Monday, 30 April 2007

Welcome to the desert...Organized chaos

So here I am, in Egypt, safe and sound.
I arrived last night at 12:30AM local time (10 hours ahead of you back home.)
The plane ride was rather uneventful, minus a crying child and some turbulence here and there.
Flying into Cairo is rather interesting, you can only see the shoreline lit up with lights and just as you think you are past the city, the plane pulls a hairpin turn at 1500 feet and turns back.
The airport is on the outskirts of the city as I'm told and when we walked in a band of Egyptian military men were there to meet us.
I hadn't been told a lot about my stay here in Cairo, I didn't even know who would be picking me up at this uncivilized hour, but I was told someone would be there for me.
After a short walk through the airport there stood a row of men holding signs and I quickly found the one with my name on it. Upon telling him my name he grabbed me by the arm and wisked me over to the "Passport Control Line-up."
He said something in broken English and when I asked him to repeat himself he said "Where is you Visa?".
When I explained to him that I was told I could buy one here, he only grunted, and pulled me back to another room, where he rummaged through a desk until he found to stamps. He licked them and stuck them to my passport then proceeded to drag me back to Passport Control.
"I be on other side," he said and disappeared, leaving me with my passport and a blank stare.
I turned to the white man standing behind me and said to him, "Can you tell I'm new here?"
He just chuckled and looked at my passport, "Ah, you're a Canadian," he said.
I laughed and asked him sarcastically, "Is that a bad thing?" At which he responded with a smile, "Just means we have to stick together."
It turns out he currently lived in Egypt, was born in England and was raised in Ottawa.
We said our good-byes at the desk and I handed my passport to the man behind the class, where upon he stamped my passport and handed it to another woman who scanned it and handed it back to me.
The man who has so forcefully pulled me through thus far was waiting on the other side. "You get bags, then we go," he said and walked me over to baggage claim.
My bag slide down the conveyor belt much to my relief and I grabbed it and walked towards the exit through a crowd a taxi drivers who all very much seemed to think "You need taxi, come to my taxi."
Outside the doors another crowd of people waited and it was there where I spotted another man with my name on a sign.
I hollered to the man who I had thus far been dealing with to stop and he did much to his dismay as he marched back towards the other man.
I introduced myself to the other man and after checking my passport he said, through a heavy accent and with a smile, "Welcome to Cairo, Egypt Mr. White."
I instantly liked him much better and told 'Mr. Forceful' I had found my ride.
They argued briefly in Arabic and then Mr.Forceful went back inside, with so much as looking back when I called after him "thank you."...I never did learn his name.
However, the new, more friendly man was named George and he gratefully took my backpack from me and loaded me on to the bus back to the parking lot.
I talked the best I could to George on the bus, he knew quite a bit of English but it was still a very large barrier.
I asked him if he was the man I would be staying with and he said yes, and proceeded to tell me about his family at home, two sons and a wife.
We hopped in his car and drove, and instantly I knew I was back in Africa, not only was there the scent but also the driving.
There are no rules to the road, people go where they want, when the want. There are no lines on the road so they drive in the centre, on the shoulder and even down the cement divider if they find away (which was demonstrated to me by one man who passed us.)
George heard me chuckle to myself and said "They not drive like this is Canada uh"
I laughed, "No, not at all, I think I would be better at this driving."
We laughed together and he told me about the one time he had been to the US of A and how beautiful it was there. He had not been to Canada.
As we drove he pointed out many things, most of which I nodded to, not fully understanding what he had just pointed too.
I couldn't believe how many people were out and about at 1:30 in the morning.
After about 45 minutes we showed up in Maadi, the wealthy part of town. Down the main street McDonalds, KFC, and other American fast food places lit the way for us.
"You eat?" asked George.
"Not here," here I responded, "I came to get away from this."
He laughed because I did, I don't think he understood.
"You look for building 4," he told me as we turned on to a side street and I did. It should have been my first clue.
After a little while I asked where to look.
"Here, soon," George said with a smile.
We came to a round about and he stopped to talk to a man, he came back and I asked, "You know him?"
"Yes," he said again.
We turned a couple more times and George stopped again to talk to another man and I eyed up a good bush to go to the washroom behind.
A man walked out from behind it and looked at me, almost knowing what I was thinking. I decided I would hold it, besides I didn't want cultures to clash.
George came back and as we drove he started to fret.
"Not this one, not this one, what number is that one?" he would say as we passed buildings.
I started to wonder if George really knew where he was going, it was my second clue.
Finally he hopped out once more for just a moment and came back looking very pleased with himself.
"I know where we now must go," he said.
We pulled up to a building that didn't look so much unlike any of the other.
We unloaded my bags and walked in the lobby of what was and is my apartment building.
The door man asked us where we were going and George looked to me expecting me to answer.
That was my final clue, I really wasn't staying with George at all, once again I didn't have a clue.
George hopped on his cell phone, once again spoke in Arabic, nodded and hung up and then said something to the door man who escorted us into a tiny little elevator.
We stopped at floor 4 and rang the door bell...nothing.
George rang again and a dog barked and something moved...but still nothing.
Finally one more ring from the door man and the door opened, there stood another white man, who had clearly just been woken up.
I introduced myself and he did like wise, "John Miller," he said with an American accent and showed me upstairs to the roof top apartment, George followed.
After showing me around, I thanked George for everything and he left, John got me settled, we shared some stories and then it was off to bed for the both of us, him back down to his apartment and me in mine on the roof.
The last time I looked at the clock it was 2:47 AM.
I awoke at 1 the next day, (I hadn't slept any on the plane so give me a break) dressed and found a note from John's wife on the door, telling me the family was out until the afternoon but to go downstairs and the maid would look after me.
'Maid?' I thought, this was far more then I had expected, here I thought I brought my tent, sleeping bag and mat for good reason but here I am going down to ask the Maid for some food.
Shahair showed me around the apartment and Kerry, (the mother) showed up soon after.
After a brief chat we headed out to the church, where I was finally able to place a face to the name of my contact here in Cairo.
Marcus was not at all who expected him to be. He is a fairly young guy from Oregon. At 24 he manages outreach there at Maadi Church and organizes the several inter and outer church outreach programs there.
After a tour of the two office buildings and meeting almost everyone on staff (20 plus people), we headed out back to my apartment, ducking a dodging traffic as we went.
As I headed into the apartment I was greeted with the sound of clashing swords and the smell of deep fried chicken, that right, fencing and delivery KFC!
My every idea of Egypt was rocked with one sniff of that grease-baked-chicken.
I sat down to a full meal with the Miller family, where upon I told them a little bit about myself and they shared as well.
I got to know the two boys, Lucas and Daniel. Lucas is 15 and is into fencing and softball. He's being taught to fence by the coach of the Egyptian National team.
Daniel is 13 and is witty. He has adapted to his roll as the youngest with a sharp sense of humour and takes advantage of any stab at his older brother. He's a bright kid.
After dinner the boys and I played around with the boys and their plastic weapons and then headed to the softball diamond around the corner with Lucas to watch some games.
It seems to be where the out of towners like to play. It is America's game after all. It didn't feel any different from home, safe the 20 degree dry heat.
I biked home after a couple games, once again dodging traffic by inches.
Now here I sit, typing this epically long blog entry.
Safe and sound and very much comfortable, watching "Broken Arrow" on Satellite television...
I must say my eye have been opened to culture gaps...I mean the movie is subtitled in Arabic.
Please please note the sarcasm!
Anyhow, Wednesday is the pyramids and the Egyptian National Museum, tomorrow is touring the town.
I thank you all once again for your prayers and love and I will keep in touch in much smaller doses from now on.
Grace, Peace and Blessings to you all,
Brent

