Reports from Egypt

February 3, 1999 - The "Chebeague Twenty" are leaving today for Egypt. I just went to the 10:00 boat and took a picture of the group departing from here. Bob and Bradley Putnam, Al and Vail Traina, Joan Robinson, Cynthia Sheketoff, Mac and Beth Passano. They will be joining the Bonebakkers, Elizabeth Hill, the Hinchmans, the Jordans, the Durgins, Althea Bennett, Diane Ash, and Nancy Adams on Cousins Island and Boston to fly out later today to EGYPT!! I have also included pics in the weekly pictures.
February 4, 1999
- And here they are, Bev, in Cairo - all the crew and bags accounted for, and out and about in the gardens of MENA House at night. Nancy Adams reminds you to see that she is in this crew and wants to be included in your list. Important - it is Bradley, not Tyler, who is off on this expedition with his Dad. Everyone was tickled that their departure was already out there on the Internet. Will keep you posted. Let's see if they can crawl out of bed tomorrow morning to head southwards to the earliest pyramid at Saqqara, a good start to lots of climbing up and down into tombs.

Love from all,

February 5, 1999 - Got this message from Elizabeth (Betty, Etta): "We got here yesterday and I absolutely love it! It is soooo awesome. We are staying at the Mena House, and it is awesome. Today we saw Saqqara (the step pyramid), Memphis, and some other little things. We ate lunch at an awesome place. Vail Traina went up and was dancing with the band people. It was funny, they had a cloth and they put it around her unfortunately, none of us had our cameras. Tonight we are having dinner at Nora's. Love Betty"

Donna Damon received this note today from Egypt: "Hi Donna - they are all here, and full of adrenalin despite the long trip. Joan was already out strolling in the gardens of MENA house with her first bottle of mineral water, bought in the dining room. And we came home from welcoming them with that treasure trove of Grape Nuts. I've just savored a bowl while watching the roll call at the Senate. Couldn't feel better, almost home. Off to bed, but will try to keep you all posted. (Joan remarked right away on the donkey carts moving right along minding their own business in a settled way, with kids hanging out the back, amid the chaos, fumes and constant honking of Cairo traffic. Let your Dad know those hardy fellas are still going it.) Love, Leila"

February 7, 1999 - Donna Damon received this message from Leila :

Dear Donna,

The Chebeague Twenty took off for Aswan early this morning - the chilliest day I've seen since arriving in Egypt. We even had some hail striking against my office window.

They encountered their first suggestion of what a sandstorm may mean during their visit to Saqqara, and now this chill among the palm trees - it is certainly not the tourist brochure image of the Virgin Islands we have here.

Sadly, we could not go with them. The critical condition of King Hussein meant Suhail had to make rapid arrangements to fly to Amman - He left yesterday evening. I had to give up going with him. Nora was in tears yesterday evening and today. Anyone who has had his presence touch their lives feels a deep sense of loss. Suhail plans to come back to join the twenty as they return to Aswan from the cruise in Lake Nassar, and then be with them for the rest of the trip.

Fortunately, we were able to have the whole crew, and some friends to dinner at home just before Suhail had to make the change in plans. For us it brought all the warmth of the Chebeague community into our house in Egypt. At any ordinary time this would have meant a great deal. As King Hussein lay dying, having friends about one was an exceptional support. That warmth has remained with us.

Joanie is definitely leading the crew in bounce for the ounce. Please forward my messages to Bev to share with others.

