Saturday, January 31, 2009


Hey everyone, here I am in Istanbul... my friend Molly joined me the day before yesterday and we've been seeing all there is to see in town. There are too many beautiful, historic buildings here. Above is the Blue Mosque, so named for the tiles inside. It's a pretty impressive building- it has 6 minarets which at one point rivaled the mosque at Mecca. It's a functioning mosque so although tourists are allowed to go inside and take pictures, you need to take your shoes off and be respectful if you are in there during prayer time.

This was one of my favorite things we saw- the Underground Cistern. It is about one foot deep with fishes swimming around there and everything! It's a little creepy, but really beautiful. Strangely, it doesn't smell bad under there at all. The pillars all have different textures and as you can see, it is lit really nicely.

Here's a pillar with an upside-down Medusa head. There is another one, with the head turned on it's side. It is a mystery why they are upside down and sideways. I'm not clear on why the Medusa heads are down in the cistern.

After Molly and I ate lunch yesterday, we saw this dog sitting in the square, singing along to 3:00 prayers! It was really cute.

Here's another photo of the Blue Mosque.

Here's Molly petting one of the many feral cats around Istanbul.
Yesterday we visited a hammam (Turkish bath) and it was the best thing ever. The bathhouse is hundreds of years old and made of solid marble. The faucets were very old and it was really neat to be in there. Of course I don't have any pictures because taking pictures in a bathhouse is creepy. You will have to trust me when I tell you it was great and if you ever get the chance to come to Turkey, you have to try it.
Today we briefly visited the Asian side of Istanbul via the ferry boat. It was way too freezing cold today though, so we had to get back home to get warm again. What little we saw was interesting; it looked like everyday life. Very different from the touristy place that we're staying, where everyone comes out of their rug shop to bother you as you try to walk down the street.
Tomorrow we are taking a tour of the Bosphorous Strait. It should be pretty- hopefully not too cold.
Istanbul is really nice, and very large. It seems like a nice place to stay for awhile, longer than my short 6 days, to explore. It's pretty hilly which reminds me of San Francisco.
I leave for India in two days and I am not feeling ready at all. I think I might be a little homesick and maybe even nervous about the craziness of India. I have heard a lot of stories about how it's "nuts" over there, and in the past I always scoffed and thought "No problem!"... but now I'm having cold feet. Ready or not, here I go! I will take pictures of the madness and everyone can live vicariously through me and my visit to India. Wish me luck...

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Safe arrıval to Istanbul, Turkey

Hello, I arrıved to Turkey! Thıngs worked out really well because ı dıdn't have to pay any fee for mıssıng my flıght. Not sure why, but I dıdn't bother askıng. I arrıved around 8am to my pensıon, checked ın and promptly passed out for about 7 hours. I went to eat somethıng and have been walkıng around town. Actually I'm kınd of lost rıght now but I have lots of tıme and a map.

Istanbul ıs not at all what I was expectıng. After the chaos of Egypt, I feel lıke thıs place ıs a luxury resort. It ıs defınıtely more European than Mıddle East. At least from what lıttle I have seen so far. There are stıll beautıful prayer calls from the Blue Mosque but everyone seems to be much more European. The streets are really neat- lots of cobblestones and wındy streets and hılls.

Molly gets here tomorrow ın the evenıng and I am anxıously awaıtıng her arrıval. I'm holdıng off on the major sıtes untıl she gets here so that we can see them together. Tomorrow I am goıng to walk around and explore some of these wındy streets, hopefully fıgure out how to use the publıc transportatıon so I can get to the aırport to pıck Molly up, and eat some more delıcıous Turkısh food. Tonıght I had lentıl soup and pureed eggplant and ıt was really good.
Well I wıll wrıte agaın soon and put up some more pıctures of beautıful Istanbul.

Monday, January 26, 2009

missed flight to turkey

Hello. I have officially missed my flight to Turkey because it left at 3:50am and not pm. Duh. But now i will never, ever do that again.
For the time being, I am killing the newly found 12 hours (only 6 more to go!) in Amman.
I don't remember, but i think i haven't posted pictures of Petra yet. I will do it soon, maybe. Right now the camera cable is nestled in the bottom of my pack and i don't have the will to dig it out.
Sarahima and Annette left yesterday morning and i am sad without them. Luckily a friend we met in Petra has been hanging out in Amman for the last few days so i have a buddy to pass the time with.
Well, that's all for now. Hopefully I will get to Istanbul soon (inch'allah) and I will write another post when i am settled.

