Saturday, February 28, 2009

Giza, Egypt and the Pyramids!

Ahh, the pyramids! Seriously, wow! That is all I could say as I admired these huge structures and one of the original Seven Wonders of the World. We have all heard and read about these amazing pyramids, but seeing them in person, well, I was in awe. There really are no words to describe that feeling. A friend, who was in Egypt over Christmas, prepared me for this feeling. She also told me to really try and take it all in. Stare at them for a while and stop and realize where I am and what I was seeing. I did that, and I still could not believe what I was seeing with my own two eyes.

As I mentioned in my previous post, the weather was wacky. It was sunny, then raining, then sunny. It was always FREEZING and the wind was out of control. There was even a sand storm while we were at the Great Pyramid.

There was also a little fun to be had... After leaving Memphis and Sakkara, we stopped for a quick lunch and then on to Giza, a town on the west bank of the Nile river.

There are three pyramids at Giza. The first (and largest pyramid) we saw was The "Great" Pyramid, which is truly an astonishing work of engineering skill and for over 4000 years, until the modern era, it was the tallest building in the world.
The sides are oriented to the four cardinal points of the compass and the length of each side at the base is 755 feet. They rise at an angle of 451 feet. It was constructed using around 2,300,000 limestone blocks, weighing, on average, 2.5 tons each, although some weigh as much as 16 tons. Until recently, relatively speaking, it was cased in smooth limestone but this was plundered to build Cairo.

The Great Pyramid of Giza, also called Khufu's Pyramid or the Pyramid of Khufu, and Pyramid of Cheops, is the oldest and largest of the three pyramids in the Giza Necropolis bordering what is now Cairo, and is the only remaining member of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It is believed the pyramid was built as a tomb for Fourth dynasty Egyptian King Khufu and constructed over a 20 year period concluding around 2560 BC.

Can you believe they built this in just 20 years??? I was amazed! Some of the huge cathedrals in Europe took hundreds of years to build...and only 20 years to build this?! Wow, see why it is a Wonder of the World??!!! That was a fact I had not remembered (I told you I was not interested in history in my younger years) and am ashamed to admit that that I did not realize the pyramids were built as a tomb for the kings of Egypt. What was I doing during those history classes in school??

The pyramid in the background is the second pyramid that I will talk about later. That is me, in shock, and getting blown away!
The Great Pyramid was the tallest man-made structure in the world for over 3,800 years. Originally, the Great Pyramid was covered by casing stones that formed a smooth outer surface, and what is seen today is the underlying core structure. Some of the casing stones that once covered the structure can still be seen around the base. There have been varying scientific and alternative theories regarding the Great Pyramid's construction techniques. Most accepted construction theories are based on the idea that it was built by moving huge stones from a quarry and dragging and lifting them into place.

The stones at the base were HUGE. Yeah, I do not think I will be climbing on these rocks!There are three known chambers inside the Great Pyramid. The lowest chamber is cut into the bedrock upon which the pyramid was built and was unfinished. The so-called Queen's Chamber and King's Chamber are higher up within the pyramid structure.

You can go into the pyramids and into the tombs; however, if you are claustrophobic (which I am), it is not advised. The space is tiny walking in and does not get much bigger once inside the tomb. There really is nothing left inside the tomb as it has either been stolen or taken out and included in the Cairo Museum. So, I opted to stay in safe ground and not venture inside.

This is the Pyramid of Khafre and is the second largest of the Ancient Egyptian Pyramids of Giza and the tomb of the fourth-dynasty pharaoh, Khafre (Chephren). The pyramid has a base length of 706 feet and originally rises to a height of 471 feet. The Pyramid is made of Limestone blocks (weighing more than 2 tons each). The slope of the pyramid rises at an 53° 10' angle, steeper than its neighbor Khufu’s pyramid, which has an angle of 51°50'40". The pyramid sits on bedrock 33 feet higher than Khufu’s pyramid, which makes it appear to be taller.The Pyramid of Menkaure, located on the Giza Plateau, is the smallest of the three Pyramids of Giza. It was built to serve as the tomb of the fourth dynasty Egyptian Pharaoh Menkaure. Menkaure's Pyramid had an original height of 218 feet. It now stands at 204 feet tall with a base of 356.5 feet. Its angle of incline is approximately 51°20′25″. It was constructed of limestone and granite. The first sixteen courses of the exterior were made of granite. The upper portion was cased in the normal manner with Tura limestone. Part of the granite was left in the rough. Incomplete projects like this helps archeologists understand the methods used to build pyramids and temples.

