Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Egypt: April 8th - 13th

Wednesday, the 8th, I flew to Cairo, Egypt after work. I arrived Thursday morning at approximately 3am. It took a little while to make it through customs as I had to purchase and Egyptian visa. Once I made it out of the airport, I took at taxi to my hotel, City Stars Holiday Inn in Heliopolis. Thanks to may 5 month stay at a Holiday Inn Tulsa, I was upgraded to an executive suite. I finally had to force myself to try to go to sleep at about 4:30, after calling Amanda, which probably cost $900. As soon as I started to doze off I heard the Imam's call for prayer coming from a nearby Mosque. It felt awesome to be back in a Muslim country.

Thursday afternoon two of my favorite people in the world met me: David Brandorff, my best friend from college, and Sara Felt, his wonderful girlfriend. When we had the discussion about where to meet it went something like this: "Where should be meet?" "How about the Sphinx?" "Does noon work?" "Great, see you then!" I must admit, it felt like a super hip rendez-vous point.

After poking around the Pyramids and the Sphinx in Giza we hoped in a cab to head to the Egyptian Museum. We wanted some food, so the cabbie stopped and bought us some Koshari, it was like noodles, rice, vegetables, and grilled onions; reminded me of Hungarian Goulash meets American Ramen Noodles. The museum looked like it was from the 1940s, wooden cases with glass and brass locks. The highlight of the museum was the Tutankhamen exhibition.

We finished the night with dinner at the restaurant La Sangaria along the river Nile. We smoked hookah, had a few beers, and relaxed. After dinner we took a cab to the train station. We took an over night train to Luxor. Even though we had first class our cab was like the Darjeeling Limited. David and I slept on the floor, and may have gotten bedbugs.

We arrived in Luxor around 7am, and dropped our bags off at the Susanna Hotel. To kill time before check in we went to the Luxor Temple and the Souk (market). We found a great street vendor selling falafel for a snack. Afterward, we checked into our hotel, showered, and changed clothes. Once we got comfortable we went to Karnak Temple.

That evening we met 3 Egyptian guys at a bar, who invited us out after Sara and I beat them at billiards. Not getting into to much detail, the night involved 6 of us riding 2 motorcycles (3 to a bike) racing down a road that ran directly between the Nile and Luxor Tempor, and Underground Egyptian belly dancing club, and all of us taking turns dancing with the belly dancer. There was a live band and everything. It was obvious we were out of place and it couldn't have been more fun. One of the most memorable nights of my life.

Saturday consisted of waking up late and then traveling around the area. We went to the Valley of the Kings and saw 4 tombs. They were much more amazing then I ever imagined. Not only were they large, but they were immaculately painted. No pictures allowed, sorry. We paid an extra $10 (should have been $20) to see Tutankhamen's tomb, which was not nearly as cool as I expected. It was small, not super decorated, and kinda bland. Granted the body is still there, but it is in a glass case on display. We also saw the Colossi of Memnon and the Temple of Hatshepsut which was built into the side of a mountain. For dinner, we went to a place called Nubian Village, which was set up outside like a small town and served traditional Nubian cuisine. At least they played Hip-Hop (WTF?).

Sunday we got up at about 4am to head to the Luxor Airport. We flew to the Sinai Peninsula to Sharm el-Sheik. We sent the entire day lounging on the beach and swimming in the Red Sea. I took the opportunity to finish reading David Copperfield. I snuck away to make an important phone call and relax. When I met back up with David and Sara we had some beers, went to a hookah pit, and I fell asleep on cushy pillows on the beach. That evening I bought T-Shirts and Pins from HardRock for co-workers, which I subsequently left at our dinner restaurant (bye bye 90 bucks!! Idiot!!). We had dinner at a fancy Middle Eastern restaurant called Abou El-Sid. If you go, get the appetizer tray, in fact get two. The vine leaves are too die for. Around 10pm we headed back to the airport and flew back to Cairo. We grabbed a cab and drove through downtown Cairo at around 1am. We stayed at the Julianna Hotel near the Egyptian museum, slept for about 5 hours, got up and head home.

