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Chat Transcript - November 22, 1999
1 pm EST/10 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> We're ten minutes away from starting our chat with Kavitha and Jasmine. Keep those questions coming!

<Moderator> We're going to start in two minutes. Get ready!

<Moderator> Welcome everyone! Jasmine and Kavitha have joined us live in Cairo. How's the day been there for you?

<Jasmine> Our day has been very hectic. On Mondays we send in our latest dispatches, and in addition to that we're been trying to get duplicate passports because once you visit Israel some countries will deny entry...

<Jasmine> Besides all the admistrative "stuff", the highlight has been chatting with students during the last chat!

<Cindy (Billings, Montana)> What has been your favorite spot in the whole world?

<Kavitha> That is such a hard question...there have been so many amazing places we've visited on this trek so far...can I choose more than one?...

<Kavitha> Okay let's see...Machu Pichu in Peru, the great ruins of the old Incan city built on top of a beautiful green mountain is absolutely magical. I loved Peru in general. Peruvians are very kind people and the Andes are beautiful...

<Kavitha> and I definitly have to mention Marakesh when I think of my favorite places...

<Kavitha> We arrived in Morocco after 6 hard weeks in West AFrica's rainy season, just in time for the harvest. Morocco's street markets were brimming with exotic flowers, fresh fruits, fabulous smells, veggies, baked goods...everything....

<Kavitha> To make it all the more special we stayed with a wonderful family in Marakesh who treated us like royalty. We enjoyed huge Moroccan meals, visited beautiful mountains, saw snake charmers, heard live music, tasted exotic treats, went to a wedding...we did it all! It was such a fun time...I will never forget Morocco, and its beautiful mountains and beaches, its tasty foods and pretty smells, and most of all its generous and fun people!

<Samuel (Frisco, CA)> Don't you get tired sometimes traveling all the time, or is it always really fun cuz its new? What do you do when you don't like someone on the team?

<Jasmine> It gets VERY tiring sometimes. It's not all fun and games. Like my trip to Timbuktu in Mali for example...

<Jasmine> We got rained on, eaten alive by mosquitoes, we had no food because the fishermen weren't out in the storms and we slept in a canoe-like boat for days...

<Jasmine> The rewarding part, when we get to the limit, is that personally we grow a lot and we know we're doing it for a great cause...

<Jasmine> ...talking to you guys now, for example, is AWESOME! The fact that we have great teammates is AWESOME too. We always make sure to keep lines of communication open in good times but especially in bad. That helps us stick together, because this totally a team effort!

<Gregg (Chicago)> Would you want to live in Egypt?

<Kavitha> As much as I like Egypt, I have to be honest, I would not want to live here....

<Kavitha> It is very difficult to live the lifestyle I am used to here. In most of the country women stay home. They don't work outside of the home and in some places they don't go to school. They are expected to do ALL the work at home, which often includes raising a lot of children...(which I'm certainly not ready for!)...

<Kavitha> While this is changing in the modern cities like Cairo, it's still a very touchy issue. And besides, I couldn't live in Cairo...this city is too big and polluted for me. My asthma has been really bad here...

<Kavitha> That said, there are a lot of things I will miss about Egypt. Though I couldn't live here I will miss the generosity of people like the family whose house we're staying in, the rich history and fascinating monuments, the slow paced life in the beautiful villages of Upper Egypt, and the yummy and CHEAP food!

<Diego (Billings, MT)> My sister and I really like that you travel all over, but why don't you travel in the United States? Why not other places? Why do you go to the places you are going?

<Jasmine> I realized after some months of traveling that I haven't seen a lot of the US myself. It's so big and there's a lot to be learned...

<Jasmine> ...but the purpose of the Odyssey is to promote global awareness, so that students all over the world, like you and your sister, can learn about places that you wouldn't normally learn about...

<Jasmine> We also hope that the students who follow the Odyssey will go a step further, by taking what they've learned about these countries, community service, and social change movements around the planet and get involved in activities to create change in the world!

<Justin (Billings, MT)> Are there pizza places there?

<Kavitha> Yup! There's lots of pizza places here... You can get Pizza Hut or Domino's in the big cities like Cairo or Alexandria...

<Kavitha> but Jasmine and I just finally tried 'Egyptian Pizza' the other day in Aswan in Southern Egypt, and it was really good!!! It's different from what we call pizza in the U.S. though, the crust is flakey like filo dough..and they make it right in front of you. If you eat meat they stuff the crust with meat, but since I'm vegetarian they stuffed it with cheese. Then they bake it a little, then take it out to put toppings. They topped it by smearing an egg over the crust then putting chopped tomatoes and green peppers (no sauce), olives and more cheese. It was so good!...

