Airport Race

18 12 2005
 
I had a 7.05am plane to catch from San Francisco to Los Angeles and was then supposed to transfer to a plane to sydney. Being such an early flight – and with my scottish flight in mind (the one where i woke up at my hostel after the plane had left), and given that this the last available flight to australia were before chrismas, I decided not to take any chances and just stay up all night and catch the first shuttle to the airport in the morning – just to be safe.
I went down to jack in the box(best fast food ever people! – put it on your list of places to go before you die) and then to a diner – then back to the hotel, given there were people sleeping in my room and i didn’t want to wake them i sat in the lounge at my hostel – where despite coffee and my best intentions my eyeliids became unbearably heavy and suddenly.. – I woke up… HOLY CRAP  – that means i’d been asleep! How did that happen!? I looked at my watch CRAP!!! (actually i didn’t say ‘crap’ but this is a pg rated blog and it was a word to that effect). It was 5.55 the flight was at 7.05 – i was nowhere near the airport-. CRAAAAAAAP!!!
 
I raced out to the reception dude and told him i needed a shuttle to the Airport – NOW!
Fortunately the hostel i was at just so happened to be serviced by the best shuttle company in the world. I raced upstairs and grabbed my bags and when i got back to reception – the shuttle bus was waiting. Damn thats quick! I threw my bags in and away we went – unlike the egyptian airport race – i didn’t even need to bribe this guy to speedily cut  through traffic. Also fortunately for me san francisco has some of the best motorways in the world. And this driver knew what he was doing – we caught 2 red lights on the whole trip and then i was there at 6.30.
Bags I’d read my ticket which said "bags must be checked in 45 minutes before flight". Crap. I spotted an express check in and raced  towards it (actually with my 3 big bags a more accurate description is lumbered towards it) but to my dismay it was only for domestic flights and my flight wasnt eligible. I pleaded with the guy and he took pity on me- taking me inside the airportm where my heart sank. Even though it was 6.30 in the morning, there was a MASSIVE check in line  – a steady stream of faces showing annoyance that despite their early rise -they still had to wait for ages to check in.
 
The Airport dude bless his soul took me right to the front of the line! Booyah! I threw my massive bags on the weighing scale and ignored the hundred or so death-stares i could feel boring into the back of my head from the indignant great unwashed behind me- who’d been there for close to an hour. 2  minutes later i’m checked in -i look at my watch 6.35 and i’v still got to clear customs.
 
This involves queing up to have oyur hand luggage and stuff x-rayed. Again there was a long snaking que of tired looking travelers and business men. I steadied myself for a que-jumping felony so big it would land me in a detention centre if i’d done it in australia, took a deep breath and walked parralel but alongside the que past the hundred or so people waiting – straiht up to the x-ray machine staff. Trying my best to ignore the new wave of resentment emanating from these queing yanks  that was so thick i could almost feel it. "I’m going to miss my plane!" i said in my best frantic voice – the staff took pity on me and agreed to inspect my stuff straight away! Booyah!
 
One thing about me and flying though – Every flight i get on i get special attention from the security before board. I get ‘randomly selected’ by airport security almost as much as the muslim guys do. ie.  I ALWAYS get ‘randomly selected’ to have the special checks – where they take x rays of you from 3 different angles and then make ‘friendly conversation’ about where you’re going and where you’ve been. Seriously – I could wrap a towel on my head and i wouldn’t get more airport security attention. I wonder if i’ve  got a mark next to my name for some ‘unaustralian’ act i’ve commited – like visiting refugee’s  – and now on some secret airport database it says "potential terrorist" next to a picture of me. And the whole time i’m nervous about missing my plane which to security probably looks the same as nervousness for smuggling bombs or drugs.. So afther a thourough ‘friendly conversation’ and extensive checks i’m through the security and  performed a half-power-walk-half-run-all-unco movement (which i normally reserve for when I have diahrrea and am trying to find a toilet) to the gate. They were just starting to check in. I MADE IT!!!!!
 
