August 31, 2011

The Ebb and Flow

After a relatively mellow August, my clients are all of a sudden exploding with emergency work for me to do.

I just compiled my to-do list after an AM of conference calls and realized that I owe 10 contract mark-ups to various clients, all due today!

Good thing E has a business dinner meeting -- when I'm only fending for myself I can live off uncooked veggies that take no time at all to prepare.

In other news, the early AM 7 miler today was a piece of cake. The effort felt like 4 or 5 felt a few months ago. This despite the fact that it's my 8th day straight of running without a day off. Yay! I love getting in better shape -- it's so fun.

August 28, 2011

Week -14

Well, that went fast. It's been a week and 44.04 miles on my feet since I last posted and, it's good to summarize, because if I don't, I'm not sure I'd know where the time went.

In addition to work, life, and the running miles, I fit in a mid-week visit to a friend I hadn't seen in 10 years and a day trip to Tomales Bay as a final Californian hurrah with a friend who's moving to the East Coast.

Tuesday, H (running buddy) and I headed out to join Palo Alto Run Club for speed intervals, but they decided to do hill repeats at the the Dish instead.

Ouch. It took almost 3 full days to recover to the point where I didn't have hip soreness.

Yesterday, I headed out for 8 miles with Metamatt. He's so much faster than me that I knew it was going to be a difficult run. The Giants ballpark dinner as a pre-run meal wasn't helping much, either. Thankfully, he slowed it down but kept me at a solid 9:04 average pace. We shared a Pure Energy Bar and a Powerbar endurance bar beforehand and we snacked on energy chews during the run. Ocean Beach and Golden Gate park were predictably cold and foggy, but the day cleared up by mid afternoon and we enjoyed sunny blue skies in M's backyard before our drive home.

After a delicious brunch at Beretta (carbonara pizza? Oh, hell yes.), I needed a 1.5 hour nap before I could even try to accomplish anything else in my day. And, to be honest, I didn't really accomplish much.

This morning, I had 10 miles on tap with H. I expected it to be difficult given the mileage step up week and the hard run the day before.

But, we shared a Pure Energy Bar over coffee and easily warmed up to a much faster pace than I expected. My watch battery died, so I can't be sure, but I think we did the whole 10 at an average pace of 9:30 or so, which is a marked improvement from last week's slow and steady 10 miler.

And there you have it. One more week down. One week closer to the race. Lots of running. Gorgeous California late summer weather. Busy social life. Busy work life. And not much else to report.

August 22, 2011

Week -15

I'm following a training plan based on the Hanson Brooks Marathon Training Plan.

It's different than any plan I've ever followed. The biggest difference? The longest run I'm going to do is 18.2 miles (which is actually longer than they recommend, but I found a trail run that looks too fun to miss). In exchange for the lost long runs of 18-20 miles, I'm running 6 days per week including speed and strength workouts and other than speed days, I don't have a single run shorter than 6 miles 'til the week of the race.

This week, I substituted 3 miles of walking with a friend for the easy 6 on Monday, but I did everything else as prescribed. 37 miles and change. For CDA, I didn't hit that mileage 'til Week -8. My overall mileage is going to be much larger this time around.

Saturday's 6 miler was very difficult, and I was exhausted afterwards, so I was very apprehensive about Sunday's 10. But, the 10 was actually much more pleasant than the 6.

I chomped down a Power Bar Pure and Simple Energy Bar (roasted peanut butter... this may be my favorite energy bar I've ever tried! Yum!) on the drive out, and then my running buddy and I shared a package of the Cola flavored Energy Blasts on the run. The conversation, caffeine, and available sugars combined to make the last 10 of a 37 mile week much less difficult than I expected. Sure, we were slow, but that was fine. We are supposed to run the long run on tired legs -- that's the point, the long runs are supposed to feel like the last miles of the marathon.

Given how much better I felt than planned when I got back to the house, I decided not to push my luck. Rather than the planned lunch of gazpacho, I told E I needed something more substantial, so we agreed on sushi for lunch and gazpacho for dinner.

