Sunday, June 20, 2010

The first few days are the toughest...

...or this at least is what I'm telling myself.

It's afternoon, day three of Cairo, and I am beginning to feel a little overwhelmed. At some point during the first night I became an entre for at least one mosquito, who took a walk sampling both of my legs, my arms, my chest and my face. I react badly to bug bites, and I am covered from head to toe in red blotches that I am just dying to scratch. It reminds me of this Calvin and Hobbes cartoon... but more so.

Combine this already uncomfortable sensation with the fact that the temperature during the day climbs to 111 Farenheit and you've got yourself a very sticky, very gross feeling on your hands. It makes me very frustrated, although I'm partly bringing it upon myself for insisting to dress as the Egyptians do and forgoing shorts. I wanted to blend in as much as possible, but faced with the June Egyptian sun I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that it's not worth the pain. I'm a foreign dressed white guy, anyway. They were bound to catch on eventually.

But it's too early to be overly negative. I was thrown into the mix in the Mogamma today trying to get my visa extended, and while I wasn't fluent by any means I was able to make myself understood in Arabic. My inhibitions to talk to people are rapidly falling away (it's amazing how bug bite pain will make you willing to talk to a pharmacist - what's the Arabic word for "SAVE ME"?) and I was able to navigate successfully, if not quickly, through the bowels of the Egyptian bureaucracy. It was a labyrinth that took me two hours to work through, using my meager Arabic skills and connections with English-speaking travelers in the same boat as myself to figure out where I needed to go and who to talk to. I learned to be more aggressive in line - the locals cut me off with hardly a second glance until I started putting my hand in between them and the window... an experience highly reminiscent of my fourth grade playground at recess.

Anyway, the point is there is a lot to be positive about. Despite the beleaguered American economy the dollar is still phenomenally powerful here. My room mate Ana and I were hustled into paying at least triple the value of a cafe meal and the whole check still came out to less than $8. Groceries are likewise very cheap - I have a feeling that if I am careful I still could have a few hundred to live off of in D.C. The people are wonderfully friendly and helpful, and I have yet to experience the highs of Egypt like the Pyramids, or Alexandria. Things are looking up.

So the message of the day is positivity. Don't let heat and bug bites and pollution (I didn't mention the pollution here... it sucks) get me down. In a few days I will be healed and whole and I will be able to experience the city with much fewer inhibitions.


  1. Derek - it must be the Swedish blood in you - I am still plagued by curious reactions to bug bites. As a kid, Janice use to send me into the salt water to get me healed.... OUCH!!

  2. derek, i'm glad you're safely enjoying egypt, even with bugbites! and i'm proud of you for dressing like a local. that's very "derek-ish" of you, hahaha. hang in there!