Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Boat Diving in Dahab, Egypt

Hi friends! 

I can't believe it is almost 2014 - I was just starting to get used to saying 2013! Hehe. But in all honesty (and yes, I realize it is a major faux-pas to begin a sentence with 'but') it has been a year full of big changes, both exciting and difficult ones, yet I am excited to continue my vagabond journey into the new year, and can't wait to see what is in store for me :)

Boat Diving in Dahab, Egypt

Since we are all certified divers now, we decided to go out for a day-long boat diving excursion today to make the most of the last day of 2013! 

We headed out bright and early so that we could get three dives in during the daylight. 

I was expecting a tiny motorboat type of thing, but it was a huge boat that kind of made me feel like I was on set for the movie Blue Crush ;)

Once the boat was loaded up with all of our gear, we chilled and drank some Bedouin tea for a bit and then started prepping our gear. 

We obvi had to recreate our power rangers pic ;)

It was so cool to be able to go out all together. 

My 'buddy' was my little sister Emily for the first two dives and then Katie. 

Emily, as my moms friend Brian puts it, is like a little puppy underwater - she just wants to go check everything out. It's so cute, but makes for a tiresome buddy to keep track of ;)

I'm hovering on water. 

All-in-all, it was a great day full of beautiful dives. We saw a ton of fish, gorgeous coral, alligator fish, blue speckled rays, an octopus and a lot of puffer fish. 

The boat ride back was super wavy - the wind really picked up! Made for a bit of a chilly transition from our wet suits into 'real' clothes. 

We are all having some re-coop time now, and then reconvening for a big family dinner and then heading out to a club to bring in the new year Dahab-style ;) 

Hope you all have a fabulously fun New Year's Eve, and talk to you all in 2014!!!

Monday, 30 December 2013

Celebratory Fish Dinner

As I previously mentioned, I am staying with my immediate family – Momster, stepdad and two little sisters – in Dahab, a small diving town on the Red Sea, directly across from Saudi Arabia (you can see the lights sometimes at night when it isn’t too cloudy outside).

We are part of a bigger group of people, which keeps expanding by the day. There are a couple of other teachers that my Momster works with, who also have family members visiting from Canada. Altogether, there is about 18 of us all together, which makes for some pretty epic dinners.

Although we aim to eat all together at around 7pm, my family and two other families always end up getting sidetracked and so it is usually ten of us who end up doing dinner together at around 8 or 9pm. This involves lots of sharing of small plates, which usually turns into a bit of a free-for-all.

We decided to organize a big fish dinner for the extended group to celebrate the successful completion of the scuba diving course that my stepdad, little sister and the rest of the group that wasn’t already certified.

In typical Bedouin style, we were served fish with eyeballs and all.

I kept expecting it to break out singing ‘Don’t worry, be happy’.

I’ve been having a super fun time hanging out with our new extended Egypt family, doing activities galore, and always look forward to our crazy hectic dinners. Gotta love family time ;)

Check Dive in the Underwater Canyon, Dahab, Egypt

When I was in East Africa for my field study semester in 2011, I ended up doing my scuba diving certification with a few friends of mine. It was pretty intense, not going to lie: I had just finished my field study semester, which was a tad stressful near the end with all of the group work to be finalized, and had just said goodbye to people had become very close with over the 2 month stint of time, and the skill-based exercises for the scuba course kind of freaked me out – mainly taking off my mask underwater and clearing it of water. Scary stuff.

I am so thankful that I did it, however, because I was able to head out on what they call a ‘Check Dive’ while my little sister and stepdad started their course (my Momster and youngest sister did their certification a few months ago). As they were stuck watching movies, doing skills, and writing tests, I was able to head out for a dive right away.

The co-owner of the diving school near our hotel, which my Momster and all of her teaching buddies got certified through, was nice enough to take me out for my check dive himself. It had been quite a while since my last dive, so I more-or-less forgot everything, but Bassem went nice and easy and gently reminded me of what the heck I was doing. Good times.

We went to the underwater canyon location first in the north end of Dahab, and Bassem (pronounced ‘Bessim’) told me matter-of-factly that he would see how I did and if I was good he would take me down into the canyon, and if not he would distract me with some coral and ‘hold my hand and take me back to shore’.

Turns out I passed the test, and we went down into the canyon. Seriously the coolest place I’ve ever dived – it looked like the grand canyon underwater, with tons of fish. Once you reached the bottom, you could look up through the canyon to the surface of the water some 30 meters above – so cool! Once we had our fill, we went up through an underwater passage way to the surface.

