Thursday, January 17, 2013 we come

I am super duper super duper super duper excited...I really can't put into words how exciting I am about moving to Austin!

I love Seattle as a city and I love the friends we have made since moving there only 5 short years ago.  However, Seattle has taught me that I need the sun more often than 152 days a year, that's less than half the year!  And most of these days happen to be in the summer which makes Seattle summers the best, however there is no reason to stick around for the winters.

They say if you can stand the 3rd winter then you are set and can do Seattle for life (I guess the first 2 are still new) and it was the 3rd winter that I looked at Dave and, this isn't for me.  "I can not handle another one".  However change is not that easy and I had to deal with 2 more winters (well really just 1 considering we were in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, TN, and everywhere else for this one).  But Seattle winters are a thing of the past and I couldn't be more excited!

So after much debate and a huge spreadsheet of options, pretty much every city in America...we have decided the next place for us in Austin, TX.

Austin has 228 days of sun!  That's whole sun, no clouds!  It also has technology, a great night life, intelligent young people, sweet tea and sweet people, football, boots, lakes, swimming pools, more space, and it's much closer to home so hopefully more visitors!

The downfalls - having to drive and missing our Seattle peeps although they will visit and fall in love and hopefully move!

We (or maybe just me) are (is) hoping Austin will be our love.  I hope it will satisfy all of our needs and it will be home.  So here's to the next 5...

The big question now?

Will Austin be the one?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Egypt (Safaga, Luxor, and Paradise Island)

Our next port was Safaga, Egypt.  We took a 3.5 hour bus ride to Luxor, aka Thebes.  The Valley of the Kings can be found here.  The Valley of the Kings is just what it sounds like, where all the kings were buried after death.  The tombs were extravagant because they believed that the treasures in the tombs would be waiting on them as they returned in the afterlife.  
The hieroglyphics in the tombs were amazing...they were so colorful still after thousands of do colors from nature stay around that long?  The beliefs they had about death and the afterlife, the angels and justice, these were all written in the tombs.  The tombs had to take forever to carve out and write and color, I have no idea how people just didn't give up.  I guess they didn't have much else to do but still such hard work and in the heat...oh, the heat! 

Luxor was much cleaner then Cairo, although still dirty and dusty.  The people were more countryside and less modern, especially in dress.  Almost every house had a donkey out front and every donkey was trying it’s hardest to get into whatever shade it could.  Again, the heat!
The vendors apparently had heard of ‘happy hour’, although I don’t think they quite grasp the concept of an hour considering it was happy hour all day long.  They also didn't grasp that happy hour usually means drinks/food.  They were selling trinkets for “Happy Hour” and they would all be yelling "happy hour here".

This is the Valley of the Kings
Inside the Valley, no pictures allowed...I snapped this one quickly.  These are the entrances to the tombs.

Karnak Temple was also on today's tour and wow!  Magnificent, you can read about it here.

 you can still see some color

After touring Cairo and Luxor, which required so much time and walking and time and walking, we/I decided it was time for a rest and relaxation beach excursion.  So where else would one go when there is such a thing called Paradise Island?  of course, one would choose Paradise Island.  It sounds so beautiful and relaxing and beautiful.

This is Paradise Island in Egypt.

Although it looks like that, it was still an awesome day of snorkeling, napping, and napping!  The water was so wonderfully clear.  The reefs were good size and there was plenty of sea life of the coast of this island with no life.  No one inhabited this island, everyone was transported there by boat daily...however to my surprise there was running water!!  It was an adventure for sure when we realized we had to get off this boat

 where I can sit like this

and onto this boat to actually put our feet on the sand.

But other people are doing it too.  Now we sit/stand like these people.

Luckily for us, we are young and capable.  However, we had many older folks and even a handicapped man on board.  This was a constant on our trip and the people amazed me daily on how much they were willing to do...walk for miles, take a boat to an island in a wheelchair, climb stairs.  These are things I hope I am willing and able to do when I reach their age.  They made is look easy for the most part.

 Because I love taking pictures of emergency vehicles in other countries, this obsession also applies to animals, (the big in the states they are blue) mailboxes, and other random things.  It funny to me how things look so different in other countries...however I guess animals look the same everywhere, maybe I just love animals!
They had did Dubai and Singapore, bizarre!

Davis snorkeling

 ah, what a great day

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Egypt (Suez Canal)

We spent a day cruising through the Suez Canal, which is now Egypt’s #1 source of revenue after tourism took a dive with the revolution.  It was definitely an experience.  How crazy are canals?  And Egypt has a monopoly with trading between Eastern US/Europe and Asia.  I think (and this was hear say on the ship) that it is $1 million per boat (big boat/shipping boat) to go through the canal.  Crazy talk!  

It was super smooth sailing through the canal as I am guessing that you don’t want to go fast and/or are restricted to a certain speed limit.  We went pretty slow and there is not enough room to pass unless you are a little ship so not a lot of waves or action.  

The cool thing for me was we sat on our balcony most of the day and I took pictures of the military men on the banks.  Most of them were really happy to see us…some of them danced, some ran to the tops of the hills to whistle and wave to get our attention, and some didn't acknowledge our passing.  What a boring job!  Most had huge guns around their necks and across their chest.  It was so bizarre to see these men decked out in their military uniforms in the desert heat without protection or AC.  It was super hot!!  We were in the shade and still had to come inside to escape the heat.  All in all the Suez Canal was cool and I am glad we were able to experience it.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Egypt (Cairo)

Our first 3 days at sea were spent traveling across the Mediterranean.  This for us was spent catching up on sleep and resting to our hearts content.

