Sunday, October 31, 2010

Bedouins Can't Be Choosers

Or rather, they can be, and choose to do everything the hard way. If there is a road, they will drive next to it. If there is a bump, they will hit it. If there are tents, they will sleep outside. Basically, they are the bamf’s of the desert, and they know it.

It started off like every other school trip; we were awake at five on Friday morning, given our rations of a juice box and a Molto, which I’m guessing by this ad, is the travel croissant of choice (and apparently aphrodisiac) throughout the world . DISCLAIMER: My trip was nothing like that. So we settled in for a five hour ride out to the Black & White Desert.

We were leaving modernity behind; careening down the highway to a land as primitive as the Deep South. No telephones, no lap tops, nothing but a boy, his bros, the stars, and his iPod. Very Walden. I had several reasons to be anxious about not having internet. For one, I was due to schedule classes that day at six in the morning, and the class I needed to get into to have any hope of graduating on time only had five spots left. I had left my fate in the hands of the capable Will Miller, who had proved himself an able secretary many a time, but even the best fall down sometimes. Then there is my hypochondria. With no Google Image, who was going to confirm that this freckle isn’t an advanced form of skin cancer? Also, my fantasy football team is in chaos with five starters out on byes. This is when they need me most, and here I am going to the desert. And lastly, IS EMILY LELANDAIS’s EMAIL/BLOG REALLY CATCHING UP TO MINE IN TERMS OF PAGE VIEWS? What are you people doing lately? And don’t tell me Halloween weekend takes preference over my blog, I don’t want to hear it.

We finally arrived at the entrance, and left our bus for a caravan of Toyota Land Cruisers driven by real lives Bedouins, not those horse-dancing-David-Guetta-loving farce long time fans will remember. These guys were born to be bad. Our driver, Waleed, was inclined to drive off the road when he noticed someone sleeping (normally as a result of Ryan telling his hat story) in the back of the jeep. After twenty minutes we turned off the beaten path and into straight up desert, and after driving a little further we came across a restaurant more or less in the middle of nothing. But they showed us the famous Bedouin hospitality and I was able to have a real guava, something I thought only came in juice form, and also there was an endless bowl of pasta, just like the Olive Garden. Where it trumped the OG was instead of breadsticks they had pita bread, so I could make pasta sandwiches to increase my eating rate. Finally, I couldn’t eat any more pasta so we rolled out, back into the desert.

For an hour we drove through the desert, occasionally getting splayed across each other. You get to know your jeep-mates pretty quickly when your face is in their stomach and who knows whose hands are on in your inner thigh. It was a bumpy ride, but I’m still not convinced Richie’s groping of Alex was completely accidental. Eventually we reached the part of the desert where you expect clocks to be melting it was so surreal. After checking out the amazing scenery and filling my shoes with sand in the process, we were on to the campsite.

We made camp in the middle of the White Desert, or as my group refers to it as, The World’s Largest Litter Box. I don’t think there is a single rock that my classmates didn’t defile, but in our defense, you can’t give us tea right before bed time and expect the desert to stay clean. But that aside, the White Desert was amazingly beautiful. It looked just like snow, and from the way Wally was swerving, it must have been like snow to drive in. Or that could just be Wally being Wally.

The Bedouins made us an excellent dinner of chicken, rice and potatoes. This was the second and not the last time I would be served this dish by Bedouins, so I have to believe it is their staple dish. This is only noteworthy in that it is also the staple dinner at the Gallagher household. I’ll be home in six weeks, prove me wrong Mom! After dinner the Bedouins showed off their musical abilities; these guys can navigate the desert, cook dinner, and sing? They are gonna make some girls very happy someday.

About midnight we laid down in our sleeping bags and star-gazed for awhile. When I tried to have a deep conversation about the changing times in relation to stars and satellites, Ryan, uncomfortable in conversation not involving New Jersey or frats, changed the subject to his hat story again. This was the beginning of the end of the harmony that had blessed our dorm, but it was bound to happen with three highly confrontational personalities and Mitch, the instigator, all under the same roof. The Bedouins were still banging out some tunes when I fell asleep, as I had been trained to sleep in loud environments and after heated discussions by my freshman year roommates. If you can sleep through the Call of Duty: Nazi Zombies, you can deal with a few Bedouin musicians. I woke up a few hours later freezing to death, wishing I had taken the Magic School Bus’s warnings that deserts can be as cold as they are hot. Anyway, determined not to show weakness in front of the Bedouins, I crawled face first into my sleeping bag and let the silent tears drip down my chapped face.

