Friday, April 28, 2006

A little more of the story

Well, my trip to Dahab would have been plenty eventful even without the bombings. So I may be feeding you stories from this trip (and pictures hopefully) for the next week.
One of the best stories is the story of this couple whose wedding I attended As it turns out they had only met three weeks earlier at a tantric sex conference in Sweden!!! Unbelievable! Who knew they even had conferences for that?
Another good story is me and Dorothee and our internet cafe outing gone bad. We went to an internet cafe on Monday morning for our daily email/news read. We didn't ask the price before we sat down, which was stupid on our part. But every place we had been in was charging between 3 and 5 pounds/hour. So after 45 minutes we got up and asked the man how much we owed. He said we needed to pay ten pounds each. We asked him if he was joking, this was a rediculous price! He got very rude and said something to the tune of "You don't come in my shop and tell me how much you will pay! I tell you what you pay!" Well, we let him know we were not happy and we would tell all of our friends to not come here because he overcharges, then we paid our money and left. We stewed about this interaction all morning. After lunch we walked by his shop and decided to see if anyone was in there and we would warn them that he overcharges. He had no customers. So we told him it was not a wonder he had no customers since he charged such rediculous prices. We told him we might stop by later to warn others of his way of dealing with people. Then he threatened to find our email accounts and erase all our emails! Stupid, stupid man. This was the exact wrong thing to say to Dorothee. We went straight to the police and she told them about the whole incident and his threat. And I was thoroughly impressed because she did all of this in Arabic. She is incredible. The Egyptian police crack me up. They all just sat there and at the end of Dorothee's story the guy in charge asks how long she has lived in Egypt.
"5 years", she said.
"Well," he responded," let me teach you a little bit about Egyptian culture. Today is shamen el seen (an Egyptian holiday officially marking the end of winter). Today all Egyptians, both Copts and Muslims, fast. We eat only fish and eggs all day. This man is probably cranky because all he has eaten to day is fish and eggs."
As if this somehow explains the fact that he is not just cranky, but a complete jerk. And I felt like adding that I am a vegetarian, and even though I never have meat I somehow manage to treat people in a pleasant way.
Anyhow, the officer agreed that the man was very wrong to threaten us. One of the police went to his shop and they had a "discussion" and we got back 5 pounds each. We were very proud that we stood up for ourselves. Especially Dorothee.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Last Monday

