The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

Local Scene

September 29, 2012

Woman experiences foreign culture as an educator in Egypt


PALESTINE — Settling in to New Home

The native Texans have found themselves settling down in their new home.

“I miss having a yard,” Thomason said. “I have adjusted to my new home and our new flat. I love the green area of our neighborhood. Everyone thinks of Egypt as all desert, but we’re in the Nile region, so there are a lot of green areas.”

Hanging her laundry out to dry outside her balcony has proven to be a challenge for Thomason. So has all the dust that quickly makes it’s way onto clean laundry and even into the flat.

“It’s nice having a ‘boab’ on the premises, who is like a general handyman, security guard and doorman,” she said.

Since arriving in Egypt, Thomason and her daughter have visited the pyramids at Giza, some of the mosques, churches, and synagogues in Old Cairo, the big market, the Egyptian Museum and Tahrir Square.

“We were also able to visit the Mediterranean Sea at Alexandria and also the Red Sea at a nice resort about an hour from here,” Thomason said.

Communication is not that difficult as most people there speak English, although Arabic is the national language.

Teaching in Egypt is remarkably similar to teaching in America, according to Thomason, with the main difference being in procedures.

“For instance, we have women that take care of everything for us here, from cleaning to moving furniture, to escorting students, to making copies. And there are forms for everything,” Thomason explained. “I thought America had perfected red tape.

“Other than that, though, the faculty meetings are similar, the pedagogical strategies are the same ones we learned back home, and the teachers all still have the same gripes – tardies, rowdiness, and getting the grading done.”

Being an American teacher in Egypt has been relatively smooth for Thomason. She is her daughter’s English teacher.  

“Working and living here as an American has been very pleasant,” she said. “Everyone is very friendly, and, in fact, I feel a little guilty at times when talking to other Egyptian teachers because the expat teachers are given more benefits, such as free health care, higher salaries, living expenses, local trip allowances, and travel back home. However, Westerners are looked upon as rich in some ways, so the prices are increased for things like rent, so that evens it out a bit.”

According to Thomason, when she factors in the low cost of living and the room and board expenses that are paid by the school, the pay is comparable to what she was making in the Dallas area.

Egyptian students are very similar to American students, the English teacher said.

“The students here are very grade conscious, so that is a good motivator. The Egyptian students ask a lot more procedural type questions, which can bog down the classroom, but they are so respectful and friendly that I try not to let that get to me,” Thomason said. “I can honestly say I have not a single mean-spirited student. They are just a bit more rambunctious at times than the students at home, but that goes along with the Egyptian language and culture, which overall is very open and giving and expressive.”

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