Friday, November 30, 2012

Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego (or The Republic of Mauritius)?

Today is kind of a sad day; Tasha leaves us at midnight. So we spent much of the day packing and getting her ready to go, meaning I have nothing useful to say about our day, so let's talk about a few things here in Zamalek.

As you know, there are a lot of embassies around here. We've seen Spanish, Dutch, Algerian, Chinese, Thai, Norwegian, Ecuador, Pakistan, Greece, and more. But nearish our hotel there is a sign for an embassy from a country none of us has ever heard of:

Some of you internet-savy people have already opened up a google search bar, but I'll save you the trouble. It is an island nation about 2000 km off the SE coast of Africa with a population of 1.2 million. It's flag looks exactly like that sign. Even after googling it, I refuse to believe it is a real place that needs a real embassy (though apparently Obama has been there, or at least heard of it, since there's a picture of him and Michelle with the prime minister on wikipedia). Therefore, since it has set a precedent of a non-real country getting an embassy, we are making plans to create our own fake nation. And much like this country, our interaction with Egypt will be great enough that we warrant an embassy in Zamalek.*

One other place we pass often is the Seti First company. Every time we pass, Lindsey and I wish we had more money. Their website shows luxury cruise boats and 5-star hotels. We want to ride in one of these:

They apparently offer safaris which are "a favorite among our more adventurous customers... [Their] 5 hummers are maintained in top form ensuring comfortable and trouble-free desert excursions." The way I hear it, you get to ride around in the desert in a tank while being protected with big men with big guns. (Cue my family members frantically composing emails about how I'm not allowed to do this.) The trips cost several hundred dollars, so don't worry, I'm not going on one. But it would be really awesome, since you have the opportunity to do camel rides in the desert and visit Bedouin villages. One day...

Like I said, our day has been pretty much just lounging around the hotel. It's a weekend day, so it's not really a day you want to go out doing things, since everyone has the day off and you know what they say about idle hands. We had a small adventure finding a place to eat for lunch, as everywhere we stopped at either didn't have vegetarian fare or was ridiculously expensive. We ended up at an Asian restaurant that was actually really, really good. On the way out, we saw that the head (and only) chef was a  Chinese woman, so that explained a lot. Hopefully, we'll have better luck for dinner.

*Apparently, when Mauritius was discovered, it was home to the dodo bird. They were wiped out by humans in less than 200 years. We're kind of jerk-faces. It also has the highest GDP in Africa and is one of the world's top tourist destinations. How have 3 PhD candidates never heard of it?!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Mosques, Minarets, and Min Statues

Today’s adventure started around 10am when we left for the Ibin Tulun mosque. It’s the oldest in Egypt and is the only mosque with an outdoor staircase up the minaret. It took our taxi driver a while to find the place, but once he did, the place was gorgeous!

Gorgeous architecture in the mosque.

You could see the Mohammed Ali mosque at the Citadel (the highest point in Cairo) from the Ibin Tulun mosque. Remember that one, Dan?

The minaret with outer spiral staircase. Yep, we went up top.
View from the top of the minaret. You could see quite a ways.
After walking about the mosque for about an hour, we grabbed another taxi and headed out to Ma’adi, which is basically a really nice suburb on the other side of downtown from Zamalek. While Zamalek is full of European embassies and residences, Ma’adi holds more of the American things. We even passed by “Little America”, which had a Hardee’s, KFC, Papa John’s, Pizza Hut, Little Caesar’s, Starbuck’s, and Burger King basically all in one strip mall. It hurt a little bit knowing that the best we can export to a foreign country is fast food, bad coffee, and pizza. We had lunch at Lucille’s, an American-style diner (NOT in Little America) where I was able to get a grilled chicken burger! And fresh, bottomless iced tea!

After lunch we did some shopping in Ma’adi. The main reason we went down was to find some supplies for drawing, which we did. But we also found a little hole-in-the-wall shop with a very nice old man who sold alabaster for cheap. I really wished I had a justifiable reason to come home with more trinkets, because the stuff was gorgeous and very inexpensive. Since I didn’t think my husband would be too thrilled if I came home with yet another candle holder or pretty thing that takes up horizontal space in our tiny apartment, I stuck to a beautiful black and white mortar and pestle. It’s prefect herb size, incredibly heavy, and only cost 45 LE ($7.50). For that price, I couldn’t NOT get it. I’d show you a picture but it’s all wrapped up. Lindsey got a few Min statues as gifts and the guy told us the whole story (we think) while wrapping them up for us.

After shopping, we headed back to Zamalek. Just as we got out of the cab and were heading across the street, we heard someone yell Lindsey’s name. We turned and it was one of our old professors, Hratch! He was in Zamalek signing papers with the SCA for the Abydos project he’s doing with Kat and Greg and just happened to be coming down the same street we were on. He took us to the Marriot (where Dan and I stayed on our honeymoon!) and bought us fresh strawberry juice while we chatted. It was great to see him and catch up! He’s currently teaching in Copenhagen, so I hardly ever see him.

It’s now heading near dinner time, but we’re all pretty full, so we may just do Subway. Last night we watched The Princess Bride over some chocolate cake, so maybe tonight we’ll watch something else and eat the cupcakes we bought in Ma’adi so that Lindsey could use the bathroom. (Seriously, at some point we need to do a cupcake taste-test from all the different places and rank them. They’ve sprung up quickly, apparently, and are all over the place!).

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Trip To The Desert

Note: Sorry about the low-quality of the photos. Some were taken without flash, and others were downsized a lot so I could add so many to today’s post.

6:00am: Alarm clocks ring. We’re tired, but we excitedly get up and start putting on clothes. After a very small breakfast, we put on sunscreen, check our bags and head down to the street.

