Monday, April 30, 2007


We've had a bit of a wild time since leaving Dahab but I won't even be able to catch up in this blog. We took an overnight bus to Alexandria and immediately caught another for 9 more hours to get to Siwa Oasis in the far west of the country. It is the most popular and famous oasis and seems pretty out of place in the middle of an empty, sandy desert. It is slightly below sea level and exists because of a number of springs (hot and cold) in the area, which have ended up creating lakes of both fresh and salt water nearby. Agriculture and a little desert safari tourism are the only things out there so the village is small and really quiet. Lots of date palms and donkey carts.
The Siwans are very conservative (you only see the women completely covered and being driven around on the back of said donkey carts) and consider themselves to be different from the Egyptians. They speak a language (siwan) related to the Berber tongue spoken in western Africa and distantly related to Arabic I think. Don't quote me on that though. Personally I found the Siwans to be very laid back and generally indifferent to us few foreigners there right now. In all these conservative middle eastern countries homosexuality is quite common, though very, very wrong (they have some truly ridiculous and mind-blowing social rules here concerning what you can do without being considered gay) and in the past Siwa had developed quite a reputation as a hotbed of activity. I wouldn't really bring that sort of thing up except that we now know which of the 3 men in the group is the most attractive. The hotel receptionist (guy) was totally hitting on Grady! But really any guy travelling in the middle east for an extended period of time and interacting with the locals will get hit on sometime (including me in Oman). I've heard so many stories.
Siwa is a really old place too. It was visited by Alexander the Great (~330BC) as he came through Egypt so he could consult the oracle in town. Of course it is a temple to the sun God, Amun Ra. I've also seen it spelt Amon, Amoon, and Ammon. Needless to say, I've had a number of Egyptians do double takes when first hearing my name. It's cool. In the rest of the middle east, people just thought it was Ahmed, Amin or Hamid and wouldn't be persuaded otherwise. For our family field trips we rented bicycles (first time I've been on one since China) and rode out to the ruined temples, swam in a spring pool and visited the nearby lake. We were there 4 days and opted not to do any overnight safaries because they are only by jeep. We're in the middle of the desert and there are no camels! How is that possible? We also rode out to the edge of the sand dunes with a new found American friend, Rob, to have a roll in the sand. Hard sand unfortunately and we were actually in a sand pit with dump trucks. While most of us are now too old and sensible to get totally covered in sand, Bre was doing flips off sand cliffs and Savannah "sandboarded" Grady down a hill. Too funny. Other than that we also had a walk through the ruins of the old town and were generally lazy. Siwa is so laid back that we have a new "slowest restaurant" record. We waited 3 hours for pancakes and fruit salad breakfasts on one of the days!
From there it was all the way back to Cairo where we are now and will be for a bit. I've had a bit of a sinus infection lately, due in part to the irritation caused by water while diving. Very annoying.

Saturday, April 21, 2007


I love the comments coming in!!
I guess Its my turn to share a little about the diving. OH MAN I LOVED IT!!! Though knowing me there is bound to be some interesting stories. These bums tried to scare me again with the whole shark attack thing.. For example Savannah and Grady will point behind me with wide panicked eyes and make chomping shark teeth with their hands. HA HA not funny.. of course they thought so. You can always tell when someone laughs because a huge load of air bubbles will come bursting out of their regulator. We had fun poking the bubbles too. Yeah we get amused quite easily. I had a blast doing twists and flips when ever I had the chance. The head stand on the bottom was pretty fun or doing one-handed handstands on Grady's head was quite the show. I think our coach sometimes didn't know what to do with us. ahahahh We are a very unusual groupie always cracking jokes or volunteering to tell which one of us it was who made the mistake. I basically went nuts down there! Oh there were a few stupid things. Everyone laughed at me when I screamed underwater at a big fish with its mouth wide open charging at me. Now I don't exactly know how this happened but at one point I barfed into my regulator. EWWW and if you don't know already....I HATE puking, it scares the daylights out of me every time. I'm not sure how I managed to fix that and not bolt for the top. I don't want to look like a sissy you know. I really had fun though and it was sad at the end to be finished. Now I can't wait to get back in the water. We had some fun doing crazy flips off this one boat causing a scene....oops. The water wasn't too too bad. I did shiver a bit and hauled butt in the swim test part to keep warm " just keep swimming, just keep swimming". I really loved all of it! The salt water helped my sore toe and we all can feel how soft we have become. We must have been sand paper before compared to this. I think we are the lucky ones to have had such a great teacher (Yasser Hassan) we highly recommend him. Contact us if you want more info about him. He was "super" - as that was his favourite word! We all had tons of fun. I really like Dahab, its really nice and cute. I love palm trees, nice restaurants on the water with cute lanterns and lots of pillows, warm weather and friendly people who are constantly welcoming you. I can't stop smiling. Grady, Savannah and I had Canadian flags on our cheeks due to the face paints I brought. I couldn't help it. Call me a big kid all you want because still everyone thinks Savannah is around 19 years old and I am 13 to 17 yrs max. I don't care I just laugh at the shocked faces when they hear that I am 19. Hahahah I feel great having a first aid and scuba diving certificate in my little wallet!! I wonder what the next task will be.
Life is good!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Open Water Divers!

