Sunday, June 24, 2007

Abnormal normal

Again greetings from Cairo,
Since we've resided here in this Middle Eastern metropolis for almost two months, I've actually been excited to add to my previous comments. As Ammon mentioned earlier, about 20 million people call Cairo their home including three million residing on and in the cemeteries of their family's direct ancestors. We've witnessed this on more than one occasion, in more than one location...can you imagine? I've read that of the total population one third lack running water and one quarter have no sewers! Its been figured that the green area per citizen is about 13 sq. cm (not enough to even cover the palm of a young child). Not too surprising when almost 97% of this France -sized country is desert! Cairo out does LA. in air pollution each day although we've noticed days of wide fluctuation as measured by how many bridges spanning the river are visible to us on any particular day when either walking or taking a taxi across the Nile to work. A good comparison is that for each day of breathing downtown air its like smoking 30 cigarettes! Having read what I just wrote, I'm both amazed and disturbed that I have somewhat become adjusted to it. Traffic is the main culprit with coaches, city buses, tourist buses, mini-buses, all sorts of different vans and taxis, motorbikes, and scooters all contributing as well as those crazy enough to drive their own private vehicles. Sitting in the front seat of a taxi makes one really believe many if not one pedestrian (they really are technically all jay-walkers who risk life and limb trusting in the quick reflexes of all drivers) will be found under the front bumper or any of the fenders upon reaching one's destination! Riding a bike in traffic is tantamount to suicide! There are more than 60,000 service taxis alone (large extended vans) that carry a million plus back and forth to work daily. There are two lines of Metro (subway/train) transport with a third hopefully to be built in the near future. One line travels under downtown, then under the Nile and towards the pyramids with nineteen stops. The second line crosses the first line deep under downtown at about a right angle and has a total of 33 stops. As a rule the first cars are reserved for women only and once accidentally I got caught alone in one of these. The others were entering a particular car and I was afraid I wasn't going to make it inside with the crowded conditions so I practically dove in the next forward car's door. Oh well, wrong car, and embarrassed, I made a point to quickly alleviate any fears (yes, I generated a few "concerned" and many curious looks from my female co-passengers as well as my family members looking through the connecting glass door between the two cars) by making friends with about seven children hanging bewildered on their mothers' attire. Soon they were encouraging their offspring to speak to me....their English was much better than my handful of Arabic. It actually was not only humbling but also fun and I felt a keen sense that not only I but they were disappointed as well when I calmly exited waving goodbye and rejoined the others to our mutual relief.........
We're still hanging out in a totally low end hotel in the center of downtown Cairo. Its $11.00 cdn a night total for the family.... We're making friends and going exploring on foot and city bus to Old Cairo, Zamelek, Islamic Cairo, Coptic Cairo, etc..... all of which are quarters of this mega city. In the Islamic sector, Bre and I each climbed our own of twin minarets high above a Mameluke-built heavy wooden entrance gate upon which unfortunates were nailed (900-1100's AD). The last uppermost tier was accessed by a very open spiraling wrought iron ladder that shook around in the wind through the narrow pillars that supported the small dome above.
It really is too crazy to explain what its like here. Traffic jammed into 10 lanes on a street designed for 6, butchered parts of various animals (including tail) hanging in the doorways of the street shops in the hot sun and flies, hearing the loudspeakers blaring the Muslim prayers from the nearby mosque throughout the day beginning shortly after 4 am., live chickens, ducks, pigeons, and rabbits held in wicker type cages being sold on the street as an option for that night's dinner, young and old alike jumping in the rear side door to catch a moving bus as it merely slows down for its would-be passengers in heavy traffic.....all too common occurrences to mention a few in this family's daily routine.
We plan to leave in two groups in a couple of days for a most likely temporary jaunt up to Alexandria on the Mediterranean Sea. Maggie and I will leave first as we have a commercial to do. Rhiis will accompany us with Ammon and the others following.
I eagerly await sharing it all with my nephew Clayton who as I write is boarding his plane at SeaTac Int'l preparing for a trip he'll not likely forget any time soon!!!
All the best, Brandon

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Getting excited

I thought that maybe I would show my voice again to you and give an update on life as I see it.

I still can't believe that on the way to work (when we work) we drive over the Nile River and past the Pyramids. It's so crazy that we are working in the movies, commercials etc, as a groupie (family). It really is fun and very easy work. I like reading my books while waiting to get on set. We work really long hours but like I said its easy work. Oh, we have also increased our pay 500% and looking at more again soon. The more we work the better known we get and the more we are paid.