So after a two hour flight to L.A i waited around in LA for 4 hours and then got on a plane for Sydney.
It was when i got on the plane to sydney that i suddenly realised something that should have been obvious.  I’m going home… After 6 months of galavanting around europe and the middle east, i was going home.
Of course on an academic level i knew this but it was a  weird feeling to be making that decisive move away from my adventures and back to my life at home. I’d been in such a rush to get to the airport i hadn’t really thought about it – and all of a sudden –  ‘whoa… im going home….crap!..’.
 
 




The end of voluntary student unionism

14 12 2005

I wrote this as a comment to Darpies blog who holds a conflicting but measured view on this issue- got a bit carried away and before i knew it had written a rant – so i may as well have it on my blog. 

 

Hi Matthew,
Firstly thanks for commenting on my blog – i’m glad you enjoyed it especially as you’ll probably be among the minority in enjoying such a long and dry entry. But i wanted to write it anyway because its an important paradigm shift for me. Thanks also for letting me know that things should improve in the years ahead, it’s comforting knowledge.

However i could not disagree with you more about VSU. The end of compulsory student unions is a dark day for tertiary education in australia.

 The student unions are what makes university fun! Without them university is just a degree factory. A true means to an end, something endured rather than enjoyed. University experience should be about more than jus tgoing to classes and reading the subject material and then doing exams and graduating. University is the time to have some fun and meet interesting people. This is exactly what the student unions facillitate – through the many clubs and functions which they hold – which i think you are implying are a waste.
I’m guessing are experiences with student unions have been different. One’s opinion probably depends on the experience of effectiveness of the unions at your university and one’s willingness to participate in their activities. They are only a waste if your not going to them.
Student unions facilitate fun and interaction with other students trhrough clubs and barbeques.
When first starting university and not knowing anyone university can seem daunting. Thestudent union had oranised camps for people to meet other students.

These are wild affairs where you really get to know your fellow students well. People you only met a few hours ago are suddenly dancing on tables, playing drinking games, running naked through the grounds and a whole lot of other crazy stuff –  and generally having an awesome time getting to know one anotherat the end of these you go home knowing that when you start uni there will be a few friendly faces waiting for you.

Otherwise how do you meet people at uni – contact with people is so fleeting it would be much harder to form anything more than aquaintances. Everyone has different timetables and lectures are very large in the early years – so its hard to really make friends.

They continue to faccilitate meeting and continuing friendships with people through clubs of common interest. I poersonally was heavily involved in the clubs – they provide for example scuba diving equipment which a student could not otherwise afford – so a group of students who enjoy scuba dinving can go out on the weekends and enjoy this activity.

This is now going to come to an end because even though unions provide a large overall benefit,students will think ‘why should i pay when i will not see direct tangible equal or greater $value benefit to myself’. It will not make financial sense to be in the union, it makes more sense to try and free load on the services it provides whilst not paying any money. A Because whether oen person pays or not will not make a difference – and following this common logic no-one will pay. And so overnight the unions will vanish.students aren’t going to pay if they are given a choice. This will be the end of the student unions – or if not they wil be merely a pale shadow of their former versions.

It’s true the unions squandered money. My favorite club has not passed an audit…  ever! But my experience of the arts society wasa plethora of free bbq’s, parties, booze cruises, tram crams, camps and other activities so that people can socialise at uni.  THey facilitated the friendships and good times for me and hundreds of others which far exceeded the monetary value spent. Can you put a value on friendship and a wonderful university experience? It can’t honestly be measured in monetary terms. Money given to the societies cretes these social connections for students and is money well spent.

They also provide free counseling for people who need it, and arrange other serives to make university more bearable for most people. You cannot measure the social capital which is going to be lost through this move. The mental health of students and the quality of university life will decline, whilst isolation and thedrop out rate will increase as a result of this decision. They help with student housing. Essentially killing the student unions kills alot of the fun in university.

I feel sorry for the students to come who will miss out on this. This is a dark day for australian universities.





