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?

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