More Holidays and Family Trip: Part One--Cairo, Alexandria, Bahariyya,
and Victoria Falls
Well, it's been a whole two months and
so much has happened! We had Christmas, the New Year, and the Big
Eid, AND my family came to visit! (And yes, I did find a way to work some
formulas into my Excel spreadsheet, for those of you that were
CHRISTMAS AND NEW YEAR'S
These were wonderful holidays and I had many opportunities to
celebrate. We had the church Christmas party in the home of the
same family who hosted it last year. Once again, we had delicious
goodies and sung Christmas carols. And once again, everyone
wanted to sing every song in the book relating to snow. Too funny!
My class of youth and I led the service on December 23, and we sang all
our favorite Christmas carols. On December 24, I went to a
Christmas Eve dinner at a friend's house where we had a gift
exchange. Then I went to the midnight service at St. Mark's, the
French Catholic church. It was a beautiful service, with a
gigantic choir (supported by a full orchestra) singing carols from the
balcony. The whole service (including the carols) was in French,
but the magic of Christmas needs no translation. I was there with
my friends from Sweden, Uganda, Germany, and the Philippines, and not a
one of us spoke French. But all of us left feeling very much in
the Christmas spirit!
On Christmas Day, I went to lunch at another friend's house--the same
place where I had Thanksgiving dinner! Then I went to a
get-together at a German couple's house in the evening. That was
truly an international event, with many different cultures
represented. I played Christmas carols on the keyboard, while my
Filipino friend played with me on the guitar.
On New Year's Eve, the same German couple (they are from my church)
organized a get-together for all the singles in the church. We
went out to eat and then back to their house for games and the
count-down. Again, this was an international event, and I got to
hear about New Year's traditions in many different countries.
When the clock struck midnight, we went out in their yard and lit some
sparklers. We heard lots of firecrackers and other noises going
on in the streets around us, and the German couple asked us if we had
heard about the Alexandrian New Year's tradition. When we said
no, they informed us that Alexandrians throw down glass bottles from
their balconies and windows into the street. They don't know why,
but that's what they do. (Fortunately, I have long since broken
myself of the habit of asking "why" when it comes to Egypt.) As a
result, many taxis don't run after midnight for fear of their tires
getting torn up. The street sweepers work all through the night
to push the glass to the side before the next morning's traffic starts
up. Thankfully, the German man gave us all rides home, so we
didn't have to worry about not finding a taxi.
When I got home, I started to wonder why I didn't hear about the glass
bottle thing last New Year's Eve. And then I remembered:
last New Year's Eve I was in a Cairo hotel room waiting on my ride to the
airport, where I caught a plane to Turkey in the wee hours of New
Year's Day. Hard to believe that was a whole year ago!
The tree at St. Mark's
Inside the sanctuary at St.
little tree with its 6 ornaments =)
Click on the two pictures on the left to hear some of the music from
THE BIG EID
Every year, there is a big Islamic festival (eid in Arabic) to
commemorate Abraham's sacrifice of his son. This festival mainly
consists of slaughtering sheep and goats and then eating them.
Last year, I missed all the killings because I traveled to Cairo.
Well, wouldn't you know that I again
traveled to Cairo on the day of the slaughter? Last year, I
didn't see any blood, but this year, I saw some puddles of blood in the
Cairo streets. Also, some friends of mine took pictures of the
slaughtering if any of you are interested. Click on the Cairo
sunrise if you want to see the pics. WARNING: These are
graphic. If you don't like seeing animals killed, or seeing blood
in general, don't click on the link!
THE FAMILY TRIP
Well, the joyous day finally came when my family arrived! They
got here in the early morning hours of January 16. I was so
excited to see them after so long! We had many adventures while
they were here, and eventually I will recount them all. But for
now, I'll just do Part One.
Now, follow me here. I have two parents, two younger sisters, and
a younger brother. They ALL came out to see me on January
16. However, my sisters were only able to stay one week, since
they both had to get back to work. My parents were able to stay a
whole month, since my mom doesn't work and my dad has his own
company. And my brother is still here! He's going to stay
for three months--he just took the semester off from college!
So, since the first week was the only week when they were ALL here, we
tried to cram as much into that week as we could. We went to
Cairo, Alexandria, and Bahariyya. In Cairo we went to the
Pyramids & Sphinx, the Egyptian Museum, and the
Khan-el-Khalili. It was interesting trying to help 5 different
people shop and bargain in the Khan. I got offered another job
before the night was over! We were also able to visit with an
Egyptian family in Cairo, and they served us an Egyptian feast.