Purely academics

13 12 2005
 
 
I am writing now from one of the most beautiful libraries i have ever
been in. The Doe library at UC Berkeley. The high ceiling is a
romanesque style woodcarving, reminiscent of Santa Maria Magiore
Bascilica in
Rome ( which i think i have pics of in my Rome photo album), the
intricate side panels are inscribed with the names of academic greats
such as
Goethe, Darwin, Kant etc.

San Francisco: one of the most intelligent and educated locales in the
world. Unfortunately i’m only hear for a couple of days.
I have decided to use my very limited in san francisco in a different
manner to the rest of my travels. Rather than see the city i am
dedicating my time to seeing two of the best universities for
psychology in the world. Stanford and University of California,
Berkeley where i am now writing this. Both these universities are in
proximity to San Francisco and are ranked 1st and 3rd in psychology in
the US and are both in the top 5 in the world. Given there are
literally hundreds of US universities this is no mean feat. Also
considering australia does not have a single psych department in the
top 300 it is worth seeing the disparity.

 However although this library is grand it’s still a library, it has
the same function, and the same potential for me to fill that function
as the monash uni library.Coming here and seeing the place with my own eyes has robbed Berkeley of the romantic and  almost mystical reverence i
held it in.
It’s made me realise that it’s still just a university. At university
what is more important than the surroundings is the ideas – which means you spend alot of time (supposedly) reading, and one of the
wonderful things about reading is that you can do it anywhere. I
remember reading at Humboldt university in Berlin at the same park as
karl marx once studied and formulated his ideas.. It felt like reading
a book anywhere else. Ok so the library here at berkeley has the
original texts of mark twain – whoop de doo.
I can gain the same insight by reading a copy  – and its much less
hassle to gain access to. Romantic notions aside post-grad study in melbourne would be just as beneficial. Although in practice the intelectual calibre of both pupils and staff may not match up to these Ivy-League institutions, after a clear eyed weighing up of the utility of both options, post-graduate study in australia (melbourne?) seems a clear winner.


 

It is not long now until i return back to melbourne and whilst the
travel has been a remarkable experience i am keen to get back to
australia. I’m beginning to focus on what lies ahead of me when i get
back, and what i will be doing. Hence the checking out post graduate
options . Although these two particular institutions may be hard to get into there are other less prestigous institutions with powerhouse psych departments like – university michigan, anne arbor or purdue or penn state. I’m already keen to get back and throw myself into life back
in Oz.  . It’s good to know that i don’t want it anyway – as it means i’ll never have to look back and rue a missed opportunity. That said (and in spite scottie’s experience) i do seriously regret not studying at least a large part of undergrad at a US university.

Leaving aside Business systems (horrible) and my other arts subjects
(wonderful), in psychology, I’ve spent my undergrad fairly
understimulated by psychology and have not really been
pushed intelectually.
Psychology at monash does not  reward creative ideas or new
approaches, or even academic curiosity but instead rewards how anally
one can
follow the set proforma of a lab
report. A monkey with a labotamy knows what the answers to ther
lab report are within half an hour of reading the material, and all
classes report on the same material. Therefore everyone has exactly the
same answers, and just copies off one another meaning their is no difference in the essential content of these lab reports. This is an arbitrary
proforma which changes every few years.  Their is no room for
creativity or true expression or insight in the restrictive setting of
a lab report. The most important thing about a lab
report (i’m not joking or exagerating – really!) is the formatting.

That is, the margins, the text spacing, the font used, when italics are used,
having indents for the secound line of any references and the use and
placing of comma’s and full-stops in the bibliography. i’m not joking
it makes the difference between a credit and a high distinction ( i
know from experience!). The labs are so simple that the content for
every report will be identical. So rather than being able to read more
wideley
in psychology i have had to try to spend mundane time trying to
differentiate my essay from the thousand other identical essays.
 This is hardly the academic setting which fosters an academic
curiosity for the wonders of
psychology and nor does it stimulate a creative mind and it provides
minimal room for the expression of new ideas. It sets lab reports where
i know the content and concepts within half an hour and the report will
take 15-20 hours because i am competing with obsesive-compulsive
perfectionists. So i look forward to the exams where i can at least
differentiate myself from the great unwashed by remembering the
theories we are supposed to have studied all semester (not the 2 days
before). But how does this show creativity, and intelligence – it
simply shows that i can mindlesslyparrot someone elses ideas with more
accuracy than the next mindless parrot. A necessary skill and what
exams are supposed to test but what about intelligence and creativity?