We hung out on the beach for about an hour and a half, and then went back into the water for more – we went to a coral garden this time. I wish I had an underwater camera, it was so so SO beautiful! The coral was all on a giant slope going down into the depths of the sea. Loved it.

I had such a great time diving, that I decided to join my Momster and little sister the next day for another two dives. This time, we went to the southern part of Dahab to the Moray Gardens, and then went to ‘the islands’. If ever you go to Dahab for diving, you MUST go see the islands – it is seriously indescribably beautiful. We swam around these huge masses of corals, and went in an underwater tunnel again. It was a bit strange to get used to diving in a group of people again – there were about 7 of us – instead of just going my own pace with a guide, but it was pretty cool to be able to go diving with half of my fam.

Can’t wait for the rest of the fam to be certified so we can all go together!

Christmas Day: Four-wheeling in the Egyptian Desert to a Bedouin Camp

You might think that spending a sleepless night freezing cold on the top of a mountain would be enough excitement for your first day in a new country, but turns out my family does not agree.

After returning to our hotel in Dahab, we had a couple hours of sleep and then we were back at it: four-wheeling through the desert to a Bedouin camp for a traditional native Egyptian chicken dinner (in the place of turkey) under the stars.

We got all wrapped up with scarves and headed out on our ATVs for an awesome ride through the desert – our leaders were pretty adamant about staying in a straight line (we were reprimanded a few times for straying from this rule) but rewarded us by going SUPER fast :)

Our ride was about an hour, after which we ended up at an awesome Bedouin camp – which are the native people of Egypt – where we sat around the campfire and enjoyed some sheesha and cocktails (smuggled in ourselves since the Bedouins do not drink).

Since we were having dinner on Egypt time, where ‘dinner at 7pm’really turns into 9pm, we sang some Christmas carols for our guides and they sang us some traditional Egyptian songs accompanied by a drum. It was amazing to see the energy that they get from the drum while they sing.

Our guides made the most amazing dinner ever – fresh babaganoush (they roasted the eggplant themselves), rice with some sort of noodle cooked into the mix (turns out they do this everywhere – I’m not sure what type of noodle it is, it tastes like an egg noodle, but it is the tastiest thing EVER), salad, and chicken cooked to perfection with amazing spices. So yummy.

We chilled out under the stars for a bit, and then packed up and four-wheeled back to our hotel. All-in-all, a wonderful evening, with the deepest sleep of my life that night.

Christmas Eve: Climbing Mount Sinai

Hi friends! Long time no talk!! Hope you are all doing fibbity fab :)

I have been in Egypt for about 6 days now, and haven’t done one blog post yet…sorry about that. I’ve been busy catching up with the fam, doing lots (and lots) of activities, and meeting new friends.

We’re having a bit of a chill day, so I thought I would take some time to catch you guys up on what I’ve been up to :)

Climbing Mount Sinai

If you read my last post, you will know that I had a bit of a nightmare of a time getting to Egypt, including multiple cancelled and subsequently missed flights, impromptu bus rides, crazy weather, lost baggage; pretty much the whole nine yards.

I finally arrived at the Sharm el Sheik airport on the night of the 24th – I have literally never been so happy to see my fam’s smiling faces before. Sharm is in the Sinai area of Egypt, near the Red Sea, where my fam had been camping out for a bit to wait for me to arrive. Four days after leaving Ottawa, I had finally arrived.

The second thing my fam said to me after I landed, after ‘HELLO!’, you ask? “Oh hey Anna, want to hike up Mount Sinai in the dark and watch the sunrise on Christmas morning where Moses received the ten commandments?”

Um, is that even a question? Of course!

So, after countless sleepless nights on airplanes, buses, and in multiple airports, I had a little cat nap in the van and off we went to climb Mount Sinai.

We started our trek at around midnight, which was the first time that I had ever attempted to hike up a mountain in the middle of the night, but it was actually an amazing experience. We went with a few of the teachers that my Momster works with and some of their family members who had also joined us from Canada, who were all WAY more prepared than us with headlamps, jackets and hats and whatnot. The moonlight was surprisingly strong, so we ended up convincing them to turn off their headlamps and climb in the moonlight. So. Freaking. Beautiful.

Now, if ever you are considering making this trek when it is not in the middle of the summer, you have officially been warned: it is mother freaking COLD on that mountain. There was actually snow at the top. I literally only had the clothes that I had worn on my back, so I borrowed a few long-sleeves from my stepdad and took a scarf from one of my sisters, but it was DEF not enough.

The hike is just over 7km up a windy trail followed by 750 steps to reach the top. I use the term ‘step’ very loosely – it was more like rocks that sometimes looked like it might be a step, half covered in ice and snow. The path part was fine, but the step section was pretty brutal.

