Monday, October 31, 2011

I'm Diggin' It

Remember how I said I had something exciting to tell you? Well, I’ve decided that I want to tell you now instead of telling you about my weekend (don’t worry, you’ll hear about it eventually). Ready? Ready for the fun and exciting news? I get to excavate!

Yep, that’s right. For about a week I get to be knee-deep in trowels and dirt layers. :) I’m working in an Old Kingdom (OK) area (not where the bakery is that I mentioned before, but it’s in the time period I like). Remember how I talked about the sebakhin? Well, they dug out an area just at the base of the tell where we’re digging this season so that we can see a nice wall with an intact door! Susan is working with me and she gets to do the layers that have accumulated in the door, while I dig the layers of wall that have fallen down next to the door. Doors are super rare, especially in this early of a time period, so the fact they are letting us look at it unsupervised is quite cool.

But let’s start with Saturday. My first excavation day started out slowly, since Susan needed to finish up her area in the Middle Kingdom silo area. I helped her use the total station to take points. “And what is a total station, oh awesome archaeologist?” you might be asking. The total station is a machine that uses fixed points in a site to help you calculate distances between other points in order to get a really detailed drawing of, say, a brick wall, without having to personally measure each and every brick’s position. So for said brick wall, you would take points on all 4 corners of every brick you have with the machine, then later load all the points on a computer to play a giant game of connect-the-dots. Would you like to see what a total station looks like? (Note how clean I am in this photo):

After we finished that, we went down to the OK area to start work. The first thing you have to do while excavating is clean the profile with brushes and air poofers, so you can get the top layer of dirt off in order to see all the different layers:

 It’s a very dirty job and the dirt in our area is not only super fine (thus meaning the when you clean 1 thing off, all the dirt just floats back to the last thing you cleaned), it’s also all been burnt, so it’s all red. Meaning we got very, very dirty:
The little white tags on the left are my area, while the tags on the right are inside the door (you can kind of see the 2 sides).

Everyone got a very big kick out of how dirty I was, including our cook, who informed me when I got home that we had no water in the house... Luckily we were headed to Luxor and real showers in our hotel, so it wasn’t that big of a deal. Just very funny.

Today I actually started excavating while Susan cleaned another part of our wall. For some reason, they thought it was a good idea to let me loose with a trowel and mini-pick-ax, so I went to work. Pretty much what I do is take each layer individually and try to find any pottery, seal impressions, bones, etc. that I can. Since my area is basically just where a wall collapsed, my top 2 layers have mainly been mudbrick wall (which we don’t care about, so I get to hack those up with my mini-ax). I’ll do more tomorrow, but today I found sherds for 2 pretty pots and a fairly large bread mould, just chilling with my fallen wall. Tomorrow I might be able to get to the layer that has a ton of pottery in it. We shall see.

- Real life excavator

PS. Happy Halloween! I'm so sad I'm missing my favorite holiday, but we went to a Halloween party this weekend, which I'll tell you about later.

PPS. Once I get everyone's pictures of me, I'll post some more dirty ones. My face was pretty gross and I actually was allowed to go first in the shower, that's how dirty I was.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Meet My Little Friend

I’d like you to meet a few of my local friends. They help me stay sane around here:

You might think you know them, but in fact you know their uglier, dumber, older sisters.

The soda here does not use high-fructose corn syrup, but real sugar instead. The ketchup is a bit chunkier because they use fresh tomatoes (and real sugar). Do you know how happy I was to see Heinz on the table at dinner the first night instead of some crappy substitute? Do you know how much happier I was when I tasted it and found out it was even more delicious than the regular time? SUPER HAPPY!

- Crazy Condiment Critic (and apparently ‘alliterater’ as well)

PS. That’s Kat in the background, by the way.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Mafeesh Araby

I have no time for a real update today since we’re headed to Chicago House, so let’s have an Arabic lesson! You can learn all the fun words I can remember. I’ll spell them out as they should be pronounced, not as they are actually spelled:
- hello: ah-lan (pronounce the ‘h’)
- thank you: show-kran (I use this a lot)
- no: la
- yes: eye-wa (like ‘Iowa’, but w/out the ‘o’)
- sorry/no big deal/whatever: ma-lesh
- okay: ta-mom
- to draw: rasam
- brush: for-sha (to brush: bi-forsha [‘bit’ as in ‘bit’])
- Arabic: are-ah-bee