Love from us all,

February 8, 1999 - Another message from Leila to Ruth Houghton "Dear Ruthie, This is a real treat hearing from so many Chebeague friends now the Chebeague 20 are out and about - roaming the waters of Lake Nasser. Wish you were all out here, and especially Lewis. He has managed to keep those fantastic lines of his over the years, despite the candy. The Egyptians would find a way, with their honey-filled desserts, to send him back to Chebeague with a notch or two added to his waistline. We had all the Chebeague 20, and then some, to supper. The local baker produced a great round tray full of honey-laden "kunafah" - a dessert that would send the calorie counters through the roof. It disappeared.I wish you all could have seen Bradley, Elizabeth and Nora. Without prompting, they decided that this was an evening to turn on the style. Bradley wore a tie and looked as if he had just come home from college - Nora and Elizabeth went into Nora's room in their pants - covered with dust from a sandstorm at the pyramids - and emerged in long evening dresses.Whoooa. tiny spaghetti straps and sparkles on their shoulders. Elizabeth did her eyes Nefertiti style, and Nora sat me down in front of the mirror and worked on my face - then Elizabeth worked at transforming Cynnie. Joanie arrived full of pizzazz and entertained a whole room of people, group by group. Chebeague is now on the map of the Middle East. Draw up the drawbridge so we won't get overwhelmed by visitors. If this continues through Upper Egypt, I take no responsibility for overload on the Islander. Suhail will get your message through to the Chebeague twenty on Friday when they land from their cruise in Lake Nasser. That is one place where you are really out of touch with the world - but in touch with the greatest croissants I've ever eaten, cooked right on the boat. Lots of love to all, and especially to Lewis and Gerry.
February 9, 1999 - From Egypt: Dear Donna, Thank you so much for your note and your thoughts. Suhail is in Amman for the funeral, but Nora and I watched each step today on television. I was torn between going to Amman and duties here.

What is lost, perhaps, in the pomp and circumstance of so many leaders convening together at the door of the "palace", is how modest this king was, and how down to earth his family is. The palace is smaller than the Gilmartins' house. That spot where heads of state crowded together is no larger than Ken Hamilton's front yard.

The king grew up in a small stone house, not far from our own in Amman - there was only cold running water in the taps. Jordan never had any oil wealth - but its wealth has been in its people. This tiny country, with limited resources, has invested, non-stop, in education. The poorest as well as the richest families put aside a very very large part of their family income for education. It is something that we all know no one can take from you. But it means all the more to Jordanians. In a country that Winston Churchill predicted would never survive, people have long taken their own practical steps to self-sufficiency.

But most of all, watching the recaps of King Hussein, I reminded Nora that it is not wealth that makes greatness - it is human understanding and the courage to look always way beyond one's own small interests - to take risks for something greater than one's self. In a world where many children are bound to think that riches mean recognition and success, where playing it safe is important for not losing, today's funeral was an encouraging reminder that much less can mean much more. that risk taking may have its rewards if it is founded on fundamental human values.

I'll reassure Mac and Beth about their cat. After all their exposure in Egypt to the cat god, Bustratis (who loves to have parties and fun), they
are probably imagining all kinds of goings on at the house while they are away.

Tell Gail that her badges are the talk of the town. They do not go unnoticed. The Swiss Ambassador asked, "Is this a new order of the Masons?". The husband of the Norwegian Ambassador asked "Are these from LL Bean?" Bob Putnam proudly intervened, "These are from a supplier of LLBean, a special order for the Chebeague 20 only. Made right on Chebeague".

At the end of our supper party Suhail got out a large map of the East Coast - on demand - to show just where Chebeague is. I've told Ruthie Houghton that Suhail and I will take no responsibility for overload on the Islander. As the Chebeague Twenty makes its way through Upper Egypt, they are bound to bring in more and more interested people. Luckily, Lake Nasser is almost completely uninhabited, except for birds and an occasional crocodile. There will be no noise to get in the way of a whistle - or a big shout from Cynnie and Vail for the Chebeague 20 to regroup. But once they get to Aswan on Friday, where Suhail will rejoin them, they will have a whole crowd following them everywhere. Hope they are taking lots and lots of picture.

Tell your Dad that they may need to bring back a falucca as well as a donkey. Bob was asking about navigation equipment on the Eugenie. It's pretty much what you have on a falucca - or a donkey - keep a sharp eye out. My brother-in-law Bill would be amazed to see not even a single gadget like the array he has on the Liberty - no depthfinders, no Loran , no GPS - just watch.listen and keep your hands on the wheel. But the captain sits on a throne. And there are no tides.

Stay warm, and fire up that stove. Give our love to Bumpy, Mammy, Tom and Rachel. Wish you were with us -- all of you.


February 11, 1999 - From Cairo: Dear Bev, Suhail is just back from Jordan, and very glad that he went. Early tomorrow morning he flies to Aswan to rejoin the Chebeague twenty as the steam in on the Eugenie and switch boats. He'll be carrying with him hard copies of everyone's notes from Chebeague. I know they will mean a lot to the crew after having been out of touch with internet a phone for a number of days.