The cool thing about the hike was that there were Bedouin coffee shops all along the way. The second from last one to the top, with only about 100 steps left to go, had a wonderful sleeping area. It was about 3am by the time we reached that point, so we were all ready to crash and get some shut-eye before sunrise at 6:30ish, when our guide proclaims – ‘No sleeping! You need to climb back down the mountain tomorrow morning, you will feel better if you don’t sleep’.

Um, what?! I think he underestimated my ability to nap. Like a pro.

Anyway, we rented some old camel blankets, which hadn’t been washed in who knows how long, and made our way to the top of the mountain to huddle together in the freezing cold and stake out our spot for the sunrise. I have never made such an effort to see a sunrise in my entire life.

The sunrise itself was beautiful, however, with a gorgeous view out over the mountain range in the Sinai. After we had ‘oo’ed and ‘ah’ed and taken about a billion pics of the sunrise, we started making our way down the mountain – which took less than half the amount of time that it took us to climb up. Its funny how seeing where you’re going can help you scale down icy steps ;)

We stopped by a monastery on our way down, which is for St Catherine and is in the where the burning bush from Moses’ story is located. All-in-all, a very cool way to spend Christmas Eve and morning.

That being said, I think doing the trek up Mount Sinai once in my lifetime is enough for me(!!). Needless to say, we all passed out (hard) in the van on our way back to our hotel in Dahab on the shore of the Red Sea.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Lessons From My Flight to Egypt aka Never Attempt to Fly in an Icestorm

You guys, it has been the craziest 72 hours of my life. Okay, well maybe not my entire life, but pretty dang close. 

It all started from my last post, when I made it to the Ottawa airport despite the crazy snow storm that hit earlier that day. Turns out I wa on one of only two flights that went out that day. 

I got a bit cocky at that point, thinking that I was invincible to weather set-backs. Needless to say, that was DEFINITELY not the case. 

Anywho, I had about a million connection flights - starting in Ottawa then to Toronto then to NYC then to Cairo and then to my final destination of Sharm el Sheik in Egypt. My stepdad had some sort of strange premonition about the whole travel situation an had told me to take a bus straight to NYC, but I assumed that my flights would work out and, lesbehonest, I will jump at any excuse not to take the bus. 

Anywho, there was a freezing rain storm in Toronto, which was actually called 'a state of emergency' by Mayor Rob Ford until people decided to ignore him. Some of the flights out of Toronto were starting to get canceled, but mine was still 'on time' so I was feeling helpful. 

We actually boarded the plane on time, but then thins started to unravel. They had to escort someone off the plane with emergency guards, and then shortly after the pilot went on the speakerphone and said that we were overweight - the workers had put too much gas in the plane - and would two people mind if they switched off of the plane for some giftcards? I obvi didn't volunteer since I had a connecting flight to catch in NYC. 

Then, the pilot came on the phone again an said that due to the heaviness of the ice from the freezing rain, the door was heavier than usual and had broken a pulley when one of the stewardesses closed the door. So we sat on the Tarmac for over an hour before they announced that we were going to deplane. 

I managed to get back to the ticket counter surprisingly fast - there were two other flights to NYC that were canceled almost at the same time - and managed to get another flight that would get me into NYC juuuust in time for my connection. 

I was feeling pretty good about myself, and had even alerted the airline in NYC that I would be running late, but then they delayed my new flight. And then they delayed it some more. And then they canceled it and all other flights going in or out of Toronto. 

I ran back to the ticket counter but all the flights were booked solid, so I decided to bail and take an overnight bus to NYC so that I could catch the flight to Cairo the next day, which only leaves once a day from JFK airport. 

My nerves were starting to unravel a bit, so I decided to take myself out for dinner and some vino before boarding the bus. I was just finishing up my meal, when my waiter came by and informed me that a mystery person had bought me my dinner. I was so exhausted that I could have cried - thanks mystery person! You seriously made my day ;)

The bus was brutal, as any overnight bus is, but got me there in one piece and I even found a cheap shuttle bus on 42nd and 8th that took me right to the JFK airport. 

Note: there is no free wifi at JFK. It is the WORST! You have to go through this awful process of buying time online, for exhuberant prices, which makes coordination of travel plan with family in Egypt slightly tricky. 

But I managed to reschedule my flight to Cairo without any extra charges - only problem was that my final flight to Sharm wa full so I wouldn't be able to fly until the 25th. Meaning I would be spending Christmas Eve in an airport. 

