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Archive for November, 2012

There are many reasons why people stop writing posts for their blogs. I am writing this post to assure my faithful few that I am not going to stop writing…barring death of course.

However, I do find the need to currently take a brief hiatus from writing. My only excuse is that I do not currently feel up to exercising the gray matter to any great extent.

People with disabilities will understand this post more than anyone else probably. Saturday night I got a fun ambulance ride to the ER. I had a fever, severe spasms in my back and lower ribs and felt like I had been hit by a cement truck. I only spent three hours in the ER which I think is pretty good if you knew my track record.

I was diagnosed with a bad UTI (Urinary Tract Infection), given some pain meds and a script for an antibiotic, and sent home.

This morning the ER called me to tell me that my culture came back immune to just about every type of antibiotic – I could have told them that. Anyway…they want me now to go into the hospital for a week to 10 days to get “fixed” up with a strong IV antibiotic because that is the only way to get rid of it. Of course they all talk in words that have at least 14 letters per word so I just politely nod and smile.

I am currently overdosing on Motrin, Cipro and Valium here at home (Wendy keeps giving me strange looks). I am planning on going in to the hospital but not before next week. I have a big book signing this Friday that I cannot miss. Always looks pretty bad to have a book signing without the author doing the signing…don’t you think?

This of course is not that big of a deal for SCI people since it is just one of the little “perks” in life that go along with using a Catheter. So hopefully after all of this is done I will be back to the “as normal as I get” of my abnormal. As the saying goes – “I’m in pretty good shape for the shape I’m in.” Did that make sense?  I hope so.

Enjoy the early Christmas season festivities and wish me luck!

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Out of commission

Sorry for no post today…out of commission for a while…will be back at it soon.

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As we left Egypt and headed for Israel, all of us were eager to arrive, even though the news of Hamas militants firing rockets into southern Israel was being watched on the news. Our port of call, Ashdod, is just north of Gaza, so the cruise line and our tour group were paying close attention to everything concerning safety. Everyone was assured we would be secure, and having been to Israel before, I was eager to return to see our friends, beauty and history once again. The purpose of my blog posts is to discuss disability issues and to encourage disabled people to get out and live life. However, because of what is happening in Israel right now as I am typing this (Hamas militant terrorists set off a bus explosion in Tel Aviv) I am going on a brief rabbit trail to express my personal opinion against terrorism and support for Israel. For those of you who know me, I am a Christian, and I firmly believe that Israel as a nation has the right to exist and protect itself.

And now on to Ashdod. When we docked in port, we were met by our guide and driver like always. We drove to Old Joppa, toured the city for a bit, and then met the rest of our group for a wonderful outdoor lunch. The many and varied foods were delicious, but I think one of my favorites is always the warm pita bread and hummus. One thing to mention about rolling around in a wheelchair at the ancients sites – go slow. Most places are ramped or level but are not what I would call smooth. Cobble stones that are 2000 years old tend to be a little on the bumpy side. But taking things slow and easy make it very doable. And let me add here that other people in our group were eager to assist me wherever they could. So anytime something looked like it might prove difficult to maneuver, I had a friend helping me before I could even ask. If I worried about always being on flat smooth surfaces, I would never leave home! And who wants to live a life like that?

After lunch we drove to Caesarea. We visited the ancient portion of the city that has been excavated and is filled with many artifacts. Caesarea was built by Herod the Great as a port city about 22 – 10 BC. Herod the Great built this man-made harbor out of jealousy over the natural harbors in Egypt. He wanted something to rival other sea ports and give him excellent connections to all parts of the Mediterranean world. We saw ancient ruins of the port, public buildings, a theater, an amphitheater, hippodrome, two aqueducts, a colonnaded street and a temple dedicated to Caesar. The theater here seats about 4,000 people and is the first thing you see when entering the archaeological park. Looking out to sea, the hippodrome is on the right. It was fun to look at it and imagine chariot races like most of us are familiar with in Ben Hur.  The disciple Peter preached here and this is where the apostle Paul was in prison for two years.

When we left Caesarea we drove to the Moshav (village) Yad Hashmona. It is located in the Judean Hills just a few miles west of Jerusalem. The scenery here is beautiful and even has a view of the Mediterranean coastline. Here we were taken on a tour through the Biblical Gardens. This was like stepping back into biblical times and seeing many aspects of that life including an open air synagogue, watch tower, olive press, grape press, threshing floor, burial cave, a Mikveh (ritual bath) and many varieties of fruit trees and beautiful flowers. Here Wendy and I also got to reunite with some very dear friends from our last visit to Israel.