The view from my apartment:












6 comments:

VonPacey said...

Hey Brent,
it sounds like your already having an amazing time, glad your safe, keep with the posts, and i'll keep with the prays, haha it almost rhymes...
Stacey

Brock said...

sounds like your in for a fun time mate.
you best be good at fecning when you get back cos I CHALLENGE YOU TO A DUEL.
ciao.

mom muzungo said...

Hi,
Every time I try to post a comment this thing makes me open a new account again. (a little annoying)
Anyhow, got your phone msg. and checked your blog as soon as I got home from work. Heading out again shortly to the church. Wendy, Linda and I are going to a Foundations function for the ladies.
Glad you are safe and sound and in good company. Sounds like you are having an eventful time already.
Enjoying the blog. Are my postings getting through? (suspicious dinosaur here)
Well, gotta go.
Love you

Leah said...

Hi Brenty! It was so cool reading about your adventures so far! Keep em' coming! Thinking about you and praying for ya! Stay safe...Have our gifts come in handy yet (heehee!).
Leah and Derek
P.S. Derek thinks heehee is to girly so here's a haha and a grunt from him :)

Brent White said...

Hey everyone,
First off, Yes mom, you're post are getting through.
Secondly, Brock, challenge accepted! You're going down.
Next, Thanks Stacey for the prayers.
And last but certainly not least, Thanks Leah and Derek for the prayers and support and the gifts. Haven;t had a use for them yet, but knowing me, I might! And Derek, you are you trying to kid, I know the "heehee" was yours.

Thanks everyone

Alexander said...

Please, read "An Ordinary Black Cat" (www.catyourway.com) It will be your favourite book by far and you will quote from that book in almost every conversation.