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Egypt, Sarah Style

What have I been up to, internet?

Well, here is a summary of my doings of the year, the fact you should all watch the movie Easy A, and also things I cannot tell you yet.

Also, for those on a quest to collect all my writings ever (anyone? anyone? Bueller?) I am in a book of Irish authors translating Catullus with their own spin. You know, me and John Banville and Michael Longley. I'm fancy and learned like that.

Something even more fancy is the fact that my short story The Spy Who Never Grew Up has been selected as one of the stories in the Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year. The full list is there, but - wow. I mean, Neil Gaiman and Cory Doctorow and Ellen Kushner (not to mention Holly Black and Diana Peterfreund): they are really fancy people. Some days I feel all full of hope about this writing lark.

Of course, I told my loving parents about this, and...

FATHER: Oh, well done, Sarah! Well deserved! Is this the vampire in the boyband short story?
SARAH: No, the Peter Pan is a superspy for the Queen of England short story.
FATHER: ... Really?
SARAH: What?
FATHER: Well, I just really liked the vampires one.
SARAH: ...
FATHER: Peter Pan was good too...
SARAH: You're fired. Fired.

One other thing I have been up to is going to Egypt. It has always been the number one place I want to go. I have a job I can do while travelling. I do mainly travel for work, but I just kept thinking 'Why don't I go?' Added to which, I live with a lady who is a museum detective. So in the end, we went!

It ended up that we went right after our emergency house move, and when I was so exhausted from work I wasn't forming complete sentences, but this is Always The Way.

Going on holiday with a writer is a little bit like going on holiday with an art thief. (But without the police sirens blaring and the eventual imprisonment for being an accomplice. Well, usually without that, I'm not making any promises I can't keep.) I constantly trail around behind the group making notes of stuff I'll be stealing for stories later and climbing on things I shouldn't be climbing on. Get Down From That Antiquity, Writer Girl.

Going on holiday with a museum detective (this really is basically the Durham Lass's job description) is a much more informative and less mildly terrifying thing, and if the Durham Lass had a blog you would right now be enjoying descriptions of how you can tell if stones lying on the ground looking like any other stones are actually flint tools thousands of years old. But sadly you are stuck with me, making puns about the pharaohs.

I also play games like 'Winner of the Worst Royal Name' (King Snofru) and sing songs like 'Oh I do like to be amid the pyra, oh I do like to be amid the pyr!' (To the tune of 'Beside the seaside,' of course.)

Then there was the camel riding. The Durham Lass was given a frisky young camel who was trying to make friends with all the other camels. I am happy to say my camel was a sedate, mature animal, who spurned the Durham Lass's camel's advances. I named him Snofru.

CAMEL OWNER: Time to drop the camel leads and take your pictures!
DURHAM LASS: disappears into the desert on back of joyously free camel
SARAH: Oh my God. Snofru, stay still. Stay still like the wind. On a very calm day.
SNOFRU: stays still. Like the wind. On a very calm day.
SARAH: Good Snofru. Noble steed!

We saw Luxor Temple in the moonlight and Karnak Temple in the sunshine, colour still on some of the art on the walls and pillars.

We also saw the many, many statues of Ramses II. Ramses II was a dude who had a fairly good opinion of himself: he thought he was so awesome all the statues should be of him. So he basically went around the temples and made it so.

NOBLE: Man, this is one crazy hot statue. Gives a whole new meaning to the term 'stone fox.'
RAMSES II: Excellent. Put my name on it.
NOBLE: Er - no, but you see, pharaoh, this statue is in fact a gi-
RAMSES II: Are you saying Pharaoh's not crazy hot?
NOBLE: No! No, I would never say that.
RAMSES II: Have you seen Pharaoh's guns?
RAMSES II: You know the rules. If you like it then you should put a plaque on it. A plaque saying 'Ramses II.'
NOBLE: ...
RAMSES II: It's good to be pharaoh.