But all the misery of the night before was more than compensated for with breakfast. Jam, honey, tea, pita bread, Swiss Role, bananas, the works. For being a desert people, the Bedouins certainly eat well. After bfast we headed back out in the jeep to Crystal Mountain. There seems to be an inverse relationship to how awesome something is with its name. The White Desert didn’t sound like much but turned out to be amazing, whereas Crystal Mountain was little more than a hill. After fitting as many small crystal pebbles in our pockets as we could without the Bedouins noticing (it’s not rock hunting season yet in Egypt) we took our scariest plunge off a mountain yet. Our driver got out, looked down the drop, and then jumped back in and gunned it. It was like being on a rollercoaster without the confidence modern science was on your side. We made it and were well on our way to safety when we spun out in the sand and almost got stuck, if not for the finesse driving of our Bedouin. Another jeep was not so lucky though and tried to floor it when he got stuck. Amateur hour. It took us another half-hour to dig him out (by us I mean the Bedouins), and then we were headed for the Black Desert, or Mordor. That was pretty cool, and we climbed a big hill/small mountain for a pretty epic photo-shoot, unaware that sleeping on sand did my hairdo no favors.

Then it was the hour long ride back to our bus. Conversation took its normal course. “Richie, how long have you had that hat for?” “Oh this? I’ve had it for two years.” “Bro, I was SO pissed I lost my fitted Yankee hat before we came here. I was gonna wear that every-” Here I had to cut in and inform them in no uncertain terms I didn’t care to sit through another hat story. Having a head slightly too large for hats throughout my entire life, hat-wearing was never a hobby of mine and I thought it unfair of them to talk about it in front of me for the thousandth time. Richie than voiced the age-old argument that I was offering nothing to the conversation besides criticism, a comment so stupid I didn’t entertain it as serious. It wasn’t the first time the claim had been made; it is the origin of the “Shark” name on the back of my Turtle Crew shirt. And then Dyl tried to sell me on the idea Behind Blue Eyes should be my theme song. Well anyways the jeep-ride descended into silence, with Ryan and Richie afraid to say something for fear of criticism, and me afraid to point out their silence was a sign of their susceptibility to social pressure, for fear of proving their point.

One more chicken/rice/potato serving later we were on a “four” hour ride back to campus. Since nothing is ever easy in Egypt, our bus broke down on the way home, forcing us to take a cab all the way back for the last hour of it. And just when I’m getting the venom in my veins to blog this country's public transportation to smithereens, AU goes and does this:

In other news, the janitorial staff is protesting low wages on campus this week and it has spelled disaster for the campus. Egyptians throw their trash everywhere with the assumption someone will pick it up, and they're a little slow in adjusting. An interesting side note, the workers are trying to raise their pay to $125 a month, or approximately $13 more a day than I made reading/skimming/not reading resumes over the summer. Where do they get off?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Extra Ordinary

Since hating life on Mt. Sinai, my life has been extra ordinary. And not extraaaaaaaaa ooooooordinary in the Nat-King-Cole-singing-the-opening-of LiLo’s-Parent-Trap sense, but instead in the sense that everything that has happened in the last week has happened the whole time I’ve been here. But seeing as to this point I’ve only seen fit to write about the extraordinary, perhaps you’ll take interest in the more common occurrences in Egypt.

I have made a lot of passing references to my eternal struggle with the taxi drivers of this country. But I gather from the questions of the sole commenter of my posts that perhaps I need to make clearer what these battles typically entail. I had a whole paragraph typed up, but to shorten the story, we get in cabs we believe have meters, only to be informed halfway through the trip the meter is broken, and when we get out the negotiations start. There are two schools of thought on how to best handle this situation. There is the Richie Roy “Just Say La” method, which involves shouting La (no) at the taxi driver until he gets more frustrated with the language barrier than we are. Then there is the Patrick Schweighart “Walk Away” method. Pat will throw the money into the seat, and peace. Sometimes the cabbie curses and drives away, other times he gets out and attempts to drag Pat to the police station. Personally, I prefer watching the walk away method.