Now for the fun ones. For some reason, I can’t remember useful phrases like stop, or thank you, or fork/spoon/knife/plate/glass, but I was easily able to remember the first Arabic word I was taught this trip: mosquito. The guys probably wonder why I talk about mosquitoes and teddy bears so often, since the girls think it’s hilarious to ask me what those words are so that I’ll yell them out. Kat is also amused that I know what dogs say:
- cat: bee-sa (you call cats by saying, “biss biss biss biss” really fast)
- mosquito: na-moose-a
- bat: wat-wat (like the ‘wat’ in ‘wattage’)
- water buffalo: ga-moose-a
- teddy bear: da-boo-ba
- there is none: ma-feesh (this one cracks me up- “Quit touching ma-feesh!” Perhaps it’s only funny b/c ‘fish’ is pronounced ‘feesh’ in German)
- dog’s bark: how-how-how
- camel: gah-mel
- gecko: bors (this sounds random, but there are these adorable little gekos that live in our house. They don’t bother us at all, and we usually don’t see because they run away, but they eat bugs for us! If one will stand still long enough, I’ll try to grab a picture.)
- clothesline: hey-bill
- clothespin: mash-beck
- flip-flop: shib-shib

- World’s Greatest Linguist (I don’t know what that is in Arabic)

PS. If anyone is looking for a (rather expensive) Christmas present for me, I’d LOVE to have Arabic Rosetta Stone, since it looks like I’ll be back next year. Or my friends who like to do illegal things on the internet, any idea where one might torrent this (and by one, I mean you, and then I’ll steal it in a slight less “I can get caught” kind of way)? I’d love to come back next year and at least be able to make some simple conversation with the workmen.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Let's Talk Turkey

I think I’ve promised you a food post a few times now. So let’s do it.

My first introduction to real Egyptian food came on my first day in Edfu when we ordered koushari. I’m not counting what we had on the boat during our honeymoon as “real Egyptian”, because honestly, it’s far from it. Koushari is a strange dish. Its ingredient list goes something like this:
Macarroni and spaghetti noodles
Fried onions
Tomato sauce

Mix all that together and you have koushari. Sounds delightful, huh? Actually, when done correctly, it’s really quite good and filling.

Most of our meals are made by our cook Muhammad and served by Taib. When I asked if I could take their picture, Muhammad gave me a little dance.
Muhammad is on the left, Taib on the right.
Breakfast (at 5:30am) consists of local breads, cheeses, yogurt, and bananas. Lunch (when we return from site around 2) has some of the same breads and fruits and cheeses, but we add some kind of meat (like tuna from a can mixed with vegetables, or cold leftovers from the night before’s meat dish mixed into pasta) and some salads/spreads (cucumber/tomato/onion salad, babaganoush, soft cheeses mixed with veggies, etc). There’s also occasionally an omelet with nothing inside. Dinner (7:30pm) is slightly more elaborate. That usually has a soup (these are SUPER good. We’ve had vegetable, lentil, and a ‘birdseed’ that is my absolute favorite. I’m tempted to bring Muhammad home with me just for the soups); main meat dish (pigeon and fish, being some, or the super awesome chicken from last night- oven roasted with American herbs) with sides of rice, vegetables usually cooked in kind of stew form, and french fries; and a dessert, usually of fruit salad, but occasionally something more elaborate (like the most amazing baklava I’ve ever eaten or banana crepes). Our food is mainly traditional Egyptian fare, but we’ve trained Muhammad to cook them in a slightly more Western-palate-pleasing way (read: don’t fry everything).

We do eat one other meal: we have a “second breakfast” on site that is sandwiches from a local shop that a workman gets for us around 10am. There’s one that’s a spicy bean paste; one with cucumbers, tomatoes, and falafel; and what Kat likes to call “greasy stuff”, which has greasy eggplant and... other things in it. We’ve only had the ‘greasy stuff’ once, and since it was my first day on site, I thought I’d better let m stomach get used to the food a little more before trying it. All of the sandwiches are served on this chewy pita bread that is delicious! I must say, though, eating these things every single day is getting a little tiresome. There’s no variety and I’m not a huge fan of them to begin with, so second breakfast is always a mixed feeling for me- I’m hungry, but I don’t really want another sandwich.

I now have a new role in the food business: accountant. Basically, once a week I sit down with one of our cooks/housemen and we balance the books. He tells me what he bought and how much it costs, I keep a tally of it so that Nadine can get paid back at the end of the season from her grant. It’s kind of fun, since both the cook and I learn new words.

Overall, the food isn’t bad. I really, really love the soups and I’m usually quite pleased with dinner. I have to say that I’m getting a little bored of breakfast and second breakfast, but I think if I pick up some things to add to the yogurt (it’s plain now and the only add-in is honey) when we go to Luxor, it might spice things up a bit. At least I don’t totally hate everything, so that’s good.

- Food critic and accountant

PS. I have not yet had to make multiple trips to the bathroom for one reason or another, so let’s hope that keeps up. There’s always the chance that some of the food will not be stored completely correctly which will upset me, but I should now be past the point of getting sick because I’m not used to the bacteria here.

