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.

20111201-101927.jpg

20111201-101947.jpg

20111201-102006.jpg

20111201-102027.jpg

20111201-102049.jpg

Posted in Africa, In Travel | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Africa, In Travel | Leave a comment

Close call with Death – Taba, Egypt

Lee and I navigated the crossings but not without a few bumps and bruises. First Lee didn’t have enough JDs to pay to leave, then our taxi driver in Israel turned out to be a thieving jerk forcing us to get into another much kinder cab but not before almost getting separated in the scuffle. Next after a long but not excessive line out of Israel, we suffered a very rude Egyptian border official. He refused to answer any questions and just angrily waved us away so he could read his newspaper. I wanted to get our $15 Visa validated but refused to talk to us.

Next we had to negotiate taxi to Dahab which as anyone who endures the Taba border knows is a real nightmare. I first got a ride for $100 but by the end he had raised the price to $200 plus departure fees as well as enduring some very uncomfortable bickering and empty threats from the “mafia”. I was fine with that as we also threw a curveball by making him pick up a couple Americans we met in the line previous who I had instructed to wait at the end of the road.

In any case, we were on our way to Dahab and I just started feeling a bit relaxed when death approached. I was fooling around with my camera which had just decided to break all of a sudden. I heard the rest of the car yelling which prompted me to look up just in time for the main event. A double decker tour bus was barreling toward us at such an accelerated speed I could have sworn that was it was a runaway train. It took but a millisecond to register that the massive chunk of metal could not move back into its own lane due to a line of several cars which for reasons beyond me were not registering the gravity of the situation and making room for the bus. It was horrifying to say the least. Were we really playing chicken with this 50 foot behemoth?

Since we were on a curve around a mountainside, there was nowhere for us to go with the guardrail keep us tucked tightly in our lane. And at just the critical moment when we had to somehow fit the width of three vehicles accross the barely two lane mountainside highway, a very unlucky pile of rocks (construction left overs??) about a meter high turned up dead ahead. So now not only was the bus coming for us, there was an insurmountable obstacle in our way.

The situation was really unbelievable and the blood curdling screams only lasted a few seconds. Our driver did the best he could not to flip the car as we ramped over the rocks and scraped past the bus at breakneck speed. It was the longest 8 seconds in my life.

Afterwards, it took us all a good twenty minutes to recover from the shock. The driver was sweating bullets and almost in tears. I got the impression that this kind of thing doesn’t happen to him every day. We finally got to Dahab and reunited with Nader again. We visited over our favorite chicken meal and the best mango drink I have ever tasted. It was literally just several mangos blended up leaving some juicy sweet chunks through out the thick pulpy goodness. After grabbing some sweets for dessert, we checked into bed early. I was surprised to be able to sleep after all that sugar!

Grateful for narrow escapes.

20111129-140140.jpg

20111129-140223.jpg

Posted in Africa, In Travel | Leave a comment

Give or take – Cairo, Egypt

I was living at an orphanage with 100 HIV positive orphans in East Africa for the last two months. My place was in the preschool classroom teaching 10 amazing 3-5 year olds. Together we sang, counted, played, drew, painted, colored, created, built, walked, ran, laughed, cried and learned. This is an experience that I will definitely expand on one day… read more

Posted in Africa | Leave a comment

Field Trips – Nairobi, Kenya

Saturday I cleaned all morning and was in a great mood. Sat nite we watched movies. Then on Sunday we piled into the Rav4 and headed to the Rusty Nail. I was a bit excited as I had heard so many rave reviews of this place. I had the Carrot and Ginger Soup and then a bite of the camembert cheese (which tastes like blue like every cheese here) and red current jelly. Then I ate Roast beef and mashed potatoes and yorkshire pudding. It was ok but nothing great really. The dessert was toffee pudding which was sooooo good and worth the trip. read more

Posted in Africa | Leave a comment

Happy Halloween – Karen, Kenya

So Halloween morning it was pouring cats and dogs. I sat in the classroom with the kids and watched some boring program. After I went to Cottage G and read the story of Jonah to the hyper kids. I had to punish Beatrice who then cried. After the story, she was major clingy and wouldn`t leave me alone. Whats with these kids? There`s really something to the punishing the kids to show you love them. read more

Posted in Africa | Leave a comment

Changing Course – Nairobi, Kenya

Woke the next morning it was raining (yuk mud) but luckily we left right at the same time Gabriel was driving into Karen. We piled in and turns out he was going all the way into town so we hitched a ride. After a few stops, we hopped out then made our way to some crap bookstores which were no help. Then up to the internet where I got lots done. Really makes a difference when it is a fast connection. read more

Posted in Africa | Leave a comment

School and Sicky – Karen, Kenya

Sunday we went for our lunch after mass and on Monday Janet wasn`t here so I did the class with Ted and Becca. They were pretty good for Ted. I was impressed altho I think it really took it out of him. Now Ted says he has a whole new respect for me. The kids are a little crazy to him I guess and he has suggested that we split the class. Nice idea! read more

Posted in Africa | Leave a comment

Sick Mary – Karen, Kenya

On Friday, I lazed around then I readied the room for the new girl. Becca seemed ok and I spent the day just settling her in. That night, I sat with sick little Mary while threw up bile and wheezed and coughed. She was in such pain and was crying. I really felt for her. I gave her my pink scarf and told her it was magical and would help her feel better. We said a little prayer and asked for four angels for her. I tried to send out healing energies for her as she laid there in my arms. read more

Posted in Africa | Leave a comment

Sorting Beans – Karen, Kenya

So waking up in the morning, Geoffs family made us eggs, bread, banana and tea. We chatted and laughed it up until we said our goodbyes. We waddled home after taking the bus and found Susan and Brian waiting at the gate watching cars go by. I had a lax rest of the day and slept early.

Tuesday was tough. I woke to find that Janet wasn`t here so I had the baby class all to myself. I managed somehow altho Amal was driving me mad. I was getting so frustrated with the misbehaving and I had to punish a few of them. But all in all it was ok and we did get alot accomplished. read more

Posted in Africa | Leave a comment