Yes, it's true. We are now open water divers having survived our last 3 open water dives yesterday. It was a busy week and we are all wiped out. I am happy that the others decided that it was worth forcing me to risk drowning myself so they could call it a family activity (Sky has already done it in Okinawa and we'll have to go together after he gets out and joins us). Lucky for them I am hard to kill but in all honesty it was probably the hardest thing I've ever done. The mental battle completely wore me out the first couple dives. If not for our excellent instructor I probably would've quit at some point. Take my mask off and I am still a mess..... I did end up enjoying it though and would like to try more sometime. We will hit lots of coastline in lots of countries before we get home, just need to find the money to do it. In the end, Bre was the best (she's crazy) and Dad had the biggest problems with equalization. I definately use the most air, I think mom doesn't even breathe under there because she'll have more than half a tank when I am empty. The biggest problem was that with a group of 5 learning (Grady is already qualified and did his own dives while here), there is little or no time to do any fun stuff after we do our training activities. I will try to get them to tell their stories on here but they are kind of lazy and are currently sitting on the beach suntanning. We are done with all that and I am itching to move again. Grady is running out of time so I want to get on to the next place. It is funny how early we have been sleeping, though I am the worst. Usually around 8:30pm (though I think I slept at 7pm once) and up at 6am. I was doing that before I even started diving though and I should be the least jetlagged..... The others are a little later usually. Dahab in other ways has been a bit of a disappointment to me. I was expecting something with more palm trees and sand like Gokarna, India or in Sri Lanka. Too over-developed and it is more for the cheap package tourists rather than true backpackers. Good place to learn to dive and get out as we will do. I'll have to find somewhere else to rest (if that is possible with this crowd in tow....)

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Diving in the Red Sea

We are, as you know taking our open water diving course, in Dahab Egypt on the red sea. We have been doing this all week and today we finished our written test and all passed with flying colours!!!!!! Tomorrow we spend the day again in the water working on our buoyancy (this is trickier than you think). The water is colder than I would have liked (the Maldives or Sri Lanka would have been much better) but we are surviving thanks to hot showers in between dives. Our instructor is excellent, thus our good marks on the exam. This diving thing is hard work and we are absolutely exhausted at the end of each day hitting the sack at 8:00 and not stirring until morning. We are all surprised at how strenuous this is. Well this is a short up date so you wont think that we have all drowned.
Love to all
P.S. Ammon can breath underwater too. We managed to talk him into joining us in this adventure.