PPS. I might have said this already, but we’re heading to Luxor right after work on Saturday for Chicago House’s Halloween party, then we’re staying on Sunday to get our passport visas renewed. Since I probably won’t have time to physically post this weekend, so I’ve got a few things that will automatically post for you. Next week I’ll have tons to tell, since I want to tell you all about the party and our day in Luxor on Sunday. Also, provided everything goes as planned, I’ll have a surprise for you early next week :)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Momma's Taking Us to the Zoo Tomorrow

Where we sit to draw pottery is out in what’s known as the “open-air museum”. Basically, the took a bunch of random statues/column bases/pillars that they found in the temple during excavation and tossed them into a huge open area next to the temple where farmers called “sebakhim” dug up the “sebakh”, or super fertile soil that results from the ancient bricks being made from nutrient-rich Nile mud. The sebakhim can be terrorists for sites, but the nice thing about them doing it to our tell is that we can already see the ancients layers (sometimes down to the bedrock) so we know where might be good places to dig. In the picture below, you can see the mudbrick in the distance. The whole area from where I took the picture to that wall back there (which holds the bakery I was talking about a few days ago) would have been built up. Hope that makes sense. Basically imagine that you come home from work to find your entire neighborhood has been filled with dirt up to past the roofs and someone has started digging holes into the dirt (some bigger than others) to find the houses. Sometimes they go down and hit a roof, sometimes they dig all the way to a front porch and you can see the whole house in the hole. Now imagine that each section of the house (roof, 2nd floor, ground floor, basement, etc) was a different time period and that’s what we have.

Anyway, as you can see, now there’s this open-air museum. You can’t see it from the entrance and it’s kind of hard to find unless you know it’s there. Either way, tourists still make their way out to it, and, subsequently, out to where we work. Thankfully, this year we brought some signs explaining the site so that we pottery workers (everyone else works up on the tell behind us and to the right- the people in the right of the photo are looking at all the workers up there) don’t get a ton of questions all the time. We also were able to put up come caution tape so that they don’t come bother our stuff. However, it does make me feel a little like a zoo animal. Especially when they take pictures as if we want to be in all of their trip albums.

- Monkey in a cage

PS. I texted Dan to tell him I feel like a zoo animal. He responded that I was the prettiest exhibit they have. I have the sweetest husband!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

More Crazy Food!

So glad you all liked my post of the pigeon! I swear I'll have a true food one coming later, but to whet your appetites, let's talk about what I had for dinner last night. We had bolti-fish! In fact, we had whole bolti-fish, heads on and everything. It had been battered, so you couldn't see much, but it was for sure looking at you. The cook had stuffed it with some nice herbs and it has the flakiness of tilapia. I was even super adventurous- Nadine said that the best part of the fish was actually the cheek. No one else braved digging through the fish head for this little piece of meat, but where else am I going to get fish cheek from a fish caught not more than 500 ft. away only hours earlier? Before I found the cheek, though, I did discover the eyeball. I wasn't quite *that* adventurous (though the Food Network tells me they are delicious). No idea what's on tap for tonight, but I'm guessing we'll go back to chicken or beef.

Last night I went up to the roof to read and found one of our men sitting there. Houses in Egypt are left unfinished for two reasons: you don't pay taxes if your house isn't done, and you are only allowed to build up, not out. So the roofs are typically quite nice and can be walked/sat on. Anyway, I was telling Ahmed that I'm trying to learn Arabic and so he started teaching me some more words. I can now add clothesline, clothespin, flip-flop, bench, and mat to my list of useless words I know. I can also say, "I draw pottery" and "I'm crazy"- both are true and both come in handy fairly often. The guys get a big kick out of me trying to learn Arabic b/c I get very excited when I remember a word and tend to yell it out. They probably wonder why I'm always yelling "mosquito" and "teddy bear". We're headed to Luxor this weekend and I won't get a chance to physically blog daily, so I've got a few things read to post, one of which is a list of words that I know in Arabic. So stay tuned.

- Eater of all the foodstuffs

PS. I told you yesterday that I'd try to post some pictures of the tell site. I try not to lie:
Looking up from where we draw pottery in the open-air museum. Those little roofs you see are probably 8 ft high.

Looking at the temple from the top of the tell. Hello, little people.
PPS. I can actually say 'I'm a crazy cat lady', too. Since we daily feed the 3 temple cats and 1 likes to come over and cuddle in the afternoon, most of the men think we are, in fact, crazy cat ladies.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Oh, The People You'll Meet

Aside from just our group from UofC, we have a lot of Egyptians that are instrumental in this excavation. Here are 3 of them:

This is Eslam, our reis. He’s basically the Egyptian head honcho, watching over all of the workmen. He brought a small team of specialists with him from Luxor that have worked with us before and are trained in finding small details (they are also SUPER protective of us and make sure that none of the locals so much as bat an eye funny at us). Eslam also acts as our Egyptian liaison. Anything we need in the town, from cell phones to workmen to car drivers to refrigerators (seriously), Eslam coordinates them all.