We docked in Alexandria after being at sea for 3 days and I was 1 excited girl to see land and Egypt at 5:30 in the morning.  That energy soon depleted about an hour into our bus ride to Cairo.  We had a 2.5 hour drive so Davis a little more than I both caught some shut eye while driving to the Giza. 
I felt like I had prepared myself for third world countries as we were going to several on this cruise, but after seeing Egypt I now know that one can NOT prepare themselves.  You have to see it in person to understand and fully comprehend how others live.

I can try to describe it to you, but it will not be the whole picture because you cannot see the people’s faces nor see the buildings or shacks that they call homes.  You will not see the significant trash problem and how rivers do not even look like water for all the trash in them, instead they look like a landfill that you could easily walk across. 

The people fish in these polluted waters by sitting on the piles of trash.  There are roads that you cannot drive on because of the amount of garbage.  The kids play in the dirt surrounded by trash.  Most people do not have cars, they travel by mules and flatbeds.  They have motorcycles that they load with 3 people.  You will see children riding in front of their parents on motorcycles and not a single person is wearing a helmet.  Women carry everything on their heads.  The prayers happen 5 times a day and they are so loud that you can hear them everywhere.  The children were for the most part so happy to see us.  They would run and wave with huge smiles with our bus as we would drive past them.  Smoking starts early as it did in Europe.  I said for the most part the children were happy to see us because I was flipped off by at least 2 different ~7 year old boys.  There were sheep on the side of the road, not in fences just sitting by the side of a very busy road.  There were no traffic laws.  You could drive on either side of the street and there were definitely no traffic lights which meant there were no walk signs so people would just walk in front of cars.  And of course everyone is honking their horns. 

In Cairo, building were still burned from the revolution.  We went to the Egyptian Museum and they didn’t have a gift shop because it was damaged during the revolution.  There were buildings half built because everyone stopped buying property for fearing that the new government would just take it away from them.  So developers had to stop projects half finished.  There were vendors everywhere wanting to sell you anything for $1, yes 1 US dollar for almost anything.

On a good note, the pyramids were awesome.  I had no idea they would be soooo big.  I feel that in all the pictures I have ever seen of them, you can see all 3 pyramids and the Sphinx so I was expecting them to be so much closer together than they were.  They were super far apart, you wouldn't want to walk from one to the other and this is because they are HUGE!!!  I don’t think you understand, they are massive!  And over 4,000 years old, if this doesn't blow your mind…I don’t know what will!  

After visiting Giza, we went to Sa to view King Titus?? Tomb and the step pyramid, then to the papyrus museum, then back to the pyramids for a sound & light show which was cool in seeing the pyramids at night all lit up but wasn’t awesome in it seemed like a PBS special from the 80’s.  After doing all of this we were exhausted, but the night was not over yet.  No, then we hop on a dinner cruise on the Nile with belly dancing and Whirling dervish – this was super impressive and I wish I had video but my camera was dead (you can see a youtube video here)….battery dying = a common theme of this trip (every day I took so many pictures that my camera was dead by the end of the day).

Then to a hotel to sleep for approximately 6 hours before continuing our tour in Cairo by visiting King Ali’s mosque in the fortress, which was absolutely stunning.  The last stop in Cairo was the Egyptian museum in Tahrir Square where the revolution ended (kinda) earlier this year.  The gift shop was closed because of damage done during the revolution.  The building next door to the museum was completely burned and ruined.  How sad that they were so ahead of their time 4,000 years ago and are now so behind. 
The museum was awesome.  King Tut was the only tomb that had not been robbed by the tomb robbers back in the day, which is why King Tut is so famous today.  I had no idea this is the reason for his fame.  I thought he was loved and the best king ever, turns out he was just the only King that did a good job at hiding his tomb.  He was only approximately 19 years old when he died and his tomb was insane.  I can’t fathom what the tomb robbers discovered in the popular king’s tombs because King Tut was buried in multiple caskets inside multiple gold plated boxes with multiple gold masks.

The museum also contained mummified animals of the kings, this was crazy awesome.  We saw dogs, cats, birds, crocodiles (they did this because they were dangerous and prayed for them to become nice), cows, horses, snakes, goats
Most everything from his tomb are now in the Egyptian museum which was crazy awesome to see.  His mummy is still in his tomb in the Valley of Kings, which I will talk about later.  Seeing a mummy is bizarre BTW!

Oh yeah, I should mention our security while traveling to Cairo including a police escort along with a security guard on our bus with a machine gun.  Also, all the museums and hotels have metal detectors.
I should also talk about the vendors and how they wanted money for everything and anything.  They would ask if you wanted them to take a picture of you and would not give you the camera back unless you paid.  They would say free camel rides and then make you pay to get off the camel.  They would put books in your hands and then ask for money.  At the mosque, you had to take off your shoes and they would put the shoe covers over your shoes as you are trying to walk in and ask for money.  They were crazy, persistent, pushy, and always willing to make a deal.  Ultimately, they were nice if you knew what you were doing.

 this is a river full of trash

 the nighttime light show
Muhammad Ali's fortress