Wednesday, May 27, 2009

What's bigger than an elephant, has horns, and is causing a decrease in tourism in the Middle East?

Road tripping with the Europeans
to East Jordan
Sometimes I get to thinking that I am just not that interesting, and then I spend 4 hours in a car with some Europeans who have travelled the world, speak multiple languages, have really cool jobs, and it turns out they are real boring Boracks. 

In any case - alternatively, I have met some real kindred spirits here in the Middle East...a felucca captain who likes to be called Captain Rambo, a train conductor who prefers to be called Zorro, numerous Mohammeds, Machmouds, Ibrahims, and Nassers, and a bedouin who spied for the US in Iraq (not a very good spy, if you ask me, but he does make a mean cup of tea). Plus, watching Dena work her wiles has been a true learning experience. Somehow she will not only refuse to pay someone baksheesh, but she will actually win them over while doing it - occasionally inspiring a marriage proposal from across the Nile ("DENA, I LOVE you!!!!"). Amazing. Let's get her in there with the much beloved, Celine Dion, and get some real peace work done, people. 

In no way did I have nearly enough time do see everything one should see, so don't ask about the following as it will only spark within me a pang of regret and longing....Abu Simbel, Wadi Rum, Alexandria. I will just have to come back if anyone is up for it. Fitz kids? Anyone? 

I did get quite a rush from some of the things I did see, though...Petra!!!!!!!!!!!!, Karnak temple, some castles ideal for playing man-hunt, Dead Sea (which is way smaller than I thought - Israel, a mere stone's throw away, could catch the glare off my bare belly) , tomb heiroglyphics still in color after 4000 years, Tut's treasures, Nubian villages on the Nile, Cairo markets, etc. Love, love love.

I am going to pack up my bootleg seasons of The Wire, have 2 or 3 more desserts here in Amman, and call it a day. 

Oh yeah - what's bigger than an elephant, has horns, and is causing a decrease in tourism in the Middle East? A pig. As in swine flue. Yeah, Dena and I are still trying to figure that one out, but we are guessing maybe the guy who was trying to describe this to us has never seen an actual pig.

The Dead Sea with my pal, Ega, an Indonesian
 architect living in Sweden.



Saturday, May 23, 2009

Sunset Over Luxor

Safe and sound here in Luxor. Have been out of range of the internets as Dena and I have been traveling by planes, trains, automobile...and felucca the last few days.

Here is a recap of what I have learned so far:  
  • I used to think that American tourists were the worst travelers; now I know that American military tourists are the worst.
  • Ways I thought I would offend Jordanians or Egyptians, but somehow, they still seem to be unphased:
    1. Leaving my underwear in the cabin of the felucca only to be discovered by Mahmoud, our felucca captain
    2. Dena dropping a felucca pillow into the Nile and us laughing for a good ten minutes with absolutely no response from the crew
    3. Having tea with a bedouin on the side of the mountain only to discover later that my fly was down the whole time
  • New things to add to the list of things I love:
    1. caves and the many things you can do in them (escape sun, drink, dance, pee, discuss the spectrum of thought in Catholicism or the fact that most people in International Development are gay)
    2. overnight trains (not in Europe - those are creepy)
    3. sleeping outside
    4. airplane and train food (always on the list but love has been rejuvenated)
  • In addition to my current fears of low-flying birds, deep ocean water and being married to a person who later comes out of the closet - I can now add a fear of the innards of pyramids. After hitting that dank, thick air, I darted out of that baby like nobody's business. Dena had to give me the play by play thereafter.
  • 5 of the worst moments in the history of my GI tract:
    1. Inca Trail in Peru
    2. Stomach virus in Dallas (I had to drive Nick to the DFW airport with a plastic bag in my lap. In other fun news, the names Nick and Nicole both mean dirty things in Arabic)
    3. Post-birthday dinner at Nobu with Gina and Yan (never think for a moment that overeating sushi the day before a half marathon is a good idea)
    4. Post-birthday dinner at Felidia with Gina and Yan (seems to be a pattern)
    5. Post-Petra Kitchen dinner
  • No matter what your political persuasion, somehow having a man named Barack Obama as president of the USA has made it safer and easier for me to travel in the Middle East ("You from America. OBAMA!")
  • My proposals on how to work toward peace in the Middle East:
    1. Reduce the Israeli military presence on Palestinian borders
    2. Allow Palestinians to move freely to and from Palestine
    3. Enlist Celine Dion to conduct some peace talks (they love her here)
  • No matter where in the world I am, I will only reference things by movies or TV:
    1. Mahmoud points out a date tree, to which I respond, "Bad dates" (Indiana Jones)
    2. He also laughs a hardy laugh which reminds me of Bug in Uncle Buck, so I spend the next half hour or so floating on the Nile in a felucca recreating the scene ("Ever hear of a ritual serial killing? Gnaw on her face like that in public and you'll be one. Eheh he he he he.")
    3. We see a bazaar called Osiris Papyrus, and I can't get the song from Hedwig and the Angry Inch out of my head for the next 2 days ("And then Osiris  - god of the Nile...")
    4. I'll never forget this.....''I will Steve Holt...I will."
Okey doke. Up next -  Valley of the Kings and Queens, overnight train, Cairo and flight back to Amman. 

Felucca along the Nile


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Ma’Salaama World Economic Forum. And Petra.

Dena and I went on a 4-hour tour of Jordan on Friday as we were turned away at all of the Jordanian police checkpoints. Turns out the Kings Highway was closed the entire way for the World Economic Forum. Ironically, it shut down business for all of the tour operators to the Dead Sea and Wadi Mujib. Way to go, King Abdullah.

In lieu of soaking in the Dead Sea, Dena and I cracked open a bottle of Jordanian wine in Karak and hit the castle along with a rigorous hike at the Dana Wildlife Reserve. I also spent a good amount of time dwelling on how asking, "How are you?" in Arabic sounds oddly similar to the mother of all naughty words in English. Perhaps that could be one small reason why we can't see eye to eye sometimes? Hmm.  


I arrived in Petra today with a driver, Ahmed, and a lovely Spanish family from Barcelona, so I was able to work on my Catalan (they were a little nicer than those guys on the Mediteranean, Gina). Went right to it and hiked through Petra using my "La shukren" to any bedouin, boy, or beast who stood in the way of me and my Indiana Jones dream. Brace yourself for 50+ pics of me with the Treasury. I am happy to say I completed the abridged version, but I am excited for a full day with connecting with my Nabatean brethren, capping it off with a lovely tour of Petra by night. 
Was invited for tea by a neighbor bedouin after my trek, took off my floppy hat, and then took a dip in the pool; I made it quick so as to avoid the offense to more than one world culture with my bare, alabaster skin. Cleaned up for a lesson in making musakhan at the Petra Kitchen. I, along with 6 or so 50-something-year-old stockbroker/winees cooked dinner with locals and then indulged in a 3-course meal. Reuben from India informed me he was one of those present at the World Economic Forum, and when he was speaking with the queen, she opened with "Well, we Jordanians are stuck between Iraq and a hard place". Oh Rania - what a maroon.

Capped the night off with a beer at Cave bar and was dragged into some sort of dance involving a lot of highstepping - right up Mom's alley.

So - anyway, I am alive (Colleen). I am gonna go pop some tums and call it a day. Dena and I leave for Egypt on Tuesday night, so I may not be able to write, but odds are if I am not communicating it is because I am c) desperately wanting to talk to you, but trapped under something heavy.


Me with donkey