Nice guys Finnish last (and other tales of non-ironic joys)

THE NILE--Sailing away from Aswan (yes, this post is out of order) turned out to be a spectacular experience, despite saying goodbye to the wonderful people at the Memnon Hotel on Aswan's corniche. Those folks included Ahmed, kind of a Sudanese Radar O'Reilly and his aunt Senna who'll be moving to Washington DC to join her husband soon. Michelle and I already miss these fine folks; Senna bought some fruit for me, a Nubian kufi (skullcap) and made mango juice. Wow.

Anyway, our "Aswan coordinator" Ayoub hooked Michelle and me up with a felucca (sailboat) trek from Aswan to Esna (?) further north. I was nervous about who else would be riding with us--being trapped on a sailboat with strangers for two days could be nightmarish. Instead it was phenomenal. Joining us were joker, electrical engineer and devil's advocate Jeff (Geoff?) from Australia; architectural student Nika and air-traffic control student Frank from Norway; G.P. Jenni and self-proclaimed nihilist but actually super nice guy Rami from Finland supplied thought-provoking conversation, jokes and genuine, kind friendship. Poor Frank got sick--the trots--but by then so had I and Michelle and probably the others, too. He handled it like a champ (whatever that means). Like Finnish Rami, Frank is ex-military--compulsory for young men in their homelands. Yet despite his illness he was always concerned about others and their well-being.

Our boat captain Muhammad and his crew were wonderful; Captain Muhammad was an excellent chef cooked far better food than I had on the felucca in 1993, and provided a flatbread kind of like a massive, disk-shaped English muffin (which Michelle grew to like despite initial reservations).

On our second night, I did a variation of Chani of Arrakis saying to Paul Muad'Dib, "Tell me of your homeworld, Usul." I asked everyone to sing a song--any song--from their country. Most folks chose kids' songs. Frank and Nika led the charge by singing in rounds "coo-coo, coo-coo" for some type of bird song (freakin WOW), followed by Jenni and Rami singing a sad lullabye about gates (?)--a memory song, I think, along the lines of "There's a hole in the bucket, dear Liza". Michelle and I followed that with "The Log Driver's Waltz" from the NFB vignette, but we forgot the second line of the chorus and then couldn't remember the rest--I felt ashamed by my lack of cultural nationalism. Then Captain Muhammad and his friend from another felucca entertained us with Nubian songs, Nubian drumming and even dancing. I shared the audio I recorded with the captain; he had tears in his eyes.

When I return to E-Town I will be posting the audio and photos of this experience on

Earlier that day, to escape the heat, our captain docked so we could take an excursion into a small town to buy fruit, pop, water and snacks. I have rarely been so excited. You can't guess how amazing it is to buy cold fruit and drinks when you are playing anvil to the hammer of 45 or 50 degree sunlight. I was like a small town kid going to the circus. Who needs drugs when you've got mango?

When we sad goodbye the next day to crew and fellow passengers, I was truly sad. It's a common/uncommon experience for travellers, to form bond so quickly, to laugh together, share meals together, take care of each other, even sleep only centimetres from each other, to feel intensely bonded, and then--poof--have it all disappear. Since Michelle and I were getting off the minivan and weighed down, we didn't even get the chance to give goodbye hugs. I hope to stay in touch with all these excellent folks--not only was it a highlight of our honeymoon, it was one of the nicest experiences I've had in the last year.


Shannon said…
for he goes gurlin down and down the white water

that's where the log driver learns to step lightly

he's burlin down and down the white water

the log driver's waltz pleases girls completely

explanation as to why i didn't make your wedding to follow when you get home.

I just learned the whole log drivers waltz day before yesterday in a canoe. I can send you the whole thing if you want.

I am enjoying your egyptian adventure. It is bringing back memories of my own, 11 years ago. And Dahab, I am sure it has changed so much, but MAN I remember those Saudi mountains and those bright, orange sunsets over Sinai mountains.

best to you both,
Shannon said…
BURLIN. Sorry for the typo.

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