August 4, 2011

Egypt, continued


Last night was a night of fear for me. The newness and foreign sights, sounds and treatment here had taken their toll on me. I found myself anxious to leave Cafe Riche and Groppi cafe because I was sick of being a tourist.

There are many mistakes to be made and the emails to home reminded me just how foreign this place is. R is treated better than me due to his gender and skin color and I don't like it.

In this petulant child-state, I researched Sinai, Aswan and Siwa in order to plan our next few days. I was annoyed and frustrated to learn that each of the trips required more transit time than I expected, so we'd only be able to make one. I found myself scared to go to Siwa due to its proximity to Libya, scared to go to Luxor/Aswan because of previous terrorism and the obvious dislike for me that had been displayed by many people throughout the day. I was depressed at the idea of close to 2 and half full days to get to mount sinai, not to mention the cultural conflicts that I'd encounter at the border to Israel. I wanted more time in the actual destinations to justify the travel commitments and I simultaneously just wanted to go home where I felt safe.

I talked with R and we decided to go to the travel agent this AM to figure out if Siwa is a reservable option. And then, fitfully, I slept.

But, a wonderful thing happened. I woke refreshed, unscared, and comfortable once again with the idea of winging it on our own.

We checked out with no problems. The bellhop got us a taxi and negotiated a fare (no doubt with a commission for himself). Our taxi got us to the train station with no problem. We greeted the information desk with (this is a photo of how I wrote what we said to him -- sadly I can no longer read or understand what it says):

He immediately smiled, replied, and was very friendly to us. We found the ATM, got cash, got tickets to the train to Alexandria, deciphered the Arabic to get to the right track, bought snacks (again greeting the clerk in Arabic and being very well received). In fact, the snack vendor gave me 10 Egpytian Pounds too little in change, and when I showed him, he smiled, apologized and immediately gave me the rest. He apologized again, obviously sorry. I said, "Malesh" (forget about it) and "Shukran" (thank you). He smiled.

We found our car and seats, passed the conductor without problems, and now we are on the train to Alexandria. I'm watching the countryside roll by. This feeling, now more than anything, is why I travel. I feel bigger, better, and more capable of handling setbacks, difficult situations, and fear. Today, I'm happy.

I also finally learned the entire Arabic alphabet and feel that I should be able to progress in my studies. Already, it's come in wonderfully handy/necessary. Little things like being able to find a street by the sign, or read the train schedule are fabulous. (And now, in 2011, I can't read or speak a word. How sad)

On that victorious note, I think I'll stop to read and rest.

'til tomorrow

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