Friday, March 12, 2010

I’m a World-renowned Blogger!

Today someone posted this comment on one of the blog posts from my South Africa trip:

I love this blog post and some of your others of your trip in South Africa. I run South Africa Travel Online and each week choose a travel blog of the week to showcase to our readers - and I'm pleased to let you know that this week it's yours. What's more, this puts you in line to win travel blog of the month. I've linked to this blog entry from our travel newsletter.

Click on the link to their newsletter and scroll down to read their synopsis of my trip and see a picture of my sister!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Monday, January 4 – Tuesday, January 5

Today is actually March 5, so I’ve been home two months now. There are many reasons I have been putting off writing my last Egypt post, chief among them the thought that if I wrote about it, then my trip would really be over. I had such a fantastic time that I truly didn’t want it to end.

After crying so hard Sunday night (Jan. 3) just thinking about leaving, it was particularly difficult to wake up when Rachel came into my room at 7:15 Monday morning. She crawled in with me (Reid got out to make room), and we slept peacefully for three more hours! Oh, how I miss that!

The rest of the day was spent packing, playing, and trying to get in as much quality time with the family as we could. We took our last walk down to Road 9, with me taking pictures along the way so I could remember the scenery.

01-04-2010 001 Andrew & Nancy’s apartment building

01-04-2010 002 Road 12, with Andrew & Nancy’s apartment building on right

01-04-2010 003 Walking down Road 12

01-04-2010 004 Continuing down Road 12

01-04-2010 005 Crossing Canal Street

01-04-2010 006 Road 9 – notice the Cinnabon on the right!

01-04-2010 008More of Road 9

Of course, no trip down Road 9 would be complete without a stop at McDonald’s!

01-04-2010 011 Where’s my food?

01-04-2010 013 Aaah, that’s better!

Since our flight was scheduled for just after midnight, we didn’t have to leave the apartment until about 8:30 p.m.. Instead of scheduling a couple of blue cabs to take us, Andrew decided to snag black taxis off the street. (Note to Andrew and everyone else: NOT A GOOD IDEA.) There were three of us, six large suitcases weighing 50 pounds each, and three carry-on bags. One driver said he would tie the suitcases on top of his taxi, but he ended up not having any rope. I forced them to put most of the bags inside the taxis, but Reid’s taxi finally did have two of our big suitcases just sitting in the small rack on top of the car.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am horrible with goodbye scenes, and this was the worst. Even worse than when I left for my mission. I was bawling, Nancy was joining in, Andrew was yelling at the taxi drivers, and it was chaotic. Again, Rachel just seemed to know what I needed. She said “Grandma, you crying? That’s okay. Who’s tomin’ in June? RACHEL!” That made me feel better, but it sure didn’t stop my tears!

Andrew had made a deal with the taxi drivers for a set price to take us to the airport, so off Reid went in one car; Jacob and I shared the other. I don’t know exactly what direction Reid’s taxi went, because ours went places I had never seen before. To be honest, he was making me a little nervous. I felt better once we got on the main highway that goes to the airport, and I had a better feel for where we were.

Now, there’s a thing at the airport where the taxi drivers have to pay a small exit fee after they drop off passengers. Our agreed-upon fare included that fee so the driver could get out of the airport without problem. As we neared the airport exit (I could even see the exit sign), our taxi mysteriously had engine trouble. The driver pulled over and made gestures that made it seem the battery was dead. He even pretended to try and start the car, but I thought it was suspicious that his radio was still working, and so were his lights. He flagged down another taxi for us and then demanded the full fare we had agreed on. Since he spoke no English, it was pointless to argue with him (although I did let him know I was mad that we had to pay the full fare when he didn’t even get us all the way to the airport). So Jacob and I moved all the luggage into the second taxi and went on our way. Luckily, this guy didn’t charge us much, but I was still angry that I had to pay extra. My feeling is that the first guy didn’t want to pay the airport exit fee, so he kicked us out before he even went into the airport, thus avoiding the fee and pocketing the extra cash.

Airport security was tighter than usual due to the attempted bombing on Christmas Day, so we spent extra time in line being interrogated about who we were, why we had been in Egypt, and where we were going. Jacob got so flustered that when one guard asked, “Is your name Jacob?” he replied “No.” Reid quickly corrected him, however, and we were soon on our way inside the terminal to wait for our flight.

