I was just thinking that all the emphasis on crafts I’ve had for the last few weeks, all the kits I’ve bought the kits and the different crafts I’ve done with them, may lead some people to believe that I am crafty. Nothing could be further from the truth. When I was a kid, my worst subject in school was Drawing, to the point that even today I draw like a five year old. My second worst subject in school was Actividades Prácticas, “practical activities”, which could be described as “crafts”. I can’t tell you how bad I was at it. With the exception of a collage of Nefertiti that I made in 7th grade and a clay figurine of “the Devil as a serpent in Paradise”, I was never able to do anything good. Even the devil figurine came about because I was trying to make a face and what turned out look so gaunt that it could be the devil – so I made it horns and, because I knew that making a body was beyond me, I made a serpent shape to which I stuck the head. My art teacher actually liked it 🙂
But anyway, the point is that I suck at crafts but the kits I’ve bought are for little kids and doing what a 7-year old is expected to be able to do is not that hard. And crafts gives me something to do with the kids that is not overwhelmingly boring. But lord, I’m definitely not crafty.
This weekend is the King Tut Festival at the St. Antonius Coptic Church in Hayward. The festival features Egyptian food, picture taking in ancient Egyptian costumes, having your name written in hieroglyphs, Egyptian jewelry and souvenirs and other cool things to buy and a tour of the church. There is a park next door where kids can play. My kids went last night and had a very good time – we are going back today for them to have their picture taken ($20).
I hadn’t thought much about the Copts and Coptic for quite a while. I learned the language twice and forgot it twice. It’s one of the easiest languages to learn, I’m not sure why, though perhaps it was my (now lost) background on Ancient Egyptian that made it so. But both times, I had no problems learning it – just to unlearn it within a year or so. As a language, it’s not particularly useful – nobody speaks it anymore, though it still forms part of some Coptic liturgy. I was trying to see if I remembered any words in Coptic, but I can’t even remember the alphabet 🙁 (except, strangely, for the letter for “sh”). The Copts wrote in the Greek alphabet, to which they added a number of signs to express sounds that did not exist in Greek. The language, derived from Ancient Egyptian, has a very simple grammar. Most of the texts we have in Coptic are religious in nature. I took out my Coptic textbook, almost 20 years old and seemingly untouched. I must have lost the one I actually used and bought a new one that I then never opened. I’m tempted to spend a little time doing the first lessons – perhaps at least the pronunciation of the letters and diphthongs will come back to me. But I have so little free time as it is. I guess I could blog less 🙂
A couple of years ago, thinking I could save enough money to go to Egypt for my 40th birthday (it didn’t happen), I got a copy of Gardiner’s Egyptian Grammar – the textbook I used to learn Middle Egyptian – hoping I would go through it again. I imagine that there are better textbooks now, even back then there was an attempt to teach Ancient Egyptian from a Semitic perspective (and indeed, Egyptian made much more sense to me after learning some Arabic), but it’s easier to go back to what is comfortable and familiar. Still, I only did one lesson before I abandoned the book. Yes, it’s tempting to go back – but what for? I can’t relieve my youth no matter how much I try.
Perhaps for that reason, and not just for the cost, I’ve decided not to go to see the King Tut exhibit which is touring the country. It’s painful to see something once so familiar and now so foreign – to not be able to read the inscriptions, to not remember the details of the religion, to have forgotten the whole history. To be old.
Still, I’m thrilled that Mika, my 7-year old, is so into Egyptology now (after reading the Theodosia books). Perhaps that is reason enough to reacquaint myself with the culture.
My friend Julieta sent me this powerpoint file of old pictures of my city, La Plata. Most are from the early 20th century – showing a city that I never knew, and yet I can recognize.
Download the presentation
The Chronicle reports that Cody’s Books will be closing its flagship store on Telegraph Avenue, near the UC Berkeley campus. Sales have declined as the store faced competition from the internet and chain bookstores. The store has been losing money for the last 15 years.
We’ve been customers – albeit not faithful ones – for even longer than that. I remember the days and evenings in college I spent at Cody’s looking at their books – science, history, anthropology, whatever interest I had at that particular moment – before making my careful selection and treating myself to a book. Before my year abroad in Egypt, and then prior to following trips, I spent hours in the travel section getting more and more excited about what was to come. Cody’s introduced me to Lonely Planet and then to the Rough Guides. Later, as a newly married woman, I started visiting the cookbook section. I don’t know if I ever actually bought a cookbook there – at least a new one – but browsing was enjoyable enough.
But the years went by, and we too succumbed to the internet. As much as one wants to support independent stores – and once in a while I will go and by a book at Cody’s just because – prices are often 40% higher than on the internet. I am part of the problem, I know. I want the best but I don’t want to pay for it. And thus Cody’s falls.
I’m glad that the Cody’s on 4th street will remain open, it’s a beautiful store with a nice area for kids (which reminds me, it’s time we go back there again). But it’s not the same. The 4th street store is a yuppy store, it lacks the passion and hippiness and youth. My youth.