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(Coffee) Shop Talk

Welcome to the shop where I talk about things that go well with coffee, which is almost everything.

I’ve noticed that a lot of people have little neuroses or superstitions when it comes to flying. I have a friend who always has to sit in a window seat on the right side of the plane. Another friend told me that his mom always smuggles Xanex onto the plane to knock herself out. Some people won’t use airplane toilets, others need more complimentary wine every fifteen minutes (presumably these are not the same people). My own neurosis is fairly mild: I always get one ginger ale.

On the Amsterdam-Cairo flight I woke up suddenly, without any apparent reason, but a few seconds later a flight attendant appeared asking for drink orders. Apparently my neurosis has reached psychic levels.

Halfway through the ginger ale, though, I fell asleep again and didn’t wake up until dinner was served.

As an aside, I feel compelled to note how much better airplane food has gotten. Either that or North West Airlines has exceptional food. My vegetarian dinners on the Detroit-Amst. and Amst.-Cairo flights were both really good. The first was some kind of bean-based Indian food with a roll and a slice of real cheese. It could have been spicier, but it was great the way it was. The second was a pasta dish with melted mozzerella and pesto sauce with a delicate pastry covered in hot fudge for dessert. This is the only good thing I will ever say about airplanes.

Anyway, after I finished eating it wasn’t that long until landing, so I stayed awake and talked to my seatmate. He turned out to be Egyptian, returning from business in San Francisco. He was very friendly and gave me his business card as well as advice about Cairo neighborhoods, Ramadan business hours, and cell phone service.

I assumed we would part ways after exiting the airplane, but he then helped me find the booth that sold temporary visas and (unsuccessfully) tried to help me find the shortest customs line. It turned out that the shortest line was short because it was only for diplomatic passports and Frequent Flier gold or silver members, but hey, he tried.

Then, after we got through the long customs line, he paid a porter with a cart to get my bags, walked out to the front of the airport with me, and made sure that the people from my school were there before he left.

The people from my school who I met at first didn’t speak a word of English, though. After some confusing gestures one of them finally said “Miss Abby” and pointed off in the distance. Finally, a competent-looking Australian woman came up, greeted me as if it was perfectly normal to be meeting total strangers in airports at two in the morning, and introduced me to two other teachers who had also just landed. The she spoke fluent Arabic to the porter and the two men from the school, and together the six of us got all the luggage stowed in an extremely ancient van. As soon as we were under way, Miss Abby* asked us if we had any Egyptian money. Having been advised not to change money in the airport, we didn’t. So she gave us each E£150, with assurances of more if we needed it. Then she let me use her phone to make a very long distance call to my mom.

Bumping along the road from the airport, we passed:
– a small mosque
– a huge, new, suburban development
– a herd of sheep
– a large mosque
– lots of dirt
– five men crowded around a car, yelling at the driver
– a huge, Hollywood-letters-style sign marking the local police academy (it had footlights and everything)
– more colored, flashing strings of Ramadan lights than you could shake a stick at

Welcome to Egypt.

* I try not to use names in my blog, and when I do, they aren’t real. I’ve heard some pretty creepy and/or awkward stories about people getting other people’s names off blogs, and nobody needs that kind of thing.

Next: Mad About Ma’adi


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