Saturday, 15 December 2007

“On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, three midnight flights . . .”

Today was our last day in Cairo, this evening we headed to Nairobi, Kenya. We decided to do some school in the morning. Nate is finally mastering his multiplication tables and can do 100 problems in four minutes, we’ve been working on these for months and he’s had a real mental block until just recently, so we are delighted that it’s finally clicking. Both kids wrote essays, Alayna’s was a story about how Santa was having problems because his elves were on strike and Nate’s was about three important Bible characters. Benji is on letter “s” and I’m proud to report, he is an excellent “s” maker.

We are all low on books, and were hoping to find something to read for the plane ride and beyond. I found yellow pages in English next to the bed and located a bookstore, and when I called they declared they had many children’s books in English. We were so excited, we jumped into a cab that afternoon with the address and were dropped off in front of a suspect bookstore. It was small, the shelves were dusty and half filled, and the ground floor was entirely full of textbooks. We went downstairs to find Shakespeare, Dickens, Bronte and Twain. We walked away with Huckleberry Finn for Nate, and A Little Princess for me, for the bargain price of $8. The books all looked like they could have been in a college bookstore, used as texts for classes. I’ve read A Little Princess before, but it’s such a good one, and I think even Nate would like it, even though it’s got the word “princess” in the title.

Alayna and Benji were both really bummed that they didn’t find a book, we tried to sell Alayna on Wuthering Heights but she read the back and handed it back, saying “It looks like a love story.” As we were leaving I showed the bookseller the name of the bookstore on my little slip of paper, and he informed us it was just a few stores down. Hope dawned as we hurried down the sidewalk, hoping to find something for everyone. This store did have tons of children’s books, compared to the one we had just come from, but some of them were dusty, as if they had been sitting there a long time. Alayna managed to find a copy of Heidi but alas, there were no dinosaur books for Benji. Neither store had a copy of Harry Potter which was shocking. Every bookstore we’ve been in along the way, whether or not they’ve had children’s books, has had Harry Potter.

We made it back to the hotel with time to spare before our car picked us up for the airport. We were dismayed to discover that Nate left his fleece in the taxi, and we were not going out again in the Cairo traffic to try and find another one. When we asked the concierge if a taxi driver had turned in a fleece, he just shook his head and smiled. Some little Egyptian boy will be very happy to discover all the goodies Nate accumulated in that jacket’s pockets.  Nate will just have to make do with his long underwear if things get chilly on the safari, and we’ll find one before China.

We killed some time eating dinner and playing cards while we waited to move on. When our van finally arrived, the floor, windows, and driver were all covered in white. It turned out the driver had to slam on his brakes while driving on the highway to get us, the fire extinguisher in his car broke, and sprayed all over it. He had managed to clean the seats so we could sit without turning white, and we rolled down the windows all the way, wondering if the white stuff was toxic. When Benji stepped into the car he said, “It looks like Christmas!” and it did, it looked like it had snowed in that car. A cacophony of car horned serenaded us to the airport, someone is always honking at someone else in Cairo.

We got to the airport, and after going through security we were standing in line to get our boarding passes. We had been waiting maybe five or ten minutes when a security guard tapped Clay on the shoulder and handed him the our camera. It must have fallen out of his backpack on the conveyor belt as it went through the X-ray machine. We were very grateful that the man had returned it, instead of pocketing it. I can’t imagine getting to the safari and realizing we didn’t have a camera!

Our plane was scheduled to leave at 11:15pm, but it was delayed and we didn’t take off until 2am on the 16th of December. We knew this day would come. The day when Clay would realize, in a public place, that he hadn’t done his pushups. Ever since February, he’s done 100 pushups a day, come rain or shine. Sometime before midnight Clay realized he hadn’t finished his pushups, and rather than humiliating his daughter (and wife) by dropped right there on the floor of the airport to finish them off, he wandered around the corner and found an abandoned kid’s playscape. I can only imagine what people must have thought of this crazy American, doing pushups in the Cairo airport in the middle of the night.

We finally boarded, ready to fall asleep, but for some reason they left the lights on the plane on the entire flight, and we had a 4am stopover in the Sudan where we were all instructed to unbuckle our seat belts, even if we weren’t leaving. The flight attendant actually woke up Clay to make sure he unbuckled his seat belt and the boys. Needless to say, not much sleep was had by the Davis family, but we got to Kenya all in one piece, Nate managed not to throw up when he ate the candied maraschino cherry on his fruit salad (I was watching from across the aisle and he almost lost it), and we had a man waiting at baggage claim with our name on a little sign. It is a beautiful thing, having a ride from the airport.


Sunday, 16 December 2007

“On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, four safari hats . . .”

The drive from the airport to our hotel was wonderful. The traffic was minimal and people stayed in their own lanes, such a welcome respite from the crazy Cairo traffic. Things were green here, and clean. It smells good here, like growing things. We drove with the windows open, down a two lane road on the “wrong side”. We were surprised to learn that Kenyans drive on the left side of the road, a remnant of British presence here. We passed many churches on the way, a big change from the many mosques that could be found no matter where you looked in Egypt. There is a saying in Egypt, “There is a minaret between every minaret.” We found this to be very true.

After arriving at the hotel and meeting our guide for the Kenya portion of our safari, his name is Cosmos, we settled into the room and prepared to try to stay awake until nightfall, so we wouldn’t be messed up sleep-wise. We did a pretty good job of it, we ate dinner at 4 in the afternoon, and then sat down with Cosmos to get the details of what is in store for us. He brought us safari hats and beaded belts for the boys and sarongs for Alayna and me to use as cover-ups or any other use Alayna’s creative mind can come up with. We talked about itineraries and drivers and “happy bushes” (this is what Cosmos calls the bush you go to the bathroom behind if you have an emergency and no bathroom in sight) and got to know Cosmos. I know we will spend a lot of time together over the next few days, and we like him. He has a ready smile and great stories.

Alayna’s biggest question was answered, there is another family who will be joining us in the morning and they have an eight year old GIRL. Alayna was very excited, we couldn’t wait to meet our traveling partners. They didn’t arrive until late that night, and we were hoping to be asleep by then.

After getting the kids in bed, we pared ourselves down to one duffel instead of two. The other we would check in the morning at the hotel, to retrieve when we returned to Nairobi at the end of the safari. Over twenty-five pounds lighter, we patted ourselves on the back and prayed nothing would be stolen from the bag we left behind. We can’t wait to see what the morning will bring, new friends and animals and the safari we’ve been looking forward to for ages.