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About drmary

Status:

Expatriate  

Gender:

Female

Currently Lives:

Maryland, United States

Citizen Of:

United States

Past Expat Posts:

Egypt


Brazil




Education:

University of Connecticut
  1977 to 1985

Some Forum Posts:

Colombia: Rentals in Bogota - inflated?:

We might be moving to Bogota if my husband's company wins the USAID contract they are currently bidding. We started checking out allowances and were surprised to find that housing allowances are very high (like $2000 for a family of 4). When we lived in Egypt, we found that all the landlords knew the allowances and charged slightly more, knowing they'd get it. Does that happen in Bogota?

Egypt: adoption:

The latest I've heard from a couple adopting here is that muslim Egyptian citizens can adopt a child that has no living relatives fairly easily. Kids with relatives may be a bit more complicated (in older days I heard of families who put girls in orphanages until they were 12 and then took them back to be married off, for a dowry, of course - girls adopted from these orphanages could still be taken back by their birth parents for the same purpose - don't know if that's still the case). Hope it all goes well!

Egypt: Pet Crematorium Needed:

Sorry to add such a dark topic to the list, but I know folks have had trouble with this in the past. Our lovely cat (who was born here, went back to the US with us for several years and then returned with us this year) died suddenly. We have always cremated our pets - in the US this is easy, but the last time we were here, we heard stories about the one crematorium in Cairo being non-functional (they continued to accept animals but threw them in a pit and gave the owners a pile of wood ash). Anyone know of a reputable place operating now? (Last time we were here, our dog died of old age - a friend who worked with lab animals was able to use the incinerator at work, but I can't use that favor again.) Thanks!!

El Salvador: Kids will attend Escuela Americana:

We're considering a job that will move us to San Salvador and the employer (a contractor to USAID) will pay tuition for EA. I'm looking for any comments on the school (good/bad) and suggestions on where one can live - is it possible to live close to the school? We're spoiled (we'd be moving from Egypt) with a 5-minute walk to school right now. When we find out if we are going, I'd then be looking for a job (it's my husband's job that would relocate us). I'm a certified MS/HS science teacher (have taught everything from 6th-grade science to AP Bio and Chem) and would want to see if I could get a 1-year contract with EA. Anyone have any experience working at the school? Do they hire local expats on short-term contracts? Thanks for your help!

Egypt: What did I forget?:

