Thursday, November 8, 2012

A Fall in Winter


First, let me just say how terrible I feel for those who still don't have electricity and heater. I can't imagine going through this weather without any heat. Weather's been crazy ya'll. First a hurricane, now a snowstorm. It's like Manila, only a thousand degrees colder.

But, I would be lying if I didn't say how much I loved snow. I think I actually like it better than fall. There's just something wonderful the morning after when everything turns white. That's before everything turns muddy and icky of course.

I decided to bring my camera and risk getting mugged in the 10 blocks I have to walk from apartment to school. Everything was that pretty.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Autumn in New York


And just like that, fall is here once more. Even before coming to New York, I've always loved the idea of fall. It's the romantic/pretentious arse (the same one that actually uses the word arse) in me. It's a result of that time in my life when I found myself eternally in the most quiet of library corners, reading poetry about the changing of the seasons and the slow, elegant dance of autumn leaves as they fall off branches. It's the result of reading too many Bienvenido Santos novels and short stories. In reality, the closest I had been to experiencing fall in Manila was when the fire trees would set ablaze the Ateneo grounds with their red-orage flowers. 

Admittedly, when I finally got to experience fall last year, I was heavily disappointed. Angry, even. How could I see the poetry in the falling leaves when I could barely move my freezing fingers. This tropical boy, more than anything else, hated cold weather. While liberal, American teenage girls sashayed down Arthur Avenue wearing nothing but their stilettos and handkerchief-sized cloth they called tops, I was bundled up in several layers of shirts, jackets, leg warmers, scarves, hats and gloves.(#firstworldproblems, I know. I do have a point towards the end of this. Just be patient and not too judgy.) 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Barcelona: Sagrada Familia Part 2

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I started this blog to pressure myself to practice taking photos. However, this past years, this blog has become more personal. And I plan on keeping it that way. I have created another photoblog just for pictures. This one, will have bits of story to accompany the pictures.  Here are some more pictures from my trip to Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. (The first part is here)

Turning point

Several weeks ago, I started a blog entry that I never finished because I felt it was going towards a dark place I didn't really wish to explore. Here's how it started:

My friend Donna turned 27 this week . I would like to feign indifference to this number but there seems to be a collective agreement among everyone that make it more than just a number or your average birthday. It is one o'clock in the morning and I am wide awake, partly due to jetlag and partly because of this creeping despair about the future.

I would like to postpone dwelling on these thoughts but I've always had a low emotional quotient and have never been very good at delaying gratification. Or in this case, resolution.


27 What's in a number? Years ago, I started on a path that I thought would lead towards somewhere different from where I am today. In my naivete, I had always imagined myself a writer, a poet. I had promised myself that I would write ferociously to fill my hunger for words, to test the limitless boundaries of writing, to weave stories that have never been weaved before.


And here I am now in an apartment in New York faced with books by Amartya Sen, Jeffrey Sachs and William Easterly, equipped with my newfound understanding of economic graphs and charts. I am not complaining, mind you. This is certainly not a bad place to be in. One can only be grateful. Yet it is so completely different from what I had imagined myself would become that I cannot help but feel doubt at times.


Doubt. I know that I like having control over the things that happen in my life to a point that it frustrates and stresses me out when I cannot. And so the 180 degree turn that life has taken has made it clear that no matter how much I try, one can never be fully in control. This, I find troubling. And at times when the world around me quiets down, this, I find frightening.


This realization that I have no complete control over the direction my life may take is frightening especially since I barely have any idea of where I might be in the next 4 monts or so. 


Here, allow me to continue:

These days, doubt and fear of the uncertain future has grown, like thorny vines crawling out of my chest and slowly tightening its grip around my hands, feet and neck. Well, there's a happy image for you. Truth is, without going into too much detail, I've been hoping, even expecting to get a particular internship in a development agency. This internship is in fact what brought me to Fordham, to New York. And now, each day, the fear and knowledge that I might not actually get it grows more potent, more real.

This fear has plunged me to a sadness I haven't felt for a while. And in one of those days, when I felt immobile and glued to my bed, I began to rummage through the sadness. I re-read my application essay for the internship. In it I said that this internship was a way for me to use my skills and knowledge to serve the marginalized. It was a service driven by a deep gratitude to the One who has given me the skills, knowledge and opportunities I have now.

Here I find comfort. Sure, I will be utterly devastated when the day that I find out that I didn't get the internship comes. But, still, there is room for joy. One rejection should not diminish any desire for service. And if my gratitude and desire to serve is as deep as I believe it is, then I should be open to wherever I will be sent, even if it wasn't part of the original plan. There's not just a room, but an entire football field for joy. 