7:30am: We haggled a very reasonable price from the hotel, so we hopped into our cab and started the journey to Saqqara. Our music on the way reminded me of middle school: Celine Dion, Shakira, Michael Jackson, and Evanesence. Why he was playing that kind of music, I don’t know.

8:30am: After the long drive, we arrived at Saqqara. Our first stop was the Saqqara museum and if you’ve never been, I HIGHLY suggest it. It turned out to be one of my favorite museums I’ve been to in Egypt. When I was here 2 years ago, the only thing we did in Saqqara was the Step Pyramid, so I found myself wishing Dan was with me to see all the neat things. They had some beautiful Old Kingdom pieces and some things I’ve never seen parallels for before. They even have the section of the Unas causeway that shows all the emaciated people on display (sorry, no photography was allowed, so you’ll have to google it).

Next we went to some of the mastabas next to the Step Pyramid. We went into 3 and saw that outsides of several other closed ones. It was really nice to see some of the images I’ve seen in books, including the giant images of bread-making from the Tomb of Ti (out by Teti’s pyramid).

The circle of life, people. 

After the mastabas we did a few fun photos by the Step Pyramid. I was a little disappointed to see all the scaffolding still there, but at least we saw a few guys working on it.

The big reason we came to Saqqara was to see the newly-opened serapeum! It’s only been open a month, so we’re the first of the OI to see it in person. The serapeum is a catacomb for the Apis bulls, big bulls that were revered in ancient times. The place is huge and the coffins must have weighed something like 3 tons each. They were solid black granite and towered over us. It was SO cool. I could have stayed there for hours and hours, even though there wasn’t really that much to see.

The inside of the serapeum. SO BLOODY COOL! It was basically a long hallway with burials on either side set deep into the ground.

We got to go down next to one of them. As you can see, my 5'4" self doesn't come anywhere near the top of the sarcophagus, not to mention the lid! And all made of black granite. It was good to be an Apis bull back then.

The last stop in Saqqara was to the pyramid of Teti (no photos allowed there, either, and that was enforced). After walking along a shaft that was only about 4ft tall, we came into a chamber that was only about the size of my living room. The best part about the pyramid was that it was full of pyramid texts! It was SO great to see them in person, instead of just in a book. A room to the left had more texts and the sarcophagus, while a room on the right originally held two statues.

Teti's pyramid was not that impressive on the outside, but really awesome on the inside.

11:00am: We hopped back into the car and drove out to Dahshur to see more pyramids! Our music this time was really terrible lounge-singer covers of English songs. I cringed especially hard during “Stairway to Heaven”.

11:40am: Arrived in Dahshur. We started with the Red Pyramid, which you can actually go inside of, as well. There was an extremely long downward-sloping passage, again only a few feet high, that eventually opened up into a large corbel-vaulted hall. There were several rooms like that, and they even let you climb up some stairs to get closer and see where the sarcophagus originally was.

We had to walk up all of those stairs to that platform about halfway up. Then the passage inside led allllll the way back down and underground.

Inside the Red Pyramid. The stairs lead up to the burial chamber. See the corbelled roof?

After the Red it was on to the Bent, just a short bit away. It’s one of my favorites and still has a lot of the original casing. You can’t go inside any more because it is extremely dangerous, but we walked around outside for a while. They changed the slope partway through construction because the angle they started with was too steep (give ‘em a break, it was their first attempt at a true pyramid), giving it the bent appearance.

12:40pm: We were finally tired enough to go home after all of that. We had wanted to do Meidum, as well, but it was going to be another hour or so out and we wanted to get back to Cairo before it got dark, so maybe Lindsey and I will go out there another day. The trip home we got to enjoy what can only be described as the classical station. None of the songs were actually classical music songs, but they were all instrumental.

2:20pm: Arriving back to our hotel, exhausted and stinky, we discovered that the hotel had no hot water. So we all are currently taking very short ones and not getting very clean. Since we haven’t eaten much all day other than the snacks we brought with us, we’ll probably have dinner soon. Hopefully, the hot water will return before we do!

In all, today was AWESOME!!! I’m so glad we went out to see everything today. Hope you enjoyed the pictures- I have a ton more!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

I Really Like Zamalek

Our plans changed today, but you know what? That’s ok, cause we can do whatever we want! Our plan had been to get up early, grab a taxi, and head out to see some non-Giza pyramids. However, one of us wasn't feeling so well, so we decided to postpone our Saqqara/Meidum/Dahshur trip until tomorrow.

But before I tell you about today, let me tell you about what we did last night (it’s nothing fancy, but Lindsey and I were excited). We’d planned to try an Asian place for dinner (seriously, it was Asian- Japanese, Korean, and Chinese all on the menu), but nixed that idea. Lindsey and I, being the intrepid adventurers that we are, decided we could navigate our way around enough to go forage for dinner and supplies. Our first stop was the 2.50 store, where everything is, you guess it, 2.50 LE (about $.42). We got bowls/plates, forks, glasses, dish soap, and a knife. No, our hotel doesn’t have a kitchen, but we have plans to eat a lot of mango and you just can’t do that with toilet paper and a pocketknife from ACE Hardware. Then it was off to Subway (yeah, there’s a real Subway in Zamalek, just like there was a real Chili’s. It’s like home!) to get a veggie sandwich for Tasha. We thought we remembered passing it on our shopping outing, and we were totally right at where it was located! Ok, so dishes: check, Tasha dinner: check. The next stop was Nola’s cupcakes... again. Don’t judge us, they were tasty! Now we needed dinner for us. We’d passed by this kebab place several times, but had both realized we’d never be able to go there, because Tasha is vegetarian. At the same time, we realized that this was the perfect opportunity! So we walked up to the counter and ordered donner kebabs sandwiches! We were so excited. Then we went back to the room and dropped everything off. Tasha couldn’t believe what all we got and that we didn’t get lost even once. The kebab sandwich was really good, and of course I forgot to take a picture of it until I was on literally my last French fry. Oh well. After dinner we enjoyed cupcakes and some wine, then hit bed early. It was a lovely night! If we can do it after just a few hours shopping today, Lindsey and I feel pretty confident that we’ll be able to get around just fine once Tasha leaves.