Friday, January 23, 2009

goodbye egypt, hello jordan

Here's a shot of Rahima's cousins in front of the Alexandria library- Salem, Annette (not a cousin), Sarag, Rahima, and Sara.
We stayed with them for a couple nights and they took us all over Alexandria and showed us just how much we have been overpaying for EVERYTHING in Egypt. Apparently there are prices, and then there are tourist prices. They are a lot of fun and I am hoping that they'll make it out to SF one day so I can show them what things are like in the land of the infidels. I'm pretty sure it'll blow their minds.
Here's Annette and Rahima buying a kilo of bananas (at regular prices with Aunt Nahid standing by) for our 30+ hour journey from Alexandria to Petra, Jordan.
I knew from past experience that Egyptian public transport never leaves on time and always takes much longer than expected. We took a bus from Alex to Cairo, waited around for a couple hours then caught a freezing cold night bus with no bathroom to Nuweiba, Egypt. We arrived at 5am and settled in at an outdoor coffee/sheesha (hooka) place until the ferry ticket office opened at 9am. Then we moved our stuff over to the ticket office until 5pm, when the ferry finally loaded everyone up (supposed to leave at 2pm). Luckily we met a good crew of people while waiting and we've been hanging out with them since. Then we took the ferry from Nuweiba to Aqaba, Jordan and then a two hour taxi ride to Petra.

Petra is beautiful! (Thank you Donna, for the tip)
There are crazy giant sandstone walls everywhere and facades carved into them. Petra used to be a city of 30,000 and these days it is one of the new 7 wonders of the world. The place is riddled with caves, tourists, and Bedouins trying to sell you a ride on a donkey.
We spent the whole day here, hiked all over the place. I got some beautiful pictures and was amazed every time I turned the corner.

Here is a little boy selling us postcards in the middle of our photo op in front of the Treasury. The little guy wouldn't take no for an answer so I pulled him into our picture (not shown) and he smiled then as soon as the camera went down, he continued with his sales pitch.

I can't remember the name of this building at the moment, but it is gorgeous. Inside the ceiling is also sandstone but looks like marble with pinks, grays, and blacks.

Me in front of the "monastery".
Jordan is completely different from Egypt in the following ways:
1. The use of headlights at night is not considered a waste of battery.
2. People don't hassle you to buy things.
3. Taxis are impeccably clean.
4. The Jordanian dinare is equal to the British pound and everything is expensive.
Bear in mind that so far I've only seen the port and Petra so far, so my observations are to be taken with a grain of salt.
Tomorrow we head to Amman via the Dead Sea by taxi. Sarahima and Annette have a flight out of Jordan the day before I do. :( I'm really gonna miss their company, but I am looking forward to meeting my friend Molly in Istanbul!
We got to catch the inauguration on tv in Egypt, but I couldn't hear any of what Obama was saying because it was dubbed in Arabic. I am hoping that someone taped it for me so I can watch it when I get back. Maybe youtube will be an option if I ever find a fast computer.
I am reading Dreams From My Father and I love Obama more with every page. I'm really proud and hopeful for the new president. Already things are different for the traveling American. When I was in South America 5 years ago, the war in Iraq had just started, and I got yelled at a lot and I was asked "why is your country doing this?!"; but now people don't yell at me, and I've had some really interesting conversations about politics.
Yesterday the Jordanian customs officer who stamped my passport smiled at me and said "Obama!" as he handed back my passport. Things are looking up for traveling Americans.
Well, I hope you have all enjoyed reading about the adventures of Jenny. I will write more in a few days.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Luxor to Cairo to Alexandria... I hate Egyptian computers.

Alexandria library
Our 8th meal of the day.

The Egyptian museum.

Sarahima's family in Cairo.

The Sphynx.

Karnak Temple in Luxor.

