It has been quite the adventure since Cynthia and I left our home in Chilliwack a week ago.
Our flights from Vancouver to Cairo were to be as expected … the Air Canada ‘red eye’ to Toronto, a layover that seemed to last forever and then a 10 hour Egyptair flight to our final destination. I am totally convinced that whoever designs aircraft must have a keen interest in inventing ways of making people feel uncomfortable for long periods of time! Upon arrival in Cairo we were met by a very friendly man who walked us through getting our visas, going through customs, and ensuring us that our baggage really would make its way to the conveyor after 45 minutes. No standing in lines for us! Just a little waiting …
After the ‘airport things’ were complete our new ‘best friend’ handed us over to Shawn, the Principal of the British Columbia Canadian International School (BCCIS) and his warm and friendly wife, Sherena who accompanied us from the airport to where we now live in Maadi.
As I am new to this ‘blogging thing’ and don’t know if there are ‘rules’ or ‘best practices’ (sounds so education-like) but I guess that it is my blog so I can do whatever I want. So I have decided to use Cynthia’s description of her (our) initial experiences in Egypt.
Good morning from Cairo. I am sitting here with a coffee in hand on Thursday morning, impossible to imagine that we left last Friday! As I write this I still do not have internet but I figure that the very second I get it I can push send and you will finally have heard from me. It is probably a very good thing that I have not been able to communicate until now. I was far too emotional, not to mention severely culture shocked and sleep deprived!!! Each new day has brought more appreciation for where I am.
It is now Friday morning, our first weekend day here. I am listening to the sounds of Jenn preparing to go off to Sharm el Sheik for the weekend, where she has booked a snorkelling tour. Bob is still in bed and has a bit of the "revenge", if you know what I mean! I think today will be a much quieter one, perhaps a well needed rest for Bobby. Maybe I will get started on some sewing....
Let me back up. Jenn has already told some of you about the state that our place was in and my utter dismay. Really it was only two days of tears and what? It is hard to find a word for the ‘what’ because it is so many things, despair, awe, disgust, amazement and gradual acceptance and new eyes. As Bob has been at school Jenn and I have walked, yes walked our way around Maadi in the hottest heat they have had in 11 years. More than once I have needed the electrolyte packets (that you mix with water) to stop the lightheadedness. It is not easy walking here, I have yet to see a stretch of unbroken sidewalk. By unbroken I mean crumbled or obstructed or, or or. Mostly we hug the sidewalk but are on the street. The men stare at us at all times but they keep their distance. The first couple mornings, till I bought a coffee pot, we had coffee at 7/11 where the most eager of young fellows now rush to serve us, nodding and smiling. The espresso is delicious as are the afternoon iced coffees, Jenn is most fond of an iced mint lemonade. Oh, and the fresh mango juice is wonderful! Most everyone we communicate with are helpful and welcoming.
Despite the conditions there is, I hesitate to say beauty, but a beauty here. It's broken down and dirty. There is garbage everywhere. But everywhere you see people hosing down their little piece of sidewalk, a losing battle, it is the middle of the desert!!! Thursday morning when we stepped out of our third floor apartment the process of washing the stairwell was already underway. Starting at the top (5th) floor, buckets and brushes and hosing.... Have I mentioned the heat that grabs you as you enter the hall and doesn't let go until you enter the next air conditioned space. Thank heavens we have four air conditioners, they are all quiet and finally no drips. The one in our bedroom dripped the first two and a half days. Talk about Chinese water torture!!!!!!!!
Well let me back up and tell you a little of what we have done. Our first day we walked around but kept to a pretty small area ducking in and out of air conditioned places. The Principal of the school and his wife met us and took us to Road nine or Tesa, 9 in Arabic, I know most of my numbers now. We wandered and went out for dinner. Day two Bob went into school and Jenn and I explored, we enlarged our area to walk the 30 minutes to road nine. I bought a pretty bedspread and we started gathering some of the essentials we will need to make our place a home.
The third day Bob was able to join Jenn and I on a tour to see the Pyramids and the Sphinx. We choose to ride camels to get from one place to the next and the whole experience was quite amazing. I must say I never even dreamed I would see this part of the world so you can imagine how stunningly amazing that was. The afternoon was spent at the Cairo Museum and despite the lack of air conditioning it was worth every single hot moment to gaze on Tutankhamun's mask and all the other exhibits.
The next day Bob was back at school and I was hard at work doing my job! Becoming familiar and comfortable with my surroundings. I honestly don't know what I would have done without the support of Jenn. She has pushed and prodded me and helped me enlarge my surroundings every single day and night. Oh my goodness, the night! There is so much to see and do as the sun begins to set and give a small measure of relief from the days heat. There is no end of restaurants, any kind of food you want and they all deliver! And it's inexpensive! Then there are the shops, all open till 10 or 11. One evening, after buying more groceries, we were followed home by two boys carrying our groceries. Back in the store the next morning they ran up to Jenn and I and shake our hands, obviously I tipped them too much!
So this morning Jenn flew off to her resort and I did not despair because I have had a week to learn my way around and become comfortable. Like "orphan Annie" I can say "I think I'm going to like it here".