Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Twenty Ways Travel Can Change You

See the world, travel, S.R. Karfelt, author, the glitter globe
The Glitter Globe/Twenty Ways Travel Can Change You!

Once I read that travel is the best investment you can make in yourself. I appreciated the legitimizing justification for what at the time felt like a purely fun and selfish thing to do.

My husband and I used to work together. Sometimes after a week spent at an engineering conference we'd manage to stay the weekend. Occasionally we'd even arrange a layover somewhere like Tucson in March, Portland in Summer, or drive from Vegas to the Grand Canyon while winter snows melted.

It felt like the supreme indulgence. Running your own business is often a dream many people have. The reality of doing it can be a nightmare. It is often seven day workweeks and sixteen hour days. Those trips we once took together were desperately needed and reminded us that, Hey, I remember you! You can be fun! 

  • Perspective is everything. If you've become a Human Doing instead of a Human Being, escaping your everyday can save a relationship, or possibly your sanity. 1. Travel can help you remember that your job isn't your entire life!
  • After a particularly brutal conference in San Francisco we decided to make the long drive to see the Sequoia trees down south. It was a bit of a hike to the Sierra Nevada from Northern California, but I had a map. (It was the olden days like ten years ago.) After about a couple hours it hit me that if I'm headed south, shouldn't the Pacific Ocean be on my right instead of my left? 2. Travel makes you better at geography. I now know exactly where the ocean should be at all times. I can drive from Tucson to Nogales Mexico in an hour. I know which countries border Egypt. Travel helps you know the world. I know I can walk from the Roman Colosseum to the Forum in about two minutes, and where the best pizza is at a gay bar because I got lost and hungry and wandered in, with my husband. 3. Travel makes you patient because you will mess up or someone else will and, 4. You can still have a good time when things don't go as planned, and you learn so much. (Hey, the pizza is fabulous, we should come back here! Look at that, redwoods are big trees too! They are also a lot closer than the Sequoias. Once you've seen the world you spot inconsistencies like not even James Bond can drive from Palatine Hill to the Spanish Steps that fast.)
  • Many people cautioned me about my trip to Egypt. None of them had been there. 
    • You will be in Africa!
    • Egypt is a Muslim country!
    • Traveling to those places isn't safe!
      • 5. Travel can teach you that 1.2 billion people survive just fine in Africa and you can manage it too.
      • 6. Travel can teach you that Muslims are peace-loving people. (And that there are plenty of Coptic Christians in Egypt too.)
      • 7. Travel can annihilate pre-conceived notions.
      • 8. Travel can make you question opinion and demand fact!
      • 9. Travel can make you braver. 
  • The last few years I've attended a workshop in Greece. I go out early so I can do some book research, see sites, and lay on the beach before the real work begins. I go by myself.
    • Things go wrong. Flights are cancelled. Ferries too. I've found myself scrambling for a hotel room at midnight and unable to make connecting flights.
      • Dammit. Looks like I'll have to be here in Greece an extra few days. Life is hard. YAS! *jumping up and down* 10. Wonderful things will happen back-to-back with the complications! (I've been stuck in Detroit too.) (It was fun.)
      • Just because you miss a flight or don't have a hotel, I promise you will not have to live there forevermore. 11. For one moment just fantasize that you've missed your flight and will now have to live on this island in Greece. Hot damn! Suddenly your fear has become pretty much a dream. 12. Travel will make you more self-sufficient. 13. Travel will make you more capable of taking care of yourself and more confident about doing it. 14. Travel will help you learn to roll with the punches because travel, like life itself, isn't perfect.
  • You will see things that surprise you. You could see things that might even shock you. 
    • Athens is the birthplace of democracy. Every time I go there are demonstrations. I've been in Syntagma Square to see the changing of the guard while television cameras focus on protesters there and tourists eat gyros, drink Mythos beer (the beer of unicorns), and take pictures in the same square. 15. News should be renamed Bad News. For all the bad things you see on the news, way more good stuff happened in the world today. Possibly on the other side of the news cameras. Obviously not always, but protesters are not inherently evil just because they're protesting.
    • Was it last year when we were all getting our tighty-whiteys into a twist over same sex bathrooms? Many countries have same sex bathrooms. You know how sometimes you stop for gas somewhere and they have a single bathroom for men and women? Sometimes it's just like that. Some places have a shared sink area. Most everywhere has actual walls and doors around the toilets. This is a huge improvement over the open-top open-bottom and wide-crack stalls we usually have in the US. 16. Travel can teach you that different isn't necessarily bad or frightening.
    • Bathrooms are different in different countries. Sometimes you can't flush any toilet paper—the ancient pipes can't take it, Greece, Egypt, Turkey, Bulgaria. 17. Travel can teach you how spoiled and lucky you are. Sometimes there isn't any toilet paper or a way to dry your hands or even soap. Paper and soap is a luxury you can't always count on having in some places, Egypt, Mexico. 18. Have you ever noticed how fortunate you are? Travel can show you that. If you can drink the water out of your pipes without getting sick and you can afford paper to flush down the toilet, you have it better than a whole lot of people.
  • It's a vague memory now, but flying used to scare me. I
    Egypt, Karfelt, Camel, Travel, Solo travel, Author, Writer
    Riding a camel to my beautiful life.
    remember wishing that the pilot wouldn't dip the plane to give me a better view of New York City. At some point I became the person sitting next to little kids explaining that roads in the air can be bumpy just like the ones your car drives over. Now I nab my drink when the propeller plane drops suddenly, and I chuckle if I caught it. Now I'll jump out of a perfectly good airplane because I love the way terminal velocity feels when I skydive. 19. Travel can help you realize you don't have to live in fear or worry. 20. Travel can help you find your beautiful life exists just outside your comfort zone. Go get it.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Consuming Chaos of Cairo—Welcome to Egypt

