6/17/10: Luxor, Egypt
We’ve come full circle, literally. Our trip started in Africa and now we’re back. We’ve circled the globe (take that, for those of you who still believe the Earth is flat), and now we’re back where we started. Sure, we’re a bit further north, but a few days ago we finally said hello again to Africa. But we’ve changed so much as travelers since then that it hardly feels like the Africa we grew to love during the first 50 days of the trip. I’ll let Zhou tell you herself, in one of her “I hope Kevin’s not writing today’s blog” moments.
Z: “You know what this feels like here? Africa.”
K: “It is Africa.”
Z: “It is? Oh yeah, it is.”
Yes, it’s still the same continent. But the way we’re experiencing it is in stark contrast to our days as wide-eyed traveling rookies.
When we first came to Africa, everything was planned out for us. We never had to worry about where we’d be each day, never had to worry about where we’d sleep each night. Dinner was always made for us, the sights we’d see were always set. We loved it. We loved being able to focus on meeting new people and soaking in the new scenery. And those two things were almost too much for us.
Now though, we could hold a traveling conversation in our sleep. We no longer have anyone to tell us what to do, and we like it that way. Our hostel in Cairo said they’d book our train tickets to Luxor for us, for a $10 fee and we laughed (not literally) and headed to the train station ourselves. We got lost about three times on the way there, but we pushed on and found the train station without too much difficulty because we’re even experts at getting lost now. (Don’t confuse this to mean we’re experts at getting LOST now, because I still haven’t got the DVD, so I’ll repeat my threat to everyone not to tell me what happened.)
We can also now talk to people in languages we don’t speak, as was evidenced by our finding a recommended restaurant in Cairo by talking to locals in Arabic. We also strongly considered piece-mealing our Pyramids and Valley of the Kings tours together by ourselves rather than hiring a driver for those days. But we have to draw the line of independence somewhere. (As you’ll also see in Zhou’s post about what we’ve signed up for tomorrow.)
During our overland tour through Africa, one person did all the negotiating. As Shaggy would say, it wasn’t me. Zhou and I each have our comparative advantages. She is a better negotiator, a better planner, a better learner, a better listener, a better photographer, a better person, a better napper, a better looker, a better Scrabbler. I’m a better eater. And I don’t mind looking stupid. For a long time in our travels, we each stuck to what we’re comparatively better at, and it worked well for us. Now we often try to do the things we’re each comparatively worse at, and for me today it was the negotiating.
We had received quotes on the objects we wanted (up to 175 EGP for one)and headed to a shop after dinner with the intent to buy three. Zhou left me to work my magic, but I started off by asking her to tell the shop owner what we’d pay for the three. She said 75 EGP. The shop owner looked shocked. After a little back-and-forth between him and me, here’s what happened:
K: You know what, we’ll give you 70 for all three.
O: But she said 75?
K: Yeah, but I don’t want to pay that much. We’ll give you 70.
O: Ok, 110.
K: Zhou, let’s head out and look around the market, then we’ll come back.
O: Ok, ok. 90. But I can’t go lower because I bought them for 85.
K: Ok, we’ll just go look around for a bit. (I turned to walk away.)
(I started walking.)
O: Ok, 70! 70!
I don’t know if we got a good deal or not, but that’s not the point. The point is that not only did I do the negotiating, but I reverse negotiated. I got it for a lower price than our first offer. Nine months ago Zhou let me negotiate once, and I bought something for over twice as much as others in our group bought it for, and mine was a crappier quality. Now I’m reverse negotiating.
In addition to that, I’ve been doing much of our Egypt planning and doing it with confidence. Zhou, on the other hand, has been carrying the heavier bag for the past couple weeks. (I’m not sure how that happened, but she hasn’t complained at all.) We’ve both been avoiding foods we can get at home, whereas the first time in Africa all I wanted were foods I recognized.
So perhaps saying we’ve come full circle isn’t entirely true. Sure, we’re back to where we started in a geographic sense. But as travelers we couldn’t be farther from where we started, and that’s a good thing.
Picture of the Day: Sunset over the Luxor Temple.