Memorable cab rides include the ride home from the American Expatriate Club, when ten police officers were needed to broker a deal between me, Ryan and a cab driver who threw the five pounds we gave him into the wind in an expensive show of disgust. Then there was the time when our taxi broke down on the highway halfway to the city. We were chugging along, and then we just kinda coasted to the side of the road. I figured it was a cigarette break, but then he started pouring some liquid into the hood. And then the car didn’t start. I’m not really car guy, and unfortunately neither was the cabbie. He tried a variety of different things, including driving with the hood open and completely obstructing the view, but each time we managed only seven feet before petering back out. Finally he threw his hands up, which we took to be our cue that it was time to get walking. To his credit, he wouldn’t even take a pity-five pounds, restoring my faith in humanity.

To return to the American Expatriate Club, it reminded me very much of a Rick’s. There were all types of strange, creepy Westerners there, presumably trying to escape the harsh realities of Cairo. The drinks are cheap and so is the conversation. I briefly considered opening my own Rick’s, but thus far I have been unable to convince Mitch to address me as Mr. and learn the piano. Play it again, Mitch! Oh the times we would have. But in general the place—and the places like it—isn’t all that fun. The most fun I’ve had there is when I went on an off-night, and watched a Blackburn game with a couple of real live English fans.

Which brings me to my first SPORT REPORT. Watching Blackburn games in the bar was much better than watching them online, during which I am always inundated with offers to get an American green card by completing tasks such as cream pie-ing Uncle Sam in the face or popping the correctly colored balloon (hint: it’s green). Well, Blackburn have been so bad and boring I’ve probably pied enough Uncle Sam’s to bring half of Cairo back to America with me. Thank goodness I have the Buffalo Bills to cheer me up.

I was in the gym a few days ago running twelve miles less than what my mom ran in her half-marathon today when I happened upon the Arab University Women’s Basketball Championship. This is a tournament between all the Middle Eastern universities to promote unity and so on. Being somewhat of a girls basketball connoisseur from my days of watching the East Aurora Girls Varsity team run train on New York State (there apparently is no link to any newspaper covering the state championship). But anyway, these girls can BALL! At least I think they were girls, but it very well may have been Kobe out there wearing a hijab. Maybe they weren’t that good, but they were very impressive for running around as conservatively as they go to the Mosque. I think my chants of “Welcome to the BLOCK PARTY!” weren’t appreciated due to the lack of street blocks in the desert. Or maybe they thought I was being obnoxious. One of the two.

I haven’t played a lot of soccer since being here, but when I’ve played it has been a lot of fun. Every Egyptian plays, and they’re not bad. But let’s just say Team Tevez could beat them 9 out of 10 times. I did get beat as bad as I’ve been though, which may be hard for those of you to believe, who have seen me get some pretty bad beatings. What made this one truly special was the guy who beat me was probably fifty pounds overweight and wearing jeans. They all wear jeans when they play soccer, and at the gym, and probably in the pool, I’ll let you know next time I’m willing to risk extreme bodily burns. So yeah, after that I went home. But not before celebrating Ryan Giggs style after scoring a tap in. Making friends all over the place.

While on the soccer subject, we witnessed a soccer style fight at our favorite Shisha place. We were just sitting there, enjoying our Turkish coffee, when these guys playing dominos jump up and start ninja kicking each other. I don’t know how to play dominos, and I don’t think I’m going to learn. Anyway security slept right through the whole affair but it was all sorted out by pushing the fighters out opposite ends of the alley. That’s the convenience of having a café in an alley way.

My acting career took a huge step last week when our non-English speaking neighbor had me voice over the documentary based on Guns, Germs, and Steel to avoid copy right infringement. The script he handed me to read from was taken right from the movie, minus the conjunctions. But apparently, and this is true, his professor was so impressed with my broken English narrating skills she thought that he hadn’t replaced the original narrator. Which turned out not to be a big deal at all, so he needn’t have gotten me in the first place. I’m glad he did though; I love doing my Crocodile Hunter accent.

And now I have actual work to do? I have to write a five page paper for Romantic Literature about poems I never understood. I hate doing work for things I don’t understand, which is why I dropped my SIS major, my Arabic minor, and now my lit minor. Quite literally the only line I understand in Wordsworth’s Prelude is “My Drift I fear is scarcely obvious”. Which I suppose could be said about this blog post, so I better get back to block quoting away five pages.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Scent up Mt. Sinai

There’s an old saying that I picked up from ESPN’s Chris Berman; “If the mountain won’t come to Muhammad, Muhammad most go to the mountain!” He was, of course, talking about Muhsin Muhammad, future hall of fame wide receiver. But the saying originated with THE Muhammad, who once asked for a mountain but God was afraid should he grant the request, he might end up crushing the Prophet. A reasonable worry! Muhammad should’ve worded his wish better, like can I have a mountain ten feet away from me. It’s all about clarity.