Ok, back to today. So what can three girls with no real plans do? Go shopping again, of course! Nothing really opens until 10am in Egypt, so we spent the morning with a very light breakfast of bread and cheese at the hotel. After some long showers, we headed out to a bunch of different shops. Aside from our lunch break, we walked around Zamalek, shopping and browsing, until 4:30pm.

We ended up with WAY too much food because the menu didn't say that the sandwiches came with fries. So I had a chicken/mozzarella/pesto panini with baked potatoes/cheese/herbs. And a fresh strawberry juice. It was really tasty, but way too much food!

Our plans for this evening include recuperating from all of that walking. We bought a ton of fruit at the local market, so we'll probably do that for dinner. But I'm happy: we've eaten lots of good food, seen a ton of cool stores, and spent way too much money. Between the meals and all the dessert places we've been stopping at, I'm well on my way to gaining back what I lost just in the past 2 days alone. Dan will have to kick my diet back into shape once I get home. But for now, mmmmm cupcakes.

For anyone following the news, yes, Tahrir is completely full of people and reports say tear gas and other things are being used against protesters. Live image shots shows thousands of people camped out on the square. And yet, business and life in Zamalek is the same an usual. We hear and see absolutely nothing because we are so secluded. I promise that we are staying safe and we don't plan to leave the hotel when the hardcore demonstrations start, but to be honest, it wouldn't even matter if we did. It's kind of like we're in Gary, IN while people are protesting in Chicago. Though Zamalek is a lot nicer than Gary.

In other news, you all can be the first to hear some wonderful news. I literally JUST found out about this (like 5 minutes ago when I checked my email), but Jonathan and I have been accepted to give a talk about our block yard project at the CRE (Current Research in Egyptology) conference! Looks like I'll be spending a few days in England in March!! I can't wait to go back to the University of Cambridge. I wonder if the fudge shop and sandwich place that I fell in love with are still there. One adventure at a time, Janelle.

Monday, November 26, 2012

We're In Cairo!!

Sorry I didn’t get a chance to blog yesterday, but it was a busy day (and this will be an extra-long post to make up for it)! We woke up at 6am (hurray for sleeping in an hour) to get to site by 7. The first order of business was stringing up the remaining pottery boxes, then schlepping them into the pylon. After a few years, we have this down to a science: Tasha was the expediter, organizing the loading of the boxes onto the wheelbarrows from our work area; I stayed at the base of the pylon, unloading the wheelbarrows and organizing them into numerical order so that the guys could carry them into the pylon and up the stairs to Lindsey, who found their positions among the numbers we left in the pylon from previous seasons. We’re pretty good and had all hundred or so boxes back in the pylon in a little over an hour, and that was because the wheelbarrow guys seemed to be in no hurry. Even with our strong guys doing most of the lifting, though, I couldn’t get around bending over and carrying heavy boxes of pottery, so my back is rebelling quite fiercely today. I cannot wait to get back to the US and see my massage therapist to get back into position, because I hurt! See, archaeology isn’t all fun and games and drawing pots under the shade; we do heavy lifting.

Anyway, after loading the pylon, we had a few last-minute tasks, like cleaning off and folding up the tents. The site looked pretty bare when we were done with it (I didn’t bring my camera, sorry!). We were done by 10am, so it was back to apartment to pack, shower, and clean the house. Unfortunately, the car wasn’t scheduled to arrive until 2pm, so we had a bit of down-time, which we spent reading on the couch and checking our watches every 5 minutes. I wanted to get on and blog all of this then, but my internet key crapped out. When the car finally showed up, we loaded up our stuff and waved goodbye to Edfu with a certain finger. Then it was off to Luxor!

Kat will be staying in Luxor for a week, twiddling her thumbs before the beginning of her 10-day season to Abydos with Greg and one of our old professors who now works in Copenhagen, Hratch Papazian. This is a long way of saying that there was a hotel room where Tasha, Lindsey, and I could crash and watch awesome Arabic music videos and the beginning of The Matrix while waiting for our flight. Around 6pm we headed out to dinner at our newly-found favorite restaurant: Pizza Roma. It’s owned by an actual Italian lady, and they make amazing pizza with REAL cheese (you have no idea how amazing this is after the gross feta-like processed crap that you normally get in Egypt. They even had real gorgonzola cheese, which made Kat VERY happy). After dinner, we said goodbye to Kat and headed to the airport for our 10:30pm flight to Cairo. At this point, we were really starting to hurt, since our normal bed time is no later than 9pm. But we managed to make it to the hotel in Cairo by just past midnight. Thankfully, we used one of Nadine’s travel contacts and he had a car waiting for us to throw our exhausted selves into. He even got us all checked into the hotel. We’re staying at the President in Zamalek. It’s $20 per night, so it’s nothing fancy, but it’s a place to crash, it has Arabic music videos on TV, and actually pretty fantastic water pressure. We can live with the fact that the place hasn’t been properly cleaned since the 1970s and the toilet doesn’t really flush. It’s also located in the heart of Zamalek, right in the middle of where the ambassadors live, which provides us a great view of gardens and provides and extremely safe place to be (if you haven’t been paying attention to what’s happening in Cairo, now is not the time to google it, ok, Mom?).