South of the pyramid of Menkaure were 3 satellite pyramids none of which appear to have been completed. The largest was made partly in granite like the main pyramid. Neither of the other 2 progressed beyond the construction of the inner core. The e Pryamids of Giza. What a site! The Great Sphinx of Giza is a statue of a reclining lion with a human head. It is the largest monolith statue in the world, standing 241 feet long, 20 feet wide, and 65 feet high.

The Sphinx was built in about 2530 BC by the pharaoh Khafre (4th king of Fourth dynasty, c. 2575–c. 2465 BC), the builder and occupant of the second Giza pyramid. The sphinx's face is a portrait of the king and the sphinx continued to be a royal portrait type through most of Egyptian history.

The Sphinx is thought to be primarily a guardian figure, protecting the tomb of the Khafre by warding off evil spirits. Arabs know the Sphinx of Giza by the name of Abu al-Hawl, or "Father of Terror." The Sphinx's face was mainly damaged during French occupation around 1800, when Mameluke troops used it for target practice for their field cannons, but its body has been weathered by the elements for thousands of years. The Great Sphinx faces due east and houses a small temple between its paws.
I have so many pictures of the pyramids that I will get posted on my Shutterfly account at some point in the near future, but I hope this gave you a little glimpse into the sites of the day. It was overwhelming, to say the least, to see these amazing structures.

Up next, the city of Cairo!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Memphis, Egypt

I made it to the land of the pharaohs and pyramids! It is so surreal to be here and to see things that are over 5000 years old. We arranged a tour, which started today to see the must-see items while in Cairo.

Our first stop was the Memphis, Egypt. Memphis is the Greek name for the administrative capital of ancient Egypt, which has its historical roots dating back as far as the Early Dynastic Period. The origin of the city’s foundation is credited to the ‘mythical’ first king, Menes, who is said to have united Upper and Lower Egypt for the first time around 3100 BC. Traditionally Menes was thought to have enclosed his city within white mudbrick walls which gave it the ancient name of ‘Inbw-hedj’, meaning ‘White Walls’ or ‘White Fortress’ and it probably once stood on the banks of the Nile before the river bed gradually shifted eastwards. The capital’s name Memphis is thought to derive from the Egyptian ‘Mennefer’, the ancient name of the pyramid complex of Pepy I (Dynasty VI) which is situated close by at South Saqqara.

Memphis is about 12 miles south of Cairo and there is little left of the city today, at least which can be seen. Originally, the city had many fine temples, palaces and gardens. However, today, other than the scattered ruins, most of the city is gone, or lies beneath cultivated fields, Nile silt and local villages.

There are some things to see including:

Alabaster Sphinx: The Alabaster Sphinx was carved in honor of an unknown Pharaoh most likely during the eighteenth dynasty, between 1700 and 1400 BC. Although there was not an inscription, the facial features suggest that it was in honor of Hatshepsut or Amenhotep II or Amenhotep III. (This is not the Sphinx that is more famous...we will get to that later!)Status of Ramesses II (also known as Ramesses The Great): This statue actually visited Memphis, TN back in the 1980s during a huge Egyptian exhibit. I remember when that exhibit was in Memphis and visited it as a student as it was a huge deal at the time. Ramesses II is often regarded as Egypt's greatest, most celebrated, and most powerful pharaoh. Colossus of Ramesses II: This is the twin to the statue above, but MUCH larger standing at 33 feet. It is HUGE. The fallen colossus was found near the south gate of the temple of Ptah, located about 30 miles from the huge limestone statue of Ramesses. Some of the original colors are still partly preserved.The first pyramid that we saw was the Saqqara/Sakkara pyramid. It is the Step Pyramid of King Zoser, which goes back to 2700 BC. It is one of the oldest stone structures in the world! It was built for King Zoser, one of the greatest Kings of the third dynasty (2721-2780 BC). Originally meant as a tomb, this Pyramid was designed and built by his great architect, Imhotep. The Pyramid is built as a step Pyramid, 60 meters high, and consisting of 6 steps; each one built on top of each other and smaller than the one below.

