|I'll be blunt: Egypt needs your tourist dollar. They've had a thriving tourist industry (for good reason!), one on which many people relied, for many many years*. Then, Arab Spring, the downing of that Russian passenger plane, and some pretty rough media coverage of isolated occurrences of violence and tourism all but dried up. That has left the country really hurting and many of the sites that tourist dollars go to help maintain, protect, and further uncover unfunded. In talking with folks here, they ask us, the few Americans they see, to tell people Egypt is worthwhile and good. And that's what I want to do.
Egypt is pretty awesome. Obviously the history can't be overlooked—pyramids, tombs, temples, hieroglyphs, artifacts, that crazy ancient Egyptian art where perspective is a little crazy but so recognizable. It's something we've all seen parodied or copied our whole lives, but this is the real stuff...and it's really really cool. But the history stuff is probably the first thing that people think of when they think of travel in Egypt*. But there's so much more.
There's diving and snorkeling in the Red Sea. There's gorgeous vistas over the River Nile(!). There's culture and food and desert and pleasant weather! And the people are so nice! On the street, it never fails if we have a map out or look confused, someone stops to ask us if we need help. Granted, occasionally it comes with a pitch to use their travel agency, have a look in their shop, or otherwise get an "appreciation". But often not. And even if, when you politely decline, they wish you a happy new year and you're on your way. Really, there's kind of a lot going for this place.
And guess what... it's cheap! Della and I will end up averaging about $30/day each (including meals, hotels, in-country travel, admission fees, etc.). And that's living pretty high. Our current hotel has a pool (Yasmina in Dahab, I highly recommend it!). We eat well. We see all the things we're supposed to see (and even more*). We even take the occasional taxi! All for about what life costs back home.
It feels good knowing that my tourist dollars are going to people that need them. In planning to come here, people warned us off and generally were aghast at the idea. I'm so glad we didn't listen* and came anyway. We've had a wonderful time. Egypt was happy to have us. It's win win! So please consider putting Egypt back on your travel horizon. They will thank you.
|Sunday January 3 2016||File under: travel, Egypt|
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Instead of booking a tour of the Giza pyramids (like we did for Luxor's Valley of the Kings and surrounding areas (which we were so glad we did!)), Della and I decided to metro*->bus->mini-bus out and spend the day being goofy. It was much better than the quick one hour "look at this, take a picture of this, here's a camel, let's go" we might have otherwise ended up with. And we got to hang out and just take dumb pictures however it struck our fancy. Yeehaw!
Speaking of photos, it turns out Americans, esp. stylish American women like Della are celebrities. We spent about the first hour getting mobbed by kids (and even their teachers!) wanting their picture with us, shaking our hands, and practicing their 2 or 3 English phrases. Della was the perfect ambassador for America, patiently posing and asking each of them their name in response (which can be hard when there are hoards of them). Sometimes the group of photo-seekers is smaller and we can even sit and attempt to chat for a minute.
And it wasn't just kids. Parents would prod their super shy 4-year old to go pose with the American. Or a group of twenty-somethings asking if Della is an actress and the women kissing* her on the cheek as a goodbye* after photos all around. I was roped into my fair share, but I tried to hang back when I could and watch the craziness.
The celebrity photo status thing hasn't just been at the pyramids. Pretty much every where we have gone in Egypt, it's been pointing then giggling then getting up the courage to gesture "Can I get a picture with you?". So crazy, but in a great, flattering way. When they aren't trying to sell you something*, we've found Egyptians to be so incredibly friendly!
We ended up spending over 4 hours wandering around the grounds of the Pyraminds, munching on snacks literally sitting on the immense steps of Khafre's pyramid, taking dumb photos of ourselves, and posing with locals. Afterwards, we relaxed at a restaurant across the street whose name I won't mention but it rhymes with Schmizza Nut. It did have a fabulous view, though. It was an experience that we could have never gotten from a guided tour and one to be remembered!
