Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Shopping in Aswan (international incident adverted #2)

The photos will take a week to come back to me, so I will just post some of them later. Again this is out of date order but it is funny enough that I really don’t want to forget it.

If you have ever been to a country that barters or haggles, or even if you’ve been down a carnival strip of side show tents you should know exactly what I mean. Walking down a street Aswan is somewhat like a gauntlet, with the barkers calling out to you and often stroking your ego. If you spend just five minutes in their store, they hope that you will leave with a gift in your hand and money in their wallet.

Turkey and Morocco were much the same as Egypt so I was quite prepared for the funny sayings, propositions and general flattery the barkers throw our way. I wandered the streets of Aswan with two blondes, so I expected the interest in them to be much greater than in me. I also dress conservatively even if it means dying of heat. The more respect you show for another culture really does go a long way and the treatment you receive reflects the respect they have for you respecting them. I wore a long sleeve, loose fitting royal blue shirt with a pair of jeans. Throughout the evening, several spice shop owners were quick to point out how my shirt matched the indigo dye they had in with the spices. I also wear not only my wedding rings on my left hand, but the Claddaugh my mother gave me as the only ring on my right hand. It leaves little room for confusion that I am a married woman.

I can’t do real justice to explaining what a street looks like in the middle of a suhk. It almost looks like the movie set of Aladdin exploded onto this narrow, winding street filled with a multitude of goods. The streets are narrow, with the buildings rising up beyond you into the darkness, making you feel more like you are indoors than out. Just above you are wires, ropes or strings that carry clothes, baskets and other light objects on display and it just ads to the crowded, cluttered feeling of a suhk. Those that don’t own a shop, set up tables and stands on the empty spaces of building walls not already occupied with the building owner’s goods. The smells that waft in your direction are from the spices, coffee houses and flavoured tobacco the shop owners smoke sitting in the doorway. As you walk down the uneven streets, the barkers call out to you practicing their best English, flirting or making you laugh in any manner to gain your attention. I was offered 50 camels (a donkey is worth $250) to give to my husband if I would divorce him and marry the barker. My second marriage proposal (of about 10 total) for the night was an owner who asked if I wanted to own his shop. Playing into the game a little, I bit on his line. He saw my hands and told me that after divorcing my husband if I were to marry him, his shop would be mine to do as I please. Being a little devilish, I asked him if it were not possible to change the Koran to allow for a woman to have many husbands and not just the man with many wives. He chuckled at my jest and told me that alas Allah was not a woman and it he who set down the Koran.

All the time we wandered through the streets of Aswan, not a single barker touched you. They may flirt horribly, but they will not lay a hand on you, especially if you are married. This is pretty much true for any area that is not covered with tourists. The everyday life, the normal store owners will not touch you and would not touch a married woman of their country either. This is not the same in the tourist stops, by any stretch of the imagination.

To walk through a shopping district close to a tourist site is like walking through the shopping district of Korea. They will take your hand or your arm and lead you into their store in the hopes of getting you to buy their goods. They aren’t trying to be rude necessarily, but if you aren’t used to this style of salesmanship or are a female it can be quite disturbing. I made sure that when I walked the tourists sections that I went with a man. I am not fond of being touched, and am really not fond of being grabbed, shoved or pulled. Going through these areas with a guy helps to keep the touching and pulling down a bit.

Unfortunately one vendor was not that wise and grabbed a hold of my wrist. I faced him, looking directly into his eyes and asked him politely to please let go. He continued his sales pitch and did not let go. I pulled a little and again looking directly into his eyes asked him a second time to please let go. He then started to pull me into his store with a little jerk of my arm. At that point I stumbled a little and my instincts kicked in. I placed my free hand on top of his and put him into a simple wrist lock, applying pressure ever so slightly. Most people would not have even known what I was doing, as you both remain standing, it almost appears like I am holding or shaking his hand. Again facing him and looking directly into his eyes, I asked sternly yet politely to please let go of my wrist. The pressure I was applying showed slightly on his face as he said, “Yes, yes, yes. I let go.” I released him from the lock and he stepped back two steps. I smiled and said thank you and kept walking. Not a single man down the rest of that street, laid their hand on me. I was proud of defending myself and laughing at the initial look on that mans face when I put him into that lock - boy was he surprised!

