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Published: September 25th 2011
Our accidentally posh hotel!
Ok, so i have arrived on part 2 of my year abroad. There are many things i had to say about the last week or so of france and then more again about my brief stint at home. However time seems to have dashed away from me and i have missed my chance really to say many things.
I will perhaps add a small reflective blog at some point soon as i'm sure everyone would love to hear the stories of my last week or two. A quick example being my last aquagym session when some participants had to leap out of the pool to help me remove an entire wasp from my arm. Yes the whole wasp. It's sting didn't detach or something. Not funny when you are supposed to be "professionally" jumping up and down directing people and have to double take at your own arm as there appears to be an angry, venomous thing stuck in it variously approaching your face as your arms execute the expected exercises.
Suffice to say i had a fantastic time, met some wonderful people and as is always the way felt that the last week was when everyone finally truly
gelled - this may have been down to copious amounts of alcohol - and was very sad to leave in the end. Although Paris with my little sister was an excellent end to a superb summer.
As i've been compared to Bridget Jones recently i will summarise my french experience in a similar style.
Weight: 61kgs (at the end)
French Kisses: ...that would be telling.
I shall tell you all another time how old i felt watching the other sister turn 18. I did my bit and purchased many shots which i then encouraged her to drink. My week home was filled with celebrations, but above all with lots of people - the way a proper home should always be - a little crowded, a little noisy with a good dose of chaos thrown in and an arthritic dog capable of producing the most awful smells imaginable. But lots of laughter and smiles. I miss you all very much.
I have been here now since last saturday. Emma (a good friend of mine from uni / my arabic life partner) and i have managed to achieve lots and lots in this
very short time span.
- We arrived successfully in Cairo; no lost baggage or drama apart from a flight delay of over an hour. And also a slight issue with some confused Egyptair inflight clocks which left us confused about the time difference for a good 24hours. For those of you unsure we are only 1 hour ahead. I know this is very exciting we were both convinced it was 2. However that doesn't say much as emma's grip of egyptian geography before this week was truly shocking. She only discovered yesterday when we looked at a large map of egypt that the Sinai area of egypt (the bit that isn't in africa, to the right of the suez canal) wasn't actually the country Oman as she had previously believed.
- We have organised visas, new mobiles and various transport and accomodation issues. We are also currently broaching the internet issue - the connection i am using at the moment isn't actually legal, we are stealing from next door, as it appears the helplines of arabic internet service providers are just as awful as in the UK. Our lovely landlady spent close to 4 hours on the
A man on a tank!
The only authority i've seen here.
phone to them yesterday so we are moving forwards, i think, albeit painfully slowly.
- We have flat hunted and successfully found (and now also moved into) a cute 2 bed apartment in the lovely area of Stanley which is in Western Alexandria. To be more precise for anyone who wants to attempt sending love:
8 English Church Street
- We have also vaguely orientated ourselves and are doing more things like the locals already e.g. local minibuses instead of taxis etc. We are still being overcharged for things though - unfortunately blonde hair and blue eyes makes us stick out in a crowd.
- And finally, as recently as today, we have both been robbed.
Welcome to Africa.
My debit card has disappeared - i am almost entirely sure this was mostly my fault as i think i forgot to remove the card from an ATM after a withdrawal. HOWEVER... firstly i was holding an extremely large amount of money so that i could pay the deposit and first month's rent on my new flat which i think is a fairly good reason to be preoccupied and secondly all
someone had to do was find it and hand it in. Instead someone saw my faithful old debit card and did a small egyptian dance of joy and then stole it! I imagine this dance as a weird side to side hopping shuffle - a bit like that evil parrot in Aladdin might do. Anyway I hope they twisted an ankle in their excitement - bastards.
The vain and desperate search for my debit card is also the most amusing/unamusing part of the story, depending on your viewpoint.
Having realised that my card was no longer a reassuring presence in my purse, emma and i rushed to the last place i had used it which was a very, very modern mall on the outskirts of alexandria.
Bearing in mind this huge centre is strongly influenced by the west and as such is mostly frequented by the wealthy or tourists i expected to be able to find someone who spoke english. This is because my egyptian arabic is currently still piss poor. However this expectation was obviously wildly optimistic as the manager i ended up trailing around (after a security guard with learning difficulties, a woman with a
lovely smile but apparently also lacking brain cells) spoke exactly these 3 phrases of english "hello", "you are welcome" and "where are you from?". And i really do mean these 3 alone. I must admit that i did start to panic when after 5 minutes of explaining my predicament he eventually asked me in arabic i struggled to decipher - "So you don't have card?"
I thought my eyes were going to pop out of my head - why did he think i was there - making a fool of myself and gesticulating wildly and awkwardly miming removing cash in front of an ATM - if i had access to my card and therefore my money?!!
The darkly humorous facet of this story is that emma and i very quickly considered that ringing our "egyptian mother" Madame Magda - a lovely woman who seems to have connections everywhere and is very much the Queen of her own rather large hive - to translate for us would be a good idea. My phone being almost out of battery we naturally turned to emma's rather expensive model. After a rather desperate search we became aware that emma appeared to have left her phone in the taxi we had recently vacated.
This lead to rather a lot of confusion as the arabs were now confused as to what was lost, why we had come and why my blackberry, despite remaining alluminated, was unable to make any calls. Why did Blackberry do that? I would much rather my phone worked properly as a phone up until the second it conked out than conserving battery by allowing you to do nothing except look at your previously received messages. It's so incredibly frustrating - i have half a mind to write in for an explanation!
The upshot is that after what seemed like ages but was probably only about a minute we convinced someone to ring emma's phone. At this point we had complete faith in the innate good of humankind. When it immediately became clear that in the 10minutes since we had left the taxi someone had not only found the phone but had also turned it off and removed the SIM our faith was dashed. Watching Emma's face fall into that internationally recognized look of despair and distress meant that i experienced that awful sinking feeling in my stomach for the second time in just a few hours.
Of course the second emotion that swiftly follows the loss of something precious is utter denial that all is already lost. So whilst I followed my last hope/soon to be romancer (who took my number in an official capacity so i could be contacted if my card was found and has since messaged me saying "sorry megan but i think i like you" - which must have been done with google translate as i could swear he didn't have even that level of english) Emma dashed outside with the hope of catching the phone thief somewhere in the enormous car park and ended up just approaching all taxi's and tearfully peering into their windows - which not only made her look deranged but also caused her no end of hassle as the drivers assumed she wanted a taxi and was checking the car cleanliness or something.
It is for this story that this blog is named. Before these events i had something much more poetic in mind. But this seems most fitting. Apologies.
All in all an eventful day. As always really. Emma and i never have normal things happen to us, even the other day, a task as simple as meeting our estate agent at a pre-designated point led to us being adopted by a pakistani woman across the road where we then drank juice and talked for a good 2 hours.
I have to dash - emma is being a domestic goddess and has prepared dinner so ciaooo - we'll update you all soonnn
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