Arriving at the Cairo Airport - "Where time slows down on approach."

Sarah and a banana in her Belgian Apartment
I find it interesting I don't have a single picture from the Cairo airport, but knowing the chaos upon arrival it's not surprising. Shan leaned up against the wall and I could tell she was starting to "lose it", which honestly surprised me. She was extremely uncomfortable as I took her hand and said "keep it together, we'll figure it out." It was as though we landed on a different planet.

Day four started off innocently enough with my morning routine outside of Sarah and Christie's balcony. I knew this would be not only my last time this week but the last time forever I'd get to stand in perhaps my most favorite place in the world. The girls had informed us it was likely this would be the last year they'd be in the apartment. I tried to take it all in, every nuance, every smell, and every sight. It was like saying goodbye to an old friend.... this balcony and me had a relationship. A love.
The Salon

I attempted to take a few photos trying to document what would soon be lost in the chasm of my mind. The crunchy floor from the tile cement below, the sound of the door as it was closed, the timely sound of the trolley rolling down the hill with its antenna scraping the lines- it was time to leave it all behind.

I made one final mental good bye as we walked around the corner and bought a waffle. I'll admit to lusting after the woman in the trailer selling them. Not for any particular physical reason just that she spoke French and sold the most perfect waffles in the world. She came to personify Stockel for me, and though she may never know of my hearts desire- I will think of her fondly from time to time until someday my mouth is reunited with her waffles once again.

Written in the ladies' toilet stall at Brussels Airport
Finally it was time to say goodbye. Sarah dropped us off at the bus station and we caught the bus to Brussels Airport. After clearing their exit-passport control and technically leaving Brussels for the international zone in the airport we found out British Airways cancelled our flight. So then we had to re-enter Brussels. A second passport stamp, and over to the BA service counter. The employee asks "I can put you on a direct Egypt Air flight?" as she cringes for the response. Not knowing that there's a huge difference in the flight quality we naively said "sure", though secretly inside I had hoped for another day in Brussels. I was kinda hoping it was all a sign from God. But it wasn't... it was punishment from God. Egypt Air flies modified double decker buses with plywood wings driven by kamikaze pilots. You know that scene in the movie where the white person is riding the Mexican bus and they have a crate of chickens in their lap? That's Egypt Air. No A/C on the ground, and a seat pitch that leave you paralyzed... but in the end, it was an experience I'm glad we had. We met a Coptic Christian who Shan spent five hours talking with. We got our first Egyptian style meal on-board, and we got the experience of travelling a budget Egyptian airline with an Egyptian flight crew and mostly Egyptian passenger cabin.
Our room at the Juliana Hostel in Cairo.
Upon arrival you land in this giant cement field where you walk down the stairs and take a bus to the terminal. Rather than being a gateway to Cairo, it's the exit for reality. Your last stop at normality as you queue and pay for your $15 visa at one of the five or so bank counters. Then over to passport control where they appear to barely care who you are as they stamp your passport for entry. It's rather like just a confirmation you've paid your visa. Then there is a final security stop which they waved us on through. That's when you're finally in Cairo. If you've ever seen the movie "Cairo Time", you know this moment. It's like a field of thousands of people, yelling names, holding signs, and talking to you, begging you. Worse yet we were an hour late due to the time difference, and our airport transfer we arranged was no where in sight. Shan and I sneak off to the toilet, only to find we're no more in control once we we're done. We try to get it together, but I can tell that Shan is about to lose it. I've never seen her like this I'm thinking in my brain. Oddly I seemed to be managing better than her and take control by suggesting we're just going to have to find a taxi. A quick huddle for the game plan as we gather the address for the Hostel and we head back out into the sea of touching, and screaming. I imagine Cairo airport is what Hell is like, but I can't be sure. That's when we see him. Hannsun, a tall thin man wearing acid wash jeans holding a sign with Shannon's name on it. We run up to him, and he immediately says in his broken English "Welcome to The New Egypt".
Toilet Paper is the devil in Cairo.

We jump in the back of his car, and drive to the hostel. A $12 a night bed in the Garden City area of Cairo, about 2 blocks from Tahrir Square where the Egyptian revolution took place just a few months earlier.  Everything is broken and dirty in Cairo as we made our way to Jimmy, on the third floor. No one really knows what Jimmy's real name is, but he smiles all the time. It's almost creepy that anyone is happy that much- but than I suspect it's a tactic learned in tourism school to set westerners at ease. We're given our room, and we head off to shower and sleep. Tomorrow we'd go to the pyramids, but tonight we were in Cairo. Still in the midst of a revolution- we were far from home, far from my balcony. I was heartbroken, and sad not to be in Brussels- but I knew I was on the edge of something wonderful, perhaps even my own revolution.


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