A Clarification: I didn’t intend to take the long way to Paris. It was actually a stupid inconvenience (on paper) that my plane tickets had been scheduled as they were. The travel agency that handled all of my tickets informed us that I had a special student package that would allow me to reschedule any trip as long as the locations were the same and I would only pay the difference in fares. What they forgot to tell me was that a “trip” meant an entire travel day, not individual flights, and the tickets were booked as if I would be heading directly to Menton. But I’m not–I’m heading to Paris and a few other places first! So, to avoid voiding the rest of my trip (my ticket back to the States, especially) I had to fly Cairo–Frankfurt-Milan and then take the train (to avoid paying any more exorbitant baggage fares) to each additional destination.
I’m not a dolt, I just didn’t read the fine print…
Wincing at the new drain on my wallet (I had to pay TGV fare because all the Eurail seats were taken by the time I arrived), I waited in the Nice train station. Again, the differences between East and West were immensely obvious. I saw a total of one muhajaba and several couples took me by surprise by their public displays of affection (of which I saw nothing between couples in Egypt–even holding hands between sexes was rare).
By the time I got on the train it was dark out. A middle-aged man sat across from me and immediately began mumbling into his cellphone… IN EGYPTIAN ARABIC! Another man sat next to him and HE TOO was an Arabic speaker! I knew there were Arabic speakers in the south of France but this was a little bit ridiculous. Adel, Mahmoud, and I chatted for the next few hours on the way to Paris. It turned out that Adel was from Aswan and Mahmoud from a suburb of Cairo. They were initially taken aback by the combination of my European features and my Arabic study, but eventually we all relaxed and they asked me questions about their homeland and what my experience was like studying and living in Alexandria. They laughed when I would crack out slang words and helped me when my grammar or vocabulary faltered. Then, Adel and Mahmoud launched into an extended discussion on Egyptian politics that went around in so many circles that I stopped paying attention. Unfortunately, all that was out the window was the occasional streetlamp for miles and miles, so I napped.
When we arrived in Paris, Adel wished me luck with all my studies and told me to come back soon to Egypt. I thanked him and Mahmoud for their company and we parted ways.
My aunt, uncle, and cousin came to pick me up at Gare de Lyon. I hadn’t seen them in a long time and I was thrilled to finally meet again! I’ll be spending the next little while with them near Paris! Whoop whoop!