Time to mix things up. I’m periodically going to travel down memory lane to seemingly happier times. or at least back to times when I was gainfully employed and at (what I hope wasn’t) the peak of my career.
I lived in worked in the Washington D.C. area for eight years. During five of those years, I worked for a D.C. based international market development organization – who I will call the “Wheaties.” I served as the Communications Director and organized several international trips for trade media and board members to visit our international offices and see first hand our worldwide marketing activities. On one such trip we traveled to Portugal, Morocco and Egypt. In addition to myself, our entourage included the “Wheatie” president, a native Texan with a penchance for good bourbon, a couple of board members (including a fellow North Dakota native) and two reporters, including RJ, another Nodak and a writer for a North Dakota trade publication.
I had never visited any of these countries before, and I might add, might possibly never visit again. So needless to say each country visited was memorable in its own right. However, for this post, I’m going to focus on Egypt. Anyone who travels on business knows it is a different animal than traveling as a tourist. For example, if you are in a business meeting in a hotel, for the most part meeting rooms around the world look pretty much the same. Of course, in this case when you walk out the door of a hotel in Cairo, Egypt, the landscape is a little different from that in say Nashville, Tennessee, or Dallas, Texas! Cairo is a crowded, noisy city with people utilizing all kinds of transportation – cars, motorbikes, bicycles and even an occasional donkey and cart! I remember seeing an Egyptian woman chopping a chicken’s head off on the side of the road. Speaking of roads, there seems to be no rules of the road, at least not similar to those in the U.S. Drivers indicate their intentions such as turning etc., by madly honking their car horns, only adding to the noisy chaos!
During this trip, we did have an opportunity to do a little sight-seeing and shopping in each country. We squeezed this touristy stops in between business meetings. Generally our country host would stop at a market our tourist attraction, bend their head down and look at their watch and say “All right 30 minutes to view the Great Pyramid and the Sphinx.” I kid you not when I say that! We would then gleefully jump out of our van like excited school children on a field trip and scurry over to whatever attraction we were speed visiting!
At the Great Pyramid we were accosted by young boys eagerly trying to sell us trinkets. We ignored them and stepped inside to the small opening to the huge pyramid, from which you could climb up through narrow passage ways and look inside the tomb chambers, which of course are now empty. I hesitated when I looked up the narrow, rickety ladder stairway that led to the first chamber. I’m more than just a little claustrophobic, but I thought “Miss Lisa, the chances of you being able to crawl around inside the Great Pyramid again are pretty slim so get your scared butt up the ladder!” If I remember right Nodak RJ looked queasily at the narrow stairway and opted out, and our Lone Star State Prez and I climbed up. We took a look around, there really wasn’t much to see, and climbed down, already have expended 10 minutes of our 30-minute Egyptian landmark tour!
After we finished our tour of the Pyramid and The Sphinx and other sites, we were greeted by our country host with a row of very large camels. Our host had a sly smile on his face, no doubt because this was not part of the planned itinerary. The board member Wheaties and the two reporters climbed up on the camels, and just as I was getting ready to wave them goodbye, an Egyptian guide approached with two more camels for the Prez and me. No way I said I firmly, shaking my head – not me! But I was cajoled into it by our country host. The giant camel had to kneel for me to climb on. Although I did some horse back riding as a teenager, this animal was HUGE! I clutched the saddle horn for dear life, thinking I would surely crack my head wide open if I fell of this gargantuan beast! An Egyptian guide led the camel by the reins. “You want to trot” he asked me. No, no, no” I said firmly but nervously, envisioning the camel breaking from a trot into run and madly galloping across the Egyptian desert!
After surviving the camel ride, we continued our business meetings. We visited a government laboratory and were served some lukewarm guava juice. It was very warm in the laboratory and I remember feeling a little queasy. The next morning I woke up sicker than a dog, throwing up and feeling quite badly. So bad in fact that our Texan Prez and I decided to call the house doctor. He strode into the room with authority – a tall middle-aged man with slicked back jet black hair and large, black, horn-rimmed glasses that looked like something out of the 50s. He asked a few questions and when I mentioned the guava juice and possible food poisoning, he looked startled and said very loudly and sternly, shaking his head and waving a finger “No, no, no for food poisoning at least five of you must get sick and two of you must die!” Huh?! My boss and I shared an uneasy look and quickly tried to hustle the crazy Egyptian doc out of the room.
I am fortunate that I have had several jobs involving domestic and international traveling, so there are many other memorable moments from this trip and others that I hope to share with you in the future!
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Lisa, Talented and Professional and Travel Loving Job Seeker!