Today, it is considered as one of the oldest stone structures built by man, and the first time the Ancient Egyptians would attempt to use limestone. Zoser’s Pyramid is entirely built of limestone, small bricks of limestone, and not of the best quality, and yet it has remained for more than 4700 years! The Pyramid’s four sides are very nearly aligned to the four cardinal points. On the northern side is the original entrance of the Pyramid.
The weather may look nice in the pictures, but it was very cold and VERY windy (as you will see in later pictures). Can you believe that the desert gets cold? Me either!! I was freezing and the wind was out of control. There was even a sand storm later in the day! I had sand in places sand does not need to be!!

The Tomb of Mereruka: We also visited the Tomb of Mereruka. This is the largest tomb in Sakkara. It consists of 32 rooms and was built for Mereruka and his family and was discovered in 1893. Dating back to the time of the 6th Dynasty (2240 BC), the tomb is divided into sections where Mereruka and his wife and son are buried. The walls of the tomb are decorated with marvellous scenes, illustrating the daily life in Ancient Egypt. It is also filled with many details of Mereruka, with his family and servants.

No pictures were allowed inside so I was only able to capture a couple outside the tomb.
As with this post and further posts, I will not be able to get into the history of this region and the things that I am seeing as much as I would like to. There is just too much to tell. I was never interested in history growing up; however, living in Europe and visiting so many historical places and actually seeing history has made it more interesting to me.

Up next, more pyramids!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Monday, February 23, 2009

Johannesburg, South Africa

I made it to the continent of Africa! I am not sure why that seems so weird to me, but it really does. I cannot believe that I am here. I have now visited 4 of the 7 continents.

We arrived on Sunday morning around 9AM local time. The flight was uneventful, and thanks to Ambien, I slept the entire flight! Seriously, all 10 hours, I was out (ok, maybe not all 10...but at least 8)! We flew on a double-decker plane...that was a first for me! So, with all of that sleep and only 1 hour time change, I was rested and ready to go!

We are staying at the Hilton in Jo-Burg (as the locals call it) so it is quite Americanized (is that how you spell that!?!). I wanted to do something since this was my only day to explore. I did not have time to do any type of tour since I only had the afternoon and the things to see were quite a distance away; however, I did hear there was a nice market to pick-up some South African items! I opted to take a car and driver from the hotel since I was alone and wanted to go the safest way as crime in Africa can be quite bad.

The driver's name was Saki (that is his nickname...don't ask me to remember his real name because there was a reason he had a nickname!). He was the nicest guy! He drove me to the market and even walked around with me since I was alone....and carried my bags! Nice!

Here is my friend, Saki!I found a few very nice South African items at this market! A few things such as handpainted pillowcases, napkins, table runners, etc., which were gorgeous!!! I could not pass them up! I also bought some wood carved bowls as well as these really cool wood carved salad tongs with a giraffe on the end of them..all traditional South African treasures!! They are so cute!!

This is me in the market! Saki demanded he take my picture holding something, I did not buy this...and after seeing this picture, I cannot believe I went out in public looking this bad. Jeezzzz, 10 hours on a plane can do a number on you! Wow!
I can already tell that I will have to come back to South Africa! Although I have not been out and about much, I have been really impressed with the people! There is so much to do in South Africa that I am missing out on and it is really bugging me.