I'm stuck - and wired - for the next few days here in Cairo with Security Duties for the whole UN system --- UN staff are being evacuated from Asmara, Eritrea. With the fighting that flared up once again between Eritrea and Ethiopia, and with the violence intensifying the UN is working at getting all non-essential staff and dependents out. Cairo is a safe haven and a staging point for moving people home as wwell as for getting medical treatment.

But as of Tuesday I'll be able to hand over those duties to a colleague, and so will fly up to Luxor to join everyone there. Keep the messages coming and I'll take a new set of printouts to everyone on Tuesday.

Am eager to catch up on all the adventures. Suhail just showed me a great group photo of everyone in front of the pyramids - just right to put on the Chebeague WebPage.

Love to all,

February 12, 1999 - from Cairo - Dear Bev,  Suhail called from Aswan to say the Chebeague 20 had arrived from their trip aboard the Eugenie and was preparing to board the boat for the cruise down to Luxor. All folks accounted for - some had had a bug - flu - but had recovered - Cynnie, Diane Ashe, Nancy Adamas, - and Althea had just come down with it. But all had seemed to have enjoyed being pampered by the crew of the Eugenie.

Nancy Adams was eager to know if there was any news from her daughter who is expecting a baby. I could report none, but perhaps you and your website team could check this one out and get back to me so I can take her some info when I go to join them in Luxor.

It's a chilly friday evening - chilly Cairo style which means about 55 degrees. I'm going to crawl in under the covers for a good read .... it's been quite a week for me on the hotline and I'm glad tonight there seems to be a lull.

Love from us all,
Leila .

Message from Maine to Leila - Hi Leila, Everyone is doing well here as you can tell from the website. I contacted Debbie Bowman and she reported that baby Caleb, born 2/8/99, weighed 8 pounds 15 ounces, and is doing fine. Appararently she is a very good friend of Nancys.

I also want to add how inspirational your emails have been - people have been so appreciative and have commented on how much they have enjoyed the reports. Everyone keeps asking why I'm not in Egypt - I'm sure I would have been except for 3 growing reasons - well maybe four - but he would have been with me. I know I have missed the time of a lifetime!

February, 13, 1999 Hi Bev,

Your note came at just the right moment. Our Chebeague Twenty entered "cellular connect" territory in the Nile at Edfu and Suhail called home. He had Nancy Adams standing right next to him, (I could hear the breathing as he spoke) eager for any news of the baby. My news from you, read over the phone to Nancy, and repeated - Yes, a very, big baby and doing fine - sent everyone into a tizzy of celebration. Nancy still wanted to know if it were a boy, and all I could do was underline the name ---- Caleb -----. In our gender sensitive culture of today there may well be girls that are Caleb too (you were gender-unbiased in your message, no mention of the sex), but I said my guess is that it is a boy. They hung up instantly to celebrate, so I had no other news of the latest expedition ashore to temples and the like to report to you.

I get a feeling, Bev, that this is only the first of many Chebeague expeditions to exotic spots, in support of the Chebeague Historical Society. So start checking with Stephen on his preferences - Petra (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) - Istanbul (Topkapi and James Bond) - or Luxor (Death on the Nile, our current run.) We'll do other trips that should be at least as much fun, perhaps more, than this adventure. Maybe we can get together a group of sponsers as well. It's great promotion from many angles. Wish I could have Ellsworth and Ray navigating the Bay of Alexandria and the Nile together. That would outdo Cousteau = and people would have lots more fun watching it.

Tell Martha that I just borrowed Agatha Christie's Death on the Nile from the American Embassy to keep me in the mood of our Chebeague 20 as they cruise in nineteenth century British splendour in Aswan. It is a great movie - a cast of characters and a setting that none can rival. I hope she had managed to find this Hercule Poirot special for the library. If not, encourage her to do so, and to add the other two metnioned above, along with Lawrence of Arabia to make a set of four for adventures with the Chebeague Historical Society.

Suhail and I are happy to donate the vidoes to the library collection, where one day they may go along with images of the exploits of the Chebeague Twenty in Upper Egypt.

Thanks a lot for staying in touch.

