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:

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Char Wars

A couple of years ago, I was Program Officer for JVP. One of my tasks was to facilitate the 12 day Orientation Seminar for new volunteers who will be assigned to marginalized communities in the Philippines. To break the ice and to introduce the formation staff, who will train and work with the volunteers for the rest of the year, we would come up with all sorts of gimik. For my last OrSem, we made this video inspired by Star Wars.


Looking at it now, I bowl over with how corny we were. We all made our own costume and ad libbed our lines. We even bought light sabers from Divisoria!!!  And we had random location shoots. Good times, good times.
To know more about what jvp does click here, here and here.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Egyptian Wedding: Erin and Wael 3

In case you missed it, the wedding entrance that included flames and fireworks is here, while part 1 is here, and part 2 is here.
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This wedding is smack full of exciting things. As you'll see in this particular entry there was lots of dancing, a belly dancer, a cake with sparklers, and just a lot of loving. 

The belly dancer is of course a highlight for me because it's the first time I've seen in person. I have yet to understand the significance of having a belly dancer in one's wedding, other than, ahem, entertainment. Does it symbolize anything? Is it meant to show that the groom is now so smitten with his bride that no amount of sexy dancing will make him leave her side? Am I overthinking? 

In any case, more pictures below!
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Divisoria

This is one of my earlier photos when I was still using film. This was taken in a place in the Philippines called Divisoria. Divi, as it has been called by many, is a major shopping district in Metro Manila. In fact, it's where you can get the cheapest bargains of just about anything - clothes, food, kitchen appliances, toys, party supplies. christmas decor. You name it they've got it and at a very low price.

Sadly this is also a place where poverty is much more exposed.  I hope that I get to see the day when every Filipino will have a decent roof above his head.
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IPED Alumni Networking Night 2

(Part one of this post here)

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The IPED alumni networking night happened a couple of weeks before finals. Understandably, we were stressed and swamped with papers that just wouldn't write themselves, gadamit. So we went out for a harmless bottle or 2. It was a pretty calm night, all in all. Not wild at all. Nor weird. It was uneventful. Nothing happened that should be kept secret forever nor should ever be mentioned again lest people die from shame. Nope, it was a normal, quiet night. Just look at the pictures:


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Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Ruins of Corregidor

I am currently working on a long-overdue post on our Corregidor trip. But for now, this.

This is one of the ruins of a building that was bombed in Corregidor during those war years. It was raining that day and I was a little exhausted from our classes. But looking back, I wish I had more time to linger. There is something both ghastly and beautiful about ruins such as this one, a shell that has long lost its soul. And even then, it is never empty.
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Egyptian Wedding : Erin and Wael 2

(The first part of the wedding pictures are here  and the epic wedding entrance is here)
After that awesome entrance that included music of epic proportions, flames and fireworks, we finally got to see Erin and Wael. Erin looks especially radiant that night.  In Egypt, when they say that a wedding is a celebration of the couples union, they really mean it. I've never seen a more hardcore celebration of a couple's marriage. As soon as they got off the vintage car, dancing ensued.
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We danced, we partied and we made friends. Pictures below!
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Saturday, July 7, 2012

My First Egyptian Wedding: Erin and Wael Part 1


One of the reasons why I was excited to go to Cairo was because of Erin and Wael's wedding. And getting to know them better here in Cairo made me even more excited to attend their wedding. First be sure to check out the awesomeness that is their wedding entrance here.

The wedding was anything but boring. But beyond the fireworks, the food, the luxurious venue, the dancers, what really shone out was how in love Wael and Erin were with each.  It was also great that Erin's family flew all the way from the states to Cairo even if they felt uncertain about the political situation in Egypt. All in all it was a lovely night. As you can see in the pictures:

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All in all it was a lovely night. As you can see in the pictures:

JVP Zambales

Check out my other posts on JVP areas I've visited before when I was still Program officer, here, here and here :)

For this post, I just wanted to share this former JVP area in Zambales where Joan was assigned as a health officer. The institution is called the Foundation of Our Lady of Peace Mission Inc. (FOLPMI). FOLPMI has several projects involving the indigenous community of Aetas in Zambales. They provide livelihood, health services, formation and education to the community. Joan, a registered nurse, was sent to be in charge of the health clinic, the daily feeding program for the kids and health education.

