Thursday, June 13, 2002

I'm ALIVE!!! I swear!

I’m alive and kicking—promise. It’s been TOO long, please forgive me.
Where to start???

I left off in Egypt, and I was sorry to go. In Luxor, ancient Thebes, we saw the Temple of Karnak, the largest temple in Egypt, built for the god of Amun Ra (Amun), the God of Gods. Built over 2000 years, it is one of the most amazing things I’ll ever see. The sun beat down on us as we entered this enormous structure through a walkway of sphinxes with the head of a ram, a symbol of the god Amun. The genius and ingenuity of a people to built something this magnificent so long ago made me want to be Egyptian. So great was their knowledge, they constructed rooms in which sunlight entered at a certain angle only once a year to illuminate a scared statue on that day of worship! Since only priests were allowed to enter the actual temples, the people would remain outside, when the time was right the sun would fall upon a statue of gold for all to see.

King Rameses II, one of the most famous kings and well known for his 200 wives and over 150 children (the Egyptian men seem to love telling that story over and over). He built this magnificent hall of 134 massive columns, carved into the walls and columns are hieroglyphics and scenes of Rameses life, wars, and worshiping Amun. The deepness of these carvings creates such a dramatic effect of sunlight and shadow, I was mesmerized, my eyes locked upon beautiful images that I longed to know more about.

Our guide was amazing and read hieroglyphics for us, telling us the stories of these ancient kings and queens, yes these people way back then had women rulers—now I KNOW I should have been Egyptian! ;) They are still excavating all of these sites, the temples, the tombs, the pyramids, and they are still discovering artifacts and history. Amazing pieces of history unfolded themselves before us, Queen Hatshepsut built some incredible additions to the temple, one being the second tallest obelisk in the world, anyway she killed the mother of King Tuthmosis III when he was just a boy. Thus, in vengeance and hate, he had her name and image chiseled off of every stone she carved it on. Yet just two months ago they uncovered tiny statues of Queen Hatshepsut that she had hidden behind larger ones, point scored for the queen. This place was so fascinating, I couldn’t stop rattling off questions to our guide as we walked back in time, the original paint still preserved, the original statues standing in all their glory. Simply beautiful.

I’d love to take a course in Egyptian history and hieroglyphics! By night we visited the Temple of Luxor, lit up by lights from the ground and a full moon—magic, it was too mystical to be real. The next day we bore the suffocating heat of the desert to head to the Valley of the King and Queens. We crossed the Nile and headed towards the mountains, on our side, the hidden tombs dug meters into the ground. On the other side, the raw desert, 400 kilometers of quicksand, the cities’ natural defense, the Bedouins, the people of the desert know how to traverse it, and beyond it, miles and miles of desert leading to Libya.

We didn’t see all that.

We stayed on the habitable side of the mountain, drove past a small town on the edge of the Valley of the Queens, a village of a couple thousand people, miners of alabaster for making tourist goods. Back in the day, after the ancient priests discovered that it was just a little too easy to find and loot a tomb if you build a large eye-catching pyramid on it, they decided to build tombs in the desert. Slaves would start building in a secret location and begin building the tomb as soon as the king came into power. To keep the location a secret, once the tomb was sealed the builders were either killed, or their tongues were cut off, however, the problem remained that the priests still knew the locations, and many of the tombs were raided anyway. To prevent this a group of priests decided to secretly remove all of the mummies to a safe location. Archeologists found the 89 mummies but only 55 or 56 (don’t quote me on the numbers) of the tombs have been recovered to this day, the government believes that the rest of the tombs must be hidden underneath this small, poor mining village. The people, naturally, would not give up their home, so the government has since cut off their running water for something like 2 years and is now threatening to cut off their electricity—yes things like this STILL go on in the year 2002.

The tombs were remarkable, the original paintings intact telling to stories of their gods and chapters from the Book of the Dead—I love this stuff! The valley itself is amazing, you literally walk right through the desert and there are holes in the ground everywhere carved right into the mountainside and through the sands. Nearby is Queen Hatshepsut’s Temple, no longer remembered for its beauty, but for being the site where 60 tourists were shoot down in 1996 by 2 or 4 (can’t remember) radical gunmen dressed as police hoping to harm Egypt’s tourist industry. We entered the area where the gunmen trapped the tourists, and though they had covered up the bullet holes, an eeriness remained.

We arrived at the Valley of the Kings, even more spectacular, as we happily walked down into the ground (away from the stifling sun), past bobby traps of fall away bridges that dropped a potential robber 30 ft into a well of acid, and other cool stuff like that. The day ended with a faluka ride (sailboat) at sunset on the Nile with 3 Egyptian men manning the boat, and with my girlfriend FLASHING (yes I said flashing) a big boat of tourists who were taking pictures of our cute little boat. Laughs for all.

Then it was up to Cairo, our last day. The girls were tired but I couldn’t rest, so off I went on my own to the market. It’s truly amazing how much MORE a woman gets harassed by herself—
“You walk like an Egyptian,” said random man.
“Really?” asks innocent me.
“Yes you walk like a camel, it’s very sexy! HAHAHAHAHAHA!” laughs random
After the TENTH TIME HEARING THAT—it’s really not so cute!
“If you married me you would be my ONLY wife, I swear it,” says another
random man.
How romantic!
“50,000 camels for you!” yells yet another random.
“It’s not enough!” I yell back, though I hardly know what I’d do with so
many camels!
Then there were all the guys who just wanted to put kohl (eyeliner) around my eyes, you see I brought NO makeup to Peace Corps—but I ended up being the ONLY one—go figure! SO anyway, after awhile I just gave in, and that was fun, sat down for tea with some very nice merchants, several funny comments about my size, made some friends—it was all in good fun.

Then we had a 5:00 am flight to Milan! My flight attendant was one of the most beautiful men I’ve EVER seen—yummy! (sorry Madagascar was a L O N E L Y place!) Actually we only had a layover, my flight was to…well…

Well….SURPRISE! I’m home! :)
I decided to surprise my mother and keep emailing her and telling her I was all over the place and wouldn’t be home till mid July or so. Then I had set up a time that I’d call her that night so I knew she’d be home (after all I ain’t got no key), then I just showed up and knocked on the door. She opened it, said hi to me, then literally did a double take, took a step back, her jaw dropped, and she couldn’t say a word! Classic! It was so cute! Then she was NOT so cute by yelling at me for being home cause she didn’t put any curtains in my room and she wanted to have a party, blah, blah, blah—such a mom!


I can’t wait to see and talk to you, please DO NOT just say “So tell me about it!” There will be an information overload in my little head and I’ll just look at you or the phone with a blank stare!! There’s TONS of film for anybody how’s got a couple of days to spare and I really can’t wait to hear what’s been going on with you.

In my evacuation madness, my address book was lost so PLEASE send me your number!
You can reach me at (XXX) XXX-XXXX.
I’d love to come see all of you but I’m dirt poor and got home on my last
dime---hmmm, there’s just something about working for free??? I can’t put
my finger on it yet….

Next step for me? Well maybe you’ll be happy to know that I shall be
staying in the country for a little while—off to get my masters. Tons to do
so I can try to get in spring semester, but my first priority is to the
DOCTOR—if I don’t kill these amebas I think they’re gonna kill ME!
It’s so crazy being home, I can’t even tell you, but I hope to talk to you

All my love and the LAST mass email—YEA!