About Stand Where I Stood

My serious travels started in Italy during university, then I moved on to Ethiopia with Peace Corps and have been to over 10 countries since. My newest adventure is Ghana.

“If you don’t care, fly Egyptair” – A day in Luxor

A few months ago, a colleague gave us this great line – “If you don’t care, fly Egpytair.”

We were debating the best way to travel over our holiday break. We needed to fly from Accra to Cairo, Cairo Luxor, Aswan to Cairo, Cairo to Amman, Amman to Cairo, Cairo to Accra. And while we could bookend our trip with flights on Emirates, it would add considerable travel time and money. Egyptair was the airline with the most direct flights and at $1,000 a person, the best deal around.

It was easy to see where the airline had cut costs…the planes were old, really old. They only looked suitable for domestic flights, despite the fact that four of our flights were international. Instead of private screens, one dropped down from the ceiling every four rows. I’ve flown on dozens of airlines and this was the most inedible food I have encountered. And lastly, they closed the shades and turned off the lights, even on our day flights…I’m convinced they did this to get out of serving us. Not a single beverage cart came by during our required four hour “nap time.”

Oh, and they schedule their connecting flights too closely to allow them time to transfer checked baggage.

Which is how we found ourselves in Luxor, at midnight, wandering the airport with a man named Muhammad, trying to find our suitcase.

While in Luxor, we stayed at the Sofitel’s Pavillon Winter Luxor and Muhammad was the hotel’s driver. And I can honestly say that without him, I’m not sure we would have ever gotten our suitcase back, but that’s a story for later in this post. For now, it was after midnight, our checked bag hadn’t come in, and we were exhausted. It was time for some much needed sleep.

“Do you want me to drive slow or fast?” Muhammad asked. What he meant was: Do you want me to drive the speed limit or can I drive like I’m in the Fast & Furious franchise. All I’ll say is we got to our hotel quickly.

The next day we were up at 6:00am to meet Naama our guide with Emo Tours. As a certified Egyptologist, Naama studied archeology and tourism at university in Cairo.

We started at Queen Hatshepsut’s Temple. Never meant to rule, she was named regent when her step-son inherited the throne at the age of two. Instead, she reined for 21-22 years, calling herself king and pharaoh – even going so far as to have herself depicted as a man in temples and art.

DSCF6494

IMG_3842

When her step-son, Thutmose III, finally came to power, he was so enraged that he spent most of his rule defacing her temples and statues. Desiring to do all he could to make sure no one in history remembered her, his actions have ensured that everyone knows who she was.

DSCF6527

In fact, many modern scholars consider her one of the most successful pharaohs and Naama said that was because she was the only pharaoh of her dynasty (she began her rule in 1478 BC), who didn’t start any wars or military offences.

Despite the toppled statues and wall defacements, her temple is in much better shape than the one next door, which was brought down by an earthquake.

DSCF6516

And historians and archaeologists have worked hard to piece together what was left behind:

DSCF6515

DSCF6518 (1)

Next we made our way around the corner and to the Valley of the Kings. This necropolis is home to 63 tombs that were built between 1539-1075 BC. Most famous is King Tutankhamun’s aka King Tut.

Photographs aren’t allowed inside unless you pay a special fee (costing more than the entry ticket!), so I declined and we explored sans lens. And if I’m being honest, the lack of camera wasn’t all that disappointing. Most of these tombs were found empty upon excavation and despite the surprisingly long tunnels, there’s not a lot to see. In fact, most of the artefacts that were found have been moved to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo and other museums around the world.

Rameses IV’s tomb has the best coloring, ironic because it was one of the most used tombs…the Greeks turned it into a hotel for a while.

Merenptah died earlier than expected and only the first half of his tomb was completed. Pharaohs were to be embalmed and buried within 70 days, so it was never finished.

The diggers of Rameses III nearly dug into a previous tomb before needing to reroute. Diggers were blindfolded so they couldn’t return and loot the tombs, so no one ever knew exactly where the previous pharaohs had been buried.

For me, the valley itself was more impressive than what was waiting for us underground. I was more than ready to head to our final destination on the west bank: the Colossi of Memnon.

DSCF6535

DSCF6548

These statues were surprisingly large and came with a great story. The statues were found in pieces by a German group of archaeologists. They tried to reconstruct them, but did a pretty poor job with the one on the right and every morning, when the wind blew, it made a whistling sound. It reminded those who heard it of the legend of Agamemnon and thus the statues got their names.

Continue reading

Advertisements

The Doors of Egypt

Something that surprised me about Egypt: How quickly I become obsessed with their doors.

