Daily Archives: 2011-11-22

On the sea again – Safaga, Egypt

I am on the ocean now. I am actually really relieved to have left Egypt…it was really wearing me down. The constant filth, dishonesty, and scam artists. Don’t get me wrong. There is alot of beauty there too…its just that I seemed to have a hard time focusing on that. I did meet some really great people who were of great support and help. But of a country of millions, I could count them on one hand.

Now I am on the sea again, where I love to be. I’m enamored by the anonymity of the blue wavelettes as far as the eye can see. The gentle sway from side to side, this is the smallest (20,000 tons) oldest (built just five years before I was built) cruiseship I have been on. I am surprised to admit that I am really loving it. I thought for sure I would find it a challenge with limited dated facilites as I am used to the biggest newest ships in all the fleets.

The mv Discovery is the sister ship to the Pacific Princess aka. “The Love Boat” which was used as the set for a TV series back in the 80s. I do remember watching this show as a kid and find it still brings me back to a time when things were simpler, yet somehow classier. There are less than half the maximum passenger capacity onboard right now and I can really feel it. With only three hundred guests, the whole ship feels more intimate. I have been trying to keep to myself a bit so I can focus on writing and recreational reading but I just keep meeting such darned nice people.

Lee and I are probably the youngest passengers onboard save for a couple of young lads from Oregon who are here with their parents. They sit at the table next to us and are quite well traveled, not to mention kind enough to invite me to eat with them when Lee is not around.

The average age would be around 65 i would guess so you can imagine the collective wisdom around me. I am quite enjoying hearing stories of how couples have met especially when they both have different versions. I am amazed by the amount of adventure travel experience these oldies have but i guess that is par for the course on a unique itinerary like this one.

So now I have come through England, Egypt, Jordan and a brief moment in Israel…I think I have learned more over the past two weeks than I have in years. I guess though it has been difficult, I can be grateful for the expedited growth. I am on the ship entering Pirate territory now. We are actually having a passenger pirate prevention plan drill today. We will hit Eritrea tomorrow then sail through the most dangerous waters on the way to Oman. Its very unlikely but I have scoped out the ship for tiny cubbyholes that I could hide in, just in case. Never hurts to be prepared, right?

Grateful for Code Purple.

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Sumptious seafood – Hurghada, Egypt

We landed in Hurghada which is just on the other side of the water from the tip of the sinai peninsula. The flight was only a half hour and they gave us a mango juice box on the flight. lee was sitting in business class and got banana bread too. when we were out of the airport, we dealt with the cab situation which was another nightmare. The driver tried to make us pay double of what we had agreed to. But I blew up and the guy backed down. I was like, SERIOUSLY! You picked the wrong day to mess with me! NO WAY you are getting another cent. Not this time! He really didn’t look like he knew what had hit him.

Next we went met up with some couchsurfers and made it an early night. Lee was getting sicker and it seemed best that he rest, even though it was Friday night. I visited a bit with Shady, one of the guys we were staying with and ended up getting a really good history lesson. It really is better to get the stories from the place of origin. I found it gripping and interesting to listen to a locals view/opionions/recollections rather than the dry boring books that try to teach the same lessons. Plus, it somehow felt more accurate.

The next morning, Karim and Shady had already left for work when I woke up. I drank up my left over mango yogurt drink and readied for the day. First I handed in my laundry downstairs to the young boys in the laundrymat. They counted the pieces while I gently informed the 10 year old who was smoking cigarettes that this was not a good idea. I told him it would stunt his growth. He kind of seemed to understand but I don’t know if it made a difference. I think better was that I wouldn’t accept a cigarette with him, no matter how many times or kinds he offered.

Next I found a good coffee shop that had wifi and rice pudding. I sipped tea and caught up on my emails and writing. It will be several weeks before I have a decent connection so I wanted to get all my administrative stuff taken care of. I am mostly free from work but every now an then there are things to do. It is a bit of a stress not to be out of communication/connection. As I manage my own property, there are some things that need to be put into place just in case something comes up while I am MIA.

I gobbled up a rice pudding (8 egyptian pounds) with fresh fruit and nuts on top. It was such delicious breakfast, that I ordered another and called it lunch. After a couple hours, I couldn’t stand the smoke anymore (it seems EVERYONE smokes here inside and out) and decided to go shopping.

