Yesterday I said my goodbyes to the family and the dog. I woke up early to make breakfast in time for Ryan to eat with me before he left for school. Mom dropped me off at Philadelphia International and I made it onto my plane to Dulles just fine .
Dulles was uneventful. I met the program coordinator and a program trainee at the gate. We made introductory small talk and then we boarded the flight. It turns out it’s just me and another girl, who is very nice, on the program this time around.
We boarded the flight to Zurich. It was very full, but the woman who I sat next to initially made a stink to one of the flight attendants and got herself moved up to first class. Then, Brenda came to sit next to me. Brenda was a tall, exquisitely-boned African American lady, who, immediately upon stowing her carry –on under her seat started talking in these hushed whispers, too soft for a lot of people to hear and loud enough to make me realize she was talking to me. She was nice, asking me where I was headed and why I was headed that way. I answered truthfully and she moved into a diatribe on her divorces, her daughter’s ability to stick to her guns, why Brenda’s job is terrible (and with that, why the Federal Government isn’t working as efficiently as it could), sage advice (“You’re young! Don’t be naive!”) and –funny enough—complaining about some nasty lady taking the last first-class seat. I stayed mum about Elaine—the one who had made the stink.Eventually we hit a lull in conversation and I turned to the in-flight entertainment. There were little personal TVs in the seat backs and I discovered, through some channel –flipping, that each selection was available in at least 1 of 4 languages: English, German, Spanish, and French. I can now honestly say that you have not experienced in-flight comfort until you have watched (parts of) Midnight In Paris in French, Super 8 in German, Alien in Spanish, and the Big Bang theory in English all in one flight. Then try falling asleep with the Chicken-headed embryonic alien creature busting out of John Hurt’s chest burned into your brain.
This put me in a really odd mood, combined with my lack of sleep. The man in front of me kept tipping his seat further and further back and I was miffed. It doesn’t usually make a difference since I’m short and I can still fit comfortably, but it seemed to totally disregard any movement i might want to make, that with this fellow I had to resist the urge to tousle his hair and creepily whisper, “Well, since you’re so keen on taking up my personal space…” But I didn’t.
The dawn broke just over Dunkirk. Breakfast was served when we started seeing the Alps out the window. From such an altitude, and because the sun was not up yet, the peaks blended in to the cloud cover, painted peach and blue in the early light, which made it hard to tell where the sky ended and the earth began. As we were descending into Switzerland, Brenda said meaningfully, “It’s so pretty! It reminds me of those places in Europe, you know, villages?” Lady, we’re in Europe and these are European villages, I wanted to say, but instead I smiled in favor of the spectacular view.
The dark grey swath is mountains.
Zurich was very quiet. We gadded at the terminal. It’s actually a nice modern design with these huge plate-glass windows and, you guessed it, a chocolate kiosk smack in the middle.
Then we got to Cairo. It was all very very exhilarating, what with having a new alphabet to read and women around me wearing hijabs. We were met by one of the professors helping with our Orientation in Cairo and we went to Starbucks in Heliopolis (they have spinach pastries in Egyptian Starbucks) and then to dinner. It was all very nice and we met several more people who would be helping us out over this semester.
Driving around, we saw a lot of young men in red shirts waving flags. Several busload
of them passed our van and they yelled “Welcome to Egypt” to us girls and things I couldn’t quite decifer in Arabic. Our guide told us that they are fans of an Egyptian soccer team, Al Ahly (the National—although this is not the official national team),
that had a game in the city today against a Tunisian team today. We passed one of the main arteries leading to the stadium: a sea of red shirts and banners and flags, people whooping it up and yelling and generally making a lot of fun-looking rucus. Apart from the fact that everyone was cheering for soccer, the scene would have been about the same in the US.
Then, we drove to the apartment we will be staying in for the next few days. It is HUGE and very comfortable. Hannah (the other participant) and I each have our own bathroom and room.
More on life in Cairo later. I am going to bed—on Egyptian time.