Craig's Travels
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2007 Holiday Letter

            In looking back at 2007, it is a year filled with many blessings for the Gerard family in Egypt.  It is filled with some heartbreak as well; such is the cycle of life.  Life can be a little bittersweet.  The more you enjoy it, the faster it goes by.  The faster it goes by, the more you want it to slow down so you can keep enjoying it.  But 2007 sped by with life altering events, lots of great visitors to Cairo, and a couple of quiet moments to relax and take it all in.

            The biggest news of year is the birth of our first child, Shai Adam Kirshner Gerard, who was born on April 20. We have spent many hours staring at him trying to figure out which parent he looks like, what he is thinking, or more importantly, how the hell did we end up with a child.  Shai is now 8 months old.  He is a beautiful kid.  His smile lights up the room and his laughter is contagious even amongst strangers. It is almost too much; random Egyptians will come up to us and want to take their picture with him. It’s a bid odd. Each day for Shai brings a new adventure as he grasps more and more of his surroundings and shoves them in his mouth. We’re waiting anxiously for the first words (Daddy is pulling for “Yankees”) and we’re waiting not so anxiously for his mobility. For now, he’s all we could ask for.

            Life for Ronit is going well.  Her co-workers and supervisors continue to sing her praises at the USAID mission in Cairo. She was recently given the enormous task of overseeing Egypt’s Avian Influenza program – a $24 million project aimed at building the capacity of the veterinarians, farmers, public health workers, and the general public to rapidly respond to the zoonotic disease and know how to prevent it’s spread.  The project allows her to use her degree in Agriculture and Rural Sociology, and she sees the measurable positive outcomes of her actions.  Ronit continues to work out multiple times a week and has reached her pre-pregnancy weight long before the 9-month mark. She is a fabulous mother, though she does carry the strong Jewish-mother gene, the one that causes excess worry. But who can blame her with a kid as cute as Shai. Ronit was SCUBA certified this year in November.  She also has extended her Green Thumb onto Craig. Together they set up a mini-garden on the balcony and grew African hot peppers along with basil, rosemary, and tomatoes. Ronit and Craig also coached soccer for the 2nd year in a row in the girls ages 9-14 league. The results won’t be reported here since they are not important. What is important is that everyone had FUN!

            Craig continues to love his job being “cruise director” for the US Embassy in Cairo.  Part of the job is to plan events for the mission community.  He has planned a number of fun events for kids of all ages this year including paint ball, a pub crawl, a mission art gallery, a chili cook off, a beer brewing class, a Suez Canal transit aboard an aircraft carrier… the list goes on and on. Ultimate Frisbee keeps Craig in shape, he plays twice a week mostly with people younger and faster than he. Craig also was certified as an Open Water SCUBA diver this year, and has done about 10 dives so far.  From time to time he even dusts off the guitar to sing to Shai.
            Cairo saw a slew of visitors this year, which has made the time fly too quickly. We started off 2007 with Ali & Judah visiting. Later that month, our friends Matt & Mary joined us for almost a month. In the Spring we all headed back to DC for the birth, and then to California to introduce Shai to friends and family. Getting the whole family together for the Brit Milah ceremony and having four generations together in one room was definitely a highlight of the year. Shortly after returning to Cairo, Joan & Neil visited, wisely choosing one of the hottest times of the year. Ronit’s brother Jason and her mom Ruth, visited in August. In September, the whole family headed up to Israel to spend a week with friends and family.  Seeing Jerusalem completely shut down on Yom Kippur is a sight I will never forget.  October saw two more sets of guests, Michelle & Rod and Matt & Robin. Four of Ronit’s Peace Corps friends joined us in November. Matt, Sammi, Josh and Amanda came and we finally used our four-bedroom apartment to its fullest potential.  We took a trip to Mt. Sinai and Dahab with the group, where we got to use our newly earned SCUBA certification. We have one more visitor scheduled for the end of December, Sonia and Shoul.  Then in January, we’ll head out to Southern California to visit family and friends. And since Ali & Judah just had their first child, Shai needs to meet his new cousin Madeline, whom we love so much already even though we haven’t met her.

            Just as we were blessed this year with two additions to the family, we were equally saddened by the loss of both Grandpa Mel and Grandpa Ira. They were always so full of life, so it is hard to imagine life without them. It was extremely difficult to be so far away from our family during those times. We will miss and remember them fondly.

            In looking forward to 2008, we hope to see and hear from all of you more often.  We hope to be better about keeping in touch.  We’d love to have more and more visitors.  At the end of summer, we’ll be moving again. Not quite sure where yet, and we probably won’t know for a couple of months; we’ll keep you posted. In the mean time, stay healthy, happy holidays, happy New Year and know we are thinking about you despite the miles.

With lots of Love,

Ronit, Craig & Shai

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