Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Curiosity is a willing confession of ignorance.

And sometimes “Ignorance is bliss”

The other day, CGMan and I were walking around his backyard, looking at all the pretty plants and flowers. I knelt down and picked up what I thought was a black seed pod from one of the plants. As I turned it around in my fingers, I asked him, “Hey, what’s this? It kinda looks like a dried up slug.”

His answer was a deadpan- “It is a dried up slug.”

 

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EEWW!!!

 

I’m ready to come home!
Slugs don’t turn into jerky crossing the sidewalk at home.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Back to life…

…back to reality.

The reality is that CGMan is coming home to Austin. Without a job. The company who hired him and moved him to the other side of the world has now decided they don’t need him anymore, after only a year. I suppose I should be glad I didn’t pack up house and hounds and move there at the beginning. I know some others who have done just that, leaving behind family and friends to move to a new city, buy a new house, only to have the job fall through. I don’t know how you’re doing it, Shelly.

I’m thankful we were able to have one last vacation. I used to laugh at CGMan for all his pre-planning and pre-paying, but it sure came in handy this time, as our trip to Egypt was taken care of before the ax came down. 

So now I’m sitting here in Abu Dhabi, a year after I came out to set up house, waiting for the movers to come, so I can take down the house. Luckily, the pack rat, aka CGMan, didn’t have enough time to amass too much stuff. I have gone through the house while he’s been out, throwing things away. I mean, really, how many bath puffies does one need? He had a dozen of them under the sink!

He also has a tendency to save ticket stubs, (which actually came in handy as I tried to remember the temples we visited- but really? a year later? No.) brochures and greeting cards. You may be thinking “aww, he saves all the greeting cards” -- don’t. Because 87643 years later, when you’re packing up for a move and you find three drawers full of greeting cards, you’ll really just want to wring his neck. And honestly, how many times has he looked at the cards since they were given to him? Nev.Er. If they’re just taking up space in a drawer, they’re trash.  He also had about a dozen empty cigar boxes. And not even the nice wooden ones that I give to Wow, but the little cardboard ones that serve no purpose other than to house frogs found in the yard. If you happen to be seven!

As you can see, I’ve been busy. I’ve also been busy playing online Scrabble with CGMan. That’s right, online. While we sit at our laptops at opposite ends of the table. We are so weird. It’s also safer, as there have been times when I wanted to throw a tile right in his eye. If you’ve ever played a board game with your husband…you know exactly what I mean. Isn’t amazing how the man who will hold open the door for you, kill a bug for you and carry the heavy bags, will change his spots the minute he sits down for a game (of anything) with you? All he wants to do is kick my ass! And this last game, he did. Big time. I hope the conquering hero/macho man attitude will stay with him long enough to get home to kill scorpions for me.

The silver lining in all of this? Because there is always a silver lining. Is that the next move we’ll be together, wherever that may be (pleasepleaseplease be south of the Mason-Dixon line!). And we’ve found we are enjoying our empty nest…together.

I’m thinking a bath puffy give-away! Everyone’s a winner!! …Hello? anyone there?

Friday, March 26, 2010

I was born to ride a camel….

Our last full day in Egypt was spent clutching my heart and praying I would make it out alive. Our driver, Ammhed, was a very good driver and thank gah! Because the people in Egypt drive like absolute maniacs. There is no rhyme or reason to the way they do anything. The lines on the road? Purely for decoration. I saw five lanes of cars on a three lane highway. If there is even the slightest gap between two cars, another will toot the horn and move right up between you. And don’t think it’s without accidents. Every car on the road was a beater.

The city buses are literally packed with people hanging out the windows and the open doors. On the taxi vans, the doors must not slide shut, because I didn’t see any that were. In fact, from my hotel room, I watched a taxi van stop in the middle of the three lane highway to let a little old woman off. In the middle of the road!! Sweet jelly and molasses! It was all I could do not to yell “LOOK OUT!!” to her as I saw another car careening her way. Apparently this is ever so normal.