As I got back onto the bus, I asked the tour guide if I could get into any kind of trouble for it. He stated that first of all he would have been chastised for touching a married woman and that secondly he would probably volunteer to go to jail as he wouldn’t want to face his friends after being “beat up” by a girl.

I was very good the rest of this trip. This and the air marshal were the only two things that could have been considered international interest. At least I didn’t get mad at paying a $1 more than my friend for a bracelet and insult not only the vendor but the tour guide for exclaiming that they were nothing but a bunch of cheats. Some people don’t understand bartering and haggling – it’s a fact of life sometimes you don’t always get a better deal and sometimes you get one better than your friends.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Always look eye

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I was saddened to hear on Monday when I went to the Dojo that Pat Morita (AKA Mr. Miyagi)has passed away. I liked the Karate Kid series of films even with their slightly cheesey story lines in general they taught mulitple good life lessons.

The other thing that was so cool about the movies was that the karate portrayed in the movie is my style of karate - Okinowan Goju Ryu Karate. So the whole 'wax on, wax off; paint the fence' things were true, they actually mean something.

I was asking for the movie set for Christmas and now they will have extra meaning to me after this loss.

Mmmmm Pretzels

I get this in an email today with "Mmmmm pretzels...."  I think the man is missing good German beer & pretzels.
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Monday, November 28, 2005

In the eye of a hurricane

Last night I had a weird dream. I was in a shelter with a girl who was my best friend from birth until our senior year of high school. We were hiding out from a hurricane waiting for it to blow over. Only the two of us were in the basement portion and everyone else was one level above. The basement floor was granite, dark with earth red flecks in it. About the time the eye of the storm hit us, we went outside did something I can't remember and came back. Then my husband told me the dog had died. I went back down to the granite basement only to find her wagging her tail (and butt, she wags with her whole body) waiting for my return.

I am going to assume this is my subconcious telling me that eventhough my troll of a boss gave me a 2 block (a "B" grade in simple terms) when the accomplishments I sumbitted outshined two other team members to the point it ain't funny - that I should ride out this storm. It's not a bad performance score, but it truly reflects what she personally feels about me - the troll doesn't like me. She knows that it gets under my skin with this rating so even with what I submitted she gave it again to burn me.

So I guess I will ride this one out, knowning that I have never been 2 blocked by any other supervisor I have had and that we are out of this place and her evil little reign in about 7 months. Besides who really cares when after 2 years her performance ratings will be like a bad credit rating that forever disappears off of you record.

Now can someone tell me what the dog and the granite from Egypt have to do with the price of tea in China?

The Punishers Ball

I think I am in love with Bruce Willis.

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Photo taken, owned and copyrighted by Michael Yon at Michael Yon

Not because he's an older guy who is one heck of a hottie, but for his support of the troops. Go read Michael Yon's dispatch about Bruce attending the Punisher's ball. As well as Michael'ss two interviews on Rita Cosby that had Mr. Willis included by telephone.

Bruce rocks...and yes he is a babe! (LOL) In the imortal words of Yakko - HELLO NURSE!

UPDATE - I went to IMDb to see just how old Bruce was and saw he was born in Idar-Oberstein. That is a stone's throw from where we are currently living. How sweet is that?

Thanksgiving thoughts

This is a little out of order but that's because I am still using a 35mm camera and have not gone digital yet.  I need to wait for the billion photos to be developed.

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I drew this on hotel stationary in my room on Thanksgiving and emailed it from my phone to my hubby.  I figured if he couldn't be with me I could at least let him know that I was thinking about him.  I fashioned my turkey after the ones you used to make as a kid by tracing your hand and adding feet and the cockscomb.  He called the day after I returned home and he mentioned that he got this...he thought it was cute and that he wants a new phone when he gets back so he can do goofy stuff like this.

I didn't take a photo before I sent it, but I also sent him a special present for Thanksgiving.....No they aren't nude photos but it was a tin with little leaves cut out in fall colours.  I wrote out a bunch of reasons for why I am thankful for him.  I also included a few from the dog for why she is thankful for him.  It was an idea I borrowed from someone else and I think it went over well.  He wants to try and do something like that back but he doesn't know how yet....he figured I didn't want a box of rocks since that's the most abundant supply of things other than sand.

....Saldy I happen to agree, no rocks but the sentiment is very nice.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Armani wearing terrorists?

