I’m back and … I’m back!
That was quite the hiatus, wasn’t it? The Western world is far too orderly and clean, seductively lulling me into a mind numbing trance. My creative mojo was stunned into silence. Actually, I was facing some pretty significant issues that sucked all the emotional and creative energy out of me. I could think of little else, and then just as all that passed, we faced a personal, devastating loss which, again, robbed me of all energy that could be channelled creatively. However, I have now returned, both to the desert and to the blogging world. My mind is clearing the jet-lag cobwebs and I’m starting to think as clearly as White Girl can think. It’s time to dust off the keyboard keys and get back to what I love so much.
We left our extended family behind on July 6th. After a frosty coffee date at the famous donut-offering eatery, we were off on the longest trip of our lives. With layovers and the drive back home, we were facing a traveling time of 4 days. Not long before we left, we received word from the airline that our layover in Cairo would be extended to a day and a half. Armed with this change in schedule, The Mister posed to me the possibility of taking the children to see the pyramids. “Are they open again?” I asked, knowing that they had been closed during the uprisings. “Yes, I believe they are,” he replied. “Well, I guess it would be good to take the kids to see them, since we are in town and have the time.” It was after this comment that I pulled myself back mentally and had to chuckle. We sounded like we were discussing taking the kids to the local play park for an afternoon excursion. There are people that plan a trip to the pyramids for years, carefully picking out the touring company and researching hotels. Here we are, casually discussing the possibility of seeing the pyramids and deciding that, huh, since we are in town, we might as well… I have a weird life.
The trip to Egypt seemed to take no time at all. It was helpful that during our London connection we rested in a lounge. I took advantage of their showering facilities. I can’t tell you how amazing it feels to have a shower mid-trip. I felt human again. It was lovely. When we arrived in Cairo, I didn’t feel as exhausted or haggard as I had expected to feel. Unfortunately, The Mister’s fears of having to pick up our luggage (7 large cases) was realized, but the hotel shuttle was more than capable to host our load and the hotel was more than gracious in housing it all in their storage room. The next morning, we woke up bright and early (I was awake at 4:30… jet lag. Grr) to get ready for our big, last minute trek to the pyramids. Some acquaintances of ours arranged a great touring company to take care of us. Our driver was respectful and kind. He did not once speak to me inappropriately as our previous guide had done, telling me that I would be going home with him that night and not with my husband. Our experience at the pyramids was much the same, with the Egyptian sellers and guides forcing their services/products on you and then demanding money. We were prepared for it this time, in expectation, so it didn’t catch me off guard as it had the first time, but it was still annoying, “Don’t worry! It’s free! I work for the foundation that takes care of the pyramids. You don’t have to pay for my tour,” but then he stood with his hand out at the end, expecting at “tip”. I don’t appreciate being lied to or manipulated. Thankfully, the children didn’t want to spend too much time in the hot sun, tiring quickly from the heat and wanting to return to the cool, air conditioned air of our tour van. Charlie thought it was cool, though, especially the part where he laid down in the burial casket of child royalty and played dead while I took a picture. Nothing says fun like pretending to decompose!
The next day we flew out bright and early in the a.m. Before we knew it, we were landing in our adopted home once again. It felt instantly good. And then instantly bad. The children and I had overstayed our exit/re-entry visas, so there was no way that they were going to let us back into the country. At first, they were going to send me, Charlie and Lola back from whence we came (Cairo) but then changed their minds to charging us each $300 for new visas and fines. Thankfully, The Mister is well connected; one of his friends was at the airport and managed to persuade them to be leniant on us. In the end, we only had to pay the fee for new visas, the fine was waved.
As we drove through the city, the reality of what we saw on the news and missed out in person struck us hard. There were embattlements everywhere. Huge piles of sand/dirt piled in the middle of the roads with large trenches dug through the asphalt and deep into the earth under the road to prevent tanks being able to pass and also provide a place for those fighting to hide behind. Military presence was thick throughout the city, keeping the peace that has been tenuously found just recently. For how long it will hold, we don’t know. Then we saw the large parking lots of abandoned vehicles lined up and lined up and lined up, waiting for gas at the pumps that is just not arriving. One parking lot we saw has completely blocked off one road, curled around the corner and blocked off the next road. Nothing is moving. Cars are covered with dust. Windows are draped in cloth as the family member charged with protecting the vehicle for that day is protected from the heat of the sun. It’s been like this for not one day, or even three days. These cars have been in lock down for a month. The oil is being held hostage by certain people trying to put pressure on the government. Unfortunately, the people that pay the price for this power play are the little ones. How are people to make their living as a taxi or bus driver when there is no fuel to get their vehicle of income moving? It’s a sad situation, really.
Of course, our vehicle needed fuel in order to make the long 5 hour trip home the next day. When we arrived, The Mister’s friend had only been able to get his hands on a third of a tank of gas before we arrived. After lunch, they took off together in search of black market fuel. Driving around, they spotted a teenager sitting on an oil can. “Do you have fuel?” they asked. Yes, was the reply, as the teenager jumped into the backseat to give directions to the secret location. The price and amount of fuel was negotiated (20 liters for $2.50/liter – a far cry from the 30 cents per liter we were paying just 4 months ag0!) and then the teenager held a gas can on his shoulder while another started the syphon with his mouth. The Mister was surprised at the quality of the fuel, saying that it was so pure, it was of better grade than the premium we would get at the pump in the West. Not a grain of sand or hint of impurity. When he did the finger evaporation test, the fuel evaporated instantly. I guess it was a good thing there was no sand in it, or else that poor boy could have choked when he started the syphon!
With our 3/4 of a tank of gas, we snuck out of our friends’ house shortly after 5 a.m., wanting to get a good start on the stressful journey ahead. I kept my eyes open for my traditional dead dog count, but there were few. And I mean, 7. I guess the fuel shortage has affected more than the livlihoods of the humans. In retrospect, I should have counted the alive dogs because there were an alarming amount wandering the side of the highway. In between dog gangs, we again saw time and again the long lines of abandoned vehicles leading up to closed gas stations – the longest being over a kilometer long. At one point, the already precarious mountain road was shut down to one lane because of the line of vehicles not willing to lose their place in already hopeless bid for fuel. Ghost towns of cars. It was spooky.
At last, we arrived at home. It seemed unbelievable that I was staring at our gate while at the same time it felt like I had never left.
It feels really, really good to be home.