Seriously, they just kept bringing out more and more food! Then
when we were stuffed full, they brought out dessert. And not just
one dessert, but three! And then
they gave us a box of cookies to take back to the hotel with us.
Whew! Also in Cairo, my brother and I spent a lot of time in the
Mogamma, getting our visas taken care of. I was NOT ripped off on the
multiple vs. single re-entry visa this time. They tried to give
me just the single one again, but I was on to their scam and made
SURE I got the multiple re-entry visa. You ain't gonna fool ME
Now, you have all seen pictures of the above places on this site
before, so I'll spare you the bulk of the "same old" pictures.
That said, here's a few new ones (all courtesy of my sister Emily):
Me "kissing" the Sphinx...I think he needs some Chapstick!
My brother, mom, dad, and me on the train from Cairo to Alexandria
In Alex, we saw Fort Qaitbey, the aquarium, the fish museum, and the
catacombs of Kom es-Shouqafa. In Bahariyya, we did the Black
Desert, Crystal Mountain, and White Desert. We also got to visit
some Egyptian and Bedouin friends of mine in Alex and Bahariyya (one
guess as to what we drank in Bahariyya). You've seen the
Bahariyya stuff and most of the Alex stuff, except for the aquarium and
the fish museum. Those pics will come whenever I get around to my
ghetto-fabulous update. =) For now, here's some more pics
My mom and I outside the Alex
The family eating lunch out by the sea. From left to right: my
sister Aliece, my mom, my brother A.J., me, and my dad
My sister Emily and I enjoying a Mediterranean sunset
After the first week, my two sisters went home, and my parents, my
brother, and I went to Victoria Falls. This was a surprise trip
that I had been planning for my parents since about July. My
sisters and brother knew I was planning it and helped me gather info
and keep it a secret. This was a great trip despite the fact that
we lost one day of it due to airline delays--one of our planes got a
crack in the windshield! We were supposed to fly from Cairo to
Khartoum, Sudan; Khartoum to Nairobi, Kenya; Nairobi to Johannesburg,
South Africa; then Johannesburg to Livingstone, Zambia. We
actually ended up flying from Cairo to Khartoum, and then from Khartoum
to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia! They grounded us in Ethiopia for 7 or 8
hours while they were trying to figure out what to do with our
flight. They ended up deciding to send a replacement windshield
with the next plane to arrive. Then we took the new plane, and
the folks who were scheduled to fly on that plane from Addis to Nairobi
had to wait while ours was repaired! (Side note: Never fly Kenya
Airways. The way they handled the whole delay situation was
appalling.) Of course, by the time we got to Nairobi, we had
missed BOTH of our onward connections. Kenya Airways put us up in
Nairobi for the night and then got us to Johannesburg and Livingstone
the next day. I'm glad we finally got there, but I forfeited a
night of our three-night hotel package! I'm still working with
Kenya Airways on that.
Once we finally arrived in Livingstone we had a fantastic time.
Our hotel was actually in the national park where the Falls were, and
we could walk right out to them from our hotel! There were also
plenty of opportunities to view wildlife on the hotel property.
Seeing giraffes, zebras, gazelles, and monkeys soon became common
place. We were able to go on a sunset cruise on the Zambezi
River, ride on elephants, take a helicopter flight over the falls, and
A.J. and I even went bungee jumping off the Victoria Falls
bridge! (In my opinion, having done both now, I will say that
bungee jumping is scarier than skydiving, but much more fun!)
This was my first trip out of the Middle East for over a year. It
was so nice to be somewhere I could wear shorts and sleeveless shirts
(it was summer in Zambia, and very hot), somewhere I could eat bacon,
and somewhere I didn't have to hear the call to prayer every day!
Most of the pictures for the Zambia trip (and in fact the whole trip)
are on my parents' and my brother's cameras. (The pictures above
were all from my sister's camera...I didn't really take any the whole
trip!) So I'll just post a few "stock photos" from
the bungee company, as well as the video of my bungee jump. I
edited out my brother's jump and set a different song to play in the
background. Oh, and if you're wondering, the man that they zoom
in on at one point is my dad!
The Victoria Falls
Knife Point Bridge, with our hotel in the background
Victoria Falls Bridge--this is the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe,
and the bridge from which I jumped!
Click on the bungee penguin to view
the video (right-click to download). It's 3.6 MB and in the
Quicktime .mov format.
Hopefully I'll get the rest of the pictures soon and I can update you
all on the rest of the trip!
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