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Monday, January 30, 2012

Jordan in January

Once again life in Egypt has changed my perspective.  I'd never had a burning desire to visit Jordan.  Truth be told, if my life depended on knowing where Jordan was located on a map, I would probably be dead.  But my world has expanded and tales of the spectacular city of Petra drew Ryan and I to the little country east of the Dead Sea last week.

We flew into Amman on a flight that was pushed back twice, so we arrived at the lovely hour of midnight.  For those of you that know me best you are hopefully understanding how difficult this was for me!  I am normally in bed by 9 and asleep by 9:07 :)  By the time we got our rental car and hit the road, it was closer to 1 and the lovely man at the hotel gave us keys and sent us off to bed around 2.

Jordan is a beautiful little country.  The terrain reminded me a lot of Israel (but don't tell Jordan that).  Rolling hills with houses built on terraces and steeped facades of stone.  The brush is scrubby and coarse, and there are huge rocks littering the fields.  We enjoyed the food immensely.

Especially this lebanese dish where they covered tomatoes in a garlic dip and then sprinkle them with sumac.  I would have taken a picture of them, but I was too busy eating.  Wow!  I bought some sumac while we were there hoping to recreate the dish here in Egypt.

I don't think the people were as friendly, but the policemen were fantastic.  Not only did they wear helmets with big pointy spears on top, they were very helpful and courteous.  Once again no pictures, I've been trained well not to take pictures of law enforcement in the middle east.

We visited the citadel in Amman, which overlooks the ampitheater, and more Roman ruins.

Then we drove to Jerash, which a dinky little town north of Amman with some amazing ruins.  There's a Hadrien Gate when you arrive and an amazing ampitheater with a dramatic drop off.

Tessa climbed a wall and I made friends with a wandering horse in the Hippodrome.

The next day we drove to Petra.  On the way we stopped at the Dead Sea.  Didn't get in because it was too cold, but I'd already done the whole floating thing when we went to the Dead Sea in Israel.  It was really beautiful to see it from up high, and the twisting drive through the mountains was great!  

There really just aren't enough words for Petra.  And pictures don't do it justice either.  All I can say is it's amazing, overpoweringly beautiful, and so worth the miles of walking.  But maybe go at a different time of year than we did, because Petra in January was freakin cold!

I'd give Jordan 5 stars as a great place to visit.  There's a lot to see and I can vouch from experience that you can see it all in 4 days!  I think we're done with middle eastern travel for a while though, time for a change of scenery and a bit less noise from call to prayer at 5 am.  The next trip will hopefully be Scotland and northern England in March!  Yay more cold. 

 I think I need to buy a jacket.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Need a book to read!

I am desperately in need of a new book to read.  Want to know what's so funny about that?  I'm actually in the middle of reading 4 right now.  Three that I'm reading and critiquing for writer friends and my own because I'm an obsessive freak.  I keep going back to my pages in fear that something has changed while my computer screen was closed.  Manuscript elves maybe?

But anyway, I digress...I need a fun book, something that I can just melt into and not have to think about grammar or plot or point of view.  I just finished "Winter Sea" and while it was good, it wasn't great.  That's the problem I've been finding lately.  It's taking a lot more to wow me into loving a book than it used to.  I think part of it is the writing process, it makes me uber aware of poor technique or shoddy plot lines.  So many books feel formulaic now.

Oh how I miss those special moments in the past.  I actually have a warm and fuzzy feeling for the days I started to read some of my favorite books.  It was the start of a journey into novels and series that captured my curiosity.  The list is small, but the books I can remember being mesmerized with are:

Harry Potter- Big duh and if you've never read them and only seen the movies I feel bad for you.

Outlander- I was depressed for a week when I finished this series!  I loooooooove the characters, it's a completely addicting read.

The eye of the world - This one was a surprise to me, because I didn't think I would love it so much, and I didn't know it would eventually be 12 novels all the size of a dictionary.  Still to this date it is the most impressive series I've ever read because damn!  There are like 57 main characters.  How on earth Robert Jordan kept his plot lines and characters in order is beyond me!

Hunger Games- I stayed up all night with this one.  I literally could not wrench the book from my fingers.  It didn't matter that I had to go to work the next day, nothing mattered but reading.  That is very rare to find.

Clan of the Cave Bear- This was probably the first adult series I ever read.  It is so beautifully epic, I still like to reread it every few years.

Twilight- I didn't think I'd like Twilight.  I'm not into vampires, whiny girls, or stories that are more about romance that plot.  But once again damn.  I think it's something about her voice, Stephanie Meyers just knows how to grab you.  Couldn't put the books down.

Trickster's Choice- Can't believe I almost forgot Tamora Pierce.  This series is fantastic and I love her writing.  She's not as well known as she should be.  Ali is one of my all time favorite characters!

