Tag Archives: Misadventures

Mountains and Deserts

I fail, once again, at posting. Apologies! So you get a two-in-one deal here: my trip to Mt. Sinai AND my trip to the Black and White Desert! And in a separate post, my mom’s visit to Egypt for the first two weeks of April.

A few weekends ago (okay so almost two months ago) I decided I wanted to spend 21 hours in a bus, breaking it up with climbing Mt. Sinai, supposedly the mountain where Moses got the Ten Commandments.

I did it through a tour group, which was all Egyptians and me. They all thought I was the crazy foreign girl, which is fine, I am. The drive to Sinai (which is a peninsular region in Eastern Egypt. Big deal, wars fought over it, borders Israel and the Gaza Strip, right next to Jordan and Saudi Arabic, Suez Canal is there, anyway) IS SO LONG. 10 hours on the way there. We left from Heliopolis an hour later than expected, and somehow or another, that meant instead of getting to Mt. Sinai at 1 in the morning, we got there at 4 in the morning. Part of it is to do with that fact that every three hours or so we had to stop the bus and soldiers at checkpoints would come and check everyone’s ID/passport.

Since we were climbing Mt. Sinai in order to watch the sunrise from the top, and we got there at 4 and it’s a 3 and a half hour hike and sunrise is around 5:30….yeah. Did not make the sunrise. Saw it from about halfway up the mountain. It was still incredibly beautiful, and hey, we only had to do half the hike in the dark. The hike was a bit strenuous, but it was really just a lot of walking uphill, not anything too serious. The kicker though is that the last part of the hike is 750 steps, the final part of 3,000+ steps called the Steps of Repentance (or something like that), the other way to get up the mountain. We made it to the top, and took in the gorgeous view, which included Mt. St. Catherine’s, the tallest mountain in Egypt.

I’m too lazy to upload photos (also internet is being spotty), so I’ve made my Facebook album of photos public – go browse through those, starting with this one.

We eventually mustered ourselves to go back down the mountain – which I practically flew down, I was tired and hungry. We had lunch at a hotel restaurant, then got back on the road around 2pm. It took us 11 hours to get back. ELEVEN. I cringe just remembering it. And at a certain point in the middle of the night, a checkpoint made all of us get off the bus with our bags to check to see if we had narcotics on us. Except they didn’t check my bag, just looked at me and motioned me back on the bus. Life in Egypt.

We get back to Heliopolis around 11:30 and hooray, one of the guys on the trip gives me a ride back to my flat on the other side of town.

The end.
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On to the White Desert!

A few weeks ago, a group of friends and I, plus a group of other people we rounded up, so 15 total, took a one-night trek into the White Desert. Once again, too lazy to upload photos here, but album is public on Facebook and you should check it out.

The White Desert is so named because of chalk-limestone formations created back when the whole area was a shallow sea (think 500,000+ years ago). It’s quite an alien landscape, and indescribably beautiful.

A small caravan of two mini-buses picked up our group in Zamalek on an early Friday morning, driving us out to the desert. It took about 5 hours, through bleak landscape (most of the desert in Egypt is flat, rocky, and boring). We arrived in Bawiti, the oasis town on the edge of the Black Desert, and stopped at the International Hot Springs Hotel, through which we had arranged our desert safari. It is owned by a German and Japanese couple, who are awesome and the husband (Peter) is hilarious and very attentive. We had a lunch at the hotel, then loaded up into 4 SUVs with our guides, and our cooler full of alcohol in the back of one. We drove off into the desert, ready for adventures. Our first stop was Crystal Mountain, which is not much of a mountain and is not really made of crystal, but of calcite. However, it was quite interesting and fun to clamber about (once again check out the album on Facebook). We then drove off further into the White Desert, stopping at interesting chalk formations on our way to our campsite. As the sun began to set, we reached our site, and while our guides set up the Bedouin-style camp, we scampered about, exploring the landscape. Eventually, dinner was served, and it was DELICIOUS. Soup, vegetables, chicken, rice…so good. We ate with all the heavens laid out above us and only a few lamps and a fire to light our meals. Once we finished dinner, my friends and I grabbed beers and wandered off into the dark to sit, listen to music, chat, and occasionally just fall into silence when the overwhelming sense of humility from being in such a place quieted our minds and tongues. We had opted to not have a full tent for us built, but only walls supported by the SUVs, so that our final blanket was a ceiling of stars. To roll over and wake up in the night with that above you is comforting and terrifying. I could definitely get used to it.