Standing in front of the Great Pyramid of Giza this is Cairo.
The dust will someday make you forever nostalgic for this place.

Welcome to Egypt. This isn't going to be like anyplace you've ever been before. 

No photos can ever give you a true depiction of a place. It's difficult to capture the smell of dust, the feel of it on your skin, the magnitude of 9.5 million people in one city, the ancient co-existing with the modern, the Nile oases in a desert, the startling wild traffic, but I'll do my best for you.

Great Pyramid of Giza, far corner view. I love this picture of a vendor chatting on his mobile. It delighted me to see even people on their camels talking on their phones. Egypt is very much a contrast. 

Egypt caught me by surprise. My research, prep work, and YouTube videos couldn't prepare me for the sensory overload that is this land. 

So much of Egypt is ancient and dusty and disorganized, yet it may be the most spectacular place I've ever been. 

The people are lovely, kind, and polite.

Arriving in Cairo at night I peeked through the curtains of the minivan windows while we sped down a highway. I saw sights that I've never seen before. Cars parked alongside the freeway. People stood in groups, talking, smoking, eating. They crossed the road. So did children and dogs. If there were lanes, they were ignored. 

Eventually I'd find the rhythm of the city. Horns never stop blowing, but after a while they don't sound angry. They mean things.

     I'm coming alongside you.
     Watch out I can't stop.
     Do you see me?

That first night, that first week, I didn't see any order. Concrete barriers crumbled along the roadways, some buildings and roads appeared to be in similar condition. Ribar juts into the sky atop buildings, many don't have glass in the windows. (Later I hear that taxes aren't due until construction is complete. Tax law affects construction in many places.) Clothes and blankets hang over balconies. Raw meat dangles in the open doorways of butcher shops. So do bunches of bananas and bags of oranges. Donkey carts pull wagons of brilliant tomatoes or alfalfa. Trucks are piled sky-high with sugarcane. There are camel riders sharing the same roads in places.

Some people dress in western clothing. Most women cover their hair, some wear burqas. Adhan sounds. 

The call to prayer reminds me of the chanting of monks at monasteries, and I find it as beautiful as Egypt. It's not like anywhere else I've ever been.

It took me a week to adjust to Egypt.

Vendors at the pyramids do not take no for an answer, but they never stop smiling. Where you from? Welcome to Egypt. This is your home now.

The tourism isn't as slick and polished as most popular places. (Rome, London, New York.) That's not a bad thing. Marketing takes a far backseat to the genuine reality of Egypt and her people.

Breathe and take a good look around.

The north side of the Great Pyramid is the entrance. You have to purchase a separate ticket if you want to go inside. Go inside! You've come all this way! (Unless you're claustrophobic or can't crawl around. People are bigger now than 4,500 years ago. Take a flashlight. Sometimes the lights go out in these tombs.)

Don't be rude to souvenir sellers. No, thank you. La'a, Sho-krun in Egyptian Arabic.

