Tuesday, November 29, 2005


you cannot get my attention by calling me as you would an animal.
The sounds you make to call a cat, dog, horse, sheep, or anything else are not going to be effective--in fact, I will even more purposefully ignore and avoid you.

So there.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Pyramids and more!

Well, we finally made it. The pyramids! Not just any old Giza pyramids either, but older and less visited (supposedly) pyramids too.
We started off our Saturday at Memphis, the ancient capital of Egypt. The city no longer exists, having been moved and the stones reused and whatnot. Now there's a "museum" of sorts, consisting mostly of large stone things (statues, tablets, etc) outside. The sun was in exactly the wrong place for photos, so most of the pics aren't good, but check them out anyway. Heiroglyphics, huge statues of Ramses II, even a sphinx! Also, I learned that:

conspicuous consumption is not new!

It turns out that nobles often had a sarcophagus carved out of granite--a months-long labor for a craftsman and a very expensive thing to have done--only to look at it and discard it without ever using it, requiring a new one to be carved instead. Some of these empty and unused sarcophagi have been found. Maybe he didn't like the color, or shape, or decoration, or size. hmm.

We moved on from Memphis to Sakkara, just across the road and up/down a little way. Sakkara is the site of a bunch of tombs, some really old pyramids that are now little more than piles of rubble, and the Step Pyramid, which is, I think, thought to be the first time stone masonry was practiced--that is, the first time stones were cut to shape and purposefully placed rather than random rocks being piled up. It turns out that you can no longer go into that pyramid--not even archaeologists--because it's not safe anymore. That's right--after 5,000 + years, it's no longer safe. Why, you ask? Well, three words:

Aswan High Dam

That's right, the big engineering wonder. The water table has risen like crazy, and continues to rise, meaning that formerly stable land is no longer stable, and formerly stable rock piles (like pyramids, like ancient churches, etc) are falling apart. Also, the weather has changed significantly in the past few years because of the rising water table. Apparently humidity is relatively new in Egypt, and the haze we've been experiencing this week has more to do with humidity than pollution, though the pollution is HUGE. The humidity just means that the nasty pollution looks more solid in the air. It was the worst I've ever seen it, actually, on Saturday. The humidity is ruining thousands-of-years-old paint on tomb walls, icons in churches, and buildings everywhere. In addition to all that, of course the Nile no longer floods so there are no more rich silt deposits in the farm land, which means that now farmers need fertilizer. Fertilizer is expensive, and it contains all kinds of chemicals that the land here never needed before and has not known. And where are the chemicals going? Into the rising water table and the already polluted Nile. Who thought this dam was a good idea? Many Egyptians are calling it "that damn dam." Amen to that. you can kind of see the haze in the photo--the grey haze near the horizon...and this is fairly far outside the city.

So anyway, we didn't get to go inside the Step Pyramid. But we did get to go inside a tomb that's thousands of years old and inside the Pyramid of Titi. I don't know who that is, but it was cool. Apparently (just learned this just now--not while we were there, duh!) the the first-discovered full-text of the Book of the Dead is inscribed inside. It was a fun excursion down a narrow and very low slanted tunnel. It was interesting too because above ground the pyramid looks like a pile of rubble.

Moving on from Sakkara, we went to Giza--the place everyone goes. Literally. The place was packed. Anyway, we first went to the "panoramic"--the little plateau where you can see all three pyramids at once. It was so hazy you could barely see them all, actually, but that's okay. We took a group photo of us making a pyramid there--hilarious, especially since it was Jen, our "top" was a little off center and we became the Bent Pyramid!

From there we avoided the camel men and the men offering to take our pictures and headed back down to the pyramids themselves. You can drive right along the edge--literally within meters of the edges of the pyramids. We parked and walked around a little, taking silly photos of us "walking like an egyptian", etc. Then Jason, Stephen, and I went into the Solar Boat museum--the place where archaeologists found a boat made of cedar that was designed to carry the pharaoh in the tomb into the sun/afterlife. It was very cool. (good thing it wasn't supposed to be seagoing, though, because it was definitely not watertight.) Anyway, the boat was neat.

After a walk around the base of a pyramid, and a wonderful photo op lounging up against one of the massive stones of the pyramid,

we headed back to the bus just in time to visit the Sphinx for a few minutes before closing time. And, as promised, Egypt the land of contrast did in fact strike there, with a Pizza Hut/KFC just across the street from the Sphinx. I think you could actually gaze on the pyramids and sphinx from the pizza hut dining room. So bizarre.