Before my shower, I drank 2 cups of vegetable juice from the juicer (Kale, apricot, carrot, celery, cucumber, tomato). Considering that I was starving, the juice did an admirable job of keeping me upright and functional through my tomato harvest and visit to the farmer's market until E and I sat for sushi.

By 2 PM, I felt renewed and easily finished my gardening todo list.

There were several variables between Saturday's 6 and Sunday's 10. But, at least one of them was that I intentionally ate to run/recover as opposed to just running. I like to think I can do 6 miles in just about any condition, and I probably can. But it's interesting to see that an intentional 10 can feel better (and leave me less trashed) than an un-thoughtfully executed 6.

August 18, 2011

The Powerbar Trial

As you may recall, I totally bonked on my Memorial Day Marathon in Coeur d'Alene.

R's fiancé works for Powerbar.

He read that I showed up without my own race fuel and likely hit the wall due to the poor electrolyte and carbohydrate quality of the race's provided fuel and immediately set out to make certain I would not suffer the same fate again.

So, a wonderful care package arrived on my birthday:

Just in time, too. (Thanks B!)

This week is week -15 on my training for the California International Marathon. My goal is to run a Personal Record (which means I need to beat my previous CIM time of 4:04). Ideally, I'd like to break 4 hours and I'd love to break 3:50 or even 3:40, but I need to see how my long runs are looking closer to the race before I can determine if those are reasonable goals or not.

I do, however, feel pretty damn good about the prospect of a PR this race as I have several things on my side:

1. The Powerbar products. Up until this training cycle, I've always been fairly haphazard about fueling during training because I often prefer to take the performance hit and run slower without fuel for the weight management benefits. For CDA, I only used fuel on the longest run of the week and races -- I performed much better on those runs. This time around, I'm taking a different approach. I'm going to use fuel on every run over 10 miles and work to push myself on speed and performance instead of worrying about the calories. I'm hopeful that using fuel to improve the quality of my training will improve the quality of my race performance as well.

2. I'm already in decent running shape. If I had to, I could run a reasonable half marathon today (as opposed to when I started training for CDA and I still needed to put in 5 weeks before I could comfortably run a half marathon at a 9 minute pace.)

3. More Mileage. I'm committed to the most aggressive training schedule I've ever attempted for a marathon. For CDA, I did an average of 31 miles per week over the 17 week training cycle (which was the most I'd ever done). This time around, I'm shooting for an average of 43 miles per week. I'm pleased to see that even though I'm finishing up the first few not-so-serious weeks of training, I'm already more than 20 miles ahead of where I was for CDA with 15 weeks to go.

4. I have a running buddy. I haven't ever trained for a time-goal marathon with a friend. This time around, H, the friend who flew up to Washington to join me for the Kirkland Half Marathon, is committed to a similar training schedule for CIM. We've got plans for two runs together during the week, and weekends as well, if we're both in town. It's so much easier to motivate for those medium long runs when I have a training buddy. Thanks, H!

With all of those benefits, I'm feeling very well positioned to get into shape and run a great race on a fast, downhill course. Onward!

August 17, 2011

Egypt, Le Fin

The last entry from my last hand-written travel journal


We’re at the airport. To be honest, it felt as if our journey home began last night the second that we set foot in the Sheraton Heliopolis.

But, I’m getting ahead.

We took a very short cab ride from the train station and paid 30 EGP for it. Neither of us minded because the driver was so animated and earnest. He stopped to ask several people if they spoke English to determine where we wanted to go, but it turns out that “Museum” is not a common word in their vocabulary of learned English words. Odd. They seem to have a fabulous command of most other tourist-centric language. Finally, he dropped us at “Masree” which as near as we could tell was the Arabic word for the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities. We sent our bags through the X-ray, checked them, bought our tickets and ambled around the museum for quite a while.

At one point, R realized he was hungry. I might have been but it was difficult to tell with my stomach pain. We left the museum and went to the adjacent museum cafĂ© to eat. From the window, we had views of spare Egyptian monuments erected in the courtyard as if to say, “Why Not? We have so many!”

The second time into the museum I had to buy another 20 EGP ticket because I couldn’t find my other one. Typical. Thankfully, the King Tut exhibit was worth the second price of admission.

