We're Jason, Beth, Lee Anna, Sawyer, and Sarah Claire, a family of five living, learning, and laughing lots in Northern Africa.
We hope you can learn a little (and maybe laugh a little too) as you read about our latest adventures.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Nile Cruisin'

When one lives in a land that boasts 7000 years of recorded history, it can be challenging to keep it all in perspective. At least once a week, we ride by a fortress that was built 1000 years ago to hold off the Crusades. But that’s the “modern” part of town. Just across the river from there, you can see the big triangular tombstones of the pharaohs that date back 4500 years. The temples we visited on this trip were built in the Greco-Roman era, just 100-300 B.C.

Records show that at the time of Christ, there were already tourists coming from Rome and other places to see the pyramids. So, in a tradition that’s almost as old as tourism itself, we’re going to show you a lot more pictures of our trip than you really want to see.

After the slideshow, you'll find more details about the trip, for those of you with enough time and interest to keep reading. And as a special bonus, you can also have yourself a little sing-along while you watch the slideshow. The regular version of the song was copyright protected, so we were only able to use the karaoke version. Have fun!

We flew early Friday morning up to Aswan, and found a beautiful city with clean air, very little traffic and a ton of little horse carriages with drivers who were eager to show us around their fair city, for a small fee, of course. Our guide told us Aswan’s population is around 1 million, and I think each of those million had a horse and buggy by the river. There are 275 ships like the one we rode, each carrying around 150 passengers up and down the Nile. For those of you mathematically challenged, that means there are a bunch of people riding the river looking at old stones. When the boats were docked, they docked 3 to 5 wide, and if our boat was a later one, we’d have to walk across several others to get to shore.

When we arrived to check in to the boat, the reception guy said he was going to upgrade our room to a suite. Our theory is that he did this because almost everyone else on the trip was part of a big group, and they needed to put someone in the suite. Whatever the reason was, we were happy! So we had an extra little sitting area that most rooms didn’t have, and we had a private door that led to a balcony outside, right next to the bridge where the captain was controlling this big rig. We think it was the best room on the boat, since it was on the top level and on the right-hand side, it had the best view every time we were docked.

Trying to describe the size and shape of the things we saw probably wouldn’t do it justice, so you can see the pictures. But I will educate you on a few of the things I learned about the things we saw.

The first temple we visited was over 2000 years old, but in the 1970s it was moved to a different island. The Aswan High Dam was finished in 1971, and the Philae Temple was flooded by the newly-formed Lake Nasser. When archeologists saw the damage that was being done by the water, they had a wall built around the whole island, then let the thing dry out in the sun for a whole year. After that year, they cut this whole temple into 40,000 blocks, and numbered the blocks and reassembled the thing on a higher island, not far at all from its original location. This feat seems to me almost as amazing as the original building of walls 100 feet tall made of huge stones.

The High Dam itself was really impressive. It was built to replace the old dam, built around 1900. The material used in the high dam was enough to replicate the Great Pyramid 17 times. When it was built (1964-71) it affected the fisheries in the whole Mediterranean Sea. Nutrients that had always been transported by the river into the ocean were now being deposited at the bottom of the lake. The dam has enabled the government to provide water during drought years and contain waters during severe floods.

Also in Aswan, we got to see an unfinished obelisk. Beth asked on the way there why we would want to see it if it’s unfinished. So we learned. To make an obelisk (think Washington Monument shape) you go to the granite quarry and find a good solid piece of granite, then cut around it in the shape of an obelisk. Several that were taken from this quarry were over 75 feet tall (and heavy as anything you can imagine). Well this unfinished one would have been 40 meters high, but while it was being cut cracks were discovered, thus making it impossible to stand it up. I’m sure the Pharaoh who was being honored by this one was not happy. I think that might have been the origin of the phrase “heads are going to roll.” So they had to abandon the project, but they couldn’t really put back the parts that they had cut, so now there’s a big 130-foot obelisk laying in the ground, still connected on the bottom side. We saw several obelisks on our trip, and somehow the ancients were able to float these things a hundred miles on the river and stand them up, even though they weigh about as much as Birmingham.

Thanks, Lee Anna, for winning this trip! We’ll take you back when you’re old enough to appreciate it.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Egypt's Next Pharaoh???

More to come from our trip. Stay tuned!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Here We Go!

To see what we're doing this weekend, look at this, and to see what our kids are doing while we do it, look at this.

We'll be back on Monday with lots of pictures!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Just Some Stuff

I just uploaded the pictures we've taken in the last month. Here are a few interesting ones. This is Sawyer just a few days after we got back from the states, obviously still struggling with jet lag a little bit. One minute he was eating, the next minute he was snoring. The down side to having your toddler fall asleep at dinner time is that it means he'll probably be back up and wide awake at bedtime. And it might take A LONG TIME to get him back to sleep. Trust me.
And here we are looking at ourselves looking at ourselves on Claire's computer, thanks to the wonders of Skype video chat. Claire was using her computer to show us the new furniture in Mimi & Papaw's bedroom, but when she walked by the mirror, the kids got excited because they saw themselves. So Jason thought he should take a picture of it all, just to make things a little more complex.
And finally, here's Lee Anna showing off the latest Middle Eastern fashion statement. Well, not really. Actually, she picked up a little case of head lice a few weeks ago, so she got to spend a few days hanging out at home and sitting very still while Mom & Dad shined the flashlight at her head. (Is your head itching yet? Just try to finish reading this without scratching!) Lee Anna did amazingly well with all the sitting still. I've already told Jason that if Sawyer ever gets head lice, I don't intend to try to get him to sit still for hours in a chair. There's no way he could do it. We'll just shave his head!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Positive Thinking

Today my parents and sister went to Jackson, Mississippi to have lunch with my grandmother for her 93rd birthday (if you haven't already, you can see watch kids' birthday videos for her below). They ate lunch (along with several other relatives) at a nice restaurant and afterwards they brought out the cake. They all sang Happy Birthday to her and then waited for her to blow out the candles. But instead, when they song ended, she just sat there. Then she looked around at them and said, "I want to know why not a one of you sang 'And many more'!"

She fully intends to have many more, and I'll be surprised if she doesn't! Happy Birthday Grandmother!

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Singalong Time

This Monday, February 11, Sawyer and Lee Anna's Great-Grandmother will turn 93 years old. They couldn't be there to hug her in person, but they did make these videos to wish her a happy birthday. We thought some of you might enjoy seeing them, too.

In case you're wondering about Lee Anna's outfit, it's a Dora the Explorer costume. It also came with a brown Dora wig, but she usually doesn't wear the wig.