So anyway, that was our trip to the pyramids. You can see the photos by clicking the link to the left. You'll see there some pictures of a stop at a carpet place--a place where children "learn" to make carpets. It wasn't clear to me we were being told the truth about how much the children work, and even if we were I'm sure there are many worse conditions at one of the other dozen or so "carpet schools" we saw along the same road. In any case, it was disturbing that we were taken around to view child labor making the carpets so many people covet. Beware those rugs you buy from Middle Eastern countries--who knows how old the person was who made them. Maybe 9.

I think that's enough for today. I'm tired--still a little jet-lagged--so it's my bedtime now. happy monday/tuesday to all.


Wow! We had 53 people on the list for Thanksgiving, and a whopping 47 attended (including YAVs). 47 people in our house! We had a ton of food too....three turkeys for those who are interested in carcasses, literally a VAT of mashed potatoes, two sweet potato casseroles, one good green bean casserole (mine, duh) and one that was made differently--not with onions--which I didn't eat so it was probably good too, carrots, tons of bread, lots of pies, and even a wonderful apple crisp. It was a good night full of festivity. The worst part was definitely the anticipation. "When are we going to eat?" was the most common refrain among the YAVs. 6.30 became 7 became 7.15 before the food was on the table and the buffet was ready. Then Victor gave a welcome speech, we prayed, and just when we thought it was food time at last, the kids got to go first! Finally it was my table's turn and I went through the line backwards (from bread to turkey) because, of course, I didn't want turkey. Unfortunately, this caused me difficulties at the mashed potatoes because they were between the turkey and the gravy. I was accused of cutting in line! oh please. Anyway....I ate two plates full of mashed potatoes and green bean casserole. I even ate some carrots. I appear to be working past my orange food thing, because I've also been eating some oranges lately. They are the fruit in season right now. Anyway.......the dinner was excellent. After dinner we had a hymn sing--with the old Red Presbyterian Hymnal, complete with patriarchal language, visions of rapture, etc. Good times. If anyone feels that they want to make a donation of blue presbyterian hymnals to the YAV program in Egypt, please email me. Seriously, we are so behind. Anyway....it was a great Thanksgiving. Yay for good friends and good food all in one place!

Friday, November 25, 2005

revgalblogpals friday five

The day after thanksgiving....

1) Did you cook or bake anything for Thanksgiving?
Green Bean Casserole. With a kilo of fresh green beans from the suuk and four little cups of fried onions (kusheri topping) from Nagaf's. And a touch too much soy sauce (it came out too fast!)

2) How was it received?
Very well.

3) Anything left over?
well, with 53 people at dinner and one double batch, no. sadly.

4) What's the best use of Thanksgiving leftovers you have ever seen?
I don't know...we aren't usually creative at home because I can't think of anything better to do with mashed potatoes and green bean casserole (my fave dishes) besides just eat them the way they are! Though potato pancakes are good....anyway, the last 7 years I've shared thanksgiving with not-my-family and I haven't had any leftovers to deal with--either there aren't any or they get left at the person's house. And most people I know, anyway, don't entertain during the weekend after Thanksgiving so I haven't had the opportunity to see what they do. I did watch a Food Network show a couple of weeks ago giving ideas for leftovers, and they looked pretty good. pumpkin pie turned creme brulee, and cranberry relish turned into a champagne drink. hmm...

5) And the worst?

Thursday, November 24, 2005


today is the day...the day we eat a lot. here in cairo many of the american missionaries are gathering here at RCG (at our YAV house!) for the big meal. It's mostly potluck, with turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes being provided and everything else being brought. Who knows what we will have here! I've been hungry since I went to bed. At 6 I couldn't stand it any more and got up and ate some bread and cheese. Now I'm waiting for someone to wake up so I can borrow some milk and eat breakfast. And in half an hour I'm going to the store. Thank goodness for that! I can't be starving all day while waiting for dinner. oy!

I've posted some pictures of our trip on the Oregon Coast, and also pictures of my cat. Feel free to enjoy them or to be saddened by them (as I am at the moment) as you like.

Today I will not be calling my mother, and that makes me sad. I miss her a lot. People keep telling me that one day the crying will be less. When that day comes, maybe I can take kleenex off my weekly shopping list. But, that day is not today. In fact, so far I've been awake about 3 hours and so far it's the worst day of the week. Great.

I'm off to dry my hair and steal some milk. Happy Thanksgiving! Someone watch the Macy's parade for me. Thanks.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


i have arrived back in Cairo. I am tired because even though I tried to go to bed last night at a decent hour...three in the morning was the reality. I am about to go out for the first time since arriving back yesterday afternoon. I need to get some food! Jason and I are headed to Zamzams and the suuk. yippee!

it's nice and warm here, by the way. :-) except inside, where I'm wrapped in the beautiful prayer shawl that Claire knitted for me. it's a happy thing.