That anecdote was meant to lead into me going to Mt. Sinai, but it got away from me. And with my aversion of the delete key, I’m going to have to start over. Well, Thursday arrived, and we set out on an eight hour bus ride to the Sinai, take two. When I say “we,” I’m not referring to my bros and I, I’m referring to myself and 10 kids I can’t stand, five kids I like, and five I’m ambivalent towards. Open thing I quickly learned was this: I’m proud to be an American (University student), where at least I know I’m not a pretentious prick. It seems if you go to school some place people have heard of you become rather unbearable. To support my hypothesis, the worst offender was a cultured girl from Harvard, who loved to talk about Harvard culture. I just about cried when she turned my retelling of a 30 Rock episode into how the head writer for the show graduated from her school, and is always inserting jokes only she and her kind would get. Naturally, the tears were from jealousy. Then this girl from George Washington sat behind me and kept me awake for the entire ride, telling some sob story of how she wished she could stay together with her state school bf, but with her volunteering at big and important places on Capitol Hill, it just wasn’t going to work. Which reminds me, last week I accidentally had lunch with a Georgetowner, and HE SENT HIS 60 CENT FALAFEL BACK TO THE KITCHEN, citing lack of tahini sauce. I looked at him like dude, that is the equivalent of sending an open bag of M&Ms back to the store because it didn’t have enough yellow ones. My one solace was the cook got a good look at him, so that Hoya can be sure to expect some extra juicy falafels in the future.

But all my troubles left me when we reached our hotel at 4 in the morning. It was beautiful in the night, and even more so in the day. It was also jam packed with drunk Eastern Europeans, for reasons I will never know. One downside was I had to share a bed with “Dave,” but he turned out to be a perfect gentleman so it wasn’t that big of a deal at all. In the morning we hung out on the beach before “Dave,” Big Adam Morsy and I headed out snorkeling. I’m not trying to brag, but the Red Sea is actually one of the best places to snorkel in the world. In fact, on the world-famous “Travel Lady” magazine website, it comes in at #2 for best places in the world! Well, it’s the second one they wrote about. At first I was a little weary, as they gave me emerald green fins and a mask that I was sure would cut the circulation off to my brain. After all, my high school German class did nickname me “Kurbis-kopf”, and it’s hard to deny the allegations. I could see the headlines: “Ireland’s Least Competent Spy Washes onto Saudi Shore, Still Pale.” But I persevered and reveled in the colors under the bright blue sea. Red fish, blue fish, “Dave’s” flipper coming at my face, everywhere I looked there was something interesting to see. After spending two months observing varying shades of brown, the coral and sea life were welcome sights. When we got back to the boat our guide got us some cokes and we just sat there taking it all in. I didn’t bring sunscreen or a shirt because it was supposed to be a two hour cruise, a two hour cruise! The weather started getting rough and the tiny ship was tossed, if not for the complacency of the Egyptian crew the motor wouldn’t have been lost. As it were, our guide was content to let the waves batter us onto the stones and had to spend the next hour fixing the motor, while I spent my time acquiring skin cancer.

When we got back I was utterly exhausted and passed out poolside, but woke up and finished Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. And people (Shelby Krick) complain I spell poorly and have bad grammar. What about Mark Twain, the greatest American writer! Could barely read a sentence without one typo or another, let alone the cussing! It was like I was reading a rap song. Anyways, I became disappointed there was no parallel between Tom, Huck and I, so I floated over to the pool bar and drowned my sorrows in banana milk juice.

At 2 the next morning we reached Mt. Sinai, and began our ascent up the mountain path. It was fairly dark, but I quickly became aware there were camels afoot, as I almost put my own foot directly into one of their many, many camel piles. As a consequence, my gaze was directed groundward for the remainder of the trip. At one point I glanced up to find myself face-to-face with a ghost camel. Gah! I stumbled backwards a few steps, but when I steadied my flashlight I found myself walking next to the George Washington girl! GAH! We snaked our way through the mountains, and I had the impression we were circling the same mountain, Dante’s Inferno style. In the morning, however, I discovered we had just pretty much hiked a straight path and then zig-zagged it up one face of the mountain until we got to the 700 stairs, and the only thing hellish about the trip was the company. Seriously, we were taking breaks every ten minutes for people who had spent too much of their breath/life talking about their own awesomeness.

