I hope you are all well.
Today I am in Aswan, Egypt. Here is the update:
Thursday Luke, Cara, Ryan and I went on a “Desert Safari” in the desert near Dubai. It was awesome. A local man drove us in a land rover from their house to the desert where we did some great off-roading on the way to the desert camp. We saw camels and experienced many local traditions in one shot, which was great. I’ll post pictures when I can.
On Friday Luke and Cara took Ryan and me to the airpot early, and we flew to Kuwait and then to Egypt. When we got to Cairo, we decided to hop on a train for Aswan (way south) and then work our way north, ultimately seeing the pyramids in Cairo on Thursday. We tried to get on a sleeper train, but there were no spots available, so we got “first class” seats and decided to travel all night anyway.
It ended up being a six-person room — not exactly the most cumfortable place — but was an OK trip for being 15.5 hours long — at least for me — since I slept (uncomfortably) about 14 of those hours (I didn’t really sleep the night before we left Dubai). I don’t think Ryan slept much so I felt bad about that.
Yesterday we arrived in Aswan in the afternoon. After unsuccessfully trying several hotels we finally found one with a few rooms available, and I was SOOO thankful to get a shower! Then we made our way to McDonalds, which was supposed to be the best place for wifi in the city. Sadly, it wasn’t working, but we did at least get some food. McDonalds ice cream and various types of bread have been the majority of my diet these last few days. We hired a falucca (sailboat) and went out onto the Nile around sunset, which was nice. Well, it was nice until our captain changed the price at the end of our ride. I’ll post the pictures… it really is beautiful here.
We walked through a bizaar in the early evening and then tried to find a resturant, and were amazed that everything was closed at 9pm — even though there were TONS of people out! The only resturant we could find open was… McDonalds:-). Apparently it is the place to be… it was packed with local people!
This morning has been good so far. Our hotel served breakfast, which was OK, and then we came across the street to an internet cafe. We plan to see the rest of the sights in Aswan today before heading north to Luxor tomorrow.
I appreciate your prayers. I have been feeling pretty homesick the last few days, and am realizing that I enjoy traveling to see people rather than sights quite a bit more. I want to enjoy this trip and need to have a better attitude to do that. Thanks for reading my blog and for your friendship. And have a wonderful Valentine’s Day!
I hope you are doing well! I hear there is a lot of snow in Maryland… very different from the dry, warm winter weather here in the Arab desert!
This week has been very eventful. Here is what we’ve been up to:
The second day of the weekend, Luke and Cara invited me to join them for their 32 week ultrasound. It was the first one I’ve been to, and it was so amazing to see their little one!
In the afternoon, Luke went go-cart racing with some locals and expatriate friends (all men), and Cara and I hung out looking at baby things with her friend who is also pregnant and preparing dinner for the group. When the men got back we ate together.
A British friend of theirs was talking about his life and I (innocently) asked, “What’s your story?” and the whole group listened to his answer. I was caught off-guard when the question was reversed to me, but enjoyed the opportunity to share about how God taught me a great deal about trusting in Him through my experiences with my mom’s battles with cancer, as well as some other pieces of my story. Overall, it was a really fun night.
Sunday is a workday here, so Luke went to work and Cara and I had a restful morning. In the afternoon, Cara dropped me off at the Mall of the Emirates while she went to tutor her student. I made the mistake of starting my shopping in the extremely high-end parts of the mall, and felt very conspicuous in some borrowed ripped jeans and a not-so-nice shirt.
Eventually, though, I found a few stores with some items I was looking for: a long skirt, some long-sleeved shirts to wear under things, and a long shirt to wear with pants. I really respect Cara’s intentionality in dressing in a culturally-appropriate, modest way, and thought these items would be helpful to me for the rest of my travels throughout North Africa as well as here in Dubai. So far they have served me well.
When Cara came to pick me up I realized I was a little lost — that mall (which houses an indoor ski slope) is enormous! I was able to find her without too much trouble, and we headed home for a nice evening in.
Cara’s friend, Karima, came to start our Arabic lessons on Monday morning. She is in her early thirties, single, devout, intense, and very funny! Within a few hours I was completely exhausted from trying to understand the fairly advanced lesson (at least to someone who knew almost nothing). Cara did a great job keeping up.
During Cara’s tutoring, I asked if I could be taken back to the mall to return one item of clothing which didn’t work once I got it with my other clothes. It was the first thing I bought and I had spent more on it than I should have (after finding a store with things I liked better with lower prices), so I hoped to return it. I was tired, and anticipated returning the dress, going to Starbucks, and doing some reading. Sadly, my outing did not go that way.
When I found the store, I went in and let them know I wanted to return the dress. Everything was in order, but the ladies said, “Sorry, we only offer exchanges,” and implied that if I had spent more I could have gotten my money back. This was a problem because it is a small boutique store, and I had tried on everything I thought I might like the day before, and this dress was the only thing that worked. I proceeded to look through everything again, trying to find something.
Finally, I found a possibility, but was frustrated because I don’t need extra clothes at this point in my trip and really wasn’t thrilled with the item. There was a man there who seemed to have some authority, and I proceeded to ask him if I could please return the dress. As I stood there, I saw the posted return policy which specifically stated that I could return a sale item within seven days. It had been less than 24 hours. Finally, he told me he would give me store credit, which could be used at any one of seven stores owned by the same company. The last thing I wanted to do was to continue shopping at that point, but I took the deal and proceeded to try to figure out how to spend the credit, since I wasn’t sure when I’d be back in the mall.
I eventually found some clothes that worked OK. It was an interesting lesson in non-western policy… stores are not accountable for what they post… oh well.
Karima came back on Tuesday for another lesson, and stayed with us from about 11:30 until after 4, teaching most of the time. I felt much better about the lesson — I think I learned a lot of Arabic in the time she was here.
I went with Cara to her lesson and ran on The Palm, which was great. I’ve been doing some plyometric workouts indoors several times a week, but it was great to get outside and get moving. The area where we are living houses mostly men, so it is apparently not possible to run or walk outside without being ostentatious.
We came home to a spaghetti dinner Luke had prepared for us, Karima, and our Kyrgyz friend. It was a fun night, but we were all exhausted!
Yesterday Cara and I went to a class in the morning, and then had lunch at another new mall before going to a doctor’s appointment. In the evening we went to another friends’ house for dinner, which was fun. I’ve really enjoyed meeting lots of people in Luke and Cara’s life, which has been great for giving me an idea of what it would be like to live here — one of the main points of my trip.
Today is Thursday, and we have plans for this weekend. I’ll let you know how it goes!
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