When we left here we drove back to the docks for a late dinner aboard our ship. After a long day of touring we were eager to get to bed. Jerusalem was our destination in the morning.

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I am quite certain that all of you have been invited over to a friend’s home for a “fun-filled” evening of listening to endless stories about their family vacation. Garnished with numerous pictures of places that you care very little about, and stories that make you wish your hearing was anything but perfect, you stifle your yawns and pretend to be interested. I must admit that I am feeling like that boring host. Being somewhere in person, seeing the sites, smelling the new smells and tasting the new foods is a wonderful thing – relaying those feelings of awe to others is a totally different thing.

But…a friend of mine, a very famous author in her own right, wrote something once to all aspiring authors: Be prepared to be lonely…the world is not waiting with baited breath to read anything that you have written.

For me, writing is a release. I way of expressing myself in a world that often times I am the only inhabitant. So as I continue telling you about my journey, I hope that you see and feel a touch of the wonder and fascination that I saw and experienced. So continue to join me on my journey as we visit Alexandria, Egypt.

Wendy and I started our morning early on deck five with a steaming hot cup of coffee and a wonderful blueberry muffin. When the gangway was let down, we were eager to get started on our last day in Egypt. Today’s itinerary included Egypt’s Ancient Lighthouse, Library, and King Farouk’s palace. We met our guide and bus driver at 7:00 AM and started off for our tour around Alexandria.

Alexandria was founded by Alexander the Great in 331 BC and is the second largest city in Egypt. After the death of Alexander the Great, his general, Ptolemy I, became the ruler of Egypt and continued Alexander the Greats’ dream by creating two significant harbors. This is the location of one of the great wonders of the ancient world, the Egyptian Lighthouse, unfortunately destroyed by an earthquake. Stone blocks from the lighthouse have been used over the years in construction of other buildings, very similar to what we saw of ancient sites in Italy.

We also saw the area where the ancient city of Herakleion (named for Hercules) is located. Also destroyed by an earthquake and sunk into the sea. If I understand correctly, there are some tentative plans to turn the ancient harbor into a museum of sorts which would be fascinating to see. We enjoyed the sea here watching fishermen fish in the ancient harbor, as some very content cats patiently waited nearby for their share of the daily catch.

Another place we visited was the old palace of King Farouk, whose reign was ended with the revolution of 1952. The buildings and grounds were magnificent as we drove slowly through the winding roads. Controlled now by the Egyptian army, permission is granted for visits and the palace is sometimes used as a hotel for foreign dignitaries.

Our guide got me out of the van and pushed me around the grounds so that Wendy and I could get a better feel of the beauty. It certainly was a place of beauty but also filled with many interesting stories. We learned there was a nearby palace for King Farouk’s wife. The purpose for this was so the king could entertain “ladies” as he chose. Times and seasons may change, but man’s heart certainly does not.

The Egyptian Library was incredible. Completely designed to capture natural light and have perfect acoustics, the building is an architectural design of beauty. The university is across the street and the students have access to millions of pieces of literature and artifacts that are now digitally available. The Library is constantly adding more to its database and is available for the world to use at no cost. Their web site is www.bibalex.org I hope that you take advantage of this and do some exploring of the ancient world via the web. It will be almost like you are there.

After leaving the library we headed back to the ship for a late lunch. We pulled away from the docks at 7:00 PM. Wendy and I were on our balcony as we saw Egypt disappear into the distance. We sailed back out into the Mediterranean for our next port of call at Ashdod, Israel.

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After we left the Great Pyramids of Giza we drove across the Nile into the heart of Cairo. Since I already told you about the traffic, I won’t bring it all up again, but I am so thankful for our wonderful bus driver and his ability that got us safely to the Egyptian Museum.

The current museum is only large enough to display about 1/3 of its total antiquities collection. We saw the location and construction in process for a new museum that will be large enough to display everything. It is hoped that it will be completed in three years.

Of course the most celebrated collection in the museum is the artifacts of King Tutankhamun. The amount of gold in the collection was astounding. His coffin alone was made of solid gold and weighs 243 lbs. There were thousands of statues, busts, sarcophagi and other artifacts throughout the entire museum. We also saw Canopic jars that the internal organs were removed and placed into during the mummification process. Pictures were not allowed inside of the museum, so I have attached some from other sites so you can get a sense of what the place was like.