I woke up early in the morning, and found Megan and Mugant had gotten up with the sunrise (I was a bit late for that, but I see it 5 times a week anyway thanks to my job). We decided the best way (by we I mean solely Mugant, he’s very inconsiderate) to wake everyone else up was to play music very loudly. Eventually, a lovely breakfast was served, we scampered a bit more as the guides packed up, and we headed on to the Black Desert. The Black Desert is primarily igneous (formed from lava or magma) mountains that formed a few million years ago in a large crevice in the earth. We reached one mountain, and while some climbed up to the very top, I stayed only halfway up and danced. After our mountain, we once more piled back in the SUVs and drove back to the hotel. We cleaned up a bit, thanked our guides and Peter, piled back into the mini-buses and headed back to Cairo.

It was a quick weekend trip, with quite a bit of travel, but the destination was worth it.

 

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Birthdays and Such

A few exciting things from the past week (outside of teaching):

January 12 marked four months of living in Cairo! Still can’t believe I’m here.

January 16, I turned 23! Two and a third decades on this planet, whoa. It was a pretty tame birthday, in many respects. My students sang me Happy Birthday and we had a potluck at lunch at work, although mostly everyone forgot about it and so only a few people brought dishes, but it was still nice. I do like the people I work with, by and large. They can be a bit standoffish at times (namely the ones close to my age and that live near me. What’s up with that?), but most of the women are lovely.

That evening a friend was hosting a homemade Punjabi dinner, so one of the Matts and I went to that. It was good meeting new people, chatting with friends, and of course eating delicious food. They also sang Happy Birthday to me.

My flatmates also, in a case of self-motivated kindness, bought a toaster oven for the apartment (which I’d been saying I’d get). So, hooray, for soon I will be making baked potatoes and grilled cheeses and other things including but not limited to toast in that sucker.

Thursday evening was a party at a friend’s place who is leaving Cairo, so it was goodbye party for her, another fellow, as well as Matt’s birthday party (his birthday was Friday). It was an excellent party, although when it was about 2:45 and someone mentioned to me, “In a few more hours the sun will be up!” I realized I see the sun rise 5 days a week. Did not need to greet it again, so left tout suite.

Friday evening, Kate, Christine, Ryan and Melissa and I went to dinner and drinks at L’Aubergine. It was delicious on both counts. However, I was lame, and knew I had a ton of lesson planning to do for Saturday, so had to cut the night short. Being an adult sucks.

Saturday I Skyped with Sarah, my old roommate hi Sarah I know you’re reading this let’s Skype again soon please. and my parents, which is always nice. I also went to a demo class for Bollywood dancing! I’ve signed up for 5 sessions on Saturdays now, so in a month, I will have some sweet Bollywood dance moves to break out as needed.

So while the previous post was not exactly joyful, hey, at least my weekend was excellent.

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Rotation, Review, and Regards

It is the last day of 2012! Another full calendar year has passed us, the Earth has fully rotated around the sun, completing its orbit (from this point in the sky anyway, the calendar measurement of time is relative), and life goes on.

I’m a fan of lists – so here is my life in 2012, however self-indulging it may be. (Head to the bottom of the list if you want to read about my Christmas). Oh, and I put in pictures, so this post seems long but the reading is minimal (don’t be lazy).

January 2012: I begin my life as a college graduate by interning at AMIDEAST, working at the Supreme Council of the Scottish Rite, and babysitting (always the babysitting!).

January 16, 2012: I turn 22 and get to celebrate with so many of my closest friends. 

A birthday with some excellent ladies!

A birthday with some excellent ladies!

February 14, 2012: Best Valentine’s so far because my diploma arrives in the mail.

Spring 2012: Puppies. Volunteering with puppies. The best! Baked a ton. Including for Pi Day. And Leap Day (Leap Day William!).

April 2012: My APO family got a bit bigger! Went to Foxfield. So many preppy drunk biddies. SO MANY.

PEONS.

PEONS.

Thankfully I like horses.

Thankfully I like horses.

May 2012: The long, long goodbye to DC, filled with adventures, picnics, selling stuff and embraces you wish would last forever. And graduation ceremony times!