Our driver was just so calm about it all. It’s like watching a train wreck. No matter how bad it is and how scared you are, you just can’t look away. No one else seemed scared, so I put on a brave face (and my seat belt) and said, Let’s go!

Our first stop? The Great Pyramids of Giza.

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But first I had to get a picture of the Egyptian Mountie:

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Now comes the best part of the whole trip! We rode camels out behind the pyramids! It took about an hour and we had some of the most magnificent views. Literally took my breath away.

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It was very windy and rather chilly out in the desert. One thinks of Egypt and the desert being always warm, but really, it can get downright cold sometimes.

The crowds (and there were a lot of crowds!) are all on the front side of the pyramids. Riding around to the backside like this was so rewarding! It really seemed as if we had gone back in time. It gave you the feeling of what it must have been like to be riding along on your camel and see these on the horizon.

And what’s the fun of going to the pyramids if you can’t be “touristy”?

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The city of Cairo and Giza have built right up to the steps of the pyramids. The population of Cairo is 22 million.

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I kept looking for the Sphinx, but didn’t see it anywhere. We didn’t see it until we were back in the van and headed down and out of the park. He is walled off, so you can’t get up to him like with the pyramids.

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After our delightful camel ride (I really think I need a couple of them) we went to lunch at Cleopatra’s Restaurant. You might imagine my surprise when I walked through the front door to see this:

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Yes, those would be cobras. When I first walked through the door, one of them was up with his neck spread out. Can I just say? EEWW! It might have been a little more fun if they had been the least bit lively, but the consensus in our group was that they were either drugged or half dead.

For those of you who have been with me a while, it won’t surprise you to know that I couldn’t quite catch my breath when I saw these freaky, creepy, crawly, now I’m not going to sleep tonight…things.

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Oh yes he did!!

He picked it up and was playing with it!!

I think I might faint.

 

 

 

 

After lunch, which was mostly spent playing toothpick tricks with the waiters, we went to the roof to get these wonderful shots:

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It was after this we finally made our way to the Egyptian Museum. There is no photography inside the museum, so I have no pictures to show you. We saw one gal try to sneak a shot with her phone, and they were all over her.

Inside the museum were tons of artifacts, literally. Huge statues and stone caskets among the biggest. Quite a lot of things taken from tombs and temples are housed in this museum. We were able to see most of the items from the tomb of King Tut (not even going to try to spell that!). For an extra 100 LE (Egyptian pounds) we could have seen his mummy. But for free, we were able to see other, non-famous mummies. And really? one mummy pretty much looks like another.

It was a bit disheartening to see how inadequately kept are most of the artifacts. The museum is very old and not well kept. The cases had only small pieces of paper with a short, typewritten description of what was in the case. Some cases didn’t even have that. Having been to the Smithsonian (a definite must-see!) and seeing how well preserved everything is, it was just sad to see so many treasures in a dark, dusty museum, with nothing to say where they came from.

Even still, I wouldn’t have missed it. The treasures inside are really just that, wonderful treasures.

And that, my dear friends, concludes our trip to Egypt. We had a wonderful time. My favorite part? The pyramids and the camel ride, of course!

Hey Wow, I didn’t forget you:

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Adventure vacations R us….

Now that we had spent a few days in Hurghada, snorkeling in the Red Sea, looking at temples and learning how to drink beer, it was time to head to Cairo for a couple of days. We had heard the Egyptian Museum was awesome and deserved a good amount of time. And, of course, the pyramids of Giza. Knowing we only had a limited amount of time, we booked the first flight out of Hurghada. The flight is only an hour, so we could have the rest of the day to explore the museum and Cairo.

As we left our room to check out, I noticed it was unusually windy. It had been windy for a couple of days prior, but this was different. I could hardly walk, it was blowing so hard. That’s when I noticed the sand. It was everywhere! From the room, it looked like fog or something, but it was sand. And that’s when I learned a new word; sham’al – big freakin’ sand storm.