Friday, April 13, 2007


I've been so busy lately....
It is definately a lot different going back to travelling with a group again. I arrived in Amman a few days ahead of the others and pretty much just sat and swapped stories with other backpackers for 2 full days before picking them up at the airport. Nobody travels in the gulf countries so it was nice to be back on the backpacker trail and meet a few others. Found some very cool people.
Unfortunately after places like Istanbul, Damascus and Sana'a, Amman is a quick-look boring city. I knew that ahead of time but it was definately true. It's just middle of the pack at best. Not as wealthy and developed as the gulf capitals (though it is trying) and not as historic as the ones listed above. It has lots of history though. Amman was once known as Rabbath-Ammon, the capital of the biblical Ammonites (do you think I could be the next king?) , later it served as an important Roman city but apart from a few ruins in town, there is little left to do or see.
With the rest of the family in tow we used Amman as a base for day trips out to the Roman ruins of Jerash and the Dead Sea. As Bre said before it was cool but the one thing I found most annoying is that it is surprisingly difficult to get around to anywhere in Jordan on your own. It is a well touristed country (going through a slump because of the current problems in the area) but definately targetting the package tourists who tend to hire cars to take them around. There simply is no public transport to the huge number of historical and religiously significant sites scattered all over the country. I was quite disappointed.
The girls have jumped right into being on the road again. It is like they never really left and Savannah has been put in as second-in-command until dad finished his training. You should see the way she bargains and yells at taxi drivers. I'm so proud :) Dad (and Grady) is a total newbie at this and it is funny to see him trying to adjust. He's a trooper though and just needs a little time. It was strange to see him not appreciate the evils of taxis and shop touts, but I think he's got it now. Gotta keep an eye on him though :)
Petra was cool. The town Wadi Mousa just outside of it sucks though. The people are generally horrible and cheaters. Too many package tourists going through and inflating all the prices. We actually had the hotel owner (a very nice guy) do all our shopping and bring us dinner because it was half the price that way. He didn't have to do us that service but it really helped. Petra itself is so much more than the one building that you see in Indiana Jones. That one is in the best shape but there is so much more. The buildings are carved out of the side of the mountains on a very large scale but quite weather worn now. The most disappointing part is that they tend to be just a single plain and empty room inside so apart from walking around outside and looking at the facades there isn't much to see. Not much in the way of tiny detail either. It was nice though. We spent 2 full days walking around and exploring the place.
Having come up from Yemen where it was roasting hot, I am finding it quite cold these days. I was freezing in Amman and walking around Petra I was constantly switching between a sweater and T-shirt.
From Petra it was straight to the ferry terminal in Aqaba and off to Egypt. We are now in Dahab, a big time backpacker hangout but at the moment it is not very busy. It is also super famous in the area for its dive sites and cheap lessons so the rest of the group is going to do the open water PADI class. I am not, on the grounds that I can't breathe calmly snorkelling so there is no point going deeper. We'll see how it goes for them. Grady is already experienced and did a dive today and was very impressed. Otherwise it seems like a lot of hanging out and doing nothing over here for the next little while. This morning we had a crazy and unusual storm for the area. Thunderstorm and the largest hail I've ever seen, the size of marbles and quite painful to get hit by. We all quickly learned that most of the rooms here have very leaky roofs so that was quite exciting. We are now drying stuff out and trying to recover. Fortunately these types of things don't last more than a couple hours.

Monday, April 09, 2007


Hey family and everyone else reading!
First of all my first draft got erased and you all know how frusterating that can be.. so give me some credit here.
Well then, here I am again back on the trip. Its funny because when I got home it was like I never left but so much had changed. I saw things differently and still loved being at home. Now that I am back out here it feels like I never left, yet I have developed a new point of veiw on it all. I must say it sure is fun to train Grady and Dad into the routine of things. Its funny to watch their reactions on things I wouldn't have even thought twice about. Seems like all we talk about is the trip and how far we've come and all the crazy adventures along the way. Then again.. I have heard a lot of complaining about the extra storage weight (FAT) we have all gained at home. I can easily say we are burning it off because we are very busy creatures again. I have nick named Jordan as Lego Land for that is what all the cities look like. Interesting indeed but I like it. We went to Jerash and saw Roman ruins. I really love that style with all the streets lined with pillars. Must have been so beautiful in its day. So far my favourite choice would be the Dead Sea only because it was the weirdest thing floating on water. I couldnt believe it. Grady first thing goes ahead and attemps to dive in making a retard of himself splashing everywhere and yelling "What the hell I can't go down". Jeez that was hilarious. I guess you've got to find out one way or another. The water does sting like crazy if you get it in your eyes which Grady knows all about or have a cut which I did have but the salt was good for it in the long run. Oh and bad idea to taste it. EWWWW. I harsh got burnt that day..Damn and I never burn. This sucks. We have been doing lots of hikes and long walks. Petra is wicked but I will let somone else tell you about that. It sure is great to have a big groupy and joke around all the time. Feeling great.. but its harsh when you have to say bye to everyone at home and continue to miss them all over again. Pooh.
Sorry folks I will have to work on my blogging skills since I am a little rusty. I will try again asap.

3D Bre!

Monday, April 02, 2007

Farewell again

Well, it's off to see Amman, Jordan and Ammon as well hahaha. I can't believe how fast time flies! I really enjoyed myself being home and visiting friends and family, catching up on a bit of homework and getting some work experience. Now it's time to hit the road again and see and learn more about this fascinating world. It's going to be a long day for us....first flying 10 hours to Frankfurt, Germany then having a 10 hour lay over then finally flying to Jordan, arriving at 1:45 a.m. Grady, dad, mom and I are all REALLY super excited....and Bre.....well she isn't too excited to be leaving Darrin, her boyfriend. I would have written more but we really have to go....we just dropped off our last load to the storage unit and now we are in a rush!!!
Savannah and crew