Monday, February 28, 2011

Gratitude Monday --Home

As I sit in my chair at my computer in my home I do not have to call gratitude to me.
It pads up to me, barking and pawing for attention.
This weekend we had a wonderful time in Edmonton with our friends Bob and Sylvia. It was our Christmas celebration. With work schedules, holidays, and various commitments it's pretty common for us to have the holiday celebration in at least February. Some years it has been in March.
This does not matter.
What matters is we spend the time together. Food, presents, activities, are secondary. It is the time spent with those we love which matters.
Along with this I am also very grateful to be home in one piece.
The weather is winter at its finest: snow and wind and ice.
On the way to the city we hit a patch of black ice.  Here's a link for those who've not had the pleasure of its acquaintance.
We spun and slid for several hundred metres. At one  point we were in the oncoming lane, heading the right way for it, but sliding backward quickly.
Mike drove out of it and we were fine, grateful no one was within a few kilometres of us at the time.
On the way home on Highway 2 we saw at least one dozen vehicles in the ditch. Many had police tape around them. At least three had their wheels pointed heavenward.
We had a wonderful time. We are home.
I am grateful.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Photo-Finish Friday --Bus to the Edge of the World

The Pyramids at Giza
The haze over Cairo from pollution and the burning of the sugar cane fields makes it look like the pyramids are built on the edge of the world.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

City Of Mosques

Cityscape of Cairo
Cairo, we heard, is known as the City of Mosques.
The photo shows only a bit of the many mosques that can be seen in the skyline.  It really is an amazing sight.
Cairo is quite polluted to begin with and in the winter the farmers burn the sugar cane fields after the harvest, thus adding to the ambience.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Two Sentences -- Tuesday, Bloody Tuesday

When in doubt, change the title.
Those aren't really words to write by, but it does seem to help.
The vacation from the manuscript was good for many reasons including realizing the first title change wasn't good enough.
Saintree was a dull title. Just opening the file bored me. It helped me set the stage and focus on seeding some information about the town, but that's about all. Rewriting is supposed to make the story better and better includes making it more interesting.
I don't know how long the new title will stick. Maybe it doesn't matter. What's important is it's worked some magic for me.
Here are some fresh words from the renamed Blood Love: 
"To hold her, bodies pressed, breasts and bellies together- but oh it would be too much. Too much for Eury to not bring her mouth around to the slender, smooth neck throbbing with life, rip her fangs into the delicate flesh, and drink her dry."
I've finally gotten around to reading A Little Princess. I'm just past the halfway mark and Sara Crewe has already become one of my favourite characters in one of my favourite books.
She is smart and strong and brimming with imagination. She understands human nature better than most of us.
The writing in it is so good that I found myself, like the heroine, sympathizing with a rat. That takes some doing.
Here's a bit of dialogue from Sara to another child:
" 'Well,' she said with some fire. 'I should like to slap you --but I don't want to slap you!' restraining herself. 'At least I both want to slap you--and I should like to slap you--but I won't slap you. We are not little gutter children. We are both old enough to know better.' "
-A Little Princess, Frances Hodgson Burnett (Puffin Classics, 2008)
Thanks so much for coming by. For more or to get in on the fun please see the Women of Mystery.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Gratitude Monday -- Not Me

I am scared of heights. Just watching this cruise line employee on his perch as he cleaned was enough to make my knees weak.
I am so very grateful I did not have to do this.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Photo-Finish Friday -- From the Felucca

Cruising the Nile

One of our treats on the trip to Egypt was to sail in a felucca on the Nile.
This is across the harbour from Aswan. If you enlarge it you will see some feluccas on the right.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Start 'Em Young

A young boy attempts to sell postcards to a disinterested tourist.

We were accosted by sellers everywhere we went during our visit to Egypt. They always had just the thing we needed to make our lives complete.
There was a certain amount of regulation in place.  Near the souk in Cairo a young fellow, similar in age to the one in the above photo, tried to sell us scarab carvings.  In a few minutes the police had him in a headlock. Our guide told us the boy was selling without a licence.
For the most part the hawkers went about their business on everyone they could find. We were advised to not make eye contact. If asked a name we should make one up. Do not follow a seller in a market into a store.
I broke all of those rules at one time or another, but I have pretty good sales resistance and I enjoy saying no.
One evening a woman near tears with a babe in arms pleaded with me as I tried to get on the bus.  While I didn't understand her words, I am sure she was pulling the "My baby is sick and needs medicine" or "I need money to feed my baby" scam.  I saw it many times in Cuba.
Our guide seemed surprised that this happened, but he agreed it probably was one of these scams.
I couldn't help but feel a bit sorry for these hawkers, especially the young ones. Education is free in Egypt. If you get really high marks your post-secondary is paid for as well.
But not everyone can get high marks. Maybe this is all they thought life could offer them.
I like to think that with ouster of Mubarak things will have changed for the better on every level. The dependence on tourists will be for legitimate sales, not desperation.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Disco Dervish

Our Nile Cruise included some entertainment such as a Belly Dancer and a Dervish. As long as I kept in mind this was showtime for tourists it was tolerable, but I have to say I was disappointed.
The Belly Dancer looked more angry than anything. I couldn't bring myself to take any pictures.  I've seen Belly Dancers at Greek restaurants. Those women were happy, loved their bodies, were proud of the culture and history they represented. 
Nothing of the sort appeared on the cruise's dancer's face. It didn't help that we were in the lounge with flashing lights and a loud, driving beat that was totally unsuited to belly dancing.

