ancient relics

Living the past two weeks in Egypt has been a surreal, out-of-body experience. I'm currently writing this at 5 am in my modest Airbnb overlooking the West Bank. I couldn't sleep too well, which has been an odd pattern over the past few days. Maybe it's a kind of weird withdrawal from all of the sightseeing action, knowing that this is supposed to be my “wind-down” leg of this trip. After seeing what I've seen, could you blame me though? From the towering presence of the Great Pyramids in Cairo paralleled with the awe-inspiring Karnak temples in Luxor, to the sandy showcases in the Valley of the Kings contrasted with the seaside splendour at Alexandria's citadel and grand library, there was excitement springing up at every corner. Hospitality is second-nature to the locals here. I've solo traveled a lot this year, but roaming Egypt has left a special imprint in me that might be a tough act to follow.

Perhaps the thing that has stuck with me the most throughout this barrage of cultural richness is learning the process of mummification. The ancient Egyptians believed that if they lived a just and ethical life, the soul would live eternally and could reanimate the corpse. The degree of care they took to mummify a corpse was stunning — it could reach up to 60 days of hard work with the steps of organ removal, body scrub, full burial, and spiritual prayer. After this, the mummies are immortalized. Their unique stories are transcribed and recorded through signs and symbols, hieroglyphs and the like.

In the same vein, I think writing is an act of preservation. A good writer treats each piece with great care and intent, putting weight behind each word, each choice, each story. If words can be equated to mummies, then the collections of pages are the coffin, a container of rich thoughts. We delicately work with our hands to massage the words, to artistically craft the coffin in just the way that most satisfies us (at least to the extent we can be). Then, when we feel ready after strenuous days of revision and preparation, we bring out the sarcophagus to elevate the piece in its rightful place. Just like this blog! The importance of planting the tomb is the same as pressing that “publish” button. Just as the Egyptians didn't want to hold onto the corpse of their kings, holding on to these words, pumped to the brim with our logic and emotions, would be a sin.

When I come across really good writing, the kind that just melts in your mouth, I always look to screenshot, save, soak, and safeguard for future use. And again, that's certainly no different than relishing and reliving the history of Egypt. I was planning on using this piece to cover my newfound appreciation of all things history, inspired in part by a few mindboggling books I've been combing through (The Lessons of History, The Dawn of Everything), but I'll bookmark this for later.

Anyway, I thought it would be a fun exercise to do some archaeology work of my own, to put my new knowledge of ancient Egyptian civilization into real practice. But instead of rare antiquities and lost tombs, I'm excavating my own creations. I used to send myself emails of documents to remind me to print, and I'm glad I had this kind of gluestick system (even if none of the emails were named). I've dug up two very fascinating exhibits, each at least 10 years old, that I'll aim to mummify here. Let's dive into the ancient relics that have probably shaped many important thoughts, ideas, and decisions in my life!

. . .

A. “50 THINGS TO DO BEFORE I DIE”; circa January 5, 2012

Highlights from the 10-year old ancient relic, with completion status!
10 Places to Go: 3/10
3. "New York City, because in my opinion, it is one of the coolest states that I have never been to. I would like to see the Statue of Liberty, Times Square, Central Park, the different Broadway theatres, and the Empire State Building." Looks like this sweet city has always been top of mind! 
7. "Egypt – specifically the Great Pyramids of Giza." A quick nod to last week's expedition! 
10 Things to Do: 4/10 
4. "Write a book (novel), because I find story writing fun, in putting all of my own ideas on paper and developing them so that a good story can be created". Nice to know this goal is still very much on my radar! 
Honourable mentions: 6. "Act in a television show or movie"; 10. "Design software or a game". I'm so happy to see that my creative charge and passion for building was alive at such a young age. 
10 Things to Learn: 3/10
2. "How to cook well, because while I like going out to eat, because of the delicious variety of foods, I would like to cook good meals for myself and my family once I grow up." Still a work-in-progress I've been putting off constantly! 
3. "How to perform first aid, because performing first aid is a very useful skill to have, and can be used anywhere if necessary." I thought this one was SUPER intriguing because I don't think I've ever consciously considered this as a high-priority. Seeing this here may be a manifestation of my desire to help others though.
Honourable mentions: Basically everything else — how to rap, how to sew, how to dance, how to snowboard, how to repair electrial appliances. It's so interesting seeing what I could have possibly been motivated by back then.
10 Things to Have: 0/10
3. "A supercomputer, or a very good computer otherwise. The advancement of technology is coming along fast, and in the future there may very well be accessible supercomputers, or at least very good ones. It would be pretty cool to own one." This is a favourite simply because I had some foresight to appreciate the role of rapidly advancing technology. 
Personal note: It's clear that my understanding of the material world wasn't as developed as a kid; all the items on the list (house, car, boat, giant bed) are more aspirational at this point. But I do like how "custom bookshelves" appears! 
10 Things to See: 5/10
Large variation in answers here: movie marathon, new born baby, live sporting event, sunrise & sunset, firemen in action, meteor shower, solar eclipse, fireworks in different parts of the world, aftermath of a disaster, what happens on a farm. 
Biggest takeaway = I was still quite imaginative as a 15 year old.

B. “Gulf Islands Sailing Trip: One-Week Journal”; circa June 13, 2011

Probably one of my favourite experiences of prepubescent high school, I got to spend a week on a boat with some of my best friends at the time (*Thank you Incentive Program @ MacNeill)! 
What's interesting about this artefact is looking at the tones and textures of my writing: each daily journal entry is granular and description-heavy; though what I provide in imagery, I surrender in feeling. Every minute detail is painstakingly drawn out. My non-conciseness haunts me from these depths. To stay true to our archaeological standard of care, highlights from this 5,000-word behemoth, from the daily logs, are included below.
I love the "Advice to Myself" section because it's the first sign of introspection in this write-up. From a first glance, preparedness comes up as a core theme. I guess I always did have a habit of just winging it. The mini "Reflections" paragraph is also cute, and echoes some sentiments that remain applicable to this day: don't worry so much, touch grass, nurture friendships!
The carousel of pictures at this end is the cherry on top: I'm a sucker for multimedia exhibits, especially with something as formative and nostalgic as this sailing trip. Ah, simpler times :) 
Appendix: Highlights from the journal entries
- Day 1: "It took me a long time to fall asleep because Sean was snoring very loudly unfortunately for me while he didn’t know that himself either!" - Day 2: "I managed to pick [steering] up quite easily and was quickly regarded by most of my crew and skipper to be one of the best helmsman in this group" - Day 3: "There were also many other tricky questions on my test that sure stumped me, for example, 'What must a small aluminum boat have onboard?' with four really weird choices." - Day 4: "We got back to make dinner, with me being in charge of putting the carrots in the pot, shaving and washing the potatoes, and being a general look-over as Abner helped with the potatos, Ian cooked the onions, Sean helped with the carrots, and Marla went over to a different boat to barbeque our steaks as the grill at our boat pooped out." - Day 5: "Apparently we could not find the washroom after 5 minutes of aimlessly walking around and trying to remember Marla’s advice of finding the washrooms right behind the resort building" - Day 6: "However, a shocking event happened as our boat bumped hard into a giant log that wasn’t visible by us. Marla called this log a 'submarine'."

Published by Sam (samwong) 5 months ago on Monday the 27th of December 2021.

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