Friday, December 14, 2007

Goodbyero, Cairo.

Unless something insane happens in the next two days (not a longshot with this country), this will be my last post from Cairo. Which is sort of freaking me out. Where did all the time go?

(Quick sidenote: yesterday was the two month birthday of my coke nail. It has gone beyond the tip of my finger, and is moving into uncharted territory. This makes it very hard for me to type the letter "A", or to shampoo my hair without scraping a layer of scalp off. In short: I am disgusting.)

Before I get all "boo hoo Cairo" on you, let's talk about how terrifying living in this apartment has suddenly become. For some reason, the beggars of Cairo decided we're regular moneybags, because they're all making the frightening ride up the elevator to the ninth floor, just to knock on our door and ask for five pounds.

That's not the scary part, obviously. Two nights ago, Beckett and I were asleep (in our separate rooms, pervert), when we were woken up by the doorbell ringing at 3 AM. I stayed in bed because I was tired and lazy, but I heard Beckett getting out of his room, grumbling and cursing all the way to the door. He opened it, and standing about ten feet away from the door was a small Egyptian man (Beckett described him as "Al Qaeda-looking"). His head was tilted towards the ground, but he was looking out the top of his eyes, staring at Beckett.

Beckett asked in Arabic, "What do you want?" but the guy said nothing. Just stood there, staring. Fifteen or so seconds passed, and Beckett repeated: "What?" A few more seconds of silence, and then the guy slowly said (extremely creepily, I might add, since I could hear it all the way back in my room): "Oh. Good evening." Which sounded even creepier in Arabic.

At this point, Beckett was completely freaked out, so he just shut the door. He got about ten feet away from it before he heard a series of knocks. Peeking through the peephole (a word I can't write without giggling), he saw the one man had suddenly been joined by two more. Luckily, he didn't open the door again, and just crept back to his room, grabbing a knife from the kitchen on the way. Apparently he didn't sleep until the sun came up, and I'm not so sure I would have been able to, either.

Actually, I know I wouldn't be able to, because while I was able to laugh off the story the next morning with a simple, "Weird..." it really freaked me out that night. We were supposed to change our locks or at least get a deadbolt when we moved in here, because who knows how many people have a copy of our house key? We tried the first week in our apartment, but failed and ultimately forgot. (If you know how to say "deadbolt" or "locksmith" in Arabic, it probably would have been easier for you.) Plus the windows in my room don't close all the way, and it was a particularly windy night, so the wind was making the curtains dance around like they always do when someone's about to be killed in a horror movie. But even worse, the wind was making the already-loose door shake and thump, like someone was on the other side trying to get in.

Looking back, I was being a bit of a pussy, but at the moment all I could think about was that guy saying, "Messe el-kher," in that creepy way. I spent the night on the couch in front of the TV, and didn't fall asleep until the sky was beginning to lighten.

Laying on the couch, I decided I really didn't feel like watching anything in Arabic, wrestling, or 10 Things I Hate About You for the umpteenth time (why does Egypt love that movie so?), so I just turned it to CNN. The most insane British man in the world was reporting on traveling in Japan, so I had a blast seeing all the places and landmarks I was at. It really felt like I was just there, even though that was way back in July.

It's really amazing that I can watch a news report from Tokyo and say, "I was there!" Or when a commercial for Turkish Airlines came on, showing the park between the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, I was able to remember the times I walked through that park myself. Or when the news report came on showing protests in Beirut after another assassination, I recognized the buildings in the background. Rather mind-blowing, really.

I can't believe there are only two hours until Saturday begins - my penultimate day in Cairo. I know it's cliche, and I know it's cliche to say it's cliche, but it feels like yesterday that I arrived in Cairo, completely confused but loving every second of this insane place. And wasn't it only last night that Beckett and I checked out of the dorms at nearly midnight, getting an apartment completely on impulse? How has it been nine weeks since I was in Beirut?

There are some things I already know I'm going to miss. Simple things, like the joys of smoking shisha and drinking tea at a small cafe down some dirty street, or just the way you can't leave your apartment without insane things happening to you (naked Saudi men, anyone?). I definitely will not miss the pollution (for the past couple days, the air outside has smelled like a charming mix of straight-up gasoline, and electrical fires) or the incessant car horn honking. But I've met some amazing people and completely changed my view of the Middle East, which I think we all need these days. We may not speak a single word in common, but a cab driver and I can still share a laugh when we see a biker collide with someone getting out of their car. His culture is 100% baffling to me (and the non-offensive Egyptian hand gesture he gives me to say "wait, please" could get you killed if you did it to someone in, say, New York), but we're basically the same.

And, of course, I'm going to miss all my friends out here. Emily's in Jordan, but she decided to come back tomorrow night to say goodbye to us on Sunday, which is good, because I'm dreading the thought of leaving her. At least she's in Chicago, though. What am I going to do without Allyson, who is all the way in LA?! Or Beckett, and Elizabeth, in Washington, D.C.? Weird stuff, saying goodbye to these people.

I don't know what more to say. It's been an unbelievable four months, and I think the past however-many posts speak for themselves. I'm thrilled that I came out here, and I'm excited to get back home and restart my life in the good ole USA. (The next time one of you angsty teenagers complains about living in the "worst country", just remember that at least you have drinkable water and electricity that works. Bush sucks, but you've gotta love America.)

I still haven't quite decided what to do with this blog now that I'm going home. Do I keep it running? Is my life really that interesting in the United States? There'll for sure be one or two more from home, just to update on the whole reverse-culture-shock thing that I am oh so looking forward to. But after that - who knows? I've got a couple trips in the works, specifically a road trip this summer around the United States, and hopefully in a year or two a few of us AUC kids will reunite for either the Mongol Rally or the Rickshaw Run (or maybe the Ruta Del Sol or the Africa Rally). So even if this blog dies out once life returns to that seemingly-foreign concept of "normal", I expect a vampire-like resurrection for it at some undefined point. The world's a big place, and I'm not at all satisfied with the meager amount of it I've seen so far. What's the rest of it like?

(Oh, on a related note, if you want to invite myself and two friends to stay with you during our road trip this summer, I'd be eternally grateful to you. We have no definite plans for our route [aside from going to Disney World, of course], and I don't know about their financial situations, but I'm completely poor after all these ridiculous travels, so we will be relying on a tent for lodging, rather than crazily expensive hotels. But we could pay you back for your generosity by painting you a picture or something. My specialty is abstract/cubistic renditions of genitals.)

Apparently it's the Christmas season back home, so Happy Christmas. See you in the States.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am glad you are coming home.
What a great gift for you and your family.
Enjoy the love ~