Friday, February 8, 2013

Reverse Culture Shock

So, Dan and I have arrived back home, in our hometown of Kelowna.

It’s funny (not actually funny),  we were discussing with a fellow traveler only days ago, the effects of reverse culture shock.  Dan and I had mentioned that we both experience it, but I really thought this time would be different.  I mean really, we were only gone for three weeks, the Egyptian culture isn’t exactly shocking for us anymore, and one would think we should know what to expect.  Unfortunately, the only difference was the efficiency in which it hit, fast and hard.

Upon our arrival home, to our actual house, it really hit me.  As I began to unpack my things, hang them up in my closet or throw them in the laundry bin, I couldn’t ignore that empty feeling- I felt nothing.  There was no “Ahhhh“ moment, you know the one, when you lie down in your own bed, have a shower in your own shower or make a cup of coffee in your own kitchen.  Those little moments that you miss while you’re away, regardless of the fun you’re having – well, this time, I didn’t feel those small but important connections to home.  Dan and I felt it as we settled into our room in Red Deer with his Mom, or when I sat on the couch with my parents in my family’s home, but as for our home, well, it doesn’t feel like one. 

It’s interesting, when you travel your hotel or hostel room becomes a kind of safe haven, where you can turn off the challenging and exhilarating experience of daily life on the road, and just be in the comfort and normalcy of your own space.  Now, my comfort space is the opposite, and I long for the certain excitement that only travelling can bring.  So, as I get ready for another day in Kelowna, I glance at  one of my tattoos that I got a few years back, and right now it seems to have grown with me and is asking the question;  am I really close to home?

Egypt 2009 - Our first taste of overseas adventure - when everything changed... 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Bucket List – 2013 is the best time to visit the Great Pyramids


Dan and I have been lucky enough to have visited Egypt 3 times now, and each time it is different.  This time in particular was quite shocking, and the changes at the Giza Pyramid Plateau was no exception.  With tourism accounting for around 12% of Egypt's workforce, the lack of actual tourists is crippling for a massive amount of the population.  Where once we would have been hassled by touts constantly, now these same people have been forced to find income elsewhere, and the ones that remain are desperate and defeated.


When Dan and I decided to make the trip out to the Giza Plateau, we anticipated that foreigners would be sparse.  It was worse than we expected, they weren’t sparse, but closer to non existent. Abdul (pictured above) was a young camel driver that begged us to open his day off with just 5 pounds.  Now, this kinda thing happens all the time, but now it is different.  We exchanged 5 pounds for a picture with him and his camel in hopes that he would bring home a little money that day. 


Never did I think I would have the opportunity to take a picture of The Pyramids without people in it.  Completely bizarre. 



People were so shocked to see us that it was like being in India again.  We had many people ask us to take pictures with them.  It was quite strange actually.  We literally had people following, taking pictures while we looked at the site.


Dan and I finally took the time to checkout the Solar Boat Museum at the Giza Plateau and it was totally worthy.
(Link to a Wiki for more information on this crazy archaeological find!)



Dan, sitting in one of my favourite spots in the world.   I could sit here for hours, contemplating the origins of the Pyramids and Sphinx, imagining the desert thousands of years ago, and watching the people of today.  I love this spot.



Thursday, January 31, 2013

Cairo – January 2013

I thought today would be nice day for a friendly, happy picture post.  Truthfully, I need it.  Since our arrival in Egypt. the question that we get asked most often is why we are here [now?], and the answer is always the same- because we love it here.

This is the view from our balcony in our hotel room.  When we booked our stay here before we left Canada we didn’t quite realize the location until we arrived.  Not only is it a fantastic hotel, but we are literally steps away from our favourite cafe, grocery store and eateries.  Also, I get to see ‘my chicken’ outside of my room.  This particular ad/mural makes me smile every time I see it and it is one of my favourite images in all of downtown Cairo.  On top of that, we have a mosque right outside our window, so we hear the call to prayer loud and clear every day.  Could it get any better?

Dan and I finally paid the fee to go up the Cairo tower this time around (we were too poor the last time), and we weren’t disappointed.  The day was gorgeous, and the 360 degree view un-matched.


Our first night with a couple of our closest friends in Cairo, Emad and Ahmed.  Tea, sheesha and good friends.

On our first trip to Egypt back in 2009, Dan and I had the pleasure of having a sweet treat that I affectionately named ‘honey balls’.  They were so delicious that I searched for them time and time again to no avail, until the other evening.  I have since found these sinful little treats, and now my life is a little more complete.  Fried balls of dough, soaked in honey, what a brilliant idea!

