Kila and I have made it to American University in Cairo (AUC). It certainly was an interesting trip here. So bear with another unforgivably long post and you will be rewarded.
I left home on Saturday the 23rd. Saying goodbye was not an easy thing to do. But by mid-afternoon, after a last supper at Chipotle (obviously), I was on a plane headed to Paris. Kila, the other Concordia student to study abroad in Egypt, arrived within minutes of me and we went through security and everything together. The trip to Paris was rather uneventful as was our long 5-hour layover. I found myself extremely tired after our first flight (about 9 hours long), so I found a wonderful orange chair to pass the time in while sleeping. Thanks to Kila I have a couple beautiful pictures to share. As it came close to the boarding time we went over to our gate and waited. After remarking about how late the plane was boarding, we realized that our flight had changed what gate it was loading. We were going to be late! Grabbing all of our things, we quickly went from one end of the airport to the other in a high speed rush. When we got there, they were still boarding and we were nowhere near the last to board. Also, did I mention how tired we were by this point? Really tired.
It was the flight from Paris to Cairo where things really got interesting. This flight was one to remember, perhaps mostly due to the characters we encountered. During both flights people offered to move their seats so Kila and I could sit near each other, however this time it was just because of their plan to take our aisle seats. Either way we ended up sitting by each other and I still had my aisle seat (I really do always get what I want). As the plane took off and we ascended, a man diagonally in front of me began praying, reading his Qur’an, and stroking his beard. I do not get nervous easily, but seeing his nervousness manifested physically made me feel more nervous than I thought possible. He probably sent half of the four and a half hour plane ride to continue his nervous mannerisms.
Seated next to Kila was another interesting character; she was an elderly woman from Denver, who would be traveling with a group throughout Egypt for two weeks. She was very kind to Kila and myself but acted less than kind to some on the plane. Kila mentioned she may have been upset by the lack of English being spoken on the plane including the French announcements. As the plane continued, she added more and more layers and continued to comment on how cold the plane was. First she added a pullover to her outfit, then her winter jacket, and then a blanket. But this wasn’t enough. She began asking people around her for their blankets. I agreed to give her mine. Still cold, she began to desperately reach under a sleeping Kila’s legs to grab Kila’s blanket that lay on the ground. She struggled for a couple minutes, somehow without waking Kila, and then gave up. Although she wished for more, five layers was enough.
The last interesting character that I encountered was an elderly woman, presumably Egyptian, whom sat directly in front of me. There were no problems until I finally fell asleep, something I had surprising trouble doing, with my head rested on the seat in front of me. I will state that I did not fall asleep purposefully against the seat but it did not matter, I had upset the woman in front of me. She began to continuously move her seat from the upright position to the reclined positon, banging the chair repeatedly against my head with all of the force the elderly woman could muster. When I awoke and finally realized what was happening, I continually pushed with equal force against the seat each time it happened until she quit. I don’t understand why the woman couldn’t just turn around and ask me not to rest my head against the seat. She wins my “Worst Airplane Passenger Award” for the flight.
Overall though, the flight was amazing. I highly recommend flying Air France to anyone who is presented the opportunity. I’m not just saying that because my flight attendant was so French it almost hurt. I however might just be saying that because of the food. The food was so amazing. I felt as if I was sitting down eating at a French restaurant. The best part of the meal was the slice of camembert cheese that was served with the meal (a piece of a baguette was also served with the meal!) The elderly woman who I gave my blanket to didn’t eat her cheese and made up for taking my blanket by giving me her cheese. So yes, I loved my flight with Air France, but there was one interesting event. A snake. Well maybe. About two thirds of the way through, a flight attendant made an overhead announcement in only French. All I could make out was that there was an emergency. Everyone started to turn around in their seats and look around. Slowly, a large game of telephone began from the back of the airplane to the middle. By the time it reached me the person behind me said she thought that there was a snake that was misplaced. I still have no clue whether this is true or not, but it was partially confirmed to me when two women who appeared to be in their sixties began checking every overhead bin from the back to the front.
Finally, we reached our destination. When I stepped off the airplane to the outside staircase, I had my first impression of Egypt almost immediately – “Fuck, its cold. So much colder than I ever thought.” After being separated and then finding each other again, Kila and I changed our money to Egyptian Pounds, got our visa, and found our bags, all with the help of kind and hospitable Egyptians (the first of which was an AUC alumn). We couldn’t even make it out of the building without people trying to sell us things pretending to be from the Ministry of Tourism and a myriad of taxi drivers ambushing us with their inflated 10-times-as-much prices before we could tell them we already had a driver. As we stepped outside I couldn’t help but smile. There were masses of people, twice as many shady taxi drivers, beautiful landscapes and buildings in the distance, and nothing but sounds of Arabic and car horns honking in the air. We found our driver who was, not surprisingly, smoking a cigarette. He helped us to his car as he dramatically threw his cigarette on the ground; before even leaving the airport parking lot we got a great taste of the notoriously bad driving in Egypt. There were many car horns honking and cars coming in close encounters (sometimes an inch) with people and other cars. Our driver, while leaving his parking space, came within a half a foot of hitting a group of children… knowingly. He just continued to back up until the children moved. You really can’t understand the driving here without seeing it (and I thought Palestinian and Israeli drivers were bad).
About 40 minutes later we arrived at AUC’s Pepsi Gate, where our bags went through searches and x-ray’s and we went through metal detectors. This is something I will need to do every time I enter campus. We had no clue what we were supposed to do from there. Presumably we were to head to our dorms, but we were given no information, even after requesting it, about which dorm we were in. Along the way we found many workers who tried their best to help us, but they all spoke very little English. It didn’t help that the little Arabic I know is Formal and not Egyptian Arabic. Thankfully, a student who is also an RA found us struggling to speak with a staff member and assisted us. After signing forms, and pounding on the doors because of a lack of keys, my sleeping roommate let myself and the person assisting me into the room. The bed was made, the dorm much better than I could have imagined, and my roommate extremely helpful. Oh yeah, and he’s an American named Adam too. It didn’t matter as we talked for two hours. He even showed me around a little as I asked every question that popped into my mind until I sleepily dozed off.