An afternoon in Ohrid

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

What a world!

Me, Kerry and Marlys jumping for joy!
As I think I mentioned in my last blog, I received an extra 30 days of leave for extending a year in the Peace Corps.  The days are added on to the end of my service, so now my completion date is the end of December instead of the end of November, but it's nice to have those days in the middle of service and Peace Corps gave me a free flight home!  I took 3 weeks of those days for my trip home, and took the rest for my trip to Egypt with 5 friends.  I won't say much here about the trip except it exceeded any and all expectations I had.  It was fabulous.  I've posted my pictures with some commentary on Facebook, so if you want to see more you can see it there.
I do want to comment on Egypt, however.  I feel like we were there at a very privileged time.  Their new parliament met for the first time and elected its president, and they celebrated the first year anniversary of the revolution.  There is much happening, and which way it will go is as yet uncertain.  For the friends and wonderful people I met while I was there, my fingers are crossed for a better life.  Here are some random observations:
1.  You've heard tourism is down - one tour guide said it was down 80%.  To put that in perspective, Kacy told me that when friends of hers went there two years ago, they had to get up at 5 in the morning to get to the pyramids early enough to avoid the crowds and get to climb up to the burial chamber in the great pyramid.  In contrast, we went in the middle of the day during high season, went right in, and had only 3 other people in the chamber when we were there.  While it was wonderful for us and we were treated so well, it has to be so difficult on a country whose GDP relies to a large extent on tourism.
2.  Speaking of that, everywhere we went, we saw huge projects that had been put on hold.  Some were government projects waiting for revenues to improve and the new government to be established, and some were by major corporations holding back on their money until they could see what way the wind was going to blow.  So economically, Egypt is experiencing at least a double whammy.  And given that we saw a number of people living on the edge, it does not auger well for their future.
3.  Despite that, people were cautiously optimistic.  They love their country and are hoping that the new democratically elected government will return Egypt to glory.  They are a bit nervous and impatient and suffer terribly when there is an abuse of power, but they maintain hope for a brighter future.
4.  Alexander the Great became the ruler of Egypt because he respected their religion while the (at that time) ruling Persians did not.  There is a lesson there that we need to learn.  Religion was very important to almost everyone we met and they were all well-educated, liberal Egyptians.
5.  Side note, if you travel, I would encourage you to be adventurous.  While it was cold at night when we slept in the desert, that was an especially magical day, and off the beaten track for most tourists!
Abul Simbel
6.  The people are exceptionally gracious.  It was wonderful to get a chance to talk for hours to our friends who were our guides and drivers, and they will forever be in my heart!

One more picture and comment:  that's me in front of Abul Simbel.  Since I was young and National Geographic magazine featured the danger of Abul Simbel being covered by the rising waters of Lake Nasser and the Aswan Dam, I have dreamed about being there.  I actually got tears in my eyes when I rounded the corner and there it was!  I still can hardly believe I was able to live my childhood dream.

Gostivar buried in snow
Now we're back in Macedonia, and just in time for a record snow and cold spell!  It's a hardship in a country which such a large percentage of people living below poverty.  We had one day where the temperature actually got above freezing for a few hours, and the ceiling in my apartment started to drip.  I called the landlord, who gave a Slavic shrug and said, "oh, well, it's an old building."  We've had a pile of snow, and I'm not looking forward to the thaw.  Besides the reappearance of the leak, it will be icy and there will be water everywhere.  On the bright side, the garbage may once again be picked up!
Downtown Gostivar shivering
Stay warm - I hear Spring is just around the corner!


  1. So interesting to read about your trip to Egypt. I'd been wondering what it was like there now, since we did our trip just before the revolution.

    Seeing your photos of Gostivar makes me so happy that I didn't come over to MK. A few months in Tirana and I've already lost my nerve for traveling in winter!

  2. Oh boy. I was wondering how the snow situation was in Gostivar since I haven't been able to catch you on Skype... I wish we could somehow balance out the conditions in Europe with the non-winter we've had here! Is the drip in the pantry/non-room room? I think I had a drip there once and once in the kitchen. Hope you're staying warm... And enjoying constant comment and internet TV in that fabulous living room!

    Like Ellen I took one too many winter vacations, I had a little "I'm freezing on the bus and emotional" flashback this weekend (every other bus trip in Macedonia!)... If only all future vacations could take place in May or September!