I think that's it.  My pantheon of book Gods.  Hopefully I'm not getting so old that I've forgotten one!

So, I'm looking for another one to join this collection.  Any suggestions?  What are you reading?  I love fantasy and Sci Fi, historical fiction.  Give me my next fix!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Taxi Cab

I had dinner in Maadi last night with my friend Renee and then took a taxi home to Rehab where I live.  It was a surprisingly uneventful cab ride, in fact I was so busy playing on my iPhone that I barely even noticed the drive at all.  I can't even tell you how strange that experience was.  It really made me think about all the crazy cab rides I've experience in Cairo and what this cab ride was missing.

1.  The driver was not smoking, usually they fill the cab with a cloud of smoke and offer you a cigarette to do the same.

2.  The backseat had seat belts.  First time I've experienced that!

3.  The music on the radio was in English and at a normal volume.  We actually jammed to Adele for a few minutes.  I'm used to hearing techno undulations of Arabic with the word "hebibi" (baby) interspersed every 10 words.  And of course the normal volume is just short of making your ears bleed.

4.  He drove at a reasonable speed.  Meaning I didn't see light waves streaking across the windows as he turned on the hyper drive and sped down the road dodging and weaving through traffic.

5.  He actually knew where he was going.  I didn't have to give him any directions till we were outside the gates of Rehab.  Usually they say they know where it is and then after stopping 12 times to ask someone for directions I end up calling Mary Girgis to explain things in Arabic.

6.  The meter was on and moving at a fair pace.  It read 43Le when I arrived at my door and he was happy with the 50 I handed him.  Most of the time there's no meter or it has been messed with to increase the price.  We're left having to haggle because our white skin obviously means that we should be charged 3x the normal price, even though we live here and know how much it should cost to get from place to place.

You would think I would be thrilled about this uneventful, perfectly safe cab.  But oddly enough I found the experience very anticlimactic.  I've gotten used to the noise and speed and drama.  Now I'm not saying I missed it, peace is hard to find in Cairo and I'll take it whenever it's offered.  But it made me realize how living here has changed me.  I've definitely been pulled from my comfort zone, and now I'm finding that means the zone is bigger and has a lot more flexibility.  I think that's probably a good thing.  Thanks Cairo, and the next time I'm in taxi cab chaos I'll be more thankful for this special experience.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2011 in a nutshell

This time last year I was with my family in France and Ryan and I were plowing our way through 8 course meals for the holidays.  It's amazing how quickly life changes and how much can happen!  Our lives are so full right now I actually needed to look through my picture albums on iPhoto to remember it all.  2011 was a wonderful year, here's what happened in a nutshell.

Visited Paris and Bordeaux, kissed in the snow in front of the Eiffel Tower.

Egypt had a revolution and we were evacuated to Sharm El Sheikh for 2 weeks.  We went back to the states for another 2 weeks while waiting for school to begin again.  It was nice to see family and friends, we even made it to Tampa with Corinne and Jeremy for a hockey game.   We are very blessed to work for a company that takes such good care of their employees!

We visited friends in Maadi for a barbecue and learned that cheating at soccer is a tradition in Egypt. (according to Zein)

Mary Girgis and her girls took me with them to the Wissa Wassef tapestry school in Giza.  Then we ate dinner at Barrys and rode horses around the Pyramids at sunset.

For Spring Break we went to Alexandria with Brooke and Ryan Welborn.  We'd been there before but this time we saw everything!

The rest of the spring was long and arduous.  I spent the majority of it writing and Ryan was very busy with his class of 5th graders.

When summer came we had an extremely hectic schedule of travel.  Ryan went to Brussels for IB training.  The day he arrived back in Cairo we flew home to the states to visit family and for me to go to a conference in CA.  In the month of July we flew to:  London, Orlando, San Jose, Seattle, Houston, Salt Lake City, Atlanta, Detroit, Paris, Amsterdam, and back to Cairo.  We visited family on both coasts and even traveled to Canada with Ryan's parents.  We had over 27 flights total in the month of July and we were pooped.  Luckily our last flight was to Copenhagen for a 9 day cruise around the Baltic Sea.  We celebrated our 1st wedding anniversary at the ballet in St. Petersburg.

As the summer drew to a close and we returned to Cairo we made a life changing decision and got a dog.  Cleo was one of the best things we did in 2011.

This fall we went to Dahab and learned to scuba dive.  

We traveled to Istanbul and made some wonderful friendships.  

And to cap the year off with a bang, we spent two weeks with Ryan's parents seeing Upper Egypt on a Nile Cruise from Aswan to Luxor.

All in all 2011 was pretty damn amazing!  We set foot on 4 continents, traveled to 10 countries, lived through a revolution, brought a puppy into our family and made it through our first year of marriage.  Looking forward to all the wonderful things to come in 2012!