 For as appalling as that was, the Disco Dervish was worse.

He put on a good show. I'll give him that.

His costume came complete with  some lights along the bottom skirts.  When they came on he looked like a Christmas tree.

I took a few photos, but I was appalled at this bastardization of a culture and religious belief.  I'd wanted to see a real Whirling Dervish. It was a vain hope of course, because real doesn't sell.
Like the Belly Dancer before him the Dervish played to flashing lights and a driving beat.
I wanted a taste of the culture, not a headache.
Yes, I've complained all through this post. I don't like to complain as there are good things in everything, but sometimes the appalling must be given its due.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Two Sentence Tuesday --It's Like a Threesome

Right- The Queens of Upper and Lower Egypt flank a King at Kom Ombo.
The title got your attention, I'm sure.
Inspiration strikes at the most interesting times. This carving got my attention during our visit to the temple. I felt compelled to stare at it and eventually to take a photo for later reference.
Something was a-brew.
As I gazed at it a scene formed in my mind for a book I've yet to write. The book idea's been simmering on the back burner for a few months now. I'd like to get to it, but I really want to get at least one manuscript ready for hawking.
The day after seeing this was a cruising day up the Nile. I took stationery and pen from our cabin, got myself a health-promoting Coke, set myself at a table on the top deck of the ship, and drafted some ideas for an induction ceremony for a year of bound servitude.
I can sort of make out my handwriting now. I'm hoping viewing the photo will re-inspire me.
It's been two weeks, but if you'll permit me, here's a bit from my shipboard scratchings:
"Upon entering the temple for the year of service the acolyte is 'powered up.' Two full priestesses position themselves on either side of her."
I haven't gotten much reading done lately, but I did manage to pick up Sherlock Holmes the other day.
From The Sign of Four  (Sherlock Holmes, The Complete Novels and Stories, Vol. I  Bantam Classic, reissue 2003)
" 'Then a queer thought came into my head and showed me where I could lay my hand on a weapon. I sat down in the darkness and unstrapped my wooden leg.' "
Thank you for coming here and reading me.
For more or to get in on the fun please see the Women of Mystery.

Gratitude Monday --Things Going Better

A freakin' wonder drug.

The Coca-Cola in Egypt is tasty. Whatever else is in it, it's sweetened with at least some cane syrup. It makes a difference.
But that's not why I'm posting.  Mike was getting a bit ill on the trip and was told by the tour guide one of the best ways things to drink for it is Coke. He noted this was a good preventative as well.
Mike had a Coke. He was better almost immediately. He drank a Coke a day after that and was fine.
I drink Coke on vacation anyway as I like to see what other countries do to it. The only time I didn't was last year in Cuba when I drank the local knock-off, Tukola. It was good, but it's the only vacation where I've gotten sick.
I am grateful for Coke.

NB: Coca-Cola has not approached me for this. It has not enticed me in any way to write this. As far as I know Coke has never heard of me and likely never will.
I have not been paid, hired, or visited upon in any way by the Coca-Cola Company.
I am only telling the story of something that happened.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Morning in Egypt

Sunrise on the Nile  
It's morning in Egypt.
Congratulations to Egyptians for not backing down and for toppling Hosni Mubarak.
I'm so proud of you, and so deeply touched that I was there and saw the protests for myself.
Thank you.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Photo-Finish Friday --In the Souk

The Khan El Khalili bazaar in Cairo

We had a visit to a souk or bazaar in Cairo. It was crowded, colourful, noisy and filled with sellers making every effort to tempt us with their wares. The moment you show interest in anything or make eye contact they think they've got you.
I didn't buy anything although I was most tempted by the ouds and the hookahs.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Abu Simbel-- A Temple On the Move

This temple was originally built by Ramses II. The four statues of the Pharoah were cut out of a single slab of rock.
Abu Simbel was  one of the many temples threatened by flooding when the Aswan Dam was built in the 1960s. Rather than lose this magnificent monument it was cut up and moved up to higher ground. Lake Nasser has put the original site some 60 metres underwater.

Next to it is the Temple of Hathor which was built for Nefertari,  Ramses' wife.

We were able to go in and look around these temples. It's so hard to image the painstaking work in building them, never mind moving them.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Temple of Philae

This is part of the Temple of Philae.
It's on an island in Lake Nasser. The lake was created when the Aswan Dam was built and the resulting lake flooded many archeological sites.
Several, such as this one, were dismantled and moved to higher ground.
I hadn't realized these were relief carvings until I saw them with my own eyes in real life.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Two-Sentence Tuesday - Government Capons Advised of Dismay

A helicopter with the presidential insignia flies over Cairo. The fly over was meant to intimidate protesters. Whatever else it was, at least the Egyptian government did something.