Cairo is much as I remember it: way too crowded, filthy, and huge. But driving along at night, looking at the billboards advertising 7Up, Doritos, cell phone plans, McDonald’s, and TV shows like The Voice (Egypt), it almost feels like a normal big city in the US (if you disregard the fact that most of the billboards are in Arabic and the buildings are incredibly run down). But you can’t really beat the view out of our balcony:

View looking to the left off of our balcony. I love the look of that church.

View looking straight off the balcony. The red complex is the Chinese ambassador's residence (and maybe also the embassy). We passed several complexes from various countries on our walk, but China won for most spectacular.

View to the right off the balcony and around the corner. Just in front of the tall building in the background you can see the Nile.

Today’s adventure included sleeping in! Well, Tasha did most of the sleeping in, since Lindsey and I could only sleep until about 6:30. But hey, we were able to lie in bed and read until 8:15 (when we got up for breakfast), so it felt great. After a leisurely breakfast, showering, and some unpacking/reorganizing of bags (we’ll be here over a week, after all), we hit the streets of Zamalek around 11:30! We stopped by the cell phone/internet shop to get more credit for our phones (it’s about 1 LE Egyptian to send a text to the US, which ends up being something like $.17, so we send a lot of texts to spouses) and to fix my internet. You’ll never believe where we ate lunch. Chili’s! On a boat! Don’t believe me?
I told you. Chili's. On a boat.

I had a salad and it was AWESOME to have something that wasn’t fried in oil and involved fresh veggies. So good. Plus, we got to look out over the Nile as we ate, and they had free refills on Diet Pepsi with grenadine. Life seemed complete. Then we went shopping at the various fair trade centers and on the way home, got some amazing cupcakes. We are now fed, sugared, and happy. Life really is complete. At least until we go to dinner. :P

One of the stores we passed while out walking. Lots of Christmas supplies! 
I think tomorrow’s plan is to head to Saqqara and get my 3rd Dynasty on. I’m really excited about seeing the newly-opened serapeum (I’ll tell you more about what it actually is tomorrow). Fingers crossed that we’re allowed to take pictures inside (though I doubt we’ll be able to). For now, I’ll stop with the novel I appear to be writing. Cairo is a new and exciting place compared to Edfu and I’m ready to explore as much of it as we safely can in the 9ish days we have here. :)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

It's The End Of The Season As We Know It, And I Feel Fine

Today was the last full workday of the season, and I didn't even really work the whole day! In the morning, I grabbed a few quick shots of the block yard with the good camera and spent the next few hours drawing, packing boxes, and writing box lists. Since there was basically nothing more that I could do around, Kat and I went home to pack up our stuff and the house a bit around 12:30. Lunch should be soon now that everyone else is home, so after we eat, we'll pack up the metal boxes that stay at Chicago House, finish some apartment cleaning, and pack up the rest of our own things.

Tomorrow we'll go to the temple in the morning to do last-minute things: clean up our stuff, put the pottery boxes into the pylon, and put our work supplies in a storeroom we have on site. Then it's off to Luxor to grab some food and a late-night plane trip to Cairo! So if you don't hear from me tomorrow (and you probably won't), don't worry! It'll be a long day and I'm not sure when/if I'll get the chance to sit down with my computer and the internet.

We have lots of stuff planned for Cairo, but if you've been watching the news, Cairo is a bit unsafe these days. Don't worry, we're keeping an eye on everything and have already changed several of our plans to accommodate the situation (we probably won't re-visit the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, we won't make a day trip to Alexandria, and we'll take taxis everywhere instead of the metro). We'll be staying in Zamalek, which is a little island full of foreigners that is totally safe. There's lots of shopping and food right there, so we won't have to leave the little safety bubble. Some of our plans include shopping at a lot of the local shops there in Zamalek, going to Saqqara and the newly-opened Serapeum (super excited about this!!), seeing the mosque of Ibin Tulun, heading to Ma'adi for some American-style salads and shopping, etc. So it should be a great time and I'll post lots of pictures if I can :)

The season is coming to a close and while I did have fun again this season, I'm happy it's almost over.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Busy Day Off

An update on last night's dinner: it was DELICIOUS! Chef made 2 different kinds of chicken; 1 was roasted and the other was homemade breaded cutlets. Then there was mashed potatoes, which were pretty darn close to the American way we do them, but without any butter. There was also zucchini with garlic, bread, and soup. And finally, the most amazing sweet potatoes ever. For all the hassle of explaining what they were, they did an AMAZING job of pureeing and blending a super smooth and sweet sweet potato mash (we decided not to explain the marshmallow thing). For the most part, they sat between me and Kat all dinner and when Taib came to take the almost-empty dish, we smacked his hand away. So all-in-all, it was a great evening! We're even considering just making our own Edfu celebration in the future instead of going to Chicago House. Chef was VERY pleased that we liked his meal better, since there's a huge rivalry between him and the chef at Chicago House.

Today we got to meet the mission from Aswan led by Pamela Rose. She worked at Amarna for a long time, so it's her pottery reports that I'll be using for Amarna bread moulds. They got a quick tour of the site and then came back home for a large lunch.

The rest of our day was spent cleaning the house and starting to pack up. Tomorrow is the last full day on site, then we pack up the pylon and head to Cairo!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

I can't believe that I forgot to mention yesterday that our awesome guys (seriously, they are the best) find joins in the blocks that we missed! There are 5 more blocks total that now join- 2 for one pair and 3 for another. It's really excited and they were pretty happy to help out.

