Tag Archive: Egypt


ไทยแลนด์ (Thailand)

I’ve written about my experiences in Egypt, now, on to Thailand, the Land of Smiles! While we were still in Egypt, my parents went over on a look-see to find out where we’d be living and even if we really wanted to move there. My mom brought me back Bubble Yum bubble gum, and that was all I needed to know I’d love it over there! My dad’s company also sent them to Sao Paulo, Brazil, after this trip, and after being told of the crimes (usually aimed at ex-pats) and living behind bars on windows and doors, my parents quickly made up their minds!

In August of 1997, we arrived at the Bangkok International Airport, it was around midnight, and we were exhausted after 20 hours of travel! When you get off the plane, one of the first things you see is a banner that displays “Welcome to the Land of Smiles” and you see all the cute little Thais. We still had a two hour drive still ahead of us, just to get to the hotel where we’d be staying, what a LONG day that was!

We drove to Pattaya, which is south of Bangkok, the nearest city to where we’d be living. The hotel we stayed at was called the Royal Garden, and it had a MALL attached to it! I had never seen such a thing, and thought it was SO cool! As a 14 year-old girl, I was in heaven! The hotel was GORGEOUS, and the next day, I went to check out the mall, with no money of course, I forgot to ask for some Baht (Thai currency). I found this one store that, apparently, is big over in the UK, Boots, an odd name for a drugstore type of store, but they had a lot of American and British beauty products (although you’d pay the price for ’em), which was great! The mall also had a Benihana’s, so it was a MAJOR improvement from Cairo.

When we went to see our new home, we were in disbelief that it was as beautiful as it was. We lived ON a golf course, so my parents and brother were ecstatic, HOWEVER, I tried taking golf lessons in Egypt, and decided I could care less. The 2nd mode of transportation was a golf cart, everyone had at least one.

I can’t tell you how SPOILED ROTTEN we were over there, it’s so cheap to live there, we are fortunate enough to afford a maid and a driver!!! Our maid and driver were married, and the lived with us, in the outside quarters. They really became part of our family, they had a beautiful little girl whose nickname was Ploy, which means pearl in Thai, isn’t that sweet? To give you an idea of how cheap it is, we paid the maid the equivalent to $200, and she was one of the highest paid maids in the area! She felt so blessed we were able to give her a job, she gave up beef in return, completely on her own, and stuck to it!!! The Thais are willing to bend over backwards to please, and they really LOVE to smile, which makes me miss Thailand.

Because the primary religion is Buddhism, they have a different new year, their version is known as Songkran, which is celebrated April 13th – 15th, and it’s just a big HUMONGOUS water fight! They do have a white powder they mix with water, and that is supposed to ward off evil, and they will nail you with that, as well, and can sting your eyes. If you think you can go out, and still stay dry, FORGET IT!!!!! Watch the clip below and see it’s all in good fun:

School was different, we had uniforms, and I was not happy with that in the beginning. I’d never been to a school with uniforms, and the thought of wearing the same thing day in and day out was appalling! The school, the International School of the Eastern Seaboard (ISE) was SO small, even compared to my old school, CAC, there were less than 20 kids in the WHOLE 9th grade! We all had the same classes together, and there weren’t choices in what you could take, except you had the option of learning French of Spanish. I couldn’t even learn Thai in school, because there supposedly wasn’t enough interest to have a class, the majority of the students were Thai. Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to learn it, besides the basic 1-10 and hello, good-bye, thank you, etc… In the 10th grade, we went on a Biology trip, we called the “Barge Trip” where we were on a boat, and went around to different sights, and had a good time. I remember feeling tired throughout that trip, just the fresh air and the heat got to me, and maybe just gross from the fact we literally had timed showers, you had 3 minutes once you got in the bathroom area, to jump in and out, and get dressed again…that was rough! I do remember everyone taking turns in groups cooking, and that was fun! That was my first experience with okra, turned out I kinda liked it.

Here’s a picture of the high school, that was newly built when I was there. If you can see the stairs have a covering, it’s because there’s no roof over the center of the building. One teeny tiny tidbit they may have overlooked, during the design process, was that there’s monsoon season!

