Friday, April 3, 2009

Our Last Day

We are about 30 hours away from boarding our plane to return home. We have spent our final days in Alexandria eating some of the best seafood I have ever had and hanging out with some more wonderful people from all over the Middle East. Today's picture was taken in Alexandria as the sun is setting on the Mediterranean Sea.

We have experienced some wonderful adventures while in Egypt. It is only fitting that as we prepare to close out this travel adventure, we play a little game called high/low. I will share with you my overall high for the trip and my overall low. I will start with the low because I have had only two; therefore a very short list to choose from. The low, as you read about the other day, is the traffic in Cairo. Lack of sleep was the other low, but I would gladly go without sleep if it meant the traffic going away with it!

As for highs, unfortunately that list is much longer. None the less, I know I need to choose so I will go with having this shared experience with my son Sam. As I wrote about on his birthday, it was very cool to see Sam fulfill a dream and be exposed to history in a real way. Additionally, I think Sam was exposed to some pretty amazing Christians doing some pretty amazing things. I trust that God will use this in some way at some point in his life.

Sam’s thoughts:
Today is our last day in Egypt. This trip marked a major milestone in my life; an experience I will not forget too soon. I have a major paper due on Monday so today has not been as much about Egypt as it has been about researching French authors. However, I still catch myself daydreaming about the last 10 days and the amazing memories. Beyond the memories, I have met some amazing people. The people have been very helpful and very hospitable. I can confidently say that a major life goal has been accomplished. I hope one day I get to return to this land of Egypt. I am looking forward to continuing my study of Egypt both at home and some day back here in Egypt.

To the 5th grade class of NCCS, I hope you have enjoyed your virtual trip to Egypt. I look forward to sharing with you in person more of my amazing stories. I will also look forward to hearing all of your answers to the questions I have given to you over the past several days. Here are your final questions:
1. On a map, be able to show where Lower and Upper Egypt are located.
2. What are the meanings of the black and red stripes on Egypt’s flag?

Well, here ends another trip. Thank you for joining and I look forward to our next journey together. I pray that wherever your travels take you, they will be filled with fun and adventure!


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Cairo Finale

Today was out last day in Cairo. We spent the morning in some of the poorest areas of Cairo. One of these areas is called garbage city. Garbage city is where much of the garbage from the more affluent areas of Cairo is discarded. Many of the people in this area make their livelihood from sorting through the garbage and separating the recyclables and anything else they can find of value; including produce that was no longer considered fit to consume. For the people of garbage city and other communities like it, this is usually their own source of any fruits or vegetables. And even this is not enough for a healthy diet. Through local humanitarian efforts, we have been able to sponsor children in these areas. Sponsorship will include some fresh produce periodically and supplies they need to be able to attend school. Our hope is that through these efforts, the poorest of poor children will be able to work their way through the school system and attend a local university. The older sister of one of our sponsored kids is actually attending the university and will graduate with an engineering degree. She will be able to get a job and hopefully change the fortunes of her family.

Today’s picture was taken at a pre-school in one of the poor communities. This is an amazing refuge for children from 3 to 7 years old. The children attend from 8am to 4pm six days a week. They watch educational videos similar to ones my own children watched when they were young. They are translated into Arabic. They also learn the alphabet and numbers in both American and Arabic. They get milk and cheese each day which is the only real nourishment they get during the day. They have a toothbrush and a washcloth for washing their faces. This is the only hygiene in their daily lives. Most of these kids will very rarely get a shower. I know Sam has a few words to say, so I will let him finish our thoughts. But I think he was pretty moved (in his own reserved way) by the school and meeting some of the sponsored children, including our own.

I will miss Cairo. I will miss the people, the food and the ancient history. I will NOT miss the traffic! I don’t think Sam or I have mentioned anything about the traffic. Just imagine the worst rush hour traffic in Los Angeles combined with a New York cabbie style of driving and you might be able to get a small glimpse of traffic in Cairo. I have lived and driven in both of those cities. I would fear for my life is I tried to drive in Cairo.

Sam’s thoughts:
Today we visited a preschool which is part of local effort to help children prepare for primary school. It was awesome the way they take care of these kids by keeping them off the streets. They learn about very important values and also very practical things like numbers and letters.