Today we finished the benches, too! Bench one is nicely laid out with lots of different kinds of blocks so that tourists can see what we have (can I use this time to point out that I got really, unreasonably, excited when the first tourists came over to look?). Benches 2-4 are set up with things squished together a little more, but everything is upright and in the correct orientation, and for the most part, all similar stuff is together (columns, Ptolemaic, offering tables, etc). Greg and Nadine have been gone the past two days, so they were pretty floored when they came back and saw everything I had done (I can't take all the credit- I had a little help from Kat now and then, especially with Arabic words I didn't know).

Doing my best "Barker's Beauties" impression in front of bench 1 to show off my finished (for this season) block yard! Heck yeah!

The other side of the walkway looks so empty without 350 blocks strewn about.

For all of you in America, you know that it's Thanksgiving! Happy Thanksgiving!! Typically, we'd be hopping a bus to Luxor around 2 and heading to Chicago House for dinner. But this year, Chicago House was invited to the governor's mansion and we can't blame them at all for canceling the dinner. So we're doing up Thanksgiving Edfu style! Since our guys love any excuse to have a party, last night we tried to explain typical Thanksgiving fare. They understood the mashed potatoes, though the concept of not putting meat and cheese and spices in them was odd to them. Chef was really excited about the prospect of stealing the turkey from next door for us, but we convinced him chicken would be fine. After much back and forth (2 of the kitchen guys speak almost no English and the 3rd was gone), we finally explained to them the concept of mashed sweet potatoes. In Arabic, "potatoes" is batatis. And "sweet potatoes" is batata. We didn't know the word for sweet potato though, so we kept saying, "It's like a potato, but red."To them, sweet potatoes are not actually potatoes, so they were having a huge problem figuring out what we were talking about. Yes, the words sound super similar, but for some reason, they didn't get it until suddenly a light-bulb went off in Said's head, he ran to the fridge, and came running back with a sweet potato! They were going to put it in dessert (I know, it's odd), so instead they saved it for tonight. Again, they were really confused why we wanted 2 kinds of bland puree veggies, but we assured them it would be ok. Greg even picked up some marshmallows while in Cairo yesterday so that Lindsey and I could teach the Frenchies the weirdness that is... whatever you call the sweet potato and marshmallow dish. No cranberries here in Egypt, but we're using cranberries as a substitute. So dinner tonight should be: chicken, mashed potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes, some other kind of veggie (b/c chef doesn't consider either of the starches a veggie), bread, and pomegranate. I have no idea what dessert will be, but I requested kunaffa. Not American, I know, but it's not like we're going to get pumpkin or pecan pie. I'll let you know tomorrow how it turned out.

Tomorrow is our day off, but it'll be busy with all the last-minute things. We have a team from Aswan coming to visit our site, so we'll go out in the morning and show them around. The lead lady is someone whose work I'll be using a lot in my dissertation, so it'll be nice to meet her. In the afternoon, we need to clean the house to prepare for our departure and start packing up some of the supplies. Plus, this will be the last time some of us will be together until next season, so Valerie and I need to sit down and discuss the pottery that came out of Lindsey's First Intermediate Period (she's doing the other pottery and I get the bread moulds. It's actually pretty exciting because we found some things that have HUGE possibilities for being really important, so that's really cool for my work).

So, the big thing I'm thankful for today is that we have such an awesome team... and that we get to leave soon. haha.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Block Yard Update

Exciting news on the block yard project! After several weeks, we're finally able to start putting the blocks onto the benches for conservation with the help of our amazingly strong guys. It's so exciting to see these things finally in their final resting places. Next year, the exposed brick with be covered and painted, but with only a few days left to the season, this is how they have to stay for now. Look how far the project has come:

The block yard when we arrived.
After we moved most of the blocks to the other side of the walkway for analysis and so the benches could be built.

Trenches being dug for bench foundations.

Bench foundations poured.

Then the layers of cement, bricks, tar, and sand.

Slowly, they start to look like benches!

A coat of lime paint gets added as a final barrier to water.

2 benches full of blocks. Don't they look good?

Next season, Jonathan and I will continue epigraphy, recording, and conservation of the blocks. As of right now, every block has a database entry, a high-quality photo, and measurements. By the end of next season, we hope that every block will also have a full database description (including transliterations and translations of texts) and epigraphic drawings.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Playing With Fire

Remember how I said yesterday was Valerie's birthday? Well, our kitchen guys love birthdays! They spent several hours in secret yesterday decorating where we eat:

And they got this very beautiful cake from the bakery. Take a minute to look at all the wonderfulness:

Yes, on top there are several different kinds of candied fruits, along with the candles that were inside the pumpkin, and pieces of chocolate in the shape of shooting stars, fans, and a guitar.
But decorations and cake weren't the only things we had. Oh, no! Our guys wanted this to be a TRUE celebration, so they found sparklers!

Valerie was a little confused by the sparklers (as were we all). We were even more confused when they started passing them out and lighting them. In the house. Over a plastic tablecloth...

I have to admit, the cake was pretty good. Nothing like we'd get in the US, but it was fairly moist and not overly sugary, so it wasn't half bad. They even got a vanilla AND chocolate cake this time- fancy!

Yes, I did get a fan and the guitar. :)

In other news, they finished the benches today (well, as finished as they are getting this year. The sides aren't fully covered in cement and painted, but we're running out of time, so that will happen next year.), which means we can start putting blocks up tomorrow. I suppose that means I should get off of the internet and figure out where they are actually going, huh?