We brought over maple syrup (100% pure Canadian) - you can only buy the Aunt Jamima stuff here. You can get pork, but we avoid it; I doubt the pigs are fed a healthy diet here. We used to bring over the already-cooked bacon that Oscar Meyer and other folks sell (it can keep at room temperature for a while, so you don't have to worry about bringing a cooler - you can fit quite a few packs in the fridge or freezer. Depending on what kind of cook you are, you might want to bring spices. Chili powder can be hard to find, especially if you want specialty flavors (like chipotle). I brought Old Bay - a special seasoning from the Maryland area that we find it hard to live without. You can find fresh basil plants and fresh mint; I'm growing dill and chives in a window box, as I can never find those fresh. If you ever do any baking, you should bring an oven thermometer (likewise a meat thermometer for roasts and such) - the gas ovens are lovely (and huge!) but I found the temperature varies, depending on the city gas pressure. It is impossible to find unscented laundry detergent here - if you have sensitive skin, bring your own. We're not picky about shampoo usually, but I do like my unscented Oil of Olay soap - have never found it here, so I bring lots (if you pack it in your carry-on, you might get searched, as it looks like big battery packs to the x-ray). As you found out on your trip, you can't buy spirits (except at the duty-free after you land, and only a few bottles); you can't really bring extra in your suitcase or shipment, but prepare yourself mentally. Eventually you will find yourself saying that the local beer and wine aren't that bad (or you might do what one professor did - buy the local wine and distill it into brandy; I hear you can also distill the beer into a sort of vodka). A different kind of still to consider is a water still - please don't plan on buying bottled water as it really contributes to the waste problem. The tap water is usually safe, but full of chlorine and sometimes metals (and sometimes germs if the line is leaking). The table-top models run about $130 and you can buy them in 220v. We have Megahome and are very happy with it. We bring our own over-the-counter drugs - I've bought some aspirin that was smelling old and I've heard that the ibuprofen is not great. If you take OTC antihistamines, you might want to buy them before you leave as well. On the other hand, you can buy things here you normally need a prescription for there - antibiotics, sleeping pills, stronger pain meds. I don't suggest that route unless you do some research - I've found the drugs to be trustworthy if made under license to a multinational drug company, but you should be careful self-prescribing. Company and school nurses are good bets for help on that - you can also look a lot up on the internet, but again it helps to have a bit of a background. Speaking of allergy medications - if you have respiratory issues, be aware that the air can often be full of particulate matter. We brought over an air purifier and it helps. I haven't found many here - get the highest airflow you can with a HEPA filter (220 if possible). I have to admit I haven't tried to buy condoms here, but I'd suggest bringing a goodly supply until you check out the situation. My understanding is that HIV is low, but most likely to be encountered in the wealthy young folks that travel; best to play it safe. Likewise, the array of "personal lubricants" we are used to seeing everywhere are not in sight here (at least, I haven't seen them) - I kind of doubt even tame sex toys are available (these are the kinds of things you don't think to ask about). Folks used to ship in tampons and such; they are more available but not a huge variety - don't know if you/your family need such, but again it's best to bring enough for several months so you're not caught short. BTW, birth control pills are available without prescription and cheap. All I can think of for now - hope other folks put their two cents in (some of this might go towards the 10 helpful hints post).

Egypt: 10 Tips for Living in Egypt:

ONLY 10? How about some guidelines? Are these tips for folks about to move here, have just moved here, or who have been here a few years? Each of those deserves an article separately. Single folks vs young marrieds w/out kids; married with kids; older couples w/out kids - all different needs for different tips as well. Should we stay away from the general, works-for-any-country type tips ("Stay away from negative expats." "Learn the local language." "On a bad day, make a list of the things that you'd miss if you moved away tomorrow.")? Our family will work on this as a Thanksgiving weekend project (one of the things we missed last time we left - Egyptian turkeys beat Butterballs hands down). Looking forward to the other responses.

Egypt: $150k salary in Egypt:

