Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Tucson, AZ - Sunday

The next day, my dad and I went hiking with my cousin, Sue, who lives in Phoenix.  We went to Sabino Canyon just outside of Tucson.  The weather was just gorgeous, and we had a great time making the couple mile trek up - and back down.

I couldn't believe how BLUE the sky was!  It was gorgeous out!

We hiked for a couple of hours, and I was just loving it!  My dad got bored and decided to RUN all the way down.  He met us at the bottom!  Crazy old man... ;)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Tucson, AZ - Saturday

Last weekend I made a quick trip down to Tucson, AZ to be with my dad at my cousins birthday party (and beating cancer party)!  I haven't been to Tucson since middle school, so I was really excited to go back!  Plus, I've hardly seen anyone in my family since moving back from China last month, so I had to jump at the opportunity to hang with my dad for a weekend!  (Mom had to stay home and work.)  The warm and sunny weather was a welcome change from the snow in Tahoe!

Bob BUILT all those shelves...

(Bob recently overcame pancreatic cancer)

My cousin, Sue, and my dad

LOTS of good food - most of which Barb made!

Barb, Brittany, and Bob
The party went in to the night.  It was a pretty cool thing to see all of the good friends and support he has!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Heading Home!

Well I am finally heading home!! I am at the airport in Cairo right now, and have never been so happy to leave a place!  The Arab men are just completely disgusting towards women, people are constantly trying to steal things from you or screw you over. A guy actually tried to grab my wallet out of my hands in broad daylight! This place is filthy - trash everywhere...its pretty sad actually. I've been here two days (and two nights) and that is about a day and a half too long! (My boss actually told me to just fly in, see the pyramids, and get out.  HE WAS RIGHT!)  The pyramids were pretty cool, but that's about it here in Cairo! 

Just to freak everyone out - haha - here is the worst thing that has happened to me yet:  Remember as you are reading this, I am already safe and checked in at the Cairo airport...  It is very early here and still dark, my flight is at 5am, so I had to leave my hotel around 2:30am.  Middle of the night in Cairo during Ramadan = not a good idea for a young American girl to go out alone! ;)  The guy who took me to the pyramids and sights (local weaving place, some schools, other historical sights) yesterday said he would come pick me up this morning and personally take me to the airport, which I was very happy about.  After spending most of the day with him, I was comfortable with him.  So when my hotel called my room and 2:15am and said my ride was here, I lugged my bags down the stairs and walked out in to the crazy, dark streets of Cairo.  (Remember it is Ramadan, so everyone parties all night, literally).  But to my surprise, I didn't know the two men standing there by the car.  I kind of panicked, but of course didn't want to show it.  I asked one of them where my guide was and he said, "Oh, his son very sick.  He not make it.  He send us instead."  Hmmm...I don't think so.  I told them I really wanted to talk to the guy I knew, I just didn't feel right about getting it the car with these two randos int he middle of the night in freaking CAIRO, EGYPT.  So they start talking to each other in Egyptian - of course - one gets out a cell phone, calls someone, says something IN EGYPTIAN and then hands me the phone.  I say hello, and some guy on the other end says, "Oh hello, my son very sick.  These my friends, they take you right to airport, same price."  And FOR SOME REASON, that made me feel a little better at the time.  Looking back, that voice on the other end of the phone was absolutely NOT the same guy who took me around the day before.  So, still pretty hesitant, I look at the two guys, and realize they have already taken my bags and put them in the trunk.  So what do I do now?  I mean they already have my stuff, I'm certainly not getting it back, so I reluctantly GOT IN THE CAR. Uggghhh....  I was still pretty groggy from it being so late (or early) but one of my strengths is that I always know my directions.  I have this weird sense, that whenever I get off a plane in a foreign country, I generally know my directions.  And once I've been there for any length of time, I know what is where - or the direction it is in at least.  So these two guys, laughing and talking loudly and smoking who knows what in the car, start driving around in Cairo, with me in the back, and NOT going to the airport.  I KNEW which direction the airport was, and they were NOT going that way!  There were even signs on the hiways, and even though I couldn't read them, I can still see a freaking picture of an airplane and an arrow and them NOT following it.  I legitimately was almost sick to my stomach after about 30 minutes of driving around - them just talking, and scheming to kill me, I just knew it!  And I realized I had NOTHING.  I had no knife or pepper spray or anything even remotely sharp.  I had very little money, and NO phone number to call.  I didn't speak the languauge, didn't know where to go or run if I got out of the car, and they still had all my stuff.  NO ONE knew where I was or where I was going.  I was alone in a car with two men in the middle of the night in Egypt.  HOW did this happen!?  I was almost in tears, about ready to throw up, when they started going towards the airport.  I'm not even making this up.  A few minutse later, they stopped outside the international terminal and let me out.  THANK YOU JESUS!!  I grabbed my bags, shoved all the money I had left at them and profusely thanked them for not killing me (okay not really that part) and taking me to the airport...and then RAN as fast as I could through those doors.  I've never been so happy to be waiting for two hours at an airport before in my life... 

