Sunday, December 6, 2009

Moving on from Egypt . . .

Yes, It's been an age since I've posted. Life became incredibly crazy for a long while, and sort-of is still. However, I'd like to post a blog every once in a while, so I've decided to end the Egyptian thread for now. Of course, I reserve the right to add future Egypt stories. And I'm choosing to cheat with my last Egypt story: I'm posting the contents of an email I sent to entertain my sisters while I was in Egypt. (One who was bummed at college and sometimes likes my stories.):

Hey Meredee, (I'm sending this to you too Dixie, so I don't have to write it twice. I'm paying by the minute--love you.)
How are you? I hope school is well, and that you are over your--Why are all my roommates beautiful phase?--You're pretty too, and yes, I know I'm biased, but I'm not a liar by any means. (Of course, would a liar say she was?--Regardless, you know me.)

I made some friends this past week, a girl from Charleston, SC, a girl from St. Louis, MO, and lastly (the one I was closest to) a girl from New Orleans, LA (Is that the abbreviation for Louisiana?) Anyways, they're leaving tonight/tomorrow morning, so I'm a little bummed. But hopefully, next week with Mom is cool.

I'm a little (just a little) worried about that though. Mom got mad at me tonight because we went to the market where we were supposed to haggle. With haggling you are supposed to pretend you don't really like things and underestimate things' worth, so you can get a good price.--You warned me how Mom is, so just imagine. OH, THIS IS BEAUTIFUL! I LOVE THIS! (CHARGE ME EVERY PENNY I HAVE FOR THIS.) I tried to explain this to Mom and keep her under control, but she didn't appreciate my efforts at all. We did get a few nice things, and we went on a faluka (sail boat) on the Nile for a half hour later with my friends and their moms, so I think we're cool now. We'll see.

I have some funny stories to share--I guess it's kind-of sad too. I haven't told Mom because she could easily blow it way out of proportion, and I still have to live with her for another week. Anyways . . . Meredee I need you here because the last couple of days would have been a whole lot easier if I could speak French . . .

You should understand that people in Egypt, especially the kids, LOVE tourists. Our Egyptologist guide jokes about it by saying they think we're all movie stars because they see people like us on TV. Anyways . . . So, yesterday I'm at the pyramids, and mom and I walk up to the first pyramid after we get off the bus. And there are lots of native tourists, including some school field trips. I start chatting with a few boys (@ 10-year-olds) in English. (They all learn English starting in kindergarten, some know it better than others.) It's fun because I know what it's like to wish you could practice speaking with a native speaker. And, the kids are kind-of silly. They all want to use their cameras to take a picture with you, which is fine by me--I don't have to look at the pictures afterward. So, before I know it, I'm completely surrounded by a mob of 30 kids from the same class--but it's fine (people don't steal in Egypt; the penalty is too horrible). A security guard from our tour buses comes to save me (All our (9 or so) buses each have a security guard that accompanies the group. They're all in their early twenties, all good-looking (why?--I'm not sure), and all--as one friend put it--packing heat.

You know that's slang for carrying a gun, right Meredee?--sorry, I wasn't sure if the phrase was old yet. They don't actually use their guns--there's really no reason. The guards are more like glorified ushers, keeping track of us tourists, as we go from place to place to place--

Moving on, I tell the security guard I'm okay; I don't mind talking to the school kids; he smiles--but I didn't think anything of it at the time. Mom and I finished taking pictures (and having our pictures taken) at the first pyramid. So next pyramid, we get off the bus, and the security guard is helping everyone down from the tall step. His eyes met mine while he was holding my hand. It was an extremely brief glance but somehow awkward--I didn't think much of it at the time.

So afterward we're riding camels (I was on one with a cute life guard--really, not much of a story). And then we're having our pictures taken as a group and as individuals by a professional photographer. And, the security guard, like half of all the tourists I met that day, asks (with hand gestures. (He really only speaks Arabic and French.)) if he can have his picture taken with me. I think it's odd that he's going to pay for a picture. But, he didn't have a camera, and my hair color is a bit odd for around here--and mom's like, oh yes, get your picture with him, he! he!--you know mom.--So, I still decided not to think anything of it at the time, especially since I still could have had to pay for all the pictures with me in them, including that one, later that evening when they all were developed.

Well, later that evening we went to a dress-up banquet in a palace ballroom. When I got on the bus, the security guard tells me I look very nice (in English). I tell him thank you (because I did look nice that evening. I'll show you a picture soon.) But it's starting to dawn on me that this guy is going a bit out of his way to be nice. So, I decide to wait and see if he buys the picture before I put way too much thought into this (who knows, maybe he thought I wanted it--for some obscure reason). That evening, I only got the group picture back, not the one with him (. . . and not the one with the cute life guard . . .) I'm not panicking over this, but I'm thinking, what do I do?

And then there was today, it's not as bad as it sounds but here it goes . . . first thing in the morning the guests (as opposed to the delegates like Mom) get on their bus, and he's our new security guard. He wasn't before on our guest outings. I decide this is way too egotistical of me to think, oh, he's here because he wants to be near me. Um, well . . . this day we're visiting Coptic christian churches and synagogues. I'm near the end of our group line. He stops me and tells me (with hand gestures again) that my forearms are exposed so I can't go in. This would have been the case if we were entering a mosque but it wasn't true in this case--which I figured out soon enough but I was confused right then.

So I'm alone with Ahmud for half a minute. In English, he asks me my name--with difficulty like the Egyptian children, and I tell him my name, and I ask him his, like I did with the kids--ugh, I was way too embarrassed to tell this 19-year-old I'm married. And I've learned enough of the culture by now to know it would have seriously embarrassed him too, and he barely speaks English. So, I'm counting on the fact that Mom and I are leaving on the cruise in a few days and we're not touring anymore to save me from this.

But one last bit of awkwardness before I have to go, I'm almost out of time. So, I confess to my New Orleans friend everything about this security guard, and she comes to the same conclusion I did about his behavior. She's good about staying with me, so the rest of the trip went fairly smoothly--except when I saw a bin of bracelets. (All the guests were shopping at the time.) He's following behind us, which really isn't unusual; he's in charge of 'herding' the group toward the bus. And when he sees I like the bracelets, he proceeds to start talking to the vendor for me. And he and my friend help me pick one out. And then out of the corner of my eye, I see he's pulled out his wallet. I pretend not to notice, and I pay for my own bracelet.

Will he get a clue?

See you soon.



--So the security guard didn't "get a clue", but nothing else really happened with him, so it's all good.

The "not much of a story" with the life guard happened when our group went to ride camels. I saw a woman tourist fall off a horse while our guides were haggling with the camel owners, so I was a bit nervous about riding. When our group finally was brought over to the camels, I happened to be walking behind Chad the Lifeguard/Mathematician. The camel driver asked if we wanted to ride together, apparently mistaking us for being together. Chad had a why-not attitude; I had a "yes please save me from falling off this camel" attitude, so we used the same camel. He may have said something mildly flirtatious about resuscitating me if I fell off, but that was the extent of my adventures with Chad the Lifeguard/Mathematician.

Wow the memories are flooding back. I dreamed about Egypt for three weeks after I left. I think I left part of my heart there. Oh well, I'll share more again someday. Maybe I'll write a book . . .