This is where I am:Here are a few things about Jo-Burg:

  • The currency is the Rand (or called ZAR). The initials for South Africa are ZA, so South African Rand.
  • Everyone speaks English and there are about 11 different languages. My driver yesterday spoke all of them.
  • Cape Town is the place to see in South Africa....I am sad I am not there.
  • Africa is known for the Big Five...Africa's greatest wild animals - lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino. Oh how I wish I had time for a safari!
  • Johannesburg is the largest city in South Africa.
  • The seasons are reversed, so they are preparing for winter to come soon.
  • South Africans drive on the 'wrong' side of the road.
I have to take the good with the bad and not get too sad about this trip being all work and no play. The real fun happens in Cairo starting on Thursday!

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Adventure Continues

I have been so wrapped up in packing, organizing, obsessing over my new house, etc. lately that I have not planned for my next adventure.

I leave tomorrow evening flying to Johannesburg, South Africa. This is a work trip with very little playtime, especially in South Africa. We land Sunday morning around 10AM. I have that afternoon to (maybe) see something. Then, it is all work until Wednesday night when we fly to Cairo, Egypt. See, my job is not very glamorous!

We land in Cairo Thursday morning where we will then go to the office for a couple of hours. After that, the weekend begins as Egypt's weekend is on Friday and Saturday. We have a tour scheduled to take us to all the sites around Cairo, including the Memphis region! I am really excited about that, for obvious reasons. I already see a framed picture of the Pyramid in Memphis, TN along side the pyramids in the region of Memphis.

I am in Cairo until the next Tuesday, March 3rd! See, I told you...a very quick (all business) trip!!

So, please say a prayer for me as you all know my fear of flying...and I will be doing a lot of it over the next few weeks! The flight to Johannesburg is 10+ hours, then another 8 hours to Cairo, then around 5 hours back to Brussels (via Frankfurt, Germany). Not to mention the 10+ hours to Memphis on March 14th! Whew! I am glad for frequent flyer miles!!!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

La Cuisine

I am starting to run out of titles for posting new pictures of my house! I guess I can get all Frenchy and start using some of this language I have learned!

So, as you can see below, the kitchen cabinets are installed!!! I am in love! They turned out really great as I was second guessing every decision I made! What do you think??

Also, as you can see above, the columns have been installed, the front door is in (although not stained) and shutters are there! We are moving along, people! I am ready to see it with my own eyes!!!!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A little tease!

Built-in bookcases are in as well as the mantel! They just need to paint them!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Patio Excitement!

I know it may seem like I am a bit obsessed with my house right now...and you are probably right, but it is my blog, right?!?! :-)

Sometimes I think I am looking at someone else's house being built and have to pinch myself to realize it is my house!!! MY HOUSE! I am only a little excited!

The house is all bricked and they are finishing the inside and getting it ready to be painted. The front porch has been painted and they are working on finishing it up!
This is probably my latest excitement! I had the patio extended 12 feet so I would have lots of entertaining space. I seriously thought it was going to be an "L" shape but was pleasantly surprised when I saw this...they are filling it all in. Now that I think about it, I would have been a little stupid to make it an "L" shape and not fill it all in!!
And Maxie still approves!!!! She is so excited!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Photo Friday: Pet

I have not posted a Photo Friday picture in a while, but when I got the email this morning and saw the topic was 'pet', well, I could not resist! Maxie is in Memphis with my parents and getting spoiled and loved on like crazy.

But, that does not mean I do not miss her...because, I miss her like crazy. Since Maxie does not get any human food, but she does get a little treat from her Grandpaw every night....the final bite of his popsicle (sugar free, of course).

Wait for it, wait for it....
Could her tongue get any longer?
Daddy loves giving her this little treat...and Maxie knows she gets it. She waits patiently until it is time for the last bite....then she gets a little restless waiting on Daddy to offer it to her! Mom said she RUNS to Daddy when she hears him open the freezer! So funny!
I cannot wait to get home to see her!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Making the Decision

Today marks a countdown that in many ways I am very excited about; however, it also brings me great sadness. 30 days from today, I will be boarding a plane to Memphis, ending my expatriate assignment in Europe. It is a bittersweet time as I start to pack up and leave an experience, which I will NEVER forget to start a new chapter in this book, I call, life.

