Tuesday, June 15, 2010

We're S-H-O-P-P-I-N-G, we're shopping

We interrupt our Egypt tales for a story of my latest library adventure.
Posted by Picasa


It started off as an innocent enough trip to the library. I had to go inside to hand return my ILL book (which was amazing, by the way - The Savior and The Serpent). Since this particular branch has the weirdest hours I've ever seen, I had to do it in the middle of my own work day, so I combined the library trip with my food run.

But then I saw that they were having a book sale.

I'm a sucker for book sales.

I'm apparently even more of a sucker for children's books.

Especially fairy tales and fantasies.

Barely 10 minutes after returning my book and browsing the children's book sale room, I had collected 21 books.
Posted by Picasa


I just couldn't pass them up! I remember loving the artwork of Animalia as a kid. Who wouldn't want to read Winnie the Pooh to their future children, and Anne of Green Gables to their future daughters? Or to themselves? These are books I anticipate reading again and again, so I didn't even second guess my choices.

The Chronicles of Narnia books I picked up were because they were from that specific set. I had received the set when I turned 9, but I didn't get into them right away and eventually let my grandfather borrow them. Sadly, by the time I finally got them back as an adult, there were three books missing. I'd replaced them with newer editions, but my set was tragically mismatched, and the order had changed. I bought all four books they had at the sale, since I couldn't remember which ones I was mismatched, hoping they might complete my set. Luckily, two of them did, and all I'm missing is The Horse and His Boy.

Here's what I scored at this sale:

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Last Battle
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Silver Chair The Chronicles of Narnia: The Magician's Nephew The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
All 7 Anne of Green Gables
All 4 Winnie the Pooh
The Complete Grimm's Fairy Tales (1980 Random House)
Scottish Fairy Tales retold by Philip Wilson
Peter & The Starcatchers
Around the World Fairy Tales
Animalia by Graeme Base

All 21 books = $13

WIN!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Walkin' in Memphis


I've always thought it was lame when someone got back from some traveling adventure and didn't blog about it until a month later and were far too detailed and I wonder does anyone really care?

Well, here I am, being lame.

I've been home three weeks and have only made it to Day 2 of my travels.

But you know what? I don't care if you don't care. I know my family cares (hi guys!), and I care, and this is MY blog, so I'll do what I like. Still, if I blog about each individual day in complete(ish) detail, it's going to take me far too long.

So, you're getting the highlights version!

Today, we're going to talk about my adventures at all the pyramids.

Seriously, y'all? They're amazing.

The Heisses have been to the pyramids at Giza 9 times now, so I guess it's a little like me and the DC Monuments. It's a bit "Yeah, here are the monuments, they're cool, but I've seen them before."

Fortunately, I didn't let that stop me from getting REALLY excited to see the pyramids.

And climb up them (at the Great Pyramid).


The pyramids are HUGE. SO amazingly HUGE, especially considered they were built without modern technology. There is something magical about not only being right there, but also seeing them peek up behind buildings as you travel around the city.

And ride camels around them (at Giza).


Camels are tall. And their feet are kind of weird. You have to lean back as they stand up, and that's a little scary, and then you're moving, but not really in control, and much higher than you anticipate (especially if you're used to riding horses).

And go inside them (at the Red Pyramid).

And sing theme songs to 90s cartoons.
video

Now, pyramids smell a little funny, probably because obnoxious humans have urinated in them. Other than that, it's just so cool to be able to be there!

And climb ALL the way up the entrance ramp.

At the Red Pyramid:
video

At Abusir:


And love every minute of it.

It was also amazing to see the Great Sphinx.


And kiss him.


The temple ruins at Abusir gave me my first glimpse of actual Egyptian hieroglyphics on actual Egyptian ruins! Wow!


All of it was truly awesome, in the original sense of the word.

Just like me. . .

Saturday, June 5, 2010

I Hope It Gives You Hell

In a perfect world, I'd be able to sleep from 2-3 AM to 10-11 AM everyday. I'd get my 8 hours, then have a productive and enjoyable 16 hours, and then do it all again.

But we don't live in a perfect world, and sometimes getting enough sleep during the week when I almost have to force myself to go to bed and get up at a time appropriate to my normal workday is a major challenge. A weeknight when I'm actually tired to enough to go to bed AND fall asleep before midnight is a blessing.

Last night was such a night. The night previous I was unable to sleep until 4 AM, for reasons my conscious brain is unaware of, so last night I was most assuredly out before midnight. I fell asleep reading and remember waking up and turning out my light at 12:07 AM.

I also left my phone on last night. I often do, as it's the only way people have of contacting me in an emergency, but I've recently taken to turning it off night so I'm not awakened by push notifications of my turn on Words With Friends or something equally trivial and make the most of what little sleep time I can get.

So, of course, last night, when I'm actually looking forward to a solid 8 hours of sleep, I leave my phone on, and Satan decides to call me at 2:38 AM.

No, really. Satan.

It went something like this.

unidentifiable sound wakes me up

Huh? Oh. That's my phone ringing.

Hello?

Recorded woman's voice: Dear Amanda, this is Satan’s receptionist calling you on behalf of Justin. Please hold for Satan…

crackling of fire and brimstone

Awha? What time is it anyway? Oh, I'm talking on my timepiece (fail to think about glasses and the clock across the room). 4ish, maybe? Guh.

Recorded male voice: Hello, this is Satan. Remember when you [something, something, something]? Nice work. I always say I wish more people were like you. You can ask anyone down here. I just wanted you to know there’s a special place in my dark heart for you and that I’m moving you to the front of the line.

See you next week, little buddy. Oops. Ignore that last part.

Goodbye.