Unfortunately, we did not have the pleasure of meeting Abanoob; a child we sponsor in Egypt due to a death in the family. But we did meet another child that Madison, my new friend from Atlanta, sponsors. She was so excited to meet her child for the first time and share some gifts that she had brought for her.

We finished our day with some shopping at an old bazaar in Cairo. We bought some cool stuff and the prices were very good. I bought something that had 23 on the price tag. I thought it was 23 US dollars but instead it was 23 Egyptian pounds which is about 4 US dollars. We ate dinner at a great Egyptian restaurant in shopping mall that was very modern. And that concluded are last day in Cairo.

For the 5th graders at NCCS:
Answer to the last question:
Senefru built the pyramids and Sila is the pyramid where he is buried.

New question:
What was the name of the war between Egypt, Palestine, and Israel in the 20th century?

Monday, March 30, 2009

20 Pyramids and 90,000 People

I will let Sam tell you about our time in the desert yesterday. (as you can see from the photo, we had a little fun at the pyramids of Giza) I will instead focus on the highlight of today. Sam and I joined 90,000 of our closest friends in Cairo International Stadium to cheer on Egypt as they competed in a football (aka soccer) game against Zambia. It was their opening game in what will be several games against other African countries. The winner of this group will move on to compete for the World Cup. If you think the US has crazy sports fans, you haven’t seen or better yet heard anything yet. We had to get to the game 2 hours early to make sure we got good seats. (no reserved seats!) From the time we sat down until the time we left, which totaled about 4 hours, the fans never stopped yelling, screaming, waving flags and chanting what appeared to be their team’s rally cry.

I can’t say that I have ever been a huge soccer fan. I would still say that I am not the craziest fan, but this game and the interaction with the Egyptian fans was amazing. The Egyptians are so hospitable and thoughtful. I hated to see it end especially with the score tied at 1-1 and given that fact the Egypt had so many more shots on goal throughout the game that had they more time I think they could have won.

Sam’s thoughts:
The pyramids at Saqqara where amazing. It may come as a surprise, but the Red pyramid at Saqqara is my favorite. Most people would consider the great pyramid at Giza their most favorite. I did visit the pyramids of Giza and don’t get me wrong, they are amazing. But the Red pyramid is the best preserved and the 3rd largest in the world. My dad and I climbed deep into the Red pyramid all the way to the burial chamber. It didn’t smell the best, but none the less it was spectacular. We also visited the Step pyramid which was built around 3200AD and the Bent pyramid which was built around 2800BC. The three pyramids at Giza (Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure) located just west of downtown Cairo also is where you can see the Sphinx and Cheops Boat. Cheops boat was uncovered in 1954 and dates back to about the same time as Khafre’s pyramid or about 2400 BC. Khafre was the king that had the boat buried in a 150 foot long pit carved out of lime stone. Khafre’s pyramid which is the 2nd largest in the world and built around 2400BC still has some of its outer casing. The outer casing is what made the pyramids smooth on the outside. After a long day of visiting 20 pyramids, we went to a papyrus store. Papyrus is a plant the ancient Egyptian scribes used to make paper for writing. We saw Papyrus paper being made and then toured a gallery where we saw beautiful drawings of various scenes.

Answers to the last questions:
1. A colossi is a large stone image or statue usually of a person or animal. They were used in front of a temple as an image of protection, to honor a king or a god. They often weighed more than 50 tons. We saw one of Ramesses II that weighed more than 200 tons.
2. “Tutankhaten” and he changed it because he wanted to restore Amun (a god) and the old religion to replace Aten who was a god his father created before him.

New question for 5th grade class:
1. Who built the Medium pyramid, Red pyramid, Bent pyramid (the same person built all 3) and in which pyramid (not mentioned here) was he buried?

Be well and may all your travels bring you joy and adventure!

Barry and Sam

Friday, March 27, 2009

Happy Birthday Sam!

Today is Sam’s 15th birthday. And as a result, today’s post is going to be about Sam. I would still consider it adventure; just an adventure of a different sort.

A birthday wouldn’t be a celebration without gifts. Sam got some nice gifts that will memorialize his trip to Egypt. But the best gift of all was not one that Sam received, but one that he gave. And I am blessed to be the recipient! My gift is seeing my son come face to face with history. Sam was not aware of me taking the photo you see today. But my peering around the corner to see where my son had gone revealed the gift of seeing my son touch history from 3,000 years ago.