That is a lovely salary, but you did not mention benefits. Will you be a consultant? Will you get vacation/sick leave and insurance? If you have children, make sure the company pays their tuition (if your children are not school-age, but the company pays tuition, you can try asking them to pay the same amount toward a pre-school). If you get them to provide housing and can chose to have them lease the place instead of you, that is easier. I don't know about other countries, an American company my withhold taxes on any money they give you for tuition and housing (since that is a taxable benefit) causing a cash-flow problem for you. You will need to pay taxes on that money eventually, so keep track, but probably not as much as they withhold. If your company owns apartments, even better - they report your housing allowance, and can decide what the "worth" of your place is. This can save you a lot in taxes, since places now rent for $3000-10000, but may only cost the owner $300/month. Again, if you are American, talk to a retirement investment person, unless your company has a plan and you are eligible. Once you have put in whatever your company matches, you may find that much of your remaining income is tax-free, or at a much lower rate. In this case, you are better off investing in non-tax-deferred plans, as you are paying little or no tax on the money now and won't have to pay later (as with tax-deferreds). Some standard things to ask for: relocation allowance (you will need to stay in a hotel for a few weeks while your apartment is made ready - if you are in Maadi/Cairo, I recommend the Residence) including meals and other costs that you'll pay until you get in an apartment, yearly or biyearly trip "home", settling in costs (new drapes, carpets, etc.), transportation allowance (car/driver for work, perhaps a company car or rental for personal use) and education allowance (at least try to get them to pay for Arabic lessons). Check into how they are getting your stuff over here - if they provide you with a furnished apartment, you might be able to ask that they air freight your personal stuff, rather than by sea. Did you come over here to interview? Have you been here at all? If not, you should ask them to send you over for a week soon - it might be to pick out apartments, or just to get an idea of what's available and what's not. Will you be working for an Egyptian company? If so, you might want to check out the tax and employment laws. If you are working for a non-Egyptian company, then you want to check out your own tax situation. This last sounds silly, but it caught us twice. Talk to your bank and credit card companies; let them know where you will be, so they don't shut off your cards. See if you can work out the best way to do everything online - we have someone we email when we travel to alert her that we're on the move and using our cards all over Europe (they would try to call our home phone to report suspicious activity and not get us, so they'd shut the card off). Likewise, many online services (like buying/renting movies and music to download) are not allowed to sell here. In some cases, it is enough to set up your account with them before you go - in others, you have to go through a proxy (I use GoTrusted). We found out the hard way that we couldn't pay for our Skype number from here. For some strange reason, I-Tunes continues to sell to me, but would not for my daughter, without using the proxy. My best advice is to have someone "back home" who you trust to handle your bills, credit cards and such. Sometimes it's just easier to have my daughter call and be me rather than have me call and explain I'm in Egypt. About mail - if your company sends stuff over all the time, try to get your mail forwarded there (but still have someone go get the stuff that falls through the forwarding cracks - they can send it in a big envelope to your company). Otherwise, you can use a mail service (expensive) or have someone collect and go through your mail about every 2 weeks, and then FedEx the important stuff over. Hope you enjoy your new home and new job - don't spend all that salary in one place, but plan on doing lots of traveling.

Egypt: Moving in April 2010:

You do indeed want to be hired from overseas, if possible. Some schools don't provide housing to local hires, and also only offer them 1-year contracts, rather than 2-year contracts that are offered to overseas hires. The schools are just starting to post vacancies now and some (like CAC) will have them mostly filled by January. ISS (www.iss.edu) and Search Associates are the two that most schools here use. They also have application forms on their websites. Since you know you want to come here, you don't really need the placement agencies - the advantage of those agencies is that, once you set up a file, everything is with them - you don't need to keep asking old employers to send recommendations around the world. Don't dally - the vacancies get snapped up fast, sometimes before they are even posted.

Egypt: Norwegian and Egyptian:

I say, trust your gut. He does sound like a jewel, but your gut is telling you that you are not ready to get married. He also may not be the perfect person for you, even though he's great. Some cultural gaps can't be bridged. The inshallah attitude would be a deal-breaker for me, as well. It can and does extend to preventive care (like immunizations) and retirement planning. You identified another big gulf - despite the "socialist" appearances of Egypt, the people really don't think like that. They don't understand how the actions of the one can affect the well-being of the group, partly because the group is so large. This is one reason we have so much littering here, and why commonly-help property gets trashed (or taken over by individuals). This is not a criticism of the people - the mentality is a result of many things, and it will take more than a few community-minded folks to change it. You grew up in a place where the community is so much a part of your life that you don't think about it. You would never think of littering, or appropriating a public garbage bin for your own use, or setting up a shop on public property. You also know that your government makes sure no one else will do those things. You pay taxes without cheating (much) and you know your government will provide you with health care and schooling and services, etc. These are all things very foreign to an Egyptian. I think you've held off for good reasons. It's a shame that you probably won't be getting back together in a few years, when you have more experience, or that he probably won't come live in Norway for a few years so that he can "get" your way of life. But if you push yourself into this commitment before you are ready, it will be much more painful.