The museum for the most part was completely accessible. The one thing that was not accessible was the restroom. And of course, just my luck, the clock told me it was time that I use a restroom. This was a definite experience. I’m not sure why, but in the design of the building, the restroom was located between the first and second floor. The elevator did not make a stop on the restroom mezzanine. So in order to get to the restroom a person had to hike up a very large stairway from the first floor, or hike down a very large stairway from the second floor. And I might add that the stairs are not carpeted but are made from fairly slick marble. Looking at this situation, I was more than willing to look elsewhere for a restroom. But my guide was determined. So from the second floor he grabbed a museum worker and they lifted my wheelchair down the very long slippery stairway to the restroom. Wendy just walked beside of us ready to make a grab for me if anyone slipped. And of course once I got to the restroom, it was not wheelchair accessible! But I have learned to make do and this was no exception. Then they lifted me again to carry me down to the ground floor. I could tell from the face of the poor museum worker that this was a first for him. Lol

After leaving the museum my guide lifted me into our van and off we headed back to the ship in Alexandria. I enjoyed the drive and scenery and asked many questions of things I saw along the way. We also had an interesting experience of needing to get some diesel fuel. Evidently diesel is difficult to come by at the moment and even though I could not understand anything of the exchange between the throngs of people at the pumps, I gathered that the price is not set, but is rather bartered for in very heated exchange. But our guide got us right to the front of the lines, we got the diesel, and continued on our way to Alexandria.

So many wonderful and amazing memories of everything we saw in Cairo. Truly a land of wonders.

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We awoke this morning with the lights of Alexandria, Egypt coming into view. Wendy and I went to breakfast early so we could be back on our balcony and watch the ship dock at 7:00 AM. The tugs and pilot boats were effectively doing their jobs as we neared the mammoth boat docks.

Our first view of Egypt was a mixture of the ancient with the modern. With a couple of quick pictures taken, we went to meet our group, ready to exit as soon as the gangways were put out. For anyone in a wheelchair, exiting and entering the ship was fairly simple with lots of assistance. Wendy and I were ushered to the front of the line, checked off the ship, and then helped over the gangway.

We were no sooner on the docks than we were greeted by EO representatives acting like we were long lost friends. Once again, EO had every detail worked out to perfection. The people knew our names, welcomed us to Egypt, and ushered us to our private touring van. Our van here was an ordinary van with the sliding side doors, but no lift. I thought this would become a nuisance transferring in and out of all day, until I met our guide and bus driver. They were both good sized guys, and after looking the situation over carefully, they just picked me up out of my wheelchair and placed me in my seat!  Lol I assure you that is no light task. I’m not huge, but I still weigh in at 180 lbs. But EO chose well, and over the next two days they lifted me in and out of the van several times a day with no apparent effort on their part. At times, just one of them would lift me. Wendy and I laughed about how up close and personal we got to know each other!

We left the docks, drove through Alexandria, and headed for Giza/Cairo about an hour away. I guess now would be a good a time as any to mention what driving in Egypt was like. I have been to about 20 countries, and even driven in some of them, but I would never even attempt to drive in Egypt. I read recently about someone’s trip to another country, and he said “that at best, driving laws were merely a suggestion.” In Egypt, I don’t think there was even anything to suggest. The population of Cairo and surrounding suburbs is about 23 million people. I do believe that all 23 million have a car and they are all on the road at the same time! From our perspective, the only rule of thumb was survival. Mere fractions of an inch between vehicles at all times, Smart cars, huge touring busses, mopeds, people running between cars to cross the road and the constant sound of blowing horns all made for an adventure of sheer terror mixed with the thrill of defying death. Wendy did her best to suppress her screams, but an occasional yelp would slip out every now and then. Our driver and guide acted like it was no big deal and pressed on. The driver would weave in and out of seemingly impossible situations, while our guide would point out things of interest along the way in the most nonchalant manner. Truly an experience that you must add to your bucket list!