This is the high school, and there were coverings over the stairwells because there was no roof over the center of the buiding, of which I don't think they took monsoon season into account during the design process

the inside of the high school

The good thing I learned is, when it’s a small school, you get a chance to get to know everyone there, and I appreciated that, we had people from all corners of the world, and I can’t tell you how NEAT it is to interact with people from such different backgrounds! I feel so blessed to have met EVERYONE there, the good, the bad and the ugly. It’s interesting how you look back, and you realize the ways people shaped your life.

This is my good friends, Guillermo.  Isn't he GORGEOUS???

My good friend, Guillermo & I

In Thailand, drinking was legal, so long as you paid, and the same went with prostitution. The typical stereotype if you saw a foreigner with a Thai girl, usually much younger, is she was getting paid for her company, and that was something you saw EVERYDAY! Even the next door neighbor would have parties with a few Thai women when his wife left. Everyone knew everyone else’s business, MUCH more so than should’ve. I guess that’s what happens when wives (of ex-pats) can’t work (weren’t allowed work permits), and have nothing better to do.  Anytime one of the their kids screwed up, and we ALL did, EVERYONE knew about it, and that was really annoying. My bad experience was with our golf cart. One day, I was screwing around on the golf cart paths, going up and down the hills for cheap thrills, and missed a turn,  I tried to compensate by turning sharply, which resulted in me falling out, and the cart kept going…right into the pond!!!!!! I was so upset, one of the neighbors happened to be driving by, and they gave me a lift back home. All I remember was I was grounded after that, and told I could NEVER drive it again! I was able to drive it again, they trusted me, and that was the last time I went up and down hills for excitement! I think it was about $100 or so just to dry it out. My mom jokingly told me to tell people I went looking for my dad’s old golf balls, sadly, that excuse didn’t fly!

WHOOPS!!!

My golf cart fared a little better than this one, but not by much

Thailand has some Amazing beaches, in Pattaya, Phuket, and the small islands. Our family traveled to Phuket a few times, and stayed at Le Meridian Resort, which was recked in the tsunami, but has since been restored. We LOVED that place, there was always something to do, and everyday, they had this fantastic mongolian barbecue (I’m such a foodie), definitely one of the things I looked forward to. The only thing i hated was the pain from my “pasty-white-girl-tan”, otherwise known as a sunburn, from being in the sun all day. Another place we visited was Chiang Mai, and on that trip, this Aussie boyband, Human Nature, performed in the lobby lounge of the hotel, and I remember thinking they were some FINE lookin’ men LOL, but my tastes have changed since then, but a couple of them are still cute LOL. They ended up having some songs on the Asian and Aussie music charts, but nothing too big. What can I say, I was a sucker for any cute boy!!!!

Earlier, I mentioned how I’m kind of a foodie, and I love Thai food. I’m not one for a lot of spice, like most of their dishes, but it’s worth the sacrifice, and if you think you’re eating Thai food, but your nose isn’t running, and eyes aren’t watering, then it may not be authentic. I did learn how to make Thai fried rice, from our maid, sesame beef. I do have a recipe for chicken cashew, just have never made it myself, but it’s awesome! Chicken satay and pad thai are my favorites!

Pad Thai

Pad Thai

Durians are a fruit that is native to southeast Asia, and you would KNOW if you were ever within a half a mile of one, the smell is unforgettable, to say the least! Remember how I said the high school was all open-aired??? Well, one day, someone brought 2 durians to school, and left them at the bottom of the stairs, and the smell was just AWFUL!!! One writer describes it as “overripe cheese. Rotting fish. Unwashed socks. A city dump on a hot summer’s day”, and I couldn’t agree more!! Apparently, the public buses, which are all open-aired as well, wouldn’t allow anyone with one of these supposedly tasty fruits on board due to the pungent odor. I never tried it, the smell was enough to turn me off. Pomelo was another fruit that is native to SE Asia, and it is SO good! It tastes like a sweet, mild grapefruit.

Pomelo

DurianDurian

See this picture…

Gorgeous, huh??? Well, these are what the Thais refer to as Katoys, which means “ladyboys”, and they have Mr. Miss beauty pageants!! So, if you go there, you may not always get what you see, As you can see, many of them are more beautiful than real women! My parents took us to a cabaret show when we were on vacation, and later, we met some of the stars of the show, and my mother broke it to us that they were men, I just couldn’t believe it, they were SO beautiful, but then I noticed the adam’s apple!