Rejection, sadness and disappointments have ways of stripping us naked of the unnecessary things we build around ourselves and revealing the heart of our desires.   Fr. Arrupe said, "Fall in love, Stay in love, it will decide everything." And hopefully, it will give me enough courage, too.


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Biking with Bea


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Our days in New York our numbered. Back in college, we have this thing called senior syndrome, which makes you want to do everything you can only do as a college student months and days before college. We both realized that we barely have 4 months left in New York (well, depending on how certain things will turn out. ) I wanted to start checking things off my list of things to do in New York and Bea had a groupon for a 4 hour bike ride around Central Park.

So this happened.


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Check out the rest of the pictures below.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Barcelona: Sagrada Familia Part 1

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I'm not gonna lie. I had an awesome summer. I didn't have a lot of money but thanks to cheap flights care of Ryan Air, I got to go to Barcelona, Spain for several days. The main attraction in Barcelona is, of course, Antonio Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia. 

As with the pyramids in Egypt, I looked at a lot of pictures before visiting this church, but nothing could have prepared me for its magnificence.

La Sagrada Familia is famous for the having the lengthiest construction time. Construction began in 1882 and is still going on. But what is even more amazing is its architectural design. Antonio Gaudi took inspiration from nature for his works which is why you will see a lot of references to plants, fruits and the ocean. You will also seldom see any straight lines favored by modern, minimalist art.

As a tip, one should come early. I went at around 11 and there was a long line of people outside that snaked around the block. Tickets are usually 18 euros, but thanks to my student i.d. I got in for much cheaper. You should also buy another ticket to ride the elevator up to one of its towers. The excellent view of Barcelona alone is worth the extra euros you'll be paying. Also, wear comfortable shoes and bring a bottle of water. And have your camera ready.


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I mean, where do you even start to take pictures?


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Everything just seemed so...glorious.

Cape Point, South Africa


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After having some play time with a seal (see blog entry here), we headed to Cape Point. It was an hour or so of van ride, which meant more nap time for me. Friends know that anytime you put me in a moving vehicle, I fall asleep. I can't help it. There was this time when I rode the back of a motorcycle and almost fell off because I doze off. But I digress.

Cape Point is utterly magnificent even in the cold of winter's tail. I maybe a little biased because anything besides the sea transforms into something magical for me. 
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We saw a baboon, hiked up a mountain towards a light house, got caught in a storm and finally, saw a rainbow. I'd say that was a good trip.

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Pictures below:


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

IPED Welcome Parteee 2


The party continued and everyone just kept bringing beer, brandy, vodka and tequila. Let's play a game. Guess who's drunk and who's not.
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In behalf of my room mates, thanks to everyone who came! And to all the first years, welcome to IPED!!

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Here are the pictures!

IPED Welcome Party Part 1



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I finally moved in with Heather and Mahwish. It's farther than my old one, but I couldn't be happier. So far it's been smooth sailing. But we'll see in the coming days if WWW III breaks out. We jokingly told everyone last semester that we'd throw the first party of the semester. The joke caught on and I found myself putting up Christmas lights and buying beer. 

This party was pretty tame. If by tame you mean people getting s*** faced drunk. It was also an awesome way to get to know the new Ipeeps (who know, this might catch on this time around.) Here's part one when everyone was still sober and self aware. 

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Friday, September 7, 2012

A day with a seal

So here I am wide awake at 5 am, eating chocolate that was supposed to be for family and friends. These days, I'm usually knocked out by 8pm.  Last night I tried to work out but found myself falling asleep while trying to lift weights. And now I'm wide awake. It's still the first week days of classes so there really isn't any homework. So here I am. Blogging. 
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One of things I enjoyed the most in our South Africa study tour was seeing all the animals. And even before we got to the Safari, we were able to enjoy the company of this cute, chubby seal!!! yay. Look at that huge tummy. hahaha.

This happened during our weekend in Cape Town, which, by the way, is one of the most beautiful places I've seen. Also, if you've noticed, I don't blog in chronological order. This is not that kind of blog. This space is basically a record of how I see the world. In literary terms, it's a view of my poetic memory. And as it happens, memory is hardly ordered or organized.

Yes, this could be another excuse for some lousy blogging on my part.

Anyway, here are the pictures!