I flew out on my holiday to Egypt on the 18th with Egypt Air. Both my spouse and I would have been a bit happier had my tour company taken an European based airline but this is what they chose. In an effort to prepare me, my spouse reminded me of things to look for in people and their behavior so I could bail on the flight if my Spidey sense started tingling.

I made it to Frankfurt without going the long way around. Usually I forget to stay to one side at a particular Autobahn split but I remembered finally. In fact I arrived early enough to stop at McDonalds and have some gnosh before flying. While checking in, the ticketing agent pointed out that my dependent passport had expired....Opps! (Must fix this quickly) Thank my lucky stars that I brought my tourist one as well or I would have been screwed. I then had to explain why I had two passports but dropping into German and explaining what my spouse did for a living cleared the way quite quickly.

After boarding the plane is when all the fun began. I was nervous, eyeing people as they boarded - making a mental note if they bothered me or not. I also said a little prayer as we took off asking for a peaceful flight without problems. I only noted one man in first class who seemed to have everyone treating him very nicely so I figured he was some kind of dignitary and ignored him.

The man that started it all was sitting across from me in the first coach class row. He was well dressed, clean cut and had to be 2 meters tall. He seemed stressed and was very fidgety. Right after the plane took off he bee-lined it straight back to someone in the back end of the plane. He was another well dressed man, clean cut and slim. They talked for at least twenty minutes. I would say that my suspect went back and forth to this man at least six times before I started getting really spooked. I started scanning about looking for a weapon or anything that I could McGyver into a weapon. About the time I spotted a pair of plastic airplane headphones the freaky guy was back at his seat talking to a flight attendant. As he went to sit down he scratched his back, exposing a shiny, metal something. Oh crap, what the hell is this guy? I snapped the headphones in half thinking that should this man and the other well dress Armani wearing terrorist get any bright ideas I would stab him in the neck with the broken end of the headphones.

I quickly took my carry on and my McGyvered stuff and retreated to a seat next to someone I knew. As I sat there quickly going over everything I had seen and what my plan was to stop friend starts to laugh. I smack him on the arm and ask him what the hell is he laughing about since we were about to be hijacked. In between his fits of giggles he tells me that those are Egyptian Air marshals!

After asking a billion times if he was kidding and was reassured that they were indeed Air marshals, I quietly threw away my make shift weapons. I then threatened my friend to not tell a soul that I nearly lost it and tried to keep the plane safe from their own air marshals. We arrived safely, with no help from me that's for sure.

My next almost international incident comes later in the week....

Causing International Incidents

Well, I am back from Egypt and I must say I like the 34 degree weather much better than the 3 degrees I came home to. I had some fun while running amok in Egypt and will recant those tales shortly...including almost causing a few international incidents that would make my brother and husband proud!

Monday, November 14, 2005

Documentarian my butt

I was debating on whether to say anything until I saw a comment on Homefront6 wrote about the movie Jarhead. I really didn't want to speak out of turn, but am sort of annoyed at those that want to make a profit off of me for things I don't agree with.

I have never seen Michael Moore's films, as honestly I don't want him to have my money and profit off of me. I've watched him and later read remarks at the Oscars and was really disgusted. Last night on Sky a journalist made a documentry about Moore, and attempted to contact him - to no avail of course.

She traveled to his hometown of Finlt, MI. All I have to say is thank heavans he is not from CA. I am a little irritated with my home state for passing such a NIMBY law discouraging ROTC, or recruiters from schools but that's a different post. Anyways from listening to the various people that she interviewed, they were really mixed. Some thought what he did for the autoworkers in Flint was great - a real power to the little man deal. Most though, that were his friends were really hurt and even sued for his betrayl of their friendship. WB paid out to the man that Moore Slandered in his film since they bought the rights to it.

Overall she did what a true documentarian does, she went into a story without a predefined ending. She may have edited for time, but in general she provided an even picture of both sides of the debate of Moore. Moore on the other hand, does not really make a documentry - he's a commentitarian (if that's a word). I am sorry I know he won an Oscar, but he goes into a story head on with an ending already in mind. This completely negates the point of documenting life or a people as they occur, but shows you exactly what HE wants you to see. He funnels the images to produce what he thinks you should get out of it. My history professor along with mulitple historians would be agasht at creating such a biased bit of nonesense and calling it a documentry.

I still won't go see his films, he doesn't desrve my hard earned dollar. From the sounds of it, I won't go see Jarhead either.

My turn, my turnnnnn....

