I have learned a few things through my travels. Call your credit card company and bank before travel so they don't freeze your accounts thinking you've stolen your own card. And second. Nothing ever goes as planned. Ever.
And "ever" starts when we arrive at the airport in Cairo about 6:00pm and have presented our passports at Customs and Egyptian customs guy looks at our diplomatic passports and asks for our diplomatic visas. What diplomatic visas? Behind us is a kiosk where Americans and Europeans can simply purchase a visa. That is any American NOT carrying a diplomatic passport. So we are shuttled to the waiting area while someone talks to someone else to figure this thing out. Don't worry we reassure the kids these things have a way of working themselves out.
The Seven Stages of Grief:
1. Denial: We call the US Embassy in Cairo. I'm sure that the Embassy can talk to the customs people and this whole thing will be settled. A couple hours later...
2. Pain and Guilt: The Embassy can't do anything. Aparently a couple of years ago an Egyptian diplomat was trying to enter the US without a guess what.......special diplomatic visa. And do you think we let him in? Nope. Pay backs are a bitch. And why didn't we ask anyone whether we needed a special diplomatic visa? Oh, because who has ever heard of a special diplomatic visa?! There is no mention of this in the outdated 1996 Fodor’s travel guide we borrowed from the Peace Corps library.
3. Anger and Bargaining: Some official is talking to some other official somewhere to figure out this mess while we wait. At least we think they are. Then finally one of the customs guys says "don't worry" (wink, wink) and tells us to collect our things and escorts us to the doors of the termninal with our luggage and unstamped passports. Did I say ALMOST to the doors of the terminal? We get stopped by another set of airport officials and get turned around. Damn it. So close. We get extradited to another waiting room that looks like a tent city full of homeless people after a hurricane complete with established territorial spots clearly delineated by luggage, sleeping people or a big pile of cigarette butts. Although the room is plastered with no smoking signs everyone casually ignores them which is probably for the best when a large group of unhappy people are confined in a small mosquito infested room together. Which makes me wonder are you supposed to take anti-malairia meds when going to Egypt?
4. Depression: We've been residing in tent city for a few hours now. We've braided hair, watched the second hand on the clock on the wall move, listened and laughed at the old guy snoring on his make-shift bed bench, re-explained the situation to the kids over and over trying to satiate their queries, bought over priced airport food and water. And now our mosquito bites are welting up so we look like we have chicken pox. It's late and now we must resign ourselves to the fact that we're stuck here and we'll have to find a spot in the airport to sleep. I bet no one wants to pick pocket the itchy, rashy, contagious looking family asleep on the airport floor. Wait, unless they are also itchy, rashy and contagious looking from mosquito bites. Damn it!
5. The Upward Turn: Good Morning, STARBUCKS coffee! I can't believe they have STARBUCKS here! Yipeee! And their mugs have the pyramids and sphynix on it that we won't be seeing. Your biggest strongest coffee and the mugs please. What a cute stuffed bleeting camel. Four please. Do you have that Ankh in silver? Perfect. Shopping is proceeded by playing the sock game where the kids take off their rank socks and whip them at each other. Then they string the luggage together and play trains. Then we eat. And eat. And eat. Then there was that fling with Justin Timberlake. He's not my first choice, but when you're imprisioned in an airport in Africa you can settle for JT (or just a large billboard of him). Oh and don't worry, Craig got Kate Moss. Also not "on the list". Don't judge us.
6. Reconstruction: Finally after 40 hours in the airport in Cairo someone somewhere has finally got us on a flight back to Morocco and they actually told us 5 minutes before the flight (after countless inquiries). At this point we're just happy to get out of the airport to go anywhere. And the flight is non-smoking and mosquito free because they come down the aisle spraying pesticides throughout the cabins. And I was worried about breathing the smoke? At least any mosquitos we may have accidentally ingested are now dead.
7. Acceptance and Hope: We arrive home at 9:00am Monday morning. It's Craig and Ember's 6th birthday (okay, Craig is little older than 6). We celebrate with our exhausted, stinky selves. I can't stop thinking that we could still salvage this vacation time. There must be somewhere we can go. No, no. We WILL go somewhere. I book a flight, secure a hotel, but we will have to get up early to catch our flight out of Casablanca. I switch out the shorts in the luggage for coats, hats and gloves. The next morning....the alarm doesn't go off! It's 5:10 am. It's an hour drive to the airport there is no way even if everything goes perfectly that we can make our 7:10am flight, but we're sure gonna try.
To be Continued....