The institution and the community sits on top of a mountain. Whenever I am there I feel like I'm on a retreat. It's quiet, there are a lot of trees and there's a falls running right beside the community.
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One of the things I love about visiting this particular area are the kids.  Just look at these photos:

Erin and Wael's epic entrance


There were fireworks, flames, candle dancers, belly dancers, lots of dancing and food. It was epic. It was exciting. It was Erin and Wael's wedding.

Whenever I would ask Erin about her wedding, everything sounded low key. And so when the wedding started, my jaw dropped to the floor in awe and amazement. What an entrance. It started with the lovely couple riding a vintage-looking car. As the car started to move, music of epic proportions (ala LOTR or Star Wars) began to play and flames flew in time to the beat of the music. I just had to take a video of it, which I normally don't do. It was my first Egyptian wedding. And it was epic:

Thursday, July 5, 2012

IPED Alumni Networking Night


It was the last IPED party/event for the school year and the last party for our batch before the new batch of IPeeps comes in. The IPED Alumni Night brings together the current batch of IPED students and the program's alumni. It gave us students the chance to learn where we might find ourselves a year or two from now in terms of career. It was very interesting because IPED alumni are in very different industries. Some are working for non-profit organizations, others are in government service while some are into finance.

We also got to hear about the different strategies they used to get the jobs they have now - from interview skills to networking techniques. This was helpful considering how jobs are really difficult to come by nowadays given the crisis.  So here's part 1!

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Staying fit while traveling or on vacation

I have come to an age where it's not easy to stay fit or maintain my ideal weight (this is basically me saying that, yes, I am now old.:)) It usually takes me a couple of months or so to start and maintain a workout/exercise routine. And unfortunately, when something comes in the way of that routine, say a trip out of town, I start getting lazy and gaining weight. Before leaving for New York, my exercise routine got disrupted by all the preparations for the Big Apple, including all the goodbye meet ups and dinners, that when I had my medical check-up, the doctor told me that I had a high level of bad cholesterol.


with my family in New Jersey who loves to feed me.


When I got to New York, I gained so much weight in my first few months in Fordham - from eating so much Chinese food and not exercising -  that I had a hard time closing my pants or buttoning my shirts. But after a while I got back on track and started to lose the pounds. Then this trip to Cairo came.


Without a gym or any regular exercise, I started to gain all the weight back. I feared for my cholesterol level. It didn't help that food was relatively cheap here in Cairo compared to what I usually had in New York.  So here are a few things I've been trying to do to at least maintain my current weight if not become better fit .


Celebrating in Egypt

These days, I've been missing my friends and family back home a lot. Especially when I see their posts on Facebook saying how cold it is now in Manila and how the strong the rains are. These only emphasizes the difference in where we are right now and how truly far we are from each other. Nonetheless, no regrets. If I hadn't taken the chance to go around, then I might no have met some awesome new friends.

One of them is Erin and Wael. I met Erin back when she was still a student in Fordham. She was always one of the sweetest people in the class.  Wael is Erin's fiance, whom I met in a sort of awkward moment in NYC. hahaha. Who would've though that a year later and I would be going to Cairo and staying with Wael for a while. So now they're getting married tomorrow and I'm really glad I get to be a part of it.

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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Top 9 Travel Tips from Paulo Coelho


I've been looking at a lot of travel blogs lately and I came across Paulo Coelho's Top 9 Travel Tips. I agree with everything except the first one which is not to visit museums.haha. You know me and my love for all things museums. One of the things I plan to do when I get back to NYC is spend a whole day in front of this huge Monet in the MET. What I can relate to the most is the one where he says "don't compare." This is very true. The last thing you want to do when visiting a new place is to compare it with other places you've visited before. Each place is a wonder and beauty on its own that you need to experience and joy fully.  You will only ruin the experience by comparing it to other places you've travelled to. In any case here is the list which I took from here:


My top 9 travel tips

by PAULO COELHO on JULY 3, 2012
I realised very early on that, for me, travelling was the best way of learning. I still have a pilgrim soul, and I thought that I would use this blog to pass on some of the lessons I have learned, in the hope that they might prove useful to other pilgrims like me.
1. Avoid museums. This might seem to be absurd advice, but let’s just think about it a little: if you are in a foreign city, isn’t it far more interesting to go in search of the present than of the past? It’s just that people feel obliged to go to museums because they learned as children that travelling was about seeking out that kind of culture. Obviously museums are important, but they require time and objectivity – you need to know what you want to see there, otherwise you will leave with a sense of having seen a few really fundamental things, except that you can’t remember what they were.
2. Hang out in bars. Bars are the places where life in the city reveals itself, not in museums. By bars I don’t mean nightclubs, but the places where ordinary people go, have a drink, ponder the weather, and are always ready for a chat. Buy a newspaper and enjoy the ebb and flow of people. If someone strikes up a conversation, however silly, join in: you cannot judge the beauty of a particular path just by looking at the gate.
3. Be open. The best tour guide is someone who lives in the place, knows everything about it, is proud of his or her city, but does not work for any agency. Go out into the street, choose the person you want to talk to, and ask them something (Where is the cathedral? Where is the post office?). If nothing comes of it, try someone else – I guarantee that at the end of the day you will have found yourself an excellent companion.
4. Try to travel alone or – if you are married – with your spouse. It will be harder work, no one will be there taking care of you, but only in this way can you truly leave your own country behind. Traveling with a group is a way of being in a foreign country while speaking your mother tongue, doing whatever the leader of the flock tells you to do, and taking more interest in group gossip than in the place you are visiting.
5. Don’t compare. Don’t compare anything – prices, standards of hygiene, quality of life, means of transport, nothing! You are not traveling in order to prove that you have a better life than other people – your aim is to find out how other people live, what they can teach you, how they deal with reality and with the extraordinary.
6. Understand that everyone understands you. Even if you don’t speak the language, don’t be afraid: I’ve been in lots of places where I could not communicate with words at all, and I always found support, guidance, useful advice, and even girlfriends. Some people think that if they travel alone, they will set off down the street and be lost for ever. Just make sure you have the hotel card in your pocket and – if the worst comes to the worst – flag down a taxi and show the card to the driver.
7. Don’t buy too much. Spend your money on things you won’t need to carry: tickets to a good play, restaurants, trips. Nowadays, with the global economy and the Internet, you can buy anything you want without having to pay excess baggage.
8. Don’t try to see the world in a month. It is far better to stay in a city for four or five days than to visit five cities in a week. A city is like a capricious woman: she takes time to be seduced and to reveal herself completely.
9. A journey is an adventure. Henry Miller used to say that it is far more important to discover a church that no one else has ever heard of than to go to Rome and feel obliged to visit the Sistine Chapel with two hundred thousand other tourists bellowing in your ear. By all means go to the Sistine Chapel, but wander the streets too, explore alleyways, experience the freedom of looking for something – quite what you don’t know – but which, if you find it, will – you can be sure – change your life.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Islamic Cairo :Bayt Al Sihaymi

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After the visit to Al-Hakim Mosque, my guide, Lamia, and I walked towards the Bayt Al Sihaymi. Bayt in Arabic means house. This place is a fine example of what Ottoman merchant houses used to look like. For those who've been to Intramuros in Manila, it's like a visit to the old house of Illustrados where you get to see how they lived. So here we go!

Travel without money?





These past days, I've been having minor strokes thinking about the future.


The long-term goal is of course certain - to serve in every which way that I am needed and capable. This could be done by working in an NGO or by starting my own. It is also pretty clear to me that I'm not going to work in a government agency (which is totally different from working with a government agency.) However the road to this certain far-off future is pretty uncertain.


In a few months I will be finishing my masters (inshallah!) That sentence ends there because I have no idea what follows. I don't know yet what I'm going to do or where I am going. There is, however, something that's tugging at my heart strings. Travel.


Aywa(Yes), I am considering dropping everything for sometime and just traveling. There are of course several complications to this idea. One is getting a visa. So this is why only Americans can join the Amazing Race. Imagine if I were in the Amazing Race? I'd be lining up outside the embassy and photocopying the necessary documents while all the other contestants are running halfway across the world. It's tough being a Filipino, I tell you. Still, wouldn't change a thing, though.


But I don't mind applying for visas. The real problem would be resources. I mean, the only way I am able to travel nowadays is because I have a very generous and supportive department in school. Otherwise, I wouldn't be here.


So I've been checking out blogs. I know I am not alone in this dream. I'll be trying to figure out how to do this traveling thing in the coming months. For now, let me share how others have been able to travel around without breaking the bank, or selling our house and maybe a couple of lands (I swear mom, not even thinking about it! hahaha.)


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