They won't accept that, but be firm when you mean it.
Buy stuff from them. You have no choice anyway. Figure out the Egyptian pound conversion to your currency before you go. Right now a hundred pounds Egyptian is about five pounds British Sterling, about seven dollars fifty-cents American.

Splurge! You'll enjoy your dusty trinkets when you get home! 

Even the camel ride is going to be different. You don't just pay for a camel ride. You get to know the camel guy. Your people talk to his. Where you from? You negotiate price. How you doing? You meet the camel guy's cousin. He meets your friends. You're family now. It's a good thing. His son will help you when you turn the camel in the wrong direction and wander through some tombs. Get comfortable on that camel, you're going to be there some time. It's higher than you expect. Don't worry. It's going to be a great day. Inshallah. 

Inshallah. God-willing. Things happen as we wish, or they don't. 

Your camel's name is Moses. You kiss him.  Come on. Have some fun while you're here. Just choose the camel you're going to kiss wisely. 

Negotiation takes time. More time than money. Everything here does.

Welcome to Egypt. This isn't going to be like anyplace you've ever been before. Isn't that wonderful?

This won't be like home. 

Isn't that one of the reasons you travel? I hope so, because you have no choice.

Find Egypt's pace.

This is my camel, Moses. It wasn't a little jaunt past the pyramids.
Moses and I tooled around the desert for a long time. Then he took me to see the Sphinx.
I'd have happy-cried if I'd have had one drop of water in my body to spare.

Suddenly the pyramids can become exactly what you'd imagined. You're out of sight of the buses. There are camels and horses galloping around you. There are expanses of desert here. You're doing touristy things, but you might have slipped into an old pocket of time. There's a slowness in Egypt that I've never experienced anywhere else. It's a chaotic slowness which is difficult to explain. There is always a lot going on, but you don't need to hurry. 

See the Great Pyramid in the distance? This was my first glimpse. A guy at the hotel drove me to my block of rooms in a golf cart and pointed it out for me. It took me a while to see it. I wasn't looking nearly high enough. I have a thing for ancient sites. This is something I've wanted to see since I read about it at age nine, a dream come true.

While in Cairo my study group stayed within walking distance of the pyramids at the Mena House. The conversion rate is so against the Egyptian pound that we could afford it. The Mena House has been around since the late 1800's. Many people in recent history who visited Egypt stayed here. Peace talks in the middle east happened here. 

The Mena House is a compound. You don't just drive in and out of this hotel. Bomb sniffing dogs check your vehicle, armed guards watch. This is Egypt, get used to it. 

Most importantly, don't be afraid. It's highly unlikely you'll even get pick-pocketed in Egypt, but don't be stupid either. It's a very safe, very family-oriented country. Prepare to fall in love with this land.

The east side of the Great Pyramid. There's
plenty of desert to ride your camel in over here!

I fall in love so easily, with places, with views, forests, seas, and yes—with camels named Moses. My foray into Egypt took place in February and March. It wasn't quite dust storm season, but the dust is intense. From Alexandria to Cairo to Luxor it hung on the horizon (Cairo more so than the other places!). It lands on everything, including you. It can make you cough, a lot, but to be fair I spent most of my days traipsing the desert and crawling through tombs. 

This was one of the most intense trips I've ever taken. I'd go back in a heartbeat. Take your sense of adventure when you go and leave your expectations at home. You'll love it when you open your heart to it, I promise.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Dodging Dorcas—A Vampire's Tale of Woe by Drake Ahmemphis Part V

Almersham, Drake Ahmemphis, Fiction, Writer's Life, Poppy
The Glitter Globe/S.R. Karfelt

Poppy raises her eyebrows until they disappear under her bangs. “You love her?”
          I half-shake my head, half-shrug. “I don’t know that I ever loved Dorcas. Maybe the idea of her. You’ve seen her dark side tonight, but I’ve seen it since we married.”
          “Why did you stay?”
          “For political reasons when we were alive. Then we had children. Then we were dead.” I shrug again.
          “You have children?”
          “No. They died. It’s been many years.”
          “Oh, I’m sorry. But, Drake, I don’t understand why you don’t leave now. You said yourself she’s insane.”
          “I don’t suppose you could understand.”

“I understand abusive relationships,” says Poppy, “I was raised in one. You have to leave Dorcas.”
          “It’s not like in your world.”
          “We live in the same world, Drake.”
          That makes me laugh. “No we don’t. You’ll live to be ninety-eight or so. Most of your loved ones will die, but likely not your children or all your friends. I’ve been alive for centuries. I have no friends or family. Only Dorcas knows my history, or what this undead existence is like.”
          “Does she really though?”
          “As close as it gets. Without her I’d have no one—forever.”