Egypt: Pet Reguirements?:

Dogs are harder than cats - I don't know what information Tim W posted, as it got deleted, so I won't go into detail until it comes back. We found Lufthansa to be a great airline with animals, and Frankfurt airport is very friendly if you change planes there (the vet there answered an email request about whether we needed EU certificates for our cat if we were staying in the airport, and she assured me we didn't, but said she'd be available if our cat needed help during the transition). Many people have dogs and cats in non-groundfloor apartments, but we have always had the luxury of groundfloor places. It's nice to just open the door and let them out, rather than getting in the elevator for walkies. We always had a fenced garden when we had the dog, and the cat stays close to home (she's a local cat that we took back to the US and then brought back here!). We never had trouble getting the animals here, and they never asked to look at the papers. Of course, the animals always flew with us, either in the cabin or in baggage, which may make a difference. Consider shipping over a year's supply of food and litter. Our dog had a tricky digestive system, and we never found anything he could tolerate here (nor in the US, except for a special diet shipped to us from Oregon). I don't like clay cat litter, so I shipped in bags of our pine litter.

Egypt: Teacher in Alexandria:

Alex is a really neat place to live, but it can be expensive. Any information about your prospective salary and benefits? I'm assuming you are asking because you are thinking of taking a job there, rather than looking for prospective employees. . ..

Egypt: Nanny and staff required:

The cleaning one is easy - just about everyone you meet will be willing to share a maid with you (I can recommend mine, who is dead honest but does not speak much English; I usually go with her to a friend's house and do a walk through so she knows what you want her to do - it would be a way to have a short-term cleaner that you didn't feel obligated to until you get your own - let me know). English-speaking nannies are usually not Egyptian citizens and are looking to their employer to get them their work visas. If you or your husband will be working for an embassy (or a foreign government office, such as USAID) you will be able to do this. I don't know of agencies that handle this. Folks tend to post things at CSA and CAC, but that won't help you until you get here. Would you consider a day care center/preschool instead of a nanny? There are 2 in Maadi that are well thought of and I think they both take that age (I'll check). Some new folks also just did the nanny search - I'll ask if they have any suggestions. Basically, they got here and were interviewing nannies on that first day (their employers had asked around to get names for them - any chance your employer can do that?) More soon - you will find Maadi a very easy place to be with kids!

Egypt: High End Hair Salon needed in Maadi?:

I haven't checked out prices lately but will ask around. I used to use a German lady to dye my hair - she brought her own colors in from Germany several times a year. As I recall, it was $40 or so for roots (I used to go every 4-5 weeks, which is why I eventually just went gray). People expect to pay less because overhead is less (water and power are cheap) and the woman I used worked out of her flat. The issues of running a business as a foreigner might be sticky. Other folks might be able to address this one, as I have no experience with it. About the need for stylists here - I'll ask some of my friends who actually get their hair done (I'm doing the long hair hippy thing right now). Unfortunately, personal services are cheap here (unfortunately for those who sell them) - the place I go to for massage is about $40/hour; they are not certified, but they are good and safe. On the other hand, there are folks who fly to France to get their hair done. . . .

Egypt: Dog Grooming Job:

In Maadi, at least, dogs are popular. Our dog was much sought after for stud (I had to explain to many strangers about how Americans tend to have their dogs "fixed") and many of the street guards would come and pet him when I walked him. There are already a few grooming places, and many groomers come to the house (everyone delivers here, so house calls are not odd). I'm sure there's a market for another groomer, especially among the expat community. Consider advertising with CSA if you're in Maadi. If you are in downtown Cairo, you might look at the Zamalak market - it's close and has more expats. The richer Egyptians I've met have their maids or boabs do the grooming - not sure if there's a market there.