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June 2012: One of the best trips I have ever taken, with some of the best people I’ve ever known: California Road Trip with Sydney and Alex (how I miss you so).

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Summer 2012: Unpacking, packing, unpacking, packing. Spending time with my family and friends and my pets. (Also got into a car crash but whatever).

SMUTTY DOG.

SMUTTY DOG.

On a boat in a lake in a park in SoCal with Mitchell.

On a boat in a lake in a park in SoCal with Mitchell.

Late August 2012: My family and I say goodbye to California and hit the road. Destination: Springfield, Massachusetts, my parents’ new home! Driving cross country with 3 pets is a HASSLE.

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Early September 2012: Visit Arthur, Deepika and Sydney for one last time in Boston and Long Island respectively. Relish the last days with my family.

September 11-12, 2012: Move to Cairo, Egypt for a new adventure.

September-October 2012: Take CELTA course to become certified in teaching English.

October 1, 2012: Will’s (my brother) 25th birthday! ALL DOWN HILL NOW.

October 2012: FINALLY SEE THE DAMN PYRAMIDS.

Sphinx too.

Sphinx too.

October-December 2012: Crazy shenanigans in Egypt (see the rest of this blog, duh.)

November 2012: My APO family gets a bit bigger again (hello glittle!) and I have two Thanksgivings.

Family Name: Keefe No Shits Given. Represent.

Family Name: Keefe No Shits Given. Represent.

December 2012: Hired to be a Grade 6 teacher, job starts in January.

December 25, 2012: My dad’s 60th birthday! And Christmas. I spent Christmas with Melissa’s family. I went to their home in Heliopolis for evening tea and sweets. Melissa’s parents were there, and they gave me a beautiful silk scarf. Two AU alum came for tea as well and we all talked and talked and talked. The next morning (I spent the night), we had a big Egyptian style breakfast (with lots of adorable family bickering) with Melissa’s grandmother. Then her, her mom and I went to see The Hobbit. IT WAS SO GOOD. I got a big piece of homemade fruitcake (no really) to take home with me. A simple, quiet but wonderful Christmas. Thank you Mafouz’s!

Oh yes, forgot, Kate, Christine and I went to the Swiss Club Christmas bazaar. This is what happened.

Oh yes, forgot, Kate, Christine and I went to the Swiss Club Christmas bazaar. This is what happened.

Representing AU gorgeously.

Representing AU gorgeously.

Boxing Day Breakfast with the (adopted) family!

Boxing Day Breakfast with the (adopted) family!

December 27, 2012: My mom’s birthday! Happy birthday, miss you and love you!

And that, my friends, is 2012 in not-so-short. May 2013 be filled with the same type of love from family and friends I received this year! Here’s to tomorrow and every day thereafter.

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Alexandria: Pardonnez mon français.

This past weekend some friends and I went to Alexandria.

Alexandria, famous ancient city know for Cleopatra, the great library of Alexandria, the lighthouse of Alexandria. Not that any of that still exists.

What does exist is this tale of misadventures on top of misadventures.

Wednesday I get a text from Kate saying, “Hey want to go to Alexandria this weekend?” I haven’t left Cairo since I’ve been here, so I said sure, I’d go for one night. We arrange to meet at the train station at 7:30 am Thursday (it’s Islamic New Year so everyone has off) to buy our tickets for the 8:15 train to Alex. I proceed to go to a Scandinavian music party that evening (don’t ask, because I don’t know either) with my roommate. We’re there until 3:30. We toddle home, I get up at 6, get ready, get to the train station. The girls (Kate and Christine) had already arrived and gone to purchase our tickets. Misadventure #1: The 8:15 train is booked. The next available train is at noon. Obviously, we purchase tickets for that train.

We are so happy about having to take a later train. Also I’ve another mosquito bite on my lip.

We head back to Kate and Christine’s apartment in Zamalek to get a few hours of shut eye before our train. In the meantime, the final part of our quintet, Sam and Charlie (other AUC interns) attempt to purchase their tickets for the train. The noon train is booked, the next available train is at 2. Fail, trains, fail.

