A precious moment

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I was going to complete my week’s blogging with some more flower photographs but I had a precious moment today that I thought I would share with you. Those of you who regularly follow my blog know that I have been unwell of late and seem to be having a protracted recovery. This week I have turned a corner and regularly walk to the local cafe for a delicious cappuccino. It was previously a bakery and the owners retired. We were all excited that a new Argentinean bakery and coffee shop was opening.

It has been an instant success both with regular gringos and many different Latino people who live here. We have a local wealthy population of Latinos who have immigrated from countries that are unstable, such as Venezuela, and also from Mexico. I really enjoy hearing all the dialects chatting about how delicious the pastries are. They have a funny chalkboard outside that implores us to eat pastries because skinny people are easier to kidnap. The nice young man, who I assumed was Latino, asked me if I would like a pastry. I said, “I would but I am not going to…” The man next to me said, “Didn’t you see the sign outside saying skinny people are easier to kidnap?” We all laughed and I told them that I lived too close to the cafe to regularly eat pastries.

The young man asked me where I was from (Scottish accent) and I, in turn, asked him. To my surprise he said Jerusalem. “Arabie or Hebrew?”, I asked. His face lit up with delight when he realized I spoke a little Arabic. I wished him a good afternoon in Arabic and he beamed. Eventually (good coffee is slow) my coffee was ready and I thanked him in Arabic. He said, “It is so lovely to speak Arabic!” We forget that immigrants can feel lonely in their new country and, let’s face it, Arabic speakers are not particularly popular right now. I was always very grateful to Egyptian taxi drivers speaking a little English to match my little Arabic. Pay it forward, folks and have a good weekend!

Toffee – our baby cat

Toffee on the mantel

Aaawww – that cute little face. She doesn’t look like she has the capacity to reduce you to a whimpering wreck, does she? Not a day goes by when she doesn’t whine, beg, look at you as though you torture her and then cuddle me obsessively. It must be my fault but I don’t know how it happened.

Toffee, aka Toffee Tiddles or Baby girl, is our baby. She is going to be 13 this spring but is still our baby and behaves like it. We were introduced to Toffee when she was about 6 weeks old, so she has known us forever. At some point, before she was a year old, something traumatic happened to her. We have no idea what it was but it changed her personality. She was injured but was too upset for us to take her to the vet in Egypt. Our gardener found her and kept her in his room. We would like to think that she fell off the balcony but we think that a human did something bad to her, perhaps unintentionally. Most Egyptians love cats so it is hard to imagine that anyone deliberately did anything bad but they may have shooed her into the path of a car, perhaps.

I watched her mother, Mrs. Stripe, play with Toffee and her sibling Treacle (coal black), for hours in the garden. The play was really a lesson in how to hunt and it was usually mom’s tail. As they grew older, the siblings would play fight with each other but as feral kittens didn’t utter a sound. It was the weirdest experience to watch them hurt each other and squeak silently! Toffee was the dominant kitten and came into the house soonest. She loved to chase balls around the house and kick-started by putting her back legs up the wall. Those little paw marks on white-washed walls were so difficult to remove. Although her mum was not a hunter, more a scavenger, Toffee has a natural hunting ability and is literally addicted to lizards. They have some LSD type substance on their skin. Over the years I have rescued hundreds of lizards including a big black one that bit me!!

Her first proper toy was a handmade tartan teddy knitted by an American expat. It was a few inches long and she carried it everywhere. It was hard to get either toys or cat food in Egypt but we managed with ping-pong balls. Her absolute favorite was a toy that I bought for myself. This was another hand-knitted doll who was a genial witch, dressed in a purple outfit and a knitted broomstick. It was Halloween and I was just so delighted to find something so cute. Toffee took one look at it and ran off with Nanny Ogg in her mouth – it was as big as she was!

