After 28 hours in transit, I got home yesterday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. It feels very weird to be here, like I’m in an alternate reality or something. Or, maybe I feel like Egypt was an alternate reality? The way I live here is miles away from how I was living there.
Here’s what I was up to before I left:
On Monday night, we went over to Aarane’s apartment for another goodbye party. This time it was for Shubham and the other four Indians that were leaving. The Indian girls had cooked a feast of Indian food, and it was so amazing. We all went back for seconds and thirds. I couldn’t believe they’d managed to cook so much in their little apartment or that they could find all of the necessary materials in Egypt! Aarane, Bridget, Faria, Sherin, and I spent a half hour lying down in the bedroom, trying to digest the feast. It was like having Thanksgiving! After that, we went out to Bamboo for the night.
Tuesday and Wednesday, we went to work to see the kiddos. On Wednesday, our last day, we showed up and they were not there! The teacher was, but she said that the kids had a surprise field trip. They had left Cairo for the first time in their lives and were going to the sea for the day! It was sad that we didn’t get to say a final goodbye, but the kids are only 6, so I’m sure they don’t mind that much. Mrs. Wedad had made us some traditional Egyptian food, so we sat with her and talked awhile. The food reminded me of the stuffed peppers my mom makes, and it was very good!
Tuesday afternoon, Sherin and I went to Khan elKhalili for the last time to buy souvenirs. I only had 50 pounds budgeted to spend for everything (I was running low on money by the end of the trip). It took awhile to bargain things down, but we were done and heading home by about 9:30.
On our way home on the metro, two guys got into the women’s car. All of the women glared at them warningly, and they seemed to realize that they had gotten on the wrong place. One woman started arguing with them, asking “how did you not know??” because the cars are very clearly marked. At the next stop, neither guy got off. However, two other men got on and were trying to get them to leave. A huge argument broke out between on of the women and one of the guys. The guys wouldn’t get off the metro and the woman stood between the doors of the metro, refusing to move until they left. She was screaming and holding the doors open, regardless of the fact that they were pushing shut. Finally, the guys left. Then, a heated debate broke out between several of the women. The door-woman said, “if we let one in, then they all come.” Her point was that the only way to maintain the woman’s only status is to self-patrol it.
After work on Wednesday, Sherin and I decided to try a social experiment: we went out for a walk in hijab. We were curious to see what would happen: would men react in the same way as they do when we walk out with our hair down? Would people react to the fact that we don’t look Arab? It is rare to see a woman like us in hijab, but not unheard of. Usually, they are older women who have converted. We were very curious.
We set off up the street, planning to walk several blocks up and back down. It was the most peaceful walk of my living-in-Egypt life. No one honked, no one hissed, no one whistled, no one commented. We got a couple of odd looks, but no one said anything. When you wear hijab, it is like a cloak of modesty. Not wearing one instantly says to them, “I am not a modest women, and it is okay to treat me with disrespect.” Anyways, it was very interesting to see the difference.
We spent the rest of Wednesday packing. Packing, packing, packing.
Our last night was very bittersweet. We went out to eat with what was left of our group (most everyone else had already left), and then the girls went out dancing for the night.
In the morning, we got up to get one last shawarma for lunch. Omar picked us up around 2 and we were at the airport by 3. Our plane left at 5 to London. We watched movies on the plane. In London, we stayed at the Yotel in terminal four (this made our 10 hour layover nice! It was a tiny, tiny room, but we showered, used the wifi, and slept for a couple of hours). We were up at 5:45 to catch our 7:45 flights to Chicago. I caught my connection from Chicago to St. Louis, and Max picked me up from the airport yesterday afternoon.
Being home feels very surreal. My life is totally different here in every way imaginable. Everything is clean, I don’t have to worry whether or not someone has stolen my food from the fridge, and my bed is the softest thing I’ve laid on in over a month.
I’m going to miss the excitement of life in Egypt, but I can’t deny the comfort of being home.