<Kavitha> They also make sweet pizzas too...like dessert. Instead of cheese and veggies and meat, they top the crusty pastry shell with stuff like honey, coconut, raisins, nuts, and powdered sugar. Looked good, but we were too full to try it.

<Sarah and Helen (Billings, Montana)> Can you get brand clothes there like Levis and Pepe and Gap?

<Jasmine> You can get brand names here, but I rarely see Egyptians in brand name clothes. They are very expensive, and this is a developing nation. Most people can't afford to spend money on jeans because they say Tommy Gear on them...

<Jasmine> That doesn't mean the kids don't want brand names though. So they, like in West Africa, they have a lot of "off brand" stuff, like NIK, instead of Nike, which is very popular...

<Jasmine> Unfortunately, the popularity of "off brands" has a lot to do with the fact that many people, especially in the villages, are illiterate, and can't read. They don't know the difference between Nike and NIK.

<David (Garden City, Kansas)> What will you do when you are done with your traveling?

<Kavitha> Hmmm....when I'm done traveling...

<Kavitha> All I really want to do is go home, unpack my bags and just take a long, hot bath. Then hang out and catch up with all my old friends and family, plant a garden, and never leave the house again!

<Kavitha> As much as I dream of that, I know that after a few days I'll get over being a hermit. We would love to go around the U.S. and visit some of the schools that have been following our world trek and finally meet some of you in person. It would be great to do a wrap up presentation following up on all the beautiful groups and people we have met too...

<Kavitha> Whatever I do I know I want to continue sharing ideas from different parts of the world. Who knows when or where this Odyssey, and my traveling days, will end!

<Jennifer (Billings,MO)> What animals do people have as pets?

<Kavitha> I haven't seen many people with pets persay... But there are TONS of cats all over the place...in the streets, in gardens, people even let them in their homes...

<Kavitha> The cats have it pretty easy...they get to wander wherever they like and people still feed them..

<Kavitha> It was the same in Greece...cat's everywhere. I think they are considered sacred..a symbol of one of the gods.

<Karen (Billings, Mo)> Do you feel safe walking down the streets by yourself?

<Jasmine> Sometimes, like last night for example, when I was going home at around midnight, I get a little nervous being alone. But I got there. Otherwise it's not so much feeling unsafe, as it is being annoyed...

<Jasmine> I can't tell you how many days we come home fussing to each other about the rude men on the streets. They have a certain idea of women from America, which they get from movies mostly, and they think all women are like that...

<Jasmine> In addition to that, women in this society are supposed to act and look a certain way. There is a distinct role that women are to play, and we don't exactly fit the mold...

<Jasmine> So we stand out like sore thumbs, which draws even more unwanted attention. It's very tiring, because you always feel like you're on the defense. You put up a wall to protect yourself, but that wall might hinder you from meeting the nice people. So it's a delicate balance. We have to try to be selective, not let it get us down, and stay open to the nice people who come our way!

<Chuck (Garden City,Kansas)> What does it feel like to ride a camel?

<Kavitha> I haven't ridden a camel in a long time, not on the world trek yet, but I did ride one when I visited the desert in western India a few years ago....

<Kavitha> I spent 3 days riding a camel through the deserts of Rajasthan, and after the first day I was sore!...

<Kavitha> Camels are really big! So the saddle was really wide and my legs were sore. I don't know how the nomads ride such great distances on them...

<Kavitha> Kevin told me in Timbuktu though, they rode camels with their legs forward, right behind the ears of the camel, instead of to the sides like mine were. This might be more comfortable. Next week Jasmine and I are going to Sinai where we hope to meet some Bedouin people who are nomadic and ride camels. I'll have to take note how its done here in Egypt. I'll let you know!

<Moderator> Well, Jasmine and Kavitha have to go. It's late there and the computer lab is closing. Thank you all for joining us and thanks to Jasmine and Kavitha.

<Kavitha> Sorry we have to go...we would love to chat more, but it's 9 PM here and they are starting to mop up this lab...

<Kavitha> So, thanks again for writing...I hope you all can make it tomorrow night to chat with some really cool high school kids here in Cairo. Good night!

<Jasmine> Thanks for all your question!!! Stay tuned for more Odyssey fun, the Red Sea is coming up. Then Israel is right around the corner. Happy Thanksgiving!

<Jasmine> Eat plenty of turkey and dressing for us too!

<Moderator> Thanks for joining us, everyone! Don't forget the chat tomorrow with the Egyptian kids! See the schedule above! Ta ta!


 




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