds through this orientation process, and though much of what I am absorbing is not fully processed, the group has been exceptionally wonderful about considering me part of their group. So I'm part of the class of 2010 at UNI and CAC. These people are so insanely fascinating, my travels are put *to*shame* just introducing myself to them. I am spending time with people an average of 10 years my senior and married who have lived in 5+ countries, been there and done the Peace Corps, know what it is to transplant their family every 2-5 years in a country speaking a new foreign language... They come to Cairo, CAC provides fully furnished housing, and spend their first week buying appliances, hiring maids, settings up cell phones and establishing bank accounts. They probably think I am really quiet and untalkative as all I can seem to do is sit and soak in their stories, occasionally interjecting questions in a wonderstruck voice.
I got to spend time with Neil Crouch today, he will be my cooperating teacher for the second half of my placement, in the high school. He has already returned to school and is busy cleaning the dust from the art in his room and display cases. This is Neil's fifth year at CAC, and I learned today that he is one of SEVEN art teachers (k12). I knew this school had a good art program, but honestly, 7 teachers? This is going to be great! He and I had a good chat this afternoon, and hung a piece of artwork on main campus. Campus is currently under major construction; I'll set out to take photos tomorrow to give you a feel for my school grounds, but lets just say it's a great experience to be able to hang art outside; without fear of snow or rain damage.

I ate at Fusion resturant on the Nile tonight at sunset. I'm headed to the Pyramids this weekend and a falucca ride on the river. Pinch me. I can't believe this is real :)

I love hearing a familiar cell phone ringtone in Maadi reminds me of home, and reminds me of how truly small this world is.

First impressions of the city/people:
dirty <but beautiful> city, there is certainly a very distinct Cairo smell.....probably not one most people would consider making into a cologne..though, I have noticed an increase of wonderful strong smelling colognes in my travels (probably a cause/effect situation)-especially in the airports

I love the walk from my apartment to the school.. it's short, easy (I haven't even gotten lost!)... there is a picture perfect truck loaded with hand woven baskets signaling my turn down a street with soo many beautiful trees lining the sides, and I pass by a friendly older gentleman who lives two buildings down who is always out reading his paper and says hello without fail.

I can get by without Arabic, but it's paining me to speak English constantly so I'm going to see what I can do about using more Arabic.

This city feels like an iceberg at the moment (in the sense that I have only seen a tiiiiiiny portion of the city but I know it's a masssssive beast once I get past my neighborhood of Maadi, NOT due to the temperatures.. it's HOT.)

Showering at least twice a day is mandatory now.. that's an adjustment to say the least
CAC (my school), is going to be an AMAZING place to student teach. I feel that overused adjective simply does not do it justice; the quality of teachers, the level of work ethic and dedication to being on the leading edge of education in the classroom is unlike anything I have ever seen..

they have opened their eyes to me and embraced me like family :)
Mr. Michael Popinchalk, my principal and supervisor, met me at the airport with a hug, a sun hat, and personal attendants that lead me around all the lines; I didnt have to wait for a visa or go through customs..
Penny (the teacher graciously allowing me to live with her) really is truly supplying my every need right now and treating me like a mother would...
Hoda, the secretary in the middle school and "the lady to know" said when she saw me, you have been here before, I feel like I already know you, you are just like my daughter already
EVERYONE knows who I am."oh, you're AMY!!! I heard about your flight, poor thing, welcome to CAC!"
the old man two buildings down, just cant tell you enough how precious he is...
Met one of my cooperating teachers and his wife, and they immediately insisted I join them for dinner at their house

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


Today is my brother's birthday. I'm never home for his birthday; kind of a rotten sister..but he knows I love him :) I tried to put a happy birthday note at the bottom of my last post, but it didn't publish nor would it when I edited it twice, so.. he gets his own, because he's that big of a deal.
Love you bro.

60 Hours in Transit a very long time.

I said goodbye to Jesse, Megan, and Jordan at O'hare international airport Saturday before my flight at noon, flew to Charlotte (next to a wonderfully friendly woman named Annette who is an artist in a family of artists from Florida), boarded my overnight-over-the-atlantic-ocean flight at 5:30pm (next to the most worldy-traveled man I have ever met named Willem who is a german engineer who has been on over 1,500 flights in his lifetime), and arrived in Munich Germany at 8:30am Sunday morning. After being informed my 9:30 flight would be delayed, I was then stuck in a long unexpected layover while crews tried to repair the plane that had engine troubles. 4 Hours later I was informed they would not be able to fix the plane and we would have to rebook at the service desk. There was a mad rush to the line, I luckily got in the front half and *only* had to wait 1 1/2 hours, just to find out there would be no more chances to get to Cairo that night. Luftansa airlines booked me a room at the Shariton near the airport; so I went to grab my luggage, unpack a fresh outfit, and recheck my bags for my flights the next day. I enjoyed the hotel; I was a "preferred special guest" and had a really really nice room and meals paid for which I enjoyed with the company of an engineer I met from Florida (oddly, from Tampa as well as Annette the artist; small world). The next morning I got up, and headed back to Munich airport and left for Istanbul.. yes Turkey.. at 8:45am. I arrived in Istanbul and caught my connector to Cairo on Egyptair flight at 12:30. Arrived in Cairo, finally, at 4pm. My bags however, stayed in Istanbul. Where they still are, over 24 hours later. But at this point, after 60 hours of being in transit, luggage is a very minor detail, and luckily for me, my roomate, Penny, had clothes I could borrow until my bags come.. soon.. insha'allah..........