The flight from Cairo to JFK was smooth and uneventful, and I was able to sleep quite well. We had just enough time at JFK to get through passport control and customs, get a bite to eat, and catch our flight to Salt Lake. Matt and Grandpa Frank met us right on time. Grandpa loaded his truck with all our luggage and took Jacob home with all our stuff. Matt drove Reid and me to his house where we hopped into my car and drove home.

The weather was such a drastic change from Cairo; it took me a long time to get used to the cold again. I was so far behind on my work that it took me a couple of weeks at least to get caught up. I came home with what I thought was kidney stones, but it turned out to be a bladder infection (and no stones!). After that got cleared up, I went in for a long-planned-for surgery on my right thumb to correct basal joint arthritis and have been in a splint or a cast since Feb. 1. Other than all that, I’ve been missing Andrew and Nancy and my two precious grand-daughters. Sure, we talk on Skype almost every week, but it’s just not the same as being tackled by Rachel and having my “Grandma time” with her. I will just have to hang onto Rachel’s thought - “Who’s tomin’ in June?” THEY ALL ARE!


P.S. Andrew sent us this email on Tuesday, the day after we left:

Rachel misses Grandma big time. We went and bought a plank of wood to fix the broken couch. She held it in the stroller on the way home and pretended it was a piano. She sang the following song:

"We're on Road 9. I like Road 9. Grandma and me tamed to Road 9 lots and bought bread. Nummy bread. I miss Grandma. La la la. I like Grandma and her yummy bread. La la la. Road 9 and Grandma and bread."

Fun song :)

She also can't wait until June. She keeps reminding us that she's "tomin' to Mriita in June to play with Grandma"

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Sunday, January 3

With just two days left in Cairo, we all started doing our last-minute tasks. Reid wanted to see the AUC campus, and Nancy hadn’t been there yet, so they took off with Andrew & Miriam on a little adventure. Since it’s a secure campus, they weren’t sure anyone but Andrew could get in, but they did it and had a great time. Jacob had no interest in going; he just wanted to wander down to Road 9 for some final souvenir shopping. I would have gone, but Rachel just seemed too out of sorts to want to travel anywhere. I think she could sense a big change coming, and she didn’t really like talking about Grandma going back to America without her.

I had been trying for weeks to prepare her for my departure by talking about going on an airplane to America and telling her about Utah and Grandma’s house. Whenever she told me she wanted to come with me, I would tell her she could come to my house in June and that would satisfy her for a while. So Rachel and I just spent some precious time by ourselves, and we both had a nice late-afternoon nap.

After we all ran some errands (including a visit to the House’s to use their clothes dryer) and another shopping trip to Seoudi’s, we sent Andrew to our favorite Egyptian Mexican restaurant, La Sombra, to pick up dinner.

Rachel had a particularly rough evening; I don’t think she liked seeing everyone starting to gather belongings and pack suitcases. Reid and Jacob each brought a suitcase full of food and Christmas presents to Cairo, so now we had two empty suitcases for Andrew & Nancy to pack with their stuff to send back with us (in anticipation of returning to the U.S. in June). Poor Rachel didn’t like the fact that Grandma was leaving without her, and she was just antsy about everything. Bedtime was difficult, but she did ask me to “sing at her” again. I crawled into her mosquito net so I could lay by her side and proceeded to sing our favorite Primary songs. The more I tried to sing, the more the tears flowed. It’s a good thing it was dark, because I didn’t want to upset Rachel, so I just whispered the songs and kept crying. This was the last night with my sweet Rachel, and my heart was breaking. You’d think I could be stronger, but all my emotions just turned to mush. After I left Rachel’s room, I think everyone could sense my sadness, but I tried not to let it affect the rest of the family (I really did try!).

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Saturday, January 2

Again, I’m going to defer to Nancy for details on the day’s activities.

01-02-2010 001 NilometerThe Nilometer

01-02-2010 006 Andrew & Jacob - bottom of NilometerAndrew & Jacob at the bottom of the Nilometer

01-02-2010 004 Nilometer ceilingceiling over the Nilometer

01-02-2010 005 Nilometer ceilingceiling over the Nilometer

01-02-2010 009 Gayer-Anderson MuseumGayer-Anderson Museum

01-02-2010 014 table top in Gayer-Anderson Museumalabaster table top

01-02-2010 015 Gayer-Anderson Museum - RachelRachel: “Can I go under here?”

