home for the holidays

Tonight I will prove that it is possible to write an entry on two hours of sleep in the past two days. Keep in mind my eyelids are sinking lower with every word, but I know I’ll be too busy visiting family and gallivanting around town with old pals for the next two weeks to update this.

By some stroke of kind fortune, I made it out of Egypt in one piece. This is surprising, considering the height of the heels I was wearing. I usually show up to the airport in comfy sweats and sneakers, but Susannah and I had reason to believe that by dressing smart, we might be able to score upgrades. This didn’t happen for me, so I was stuck curling and uncurling my toes in the tight, confining boots.

I changed into my dirty shoes in London, dropped my bags off at a baggage hold at Heathrow, and took the tube to Piccadilly Circus to meet up with some friends. By the time I got in, it was past 11. I met up with my friend Jake, who I met in Cairo when he came to play rugby for a bit, and Sam, who I met at the Copa America game when in Argentina. For the first time in four months, I went to a proper pub. I was bumped and jostled and shoved, but there were wreaths on the windows and there was beer in the pint glasses. Good company and good conversation kept the night going until we decided to procure some Chinese food in Chinatown, which we ate while walking around London.

If you don’t know, Piccadilly Circus is apparently a swanky little area of London, with lots of hip places to check out and glitzy strands of lights zigzagging over the streets like nets. It was a welcome change from the non-Christmas Cairo.

puttin on the ritz

My wonderful tour guides took me through a beautiful park and down to Buckingham Palace, where we strolled alongside a fountain and debating the origins of the word “beefeater.” We continued around toward where we began, and spotted Big Ben and the London Eye in the distance. It was quite breathtaking for someone like me, who’s never seen London but has seen so much of it on TV. The only thing that didn’t happen was a chance meeting with Hugh Grant, but I’m still hopeful for the future.

It wasn’t as cold as I’d expected it to be in London, but what did take me by surprise was how shocked I was at the difference in culture. Conservative Cairo made London look like a cesspool of sin that would’ve given Sodom a run for its money. Twice I felt like an extra in a George Romero zombie flick as inebriated individuals staggered down the sidewalk toward me, bumping me out of the way in their hunt for brains. Pubs were teeming with drunks who spilled out onto the sidewalk in the wee morning hours, puking in alleyways and sewers or slinking down car hoods in drunken stupors. We even witnessed one man, whose pants were pulled down to reveal quite a bit of backside, in handcuffs being led to a police van.

I don’t know if this even sounds remotely shocking to any of you, but to someone who just left a country where any sign of public intoxication is literally regarded as sin and where alcohol is served behind thick walls and fences speakeasy style, the hubbub in London was like a slap in the face. We finished our late night tour around 3am, had tea, and passed out around 4, only to wake up again at 6 to catch the tube back to Heathrow.

In a modern nod to footbinding, I stuffed my crushed feet into the horrible boots and hobbled through security without a problem. The 8 hour flight home was long, but it wasn’t delayed and we landed safely.

Exhaustion overtook me quickly upon my arrival home – I did not catch a wink of sleep on the plane, partially because I watched a horrible documentary that included a graphic giraffe birthing scene, which earned me fearful, judging glances from my rowmates – but I did manage to ramble on about my travels to my family, play with my sister’s new puppy for at least a half hour, skateboard up and down the street, and drive my car down the highway and back. All of these things made me very happy, and I can’t wait to go to school tomorrow and see my old kids and old colleagues.

What am I appreciating the most? Aside from the happiness that comes with being home with the family for the holidays, it’s very nice to be able to carry my computer from room to room and maintain internet access.

Oh, the small things.