When we finally managed to get her to the vet for vaccinations and neutering, she was the worst patient ever – even worse than Zhenny… Our veterinarian had an assistant that looked like an Egyptian Lurch. His size and temperament calmed/scared most animals but not Toffee. She totally trashed Dr. Farouk’s office – she escaped from Lurch/Mohammed’s grasp, ran around like a mini tornado, breaking everything as she went. We finally found her inside one of his desk drawers. It was the only time I saw Dr. Farouk close to losing his cool. He wanted to know why we were looking after a wild animal but by that time, she was injured and we had no choice. She has rarely visited any vet in her 12⅔rd years and we hope she just drops dead someday. Apart from us adoring our little baby, she is has been a fabulous intermediary between Zhenny and Mrs. Stripe who both consider themselves alpha females. Toffee will play with them both, particularly Zhenny who she treats as a sibling.

She didn’t find her voice for years but now has a really loud, annoying squeak. I will put up with it for ages and then speak to her in Arabic. She puts her tail between her legs and then runs under the bed. Sigh. Then I have to go persuade her than Mummy is not an ogre (she should have met her Grandma) and please come out for some organic chicken. By now you should realize who the problem is…

Toffee with Mummy in Egypt

Toffee with Mummy in Egypt

Instructions from Mexico

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No more blogs for a short while as we go on a little vacaciones to Mexico. I had threatened to go to Mexico City on my own as my husband is curiously tentative about going south of the border. We have both traveled most of the world and he has been to very dangerous places in Africa and Latin America. A few years ago I went on solo vacations to Belize and Yucatan and finally I tempted him to go to Baha. Not Cabos – a little mission town where you have to take cash…

I have bad Spanish but it is good enough to argue the price of a taxi in Spanish when in Peru. The Canadian tourists that I met in Yucatan were amazed that I traveled on local buses solo. Anyway…I am too cheap to use the expensive transportation from the airport so searched around for a local shuttle operator. My husband said, “What if they don’t turn up?” “We will take a taxi”, I replied exasperatedly. To his relief I have chosen well and I laughed out loud when I read their very precise instructions.

There are reservation numbers, maps of terminals, and endless documentation for a $12 ride – told you I was cheap. It is so precise – ‘go directly through immigration and customs, blah, blah. Do not stop! Only approach our representatives with orange t-shirts, the company logo and your name on a sign’. I wondered if we were potential kidnap victims but this is just to get us past the time-share predators! All that was missing was the title – For Stupid Gringos.

It is a pity that I look like my one Scandinavian ancestor or I might breeze through but I know they will make a bee-line to the incredibly blonde white lady. Once I start being stroppy in Scottish accented Spanish they will back off in terror – it’s even better in Arabic. The Egyptian taxi drivers called me ‘Khamsa Guinea’ which translates to 5 Egyptian pounds. I would pay no more than 5 LE to go anywhere in Maadi. That was the middle ex-pat rate, not the ridiculous tourista rate or the slightly cheaper local rate. One unsuspecting driver from another area, like Nasr City, once picked me up and said it would be 25 LE. I shouted, in Arabic, for him to stop the car and got out. He tried to argue with me but I just said I would wait for the next taxi. Eventually, with his tail between his legs, he told me to get in and he would accept 5 LE.

Hasta la vista, baby!

San Luis Obispo

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This is the beautiful San Luis Obispo Mission. Note the date – 1772. My mission ancestors moved up the Californian coast around that time, when it was still a Spanish Territory. The first conquistadors visited in the 1500s. Some of us Hispanic people have been here in the USA for a long time with a rich and full history. I am so proud of my 4% Native American DNA …although they were illegal immigrants, too! There was a recent National Geographic article that stated that they have proved categorically that current Native American people have a direct DNA link to those recent skeleton finds in the American continent that date back 12,000 years. Their bone structure looks different likely because they evolved to live in different conditions. In front of the San Luis Obispo Mission, there is a delightful water sculpture that pays homage to the Chumash, the native people who lived there. They made remarkable plank canoes, fished, hunted and gathered nuts, especially acorns. Like many other tribes their numbers were decimated by the diseases that the Spanish brought such as influenza and smallpox. Eventually they moved into the Missions and adapted to life with the new migrants, perhaps unwillingly? San Luis Obispo was the first place in California that I fell in love with. Click on the red link to see more of the town and my adventures. POSTCARD FROM SAN LUIS OBISPO – click here