Well, I am back in Cairo. I want to write about everything. I want to get it out, but I know that I can't, not really.
Last Monday I was to attend a wedding for two people who were little more than strangers to me. The couple from Iceland had been on a canyon tour two days earlier with three of my friends. While on this tour, they decided to tie the knot. They invited our whole group and anyone and everyone there to come witness the occasion and celebrate with them. 7:30 pm was the time and Jasmine restaurant was the place. Jasmine is a seaside restuarant/hotel right next door to the dive camp I was staying at just south of Dahab's town center. Esther and I showed up early to enjoy a nescafe, read our books, and stretch out in the bedouin style establishment. I was tired from all the snorkeling and just being in the sun all day. I attempted to read but found myself drifting in and out of sleep. Esther was recovering from food poisoning and it was her first trip out of the hotle room that day. She lay there sipping sprite and reading her book. The Jasmine staff were busily decorating for the event to take place. The groom had arrived in a bedouin out fit and looked excited (naturally). Suddenly a loud bang snapped me out of my semi-conscious state. My first thought was that they were having fireworks for their wedding and what a great idea. Another bang. I scanned the skyline for some display. Another bang. No fireworks. Along the footpath, a handful of Egyptians were running towards the source of the sounds. My next thought was that we had been bombed.
Esther and I stood up and stepped out from the covered area of the restaurant. We saw smoke rising from the center of town. Esther phoned the US Embassy (smart girl that she is). I told myself to not overreact. Maybe it wasn't what I thought. The embassy had no information for Esther. We sat back down, unsure of any other course of action. Shortly thereafter, two others from our group, Lesley and Dorothee, appearred. They were cheerful and unconcerned with the explosive sounds we all heard. This put my nerves at ease for the moment, but when I heard the sounds of ambulances, tension began to rise again in my chest and throat. The Embassy called Esther back, but for some reason her phone had no coverage. I think that was the moment I knew for sure.
We all sat there anxiously. The fifth, and last, of our group arrived (Freddie). Shortly thereafter, Lesley recieved a call from a friend in Cairo saying that he had seen on the news that Dahab had been bombed and wanted to know if we were safe. After that things were all a bit blurry. Phone calls. Text messages. Talking to strangers in the restaurant about any news they heard. The next obvious question in our minds was would the wedding go on as scheduled? The groom was there, but no bride had appeared. I thought that surely they would postpone. Who would want to get married in the midst of such sadness and chaos. But no announcement was made to call it off for the night.
Freddie went to explore a bit while we waited. He came back to say that the streets were being cleared of all cars. Lesley and Freddie wanted to go and see what had happened. Dorothee and I wanted to find an internet cafe to let people know we were ok. Esther just wanted her phone to work. After what seemed ages, but was probably about and hour and a half after the bombings, we walked towards the town center. By that time, all the dead and injured had been taken to hospitals. All we saw was the wreckage of where the first and second bombs had hit at the Ghazala Market and at the bridge. Glass everywhere, but it was dark and we couldn't see much else. I wasn't ready to see much else. I began to walk back while the others walked a bit further. I waited for the others and we walked back together. Lesley and Freddie went back to the Jasmine in case the wedding was still to take place. Esther wandered around trying and trying wtihout much success to send text messages and make phone calls. Dorothee and I found an internet cafe that was open on our end of Dahab. I blogged, emailed, and checked the news. They were saying that 30 were dead and 150 injured. At that time it all seemed somehow distant. Like I was just reading the news and I wasn't right there where it was happening. I was all shock, not knowing how to react. We went back to the wedding, which did take place. The whole night felt strange and almost out-of-body. I fell asleep that night emotionally exhausted.
The next morning, I walked over to the site again. I got to it and saw all the damage I had seen the previous night and athen some. There were bloody footprints and pools of blood on the ground. It was alot to take in. I walked back down to my hotel and waited for Esther to wake up. We walked down there together through the whole scene. It was horrible. We saw the shops that were completely destroyed. Shops I have been in and bought things in. I knew that from the looks of it possibly no one who had been in this shop at the time would have survived. I thought of the people that worked in the two restaurants (Aladdin and Alcapone) that bore the brunt of the third bomb. People I had seen and spoken to probably three times everyday since I arrived. Did they survive? I don't know. Divers were emerging from the Red Sea with bags full of what I presumed to be body parts. The media were everywhere interviewing witnesses, taking photos of the damage. A group of men who work in Dahab had gathered and were being videoed. The leader of the group was shouting his comdemnation on the act and those who did it. He declared his love for people of all religions and countries. That was when I couldn't stop the tears.
All day long Esther and I walked around town, taking it all in. We ran into others we knew from Cairo and some friends we have made here in Dahab. Some of them witnessed the whole thing. Everyone just seemed in shock. Many of the businesses in Dahab posted signs outside saying they love Dahab and want peace and things of this nature. A peace march had been organized by some of the locals. The group of men, women and children walked around all day waving peace signs, anti-terrorism signs, Egyptian flags. In Arabic they chanted their cries for peace and that Allah is god and that Mohammed is Allah's prophet. My heart went out to them. Everytime they walked past me I cried. I prayed, but I have to say I felt so helpless that even prayer seemed an exercise in futility.
During the day, the men who work in the area had come together to repair damage. By the end of it, the bridge was almost totally repaired, the blood was all washed away, and some of the windows were repaired. When we left the following day, reopening of the two restaurants was in progress. The teamwork was incredible and inspirational.
I am back in Cairo now. It seems that with everyday that passes, the events seem more real and less like a bad dream. I can't say how I feel about it all other than that it was dreadful. Somehow, I am glad I was there. I am glad that all of the people I new well there were unharmed. But I am so sad for the community there. It hurts the Egyptians most. They were the ones who were more physically hurt. It is their businesses that are destroyed.

Monday, April 24, 2006

I'm still here

For those of you who have worried and prayed for me. . . thank you. I am fine and all of my friends are fine. I am still here in Dahab. I was scheduled to leave tomorrow. I hope that still goes as planned. The police won't allow anyone to leave tonight anyways.
The atomosphere here is basically surreal. I feel the heaviness in the air. Almost all shops are closed and some restaurants as well (as is fitting). Some restaurants are open, but no music is playing and television sets are turned on to the news. People are on cell phones trying to let their friends and family know that they are ok. However, some restaurants are open, music playing, people eating, drinking wine and smoking cigarettes as if nothing has happened at all. We all heard the bombs. Many of us saw the smoke rising in the air. I'm hearing rumors that 30 were killed and 150 injured. Yet they seem to not realize it at all. Unbelievable.
Anyhow, I am fine. I'll probably post again tomorrow before I leave, and when I get back in Cairo I'll post as soon as I possibly can.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

