Monday, April 29, 2013

Epic adventures in Egypt

If I do say so myself, my first solo trip was a smashing success. It took me 3 flights and 20+ hours to get there but it was totally worth it. Egypt was amazing! I got to see Cairo, the Pyramids of Giza and Saqqara, the Sphinx, Luxor Temple, the Valley of the Kings, Karnak Temple, the Egyptian museum and King Tutankhamon's treasure and ride on a camel, a felucca (sailboat) on the Nile and an overnight sleeper train (though sleeper train is really a misnomer. It's rather hard to sleep with all the shaking, jolting and squeaking going on. But they do give you 3 different kinds of rolls for breakfast, so maybe carbo train would be a better name).

My trip was through On The Go Tours, which I highly recommend. The other people in the tour group, 2 from South Africa and 2 from Australia, were really cool and we had a great guide, Hesham, who is an Egyptologist. He told us all about life in ancient Egypt as well as modern Egypt. He was honest about the problems facing Egypt today, but it was obvious that he loves his country. And the best way to see anything is through the eyes of someone who is passionate about it.

Driving in Cairo was fascinating to watch. There are no rules, no lanes, and crazy traffic. I saw a few stoplights but no one seemed to be heeding them. We rode past, on the one hand, sheep eating garbage in the street in front of a butcher shop where they would eventually end up on the menu, the City of the Dead (a cemetery where a million people live) and tons of unfinished and illegal apartment buildings and, on the other hand, The Four Seasons Residence Hotel, where you can drive your fancy expensive car into an elevator and up to your fancy expensive room.

Since the revolution in January 2011, tourism in Egypt has really decreased, which is sad because it's one of their main industries and sources of employment/income. But if you're a tourist, it's a great time to visit Egypt because there are no lines and you can have the pyramids and other tourist sites practically to yourself. Plus, when we went to the pyramids, we were accompanied by a man from the tourist police. It was like having our very own bodyguard, even though there was really nothing to guard us from. People seemed to be surprised that I was from the U.S. because apparently in the past few years Americans have been afraid to visit Egypt. It's such a shame because the country and its people are awesome. My fellow Americans, you are really missing out on some epic adventures. The other people in my group also told me I didn't have much of an American accent. I asked what typical Americans sound like and they said "more Texan," which I thought was hilarious.
Shopping in Egypt is quite the experience as well. Everywhere we went, people followed us around trying to sell us souvenirs. Some of them were very aggressive and didn't want to take no for an answer. I almost got scammed by a guy who overcharged me for postcards and stamps, but lucky for me Hesham got him to give me some money back. Hesham also taught us how to barter like an Egyptian. If you pay the price they initially quote you, you'll usually be overcharged, but if you walk away they will follow you and keep lowering the price or ask what you want to pay.

To be honest, I was a little apprehensive about solo travel, but going with a group I never felt alone. I'd still prefer to have a travel partner for future adventures, but if the choice is either go alone or stay home, I'm definitely going. This trip has only increased my insatiable wanderlust. After hearing all about South Africa and Australia from my travel mates, I totally want to experience those countries as well. My current cravings are for Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and going on a safari, but there are so many places I want to go it's hard to choose. I'm excited to go back to work so I can make more money for future trips!

Lyric of the moment: "I'm speeding out of reach. Oh, you're the one I had to meet...Wanderlust will carry us on..."

Monday, April 22, 2013

Off on adventures. Back soon.

I think the secret of a great adventure is to be equally excited to embark and to return home again. Until next week, my dears. I hope you enjoy your own fabulous adventures this week, and always.

Lyric of the moment: "I got my ticket for the long way 'round. Two bottle whiskey pints of ice cream for the way. And I sure would like some sweet company. And I'm leaving tomorrow, what do you say? When I'm gone, when I'm gone, you're gonna miss me when I'm gone..."

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Some kind of interesting

Last week I was talking to someone who was born on the other side of the world and he told me I was "very interesting" and "fascinating." Interesting bad or interesting good? I asked. "Good," he said "You're an idealist but you also have a practical side." Apparently my head is in the clouds but my feet are on the ground. Therefore it stands to reason that I must be very tall. Score.

But I think everyone is interesting. A particularly hilarious example: someone sent us a resume that included a section titled "What's so special about (candidate name)" and one of the bullet points said "I juggle fire." Talk about interesting. Who wouldn't want to hire that guy?

Sometimes I feel that things are hopelessly elusive. Or maybe it's just me. But I suppose that's how it goes. The best things in life cannot be possessed or owned. They come to you if you're open to them but if you hold on too tightly, they slip through your fingers.

I think I have to accept that I am not the kind of person who can buy a house as-is. I am the kind of person who buys a house then gradually changes everything about it except its physical location. There is something to be said for accepting things as they are, but I can't help seeing them as they could be. And I wonder if that is my tragic flaw. One of them anyway.

On Saturday I ran 10 miles! Well it wasn't a consecutive 10 miles - I ran 7 miles, took a break to do an hour on the elliptical, then ran 3 more - but I'm the only one counting and I say it counts. I have never been so excited to run such a short distance. I would have done a dance if I was coordinated enough to do so without falling off the treadmill. Fingers crossed that I am almost ready to run with other people again.

Lyric of the moment: "If you're loved by someone, you're never rejected. Decide what to be and go be it. There was a dream and one day I could see it. Like a bird in a cage I broke in and demanded that somebody free it..."

Friday, April 5, 2013

Getting up to so many shenanigans

Lately I am excited. About everything. Ordinary days. Upcoming extraordinary adventures. I don't know how it happened but hey, I'll take it. The thing is that nothing really changed except the way I feel about the way things already are. If that makes any sense. And yeah, occasionally I still wish certain things were different. But mostly I feel like I'm going to get up to so many shenanigans and I can't wait.

It's amazing what a subtle shift in perspective can do. That awkward/bizarre/ creepy  thing/person/experience? It will make an hilarious story someday. Man have I got loads of those now. People are the weirdest.

But I think the thing that made the most difference for me was learning to love things wholeheartedly without expectation or attachment. Or attempting to learn it anyway. This is still an ongoing thing. Basically I'm trying to 1) do the things I love for the pure enjoyment of them, without being attached to the results, 2) listen and really be present for other people without thinking about a million other things and 3) not letting fear of embarrassment/failure/dying alone keep me from potentially epic moments.

Things that are awesome:

I recently acquired a pair of Nike running capris that are the best ever. They retail for $45 but I got them at the thrift store for $4. I love it when I chance upon something I wasn't even looking for and it's in perfect condition and fits perfectly, like it was meant to be.

Bonus points for the T-shirt at the same thrift store that had a picture of a cow on it and said "There's no mad tofu disease." Which I did not buy. But did have a good laugh over.

If there is a heaven, I hope it is like Espada, where men bring you skewers of the most delicious grilled pineapple with cinnamon and cut you off a slice, which you get to pick up with the cutest little pair of tongs. And the salad bar is divine. I suppose it's weird for a vegetarian to fall in love with a Brazilian steakhouse, but that's how I roll.

Pretty much everything that Bill says. Like "You would be a good drunk." and also this conversation:
Bill: "This is a list of the people I went to grammar school with who have passed away."
Me: "You keep a list of dead people? I hope I don't end up on that paper."
Bill: "Well you will if you keep that up."

Lyric of the moment: "And I don't blame you dear for running like you did all these years. I would do the same, you'd best believe. And the highway signs say we're close but I don't read those things anymore. I never trusted my own eyes. So keep your head up, keep your love. Keep your head up, my love..."