07 August 2007

Aug 6 – First day of training

El Banna picked me up 8am and showed me around the office. The Pioneer office is in a sort of old-looking 8-story building. The reception office is on the first floor; offices and conference rooms are on the 4th and 5th floors. My training room is on the 5th floor. Those floors, plus the other floors are apartments.

The elevator is scary-looking thing…it can hold about 4 friendly people. You open a green, metal door (just a regular handle-and-hinge type door) and behind that is the elevator door that slides sideways. When the doors close, it’ll rattle and groan its way up or down the shaft to your floor.

El Banna told me that when they first moved into the building, there was nothing else there…just dirt lot desert. Now, the building is on a crowded, narrow alley. Parking is a real problem as there aren’t any lots and the streets are very narrow. They’re looking for another location where all the people can be together instead of split across floors.

At morning break, they brought in boxes of pastries with tea and soda. One box of sweet pastries and one salty. They were all little hors d’ouevre size pieces. I didn’t know, at first, that some were sweet and some weren’t so I was a little surprised when I bit into the first one and it had cheese and seasoned ground meat. The sweet ones were to die for! Like little bite-sized crème brulee or chocolate mousse. (Is it sounding like I’m eating my way across Cairo??)

El Banna had to leave mid-morning…he had a death in the family so he excused himself and told me he wouldn’t join the group for the dinner cruise on the Nile. Sad news, but you can’t control that sort of thing. It was his wife’s sister’s brother (is that a brother-in-law?).

Before lunch, we collected orders. I ordered a chicken tikka with rice and vegetables but had started on a case of “mummy tummy” by the time it arrived and couldn’t eat much of it.

Class went well…everyone seemed to “get it” and did well on the practice exercises. We wrapped up at 5. To make the logistics easier, instead of having someone take me back to the hotel, I went to Shaimaa’s place between training and the dinner cruise.

We met Sherif at the dock and got a table near the dance floor. There was a guy playing keyboard when we sat down. A little later another guy played sax and clarinet, then a man and woman sang some songs.

It took me a while to realize that the first song was in English… My Way. About half the songs were in English. The singers would wander through the audience trying to get people to come up on the stage and dance. One of them snagged me but I declined until Shima convinced Tarek to go up with me. He and I danced a bit while Shima and Sherif took lots of pictures.

I told both of them afterward that I did NOT want to see the pictures posted at the office… It was all part of the fun.

During this time, we partook of the buffet. I ate hardly anything…and it was more than I wanted. Left to my own devices, I wouldn’t have eaten at all but I felt I had to eat something.

Between the warm ups and the main event, we went out on deck to view Cairo by night from the Nile. Any city is prettier by night, I think and Cairo is no exception. There are a lot of high-rise hotels along the Nile…big names like Sheraton. Out on the river there were a number of sailboats cruising along. Shima told me the other day that they have sails up for effect, but the boats are actually moved by motor. Still, they’re pretty and add to the ambiance.

After a turn around the deck, we went back in for the main entertainment…the belly dancer. She was accompanied by musicians…several guys on drums, one on a violin sort of instrument and a guy playing the finger cymbals. After she finished her first set, she went to change clothes and a tanoor dancer came on. He had a long skirt-like thing on and spun around and around to make the skirt part stand out. And when I say he spun around and around, that’s exactly what he did…non-stop…for about 10 minutes. He did a number of things for a bit of variety but he was constantly turning the entire time. That, to me, was more amazing than the belly dancer.

The belly dancer came back after her costume change, this time accompanied by a guy playing an oboe-like metal instrument. With all the drums and suchlike, it was painfully loud.

After the show ended, we went back on deck to enjoy the night on the way back to the dock. At dock, since Shima was still having trouble with her swollen legs, she said Sherif would take me back to my hotel. It was about 11 by the time I got there and all I did was fall into bed.