We arrived in Aswan 4 long days ago. Our first full day here was a full class day, so everyone worked on their false door inscriptions, their declarations of innocence, and their commentary on our first two themes—the politics of translation and the eloquence of the scribes. You can see many of the students’ responses to the themes and their narratives on some of the blog entries above and on the main website. We’re working on about 9 laptops, so it’s community learning and community sharing at their finest. After Angie set up folders on a flash drive (that thing’s going to be worth millions with all the video footage, pictures, audio, and narrative commentary!) so we could do a big dump of our day by day with subfolders for site by site and subfolders of the subfolders, we were running like a well-oiled machine… like, hmmmm, ancient Kemetic peoples building a pyramid. One group worked on labeling the pictures, another group worked on editing video (Jazelle is queen!), Brittany made sure we had the right audio… It was amazing. We were supposed to work from 10-1, break for lunch for an hour, then get at it again from 2-5. But once they got rolling, I don’t think anyone took a break, except to snack and to direct traffic. It wasn’t until 2ish that we had the “slowskies” (remember the Verizon FIOS commercials!) break our rhythm. We had over 100 images per site, and by the time I went through the all to pick the clearest shots of each site, we still had about 100 per day. It took over 10 minutes to upload a few images, and our internet card ran out! So much for the master plan. But by then, the work had been done. Our challenge now is to get it uploaded. Hopefully, shortly after you read this, some of it will be up.
We’re on the bus from Abu Simbel, and we have mobile wireless access, so even our 3 hour ride is work filled. Now that everyone sees how much there is to do and how little time there is to do it, everyone is managing his or her time so wisely. While we’re riding, some folks are typing and writing their blogs to be posted later. Hola, our guide is doing a Q&A. We’re passing up memory cards and downloading to folders…. The pyramid building continues.
Yesterday, we went to the temple of Philae. I suppose it’s still on the tour site for everyone because it shows the Greco-Roman presence and the early Christian presence in Egypt. What we noticed especially was that the use of glyphs here had more to do with ornamentation, or filling space than with their more traditional purposes. After Philae, we went to the High Dam or the Dam Dam. We could appreciate the civil engineering, but mainly, we looked over toward the Sudan. After the High Dam, we went to see the unfinished obelisk at the rock quarries. The granite there is absolutely amazing. But it’s natural, so I suppose you don’t have to be fascinated with that. But you must be fascinated with the imaginative genius of carving the rock to create free-standing structures. I can’t wait for the students to see the obelisks in Luxor since the one they saw was still in the ground because it cracked and was abandoned. When they see there are so many obelisks and that they are everywhere, they’ll never see the Washington Monument in DC the same way. It, then, becomes “unfinished.”
Today, we went to Abu Simbel, where we saw sandstone rock temples of Ramses II and his wife Nefatari. Since we went through the Battle of Kadesh in lecture yesterday, they were looking especially for scenes from that battle narrative where Ramses claims to have defeated the Hittites and all of his other enemy’s all by himself! Today was one of those days when they were so knowledgeable about what to expect, so we were able to get the most out of the visit. Only harassment by the guards, who allowed our fairer brothers and sisters to take pictures but literally followed us around the entire time, proved an unworthy distraction.
Since most of the tourists are overwhelmingly white, we stand out, to the guards and to other black people. So, they gravitate towards us and listen in on our talks about is being portrayed. Today, we ran into a woman named Catherine, who was from Philly. When I noted that Dr Carr lived in Philly but was from Nashville, she said she was from Nashville too. Small world! Reminded me of the time we were in South Africa and a black guy recognized our accents, asked us where we were from (he was from Oakland), and then told me that there was a lady from my hometown on the same boat we were on (to Robben Island) from Tallulah. Get out!