Our first glimpse of the Great Pyramids of Giza made it all worth it. One of the seven wonders of the ancient world and we could definitely understand why. Their purpose, a giant tombstone, was not outstanding, but the architecture behind them was incredible. Just imagining moving the huge blocks of stone to build them was mind boggling. The Great Pyramid of Giza is the oldest of the seven wonders and remains largely intact. It is believed it took between 10 and 20 years to construct around 2560 BC. It stands approximately 454 feet high, covers over 13 acres, with over 2 ½ million blocks of limestone weighing anywhere between two and seventy tons, and was the tallest man-made structure in the world for over 3,800 years. Surrounded by two smaller pyramids, they make for a very imposing skyline. Then add in the nearby Great Sphinx, and it truly is something to see and remember. The great Sphinx guarding everything brought all of the movies about ancient Egypt to life.

We met the rest of our group here and took many pictures. Surrounded by very eager locals to sell gifts to tourists was a challenge, but my guide watched over me like a hawk so I just got to enjoy the sites without the least amount of hassle.

Driving from Giza into Cairo we crossed over the Nile River – the longest river in the world at 4,130 miles long. It flows through 10 countries and it was a wonder to see it and remember all of the history surrounding it. I could just imagine Cleopatra, “Queen of the Nile,” sailing here.

I hope you enjoy the pictures, and in my next post we will go to the Egypt Museum and the King Tut treasures.

 

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We sailed from Civitavecchia, Italy on a beautiful evening. Wendy and I were on our balcony watching the city lights disappear into the night. The only sound was our ship slicing through the water, the light tropical smell of the ocean breeze blowing over us and a beautiful moon above us – one of those perfect moments in life.

We were on our way to Alexandria, Egypt which would take two days of sea travel. We were looking forward to life on the ship and exploring the many activities available. Sleep that night came quickly, and when I woke up in the early dawn, the view I saw from our room was beautiful. We were sailing along the northern coast of Sicily through the Aeolian Islands, and front and center was the still active volcano of Stromboli. Now that was a view worth waking up for! Even though Stromboli is one of the most active volcanoes on the planet, there is still a town of about 500 people that live along its coast.

We were not far now from sailing through the Strait of Messina. This is a narrow channel between the eastern tip of Sicily and the southern tip of Italy. It connects the Tyrrhenian Sea with the Ionian Sea and is about two miles wide at its most narrow point. So from the open Deck 12, we had amazing views of both Sicily and Italy.

Today was Sunday and our group had the privilege of hearing Dr. Bob Jones and Dr. Craig Hartman preach. All of us were eager and excited to see the many places that we were now going to visit. Our mode of travel was certainly much different than 2000 years ago for the Apostle Paul. I must admit that I appreciated ours!

After sailing through the Strait of Messina we headed for open sea – just sky and water until we would reach Alexandria, Egypt. Wendy and I started our days early, 5:00 AM, by going to the mall on deck five. Here we would sit in one of the cafes and enjoy a hot cup of coffee and sometimes indulge in one of their many pastry choices. Then we would head back to our room to get ready for the day. The breakfast buffet opened at 6:00 AM every morning and we would show up around 7:00 AM to explore the hundreds of breakfast items available. I won’t bore you with the details, but let’s just say that we did not leave hungry. One of our favorites was the amount and variety of fresh fruit available. I love pineapple and it was some of the best. And the fresh squeezed orange juice was perfect. I believe that breakfast foods from every country were available and it was fun to try the many different ones from around the world. I may not have this number exactly right (poor memory at my age), but I think the captain said that 62 countries were represented in the staff. It was a really unique experience to sit and hear the many languages being spoken around us. I of course would talk with anyone who would listen, so we have many new friends now from around planet earth.

The mall opened at 10:00 AM and it was great fun to visit the different stores, shops and sidewalk sales. We also saw an Ice Capades show, used the outdoor track and enjoyed the sunshine, coffee shops, ice cream stations and so much more. Then we had the difficult task of deciding where we wanted to eat lunch. The Windjammer Buffet was always a viable option, or one of the many restaurants on board, or we could go to the dining room. So many choices, so little time! Since we did not want to slight anyone, over the course of the cruise, we tried them all! And then our evening meals were a wonderful delight. The main dining room was spectacular and the service was impeccable. We left feeling like we were the best of friends with our waiters/waitresses and that we were their only customers to wait on.

We went to bed Sunday night with the moon shining brightly all prepared to wake up in Alexandria, Egypt.

 

 

Remember to check out Amazon, CBD or your local bookstore to get a copy of my book Better to Be Broken.

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