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Wednesday, February 24, 2010


After being called daily for two weeks by EAS (Egyptian Aviation Services) to come and get Sophia's car seat, I finally gave in and decided to make the trip to Cairo airport. I had already planned to go horseback riding with a friend on Wednesday (one of my Rere days), so I figured that I could make a quick run up and back before we left to go riding at 9:30. I forgot, however, that this is Egypt.

Concerned about traffic, I was relieved to make it to the airport in time, 5 minutes before the operating hours, 9-2. I pulled my nose out of my book, however, to discover that I had told the driver the wrong terminal, 2. Chagrined, I told him that it was the wrong terminal, that I had meant terminal one. He shrugged his shoulders, and asked for directions from one of the 200 men standing around.

After driving away from the airport, past several hotels and a mosque, we arrived at another terminal, terminal 1. Oh, I said, that's not the one I want, I want the other terminal 2, the new one, the one that Lufthansa flies out of. So after some more driving around, another fly by the old terminal two, more questions of unoccupied men, we found our way to the new terminal 2, or rather, terminal 3.

The clock reading 9:15 by now, I was relieved to receive a phone call from the taxi driver who was coming to pick my friend and me up. He was going to be late. Fine, I would still have time. I hopped out of the car, and ran into the terminal. Remembering the instructions of the EAS lady, I was downstairs, to the left. However, EAS was nowhere to be found. I went upstairs, to the left. Still no EAS. Thankful that I had their number on my cell phone, I called them.

Oh, no they were in terminal two, the one that I had started at 20 minutes ago. So, back to the car, and back to the terminal where I finally found EAS just after 9:30 - the time I was supposedly going to be in the other taxi to go riding. However, hope springs eternal, so I called my riding companion, the stable, and the taxi.

Relieved to have finally found EAS, I walked in and asked for my car seat. They looked at me funny and asked for the baggage claim ticket. I didn't have because I was told to bring a passport. So they took the passport, and picked up the phone and started talking to someone for 10 minutes - the way any problem is initially dealt with in Egypt.

I knew I was in trouble when 5 or 6 minutes into the shouted conversation another man kindly waved for me to sit down. Having no other option, I did, and waited until after some book flipping (there was nary a computer in sight) and paper-copying and various other things were completed. At the end of my wait, I followed the waving man who was in possession of passports and a paper. Evidently we needed some policemen to stamp the paper so we could get past security.

So, off we went to find the policemen. Up the stairs, out the terminal, past the end, around the corner, and finally to another shabby room with Egyptian men sitting around in it. When they found out that Brandon works at the embassy, they asked if I knew Obama. I laughed and told them I didn't.

After 50 pounds, our paper was signed and we walked all of the way back to the departure hall. I was again asked to sit down while the kind man went to security. I was told it would only be "3 more minutes" (which is Egyptian for less than 30 but more than 10) while he evidently went back to the room and got the correct documentation which we used to get through the employee's entrance of security. My favorite part of security was the x-ray scanner that my bag had to go through - with nobody watching the screen.

After security, we handed another 10 pounds to passport control in order to access the scary stairway that led to the bowels of the airport containing a very dim room with locked cages and, of course, more Egyptian men sitting around. More books were consulted (once again no computers), the cage was unlocked, and I retrieved Sophia's car seat. After some meaningless signing (one of them on a handwritten paper torn out of a newsprint pad) the car seat was sent up a rolling belt where we retrieved it in the baggage claim. The nice man, after getting 70 pounds out of me (tip? he asked), called the driver and had him meet us outside.

And so I made it back to Maadi, an hour late and 150 pounds poorer. All of this for a car seat that only cost $40 to begin with.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


When I was younger, I loved watching the Olympics. I especially remember the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. That year we were at the beach, and I spent more time watching various sporting events than I did working on my tan. My freshman year of college various friends came over to my apartment nightly to revel in the spirit of friendly competition. The last Olympics occurred again during a beach trip, and I remember postponing dinner to watch the stadium jumping event.

So imagine my surprise when during visiting teaching last week, Linda mentioned that she had been able to watch some of the Olympics.

'Olympics?!?' I asked, confused. 'The Olympics are being held right now? Where? Which ones?' I mentioned this conversation to Brandon, and dubious, he replied that surely the Olympics weren't this year, weren't they supposed to be in 2012?