So see, it all turned out fine.  But that honestly is the scaredest I've been on this trip...

Anyways - all around, I've had a great time! Kenya was the most amazing place I have ever seen and would love to go back there someday. Dubai was just unbelievable too.  I am heading to Paris for a day now, then off to LA tomorrow and will be back in Reno Sunday evening! Can't wait to get home and send out some pictures!!


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Monday, October 27, 2008

Egyptian Pyramids

Last night was SO CRAZY!  I love the Aussie girls - they're a blast.  We drove around with this local guy they met (and trusted I guess).  That in and of itself was an experience!  Driving around the tiny one-way curvy roads in the outskirts of Cairo with the traditional music blaring, just surreal.  The sights and sounds and smells - people cooking and partying once the sun went down - just crazy...  We were on a mission to find some big blown glass hookah smoking thing for one of the girls to take back with her to Australia.  The local guy promised he'd find her a cheap, good one - - so after several stops, like in the back of peoples houses, for real, she found what she wanted.  How in the world does she think she's going to get that past airport security??  She sure wouldn't get it in to the US - maybe Australia is a little more leniant.

I went to the visit the ancient Egyptian pyramids today!  I had my hotel find some guy to drive me there (about an hour away) and show me around, etc.  Seemed a little more legit than finding some guy off the street, since they are so creepy over here!  He was pretty nice and very knowledgable about the pyramids and Egyptian history - I feel like a walking encyclopedia on the subject now! ;)

First we stopped at some little shop - he knew the owners, of course - where they make pictures and caligraphy on papyrus paper.  Yes, I bought several!  I mean what a perfect souvenir from Egypt!!  We stopped at a couple more shops, jewelry and clothes and stuff - but I didn't buy much besides the caligraphy.

We finally made it to the pyramids - pretty cool but not sure they're all they are cracked up to be.  I mean I guess I don't know what I was expecting, but they are just these massive pyramids in the middle of the dessert!  They are one of the Seven Wonders of the World - whichis really why I made the trip here to see them.  I don't know, I'm not much on history.  I guess it is pretty unbelievable if you think how in the world they made those things hundreds of years ago.  And it took them DECADES to build them!!  It was kind of weird to think of all the kings and pharaohs and mummies in there!!

So when I first got there, I was just walking around with my big camera around my neck, screaming "American Tourist."  Some local-looking guy came up to me riding a camel (for real) and he saw me snap a picture of him.  So he offered to take a picture for me - I mean a picture of me with my camera.  At first I told him no, but he was sooo persistant!  I told him I wasn't going to pay him anything, and he said fine.  Yea right - I knew I was going to have to pay him, but I kinda wanted a picture on his camel.  So I finally obliged - handed him my camera, let him wrap his turban looking thing aroud my head, and hopped on the cool camel!  I mean come on, when you're at the pyramids in Egypt, you NEED a picture on a decorated camel with a thing wrapped around your head, right!?  And he was GOOD with the camera!  I'm sure he does this for a living - he took like 20 pictures in just a few miutes!  TOTALLY worth the $10 I gave him... :)

Did I mention it is SUPER hot here?? I guess I am in the Sahara desert huh...