Around 6, 20 minutes before sunrise, we finally made it to the peak. Naturally there were no spots left to see the sunrise, but the Harvard girl used her considerable girth to wedge herself a spot. That left the rest of us disappointed, as it was her considerable girth that had slowed us down. By the way, I have no fear of her reading this because to do so she would have to be my friend on FB, and if that happened I’d be dead already so what would I care? And if you spoke with her for a minute you’d be using words stronger than “considerable girth.” Luckily I’m a bit taller than most, so I at least got some decent shots of the sunrise. On our descent I saw the burning bush, which is looking remarkably well for being in such a dire situation so many years ago. But by then my thoughts turned homeward; I was out of sight of Ryan, Richie and Mitch for nearly 48 hours. What kind of excitement was I missing in our dorm? Maybe Ryan would wake up before three today? When you begin to yearn for the cave that is my dorm room, you know you need sleep. I also I have an ultra-heightened case of hypochondria since being in Egypt, and needed to get home to Google image various freckles and discolorations. I fear I may have been "incepted" with the idea I'm going to catch something horrible; Leonardo has certainly been in my dreams more than once. Of course, the AUC health center doesn't diagnose cases of inception, so I'd rather not waste my morning waiting in line.

After a nine hour bus ride back (we took an extra hour to look at a hole in the ground) I made my glorious return, to find it was Mitch who provided the excitement by sleeping a full 19 hours. That gave us something to talk about. But then, by a stroke of fate we hear this irresistible melody coming from across campus. I could barely make out the words, but it sounded like the singer was In Miami. I followed the beat and it paid huge dividends, we came across FREE SHAWERMA! Which is like a delicious Arabian taco. I had forgotten a big Lebanese festival had been planned, and was relieved not to have missed it. But my, how dressed up people got for a Lebanese festival. And they all looked so young! We felt slightly out of place. It all made sense, however, when the loud speaker came on. “We’d like to thank everyone for coming out to our first annual High School Model UN Ball!” So we had crashed a high school dance and ate all of their food, repping our white Ts, completely ignorant to how unwanted we were at the event. So I took a few shawerma roadies and made my way to my long awaited bed. Turns out the Lebanese festival was tonight, and filled myself til I couldn’t eat another bite. Then they brought out this dessert that was a mixture of wheat, cottage cheese, and barrels of sugar, so now I think I’m going to go lie down and die somewhere.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Once More Unto the Beach, Dear Bros, Once More!

I realized after writing the no one will get the pun, through no fault of your own, but rather of my far too regular watching of Good Will Hunting. Robin Williams quotes Shakespeare’s Henry V “Once More unto the Breach, Dear Friends, Once More!” But more famously it is the title of Gilmore Girls Episode 721. I don’t ever want it said that this blog, or that show, panders to the ignorant.

Beach weekend! Me and the bros (minus Mitch, who is no longer a bro until further notice, possibly tomorrow) headed up North to Alexandria to wait for buses and argue with taxi drivers, and see the sights in between. Alexandria is the Buffalo to Cairo’s New York City. Second biggest in the state/nation, great waterfront view, wonderful people, and there are sheep in the street. It’s only a two and a half hour train ride, when you don’t figure in the five and half hours we waited for the train after our trademark poor planning. Anyways, it gave us a good chance to get to know each other in a way that sitting everyday in the same dorm room doesn’t.

But then we started chugging along and the times were merry. We weren’t quite sure where we were going to spend the night, it was either this cheap hotel or at our 34-year-old lawyer/international lover friend of friend’s BEACH house. I was hoping for cheap hotel. See, Pat was in Alexandria a few weeks ago and met this character, Amar, at a bar, and ever since Amar desperately tried to get Pat to come back for his birthday party. As luck would have it, Ryan, Richie, and I were headed up that same night of the birthday party. We met Amar in a bar in Cairo a couple nights beforehand to make sure he wasn’t shady, and three hours of his Conquests of Love throughout Europe we were convinced this guy was pretty straightedge.