General Update

I haven't blogged much lately. I've felt like I want to especially since I'm on a break from work and I have time, but only one problem. . . no inspiration. I have no funny stories to tell. I have not had any moments of revelation about life, love, spirituality, or anything. So I will do a semi-boring post about what I have been up to on my holiday.
For Easter Sunday I went to my first ever sunrise service. It was nice. Then I spent the whole day at a friend's apartment. We talked and talked and talked. It was good, really good. Then I went to an evening church service as well. On Monday, I went into the school and did some work for my teacher's certification. Tuesday I went shopping at the secondhand market with some of the people I work with. Wednesday was spent cleaning house, doing laundry, packing for Dahab, and dying shirts black (they had stains on them, but I hated to just throw them out). Then I went with a friend for coffee and ended up having dinner at her apartment and playing pool for the first time in ages. At 12:30 am I left for Dahab. Esther and I and four others took the over night bus and arrived in Dahab around 10:00 am. The rest of the day was spent lying in the sun, walking in the sun, wading in the Red Sea, napping in the hotel room, eating, and smoking sheesha. Altogether, a wonderful way to spend your holiday. This should be a really fun trip. There are the six of us who came last night/this morning, three others arrived this evening, and one more will come tomorrow. We have board games, books, word puzzles, and each others company to keep us occupied. I love my life.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Possible trip to Europe

You Belong in London
You belong in London, but you belong in many cities... Hong Kong, San Francisco, Sidney. You fit in almost anywhere.And London is diverse and international enough to satisfy many of your tastes. From curry to Shakespeare, London (almost) has it all!
What European City Do You Belong In?

I may have talked my parents into coming to visit!!! They would come in August and we would all fly back together. If this all works out we may stop in Europe somewhere for a few days on the way back! How awesome will that be!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Spring Break!!!

Spring Break is a mere two days away!!!! My plans for the holiday. . . playing lots of guitar, working on the teaching certification, and (as always) DAHAB!!!!! Here I come Red Sea! Here I come annoying stray cats that try to eat your food off your plate! Here I come obnoxious Egyptians who hassle you until you eat at their restaurant or come in their shop! Here I come fresh air!
This time I am going with Esther, a couple of people I work with, and a couple of people I go to church with. It should be good. It will be good. I am so spoiled here. How will I ever adjust to life back in GA? I am ruined.

Monday, April 10, 2006

The Prophet's Birthday

Happy birthday Mohammed.

This morning the walk to school was very deserted. Everyone, it seems, is on holiday except for me and the people I work with. I suppose I can't complain since I have a two week break coming up. It will be back to Dahab very soon. My favorite place on earth. There is a big smile on my face.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

A Good Time Was Had By All

Last night I went to my first ever ball and. . . I had a ball. Basically the whole thing was fun, fun, fun. I went earlier in the day with three other ladies, who were going as well, to get manicures, pedicures, hair done, eyebrows done, etc. So that sort of thing is always a treat. Chelsie and I went to this military ball with three couples that go to our church. It was good to spend time with them. Most of them I had seen, but never really talked to much. So getting to know new people is nice. At the ball we ate good food, danced, and enjoyed the open bar. Chelsie and I were there until some ungodly hour (basically until they signalled everyone to leave by turning the lights on). We flirted with some marines and made the most of this night where we seemed to escape Egypt and some of the cultural restrictions for a short while. Chelsie is emailing me some pictures soom and they will be posted.

Rita, unfortunately my dress was not very poofy so I spoiled the whole meeting Prince Charming idea. But I did meet two marines from GA and we had a good time dancing and feeling very southern in each others company.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The Veiled Women

As one would imagine, most women in Cairo are muslims and wear the veil. A good many of them just use it for covering their hair and neck, with their pretty little faces shining through a hole in the material. However, some take modesty to a different level and wear a veil covering the entire face, with only two slits in their mask for eyeholes. As if that were not enough, some of these women don an extra piece of see through material to cover even their eyes. These women are generally head to toe in black, loose black dresses that are long-sleeved and floor length, black gloves, black shoes, and even thick black tights so that not even the least little bit of ankle is shown. They look a bit like shorter, plumper versions of the Ghost of Christmas Future.
This morning on my way to school I saw a car driving towards me. The car slowed down and parked before it passed me. I wasn't paying too much attention to it until I got closer and no one appeared to be in it. I could have sworn that I had just seen that car in motion, but no one was in it and no one had come out of it. I kept walking closer, staring curiously at the car. Then I saw that the "seat" on the drivers side was wearing glasses. The driver was a veiled woman who blended in with the other black seats in her car. Incredible. This leads me to ask. . . should these women really be driving? Surley these veils obstruct their vision and behind the wheel on the roads and highways in Cairo is not the place for people who have no peripheral vision!!!!!