We have arrived!!!

20 Aug

…and we’re in Egypt. After a lovely time in England and Ireland, we finally got around to actually moving to Cairo. We arrived here late Saturday night/early Sunday morning, stumbled slowly off the plane…and then life started moving very fast. We were whisked through customs and security by a spry old man from AUC named Abdul who did a little wink wink action to cut the red tape. He helped us with our bags and loaded us on to a van where we were held in an uncomfortable standoff with young men demanding “baksheesh” or tips for carrying our bags before we could stop them. We stood our ground though and soon found ourselves careening through Cairo traffic at warp speed. As Patrick has mentioned, lanes are merely a suggestion here. Even at 3 am, the streets were packed with cars and groups of people just hanging out. I think we both thought we might die before we even reached our apartment.

But reach it we did, and let me just say, it was quite a treat. We were met by our housing person who introduced us to our spacious 3 bedroom flat decorated in…wait for it…80’s Bachelor. We’re talking black marble and gold trim EVERYWHERE. I almost expected a rotating bed. We were whisked through the basics, including how to use the stove without blowing up half of Cairo, then before we knew it, the door was slamming shut and we were alone in our new home in Cairo. It was at this point that I burst into hysterical tears the first time. Several more fits would follow.

The unfamiliarity and disorientation of it all was taxing and stressful. That night and the next morning were difficult, at least for me. Patrick held it together like a champ and managed to calm me down and keep me from embarassing myself in public through the clever employment of a McDonald’s ice cream cone. Apparently when one is on the verge of a panic attack, ice cream is very soothing. We went down to the University where we requested a new apartment. We had found that we were the only AUC flat in the building and felt very isolated so we decided that it would make the transition easier to be around others in the same boat, despite our decision to expand beyond the expat bubble. We’ll be moving into our new place, a gorgeous 4 bedroom apartment in a building with other faculty members, within the next couple weeks. Getting that done was reassuring.

But the most wonderful thing was meeting the faculty assigned to guide us in our first few days, John and Jorge (a woman). They had us over for dinner and made us feel like this was something we could actually do and enjoy. They had a beautiful flat decorated with local artwork and told us all about the ins and outs of living here. We got so much information and tips, it was awesome! This morning Jorge took us for a walking tour of the neighborhood and into all the little markets and shops where she introduced us to shopkeepers and explained how everything worked. It really took the intimidation factor out of it and saved me weeks, if not months, of tiptoeing around wondering if I was doing things right. After that, all my anxiety was gone and now I’m only feeling the excitement of this adventure.

We’ll be posting often to let you know how things are going and to record our adventures and misadventures for posterity. Feel free to comment, we’d love to hear from you! Also, we’ll be posting photos here and many more on Flickr once we get our DSL hooked up and move away from Pharonic-era dial-up. In the meantime here’s one from Ireland. It looks nothing like Cairo. Except maybe the sand.

On the Emerald Isle


17 Responses to “We have arrived!!!”

  1. Bryan August 21, 2007 at 2:46 pm #

    It really is truly amazing what an ice cream cone can do. I wish I had had Patrick’s quick reaction time when we moved to France and Allyson was pregnant with George (sorry to say this, but I really do think pregnancy tends to amplify the stress of what would otherwise be a simple and seamless move into a completely different part of the world where absolutely nothing is the same). I proudly took Allyson to the place I had scored–not a measly apartment, mind you, but a 19th century two-story house with a yard, an orchard and a clothes line. I had feared we’d have to live in some gigantic low income gov. housing and was proud of my feats. But instead of hugging me and jumping up and down with joy, when Allyson saw the furnitureless 1-inch tiling throughout the main level, along with the complete lack of any kitchen counters or appliances (there was a kitchen sink though), and the 3 foot by 3 foot “petit coin (little corner) of a bathroom (just large enough for a toilet and a pair of knees, and not a 7-month pregnant belly), she started to cry. It wasn’t too long before she was put together again, but I’m sure ice cream could have sped up the process. So I can sympathize with Patrick, imagining him watching Melissa burst into tears all the while thinking how he’d waited a lifetime to live in a black and gold 80’s bach pad. Miss you guys out here.

  2. becca August 21, 2007 at 5:05 pm #

    Ok, well you should know, I am addicted to blogging. So hope you dont mind, I will be all in your business, leaving my 2 cents. Wow what a start!! Melissa, I dont think I would ever be brave enough for this adventure, let alone be pregnant too!! Patrick sounds like he knows exactly what he is doing though. Score on the ice cream Patrick! Good call!!! I am glad you are feeling better though and sounds like you guys are in control of the situation. How nice to be shown the ropes a bit to ease your fears. I look forward to hearing more and seeing pics. Beautiful picture of you two also!! I hope there are pics of the 80’s pad before you leave it.

  3. Kirsten August 21, 2007 at 9:58 pm #

    Yes, glad the ice cream worked. It rarely works on me, but it always works on Ted. Of course he’s never been pregnant, so don’t know how that might change things…

    I had visions of Athens when you described Cairo traffic. I was in Athens w/ friends in 1984. They were licensed to scuba dive, so they had found a scuba school that would rent them the gear and provide an instructor/driver–a very cool Iranian guy– to get us out to the coast. I snorkeled while they went down. (Being alone in the Aegean sea for an hour is another whole story…). Anyway, the driving was beyond insane. I was sure I was going to die, just like you. At one point our driver was in the left-most lane (of about 6) and decided he needed to turn right, which he did, swerving recklessly past the cars in the other five lanes. In the process, he ran into a Nigerian diplomat’s car, then proceeded to jump out of the car and scream at the diplomat, with bulging neck veins and wild gesticulatons, for being in his way. If I hadn’t been watching it myself, I wouldn’t have believed it. Nuts. Hope you don’t have to drive much there!

