What I Have Learned (Episode IV)

Trip Start Dec 31, 2004
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Trip End Apr 22, 2005


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Thursday, April 21, 2005

Part I
* Arabic is an inexpensive language. At the "sound and light show" at the pyramids in Giza the shows with Arabic narration are 11 Egyptian pounds whereas the same show narrated in English, French or Japanese is 60.

* All pharaohs depicted standing do so with their left foot forward, hence the adage "putting your best foot forward".

* Hatshepsut was a female pharaoh. She was able to assume the throne by saying she was born of a god.

* Egyptians still reference the 80's song, "Walk Like an Egyptian". When following them they'll chuckle, "now follow me and walk like an Egyptian." On my first day I heard it and asked, "Aren't you sick of that crap? That's the first time I've heard that and already it's making me sick." He told me that the tourists love it but I told him,"No, they don't. Please stop it."

* Being nice to Egyptian touts and treating them like human beings will only serve to exasperate you into a frustrated conniption fit and will destroy your trip. It is best to completely ignore them entirely as even the slightest pleasantly is treated as an
invitation.

* I met several people whose entire trips to Egypt were ruined by the Egyptians
and one told me, "I saved for years to come here and dreamed about it and now I can't wait to leave. I hate this place and I hate Egyptians"! They did not destroy it for me though it was certainly touch and go for a while.

* Most peoples' only personal experience with Muslim countries will be Egypt. It is a sad and indeed pathetic representation what tourists will take back home with them when they think of Islamic nations. Most Muslims are peaceful, honest and sincerely welcoming people such as those whom I was honored to meet in Bangladesh, Jordan and Turkey. Even the Moroccans are more pleasant.

* In Egyptian transport queues (i.e., bus, train, subway, plane) a woman can go to the front of the line as she has priority. Not once did I miss an opportunity to exercise this right. You go straight to the front and with your right arm block the men from the ticket window and proceed with your business at hand. This is a lot of fun.

* A popular Egyptian dessert is a coconut milk/corn flake casserole called Om Ali and it's surprisingly delicious.

Part II

* The most famous of all Czech desserts are the fruit dumplings served with a dollop of sour cream and whipped cream. It is a boiled piece of tasteless heavy dough the size of a tennis ball with a thimble size filling of rhubarb and strawberry jam. It's the dumbest dessert I've ever had in my life.

* Medovnik or honey cake however is delicious and while in Prague I ate two pieces for breakfast each morning. I later learned that while the recipe is old the cake did not gain popularity until six years ago.

* In Prague at one particular Internet cafe when they say that they close at 11:00 they aren't kidding. In the middle of uploading photographs that had taken quite some time to select and with only seconds left before it was completed my screen went black. I was given no warning whatsoever.

* Monk Binyee-Bola from Rangoon said, "If I smile at you it is impossible for you not to smile back at me. It is action and reaction." Bless his heart but he never met that asshole at the Internet cafe in Prague.

* I am convinced that blue collar workers in Prague slather their armpits with pilsner and cumin in lieu of deodorant.

* When asking for half a glass of wine they will often give you a full glass and only charge you for half. That's lovely.

* It there is an unattractive building in Prague I certainly didn't see it.

* Hair salons in Prague seem to have their clocks set to 1992. The men have long ponytails and the women die their hair an artificial shade of burgundy like a cola heavy with cherry syrup. Some working class blokes are featuring the European version of the universal hair scourge: The Euro-Mullet. That's business in the front and party in the back, ladies and gentlemen.

Part III

* When traveling for long periods of time one begins to overly-abrev. Cities become known by their airport codes or initials both in writing and conversation. Here's an example, "So I went from BKK to PPN then took the bus to SR and then bussed back to BKK then I took the train to VT and a bus to LP where I flew to CM stayed a week then I went to Burma (Myanmar) for a month and then to Bangladesh then I flew to AMM via Gulf Air by way of the UAE..."

* Tiring of your western attire you begin to adapt a strange way of dressing also known as ludicrous assimilation. However when you're traveling to so many different places your daily costumes can become an odd worldly pastiche. Once I caught myself wearing, a long white Punjabi shirt from Bangladesh, a man's checkered lungyi from Burma, a monks bag from Lao, a large Jordanian ring, a black caftan coat from Cairo, earrings from Luxor. I looked at myself in the mirror and said aloud, "What in God's name is wrong with you?"

* I'm better at math that I ever though I would be, especially when it comes to
monetary conversions. Each time however when dealing with a new one I'd think I had finally got one that was going to be difficult. While in Cairo I mentally converted Jordanian dinars to Egyptian pounds via American dollars when asked how much something cost and it didn't take long for me to do it. I nearly dislocated a shoulder patting myself on the back.

* It is not courage that makes a traveler it is curiosity, determination and stamina.

* There were many days that I met people and shared experiences with, had cocktails with, dinners with and traveled with that added so much to my journey. Chances are I will never seen them again but they will always be a part of my trip and I will remember them for the rest of my life.

* There were also stretches, some very brief and others longer when I was all by myself. I loved this balance and writing this travelogue when I didn't have anyone to talk to filled the void. It was like having a delayed conversation and so often I would receive emails from you commenting on my last entry and it would brighten my day.

* What you don't know is how excited I'd get to wake up in a foreign country and get online with rickshaws passing outside the door and see that I had several emails waiting for me from friends, family and even strangers. I'd smile wide, kick off my shoes, take a swig of coffee and clicking them open I'm lean in and suddenly for a few minutes everything faded. It was just the respite I needed and then I'd dive back into the world invigorated.

* And on the other side of the world it was just me, the solo-traveler kicking about, learning, exploring, soaking it in with a grin on my face waiting to see what else was around the bend. Many times I thought how I couldn't wait to share it.

Thank you for listening,
Christina
Stay tuned for the final episode.
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