Go to Egypt. It's worth it. One piece of advice, take pens with you. Apparently, they don't have good writing utensils, this will help you when people ask for money. Which is every 5 seconds.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Schlosophy #2: Cutters (not the secret kind)

I can think of nothing the French love to do more than cut in line. Anytime there is a queue, the French feel obliged to walk immediately to the front and pretend as though they are oblivious to the crime they have committed. When I was still new to France, I used to just let it go and not say anything. Not because I didn’t want to, but because my argument would have no impact as I did not speak any French. Then as I progressed, I started a new tactic. Anytime someone would cut I’d say, “WHAT THE F#%K!!” which seemed to be a little startling. Even if the perpetrator did not speak English, they knew what you were saying.

Alas, I have discovered an even more perfect line of defense against this blatant disregard for social norms. It involves fighting back with another social taboo. The next time someone cuts in front of you. Start a coughing fit. The kicker, do NOT cover your mouth. Cough all over them, and in their general direction!! How gross is that? The beauty is they cannot do anything about it without indicting themselves. So they, a) have to take it and miserably regret they ever cut you, b) say something to you thereby acknowledging their fault, at which point you can rightfully call them on it, or c) they leave the line (nobody wants what you pretend to have).

Tunisia and Wichita

The past two weeks have seen a lot of miles. Two weeks ago, David Doherty, Tim Slattery, and I went to Tunisia in Northern Africa. We departed Toulouse with our African maiden heads and returned in the matured state that can only be accurately defined as (wo)manhood.

Everything was extremely cheap in Tunisia. Our first night in town we went to a cafĂ© had 3 coffees and a bowl of shisha for about 3€. On the way home we purchased schwarmas, fries, and cokes for about $1.50. On Saturday we sent to the Tunis Souq (bizarre) and bought various trinkets and items. Slattery and I each purchased hookahs to add to our

collection and I also purchased from princess-esq mirrors for my twin 3 year old nieces: Indiana and Savannah.

After we left the market we went back to our hotel and booked a taxi to take us to the western city of Dougga. Dougaa is a world heritage site, so named because it is one of the largest and well preserved Roman ruins outside of Rome still in existence. We hired a taxi for about 5 hours, the driver served as our chauffeur, translator, and guide. Total cost, about $50 a piece. We could get a 10 minute taxi ride in downtown Tunis for about $0.30.

Sunday, we went to the famous city of Carthage, the city where Hannibal became famous. We again, hired the same taxi to drive us around to the various sites. Slattery put on a great show of Cher’s “Walking in Memphis” at the amphitheatre. Dave and I were entertained; I cannot speak for the rest of the audience.

Over all Tunisia was a very fun experience. It was surreal being exposed to a Muslim country without a guide and having to try to figure our Arabic on our own. Luckily, they also speak French. On a side note we arrived in Tunisia on their independence day (from France). One annoying thing about the city is that everybody wants to be your “friend.” Basically they just want to sell you crap.

On Tuesday, I had a visitor. Remember Amanda from Portugal? We went out to eat at Tex-Mex near my flat, drank some beers and hung out pretty much all night. I took half a personal day from work s

o I could do my best to entertain my guest on her one night in Toulouse. You can consider her officially added unofficial musical distribution list. Thanks to her, I now know about www.blogotheque.com and Concerts To-Go.

I dropped her of at the airport at about 8pm on Wednesday, went back to my flat, packed, slept for about 2 hours, then headed back to Blagnac to catch my flight to Wichita.

Wichita was a great time to recharge and spend some time with my two favorite people. The week consisted of sledding, a road trip to Hamilton when it had no electricity so we had to build fort in my room with blankets to stay warm for drinking games, listening to Bon Iver on the drive home through the snow coated flint hills with the sun shining brightly through the deep blue contrasting sky, BBQ at the bossman’s, a champagne party, the Pumphouse, work, a new addition to the A-team (Megan Hill), SigEps 50th Anniversary celebration (I had an awesome date), breakfast with SigEp’s Grand National President, Steve Shanklin, a nostalgic game of Presidents and Assholes at the SigEp house, girls in bunny costumes, finally purchasing a webcam to facilitate internet dates, and sleeping in spurts whenever I had the opportunity.