This week has felt like a pretty full, busy week to me . . . of course, it really hasn't been. On Sunday, I sat around reading all day because I wanted to finish the book . . . actually the series . . . The Dragon King series by Stephen Lawhead. He writes fantasy and some historical fiction. He's classified as a Christian writer, but the stuff I've read so far has Christian overtones without being as overt as some other Christian fiction, so it would be a great introduction to Christian fiction . . . anyway, I digress. On Monday I cleaned all day. On Tuesday morning I went to my first ever meeting of the Maadi Women's Guild, the actual subject of this post. Maybe more on the rest of the week some other time, or maybe not, if something more interesting comes up :-)
I've been looking forward to this meeting ever since we got here in mid-June. The Maadi Women's Guild (MWG) is a ministry of Maadi Community Church, and it includes monthly meetings, Bible studies, and benevolence opportunities. I heard about Maadi Women's Guild either just after or just before I arrived here, but it, like most other things, had shut down for the summer. So when I saw a new Maadi Messenger, the free magazine put out by the MWG, I eagerly scoured it for information about the first meeting of the year. And there it was, a full-page ad: "You're invited to a Par-tea." We'll get to that in a minute.
According to the ad, the shopping started at 9:30, and the meeting started at 10. Now what kind of woman would I be if I wasn't interested in the shopping? So my friend Lauren and I walked down to the church, where the meeting was held, and arrived shortly after 9:30. There were booths set up with various items for sale. I'm not sure, but I think that the booths all were run by charitable organizations. There was one that looked like it was from the recycling center that I visited on the Mokkatum tour (see here and here); it had the recycled cards, some rugs, a few blankets, and some cute kids' items: alphabet books (one even in Arabic!) and stuffed animals. Other booths were selling bags, jewelry, carved wood products . . . all sorts of things. I didn't see anything I couldn't live without, but Lauren purchased a small item or two.
Then it was time for the meeting to start. Everyone went around a large curtain that had been hung to divide the shopping and meeting areas. In the meeting area, several tables had been set up, each with place settings for eight to ten people. Each table also had a tea set and some sort of food -- cookies, pastries, or cake. There was a hostess assigned to each table whom I assume furnished the refreshments. So we enjoyed a tea party during the meeting; hence, "par-tea."
The meeting started out with all the newcomers standing up, introducing themselves, and saying how long they'd been in Maadi. There were a lot of newcomers, although not all of them were new to Egypt or even to Maadi. I think one woman had been in Cairo for 15 years but was attending her first meeting of the MWG. The newest arrival was Lauren, who had been here for about a week. All the newcomers received welcome kits--and they were great :-) Mine had a brochure about MWG, two post cards with a picture of an Egyptian shop, five greeting cards with a picture of camels, a couple of handouts about benevolence opportunities, the booklet "Helpful Hints & Health Notes for Cairo," and best of all, the 1999 edition of Cairo Khamsin Collection: Cookin' Up a Storm, a cookbook published by MWG. The recipes look like they'll be good to try out, but my favorite part is at the front. The cookbook lists Arabic translations relevant to cooking (Arabic names for cuts and kinds of meat, fruits, vegetables, spices and herbs), temperature conversion tables (since most of us use Fahrenheit, but the 220V appliances are labeled in Centigrade/Celsius), and lists of substitutions for items that aren't easily found here. Incredibly useful stuff!
After the introductions, we got a brief overview of MWG and what it's all about, plus some information provided by a gentleman associated with one of the charities MWG supports--this one helps children who have special needs. There also was a short devotion. We also had two ice breakers. For the first one, we separated ourselves into groups based on the month of our birthdays, got to know each other a little, and came up with a name for our group based on something we all had in common and something relevant to Egypt. There were only two of us November babies, so it was a bit easier for us. We became the Amazing American Cat Duo. Both of us had two cats that we had adopted since arriving in Egypt. For the second ice breaker, each table made a hat from a bag of supplies that was located under the table. Supplies included cardboard, ribbon, fake flower strands, colored tissue paper . . . some of the hats turned out to be really pretty, actually. (I don't remember in exactly what order all of these things happened, and I may have forgotten something, but you get the idea.)
There will be another meeting next month. I'm looking forward to it. In the meantime, I filled out a card indicating an interest in becoming more involved with MWG. There's a Bible study I'd like to participate in, and I want to get involved volunteering with a charity or two. I wouldn't mind writing an article or two for the Maadi Messenger, although that would require that I come up with an idea of what to write about. And I'd like to get involved with the annual Christmas Bazaar, which is a big-deal community-wide sale that benefits charities, although I've never been involved in something that big before, so it would be best for me to play a small support role this year so I can see what's involved and how I can best help in the future. In short, I can see the Maadi Women's Guild becoming a significant part of my life here in Maadi.