Welcome to Cairo, the land where you have to run the air conditioning in February, the view from your window never changes, and evidently the rest of the world ceases to exist once you get here.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Part IV Cairo

Partway into my second movie, we took off, and during the fourth replaying of Up we landed in Cairo, at 9 pm instead of 7. Everyone shuffled off the plane and to passport control to buy their visas. After purchasing visas, Kathleen announced that she needed to use the bathroom again. After getting through passport control with Edwin's tourist passport (the Diplomatic having not arrived before our departure), we went to get our eleven pieces of luggage.

With the aid of the ever-helpful Cairene, we pulled the luggage off the carousel and onto two waiting carts. One, two, three, four... nine. Two were missing. Ten o'clock by now, I headed over to the one luggage counter. I arrived behind two Egyptian men, one Egyptian women, and a German man. As the two Egyptians talked, argued, and waited, the German's cursing began. As four more airport workers arrived to 'assist' the two tapping away at their two computers, his cursing became more audible, animated, and offensive.

After waiting 20 minutes with no change in any situation except the addition of four more people, I decided that they would most likely not throw away our box of black beans and Sophia's car seat and went back to my exhausted mother and children.

Our Egyptian friend asked about tips, and I told him that tips would only be forthcoming if he helped us drive our two luggage carts through customs to my waiting husband beyond. He refused. I gave him the look and assumed The Voice and pointed out that there were three wheeled conveyances and two women to push it. He agreed.

And so, after almost 24 hours of travel, technical delays, weather delays, and baggage delays we were home. Welcome back to Egypt.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Part III Waiting to leave Frankfurt

As we landed, I noticed how white Germany looked. Being familiar with various states of snowfall, I noted how fresh the snowfall looked. As we slowed down, I realized that it looked fresh because it was actually snowing.

When we left Raleigh, it was 63 degrees. I knew that it would be 70 when we landed in Cairo. And as I didn't want to include three coats in our entourage that already consisted of Kathleen, Sophia, Edwin, myself, my mother, two backpacks, one car seat, and a double stroller, we packed the coats in our suitcase. One doesn't really need coats in an airport, and those jetway things protect one from the cold fairly well.

As we taxied through the falling snow, a flight attendant came on the PA, "We will be using a mobile gate today, so after descending the stairs, please board a bus which will take you to the terminal." My mother and I looked at each other shrugged our shoulders. Hopefully nobody has died from ten minutes of exposure, and people would think what they would about my parenting.

A flight attendant took pity on us and carried Kathleen down the stairs while my mother carried Sophia and I carried Edwin. The kind woman deposited Kathleen and fetched our stroller from the slushy runway.

A few hours later we were boarded on our plane. Being a Lufthansa plane, we had the wonderful seat-back entertainment of international flights so I immediately started a movie for Kathleen and a movie for myself. Edwin said that he didn't want one.

Brandon, meanwhile, was in Cairo checking the status of our flight. Initially it was delayed 20 minutes. Then it was delayed 40. Next time he checked it was an hour. Then two. Then two and a half. And finally, it went back down to two.

I finished my movie. Kathleen finished had finished hers and started it again. My mother wanted to put Sophia in the baggage hold. Edwin slept.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Part II Getting to Frankfurt

Thankfully, there was another flight to Frankfurt later that night, at 9:55. My mother had already re-booked us on the flight, but had not thought to make sure our seats were together. Perhaps we could be separate for the first flight, and maybe even the last flight, but I had no desired to be separated for the 9-hour overnight flight.

After waiting in line for 45 minutes and three Kathleen bathroom trips, a kind gate agent pulled us aside and started doing his tapitty-tapitty magic that gate agents do to either solve all of your problems or wreck your life.

Following 20 minutes (and another bathroom trip) we had four seats together, with the promise that we would have the fifth seat together before our flight departed. Mom, Edwin and I parked in an empty row of seats and let the girls eat their fill of snacks and treats in lieu of the in-flight dinner that they would not eat.

Soon enough our time came to board, and we found our seats - five in a row, bulkhead seats in United Economy Plus. Whoever the gate agent was, we reverence to power of his tapitty-tapitty that moved us up, and thank him for his pity.

