San Diego

Nadia the Skydiver

I promised something big, and I deliver on my promises!

For almost as long as I can remember, it has been a big dream of mine to throw myself out of an airplane. This dream is so big it’s always been number one. I came close to skydiving during a trip to Spain about three years ago. I failed to make reservations and when I got to the airfield I found that there were no spots for me. I was leaving the country the following day. I would have to wait for another time.

Today was that other time. I planned ahead. I was a bit apprehensive when I drove to Brown Airfield in San Diego to do my first tandem jump. I had done bunjee jumping several years ago and it was the scariest thing I had ever done. I expected skydiving to be scarier. Luckily, I had to wait for a couple of groups to skydive first. And while I waited I watched the whacky videos of previous customers. They were so funny! And I got to watch the process step by step several times as other people went through it. By the time it was my turn I was calm and looking forward to some serious fun.

The view from the small airplane that took us up in the sky was amazing. Out of the opened plane door I could see both Tijuana, Mexico and San Diego, California. The ocean was vast and blue ahead of me and little mountain islands protruded from the ocean waters. The plane ride was 20 minutes long. In the plane I thought that if I only came and took that ride it would have been worth it.

The skydiver signalled to me to move towards the door. I did. Something wasn’t really registering in my head. It felt like a big amusement park ride. I felt comfortable and pleasantly excited. This is probably because I knew I didn’t need to do anything myself. All I needed to do was go on the ride. And what a ride!

We sat at the edge of the plane…and suddenly we were no longer in the plane! At an altitude of about 4000 meters we did two flips in the air that were quite disorienting. For a few short seconds I had no idea where up or down were. And suddenly we were lying with our faces down towards the earth falling. Faaalllliiiiinnnnngggggg. It was the most exhilerating feeling I can remember ever having. I didn’t want it to end! It was not scary at all. It was just utterly exhilerating. I hope to remember those few seconds of my life.

The parachute opened and pulled us upwards and suddenly we were cruising in the sky. I remembered that feeling from my paragliding experience. It’s just floating in the sky. So soothing. And not long afterwards we were on the ground after a very smooth and easy landing.

Why had it taken me so long to do this? Why was it so short? How is it that we flip in the air and end up looking down towards the ground rather than up towards the sky like a turtle that’s turned onto its back?

One skydive is in no way enough. This is something I will have to do again!


Jogging along San Diego Bay: I Want a Yacht

Now that I’ve finally bought a pee funnel, I think my next big purchase should be a yacht. This thought occurred to me while jogging along San Diego Bay. This is not the first time I’ve thought this. I think it every time I take a short sailing trip down the Nile in Cairo as well. I think I deserve a yacht.

Jogging along the Bay, I tried to catch as many yacht names as possible. Those yacht owners really don’t have any imagination at all. Sur la Mer, Days at Sea, Aqua Mara…really?? If I had a yacht I’d name it Shaitan (devil in Arabic), after my sister’s favorite rental horse. It would be a wild and devilish yacht, it would.

I loved jogging along San Diego Bay. The whole lifestyle they have here is just amazing to me. I started out at 6:30am. I was awake at 4 am (jet lag), but decided it would be prudent to wait till the sun came out before I left the hotel. But by the time I started, there were Californian joggers who seemed to have been at it for quite some time already. There was one group of about ten men and women going up and down a long flight of stairs at the San Diego Convention Center. Those stairs would have been just perfect for my Kilimanjaro training. What amazed me more was the ages of some joggers. I saw several older men and women. One looked like she might be around 65 and she was in GREAT shape. Another man who was probably 55 was a LOOKER. He was all-round muscular and showing it by wearing a no-sleeve T-shirt and shorts. Whew! And those gray hairs only added an extra coolness factor to the man.

My hat goes off to the women who had male jogging partners. I have no idea how they keep up with them. I’ve long since realized that what I do isn’t exactly jogging. Every single person I’ve ever seen jogging passes me by quite easily. But I don’t mind. What’s important is the thought. And I THINK I jog.

