The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

Local Scene

September 29, 2012

Woman experiences foreign culture as an educator in Egypt


PALESTINE — Looking for Adventure

Just a few years into her teaching career and still fascinated with Egypt, Thomason began looking into working abroad through a company called Teach Away.

“They told me the schools they work with in Egypt wouldn’t accept a teacher with dependents, so I started doing my own research through online contacts I made through Teach Away on Facebook. That’s how I found an ad for teaching positions at Global Paradigm School and here I am.”

Her contract with the school is for two years. After those two years, she will have the opportunity to renew her contract if she and the school choose to do so.

Thomason said the whole process of interviewing and getting hired was relatively simple.

“I had a Skype interview with the principal after sending him my resume and then he offered me a position that same week. At that point, getting together all the paperwork was the hardest on my end, but I had already started that process, so it wasn’t all that difficult,” she explained. “All I had to do was get everything notarized. The school took care of everything else on their end such as buying my plane tickets and helping me find an apartment.”

Preparing to move to Egypt was a little more difficult, according to Thomason.

“I think the hardest thing for me was consolidating my life in preparation of the move. I only packed three bags to take with us, so most of our possessions were sold at garage sales and through Craigslist.

“It’s funny how much ‘stuff’ I had that turned out to be expendable. The mementos and some household basics like beds and couches are in storage until we get back.”

Still, the decision to move to another country for two years, was one that Thomason put a lot of thought into.

“It was a tough decision to make. Having to move us both away from all our families and friends was a big decision. Ultimately, I decided the unique experience outweighed any of the negatives,” Thomason said.

“Thank goodness for Facebook and Skype, though!”


Culture Shock

To say that the Egyptian culture is different from the American culture, not to mention the Texan way of life, is an understatement.

“It hits you a hundred times a day,” Thomason admitted. “But, you really do get into a normal pattern and things that were so strange and odd at first become a matter of course. For instance, the call to prayers that are broadcast five times a day. I still hear them and always enjoy the haunting and exotic quality of them, but now I’m almost used to them. Now, though, I don’t stop what I’m doing to listen.”

Another big shock was the traffic in the city and simply getting around.

“When we first got here, I was completely lost every moment of every day. The streets and neighborhoods here can be a challenge to navigate. Especially with all the crazy driving,” she said.

After just a few short weeks, Thomason is happy to report that she can navigate her way home from just about anywhere in the city.

“And I’m not as afraid of taking a taxi and negotiating fares, now that I know what the fair price for rides around the area are,” she added.

“It’s funny how quickly you get settled into the normalcy of everyday life. The first couple of weeks were hectic and weird and sometimes difficult.”

Thomason said she and her daughter were unprepared for the effects and length of the jet lag they both experienced. Initially, they didn’t have “normal hours” for a while.

“Neither one of us could go to sleep at a reasonable time, so we would stay up until 3 or 4 in the morning and then get up at noon or later, take a nap, then stay up late again,” she explained. “But it actually worked out perfectly because we arrived during Ramadan, when all Muslims are fasting throughout the day, so they keep weird hours, too.”

She and her daughter made the best of their situation by getting their shopping and everyday things done at odd hours, including grocery shopping at 1 a.m.

The pair’s first night in Egypt was bizarre, however.

“It was in the height of summer and Ramadan, so the electricity was in full force after sunset. Because of the high electric use, our neighborhood had a blackout at around 8 or so,” Thomason said. “I remember laying there in complete darkness and almost having a panic attack until the last prayer of the day began playing and that soothed me enough to go to sleep that night.”

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