Sayonara, Zamalek! It’s been an amazing experience. Cruising to the airport with the windows down, my driver smoking his cigarette with one hand and driving with the other (his thumb never moving from the honking button), trying to memorize every detail.
This photo is actually from a different flight I took, but I love it:
Flight has been diverted to Stuttgart because of weather problems in Frankfurt, and I have no problem with that. Descending on the city was so beautiful it looked like we were landing on a life-sized snow globe. The homes looked like gingerbread houses and they all had Christmas lights. The snow made everything clean and bright, and trees dotted the landscape everywhere. Behind it all was the most beautiful pink and red sunrise I have ever seen.
I actually kind of love unexpected situations like this. It’s the same feeling you get when you’ve left a paper to the very last minute; you have to rely on yourself to figure everything out, testing your true capabilities. Will I be able to produce something of quality in record time? Can I hop across three continents in 24 hours and make it to where I want to go, with weather and all the forces of nature against me? I’ll certainly do my best.
After hanging out at the Stuttgart airport for a few hours, never leaving the plane, we were eventually able to make it to Frankfurt. I’m now forcing down a shot of bitter coffee and a delicious chocolate muffin, waiting for my next flight. It’s scheduled to leave at 2:00, four hours delayed, and the gate’s still not up on the screen. For my most loyal readers, you will recall I had the same problem on the way here. For some asinine reason they don’t put up the gate until last minute, and the gates are all divvied up and have different security lines. Therefore, if you don’t know which gate you’re at, you don’t know which security line to go through (it’s not a “you’re past security and you’re done” type of situation), so you just run from place to place when one man tells you, “oh yes…Toronto…I think that’s either between C1-9 or B22-46”. Thanks, man.
Flight’s now scheduled to leave at 3:15, and a gangly Australian is sitting next to me telling me about his ex-girlfriend.
Boarding my flight, now accompanied by a 6’6” fellow who smells sour and gross. I later found out he hadn’t showered since Paris “six days back or so.”
1:30 a.m. (6:30 p.m. Canada time)
Fidgeting in my seat like a child with ADD. I have to get off this plane. I have watched four episodes of Modern Family, two episodes of Glee, and the Angelina Jolie movie “Salt,” even though I’ve already seen it and didn’t particularly like it the first time around.
3:30 a.m. (8:30 p.m. Canada time)
Landed in Toronto, but my flight to Minneapolis has been delayed until the next morning. I receive a voucher from the airline to stay at some crap hotel. As I stand outside, freezing and waiting for the shuttle, I receive an email from my mom telling me to check into the local Hilton.
A Hilton shuttle pulls up as I’m waiting outside, and I interpret it as a sign from God. I say goodbye to my tall, smelly companion (who is going to the overbooked hotel the airline arranged) and hop aboard.
5:47 a.m. (10:47 p.m. Canada time)
Showered and ecstatic. I am going to sleep in a big white bed that doesn’t have a single bed bug in it tonight. I made it! I have been awake 48 hours and did everything I needed to do, including take a final exam and cross the Atlantic. Great success!
8:34 p.m. (1:34 p.m. Canada time)
Well, I didn’t quite make it. But I’m back at the Toronto airport and ready to board a direct flight to Minneapolis. Do you know how nice it is to wait in a customs line and not have people push and shove you because they don’t understand what a line is? Very nice, is the answer. SO CLOSE.
Author’s note: I wrote the post above in 2010, when I studied abroad at The American University in Cairo for a semester. Shortly after I went home for Christmas, the Egyptians overthrew their longtime president, Hosni Mubarak. I spent the spring semester at Tel Aviv University, which you can read more about here.