Meet Ossama, our site inspector. Ossama is assigned by the SCA to make sure we are following all the rules and don’t damage the site. He’s really nice and very funny. I feel a little bad for him, though, because he really has nothing to do all day, so he kind of wanders from our area down drawing pottery to up where the digging is going on at the tell.

This last guy doesn’t have a name. Well, I’m sure he does, but I don’t know it. This poor dude has the sole job of carrying water from the bathrooms to the tell site about ¼ mile away for the 70 workmen (!! this number is insane. Last year during the first week, we could only get 15. It shows you how bad the economy here is that less than $10/day doing hard manual labor is actually desired). He must make the trip 20 times per day. It’s all in the sun and he has these really crappy flip-flops. Every time he passes, I feel so bad for him.

- People person

PS. Have I explained what a tell is? Probably not. Basically, it’s a big giant mound where layers and layers of habitation have built up into a mini-mountain. The ancients would kind of just fill in old houses and build on top, so tells build up fairly quickly and can be quite high. Ours is only preserved to about half of what it would have been originally, and it is probably 15 meters high (perhaps more? It’s hard to guess). I’ll try to throw up another photo at some point that has some men on it for scale.

PPS. You thought I forgot about the pigeon, didn’t you? Never fear! I even have a picture:

The pigeon actually wasn’t bad. Our cook marinated it in some sauce that was very flavorful and filled the whole body with some kind of hearty rice. It tasted a lot like dark meat turkey. My biggest complaint was that there was hardly any meat on it, and what was there was impossible to find/get at. In total, there was probably the same amount of meat on the whole bird that you’d find on a large chicken wing. I’d eat it again if we’re served it, but I’d rather have a nice juicy steak... or hamburger... or fried chicken... or ice cream... it’s going to be a long season. A more detailed food blog is to come.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Love Me Some Bread

Today reminded me of that kids’ song: “second verse, same as the first, a little bit faster and a little bit worse!” There was a lot more pottery drawing again today. While I got easy ones yesterday and flew through it all, Tasha gave me some harder ones today, and I almost threw one of the sherds against the wall, I was so frustrated by it. But at the end of the day, I got 10 done, so I guess that’s good.

In lieu of something more interesting, wanna hear about my possible dissertation? Too bad- you don’t have a choice :) I want to look at bread moulds and bakeries, since no one has before. We actually have a bakery at Edfu that hasn’t be excavated and has a TON of bread moulds. So today I went over and picked up a few sherds from the ground (they are considered “crap context” and thus I can do whatever I want with them). Here’s what they look like:

The really big one is from the First Intermediate Period, and the others are from the Middle Kingdom*. They seem to make kind of breadsticks. For scale, the inside diameter of the tube-like ones is about the size of a quarter, and they are about the length of my hand when broken like this.

Here’s the bakery installation. Isn’t it lovely? Can’t you see so much? Haha- don’t worry if you can’t see anything, since I can’t either. That kind of whitish streak in the middle to the right of the cave is an ash layer from the inside of the kilns. To the left of that you might just be able to make out a rounded wall, which is a silo. If you look really, really hard, just in front of and to the left of what looks like a cave, on the ground you can see some small things lined up in a row. They are just to the left of what looks like a stone path headed into the cave. Those are the bread moulds I picked up (I’d previously laid them there for safe-keeping). Cool, huh? Fingers crossed that everything goes as planned and I can excavate this next season!

- Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker

PS. Terri asked for clarification on our work schedule. Saturdays and Sundays are normal work days. We only get Friday off (though we tend to end a little early on Thursdays to pay the workmen). We will get 2 longer breaks: one will come next weekend when we travel back to Luxor for a Halloween party at Chicago House (it’s owned/operated by a group from UofC) Saturday after work). Since our entry visas only last something like 4 weeks, we will then stay in Luxor on Sunday to get longer work visas (so we’ll have free days Friday and Sunday). Over Thanksgiving, we’ll also travel back to Luxor for a day or two (not exactly sure when- and to be honest, we may still go Thursday after work and just get Friday off). To be honest, it’s nice having something to do every day. With little internet and only 1 or 2 outlets that work, computers can’t really be used all that much, and we don’t have a TV. Edfu isn’t really a town we can walk around in safely, so the only option left is to read or talk. There’s not much to talk about when you live with someone, and there’s only so much reading one can do, so it gets pretty boring on the days off.

PPS. I hear that pigeon is on the menu tonight It’s a delicacy here, so we’re going to try it. I’ll give you an update tomorrow.