Hi, I am in Alexandria now. I'ts been a whirlwind last two days. We spent three nights in Luxor and got to see the Valley of the Kings and the Karnak Temple. We then took a train to Cairo, which was better than taking the bus because you get to walk around on a train and there was more space for our legs. The bathroom was pretty awful- a pee puddle on the ground and a door that wouldn't lock. When we got to Cairo we tried to take a taxi to our hostel but this took about an hour, because our cabbie didnt understnad what we were talking about and didn't know where our hostel was. After driving in circles all around downtown Cairo, we finally arrived to our hostel and checked in for a night, slept for about 6 hours before heading out to the pyramids at 6:30am. We saw the pyramids at Giza in the morning and got to go inside the Great pyramid... not recommended for claustrophobic people, because you have to crouch down for most of the hike up into the pyramid. The room at the end of the path was a completely sealed chamber and was very Indiana Jones.

Later in the day we met up with Sarahima's aunt Nahid. It has been 14 years since they last saw each other. Right away we felt the difference of walking around with a local. Later in the evening we went to Aunt Nahid's cousin's house and were fed a giant meal. We were invited to stay the night and we enjoyed talking to Sarah's cousin's. They fed us several meals after dinner and we were stuffed to the gills.
Today we took a minibus to to Alexandria, where Aunt Nahid lives. We walked around a little bit tonight but we will see more tomorrow. I will try to post more pictures later in the week but right now I am having a typical Egyptian computer experience. The computer is having major issues and the guys who work here appear to know even less about how to fix a computer than I do. Meanwhile they are talking about us in Arabic while laughing and staring at us. The men in Egypt can be a little crude sometimes, although I should say that the people that I've met here that I was actually able to communicate with have been extremely kind and generous.
More news is that I am definitely not going to Israel. Aside from being disgusted with what is going on there, it doesn't seem safe and I have changed my ticket to leave from Amman, Jordan.
For now I'm signing out in frustration, but just know that I am doing ok and I am safe. I also miss home at this moment.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

more from Hurghada

Me and my buddies from the crew of "Pegasus".

Hello from Hurghada. Today is our last day here. Sarah and Annette finished their scuba certification and they are now official open water divers. I got to spend two days on the boat with them, which was very nice. The Red Sea is beautiful! The water is extremely turquoise and "delicious" is the best word I can find to describe it. The boat was a lot of fun. We got to eat lunch on it and the crew prepared really good Egyptian food for us. They were also a lot of fun. They live on the boat and while the girls were diving, I got to horse around with the crew and learn a few Arabic words. I was sad to say goodbye to them- they are quite a cast of characters. I think that I could live on a boat for a little while. Especially a dive boat. I started learning how to help the divers out of their gear and I was watching how to tie all the ropes and it doesn't seem like a bad life at all.
Yesterday I got to go snorkeling when we anchored near a coral reef shelf. The life underwater is amazing! When I first got underwater I didn't really understand what is so great about diving in the Red Sea but as soon as we got to the coral, I got it. We saw lion fish, parrot fish, cornet fish and brain coral, among other things. It made me realize how important coral reefs are and how fragile the sea and our little planet is.
Hurghada itself isn't all that interesting. It is a resort town (maybe I already mentioned this) and there are a lot of half-finished high rises, which is really depressing.
Last night we went on a wild goose chase all around town looking for the bus station so we could buy a ticket to Luxor for tomorrow. I found myself wishing yet again that I had a magical power that would allow me to speak every language in existence, as we got bad direction after bad direction on how to get to the bus station.
I have learned how to say "good morning", "hello", and the all-important "thank you". I use all three phrases in just about every encounter.
Oh yeah, I am in the process of changing my plane tickets so that I can fly to Turkey from somewhere that is not Israel. The final straw for me was an email from Joyful who has a friend who sent her some pictures of Gaza. I was really looking forward to visiting Israel, but it just doesn't seem to be in the cards for me on this trip. It's pretty heart-wrenching to talk about the violence there with Egyptians. Everyone is very concerned about the citizens who are dying there, and there is a lot of hope that Barack Obama can do something to change things in the middle east. It seems like a tall order for one man, but I am also interested to see how things will change once he takes office.
Well, I will write again from Luxor, which is a city on the Nile River and is supposed to be green and beautiful. I hope everything's great back home and look forward to getting emails from everyone about how they are doing.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

alligators in our hotel room!