As we got in the cab to go to the airport, for our one hour flight to Cairo, we asked the driver if he thought this would pass quickly. His answer? N’shallah (God willing)

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Let me describe the airport for you, don’t worry, it won’t take long. Three check-in counters, walk through metal detector, seating for the two gates and one coffee shop/snack bar.

As you can imagine, our flight was delayed an hour. No big deal, we found a table in the snack bar/coffee shop and settled in to wait. It was only for an hour, right? N’shallah.

Apparently, God wasn’t all that willing because TEN HOURS, and one crime novel later, this is what we’re reduced to for entertainment in the airport:

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How can you get stressed out when you’re hanging with a guy like this?

The other flights had already been sent back to hotels for the night. We did manage to get on the one and only flight to Cairo that day. We eventually made it to the hotel. At midnight! All I can say is thank goodness for 24 hour room service and a bottle of wine.

Tomorrow, we reconnect with our Chuck Norris loving Italian friends and visit the pyramids. And I ride a camel! Again!

On a side note, while we were twiddling our thumbs and playing with plastic spoons, we were receiving text messages about my brother and his wife, who were very busy this day:

Ella Jean

Welcome, little one!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

I do Habu for you…

After our drive around the west bank of Luxor, we visited our last temple, Habu Temple. The interesting thing about this temple is the colors. The ancient Egyptians learned how to make permanent color and used it for decoration. The colors that you see in the pictures have not been touch up. It is original from thousands of years ago.

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I know I’ve said it before, but I still can’t get over the kind of manpower it took to make all the carvings. This isn’t as simple as writing on a blackboard. The carvings are deep and chiseled into the stone. How many hours did it take one man to carve one drawing? And did 30 or 40 men sit around carving it together? A hundred? A thousand? For me, that is more intriguing than how they built it to begin with!

If you wish to read more about the Habu Temple, click here.

Tomorrow, we’re to take a one hour flight to Cairo for a couple of days. We plan to visit the Egyptian Museum when we get in and the next day, the pyramids of Giza.

N’shallah (God willing)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Luxor in the afternoon…

One of my favorite movies is The Ten Commandments, with Charleton Heston. Being in Egypt and seeing the temples, I feel like I was right there, living it.  As much as I like to think I was one of the beautiful women living in the temple and have my image carved on the wall, I was more likely the gal out there toting water.

After visiting the Karnak Temple, we were taken to a riverside restaurant to have some lunch. The river would be the Nile. I can’t believe I just said that! “Yes, we lunched along the Nile.” Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would ever see the Nile, the very river that Moses floated down when we was a baby. Of course, it’s not as pretty as when Moses was a baby, but still, it’s the Nile.

For the foodies, let me say - Egyptian food? Meh. It isn’t bad. It’s just nothing to write home about. But then, they’re not known for their culinary skills, are they? There is a lot of fish, lamb, eggplant, potatoes and rice. Really a lot of starch. The only vegetables I’ve seen  in abundance have been carrots and zucchini. Nothing leafy and green.

Our lunchtime conversation was spent explaining to the Italian students that yes, there are cowboys in Texas, but they’re not like the ones in the movies. Well, yes, they wear boots and hats and yes, some carry guns, but it’s not like a Western. How do you explain hippies and cowboys co-existing in Austin? And while I’ve never met a Texas Ranger, I’m pretty sure they’re nothing like Chuck Norris. Apparently, Chuck Norris has a HUGE following in Italy. They had more questions about him than anything else about Texas.

The other Americans who were helping this conversation were reservists for the Army. One was on R & R from Iraq and the other flew in from Houston to join him.

After lunch, we boarded a water taxi to cross the Nile and explore the West Bank.

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indenile

Honestly, I’ve sat here for the last ten minutes trying to figure out how to describe all that we saw. I just can’t. You’re just driving along, and on the side of the road are these two HUGE statues, just out of nowhere. And then another temple. And housing for the servants. All of these are closed off to the public, but you can still see them from the road. On a hillside is a village where the people live as simply as in ancient times. The people who live here are very keen at finding the ancient sites.

