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Monday, October 31, 2011

Cleopatra, Queen of the Nile and our house

I've wanted a dog pretty much from the moment I was born.  My mother may disagree with the exact date, but I'm sure that my infant dreams included puppy paws.  Since moving to Egypt it's been hard for me to accept the fact that my dreams of life with a dog would have to go on hold until we moved back to the states.  But then a couple of things changed.  First of all, we started to realize that we're probably going to be in Egypt for longer than we originally thought.  And second we developed some really close relationships with Egyptian friends who live locally.  It suddenly occurred to me this summer that I can continue living here feeling like my life is on hold because I can't have the things I need to make my life feel complete.  Or, I can live my life no matter where I am and work through the complications.

So we got a puppy.

Her name is Cleo and we are a bit infatuated with her.  I've always wanted a big dog, and though a golden retriever wasn't my dream dog, it made a lot more sense to start with something smaller than a great dane.  She is tawny, mellow and full of personality.  When we first got her one of her wierdest obsessions was wedging herself into the cushions of the couch or sleeping with her head propped up.

She's also much more baby than dog sometimes since she loves to be held in your arms and falls asleep on her back with her paws up in the air.

We've gotten a real kick out of teaching her tricks and moving her closer to being house trained.  She's a very smart and good natured dog so it's been more fun than work.  So far she's learned to sit, stay, come and fetch.  And probably our favorite of her personality quirks is that she's extremely quiet.  It took her 5 weeks to bark for the first time and now she only does it when she needs something.  I'm so much happier in Cairo now that I have more of a home and a feeling of family.  Cleo has added such a richness and layer of playfulness to our days.

I was looking through photos and videos we've taken of her since she joined the family in August and it amazes me how much she's grown.  She's only 3 1/2 months old and being away from her for a weekend felt like she had changed tremendously.  I can only imagine how this compares to parenthood, but it feels like we're getting some good practice!

Cleo at 3 1/2 months- Tonight
Cleo at 45 days old

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Can I just say.... Wow!

So the bus pulled into Dahab, this remote and tired looking town at about 12:45 am on Friday morning.  There wasn't much to see because it was dark and there wasn't any activity on the street, especially compared to Sharm El Sheikh where we had made our last pit stop an hour before.  But it didn't really matter because all I cared about was doing a face plant into a pillow and letting my legs stretch out after 9 hours at a 90 degree angle.  When the alarm went off 5 hours later it was met with a very audible groan and I'm pretty sure one of us let the F-bomb drop.

But then once we were standing at the water's edge with salty spray jumping towards the sky and a cool breeze perking our faces things started to get better.  We met up with our instructor Rashad, who goes by Shouda (not sure if that's how you would spell it, I'm just going phonetically) and we jumped right into business.

It was very similar to the prep and discussions we'd had poolside a week before, only now we were loading gear into crates and having our briefing meeting in a bedoin style restaurant with pillows on
the ground.  The water was cool, but refreshing and after a 200 meter swim to prove we could stay afloat on our own without a swimsuit it was time to gear up.  Considering I'd only done this a few times before it felt like a habit already and we even learned a new catch phrase to help us remember all the steps in our buddy check.  Instead of "Begin With Review And Friend", Micheal suggested the new and improved "Bruce Willis Ruins All Films".  It is so much easier to remember!

The next few hours were spent in the water repeating skills we'd already done in the pool, only now everything was salty and there were some interesting things to see at the bottom, like other divers, rocks and a few fish darting around us as we knelt in the sand.  I was definitely enjoying myself more than I had in the pool, but still didn't feel like I was actually a scuba diver yet.  Then we went for our first open water fun dive and Can I just say... Wow!

I finally understood why people do this activity.  It's amazing!  The colors and movement of the fish and coral are breathtaking.  And once you hit your groove with buoyancy it turns into a  leisurely trek above the reef, long sweeping scissor kicks and hands clasped gently around your waist as you cruise through a part of the world that many people never get to see.  I saw clown fish, lion fish, porcupine fish, and probably a hundred other varieties that I'll never learn the names of.  There were huge clusters of coral is every color imaginable, with fish nibbling and skipping in and out of every crevice.    When we explored the Canyon there was a drop off point that made me feel like I was in "Finding Nemo" just staring in awe at the deep blue expanse of water that extended over the ridge.  It seemed limitless and was one of those stomach dropping reminders of just how vast and incomprehensible the ocean really is.  Probably the most beautiful sight was a curtain of bubbles rising from the edge of the drop off like hundreds of silvery strings of pearls making their way to the surface.  Some were from divers breathing below, but most were coming from the reef itself.   When we swam through them it was deliciously ticklish .  And at one point a fish with hot pink and lime stripes swam right in front of my mask scaring the hell out of me and also making me shriek in excitement like a little kid.  When we surfaced and pulled the regulators out of our mouths we were smiling and both nodded and said "Yeah we're gonna need to do more of this."

It was so worth it.  The training is hard at times, my body is sore in places I didn't know could get sore, and it makes you face fears you might not have even known you had, but it feels like such an accomplishment to be able to say I am a certified open water diver.  We're already stoked to go back and explore more of the diving that's available in Dahab and to possibly get our advanced diver certification later this year so we can dive even deeper.  So my weekend ends on an exhausted but happy note and I have one more thing I can cross off the bucket list.  :)

More pics to come!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Scuba Diving

Today Ryan and I are leaving Cairo on an 8 hour bus ride to head to Dahab where we will spend the weekend finishing our scuba diving certification. I'm trying to be positive and look forward to the experience, but I hate long bus rides and I'm mildy concerned about the fact that I might die this weekend, so it's been a bit hard to get excited. Maybe if I focus on the good things I can switch my mindset.

1. We're going to be certified in scuba which will let us explore all the amazing diving opportunities in Egypt

2. It's supposed to be beautiful and relaxing in Dahab, a place we haven't explored yet.

3. We're getting out of Cairo for the weekend, which is always refreshing.

I think that's pretty much it, I was starting to think about the peanut butter and jelly sandwich I have packed for the bus ride so I guess the positives are pretty much at an end.

On an interesting note, this will be the first time we've left our new puppy Cleo. I know it's cliche and people with actual children will probably be mocking me for this, but I'm sad to be leaving my baby. She's only 3 1/2 months old and we really love her. At night we snuggle on the bed and she worms her way into our arms so that she's in the middle of the sandwich.

I know, it's disgustingly cute.

In my next post I'll add some new pictures of our trip to Dahab and the cute puppy!