This was the only point where I legit just wanted to sit down and cry, but I persevered because, well, I was determined to sort out the situation. 

Anyway, I got on a flight later that night and begged someone in the airport to let me use their iPad to send my fam a heads-up email.

The flight went well - I sat beside a lovely Egyptian lady who not spoke a handful of English words and an old ex-military American guy, who was so upset about my travel woes that he became determined to find a solution for me. As he said 'I can't just let a poor little American girl stay at the airport by herself on Christmas Eve. We gotta take care of our own, ya know?' The fact that I am Canadian didn't seem to phase him ;)

Anywho, we ended up getting me on standby for an earlier flight - which I am just about to board, assuming nothing else disastrous happens in the next hour. 

Did I mention that my luggage got lost? Yep, I'm not even making this shizzit up haha. It's like I am stuck in a dark comedy and I can't escape it...fingers crossed this doesn't set the tone for the rest of my upcoming travels(!!)

I can't deny, it has certainly been an eventful travelling experience, although not one that I would like to repeat. I feel like I am now a pro at all things related to airport baggage, canceled flights, and sorting out general madness in airports. 

Can't wait to be rejoined with mi familia in a short few hours!! If I don't have wifi again in the next few days, I wish you all a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Goodbye Ottawa, For Now

Hi friends! 

I am writing this as I sit in the Ottawa airport, waiting for my first flight of about a million today as I start making my way to Egypt! 

My bag is packed and I'm ready to go! 

Only issue is that Ottawa is currently in the middle of a snow storm - the drive here was a bit sketchy, although my friend did an amazing job even though the roads were covered in white slippery stuff. She amazingly volunteered to drive me to the airport at 4am. Loaf her :)

It will be a long day, and fingers crossed that I make all of my connecting flights alright. 

Well winter, it's been great but...I'm outta here!!!

Catch you all on the flip side ;)

Thursday, 19 December 2013

12/19 Link Love

Guten Morning!

I am in a ridiculously good mood. It might have something to do with the fact that I woke up to this song playing on CBC Radio:

Or maybe it's the fact that I only have two more days of work before I take off and start living the vagabond lifestyle...until I come back to Canada for law school, of course ;)

Dinner & Wrapping

I had a great night at my Mom's bff's place in Chelsea. My phone/camera died so I wasn't able to snap any pics of the beautiful snowy scenery, and I obvi forgot my charger in Ottawa because I am the most organized person ever these days. NAWT.

Anywho, we had a wonderful curry dinner, with a crackling fire, and I helped her wrap Christmas presents. Correction: I wrapped all of her Christmas presents while we chatted because I am a big weirdo and absolutely LOVE wrapping presents!


Seriously, its my jam. It is one of the things that I look forward to during the holidays - helping my parents, and now their friends, wrap presents. I like to get all fancy with ribbons and am very particular about the way that I fold the wrapping paper. It's the little things, amiright?!

We were planning on watching a Christmas movie, one of the classics like A White Christmas


But then we decided that we wanted to watch more of an inspirational movie, and since Nelson Mandela passed away recently, we ended up watching Invictus


He was such a brilliant man - the fact that he honed into rugby, the 'gentleman' sport that was seen as a symbol of Apartheid, as a method of uniting his country kind of blows my mind. It seems so simple, but it was so effective.

Also, fun fact: my Mom's friend has a signed copy of Nelson Mandela's autobiography A Long Walk to Freedom. A bit of a hefty read, it honestly took me a couple of years to get through, but his story is amazingly inspirational. Would definitely recommend it!

Or, if the size of the book seems a bit daunting, there's also the movie that just came out ;)

Link Love

Here are some links to brighten up your day :)

Get Into That Christmas Feeling

This Family's Christmas Card Makes Your Family Look Lame

Billy on the Street: Christmas Carol Ambush with Amy Poehler

'Elf' Recreated by Pugs

Warm The Heart

$40 Million Lottery Winner Says He'll Donate it All to Cancer Charities

The Problem with Celebrity Coverage? They Never Show This Type of Video

Laugh A Little

39 Test Answers That Are 100% Wrong But Still Genius

18 Reasons Being Single During the Holidays is Pretty Great

Health Break

Why Diet Coke is Making You Fatter and Wrinklier

6 Reasons to Drink More Water

I'll be back (hopefully) later tonight with a Throwback Thursday post - stay tuned!!

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

12/18 What I Ate Wednesday: Pre-Travel Edition

Happy Hump Day!

I had a great night hanging out with my little brosef for the last time before I take off. Le sad face!