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Thursday, September 6, 2012

First day in South Africa


From Cairo, I flew to South Africa for a 3 week study tour. Being the eager beaver that I was, I arrived at 4am in the airport and had to wait for everyone else to arrive, 5 hours later. Needless to say, the airport and I became very intimate. hahaha.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Apartheid Museum Day



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People have been asking how my summer was and I always end up giving non-sensical, incoherent answers. It's difficult, you know? I realize that they're being polite and actually just expect a 2 sentence answer. But how do I compress the experience of living in Egypt for 2 months, 3 weeks in South Africa and a week in Barcelona and Budapest into 2 sentences. Thus my usual answer of : it was awesome.

And it really was and I am grateful beyond words. What is most awesome for me about this summer is the affirmation of what I truly want to do in life. But that's for another entry. For now, I have over 5000 pictures waiting to be blogged. So let's do this!!!

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Friday, August 3, 2012

Cairo Hash : The After Party

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The great thing about the hash was that  we got to make new expat friends. We went to Julien's apartment where he served some bacon and alcohol on the first day of Ramadan. Suddenly everyone was dancing. I will not caption the following photos just because it's more fun that way. Plus I really can't remember how these happened:


Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Coptic Cairo Redux 1

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So I went back to Coptic Cairo and realized that I've only explored half of the area since my first trip(HERE). This time I was lucky enough to go with Susana and Mark. It was really hot though so walking was a bit of a hell. Still, it was all very pretty - the churches, the cemetery, the narrow streets lined with books. Just look at the pictures:

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Trip to Marsa Matruh/Marsa Matrouh

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It was my last weekend in Egypt and I had finished my Arabic classes, it was the perfect time for a summer getaway outside the noise and chaos of Cairo. Initially we wanted to go to Alexandria but then decided to go to Marsa Matruh  a small town that faces the Mediterranean sea. I'm glad we did because it had one of the beaches I've seen in my entire life. And that's saying a lot considering I'm a tropical boy from the Philippines.

Here are some things to know if you're considering traveling to Marsa Matruh:

1. Bus tickets are 75 LE. You should buy them the day before the trip just to be sure you have a seat.
2. The trip takes around 5 to 7 hours so be sure to bring some snacks and water. No need to worry about bathroom stops, there's a toilet inside the bus you can use throughout the whole trip.
3. In general, there aren't a lot of tourists in Egypt so there's a lot of rooms available in hotels.
4. Marsa Matruh isn't as  famous as Alexandria or Luxor of a tourist destination so you'll be dealing with a lot more locals who are not used to dealing with foreigners who only speak English. It might be best to learn a few Arabic phrases.
5. We stayed at the Al Quasir hotel for 100 LE each per night. However, a man and a woman cannot stay in the same room unless they are married, so be sure to take that into consideration when booking your hotel.
6. Bring your passports. You need those to check in at the hotel.
7. Visit Aghiba beach, and Cleopatra's bath, have some tea with mint at night by the beach and smoke some apple shisha and Enjoy!!!

Here are the pictures:

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Red Sea Part 4/ On the Hippie Traveler, Hashish Culture

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(Part 1, 2, 3)

By this time tomorrow, I will be in a beach outside Cairo, enjoying the last remaining days of my stay here in Egypt. But before that, here's my final post on my trip to the Red Sea and our stay in the Bedouin Camp.

During our stay, we met a number of foreigners and Egyptians. Some were there for vacation, others have been there for months and years. The best thing about all this traveling I've been doing is that I get the chance to meet new people, make new friends and learn a lot of new things. The people in the Bedouin camp were good people, I'm sure.

But I would be lying if I said that I didn't feel uncomfortable in their presence. First, there was just too much hashish smoking going on. Hashish is a kind of drug that basically comes from the extracted oil of the marijuana plant. I am in no position to judge if marijuana is good or bad. I have tons of friends who do and/or have done marijuana/hashish. And I still love them. But many of those in the camp did hashish on a very extreme level. Some started smoking as early as 7 am. 

And I have to say its really hard to talk with people when they're too high to the point of irrationality. (And really, if you're in a place that's as beautiful as the Red Sea, what's the point of doing all those hashish. My understanding is that hashish is used to escape whatever reality you are in. You're already by the red see, miles away from everything. You've already escaped. I also understand that hashish can enhance certain experiences. But enhancing isn't exactly real or authentic. And being on that beach, there wasn't anything I would've wanted to "enhance" or change. It was perfect just the way it was. But what do I know?)