Isn't this adorable? The housekeeping staff at our hotel make new towel sculptures everyday and so far this is the best. The shirt is Annette's soccer jersey/pj top and the eyes, nostrils and teeth (unpictured) are made of tissue or something.
I am writing to you from Hurghada, Egypt on the Red Sea. Rahima and Annette are taking a scuba certification course here for the first few days of our trip in Egypt. Today I got to tag along on the boat with them while they dived among coral reef. The boat was comfy, and much more interesting then the town itself. It is a resort town and it is low season, so there are very few tourists and lots of plasticky tourist shops. It's hard to dodge the people trying to sell you stuff because there aren't very many tourists. Another bizarre thing is that there are hardly any Egyptian women walking around. I think I've seen 5 since we arrived. It sort of creeps me out. Where are they?

Here's a photo of Annette and Sarahima in full gear.

SCARY!!! You'd think this method would work, but I am still smoking, as are most of the Egyptians. When we went to the little cornerstore and to buy a sim card at the phone shop, the shopkeepers offered us a cigarette to be polite. It is a little surreal to smoke in the market while chatting/shopping for snacks.

Pretty bottles in a window.

What do you call this thing? A minaret? Anyway, prayer music blasts out of it three times a day.

Here are some photos from my 8 hour layover in Amsterdam. This building was designed by the same guy who did the Pompidou Centre in Paris. It looks like a ship, but it is not.
Underneath is a shot from the canal tour I took.
My plan was to walk around Amsterdam while I was there but I was so freezing cold and exhausted from the overnight flight that I only managed to eat some soup and walk one block. Then I saw the canal tour and took it. I had to go back to the warm airport afterwards and take a nap. The Amsterdam airport is possibly the nicest airport I've ever visited. Definitely the place to be if you have a long layover. They have a hotel inside the terminal which you can rent by four hour increments which has it's own bathroom and a real bed (I definitely would have taken a nap there if I had seen it in the beginning) and lots of shops and restaurants with decent food to distract you enough to keep you awake.

We will spend two more nights in Hurghada to finish the scuba certification, then we are heading south to Luxor and Aswan, then back to Cairo to visit the pyramids, then to Alexandria to visit Rahima's aunt, then probably we are leaving Egypt. We're not sure yet what the plan is... we were supposed to go to Israel but I'm a little gun shy these days, so we might go to Jordan and I'll just pop over to Israel long enough to catch my flight out of Tel Aviv.

Thursday, January 8, 2009


Hi, I made it to Egypt in one piece (complete with luggage!). The first thing I saw after getting my pack was Sarahima's smiling face on the other side of the security gate. She and Annette had arrived from Spain a few hours earlier and waited for me at the airport.
After reuniting, we took a cab to the hostel and slept for a few hours, then this morning we got up and headed to the bus station for a 6 and a half hour bus ride from Cairo to Hurghada. There wasn't much to see out the window, just a lot of sand. I slept on and off for the bus trip and I am still quite exhausted.
So far, Egypt is good. There was a prayer call around 5am and I remembered that they had that in Senegal when I went to see Mary and Dan. Our bus driver played prayer music and the kid who runs the internet cafe is playing it right now. It is really beautiful, a capella melody. I can't tell what's being said because my Arabic isn't what it used to be, but that just makes it more mysterious.
I am grateful to be traveling with friends in this very different part of the world. It is so much easier to navigate the overly aggressive touts and to figure out what to do with more brains thinking about it.
Tomorrow Sarah and Annette are starting their 4 day scuba course and I will walk them to class and maybe do a bit of exploring. I will take some photos and post them in the next few days.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Learning Lessons in NYC