Egypt feels like the land time forgot…everything dusty and broken down. Yet, their doors and the objects surrounding them were so often covered in weathered, but vibrant colors. I couldn’t stop snapping photos.

Chandler eventually asked me what I was taking so many photos of, and he rolled his eyes when I told him about my obsession with doors. He would say I have an obsession with photographing anything – and later he used my nearly 1,000 photos from our three weeks in Egypt and Jordan as proof.

I decided to use this vacation to really unplug – which means that while I brought my camera, I didn’t bring my laptop. And so my photos had to stay safe & sound, patiently waiting on my SD card until we got back to Accra.

Now that the new year has begun and we’re home sweet home, I find myself agreeing with my husband. I have an absurd number of photos to edit and organize.

Which is why my first post about our bucket list holiday is starting with photos of doors – they were easy to catalog!

And so, while this may not be the post you were expecting…nothing about the Pyramids or our week-long cruise on the Nile. No photos of the constantly changing and mesmerising colors of Petra or Wadi Rum. Those will come later. Today, you have doors.

My first set of doors were snapped in the small town of Esna, at the start of our cruise. And while I say small town, the bustling port had more to offer than I initially expected. Just 33 miles south of Luxor it is also home to the Temple of Khnum – but those photos will come later!

DSCF6650

DSCF6652

DSCF6651

Continue reading

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

After spending years living in Eastern and Western Africa – where me and the local cuisine rarely see eye-to-eye – one of my favorite things about travel is the food. Amsterdam was no exception. And while I loved it for the international variety (only London surpasses it in quantity), I can happily say we enjoyed the Dutch pancakes so much we ate them twice : )

DSCF6326

Also, every cup of hot chocolate was divine – but you could have guessed that given our chocolate-scented bike ride.

I also couldn’t get enough of the architecture – Europe has something I can’t seem to find anywhere else: buildings I could stare at for hours. And in Amsterdam, I loved it all…from the traditional to the quirky.

DSCF6345

DSCF6430

Something that all cities I love have in common is their green space. Between the canals and the parks, Amsterdam gave me the fresh air and outdoor space that I’ve been craving, being trapped inside our apartment in Accra.

DSCF6339

DSCF6365

I know I already wrote about my love of Amsterdam museums, but no list of my favorite things would be complete without these beauties. Maybe next time we’ll make our way inside the Rijksmuseum.

Continue reading

Banksy, Dalí, and van Gogh in Amsterdam

So…biking in Amsterdam’s not my thing. But museum hopping certainly is. We only made it to two on this vacation, but we have a long list of museums to go back for.

Amsterdam is full of museums covering topics as varied as the holocaust in the Anne Frank House to traditional dutch art in Rijksmuseum to fluorescent art in Electric Ladyland to a museum dedicated to works depicting cats. I kid you not: KattenKabinet.

And if you think we don’t have plans to go to all four of those someday, you’re dead wrong.

This trip, however, we made our way through the Van Gogh Museum and the Moco Museum.

Unfortunately, the Van Gogh Museum doesn’t allow photos, so I had to screenshot the following from their website. I went for Sunflowers, of course, but fell in love with some surprisingly varied paintings:

Cypresses and Two Women

Screen Shot 2017-11-08 at 5.55.08 PM

Irises (ok, not surprising, still flowers!)

Screen Shot 2017-11-08 at 5.52.57 PM

And oddest but most fascinating of all: Red Cabbages and Onions

Screen Shot 2017-11-08 at 5.52.46 PM

We also learned some fascinating facts about van Gogh: After chopping off the piece of his ear, he gave it to a prostitute; he was named after his stillborn brother; his early paintings (pre-Paris) are super traditional; his brother Theo died six months after him; a lot of the blues in his paintings have faded, originally, they were purples.

But the real surprise on our trip was the Moco Museum. We hadn’t even heard of it until we arrived in Amsterdam and were walking around Museumplein aka Museum Square:

DSCF6357

And with signs advertising Banksy and Salvador Dalí how could we not step inside?

Continue reading

Me + Bicycles Don’t Mix

You’d probably think I’d be decent on a bicycle. I grew up in Minnesota. I spent the summer I was 15 biking to and from my glamorous job at Taco John’s…and I lived outside of the city limits.

However, I gave up biking when I moved to Minneapolis. Strange, you may say. Isn’t Minneapolis one of the most bike-able cities in the United States? Yes, yes it is. Which means: THERE ARE TOO MANY DAMN BIKES THERE.

So, terrified of crashing into one of the million other students on bikes, I traded in my bike for cute, yet walkable, shoes.

I’ve been walking ever since.

