Ah, it’s nice to be back in Cairo. The longer I was away, the harder it was to come back. I had a great summer (England, Glastonbury Festival, Buffalo, Seattle) and I didn’t want it to end. Now that I’m back in Egypt I remember all the things I love about it here. The people, the culture, the sense of adventure…
That’s not to say that Egypt isn’t without its trials. In fact, I encountered a trial just yesterday:
This year there are several new teachers coming to ISE, and like last year, the school invited them all to go to the beach for a day in Ain Sukhna. There was an extra spot on the trip and I got to tag along to meet the new recruits and hang out with old friends. It was a lovely way to recover from jet lag: laying in the sun on the beach, swimming in the warm Red Sea, and generally relaxing.
In the evening we got to together to discuss the 10 commandments of living abroad, a pamphlet helpfully provided by the director. The 10 commandments include several bits of wisdom like ‘be flexible,’ ‘maintain a sense of humor,’ ‘try new things,’ and ‘don’t take life too seriously.’ Us veterans shared funny stories and advice, while the newbies listened with semi-glazed eyes.
The next day we got to see if they were up to the challenges of living abroad. Our group of eight foreigners and one bus driver made a shopping trip to Carrefour (similar to Walmart) in order to get things for our apartments. Cleaning supplies, miscellaneous knick-knacks, groceries, fans, irons, etc. We all made a lot of purchases and had difficulty getting these purchases back to the bus. It seems we weren’t allowed take the shopping carts out of the mall, so we had to carry everything to the vehicle by hand. No big deal, just a little inconvenient. The bus driver was not pleased with this arrangement and came back to speak to the Carrefour staff about using the carts, just this once.
One worker finally agreed that we could take the carts out through the garage, as long as he came along to make sure nothing untoward happened to the precious carts. So seven of us: one bus driver, one Carrefour staff member, and five foreigners, made our way through the garage. As we exited we glanced around, slightly disoriented. The foreigners of the group agreed that the bus was off to the left. However, the Carrefour staffer was unconvinced and insisted that we go right. So we did. And then we went right again, and again. After ten minutes of walking in the 90+ degree heat with several pauses for conversation and arguments, the driver and the staffer realized that we were as far from the bus as it was humanly possible to get. On the opposite side of the mall, in fact. More discussion ensued and the bus driver and Carrefour man abandoned us and the carts in the heat to go get the bus.
Meanwhile, three of our group had stayed in the mall to finish up shopping. When they were all set, they walked to the bus with their purchases. They reached the bus and waited a good five minutes before calling us and asking “Where are you guys?” Eventually the bus driver arrived at the bus, huffing and puffing. They loaded their purchases in, and drove around the mall to come get the rest of us on the other side of the mall.
Thankfully, no one seemed too upset. We all agreed that the whole situation was pretty ridiculous, but not too terrible. I myself had visions of John Cleese performing this as part of a Fawlty Towers or Monty Python episode or Rowan Atkinson in a Mr. Bean sketch. This humor bodes well for the new crop of teachers, I suppose. And it shows that no matter how long you live abroad silly things will always happen.