We easily hailed a cab that agreed to take us to Sheraton Heliopolis for 40 EGP. I was shocked to watch the guards search under the taxi for bombs before they let us approach. That had not happened anywhere else we had stayed in Egypt. It definitely made me appreciative that we’d opted out of the traditional western tourist experience.

After we bid our driver adieu, we stepped into the opulence and realized we were basically home. Service, Luxory, English – whatever you needed or wanted. I was amazed to think this is what some people see and think of as “Egypt.” The Heliopolis Sheraton was by far the most extravagant hotel we stayed in, but it was creepy, too. R and I were definitely the only people our age walking around.
Dinner at the Lebanese restaurant was the most expensive meal of the trip at 160 EGP, or roughly 28 USD for two with egyptian white wine (dry, uninteresting chenin gris) for me. We stayed for the belly dancing and wished we hadn’t. She wasn’t very good, although the musicians were amazing. The way that her dress showed off her breasts instead of her stomach was odd and her pandering to the lecherous older men was a bit much to watch.

So, we asked for the check and went back to the room and up to bed.

I finished Palace Walk in my last night in Egypt. It was a good book and a great thing to read while there.

So, here we are, at the airport, but really, having left the Egypt we came to visit last night. It’s been a wonderful, difficult, educational, and interesting trip.

They are calling for boarding.

August 16, 2011

Egypt, 1/11/04

The 8th journal entry from my trip to Egypt in 2004.

The 9th was not so much fun -- I was sick all day and did little more than nap in our room, eat a couple of bananas, and finally one last amazing Siwan outing.

We walked to the hill of the dead and looked at the beautiful sights. We saw some Japanese tourists and finally, the group of Italian tourists from the goat dinner came down the hill as well. They raved about the locked tombs, which we wouldn't have seen without their prompt.

They asked if we knew any of the history of the hill, so I attempted to translate the guidebook's explanation for them. Boy has my Italian deteriorated. It's sad. One of the women finally took the book from me and translated the last bits for their group. Watching her, I remembered how much easier it is to translate *into* your native language instead of *out of* it. In hindsight I should have just given them the book and let them ask me about words they didn't know.

After speaking with them, we went to the key-keeper and he took us to each of the locked tombs: one with pictures of Amon, two with mummies and skeletons and one with a picture of crocodiles. R was right when he said it twas too much to get your head around.

The history was ridiculous. The tombs and mummies were ptolemaic and 26th dynasty, the Romans had reused it, and when the Siwans had escaped to the hill during bombings in 1940, they discovered the tombs and lived there for 3 years. Italian Solders excavated many of the paintings for cheap payments to the Siwans after the bombings, and now, in 2004, we were here as tourists.

As we entered, we were invited to tea by another man, Muhammed, who by the looks of it, lived at the hill. The process was slow and careful. First, a fire was stoked in an old blackened half of a radiator. Then, the tea-maker, a blackened metal cup with a twisted wire handle was filled with tea leaves and water and placed on the fire. As it heated, serving glasses (roughly glass shot glasses) and the serving tea pot were washed with water. Muhammed ladled sugar into the serving pot, and added the tea when it boiled over the metal cup. Then, Muhammed poured the tea from the serving pot into one of the glasses in a high, long stream of liquid. The cup of tea was poured back into the pot and this process was repeated several times. Finally, when the tea was cool enough to drink, we were given our cups.

So, there we were, in an excavated tomb, on top of the hill of the dead, overlooking the sunset and enjoying the silence over tea with two men. It was peaceful and wonderful. They offered us food as well, and we tried to say no, but our refusals were ignored. R took a banana and a tangerine. I took a tangerine. They also offered us cigarettes. Unfortunately, the strong tea and acidic tangerine were too much for my stomach, so I had to leave. R followed later after paying baksheesh to both men of 10 EGP each ($1.60 USD, generous by local standards).

Apparently, the men had tried to invite R back for Siwan whiskey after the cop was gone (there was a cop observing our entire visit to the hill of the dead). He laughed and said no.

After the hill of the dead, I slept until it was time to catch the bus. We ended up on a street in the dark with no other bus-riders. Confused, we asked a shopkeeper if the bus came here. He answered yes and a few minutes later brought chairs outside for us to sit on to wait for the bus. We experienced several acts of kindness like this one in Siwa -- they were absolutely charming.