*See my post on history if you want info on these time periods.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

16 Tons And What Do You Get?

Oh my, today was long. I don’t mean that I was tired and we worked hard and so the day dragged on, I mean that today was long because Tasha and I stayed until 4 instead of our normal 1:30 (oh yes, a few Aleve are on tap for tonight). I got 18 drawings done today- not a record, but Tasha was pleasantly surprised when I gave her my final total. I took a picture of my first full page of drawings for you. It didn’t turn out very well since we do them in pencil, but oh well:

Since basically all I did today was draw, it was pretty boring. I did oversee something pretty cool, though. Have you ever watched one of those Discovery Channel shows where they try to figure out how the pyramids were built? Sure “lame-stream archaeology” will tell you that they used wooden rollers and ramps. But come on, those blocks are huge and there’s no way a human could do it (must be aliens!). To them I show this picture:

Yes, the blocks are about half the size of a lot of the Giza ones. Yes, they only moved about 10 today and a lot more would have had to be moved daily in ancient times. Yes, they were a little uncoordinated. But they prove the concept! Our guys were moving a bunch of blocks out of the way of the Old Kingdom area I’ll hopefully get to excavate. :)

- Crack-pot theory buster

PS. I got hurt today. Nothing serious, I just rammed my arm into a stake poking out of a wall. I have a nice red/purple/blue bruise now. Hopefully that’s the worst that happens this trip! Insha’Allah (“God willing”), as they say here.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Pot Sherds and Bat Poop

Remember how I said Thursday was awesome? Well today was DOUBLY awesome! I spent the morning sorting pottery with Tasha. That was just kind of so-so, since I don’t really know what I’m doing and I feel kind of useless putting things into piles only to have her completely re-do them.

We had THREE cats this morning and the mom, Patches, was soooooo cuddly because she wanted way more food than I was willing to give her. I got to pet Kiri, the same cat I saw last year, but she gave up on getting another handful of food much sooner than her greedy momma. Another one of last year’s kittens came for food, but he was very skittish and only stuck around long enough to get his food. Oh, you’d like to see pictures of them? Well, I was going to do a whole post on them (and still probably will...several times), but here’s a sneak preview:

Pretty Kiri

Patches (she reminds me of Koda)

After second breakfast, Greg and Nadine took me to a part of the site that is on the complete other side of the tell. It’s a bakery installation and has tons and tons of bread moulds! I have a really awesome idea for a dissertation, it’s just going to mean a few more years of coming to Edfu, and maybe spending a week or two on another dig to look at their stuff. I’m really excited, but I need to talk to Dan to see how feasible something this big is going to be for our marriage...

Once I got done drooling over all the fun bread things, Tasha, Susan, Nadine and I braved the pylon to get some of our old pottery from pervious years. A pylon is kind of the huge entrance gate of the temple. When you google Egyptian temples, it’s pretty much that huge trapezoid that forms the front of the temple. There were tons of boxes in a hot, tiny room full of bat poop (though the bats that produced the poop were very adorable). We thought the boxes would have been stacked in a certain order, but it turns out that of the 150ish boxes in the room, the ones we needed were in the back corner, behind and order all of the others. Needless to say, it took a bit to get what we needed. Oh, and did I mention there was no light, so we were all holding up our cell phones to be able to see? I’ve pretty much decided that I like getting dirty when it’s not super hot and humid outside.

I spent the rest of the workday drawing a few sherds that Tasha wanted done. They were actually pretty good and I only had to re-do one of them when Tasha said it didn’t look quite right. See? I’m working hard!
It took even me a minute to realize who this was.

I’ll spend this afternoon reading, then it’s dinner time, bed, and up at 5am to do it all again tomorrow. Sunday-Thursday Tasha has permission to stay until 4 instead of the normal 1:30. I’ll probably stay with her most days, so posts might end up later.

- Bat poop Treader

PS. I’m learning quite a bit of Arabic, but unfortunately the only words I can remember are stupid ones: mosquito, teddy bear, cat, and okay.

Friday, October 21, 2011


I know I mentioned telling you about the food here, but I want to wait until I’ve had a little more (and am better acquainted with my new role in its finances). So for now, you get this:

Ever wonder what it’s like to get clean around here? Well, I’ll tell you! Here’s a photo of our bathroom:

Note several things:
1. The stylish blue tile. Caution: EXTREMELY slippery when wet (and it’s wet a lot).

2. The red and green tubs on the side. Our housemen wash clothes for us daily, but they put them in this really scary machine and pour boiling water over them, so anything we don’t want completely destroyed we wash by hand. Also, we wash unmentionables personally, as well.

3. Our wonderful shower tub. Notice anything missing? If you said shower curtain, you get 3 points. If you said showerhead, you get 10 points! The “shower” part is actually that cord hanging down, so it acts more like one of those sink spray things. A curtain would get moldy in a second, so that’s out. We just have to be super careful when not the first to shower that day.

