Continuing as a dirty archaeologist..

It is has been a while since I have been on wordpress. But now I am sitting at my computer a dirty mess, but happy to have finished my first month at my new job! 

I am now working for an archaeology consulting firm based in Toronto as a field technician. This means that my day starts at 6am and finishes usually at about 5pm. Most of the work is physical and always in the element. This is pretty much what I saw myself doing many years ago. However, I never thought I would be working in such beautiful places in Ontario. Or perhaps, I never realized how beautiful it is when you go just beyond the city. It is exceptionally beautiful in the autumn! You can see just how so with a few photos below. 

The first while of the job was an adjustment, especially to my body. Tired, dirty, sore, closing my eyes and seeing pieces of Native pottery mixed in with the dirt in my screen.. it took some out of me even to head to the bar and grab a beer! But now, the first month is over and I feel ready to add some more to my evenings. I would like to continue to blog, and I have stories and photos to share with you, but I am wondering if these posts will fit well into the Karma Initiative. Hmmm. 

The Karma Initiative was created to share my travels and thoughts about living with passion. However, I am not too sure who is reading. Some friends wanted to hear from me? Travellers wanting to see photos? People who happened to stumble upon my blog? I am not too sure how many will be interested in archaeology. Archaeology is one of my passions and I want to share its importance with you. But this passion needs another space to grow.

So, my news is that I will be starting a new blog called Meaningful Archaeology as a sister blog to the Karma Initiative. The blog will be up and running shortly and you can read more about my adventures with a passion of mine, archaeology – which may be a passion of yours too! 

And now here is a taste of some of the places archaeology can take you… 

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The Good Life

Since I have come back from my summer travels for 2012, I have been catching up with friends and family, appointments, and picking up pieces of life that I have left in stasis. All too frequently I am thinking Wow time flies! I do not want time to fly. I want to embrace every millstone and celebration that life offers. I want to not watch, but live history in the making. I want to actively be a part of a community. I want to enjoy and keep healthy relationships with family and friends, and I want to live this life with them. In my heart, this is “the good life”.

A few days ago, a friend shared a story with me about one of her co-workers. Her co-worker is an African immigrant who moved to Canada so she could have “the good life”. However, her observations made her unsure if anyone knew what that was. She told my friend that people here wake up in the morning, go to a hectic workplace, and then rush home to watch television or sit at the computer. She compared this to her life at home, where you are not surrounded by flat screen electronics and nice cars, but by friends and family who are actively apart of your daily activities.

Although these lives are different, which memories would you rather like to have? Ones of someone else’s life on a television series, hazy memories at bars, and the commute to the corporate office – or, the meals you cooked and ate with friends and family, the friend you made with a perfect stranger, and the heart of a storm you got caught in while riding your bike.

I have to think that the ever-ending technology that we are bombarded with is inhibiting us to really experience life and feel the connections that humans can make with nature and with each other. Technology is truly a great thing, but it is only true if it improves life. You would think that the opportunities that technology has given to people in Canada would mean that everybody fits in a role of a community and lives a happy life. But, this is not the case.

Can you have both the wealthy life and a meaningful life? You definitely can. As long as you make a community of friends and family you respect and if you live your life with passion can you live the good life.

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Advice in volleyball and life

In spirit of the 3-peat Olympic gold medal win by Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh-Jennings, the U.S. beach volleyball team, I read Misty’s autobiography she wrote after earning her second Olympic gold medal. I loved having read a book that had so much heart, encouragement, and humorous moments. Through laughs and tears, there were so many inspiring words to remember! Here are some I want to share with you …

“…Time waits for no one. You must identify your passion and follow your heart. You must never back down from challenges. You must never, ever give up. You must do everything possible to seek out, embrace, and savour the special moments in life. You must cherish family and friends. You must always go for gold. Because you never know what tomorrow may bring.” — Misty May-Treanor in Misty: Digging Deep In Volleyball and Life

Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh-Jennings with their third Olympic gold medal in London 2012.

Now that I have finished the book, I have gone out and bought my first volleyball!

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Cairo Museum evaluation

The Cairo Museum

The Cairo Museum

Here I am with my travel girls in front of the Cairo Museum, home to the mummies, statues, artifacts, and gold you come to Egypt to see. Within the salmon-coloured walls of the building is where the red-haired mummy of Ramses II rests and King Tutankhamen’s funerary mask shines. Safeguarding Egypt’s history is key when there is a long history of mistreatment and wrongful claims to artifacts from the country. So, when guards walk around the courtyard with machine guns bouncing on their hips I don’t have any questions. Especially when the country is in a revolution and the Mubarak building to the left of the entrance is blackened in a recent scorching from the protests earlier in 2011. Other steps that are taken is that you must leave your cameras in a booth outside (not my favourite), go through a metal detector, while your bags go through an x-ray twice, and you have to show your student ID everywhere. I didn’t use the bathrooms in the museum, but I am certain you have to use your ID there too.

There are many precautions that have been taken to limit any shenanigans at the museum. This is why I was surprised I was getting free-rides and freebies throughout the day. This is probably due to the fact that I apparently look like a famous Egyptian movie star that I alluded to earlier. When my friends and I bought Movenpick ice-cream to cool down, I received a paper cup that was piled high and overflowing with vanilla and mango deliciousness, but was told to keep it a secret, beautiful *eye wink*. When I came back a second time in the day to search for some friends, they let me in the museum for free. And then we got interviewed for a TV show called Treasures.

I had a great time at the Cairo Museum, and nothing got stolen, burnt down and everybody was safe, so keep it up you flirtatious Egyptian men! Though I have one request: install some air-conditioning please!