What an amazing ride it as been. I remember when I first moved over here mom and I were talking and we both said...23 months left! Oh, how that seems like yesterday!

I wanted to repost something I wrote on December 17, 2006 titled, "Making the Decision".
One might think that if presented with an opportunity to live and work in Europe for 2 years there is nothing to think about...the obvious answer is yes! Well, not so fast! For me, there is so much to think about, consider, decide, and can become consuming.

Here is some background as to how this all came to be:

As part of a big reorganization in my department, we are expanding and opening audit offices in Brussels and Hong Kong. When this reorg was first announced, I never really considered one of the positions overseas. It wasn't until one Saturday in June when it hit me like a lightning bolt....I need to give this some serious thought. I have always said God talks to me in the shower...well, this day, He seriously did. I literally jumped out of the shower, emailed my manager and emailed a friend that is currently living in Brussels. I thought that if I did not tell someone immediately I was interested in learning more about this opportunity then I would never follow through.

From that moment on all I could think about was Brussels...what it meant to me personally, professionally, what about my parents, my sister, other family, friends, and, of course, my precious Maxie (my spoiled rotten dog).

Lindsay, my friend currently living in Brussels with her husband who is doing a 2 year assignment with KPMG, called me immediately when she got my email. She told me the good, the bad, and the ugly about her time in Brussels so far. Although her experience is very different from what mine would be (she is not working), the immediate culture shock and emotions of missing family and friends is the same.

The many months from when the position was announced to when it was actually posted and we could apply for it was planned. And now, after having gone through the past 6 months or so of thinking about this opportunity, I am very grateful for that time. There is so much to consider before committing to something like this (more than I first realized). I am very very very lucky to have Lindsay already in Brussels and can share her experiences and be there to answer the unlimited questions I have asked. She has no idea exactly how appreciative I am of her friendship and honest information.

One of the first conversations I had was with my parents. I had to break the news of the possibility of moving to another country gently. Mom was receptive, Dad...well, let's just say he is struggling...still. As part of my thought process, I had to think about their health and the unthinkable...the possibility of something happening to one of them or to my sister while I am not here and my Grandmother and my many aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. I am blessed that my parents, sister, Grandmother, and the rest of my family and friends are in good health. I had to think about what I would do in the event that something did happen. I am blessed to work for a company, which would move Heaven and Earth to get me home in the event I needed to get back immediately.

I also had to consider if this was the right time for me personally and if I was in a place in my life where I could do this and not have any regrets. Maybe this is the reason God has allowed me to be single all of these years. There is a reason for everything, right? After months of really thinking about ALL of this...the answer was yes, I was going to apply for an opportunity of a lifetime.

So, I applied, interviewed, and recently accepted a position in Brussels. They are telling me we will be moving in the March/April time only a few months to get my stuff together and start a new chapter in my life.

Now, the details begin...sell or rent my house, sell my car, what to take and what to leave in storage, obtaining a work permit and all the MANY documents required with such a move, getting Maxie ready with the required documents, shots, the proper Euro microchip, and her doggie passport (yes, I know, who knew??), and MUCH MUCH more. The list is never-ending!

Whew, I am tired just thinking about it! So, I am off...

Until next time...


By the way, my adventures are not over! I leave for South Africa and Egypt next Saturday!!!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Mi casa!

One of my BFFs, Ginnie, got on to me today about not posting any recent pics showing the progress of my house. Ginnie is pregnant with what is sure to be the most beautiful baby girl and is due at the end of March. So, I must do what I can to keep her and her hormones happy. (I love you, Ginnie!!) I also told her she better not have that baby until I get home! By the way, she promised me she would do all she could to wait on me!