Monday, November 19, 2012

Do The Wat-Wat Dance

I wish I had something to say, I really do. But I'm sure you all understand. Imagine writing a daily blog about YOUR job- it would get tough when you're really not doing anything! Once the benches are done (they are so close!) and we start putting things on them, I will have lots to say. But until then...

It's Valerie's birthday today, so there will be a cake! :)

Today Kat took all of the small objects to the magazine in El-Kab (about 45 mins away). It's a secure place where we store some of our smaller objects (like pieces of bone, tools, figurines, etc). After the director of the magazine looks at what we've found in a season, Kat packs everything up and takes it over to be stored. The director is allowed to choose pieces that then get registered with the SCA and go into their control (everything else just goes into a big room that we control). Usually, it's the really nice objects. Nadine has to go and write all of these registered objects in a big ledger. While I have never seen it, I'm told it's about the size of a desk, with hand-written notes from many, many excavators over the season. Unfortunately, our pottery is not special enough to go in the magazine, so it gets stored in the pylon with the wat-wat (bats). I don't mind the bats, it's the guano that can be nasty. On Sunday, we'll move all the boxes of pottery that we've taken out of the pylon back in to wait for us until next season.

Lindsey (in blue), Aaron (in green), and on of our workers Ahmed wait for the bats to clear from one of the pylon rooms at the beginning of the season. There are little shafts in each of the pylon rooms that originally let in fresh air and some light. The bats escape that way mainly, but occasionally, one will fly into your face from the main door, which is why they are all crouching. I believe this photo was taken right before one smacked Aaron.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Long Day

Nothing exciting to report today. I struggled through a couple of tough pots this morning, so after lunch, I went and did a few more stats on moulds that came out of Lindsey's area during yesterday's last day of excavation.

The benches are starting to look really good and they are covering them with a last layer of tar, some concrete, and then a layer of white paint with lime in it to help stop the water from getting at the blocks.

Sorry this is a short post, but after not sleeping well last night, the 10 hour shift really wore me out and I need some mental power for the work I still need to do this afternoon. We're in the mad final rush, so everyone is cramming as much as possible into the days. It's crazy around here.

OH! We figured out that the kitten is going to be fine. She actually lives with a guy who works on site. He lets us take her to stay with us during the day, but only on the condition that we bring her back to him in the afternoon. So everyone who was worried, she's going to be fine! :)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Pots and Breadsticks

It looks like we'll be cutting this block yard project VERY close. The guys are finishing up the benches, so they'll be done probably tomorrow. But then they need to dry for a few days. So starting on Thursday, we will be frantically throwing (nicely) blocks onto benches. Yes, Thursday is a short day, yes that means we only really then have Saturday and Sunday morning to finish up, but WE CAN DO IT!

Tasha was sick and had to stay home today, so it was just me and the pots for the most part! I was glad I brought my iPod for a little company. But the lack of distractions meant I drew about a million pots today (give or take a few). Ok, so maybe it was more like 25, but that's still really good for a day's work. I even got to draw a bread mould after lunch. The best part was that I got these bread-stick like thing in my picnic and was munching on one while I drew. It seemed so fitting that Nadine took a photo:

Now if only I had some spaghetti...

Friday, November 16, 2012

Update On The Crazy

It's Friday, which means 3 things: 1) a day off from site, 2) sleeping in, and 3) talking to Dan. I got up around 6:15 and took my computer outside to chat with Dan (well, I was outside for all of 15 minutes before my computer decided that even though it was 100% full of battery when I started my chat, it needed to be at 19% after 15 minutes... yeah, guess who is going to need a new computer for Christmas...). Side note, can I tell you how awesome my husband is? Sure, you read that I lost 30 pounds this summer, but he's down almost 75! In 7 months! And he's keeping it off, even with me being gone (we're not going to talk about what all the potatoes, carbs, french fries, and salt are doing to my waistline, but I don't really have a choice). He rocks. So anyway, after our chat, the girls and I made some breakfast, talked for a while over tea, then headed upstairs to tackle FileMaker.

I read the manual front to back and it's pretty much written for total idiots who have a degree in database design (I'm not saying those go together, I'm saying those were the criteria this manual assumed you fit). So it told me all about the fact that I could create tables and layouts and manage them and, oh! aren't you going to have so much fun relating fields? But it never told me the difference between tables and layouts, why I might want one over the other, or how to actually relate 2 fields. In other words, it taught me everything I already knew and nothing complex.

The only thing I got out of the whole thing was that I can relate fields. With that knowledge, I was able to at least answer one of my big issues: linking entries. So now I can have a sheet with all the basic data about an excavation layer, put all the pots I've numbered on that sheet, and when I click on a little button next to the number, it takes me to a whole new layout that will give me more detailed information about that specific pot. So that's cool. I'm sure there was an easier way to do it than sitting there and creating relations for all 30 fields and then creating link buttons, but whatever. It works, I know how to use it, and that's good enough for me.

There are still a few more things we need to figure out, like the silly portal thing (insert numerous Valve jokes here). I also need to figure out how to make certain fields auto-fill based on what I put into other fields. But for the most part, I have a working database. Granted, I thought that last time, too. The nice thing is that Tasha and Kat are building theirs right alongside me, so we can bounce ideas off of each other. We have a lot of the same issues, so it's nice to hear a cheer come from the other room because you know that means good things for everyone.

That's basically what I spent my day doing. Once I write this post, I've told myself I'm not allowed to look at the database again (7 hours is plenty for today). I'm going to read more of book #12 before dinner.

