Sunday, February 25, 2007

horse riding in the desert

Location: Cairo (a late post, but here nevertheless)

My back is aching. My bum is aching. Sitting on anything but the living room couch is proving to be agonizing. And the pain has decided to kick in 48 hours after we came back from my first ever venture into horse-riding.

Now I’ve always had this romantic idea of horse-riding. I think it was the SE Hinton books I read as a teenager, I always thought I had a perky little Texan lass in me (I once owned a black cowboy hat which I would proudly wore around Singapore) and I felt that in some past life, I was prone to riding around on my black stallion with my long braid of hair flying behind me as I made my equestrian slave do my bidding.


So 2 mornings ago, I organized a trip that goddamn, even SOUNDED romantic. Horse-riding by the Pyramids at the break of dawn. Knowing my track record, getting up at 4.30am was just not going to happen. So I stayed up all night instead. (It worked, so I must remember this for next time). 5 of us took a taxi to Haram Rd and met up with Karim and his brother, our hosts for the morning.

When we got to the stables, we first had to wake the stable owner guy up. Then we waited for him to wake some other dude up for the stable keys. All with a lot of banging and calling out. Then, I have no idea, I think they were trying to wake the horses up or something, because we had to wait a goddman long time for them to show up. I was starting to worry we were gonna miss out on the sunrise, which would kinda supremely suck, given the circumstances we went through to get there at such a time.

So finally the horses came. We got on them. Because me and Natasha were first-timers, our horses were given the privilege of being led ahead by some dude on a donkey. A donkey. The former-texan-hottie-in-a-past-life in me just couldn’t bear the shame of it. Just because we were the only girls, we were made to proceed staring into a donkeys behind. Some of the other guys were first timers too, but nooo they got to ride alone.

So anyway, we started a slow gallop to the desert. Reaching the desert, we started going a little faster, but frankly speaking, 2 horses and a donkey tethered together really do not a heart stopping ride make. I watched as the guys flew into the desert until I could see them no more. I decided I’d had enough and told the donkey dude to let me free. I did what the other guys did, I kicked my horse on the side. Nothing. I kicked harder. Nothing. I kicked until my shins hurt but all it did was make my animal pass some gas. And boy did these big boys know how to fart. Yes, I’m talking about the horses.

Turns out these dumbass horses don’t listen to anyone but the stable guy. And he was up ahead with the guys. So I continued on my slow pace of death, as by now both Natasha and I were freezing our arses off. It’s winter, it’s dawn, it’s the desert. It is NOT horse-riding climate. We moaned and teeth-chattered and trotted along all the way until we caught up with the guys at this little middle-of nowehere-tea stand. Stood there clutching my hot cup of tea and cursing myself for even coming on this goddamn outing. It was proving more torturous than any fun. I just wanted to head back asap.

This time though, before getting back on our horses, I chose to change mine. I got on someone elses horse hoping it would like me a bit better than my first one. We started on our way back. To my pleasant surprise, my horse started galloping faster along with the other horses. And then suddenly, it starts competing with Miguel’s horse. At this point, it ceased being a ‘gallop’, I suddenly realized we were FLYING across the desert. I was TERRIFIED. I was also on one of the biggest adrenaline rushes I have ever experienced. There was no stopping this horse. He was totally out of my control. I was literally hanging on for dear life, at some points one hand grabbing on to the saddle and the other hand trying to keep my woolly from flying off my head. I was a HOLLERING. I couldn’t keep my mouth shut – if you were a bystander in that desert, all you would’ve seen was a black blur shooting from one side of the desert to the other, with an accompanied “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!” My ass was smacking violently up and down on the saddle but I paid no attention. Near the end we were approaching this wall at the end of the desert, at like 200 miles an hour or some shit, and then I realized, alright I need to stop this rabid animal. I jerked on the reins until it finally stopped like 2 feet away from the walls……as we slowed down, I looked around for the others and found a horse galloping away near me, but with noone on it. I looked around for the accompanying human being, perhaps on the ground, but saw nothing (turns out it was Mustafa who fell off his horse hahahaha).

Now if this was a negative post…..I would’ve ended off with the following: And because of the fog, we couldn’t even see the bloody Pyramids! Grr…

But actually…in the end, I came off much happier than when I first started off. I smelt a little like horse poo, and my fingers were blue, but hell – I’d been to the other side, and I wasn’t comin back!

Law & Order in Bangladesh

Location: Dhaka

Everyday, driving along the same streets connecting my various relatives homes, we notice more and more of the familiar shops and restaurants along the way being demolished or defaced. Last night CandyFloss had a sign. This morning it is nameless. Yesterday, Asparagus restaurant had a front, today there's only a big gaping ugly hole. And no it's not the work of vandals or business enemies. It's the government. And no, people are not in uproar. People are watching and saying to each other, "Well, that's what happens when you don't follow the law."

It's not a revolution, but yet such a simple, subtle way the caretaker government is telling its citizens: Enough. What did these businesses do? They had merely crept outside the legal space/land alotted to their establishments. Some were obstructing pavement space. Others like the Rangs building have built entire monstrosities blocking the construction of desperately needed arterial roads in Dhaka's choked traffic grid. Government after government have been unable to get these businesses to follow the simple law of keeping within your territory, so now the government is doing things in a language only law-breakers understand: A punch in the face.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

the last cairo post

Well whaddya know....Cairo Airport has FREE wireless all over.

So yeah - I'm at the airport. Waiting for my flight to Singapore. Don't ask why, but I'm all checked in and waiting in the departure lounge a whole 2 hours early. Insane, I tell ya!

So the last few days have been crap. In terms of my "last few days in Cairo". I've convinced everyone including myself that I'll be back in Cairo in a month or so, so I haven't really seen all my friends, or said goodbye properly. On my last night, I had Smiley's for dinner. Definitely not what I had in mind for the 'last supper', but hell, I'm banking on having another 365 dinners in Cairo starting March. And if I DONT come back...then I'm just going to be a very disappointed girl. 3 fabulous, crazy months ending in total anti-climax - I spent the last few days frantically finishing off work work, running errands and this and that. I don't know what I had in mind for my last few days, but it definitely wasn't that...

Packing was amazingly quick. Would you believe, 3 months here, and I'm basically going back with the same amount of stuff? 29 kilos! What an achievement, I must not be female. Sucks that I'm taking everything back with me though, I would've liked to leave it all here and bring back ANOTHER 30 kilos of goodies back to Cairo, but my situation is just too uncertain to do that.

I'm actually really excited about going back to Singapore. (Whoa, good thing this is in writing, otherwise noone would ever have believed I just said that) I'm looking forward to seeing my family, especially my sister and brother in law who are there at the moment. I haven't seen them in 4 months nearly and have missed them to bits. Alot of my aunts and uncles are

I'm sooooooooo excited about food. Oh my God....chicken rice, chicken chops, yakult, mushroom burgers, sago gula melaka....ooooohhhh my taste buds have missed flavour like a baby misses its mother's bosom. Which reminds me: Mum's cooking!!! I'm looking forward to the last morning in Cairo was freezing! I can't wait to take a LONG-ass shower, where the hot water doesnt run out after 15mins, where water gushes like a waterfall....I haven't indulged in a long shower in ages. I deserve one. I also need sleep. Hardly slept the last 2 nights, trying to make the most of my time here.

Eeek my battery is gonna die any minute.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

limbo relief?

So at 3pm today, I was offered the job of Assistant Editor at Egypt's most prestigious English-language current-affair magazine. Which means ... 1 whole year in Egypt. Starting March 2007. Despite the long build-up to this news, I am still feeling completely overwhelmed.