Challenging Day #1...
The man is preparing the package to send off.
These are the facilities I'm putting faith in.
May 25, 2006
I’m wondering at what point I will be able to look back at this day and laugh…
*Disclosure* - This journal is going to be a lot of venting, complaining and whining. If you’d rather not deal with this, I urge
you not to read on.
Having said that, I will try to spare you from all of the details.
The day actually started off really well. Went to breakfast at my hotel, paid the guy at the bakery for my pastry from two
days ago at which point he gave me a free cookie, bought a new book from the bookstore… Things were looking good!
I’m now going to take a moment to backtrack. On my ‘Worldly Tips’ page, I wrote that it’s a great idea to have your hotel
write the name of places you need to go in their native tongue in case the taxi driver doesn’t speak English or if people on
the street can’t understand you. Here in Egypt, they write stuff down in Arabic for me.
Having got the Arabic information yesterday for the bazaar of Khan al-Khalili, I jumped in a taxi and was a bit concerned
when the taxi driver seemed rather confused. This is the biggest bazaar in Cairo. He kept asking people and it was
appearing hopeless. Finally, after 30 minutes, he stops the cab to let me know that we are at the destination. But I knew
that this could not be it. I then looked up. We were at the office where I obtained my student card. I forgot that I had
somebody write that information down for me yesterday, too. Having no idea what Arabic says (and forgetting that I even
got this address written down), how was I to know that this paper said something other than ‘Khan al-Khalili’??? (Note to
self: always write the name of the place in English along with the foreign definition.) He showed me the paper to see that
the paper said this address. Silly guy…if I knew how to read Arabic, we wouldn’t be in this predicament right now. So I paid
him for that cab ride. Now I had to hire him again to take me to the actual bazaar (which he knew exactly where it was).
Once I got to this area, my first item on my agenda was to find a post office. I needed to confirm I could send an
international package. I came prepared with the other stuff I’ve purchased on my trip and would add whatever I bought
Post Office #1 directed me to Post Office #2 that was further down the street. Post Office #2 then directed me to Post
Office #3. Post Office #3 was now directing me to Post Office #4. He wrote this down for me in Arabic and assured me that
I could send a package to America from there. Cool.
I started looking around at the shops and I decided to do exactly what I told myself not to do…I entered a perfume shop
only to find out I paid exactly twice the amount for my perfume that I bought yesterday than the amount they were selling
it for. My mood continued to go south from here. I ended up buying some small boxes that are inlaid with mother of pearl
(these are everywhere over here) and I was ready to call it a day. I wasn’t in the mood for negotiations. When I was looking
at silver jewelry, if they weren’t taking my first offer I was done with them within ten seconds.
Now it was time to find Post Office #4. Close but no cigar. They showed me where Post Office #5 (also called ‘EMS’ for
Express Mail Service) was and I felt a wave of relief. Ahhh….
If only that ended up being the case. They didn’t sell boxes or tape so now I had to go walking down the streets to find
some. Luckily, this was the lighting district so I found a place that parted with one of their boxes all in the name of my stuff
getting to America. And back to P.O. #5 I went…
They had me go upstairs to sit with the manager and have him check the contents of my package. Everything passed
inspection and it was time to get this baby wrapped up. After weighing my package, he showed me that it would cost over
315 Egyptian pounds to send (roughly over $50 US) to America. A stupid little 2.5 kg box with stupid papyrus’, stupid
boxes and a stupid piece of glass in the shape of a bowl. Grrr... Now I was in need of an ATM.
ATM stop #1: Out of service.
I couldn’t for the life of me find another ATM. The Bank of Alexandria didn’t have an ATM but when I showed them my
card, they sent me up to the 5th floor. Turned out this was the Visa office. A business office. They can’t give me money.
This is like me going to the Apple headquarters in Cupertino, CA to tell them my ipod isn’t working. The man I spoke to
was very sweet and I’m almost embarrassed to say what happened next. As I was asking about an ATM, I couldn’t spit out
the words because all of a sudden something else came to the surface. Tears. I literally couldn’t speak. He then had one of
the guys there come with me to find another ATM. He walked with me a few blocks and showed me where one was. Perfect.
ATM stop #2: Didn’t have an option to pull cash out of a checking account. It wouldn’t let me pull money out from the
options they did have.
I was then directed to another bank. I asked if they had an ATM and they led me to a counter inside. They said there was
an ATM but I wasn’t seeing it. I gave them my card and passport and then he started making phone calls regarding the
transaction, etc. I did not have time for this. I asked for my stuff back and proceeded down the street.
ATM stop #3: Success was had. Hallelujah.
New glitch: I was now lost. I flashed my original piece of paper from Post Office #3 to at least five different people on the
street and eventually found the EMS building. By the time I walked in, the guy there had a ‘Holy Smokes’ kind of look on
his face when he saw me. He invited me behind the counter to sit down and relax and had a cup of tea made for me. While
we had tea, another guy took care of my package, I paid and they assured me it will get to America (this is all very
questionable judging from the looks of this place).
All I wanted to do was go back to my little tranquil piece of Cairo – Zamalek. Hailing a cab was near impossible but finally
happened. Traffic was horrendous and 6 km took 45 minutes.
Start time of my outing: 10:30am.
End time of my outing: 4:45pm.
And all of this was in 100 degree heat.
Instead of going to the main street in Zamalek, I had the taxi driver take me to the Marriott (it’s beautiful as it is housed in
a former palace). I deserved to give myself a treat. I went to the restaurant and had the first food I saw since 8:30 this
morning. They were all so sweet and listening to the instrumental sounds of Babs, Elton and Billy Joel helped to mellow me
out and put a smile on my face. Afterwards, I stopped in a café and picked up a mango juice to take with me on my train
ride tonight—makes me feel like I’m reliving a part of Dahab. They also had a Herald Tribune which is a huge treat for me
these days. They let me have a complimentary copy.
I then reminded myself to try to keep a positive attitude regarding my day. Here it goes…
Keeping things positive: I got to have a bath today.
Reality: The bath was in my own sweat.
Keeping things positive: My body’s cooling system is working efficiently.
Reality: The metaphor ‘sweating like a pig’ can now be easily replaced with ‘sweating like a Jen’.
Keeping things positive: I saw more of the older parts of Cairo.
Reality: What I saw consisted of lots of garbage and lighting stores.
Keeping things positive: The package finally got mailed.
Reality: It’s questionable if my sister will ever receive it.
Keeping things positive: I feel like I’m a tad more ready for New Delhi, India.
Reality: I’m going to have to face days like this again.
On a side note...shopping has (for now) ceased. It's truly just not worth this.