Friday, June 17, 2005

real gnomes

Well, yesterday was fabulous. After thinking I was fine after a night of illegal Ethiopan whiskey drinking, I had that "I'm going to barf in about 2 seconds" feeling all day/night. Either I'm getting way too old to drink or something seeped into the booze from the fat roll the Ethiopan woman smuggled the booze in with.

When I was less than 10 years of age, my grandmother, parents, and I would go into Canada from Detroit to visit our relatives. On the way back, my dad would stock up on booze. You know, a little El Toro Tequila and a lot Crown Royal. There was a limit on the amount you could take back to America because of those pesky Duty Free regulations. So how did my family solve the problem of being over the legal limit? I got to hide them in my armpits until we crossed the border. Not only was this rather humiliating (But not as humiliating as when my dad took me to the horse races in Monmouth, New Jersey fro my 13th birthday. People 12 years of age and younger get in free, but once you turn 13, you have to pay. Dad told me I had to pretend to be 12. His advice was that I crouch down at the ticket window so that I looked shorter. Way to make a zit-ridden boy feel like a man), but that red, plastic sombrero hat on the tequila bottle sure did dig into my pit.

So yeah, sick from Teacher's brand whiskey. But I did have an exciting weekend previously. We went to Shaharah to visit the famous Sharahah Bridge. The guidebooks said it would be a 3 hour drive from Sana'a. But with food and the necessary qat stops, it took a good 9 hours. 1/2 was on road where we picked up our heavily armed police escorts (surface-to-air machine gun on back of jeep, 6 men - all armed). 1 of them followed us everywhere we went once we reached Shaharah itself. Certainly makes the excursion a bit more exotic.

Our "protection" - some of us just hopped up onto the jeep next to the giant gun:

Qat stop - Yaheeya buying qat:

After a lunch of salta, we were transferred to a pick-up truck for a 2-3 hour steep ascent to the top of the mountain range. View was spectacular and so was our pesticide-covered qat we were chewing. Terracing all the way up the mountain - 3500 meters worth. If it weren't for the qat, the ride would've sucked hardcore. My ass cheeks were literally bruised from bumping up and down on the metal "pick-up" portion of the truck.

The Shaharah Bridge - final destination:

Along the way, we passed lots of armed villagers who didn't seem too happy to see us. And lots of little children -- some would wave and ask for a picture and others would run away in fear. Ah! Christians!

Once we reached the top, Claudia and I reckoned that holidays are all about the journey and not the actual destination. Once we reached the top, it wasn't too crazy. Until we hit the village.

Friends, truck, guard, the village:

We walked around the village. I couldn't believe 2000 people lived on this hilltop town, so far away from "civilization." If you needed a doctor, packaged food, fabric, water, anything - it was a very steep 5-hour walk down to the bottom.

Once we got to the top, Yaheeya was like a kid in a candy store -- rows and rows of qat plants. He couldn't stuff enough in his cheek:

These women are collecting water to drink. I'm serious:

Most of the children were super-friendly. They all wanted surahs (pictures - They actually say "surah" - not trying to demonstrate my fabulous language skills) and then to look at the digital camera screen.

Total fierceness overload:

We made our way to the bridge - spectacular. Its the 3rd bridge built here, the other 2 collapsed. Over 9000 feet high.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

who knew

This is my 15 minute break during my first ever Arabic lesson in Yemen. My teacher's name is Adnan. I am really like it here, thus far. Even though the institute seems to be a very scholarly, lonely place. But that's why I chose Sana'a, I didn't want all the distractions (primarily booze) of Damascus to affect my studies. Very mature of me, right? This is my room - don't you love what I've done with the place?

The architecture here is insane. It's like giant gingerbread houses. And I also love that everyone walks around packing heat. But like all good things, it will probably come to and end as more tourists come. Yeah, that's a woman wearing a bedspread. It's Miguel Adrover F/W '01.

I really don't know any Arabic. Everyone in Egypt speaks English and isn't really interested in listening to me practice, so I'm here with nothing other than "Ismee Eric". I'm a little scared to go out into the markets and buy food where I know its cheaper, cause that would mean actually speaking to people that don't know ANY English. I find myself at the expensive supermarket a lot, just easier working with a cash register that tells you how much something is. But look what I found -- Shoprite brand Spaghetti sauce from New Jersey! MMMM, meat flavor.