Saturday, August 29, 2015

returning to Cairo

Hello from Egypt!

I arrived to Cairo on Wednesday evening. My trip, overall, went fairly quickly. No big layovers along the way, which made each flight flow into the next. The first was a puddle jump to Minneapolis. The long flight followed--Minneapolis to Paris. Air France is okay, I guess--I'm not a big fan to be honest. Their seats are small, the television sets only worked for half the flight, and the flight attendants were on the borderline of rude. But how much can I truly complain if I made it to my destination safely? I was sitting next to a woman and her husband who were just beginning a journey all over Europe. We made small talk about politics--it was nice. In Paris, I had just enough time to get through security and people watch at my gate. On the Paris to Cairo flight, I sat next to an Egyptian woman who didn't seem to mind one bit that I only spoke shwaya Arabic. She talked often during the trip, and I could feel my brain straining to decode her sentences. There was a lot of nodding and smiling and describing with our hands. We both gave a bit of a swoon when the plane banked left before landing, providing us with a bird's eye view of the brown building sprawl below us. There it was, Egypt.

The Cairo heat smacked me immediately upon exiting the airplane. Per usual routine, we were hustled on a bus which drove us to the arrival terminal. Lines for immigration extended endless. I helped the couple behind me spell Zamalek on their paperwork, then fought my way through to get my luggage. I wish I had a picture of the madness at baggage claim. It's always such a sweet relief to recognize your luggage on the conveyor belt, even when you have to fight your way through others to drag them off. I had nothing to declare so exiting the terminal wasn't complicated(security thumbed through my passport, tapped my luggage while asking where I came from/what were the contents of my bags). J was waiting for me on the other side. The start-to-finish process of getting through airport/immigration in Egypt used to stress me out so much. Funny how all of it feels quite comfortable now.

So far jet lag hasn't been too hellish, though I fear jinxing myself with that declaration. I tend to refer to it as "the lag," as if its a temporary but oppressive affliction or spell I am under. Last night was my first true taste of it--up at midnight after going to bed at 11, going back to sleep at 2am and waking up again at 11am. Wednesday and Thursday night slumbers were facilitated by two fingers of whiskey and a sleeping pill. We went to a friend's house out in the desert yesterday for a cookout. The water in the pool felt amazing. I read books to the little kids in attendance and fought off the urge to doze off in the grass. I love the variety of people that are always in attendance at social things here. Irish, French, American, English, Canadian, Egyptian. I had a really nice time, which helped combat some of the homesickness already creeping up.

Today on my list of things to do: check out a new gym. I stuck to a fairly strict regimen back in the states--at the gym lifting/doing cardio 6 days a week(three days on, one day off). I feel strong and amazing and want to continue that. It's very difficult to convince myself to rest for a few days upon arriving here--resting seems like a waste of time.

Returning to the flat here in Zamalek felt a bit like coming back to look at a previous existence. If I were a snake, this would be me slithering back to my old home to observe skin I've already shed. Now that I'm back on medication, I feel quite far from the sadness that gripped me before my departure. I remember it, even if I would rather not. It's important to remember that, to know it is there and I should be as determined as ever to not return to it. Medication is not a cure-all, and I know being better requires conscious effort on my part. All this to say it is nice to return and feel better.

J and I are finishing up our time here in Cairo. J's next journalist assignment is taking us to Dubai--so far, it appears we will be there sometime next month. I'm thankful to have a bit more time in Cairo to properly say my goodbyes to the wonderful people I've met here. To experience all of "the things" a little more before leaving. I am also thankful to be leaving, as life here has been difficult for me at times. I've mentioned before that my visa does not allow me to work, and I was not prepared for how frustrated this lack of work would leave me. This move to Dubai will provide me with more freedom, and hopefully a better feeling of safety. I have goals in mind for our next adventure, something I look forward to talking about more in this space. That will require its own entry.

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