The green eyed monster has hit me just a bit but in an overall positive way. My co-worker heard from her husband that he is somewhere along the midpoint to arriving for R&R. I don't want to give to much info and create an OPSEC issue but lets just say she will be seeing him in a short time now.

I am excited for her, but a wee bit jealous all the same. Oh the joy she will have of wrapping her arms around her husband, giving him a bit fat smack on the cheek hello. I am so envious that she will get to have him so close to her, even if all they do is watch TV (ya right that's all they will do).

I know my time will come, and my spouse will be sitting next to me as I stare, resting my head on his shoulder while giggling like a schoolgirl. Not much longer now, but sooner than I think.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Project Valor IT - The finals

Well good news all around! Even though it was all in good natured fun, the squidlys beat Army by a few hundred dollars. Over all a total of $88,333.34 was raised. That is quite a few laptops and will be a great help.

Thanks for your support & the support of injured service members on their road to recovery. You can see the breakdown here

Friday, November 11, 2005

Project Valor IT

UPDATE: Use the button in my sidebar to donate! Don't you EVEN THINK about donating to anyone else other than the Green, mean Army Machine....Hooah!!!

Please see Blackfive about signing up for your support! Hooah! Go ARMY folks:

Valour-IT's online fundraising competition begins today! Let's see who can raise the most money to help reconnect our wounded warriors with the world!

WHAT: Friendly fundraising competition for Valour-IT.
WHEN: November 2nd through Veterans Day (the 11th).
WHERE: Based in the blogosphere, spreading everywhere else.
WHY: Because giving wounded warriors with hand and arm injuries access to a computer supports their healing and puts them back in touch with the world.
HOW: Blogger teams will be divided along military branches, with civilians "up for grabs."

The lines are drawn by service rivalry:
Jarheads (Marines) will be led by Holly Aho
Zoomies (Air Force) will be led by Greyhawk
Squids (Navy) will be led by Mrs. Smash
Doggies (Army) led by Blackfive

Please help out Project Valor IT. It is a great cause for a great group of people!

Veteran's Day

A signature line of a person I talk to says:

"If you can read this thank a teacher, if you are reading this in English thank a Marine."

I want to say THANK YOU to all the service members and veterans for keeping the US safe and protecting our freedoms, even the right to protest.

Bless you all

Monday, November 07, 2005

Getting back to the norm

CVG has a great post about a restaurant in MD that opens their doors to wounded vets and provides them a free meal. Not just any meal mind you but a big ol' steak, all the fixins' and drinks.

This isn't just about saying thank you though, the restaurant provides a place where the service members can try to get back to normal. There's no hospital smell nor hospital food for that matter. Folks just go about their business allowing for the soldiers to work on getting back to the norm.

I am so glad that the owner decided to do this. I've had my share of working with the wounded while making my rounds at LRMC issuing ID cards for MEDAVAC patients. I ended up on many occasions talking to service members for hours because they wanted someone other than the staff to talk to. I've seen plenty of girlfriend, wives and baby photos all beautiful of course. So to have a place where they can get out of the 'military zone' or even just to not really have to think about the recovery process is a Godsend in my opinion.

Please don't forget that there are four days left of the Valor IT project. Sgt Hook mentioned to Homefront6 that if those that read her blog (mine or otherwise) just donate $5, that the Army Team could reach their goal in no time. Please donate if you can - if you have already thanks!

Friday, November 04, 2005

Spousal Benefits & Pitfalls

I am not really sure how Heidi (at learning to live) found me, but after commenting on something I followed her over and started reading her posts as well. As she cronicles her life as well as that of her late husband she gives details that although sometimes may be hard for people to talk about are actually really insightful and informational.

I still need to read this about 5 more times to fully understand but some of the military spousal benefits seem kind of a crap shoot if you ask me. The Army Family Action Plan symposium is coming up here and I submitted what I think I understand about how Heidi was effected by the current benefit plans from the military as an issue.

In my personal opinion how is getting the lesser of two dollar amounts supposed to help the family? Oh here you are family, I am sorry for your loss but you get the smaller cookie - hope you don't mind. Doesn't make sense to me.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

How is your Inner Child?

Yeah I was a quiet but naughty little kid. I did naughty things but was wise enough to not get caught....

Your Inner Child Is Naughty

Like a child, you tend to discount social rules.
It's just too much fun to break the rules!
You love trouble - and it seems that trouble loves you.
And no matter what, you refuse to grow up!