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Tomorrow, I will finish up our tour through Luxor. I’ve tried to pare down my 18974362 pictures to a manageable few. I promise, I’m trying to spare you the “Dawn’s dreaded vacation slides”.

Remember those? Slideshows of other people’s vacations? “This is a 1,000 year old redwood tree in California” click-swish-focus “Here we have a redwood tree that’s only 900 years old in Oregon, do you need me to go back so you can see the difference?” click-swish-(clunk as head falls on table)  Yeah, I won’t to do that to you. Unless I already have. In which case it’s too late anyway, so have another cocktail, there’s only 87436 more slides to go.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Luxor, not just a Vegas attraction…

The resort town of Hurghada doesn’t offer much except resorts. But people come by the busload, literally. The tour groups have everything planned for them from sun-up to sun-down. They travel in packs. We’re not pack people. We are strike out on our own people.

We did however, hire the services of a guide. We had heard it is essential to have a guide and/or driver. We were warned that just to cross the street is putting your life at risk. After the “Scooter Adventures of 2009”, we have learned to heed good advice.

We sat down with our guide, Refaat, and listed for him the things we would like to see and do. He explained that he had another small group from another hotel that wanted to do the same. Would we mind grouping with them? I’m so glad we said yes, because we had a great time with them!

We headed out the next day on a 3 hour drive south to Luxor, and the Valley of the Kings. I’m going to stop right here and make an admission. I am a people watcher, not a lecture listener. Refaat was great at telling us what we were seeing, but between his accent, taking pictures, dodging beggars and looking at all the people, I didn’t get it all.

With that said, I’m just going to show you the pictures I took. If you have any questions, feel free to ask and I will Google and get back to you with the answers in an attempt to make it sound as if I learned something more on this trip than how to drink beer and ride camels.

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Egypt is over 90% desert. It is along the Nile that life abounds. It was amazing to see how simple life is out of the city. We didn’t see one piece of machinery working the small fields. Usually it was one person, squatted, cutting whatever it is they’re growing. I couldn’t tell.

Some of the homes had only thatched roofs and curtains for doors. I suppose when you live in a place where it rains once every 10 years or so, it’s okay to have no glass on the windows. Others looked like multifamily dwellings, with only little better fixtures. Honestly, it didn’t look as if electricity ran out to this part of the country. I would have thought so, if I hadn’t seen the satellite dishes on top of just about every building!

When we reached Luxor, we stopped at the first Temple of whatever he said. I do know that this is 3,000 B.C. We were greeted at the gate of the grand temple by King T-tum.

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Inside the temple was an area that had 143 columns.

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We did notice there was a lot of reconstruction. But they did not recreate any of the carvings. The carvings you see are from 5,000 years ago. The blank cement is just holding it up. I would imagine when it was found, it looked like a big jigsaw puzzle.

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This is the sacred Scarab Beetle. Refaat told us if you walk in a circle around the beetle it would bring you many things. One circle would bring you money, the second time a good marriage and so on (because you know I forgot). I do know that number seven was fertility so I had CGMan stop at six laps. I figured anything up to more babies would be plenty luck for us! Hey! I didn’t even think to ask how many laps for a grandbaby! Dammit.

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I may or may not have picked up this little rock to bring back to Wow. If it’s a national treasure, I only took it’s picture and then placed it back on the ground. Honest.

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These are some statues, who are very important I’m sure,  that were standing at one of the entrances. This temple was like a maze as you moved around the areas.

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Some jobs here at the temple are so important, one can’t leave his post.

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I may not have filled your head with knowledge, but I hope I’ve filled your sense of adventure. Even though I don’t remember the history, I was filled with awe just knowing how old and how lasting all of this is. I was amazed at the buildings and statues made with only manpower. Living in a culture where I’m lucky if anything lasts for a year, I’m dumbstruck knowing this has lasted, almost perfectly, for 5,000 years!

Next time, lunch on the Nile and the rest of the trip through Luxor.

P.S. Just as I went to post this, I found our ticket. Rather than do a complete rewrite, here is the link on Wikipedia: Karnak Temple - they paid way more attention than I did.