22 October 2011

One Giant Catch Up Blog Post

I will admit it. I have not paid any attention to this blog for a long time. Last month I started a new post, but some shiny object distracted me (ops normal) and I am just now sitting back down to get caught up.

There have been some serious stories to tell since my last post (July). I think I will break them up into several small posts (back dating them to make it chronological).

Here we go!

Ramadan in Egypt. I thought it would be a big deal. See, during Ramadan Muslims fast from 1st prayer (~4:30am) until dusk. No eating, no water/tea, no smoking cigarettes or sheesha,  no sex - nothing. I'm sure it's pretty frustrating. Here's a link that breaks it down better: Ramadan Explained

The idea is their fasting puts them in the same shoes as the poor - who fast like this their whole lives against their will. Understandable and admirable, if you ask me. There's a lot that goes into the tradition of Ramadan and I will even try to hit all the facets of it. There are two parts of Ramadan that I participated in: Iftar and Eid. It won't surprise you that both of these include eating. Iftar is the break fast meal, observed everyday. Eid, is the celebration of the end of Ramadan. At iftar, the Muslims lay out a huge spread of food and they invite friends and family to enjoy the feast. And what a meal it is! My office was invited by the Egyptian Ministry of Defense staffers to 'do' Iftar with them. It's just like Golden Corral...Egypt style. Soup, salads, hummus, fresh veggies, lamb, beef, chicken, rice and if that's not enough - tea, cakes and ice cream. I rolled out of that place. It was delicious. 
Eid was a 4-day weekend. I happily celebrated this. No action necessary. 

I think the best reason for me not participating in Egyptian Ramadan is because I was stateside - living the life with my family! I spent about 18 days in Pensacola enjoying the muggy, summer sunshine with my ladies. We had a great time.

When I got back from leave, I had an opportunity to head to Luxor, Egypt to see the Valley of the Kings and other amazing ruins.
It was only a two day trip, but that was enough! I saw too much to recount. Here are a few highlights.
I didn't actually take this picture but I did see this guy.  He seemed really nice. 

Focus, camera, focus! 

Me and my new friend. Check out the squatter in the background. Later, I paid him  100 Egyptian Pounds (~$17 or about a week's pay) to show me some restricted ruins...money talks, baby!

You can take the kid out of the country...

Look how awesome these hieroglyphics are! I think the one above me says : It was a "fowl" moon. 

Horus - my favorite Egyptian god story, god of war and hunting.. Son of Isis and Osiris. This picture doesn't show it very well, but the pigment is still intact after 4000 years. I wonder what happened if it got on your hands while you painted?
 The tour was really fun. Luxor, as a city, has about a half million people who are mostly farmers. There are farms and crops everywhere and they feed most of the Southern half of Egypt. Lots of corn, wheat, fruit trees and even bananas. The Nile River runs right through Luxor, so there's never a loss of fresh water or irrigation. The climate is very similar to the SE region of the US, so I see lots of the same plants, trees and flowers.

September had some pretty decent moments in Tahrir Square also. The January Revolution has lost some steam and the youth groups are growing frustrated by it. So every weekend since I've been back from leave (and sometimes during the week) there has been a protest in Tahrir. The red building with the round dome is the Egyptian Museum. 

My embassy isn't in this photo. If you were taking the picture, you'd have to turn to the left about 90 degrees to see it. I can walk to Tahrir Square in about 5 minutes. Surprisingly, I don't.

The Egyptian protests are hard to control - as with any assembly. There are conspiracies that different faction groups place 'bugs' in the crowds to incite violence from what was initially designed to be a peaceful sit in. Lately more violence has bubbled up. It's the most violence since January, an October display of power.

Okay! Enough about Egypt politics.
October is here and with it comes my obsession with my countdown...To Leave Cairo! 

There are several different theories behind military deployment countdowns. Everyone does it a bit differently. Some maniacal people track hours, some count months, some count paychecks, hours, holidays...you get the point. I break my countdowns into significant events. In order for me to make it to P'cola, I have three flights. One in late Nov, one in early Dec, and then my flight home. It's getting close. 35 days to leave Cairo, ~40 days to be in San Diego again. About 50 days to be in Pensacola. It might seem like a long time - but believe me, it's not. The days have been flying by lately - and I want to reach down and cut the brake lines to make sure it doesn't slow down.

And finally, a bit of Egyptian risk management. Look, they are all using two hands. I wonder what their HMO co-pay is?
Okay! That's it! I'm all caught up.
More to follow!