Oh, and don't forget to watch the new show on TBS, "Neighbors From Hell". And, if you want to give me someone else's number, visit tbs.com.

maniacal laughter

What the? Did they say Justin gave them my number? What time IS it? 2:38!?!? GAH.

Then I lay there, fuming, and unable to go right back to sleep. I did, eventually, but was still mad and totally tired when my alarm went off. And, being the nice doormat that I am, I didn't call my brother and wake HIM up to ask him about it. Just waited until a normal time this afternoon.

Turns out that you CAN go to tbs.com and leave someone's number for Satan to call. Brotherface didn't realize it would automatically dial right that second until after he put in my number.

I have since decided that he is the only person who could give Satan my number at 2:38 AM and I wouldn't blacklist him for more than hour.

I will still get him back for this.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Ah ah ah ah, Stayin' Alive!

Jet lag is wicked tough. I left my apartment in Virginia at approximately 7 AM on Friday and 5 states, 2 countries, and 1 ocean later, I arrived at the Heiss' apartment just after 2 PM on Saturday.

Needless to say, I was tired. I had even managed to doze off in the cab, waking up just in time to discover that my driver wasn't entirely sure where to go. Fortunately, he wasn't afraid to ask for directions and we eventually made it.

As tired as I was, I was excited to get up and go. After hugs, a tour of the apartment, and a much needed shower, we were off to meet friends from the Cairo branch for a felucca ride on the Nile. Heissatopia account of our outing here.


We enjoyed koshary and fayrouz for dinner while the adults talked, the kids played, and I took in the scenery and maybe dozed a little behind my sunglasses.

It was a beautiful evening, though I was a little disappointed that I didn't spy any crocodiles in the river.

We chose to walk home via Road 9, but we had to cross the korniche first, a street with at least 3-5 lanes of traffic at a time.

There are three things you need to go out in Cairene traffic: 1) a direction, 2) keen attention to everyone around you, and 3) a sincere prayer for your safety. Lights, lane markers, and other things we Americans are used to are not as important there.

Lacking number 2 due to fatigue, I misjudged the speed of the oncoming traffic I had followed Andrew into and was woken right up as two cars went speeding past me on either side. I pulled my arms in tight and tried to make myself as small as possible and managed to live to tell the tale.

That was my first and only real brush with mortality on the whole trip, as I kept my focus sharp any other time we were out, and didn't trust Andrew to always be successful in leading the way. I didn't want to be one of the 8000 people that will die in Cairo this year because of traffic accidents.

Life is too good to end it by being squished on the streets of a foreign country!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Diamonds and brass hid behind painted glass in the heart of Cairo

When people found out that I was going to Cairo, Egypt, or find out that I recently returned from there, the response was almost inevitably "Oooooh. Cool! Why?"

Why?

Why not!?

That's really the answer, but with an added bonus of having friends who live there, the Heisses. A place to stay in a country where my hosts speak the language and have lived there long enough they're practically locals and I have the money and time to make the trip? I'd be a fool not to go. They're coming home at the end of this month, and when I found that out, I realized it was now or never.

It was amazing.

I didn't make any plans, just notes of things I'd like to do . I figured the Heisses knew what was best and how to factor their adorable children into the mix, since traveling with children changes everything.

I figured right, and happily so. It was a perfect ten days of hitting everything I wanted to see, several things I never expected, and still having some time to relax, just as I had hoped.

But first, I had to get there, an adventure all on its own, as it took one five hour drive, one cab, three(!) trains on three different rail systems, one plane, and one more cab to make it from my place to the Heiss' front door. I also picked up an Egyptian boyfriend on the way.

In researching my flight options, I discovered that a direct flight from JFK (plus the drive and trains to get there) would cost less and take approximately the same amount of time as flying from DC and having a layover somewhere in Europe.

As for the boyfriend, after a lifetime of living and traveling in countries where being an average sized blonde allows me to blend in, I knew that I would stand out in an Arabic country, but I didn't realize quite to what extent.

Until I reached the airport terminal.

There were a handful of other Americans, but even so, a blonde and purple-haired fair-skinned woman stands out.

My boyfriend spotted me as I was charging my cell-phone. He tried to strike up a conversation, and we introduced ourselves.

"So, we are friends now. We sit together on the plane?"

"Um. Maybe. If there are extra seats."

Then I walked away, hoping I could avoid him for the next hour. Which, of course, I didn't. I even had a plan. I was standing near a nice looking couple, so if my boyfriend started coming my way, I would ask them to talk to me and not be available for him to approach me. Of course, they'd disappeared by the time he found me again. We talked about where I was headed, and what he was doing in the States (though all he really said was that he travels the world for business).

"So, all my family was killed in a car accident."

"Oh, I'm so sorry."

"So, we can be family now?"

"Um."

And then he put his arm around me and tried to kiss me, but as I moved out of the away, he only caught my cheek. That's weird in my culture, but public kissing is absolutely taboo in his, so I'm not sure how he thought that was okay. Fortunately, it was time to board then and he was not so bold while standing in line surrounded by people. Our seats were in the same row, but, thankfully, on the opposite sides of the full plane, so I only had to see him again when I ran into him back by the bathrooms in the middle of the night. For all I know, he saw me go back there and came back to meet me.

I told the American couple I was seated with about him, and they looked out for me up until I found the cab driver the Heisses had hired for me.

For the rest of trip, I did what all the guidebooks suggest single women do and wore a ring on my ring finger (even if it was my silver butterfly ring turned around so just the band showed).

This means that everyone probably thought I was married to Andrew when he was around (as were Josie and Nancy, since one man can have up to four wives there), but I'd much rather be a sister-wife to Andrew than some unnecessarily forward anyone else.

As long as that's okay with Nancy.