The academic psychologists have set up an institution to remake
themselves – the dinosaurs who espoused behaviourism for more that 50
years, and would have
continued to do so if it were not for someone outside psychology (a
linguist called Noam Chomsky) who showed them how obviously full of
crap they all were. To know how great an indictment this is against
psychology i’m going to simplify it:
Psychology is the study of what goes on in ones head. Behaviourism is a
theory which said that NOTHING goes on inside ones head – or nothing
important anyway – instead a person does in not because of thoughts
they have EVERYTHING is due to external events and previous
experiences. Ie. Humans are simply creatures of stimulus and response
incapable of their own actions. Now think about that for a moment..
isn’t it inherrently obvious that there is something going on inside
ones head? Well this was the most popular theory in psychology for 50
years. – I think this is the the type of psychologist monash is trying
to create- a stimulus/response automaton who could believe in such an
inadequate theory as behaviorism if that was the crap he was spoonfed
and told to
regurgitate.

Rather than make psych interesting monash has made it a tedious and
mundane labour which is simply a means to an end.
I know it would have been harder at a US uni but i think i would have
enjoyed the extra stimulation of being asked to actually think. Also in
case you think this is a rant of sour grapes –  I have a High
Distinction average in psychology,  i’ve been sent letters of
congratulations from the vice-dean for my academic excellence in
psychology. I say this
not to big-note myself but to show that this is not just a sour-grapes
biased rant of someone who couldn’t work within their tedious
system.It’s not
because i haven’t been able to conform to their orthodoxy that i
complain but because their system could have been so much better and
made study so much more interesting.

I’m going to stop the digression there even though i haven’t
articulated it properly- its a sore point which i could harp on about
for hours.  Post-graduate education should not be like undergraduate( I
hope).

On another academic note i re-realised a discouraging prospect which i
had somehow
managed to supress from consciousness whilst i’ve been traveling- it’s
still 2 years untill i undertake postgraduate study. And then it will
be another 2-6 years of study after that. This means that if i want to
become a doctor in psychology (which i do) i’m looking at another 8
YEARS of study!!!!  All the sponteneity i’ve been enjoying these last
few months, choosing what country i’m going to be in on a whim is
coming to an end and now i know what i’m going to be doing for the next
8 years. Thats juxtaposition gives me a feeling i cant quite describe –
like anxiety which sits in my belly. Heres my life for the next 8 years
people:

2006 –     Finish both Business Systems and Arts(psych) Bachelor
degree’s
2007 –     Honours
2008-2012  Phd or DPsych.

That is  sooooo long! I mean  i wouldn’t finish till i’m nearly 30! 8
years ago i was 14.. I just hope that the style of education
drastically improves as i move into post-grad. This would mean i spend
the rest of any remote
semblance of youth at a university. I wouldn’te get out ‘into the
world’ until i was already middle aged! What about doing other things
in life? Why have they made it such a long and arduous process! My
father only had to do the equivalent of 1 year post grad to begin
practicing psychology! And his tertiary education was FREE. I’d have to
come out this and then pay back tens of thousands in deferred tuition
fee’s. So yes a bit of a crisis going on but i know i’ll do it anyway.
What it does mean though is that i can’t wait until i finish university
to look at other life goals. I’ll have to get a move on with these
whilst still at uni.

