Egypt, week one

I started traveling last Thursday at 5:15 a.m. Since then, life has been hectic: teaching, traveling, and finding my niche again in a completely different culture. Writing has been difficult. I’ve kept a journal, but little else.

I’ve been waiting to really pull and dig at travels so far and sort through the anxieties and joys.

I guess this is the first chance I’ve gotten to do so.

Last week, I traveled with two others on a hot, stuffy plane for eleven hours–the typical airplane annoyances. After our breakfast of three different breads and a thin layer of yogurt in a tray, the three of us landed, got our bags at the Egypt Air terminal, and bought our visas for $15, as an overly helpful man offered us taxis that we didn’t need.

A driver and a former student picked us up from airport to take us to the seminary where we’re staying–the same one as last year. We drove past the same rock-strewn strip of highway that led into Cairo.

Arabic pop crooned through the radio of our squat Suzuki as we raced along the road. The city sailed past, its beat-up apartments colored by drying clothes streaming on the lines. Billboards promised new malls and city centers. The hot air blew on my face, and cars honked as people dashed across the road.

I felt a surge of joy—a sense of homecoming, even—and swallowed back a few tears as I stared out the window. For the past year since I’ve been away, Cairo has followed me. It dug under my skin last summer, and especially on warm evenings, when I walked home after class, I missed it. I’m not sure what I missed exactly—the changed rhythms of everyday life, the people, the weather, the age, the chance to be away. I suppose that’s the main reason I’ve come back: to articulate what hit me so hard last summer and try to find it again.

So far, it remains a mystery.

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