Monday, May 31, 2010


What an amazing city! Although we only spent about 3 days in total in this interesting and eclectic city, we made the most of our time and saw lots of incredible things. It's amazing to think that we have touched down on the African continent!
We arrived on Saturday at lunch time and stayed in downtown Cairo, right opposite the famous Egyptian Museum. A driver from the hotel was sent to pick us up and the car ride from the airport to the hotel was an experience in itself.
People had told me (Fifi) about traffic in Cairo. Zev had lived in Turkey for 3 years, so he was smiling and (it seemed to me quietly chuckling to himself) as the driver skilfully dodged traffic between cars, beeped his horn about a milion times and pointed out interesting sights as cars pulled out from all directions in front of us. I kid you not, I have never seen anything quite like traffic in Cairo. It is seriously incredible, the way that more accidents do not happen as cars merge into 3, maybe 4 lanes side by side on a TWO LANE highway. All the time while people are walking through traffic or bicycle riders are weaving through. Just amazing. And Zev used to DRIVE in this sort of traffic in Turkey!! It really takes some skill, that's all I'm saying.
So our hotel was comfortable and clean and the staff were very accommodating. As soon as we arrived in the hotel, we freshened up and headed out on the town, to stretch our legs and experience downtown.
The colors, the sounds, the really is a lot to take in, but all a wonderful experience if you take it for what it is- a different, rich culture in a city that never sleeps.
Although I had "read up" online about Cairo, I am SO GLAD that my sweet husband was able to navigate our way. Everything from advising me on the appropriate dress, to tipping and managing street vendors. Walking through downtown Cairo was definitely an interesting experience.
We walked a little off the beaten path and we did as the locals do- buy some sweets in an Arabic sweets shop, drink some coffee in a local coffee shop (it wasn't Starbucks which is what I am drinking right now in the airport but still nice ;-)). We then headed back to the hotel to get ready for our evening dinner cruise along the Nile. Another interesting experience.
The cruise lasted about 2 hours and included a buffet dinner with some yummy Arabic food (including more desserts), a belly dancer and a really neat whirling dervish dancer. He was amazing. Just kept turning round and round and did tricks like pour water from a bottle into a glass single handedly, while he was twirling.
Yesterday was our "big" day. We were lucky to have a personalized tour by a young girl called Christine, who had studied Egyptian history for four years. She was very knowledgeable and started off our tour by taking us to Sakkara to see the original step pyramids there, and then on to the Giza Pyramids where we took a camel ride between the two largest pyramids (probably the highlight of my day!!)
Zev had the girl camel and I had the boy camel- guess who behaved better? The boy camel of course!!
Zev's camel was acting a little temperamental. She wasn't having a good day I guess!
My camel behaved nicely and I even "steered" him for part of the way.
It really was so cool to travel through the pyramids on camel back.
The weather was warm but thankfully not humid! It was perfect in my opinion- I love the dry desert heat.
After we visited the pyramids and learnt all sorts of interesting facts from Christine, we headed to the Egyptian Museum. We were admittedly a little tired by this point, but Christine did a wonderful job of taking us through the different periods in Egyptian history and explaining how different artifacts were linked together. She even explained what the hieroglyphics meant and then took us to the star of the museum- the burial mask of King Tutankhamun. It was incredible to see this infamous mask up close and personal. I honestly felt like I was in an Indiana Jones movie (I LOVE the Indiana Jones movies- the originals please with a young Harrison Ford. Just saying. But I digress.....) There was SO MUCH to see at the Egyptian Museum, we really could have spent a whole day just there. The only unfortunate part was that we couldn't take our cameras inside.
After the Museum we farewelled Christine and went back to our hotel room to freshen up before heading to the Khan El Khalili markets in the Old Cairo part of town. We went at night which I really liked, because it gave the ancient buidlings an interesting look. The markets were interesting to say the least- lots of color, sparkle, haggling, calling out and life going on. We had dinner at a cafe in the markets across from a mosque and just watched the world go by. I won't say that we blended in (especially Zev, poor love), but it was nice to sit in the cafe and just be still while the world whirled by around us.

We are now looking forward to the next leg of our trip- AUSTRALIA!! Can't wait to see the family and meet the newest members of our family! We have really enjoyed travelling on Etihad Airways- great service and comfort. Goodbye Egypt, hello Australia!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Military Dining-Out! (And a Handsome Husband in Uniform ;-)

Zev and I attended a military Dining-Out last night.
For those who are not familiar with a Dining-Out, it is a formal dinner where the military member wears their evening uniform (called a "Mess Kit") and the spouses wear evening dresses or tuxedos (for the male spouses).
A lot of preparation goes into planning and executing a Dining-Out.
 There is an official "Head" table with a President of the Mess and guests of honor.
There is also a "Mr. Vice" who sits on his own table across the room from the "President" and is like a Master of Ceremonies. Mr. Vice coordinates events such as requesting members of a service like the Air Force or the Marines to sing their service song. 
Dining-Outs have lots of "mandatory" rules and fines for breaking those rules, which usually involved drinking from the "Grog" bowl (filled with a mixture of drinks, each representing the branch of service represented, like sake for the Navy etc).
I thought Zev looked so handsome in his uniform!
All in all it was a fun night, and especially fun to see all our friends dressed up so smart!
Have a lovely week!