Moving on.. yes i will soon be returning to Melbourne.
Someone once said something like: "you shall reach the end of your
travels, when
you return home and know this place for the first time". I know what
that means now. Traveling europe has given me insight not just into
other
cultures and forieghn cities but also given me perspective on
melbourne. It is near impossible to judge a city when you cannot
compare it to anythhing in your own experience. So before traveling to
other cities i was unable to accurately guage my native city. Now
however i have traveled to many of the famous cities around the world
and
am now truly aware of how lucky i am to live in melbourne – one of the
greatest cities on earth. Melbourne with its warm sunny summers, sandy
beaches,  oodles of festivals and culture, high standard of living,
clean, cheap – just an awesome place to live. Granted it has some
shortcomings – but overall i will come home loving melbourne more than
ever.





The Big Apple

11 12 2005
Hey guys,
Coming to you now from the big apple! Thats right New York! And it’s FREEZING!!!! Coming from sunny dahab where it was a balmy 25-27 degree’s every day and stepping out of the airport into -4. OMG! I now know what my sister means when she says it’s ‘cold enough to make you cry’. I didn’t cry… but i did pout a few times.
The other thing was it was so cold i kept getting involuntary cold shivers.. violent cold shivers  jerked my head to the side and my face would twitch… i couldn’t help this – i must have looked like a psycho and was getting a few concerned sideways glances. On the upside when it’s that cold i am much more efficient – i walk really fast everywhere and keep on moving jsut to keep warm.
I eventually got on the train and got to my hostel in harlem. Harlem.. when i found out it was in harlem i got kinda worried.. i’d heard ‘things’ about harlem – mostly gangsta rap things about ‘cappin’ whitey in da ass’. Turns out my hostel is located next to the manhattan project -as in the housing verison not the nuclear version. But it’s not that bad really.
 
I have nowhere near enough time to see new york properly. This is a city i would love to live for  a while.  Theres so much happening here. And it’s concentrated in such a small space. Manhattan would be an awesome place to live.. for a semester.. in the summer.
 
Details are so sketchy already!
I started out on the 8th and checked out the empire state building and the view from its observatory over all of NY. Then walked down broadway to the first skyscraper built in NY and through a park to an artistic market that was running. Then went
 
Then went over to times square and scrambled around to find out where to buy cheap broadway tickets. Finally found the place and turns out that its a quarter of the price to see a musical if students turn up at the door within the last hour. Raced across to the theatre where the producers was just about to start and scored a ticket. I walked in just as the opening music began. The producers by mel brooks, has been so sucessful that it’s been turned into a movie which is being released in New York this month. It was easily the most enjoyable musical i’d seen to this point.
 
 
I’m skipping massive chunks of what i’ve been up to.
I went to the UN on new yorks east side(if you want to be technical it’s not new york, its not even as the land the UN is on has been annexed from the united states as an international zone – with its own security, fire service and postal service!). Went on a tour through there and then made my way to the other side of town to catch a ferry tour around manhattan. This was nice and got to see all the sights from the water. Also went out to the Statue of Liberty – which is alot smaller than i thought it would be.
 
The fact that i’ve been doing my own informal version of supersize me whilst in New York doesnt help. It’s not just McDonalds i can eat – just American fastfood that we don’t have in australia. So i’ve been eating double glazed, double choclate donuts, giant pretzels, chicken from Mcdonalds.
 
 
….I always start with far too much detail for the limited time i have on an internet cafe computer… especially as i talked with fam for about an hour.. I didn’t finish my last attempt at a low down on what i’ve been doing and i don’t think i’d have time to do one here. Remember the girl i know from home who i randomly met up with in spain? Well it happened AGAIN!!! This time in our hostel in NYC. What are the chances of that?? Seriously!? I’m off to catch up with her now.
 So perhaps when things slow down a bit – (ie. when i’m back in australia, i’ll try for a post trip blog update…. I WISH my pda keyboard was working.. it broke again. I’ve so much i would like to write up here.. I don’t think i’ll stop blogging when i get back to melbourne – i think the quantity and quality will actually increase because i have awakened in me a desire to look around and observe and then to write on what i see. Because then i’ll have internet readily available. I really should write what i’ve been up to… but it will cost too much money and i’d rather be out on the town in NYC – so here are a few photo’s to help summarise some of  what i’ve been up to.
 
