car rental

Racing Eyjajollyfollydolly Part VI: Help, and Lack Thereof, Electronic and Otherwise, Along the Way

It’s a great time to be stranded out there in the world. It’s almost impossible to be completely on your own in such a situation. Throughout my journey I was able to keep in touch with friends, family, and other stranded people, mainly through connecting to the Internet on my mobile phone. When I needed to make a quick phone call, I was always able to no matter where I was because I had my mobile phone on roaming.

My Twitter feed after arrival in Cairo

Twitter was a God-send to me. Bharat got to calling me “Twitterer”, he saw me using it so often. I used Twitter for a variety of things. Before I decided to take the leap and make my journey back to Cairo over the European continent, I used Twitter to follow the latest updates by Heathrow Airport, Eurocontrol, and fellow Twitterers. By doing this, I kept up-to-date on the latest developments on the volcano eruptions and the reactions of airports and governments to them.


Racing Eyjajollyfollydolly Part V: Amman to Home

Our flight from Rome to Amman had left almost half an hour late. We arrived in Amman at 7:35pm on Tuesday evening. Bharat’s flight to Delhi was scheduled to leave at 8:15pm. Mine was scheduled to leave at 8:20pm. We both ran – I mean full run type of run – through the airport. We said our goodbyes very quickly and each of us continued to run to our gates. The boards said it was the last call for both our planes. I reached my gate and found it completely empty, save for two airlines’ men. Are you going to Cairo, they asked. I am, I huffed and puffed. Calm down, they told me, smiling. You don’t understand, I explained. You have no idea what I’ve done to get this far. Please do not let the plane leave without me, I begged. They told me not to worry. Where’s your boarding pass, they asked. I didn’t have one. In Rome, I was told I could only get my boarding pass to my Cairo flight in Amman. Two other Egyptians came up behind me. They were also on the flight from Rome and were trying to catch the same flight to Cairo. They also had no boarding passes. Hamdy Qandeel, the well-known Egyptian journalist, also appeared with no boarding pass. He, however, was important enough to let through without a second thought. Me and the other two Egyptians waited as the airlines fellow made a few quick calls. “Don’t allow the plane to leave,” I heard him say probably to the pilot. I still have a few passengers here who need to board, he added. It took only three or four minutes and they let us on the plane without boarding passes. Just sit anywhere, they told us. Everyone was smiling; the two airlines’ men and the flight attendant who greeted us on the plane. It was as if they had seen many people before us in the same situation the past few days. They seemed happy to be able to bring us home.


Racing Eyjajollyfollydolly Part IV: Milan to Rome to Amman

Bharat and I were lucky to arrive at the train station only 15 minutes before the next fast train to Rome. We bought our tickets and ran to the platform. We had good seats.

On the train to Rome

Both of us recharged our phones on the train’s electrical outlets and fell asleep. We had a long night and a longer day ahead of us. It was finally day time and it was possible to see the Italian landscape. Green rolling hills surrounded us on either side of the tracks. I was too tired to bother, though. I had missed so much already that it didn’t really matter if I missed more. My priority was to get home and in order to get home I needed to preserve my energy. I needed to sleep.


Racing Eyjajollyfollydolly Part III: Paris to Milan

Abdallah arrived on time at 5:45pm. Bharat, the Indian man, was getting edgy. He had a flight to catch from Rome the next morning and he was in a rush to reach the airport on time. He also preferred to drive in daylight as much as possible.

We all rushed to the car rental parking lot and searched for our car.

It was a blue hatchback Fiat. We all luckily had small carry-on suitcases with us (man was I thankful I made the rare decision to travel light for this trip, otherwise I wouldn’t have heard the end of their complaining about women and their traveling). The car was small, however, so only three of our suitcases fit in the trunk. We placed the third, Abdallah’s, on the middle of the back seat. This proved to be a suitable make-shift headrest for sleeping later on.


Racing Eyjajollyfollydolly Part II: London to Paris

I checked out of my comfortable hotel in the center of London at 9am Monday morning and embarked on the unknown. I felt excited that I was finally doing something. I made a conscious effort though to keep myself calm. I had a long trip ahead of me and I needed my energy. I did not have the luxury of wasting precious energy on excited emotions.

My train trip to Paris was scheduled for 11:30am. I decided it would be best to reach the train station early. I wasn’t sure my online ticket would actually work. I knew that there were hundreds of thousands of travelers trying to get out of the UK. I did not know what to expect at the train station. I needed some buffer time for unexpected circumstances.

Everything went surprisingly smoothly at the train station.


GPS Lady is Back with a Vengeance

The privileged few among you who follow me on Facebook will remember GPS Lady, who started communicating with me by telepathy for the first time during my road trip across Ireland in the summer of 2009. Today, GPS Lady returned with a vengeance; and with an American accent I am unaccustomed to. British GPS Lady was mean. She made sure I took the narrowest, most winding roads possible all over Ireland last year. When I yelled at her, she would telepathically respond in a cool, unnerving voice. The more she could irritate me, I could just tell she was quietly contempt on her GPS insides. American GPS Lady is cold…so very cold. After a full day together, she has not once attempted to communicate with me by telepathy. She issues orders and coldly expects to be obeyed. When I yell at her, she does not answer and continues with her orders unabated. And I have a mean yell, I tell you. You know how mothers ignore their children’s temper tantrums? That’s American GPS Lady. I didn’t like British GPS Lady. I despise American GPS Lady.

Today, while parked in my rental car in San Diego, I asked American GPS Lady how to go from where I was parked at a small mall to a supposedly nearby Mexican restaurant she had recommended. She took me out of the parking lot, onto a freeway, off of the freeway and right pass that same parking lot before having me end up at the restaurantthat turned out to be pretty much just across the street from the mall. She couldn’t just tell me, “Nadia, get out of the car and cross the street.” Nooo. She had to make me drive half way around California. And no matter how angry my yell sounded, she could have just cared less. As I said, I hate American GPS Lady.

GPS Ladies aside, I love the freedom one gets by renting a car in a new city. It’s so much more liberating than taking a taxi or riding the bus. I feel in control. And rather importantly in my case, it gives me the added benefit of a trunk for my inevitable many purchases. As usual, I have no idea whether I’ve gone overweight for the flight back home. I don’t really care though. I am now the proud owner of some extra, much-needed mountaineering gear and some diving gear! I cannot wait to try it all out. Oooh, oooh…and I bought rock climbing shoes! I’ve been wanting to try that for quite sometime. So next time I find someone who teaches it in Egypt, I am ready dude!

One of the most difficult things about driving outside Egypt is staying within the lines. It’s more difficult than they make it out to be, you know. If we do have lines painted on our roads in Egypt, none of us notice them. Two-lane roads are usually filled with four lanes of cars. We don’t like spaces in Egypt. I don’t like spaces between cars more than the average Egyptian. In Egypt, be sure I’ll yell at you if you leave a small buffer space around your car. That space could have brought me 0.5 meters closer to my destination, lady! When I drive outside of Egypt, I MUST drive within the lines and leave spaces between me and other cars otherwise I’ll have to pay a ridiculous fine. It is a challenge to say the least. Today I remembered trying to color a frog in 1st grade. I wasn’t very successful at keeping within the lines then and I wasn’t very successful keeping within the lines today. GPS Lady made it even more difficult by telling me I needed to be in the right lane at the very last second several times. So I basically ended up doing a lot of swerving. I have a line memorized in case the police pull me over: “I’m from a foreign country. I’m Egyptian. And GPS Lady is giving me hell. Show mercy.”

I hope to have interesting news for you tomorrow, so stay tuned!