I find it’s a good idea to drop in every once in a while to make sure the residents are taking good care of my town. A surprise inspection is always good for morale.
One of my favorite watches has been dead for several months now and today I finally picked up a replacement battery since we had to go to the battery store (yes, there’s a store for that). Ten minutes of minor surgery later, and it’s once again happily ticking away time.
I picked up this lovely time keeper in Cairo when we were there for Omar and Lora’s wedding (which was, in a word, fantastic). We started the day touring (well, actually it was just lunch at a house with a ridiculous view), and then ended the day at the souk Khan el-Khalili (a market). We wandered for hours, picked up a couple beautiful wraps, some cheap tourist trinkets and watched Chuck try to beat a backgammon salesman… at backgammon. I was also given a very reasonable offer of twelve camels for Paula (I opted to buy a necklace for her instead, which I’m fairly certain was the right move).
Tourism is tiring. Shopping is, however, exhausting. As time wore down and I hit my "done" point I wandered back out to the main square and waited in front of the al-Hussein Mosque for my fellow travelers to finish up their shopping.
While the other people in our party were wrapping up their day, the local sales people were also wrapping up theirs. An enterprising watch salesman noted I had wandered away from the safety of the flock and decided he’d try to make one final sale for the day. Approaching me with a big smile he proudly displayed the collection of watches he was holding and had running up his arm.
He grinned broadly; "Hello my friend!" (turns out I had a lot of friends in Egypt) "I have lovely watches. Rolex, Gucci, Tag."
I was done for the day and only barely interested, but I find I’m incapable of brushing off the omnipresent Egyptian buddy sales tactic, so I just smile and say: "No thanks."
"For you my friend, excellent price."
There was no way this guy was selling anything real, and I was shopped out. "I already have a watch."
I then made the mistake of looking down at his watches, and he took that as interest. He beamed: "Ah yes, Breitling, a very excellent watch, and for you, a very excellent price, two hundred."
I really had no need of a fake watch and should have looked for a quick exit, but after a day walking in the Egyptian heat I was all out of clever. Perhaps if I don’t have money, he’ll leave me alone. "No thank you, I’ve been shopping all day and I don’t have that much left."
My new friend decided that I was negotiating with him. "No, problem, I give you my best price, last sale of the day, one-fifty." Again he held up his watches, so they could better catch the fading light at the end of the day.
My travel-worn brain slowly worked out the problem, I shouldn’t have told him I don’t have enough… I should have told him I had nothing. I was staring at him blankly while I tried to work out why he was still trying to sell me a watch. I tried again: "I’ve spent my cash, I really have almost nothing left, I’m sorry."
The salesman shifted from one foot to the other and tried to decide if he really wanted to waste any more time on me before calling it a day. Then he checked his watch.
I was standing in front of a mosque in Egypt, evening prayers were just starting to be called, and a very friendly and industrious salesman loaded up with thirty-plus wristwatches was checking the time. The whole combination was all at once comical and surreal. I couldn’t help but be amused, and my pleasure was clearly visible on my face.
I wasn’t bluffing, I really was out of cash, so I might as well show him my hand so he’s not wasting time on me. I dug into my pocket and came up with several coins and a few bills. I pushed them around in my hand, counting out loud; "two, one, five, five…" The fatigue has sapped my energy, but at least I can still do math. I show him my sad financial state so he can go home: "twenty three is all I have left, sorry."
"Okay, deal." He nimbly plucks the coins and wilted bills from my palm and in their place deposits a shiny Breitling knock-off.
I was still staring dumbly at my hand when Paula and the others showed to pile into a bus.
Paula was curious about my new trinket: "What’d you get?"
"I think I just bought a watch."
We boarded the bus back to our hotel, settled into our air conditioned seats and did what all civilized people do… we started showing off our take. Purchases were passed around for our fellow travelers to admire. We regaled each other with tales of our bartering prowess.
Then Mike took a closer look at my new watch. "Hey Reeves…" he handed the watch back to me, "did you realize lunar and calendar dials on your watch face are just printed on?"
I laughed and took a closer look. He was right. The watch tells time like a boss, but the sub-dials on the face are just for show.
Omar then took a closer look. "It’s not a Breitling."
I laughed. "Of course it’s not. There’s no way a street salesman would be selling me a three thousand dollar watch for 23 Egyptian Pounds."
"No, it’s not a Breitling…" Omar continued, "It’s a Bretlinc!"
As it happened, my new faux-Breitling was not just a fake, it was a brazen, shameless, unapologetic fake. It has two buttons on the side that do nothing. The back claims the watch is waterproof, but I’m sure the wind would whistle through it if you held it just right in a light breeze. The weekday, month and moon phase dials are all as motionless as a painting… likely because they’re painted on. To top it all off… they didn’t even spell Breitling correctly.
My fake watch is a bad fake. And I love it.
Twenty three Egyptian Pounds worked out to about four dollars. Without a doubt… it’s the best four bucks I ever spent.
The New York Times published an interesting article this weekend about money and happiness. Sure, it’s filled with the usual “money can’t buy happiness” stories and tales of self discovery. I think it’s stuff we all know deep down inside but are good at repressing (Gizmodo hasn’t made me happy yet… but it’s my Ike Turner).