Until now this knowledge was only revealed to him through books, internet research, documentaries and his own imagination. Now after nearly eight years of study, history is coming to life in ways that other modes of study will NEVER compare. Don’t get me wrong, I think books and other forms of media are not only a wonderful starting place, but they are essential. Sam would not be appreciating this adventure nearly as much had it not been for his years of preparation. But all of this alone is very difficult to create the emotional connection that comes from the physical contact with history. It sort of like in chemistry, you can combine various ingredients and nothing will happen. But then you add the crucial ingredient that causes all the others to react and BANG, you have an explosion. I think many of you understand, but if not, please visit the Lincoln Memorial at about 9pm on a warm summer evening. From the top of the steps look to the east and see the lights of the Washington Monument in the reflection pond. Then turn around and take a seat at Lincoln’s feet. Read his inaugural address or the Gettysburg address and see if you are not emotionally charged as you physically embrace history.

Well, for me to see this happen in the life of my son is an amazing experience. Several times I have been moved to my own private tears of joy as I have witnessed my son in his glory. This trip to Egypt is turning the page to a whole new chapter in his impassioned pursuit of history in the Middle East and specifically Egypt. God only knows where it will go from here or how He will use it to direct Sam’s steps. But as only God can do, He is touching my heart through my son Sam. WOW, what a gift…and it wasn’t even my birthday!

Sam did actually receive some gifts and we celebrated in grand style at Taboula, a Lebanese restaurant in Cairo. We were joined by our friend, Lee Rizzo, from San Diego and our Egyptian friends Maged, Tamer and Bassem plus their wives and children. The food was amazing and Maged even surprised Sam with the birthday cake...candles and all!

Sam’s daily entry:
Today we toured the Egyptian museum in Cairo. The amount of artifacts is absolutely amazing. The well preserved colors and hieroglyphs were fantastic. But one of the most spectacular sites I have ever seen is the mask of Tutankhamen made from 71kg of solid gold. Additionally, the innermost coffin of King Tutankhamen’s 3 coffins made from 110kg of solid gold was spectacular. We also saw many different tools, statues and colossi.

Following the museum, we went to the Hanging Church where the crypt (sort of like a basement) that Mary, Joseph and young Jesus stayed for three months while they were hiding from King Herod (see Matthew 2:13-15).

We finished the day with dinner at one of our friends favorite restaurants to celebrate my birthday. It was one of the best days of my life. A dream is being fulfilled!

Tomorrow is our “day in the desert”. We head out to explore the great pyramids of Egypt. Before signing off, I have two questions for the 5th grade class at North Clackamas Christian School to answer:
1. What is a colossi?
2. What was King Tutankhamen’s former name (before it was changed to his current name) and why did he change it?
I will reveal the correct answers in tomorrow’s post along with several more questions to answer!

Be well and may all your travels be filled with joy and adventure!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Our first day in Egypt finds us in Luxor, just a quick hour flight south of Cairo on the Nile River. Luxor is the gateway to some of the most significant ancient Egyptian artifacts including the Luxor and Karnack Temples, the Valley of the Kings and Queen Hatshepsut’s mortuary temple. The temples, located on the east side of the Nile River, were built over thousands of years by several different Egyptian kings and queens. During their respective reigns, each Kings would add onto the existing temple. The Valley of the Kings, located on the west side of the Nile, is home to many different tombs including the tomb of King Tutankhamen or better known as King Tut.

The temples were used by the kings and priests while they were alive. As a result they were built on the east side of the Nile because the sun rises in the east and represents life. The sun setting in the west represented death or the end of a king or queen’s life on earth. Therefore the tombs were built on the west side of the Nile in the Valley of the King’s.

Today’s picture was hard to choose as we have over 80 pictures from today alone. However we had to choose and Sam picked the entrance to Luxor Temple.