We are getting excited now to have our very first family member join us for the summer! He arrives in 4 days. After much begging on our part we are getting Clayton yea yay. We plan to take this 15 year old teenager and make him into an angel and then send him back to his parents, with an new outlook and appreciation for life. hahaha Really we can't wait to show him around and see the rest of Egypt ourselves . We are antsy and just hanging out and not actually traveling even though our work is fun. We will get Clayton into the movies as well, and when we get high paying shots we will zip back to Cairo, work, then go back on the road. We plan to stay in Egypt for a while longer before continuing on our long haul.

Life is great and I continue to live a dream. Come join us any time or send your kids if you can't come yourselves..... all are welcome.


P.S. Shean for your information Coke is much better then Pepsi here in Cairo. I'm a little embarrassed to say that the little vendor shop that we frequent only carried Pepsi until we begged for Coke and now he keeps his fridge loaded for us. Thanks for being a faithful follower we don't know what we would do with out you. Please email me the info on your friend and we will be glad to send post cards.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Attitude change

Dear Family, Friends, Friends to be, Strangers and Critics,
So happy to report neither ankle has been twisted, broken, disfigured, or in any way, shape or form injured due to showering here in cramped quarters since last I wrote. It is quite feasible for any Westerner at first glance at bathroom facilities, equipped with shower heads installed just off centre above toilet bowls, to easily conjure up doubts of personal safety....... even to simply perform what to many of us is just an uneventful daily occurrence. Yes, a feasible reaction initially, but thereafter not justifiable, for with most things, given time, attitudes do change. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined how soon a multi-tasking mindset, necessarily developed over the past two years conducting business in Vancouver, BC., would come to my aid in such a peculiar manner on the opposite side of the planet. Utilizing this principle enabled me to approach this showering issue with somewhat of a different attitude. To my surprise, I discovered I could wash my socks in the wash basin, while showering sitting on the toilet.....simultaneously!! What a reverse in attitude! For I amazingly find myself not minding my trips to the "facilities" and even on occasion actually looking forward to it! Did I just write that? Only a matter of weeks ago in the oasis town of Siwa, with anything short of a down right emergency, one would be hard pressed to get me setting foot inside the "water closet". Rather than an example using food, culture, traffic, people, etc., and risking over-kill, I chose a familiar place in our homes, where hopefully even a few minutes of solace may be found in this hectic world of ours, to clearly make my point.... Attitudes can be changed even to one's utter amazement and with it hope for the future!! Wouldn't you agree?

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Watkins-and-a-half (Rhiis and Savannah)

Since the first day Rhiis (he HAS to be first of course - 25 years old, generally from California) and Hunter (30 years old, generally from Texas) came unexpectedly knocking on our door, they've never been able to tear themselves from our presence! Soon after, Hunter moved into our mosquito-infested hostel to avoid trouble for committing hostel adultery (using another hostel's kitchen) - he continues to come and go from our room as he pleases and has made himself our personal chef. Hunter humbly requests to be remembered for his rice pudding and here we shall commemorate him. Rhiis spends every waking moment with us, now a full-time Watkins-and-a-half. Fortunately, soon after we met him, he became partners with the directing casting agent, so we HAVE to be nice to him now! Shucks, haha.

Getting to the star of the show, Rhiis is now going to attempt (but he claims he will succeed) to update this bloggerific blog. Here we go...

Ladies and gents and sports coats of all sizes! Gather 'round the campfire, pull up a chair and get ready for a ride. It's a little ride called Egypt, and it's as always wild as burning cows. Maybe I should retract that statement - it's not all been fun and games, it's been a lot of staring at the "gerbil box" ceiling and wondering what in the dickens we're going to occupy ourselves with. In between bouts of mosquito massacres and mice smashings, a job rolled in like a fat man greased down with Crisco. Savannah ("oh, look, I got to be first!"), Bre ("oh I got to be second, that's okay"), Ammon, Brandon and I all tore ourselves from tedium and met at Club 35-or-something. The movie stars Ahmed Helmy and this was taking place at a famous night club. It wasn't too long of a day, and I got to act like an insane drunk on the dance floor. It wasn't too hard of a job. Savannah did the most wonderful thing a person could ever do and tricked me into eating goose liver pate ("I told you we were corrupting him." - Savannah), I am a vegetarian. Ugh. It tasted like death and I realized that immediately as my face wrinkled in disgust. But anyway.

