When you have a blog that you update semi-regularly and when there are a couple of people out there in this world who actually
Our 2013 Reminder Jar
read what you write, you feel a certain sense of obligation to your vast audience of two to write something special to bring in the new year.
I’ve been thinking of what my New Year post should be about for days, writing words in my head and then almost immediately afterwards erasing them (in my head too, of course. That’s how it works). Sometimes I begin writing great words of wisdom. And then I go back in my head and remember all the blog posts I wrote about how confused I have been this year and decide that is probably not a wise road to take. Other times in my head I write a summary of all the things that have happened to me, at me, around me, and in me and quickly realize how boring all that is even to me let alone to everybody else. I do want to write something, though. So I decided that I would do what I always do: I’ll sit down and let the words flow out of me. I’ll just be me.
At the beginning of 2013 my husband and I started a 2013 Reminder Jar. (more…)
When my husband first told me that he was thinking of getting a few guys from the office together to cycle from London to Paris, my
Andrew, Colin, and Nadia after three days of cycling from London to Paris. We made it!
first thought was, “Who does crazy stuff like that?” The words that came out of my mouth were, “Can I join?”
I hardly had any experience cycling but that was not going to hold me back. I bought a cheap mountain bike in Egypt just before I climbed Kilimanjaro in 2009. I cycled a few times in Cairo as part of my training for the climb. That training consisted of leisurely cycling on flat road for no longer than half an hour at a time. I did not think it was leisurely then, of course. I now know what real training means. (more…)
I have a secret. Not a dirty little secret. I’m not going to tell you those. A normal, short-lived secret as you soon shall see. And I’m going to tell you my secret – this particular one anyway – because I hate feeling like a hypocrite. I hate doing one thing in front of people and another behind their backs. I do enough of that already. So I’m going to tell you about this one to lighten the load a bit.
I experimented last week. I took off my hijab – the headscarf many Muslim women wear to cover their hair.
I have been wearing a headscarf when I leave the privacy of my home for 25 years, since I was 17. That’s a long long time in human years.
I took my hijab off during a recent trip to Europe. I wanted to know what it would feel like. I wanted to know how people’s perceptions of me would change and how my perception of myself would change.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’ve always wanted to be on the Amazing Race. You know what’s even more fun, though? Being in a real life Amazing Race as opposed to a reality television one.
I raced the ashes of Eyja (I’m done with trying to pronounce or remember the Icelandic volcano’s real name) and won. As I said on Twitter last night once I had reached my home in Cairo and kissed my children good night, “I pity the volcano that tries to keep me from my children!”
As the situation progresses, it’s come a time when I need to make a decision. Should I continue to wait for British airspace to open or should I start working on getting home by ground?
My decision on Saturday was to wait. My flight to Cairo that Saturday was cancelled because of the volcanic ashes. I was able to get a another ticket from London to Cairo on Tuesday, April 20. Hopefully the airspace would open by then.