Saturday, May 08, 2010

When in Germany...

Zev and I turned to each other last night at the Fruehlingsfest and said "I love Germany" about three times.
 We truly do love living in Germany, especially now that the weather is starting to get warmer and the flowers are blossoming and we have a great friend/ colleague/ church/ German school mate network.
We will certainly treasure our memories of Germany and Europe when it is time to leave.
Our love of all things German has even transcended the way we dress! Ha!
Well no, not really, but only for certain events, like the Fruehlingsfest (Spring Festival) where it is fun to wear the traditional costume of dirndls and lederhosen.
We went to the Fruehlingsfest last night with colleagues from Zev's work and their spouses.  
It was fun to sing along to some German songs with our friends, some of whom are due to return to the States soon.
Earlier this week, Zev made a delicious Black Forest Cake (in line with our trip to the Black Forest last weekend to find a cuckoo clock).
It tasted great and he took half the cake in to work to share.
Our cuckoo clock is doing well. As I type this out, the clock just chimed at the half hour mark. I love the sound of the cuckoo and the little song that is played afterwards. The interesting thing is, you have to wind the chains with the weights on the bottom, each day. The weights are what powers the cuckoo clock (no batteries or solar power or electricity here!) so they are in different positions are various times during the day. The pendulum which swings at the bottom of the clock controls how fast or slow the clock moves along. I had no idea it would be this involved to get it set up, but Zev and I have been "playing around" with adjusting the "swing" of the cuckoo clock- sometimes it is too fast, sometimes too slow. I like it when Zev turns the hands of the clock to make it "cuckoo."
Zev and I are looking forward to seeing our Australian family very soon! We are also excited to meet the newest member, due to be born any day now! In July, our sweet friend Leslie is coming to visit. I can't believe that when I see Leslie, it will have been TWO years since we have seen each other! Wow. Zev already knows that there is a "Sound of Music" girls trip to Salzburg with Leslie planned. The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music, la la la la....

We hope that your May is off to a good start! To all the mums out there- Happy Mother's Day for tomorrow!

Love, Zev and Fifi xoxo

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Cuckoo Clocks and the Black Forest

When Zev and I first found out we were coming to Germany, about two years ago, one of the first things that came to my mind was the Black Forest (Schwarzwald), which is famous for cuckoo clocks and Black Forest cake (both wonderful German creations).
So today Zev and I took a lovely drive down to the Black Forest, only about 1 hour and 45 minutes from our house. We stopped for lunch in a quaint little gasthof that used to be a bank vault (it still had the original bank vault doors and windows!)
We brought "Flat Stanley" along, who is visiting us all the way from Shreveport, Louisiana! We wanted to show Stanley some of the famous sights of Germany, including the House of 1000 Clocks in the Schwarzwald town of Triberg.
We even took a picture of Stanley with some "girl" dolls dressed in the traditional Schwarzwald costume called the "Bollenhut."
You can see from the picture below, that this traditional dress involves a special hat with 14 "pompoms" on the top. They are meant to symbolize cherries, which are very prevalent in the Black Forest (hence the awesome Black Forest cake or "Cherry Cake" as it is known in Germany.) Only unmarried women wear the hats with the red pompoms. Married women wear black pompoms.
 Stanley in downtown Triberg:
After lunch, we headed to a little cuckoo clock factory to pick out a special cuckoo clock. This cuckoo clock is extra special because it is actually my 30th birthday present from Zev.
As cheesy as this is going to sound, and I KNOW that some of you will groan, but I've got to say this: I love Zev more now than when I first met him, 8 years ago. He is my best friend and he loves me to bits, he looks after me and cares for me and makes me laugh. We laughed so hard about the silliest things in the car today. I thank God for our marriage. I tell you, having faith in Christ has helped Zev and I really build the foundations of our marriage and approach life with the right perspective. Our lives are not perfect, but we thank God for everything, even the little things like a sunny day or waking up refreshed and being able to enjoy a cup of coffee today on our balcony.
The greeting on this wall is used a lot in this part of Germany. "Gruess Gott" translates to "Greet God."
Although there were lots of cuckoo clock shops in downtown Triberg to choose from, we actually went with this little shop, which was a little ways out from town, on top of a hill, next to a sweet old church. The man who owns the shop was very sweet and gentle and didn't speak any English so I translated for Zev. The man's father started making clocks and then passed the business to his son, who continues to make the clocks in the factory next door.
Zev was as amazed as I was at the selection of beautiful wooden cuckoo clocks. The sound from the cuckoo clocks all "cuckooing" (not sure if that is the proper name for it but I hope you know what I mean) was incredible. I wonder if it would get old after a while- hearing those clocks cuckoo every half hour? I guess we'll soon find out! Ha! The cuckoo clock in the middle here is the one that we picked. It even has little people that dance during the "cuckoo" times and depicts a little German village scene below. We love it!
I couldn't wait to come home to get the clock set up and hung on a wall. However someone is taking a nap (at 5.55pm) on the couch next to me.....ah, maybe tomorrow. Have a great weekend, all!

Love, Fifi xoxoxo