“The Luxor Temple was built by Amenhotep II and Ramesses II. It was connected to the Karnack temple by the avenue of sphinxes which is nearly a mile and a half long. The temple was used by three different religious cultures; Egyptian, Christian and Islam. The Christians used it as a hiding place from Romans to avoid persecution in Egypt. The Christian’s occupation of this temple is evidenced by a picture of the twelve disciples on one of the walls in the temple. They used plaster to cover the Egyptian markings and then painted their own representations of their faith. Much of the plaster used by the Christians has fallen off revealing the original Egyptian marks from the 20th dynasty. Additionally, they built a mosque inside the temple for Islamic people.

The Luxor temple is much smaller than the Karnack temple but just as beautiful. The original coloration in this temple is much better preserved than at Karnack due to less water damage. There is even a statue of Tutankhamen and his sister/wife in this temple. The Luxor temple is a very beautiful and well preserved.” -Sam

And if you’re wondering if the tombs at the Valley of the Kings is worth a visit, YES! We toured three tombs and all were pretty amazing. However, the tomb of Thutmosis III was my absolute favorite. My brother-in-law Ron Cockle visited last year and gave me the tip. He didn’t steer us wrong. We climbed a set of stairs that took us about 50 feet up the side of a mountain. From there we descended several flights of stairs into the mountain. About 100 feet down into the mountain we entered Thutmosis’ burial chamber. The original pictures on the wall of the king’s 12 hour journey in the afterlife looked like they were painted yesterday. It was absolutely remarkable.

Any attempt to fully describe what we saw today and how it made us feel would be an attempt in futility and quite possibly render the experience less meaningful. Fortunately for us, just the few words we have shared with you today have somehow extended today’s adventures an etched in our minds a memory of a lifetime.

Be well and shokran (“thank you” in Arabic)

Barry and Sam

Monday, March 23, 2009

Off to Egypt

Ten hours from now Sam (my son..and yes he is the taller one...I am the younger looking one) and I board a plane for New York and then on to Cairo, Egypt. As some of you may know, Sam has been studying ancient Egypt culture and history for the past 8 years. He has become a true Egyptologist. I am thrilled to be traveling with my own interpreter of Egyptian history. Suffice it to say, this is a trip of a lifetime for my oldest son. Celebrating his 15th birthday in Cairo will just make it that much more memorable.

We welcome the 5th grade class at NCCS in Oregon City, OR who will be following us with keen interest. They are studying Egypt and this blog will provide them with real time pictures and stories as we travel around Cairo, Luxor and Alexandria. Perhaps one of these 5th graders will someday have the opportunity to explore one of the oldest cities in the world!

We will be traveling for over 20 hours. Hopefully we will be able to post again on the 26th or 27th with some really cool photos and stories from Luxor and the Valley of the Kings! Thanks for coming along with us on our next adventure!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The End of an Adventure

I have just returned home to Oregon. The adventure in Jackson Hole was a worth the 150 new emails that I recieved while I was away that are need of some type of response. Tomorrow will be my first day back in the office and my only day in the office this week. I will be heading to Ohio on business.

Anyways, the last day in Jackson was spent on the mountain with Daniel and Dylan Harkavy. We hiked above Apres Vous towards the Crags in search of some secret stashes of powder. And much to our delight we found some; not a lot, but we found some lines through the trees. After a few runs, the bright sunshine we started the day with gave way to clouds and high winds. We pulled in for a late lunch at the top of the gondola and feasted on a baked potato the size of a football.
After lunch, we strapped back on to our boards and bombed Gros Ventre for our last run of the day. No day on the mountain would be complete without trying to talk our way into the spa at the Four Seasons for a little R & R in the hot tub. Daniel, as he always does, worked his magic and we were in! The Four Seasons is a beautiful property. If you have a small fortune and are looking for a phenomenal getaway, this is the spot. The service is great and if you're into sushi you need to try the cowboy sushi with ahi tuna and seared buffalo. It is worth it's weight in gold!
I've really enjoyed documenting my travel adventure for family and friends to follow along. I hope you have enjoyed it as well. My next adventure will actually be bringing back to Jackson Hole at the beginning of March and then it will be off to Egypt at the end of March.
Today's photo was taken from seat 3A at an elevation of about 13,770. The same elevation of the Grand Teton which is very evident in the photo. Seeing this beauty, you can probably understand why Jackson Hole is my favorite place on Earth.
"The more I experience nature, the more in awe I am of the Creator"