“Beep biip.” “Beep biip.” “Beep beeeeeeeeee……” I was listening to the boarding checks of the people in front of me in Minneapolis, but when I handed the staff member my boarding pass, the second beep kept going. Shucks. Earlier, I’d accidentally almost had my backpack searched in the security check because I forgot to take out my tiny bag of liquids. Now, my boarding pass had an issue. It’s ok, though, because the alert was only that the staffer had to switch passes withme – I’d gotten upgraded five rows to First Class. Wow!
That flight was adventurous only in that we flew over, yes over, cumulonimbus clouds – the very ones that we’d skirted while driving to Minneapolis. That meant I had some prettyneat cloudscapes to see. I landed in Chicago, having had twice the drinks (orange juice and water) as normal, and booked it to my next gate, which I’d quickly ascertained ended after a hike. I sat for all of 5 minutes (enough to pull out a book and begin reading) when boarding started.Perfect timing! Then, one absolutely perfect landing into Washington Dulles later,I had another hugehike from one end of the terminal to the near opposite to meet Jenny and Chris from IFSA. Yay! I was the first to arrive, and found out that we were meeting two young men (Brannon and Ben) and one woman (Jeanette) here, then meeting one other young woman (Atlanta, bound for the UAE) in Frankfurt. Which means….that we each get our own room in our apartments! Whoop!
While the four of us newcomers assembled, we found ourselves in conversation with a charismatic, just-retired flight attendant. She was bound for a wedding outside Rome, and was just taken with our decisions to study abroad. After we boarded the plane to Frankfurt, Jeanette and I sat next to another person very supportive of our decision. This person was a retired US Army officer, now part of a slew of people that create the environment necessary to train US military command centers in dealing with emergencies. From my point of view, it was super cool to be affirmed by complete strangers.
Two movies and at least three hours of sleep later, we arrived at Frankfurt and, one short walk through security later, took over two rows of seats at our gate. Ha! Now, we have only to wait a couple hours before the last leg of the journey. As I write this, it is 1:50 am CDT and 8:50 am Frankfurt.
Well…”only a couple hours” turned into a couple days. After a gate change,our flight to Cairo was cancelled, along with the majority of the other flights, thanks to the Lufthansa flight crew strike. I really hope the crews get a measure of what they’re demanding soon, because the airport is a mess of people, lines, and stress for the crew and staff still working. We walked around almost the entire airport, even going out of passport control and getting a German entry stamp, before standing in line for a long time…to be rebooked on an Alitalia flight to Rome to Cairo leaving after 10 pm. In the meantime, Chris did the majority of standing in line and we waited, slept, chatted, people watched, and Ben learned to spin a Frisbee on one finger. Between booking and leaving, Chris treated us to the first real meal since leaving home – an enormous sandwich and a giant mug of mint tea from Mondo’s. It was nearly all I could eat and my stomach wasn’t in tiptop shape, but later I wanted more.
Jeanette and I played Kings on the Corner on top of one of her bags. The game itself was nearly as fun as the resulting confusion!
Our flight to Rome eventually took off, filled with peoplewe now recognized. Now, I don’t remember what I did during that flight. But, I do remember a pretty sunset just as we boarded. Italian was the primary language onthis flight, close enough to Spanish that I understood more than expected. Cool! However, we touched down in Rome about 10 minutes after our connecting flight left for Cairo. Even so, we quickly set off to the other side of the airport to check, booking it past closed shops and empty counters. Weird, going past so many closed shops. Later, we found the rebooking counter, and Chris once again stood in line (Italians mob more than queue) while we got to chill, sleep, eat granola, cookies, and Smores Ritz Bitz, call home, and even play a little bit of Frisbee.Thanks Mom and Dad for packing me with food! We got booked at a hotel for free around 11:30 pm, shuttled there with what seemed like forty of our closest friends, and I entered my room (in Rome!!!) around 12:30 am Wednesday. Finding my room was a challenge, because the only access was one stairs from the floor beneath – rooms on the 8th floor were seemingly towers on corners. I scared away some pigeons on the fire escape looking for the door. Adventure!
Thepanorama view from my hotel room the next morning – the left most picture shows I could see the Tyrrhenian Sea!
One shower and maybe 5 hours of sleep later, I was back on the ground floor, waiting with my group for the bus to the airport. We were booked on the 11:55 am flight to Cairo, and this one we weren’t missing. Shuttling back to the airport, we passed within 3 km of Ostia (I saw some Roman ruins and the archaeological site signs!!) and went over a river I’m going to assume, with some reason, was the Tiber. Wow! The parts of Rome we passed made me think of Denizli,Turkey, near the Cotton Castle of Pamukkale – a neat throwback mentally. After getting our boarding passes and getting stamped yet again for Italy, Chris gave us each 10 euros for breakfast. Mine? A chocolate muffin, two 75 cl (perhaps ¾ of a liter) bottles of water, and a Bufalino sandwich – meat, arugula, and four small blobs of fresh mozzarella cheese. Wonderful!
Leaving Rome, we went over the Tyrrhenian Sea. Sorry about the plane wing; I took what seat I was offered.
And then we actually boarded the plane to Cairo. The plane left Rome and flew over Sicily, smaller islands, the Mediterranean Sea, and what I’m assuming was the Delta.
The Egyptian Delta meets MediterraneanSea.
Then, we circled just south of Saqqara(I saw a large step pyramid – they’re real!), went over sand and around the extremely definitive boundary between green and sand, and landed. Wow, Cairo’s air is hot, smoggy, but good.
The Egyptian desert, from a plane window, and it’s definitive line between Nile-fed green and sand.
To finish Wednesday off, we spent yet more time in the airport, because our luggage was not in Egypt.
Today (Thursday), we found that it’s very likely to be in Germany still. After filing luggage claims, we met Dr. Mohamed, piled into a van run by Misr Travel, went to City Stars (the largest mall in the Middle East) to purchase clothing (couldn’t find a clothing store in my style or price range in 2 hours because we spent too long walking around and in the Egyptian “Target” called Spinney’s), and went to our apartments in Misaha Square. There, we met the rest of the IFSA staff, went up to our flat, and finally nabbed Internet, showers, and sleep. A wonderful end to the day!
The view of our apartment reception room (living room) in Cairo. It’s seriously a huge flat.
So, in summary, I started with 5 boarding passes. I now have 10 passes in my possession, and the first of many adventures yet to come.