A friend of Kim's took us hunting (looking) for the rare Nubian Ibex this last weekend. We drove for a few hours to the Red Sea mountains, drove up a beautiful wadi and hiked up to a couple of caves about 200m above a water hole. From 3pm to dark, we all hid in our hunters' "hides." Despite patient coaching, Zoë proved unable to master the key elements of the stake out—non-movement and total silence, so I had to take Zoë for a walk elsewhere. Rebecca and Robyn were vigilant in the lowest hide. They speculated that Kim might be having a tough time keeping still for so long, but Kim later reported that it wasn't as bad as it could have been, since he fell asleep!

The stake out picked up after about 1.5 hours when three dogs showed up on the other side of the watering hole, apparently they were also looking for the ibex. Alas, no ibex appeared. However, the spot was beautiful and we had a great time camping in the caves and hiking up the wadi the next morning.

  [December 1, 2007] LAST TOY STANDING. For some reason, each time we go to the Maadi House playground, we are unable to return with the toys we came with. Each time we go, we lose at least one toy. This is the last toy standing from a once proud twelve piece sand pail set that was the envy of the playground.

[November 12, 2007] 7 GUYS, 36 KMS, THE WORLD'S 2 OLDEST MONESTARIES AND 1 AWESOME DAY ! WE CAMPED AT ST PAUL'S MONESTARY. The run is a historic link between the world's two oldest monasteries. The route climbs 1400 meters to attain spectacular views of the Red Sea.

Faisal cooked us a yummy pre-run pasta dinner the night before, though perhaps we should have had a little less of the yummy red wine he brought back from Germany. This year's run was notable for our crack ground crew, which mercifully shuttled our cars for us while we ran, avoiding 2 hours shuttling time each day. Faisal also entertained us with his self described exploits as the 'desert virgin' as evidenced by his white scarf. Tim attempted to explain the geography of the area to us, though he didn't make much headway because Faisal kept insisting that the earth was 'maximum 6000 years old', though he did concede that 'a year may have been longer at that time.'


[November 10, 2007] "THERE ISN'T ANY APPARENT CAUSE OF HER PERSISTENT HIGH FEVER, SO WE'LL NEED TO DO A BLOOD WORK UP AND GET A URINE SAMPLE." Easier said then done! Robyn and I nervously headed across town to the lab, wondering how on earth you get a 15 month year old to pee into a cup and dreading our impending attempt to get a blood sample. After a couple doctor visits in as many days, Zoë has quickly developed a visceral reaction to men in white coats and the lab was no exception. We felt like we were torturing her as she screamed non-stop while the lab tech put a tourniquet on her arm, which turned blue while he took a few goes to find her tiny vein.

Our pathetic attempts to get her to pee at the doctors office were fruitless, so we headed home, figuring she'd have to pee sooner or later. We locked all 3 of us in the bathroom and pursued her around the small space with our cup, worried we'd miss the golden sample and have to wait several more hours. We employed every idea we had ever heard of to get her to pee — from the obvious (copious amounts of water and breast milk) to the collegiate (putting her hand in warm water) to the psychological (a running tap) to the Chinese (pssssing in her ear). After an hour, a knee deep bath finely rewarded us with the precious pee, which I whisked off to the lab while Robyn finally let Zoë actually sit in her bath and play with her bath toys.


[October 15, 2007] CAMPING FIVE WEEKENDS IN A ROW, HOW GOOD IS THAT? It's prime camping season in Egypt and we have been taking full advantage. Each weekend has been better than the last and we are absolutely amazed by all the places we've been finding. Zoë has been a total champ in the desert; she loves finding and playing with all the rocks and fossils.

Two weekends ago we went camping with my sister and a few other people in the Fayoum. She had a commission to write a story for a magazine about going to the desert with Robyn, Zoë and I — what a boon doggle! Anyways, it was great fun having her here.

Last weekend we did a longer range trip into and past Wadi Rayyan, we stayed in two fabulous campsites perched atop massive sand dunes and visited a place called the 'labyrinth'— an outcrop with massive cracks in it that you can climb down into. The weather, company and scenery was absolutely stunning.

This weekend we went solo to the Fayoum for a couple nights. We ran across some friends our 2nd morning and had a fun time camping with them the second night. How often do you get a chance to hear someone play the Banjo at your campsite atop an escarpment with a setting sun and view of the Roman ruins of Dimeh and ancient Lake Qarun?

  [May 12, 2007] WE JUST GOT HOME FROM A LONG WEEKEND AWAY AND WE NOW OFFICIALLY HAVE A BABY ON THE MOVE. Zoë has been getting from point a to b more or less for the last week or so with a combination of scooting on her bum and rolling.  Tonight after 6 hours in the car (a long trip home from the beach) she crawled!!!  She has been trying for about a month and hadn't until tonight figured out how to go forward rather than backward.  So, the first thing she did was crawl to the cats' water bowl and dump it everywhere - she has been trying to get to that bowl for months - tonight there was no stopping her!
Visiting a monestary in Wadi Natrun on the way back to Cairo.

[May 10, 2007]IT'S HARD TO START A REVOLUTION IF YOU ARE HOLDING A SIPPY CUP. This is what I discovered at the Havanos Bar in the El Alamein Movenpick. Robyn and I decided to spend one of our last weekends of the school year at El Alamein, on the Mediterranean. We stopped on the way at Wadi Natrun, which was used in pharonic times to provide the chemicals (salt? natrun?) that were used for drying mummies out. Today, it has three medieval Coptic christian monasteries. We visited the one that the majority of the Coptic popes come from.

