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Chat Transcript - November 22, 1999
11 am EST/8 am PST

Welcome to The Odyssey Live Chats from Egypt! Kavitha Rao and Jasmine Chatman-Hamlett will be joining us live from the computer lab at the American University in Cairo to answer questions about Egypt and the Trek.


<Moderator> Greetings all! We'll be getting started in about 15 minutes. Kavitha and Jasmine are almost ready, so keep your questions coming in!

<Moderator> Thank you for joining us. Kavitha and Jasmine are ready to go in Cairo. We'll be starting in two minutes!

<Moderator> Good morning everyone, and Happy Monday! Thanks for the questions. We'll get to as many as possible.

<Dan (Op,NJ)> I want to ask if there is any chance of you trekkers ending you journey early because of Kevin's illness or something else that relates toward violence or something?

<Kavitha> There's always the possibility of ending the Trek early...you never know what might happen when you're traveling this way. Yes, there are many dangers traveling around the world, but we try to be as safe as we can. If we listened to everyone telling us one border or another is dangerous we wouldn't have been to half of the countries we've already visited or met half of the wonderful people we have.

<Phillip (Oceanport, New Jersey)> Do woman have to kneel when called to prayer?

<Jasmine> That's complictaed because everyone follows their religion differently. Usually women practice their beliefs at home, as it's considered more holy for a woman to pray at home in private, while men pray at the mosque.

<Gdod (Chicago)> What do you think is going to happen at Y2K?

<Kavitha> Woah...that's a hard one. I have no idea what to expect for Y2K. We are supposed to be in Jerusalem for the Millenium, and I know that city is going to be crazy! They already are expecting thousands of people flocking there claiming to be the next mesaiah or expecting the end of the world...

<Kavitha> ...As for me I'm expecting an exciting night to say the least. I just hope communications stay up so we can send you all the story about all the festivities here!

<Diego (Billings, Montana)> How do you get to be a World Trek person?

<Kavitha> The Odyssey looks for people who are unique, concerned about education and open to the different cultures you experience and circumstances that arise when traveling this way. Most of all I think they look for a person who's enthusiastic and ready to learn a lot!

<Marty (Oceanport, NJ)> Why do the men take off their shoes when they pray?

<Kavitha> Part of the ritual of prayer in Islam is to cleanse yourself, so you are pure when you pray to Allah. Men can't always bathe and change their clothes for the five prayer times in a day, especially while they are at work, so taking off their shoes is the best they can do.

<Connie (Oceanport, NJ)> Have you seen groups of students as tourists in Egypt, or are they all adults?

<Kavitha> All the foreign tourists I've seen so far have been adults, but I have seen Egyptian students on field trips to some of the many great monuments in this country....

<Kavitha> ...In fact we just visited the 9th graders at Cairo American College and they told us about the coolest field trip they all do in the 8th grade where they all go to Southern Sinai along the beautiful coast and stay with the nomadic Bedouins and cook with them by fire and learn about the fragile desert ecosystem and the coral reef that is in danger because of too much tourism...

<Kavitha> Jasmine and I are on our way to Sinai next week and I hope to meet some of the Bedouins they visit and maybe visit the ecology program too!

<Gdod (Chicago)> How many hours do you walk a day?

<Jasmine> Walking varies daily...

<Jasmine> It depends on what we're doing...

<Jasmine> If we're visiting a site for example, we might be walking for 5 or 6 hours...

<Kavitha> Like when I visited Coptic Cairo and Islamic Cairo, for example, it took an entire day of walking to see them...

<Jasmine> I got smart at the pyramids! That's when I hired a camel for the day!

<Phillip (Oceanport, New Jersey)> How is Kevin?

<Jasmine> I just spoke to Kevin (via email) and he's feeling a lot better. He still has some difficulty with digestion, and he spoke of a reoccuring fever lately. But nothing too serious. If those symptoms persist though, he'll be going to the doctor again. We all look forward to seeing him soon!

<Marty (Oceanport, NJ)> Are Muslims allowed to eat meat?

