Considering the beauty and simplicity of moves, this one will be remembered as an ugly one. Talking about it, the kids and I decided that it was because we were making many moves all at once: Sam to college, some of our things to storage in the US, some of our things to temporary storage in the Netherlands, some of our things for the week or two wait for our visas, some of our things for the six months of our initial contract in Sudan. It meant we ended up, yesterday, with too few hours for everything that needed to be done. The kids were great, though. The house-cleaning that got done got done by them. Ed and Lucy mailed Sam’s college boxes. And Sam helped me load and deliver 26 (!) boxes to a warehouse near the airport for shipping to Sudan. We managed to meet up with Friso and Elisabeth at the airport to pass off the van to them. So if Eleanor spent much of the day crying, if the van never got cleaned out, if the house is a bigger mess than any house I’ve ever before left (I shudder to think what Wilford Woodruff’s wife, who swept her Nauvoo house as she was abandoning it, would think of me), and if we were packing our bags for the airport in the van as we drove to the airport,…well, we made it to Cairo anyway.
Our plane was a few minutes late landing, and then by the time we had made our way through visas, passports, baggage claim, customs, found the shuttle bus to the hotel, figured out how to tip the people who insisted on carrying our bags and babies (!) onto the shuttle bus without parting with my new high denomination Egyptian pounds (I gave them all the leftover Euro coins in my wallet), and made it into our rooms, it was 4 AM. We were just getting settled a few minutes later when the front desk gave us our courtesy wake-up call! (for morning prayers, I think)
We were all surprised by how lovely the air was in Cairo—22 degrees Celsius and balmy. We were also amazed at how alive the airport was. I had been concerned that, coming in at 2 AM, I wouldn’t be able to find people to help me find my way to the hotel. No such problem! The airport was teeming with people, including tiny children playing and running and laughing, apparently completely unflapped by being up at 3 AM. My two babies, one flopped over asleep in the baby backpack and one staring lethargically ahead from the stroller seat, seemed positively comatose by comparison. Once we exited customs, our luggage carts ground to a halt in a sea of people, some of them holding up signs, some looking for family members. Luckily, the kids are big enough that they managed to make their way back to me, laden luggage carts and all, even when we got separated. And perhaps this was Cairo Airport at its sleepiest!
I like having the babies here. This is obviously a culture that values children. The man selling us our visas slapped down 14 adhesive visa stamps and barked, “Put them on your passports, two for each.” Then, I think he saw our little ones, and he pulled the passports back and did it for me! The gruff passport men would glare at a passport and then, for no reason I could see, order its owner to go stand against a nearby railing, but when a little child was held up to the window, their grim faces would dissolve into smiles. I even saw one of them tickle a two year old with a mop of curly blond hair. They were very sweet to me, despite the overwhelming stack of passports I handed to them. In the lobby, other little children ran over to peek into our stroller as their mothers beamed at my children. The man at the hotel who brought in our bags squatted down next to Isaac to ask his name. So I think we’ll be just fine.