Seeing the pyramids is strange and awe-inspiring: from a distance, from up close. They're vast and old, and it's odd to see those ancient golden lines cutting up the sky, and know the messages on them. Which are basically along the lines of 'Pharaoh Gazza Is Great.' Still, pyramids, graffiti, writing of all kinds, is a way to say 'I was here.' The difference is how you say it.

The pyramids say it kind of beautifully.

It's also amazing to see stars painted on the ceilings of the tombs in the Valley of the Kings, and the Romanised catacombs in Alexandria, where poor little Anubis, jackal-headed god of the dead, has to wear laurel leaves and a fish tail. He's already got a jackal head, Roman army, stop destroying a god's chances with the ladies.

Speaking of the ladies, it is a different culture over there, and it was also a little strange to be so aware, as a lady, of whether your hair/elbows/knees were covered, and aware that if they weren't people would perceive you differently. But of course, to a different extent, this is the case everywhere. People just take more notice of girls' clothes/hair/what they call themselves/how they act. (This is even true about fictional girls, so there's no way for real girls to escape it!) All I can do is try not to do it myself.

... I did receive a truly magnificently terrible chat-up line in Egypt. It went: 'Hey, baby, I like your size.' My friends have been saying it nonstop since our return. Also - my mother.

From seeing the dawn pour like gold on the statues at Abu Simbel and reading Gothic novels in the sunshine going down the Nile, the Durham Lass and I flew back to Ireland and the worst blizzard of our lifetime.

DURHAM LASS: Why do these things always happen around you?
SARAH: I live in a force field of adventure! Excuse me I have to go put bed socks on my hands.

There you have it, ladies and gents. Latin poems and vampires, force fields of adventures and bed socks. More anon!



( 57 comments — Leave a comment )
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Dec. 6th, 2010 06:44 pm (UTC)
your RL adventures are as exciting as what happens to your characters - if not more so! :)

Congratulations on your story being selected as one of the best of the year -w00t :):)

(and, you live with a museum detective - how awesome! *G*)
Dec. 7th, 2010 12:34 am (UTC)
My RL adventures, less interesting I think, definitely less death-defying so far - for which I am deeply thankful.
(no subject) - olympia_m - Dec. 7th, 2010 09:48 am (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 6th, 2010 06:44 pm (UTC)
As impressed as I am by your Egyptian adventures, I am the MOST impressed by the fact you translated poems from the Latin!

...I attended exactly one Ancient Greek club meeting in high school?

I feel so woefully undereducated now.
Dec. 6th, 2010 06:44 pm (UTC)
Also, congrats on the accolades!
Dec. 6th, 2010 06:51 pm (UTC)
I was lucky enough to visit Egypt in 2000. It was the best trip I have ever taken. Being as it was close to the whole Clinton-intern thing and I have dark hair, I got tones of pick-up lines where they called me Lewinsky. I'm not sure exactly what those boys were expecting from me.
Isn't it just the most amazing place though? I think I walked around for the whole 3 weeks with my mouth hanging open. Hence the Lewinsky remarks, perhaps.
Your Peter Pan spy story sounds incredible and inspired. Tell your father I said so.
Dec. 6th, 2010 08:02 pm (UTC)
Congratulations on all your forthcoming publishing things! And the thought of you being allowed anywhere near Catullus fills me with terrible glee.

Uh, this is because I am a person who firmly believes Aristophanes' Birds should sound like Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure.