<Kavitha> Yes, Muslims are allowed to eat meat, but they can only eat meat that is Hallal. Hallal is similar to Kosher in the Jewish traditions. For something to be Hallal, the animal is killed in a certain way, in the name of Allah, and the blood is drained in a certain way....

<Kavitha> I'm a vegetarian so I don't know too much about how the animals are killed and what they are fed and all, but I do know that, once again like in Judiasm, Muslims do not eat pigs....

<Kavitha> Someone told me something funny the other day when I told them I was headed to Jerusalem. They told me about the only area they found where you can get bacon and ham sandwiches! Since Jerusalem is a holy city to the Jews, Muslims, AND Christians, there is a small neighborhood where anyone jonesing for some pig product can still get their BLT's!

<Samuel (Frisco, CA)> It seems like you haven't had anything stolen or broken for a while. Do you not let Abeja carry cameras any more?

<Kavitha> Hee..hee..hee...we try to hold her hand when we let her hold expensive equipment...

<Kavitha> But our latest camera disaster is actually NOT her fault! Kevin had a digital Kodak with him in Israel, and when he realized he was too sick to join us in Egypt, he sent us a package containing among other things, the digital camera. Unfortunately, he sent it to the General Post Office in Cairo, and there is no sign of it. They said it should take about 5 days to get to Egypt...that was 6 weeks ago...

<Kavitha> We're resigning to the fact that probably some post office worker, customs official, or lucky traveler searching through the packages at the General Post Office is now taking fancy digital pictures somewhere out there...I just hope they make good use of it!

<Gdod (Chicago)> Why do you want to go to Jerusalem for Y2K?

<Jasmine> Jerusalem for me will be special Y2K or not because I'm a Christian. It's a Holy Land; ground that Jesus actually touched and for that reason, I think it's a special place to be for the turn of the century or any other day...

<Jasmine> I'm glad the Odyssey will be there to cover the New Year celebration! That's something the Israeli government has been preparing for for a long time. They are expecting thousands of people to show up, lots of them crazy, but some on a pilgrimage...

<Jasmine> They are even going so far as to deport those whom they have reason to believe will cause problems...but whatever the case may be we'll be there to give you the inside scoop!

<Diego (Billings, Montana)> What do you miss most about back home, whereever you're from.

<Kavitha> I'm from San Francisco, and there's a lot I miss about it - of course I miss my family and friends and the wonderful volunteers at the Odyssey office...

<Kavitha> ...but I also miss Rice Dream Ice Cream, vegetarian sushi, bikeriding through the parks, being able to breathe clean air (see my latest dispatch about Cairo's air)...

<Kavitha> ...I also really miss being able to really communicate with people. Even the people who do speak English here, it is sometimes only basic English. It is always challenging to communicate thoughts and values with people from different countries. It is a wonderful challenge that I learn a lot form but sometimes I just miss being able to 'kick it' with my friends back home that understand me.

<Moderator> We're just minutes from finishing, everyone! Any last questions?

<Marty (Oceanport, New Jersey)> Do the Egyptians still think the air crash was not a suicide attempt by the pilot?

<Jasmine> I've heard a lot about the crash, as it's on every news channel here, but I doesn't seem that the pilot suicide theory is a popular one...

<Jasmine> I just asked a few Egyptian people sitting here in the computer lab with me and they don't think that was the case at all. We should keep those families in our prayers, this is surely a terrible tragedy...

<Jasmine> As a matter of fact I met a woman last week who had friends coming to Egypt from the States on that flight... she was cooking dinner for them when she heard the news...

<Jasmine> It was very hard for her to even talk about so for the families I hope the authorities come to a speedy conclusion and not drag this out so they can grieve in peace.

<Moderator> Thank you to everyone who joined us, and to Kavitha and Jasmine.

<Kavitha> Thank you all so much for writing and reading...It's after 7 PM and we're going to go get some dinner before the next chat. Take care everyone, and tune in tomorrow to chat with high school kids from Cairo...

<Kavitha> Bye!

<Moderator> Goodbye until our next chat!

<Jasmine> Thanks for the great questions! This is surely one of my favorite parts of being a Trekker. Until next time, take care and study hard.


 




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