In Cairo (Part 2)
By: Hala Alsafadi
After hours of being stuck in that microbus, we finally reached Cairo! We didn’t actually get to the States yet, we were not even half way through; however, we were relieved.
The microbus parked, we arrived to Sonesta Cairo Hotel, checked in, got our rooms, and finally BEDS AND PILLOWS! I felt like I have not seen a clean room for ages. Again, the need of showering knocked on my door. I washed my face to awaken myself a little bit and Guess what? The water was not salty anymore!! That made me realize that I am not in Al Areesh stinky hotel no more! You know how we usually hear that we never get to appreciate many things in our lives till we actually lose it? This is exactly how I felt. I mean, I was so thankful that we got to a great hotel and that we finally have some privacy in our tidy rooms. I knew that I was going to have a “ nighty night, sleep tight, and don’t let the bed bugs bite”kind of sleep.
One of the guys interrupted my “ Thank God” moments to inform us that we have to meet at the lobby as soon as possible because we were supposed to have dinner with some women from the American Embassy, I can not really recall their positions. Therefore, I and both girls, Lama and Jeje, went down to meet up with the rest of the group. I remember how I laughed the first instant I saw them all waiting. Look at us! we were all “dirt free” now!! They all looked good and I couldn’t stop comparing us to the “miserable us” less than 24 hours ago!! Anyways, we met up with the ladies who wanted to actually congratulate us for making it out of Gaza, the prison. Moreover, they wanted to discuss with Mohammed Al Qarra the possibility of him returning back home since he was the only one who did not get a Visa to the States from the American Embassy in Jerusalem. They wanted to try working on his Visa with the American Embassy in Egypt. Upon hearing such news, Mohammed got really disappointed. We all felt bad for him especially after the hell on Earth we went through in order to get to where we were at that time.
Not long after that bad news, we were over it. We actually started to look at the bright side again. Thanks for Mohammed’s Visa, we knew we are going to stay for a week in Egypt all together and that rocked our worlds. All we wanted to do is having fun. Here, Think about it this way, 3 girls and 6 guys , 15 and 16 years old, ALONE!! It felt like we are living the “ Home Alone” experience but this time in Egypt! Steven Killer, AMIDEAST Country Director in West Bank and Gaza, was with us. To be honest, he was way too cool and awesome that we did not even feel like he was there supervising. He was more like a great friend who takes care of all the 9 crazy teenagers.
That week we spent in Cairo was by far one of the best weeks of my life. I did miss my family but I still felt like I was among my own people and family. I knew that leaving those guys once we arrive to the States is going to be way harder than leaving my family in Gaza. Being around the group made me feel secure. When we were in Gaza , my family and my group got to know each other; that made me feel like I belong to this group. Sharing the room with both girls, we started to open up to each other. Each one of us started telling her own story and expectations. We shared our memories, we cried, and we laughed all together. The girls room was the main meeting point. The whole group would meet up in our room and start listening to music, chatting, goofing around, acting crazy,making fun of each other, and playing cards.
The count down started! As we reached the end of the week, the fear inside each one of us started to increase. We began to miss our families. I remember how I, Lama, and Jeje used to call our families from our room all the time till one day Steven told us that our room bill is unbelievably far above the ground. We didn’t know what to do other than say sorry. However, the guys took advantage of us once we told them about our room’s bill. Here is their “convincing” argument, which we happened to believe “ since your room already has a very high bill because of the international phone calls, we should all keep on using the phone in your room for calling our families. One high bill is better than 3 high bills. This way Steve will not be mad at all of us.” For some reason, that made sense for me, I have no idea how.
Last day in Cairo, I packed my luggage again, I assure you I did that like million times in the previous days, and I was good to go. One more last thing I needed to do before leaving was calling back my family for the last time from Cairo and telling them to expect my next phone call after a couple of days from the US.
Once I stepped in Cairo International Airport, weird thoughts stepped in my mind. I took a look all around me. I saw Arabs all over the place. People are speaking Arabic everywhere. I did not feel as if I were an outcast in Egypt since I know the traditions and culture. I pictured myself in the States for a second, I honestly didn’t enjoy what I saw! I realized that even though I already miss my family but that’s not it! This is not how I will be missing them for the next 12 months. My next stop will be in a place I don’t belong to; a place where many people will not even know the place I belong to. At that moment I knew that my journey have not started yet.
Some time passed by and all I remember now is finding myself on the plane. The flight attendant welcomed us and went through the directions. “It is a five-hour flight.” She said. We landed in Germany first and then took another eight-hour flight to Dallas Airport in Virginia, USA. I remember that the thirteen hours we spent on the two planes felt like 13 days, especially that we left Egypt during the daytime, we reached Germany during the daytime, and we arrived to the States at 4:00 pm. For sure, that was the longest daytime I have ever had!
To Be Continued…
Next ( Part 3): The beginning of the American Journey.