Kate, Christine and I get on our train and head to Alexandria, hoorah! About an hour and a half into our two and a half hour journey, we realize, we don’t know where our hostel is. Kate has one idea, Christine has another, and I wasn’t really paying attention when I booked it. Misadventure #2: Finding our hostel. We attempt to call the numbers given to us, but no one answers. We have the street name but our maps don’t have the street on them. We eventually figure out it is near a famous hotel. Once we get to Alexandria, we hop into a cab and head to this famous hotel and find our hostel by luck.

Misadventure #3: The elevator has no shaft to it. Or door. There is the door attached to each floor, but between the top of the floor door (ha) and the ceiling, there’s nothing but air. We could simply jump out of the elevator is we wish. In other news, the elevator breaks down. A lot. In any case, we check into our rooms (then consolidate to one room) and head out into Alexandria. We get some sweet potatoes because we’re hungry and eat them while sitting on the Corniche looking out over the Mediterranean.

So delicious, sweet potatoes slow-cooked and bought off the street.

Christine and Kate along the Corniche.

We walked to the Bibliotheca Alexandria, also along the Corniche. The BA, opened in 2002, is a world-class library, museum and research institute meant to evoke the grand tradition of the great library of Alexandria, destroyed a thousand years ago. Since it was 1) a holiday and 2) already the late afternoon, the library wasn’t open, but we were planning to go the next day (Friday) anyway.

No idea what this is. But heck yes science!

We walked back to the hostel at this point. Somewhere along the way, a piece of glass got embedded into the bottom of my foot (misadventure #4). We picked up Charlie and Sam and walked to the Greek Club, a restaurant that was recommended by all the guidebooks as well as people some of us knew. Misadventure #5: The Greek Club was a big fat joke. Expensive (we were paying for the view), the service was unbelievably slow even by Egyptian standards and we were cold sitting outside. Not fun in the slightest. We finished up there and decided we all needed a drink. We walk back down along the Corniche to find Spitfire, a well-known dive bar in town. Well-known but not well-marked. We all have some beers and just relax for a bit. One of the mirrors in the place had a ton of passport photos and business cards stuck into the sides. I just so happened to have a passport photo on me.

My face shall forever grace the halls of this hallowed establishment.

Charlie, Christine and I were all tired, so we booked it back to the hostel. Misadventure #6: No idea how to make the water in the bathroom run. We eventually figure out you need to turn various knobs under the sink and by the toilet to make things happen. This is an issue for the rest of the trip.

Next morning, we wake up and decide we need to go to the train station and get our tickets now. Charlie, Sam and I would be leaving that day and Kate and Christine the next day. Kate is not feeling so well, so we leave her to rest at the hostel. At the station we find out, you guessed it, misadventure #7 that the 4:45 train that day back to Cairo was booked (it’s 10 in the morning. Come on!). Next train is at 6pm. Charlie, Sam and I book that train and Christine gets her tickets just fine (lesson learned). Our plan had been to walk to the Greco-Roman Museum from the train station and meet Kate there. Misadventure #8: We can’t even find the Greco-Roman Museum. We suspect it is or is near the Roman Theater, which are the ruins of a Roman theater (surprise!) but we’ve no idea. We can’t even get to the entrance of the Roman Theater.

Sam and I wondering what/where the heck.

We decide we don’t want to pay for it anyway so we walk back to the Corniche and go into a patisserie (bakery/sweet shop) near our hostel and get some morning cake and coffee.

Mmmm. Cake. (I don’t like sweets too much, so this is unusual)

Christine’s REALLY awesome coffee latte. Spidercoffee!

We discuss what to do next. Our plan had been: Greco-Roman Museum, lunch, Bibliotheca (which the guidebooks told us was open from 3-7 on Fridays), train. With coffee and tea obviously throughout. Since the first part of the plan was scraped, we needed to find someway to occupy our time. Since my two “must see things” on this visit to Alexandria were: library and some old shit (pardon my French), we decided to go to the catacombs (since one of my favorite things is cemeteries, catacombs fill so many interests) and Pompey’s Pillar, a misnomer-ed solitary pillar nearby.

Misadventure #9: We decide to take the tram. Alexandria has a rickety old tram system that supposedly takes you places. False. We get on the tram, thinking (from what the ticket guy tells us) we’re headed to the catacombs. Until he tells us to get off down the street from where we got on and take something else from there. We say screw that, and decide to catch a taxi.

Misadventure #10: All 5 of us. Let’s just say a bit of a tight fit.

