by Myrna Wierson
Les and I determined early on that our four children needed at least one full time parent. His job was “wherever CH2M HILL took him” and mine was raising our family in the interim. The longest time that he was away was about a year, but most of the time it was a week or two gone and a month at home, etc. Who’s to say what it would have been like with Les around more. We all learned to cope and had some great adventures.
Our oldest daughter, Kathy, newly graduated from OSU and Eric, our 12 year old, accompanied us to Egypt. Our home was a flat (40 stairs up) in the Miami district, which is notable because it wasn’t close to the Guest House and the rest of the expats. No heat, it was cold in January and February; lots of windows, nice balconies and plenty of room. The kitchen was a challenge. Everything that came home from the market had to be washed before going into the frig or on the shelves. We fought cockroaches the entire time we were there, and I always pounded on kitchen drawers before opening them. A good part of the time we had Dee Mayer, one of the secretaries, living with us. With Kathy, Dee and myself I didn’t feel that a maid was a necessity in our apartment, but many of the families had extra help and felt that it was their contribution to the local economy.
My Arabic was limited to grocery shopping, greetings and directions. Eric picked up a lot of Arabic from his friends. He went to the American school and loved it! I did have a driver that took me to get groceries. Les said that I could always get more for my money then he could. We ate well and rarely were sick. Lost some weight with the absence of fast and processed foods. The fish and shrimp were extraordinarily good, but with the lack of refrigeration I could easily become a vegetarian.
We entertained and were entertained. We thought that being invited for dinner at 9pm and not fed until 11pm a bit hard to adjust to. We enjoyed the people there. The Guest House folks always had something going on and that truly felt like a lovely oasis in the midst of chaos.
Our two college age daughters came over in June and spent the summer with us, and with Kathy there I was never lonely or bored. I enjoyed Egypt. The antiquity is awesome. Khan Kalili, the big bazaar in Cairo was one of our favorite places to bargain for treasures. Staying at the Mina House and waking up to see the Great Pyramid framed in the window was astonishing. The Cornishe along the Mediterranean in Alexandria was a wonderful place to walk.
I wasn’t there nearly as long as many of the other CH2M HILL wives, but I did feel that it was a valuable experience, something challenging and I am very happy that I had the opportunity to live in an Islamic country.
It is hard to explain the smells; the incredible blueness of the sea that clashed with the sky in its intensity; the noises and the monochromatic color scheme of dust and buildings. These are the memories that linger.