First and most importantly, GOOD LUCK to everyone riding in 12/24hrs of Sebring this weekend. Y'all will RAWK & do awesome, once again. Andrew & Drew, don't feel bad when Julie passes you. repeatedly. I know she's been training and will qualify for RAAM with miles to spare. I wish I was going to be there supporting y'all, but I know the 24hr riders be in excellent hands with Alison, Lori, Linda, Jamie & whoever else is up for staying up all night. I hear Alison might even drink coffee--with caffeine! This is quite the special occasion. :-) I'll be thinking of y'all on Saturday!!! Can't wait to read the ride reports!!!
Second, Wednesday is Koshari day at Quick step, the local cafeteria. I've been eating alot of Koshari lately so I took a break today. And yes, it's also Valentine's Day...I brought candy hearts to the lab--everyone was amused. There are dozens of flower stands around Ma'adi. Some of the displays are just gaudy & ostentatious, but roses are apparently very cheap. Valentine's day is now an international holiday. I found this amusing...the other day, the radio was tuned into an Arabic channel. I couldn't understand much (obviously), but I recognized the commercial tune--it was "Jingle Bell Rock", and they kept singing something about "Valentines."
And now the story about flat chicken. This week, I've have the great fortune of being able to visit two field sites, where samples are collected and we conduct disease surveillance and learn more about epidemiology of diarrheal diseases. It was such an incredible educational experience--I love the lab, but it can be a sterile environment & easy to forget why I go what I do & where the samples come from. I won't easily forget the peolpe I met or the sites I saw the last 2 days. Yesterday, we were at a site north of Cairo. We got to take a train--the landscape is so different outside of Cairo, the change of scenery was great! Two highways head towards Alexandria, the dessert highway (I'll take that tomorrow) and the Agricultural highway (what we followed yesterday). A few observations from the train...orange groves, the Nile, irrigation channels from the Nile, papyrus leaves, a farmer playing in a field with his kids, a farmer plowing with 2 ox (horses?) in a yolk & plow, cabbage fields, mosques, cemeteries (collections of mausoleums), men smoking shisha in ahwas, and much more...
Once we got to the town, I realized they don't get many foreigners & my visit was causing a bit of a stir. We had police escort out of town to the various sites and inside the buildings we visited. One of the towns is known for it's flat chicken--it's 1/2 a grilled chicken, wonderfully seasoned (smaller & even better than Eats, trust me Scott!). We only had 10 minutes to eat before we had to board our train for the trip back to Cairo. We ate as fast as we could & were on our way. And then we waited at a train crossing. And then there was traffic. and more traffic. We finally arrived at the station almost 5 minutes late. No train--but a crowd of people. I took this as a good sign. We rushed out of the car & down to the platform. All this time, we've been followed by the police. They are running with us, encouraging us to run (although the train hasn't pulled into the station yet--it's also late). So we're running & they're on their walkie-talkies...I'm not sure why. But we boarded the train just fine as soon as it pulled in. I think there were 10 security for the 2 of us? It's good to know I'm safe. So the flat chicken caused us to be a bit late...but it was worth it. :-)
In other news...I have a cell phone now. the ring tone is "we wish you a Merry Christmas." like I said, christmas carols are very popular. Last weekend I visited Coptic Cairo & the Egyptian Modern Art Museum (I knew you'd be proud of me C Beam!). The Modern Art museum is not one of the major attractions, but it was interesting--it's on the grounds of the Opera house on the south end of Zamalek & close to the Cairo Tower (familiar if anyone's watched The Amazing Race) I was able to stay with an Egyptian friend the last few days & was served a feast. (Sarah, I'm so glad you taught me how to eat through the pain!). We had mulukhiyya (green leaf soup), fatta (layers of rice & soaked bread) and ru'et (layers of phyllo-type pastry & ground lamb). Tomorrow, we're ordering in hamaam (stuffed pigeon). There's a great coffee shop--Grecko Coffee--that I stopped at this weekend. As I was leaving, the Cairo Cyclists walked in from their weekly Friday mountain bike excursion. Next door is an amazing local bakery--it took me awhile to be brave enough to stop in (it's all in Arabic, nothing in English), but once I figured out how to order stuff, it was all good. They have the best warm, fig pastries & cheese croissants, good pitas, great cookies & pretzels. (Really, thank you Sarah!).
Time for one more quick story...One Friday, my flat mate & I joined some other people from work for a Pharaoh Cruise on the Nile. It's cheese-y & touristy, but fun. The waiters wear pharraoh costumes in bright colors and the ship/barge is brightly colored. we were served a 6-course meal. and because we got there early, we had the table right in front of the entertainment. The first band was a guy on a keyboard playing American Vegas/lounge-type music. next came the belly dancer (but not the one from Iowa who is supposedly the best) with her band--3 bongo/drummers, an accordian, a keyboard & a singer all in a tiny space. then we got the Sufi Dancer--he spun & twirled in 1 direction for 10 minutes (I'm not exaggerating). I still get dizzy thinking about him. Then the belly dancer came out. Next were two singers singing Egyptian songs. and finally, a guitar & keyboard player playing salsa music. the people at our table were great dancers. it was the two of them for awhile--and then a sole Japanese tourist joined in. and then a few more people.
I am going to Alexandria tomorrow for the weekend. And then Tara will be here. Can't wait to see the pyramids & go shopping some more!!! Hope everyone is doing well. It's hard to believe 2 weeks has gone by & that in less than 2 weeks I'll be home.