I've devoted my writing this past week to crafting letters of dismay to members of the federal government.
I've already posted about their lack of concern for Canadians stuck in Egypt, but I wanted them to know my displeasure directly.
At the back of our passports we are advised to go to the British consulate for help. On the one hand it's nice to have back up, but really, is Canada its own country or not?
Clearly my country is run by a blustering pack of posturing capons hiding behind the skirts of Mother England.
Canada, I am dismayed at this. We brought home the constitution almost 30 years ago. Grow up. Cut the cord.
I wrote to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon, Liberal Foreign Affairs critic Bob Rae, and my Member of Parliament Blaine Calkins.
I told them of my husband and I are disappointed and dismayed and being abandoned in Cairo.
I do not expect anything of them in return.
Two non-contiguous sentences from my letter to the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada:
"It is abundantly clear to us that the Canadian government has no interest in helping its citizens abroad in times of crisis."
"We love our country, sir, but we are ashamed of our government."
As for what I read, well, I caught up on the news. I've still got some jet lag so there is no point in trying to enjoy recreational reading. 
I've been busy getting all the information I need for an insurance claim for our trip interruption.
Here are two non-contiguous sentences I read from Lufthansa confirming the cancellation of our return flight January 29:

"…could not take this flight due to:"

"flight was cancelled due to the political unrest in Cairo/Egypt."

Thanks for stopping by.
For more or to get in on the fun please see the Women of Mystery.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Gratitude Monday--Morning in Cairo

Smoke and pollution greet the morning in Cairo.

On this Monday I am grateful for a great many things, mostly being home.
I'll narrow things down. We are blessed to have clean, fresh air in this country.
Cairo is noisy and polluted and this time of year the farmers are burning the cane fields.
The haze may lift in the afternoons, but I can't say that I ever felt clean there.
I'm so glad to have the clean, country air in my lungs again.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Photo-Finish Friday -- Fun Things to do in Egypt

Photo by my husband, Mike Mayrl
This is me with a live scorpion on my hat.
I figured I'd regret it if I passed up this chance.
I was not scared as the handlers for it make their living, such as it is, by putting scorpions on willing tourists. If someone gets hurt, there goes the livelihood. That said, I did feel better once it was removed.

Thanks to The Smitten Image for the POTW.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Government Impotence Disgusts Me

Tank in front of our hotel in Cairo.

The Canadian government is impotent and spineless.
It was of no help to us in getting out of Cairo.
Today I ready news stories noting that an evacuation flight from Cairo for Canadians was cancelled due to lack of interest.
If so, then it was lack of interest on the part of Canada to help its citizens.
Mike and I were stranded in Cairo on January 29 after our Lufthansa flight was cancelled. The curfew imposed by Hosni Mubarek prevented its scheduled 04:50 takeoff.
We eventually got through to the Canadian embassy and were treated to a recording. We were cut of. Eventually we got through again and after pressing a succession of numbers were transferred to an emergency line and were cut off again.

According to the back page of the Canadian passports we can contact the British consulate for help.
That is how great the response from our federal government was.
Instead that day, January 31, we returned to the airport where we'd been spending the bulk of our time since the 29th.

Other Canadians there had been in touch with the British consulate and were told of a possible evacuation flight Monday afternoon.

We managed to get out on a Lufthansa flight that afternoon. We were lucky. On Saturday a Lufthansa rep showed up at the airline's office four hours late and hand rescheduled flights for us. Mubarek suspended the Internet and all social media. The airline did the best it could for us with its limited resources and put us on a connector to Calgary for February 1.

We went back to the airport each day. On Sunday we tried to get documentation from Lufthansa for our insurance claim. Eventually we gave up and decided to get it later from Frankfurt or from home.
We had an expensive hotel for two nights near the airport as we were advised to not return to the city proper due to the curfew. For the third night we decided to stay at the airport. When we arrived Mike went to the Lufthansa office about 11 a.m.(our flight was the next morning at 04:45) and was told a flight was leaving now and to go to the gate now.
We didn't make that one, but our tickets were honoured for an afternoon flight. We stayed overnight in Frankfurt. We got the documentation we needed. Our ticket for the connecting flight to Canada was honoured and we got home.

Many others waited for the evacuation flight or bought tickets on another airline such as Egypt Air. Those who did made sure their flight left between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Canada did not even have the decency to have a human being answer the phone at the consulate. No information was available on the recordings. My country clearly had no plan for anything and only acted after the US moved to get its citizens out.

As well, Canada is making its people pay for the flight. This galls me no end.
It is doing very little, only acting because everyone else did so first, and is making  its citizens pay for the privilege of this feeble offering.

I love my country. I have never been so happy to be back on Canadian soil.

But I am ashamed of my government and its feeble, impotent spinelessness.