|Wednesday December 30 2015||File under: travel, egypt|
|Tis the night before Christmas
And here in Dubai
We're taking it all in
My Della and I
We saw Burj Kalifa
Tallest building man made
We watch the grand fountains
And strolled the promenade
At the Burj Al Arab
Down on the sea shore
We jumped and we jumped
And got the pic I came for
This town seems to teem
With malls big and small
We visited a half dozen
But that's hardly them all
Paris has the Seine
And Vegas's nightlife is hopping
But as fars I can tell
Dubai's known for shopping
The places were packed
You couldn't swing a dead cat
Acre upon acre of
Things to look at
We peered at the sweets shop
Where they made candy by hand
We watch sharks in huge tanks
And we browsed luxury brands
At one mall we saw
The biggest afront made by man
A ski slope in the desert
Just 'cause they can
This town's an enigma
Nothing else like it on earth
I'm glad to be seeing it
Whatever that's worth
But tomorrow we move on,
Flying out Christmas Day
On our way to Luxor Egypt
We might pass Santa's sleigh
Tonight I'll hang up
My socks with great care
Not to be filled with gifts
But 'cause they need the air
I'll lay down my head
Upon the mattress on the floor*
And be thankful I have
All I could ever wish for
An adventuresome Christmas
Is best gift I could get
Some time with my sweetie
That I'll never forget
But now I must go
And close out this verse
Lest my words become boring
And rhymes become worse
So I'll just end it the way
That I always do
With all of my heart
I wish Merry Christmas to you
(If you're jonesing for more
Of my silly yule tradition
Go on and click through
To the previous editions
'07, '08, '09, '11, '12, '13, '14)
|Thursday December 24 2015||File under: holidays, poetry|
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|Our last 2 cruise stops have been in the country of Oman, a sultanate situated on the SE tip of the Arabian Peninsula. It was neat to visit an obscure* country that I knew very little about before this trip. While we did little beside goofing around, searching for internet, and what Della has affectionately dubbed 'Death Marches'*, it was nice to get at least a little bit of a feel for the place.
In Salalah, we took a very expensive* cab into town only to find, well, not much. I did find the prevalence of American chain restaurants with the names in Arabic to be rather interesting. At the McDonald's, Della snapped this photo of a bunch of fully covered ladies waiting in the "Ladies Only" line. What a clash of cultures!
In Salalah, we also go to go for a swim in the Arabian Sea. I was excited. At first Della, only dipped her feet in the sand. But in the end, she succumbed to the opportunity.
We found Muscat more amenable with clean streets, helpful signs, and a few neat things to see. The king's palace was nice. And I was able to complete my collection of Omani money* which has been a project of mine in each country we visit.
Who knows, someday I might it back to Oman. I know there is still a lot to see and I know it would be a pleasant time. But for now, I have a little bit more knowledge about a corner of the world I hardly imagined going to, and for me, that's pretty neat.
|Wednesday December 23 2015||File under: travel, cruise|
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|The day we transitted the Suez canal was very hazy. I can't say if it was smog, fog, or some desert version of thick-air that I've never heard of. But luckily, the Canal from edge to edge was easily visible and from the brief glimpses we got, there mostly wasn't much to see beyond besides random outpost and lots of desert.
Luckily, diminished visibilty did little to hamper the impression the canal made on me. It is another one of those places that I've heard about and known the general significance of forever, but to see it really makes it come alive. So all morning, I stood on the foredeck scurrying from one side to the other just taking it in. Occasionally there were fisherman or the lolling guard(?) on shore waving. And once there was a town more than just a conglomeration of concrete apartment buildings. But mostly, it was just a strip of ocean through the desert, made by untold amounts of labor and easing the transit of people and stuff unknown.
Now we're on the other side, in the Red Sea. While geographically not far from our last port, it feels further away, like by passing through the Suez canal we're on the other side of the world. For me, it represents new territory, not only the furthest east I've ever been, but to a whole new culture. And I'm excited.
|Saturday December 19 2015||File under: travel, cruise|
|Here are some photos from our last 3 ports of call. Della is a wizard with the instagram, so most of the shots are hers. (If you want to read what she has to say about the trip, check out here blog here.) We enjoy taking the photos. Hopefully you'll enjoy looking at them. (Captions giving context to each photo should appear when a photo is enlarged.)
|Sunday December 13 2015||File under: travel, Italy|
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|A Nice Day in Nice|
Transatlantic travel can plum tucker a person out, esp. when flying on the world's most budget transatlantic carrier*. So I was expecting our brief overnight layover in Nice, France to be spent recuperating at the hotel and little more. But as happens when adventure is afoot, we found the energy to get out and explore and I'm glad we did.
Nice has a lovely promenade along the Mediterranean on which we stretched our legs. I can tell why the French Riviera is such a thing. Being beckoned by the giant Ferris Wheel, we found our way a square being done up wonderfully for Christmas. The public fountain was turned into a giant snow globe, there were nativities and Christmas trees everywhere, and lots of joyous people about. Seeing folks out and about after the tragedy so reently befell the country was warming.
In the morning, Della got to experience French coffee and a croissant as a nice "welcome to Europe". Then we packed our bags to catch a train to Italy where our cruise ship awaited, ending our short nice stay in Nice. Hopefully someday I will be back with more than an evening to spend and significantly less jet leg.
Roaming Around Rome
About 12 years ago, I spent 2 or 3 nights in Rome. I remember it fondly, both the great monuments and museums, but also meandering around narrow streets and bumbling into public squares with random fountains. Having the opportunity to roam Rome again, albeit more abbreviated, proved to be awesome.