We passed through the town, cemeteries and WWII battlefields of El Alamein and headed to the Movenpick on a windy stretch of sand. Mostly we spent our weekend taking naps, all three of us love to nap! I was highly annoyed with myself because we forgot to bring the baby monitor, so we had to stay in the room after putting Zoë to sleep. After eating an early dinner, Robyn took Zoë up to our room to put her to sleep. I collected Zoë's sippy cup and headed for the Havanos Bar, ostensibly to give Zoë a quiet room to go to sleep in. This rebel had an 8pm curfew (just 45 minutes) and I'd rather suck on an ashtray than smoke a cigar. However, I love sheesha's, so my comrades set me up with a sheesha and local beer. Only problem is that I had to smoke the sheesha outside, in the 20mph wind.


[May 11, 2007] NINE MONTHS OF BEING A MUM HAS LED ME TO BELIEVE THAT WOMEN MOVE ALONG THE MATERNAL GROWTH CURVE AT DIFFERENT EVOLUTIONARY RATES.   If the ubiquitous diaper bag is any indication of how I am doing one might infer that I am still at the protozoic stage.  

My diaper bag is a freebie that came to us from the Egyptian company, LinkDSL.   It is not actually a diaper bag, at least that was not its intended purpose when it was manufactured.   It is a red synthetic bag that has strings through it that fit over your shoulders so that you can use it as a makeshift backpack.   I am sure the manufacturers thought it would be thrown in the trash as soon as the modem was removed from it.   Ours is usually stuffed with most of the following - a change pad, wet wipes, 3 or 4 cloth diapers and a plastic bag to put dirty cloth diapers in (the store bought, made for the purpose, re-usable "wet-bag" went missing months ago!).   Unfortunately, I rarely get out the door with all of those pieces in the bag.

I have noticed that other mums often have additional things in their diaper bags.   I often find myself sitting at parties; a bored baby sitting on my lap.   I look over and see some other mum begin to pull brightly colored toys from their diaper bag; toys that will keep their baby enthralled for at least 30 minutes!   Sometimes, if I get lucky, the mom let's Zoë chew on her child's toys.   My strategy here is to ask after Zoë has already stuck it in her mouth, what else can they say?

Zoë has so far shown herself to be a reluctant eater.   Keir thinks she might be holding out for hamburgers.   Relying on something other than the convenience of the boob is something we both seem to be struggling with.   Throwing the sippy cup and a Tupperware of Cheerios into the diaper bag seems to be an insurmountable challenge for me.   I am always amazed when I see other moms pull out a smorgasbord of home prepared finger foods cut to just the right size for their babies - chicken, cheese, peaches, broccoli, pasta - all the food groups are represented.   And there I am wishing I had remembered the Cheerios! Zoë and I invariably sidle our way over and are offered some tidbits, Zoë invariably refuses whatever she is offered and I invariably keep offering...

Maybe next time I am in The States or Australia I should get one of those fancy diaper bags with the pockets for everything.   Then I could throw out my LinkDSL bag and move up to the next level on the maternal growth curve.   The pockets could help me remember to throw in the Cheerios and at least one toy.    Although, chances are I'd still forget the wet wipes!


[APRIL 25, 2007] I LOVE MY SUV. It's a bit like loving chocolate, driving without car insurance, kung fu movies, and sleeping through my weekend 6am long run. Irresponsible for sure, but so satisfying. Actually, I prefer chic-flicks to kung fu movies (anything with Meg Ryan), but I would never admit that to anyone. It feels BAD to own an SUV. I always complain about everyone else's SUV and I have no doubt that I it's my SUV that's going to tip the Indian Ocean over the top of the Maldives. I may never have the desire to own another SUV after we leave Egypt, but Egypt may be the perfect place to own one. My recently purchased (GULP!) ten year old Jeep allows me to combine several of my favorite family friendly fetishes: exploring, maps and technology. Google Earth is absolutely amazing, and it still gives me chills whenever I zoom in on the GPS coordinates of some remote spot in the desert that I was recently at or going to. GPS technology is also absolutely amazing, it's ability to enable anyone to explore anywhere is a paradigm shift in exploration. So far, I've been typing my GPS coordinates into Google Earth, but I'll definitely get a data cable this summer.

Camping and exploring in the desert with Robyn and Zoë is great fun! Zoë has proved to be a robust and enthusiastic explorer and Robyn isn't bad either. Whenever we picnic or camp somewhere, we throw out a big thick blanket for Zoë to play on. She loves crawling around and exploring the rocks and sand.

It's fun to get all the desert camping gear as well. GPS, roof rack, jerry cans, camp kitchen etc. The best gear is stuff that is rigged up from local materials — a 5 meter square sunshade made from green house lining or a water or gas auto siphon made from the one way valve on the top of a Lebanon bottled Johnny Walker bottle bought at Egyptian Duty Free.

Egypt may be the only place we could ever afford to own an SUV. Gasoline is subsidized and still costs just 90cents a gallon, though the price is rising. Almost no one owns car insurance, since the court system doesn't function enough to hold people liable. Work done by mechanics costs almost nothing, so basically you just have to pay for the parts you use.

Despite all the fun, I do feel guilty. When lent comes around, I'll have to reduce my consumption of chocolate.

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