Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Fourth of July, Egypt Style

July 4, 2008

Last night was relatively eventful as was today. The other volunteers decided to meet us in Cairo this weekend so around 2 am I went to the train station to pick up Jake and Christine. I had a little bit of difficulty finding them but once we found each other we embarked on the (difficult) task of finding a cab. Of course, being as tired as we were, we got sucked into one of the guys waiting outside of the station who insisted that we come with him. He said 20 pounds, we said 5. He said yes. But he meant 5 each. So we walked away and of course he took the bait and called us back. So we agreed on 5 pounds…and of course he walks up to another taxi driver, leans in to tell him where we’re going, and told us to get in. We should have left right then but we were tired so we got in.

When we got to the street that leads to the apartment we got out and I handed him the agreed upon 5 pounds. He starts freaking out even before he counts it (I gave it to him in small bills) and starts saying “10, 10, 10!” We just walked away as usual and he decides to follow us. We all decided that it was best to just go sit in Café TObasco for a while so that he would leave. We ended up waiting 15 minutes and he was still standing outside making a scene. Finally, one of the guys who works in the café came over to ask us to just pay the guy. So we did.

That’s honestly the first time I’ve ever felt uncomfortable here in Cairo, which I guess is a good thing. I don’t think the guy was going to do anything bad, obviously, but it was really creepy that he waited outside.

Anyway, today we took a van out to the Red Sea, which is about a 2 hour drive from Cairo. Running on around 2 hours of sleep we piled in the car with 3 other Americans, 9 of us in all, and started on our way with Farek and the actual driver in the front seat. I’ll admit we were a little bit confused as to what to expect from the beach, but once we got there and settled ourselves in it was really nice.

At first, however, when we pulled up to the incredibly Egyptian-filled beach and were told that we had to buy and umbrella for 150 pounds, we were a little bit annoyed. We ended up buying a hut-like thing that was only 30 pounds more expensive. In the end it was nice to be able to sit out of the sun for a while.

The beach was pretty agitating, though, but by beach I mean the people on the beach. The men were so much more annoying than usual, obviously because we were wearing swim suits. Actually, we weren’t even really wearing them; I had a one piece on with a long skirt (even in the water), Christine had a skirt and tank top on, and Sam had a top and a skirt on as well. Obviously I understand that people just curious and often just trying to be friendly, but all day every day begins to wear down on your mental stability. By the end of the day we were so on edge it was a long ride home.

The beach itself was beautiful, however. If everyone (or at least half of them) had been gone it would have been the most amazing day. iT was a good day, though, the water was such a great temperature and the beach was surprisingly clean. We had a good time after all, after we got all of the miscommunications out of the way.

This evening we went to the 4th of July party at the British school, which was much nicer than I could have imagined. It was as American as it could be! They had a very nice tent sent up with a jazz band and tons of free American food. We all loaded up with hot dogs and hamburgers, baked beans, corn on the cob, and a piece from the massive American flag cake.

It was really nice to have some American time, especially because it’s easy to get frustrated at times with some aspects of Egypt. The night ended with everyone singing I’m Proud to be an American, and I felt more patriotic than I have in a really long time. At home I would have thought this was really cheesy, but for that one night I thought it couldn’t have been more fitting.

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