“Letters from Egypt” by Lady Duff Gordon:
My interest in Egypt is broad and involves nearly everything to do with the civilization. I equally enjoy pyramid construction theories, the evolution of hieroglyphic text, the trade routes of the ancients, and crumbling Ptolemaic tombs in Aswan. There’s nothing that doesn’t fill me with a sense of wonder and delight. I have one aspect of Egyptian study that thrills me more than others, though, and this is the stories Victorian travelers left behind. It’s kind of the study of the study of the early days of Egyptian travel. It’s fabulous to hear in their own words how the sites were, what they looked like, and how life was in Egypt in those days. It is absolutely delightful to compare these remembrances to modernity, and I enjoy it whenever I go to my beloved Egypt. I was absolutely delighted to explore the small Luxor temple of Seti I that is frequently ignored by tourists but beloved by Florence Nightingale. I love to compare the Winter Palace to how it was when it was built. All of this research has introduced me to a curious cast of characters that are mostly forgotten these days. One that absolutely fascinates me is a highly educated Englishwoman named Lady Duff Gordon who escaped to Egypt for her health. I understand this completely, as you surely remember, being in Egypt made me feel the healthiest I have in years. I feel better in Egypt than I did even before I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis! Moving to Egypt for health reasons makes all the sense in the world to me. Lady Gordon did this, but unlike the usual European travelers, she completely enmeshed herself in the culture and became beloved by many of the locals that she befriended. She was respectful of their lives and was genuinely curious. She did not see herself as superior simply because she was an Englishwoman. This is a rarity. She frequently wrote letters to family and friends back in England, and these were collected into a book called Letters from Egypt. Reader, it is fabulous. The book reads like a centuries old blog, which fascinates me for obvious reasons. Her depictions of the people and the sites and the culture are rich and lovely. It’s wonderful. I am so in love with this book. Here are a couple passages that made me clasp my hand to my bosom in appreciation:
- “I have eaten many odd things with odd people in queer places.”
- “I long to bore you with traveller’s tales.” [My newest motto, by the way.]
- “The worst of going up the Nile is that one must come down again.”
- “Nevertheless, I heartily agree to the Arab saying: ‘He who has drunk Nile water will ever long to drink it again.'”
- “When the Arabs feel that one really cares for them, they heartily return it.”
Read it, reader!
Joanna Lumley’s Japan:
I have rarely gasped as loud as I gasped the other night when I discovered that Joanna Lumley had released another travelogue. Her documentaries are the light of my life, reader, and they taught me how to live. I’m not at all kidding. Her series about trekking to the source of the Nile was transformative. On a filthy barge going to Wadi Halfa, she muses, “Quite a lot of life is like that. Just get over it, and just do it.” That has been something I’ve lived by ever since. It’s so helpful. These programs never fail to fill me with the most beautiful wanderlust. I adore the way Joanna explores new cultures and countries with grace and fun, and I have become very much like her when I’m abroad in this big, beautiful world. This latest series was on Japan, a nation I long to visit. I have had it on my wishlist of destinations for years. I crave to see the cherry blossoms bloom in Kyoto. And Joanna showed off so much more of Japan than I was expecting. She visits several schools, and the scenes are so different from my experiences in America. Now that I have seen schools with my own eyes in England, France, and Egypt, and now at-a-distance in Japan, I find it quite wonderful how serious education is elsewhere. I would love to teach at one of these schools were you focus on learning, on etiquette, on life, instead of test taking and behavior monitoring. What a reward that would be. Then she explores the monstrously large city of Tokyo, and I crave to be there on those wild streets. She meets geishas and sees the cherry blossoms and dances with old women. And then there is a scene at Nagasaki that was enough to make tears fall down my cheeks. The older I get, the more sensitive I become, and I’m not sure why it is, but I have an awful ability to understand the feelings of others without having to feel them myself. There is a man who runs a museum in Nagasaki about 600 meters from the epicenter of the nuclear bomb that my nation dropped. Because he survived, he felt an urgent need to remain and teach others about peace. Peace is such a difficult and important thing for us to understand in a world teetering on the precipice of something awful. We all feel it to some extent, I know, but those who have studied history feel it more powerfully. Before horrors strike us all, we must learn peace. And I am blessed to live in a time when there are so many who really do understand it. The Women’s March (which I wish I attended) is a fabulous example of this concept. People of all walks of life gathered together to protest sexism and inequality. It was powerful, and in the massive march on DC, there wasn’t a single arrest. That is how you make peaceful change. You can argue and you can be in defiance of order, but you can always be peaceful. I am so thankful for all those women, and all their allies who marched. And I am so proud of Joanna Lumley for being such a beacon of good and decency in a world that tries to make us the opposite. Her tour of Japan was more than marveling at robots and sipping sake, it was about our shared humanity. The world is big and beautiful and wonderful, and I’m so madly in love with it. Watch this series, reader. It will change you for the better.