Egypt: marriage in egypt:

Even if you are Muslim and acquire citizenship, my understanding is that you only have visitation rights with the children, who stay with the husband, unless he gives up his claim. I know of one woman who got this only because the man's sisters bugged him (they are an unusual case). In most cases, the man's family will insist on keeping the kids. I suggest you get married in your home country, which at least gives you some rights there in case you have to grab the kids and run (sorry to sound so pessimistic, but I know more expat/Egyptian marriages that ended that way than happily, at least where children were involved). Make sure you have your own source of money and that it is both available to you and not available to him. And really, really think about whether this is what you want. I know of a few expat/Egyptian marriages that worked out well - in all cases, the Egyptian grew up overseas and was comfortable bucking his family (one even married a Jew!). Your partner might be one of these exceptional ones - even then, if something happens to him, you have to deal with his family. Get to know them all and observe him with them (and with his friends). Lastly, gold jewelry is a handy way to have savings ready when you need it - make him buy you lots (OK, that was mostly a joke). Cheers.

Egypt: Automobiles:

We brought our Grand Caravan over in 2001 or so. The gasoline ("benzine") here never seemed to bother it and we had the AC fixed once and some body work done, with no problems. There are lots of Jeeps here, so there shouldn't be a parts problem. If your Jeep is shiny and new, say goodbye to that, since no car escapes scratches and dings. If you are bringing the Jeep to go into the desert, please don't go without a second (or third) Jeep. We had two break down on us on 1 trip (fortunately, the second to break down had already gone back to base and called for a third). We had no radio contact, or cell coverage, and it was a 12-hour walk out of the wadi we were in). Likewise, if you go off-road, take a guide. GPS is not enough. Depending on where you go, you can often join up with a group that's heading out, so you both have extra Jeeps and someone who knows the area. If you go to any of the oasis, there is usually a safari organizer that can get you a guide (if you go to Bahariya, go to Peter's Hotel, otherwise known as the International Health Hotel, or something like that, but all the cops know Peter, and he can arrange a very good guide - the one he got us not only knew the area well, but had majored in geology and gave very instructive lectures). You might consider bringing some of the consumables, such as windshield wipers - we never did get any good ones here and they die quickly in the sun. If your car uses electronic keys, you'll want to get extras before you leave. They unhook your battery on the ship, which confuses many systems on modern cars - our AC lights blinked constantly until we learned the magic set of buttons to reset. Obviously, if you have any anti-theft settings on your radio/CD player, you'll need to use them when you hook back up (don't leave the codes in the car). I'm sure you've checked into the rules - the car can't be past a certain age (not sure what that is - ours was only 2 years old). Good Luck! DrMary

Egypt: Packing for Cairo:

No problem with the computer - even if you had stuff on the hard drive, the customs folks don't look. The Egyptian security folks, the security folks from your home country (and Mossad, if your work, social life or kids' school brings you in contact with Israelis) will possibly toss your house at some point and dump your hard drive, so you might not want anything sensitive on it) but they are really only looking for terrorist stuff, not pirated movies. Of course, the fact that you have an iMac makes you "one of them." The good news is that the computer geeks here speak both Mac and IBM, so you're OK. No reason to bring phones here - your flat should come with them and we've always been able to pick up others here. Many of the jacks are not American-type, but some are (we have half and half in our flat). MP3s are costly here - you might consider bringing some in as gifts. My maid wants one for her kid and I have to keep reminding her that we don't have "extras" to give her. Cheers, DrMary

Egypt: live in cairo for 3 months:

When are you coming? Some months cost more than others. Shopping on the local market and eating out once or twice a week costs us about what it did in the states - about $40/week per person. Hotels can run between $20 and $100/night. What I consider acceptable, you might find "ghetto" or vice-versa. Doing the "hostel-thing" and taking cheap transport, I'd say you could probably do it for $500/month, but that would require sacrifices. To be comfortable and travel to fun places at fun times, I'd allot $1500 - $2000/month. To live like rich folks, I'd allot $4000/month and up. A lot depends on why you are coming. . . Cheers, DrMary

Egypt: visiting my boyfriend:

My friend's son did this recently - he and his girlfriend came for a few weeks; when they traveled around outside of Cairo, she was listed as his "wife" (in Cairo, they stayed with my friend, of course). Since neither of you are Egyptian, the hotel staff won't be checking for a marriage certificate. Fact is, most of us couldn't prove we were married, if asked. You'll find that when you are doing the tourism thing, people will assume you are married. This is not just Egypt - it happened to a me in Scotland when I was traveling with a male co-worker who was also a friend (as are our spouses and kids). At one point, while chatting with some natives at a tourist spot, we were asked if we'd be back. My friend said, "yes, and next time I'll bring my wife and kids" to which I added "oh, yes - your wife would just love this place." Strange looks indeed. In any case, being older than 18 and foreign, it will be assumed that you are married, unless you go out of your way to disprove it. If this makes you or your boyfriend uneasy, try to think of it in terms of semantics. It's not legally binding and it's not really dishonest - it's just that other countries and other cultures expect that couples who travel together are "married." Hope you enjoy the trip! DrMary

Egypt: Visa?:

If your wife will be doing her research at a host university, they should be handling the resident visa for the two of you. It is very difficult to get a work visa without getting a job first with one of the international schools, businesses or government agencies (such as USAID). My understanding, however, is that it is not illegal for you to work without a work visa, but it is illegal for someone to hire you. Since the international schools never get enough visas (they are given an allotment) they just take their changes with the folks without visas - if they are caught, they pay the fine, not you. Obviously, most places won't want to hire you without the visa. What are your chances of swinging an appointment at your wife's host university? It sounds like you folks haven't been given much help by whomever is sponsoring your wife's research. Do you have housing yet? Do they offer any settling in help?

Egypt: Going to Cairo with 2 kids:

When we were here 4 years ago, I heard nothing but good things. I had a friend whose daughter had profound learning disabilities and she was happy with the instruction and care her daughter received there. I don't know how things are now or if they have any particular strengths or weaknesses. I'll ask around - unfortunately my best source of information might still be out of the country for a few weeks. If you want to contact me offline, feel free. It might help if I have some details about what issues you are dealing with right now regarding your child. Cheers, DrMary

Egypt: Buying crockpot or pressure cooker in Egypt:

I bought my crockpot at "Candyland" (what we expats call the US Commissary convenience store - most of us can't shop at the Commissary, but contractors can shop at the convenience store, which mostly sells booze and candy, but also carries the odd appliance) - it's 220 and is very handy. I think I've seen them in the duty-free store at the airport, also. Time to ask some of my friends about pressure-cookers here - how do you say that in Arabic????

Egypt: moving to cairo:

New Cairo is an expansion "city" - it lies roughly east of Cairo. AUC and AIS have moved there; CAC decided not to. There is currently not much public transportation there, but apartments and villas sprang up almost overnight, as well as shopping malls and such. We chose not to move there for 3 reasons when we returned to Cairo: our children attend CAC and the commute is a good 30-45 minutes; my husband's commute would likewise be 30-45 minutes (instead of the 15-20 he has now); and it's an artificial place - no long-term natives to meet, no "history" and a rapidly-changing environment. Maadi is not exactly a "natural" city - it sprang up around the railroad about 100 years ago - but it has mature trees and interesting buildings. It also has a history of having more water - I do worry about what the effect of pumping all that water out to a desert city (mostly to water people's lawns) will be in an area that hasn't had that much water in eons.

Egypt: Unaccompanied baggage:

Your unaccompanied bagged will have to clear customs - this can take a while and is best handled by the folks who are moving you. If you are moving here to work, you should discuss this with your employers - if they don't handle it for you, they should at least give you some guidance. If you are paying for this yourself, you are better off bringing it as an extra bag, if you can fit it into a box 20x20x22 inches and less than 70 lbs. Most employers have an agreement with the Egyptian government to let their employees move their household things here, with the understanding they will take them when they leave. The customs folks do make a list and check your stuff when you move out.

Egypt: Maid Visa:

I have heard that only individuals working with their countries' embassies and such can sponsor foreigner for work visas. Your next best bet is your employer.

 

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