Cairo has been the touchstone of Brandon’s and my life together since before we were married. When we were discussing marriage, Brandon brought up his need to go to Cairo the next summer for a study program. After not hearing any conclusion to his dilemma, I summed up the situation for him by announcing, “well you have two options. You can take me with you, or you can leave me, and then I’ll kill you.”
And that’s how, six days after our marriage, two weeks after my graduation from college, I found myself dropped in the middle of hot, crowded, busy, bewildering Cairo with a halfhearted semester’s worth of Arabic under my belt. I had lived overseas before during a study abroad to Vienna, but I quickly learned that Cairo is not Vienna.
When we walked into the villa on road 17 our first Friday Sabbath, I don’t know if I had ever been happier to see the inside of an LDS church. We were greeted warmly by the members, invited to dinner, and quickly given plenty of advice on where to buy everything from sheets to poppyseeds.
Our summer study extended into the fall semester, and we were given callings as the nursery leaders, which confirmed semi-permanent status as Cairo branch members. The Cairo branch was our extended family, taking care of us, watching over us, and giving me somewhere to go for sanity and friendship in our crazy new home.
When we left Cairo after seven months, we left with not only ourselves, but with the beginning of our family, baby Kathleen hitching a ride. I will always see Cairo as the start of our time together as husband as wife. We came, newly married and completely inexperienced with only six months’ of dating and courtship before we came. We left seven months later with a lot more experience together.
When we were married only a few weeks and the inevitable bowel troubles came, Brandon told me he was hoping to have waited another thirty or forty years before we were regularly checking up on each other’s bowel health. I remember nursing Brandon through a particularly nasty fever equipped with only semi-cool washcloths and The Joy of Cooking to distract him. We gallivanted through Cairo with metro as our main form of transportation to see the opera, hike to the Khan, and somehow get to Manial Palace instead of the Citadel.
While washing dishes, cooking food, shopping, and riding the Metro to visit Brandon’s friend in Helwan, we grew to know each other and start to understand what it was to be married. That time was one of the harder periods of my life up to that point, but it was what began to form us together, as husband and wife.
At the time, I was more than happy to leave the insanity and stress of Cairo and return to the US. But before long, the reminiscing began. Remember the mangoes? The bread? The branch? As the time passed, the glow enshrining Cairo grew brighter.