Dan and I, along with some of our Egyptian posse, decided to seek out some greener pastures at Al Azhar Park in Islamic Cairo.   It offered a quiet, green escape from the dusty city along with some great views off the surrounding mosques , cityscape and the Giza Pyramids on the horizon.



The people-watching in Cairo is epic, and often hilarious.  Who needs a truck or a car for that matter :)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Our Return to a Revolution


I’m not really sure how this happened, or for what reason, but once again, Dan and I have found ourselves in Cairo, during another uprising.  I am not sure how we didn’t notice, but we were set to arrive in Egypt on the 2nd anniversary of The Revolution.  Don’t fret for us, we are fine and truthfully, it is an exciting time to be here, but really where do we get our timing?

Now here’s my thought or rant if you will…..  Let me paint the picture.

If you have been hiding under a rock for the past two years,  I will catch you up on a little thing called the Egyptian Revolution.  Two years ago, on January 25, the Egyptian people started a movement to speak up, come together and overthrow their corrupt government- to put it simply.  Since the massive protests that toppled the 30 year rein of President Hosni Mubarak, Egypt has been in a limbo of uncertainty. (See this Wiki for more information on the events of the revolution and the following months)  Tahrir Square continues to be occupied every Friday by peaceful protesters demanding various changes in current policies, not such an easy task I think. 

So, once again, we find ourselves back in my beloved city.  The protests are in full swing again in Tahrir Square.  The people are out in mass groups, hijacking the streets, barricading bridges as they march.  Some are out solely to cause trouble I’m sure, but most are just trying to be heard and the past gives them hope that they will be, so they march and celebrate their victories.  Though neither of us can understand what they ask for or for what cause they are marching, we are moved none the less. (In The Grit - Blog by fellow Canadian who is here to cover the demonstrations from within the square. Check it out.) Their chants give me goose bumps and their pride and dedication inspire me.  We walk through the streets, we make our way through a maze of people, to find a chair in our crowded cafe to enjoy a hookah and some tea and I am sitting on a thought.  Couldn’t we Canadians learn a little from our Egyptian friends?  Couldn’t we march?  If we did, would we have the passion to come together and challenge our government to work for us like it should?   Ya, Canada is no Egypt, and we aren’t in such an extreme situation, but Canada is in a pivotal moment, where we could either stand up, or step aside.  So until I post again and elaborate on my thoughts of the current state in Egypt, I hope you will think about this question, roll it over in your mind, discuss it with your friends and family, and see what you come up with. I’d love to hear your thoughts…



Both these pics where taken on the night of the revolution’s anniversary, on Talat Harb Street, with Tahrir Square in the distance.  They aren’t the greatest representation of the crowd and the atmosphere for two reasons.  The first being our reluctance to venture too closely to the action- too dangerous for my liking as we had little knowledge of what to expect.  Secondly, night shots are always quite tricky to capture since the air in Cairo is always dusty but I figured I would include them regardless.



Monday, January 28, 2013

Paris Picture Post


Ok, so here’s the truth.  I did have the best of intentions to write about our time in Paris, because we did have quite the time.  But frankly, I am behind on my posts, and have already been in Cairo for a few days now.  Cairo is a million miles from Paris, and Paris seems a like it happened so long ago.  My beloved Cairo has changed so much since our last visit, and it is weighing heavily on me right now.  So, I’m sorry my friends, Paris will just be a quick picture post.


Our first night in Paris was slushy and kinda miserable actually.  If I weren’t in Paris, I would have stayed in.  Instead, we dropped off our packs and decided to brave the slippery, icy climb to the highest point in Paris to see the Sacré-Cœur Basilica (Sacred Heart for those of you who, like me, didn’t take French class).  Sweet Church.  Loved it!!



Another tick off the bucket list!  I got to see the Louve, na na, na na, na na :)  A part of me kinda lives for museums, I could literally spends days and days in them, just wandering and trying to soak in all the wisdom from the past.  I basically said to Dan, “ Today we will be here all Day- ALL DAY.”  and we were.  We wandered until our legs felt like stumps and I was on the verge of crying from exhaustion. 



A little factoid about Dan- He likes baboons.  He kinda blends in :)



So, we hit the Louve right, we saw all the famous paintings, ya, but I need a little explanation as to why they are so special.  The Mona LIsa for example: Meh.  I saw so many beautiful paintings in Paris and Amsterdam that in my opinion, were much more inspiring.  I just didn’t fully grasp some of their significances'.



Sweetness!  The sculptures really blew my mind.  How beautiful.



I liked these ladies.  They seem happy and content.






