Back from the wilds

It has been far too long since I last posted and no doubt my readers are wondering if this blog is dead. Good news, it isn’t! It’s just been a tad out of commission as I’ve been quite the traveler lately. But, never fear, a recounting of those travels is soon to come. More photos and tales of England, photos from the trip to California and photos, like the one above, of a visit from a friend (and her husband) who has been a friend for a very long time. Also to come is an update on the garden and other news.

I’m working on those blog posts now (they’re long, so they’re taking a lot of time), so please enjoy the above photo of the ever-photogenic Livingston Range in the North Fork of the Flathead snapped last week.

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Cheers from England!

Hello friends! Again I find myself apologizing for a lack of posts over the past few weeks. This time my excuse is getting ready for and now taking a trip to the UK with my dad and sister. We’ve been prepping for the trip for a few weeks and even though it included a very tense week of wondering whether or not my new passport would make it back to me (I had to get a new one since I changed my name when I got married), we’re here in England now!

We’re staying in Fitzrovia, a swanky part of London near the Euston Underground station.

Though I got a little sleep on the plane ride over, I’m pretty tuckered out from a long day of travel yesterday. A good night’s sleep will do me good, though, and I’ll have this jet lag easily licked.

So what’s on our agenda? We’ve all been to London before, that won’t stop us from exploring! We’re planning to hit up a few museums (British Museum, Victoria and Albert, perhaps the Portrait Gallery), visit the Tower of London, gorge ourselves on delicious Indian food at every possible avenue, do lots of walking and wandering and visit Charlton Musgrove in Somerset, the town where my family hails from (well, where my family hailed from in 1635 … we’ve been in the U.S. since then … I’m something like a 12th-generation American!)

Anywho, I’m going to wrap this up because I’ve got to get up and get moving or I’m going to fall asleep and that would wreck the lick-my-jet-lag plan (it’s important to sleep on the plane going east, then stay up all day and get to bed early, around 9 p.m. or so). Here’s the one photo I’ve taken so far:

More photos to follow soon!

Good luck, Cairo

Wrote this column for the Hungry Horse News this week. I’m reading the news about Egypt obsessively and I’m elated that the Obama administration has withdrawn support for Hosni Mubarak. I just hope Egypt can maintain its excitement for democracy and elect someone who will help them get there.

Watching the protests in Egypt over the past week has been a unique experience for me. Why? Because I lived there.

I spent the summer of 2007 living on Zamalek, the island in the middle of the Nile in Cairo where the majority of the embassies are (the American embassy is not). I was there on a Fulbright trip learning about what it means to be a foreign correspondent.

While there, the group I was with — other young journalists — met with a number of different people, ranging from journalists to political leaders. Including a man jailed because in the election several years before he’d had the audacity to win a mere 11 percent of the vote.

In our free time, we roamed the city, learning about Egyptian culture and digging up stories. We smoked hookah in crowded restaurants. We ate falafel and street food. We got sick, we got better. We took terrifying taxi rides in cabs driven by manic, chain-smoking drivers. We went to the mall, to the museums, to mosques, to churches. We took sunset falucca rides on the Nile. We sat on bridges over the river with thousands of other people on Friday and Saturday nights, enjoying the cool breeze in the sickening heat.

Feluccas on the Nile at sunset.

We took Arabic classes several days a week. We stood in the sweltering visa-issuing office for hours, waiting to renew our visas, pitying the women in their heavy, dark clothes and veils, and thankful for our T-shirts and shorts. We listened to the call to prayer rise above the city like smoke five times a day, echoing off the concrete.

We made friends with other foreigners we met in “foreigners only” bars. The bars and liquor stores restrict their clientele to non-Egyptians. Even the Egyptian Christians — Copts — are not allowed to even procure wine for religious ceremonies.

We made friends with well-educated Egyptians who spoke English and often worked as our “fixers,” the people who translate and procure tickets and a myriad of other tasks.