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While traveling Egypt I learned…

The team in front of Khafre's pyramid

The team in front of Khafre’s pyramid

While traveling, there are things that you learn fast. For instance, how to convert Canadian dollars into Egyptian pounds, how to barter with cabdrivers in really bad Arabic, and how to walk through traffic with speeding cars, trucks, bikes, and horses – with no stop lights. Then there are other things you don’t learn as quickly, such as having seven days of diarrhea and still consume a diet of spices, beans, oily eggs, coffee, and ice cream. But if you were to travel to a place to learn the basics of backpacking, Cairo is the place to grip those ropes fast.

A stunning (and quiet) panorama view of Cairo from the Saladin Citadel

A stunning (and quiet) panorama view of Cairo from the Saladin Citadel

Being one of three girls traveling to a Muslim country, during a revolution, at Ramadan, in the hottest month of the year, and with semi-solid plans, it was clear to us that we were in for adventure and an unforgettable learning experience. It was not long after we walked off the plane that we knew we were going to make some mistakes that were worthy to be found on an Arab version of a popular blog that would most likely go along the lines of Silly White Girls. Going through customs unsure if the headscarves we were wearing was a respectable move or a jab at Muslim culture; it was no denying that we needed to learn the ways of an Egyptian woman. This was to avoid having a pashmina assembled over the hair like an ancient Egyptian funerary mask (think King Tut). Needless to say, I studied the moves and mannerisms of the women as much as possible. This ended in a possible success! Near the end of the week long trip, I was being asked on the streets if I was Egyptian, which might be tooting my horn, as it is more than likely that this was a maneuver to lure me into a trinket shop.

There were certainly times in which we had over paid, like on freshly pressed sugar cane juice when we forgot to set a price before downing the ridiculously refreshing drink, and when the driver of a horse drawn carriage changed the price we initially agreed on. But there were more times than not that I felt damn proud of our successes in getting around the hectic city of Cairo and which may be the largest hassle capital of the world, Luxor. In Cairo, we pushed through people at the Ramses national train station to find the well hidden ticket booth, sweaty, dirty, and of course, accompanied with another giant gaping hole in the seat of my pants (not uncommon to our group). Already we had a challenge ahead of us: we had left buying train tickets from Cairo to Luxor until we actually got to Egypt. Then to raise the wager in this challenge, we find out at the train station that due to Ramadan, there are no tickets being sold, and our only option is to come back the next night and hope to get a leftover seat on the train if someone doesn’t show up. So, with crossed-fingers we did. We ran through the underground tunnel and up and down stairs to get to the different tracks, while balancing our giant bags on our backs. All the while, teetering in our flip-flops from the weight and slipping through the sewage that has flooded the tunnel and splashing over our feet as we slide our way to the track. At platform eight is where we wait for two hours in a hub of families who have set up camp and men making too-long of conversations – because of course the trains are that unreliable. This wait quickly made its way to the top of my list of uncomfortable moments. I counted the number of beads of sweat that were simultaneously crawling down my back and thighs while I was being asked why I don’t have boyfriend in Canada and what were the qualities I was looking for in a boyfriend. The train finally came after we were asked far too many times if we would like to take a bus down to Luxor by the unrelenting help of our new “friend”, who was apparently a PhD student and had family in my neighbourhood. My sweat had pooled in the elastic cuffs of my pants at the time the train pulled up. This was good because I needed to move and get some air from the smell of sweaty Arab man, which I shortly found out was from me.

We made our way to a crowd of men surrounding a worker standing at an open train door. We pushed our way in and scored the last seats with a bribe in Egyptian pounds. As we fell onto our couch in a private room with beds, the intense air conditioning began working its magic and three huge smiles appeared from ear to ear. We made it! We had safely endured Cairo and were on our way to Luxor. After a round of high-fives, we broke into the mushroom pizza we had brought with us from dinner while the opening credits of Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life played. We clocked in some good hours of sleep and woke up to the view of rural Egypt, how Africa, the cradle of life, has sustained a similar way of life through the years. Passing villages made up of mud-brick houses and women balancing water jugs on their heads by the Nile River’s edge is a sight that really makes the train trip worth all the while. Especially when its with breakfast, a hot cup of tea, and two smiling friends.

The bank of the Nile

The bank of the Nile

There are many sights of the cities and the countryside that will never be forgotten. But there is also a sight of myself that I will always remember. It is when I was walking up the stairs at the Bob Marley Hostel in Luxor and I caught my reflection in a mirror. There I was with my cameo-green camera bag strapped over a plaid shirt a friend left behind, my favourite jeans worn to shreds, two-dollar flip-flops and my hair pulled back in a simple pony tail. I thought to myself: Here I am, sweaty, mangy and with a few dollars in my bank account. I am in Egypt with a camera over my shoulder and I couldn’t be happier.

Smiling with the Sphinx at the end of a long day

Smiling with the Sphinx at the end of a long day

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Old Islamic Cairo

The word for “market” in Arabic is souk. A few blocks from the Arabian Nights hostel where I stayed in Cairo is the old souk called Khan el Khalili. It is a busy, colourful maze of, well, things. Silver trays, rugs, alabaster lamps, dresses, fruit, and trinkets are sold in the winding streets next to Ottoman buildings as had been done for hundreds of years. Really.

On the first night, Abby, Brooke and I made friends with a shop owner, Rame, who scored us backstage passes to a movie set in a stunning Ottoman mosque. Sorry, no photos!

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Egypt’s take on Pizza

Egyptian Pizza

Getting our protein from fried eggs on pizza! It’s always a surprise when ordering food without a menu in a different country. I apologize Abby and Brooke when I said, “I got this”. I don’t got this.

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