While I was in Thailand, I had the opportunity to travel Vietnam, Bali and Australia. I think we loved Phuket so much, we didn’t do as much traveling to other places, but I really don’t have any places on my must see list, that I haven’t already seen. I really loved the people, the culture, and the land, I would move back there in a heartbeat, if given the opportunity! There is a woman’s blog I’ve been reading, who just moved there, and it brings back memories to read about her daily life, although, she lives in a different part of the country. I’m sure I missed things, but this gives you an insight into my life, as well as the things the average tourist might not experience.

Ignorance???

Is it ignorant o think that English should be the only language spoken when it comes to dealing with the government???? I have lived in other countries, and although English is the universal language, we had to learn their language, or find someone to translate for us, and that’s because we were on THEIR TURF! I understand the country is a melting pot, the land of opportunity and freedom, but I really don’t feel asking people to learn English is too much to ask for! They might as well, EVERYTHING is in English, from our street signs to the groceries we buy. I just saw on the news, that when they received some of the mailings back petitioning for it to be on the ballod, people had scribbled such hateful messages, one showed “Ignorant Racist” and they had to blur out some of it. I just feel if you’re coming to my country, you should speak my language, they would expect the same from a foreigner in their country!

I was talking to my friend, Victor, who doesn’t agree with the idea, here’s some of our conversation on Instant Messanger:
(it got a little heated, more so than I would’ve thought, but he is of Mexican descent, and is in law school, so I’m sure he’s argued with fence posts just for the heck of it!;) )

hey, random topic, would you be opposed to making your city english-only??? where they don’t offer spanish speaking people for assistance in gov’t offices???
“Victor”: yes.
christinaeba1983: really, why?
“Victor”: there are a lot of mexicans in holland
“Victor”: and english isnt the national language
“Victor”: and i think its ignorant to assume it is
christinaeba1983: so???? they are on our turf, and yes english is our official language of the USA
“Victor”: or to assume that everyone should speak it
“Victor”: who is they?
christinaeba1983: they’re in our country!
“Victor”: and no its not
christinaeba1983: foreigners
“Victor”: the us doesnt have an official language
christinaeba1983: When I went to Egypt and Thailand, do you think they offered english assistance? no, we needed to learn their language
“Victor”: and they? this land is suppose to be the land of the masses. it is built on the back of immigrants and foreigners. to betray that history seems ridiculous
christinaeba1983: it’s not, but to become a US citizen, you have to know english, and if you don’t, then you most likely don’t belong there
“Victor”: says who?
christinaeba1983: common sense!
“Victor”: thats ridiculous christina
christinaeba1983: Well, I posted a blog about it, go over and comment! lol
“Victor”: i dont need to…i can tell you here that what you said/say is very ignorant of a history of people.
christinaeba1983: I don’t think so at all
christinaeba1983: English is the universal language, people leaving their homelands should learn it
“Victor”: lol you sound so republican and stupid
christinaeba1983: no, but if you’re driving, the street signs are in english, groceries and everything are in english, I shouldn’t have to select whether i want to hear things in english or spanish, should be english automatically
christinaeba1983: if i go to YOUR homeland, then I need to speak YOUR language, and same goes for coming to my homeland
“Victor”: but those are practically the same thing
“Victor”: why?
“Victor”: you ar ridiculous. there is no language of america.
“Victor”: just bc its the primary here in MI doesnt mean thats everywhere
“Victor”: what bothers you about spanish so much
“Victor”: its a beautiful language.
“Victor”: and driving signs are specifically made in shapes to deal with that kind of thing. and spanish speaking people arent ignorant of english completely. to think they couldnt comprehend stop speaks a lot about your ignorance as well.
christinaeba1983: I just think if you’re living here, you should communicate in the common language, and make an effort to learn it
“Victor”: and i think if more americans had a better grasp of the english language then i might care if “foreigners” as you called them, spoke english
christinaeba1983: well if they’re not from here, they are a foreigner…DUH!
christinaeba1983: they’re from a foreign place, meaning not familiar to the US!
“Victor”: and to call them foreigners implies that they dont belong here…my grandma has been an american for over 50 years and doesnt speak english…for you to imply you are any more american than her is ridiculous
“Victor”: not all americans speak english
christinaeba1983: well, they should!
christinaeba1983: all public schools teach in english, am i wrong?
“Victor”: yes
“Victor”: you are
“Victor”: go down to the southwest
christinaeba1983: find me one, you won’t
“Victor”: i think if a group of people wants to preserve their culture by using their language and not being assimilated into america.