    Thanks for sharing your adventures. Glad you are not doomed to the black and gold flat and that you have already found friends and comfort. Will so look forward to reading more.

  4. Kirsten August 21, 2007 at 9:59 pm #

    P.S. LOVE the name of your blog!

  5. Mickey August 21, 2007 at 10:28 pm #

    Glad to hear you made it safely, especially through those crazy raceways they call streets there. I would love to travel at warp speed one day. I look forward to seeing what Cairo has in store for you, I’m sure you will have gorgeous pictures.

  6. Ben August 21, 2007 at 10:46 pm #

    Wahoo! You are there! and it sounds like you are having the reactions of sane people! I love the black with gold trim bit! That is so Arab! My family’s house in Saudi Arabia was a bit like that–black marble floors, gold tone metal and glass doors . . . funny how a different aesthetic, things like colors and shapes, can be so disorienting in such a subtle way. Except for me, that aesthetic makes me feel at home : )

    I’m very excited you have set this up because I will so dig hearing your stories.

  7. Kay August 22, 2007 at 1:40 am #

    HI Guys,

    This is my very first blog ever. I’m very proud of myself. Sorry I’m late in wishing Patrick a Happy Birthday, but it sounds like it was a very special day, you know almost dying and all. Can’t wait to see the pictures. Melissa I don’t know if it helps or not, but I had the same reaction when we moved from Utah to Texas, oh and I was pregnant too…

  8. mom & dad August 22, 2007 at 1:49 am #

    Melissa! An ice cream cone???? I thought I trained you better! You gave in too easily. A few more tears might have gained you a banana split!!!!!!!!!
    I thought Mexico City drivers were the ultimate in daredevil driving but sounds like Cairo drivers make MC drivers look like senior citizens on prozac.
    Can’t wait to see what an 80’s bach pad looks like. Post pics as soon as you can. Glad to see overall pic is looking brighter. Hang in there you three.

  9. Janae August 22, 2007 at 2:53 am #

    I’m with your mom on that one. You should really milk this for all it’s worth! 🙂 Or maybe just for fun you could really give Patrick a scare and put up an altar to ancient Egyptian gods in your home and yell at Patrick for not bowing to it every time he passes.
    America isn’t the same without you! You’ll do great and get the hang of it in no time.

  10. Melissa August 22, 2007 at 9:00 am #

    Great to hear from all of you guys. It really makes me smile! Kay, congrats on your first blog! We’re proud of you. We miss you on Sundays. Kirsten, it sounds like Greek traffic is exactly the same! We took a cab outside the city yesterday to go to a big Walmart-like store called Carrefour (despite our anti-Volde-mart leanings, but they have a better font, you might want to check it out Bryan and let us know what you think), and found that instead of hyperventilating at the cars zooming two inches from us, I just gripped tight and enjoyed the scenery.

    Mom, lol!

    I’ll try and upload some pics of the apartment today. It really is a gem.

  11. Stacy August 23, 2007 at 12:56 pm #

    Hey there! I’m with Kay…this is my first blog ever! Quite intimidating, but I’m jumping in for you guys! While I was reading day two you asked why do people drink hot things here. I remember seeing Omar Sharif years ago on Phil Donohue (years ago, remember!) He said while they were filming “Lawrence of Arabia” that nobody drank cold water – just hot bitter coffee. Water didn’t work. So don’t become coffee drinkers, just thought I’d give you that tidbit of information – I’m a wealth of it. 🙂 Miss you terribly.


  12. Javi August 24, 2007 at 4:39 pm #

    Try driving in Los Angeles during the rush. 🙂

  13. grandpa August 30, 2007 at 1:19 am #

    Hi Melissa,

    This is grandpa–I am Glad you are doing all right I have been reading you posts—and have enjoyed them very much Glad to hear Patrick is doing well–Keep up the ice cream—-Grandma says hi and says to take care of your self and the baby!!!!!!

    Love you

  14. Melissa August 30, 2007 at 7:31 am #

    Hi Grandpa! We’re happy to hear from you guys. We’re doing well here and taking care of ourselves. Tell Grandma that I found a store in our neighborhood that does the kartoushes. Love you!

  15. Nancy December 13, 2007 at 8:33 pm #

    Ahhh…baksheesh! I was very protective over my suitcases and may have yelled “Laa!” at a bag handler or two (or more). I just think that if they want me to pay them to do something they should ask me first. My aggressiveness stemmed from being picked up and placed on a donkey in Egypt by some guy who then asked me to pay him. I was screaming “Laa” the whole time–don’t know how he could have got that wrong…

    Anyway…I’m glad you’re getting used to things 🙂 and that people are helpful out there.


  1. That First Day « State of d’Nile - November 1, 2007

    […] You may recall that after a night of crying and panic, Patrick and I went down to the university on that first day to get various things taken care of. I was moving through that day in a haze of jetlag, anxiety, disorientation, and that exhausted feeling that one gets when a lot of crying has taken place and is constantly threatening to take over at any moment. […]

  2. Second Day Panic | State of d'Nile - February 5, 2015

    […] Hey, remember that time we moved abroad and everything was fine and dandy until I woke up in a diffe… Yeah, apparently that’s a thing with me. […]

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