With the help of Benadryl and a late flight the girls slept wonderfully. Sophia fell asleep within 15 minutes of taking off and woke only after we pulled her off the floor to buckle her in for descent. Kathleen slept most of the flight, but woke up to vomit and fall back asleep. Edwin slept too, and even I got a pretty good nap, which I would be needing later.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Return: Part I, Washington DC

Our flight from Raleigh to DC was uneventful, after everyone had been seated. I had worked hard to get all five seats that were purchased at three separate times together, but had neglected to check the seats on our first flight. The airplane was a puddle-jumper, with two seats on each side. Somehow we managed to have two seats together, and three seats separate, and after some switching in the completely booked airplane, only Sophia had to sit by herself, across the aisle from me.

We arrived in DC at 6:15 with plenty of time to connect to our 7:15 flight to Frankfurt. After exiting the plane, we followed the signs to terminal C. Up a few elevators, down a few more elevators, and we found ourselves on the platform of two days brand-new Air Tran, the new, improved, fast way to move between terminals.

We found it odd, however, that for an international airport at in the early evening, the platform was oddly deserted. So we waited. And waited. And noticed that all of the electronic signs over the doors were blank. And talked to the other person waiting, and found out that nothing had come for 20 minutes. We checked the time - 6:40 - and asked one of the airport workers milling around if the train was going to come soon. He didn't know, but thought that probably within the next five minutes. All his response needed was an In'shallah, and we'd be in Cairo already, with the same reliability.

Hearing our plight, an off-duty flight attendant offered to help us find the shuttle busses that were still working. So, up several elevators and down several more, and the shuttle service was not not working - until 7:15.

Back up and down the same 5 or 6 very slow elevators, and we were on the platform again, this time with people leaving a just-departed train. Full of hope, and 20 minutes from our international departure, Kathleen announced that she needed to go to the bathroom. And when a 3 1/2 year old says that, they're never saying it with 20 minutes to spare.

So up the escalators this time, and a quick jog down the terminal to the bathroom with a dash back down the terminal and down the escalators, only to find a train waiting and my mother, Sophia, and Edwin gone. Our fellow platform-waiter was there, however, and told me to jump in; my mother had gone on the previous train.

Kathleen and I hopped on, and promptly went the wrong direction. Our friend, however, assured us that the previous train had done the same thing, and that we'd get to C. This train, however, after claiming that it would go to C, did not, and we got back out on the same platform we had left from.

A train was waiting, but not wanting to go for a ride in the wrong direction again, I hesitated and missed the train going to C. This time with 5 minutes before our departure, Kathleen and I jumped on the train, and ran full-tilt down the long, long passageway, passing down our flight-attendant friend on the way.

My mother had gotten there right as they closed the gate, she shouted to me, and was waiting for me in at the top of several more escalators.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

To those of you in the snow,

I know it's rude, but I'm going to brag anyway. Please forgive me. But if you don't, I'll just go drown my sorrows in a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice (that I didn't have to squeeze myself).

And yes, that's my bougainvillaea on my balcony.

Feb 12 Tomorrow
Sunny, along with a few afternoon clouds. Very warm. High 82F. Winds SW at 5 to 10 mph.
Feb 12 Tomorrow night
A few clouds overnight. Low 61F. Winds ESE at 5 to 10 mph.
Feb 13 Saturday
Sunny. Highs in the upper 80s and lows in the low 60s.
Feb 14 Sunday
Partly cloudy. Highs in the upper 80s and lows in the low 60s.
Feb 15 Monday
Considerable cloudiness. Highs in the upper 80s and lows in the low 60s.
Feb 16 Tuesday
More sun than clouds. Highs in the upper 70s and lows in the low 60s.
Feb 17 Wednesday
Considerable cloudiness. Highs in the mid 80s and lows in the low 60s.
Feb 18 Thursday
Abundant sunshine. Highs in the upper 80s and lows in the upper 50s.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

For those of you who are wondering

All two of you - I appreciate the concern. We've arrived safely, without Edwin's diplomatic passport (we used his tourist instead), and are in the midst of unpacking, recovering from jetlag, and being the star attraction at various places in Cairo. More updates to come.