What do you think? Would you vote for it? Do you feel it would hurt the city to go English-Only??

Some of you may, or may not, know that I used to live in Egypt. I may not have appreciated it as much as I should have, but I do now, it was a WONDERFUL learning experience! Before I moved there, I really, truly, was under the impression that we would be living in pyramids and riding camels everywhere…never hit me that my dad worked for a CAR COMPANY!!!! I think I told everyone I knew I’d be living in a pyramid and I’m pretty sure I practiced walking like an Egyptian in the mirror!!!

Well, after 13 hours of flying, we landed in Cairo. The smells are what hit you first. A combination of sweat, body odor, and must, with a hint of the worst cologne you ever could smell! It’s kind of crazy it’s been 14 years and I still remember, but it was so different, how could I not? I really felt like I took a step back in time, it just seemed like the men were dressed in 80’s attire, and everything just looked so old. When you step foot outside of the airport, most of the cars were old and clunky, cabs included. I’d never been around people who had to cover their heads or faces, so it was all very new to me, and at that time, I wasn’t very familiar with the Muslim religion, but it was clearly evident we weren’t in Grand Blanc, Michigan anymore!

It was around midnight local time when we arrived, but our first stop was to take a look at where we’d be living, which was NOT a pyramid! We had a lovely apartment, just different from what I was used to, I’d never lived in an apartment building, and again, there was a funky stench in the building. Also, living on the 5th floor is not a great floor to live on, should the electricity go out, and it went out often. We later learned one of the bathrooms stunk, permanently, of whatever it was our landlord, right above us, was cooking (and they loved their garlic)! What was even stranger was we had 2.5 bathrooms, and they were all next to each other, the stinky bathroom was maroon, and my parents’ bathroom was a hideous pickle green! Luckily, the half bath guests would use was attractive, which was all my mother worried about. I thought it was the coolest thing that I had a balcony off of my room, it was small, but it had a view of the school. We then went to the hotel, and stayed there for a few days while we got situated.

My first mini-expedition was right after I moved in, my mother asked me to go get some milk from the market, Kimo Market (which you’ll see briefly in the video clip @ the end), and all I had to do was go straight, but somehow, I ended up over on one of the busiest streets in the area, referred to as Road 9, and I started on 210, and a nun, or that’s what I remember she was, was nice enough to help me get home. I didn’t know a phone number, or even where home was, all I knew was I lived near CAC, but hours later, I got home in one piece. And my mother swears my sense of direction hasn’t improved much since!!!!

The following week, I started school at Cairo American College, it was Kindergarten through grade 12. It was much smaller than what i was used to, only about 100 students per grade. It was early November, so I remember feeling so overwhelmed on the first day, and later realized it was MUCH more difficult than I expected. The school was great though, there were people from all over the world, places I’d never even heard of, and I was able to learn so much about the world, namely geography and cultures. In the US, they focus on government, civics and usually the history of your state, I did however, learn so much about Egypt, their culture and the Muslim Religion, and when you understand why people are different, and do the things they do, you’re a whole lot more accepting. The Middle East gets such a bad rap, the only time you hear about it on the new is when something horrible happens, or because of the war, and it’s not all bad, the WHOLE region is not comprised of terrorists, if it was, they would’ve all killed each other by now! Only one terrorist attack occurred while we were there, and it wasn’t even aimed at Americans. Sadly, it was a BAD case of mistaken identity. I really take offense when people make those generalizations, they’re people too, just from a different background! Sorry, I tend to stray. The school I went to was a private American school, very advanced, and pretty up with the rest of the world, technologically speaking. I took Arabic classes the 2nd and 3rd years I was there, and learned how to read and write it. I tested it out a lot on our Boab (doorman) and our driver, both named Ahmed. When living there, it seemed as if there were only a handful of men’s names to choose from, It was as if every man were named either Ahmed, Mohammed, Abdul, Mahmoud, and Sharif. Seemed like there were even fewer female names, so we often would get people’s names mixed up, or we’d get lucky when picking one of the few we could think of LOL. My dad learned a few words in Arabic and he took a fondness to “habib” and “habibi”, which means love, or my love, and he called EVERYONE it, very amusing, if not embarrassing! We’re really lucky we never had any need for medical care while we were there, the hospital was called salaam something or another, and “ma’asalaam” means good-bye, so we deemed it the ma’asalaam hospital and joked if you went in, you wouldn’t be coming back out! For all we knew, it could’ve been just fine, but then again, Egypt was still a developing nation (developing nations don’t like the term “3rd world”). This was back in 1994-1997 that I was there, so I’m sure a lot has changed since then.