Note to all! I’ll be back in Melbourne in LESS THAN 2 WEEKS!!!!




Dahab

5 12 2005
I’ve got well and truly behind with my blog. I’m better off living for now than spending all my time updating my blog.. Ok so i’m skipping over all of Kom Obo, Edfu and luxor and moving straight to dahab. Quite a few stories to tell but as i don’t have the time and they say a picture is worth a thousand words these pics of dahab where i’m currently residing will have to suffice. When i get time i’ll come back to fill this in (maybe..if i get time).It’s been a fantastic time here in dahab just relaxing on the beach and scuba diving in the red sea all day. I love scuba diving, it’s like entering a dream world.  You are weightless and can control your vertical movement just throuh your breath – which gives me the impression of levitating at will through a fantastic landscape of weird and wonderful life-forms. 
Yesterday was not nearly so magical however as i’ve been getting over a very dodgy shish kebab i ate the other day – i should have known better as soon as i saw it. Been a not so pleasant 24 hours. I nearly made it 6 months traveling without getting sick once.. was probably too much to hope for.  Other than that Dahab is grand. I’ve been hanging out with a group thats been together through edfu, luxor and now dahab – great people and we’re going to catch up back in melbourne as two of them live in ringwood (1 went to aquinas 2 years up from me – yet another small world phenomenon). They’ve all had to go  now though and tomorrow i too leave this. leaving for Sharm el-sheik to catch a plane back to london and then on to the big apple.




Temples, Touts, Tourists and Thaumaturges

1 12 2005

 It has been only a few days since my last update but so much has been happening. This is the chronological update on what I’ve been up to. Reflections may or may not follow. Theres a lot I’d like to elaborate on but this will be long enough already. Where to start? I’ll try for chronological order but already some of the finer points are hazy… I’ll try to keep the update of what I’ve been up to as brief as possible.

Follwoing from my last entry, I woke up early and went out to the pyramids. Of course the pyramids are picturesque- and awe inspiring – but they are plauged with rude, money hungry touts and riders preying on tourists. And they are really annoying. They are more than annoying they are well words fail me… realy really really anoying.  Nothing saps the joy out of something like constantly having to shirk off doggedly persistant men trying to rip you off with goods you don’t want. They hang on to your clothes and follow you around screaming for your attention.They start before you even get to the pyramids telling you that you can get in without a ticket if you rent a camel from them( lie). When you get into the pyramid sight there are hundreds of people trying to sell tacky Egyptian kitsch. Whilst trying to admire the pyramids one is instantly set upon by these money sucking mosquitos. They sap the joy out of the experience for tourists and give the tourists the impression that all arabs are annoying money sucking mosquito’s. I’ve prided myself for being fairly savy through europe, avoiding scams and catching pickpockets and the like – even spent a day or two ‘crimewatching’ – ie. watching scams and crimes going on around european cities –  butI got suckered a few times at the pyramids. I wanted to take a photo of a camel rider and before I knew it I was up on the thing. Although once up there it was cool to ride a camel. Because many tourists only meet arabs when they are out at the tourists sights, they are put off from the local people and leave with the generalization that all arabs are like that. It is a very poor impression, especially compared to the majority of Egyptians who are warm friendly people.

I was lucky enough to snag a ticket to go inside the largest pyramid cheops (they only let 300 people in a day). Inside Cheops is awesomely baffling. How on earth did they get the stones to fit so precisely there is no gap whatsoever. To do something like this even today would be an achievement and require a computer controlled lazer. So how did they do it 3000 years ago? On leaving cheops I walked around gawking at ruins and shirking off arabs. I finally succumbed  and let one of these pests take me away from the others who were hounding me on a horse ride. Once we were away from the pyramids and the pests this guy was ok, though it doesn’t matter how much you pay they always try to leave you feeling guilty so you pay them more than their already comparitivly extortionate rates. I took a guided horseride up into the sahara desert which borders giza. We weant up into the dunes to the three queens pyramids. Despite the fact it was totally against the rules, I ‘convinced’ the guards to turn a blind eye while I climbed one (another entry on baksheesh later), So I was able to climb one of the pyramids! My bedoin guide then led me up into the dunes for a while and then back to the pyramids.Galloping across the sahara dessert towards the pyramids was an incredible feeling. Although my inexperience at horse riding meant I was bouncing up and down in the saddle a lot and was left ‘walking like an Egyptian’ afterwards. Even though my rider had been friendly all trip – they always get insolent and angry when it comes time to pay them. It’s a strategy which is supposed to make you feel like a tight arse no matter how much you pay them. And I was not immune to it – paying far to much for my horse trek.