I even got two “good mornings” from complete strangers while I was jogging. Both were African-American men. The first was an older man who clearly finished his morning jog and was winding down. He seemed genuinely happy to see me. Other joggers didn’t seem to find the fact that I was a fully covered veiled woman jogging along San Diego Bay an oddity at all. Everyone just went about their morning business. I am not used to this. I jogged along the Atlantic Ocean while spending a couple of nights in Galway, Ireland last summer. The Irish looked as if there was an alien in their midst. I was the oddest thing they had ever seen and they couldn’t get over the fact. In France this past summer, I jogged a bit downtown. The French female joggers just seemed angry with me for even thinking that I could occupy the same space as them looking the way I did. All this is much better than any reaction I’d probably get jogging on the open streets of Cairo. I haven’t dared try even. I expect I’d be harassed, yelled at, or get glaring gazes of disgust. Today when I saw the 65-year-old female jogger, I started wondering what it would be like to see a 65-year-0ld female Egyptian jogger on the streets of Cairo in shorts and a T-shirt. Have you seen our 65-year-old women? Have you seen our 30-year-old women for that matter? Not something you’d want to see in a T-shirt and shorts, I promise you. No offense mes comrades. But it’s true for the vast majority.

GPS Lady is Back with a Vengeance

The privileged few among you who follow me on Facebook will remember GPS Lady, who started communicating with me by telepathy for the first time during my road trip across Ireland in the summer of 2009. Today, GPS Lady returned with a vengeance; and with an American accent I am unaccustomed to. British GPS Lady was mean. She made sure I took the narrowest, most winding roads possible all over Ireland last year. When I yelled at her, she would telepathically respond in a cool, unnerving voice. The more she could irritate me, I could just tell she was quietly contempt on her GPS insides. American GPS Lady is cold…so very cold. After a full day together, she has not once attempted to communicate with me by telepathy. She issues orders and coldly expects to be obeyed. When I yell at her, she does not answer and continues with her orders unabated. And I have a mean yell, I tell you. You know how mothers ignore their children’s temper tantrums? That’s American GPS Lady. I didn’t like British GPS Lady. I despise American GPS Lady.

Today, while parked in my rental car in San Diego, I asked American GPS Lady how to go from where I was parked at a small mall to a supposedly nearby Mexican restaurant she had recommended. She took me out of the parking lot, onto a freeway, off of the freeway and right pass that same parking lot before having me end up at the restaurantthat turned out to be pretty much just across the street from the mall. She couldn’t just tell me, “Nadia, get out of the car and cross the street.” Nooo. She had to make me drive half way around California. And no matter how angry my yell sounded, she could have just cared less. As I said, I hate American GPS Lady.

GPS Ladies aside, I love the freedom one gets by renting a car in a new city. It’s so much more liberating than taking a taxi or riding the bus. I feel in control. And rather importantly in my case, it gives me the added benefit of a trunk for my inevitable many purchases. As usual, I have no idea whether I’ve gone overweight for the flight back home. I don’t really care though. I am now the proud owner of some extra, much-needed mountaineering gear and some diving gear! I cannot wait to try it all out. Oooh, oooh…and I bought rock climbing shoes! I’ve been wanting to try that for quite sometime. So next time I find someone who teaches it in Egypt, I am ready dude!

One of the most difficult things about driving outside Egypt is staying within the lines. It’s more difficult than they make it out to be, you know. If we do have lines painted on our roads in Egypt, none of us notice them. Two-lane roads are usually filled with four lanes of cars. We don’t like spaces in Egypt. I don’t like spaces between cars more than the average Egyptian. In Egypt, be sure I’ll yell at you if you leave a small buffer space around your car. That space could have brought me 0.5 meters closer to my destination, lady! When I drive outside of Egypt, I MUST drive within the lines and leave spaces between me and other cars otherwise I’ll have to pay a ridiculous fine. It is a challenge to say the least. Today I remembered trying to color a frog in 1st grade. I wasn’t very successful at keeping within the lines then and I wasn’t very successful keeping within the lines today. GPS Lady made it even more difficult by telling me I needed to be in the right lane at the very last second several times. So I basically ended up doing a lot of swerving. I have a line memorized in case the police pull me over: “I’m from a foreign country. I’m Egyptian. And GPS Lady is giving me hell. Show mercy.”