Now realize, that means there is ANOTHER person in the back, taking the photo. Charlie got to be at the front.

We get to the catacombs. Which were WONDERFULOld, kinda creepy, dead people, all things I love.

Misadventure #11: Except when I stepped through a board and nearly twisted my ankle. And then stepped into a puddle and my shoes filled with water (and maybe oil or death or something, I don’t know Indiana Jones).

Where the dead rest! Or rested because they’s ain’t home no mo’.

Trying to get questionable water out of my shoes.

But hey we’re all still smiling!

We rumble on out of the catacombs and meander our way (read: get lost) to Pompey’s Pillar. It’s actually misnamed, it has nothing to do with Pompey. It was built in response to Diocletian’s (Roman emperor) crushing of an Alexandrian revolt in 297 AD (IT IS OLD). So basically a really big pillar to make fun of the Alexandrians for losing. It was also built on top of ruins of another site, the Serapeum, the daughter library to the great library.

It’s a big pillar.

Climbing over ancient stuff. Guards don’t care. This is Egypt.

Whoever carved that gave everyone monkey toes. Or maybe they really had ridiculously long toes.

We all pile back into a taxi (oh the joy) and head to the library. Our first thought was to grab a fish lunch, but we didn’t want hassle so we grabbed some fuul/koshari/schwarma and ate along the Corniche until 3, when the library was supposed to open.

Misadventure #12: Except the library is never open on Fridays, despite our guidebooks saying otherwise.

We mope about a bit, then rock-paper-scissors to decide what we do next. Back to the hostel! Charlie decides to take a nap and the rest of us walk to a cafe along the Corniche (good lord so much of this day is eating.)

But before we leave I briefly check my email – and I’d been offered a job at an American school! But more on that in my next post.

Misadventure #13: The cafe gets practically EVERYTHING wrong. We ask for 1 tea, 2 teas with milk, rice with milk (kinda like rice pudding) and a chicken schwarma. What comes out is 2 regular teas, a rice with milk AND ice cream AND fruit. We eventually get them sorted out (they were trying to bs us because we’re foreign. WELL LOOK WHO CAN READ ARABIC, SUCKERS.) but Sam and I have to scarf and run, since we need to grab our stuff, grab Charlie and run/walk to the train station. Which we do, it’s fine, we get home.

So, Alexandria really was just a slew of misadventures. But it wasn’t a bad time! It could have been awful but the crew I was traveling with were great. Next time, we’ll plan better. Or at all. Ha.

P.S. All pictures come from Kate or Christine. I didn’t take a single photo with my camera the whole trip. Whomp.

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In Such a Short Time

When I last updated, I was about to begin my job in a nursery.

Since then, I started the job and as of yesterday quit the job. Without going into too much detail, working in a nursery is not for me. Particularly when the pay is bad, the commute is long, and the owner/Egyptian staff are incredibly unpleasant. I came to Egypt to make a life I want to live. I don’t want to waste time in a place that consistently makes me miserable.

However, it means I’m currently unemployed (still). I am looking for jobs again, and hoping something better turns up. If not, I will soon begin working on building a tutoring schedule, where I teach students one-on-one (depending on how you work it, you can make just as much or more than an average English teacher here). I say I’m not too worried, but of course I am. No work = no money = homeward bound.

In other events:

  • Melissa and I had a Halloween sleepover where we ate candy, made the worst Rice Krispie Treats ever (Egypt’s fault not ours), and watched movies.
  • A random crazy woman punched me in the head on my walk home one day.
  • A random guy masturbated in front of me and I smacked him in the back of head.
  • I dropped my keys down an elevator shaft and retrieved them with a fishing pole.
  • My roommate and I have rearranged our flat, getting rid of furniture (putting it in storage), getting rid of random junk (why the hell was there a bag of concrete in our apartment) and are soon planning on having it painted.
  • I have a cold (caused by working in the nursery I’m sure) which has led to a persistent hacking cough.
  • Tomorrow I’m going to Alexandria for the night with a few friends. I’m excited to get out of Cairo – I haven’t left the city since I’ve been here.
  • The 12th marked my two month anniversary of being in Cairo.
  • The 8th marked my parents’ 26th anniversary (love you both).

And that about does it. I could have done more detail, but hey, when you haven’t posted in a few weeks and your internet is slow as molasses anyway, sparse is better.

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