Again the disparity between the arabs which work the tourist traps and the everyday arabs was clear as I was swamped again with friendly Egyptian children and teenagers on an excursion to the pyramids (see photo of them running towards me). I took a typical Egyptian taxi back into town and had a typical Egyptian ride home – which consisted of the driver pulling in for petrol (i gave a stern word and we moved off again), getting a flat tire, and the driver picking up another passenger which he said was ‘on the way’ to where we were going and then not dropping me off where I had asked to go. If you didn’t make an effort you would think that all Egyptians are caniving, machiavellian weasels.

Also saw the sphinx which is cool.

That night whilst walking to the train station I met an interesting guy. At first I thought he was just like all the other merchants – who try to get you into a conversation so they can lure you into there shop. Whilst walking down the street I am constantly assailed by phrases like "Excuse me, where are you from?", "Hello, nice watch. How much it cost?" etc. anything to make me stop and if I do stop they immediately try to suck me into their shop. Its annoyin not firstly because of its shallow duplicity but also because it’s so repetitive – the questions and conversations always follow the same monotenous pattern and I usually ignore anyone trying o start a conversation with me on the street walking straight past them as if they didn’t exist. This is the most effective way to get them to stop heckling you down the street. If I did stop I’d never get anywhere in Egypt. Anyway I entertained this guy for a minute – thinking he was another tout and as the typical conversation starts he says he lived in Melbourne. ‘Oh that’s nice’ I say, not bothering to hide my cynicism. ‘Listen mate, I lived in broady, western suburbs – not everyone in Egypt is out for your money’. … I went with him suspecting a scam but taking a punt that I might get to talk with some regular Egyptians. He introduces me to his cousin who as soon as he says ‘hi’ I can tell grew up in Melbourne. I chilled with Wahid and Sherif these guys and chatted to them about what it’s like to live in cairo as compaered to Melbourne. Both of them wanted to go back to Melbourne but for different reasons it wan’t going to happen. Walked around town with them, smoked some sheisha and drank hibiscus tea and talked about Melbourne and cairo.

The next day I went out with a Hungarian bloke to the walled enclosure that represents the Coptic christain section of cairo. Was interesting to see an Arabian take on Christianity. The architecture of the churches was reminiscent of the Moorish splendour of the alhumbra (spain) but the figures were of Christ and his disciples . I was just walking down the street and this old guy was walking down the street and everyone who past him would cross themselves and kneel or kiss his hand. I was just going to politely slip by as I didn’t know who he was and definetly didn’t practice his religion but as I got closer he held out his hand expectantly looking at me. I didn’t want to offend him (or his body guards who were packing H&K sub-machine guns) so I took his hand and kissed it also. Later when I went into the hanging church (so called because it is built off the ground) I saw all types of paraphernalia with this holy guys mug on it. You could get post cards, posters, stamps, mugs, clocks and assorted other paraphernalia with this guys face on it. Turns out he’s the Coptic Christian equivalent of the pope! Also saw a number of other Coptic sights and the oldest synagougue in Egypt. And something which gave me pangs of homesickness – the aussie gumtree! These were growing in a number of places, though they look different over here, with a lot more foliage than they have at home.