Flash forward to Amsterdam…one of the most bike-able cities in the world. You’d have thought that I learned my lesson in Minneapolis, but no. What did I want to do in Amsterdam? Go on a bike ride. Apparently I’m a slow learner.

And I didn’t want to just bike around the city. I wanted to bike out to the windmills. And I didn’t want to do it alone: I dragged Chandler and his brother with me.

DSCF6386

Did we end up regretting this decision? Yes, yes we did. I won’t list all of the reasons why biking in the Netherlands isn’t for me (we’d be here all day), but I will give you some of the highlights:

Reason #1: It took me all of about 10 minutes to hit a curb and come crashing down…I never was good at curb jumping.

Reason #2: Do you want to know why people built those windmills in that location? IT IS WINDY. Unreasonably so. There were moments I was pretty sure it’d be faster to walk than to bike.

Reason #3: Scott is the slowest bike rider in the history of bike riding. I’m serious.

Reason #4: The only scenic parts are the parts they bus you out to…the scenery on the actual bike ride is fairly mundane.

But, if forced to find a silver lining, I can actually find two:

Continue reading

78 Hours in Minnesota: The Cons

340 days ago, the American people did something I would have never thought possible: They elected Donald Trump as president. And I can “not my president” all I want, but honestly, it has been easier to ignore what’s happening back home while living abroad.

Every time a new embarrassing/depressing headline was announced…

Trump to Authorize Wall and Curtail Immigration
Trump Targets Muslim Areas in Refugee Ban
Trump Fires Justice Chief Who Defied Him
Facing Scrutiny Over Russia Call, Flynn Steps Down
Trump Rescinds Obama Directive on Bathroom Use
Health Groups Unite to Oppose Republican Bill
Trump Signs Rule to Block Efforts on Aiding Climate Change

And these were just some of the New York Times’ articles during the first 100 days of Trump’s presidency. They don’t even include Trump’s war against my health rights as a woman, NRA (Nonsensical Rifle Addiction), our pull-out from UNESCO, etc. Honestly…it’s hard not to keep adding to this list.

But before, I could hide behind my overseas-ness. I could declare – I don’t know those kinds of Americans. But going home, I knew I’d have to face it.

And I can honestly say I wasn’t prepared for some of the conversations.

Continue reading

78 Hours in Minnesota: The Pros

My whirlwind of a weekend home is over and I already miss it. I mean, I don’t miss the utter exhaustion, my inability to tell which day of the week it was, or the distance from my husband (not the largest ocean, but a pretty big one none-the-less)…but on a whole, it was a pretty magical trip.

I’ve never traveled so far (24 hours there, 21 hours back) to be somewhere for such a short amount of time. So I guess I should explain why…

The real why goes back to July 3, 2016. My wedding day. And there, standing next to me (on the opposite side of my soon-to-be husband) was Nora. A woman who wrote out my invitations, shared a room with my sister and other bridesmaid, Erica (both strangers to her), and has been a source of comfort and conversation since we met in the early days of university.

She was my witness on our marriage license.

And on October 1, 2017, it was her turn to get married. Now, living halfway around the world, I couldn’t write out her invitations (and let’s be honest – she has better handwriting anyway), I couldn’t dye or tie her lovely keychains to mark the seating chart, and I couldn’t be with her to try on various wedding dresses (which she had done with me).

All I could do was be there. So I did.

And despite the travel hours logged, I am so happy that I did. Fun fact: I did not cry at my own wedding – I was not going to waste that professionally applied make-up! But I sobbed like a baby at Nora’s, my heart bursting with joy.

I finally got to meet Sumit, her now husband – the ocean between us preventing that from previously happening. And I got to steal small moments with her when she wasn’t taking a million photographs, greeting everyone that came to her wedding, and spending time with the man she will now be spending the rest of her life with.

IMG_3099

IMG_3101 (1)

If that was all I got from my weekend home, it would have been enough.

But I got more.

After a three-hour delay in Amsterdam, turning my nine-hour flight into twelve hours, I finally got to see my parents and sister. Excepting my sister, they don’t get out much and so I hadn’t seen them in over a year. We immediately got into the swing of things: My father shouting at traffic, my sister getting exasperated by my mother, and me trying to Skype a medical appointment from the backseat. So little time.

I got to have dinner with the three of them, plus my grandparents and my first meal back in the states was a burrito (Chandler has trained me well). It was delicious, even if it was from the freezer section of Trader Joes.

The next day I got to visit with even more family as my grandparents opened up their home to anyone who could claim relation to me : ) A feast was laid before us and we spent the next six hours eating and catching up. Our time together was way too short, but I got all the most important updates: deaths, divorces, and new dogs. My family is a country song.

Continue reading