We saw the Colluseum and the Forum. We fought our way through the crowds at Trevi Fountain to toss our coin*. The Pantheon was again the highlight of my visit where we scored these awesome panoramas. St. Peter's Basilica had a line much to long to get into, but we sat in the Square and basked in the Vatican vibe. And between it all, we stumbled on random fountains, roamed back alley squares, and poked our head into little shops, and even found a penny smasher!
Six hours is hardly enough time to see all there is to see in Rome. We didn't even get to all the things I was hoping to see. And in our roaming, we stumbled on another handful of things I'll be excited to check out next time I'm in town*. But there is something about the place which makes anytime spend in Rome good time. And Della and I sure had a good time. We came. We saw. We roamed.
|Monday December 7 2015||File under: travel, Italy|
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|Yesterday, I shaved off my beard after letting it grow longer than I ever have before, 13 and a half months*. An epically long/ridiculous beard wasn't the plan from the get go. I was on track for my normal not-shave-until-it-becomes-ridiculous-or-inconvient-then-lop-it-off-and-start-over plan. But after a while, we started to get curious what a year's worth of beard would look like on me. And since every man should grow a year's worth of beard once in their life, we* thought we'd give it a try*.|
To you few remaining longtime BdW readers, you might be expecting something extra fun for the once in a life time 1-year beard. And we tried. But in the end, all we ended up with was a few wacky pictures, nothing as creative as what has been featured in previous beard posts. Enjoy (or cringe, if you prefer).
Before & After
Now I'm "clean"* shaven and it feels pretty dang good. Plus it's kind of nice to have people not cringe when they meet me. Eventually, I know, the beard will be back. But until then, I'm going to enjoy beard free living!
|Tuesday December 1 2015||File under: beard|
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A long term project of mine, that I've feature here a number of times, is a series of jumping photos all around the world. I often find myself wishing I had these photos collected in a place so as to be able to scroll through them and remind myself of how cool this project will be when completed*. Well, as they say, there's no time like the present. Here is the beginning of the compilation of the jumping photos I have so far. Some I need to track down the hi-res versions of, and I know I will forget a few on the initial pass, but each journey begins with a jump.
Plaza de España * Eiffel Tower * Arc De Triomphe * Excalibur Hotel * Great Wall of China * Angkor Wat * U.S. Capitol * Saraha Desert * My First Cruise * Parthenon * Old Bridge of Mostar Bosnia * Chichen Itza
(in looking back over this blog, I'm seeing all sorts of missed opportunities (not a single jumping picture in London!?!). Hopefully this post will serve as a reminder to always jump at the opportunity!)
|Thursday October 29 2015||File under: jump, pics|
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|I was recently hired to do ambient juggling at an event at a Porsche dealership*. The theme of the event was "electric" so they were looking for glow props. In talking it through, we decided that the majority of the reasonably priced glow clubs on the market wouldn't be glow-y enough so I thought I'd take a crack at making my own using EL wire. For those interested in the making of the clubs, I've chronicled that at the end of the post.
In the end, while the clubs turned out pretty good, it was all for naught. The gig wasn't dark enough for the glow to show. I would have been better off just juggling my long-suffering renegades or really pushing for fire*. But whatevs. The party goers didn't notice the lack of glow and were duely impressed by the juggling in general, so it was all good. They were also treated to some super-dope poi-ing by Nick with way better glow props than myself. So glow was incorporated after all.
And although the glow clubs weren't a hit for their intended purpose, glow juggling props are perfect for long exposure photography. With Rod as the organizer and Thaddeus as photographer, we did an after-juggling club photo sesh that turned out some super fun shots.
Now, after all the eye candy, I bet you want to see my clubs in action! Well, never let it be said that I disappoint. Behold!*
For a base, I used Dubé airflite glow in the dark clubs*. I cut about 2cm off the top to allow access to the inner cavity to store the battery pack (2 AAs). Then I wrapped a 3m piece of white EL wire (starting at the center so as to have it lay out evenly), hot gluing the wire in place every 1/2 wrap or so. After the wire was glued in place, I took a 1-inch wide roll of saran wrap and wrapped it tightly to help secure the wire. I used a narrower piece so it could go on more wrinkly free.
Once the wire was secured to the club, I put the battery pack in the cavity sandwiched between 2 pieces of foam. Another piece of foam was put in to essentially cap the cavity, to keep the battery pack from flying out.
All this weight made the clubs quite end heavy. To combat that, I wrapped some lead wire at the knob end of the club and secured it with black athletic tape. I continued the black tape wrap all the way up the handle for looks. In retrospect, having black handles on juggling clubs you plan to juggle in the dark was a bit of an oversight, but it does make the clubs look cool.
In the end, the weight and counterweighting made for some dang heavy clubs. And the 1 of the 2 brands of battery packs I used flickers off if dropped (or caught abruptly). But all that said, they look pretty freaking awesome. It was a great experiment.
Oh, and here's the requisite self-portrait. Good times.
|Thursday October 15 2015||File under: juggling, work|
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