But wait, what’s this? If you dig deep enough you’ll find this little gem:
Thomas DeLeire, an associate professor of public affairs, population, health and economics at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, recently published research examining nine major categories of consumption. He discovered that the only category to be positively related to happiness was leisure: vacations, entertainment, sports and equipment like golf clubs and fishing poles.
Now there’s some useful investment advice. It’s time to re-order my priorities.
Sure, a new computer sounds great… but schnitzel in Austria sounds wonderful right now.
Yesterday after sitting on the beach for the morning I started getting anxious. I wanted to get home to get to work on our house and dig into projects at work. Perfect timing, I guess it’s time to go home.
Paula and Reeves enjoying a fruity drink on the beach.
One of the things Paula and I have found is the off season is really nice. The weather may be cooler but the prices are lower and (my favorite part) the crowds are lighter.
There is, however, one more thing I was noticing today: the lighting is dramatic for most of the day. If you’re trying to take pictures during the summer, they really look best at sunset and sunrise. During the winter, however, the sun is lower and the light is more dramatic.
Grenada has been a joy so far. I was a bit stressed at the beginning since my grasp of Spanish is pretty much nil, but I’ve decided to relax and let Paula handle it all. :) After spending most of the morning traveling yesterday we had an early dinner then walked around a bit near hotel. We slept about 12 hours then spent today going up and down the hills that surround the Al Hambra palace. Tomorrow we head up the hill to see the grand Moorish complex, we can’t wait.
With work, out of town visitors and life all pouring heaps of activity into my life I fear I’m never going to have time to write a proper post about the trip we took to Germany with my parents so I’m just going to brain dump quickly so I can refer back to it later.
Here’s a quick summary of our German trip:
- Flew into Düsseldorf to visit our old house and haunts
- Drove to Ilsenburg in the Harz mountains to stay for a few days. From Ilsenburg we took a day trip to Goslar (home to some of Paula’s ancestors) did some hiking and visited Wernigerode.
- Drove to Hamburg, toured the massive harbor and saw some of the town.
- Drove to Lübeck to stay a night and tour the old town
- Drove north to check out the Baltic Sea then south through Schwerin to stay in Berlin for a couple nights.
It was a fantastic trip and a great chance to spend some quality time with my parents. About the only complaint we had was that there are no smoking restrictions in Germany, so no matter where you go you are going to be sucking in lots of second-hand smoke. It’s not ideal, but you just gotta deal.
Oh, and Tami, you might be able to eat off the streets on weekdays but not on weekends. They don’t sweep the streets on weekends. When we were walking around Lübeck the local guide told us the streets were filthy because they don’t sweep on weekends (I just figured they were filthy because people couldn’t be bothered to use trash cans).
Paula and I have been having a great time in Germany over the past few days We flew into Duseldorf on Saturday morning and met my parents at our hotel.
When I was in elementary school (fourth, fifth and sixth grades) my family lived in Duseldorf for three years. It was fun to get a chance to revisit some of the places we used to frequent. We even went by our old house… it’s now an Italian restaurant. 🙂
After a brief time in Duseldorf we drove east into the Harz mountains to stay in Ilsenburg. From our hotel in Ilsenburg we took a short drive west to visit Goslar. Besides being a wonderfully preserved old German town, it’s also where Paula’s great-great grandfather lived and died (though we didn’t do any family history research this trip).
We just finished our second day in Hamburg and are off to Lubeck tomorrow. Here’s a quickie picture of the town hall in Hamburg (sorry for the cell-phone quality, better pictures when we’re back home).
When Paula and I were trying to get logged into Courtyard’s Internet connection on Saturday we couldn’t get connected, the browser just spun it’s wheels then gave us a “page cannot be displayed” message. The behavior was the same on both my laptop and Paula’s.
The typical experience signing onto a commercial network is turn on your computer, open a web browser, request a page and you are magically redirected to a sign-in/sign-up page. The redirect works in some cases (the Westin most recently) and not in others (Marriott). For some reason some implementations work with Vista and some don’t. I asked the hotel tech support to log me on from their end but then played with Paula’s computer to try to get hers logged in.
The solution ended up being fairly simple, I turned off protected mode in IE, logged into the hotel Internet, then turned protected mode back on again.
I suppose if you’re stuck in a hotel right now unable to log onto the hotel network you can’t read this. Ah, the irony.
Our family takes an annual spring break to somewhere warm… but this is the first year we’ve really looked forward to the warmth as well as simply a vacation. We look forward to our spring break every year, but when we used to live in California it was never quite as much of a contrast as it was this year (it snowed in Dublin the Sunday before we left).
We flew from Dublin to Cancun on Friday, stayed at a hotel not far from the airport, then headed to Akumal on Saturday. We made a quick stop at Wal*Mart for groceries before making it to our rental house on Half-Moon Bay in Akumal.
I had a bit of jet lag the first day, but waking up early can be nice. Since Akumal faces east the only way to get a colorful picture of the sun over the ocean is to get up at dawn.