Anyway, here is my house! Actually, this picture is a little old (it was taken on February 6th) and they now have the whole house bricked!!! Can you believe it?? I sure can't! And, check out that 'sold' sign! Love it! The have also sheetrocked the entire house and floated it, as well. (For those of you who do not know what 'floating' means....they have smoothed out the sheetrock covering the nails, gaps, etc. so it is ready to be painted.) My Daddy had to clear that up for me! Again, this pic was taken on February 6th...and the whole house is now floated and ready to be primed and painted. WOW! How about those arches and half wall!?! I LOVE how it turned out! It will really open up the space between the great room and dining room!
And, the bricking as it was beginning!
My agent took pictures yesterday, so I should receive them soon! I cannot wait to see what the house looks like all bricked!

Who will be my first visitors???

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Up in Smoke

My team gave me a spa gift certificate to use at Thermae Grimbergen for my birthday last October and I was waiting to use it until I was getting close to leaving Belgium. I wanted to use it as a little treat for myself for surviving these past 2 years. My friend, Beth, also received a spa gift certificate from her team for Christmas so we were planning our little outting next weekend.

Needless to say, we will not be getting massages, mani/pedi's and lounging in the thermal baths next weekend.
Need I say more??

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Montage de Fleurs

This past Monday, I went with my friend (and co-worker), Laurence, and her mom to a flower arrangement class. The theme for the class was to present a gift which was to be included in the arrangement. Sounds interesting enough, right!?!

I picked out a vase which was not too big, yet big enough to hold my little bottle of wine I was using as my "gift". Laurence warned me not to being a big vase because that makes flower arranging a little difficult for first-timers, like myself!

Before I continue on with this story, I will say I am not creative AT ALL. Seriously, no creativity in this brain. I majored in Accounting, for goodness sake, and I am an auditor. That should say enough!

So, this is what I started vase, wine, and a knife to cut my flowers.
There were 11 people (all Belgian, except for me) in the class. Did I mention that the class was all in French?? Well, it was! Thanks goodness for Laurence who was my translator!! Anyway, we were all given a bucket of flowers to use for our arrangement.The next step was to put the soaked "mousse" into the vase. Yes, they called the green stuff that you put in the bottom of a vase to stick your flowers into, "mousse". I seriously have no idea what we call it in America (I am not crafty, remember), but I got a good laugh out of calling it "mousse", especially since we are in Belgium...home of chocolate!!

Anyway, the mousse was placed in my vase and cut to fit. I then put in the bottle of wine. Good job, Tippa!

Then, I sat there. And sat there. And sat there some more as I stared at my bottle of wine, mousse, and vase. I had no idea what to do next. I had no clue what I wanted to do....what flowers to choose...nothing. So, I sat. And laughed. And sat.

I thought about wrapping flowers around the bottle, so I tried that with some wire that was really tacky. See it below...tacky and not working!So I decided to leave it and work on something else. I thought the 3 yellow roses looked cute together. I have always heard of decorating in odd numbers. So, I started there. And, I just kept going with the little flowers in the back (don't make me name them!).At this point, I needed some professional help! So, in my southern French accent, I called over the teacher! He thought I was on the right track (yay me!), but saw why i did not like the flowers and wire twisted around the bottle. He recommended a stick! Not just any ole stick, a cool stick!
Ahhh, that helped! Then I added some leaves to cover the mousse!
Now comes more color with these little red berries (or berry-like flowers)! Check out the rolled up leaf look! Love it!
They say that you can spray something on the leaves to make them I did, just a little too much! So, sometimes, a girl just has to blow!
My creation!! What do you think?
I was so proud of myself for being a good student and blending in with all of the locals. Everyone knew I was obviously not from Belgium, but I tried really hard not to be the 'stupid American' and have everyone going home talking about me.

It all was going great, until...

We were leaving the class after it was over. I picked up my arrangement and the bottle of wine drops out and splatters on the floor!

This is what made it home...
Nice, Tippa, nice.