The bus ride was as expected. 9 hours, cold, and uncomfortable. But, the good news is that with the help of Immodium and rest stops, I was able to make the trip successfully.

We arrived at Sidi Gaber in Alexandria around 6 AM. We waded through a million taxi offers to get our bags from the luggage compartment. We trudged through sludge, mud and the people of Alexandria who are in the street at 6 AM (much like the street people of the night in other major cities, they were hungry, huddled, and not interested in us).

We bought our train tickets to Cairo and set out to catch a cab, which in an ironic twist after the throngs of offers earlier was very difficult. Several cabs drove by, but none of them stopped. We guessed it had something to do with the cop in the street, but who knows? Finally, a cab pulled up and nervously stopped, yelling at us to get in on the passenger side. This was the first time we'd seen a cab driver in Egypt concerned about any rules, so we assumed our cop theory was correct.

We checked into the Cecil Hotel for $120 USD (a good rate for us, as the book claimed rates ranged from $130-207). They asked our budget and we said we'd like to spend $120 USD, which they liked. In fact, they upgraded us to an executive suite and we found ourselves in a lovely, well-maintained, European-style room with an oh-so-welcoming western bathroom.

R hadn't slept on the bus, so he immediately went to bed. I showered, took a bubble bath and fell into a restful sleep. We woke around 1 pm and walked to the library. We were informed that it was open at 3 PM, so we went back to the cafe we visited last time and I calmed my stomach with sprite and bread.

While R ate, we made the acquaintance of a Quebecoise pianist who was performing classical music at the library's concert hall the next night. She was adorable and I was sorry that were weren't free to stay for another night to go to her performance.

We bid her farewell and entered the library, checking our bags at the ticket counter. The first thing we saw in the great library of Alexandria was the poster announcing her performance.

The library's greatest asset, to my mind, is the architecture. The stairs mount from the bottom to the top in a series of connected slopes, evocative of a pyramid. The supporting structures and ceiling are a modern blend of curves and angles. The book collection is small for such a large space, but I imagine that in time it will be impressive. The computer terminals were available for free to anyone with tickets, but was blocked. After an hour or so, we left.

Lazily, we walked back toward our hotel. We stopped in an Internet cafe where we used demo copies of Windows XP to check and send email, read the news, etc. Our total visit came to 3 EGP ($0.50).

We continued our walk until we saw a modern cafe where (gasp) women and men were sitting together in both pairs and groups. We entered and they all looked up, but it was not shocked looks we've gotten used to receiving. Instead, they realized we were foreigners and quickly returned to their conversations.

I had another sprite while R snacked on another croissant. He claimed he's over turkish coffee and ordered a capuccino. We briefly returned to the Sanctuary of our room and rested -- R found Italian TV and we laughed at it.

At 8 PM, we followed Lonely Planet's advice and walk to Havanna, "the Best Bar in Egypt" which also served food. It was closed.

So we set out the find Cap D'or, but were not successful. A gentlemen who was following us asked if he could help, saying that he had been in Canada 23 years ago. We followed him for a while, but I became uneasy and when a second gentlemen stepped behind us, I told R. It was probably nothing, but regardless, we thanked him and turned in the opposite direction.

We found our way back to the Corniche and a gorgeous lighted gate supported by pillars was our reward. We took a picture and then walked back toward our hotel with our sights set on another dinner for R at Denis. On the way, we saw a fancy greek-style fish restaurant and decided to go there instead. We were the only patrons seated in the gorgeous room and the service was *superb.* The food was exquisite. R ordered Meyas (which I suspect was Makerel, but I'm not certain), hummous, a greek salad and Heineken (brewed locally). The bread was actually leavened (!) and topped with sesame seeds. I was so excited to see proper bread, especially because I could eat a little bit of it. They brought us babaganoush even though we didn't order it and I made a dinner of my roll with hummous and babaganoush and a beer and a half. I actually felt okay.

We had two servers all to ourselves and they were dedicated, whisking in and out with plates, matches, ashtrays, cups, napkins, drinks, whatever you could possibly want. A camera-touting gentleman took our photo at the table and returned with it in a paper frame 10 minutes later. R bought it for his mother.