On the way up there we found out the party of the century had been moved from his friend’s mansion to above a restaurant. So we got into town, checked into a four-bed room, and went out to celebrate now having a 35-year-old creepy friend. The place was pretty chill, and as to be expected Amar had a lot of young, strapping friends, many of them British. We had a great time, but nothing to really tell about until Richie was persuaded to call one of the Brits a fairy, more out of obedience than homophobia. I’ve never seen a name make such a mark. The kid was livid, and stood up ready to turn the clock back to 1812. A ten minute shouting match ensued, both arguing the merits of their nation, while I slammed plates of hummus with Pat, in what could only be the reason for the most severe hiccups either of us have ever had. When the dust settled it was apparent the Brits were as douchey as their popped collars suggested they were, and we were as culturally sensitive as our passports suggested we were. A fun night overall that left plenty to be talked about on the way home.

The next morning we got a jump on things and were up by 11. We headed straight out to the Citadel and I loved it. It was a medieval castle, on the BEACH! We were as much an attraction to the Egyptians as the sights were to us. Several asked to take pictures with us, primarily because of the Tattooed Freak that is Richie Roy. Getting a tattoo is taboo in Islam, but there’s no taboo against getting your picture taken with a damned infidel. We explored the fort for awhile then went to the Catacombs, which also were awesome but didn’t allow pictures. Buried deep in the earth, they had some awesome caves dug out to put dead people in. Here we almost got in another fight, when we remarked how another tour group must be having difficulty with the guide only speaking Arabic and the group only speaking Japanese, or so we thought. Then we hear, and I quote, “We’re not Japanese, BRO.” Oh god damn.

After that I returned to whence I came, the library. Yes, a lot of people don’t know, but before I read resumes at Chemonics, before I looked good at Food & Friends, before I spilled coffee at The Roycroft, and even before I got fired from my work-study position at SIS, I nearly died of loneliness by working at a library. But this library here wasn’t any ma and pa shop East Aurora Library, where we measured DVD’s in and out with tally marks; this was the Great Library of Alexandria, one of the seven ancient wonders of the world. Except that one got destroyed, so this is just the Library of Alexandria, but it is still pretty great. It functions more as a museum and convention center, but it can still hold up to 2,000 readers, or approximately the population of East Aurora proper.

That night we went to a delightful little seaside restaurant, The Mermaid. True Adam fans will know I’m no fan of fish, but when you’re in Alexandria, you eat fish. So we had a wonderful meal of sea bass, calamari, salad and dessert all for $10, and I had that unfamiliar feeling of being content with a meal. Afterwards, we went to a famous place of expatriates for the night, Spitfire, where we had a wonderful evening and I was forced/enabled to eat these little doughnut holes all night. On the way back we had a one pound falafel shop, where we were served spicy falafels. I’m not one to make excuses, but I feel they basically left out the falafel and gave me a spice patty in a pita bread, because I almost died. Richie thought I might be able to handle it better and could handle spicy sauces, the way people at Inauguration were surprised when I curled up in a ball and demanded to be left for dead. Yes, I’m from Buffalo, do I not bleed? Too much Shakespeare for one post, I’ll tone it down.

Next day was straight up BEACH. We had two of the toughest roughest taxi drivers you could ask for but we didn’t let that spoil our tan time. First beach we went to might as well have been Lake Erie for all the trash that was floating in it, but we had better luck at a beach farther out. Eventually, though, we knew we had to pack our bags and head back to our lack of responsibilities in Cairo. So we got to the train station, said we were looking for a bus to Cairo, got crammed into a mini-bus (leading cause of death for tourists in Egypt, true story), and were out on the road. About a minute into it we ask, “Are we going to Cairo?” We weren’t. But we were going to a bus station where we could get one there. Of course, the bus didn’t leave for another 2 ½ hours, but it was fine as it gave us a chance to get to know each other. A three hour ride later and one final taxi ride later, we were back in the middle of the desert, where we belong.

I also think it is hilarious GoogleAds think my audience will be most interested in hot Bollywood action. They know you’re reading this, Rochelle King and Cassie Wheeldon.

Here is a link to the new album:

Sunday, October 3, 2010

29°C and Sand

Finally, Thursday night was here! Not much had gone on during the week, and I was ready to head to the Sinai Peninsula in order to follow the footsteps of this blog’s namesake, get my beach on, and see YET ANOTHER MONASTERY. But it wasn’t to be.

