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Showing posts from June, 2011

Busking in a Brussels Metro Station: The Future and Beyond.

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Last year following our return abroad I wrote a final reflective piece on our trip. It's interesting to look back on myself then as the person I was. Sure the trip changed me, but it also influenced an entire year. School, learning French, applying abroad, building my character and self confidence. I'm certain that this trip will ultimately have an equally profound affect upon me in the year to come. I think it already has. Somewhere outside a bar in Brussels I think I made the decision that this is it... that it's time to let go out of all the fears, and inhibitions holding me back- all the reasons I'm staying in the U.S. and find a way, no matter what the risk is- to risk it all and go abroad. I've come back to finish school, and complete my first degree, but when that's over I'm determined to put my American life in storage and go. If it's living in a metro station busking and singing 80's television theme songs for change- then so be it. Life…

Almost a victim of Eat, Pray, Love - "There's No Place Like Home."

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By day eight Cairo felt firmly apart of us, and we it. We both had a sense that we could both commit to months or years here, but through the looking glass was the life we left behind. Our children, sisters, brothers, friends and parents- a world away in the United States. When we awoke on the final day to the beeping of the cell phone alarm, we showered and went to the front desk of Hotel Juliana where we expected our driver and airport-transfer to be there and waiting for us. What we found was some old man who didn't speak English, had no teeth, and coughed blood into a rag while smoking on a cigarette. While in Egypt, we were informed several times that "smoking is good for your health", however this fine specimen of lung cancer clearly contradicted their advice. In chairs outside of the make-shift office we waited, and waited. Seconds turned into minutes. Then it was ten minutes late, then 15 minutes late. Eventually after thirty minutes, I looked at Shan and she kne…

Cairo in a Hijab - Just an Average American hanging out in Egypt.

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By day seven, North Carolina seemed like a world away, like a dark children's fairy tale. Here in the Middle East we weren't worrying about volcanoes, political scandals, or any other petty western silliness. On Cairo time, things move slower- from one moment to the next and that's how we'd live our final day in Cairo. No plans, no time-tables, no one but ourselves to walk the roads of Egypt and discover it for ourselves. Luckily, a familiar sight, Lady Liberty in a hijab was there to help guide us.

Whether it be London, Paris, or even Cairo the best way to experience a foreign place is to get lost in it. Forced to find your way back, while you discover the often less touristy, hidden versions of these cities. My grandfather used to say you never were really lost as long as you were on a road. I guess that's true, but it's also likely it was merely his excuse for not pulling over and asking for directions. Losing yourself is as easy as heading down to the Nile …

Tahrir Square and The Cairo Museum - A Revolution of our own

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It was clear by day six of our journey that not only were we in a midst of a revolution of change, but that our adventure was changing us. Our "tight" pants, which we had debated to even bring were now fitting loosely on our bodies that were now darker than (or redder than) I had seen either of us in ages. My hair had became super bleached and our skin was dry and leather-like in the desert climate. I've come to the conclusion no matter how hard you try to fit in somewhere, the first day you will always look like an outsider- but by the third day- you start to slowly shed something. I'm not saying we completely fit in, but Cairo was clearly beginning to take its affect upon us.

One of key reasons for staying at the Juliana Hotel was its closeness to Tahrir Square, the famed town square of Cairo where the January Revolution took place last winter. Only weeks prior to our arrival had the military removed the last of the tanks occupying the streets and changed their mili…

Walking in Memphis, Egypt - "But do I really feel the way I feel?"

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I remember a time about 20 years ago driving across the country in an old Mustang with broken out windows and the radio blaring Marc Cohn's "Walking in Memphis". It seemed like the world couldn't get any bigger then, but I never could imagined that some day I'd be walking in another Memphis. One of the oldest cities on earth, home of Ramses II, giants, and a vast capital to the world in a time before gospel, catfish and Elvis.

And I boarded the plane
Touched down in the land of the Delta Blues
In the middle of the pouring rain
As we stopped at the Museum and walked past the first gate of security, a tourist policeman shadowed us at the window to purchase our tickets. As mentioned before, we felt a sense of relief as the ticket agent was forced under scrutiny to count back the money to us in an accurate manner. We entered a second pair of gates where a single lone vendor promised us cheap cold coca-colas for five Egyptian pounds.. Inside was fairly quiet as we st…

Saqqara Burial Grounds - Egypt

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Ask the average person if they want to roam around a room that once was filled with dead bodies or run their hands across coffins in the cemeteries and I imagine their answer would be "no". Of course we don't see Saqqara (also spelled Sakkara) to be as foul as we do modern death. The bodies are gone, the stench of death far removed, and all that remains are the ruins of a time in mankind's history we have difficulty relating to. Remember that as your precious little Nike trainers trample over the final resting place of some mankind's earliest modern ancestors.

Of course I'm not normal, and I admit I enjoy imagining flesh and decomposing bodies laying on the mummification tables, the smell of spice and candle to cover the smell of death. I want to crawl into a sarcophagus and lay upon the quartz entombment whose smooth surface has eroded away from the acidic levels of decomposing material placed in it with its king or queen. Not out of fetish, just human curios…

Tips & Advice from our visit to The Great Pyramids, and Giza Plateau

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I realize this is the post everyone has been waiting for. What's worse is I have tons of photos, but to put it all into context is going to be a bit hard. The actual experience was nothing like what we expected, yet in retrospect, every expectation of what the Pyramids themselves are, were, is still all true to us.

You see, I had this image of coming to Cairo, going out to the pyramids (which are way out in the desert) and standing beside them being humbled by the scope and size. (holding hands while humming the Indiana Jones theme song.) I'd try to grasp touching and witnessing something which are thousands of years old. Before Christianity, before Jesus, and before anything else I could possibly imagine. (before time began!!!!) It was supposed to be deep and moving, it was supposed to be spiritual, but it wasn't. Well at least not in the way I romanticized it. Unfortunately the place is covered in beggars and cons who won't leave you alone. Shan quickly became flust…

Juliana Hotel - The Cheapest Karma in Cairo

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I realize it's unlikely most people my age would choose to stay at a Hostel in Cairo just blocks from Tahrir Square but that's just what I did. Backpacking across Europe, check. $12 a bed hostels, check. I realize it's not for everyone... but don't you want to, just once say you did?

We ended up staying at the Juliana Hotel and Hostel in Cairo Egypt, because of the high recommendations on the Internet. While I was fully prepared to say upon our return, that the hotel offered me exactly everything I expected, on the last day, our hotel reserved and provided arrangements to taxi us to the Cairo airport were either ignored, forgotten, or lost in translation. We were left at 4 AM in the heart of Cairo with no ride to the airport. After a somewhat amazing feat of endless running to Al-Tahrir Square, we somehow brokered a deal with the non-English speaking taxi driver, knowing hardly any Arabic, and using hand gestures to imitate an air-plane taking off. I still wonder was th…