We visited Alexandria and toured the famous library there. We went to Luxor and visited the Valley of the Kings. We learned about the slaves that built the temples and the pyramids (we visited those too). We went to the Red Sea and snorkeled the turquoise waters. We stared across the Bay of Aqaba toward the brown smudge of Saudi Arabia. We spent a night around a fire in the desert with the Beduin, sipping strong, sweet tea and jabbering back and forth in our respective languages, not caring we couldn’t understand what the other was saying.

Sunrise from Mount Sinai (where Moses received the Ten Commandments).

It was a fascinating trip both from the eyes of a tourist and from the eyes of a journalist. I wrote articles about the election process (very corrupt) and articles about the Zabaleen, the trash collectors. I wrote about non-governmental organizations providing education opportunities to some of Cairo’s poorest residents.

So now, nearly four years later, reading about the Egyptian protests is a strange experience. Journalists whose bylines I recognize, and with whom I sat on a beach and drank cheap Greek beer, are covering the protests. One was recently interviewed on ABC. Of them, I’m jealous. They’re living the foreign correspondent dream. They’re in the action. And all journalists are action junkies.

And I scan Facebook daily, checking the status updates of my few Egyptian friends. One is a wife and mother. The other is a journalist for an English-language newspaper. I want to make sure they’re OK as the protests turn violent.

Here in the safety of my cush American newspaper office, I’m voicing my opinion. President Hosni Mubarak is a man who has no interest in democracy (he’s been in office for 30 years and there’s fears he plans to pass the “presidency” onto his son). Egyptians loathe and fear Mubarak. I know because many told me themselves. President Barack Obama said in his state of the union address that the U.S. supports democracies globally and now is the chance for the administration to back up its claims. Obama has urged Mubarak not to seek reelection this fall, effectively withdrawing American support for his regime. Now America needs to make sure it backs a person interested in practicing true democracy.

Inside the Alabaster Mosque (of Mohammed Ali).

It is vitally important that Egypt remain a democratic nation. Egypt is America’s foothold in the Middle East, our somewhat moderate partner at an otherwise hostile table. It’s vitally important that the U.S. continue to send aid to Egypt, to foster Western programs.

The Saudis are infiltrating the country, radicalizing it. Twenty years ago, very few women wore the veil. Now burkas are common (if a woman doesn’t at least cover her hair, she’s considered a slut). And though we journalists joked about the BMOs — black moving objects — it’s vitally important the U.S. maintains a presence in Egypt to protect women’s rights there and in the region. The U.S. should not back the Muslim Brotherhood, which would see the spread of draconian Sharia law.

Looking at pictures of the protests in Tahrir Square, my heart goes out to Egypt, to its people. They want freedom, the same rights that you and I enjoy daily. The right to read newspapers that aren’t mouthpieces of the government. The right to vote without fear of retribution because they made the “wrong” choice. Looking at pictures of those familiar places filled with protestors and smoke, I can close my eyes and I’m back, watching the sun set orange over the Nile. Good luck, Cairo. I hope you succeed.

Peace out, 2010

OK, so 2010 roundups are all the rage and I wouldn’t want to miss out! The ever lovely Tiff posted on her blog her favorite things from the past year, so here’s my favorite memories from 2010:

• Making a name for myself in the community I live in as a fair, impartial journalist. I’ve also made some great friends with community members this year!
• Visits from various friends and family. We had a great summer with tons of visitors (we’re hoping even more people come visit us in 2011 *hint hint*). We spent a great week with Shawn’s folks camping in Two Medicine and exploring the east side of Glacier National Park, where neither Shawn nor I had ever been. It was a great hiking summer, period. We went camping with Michelle, hung out with my mom and sister and saw Shawn’s cousins.
• Parties with our Montana buddies. Hubs and I have a great time with our Flathead County friends. Jasmine and Nate sure know how to throw parties, Tiff makes unbelievable cupcakes, Kristi always has wry, funny observations, Dillon is always good for a laugh (and if he’s not careful, a spilled drink!), Sydney is the most cheerful person I know (I need some lessons, Lil’ Miss Red!), Eric has jumped on the “Go Big Red” bandwagon with us, Britanni has a great artistic talent and generosity I am insanely jealous of and Jordan makes me laugh so hard with her stories I practically pee my pants every time we talk. Shawn and I are really looking forward to the Snob party in just a few weeks!