I’m afraid Poppy is going to say something ridiculous like I do too have someone—her. If she does I’ll take time from her until she faints. Sometimes when I’m with a living woman, I talk. It’s easy. They won’t remember. This is different. In less than a half hour Poppy knows more about me than anyone.
          Why am I telling her so much?
          Why doesn’t glamor work on her?
          What if she remembers?
The last thought thrills me. Poppy kisses my cheek. “It doesn’t matter how long you have someone. You had them.”

“You don’t know how long a thousand years is.”
          The outside door to the church opens. I sense rather than hear two men enter and press a finger against Poppy’s lips.
If they see Dorcas, I’ll have to hunt them down. Motioning Poppy to stay, I open the door.
          They’re young and don’t belong in here at midnight. I’ve surprised them, but they approach with the confident swagger of two to one.
          “Wot? Jack selling poppin’ Poppy tickets?”
          “Excuse me?” Poppy marches into the sanctuary, dodging the dusty form of Dorcas in the dark. “What the hell does that mean?”

Karfelt, author, Nobody Told Me, Fiction, Non-Fiction, vampire
S.R. Karfelt
The Egyptian photograph above was taken at the Vatican in Italy. Ironic, no? It's a small world after all. I hope you've been enjoying Poppy and Drake's story. Let me know if you want more! 

Swing by Instagram if you want to see some photos of my current study tour to Egypt. You can also contact me on Facebook, S.R. Karfelt, Author, Twitter, here, or on my website

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Dodging Dorcas—A Vampire's Tale of Woe by Drake Ahmemphis Part IV

Drake, Drake Ahmemphis, Vampire, Energy, Story
The Glitter Globe/S.R. Karfelt

“Holy shit,” says Poppy. “You are vampires!”
I nod. Dorcas is going to be down a long time.
“I thought sunlight did that.”
“Sunlight doesn’t bother us.”
Poppy frowns at Dorcas. “You two go out in daylight?”
“As you can see, it’s not a good idea with Dorcas.”
She studies me. “You could.”
I smile. Dorcas scared my nuts back into position and I’m good to go now.
“I get the feeling you have a one-track mind, Drake.”
“It’s a problem.”
“I have a problem too. Exactly who is Dorcas?”
“My wife.”

Poppy’s icy glare thrills me. “It bothers you more that I’m married than a vampire?”
          “Are you going to suck my blood?”
          “I told you that’s not even a thing.”
          “Then yes.”
          “Good.” I take the water bottle off her and pull her close. “Because it’s not marriage as you know it. We were fourteen and told to. I liked her hair; she liked my house, so...”
          “So, bullshit.”
          “None of us knew what narcissistic sociopath meant then, but I’ve had plenty of time to learn.”
          “How much time?”
          “I had that twelve-hundred-year-old table made as a wedding gift for Dorcas.”

My age seems to bother Poppy. She struggles from my grip to study me. I know I’ll pass muster. Since the curse in my twentieth year I’ve not aged a day. Neither has Dorcas, but she started rotting right off.
          “Why does your wife look like that?”
          I sigh. “Sucking energy from people is like a drug. Dorcas is an addict.”
          “You don’t do it?”
          Shrugging, I admit. “There’s no choice. I have to take some. I try not to harm anyone, and I eat food, and make love to beautiful women. Consuming is Dorcas’s only pleasure. It always was.”

“Would Dorcas have killed us?” Poppy asks, double-checking the locked door.
          “Not me. I’m already dead.”
          “Why were you so scared then?”
          “For you.”
“Liar. You were scared for you too.”
“Of course! I can feel the kind of pain Dorcas inflicts. I hate when she breaks my bones. But sooner or later she’s going to beat me into a nine month coma for this. There’s no escape for me, but you’re going to be long gone by then. Somewhere she can’t get to.”
“She’s broken your bones?”
“Oh, hell yeah.”
“Drake, that’s awful. Why don’t you leave her?”
“I can’t. She’s all I have.”

It's 3:30 a.m. and I'm queuing up blog posts of A Vampire's Tale of Woe to run while I'm in Egypt doing book research. Also, hopefully, I'll also be riding a camel because I just get these ideas in my head about what I need to do. I'm not the only one.

The photo in the top of this post is another one of mine from Rome. It's graffiti at the Colosseum. Some things never change.