Tomorrow starts our last full week on site! There's a lot left to do and I'm frantically trying to help Tasha get more pots drawn for her dissertation. I'm just doing stats on my bread moulds this year- I'll actually start drawing my own stuff next year. Gotta be a team player first, especially since Tasha has been so great about teaching me all about pottery, giving me resources, letting me have access to all the bread moulds from her dissertation research, and getting me into the whole thing in the first place. So yeah, we'll work Saturday- Thursday, get Friday off, start packing up boxes of pottery on Saturday, then throw those boxes into the pylon and hit the road to Luxor to catch our flight to Cairo on Sunday. It feels so far away, but we're getting really close. Hurray!

That's all for now. Sorry if next week's posts are a little dull, but as you can see, it's kind of same-ol'-same-ol'. Once I get to Cairo, I'll have a LOT of fun things to talk about, promise! :)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Double Post Day: Technology Makes My Life... Harder

This is me ranting about my stupidity, which is why you are getting a double post (plus, the previous post was kind of lame). I've tried to explain my issues with the computer program I'm using as best as I can, but feel free to just smile and nod and pretend you know what I'm talking about. And send chocolate. I'm clearly upset by this, so if you are a true friend/family member/husband, you would send chocolate. My address is: Apartment building on the street with the bakery, next to the empty lot full of goats, but before the farm, Edfu, Egypt.


Remember that FileMaker database I made and was so proud of? Yeah, I went to fill it in yesterday and realized that I'd done a lot of it wrong. See, when I told it I wanted 2 of a field on a sheet, I meant that I just wanted the same header twice. So something like:

Types Of Dessert I Wish We Were Having
Ice Cream (checkbox) Number [Number]
Chocolate (checkbox) Number [Number]
Candy (checkbox) Number [Number]

Simple, yes? Well what I didn't realize was that when I filled in one of those number fields, ALL of them get filled it. I have to create separate fields (ie "Number 1", "Number 2", "Number 3") and then once they are on the sheet, rename the field header (but not the data entry box) to remove the numbers. In other words, the edit sheet should look something like:

Number [Number 1]
Number [Number 2]

Ok, fine, it's stupid and takes forever, but I can fix that. Now I go to fill in the layout again, thinking everything is a-ok! Except that apparently, this stupid issue also occurs over multiple layouts (basically mini-databases) in the same database. So that means that every single time that I have a field to enter the date in all my different layouts, it has to be [Date 1], [Date 2], [Date 3]. GAAAAAAA!

So at this point, I'm fed up and decide I'll just scrap it and start over. It'll be cleaner and better and I'll just be a happier person, even if it means about 3 hours of work just got flushed down the toilet. So I start creating a new one and have a thought about how I might be able to combine 2 of my layouts into one. I can't decide whether or not it's a good idea, so I ask Kat and Tasha. Both of them have great suggestions on what I should do, but both of those require my database to do really complex calculations and scripts and what-have-you. Seeing as I'm basically at the point of knowing how to change the font to pretty colors, complex calculations are way beyond my scope.

Insert the internet. If my husband has taught me anything, it is that you can find the user manual of just about everything on the internet. So I've got the manual (I even made sure it was the correct version of the software, too, cause how annoying would THAT have been?!). I'm planning to read through the whole thing and figure out exactly what this baby can do. I'm going to read it, I'm going to understand it, I'm going to make an awesome database, and I'm going to teach Kat and Tasha how to make their databases awesome, too. I am amazing and talented and most of all, stubborn. This program will not defeat me, as it is inanimate. I will read this manual and learn ALL THE THINGS... starting tomorrow. After messing with this for 3 hours, I need to take a break.

How long do we think it will take before I completely give up and just find someone to pay to do it? If I give updates, will you guys help make sure I don't do that? Don't let me, ok? I'm a smart person and I can figure this out, even if the most complicated thing I've ever done with software is make Excel concatenate fields (which I don't even remember how to do any more). Oh dear.

Lame Post, Sorry!

I don't really have anything to say today. I drew pots all day and they built benches. We got to come home a bit early because it's like a Friday here, so everyone wants to go home and none of the inspectors will stay with us until 4.

Now I have a ton of photos to label, and I'm going to start entering stuff into the database I made. Yay.

Have an adorable cat photo. This is pretty much how she spends her day:

Tomorrow is Friday, so it's sleep in (a bit), talk to Dan, read a little, do some database stuff, etc. day. After tomorrow, we only have one more Friday in Edfu- YES!!!!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Sad Day

Today was a bit of a funk for my mood. I woke up really missing my husband (facilitated by a bad dream involving him). I really love excavation, but I'm really in need of the couch, some popcorn, a movie, and a big ol' Dan cuddle. The team here is amazing- I think we crack up laughing every night- but there's nothing like your loved ones. This year has been harder than last year, I think, but we're in the home stretch!

Aaron also left this morning, adding to the sadness of the day. Sure, we were sad when Jonathan left, but we all know we'll be seeing him back in Chicago. With Aaron, we'll see him next season at the earliest, and that's only if he can swing coming again (you better, Aaron!). That Aussie really grew on me, with his quirky sense of humor, "comically large pants", and ability to blend in so seamlessly with everyone. You'll be missed, Aaron! Have a safe trip home and see ya next season!

What brought up my spirits a bit was that I FINALLY (almost) finished block photos today! I have 2 that I need the ladder for, and about 8 that won't get photos at all this season. They are just way too big to move and are all bunched together in a small area where moving one means moving all. So after discussing it with Greg, we decided that they aren't going anywhere unless someone brings in a backhoe (in which case we have bigger issues). The biggest bummer is that 2 of the ones in that group are from our Saite building, so we'll just have to figure something out next season. Oh well.

The benches are also coming along, too. When we left, they were putting a final layer of water-proofing tar on bench #4, and bench #3 was being prepped for tar treatment tomorrow. Benches #2 and #1 still need some work, but it shouldn't take more than a day or two.