But, on the bright side, I was able to steal a bunch of his music (he is a budding dj and spends a lot more time finding new music than I do...) so I feel like its kind of like he will be going with me everywhere that I go, in the form of house beats.

He also showed me this high-larious video, its too good not to share:


My HIIT workout this morning, three rounds:

50 jumping jacks
20 tricep dips
20 reverse sit-ups (leg lifts)
30 crunches
30 squats
10 squat jumps
20 push-ups
60 sec wall chair
10 side plank oblique dips (each side)

My days are pretty packed these days, so if I don't sneak my workout in the morning, the day always seems to get away with me!

What I Ate Wednesday: Pre-Travel Edition

I thought I would show you what a full day of eats consists of when I have managed to avoid going grocery shopping for about two weeks to try and use up as much of the food in my cupboards and freezer as possible.


Oatmeal. All week.


Half a pomegranate. [Popster - watch this video! I swear it is the fastest way to de-seed a pomegranate!!]


Leftovers from dins with my little brosef - a random medley of pasta and homemade tomato sauce:

Quick Tomato Sauce


2 tbsp avocado oil
1/2 onion
2 cloves garlic
3-4 whole tomatoes, cubed
1 can chickpeas
Sriracha, to taste 


Sauté onions in avocado oil in a pan over medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until translucent. Add garlic and let heat up another 2 minutes, or until garlic flavour is released.

Add cubed tomatoes to the pan and cover for about 10 minutes or until tomatoes have become mushy (yum).

Remove lid and add chickpeas. Let cook for another 5 minutes until liquid from tomatoes has reduced and chickpeas are cooked.

Add Sriracha, salt’n’pepper to taste.

Serve over whole wheat pasta and enjoy!


Freshly-made fruit & nut bread for the win.

The one up-side of the constant barrage of home-made pastries and chocolate at my office is that I don't need to bring an afternoon snack. Although I am trying to get in veggies, where I can, so I also brought a half a cucumber to munch on to try and avoid the post-pastry sugar crash.


I'm having dinner at on of my Momster's bff's place tonight - all part of the 'avoid the grocery store' plan. I might even get some leftovers if I'm lucky ;)

The countdown continues: 4 days 'til take-off!!

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

I Just Want to Bang on My Drum All Day....

Hi friends!

Hope everything is going swimmingly :)

I still have quite a lot of things to wrap-up at work, but all I want to do is be FREE

No, I don't mean that I have brought my Christmas presents to work with me so that I can wrap them. It hasn't quite come to that point yet...


*Sigh* Only 3 more days until...FREEDOM!!!


I have been going strong with my daily workouts that I planned on Sunday - have you guys tried any HIIT workouts this week? I gav'er with three rounds of this one this morning:

50 jumping jacks
50 bicycles
20 squats
15 tricep dips
10 front lunges (per side)
15 leg lifts
30 crunches
10 push-ups
40 Russian twists

It has been too insanely freezing in Ottawa these days [-31C with the windchill today?!] so I haven't done any runs at lunch. Instead, I ate a sprinkle-covered doughnut from the box that was left in the kitchen.


I'm okay with it, though, because I'ma be running in warmer(ish) weather soon enough!

[Sorry for all of the e-card...I couldn't help myself, they were all too perfect!]

Have a great night!

Mulled Wine

Guten morning friends,

Hope your Monday was slightly less hectic than mine :)

I honestly did not even have time to get coffee yesterday - because I am disorganized and cannot seem to manage to make coffee before getting to work - and things started as soon as I walked in the door at work.

But, enough about me, and more about a delicious holiday drink that you should all make ASAP.

I had a little dinner party with my roomies and some close friends this weekend, and decided to make an attempt at a festive holiday drank. I remember tasting mulled wine for the first time last year and thought it was the bomb-diggity, so I busted out the cinnamon sticks and spiced rum and gave it a go!

Not to toot my own horn, but it turned out freaking DELICIOUS! And seriously the easiest thing to prepare. Although slightly dangerous. I wouldn't suggest having more than a glass or two, it catches up with you quickly! [Momster & Popster - earmuffs]

Strain the oranges out for an extra treat!

Anywho, let me know if you try it out! It is guaranteed to take any holiday party to the next level awesomeness ;)

Mulled Wine
Inspired by the Skinny Confidential’s recipe


1 bottle red wine
8-10 cloves
3 cinnamon sticks
Zest of an orange
Peeled orange, cut in chunks
1 tsp all spice
60ml spiced rum


Add all ingredients to a large pot and put on low to medium heat, making sure it does not boil.

Let concoction warm for about 20-30 minutes, or until flavours are blended.

Strain and serve.