I know that I’ve discussed this with you before in the past, but lentils are literally the most amazing thing in the world. They are so cheap. Like pennies. Like nothing. Like they’re free. And I make sure that I have three different kinds of lentils in my cupboard at all times. I make soups and salads and tacos. And they are always amazing. But there’s something spectacular about a lentil taco, reader. Instead of using ground beef, I use lentils, and once they’re seasoned with your choice of spices, you literally cannot tell the difference between meat and bean. In fact, I think the lentils taste better than meat, but how would I know anymore? I haven’t consumed meat in seven years, I believe. There’s no mystery reader. If you’re feeling fancy, add a sautéed onion to a pound of cooked lentils, toss in some spices, and then put them in a tortilla. Or do what I love to do and make a walking taco and gorge yourself to explosion. I did it last night. And the night before. And I’m going to do it again tonight. I’m literally eating a taco right now as I’m posting this blog online. And I honestly don’t have anything else to say because I am very busy eating. Go cook something, reader. Enjoy your best life.
Walking on Treadmill:
Reader, I recently rediscovered some ancient wisdom. If you watch your calorie intake and do a little bit of exercise, you feel better. You lose some weight, too. After the repeated personal and global disasters that defined 2016, I had quite given myself up. After the multiple sclerosis thing, I needed some time to do whatever the hell I wanted instead of dedicating myself to diet and fitness. It wasn’t helpful to be deprived of champagne and chocolate and cheese and popcorn and try to process the disease I had to deal with. So I had a lot of André champagne and Jiffy Pop and nice imported English cheddar. I lived my best life and it soon became apparent on my waist. I am blessed to be a skinny fat person, which is real and I won’t hear a thing about it not being real, so although I gained nearly twenty pounds, you can’t really tell. I can tell though since I had to wear maybe a third of my wardrobe. So, when the new year came rolling around, as it has its way of doing, I decided that my period of mourning for my health was probably done. It should be done anyway. I wasn’t feeling great eating that much. I enjoyed eating that much, though. So, it wasn’t a resolution, exactly, it was just a desire to return to my old size and fitness level. So, I launched the Lose It app for the first time in a year and found myself stomping on the treadmill again. I do this right after work so I don’t let the rest of life get in the way and then collapse in a fatigued heap before exercising. I’m not weighing myself because my scale is broken — and that’s surely a sign — so I’m just relying on how I feel. I clearly have more energy because I gave the cats a Cher concert yesterday while jogging on the treadmill. And this morning, I used a smaller notch on my belt. I gasped, reader. It’s nice to start feeling like my old self again. I do miss all that Jiffy Pop, though. I should have taken stock in the company. Get fit if you want to, reader. If you don’t want to, don’t! Do you.
The New Presidency:
I am trying very hard not to call the president by name. It’s a title he does not deserve and has not earned. He has done nothing but spread animosity and give the most awful part of our nation something to rally around. America is in no need of anger, but that is all we have been getting for the first week of his presidency. I can stand the idea of a wall — yes, it’s existence alone is appalling but what is the worst thing it can do? — but I take umbrage when he starts yammering on about awful things. The list he suggests creating about Muslims is unbearable to me and is nothing short of the next Reich. I won’t stand for it. Last night, driving home, I saw a newsflash about him supporting torture for terrorism suspects. I literally screamed. Any fool who can get a passing grade in a basic “Politics of Terrorism” class knows that torture is a terrible idea. Water boarding is traumatic and this kind of abuse will not get you any kind of information. Normal interrogative techniques work remarkably well without descending into the shame of nonexistent morals. If our country engages in these practices, we no longer have the right to call our country free or a leader of humanity. We are nothing. But the president claims that this works. Ask any military member involved in interrogation, any police commissioner, or any idiot who’s watched any criminal show. They all know that torture is ineffective. You don’t necessarily need to befriend the “bad guy,” but making them think they’re about to die is super stupid. You get so much more information when you show your nation’s behaviors are moral and ethically superb. Besides a major terrorist who is completely radicalized won’t be giving any information. This torture idea needs to be rid of promptly. Anything less and we become the enemy ourselves. That is what we are rapidly doing. This man who dares to sit in the Oval Office needs to get his shit together before he starts some kind of terrible altercation. We are not the good guys this time, reader. We don’t deserve that title anymore. We must remain vigilant against him. If we don’t stand up, we deserve to be trodden on. It’s been a week and I’m already over this.