And then there was this night that we slept in the desert and it just got weirder. Everyone was high. Someone was dancing by herself on the sand, rolling around in the dirt, chanting and raising her hands to the heavens. Then there was this guy who was so high that he started preaching about love, world peace, freeing yourself from your inhibitions, and basically we were transported back to the 70's.

I try not to judge. Try being the operative word. I myself am a big believer in love, freedom and world peace. But there was just something with the way that and the place where these things were preached that seemed bizarre to me. Here was this guy talking about changing the world with love and yet he has spent tons of money on hashish while spending his days lying on the sand, high and care free. Here you are talking about changing the world, drinking booze while Bedouins light fire and cook your food. This is not changing the world. This is ignoring the world.

I have nothing against this kind of lifestyle per se, but come on, own it and don't pretend to be actively changing the world while you lie on your ass the whole day. Walk the talk. Maybe I feel this way because I've met so many awesome people who are actually working to change the world for the better. There's S who could be doing something more lucrative, especially since she comes from several prestigious universities in Asia, but have instead spent the last 3 years teaching in a public school. There's J, who have chosen to start a cooperative/foundation for the small community in a small island of Dapdap in Quezon. There's P who's doing all he can to improve the quality of life in a small indigenous community. These people can preach about love, peace and changing the world and I will be all ears because I know they know what they're talking about. I know they know that freedom is not just about being free from inhibitions or problems or work.  Real freedom comes from being truly ourselves, by fulfilling our potential, by pushing our limits and capacities, by being more and doing more. In this sense, freedom is not always easy or happy. But it is real, deep and dynamic. It is powerful. Powerful enough to actually change the world.

But I also know that I won't be hearing these people preach. They don't have to. Their lives are more than enough of a visual aid to tell you that love and all the other hippie stuff we believe in can indeed change the world.

Those who truly want to change the world do not try to escape it, they immerse themselves in it. They drown in all its glory and shame, in all its light and shadow. 

In any case, the pictures:


Cairo Hash 2

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(Part 1 of this post here)

Just to refresh my 2 readers out there( hi mom!), hashing in Cairo is basically running around in the desert while following a trail of lentils. This is for me on the highlights of my stay in Cairo just because I have fallen in love with the desert, plus I do enjoy walking and running. What I wasn't expecting was that we'd be climbing through hills and rocks. At one point we found ourselves on the side of a very tall rock and my fear of heights kicked in and I was basically crawling and holding on to the rocks for dear life. Thank goodness the expats with us then were very understanding and tried to distract me with some chit chat. 

All in all it was a great experience - running in the desert while making new friends. I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

Here are the pictures:

Monday, July 23, 2012

Touring Corregidor Part 1

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This post is long overdue. Last January, some classmates of mine from Fordham went to the Philippines for a class. Part of the cultural experience was touring Corregidor, which is great since I've never been to the place myself.

Corregidor Island, locally called Isla ng Corregidor, is a lofty island located at the entrance of Manila Bay in southwestern part of Luzon Island in the Philippines. Due to this location, Corregidor was fortified with several coastal artillery and ammunition magazines to defend the entrance of Manila Bay and the City of Manila from attacks by enemywarships in the event of war. Located 48 kilometres (30 mi) inland, Manila has been the largest city and the most importantseaport in the Philippines for centuries, from the colonial rule of Spain, the United States, and Japan and after the establishment of the Republic of the Philippines in 1946.

During World War II, Corregidor played an important role during the invasion and liberation of the Philippines from Japanese forces. Heavily bombarded in the latter part of the war, the ruins left on the island serve as a military memorial to American, Filipino and Japanese soldiers who served or lost their lives on the island. Corregidor is one of the important historic and tourist sites in the country.( from here)


Today you get to view the ruins of war, monuments that honor the bravery of soldiers who fought and died during the war. We went on a very rainy day, it might be best to travel here during the summer days. Just go to Manila Bay and take a one hour boat ride to the island and enjoy!

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(Here is where you can find some pictures from that Philippine Trip : hereherehere)

Walking on the Nile Bridge

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2 more weeks before I leave Cairo. One of the things I enjoyed the most is hanging in cafes and the consistently awesome sunset by the Nile bridge.


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Just another sunrise


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Missing grandma


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This is one of the first pictures I took of my grandmother. This was taken using a cellphone camera. Here she is at her usual spot in our house facing the street outside. She would watch everyone who passed by to say hi, to ask where they're going, to tell them to buy stuff from her small sari-sari store.

I wish I could give her a big hug right now.