Ok, enough about The Louvre.  On to some of the other cool landmarks and tourist attractions in Paris.  We had to visit the Eiffel Tower of course, though quite honestly, I coulda skipped it.  It was quite the blustery day, and after hitting l’Arc de Triomphe, we went on up the Tower.  We were met by wet, rainy cold and a cloudy view, and could only go up halfway due to the snow. We took a snap, then turned around and left.  Unimpressive.



Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris is another spot on the tourist beat, and that was a little more impressive.  I did enjoy it.  Dan was quite intrigued by the relics (pictured above) of some of the famous saints.  Why a piece of someone's dead body is prized I don’t quite get, but it is pretty gruesome and creepy nonetheless.



Now, I don’t mean for it to come across that I didn’t enjoy Paris; on the contrary I did, immensely.  I just found that my favourite parts of our visit weren’t any of the attractions, but in fact were the walks to and from them.  I enjoyed people watching, the delicious coffee and the still more delicious cheeses and breads.  The fashion made me envious and the lifestyle had me questioning my own.  What else do you want out of a city?  Oh, maybe an amazing little hotel just off the Rue des Martyrs, that is a short walk away from the famed Moulin Rouge in the red light district and in the eclectic neighbourhood of Montmartre. If your travels find you in Paris, I HIGHLY recommend this area of the city.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Arrival in Amsterdam – Where to next?

Our travel drought is over; finally we are on the road again, if only for a short while.  It was hard at first, to check out, relax and open myself to the experience of travel.  It was different this time, but it only took a few days to unplug from my life at home, and enjoy the journey, no strings attached.
Dan and I have a tendency to fly by the seat of our pants when we travel, and as in previous trips, this one was no different.  We had a desire to capture the feeling of long term travel, but in the time we had (three weeks), I didn’t know if it could be possible.  So, in the spirit of the gypsy traveler, we walked into a travel agency, booked a ticket to Cairo, with an 11 day layover in Amsterdam, and put it on the back burner.  Then, the time came.  We packed our bags, boarded our plane and as always, made plans as we went.
Nothing in this world, in my opinion, compares to the feelings that spontaneity bring.  I couldn’t have imagined that I would have found myself in that magical/romantic town in Belgium I had seen in a little movie titled ‘In Bruges’, or to be at a train station asking for two tickets to Paris?  Don’t things like that only happen in movies?
So, as I wait to board our plane to Cairo, I just have one thought that I want to impart… If you have the desire to see the world or to go on an adventure, simply book a ticket and go!

Alright, now for the pics, as I know you all like them.  Sorry, we haven’t taken many that are worthy, but I will post some anyways.  Here are a few ‘snaps’ from Amsterdam and Bruges.
After we arrived in Amsterdam, we decided to take an early morning walk while we waited to check into our hostel.  Cold but sunny.

The following day wasn’t so sun shiny.  Apparently, Europe is also having an unusual winter, which means we trudged around in the bloody cold and snow for two weeks.  Nice. Why didn’t we go to Mexico for our vacation?

We were able to fit in a little skate on an outdoor rink in Amsterdam. The rented skates were so dull they would slide sideways, even after Dan brought them back and asked for them to be sharpened, but it was still a fun time.
Final word about the infamous Amsterdam; it was beautiful, but it wasn’t my favourite.  We used our imagination and pictured the city in Summer, lush and green and picturesque with cool breezes flowing off the many canals. I imagine it would be much better then, but the flip side of being there when we were, we got to enjoy the city less crowded, with no lines, no wait and a little on the cheap.

On to Bruges…
A sleepy Bruges canal. Is it the Canadian in us that makes one want to strap on a pair of skates and go nuts?

A shot from Bruges city centre. The expansive squares were such a contrast from the narrow cobble-stoned streets.

Taking time for dinner, warmed by the fire place, hot stew and romantic candle light.

Belgium is quite flat, so the little kiddies have to take advantage of this small hill to get in some serious sledding.

Another shot taken while we meander around the village.  So pretty.

A birds eye view of the town, taken atop the famous Belfry Tower.  It was bloody freakin’ freezing up there, but the view was worth it.

This is the Belfry Tower. 366 steps up a tiny spiral staircase to take the previous picture.

Bruges- I loved!  Since it is so beautiful, many, many people vacation there, so it was a little expensive.  Although it was the off season, the city was still rather packed, but still really enjoyable.  Winter actually lends to the still romance of this medieval town, so no complaints there. 
next……Paris :)

Monday, August 27, 2012

A little help from our friends

Now that we are back home, we are looking for answers to life's tough questions... But we won't ask your help with that endeavour... Instead, we have a short, 10 question survey that we would LOVE your answers to! Click below to donate a minute or two of your time...

Thank you very much!!
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