I never thought that i'd be using a TTI technologies computer, but here i am at the HI in NYC doing just that. $1 for 10 minutes! what a rip!
Anyway... I landed safe and sound yesterday afternoon at JFK international. Unfortunately, my baggage did not. In fact, it never left Mexico City and i'm not sure that it has yet. The official story is that our plane was too heavy so they left some of the luggage there and it was coming on the next flight. There were about 40 of us altogether, and I stuck around until the agent entered my form into the computer so I could get a claim number since I don't have a phone and I wasn't really sure what the hostel's phone number or zip code was. This took about 3 hours. I was second to last and the agent confided in me that it was likely that our bags weren't coming anytime soon, because Mexicana had another screw-up earlier in the day. It has been about 24 hours now so at this point I am just hoping that it gets here as in New York before I leave for Cairo tomorrow. On the upside, it is surprising how little I need. I had packed my ipod, book, all the warm clothes I have, an extra pair of underwear, and my passport stuff, and so far I've only bought a few toiletries and a t-shirt and I'm actually pretty comfortable.
I went to the Empire State Building (pity I didn't have my camera) and Times Square and have been walking all over Manhattan. It is cold!!!!! and beautiful. New York is so lovely and the people are so pushy and it's a pretty amazing city.
I had one other major problem today which also worked out. The airline I am flying with tomorrow doesn't seem to have a phone number. I went on a wild goose chase armed with a $20 phone card (almost gone now- thanks again TTI) and still do not know the phone number for them. I was able to confirm my flights tomorrow with the travel agent back in SF. Apparently there is some secret system that travel agents have access to that is directly connected to the airlines' flight information.
So, that is me right now. Cooling my heels waiting for long lost luggage and a flight to Egypt to meet Sarah and Annette. I hope everyone's new year is going great so far. I will post pictures as soon as I have a camera again. Until soon....

Saturday, January 3, 2009

¡Que Viva México!

Well, my time in Mexico is almost over. Joon and I both have to catch a plane tomorrow morning. His plane is bound for home, mine to NYC for two days and then on to Egypt.
We have a tv in our hotel room and it is the first tv I have watched in a long while. Today I learned that there is some serious shit going on in Israel and Gaza and I am wondering if it´s really a good idea that I visit Israel right now (or in 2 weeks). So I will discuss with my soon to be travel partners, the amazing Sarahima and Annette, who are traveling the world on a 10 month trip. I will meet them in Egypt on Wednesday and the plan was to work our way overland to Tel Aviv, but we shall see.
The important thing I want to say is that I love Mexico from the bottom of my heart, and I feel so lucky that I got to be here for the last 2 1/2 months, and really I don´t want to leave. So I will come back one day. The things I love about Mexico are too many to count really, but here are a few: cute babies, first class buses which are more comfortable than planes, huevos rancheros, corn on a stick with mayonnaise and cheese and chili powder, fireworks, scary bus rides, people selling stuff on the metro, aztec soup, affordable avocadoes, houses painted every color imaginable, COLOR EVERYWHERE, beautiful, kind people, young men helping old ladies crossing the street, danger (translation: FUN) everywhere you look, and so much more.
I feel especially lucky that my family and Joon got to come here to share it all with me. I am looking forward to seeing Sarahima, Annette, and Molly on soon-to-come parts of my trip.
There is a lot more traveling to come in the next four months, and it should be exciting because I will have no knowledge of the language in any other places I go, so stay tuned!

Me and Joon on one of those ridiculous top of the bus tours today.

A pretty house in Condesa- fancy neighborhood in DF.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

happy new year!

wow, i can`t believe it´s 2009. i guess it`s because i wasn`t really thinking about it, but it seems like the whole year just snuck right past me.
joon and i had a great new year in the zòcalo, where there were plenty of fireworks and kids, teenagers, and families all enjoying them. once again mexico outdoes the us with danger/fun. joon bought every type of firework available, and more than once sparks flew onto his clothes. miraculously, he escaped with all ten fingers.
tomorrow we head for mexico city, the belly of the beast that is mexico. we will spend two days there and then joon has to head back to sf and i go on to nyc. i am looking forward to spending two days in my home country, where i plan to eat bagels, drink coffee, see the empire state building, and watch american movies (without subtitles). i don`t think that i`m prepared for the freezing cold weather of new york, especially after i`ve been spoiled with 80 degree weather every day in oaxaca, but i have a jacket, hat, gloves and a scarf, and i`ll take my chances.
i am hoping that everyone at home is safe and warm and enjoying the rose parade on tv. i miss you all and hope that you have a great new year!

Cities I've Visited