Monday, November 21, 2005


I have posted a new newsletter, which many of you may have gotten in your email. If you aren't on the email list, please check it out with the top link in my list to the left!
Amy, I put something special in it just for you!

I am headed out RIGHT NOW to get my hair cut, then to the airport to fly back to Cairo. By this time tomorrow I will have been there for a couple of hours already!

Pray for safe travels, and for my family as I leave them and as we grieve together but far apart.


Sunday, November 20, 2005


in atlanta, visiting with church family (which, beautifully, includes Jason's family!). Tomorrow afternoon I will return to Cairo. I'll leave ATL at 4.30 in the afternoon and will arrive in Cairo at about 2.30 Tuesday afternoon. Very exciting! I think I'm definitely ready to go back. I need a Jason hug.

See you all in/from Cairo...

Thursday, November 17, 2005

this is just about right...

i found this as i was doing my daily reading in incandescence: 365 readings with women mystics. It's the reading for November 12 (the one year anniversary of mom's diagnosis).

"As for heaven, I guess you've noticed, God put no doors there.
No, God didn't. and don't you wonder why?
It's because whoever wants to enter heaven, does.
That's how God's love works.
All-merciful, standing there with his arms wide open,
God's waiting--this very moment--
to embrace us and take us into his splendid beauty and kindnesses."

--Catherine of Genoa

(being just a little bit Calvinist, i would maybe even say that God isn't bothering with waiting--God has embraced us already. and being even a little bit more Calvinist i might even say that we aren't capable ourselves of wanting to enter heaven, so God does that for us too. But the point here is the idea, which i love. heaven is doorless (and maybe ugly-pearly-gates-less too!))

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

getting back to work?

i have been reading a lot.
so much that i'm down to the book i'm saving for the plane.
so today i am reading children's books--actually, "chapter books" so I can see if any would be appropriate to use with my kids at RCG. (Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little, etc) I have been thinking of reading a chapter a week with my classes, so they will want to come next week to hear the next part and find out what happens. I have, as I've been reading, thinking up activities that the girls could do to show me that they understand the story (and to make up for the fact that the books don't have pcitures). So far my favorite idea is to give them a piece of 8-1/2 by 11 paper (or A4, whatever I can find), divided (with a pen) into quarters, and have them draw a picture in each square--so each chapter would have foud pictures per kid. Then maybe have them explain to their partner what picture they drew to go with what part of the story. and each week one girl would come up and show the whole class her pictures and explain. All in English, of course.

Now I am kind of tired and am actively soliciting othe "activity" ideas to help me know they understand and to help them be more engaged. Please tell me your ideas! I know you people are out there, just surfing away....help me out here. y'all are fabulous. :-)

Monday, November 14, 2005


Linguistic thinkers:

* Tend to think in words, and like to use language to express complex ideas.
* Are sensitive to the sounds and rhythms of words as well as their meanings.

Other Linguistic Thinkers include: William Shakespeare, Sylvia Plath, Anne Frank

Careers which suit Linguistic thinkers include: Journalist, Librarian, Salesperson, Proof-reader, Translator, Poet, Lyricist

what kind of thinker are you?

things that are good and make me happy

1. amy's black and white chili, which i made last night and was SO good.
2. the existence (and purchase) of great northern beans dried, so i can make chili in Egypt
3. Ollie
4. Good books
5. the fact that my friend Rachel is in a rock band. (hehehe)
6. Dr. Pepper
7. M&Ms
8. General Foods International Coffee French Vanilla Cafe (Decaf)
9. Neosporin and bandaids (for the mosquito bites-turned-festering-wounds that just won't go away)
10. someone else to wash the dishes

Sunday, November 13, 2005

things that will never be the same

1. Halloween
2. All Saint's Day
3. My birthday
4. Mom's birthday
5. All holidays
6. my parents' house
7. The beach
8. the telephone
9. cooking (at least, cooking things I've never made before)
10. badly dressed people I have no one to make snarky comments about to
11. my family
12. me
13. everything else

kitchen questions

There is nothing like cooking alone in the kitchen where you used to cook (learned to cook?) with your mother to make you think of some questions you wish you'd asked on a previous kitchen experience. Mom and I used to talk about everything while we cooked. If you have always thought you should ask these things but you/your mother are too young and there's plenty of time, you should ask now. Trust me.