Showers are fast so as to preserve the (very little) hot water we have for the 7 people that must somehow get off an inch of dirt after site every day. For the clothes, basically only they major dirt and dust comes off. So all in all, “squeaky clean” is not the term anyone would apply to us. J

- Dirt Collector

PS. Upon looking at this picture more closely and showing it to the girls, I realize it makes it look a lot worse than it actually is. In context, it’s not really that bad, just takes some a lot of getting used to.

PPS. I couldn’t fit it in our picture, but our toilet is normal. There is a Turkish toilet, which is basically a concrete hole in the ground that we all avoid like the plague. My mother will be happy to know that years of going to Grandma and Papa’s house turned out to be in my favor- no toilet paper can go down the pipes; it all must be thrown in the trash can.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Some pictures

After 10 minutes, I was able to get a few pictures loaded! You should be able to click to enlarge them. Here's "Tasha Town", where all of the pottery from the site is stored, ready to be drawn... by me. Looks like I have my work cut out for me...

Getting Dirty

Guys, today was AWESOME! The biggest reason was probably because I got 7 completely uninterrupted hours of sleep last night. Tasha actually had to shake me awake because I didn’t hear the alarm clock. I’m so glad I brought ear plugs to help drown out the noises of the city (prayer calls, dogs barking, random yelling, etc).

It was another fairly lazy day on site. I spent the morning writing up labels for Tasha’s “pottery town”. All of the labels from last year were eaten by dogs, so we needed to re-label all of the pottery mounds with their excavation position information. The great thing was that as we were writing labels, Susan whispers, “Turn around” and lo and behold, the same Edfu kitty that I got to pet at the temple last year had come to visit! I was able to coax her over and give her a handful of cat food, which she gladly inhaled. Of course, she wanted more, so cried and cried and cried, but I didn’t want to make her sick. Plus, there’s only 1 bag of cat food for the whole season. Because I gave her food, she eventually let me pet her. Well, I should say that she let me let her pet herself against me, if that makes any sense. I held out my hand and she rubbed against it for a while, which made me very happy.

After lunch Greg showed us around the site a little more. This was the best part. We have a place in the Old Kingdom area that has a whole door outline preserved! This may not sound very interesting, but you almost never get this kind of thing, and the fact that it’s Old Kingdom and in an area that’s easy to excavate means they might let me do it! We then went into the silo area and he showed us all of the stratigraphy layers in all the different places and where Susan would be excavating. The whole time we were standing on the ancient mud flooring. So cool. Plus, we got dirty! I’m sure I won’t be so excited about this fact in a few weeks, but the fact that I came home yesterday and only needed a shower because I was sweaty was a little disappointing.

I ended the day having Tasha show me the differences in some of the pottery I’ll be drawing. I’m not sure I completely understand it all yet, but I’ll get there.

Now that I’m clean, I’m going to do some laundry (by hand- this will also be another blog post in the future). I’ll probably skip the usual afternoon nap today since I want to be able to sleep tonight again. Last night we discovered the roof is actually pretty nice (aside from the owner’s dogs that live up there- I don’t want to talk about how depressing that is), so we might go up once the sun goes down.

We found out that Skype does work on our stick, though since the internet still isn’t great, Dan and I were kicked off after only about 10 mins. Sorry, babe. It was so nice to talk to him, but after no sleep and a long, tiring day on site, I got really home sick and started crying a bit. After today, I’m much better. I still miss Dan and the kitties a lot, but I am really loving it here... which appears to be a good thing, as Nadine mentioned today that I was now roped into coming back for the next few years... Interesting.

Well, that was today. Tomorrow is our free day, so I’ll probably post a theme blog. I’m thinking food. We start excavation for real on Saturday, so I’ll really be able to comment about excavations then.

- “Sleep makes a lot of things better” discoverer

PS. Since I spend most of my internet allotment checking email and posting blog posts, I don’t really get to keep up with the world, so PLEASE say hello occasionally on here or via email so that I know what you all are up to and what’s going on in the US (are the Cardinals winning?!?). Facebook and twitter posts are usually just quickly skimmed. And if there’s a theme blog you want me to do, let me know!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

My first day on site

I visited the site for the first time today, and while there are so many things I saw and did, the most pressing thing on my mind is a (slightly modified) lyric from Simon and Garfunkle:
“Hello insomnia, my old friend. You’ve come to bother me again.”

Last night after running a few errands and having dinner, we all climbed into bed around 9:30. I wish I could say I then promptly fell asleep, only to be awoken by my 5am alarm. But alas. 11- still awake. 12:45- still awake. 1:10- still awake. I finally took a sleeping pill then, but I still saw 3:30am on my alarm clock before falling asleep only to have the call to prayer wake me at 4 something. Then it was up to be on site at 6am.