Theoretically, we'll be able to start putting the blocks on top of them early next week. Guess that means I need to figure out where all the blocks are going. Eep!

PS. For all of you wondering, we did have a kitty today and we spent much of the day deciding what we could do with her (ie could one of us take her home, would a worker want her, etc). But late in the afternoon, Kiri showed up and the kitten went NUTS, growling and hissing and wanting a fight. That pretty much put the kabosh on anyone with cats taking her home. Plus, we are pretty sure that she has enough fighting instinct that she should be ok at the temple. So we'll keep feeding her until we leave and hope we see her again next year.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Carving Jack-O-Lanters In Edfu In November

Over Halloween, we tried to describe pumpkin carving to our guys. Halloween, as I've said, isn't really a thing over here, so it was kind of difficult. Finally, Taib figured out what we were asking for and brought us what they consider a pumpkin (it was really more like a very large orange gourd). Anyway, this "pumpkin" has been sitting in the kitchen since Halloween.

Then last night, I get called into the kitchen by a very excited Nadine and our chef. Chef Muhammad has lopped off the top of the pumpkin, scraped out the insides and is showing the thing off like a trophy. He hands it to me, asking in mumbled Arabic if I want him to remove more of the flesh inside. "No, it's ok," I say. Aaron grabs my pocket knife, Lindsey grabs a marker, Tasha grabs a camera, and pumpkin carving ensues.

Lindsey drew a face on it, but didn't trust herself to slice through an inch of pumpkin flesh without cutting herself. The guys kept trying to give me a bigger knife, but I was content with my tiny, dull pocketknife.

They told me to smile, so I pulled a Faith Galik. :)

Only now do I realize I should have started singing "Pumpkin Head Harvey", but I'm pretty sure no one would have known it.

Our completed pumpkin. The guys were excited to see it in action and were happy simply because we were happy.

The best part is that the only candles we had were ones that spelled out "happy birthday". Because of that, we sang "happy birthday" to the pumpkin once it was lit. It's the little things that keep us sane around here.
Muhammad made a FABULOUS pumpkin dish with the insides. It's definitely not like an American pumpkin. I'd make it more akin to spaghetti squash, since it fell apart into small slices in your mouth and didn't have a ton of flavor on its own.

Kitten was back this afternoon and spent most of it on my back while I photographed. It was the only way I could keep her off the blocks. She just cuddled into my neck and purred and purred and purred. Oh dear.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Wonderful Thing About Kittens

The other day, my husband told me that while I’m away, basically all he does is work and worry. I’m starting to realize he may actually have something to worry about. You see, we found another friend at the front of the temple today. We’d seen her before, but she is really scared of Kiri (rightfully so, Kiri got so territorial this morning we had to kick her out of the work area) so never came back to get food. She’s probably about 2 months old and let us carry her all the way to our work area, purring the whole way, and stayed with us the entire day, usually in someone’s lap:

Or sometimes, on their back.

She’s not the brightest cat and I think there might be something mentally wrong. She has one crossed eye and is really quite stupid. She kept trying to eat the cement the guys were mixing for the water, even though I kept giving her fresh stuff. While the guys didn’t really like her, they tried to be nice since they knew she was under our protection. She was little kitten under-foot until she finally calmed down and stayed with either me or Tasha. I felt bad leaving her, but she seems to capable of at least kind of taking care of herself. All of her whiskers on one side seem to have been burnt off at one point (they are growing back), so she’s managed to make it this far. I wish we could take her back to the US, because she would really make a great lap cat. Even at 2 months, she hardly played at all and was terribly content to just be cuddled, not a good sign for the hardships of living in Egypt. While it’s not impossible to bring her back, no one has the means to care for her back home, so she’ll have to just tough it out here. I guess Dan doesn’t have much to worry about after all. Hopefully, we can fatten her up a bit and help her live a little longer, even if we’re teaching her that humans are ok (not such a good life lesson here, either). Even Greg fell in love:

We're trying to convince him that he needs a cat back in Chicago. He really wants one, but Nadine isn't so keen, seeing as he's gone a lot of the year on excavation.
In other news, you’ll notice that we’re all in long sleeves. The weather change happened hard and fast. It was 74*F in my bedroom this morning. That might not seem cold, but seeing as it was 84 in there yesterday morning, it’s dropping fast. And after days over 100, 70 is down-right freezing. It’s nice to know I won’t be over-heating again, but the frozen fingers in the morning is not something that I missed. Thank goodness for morning tea deliveries :)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Deja Vu

This is kind of a "second verse, same as the first, a little bit faster and a little bit worse" post. I bet by now you can fill in my day: pictures, then pottery drawing. Tasha let me draw some bread moulds from her time periods today, so I'm simultaneously helping her out and getting dissertation material, so that's kind of nice. Also, I'm totally sick of picture-taking. It was fun when I was doing small ones that I could move by myself and get done quickly. I'm not a fan of the multi-sided ones where I need workers to flip them over. I've been positioning them in the sun myself, so my fingertips have blisters all over them from the sandstone. Whoever thinks archaeology is all fun and games and a dream career, think again. It's a lot of boring, repetitive work than has to be done super quickly while you're in the field. But along the way, I do get to hang out with some pretty awesome people, so I'm not complaining too much.

In other news, we've been getting friends at lunchtime. Affrit, the super scaredy-cat sister of Kiri, came to join us yesterday. They really like to roll in the hay near the japoozy.

Kiri was not very happy that I caught her mid-roll.

Affrit, eyeing up his sister. We think he's paying special attention to her for, um, reasons...

Hanging out by the japoozy. You can *just* make out my benches in the background.