The really cool thing from CAC was that we started a rehabilitation program for Egyptian Tortoises, which are endangered. We took responsibility for feeding and caring for them, and that was a lot of fun. I believe they’re still doing the project to this day, and we weren’t even sure it’d continue after the first year. Another interesting thing we did was went and spent 4 nights in the desert, living with Bedouins. It was our 8th grade trip (we went on an overnight trip every year), but this one was my least favorite. Living in the desert means no plumbing…of any kind! We dug holes, did our business (behind a giant rock), and burned the toilet paper. Not my idea of a vacation! We snorkled, and on my first day, I managed to lose all my gear except a fin, due to waves. Snorkling was the only thing that got me through 4 days without showering, but salt water isn’t the greatest either! And I must say, snorkeling in the Red Sea is nothing but spectacular! It’s so beautiful! There was supposed to be something educational about the trip, however, I was probably too annoyed with the fact that one of the teachers (a gym teacher at that, so it was weird she came) washed her hair EVERYDAY, and I couldn’t even get a shower, that I just don’t remember!!! Oh well, I survived. I do remember having several bloody noses on that trip, due to the dry air, that was not fun (although one was caused by another girl over something stupid, but I still remember LOL, wonder where Kristin Schaffer is today). I also remember wishing I’d brought a warmer sleeping bag, it was COLD at night! It wasn’t a good trip for me, I won’t lie, but it’s one to remember! The 6th grade trip for students was to Luxor, which is where the Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens are, where King Tut’s tomb is, and a whole lot of history. In the 7th grade, we were supposed to go to Amman, Jordon, but due to current events at the time, we ended up going to Al Arish, and it was an alright trip…first time I ever played Truth or Dare LOL, and that’s about all I remember! I did take a class, Egypt in Greek and Roman Times, and that was a really interesting class, more notably, I got to travel to Rome during my spring break in 7th grade! I LOVED Rome, it was gorgeous, and we did a ton of sight seeing, and the food was to die for! I digressed again!

The pyramids and sphinx were only about a 30 minute drive from where we lived, and we went there a few times, my mom even did a Christmas card of us in front of the pyramids. There was also the City of the Dead, which was miles of tombs, but a lot of poor people lived there as well, which is kind of creepy when you think about it. Another sight is the Citadel, i went there, but couldn’t tell you anything about it.

The Citadel

Driving in Egypt is something to be experienced…they try to make 5 lanes out of 3. Other things I found interesting in Egypt were that Arby’s delivered, McDonald’s had just opened it’s first restaurant in Cairo right before we moved there, and it was ALWAYS busy, even during Ramadan (when Muslims fast for a month), I think all ex-patriots had the same idea, to go there LOL. We had a Domino’s move into the bottom of the apartment building across the street, and that was convenient. Egyptian food, in my opinion, is bland, and the only think I liked was hummus and bread.

Here’s a video that kinda shows what Ma’adi, the ex-pat community we lived in, looks like, including CAC. It’s kinda long, but the last 2 minutes are the most interesting.

Next time…Thailand! Here’s a snippet from a previous post

You may remember a post where I had said I’d live in Australia, if I could live anywhere, well I came across a website that compiled all the idiotic things foreigners have asked about Australia, they’re quite amusing!

Q: Does it ever get windy in Australia? I’ve never seen it rain on TV. How do your plants grow? (UK)
A: We import all of our plants fully grown and then sit around watching them die.

Q: My wife and I enjoy walking tours. How long will it take us to get from Perth to Sydney on foot? (Canada)
A: How long did it take you to do your last 4,000 kilometre walk? Bring a bottle of water.