The site is really cool and Nadine gave us a tour today. There are several levels and layers that they are excavating and I got to see where everything was located, including some of the things I’d read in the old French report.

After the site tour, we had our “second breakfast”, which is local sandwiches. I’ll write a post about the food once I get a little more in me. Then, while everyone else was getting set up, Lindsey, Susan and I headed for the temple that is literally steps away since Susan has never been to Egypt before.

Since it was only the first day and not everything was ready to go, we ended early and were home by 1pm. Lunch was next on the list.

I’m currently writing while waiting for my turn in the shower, then it is nap time! I don’t think I’ve ever so looked forward to taking a nap. A long day in the sun on 1.5hrs of sleep weakens even those with high stamina.

This is probably the time I’ll be able to write every day, though once we get to drawing, I’ll move from a play-by-play of my day and into more topical posts. So stayed tuned, there’s much to come.

- Sleepy kitty, over and out.

PS. Remember how I said Friday and Saturday were weekend days? I lied. It’s only Friday that we get off. Hurray 6-day workweeks.

PPS. We’re still working on the internet situation. For now, Nadine has a USB stick that connects to internet via the cell-phone network. It works ok, but everyone is sharing it and since we don’t want our computers to fry, we run off of battery. This means I can’t just pop on the internet any time I want, because it involves getting the stick and starting up my computer. We’re working on it. J

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Hello from Edfu

I promise that not every blog post will be a minute-by-minute account of my, but these first few days are exciting, guys, exciting!!

We spent last night in a pretty nice hotel in Luxor (it’s called Iberotel if you want to Google it for pictures). Their breakfast was tasty, the beds were clean, and the showers were hot and well-pressured. Wake-up time was 5am, which meant I was able to get about 6 hrs of sleep, even if I did wake up several times. Our van picked us up at 7:45 and we were off for Edfu.

Edfu sits about 2 hrs away from Luxor by car. Unlike the other girls, I wasn’t able to sleep or read on the ride, so I stared out the window, which gave me some nice reflection time. I was too awed by everything to think about this the last time I was here (Dan and I went on our honeymoon to Egypt last winter), but it is so cool to think about the fact that other people, people from thousands of years ago, not only built huge monuments, they also used to look at the exact same things I was staring at out the window! Sure, the buildings are new, we now have cars, and the population has quadrupled (at least) since 2000BC, but the desert features are still fairly consistent. After a long day of travel and a rough night of sleep, I needed the energy that history gives to my soul, and there’s no better place for that than Egypt.
Anyway, once we got to Edfu we headed for our residence. Or at least, we went to the place we thought we were going to stay. Last year’s house too small to hold the expanding team (there are 7 of us, then 1 will leave, then we’ll gain 3 more at different times, but each for only a week or two, plus we have several workmen that we house- got it?), so Nadine thought we’d stay in another place that had 3 apartments, each with two rooms. It was extremely tiny. If you’ve been to my Chicago apartment, each apartment was about that size and expected to hold 6 members or a few members and have a room for eating/working. Yeah, not going to work. So after much hemming and hawing, we heard of yet another place. It is quite large, really, with 4 bedrooms, a large area to eat and work, and another area that can be either a bedroom or workplace. Plus we have access to the roof (which area typically flat in Egypt, as they serve as the base for upper stories). There are ceiling fans and balconies in each room. Sure, the bathroom (1 for the whole team) is pretty crappy, but overall it’s nice. The travel pillow and sleeping mat are so nice to have, as the mattresses are basically just sacks filled with really hard rags and the pillows are something like body pillows filled with concrete. That sounds like hyperbole. I wish it were.

We’ve spent the afternoon unpacking and cleaning and just generally getting settled. I also had my first Egyptian lunch, which I’m thinking will be a blog post all its own in the coming days (hint: it’s koushari). No idea what plans are for dinner, but we have our own cook who is apparently really decent, so we’ll see!

Here’s the only downside: many of the outlets don’t work. This isn’t a huge deal, since Nadine brought a few power strips that we can plug things into to charge when batteries get low. We also don’t have the landline that they ran from a shop next door last year to get internet. We’re going to look into getting sticks which will let us connect via the cell phone network, but that means no skype or downloading anything (like Netflix movies). It might also mean, depending on what plan we get, no uploading of photos. We’ll see what the plan is, but I might just tell you all about everything, then do a massive photo blog once I get back to the states.

Tomorrow we head to the site to look around, see what the state of things are, and, for those of us that haven’t been there, get acquainted with the site. Apparently, the paperwork for Lindsey, Susan and myself does exist in Eygpt, they just couldn’t find it the other day, so we should get official permission to touch (we can look now, but not touch) in a few days. The weekend is Friday and Saturday here (Muslim holy day is Friday), so we have a shortened work week anyway and shouldn’t miss too much.

