DD and I are safely back from our Egyptian idyll. I am currently doing the third of what seems like twelve thousand loads of laundry, composing a grocery list in my head, rediscovering the various trinkets we bought for ourselves and as gifts for others, half-heartedly putting things away, wondering where the hell I hid my Canadian money and all the crap I removed from my wallet before we left …
… and of course, catching up on emails and blogs. You know, the fun stuff.
I have to admit that this was not the “best trip evar”. I was actually rather pleased to get home after two weeks on the road, living out of a suitcase, whereas normally it is a bittersweet feeling to come home.
Why? Well, first of all, our effing luggage did not arrive in Cairo with us. Yes. Again. (You may recall the luggage saga on our Greek vacation last year.) We are a cursed people, that’s my only explanation. And this time, it took FOUR days for us to retrieve it ourselves back at the airport because the bloody airline somehow couldn’t get it together to send it out to the hotel when it arrived in Cairo the day after we did. Oh, there were many phone calls to the lost luggage department of this airline, both from me (after I mastered Egyptian phones), the hotel reception people, and two different people from our travel agency. Everyone was disgusted with the treatment we got. As one of the fellows said, it is normal to have to deal with lost luggage, but it is NOT normal to have to go out the airport yourself to get it back. That was a first for him.
Secondly, poor DD got sick on our second day. (Maybe it was wearing the same clothes that she travelled in?) She was throwing up and generally feeling lousy, and we hadn’t even had time to ingest any of the water yet. That nausea later morphed into an overall feeling of just being ill, and that lasted most of the trip, off and on. Then one morning she woke up with a headcold, and is still coughing now. Next came her pulled thigh muscles from the crouching position necessary to enter a pyramid – the poor girl could barely walk for two days! Not to mention we both had the runs for a day or so (that one is apparently a regular occurrence with tourists to Egypt, and fortunately, we were prepared with meds for that).
But she was a trooper and didn’t miss much at all, as crappy as she was feeling at times. And she kept apologizing for ruining my trip, despite my assurances that she wasn’t ruining it at all, that of course I’d stay with her if she didn’t feel up to some visit somewhere. (My maternal instinct kicks in quite strongly when my offspring is ill, even though she’s 23.)
The third thing was the whole tour experience. As you know, I don’t DO tours, but in Egypt being part of a tour group is pretty much required, as it’s just too tough to travel on your own. But by the end both DD and I resented being herded here and there, being told to stand/ sit/ walk/ stay/ go/ try/ climb/ ride/ be careful/ look/ admire/ listen. Our tour group was small, just four people including us, plus our tour guide. The other two people were men, and we felt that our guide was catering way more to them than to us. Sometimes it was like tagging along with a bunch of frat boys! Thank goodness that we had a fair bit of time alone to bitch to each other and to renew our energy before the next outing somewhere.
The whole Middle East culture shock thing was huge for me, as well. I had a taste of it last year in Istanbul, and it’s interesting and different for the first few days, but two weeks can seem like a very long time to be a complete fish out of the water. It’s just so mentally tiring to have to constantly be aware of the societal norms around you – and there is little common ground with your own culture, so your points of reference are pretty much zero. Yes, I have a somewhat adventurous spirit, but I have to say that I was often very glad to be walking around with my group and that my group included men. It’s hard to get used to all the other women around wearing hajib or burqa in such hot temperatures. It was difficult, if not impossible to do much shopping because of the shopkeepers’ constant hassling, and also because we didn’t know many “average” prices, so we were at an enormous disadvantage if we wanted to bargain, unless our tour guide was there to give us a ballpark figure for whatever item we were interested in buying. The whole tipping thing was baffling as well, but fortunately our tour guide collected a whack of American money from each of us right at the start of the tour, and he doled it out in appropriate amounts to the appropriate people at the appropriate times. That was a relief, I must say!
Still, I’m glad we went, and I honestly wouldn’t trade the experience for the world.
And the best part was probably that our luggage actually arrived home with us! (It’s the little things, you know?)