Alone in Egypt

3 Nov

Patrick has been in the US since Wednesday and still has a few more days there before he gets back. For those of you who know me well, the above sentence may have sent off warning bells in your head. “She’s home alone?” you say. “Doesn’t Patrick know that when she’s home alone she gets paranoid and does crazy things like props chairs against doorknobs and calls 911 on raccoons in the backyard?”

Have no fear, my friends. It seems the irrational and obsessive paranoia that usually hits the second Patrick gets on a plane has disappeared. No longer do I leave every light in the house blazing all night long, listen for every little noise, check the crime blotter, and keep a heavy saucepan under the bed (what?! I don’t have a baseball bat!). I actually feel pretty safe here and haven’t had a panicked moment yet. In part it’s that break-ins are pretty non-existent here, especially where we live. And I’m sure it helps that we have one entrance gate to our building guarded by multiple security guards. I can no longer imagine my little isolated house being targeted by armed thieves.

I thought I’d be more jealous while Patrick was gone, but I’m doing okay. I’ll admit, I felt a pang of longing when I talked to him a few nights ago and he marveled how you can really tell a difference when you breathe the air, and how wide and empty the streets were. I guess I just miss cleanliness and order. Tonight he’ll be back with friends in South Bend but by the time he’s there, I’ll be asleep rather than awake and thinking how I wish I was there right now. Tomorrow he’ll be lunching with the Carriers and Andrews and that will be harder for me because I’ll still be awake and wishing I was around that familiar table that feels like a second home. I’m so happy that he gets a chance to be out there though and will grill him for every detail, every bit of conversation when he gets back, jet-lagged or not.

Halloween here was quite an event. Although Egyptians don’t usually celebrate it, our building traditionally opens up to trick or treaters from the neighborhood, and over the years word has spread that this is the place to be. So I bought my Egyptian candy, which was supposed to be like Starburst, but in typical Egyptian fashion someone was too lazy to add food coloring, so every piece looked like chewed up gum. We opened the gates at 6pm with two ladies screening entries. There have been serious problems in the past with teenagers and shutting down completely was discussed this year but we decided to just impose rules on who could come in instead. The kids came by in droves, ringing the doorbell nonstop until I opened up and passed out candy. Just like in the US I had many repeat customers, several of whom live in my building and I finally told to get lost. The passing out candy part of Halloween was easy and after 7:30 had just about stopped.

And then the madness began.

I was working at the computer and while I know I heard the multiple alarms and screaming, I didn’t really pay attention or think about it. At one point I looked up and thought “huh, I haven’t heard police sirens the whole time I’ve been here. They’re so loud and frequent though, there must be a carnival going on and they’re ringing the sirens for show or something.” And I got back to what I was doing. After a while I couldn’t ignore it anymore and realized that there were multiple alarms going off- house alarms, car alarms, fire alarms. In fact they were so loud that for a moment I thought our building alarm was going off and I needed to get out. Amidst these alarms were a cacophony of screams. It sounded like the streets were full of screaming rioting people. I finally grabbed my shoes and walked over the landing overlooking my street to see what was happening. On the street below was a scene that could only be described as all hell breaking loose.

The streets were filled with running screaming teenagers throwing eggs and anything and everything that an egg would break on, cars, buildings, people, each other. It was like a snowball fight of eggs, such was the flying egg density down there. A neighbor explained that the kids had started egging the police cars and then the police themselves. Apparently every year kids who attend Cairo American College, the expensive private school across the street from us that serves mainly expat kids, go crazy just like this. Apparently, they know that the police dare not touch them so they act like disrespectful, destructive little monkeys. Their Egyptian counterparts saw this and have come to assume that this is part of Halloween, so they’ve joined in the revelry. The guards to our building had anticipated this and locked and bolted our gates, then sat out there and kept the punks away until finally they dispersed…about four hours later.

The next morning the street looked like a tornado had blown through it. A big whirling egg tornado. It smelled like it too. The ground was solid eggshells and the walls were covered in yellow where boabs with hoses hadn’t gotten to cleaning yet. It was totally shameful. I have to say, if I had a kid that had done that, I would beat the living snot out of him.

Anyways, despite that the rest of the week has been calm. I went to an Egyptian festival the other day and saw whirling dervishes for the first time. Amazing, that’s all I can say. Just simply freakin’ amazing. I watched with wide eyes and dropped jaw.

That’s all the news from Cairo. When Patrick gets back I’ll make sure he posts on his adventures in America.


4 Responses to “Alone in Egypt”

  1. Kay November 3, 2007 at 3:33 pm #

    Melissa you will be missed more than you know. I’m considering putting you on speaker phone to join in the table conversation, but then you would be able to hear Patrick stuffing his face with American food and that might be more than you could take. We did get your blanket done and other than looking like a 10 year old made it, it turned out pretty cute. You will just have to remember that we made it from our heart.
    I’m glad that you feel safe while Patrick is away.

  2. mom November 3, 2007 at 5:29 pm #

    Mel, sounds like a normal Halloween in our neighborhood but without the eggs.. Yep, your dad and I still take a pizza and hide out in a back bedroom or up in the computer room till the doorbell stops ringing or the cars stop clogging our street. It’s shameful I admit but been there done that. We earned our solitude after years and hundreds of dollars spent on candy.

    I’m proud of you being strong while Pato’s away but still be cautious and careful please. Like Leann said, don’t get too comfortable!

  3. Dre November 3, 2007 at 7:06 pm #

    So, you end your blog by casually throwing in “I saw whirling dervishes for the first time.” No pictures, no explanation after we’re all still reeling from images in our minds of you with a heavy saucepan under your bed (in a previous life), passing out used chewing gum to the moochy kids, and the egg tornado happening at your very feet. I think whirling dervishes deserve a blog entry of their very own.

  4. Uncle David November 4, 2007 at 2:39 pm #

    I have to ask, what happened to the budding filmmaker? Though sometimes you do sound like a winter Texan, clammering about how this and that is done in Minnesota and how people in the Valley are lazy late and bad drivers.

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