Are you sick of reading yet? Well good, because I don’t have much more to say. I apologize to my loved ones who might not hear much more from me than via this blog. I also apologize to anyone that comments to me on facebook and twitter. I’m guessing I won’t be checking those often. Send me an email ( or comment on here if you want to talk to me.

Extreme traveler, signing out.

Monday, October 17, 2011

I have arrived (kind of)

Well, I’m sitting in the Cairo airport, waiting for our flight to Luxor. So far, it’s been a fairly uneventful trip. We had a pretty crappy trans-Atlantic plane, with only the big overhead screens instead of ones on our seats. But that's ok, I did some crossword puzzles and the food wasn't bad. Lindsey hurt her ankle this morning, so we were able to by-pass all of the lines and board first, no questions asked. Also, the Germans are amazing at planing and de-planing and we were able to load the entire 400-person plane in 15 mins. Lindsey and I were lucky enough to get all 3 seats in our row, so we were able to toss a bunch of our stuff in the middle seat.

We got into Frankfurt where we had a 2 hour layover and get this- they have bikes to get from place to place! It was so cool. Lindsey grabbed a picture of it, so I'll try to get it from her to show you. Also, I stole a roll of toilet paper from the Frankfurt bathroom since you have to tip for toilet paper in Egypt.

The flight to Cairo was much better- we had screens in our seats, so I watched a few movies. The food wasn't as good and the seats were a little more cramped (just Lindsey and I in a row again, but it only had the 2 seats), but I did get to see pyramids out the window on the way in, so that was fun!

We thankfully got through visas and customs and everything just fine into Cairo where we met Nadine and Greg (heads of the excavation and she's my adviser) almost right away. We then got some Burger King. Yep, my first meal in Egypt was Burger King.

There's also something I need to admit. Occasionally, I envy my brother. I know Mom, you're shocked.  Now is one of those times. Scott can sleep anywhere, in any position, with just about anything going on around him. I, on the other hand, have trouble sleeping in my own bed most of the time, let alone a plane. So Dan and I went to bed late after watching a movie, I then got up at 9:10ish... and I've been up ever since. Currently it's 10:30am THE NEXT DAY in Chicago and I have yet to sleep. I'm actually doing ok- even Nadine said I looked really good. At least we'll have a really nice hotel room tonight in Luxor. Needless to say, if this post is rather long and rambling and not very witty, well, sorry.

We leave for the site super early in the morning tomorrow (Tuesday for me). The only hitch with our permits (we were some of the only ones to get full excavation permits) is that Lindsey, Susan and I aren't listed on the security forms, so that could be fun to sort out. We did get special badges that will get us into any site for free, so if Susan, Lindsey and I can't get in right away, we'll just go sight-seeing :)

Alright, I'm logging off. I'll try to get internet at some point. We've switched houses in Edfu (away from the Coptic section that seems to be having issues), so internet is still a little up-in-the-air. I'll get back to you when I can.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Leaving on a (German) Jet Plane

If I've done this right, this will post while I'm in the air, headed for Egypt via Frankfort. In case you want to stalk my flight, here's the info:

Lufthansa 431, Chicago-Frankfurt, leave 15:40, arrive 6:50 (midnight central time)
Lufthansa 582, Frankfurt-Cairo, leave 10:05, arrive 14:05
MS 367, Cairo to Luxor, leave at 19:15, arrive 20:25

For those of you that can't do the time change math in your head, that's about 21.5 travel hours (not counting the 2-3 hrs early I'll be getting to the Chicago airport). It's going to be a loooong day. We're then getting up bright and early on Tuesday to head over to Edfu and start excavating!

PS. Please feel free to leave me comments on my blog posts! Just make sure you tell me who you are :)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Well, it's about 2 weeks later than we'd hoped, but we officially have permits to dig in Edfu and I have flights booked for this Sunday! I'm super excited and can't wait to get going.

I probably won't be able to post anything again until we get settled in Edfu, which should be Tuesday night. If I get internet before then, I will happily detail my travels for you, but don't count on it.

For those of you worried about my safety: most of the protests and demonstrations and whatnot are happening in Cairo. The most I will see of Cairo is from the airport windows, since we'll fly into Cairo and then almost directly down to the Luxor/Edfu area. Same thing on the way back. Yes, I know that other parts of the country aren't stable either, but we have 10 VERY loyal workmen who will apparently do pretty much anything to protect us. Elections in the Edfu area aren't planned until December 20-something, and we'll be back in Chicago on December 10, so no worries there, either.

I can't wait to tell you all about my travels!

Silly kitten. You are not excavation clothes!

I added a countdown over on the right side. It is counting down until I'm back in Chicago.