Egypt! I always enjoy hearing about your travels, and the things that somehow could happen only to you. :)
Dec. 6th, 2010 08:28 pm (UTC)
... yes to EVERYTHING IN YOUR COMMENT. Oh Aristophanes. :D
Dec. 6th, 2010 08:08 pm (UTC)
Catullus? REALLY??
I love Catullus. Latin is amazing. Which poem of his did you translate for the anthology?
Dec. 6th, 2010 11:13 pm (UTC)
Re: Catullus? REALLY??
Poem 10 (Varus), which I translated into South Dublin idiom for uh, hopefully humorous effect.
Re: Catullus? REALLY?? - azurelunatic - Dec. 7th, 2010 01:58 am (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 6th, 2010 08:09 pm (UTC)
OMG! I was just in Egypt too at the end of October! Unfortunately I was there for work running an international conference at the Library of Alexandria (which is a gorgeous, gorgeous building - did you see it?), so didn't get a whole lot of time to explore, but I did get to see the pyramids, which just about killed me dead - they're so much bigger than I had expected, and just amazing.

Also, my co-worker took an unfortunate picture of me making a horrified face of horror when a camel started eating my hair. I then had to go around Cairo the rest of the day and then do a 13 hour plane ride home with camel spit hair.
Dec. 6th, 2010 10:48 pm (UTC)
I did visit the library of Alexandria, yes. Working there must have been lovely! ... Lovelier than camel spit hair.
Dec. 6th, 2010 08:27 pm (UTC)
Oh god, I'm envious -- I would love to go to Egypt someday. You should post pictures, nudge nudge.
Dec. 6th, 2010 11:37 pm (UTC)
I posted one picture! I don't actually own a camera, so they're all the Durham Lass's pictures.
Dec. 6th, 2010 08:29 pm (UTC)
My favorite chat-up line of all time was offered to me during the SATs. "You test quickly. I like that." I'm amazed I wasn't thrown out of the testing center for laughing.
Dec. 6th, 2010 08:56 pm (UTC)
Snofru. Noble steed!

OMG. *dies from laughter*
Dec. 6th, 2010 09:11 pm (UTC)
What is the Durham Lass's actual job? I want to know so that I can add it to my list of grad programs to apply for!
Dec. 6th, 2010 09:44 pm (UTC)
ohmygod egypt!
so you havent seen the seventh harry potter yet?
are you going to write a parody for it?
Dec. 6th, 2010 10:49 pm (UTC)
Re: wow....
Haven't seen it, probably won't, which will make writing a parody a little difficult. ;)
Re: wow.... - ladyknight1991 - Dec. 6th, 2010 11:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: wow.... - whit_merule - Dec. 7th, 2010 12:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: wow.... - sarahtales - Dec. 7th, 2010 02:06 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: wow.... - whit_merule - Dec. 7th, 2010 02:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: wow.... - elanor_x - Dec. 7th, 2010 02:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: wow.... - sarahtales - Dec. 7th, 2010 03:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
Dec. 6th, 2010 09:54 pm (UTC)
I am not entering the contest over there because I already have copies (um, like, three each) and that would not be fair to the poor people who don't have any copies at all. But I would like to tell you that Fringe is not new, but it was new to me this year, and I love it with a terrifying burning passion. Fringe and the Vampire Diaries on Thursday night means no one is allowed to talk to me at all. I will fail all my classes before I will permit studying to interfere with discovering just how awesome Caroline and Olivia are going to be this week.

Also, I am grateful to your camel for holding still for you; dying on camelback would be an extremely in-character way for you to go, but I would miss you awfully.
Dec. 6th, 2010 09:56 pm (UTC)
This is an awesome post and all, but I am just stuck on the picture of you in a tank-top (in Egypt, I know) when it is so cold in London right now. I can't seem to get my brain to understand that geography does, in fact, exist and weather is different in different places, but still *shivers violently*
Dec. 6th, 2010 10:50 pm (UTC)
I am currently wearing a blouse and a jumper, in the snowy isle of Ireland, I am tragically and deeply aware of geography. (And my excellent tan I can't show people...)
Dec. 6th, 2010 10:29 pm (UTC)
I once got serenaded by a Chinese singer in a TIbetan nightclub. No, really. I have no idea how these things end up happening to me when I go away.
Dec. 6th, 2010 10:50 pm (UTC)
Don't listen to her, Lord Anubis. *I* think you're cool.
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