01-02-2010 017 Gayer-Anderson Museumcomfy-looking bed

01-02-2010 021 view of Ibn Tulun mosquelooking from the museum to Ibn Tulun mosque

01-02-2010 029 Ibn Tulun minaretminaret at Ibn Tulun

01-02-2010 030 view from Ibn Tulun roofview from Ibn Tulun roof

01-02-2010 037 Ibn Tulun roof - Rachel, Nancy, Miriamon the roof at Ibn Tulun

Friday, January 1

Since we’d been so busy during the week, we decided to do a whole lot of nothing today. Attending church was very emotional for me because it was my last time in Egypt. I was glad for the opportunity to bear my testimony and thank the wonderful Cairo Branch for their friendship and support. What a great group of LDS church members! I’m happy I had the chance to serve in the branch by playing the piano for their small Primary; I’ll miss those cute kids.

After lunch and a little bit of rest, we started making potato pancakes for dinner. Now, this is fairly simple when you have a big kitchen and a Bosch mixer with a grater attachment. Not so easy in a small Egyptian kitchen. But I put everyone to work with a couple of peelers and one small grater, and before long we were busy frying up some delicious German potato pancakes. For the stew, we made do with beef bouillon, carrot slices, dehydrated potatoes, and spices. No beef; no celery; no onions. Oh, well, it still tasted fairly good.

Andrew’s friend Joseph came over after dinner to enjoy a game of Risk (the Arabic version) with all the guys. Andrew lost big time, followed by Jacob and then Reid. Joseph was thrilled to be the victor, and we all enjoyed our relaxing evening.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Thursday, December 31

When will the madness end? We just had to get in another day of being tourists, but this time Nancy and Miriam wisely chose to stay home and get some sleep. The rest of us, however, were just crazy enough to go back out into the streets of Cairo. This time we headed up to the Citadel, probably the most recognizable site in Cairo’s skyline. The Mohammed Aly Mosque there is fairly new (1820s) and is quite stunning. There is also an old palace which has been nicely preserved.

12-31-2009 001 The CitadelThe Citadel

12-31-2009 006 The Citadel

12-31-2009 007 The Citadelcourtyard of the mosque

12-31-2009 011 The Citadelceiling in the mosque

12-31-2009 013 The Citadelgorgeous stairs

Down the hill from the Citadel is the Mosque & School of Sultan Hasan—very old (1300s) and one of my favorite spots.

12-31-2009 015 Sultan Hasan MosqueThe greatest Islamic building in the world

12-31-2009 017 Sultan Hasan Mosquecourtyard

12-31-2009 018 Sultan Hasan Mosqueprayer area

Next door to Hasan’s mosque is the Mosque of Al Rifa’i, a much newer structure (early 1900s).

12-31-2009 022 Al-Rifai Mosque

12-31-2009 026 Al-Rifai Mosquebeautiful woodwork

12-31-2009 027 Al-Rifai Mosqueinside the mosque

To celebrate New Year’s Eve, we watched Harry Potter #6 and endured the loud sounds of a neighbor’s party (which didn’t end until 3 a.m.). Basically, we’re boring people, but we do enjoy one another’s company.

Wednesday, December 30

One more time, off in a van to be tourists. This time we headed east to the city of Suez, which just happens to be the southern entrance to a famous canal by the same name. It was cool to see the Red Sea and to see all the ships in the distance awaiting their turn to use the canal.

12-30-2009 001 Suez

Then we drove on to the resort town of Ain Sokhna where we were able to play in the Red Sea for a while. Nancy said the water was awfully cold, but I thought it was warmer than the water we experienced in San Diego last June. Rachel was more than thrilled to be out of the van and free to play. She loves to be in the water and sand.

12-30-2009 006 Ain Sokhna - Red SeaRed Sea at Ain Sokhna

12-30-2009 010 Ain Sokhna - Red Sea“Mom, this is not my wet suit!”

12-30-2009 012 Ain Sokhna - Red SeaWading in the Red Sea

12-30-2009 014 Ain Sokhna - Red SeaChillin’

Since we were home by 3:30, we decided to let Rachel get wet again by going to Maadi House. She loves the warm water of their swimming pools. We then enjoyed a nice American dinner in the restaurant before heading home. What a wonderful day!

12-30-2009 024 Maadi HouseFamily fun