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A recap of recent fires in Alexandria, Egypt over the course of the past year:

1. Fire in Tom’s room. Extinguished by yours truly. Condition of room: livable.

2. Fire in Tammam and Paul’s apartment. Extinguished by Egyptian firefighters, said occupants forced to retire to Tom’s couch and the men’s dorms (respectively). According to local ba5aal lore (shopowner’s wisdom), it’s at least in part a result of faulty Corniche apartment wiring, which is notorious for being corroded by the salt air. Sparks and infernos happen all the time, they say. Said Tammam and Paul now living in a cozy Sidi Bishr place on the edge of the world.

3. Fire at the College of Education (today). Explosion of gas canisters in the cafeteria that left four people injured, two badly burned, and the whole faculty in a literal cloud of ignorance. Katie present teaching class next door. Chaos, no fire extinguishers, late-arriving firefighters. No one informed and class proceeded as usual. Apparently it was quite difficult to get out, but few people were hurt beyond that.

This country is a death trap some days. You hear enough about terrorism in the Western media. What about building collapses, fires, and being trampled? Car and tram accidents. I suppose we forget that Egypt is a third-world country and doesn’t quite have building codes; ones that would require salt-resistant wiring on seaside buildings, prevent buildings on the verge of collapse from being lived in, and require sprinklers and fire extinguishers (and fire alarms!) to be installed in buildings.

These things, I suppose, are just a little too mundane to make the evening news back home.

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Fire!

It rained pretty hard yesterday. It was that nice, wind-whipped rain that makes the banners in the street go all jumpy and the fat, nasty kind of rain that makes you grateful that you have some warm, well-lit place with relatively few drafts to duck into at the end of the day. One with a cup of French-pressed coffee and a space heater– which isn’t quite a fireplace, but will do at the end of the day if you’ve got a couple of candles.

It was a normal evening, though. We all had settled into our respective areas of roost for the evening; Tom had gone to bed, John plowing away at the textbooks in his room, and I was one the phone with Melissa.

Until around 10:30-11ish, when Tom shouts from his room, “There’s a fire in my room. Seriously guys! I have no idea what to do about it.”

I look in, and there is Tom…and a small fire surrounding his space heater. Apparently, the thing had so overheated as to melt through the base and set the floor on fire.

“Hang on, Melissa. I have to go put out a literal fire.”

After dousing the thing with a bucket of water, opening the windows for the night (melting plastic has a rotten smell), we three stood around the now-dead appliance and considered our options. Tell Madam Faten now? Later? What the hell are we going to do with this floor (which is, by the way, now covered in little spatterings of melted plastic)?

Exciting night.

Watch those space heaters, people.

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