I was excitedly packing my bag when Mitch stuck his head in my room. In his western-Canadian drawl he asked if I had looked at the weather. I replied in the negative, assuming the night would be like the last forty nights I had been in the Egypt, dry and hot. Mitch had checked the weather, and he told me, “29 degrees and sand.” Upon opening my window I found the sand forecast to accurate. Damn you Jack-Off, damn you. Apparently sandstorms don’t just occur when you steal a magic genie lamp. They occur when I want to get my tan on too. With the trip postponed, there will be much more opinion than the normal factual reporting you’re used to from this publication (EDITOR’S NOTE: It also gets slightly blasphemous).

My first thought was what the significance of the sandstorm was. Is it possible that God has taken notice of my blog’s popularity? I did have 3 page views yesterday, and not including the two times I visited to check. Does he fear that climbing Mt. Moses will give me the last bit of authority necessary to start me new world order? By his own admission, he is a jealous God. Well if He/She/It thinks I need some slabs of stone to dictate how this world should work, He/She/It’s got another thing coming. Here are my Studying in Egypt Ten Commandments, given to me by no one (unlike a certain prophet I know):

1. I am the Travel Blogger who brought you off of Facebook, the house of drunken pictures and annoying status updates (Gooooooooooo Billsssssssssssssss!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!). There shall be no Travel Blogging before mine (except Feierman’s fotolog, but that’s fine because it’s hardly a blog and he left a month before everyone else)

2. Do not make images of this Travel Blog, all rights are reserved to the author, including the forthcoming Broadway musical under the same title

3. Do not swear by this blog. While most things recorded here have some semblance of truth to them, I often lie to make stories more entertaining

4. Remember the Holy Day, Friday. Nothing will be open so you have to plan ahead, or else you will be very, very hungry

5. Skype thy Father and thy Mother. They worry about you, and it’s a good excuse to look at yourself on your screen, see what looks work which ones don’t

6. I’ll actually keep my forerunner’s sixth suggestion. Three thousand(?) years later we can still agree murder isn't cool

7. Do not commit public displays of affection. Especially not twice, two kisses=expulsion from the dorms

8. Do not let cab drivers steal from you. They will try to charge you $15 for an hour long taxi ride that should only cost $10. Be vigilant, be harsh. At the end of the day their feelings aren’t gonna hurt any worse than the chronic back problems they have from working extremely long hours for extremely low pay. Yo no hablo Ingles, bro. And certainly not Arabic.

9. Do not bear false pretenses of speaking Arabic. If you’re trying to impress the group of Americanners you’re with by being the native speaker in your traveling group, don’t. They’ll know when your cab ends up in the middle of the desert, the cabbie is demanding you get out, and you’re still shouting Cahara Jadeeda!

10. Do not covet thy roommate’s falafel. Guys, I’m stockpiling for Friday. Don’t touch em. Yes I need all seven of them!

Of course for a more traditional account of the Ten Commandments you’d have to listen to Congressman Lynn Westmoreland’s hilarious recollection of them on the Colbert Report. It is seriously the funniest interview you will ever see, and I really hope you watch it.

While I am decreeing my wishes, you should all buy a pie from Food & Friends. I hate to get all Maggie Skelton I’m-gonna-use-social-media-to-promote-my-own-selfish-cause on you, cause I really do detest it when I get on Facebook and she’s making me look at starving children, but this is mutually beneficial. You get some of the best pie I ever tasted (and you know I’ve eaten a lot pie in my day), and you help those in DC who are living with AIDS/HIV, cancer and other life-challenging illnesses. If I remember correctly you’re all poor, or at least that’s what you said when I asked you for money at the last party, so maybe you could find a friend and buy a pie together? If you need flavor recommendations, I’m always on Facebook.

Speaking of my copious amounts of free time, I’ve decided I need a profile picture for this blog. But, after Emily Beyer tore my FB prof pic apart for being too Egypty, I need public opinion to pick the one for this blog. I tried to keep to the standard six American profile pictures you generally see, but I couldn't get four girls to pose with me so I knocked it down to five. Also I added a distinct Egypt taste to it. If you would please view the pictures below and then vote at the top right of this page for the one you think I should use, I’d greatly appreciate it.

Option A: The Falaphisor

Option B: Quarter-pounders

Option C: Falafel Belly (not even flexing girls)

Option D: Two Much Falafel To Handel

Option E: Falafel Eyes

Special thanks to Emily Lelandais for taking the Falaphisor photo, which the onlooking Egyptians will never truly understand. My favorite picture is the candid one directly below, taken by the shutter camera after I had accidentally dropped my second falafel during my antics. Just look at the pain on that face and tell me I don't love falafels.