Pictured above: the weather was beautiful in Cairo on the day I left for the states. Traffic was nonexistent--I left on Spring Day(also known as Sham al-Nessim), which is a national holiday marking the first day of Spring. Many families spend the day picnicking in shared green spaces. I didn't get a picture of it, but there were chairs arranged along bridges with gathered groups drinking tea or taking selfies(the sheer amount of people taking pictures of themselves at arm's length is kind of incredible). It was an ideal day to say farewell to the city for a while.
The Cairo airport is always a little chaotic, so I powered through the crowded entrance and metal detectors to get to the flight desk and then to my gate. The best part about the hour wait at the gate: when two women in hijabs started blasting DJ Snake/Lil Jon's "Turn Down for What." Not just once, but three times in a row(mostly the chorus, which is really all you need).
In contrast, the Doha airport was a bit like a quick trip in outer space.
I flew Qatar Airways this time, which meant flying farther east before heading west. This made the middle flight a bit longer than usual(usually the long flight is 7-8 hours; this time it was 13.5). Flying Qatar is so nice. I had a really great experience(including vegan dinner & breakfast thanks to my thoughtful husband). And, since the bulk of the flight was overnight, my jet lag wasn't bad at all. It's the little things.
And now a list of things.
Things I've noticed as an ex-pat, about myself and the U.S.:
- drinking water from the tap has never, ever felt this wonderful and/or decadent.
- same for driving/the act of traveling from point A to point B. After experiencing Cairo as both passenger and pedestrian, stop lights appear like little meditations. And boy do Americans like painting lines on their roads.
- I went to the grocery store and spent an absurd amount of time in the produce section(as predicted). I've been enjoying lots of fresh spinach and ripe avocados.
- my niece and nephew chose to grow like weeds in my absence...how are they so big after only a few months away?! I've been enjoying the heck outta my family on this trip.
- I pay a lot more attention to customer service interactions. I think this is because I have to really focus on them in Egypt(since Arabic isn't my first language). Or maybe it feels like a luxury to have extended exchanges in English with strangers. All of it is really motivating me to increase my studies and get better at using Arabic(inshallah).
- thunderstorms, the smell of grass being mowed, making my sister laugh. I knew I missed these things, but I didn't realize how much they lift my heart until I moved away from them.
- I was reunited with my bike. Oh how I've missed that beautiful beast.
- television news in the US is a joke. An incredibly nonsensical, fluff-filled, cringe-worthy joke. Does that sound harsh? Maybe. But my word. It's embarrassing.
- I miss hearing the call to prayer.
- wide open green spaces. Be still my heart.
- Target welcomed me back with open arms. I've gone three times in one week.
- I wasn't prepared for the amount of guilt I would feel for being here while J is back in Egypt working. Any first world thing I get to take delight in, I want to immediately share with him. It's extra tough being in our hometown without him. Once I moved to Cairo, the frustrations that went along with doing everything long distance melted away...and now on this trip they return, and I am reminded of how hard we've worked, how fortunate we are.