Part 1: The Background About 10 years ago I left my amazingly cool job in the visual effects industry and joined the Marine Corps. Some people think I was nuts. There were many reasons for going, however, not the least of which is that I like a fresh challenge. Here is some of the backstory on how I, a tree-huggin' California girl, ended up making a decision to go from a job with extremely high Cool Factor to a job with extremely high Badass Factor.
For years prior to my employment at ILM, I'd had people scoffingly tell me "Yeah, that'd be nice!" as if my dream of working there was clearly impossible. I shrugged and laughed. I'd already interned at another major effects house, Dream Quest Images (later eaten by that monstrous mouse known as Disney), and had an interview for an internship in Lucasland. I was all set to go.
It is not idle bragging to tell you that I was an awesome intern. Really, I totally had the mojo going on, and I had a great time. Within months after graduating with a degree in multimedia, I was back in the Bay Area doing freelance and temp work for several of the Lucas companies. Within a year I had a union position doing digital plate restoration. I was working the night shift, hired along with another freelancer, to handle some of the overages brought about by Star Wars.
We couldn't tell what kind of shot we'd be working on until it loaded on our screens, so there was a chance it would be something really dull. Lucky me, the very first shot I loaded up after training was Darth Maul whirling through the air with his double-bladed lightsaber. I cheered and clapped and gasped in awe at my good fortune. "OMG, I have the COOLEST JOB IN THE WORLD!"
Throughout these days of protest and confusion, I have heard many interesting comments, read news heartening and sad, and chuckled in both a-musement and be-musement over some of the confusion non-Egyptians were expressing. These are heady times, my friends. The giddiness seems to be affecting people in many different ways!
Giza, Egypt. Camel owners heading into the city to sleep after a hard day of tourist-catering-to-ness.
Let's start with a facepalm moment, shall we? When I heard the news that Mubarak had stepped down, I immediately emailed Dario at work. He emailed back, "Yay for Egyptian people! :DDDDDD"
Tonight I sent a text message to our friend, Mena, whom we met in Egypt.
Our trip to the land of the pharaohs was a whirlwind week spent seeing as many sights as we could, cram packed into a package deal with a tour company. It was definitely not a long and slow backpacking kind of trip designed to meet and connect with people. Indeed, the trial article I wrote that got me accepted by Examiner.com was about avoiding this kind of thing in the future and pursuing more — dare I say it? — authentic travel. Traveler vs. tourist kind of thing. Still, I'm glad we went, and I look forward to returning and doing it "right" next time.
We had booked a few days on a cruise boat on the Nile, in large part, I admit, because 11 years prior I had worked on the film The Mummy. I had always kind of liked Egypt, but really started digging* it after the film (even though it was mostly shot in Morocco). And since the characters took a boat on the river, I wanted to do that, too. Silly, I know, but fun.
Yeah, I'm that much of a geek.
I wore my crew shirt the day we went to the pyramids and, instead of my fancy-schmancy Tilley Hat, I wore my crew hat on the trip, too. It has a nicely embroidered scarab on the front (see below).
America, great melting pot that it is, has only kept hold of a random set of cultural offerings from our immigrant founders. (Native founders, too. I mean, I love popcorn, but it's hardly a worthy tribute to the First Nations people, y'know?) Most of it is food-based. We Americans feel really connected to family from The Old Country when we have homemade lasagna, Irish stew, kielbasa, chorizo with eggs, borscht, sushi, injera, and Gefilte fish. We know everything there is to know about another country because we have ingested the essence of the culture. You are what you eat, right?
Traveling and living overseas has, as promised, provided completely new perspectives on a huge variety of subjects, including food. They range from politics to how to cook a chicken, from driving styles to personal space, and from how to bag your groceries to bathroom fixtures (have I mentioned how much I love bidets? Yes, I believe I have. Oh, the freshness!).
Another thing, previously whispered between those of us with genuine travel aspirations, or even more amazing, actual travel experience, is how few Americans seem to have passports. This became blazingly clear to me as I prepared to move to Italy in late 2007. Many of my friends and family said, "We'll come visit you!" Yay! I thought I would have a stream of visitors in the pizza and pasta capital of the world. They would come for the food, if nothing else. (Well, they are Americans.) I couldn't wait!
"Do you have a passport?" I would ask. More often than not, the answer would be, "Uhh…" followed by a desperate darting of the eyes, seeking the emergency exit. " 'cause you know," I pursued relentlessly, "that's really important. For visiting me. In a foreign country. Y'know, just sayin'." Charming smile to put them at ease. No luck. "Uh…"
Fear is overrated. There, I said it! And I mean it, too.
Fear keeps us from pursuing our dreams and living a life that we love. The reasons "why not" are given so much more of a voice in our internal voting system than they deserve. It's as if the Fear Corporation hired a bunch of hotshot lobbyists to make sure the Fun & Adventure Company got legislated out of existence. Why do we venerate mediocrity, routine, and doing what is expected of us? (It's the bananas, isn't it?)
I just read this article by Chris Gillebeau over at The Art Of Non-Conformity and LOVED it! So very many quotable things that really capture my feelings on travel, change, risks, and life. This paragraph sums it up perfectly:
…we tend to focus on the sensational and the dangerous, rare as it might be. A few sensational anecdotes outweigh hundreds of “I went to this place and it was about what I expected.” And secondly, choosing to focus on the negatives gives everyone else an excuse not to pursue a big dream. “Look what happened to him… better to stick to the world I already know.”
It's funny that as I plan my upcoming trip to Morocco — something that I am TOTALLY LOOKING FORWARD TO! — quite often the first reaction I hear is along the lines of, "My friend's sister went there and got harrassed!" From an etiquette standpoint, part of me wonders why anyone would want to rain on my parade. (Of course, etiquette and I are not really that well acquainted, so that could explain it; maybe there's a chapter titled Scaring The Buhjeezus Out Of People in the Emily Post book.) I am obviously over the moon with excitement about this trip, a birthday present from my wonderful hubby, so why would you do that? If I bought a new pair of shoes, would your first reaction be to tell me, "You'll probably step in a big pile of dog doo with those"? Really?! Come on!