The day came at last - the day where we could not bear to sit indoors forever. It was decided - Islamic Cairo was the destination, and I would act as the guide, dragging these helpless souls into the depths of Cairo's insanity. (Bre and I couldn't help but notice all of the similarities between Rhiis and Ammon. They are both tall, thin, smart, have their ears pierced, don't move their arms when they walk and wear big clunky boots. Rhiis was constantly looking back and checking that we were all there and happy. Something Ammon would never dream of doing, haha. -Savannah) And so we began, spending the day wandering the Medieval gates and walls of old Il-Qahira ("Cairo," the European corrupted form of "Il-Qahira," means "The Victorious." But that's a long story...), tasting cold pudding sweets ($.05 each!) and eating at dirt-cheap eateries ($2 to stuff 5 people!). We got dragged into some papyrus shop for free karkadi (hibiscus tea), wandered around the ancient market of the Khan al-Khalili and had overpriced drinks at El-Fishawy's cafe, a cafe that has been open 24 hours a day for the past 200-300 years. I even got to witness the legendary Maggie and Ammon screaming down the Fishawy's worker for charging more than he quoted. Good times.

In-room days and days of few attractions: a night of face-painting, seeing "Pirates of the Caribbean 3" and "Ocean's Thirteen," brainstorming an entire night to come up with a new name for the casting agency ("Casheesh," "Castanova," "Ridicutarded", etc.), complaining about the lack of hot water, going out for the world's best ice cream, listening to Bre whine and complain about her situation with Darrin, Savannah constantly begging for hand massages, singing Ahmed Purpleshirt's theme song...and so on. As always, every one's sleeping schedules are destroyed and off-set, staying up to 8am and never sleeping. Thank you, Nescafe. Thank you very much.

Yesterday was another day that we just couldn't sit put for hours on end. We all, minus Bre and Maggie, met at 9am after very few hours of sleep. We grabbed some sandwiches for the day's adventure and then hustled on out to...drum-roll please...SAQQARA, site of the world's oldest stone structure - the step pyramid of Djoser - and location of the world's oldest religious texts, the Pyramid Texts in the pyramid of Teti (or "titty" as Brandon says it). Hunter stayed behind and hung out at the police stand near the desert's entrance while we spent hours wandering the Imhotep museum, farting it up around the ancient sites, purposefully pestering guards and waving baksheesh in the faces of those who will never receive baksheesh (tips). From beginning to end, we were insane - chanting low and loud in the reverberant rooms of Teti's chambers, Ammon demanding that all the guards give HIM baksheesh, Savannah telling Egyptians that Ammon and I were her two husbands, Brandon saying he is from Iceland and convincing guards that I am loaded with cash... we were insane. We picked up Hunter on the way out, made our way back into town and treated ourselves to a much needed ice cream. The day was a great one, I can see that travelling with this family of insanity would be non-stop laughs...which is why I am now considering taking them around my beloved Egypt, which I know like the back of my hand (there's a freckle just to the left of my ring finger). We shall see. Everything in Egypt is by "inshallah" (God willing). Being of the traditional Egyptian sort, I'd like to say "inshil'aleyha" (The gods willing...)

Until next time,
Savannah and Rhiis
Rhiis and Savannah
Savaniis and Rhiivannah

Breanna watched us write this.

Thursday, June 07, 2007


Hey sorry about the silence guys. Certain individuals in this group do not respond to subtle prompting to go write a blog so you are stuck with me. Actually there isn't that much to write that you'll find terribly exciting. We are still in the same spot looking for work. The girls are much more popular than I am and get more jobs and better pay. They've even gone so far as to lighten their hair now so that Savannah is blonde (and dumber?) and Bre has some funky, I'm-on-crack, multicoloured weird red and yellow thing going on on the top of her head. Looks cool though. People are pretty shallow here so it is thought that lighter hair is more attractive and will result in more business. We shall see.
We've been fortunate in meeting a couple of cool guys, Rhiis and Hunter that hang out with us all the time. Both are very well travelled or familiar with the area and I find myself being led around town on our excursions. So nice to not have to do the guiding and work. We are all doing the same thing and it is looking like we will all be "stuck" together for the summer. Makes it much more interesting than having people just passing through every couple days.
On another note, we are now thinking of trying to find some exposure. Not because we actually want to be movie stars or anything but because so many people have told us that we have an interesting story to tell. I think this trip would make a hilarious reality tv show because you should see these clowns on a normal day. There's no end to the energy and nonsense. Anyway, we are spending some of our free time now trying to dig into some contacts and see what happens. The media industry doesn't have the vision to think as grand as a reality show but we have tried contacting Oprah and the like. If you know anyone in the field or have any ideas, start talking. We heard from a guy in Dahab that they ran a small article about us in a newspaper in Calgary (we were so shocked when we heard that one but he knew about us already) so there must be some appeal.
Crazy thing happened to me the other day too. I was in the Libyan embassy with dad (looking into other routing options) and ran into an older french guy that we met one year ago in Uzbekistan on the bus. I ended up sharing a room with him in the hotel in Nukus back then and we split after 2 days together. He speaks no english and I never thought I'd see him again but there he was on his next summer vacation. It was totally bizarre and is the new record for meeting someone at random.