• Starting to write a novel. I’ve got a great idea, I just know I do. Now it’s just the getting down to work part that’s hard!
• Visits to Nebraska for Whitney and Nathan’s wedding and Kristin and Nate’s wedding (have I told you about how we have FIVE friends named Nate/Nathan? At least we don’t have to learn new names!). It was so good to get back to “The Good Life” and spend time with our friends. I was a bridesmaid in Whitney’s wedding and had a great time with my fellow ladies in the line.
• Discovering the North Fork and the Polebridge Mercantile. We spent many happy hours up the North Fork this past summer and ate many mouth-watering huckleberry turnovers. Alas, the Merc is closed ’til spring. Counting down the days until we cross the threshold into the Merc again.
• Our mini-moon trip to Seattle. Hubs and I fell fast and hard for “our future city,” and we’re already making plans for that delightful town to be our next stop in life. Visiting Pike Place Market, the Seattle Art Museum, ogling at the buildings, spending time with Molly and taking in a Husker game at a Nebraska bar in Kirkland made our trip fantastic!
• Getting married to the love of my life and my best friend, Shawn, in October. We had a beautiful wedding day and one heck of a party afterward. Going with Famous Dave’s as our caterer was a huge hit. The centerpieces I envisioned became a beautiful reality (sunflowers in mason jars) and a fun moment was watching my sister learn how to fold napkins in neat ways using her iPhone. We had a fabulous time with our guests (the party ended much too soon!) and will treasure Oct. 23, 2010 forever!

There were parts of the year that were difficult, however. The plane crash that killed Melissa and Erika, two friends and local journalists, was hard on us all. Their lives were ended much too soon, but I’m glad those two lovely ladies were having a fabulous adventure when they died. And I know I’ll see them again someday.

Shawn and I are adjusting to living apart again. Each goodbye is as hard as the last and we hate being so far apart. But I’m happy that Hubs is pursuing his desire for an engineering degree and I know in the long run our separation will seem brief. Can’t wait for it to end, though!

Here’s a few things I’m looking forward to in 2011:

• Chili cookoff with the Outside Media people in a few weeks. Let the best chili win! We’re sure our “Afterburn” chili will be a hit.

• Taking a master gardener class through the Montana State University extension office.

• Snob party with the Montana friends. There better be Jarlsberg, dah-ling.

• Seattle/Tacoma trip in March. Got to keep the love affair going. And we’re looking forward to a visit with the Gregorys.

• The launching of the Columbia Falls Community Garden.

• Hiking and camping in Glacier National Park and in the forests around Butte.

• Honeymoon trip to California. We’re hitting up San Francisco and wine country with the Knisleys. SO EXCITED.

• Meagan and Jeff’s “Junebug”. I can’t believe my friends are starting to pop out babies. But it’s a good thing and I’m so looking forward to watching my friends’ families grow over the coming years.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Seattle = love

Shawn and I went on a “mini moon” this weekend to Seattle. We both fell in love with the city and cannot wait to go back. In fact, we’ve decided we’re going to try to relocate there in the next few years. We had a wonderful time at the Pike Place Market, the Seattle Art Museum (where we saw lots of awesome art and the very well done Picasso exhibit on loan from the Picasso museum in France), watching a Nebraska Huskers game at a Husker bar in Kirkland, chilling with a friend who graciously let us crash in her basement and eating way too much amazing food. The photos can tell this story much better than words.

We saw some very cool art at the Seattle Art Museum.

What a great trip!