Q: Are there any ATMs (cash machines) in Australia? If so, can you send me a list of all of them in Brisbane, Cairns, Townsville and Hervey Bay? (UK)
A: What did your last slave die of?

Q: What is the weather like in Vienna in May? (USA)
A: Aus-tri-a is that quaint little country bordering Ger-man-y.

Q: Are there supermarkets in Sydney, and is milk available year-round? (Germany)
A: No, we are a peaceful nation of vegan hunters and gatherers. Milk is illegal.

Q: Are the rattlesnakes in Melbourne deadly? Do you sell anti-venom at the grocery store? (USA)
A: Rattlesnakes live in A-mer-i-ca, which is where you come from. Australian snakes are perfectly harmless, can be safely handled and make great pets.

Q: Do you celebrate Christmas in Australia? If so, when? (France)
A: Occasionally, and if so than during our Christmas annual leave.

Q: Will I be able to speak English most places I go in Australia? (USA)

A: Yes, but you will have to learn it first.

Some guy then added what he’d been asked about Canada:

I live in Canada and I’ve been asked questions like:
Q: “Do you live in an igloo?”
A: Only in winter. In summer we build houses from the trees.

Q: “Are there any cars where you come from?”
A: Cars were sooooo 1989. We have gliders. You know… like The Jetsons did.

Q: “Does maple syrup really come from trees?”
A: “Yes. Once a year, every Candian picks one maple tree and squeeze it very hard while talking nicely to it. We do this for about an hour until you have convinced the tree to give up it’s bodily fluids.”

Q: “Does the sun ever shine over there?”
A: “Only if we dance around naked circling a pack of beavers singing: eh? eh? eh? eh?, over and over again. We don’t get much sun.

And many more… I don’t think the Americans know that southern Canda is just a little to the north of New York and Washington. Oh well…

Now, I remember when I moved to Egypt for the first time (at age 11, mind you) , thinking we would be living in pyramids and riding camels everywhere, however, I then realized my dad worked for a car company, I guess it’s a little more evolved than people walking like Egyptians!!!!

Unbelievable

U.S. soldier uses Quran for target practice; military apologizes

I must say, this has to be one of the most disrespectful things anyone could do, how dare someone go to another country and have the audacity to use their holy book as target practice! I am not Muslim, obviously, but how would you feel if someone of another faith came over and shot up a Bible????? The Korans look just like our bibles, as far as the size and types of coverings, there’s no excuse to not knowing it was the Koran!! I just think it sets a horrible impression of Americans, especially when we’re over there trying to help, yet this is an awful setback for all their hard work. The Muslim culture is VERY different than ours, and rather than learning and accepting it as a way of life for some people, many would just rather judge! When living overseas, especially in Egypt, which is primarily Muslim, I sometimes felt embarrassed because it was as if we came to their home, and acted as if they needed to cater to us, and the ways we are used to living, and that’s not how it’s supposed to be at all. I think, many a times, we forget we are guests there, and should be respectful of other people’s cultures, regardless where we are, but ESPECIALLY when we’re guests in their country! For those of you who aren’t familiar with Islam, here’s the rundown:

God is Allah

Prophet is Mohammed

Pillars of Islam:

  1. Faith – Believe Allah is the one and only God
  2. Prayer – Must Pray 5 times a day, which is why the call of prayer goes off so much
  3. Fast – Annually, during Ramadan, it’s about a month’s time, and they fast from sun-up to sundown, no water, and they must abstain from sexual relations w/ their spouses as well (which I didn’t know until now, but i guess they wouldn’t tell you that in middle school)
  4. Pilgrimage – All Muslims must make at least one pilgrimage (hajj) in their lifetime to Mecca (in Saudi Arabia)
  5. Giving Alms – Every Muslim has a financial obligation, but is dependent on the individual.

Now, a lot of people are aware they (the men) are polygamists, and they are, however, their reasoning for this is that by having so many wives (4 max), they are guaranteed to have a male heir. What most outsiders don’t realize is that they all MUST be treated equally, so if he buys one wife a diamond ring, they all get a diamond ring, so there is no special treatment, or at least, there’s not supposed to be.

Islam isn’t for me, but it really isn’t as bad as a lot of people make it out to be…And just like any religion, there are the extremists, who will take it a whole lot further, but that’s why they’re called fundamentalists!