So after that little experience, I decided to walk around some more and see the other pyramids up close - there are 3 here, plus the one with the big head!

Whenever I found someone who looked like they might now how to work a big camera, I'd ask them if they would take a picture of me.  Most of the people I asked didn't speak English, but like I've sad a million times, hand gestures can you get you alot!  The majority of the pictures turned out crappy, but I did come across another local guy trying to take pictures for people - for money of course.  I was NOT doing it again.  Well, that's what I told myself anyways.   But he literally pretty much ripped my camera off my neck and told me where to stand and pose, while wrapping another thing around my head - haha!

Pretty cool pictures I thought, but I really didn't want to pay him much.  I mean I know how far the US Dollar goes over here.  So I tried to give him a $5, and he reached in my wallet to grab more!  I was SO pissed!  He pulled out a $20 and I was like NO WAY BUDDY.  Lesson learned:  don't hold your open wallet out in front of people who want your money!!  I got the $20 bill back and gave him a $10 - still fuming mad, and I let him know it.  So he gave me two freaking little turquoise beads, like that was going to make up for it.  I did kind of like them, they're cute and turquoise, and the beetle is the sign of good luck here I guess.  Something about seeing a beetle in the desert means there must be water around I think.  Oh well, I suppose I can make a cute bracelet out of them when I get home. :)

Somewhere in the process of wandering around the pyramids, I got the brilliant idea and decided I needed to actually climb ON the pyramids.  No, you're not allowed to do that, they are blocked completely off in most sections, but some spots only had a big rope.  Like a rope is going to stop me in Egypt!!  So yes, I did it.  I actually climbed on the ancient Egyptian pyramids, and have the pictures to prove it, haha!  I found a European couple who spoke a little English, told them what I wanted to do, made sure they knew how to use my camera (zoom included), and made a run for it (literally).  I hopped the rope and started climbing, FAST, and turned and posed for a couple pictures - all the while a security guard is heading towards me and yelling at me in Egytian to get down (I'm assuming) and waving his baton at me, haha!  Sure am glad I didn't go to jail or something - he didn't seem TOO pissed when I got down - I bet it happens all the time right??  I mean who doesn't want to climb on the pyramids in Egypt??  The pictures were totally worth it, see for yourself! :)

I figured I'd probably better quit pushing my luck and just call it a day for those pyramids! 

I went back, wandering through the parking lot, to try and find my guide - he didn't come in with me - hoping he hadn't left me!  He was right where he said he'd be.  :) 

Next we stopped at a different pyramid - supposedly this on was REALLY the first one ever built. Whatever, it was much smaller and didn't look near as impressive as the other ones!  (I didn't climb on this one - it looked like it might crumble at any minute!)

It did have a museum built right next to it though - so it was cool to see some of the artifacts and tombs and stuff.

I had for real had enough 'pyramids' and history after this, so we started heading back towards Cairo. 

We stopped at a couple of rug weaving places, and I'm not even kidding you, the beautiful, expensive Egyptian rugs are MADE BY LITTLE KIDS.  I mean little - like 6 or 7 years old - in there on the big weaver thing just slaving away.  It was crazy!  My guide must of thought I had a lot of money or something because those things were EXPENSIVE!!  I definitely did NOT buy one, but I did give a little bit of cash to the cutest little kids, haha! :)

It was definitely a full day of history!  Not my favorite, but whatever.  At least I can say I've climbed on the Egyptian pyramids now!

My flight leaves at like 6am tomorrow morning - heading to Paris!

That's all for now...