Saturday, February 17, 2007

Interlude. Lei.



Before we decided to go on this trip together, Lei and I were pretty much strangers. Although we work in the same company and our professional paths had crossed a few times, we didn't know anything about each other. But we had something in common that's this insatiable desire to travel the globe. We took the chance on each other and I'm so glad we did. Looking back on the trip, I realize that so much of the fun that I had was because of Lei.

Nothing like spending 24x7 for nearly three weeks to get to know someone. So, here's my impressions of Lei....and I did give her fair warning that I would be posting this up!

Neat freak and a self professed one at that. Who else would, every night, wipe the desert dust off her shoes so she would have clean shoes to return the next day to the.....ummm...., desert.



Shower freak. Must have at least two a day though that was not possible on some days. I can understand taking a shower at 10:30p before hopping into bed. But who would get up 4 hours later at 2:30a and take a second shower. How dirty can you get sleeping? Worse time for Lei. The two days in Aswan where we did not have hot water for showers. Boy, she can really pout and stomp around when she's not happy.

Clean freak. Laundry, laundry, laundry. She did a lot of it and she never once complained. She quickly became an expert laundress and exceled at figuring where to hang her clothes up to dry!



Foodie who follows her nose to find a meal. Check out her blog posting on food if you need proof. We often ended up in a restaurant, eating something that we didn't know the name for or ingredients in, because the smell was too intoxicating for Lei to resist. She truly has a healthy appetite and has adventurous taste buds to match - the woman can eat and I don't remember her not enjoying everything she ate! I wonder where she packs it all on her slender size 4 frame? Thankfully, she also has a cast iron stomach and we never needed the Immodium. On the other hand, she's a.....

Motion sickness sufferer. So much so that she travelled with Dramamine (pills for both night and day), sea bands, and a watch that shoots low levels of electricity into her body. On any given trip, she had to use one or more medicines/devices to counter the nausea that the motion sickness brought on. Somehow, she knew which combination of medicine/band/watch would work on which ride and as a result, she only threw up once - by the roadside as we arrived into Nuweiba. Poor thing but what a trooper. I felt so sorry for her on many of rides - some were long and others, incredibly bumpy. I would look over to check on her and more often than not, this is what I would see - Lei, doped up, fast a sleep and hopefully, enjoying wonderful scenery in her dreams!



Fashionista. She wanted to look fashionable and she tried. Who else would bring along a white fleece jacket to trek in the red sand desert? But let's be real, being in style while you're travelling as a backpacker is not possible given that the clothing we had to bring along was mainly for practical reasons i.e., to hike up trails, to stay warm. After a while, she didn't care....how else to explain this fashion statement?



Photographer and lover of cats and sunsets. Lei ended up taking over 1800 photos and two of her favorite subjects were cats and sunsets. She always had her camera in hand with her face glued to the view finder. I'm surprised she never walked into anything or tripped while walking and taking photos! When I first saw the photo below, I thought what a beautiful wheel but it's not centered in the photo - not something that someone with Lei's eye for composition would do. I then realized that Lei was aiming for the cat, not the wheel! See the kitty? As for the sunsets, read about Lei's love in her own words.



Novice backpacker. Two traits that worked against each other. Lei had never used or owned a backpack. As we were getting ready for the trip, she was really worried about the weight of her pack as it was already much heavier than she thought she would be comfortable carrying on her back. Lei also wanted to make sure that she had space to bring back all the stuff she was going to buy though at the time she had no idea what she wanted to buy. Just before we left for the airport, she was trying to decide what she could remove to lighten the weight. She gave up a foldable umbrella (how much rain was she expecting in the desert?), a full roll of toilet paper and a plastic grocery bag. All toll, I think she left behind less than 1/2 kg of weight and a few cubic inches of space.



On our last night in Jordan, Lei managed to cram all the souvenirs that she had bought into her Kelty and daypack and she did this without throwing away anything. Items included a rug, a ceramic plate, a ceramic bowl, a wooden boat, a stone sculpture of an Ibis, a metal pitcher, a carved stone owl, umpteen zillion pieces of jewellry, a small blade knife and a special photograph that she found in a store in Coptic Cairo. Wow! I'm really glad that leaving behind the umbrella, roll of toilet paper and plastic grocery bag freed up this much space. All through the trip, Lei had a love/hate relationship with her Kelty backpack. Read all about it on her blog.

Shopaholic. Lei is an impulse shopper and she ooh'd and ahh'd her way through many a store, stall, etc. There was little that she saw that she didn't like. Fortunately, she found a shopping partner in Alex and the two of them did some serious purchasing damage in Jordan. The only two constraints - not enough time to visit all the stores and not enough luggage space to lug everything back in. The shopaholic is also the.....

Haggler from hell. She's a tough negotiator. I saw her in action on many an occasion. I think most of the vendors got bullied into selling their goods to her at bargain basement prices. I'm hiring her to negotiate my salary if I ever decide to leave my present job!

I love, I love, I love. One of Lei's favorite phrases and she has to utter the words while prancing towards you on her tippy toes. I heard it say these words each time she bought a piece of jewellry that she had fallen madly in love with. Oh...., and she told me at the start of the trip that she doesn't wear jewellry - particularly rings. Hard now to explain how she ended up buying at least 4 rings!

Haaaawwwww. To make this sound, form your lips into a circle, exhale and at the same time, make a low guttaral sound. This is one of Lei's favorite all purpose expressions. She makes the sound when she see's something she likes e.g., "Haaaaawwwww, look at the baklava!" She also sounds it when she's pissed e.g., "Haaaaawwwww, can you believe they charged us 15EG for that cheap thing?"

Okay, before she wreaks revenge on me, I'd better stop making fun of her and start saying some more nice things.

Explorer. Lei is very open minded to new experiences - she will go anywhere and try anything. It's one of the reasons she was so fun to be with. Getting lost in a strange city does not bother her so we wandered Cairo and had a wonderful time trying to find out way out of the alleyways in the Khan al Khalili bazaar. We followed her nose to find places to eat our meals (red chairs, basta meat, bakeries) and we really enjoyed every one of them. We smoked sheesha and enjoyed cups of mint tea and glasses of cold lemonade and karkade. In our wanderings, we stumbled upon beautiful Islamic architecture to admire and store after store of native handicrafts and souvenirs to bring back home.

Laughter. Okay, that's not really an adjective to describe someone but she always made me laugh...., and laugh...., and laugh. And what was really funny was that she wasn't trying to be funny.....at all! Too many funny moments to list them all but the one that tops my list is the "basta meat" episode. You can ask Lei to tell you the story - it's worth it just to watch her laugh as she recalls what happened.

Kind hearted and gentle soul. Without Lei to help me the day of and all the days following my accident on the felucca, I would not have been able to enjoy the trip as much as I did. Who else would have held up my butt so I could maintain a squatting position when I got my arm x'rayed at the Nubian village or on a daily basis, button up my shirt so it wouldn't fall off my shoulders and on more occasions than I can remember, strap my daypback onto my back? Countless acts of kindness on her part that made it possible for me to ignore my own discomfort and enjoy whatever the day had in store for us!

Wonderful travel companion. What can I say? I lucked out and found someone who enjoys travel as much as I do and we get along.

Well, I'm ending my posting on Lei at this point. Don't get me wrong, I could write volumes about all that is good and wonderful about Lei but I don't want her to get a big head :-)