We returned to the hotel and I took *another* luxurious bubble bath and slept.

This morning, I woke to my stomach slightly upset, but nothing terrible. Definitely the best I've been feeling since I became ill. I started this entry from our balcony and enjoyed a diet coke while writing it. Also, my fingernails are clean! It's a wonderful thing.

We showered, packed, and took a taxi to the train station where we caught the train to Cairo without too much difficulty. And now, we're speeding towards our last Egyptian adventure -- the Cairo Museum and our last night in Heliopolis.

Siwa, 1/9/04

The 7th journal entry from my trip to Egypt in 2004

Yesterday was a *very* full day. We walked to a cafe, had coffee, explored the shali on foot (adorable children) and found ourselves in the charge of young Muhammed as passengers on his donkey cart.

We went to Alexander's supposed tomb, the oracle of Amon, the Cleopatra springs and back home. On the ride, we ate delicious oranges (4 for 1 Egyptian Pound).

We lunched at a restaurant on top of the Shali lodge amongst the palms, where R was inspired to state, "I feel like a Columbian drug lord." My cooked vegetables and couscous was delicious as was my salad of tehini, tomatoes and cucumbers, and finally, some good bread, too.

Ali, our server, came to sit and talk with us after the meal. He brought little shot glasses of sweet tea which were excellent.

From there, we headed back out in Muhammed's cart for a trip out to fatmis island to watch the sunset over the dessert. It was gorgeous.

Unfortunately, we let ourselves be talked into attending a BBQ hosted by our hotel. Perhaps it was the goat, or perhaps it was the uncooked tomatoes and cucumbers, but whatever it was, I was up all night with a fever, chills, and diarrhea. Gross.

Tonight, we take the 10 PM bus to Alexandria. The hope is that my digestive system will be under control by then. The headache, lack of my own bathroom, and sickness was enough to make me just wish I was back home. Sucks. I'm hoping my attitude will improve with my health.

August 15, 2011

Egypt, quick snippit



It's already worth yesterday's 9 hr bus ride. A village with history separate from the rest of Egypt. Mud-brick enclosures, donkey-cart taxis, a book on the culture of the Berber-Siwan people written by a native siwan and signed by the author in his shop last night.

R, in an amazing display of relaxation, is sleeping in this morning after sleeping the majority of the bus trip yesterday.

So, I'm relaxing under the palm trees and enjoying the quiet.
Alexandria, 1/7/04

The fifth journal entry from my trip to Egypt in 2004

We arrived at Station Masr in Alexandria around 1:30 PM yesterday. The walk to the hotel appeared straightforward from the map, so I led us from the station, first right and then up towards the ocean. Except, we ended up walking for an hour and a half through working class neighborhoods.

Children and adults greeted us with English, Arabic and waves. The daily activities were ours to witness alone -- we did not see a single tourist. Eventually, we reached a small waterway and I was confused. I did not recall any water ways on the straightforward walk. We consulted the book once more and found that we'd walked to the opposite side of the peninsula. Several older men in robes to their sandals convened to help us. We found the square we were looking for in the book and repeated the name to taxi drivers. Eventually one of older men took us as his cause, hailed a cab and arranged our transport.

R tried to tip the older man 1 Egyptian Pound, but he said, "La, hamsa!" which means, "No, Five!" So, R counted out 5 ones and gave them to the man, assuming they were baksheesh. But, instead, the man handed them to the driver, paying our fare as we drove away. It was an adorable gesture.

From the backseat of the cab, we retreated through the neighborhoods we'd walked. We stopped to pick up what appeared to be one of the taxi driver's friends, who got out to get some money from the vegetable vendor in a quick handshake exchange. We dropped the friend at his destination and then finally, we made it to Midan Sa'ab Zhaglou.

We walked to the great library of Alexandria, but it was closed, so we enjoyed the view from a cafe and walked back to our hotel.

After a brief break at the hotel, we finally found a great meal in Egypt. Thus far, the food has been nothing to write about: dry pita-like bread and bland uninspired combinations of meat and vegetables. The guide book sent us to Restaurant Denis, a greek-style fish bar, and we were thrilled.