1. how exactly did you manage to feed yourself and two children on food stamps during the recession in the 80's?
2. how do i pick a cantaloupe?
3. what's the deal with opening the oven while bread/cakes are baking? is it really that bad?
4. how did you do that egg thing in the "lotsa noodle soup"? (i was actually planning on asking this the next time I talked to her, as Ramen has recently become a part of my diet again. Unfortunately, there was no next time.)
5. what was the last straw that made you want a divorce?
6. what do you want us to do with your jewelry when you can't wear it anymore?
7. what's your favorite memory of my childhood? my brothers? yours? your sisters?
8. what's the most important thing I should do with the person I get married to?
9. was grandma always the way she is now?
10. besides the Bare Naked Ladies, is there any good music made by a group formed after 1988?
11. what do you think about those "new" grocery store membership cards? Are they actually just a way to keep track of your personal info? are they really about getting people to spend more? or are they okay?
12. is it true that bad cranberries float? or is it good cranberries that float? or is it about bouncing? And should you really be bouncing cranberries you're planning on making into cranberry sauce? how do you keep track of them?
13. How many spices in spaghetti sauce is too many?
14. is it actually possible to make just enough spaghetti for us to eat today, or is it literally impossible?
15. what's the weirdest fruit you ever ate? and what are you supposed to do with a pomegranate (the weirdest fruit i have eaten so far)?
16. How am I supposed to use the "back of the knife" if it has that weird "don't cut yourself, dummy" lip thing on the back of the blade?
17. Do you have any idea how much I love you and how much I love learning to cook from you?

Things you should definitely say now and I'm sad I never got a chance to say properly:
1. Thank you mom, for teaching me to read and to love reading.
2. Thank you mom, for teaching me that anyone who can read can cook.
3. Thank you mom, for teaching me how to cut things without cutting myself.
4. Thank you mom, for doing the dirty work of peeling potatoes even when i wanted to make the mashed potatoes "all by myself."
5. thank you mom, for teaching me how to love everyone regardless of what they look like or how much money they have.
6. In general, thanks, mom. I love you a lot.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

the coast

Well, we had a mom-worthy adventure at the beaches of the Oregon Coast. Low tides right now are not very low, and man it was a stormy sea for the few days we were there! our first beach for scattering, Heceta Head (the top pic is the beachwe were at), was beautiful and lovely, but lacked tidepools. We clambered around a little point to try to find some, but ended up scattering mom in the waves breaking on the rocks. I also ended up wet to my knees because the tide had literally just turned and some waves just snuck up on me. The water was warm but the air was cold...so my wet jeans were, well, chilly. Our second beach was Beverly Beach, which had beautiful sand. And the last place where we left some of mom to be swept out to sea (we stopped a lot of places but not all were worthy) was Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach. We went out for the night time low tide--10.46 pm--because it was actually a negative tide. We took flashlights and walked out there across the beach from our hotel. it was so dark, and the stars were incredibly beautiful, and my brother tried to tell me that orion wasn't orion, but he was wrong. We found some tidepools by almost-illegally clambering around at Haystack Rock (a bird sanctuary or something), poured out the last of the ashes, and looked at anemones for a few minutes before saying goodbye and walking back. In the morning Dad and I walked out there again, as the tide was going out again. It is significantly closer in the light. And, of course, she was gone. I mean, she was gone before too but now she's really gone. it's hard to grasp that I will never see or hear my mother again, that I will never have another argument, hear another "I love you", give or receive another piece of advice, comiserate about silly family members, or laugh about horridly dressed people with my mother ever again. it's not just something you take in all at once, you know? No more emergency cooking calls. No more "guess what I just did" or "what I just saw" calls. No more Christmas visits. No more inviting my mom to hear me preach. no more of her asking me how it went at church and me telling her "well, everybody loves me."

I keep thinking that maybe, just maybe, mom's ashes will spread so far and wide that whenever I go to a beach, she'll be there. And maybe she will be the grain of sand that becomes a pearl one day. Maybe. I hope so. I would like to think so. Because, as far as I can tell, that's the best that can come out of this situation. people keep saying she's better off now, there's no more pain, and that's probably true. But in my reality, the this-worldly dimension, there is no possible way that it is better when one's mother is dead. Especially at 47. No way. So please: it's not better. in fact, it's distinctly worse, possibly the worst. but maybe one day there will be some wonderful pearls and then, maybe, it will be better. maybe.

that's all for today. we are going to eat mexican food for the first time since mom died. We'll see how that goes. Maybe I've gotten the cryingout of my system while I've typed this. I hope so.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

going to the coast

i'm here in Washington. Right now we are leaving to go to the Oregon Coast and we'll scatter mom's ashes tomorrow at low tide.
That's all for now, except this:
I miss my mom.