By the Red Sea Part 3

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( Here's Part 2 and Part 1 of our Red Sea adventure)


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Bec and I continued lounging around the Bedouin Camp basically doing nothing. I'm all for vacations and getting a lot of rest but even this was a little too much for me. But still, I'm thankful for the time spent by the Red Sea.

I must apologize. I haven't been feeling well these past days and blogging has become a chore. I might not post as much or if I do, I might just let the pictures speak for themselves.

Here are some more pictures.

Cairo Hash: Running through the desert.

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Life is all about trying new things, you know. So I decided to try this hashing in the desert thing.  What's hashing? Well, it's not drugs but this:


Variously described as "the lunatic fringe of running" and "the drinking club with a running problem," the Hash House Harriers are a worldwide loosely organized collection of individual clubs. The Cairo Hash kennel welcomes all people - and well behaved pets - of any age, class, size, shape, sex, religion, philosophy (or not), and running or walking ability (or not).
Our premise is simple, a couple of  harriers (the Hares) lay a trail of flour, lentils or paper over a course (the Trail) they choose. The other harriers (thehounds) try to find and follow the trail. It stops a few times in the next 45 to 75 minutes at regroup stops (the Checkpoints) to allow back markers to catch up. And finally returns to the starting point.
There is a a parallel trail just for walkers.


Check out their website here:http://www.cairohash.com/about-the-hash-p5.html

Kinda stupid that I decided to run in the desert on the first day that I decided to try fasting for Ramadan. But I survived.

I went with a couple of new friends, Susana who is from Spain and Mark from Canada.  We decided to walk since it was first time. It was a wonderful experience, this running in the desert thing. I've always thought of myself us a beach person but I realize that I love the desert just as much. It is amazing how quiet and beautiful it could be.  I might just do this again before I leave in 2 weeks. 

Here's what happened:


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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Red Sea 2


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The sun continued to rise and it was wonderful. Everything glowed in its light. The day was fairly quiet compared to my usual routine. Basically, I ate, slept, swam and ate some more. It was very restful but I don't think I could do something like that from days on end. A couple of days was more than enough.

Part 1 is here in case you want to find out more about going to the Bedouin camp by the red sea.

And the rest of the pictures are here:

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Kids


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Yeats ago, I was part of an organization that used to visit several orphanages in Manila. We would spend hour playing with the kids. I have learned more from this experience and these kids than all my college courses combined. 

Red Sea Sunrise


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Last Videoke night


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I found these pictures in my laptop and I was trying to figure out when this videoke party happened. I couldn't seem to remember much of the details then I remembered that this was the first time, in my 10 months of stay in NYC, that I got drunk. I've stopped drinking a lot when I got to NYC just because alcohol is really expensive. 6USD for a bottle of beer is enough to sober me up for the rest of the night.

This of course has brought down my tolerance level for alcohol significantly, so when Donna started serving her cocktail drink, I just lost it. I'm not gonna recount every embarrassing detail, mostly because my psyche has blocked most of it from my consciousness. I do remember having fun singing with friends.

Also, I really love videoke ( here are the reasons why)

Pictures here:

Egyptian Wedding: Erin and Wael 4

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This is the last in the series of Erin and Wael's awesome wedding in Cairo. I don't know how professional photographers do it - go through thousands of pictures, sort, choose, edit etc. So here's part the epic wedding entrance, part 1, part 2, and part 3.


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Red Sea: Bedouin Camp 1





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This set of pictures has been sitting in my laptop for a couple of days because I don't know how to begin talking about this experience in the Red Sea. It all seemed like everything was wrapped in a smoke of surrealness or something, that's for sure. In any case this is what happened.

I was really disappointed when plans to go to Alexandria with some friends didn't pan out (uhm, let's just say it's destiny) and was prepared to spend the rest of the week sulking in self-pity. But then my classmate Rebecca had a brilliant idea. And the next thing you knew, we were off to the Red Sea. We first intended to spend the weekend climbing Sinai, but Sarah, Rebecca's roomate talked about this Bedouin camp she spent a couple of months in. Well, she had me at Red Sea.

When I was a kid, I was kinda Bible facts freak. It all seemed very interesting to me and not just for religious reasons. I mean, imagine you were 10 years old, wouldn't you be amazed to hear stories of entire seas being parted by the raising of a stick? or dead plants burning endlessly?

So while there are far more beautiful beaches than the Red Sea (especially in the Philippines!) I couldn't pass up the chance to see and swim in it.

At the end of this post, be sure to check some very important things about traveling to the Bedouin camp.

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So here's what happened:

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