That night I caught up with wahid again and we went out to the market so he could help me buy stuff – as he’s Egyptian he wouldn’t get screwed on the prices. In retrospect I suspect he still took a cut from what we bought – but the prices were still cheaper than I could of got on my own, so I was happy. Then I went through a massive hassle trying to get a ticket down to aswan. It’s a long story (I may elaborate later) but to cut it short wahid and sheriff really helped me out and I was able to get a sleeper train to aswan. After the massive hassle of getting down to aswan I didn’t want to go through the hassle of organizing public transport for myself for the next few days – I boked onto a tour from aswan to check out the sights. Note to travelers: If you are going to get a tour it is much cheaper to do it at the actual location. The same tour which companies were trying to sell to me for 800 egyptian poundsi was able to get for 260.

So The next morning I got up at 3am to make the voayage down in a police convoy to Abu Simbel and the temples of Ramses II and Nefertiti. Unfortunately as you have to get there by police convoy and this only leaves once a day, it means you arrive there at the same time as copious busloands of package tourists….

What a wonderful blessing these people are, nothing enhances the experience of being in a 3000 year old temple like the cacophony of their loud and insightful proclamations, such as the following:

< Near blind old lady>" these hieroglyphics are so much easier to see in real life then the are in the books!"

<american lady>"Oh wow look at that duck hieroglyphic! Isn’t it cute!

<her oh so knowledgable partner>"Oh Yeah! It’s really rare too. I’ve seen a few goose hieroglyphics but the ducky ones they are rare! Yup that’s one cute ducky!"

<aussie bimbo 1>" Oh my gawd! – check out the cellulite on her! Nefertiti had one fat ass!"

 <aussie bimbo 2>"Yeah these aren’t as exiting as the ones we saw yesterday, where she had nipple errections"

 And any number of other brilliant comments which I unfortunately couldn’t understand because they were in Russian or Japanese.

And of course there was no shortage of tourists who like to show just how knowledgable they are to their equally ignorant travel partners by loudly proclaiming their (often pathetically inept) interpretation of every Egyptian scene they see.

Fortunatly these had been herded together out the front of the temples to receive the spiel on what they were about to see, so I’d been able to duck in before virtually anyone and have about 10-15 minutes in the temple of Ramses II by myself. And the feeling of being in this temple on my own was one of awe and delight. The temple of nefertiti was also grand.

 I then got back on the bus to ….. where I joined up with a few people and hired a boat across to the island where.. resides. Many less tourists here and was beautiful.

Given the late night and early rise I was knackered, but packed my bags and set out on a cruise up the nile. I was to travel for 1 night and 2 days aboard a felluca – the vessel Egyptians have been traveling up the nile in for thousands of years. The captain and ship hand were native bedoins, who didn’t speak much English but were pleasant enough.I had been hoping to travel up with a bunch of Spanish and aussie backpackers but they had left a day earlier for some inexplicable reason. So I was on the boat with two plump American women both probably in their late 40’s early 50’s. I introduced myself to them and as the felluca cast off from the jetty, I started making small talk. I asked nancy what she did.

 " I create gateways to other universes"

"Oh….. that sounds interesting"

"Yeah I bring the good energy from other universes into into this one and then I send the bad energy from this world through other gateways to empty universes"

 "I see…" i said, casting a whistful look back at the jetty which was receding into the distance.

"Oh I create stars too.. Magenta ones of course because they have the best energy… I’m working with some others now to create a second sun in this world"

Goody gumdrops that was an interesting ride! The other woman was her acolyte – she was working on bringing her ‘secound soul’ into her current body. She didn’t say much but then she did it was equally insane and some of the things these women did…

I will eventually write a few interesting stories about my travels with these ladies. But to do them justice they deserve their own entry at a later date. I just wish their had been someone else on the felluca to witness the absolute ridiculousness of this cruise. That will have to wait for another time though as this is enough writing for today. I’ve tried to give an overview but still haven’t told what has happened in the last day or two. Apologies for the rushed and shoddy writing – i’ll probably revise and elaborate it at some point soon.But the sunny beach of my current location is calling and I’m going to go for a walk along it and then perhaps hire a horse to ride along the beach and then out into the mountains….