A (belated) update and what’s on tap for me in 2015.

For those out there who regularly follow the blog I apologize that it’s been such a long time since I last posted.  I’ve been away so long I wasn’t even aware that WordPress had changed their formatting….Anyways, a belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all.

A bit of an update is probably in order.

November was mostly a write off for me as my wife and I hosted our first visitors since moving to Egypt – my parents!  It was an action-packed 3 week visit but my parents wanted to experience as much of the country as they could while they were here.  And they did.  In addition to of course visiting the Giza Pyramids and Luxor’s tombs and temples, they made it to Alexandria (for the seafood), the Red Sea (for the beach & golf), Al-Fayyoum (for the desert & oasis) and Coptic Cairo (for the churches).  They tell me they enjoyed their trip very much, in spite of it’s hectic nature and encounters with what are certain realities of life in Egypt (aggressive drivers, con men and an ambient level of noise that can drive you crazy at time).

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As soon as December rolled around it seemed that holiday celebrations began.  It could be just because we’re getting more established in our life here but this year it seemed a lot more festive than last year did.  We had multiple staff parties, get-togethers with friends, even secret Santa gift exchanges.  They only thing different from the typical Canadian holiday season was the lack of cold/snow.

Unfortunately this time wasn’t an altogether happy one as our good friend and Arabic teacher, Bishoy, passed away.  He had been battling a nasty upper respiratory viral infection for the better part of two months and one day after being discharged from the hospital went to sleep and didn’t wake up.  It’s just not the type of thing that should happen to an otherwise healthy 23 year old.  We really miss his smile and enthusiasm.  His passing hit both my wife and I pretty hard.  I know it’s cliched but it made us realize that you need to live your life doing what makes you happiest because you never know when it might end.

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celebrating with Bishoy at last year’s U-Can Arabic Language School Christmas party

The day my parents left to go back to Canada I began planning the details of our vacation for the Christmas holiday break.  This year we settled on a tour of Europe where we’d fly into/out of Vienna and hit Budapest, Krakow and Prague in between.  Due to the late planning and us finding out that when it comes to New Year’s Eve celebrations Prague is the New York of Eastern Europe, we added a couple of other stops too (Cieszyn, Poland & Pilsen, Czech Republic).

The trip itself was fantastic, minus the cold (yes, as a Canadian it’s a little embarrassing how habituated I’ve become to Cairo weather).  I think I may have discovered my 2 new favorite cities in the world on this trip: Budapest and Prague.  Both cities were pretty amazing – great infrastructure, awesome food, incredible history and very affordable, (especially Budapest).  I can only imagine how awesome they’d be in the warmer months.  A few other highlights of our trip included touring the Pilsner Urquell Brewery in Pilsen, attending a performance by the Royal Vienna Orchestra, visiting Auschwitz & Birkeneau concentration camps (the human depravity displayed here will haunt me for the rest of my life) and watching The Nutcracker in the 130 year old Hungarian State Opera House.

The mulled wine/warm Christmas "punch" available virtually everywhere was pretty great too.

The mulled wine/warm Christmas “punch” available virtually everywhere was pretty great too.

I will say that visiting Europe really highlights how far Egypt has to go to be considered modern.  It was a refreshing break after not having left the country since the summer.

Prague near the famous Charles Bridge

Prague near the famous Charles Bridge

In the midst of all this I’ve been doing my best to maintain my marathon training.  As I write this the Dubai marathon is exactly 2 weeks from tomorrow.  Yikes!  Truth be told a big part of the reason we decided to go to Europe over Christmas was because of the “infrastructure” (ie. trail systems) most European cities afford runners.  My parent’s visit and our holiday vacation meant I haven’t got in quite as many long runs as my training schedule calls for, but overall I’ve done okay.  I’ve actually got my last LONG run planned for tomorrow – 32 kms.  Overall training in Cairo hasn’t been too bad.  I’ve been able to find routes to run that mostly minimize traffic issues.  As expected though, I will be glad to get this race out of the way as training has been incredibly time consuming.  The training runs are just so friggin’ long!  Never say never, but I think the odds are that this will be my first and last full-marathon.  I feel like the half-marathon distance is much more my speed, so-to-speak.

So what’s on tap for me in 2015?  Well, as already mentioned I’ve got this marathon thing in a couple of weeks.  Dubai for the weekend should be a neat place to visit.  The hotel we’re staying in is attached to the Mall of the Emirates, which is the one with the indoor ski hill, so that should be interesting to see.  Beyond that we’ll certainly be travelling some more.  We hope to finally make it out to Dahab, Egypt and climb Mount Sinai – maybe in March or April?  And we’re already starting to plan our next big trip – Morocco, Spain & Portugal before we return to Canada in late July.

As for what to do next year, we haven’t decided if we’ll be returning to Canada just yet.  As mentioned before, my wife initially signed a 2 year contract here but would have no problem being retained for longer if she wants to stay.  She recently found out that her job in Alberta won’t give her another year leave, so if we decide to stay, we’ll be closing that door.  Honestly, we flip back and forth about this almost daily, so at this point it’s tough to even say which way we’re leaning.  One thing is sure though, we have to decide soon.

On a more personal note, I’m still very much enjoying my job as editor of Oasis Magazine.  I’ve decided to begin a more formal nutrition column in the magazine, called ‘Nutrition 101’, where I’ll talk about common misconceptions about nutrition and try to teach some nutrition basics.  This column will give me a little more structure to address the types of topics I’m interested in writing about.  I’ve still yet to begin counselling patients at CSA, but a big part of that is that I haven’t had as much time to push that initiative forward as I would’ve hoped.  It’s something on my agenda in the coming months.

And since I’m speaking about resolutions, I might as well put it down in writing here.  My goal is that regardless how busy I get to write one of these blogs each and every week this year.  So you won’t have to wait another 2 months until you hear from me again.  My plan is for them to come out on Fridays.  I’m hoping the schedule helps me to stick to it.

So I guess that’s it for now.  Until next week!

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