Love to all,

February 14, 1999 A Valentine's Poem from Al Traina

"Valentine is a day for lovers and fools.
But the Chebeague 20, we've been to school
Not only to love but to idolize too - folks like
Horus, Isis, and bad old Seth too
For a relationship to last like the Pyramids of old,
It has to be based on more than just gold
So to all of our friends here and at Ed's store
May love be with you and forever more."

February 15, 1999 Sylvia, How great to hear from you. Donna told me you were tracking all the spots people were going. As for me, I would have loved some of that cole slaw - Suhail and Nora would also have been in line. And I imagine the whole Chebeague 20. I don't know right now how they are doing on the food front - whether they have depleted all those snacks from home I saw tucked away in their bags - . Nora and I have been savoring the Grape Nuts Joanie and Vail brought us (and she keeps her Slim Jims hidden in her closet). The Doritos are all gone.

If Suhail calls in today by cellular I'll make sure to get an update on food and the digestive works. Vail was even eyeing the ice suspiciously at our house, so some of them are being extra cautious. (I reassured her that even the ice was safe in our house, and she said, "Well I wasn't sure because you said you cleaned your teeth with tapwater." "I do, Vail, but I don't swallow the water when I clean my teeth". "But I can't do that", she wailed. We never use tapwater for ice.)

Thank you, Sylvia, for your kind thoughts about King Hussein. He has left a great void. We badly need leaders with standards and style.

Give a big hug from us to Aunt Ellen. I'm so glad she enjoys the lights up the hill. Gerald always felt that way looking down the hill, and was especially pleased when we cleared the trees in the old field between us and the Thompson House - and then delighted when lights came on in the house, to add to your mother's across the way. Tell her that Abby would be sitting on her doostep right now, if she had a choice. In Cairo she has to behave like a civilized city dog, and that's no fun.

Now I'm off for an early morning walk around the block with Abby. Just to give you an idea of the difference between going down the dirt road at Grasshoppe Hill and our walk in February. The grass next to the road is lush., and needs to be cut. The road is lined with parked cars and doorman getting everything spruced up for the day. The gardeners of the villas near us have laid out perfectly spaced and sized flowers for the next round of blooms. Lining one roadside are pointsettias that are the size of small trees - they stand about 91-12 feet tall and are covered with the red blossoms at the top which we know so well. The Egyptians call the flower "The Consul's Daughter". Then Abby and I will round the corner and follow "Canal St." Once upon a time it really was a long Canal running through the neighborhood and used to water the gardens. But they filled it, once large pipes were laid, and planted eucalyptus trees. Those trees are enormous. They stand seven stories high. And that is the height of our apartment. We look out from our windows right into the branches of these trees -- they're very fluffy and filled with birds in the morning.-It's like living in a tree house . A bit similar to that wonderful space Gerald made for us on Grasshopper Hill where we can wake up among the branches. But here we can't gaze at the stars in a clear sky above - nor look out to sea, or over the fields.

We'll be back in time to have breakfast with Nora, before she races off to school, and another soccer match today. So far they have won every game this season.

Lots of love from us all,

To Donna:

I'm off tomorrow to join the Luxor crowd - with a bit of a sore throat. Last night learned that passengers (Trustees of the American University in Cairo who had flown to Egypt for an Aswan cruise-business meeting) aboard the sister ship of the Eugenie all came down with sore throat - flu while on their voyage. The President of the University, an old friend, and his wife have loyally passed it on to me I think - to bring back into circulation with the Eugenie crew. It is hard to imagine any germ at all in that environment. It is absolutely pristine - where do the viruses hide. . .

Nora is just back from a bloody soccer match - bodies being carried off the field - other schools are in there for the kill. And this is all girls' soccer. No shrinking violets = in fact, Nora has used some epithets I won't even repeat over the Internet.

Lots of love to all


February 15, 1999

Hi there, Ruthie.

