Monday, July 13, 2009
Things I Never Thought I'd Do
So, let's start with #1 on the list of "things I never thought I'd do." I actually mentioned it in the last entry, so it should be no surprise that the answer is...SCUBA!
Yay, scuba. Me love scuba much mucho awesomeness of doom. Yes. Anyway, we all went to Dahab this weekend. The trip started out...rocky, at best. Due to the fact that 2 people canceled last minute, the private bus we'd chartered cost about $10 more per person than it should have. And the roads were bad, which was not helped by the fact that the driver was intent on getting us to our destination AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE (except for the hour and a half stop at some random place where we mostly just sat around waiting for him.) I chose to view it as getting a free full body massage. And the fact we got to travel across the Sinai at night was pretty cool too, especially with all the stars. Don't get to see the stars much in Cairo, due to all the light pollution.
Arrived in Dahab around 2 AM, and slept soundly until we had to get up and jet to the dive shop around 8:30. Got the gear together and headed over to the first dive site at Moray Garden. Most of the dives we did the first two times were filled with skills we'd practiced in the pool last week. The first dive went well, except for a few problems I had equalizing the pressure in my ears, which was pretty dang scary actually.
The second dive...would have been good. Except that at the very start, I took off my mask to practice clearing it, and got salt in my eyes, and up my nose. And my eyes burned for the next hour. And my nose started running, and my mask started filling with snot bubbles. Gross! (Looking back, it may have been in part because I didn't snort saltwater up my nose. Strange as it seems, it really helps with equalization...) Yah, so after that, I was wondering if diving was really all it was cracked up to be.
The next day, however, proved that it was. We dived at a site called lighthouse, and actually got to see the REAL reef, something I've always wanted to do since I wanted to be a marine biologist when I was a kid. There were fish EVERYWHERE, whole schools of little darting silver diamonds that shied away from every new stream of bubbles flowing up past my mask. And there were groups of pink and orange fairy basslets, and angelfish, butterfly fish, puffer fish, and even a stone fish and scorpion fish (they have poisonous spines). Saw a lot of cleaner wrasses, too, which made me happy. :-) And, I remembered to snort saltwater before each dive. Not likely to become my new rave addiction any time soon...
The day after, upon which we arrived in Cairo around 4 AM, mind you, I took a trip to the Medievel city here, known as Islamic Cairo (for obvious reasons). Hooked up with a friend who arrived in Egypt the day before, and we wandered about for a few hours, during which time we saw a great old mosque and took lots of pictures. However, the fun ended a bit early when Shelley came down with a mild case of heat exhaustion and we decided it was time to head back. Did see some amazing vistas of the minaret-punctuated skyline, though. I will definitely be back to that area soon. Not to mention I haven't seen the grand bazaar yet... :-P
Then, that night, I went to a wedding reception. I had been invited to attend by Adel Abou Saif, the father of the bride, and an old friend of my mother's. It was held at a 5 star hotel, and so I was glad I happened to have a sport jacket with me. Really, it aws one of the most surreal experiences I've had in my life. As I stepped through the doors of the banquet hall, I felt like I'd stepped out of my life and into a James Bond film. Waiters in black and silver livery lined the walls and were interspersed throughout the tables, which were crowned by immense centerpieces and adorned with opulent arrangements of shrimp, cheeses, fruits, and other orderbs. Lounge music washed over the glass dance floor, lit from beneath by thousands of golden lights, and juxtaposed against the silver sheets of shimmering crystal beads hanging from the ceiling above it.
And then the guests began to arrive: tuxedoes, suits, and evening gowns galore paraded through the open double doors and took their places at the vacant tables. I finally asked a waiter where I should sit, and was informed, in Arabic, that "any place was fine expect the high tables," which I had no plans to sit at anyway. Haha. I sat next to an older, scholarly looking gentleman who turned out to be the cousin of Dr. Abou-Saif, and met my host a few minutes later. He was a plump, good-natured man in a tuxedo with large glasses and a small boutenir on his lapel. I was glad to finally make his illustrious acquaintance.
I helped myself to orderbs, and watched the festivities as the bride and groom arrived. They danced. And soon so did everyone else, including some of the most gorgeous girls I have ever seen. I made my way to the dance floor, but that was as far as I got. I was afraid to make a mistake in these double cultures I didn't understand--Coptic Egyptian, and High Society. Looking back, I probably could have asked just about anyone for a dance, as that seemed to be the norm, and have been kicking myself ever since.
After a while, I noticed people with other dishes than orderbs, and, through the good graces of Adel, found my way to the sumtuous buffet. There were...probably near 100 dishes of all sorts and descriptions, from Sushi, to roast beef, to eggplant, to breads of all varieties. Yes, a true feast. And after that, dessert. I was conservative on all counts, as the richness of the food was starting to make my stomach queasy. Haha. Stayed for a few hours longer, then bid Adel adieu and made my way home by way of a 25 LE taxi ride, which I figured was my entrance fee :-) My driver, Iman, was really nice, and we had a great conversation in Arabic.
So, other than studying, and submitting my essays for the foreign service, that has been my week! Pretty dang awesome, if you ask me. :-)