First we were shown a platter of frozen/fresh perch, trout, and calamari. We selected the calamari and perch. It was some of the best fried fish I've ever had and it was served with tahini, tomatoes and onions, fuul, pickled radishes and pommes frites. It was the best calamari I've ever had. We ate and drank stella until we were going to explode and then we stumbled home and fell asleep by 10 PM. It was a fabulous way to finish a day of Egyptian perfection.

Today we are off to Siwa.

August 4, 2011

Egypt, continued


Last night was a night of fear for me. The newness and foreign sights, sounds and treatment here had taken their toll on me. I found myself anxious to leave Cafe Riche and Groppi cafe because I was sick of being a tourist.

There are many mistakes to be made and the emails to home reminded me just how foreign this place is. R is treated better than me due to his gender and skin color and I don't like it.

In this petulant child-state, I researched Sinai, Aswan and Siwa in order to plan our next few days. I was annoyed and frustrated to learn that each of the trips required more transit time than I expected, so we'd only be able to make one. I found myself scared to go to Siwa due to its proximity to Libya, scared to go to Luxor/Aswan because of previous terrorism and the obvious dislike for me that had been displayed by many people throughout the day. I was depressed at the idea of close to 2 and half full days to get to mount sinai, not to mention the cultural conflicts that I'd encounter at the border to Israel. I wanted more time in the actual destinations to justify the travel commitments and I simultaneously just wanted to go home where I felt safe.

I talked with R and we decided to go to the travel agent this AM to figure out if Siwa is a reservable option. And then, fitfully, I slept.

But, a wonderful thing happened. I woke refreshed, unscared, and comfortable once again with the idea of winging it on our own.

We checked out with no problems. The bellhop got us a taxi and negotiated a fare (no doubt with a commission for himself). Our taxi got us to the train station with no problem. We greeted the information desk with (this is a photo of how I wrote what we said to him -- sadly I can no longer read or understand what it says):

He immediately smiled, replied, and was very friendly to us. We found the ATM, got cash, got tickets to the train to Alexandria, deciphered the Arabic to get to the right track, bought snacks (again greeting the clerk in Arabic and being very well received). In fact, the snack vendor gave me 10 Egpytian Pounds too little in change, and when I showed him, he smiled, apologized and immediately gave me the rest. He apologized again, obviously sorry. I said, "Malesh" (forget about it) and "Shukran" (thank you). He smiled.

We found our car and seats, passed the conductor without problems, and now we are on the train to Alexandria. I'm watching the countryside roll by. This feeling, now more than anything, is why I travel. I feel bigger, better, and more capable of handling setbacks, difficult situations, and fear. Today, I'm happy.

I also finally learned the entire Arabic alphabet and feel that I should be able to progress in my studies. Already, it's come in wonderfully handy/necessary. Little things like being able to find a street by the sign, or read the train schedule are fabulous. (And now, in 2011, I can't read or speak a word. How sad)

On that victorious note, I think I'll stop to read and rest.

'til tomorrow
I have nothing but awe

For full time parents.

It's the end of day 4 of niece week. And I'm nothing short of exhausted.

Between balancing her sleep schedule, her hilarious social schedule (could she be any more of her father's daughter? How does she have more neighborhood friends than we do?), the rocket-building and setting-off schedule (thanks Uncle E) and life...

Well, frankly, I'm having a hard time taking the strong line against her desire to sleep in and miss the first hour of lego camp in the mornings.

Except, of course, that I have to work...

Silly Work.

Did I mention that I adore having her here and thank my lucky stars that her parents let her come?

August 3, 2011

Egypt, 3rd installment

The third of several journal entries from my trip to Egypt in 2004

1/5/04. Night.

Today was a full day. We took a cab to our cheaper Cairo hotel -- Hotel Grand at the corner of Talaat Harb and 26 July Street. *Adorable.* We are on the 7th floor, overlooking the hustle and bustle of downtown, listening (right now) to the sunset call to prayer mixed with honking and traffic.

The call to prayer is amazingly pervasive. It covers the city and envelopes all of life in a way I've never experienced with a repeating sound. At noon today, we were lost in the Islamic quarter at a large square when the call rang out. It was a gorgeous experience.

