4 citizens of the world at home again in Hampstead


June 29, 1994|By PAT BRODOWSKI

Where, in the middle of Egypt, can you find a Christmas tree? A Halloween pumpkin? A box of Girl Scout cookies or a Barbie birthday party?

One Hampstead family knows where you can find America in Egypt. They lived in Cairo for seven years.

Stan and Anne Way chose to combine two passions. As schoolteachers who wanted to see the world, they teach at American schools abroad.

They met almost 20 years ago, while teaching in Brazil. Their romance continued as Stan went to Zaire and Anne to Poland. They married in Kenya and worked together in Belgium and Egypt.

Next fall, it's a new country. Mr. Way will be director of the American school in Ouagodougou, in the country of Burkina Faso, formerly Upper Volta. They've signed on for three years.

"Imagine Spring Garden Elementary planted in Ouagodougou. We have the same books, same philosophy of education," says Anne Way. "But when you walk into the classroom, in Cairo, for example, there were 57 nationalities."

Cairo American College enrolled 1,400 students, kindergarten to grade, and half were American.

The school in French-speaking Burkina Faso will have fewer than 80 students, prekindergarten through eighth grade, with correspondence high school from the University of Nebraska.

About eight children will be American citizens, including Steffi Way, who is entering third grade, and her brother, Dart, entering seventh.

Dart, who is 12, and Steffi, 8, have found that growing up in Cairo is, well, different.

Dart's Cub Scout pack, for example, camped out in Wadi Digla, "the petrified desert," where one digs for "desert diamonds," crystals of quartz buried in the sand. It didn't rain during the camp-out. But there was a sandstorm.

Steffi's Brownie troop went Christmas caroling while riding in an Egyptian donkey cart.

The family went sailing. On the Nile, you sail on a falucca, a flat-bottomed boat with a trapezoidal sail. The design has been in use since the days of the pharaohs.

For Thanksgiving, the Way family went to El Arish, on the North Sinai coast.

"We'd see the Bedouin market, where my mom would look for beads to make necklaces," said Steffi, recalling a big market crowded with sheep, goats, chickens and pots and pans.

Near Christmas, a local shopkeeper would eye Dart's dad and pull out a spindly cedar grown on the Mediterranean coast.

"You come next week, I'll have one for you," he'd tell Mr. Way. He'd roll out large squashes in October. These weren't quite orange, but they were large enough to carve into jack-o'-lanterns.

The Way family always returns to its Hampstead home for the summer.

"We appreciate Hampstead," said Mrs. Way. "This is America. Hampstead is nice. There are all kinds of things to immerse ourselves in, to live the American culture, so our children will know their roots are American."

So, what's it been like to be a kid in Egypt?

Dart called Cairo "the Paris of Africa." He remembered local markets with "big pots of pickled vegetables."

"Egyptians ate beans for breakfast with pita bread and oil and feta cheese."

In contrast, said Steffi cheerfully, "In Hampstead, we can go to McDonald's every week." When they discovered a McDonald's during a family vacation in Turkey, Steffi went there seven days ++ straight.

"The first year or two, you do the tourist things," Dart said. "But how many times can you see the pyramids?"

"I would trade them for Cranberry Mall," laughed his mom.

Children attend school from Sunday to Thursday.

"We had tasting day" during Egyptian culture class, said Steffi. Besides pigeon, pita bread with tahini (sesame paste) mixed with vinegar and oil was popular fare. One sweet was similar to shredded wheat immersed in honey.

Edible sugar figurines shaped like dolls and horses were sold on Mohammed's Day, an Egyptian holiday that celebrated the Prophet's birthday.

One full-year project for sixth grade combined areas of study. Each student chose one nation to investigate. The result was a miniature world's fair staged by the 18-member class. At an international school, friends are a prime source of interesting material.

"You were doing projects about your classmates," said Dart, who wore a friend's lederhosen, borrowed cultural artifacts, and made maps and foods for his report on Germany.

School field trips were American style. Steffi's first-grade trip was to the Great Pyramids at Giza. The class pulled up in big yellow school buses.

"The tourists would really look. We'd laugh and say, 'What's wrong with this picture?' " said Mrs. Way.

In second grade, Steffi's class traveled to the Egyptian museum, saw tapestries being woven, and crafted clay pots using an Egyptian technique of combining straw with terra cotta clay.

Living abroad, Dart has found witnessing history is not always easy.

The family's European vacation spots included Greece, Austria and Yugoslavia.

"Ah, Dubrovnik," said Dart, with angst. "It's hard to believe it could be reduced so quickly."

Dart was on the six-member travel team for Academic Games. "It's like Jeopardy," he said. His team spent four days in Kuwait for the regional match among international schools.

A day later was his sixth-grade field trip, to Luxor, site of famous temples along the Nile.

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