Monday, July 28, 2008

Letters from Egypt: The Beginning

I left out of JFK Airport July 9 around 10 pm, three weeks this Wednesday. The flight was only 7 hours and from memory, it didn’t feel half as long as when I flew into Amsterdam at age 16. As luck would have it, I was seated in the middle; the man to my left apparently took some sleeping pills; and I’d only wish the man seated at my right would’ve taken the same. He was a talker. Just my luck. 

I thought I’d have tears streaming down my face, but those tears never came. Instead I was reflective on how much I had learned in such a short time, but most importantly, how much I had changed. I’d studied up on what to expect, but no one can ever prepare you for culture shock. I am thankful to have some traveling under my belt and thus do not feel I’ve really experienced the “shock.” I anticipated poverty, language barriers, initial sickness, etc. I wish I could tell you various things I’ve found out in these three weeks, but to be honest, I haven’t done much. I slept the first full day after being sick on my first leg of my trip from airline food (note to self: starve when Air France offers fish or beef. Picking the lesser of the two evils (fish), still doesn’t constitute as safe).  

I did venture out alone that Saturday (July 12) to get a bite to eat. I hate to admit it, but I found myself shaking. I had some woman on crutches attempt to chase me down the street begging for money. “Madame, madame, please!” Please lady, I lived over three years in NY, I’m not moved. I ordered hawashi and basically just pointed at the menu to express what I wanted. Then, I counted my change because being foreign and not having working knowledge of Arabic can prove to be a sign of vulnerability – as is anywhere. I decided to grab a coffee while waiting for my food. I had on a sleeveless shirt and that was met with a great deal of whistles and comments to which I have no idea what they meant. Whew – I’d done something alone and was pseudo proud of myself. 

I walked back to my apartment, only hoping that I didn’t get lost considering I hadn’t been given a cell phone at that time. Two men at different times approached me. I learned quickly, do not look at anyone, walk straight and do NOT smile. I’ve since become accustomed to the attention and am better at ignoring these days.


  1. I'm glad to hear your alive and well! I've been waiting to hear how things are going there. I look forward to reading more soon! -M.E.