After marveling at our wonderful room and balcony, we walked to the Midam Ataba, the Ezbekiya gardens and tried to find our way to the Khan El Kahlili. We found several street markets but they were modern markets with no tourists to be seen. This is not how the Khan El Khalili is described.

Eventually, we asked some police and one of their English speaking friends for directions. First, they asked for our passports. R gave his. They informed us that R did not "look" Canadian. But I did. Hah.

Many Egyptians today were proud of figuring out that R was Indian. One of the adorable serving boys at Midan El Hussein kept pointing at R and saying, "Indian." He was quite proud of himself and the scene was cute and funny in that way that only a foreign experience can be.

After traipsing through Khan El Khalili (Canadians get directions, apparently), we ate at one of the tourist traps looking at the mosque of Muhammed Hussein (where non-muslims are not allowed).

We then tried to walk to a mosque for entrance but accidentally tried the University entrance (where we were promptly turned away, seeing as how we are not University students).

At the mosque entrance, we had a storybook tout encounter. A young man named Muhammed (Ahmed) tried to show us "Egyptian Hospitality," sheesha, and hand-made handicrafts. We declined, but then he offered to take us to the Blue Mosque, where we could climb the tower and see the pyramids, citadel, cairo tower, etc. We went with him, deeper, and deeper into old Cairo.

Finally, we arrived at the mosque and he said that the student price was 20 Egyptian Pounds, while the regular price was 40 Egyptian Pounds. R declined saying he didn't want to pay to see a mosque. I started to take off my shoes, but thought better of it, deciding instead not to go if R didn't go.

Muhammed was flustered at first and then asked "why?" several times. Finally he asked for a "donation" to help his studies because, "he really needed it."

I was not pleased to find myself the victim of a scam. I explained to him that because he'd told us he wanted to practice his English and only wanted to be friends and show us hospitality, we'd gone with him. If he wanted to be paid, he needed to be honest about it up front so that we could decide if we wanted to pay or not before we went with him. He kept demanding money and I explained that we were not going to give him any, fairly loudly, in the street, in front of various folks in their doorsteps who watched with curiosity at the crazy English speaking lady. After a final emphatic "No" we walked away.

I was frustrated that we'd let ourselves get so far deep into old Cairo before he'd demanded money, and angry that he'd likely used this tactic to get money from others before.

R and I continued walking in the direction we had begun, even deeper into Old Cairo. I was very happy to have the turtleneck to cover me, but even so, we got plenty of stares and some hisses (at me, I assume). We spoke with a few adorable children, including a girl who stepped in front of R and said, "Wot is yur name?" When he replied she babbled in Arabic and ran off.

Eventually, we found some cops, but of course, they only spoke Arabic and initially, they were not friendly. Finally we got them to understand, "Wayen el Allah?" (Where is the Citadel) and they gave us directions. The cop smiled and asked me (while looking at R) if I spoke Arabic. I replied, "a little." He asked again, more emphatically, and I said one of my memorized phrases, which means, "I'm sorry, I don't speak Arabic that well." This made him very happy and he and his friend told us to have a good day.

I was uncomfortable for the rest of the walk, but we did find the Citadel eventually, after passing yet another crudely labeled, "Free Blue Mosque." I stopped R from entering because I was fairly paranoid that the helpful folks at the entrance would hold our shoes for ransome or something like that.

The Citadel was a welcome tourist attraction after the stark poverty and reality of Old Cairo. We ran into one of the taxi fight arbitrators from our morning and he called out to us, asking if the driver we ended up with was good. We looked for him when we left, but he was gone.

In the Citadel, we viewed the mosque of Muhammed Ali, the military museum, and the palace at the Citadel. The views of the city, mosques, towers, and pyramids in the background were my favorite part of the day.

Our taxi ride back to the hotel was a true Cairo rush hour experience complete with mopeds splitting the non-existent lanes against traffic, bottlenecks, pedestrians, bicycles, bus passengers getting on and off in the middle of the street and traffic lights which are defied by the masses.

Now we're off to dinner, Internet Cafe and Coffee at Midan Talaat Harb.