I'm on my way carrying your message and all the others that have arrived for the Chebeague 20. Suhail phoned this morning from Luxor saying that all are in fine fettle and pretty fine shape. Tonight is the big night of the Karnak Temple Sound and Light - it is like walking through the grandest opening scenes of a Victor B DeMille production, as drums and trumpets
blast in the night sky and lights rise among the temple columns gradually revealing the majesty of ancient Karnak and Thebes as you move through the temple itself, along the great walkways to the sacred pool surrounded by gods and pharaohs. It is much more impressive, I think, than the sphinx or the pyramids because you are in the midst of an enormous ancient city, surrounded on one side by fields that are being tilled as they were before Christ and on the other by the waters of the Nile. There is total silence except for the music of Karnak - no roar of the traffic of Cairo in the distance, no sign of Kentucky Fried Chicken, no pall of pollution overhead.

Suhail says he will give everyone a brief lecture about the Egyptian museum - its story - as an intro to what the Chebeague Historical Society's schoolhouse could become! Sorry I'm going to miss this story. But will get there in time to visit with a very old friend, Francois, a French archaeologist-restorer who has been working for many years in Luxor, as well as in Jordan.

I'll ruse your message to remind everyone about the snow so they can be sure to soak up the last rays of sun.

Love from all,

February 17, 1999

Donna, this Chebeague crew moves so quickly I cannot yet imagine when they
will hit Chebeague. I'll try to pin them down tomorrow. I went up to Luxor
yesterday, and found them right at home among the palm trees, the
dovecotes, and lounging around the foyer of the Winter Palace where the
chandeliers in crystal and cut glass from Istanbul hang down two storeys.
Joan is in fine form, and has everything organized. I wish I had a photo of
her going through the security check at the Luxor airport, her water bottle
sling set confidently over one hip and her straw bonnet in a jaunty, but no
nonesense position on her topnot. She asked me to pass this message on to

"Hi Donna - living at the Winter Palace - Home of King Farouk. Feel right
at home. Having the most wonderful time. We'll see you right soon. Hugs to
William. Love Joan"bjohnson

To John Holt from Leila:. We are all just back from Luxor - not a
single one missing and all in fine condition. Cynnie didn't even mention
her flu, but everyone was full of news about her bargaining with
shopkeepers, checking all the merchandise of Egypt as she goes, and
connecting with old friends, including the captain, stewards and crew of
the Eguenie, who were delighted to see her again.

The Chebeague Twenty looked completely at home in the grandeur of the
Winter Palace when I arrived there last night. Elizabeth guided me
through the gardens, amid the palm trees, to the spot where Suhail was
giving a lecture about the Cairo museum - somehow they managed to have
all the old Winter Palace at their disposal, including extra rooms laid
on. I don't know quite what the magic is, but am certain your mother's
way with people has something to do with this.

So Chebeague, prepare for the return of a many "grandes dames".
Elizabeth has been in training with all these surrogate mothers and

Let's see waht they are up to next. (Elizabeth needed to check out with
Nora whether there is really a Hard Rock Cafe in Cairo; she was also the
one who one all the prizes on the Egyptology quizz, I'm told, aboard the

Message to Pam Brewer:
You have no idea how great it is for us all to have the Chebeaguers here.
Nora has just raced off to get Elizabeth (Etta) Hill to come and stay with
us overnight. The whole crew is back from Upper Egypt - not a man, nor a
lady overboard - all of them looking very tan, and some of them just about
as red as a lobster (Bob Putnam for one) - Joan is a real trooper. I wish I
had a photo to go with the note. She's the only one who seems to have a
system all worked out for carrying exactly what she needs without having to
go back for extra loads. Must be all those years of managing the Cousins
Island connection. There she is with her water bottle strapped neatly
across her right hip (no hands needs) and her straw bonnet set down
squarely on top, and just one hand needed to negotiate the rest.
She asked me to get a message through to you Mom - can you help? I'm
copying this to Bev, just in case you don't pick up your internet messages
at school regularly.

They are just about ready to back up all their Treasures from the Thousand
and One Nights and head back home to Casco Bay. They are all now back in
Cairo, leaving behind the peaceful quiet, and clean air of Upper Egypt/
Last night they went to the magnificent sound and light show at the Karnak
Temple - where you walk amid the huge columns of the ancient city as the
tales of gods and pharaohs unfold around you, lights rising not only on the
ancient city but the Nile, where ceremonial boats sailed, but also along
the great stretches across the river where the dead were put to rest in the
Valley of the Kings.

Joan says, "Hi Di - It has been wonderful on the fly ever since we got here
- still much to do and only two days left. Something new around every
corner. Love Joan".