What I Have Learned (Episode III)

Trip Start Dec 31, 2004
Trip End Apr 22, 2005

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Flag of Egypt  ,
Friday, April 1, 2005

*In the Islamic world calendars begin with Saturday and end with the holy day, Friday.

*Bangladeshis eat with their hands but wash them prior at the table in a wide soup bowl. Periodically they spruce themselves up in said bowl throughout the meal.

*Shop owners and bus drivers in Bangladesh feel no compunction whatsoever to spray for bugs directly at your feet and over your head.

* Out of Vietnam, Lao, Cambodia and Thailand it is Bangladesh that has the best buses.

*In Dhaka hotel employees come to your room nightly to collect payment

* In many Muslim countries there are separate "family" areas in restaurants where women are allowed to eat with men or alone. Sometimes however this area is little more than a closet with a curtain in front of it. Other times it's the best section.

*Alarmist journalism is rampant in Bangladesh. On the cover of their English language newspaper in bold print was this headline, "Tiny Marauders Scaring the Hell of Examinees!" Reading further on one learns the marauders are mosquitoes.

*There is a market for "lady banking" in the Middle East. In the United Arab Emirates' English language newspaper there was an advertisement for Dubai Islamic Bank advertising "Banking for and by ladies only!" Their subtitle says, For once you'll truly enjoy the privilege of being a woman." Finally! That's the only time though, ladies! The rest of your life will be pure hell but by God you have fun at the bank! Enjoy it while it lasts, ladies because once you get home you're going to get the shit kicked out of you!

* Unfortunately, the Eagles' "Hotel California" is still a popular tune throughout the rest of the world. I heard it in a bar in Phnom Penh, In Chiang Mai it was being "sung" in a karaoke bar, in Rangoon at the Internet café I heard a cover in Burmese and in Amman I passed a shopkeeper as he sang acapella, "..such a lovely place, such a lovely face [sic]."

* In Jordan when someone says "Welcome!" they mean, "Welcome!"

* In Egypt when someone says "Welcome!" they mean, "Hey dumbass give me your money!"

* In Jordan Americans are singled out and greeted warmly. In Petra our waiter asked where we were from and was told, "We've got 2 Japanese, 2 Dutch, 2 Americans, a Canadian and an Australian." He then asked, "Which ones are the Americans?" I asked why and he told me, "Because I want you to know that we don't hate Americans - we like them and anyway we are not our governments - we're people. Welcome to Jordan."

* Bangladeshis love America but they do not love our current President. They do however still speak fondly of Clinton.

* Jordanians seemed surprisingly mixed about Bush though it'd be safe to say that the majority of them do not favour our current administration.

* Most Egyptians loathe Bush and without any prompting will not hesitate to tell you.

* "In Sha Allah" means "God willing" in Arabic and the people of Jordan and Egypt say it often.

* In a bazaar in Cairo I was asked where I was from and when I told him he pointed to a picture above his head of Hillary Clinton in his store and said "Here's your next president!" I smiled and placed my hand on my heart and replied, "In Sha Allah!"

* Muslims must wash five times a day before prayers. If they are in the desert, they may do so with sand but if there is neither sand nor water they may mimic the motions of washing.

* Nasser in Petra told us if you can't find water in the desert you can brush your teeth with a stick.

* He also said that "You can brush your teeth with a rock!" I may be a complete idiot but I think this is counterproductive.

* "Apartheid" and "coleslaw" are Dutch words.

* In Australia voting is mandatory. Didn't vote? You're going to be arrested.

* All Canadians wear their flags conspicuously on patches and pins and stickers. This is mainly because they do not want people to think that they're Americans.

* Anise tea is delicious and if you can't find alcohol somewhere it's the perfect beverage to accompany all Middle Eastern fare.

* In Dahab, Egypt there are two cats and fifty flies to every traveler. One hand is used to eat while the other is used to swat away pests.

* In many restaurants in Egypt its best to bargain the price of the entrees before sitting down to eat. Normally you can at least work in a free beverage.

* No one's told the Ruskies in the Sinai that Russian is not the lingua franca. They seem to think that if they get louder and angrier shop owners will understand them. The younger set also didn't the get the memo to dress modestly in Muslim countries and many dress like plump Britney Spears with their stomachs pouring over their micro shorts. I could feel my Russophilia churn to repulsion.

*The more belligerently playful you are with some shop keepers the prices get lower and you can share a good laugh. This is made in Egypt. Bullshit, it's made in Taiwan. This is real marble. You're full of crap! But this is turquoise [mumble]. It's turquoise WHAT? It's turquoise imitation. Yeah that's what I thought you said you sneaky bastard! Cheap price for you! MAYBE I DON'T WANT A CHEAP PRICE - DID YOU THINK ABOUT THAT MISTER SMARTYPANTS! Come inside! No charge for looking! You should start charging then because that asshole down there is charging fifty piastras just to look in his shop! That will be 20 Egyptian pounds. How about this? I'll give you 2 pounds and I'll kick you in the face - how'd you like that? That is a real antique. I'm curious and I want your honest opinion here - do you think I'm a complete idiot? This is made of camel bones and... Liar! That's Horus he's the god of... HEY! Can I steal this?

*There have been nights that I've been weary and wished I could go back to my apartment and back to my little world just for a short time.

*I awake in a strange bed in a strange land and go to the window; the glow of endless possibilities like daybreak spreading across the horizon.

*My world brightens and clarity is restored...

*It's almost over but I want more.

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