I hope to have interesting news for you tomorrow, so stay tuned!

Nadia’s Travelblog: Off to San Diego

I should have started a travelblog long ago. I do so much of it and every now and then there’s something worth saying – or not and I’m just so bored while traveling that I could at least entertain myself by blogging mindless doodles.

I’m on my way today to San Diego. The trip will take around 30 hours to make with the air time and transits. That’s if I actually catch all my planes. I’m told I have a 15-minute transit in Atlanta, Georgia. Doesn’t make sense that they even booked that flight for me, does it? And I’m told the Americans have become extra vigilant at security checks these days. So I’ll have to go through passport control AND stringent airport security and get to my gate all in 15 minutes. That’s assuming we actually arrive on time.

People we meet

This morning at Cairo Airport I met the cutest little girl. She was quietly sitting next to the wall while we were all standing in line waiting to go through passport control. Her daddy was standing in front of me. The little girl appeared to be about 3 or 4 years old and she had a scarf tightly wrapped around her head. I was wondering why her head was wrapped like that. I thought maybe her mother wanted to make sure she was warm. But then she came and spoke to her daddy and gave her back to me. From the back of the scarf I could clearly see her head was completely hairless. I looked closer at her face. She was pale and had dark circles under her eyes. She had cancer. The little girl had the cutest high-pitched 4-year-old voice you’ll ever here. I asked her where she was going and her daddy told me she was going to Mecca to perform the lesser pilgrimage – Umra. This was also her first airplane ride! She looked so excited – and tired at the same time. I told her how much fun it is to see the clouds from above instead of from below. Her daddy told me she was scared. She really didn’t look it. I told her she’ll have a wonderful time and that seeing the Kaaba will be amazing.

It’s interesting how people put their faith in God above all else in times of need. I’ve been asking my tweople and my facebook friends to pray for her. I’ll ask you all as well to send her your prayers or your positive energy, whichever you prefer.

Nadia goes on an(other) ego trip

In recent years I’ve traveled so often it’s sort of ridiculous. But that has finally paid off. I’m the very proud owner of a Gold Air France frequent flyer card. This card pulls me up the social ladder about two rungs. I now get to stand in the business class lines at check-in – always shorter than other lines – and I get to spend transit times in the business lounges. Today I got a FREE lunch and I’m blogging using my FREE Internet connection. If you’ve traveled as much as I have, you’ll know how precious all this is. I feel so special. I really do.

Travel lessons

Travel brings down your shame levels as much as frequent flier cards bring up your social status (in my mind anyway). Today I was lucky enough to have the seat next to me empty. I simply put my head and upper torso on one chair and my feet and lower body on the other and fell fast asleep. I do the same – or did – in airport lounges. I could care less what I look like or how inappropriate it might be (in some cultures).

I’ve also decided to travel comfortably. I have this theory that I’m now investigating that spending too much time in jeans gives me headaches. It also makes me nauseous on long flights. So this 41-year-old woman is dresssed today in a sweatshirt, sweatpants, and sneakers. Yes she is! And I’m actually quite comfortable and no headache – yet.

Finally, I’ve attempted to travel light this time. For a 9 day trip I only have one pair of jeans, two blouses, and one pair of hiking pants plus shirt. I do not have any shoes with me other than the sneakers on my feet. The most serious of circumstances brings me to this desperate situation. I have shopping to do in San Diego. So I’m definitely coming back heavy. We’ll have to see how this works out. And don’t you dare look at me that way! It’s a small miracle that I’m going at least one way with hardly any clothes in my suitcase! Appreciate the fact!

My one hour of free Internet connection is about to end. Since I do not yet know if it is renewable I’ll have to stop here. But expect many more travelblogs from me! I could practically travelblog for a living!