I wheeled and dealed finally ending up with a couple long tops/dresses and a pair of awesome silver shoes. I know. Silver shoes. They look like bowling shoes from outer space but I love them. They say they are Nike but obviously they are not since they only cost $20. Anyway I really needed a new pair of kicks because its time to retire the well loved falling apart ones I am wearing now. Did I tell you how much I hate shoe shopping? I was tickled pink to find a pair that was not only comfortable, affordable and unique. The dresses were (50 pounds = 8 dollars) necessary since I packed ultra light up until now and needed a couple dressy things to wear on the ship. I was pleased at how versatile and feminine they were as well they were not like anything I would find in canada.

After grabbing a quick snack, we headed back to the flat where Karim and Shady were waiting to hang out with us. We ended up going for what was by far one of the best seafood dinners I have ever tasted. The soup was so deep in flavor and the spices complemented the delicate fish, prawns and calamari just perfectly. We had an eating competition and I still don’t know who won. I suspect we all did as we waddled out with very full bellies.

Next we drove down to the marina and walked up and down . We played “that yacht is mine” and then decided to have drinks in one of the waterfront bars. The chairs were bean bags and the lighting very chic. I tried to show them my black light tattoo without making it too obvious to the other patrons. After a drink and a tequila competition, we made our way home with the intention of napping before going back out again. Apparently there was a cabaret they wanted us to see but we all ended up too tired to make it. They guys really wanted us to stay another night but it just wasn’t a good idea. I really didn’t want to mess with missing the ship and not getting out of Egypt. After what happened in Sharm we didn’t want to take any chances with government or border officials. So even though our ship didn’t technically leave until Monday, we decided to board when they opened the gangway on Sunday, just to be sure. But I will say, one of the nicest words a friend can say is “stay”.

After the hour long taxi ride south to the port town of Safaga, I was very eager to get through the next gauntlet of officials. I braced myself when we pulled up in the taxi but it was all for naught. The lazy border men barely looked at Lee’s passport and didn’t even bother with mine, before waving us onto the ship. Really? It couldn’t be this easy. Surely some would come running after us at any moment, yelling something angry in Arabic. But no. We just walked up the gangplank onto our shiny clean ship. We were check in by some British accented crew and shown to the cabin. I was so unbelievably relieved. I let out a huge (perhaps too loud) sigh and felt my whole body relax.

Grateful for relief.

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Corruption and Bribery – Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt

I woke at 730am to say goodbye to Nader before catching a taxi to the Sharm El-Sheikh airport. We were catching an 11am flight to Hurghada and since it was domestic, we had more than enough time. We weren’t checking any luggage, had two hours to space, and had pre-bought our Egyptian Visa stamp. Things should go smoothly right? Wrong.

We were fine all the way up to the ticket counter where Lee did not have a copy of his e-ticket anywhere. But the bigger problem was that apparently our Visa stamp was not good enough. Egypt Air called the authorities and the immigration guys also got involved. What it came down to was that we needed to pay some one to “guarantee” us because we had been to Israel. None of it made any sense to me. It still doesn’t. What I do understand is that we basically had to pay an illegal bribe to government officials. I asked them if that was what was happening and they said yes.

The whole thing had me absolutely fuming. Actually I was beyond angry. After Lee paid them off (600 pounds), I went through the whole gamut of feelings from rage to sadness to disappointment to pity to the acceptance of the fact that this is the first country I want to blacklist. I was pretty much hysterical about the whole thing because I felt trapped and imprisoned. Don’t threaten my freedom. I realize this is a major trigger for me.

As I sat on the plane, tears rolled down my cheeks. I felt discriminated against and beaten. I tried to work through my red hot anger that burned in the pit of my stomach. One of the airline employees who was trying to help me pled with me to “be angry in your head, but don’t keep anger in your heart”. I knew these were wise words. Still I had a really hard time managing this strong reaction to such injustice. I turned my focus to some little kids. I was able to bring myself to a place of compassion and love when I put myself in their energy field. The anger was replaced with concern for all those who are affected daily by this type of sinister corruption. All those innocent people who cannot leave. Those who do not have the choice.

Grateful for justice.

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