Travel tips

I am not really a seasoned traveler.  But I have picked up some things.  First, don’t worry if your bags are a little over the weight limit.  Most airlines won’t charge you for a pound or two.  And whatever you can’t fit in your checked luggage try to throw it into your carry-on.  I think typical allowance is up to 45lbs!  Sure, you’ll end up carrying it around, but you won’t have to pay extra.  I’ve even seen people carry more than two bags onto the plane, without any penalty.  They might just ask you to put one in plane-side check-in, but I don’t think you’ll have to pay.  Another thing not to worry about is those small connector planes.  You know, where the overhead luggage is too small to fit anything in?  They’ll just check it for you, and hand it back to you when you exit the plane. 

Use the bathroom in the beginning of the flight.  Especially for long international flights.  It starts looking like a pig sty after a while. 

Try and learn the terminology on your ticket.  It’ll let you know whether or not you get extra screening before you actually get in line. 

If you are traveling from Egypt, try and get a multiple reentry visa.  That’ll let you get back into Egypt without buying a temporary visa at the airport, and your current visa will be good till it expires.  It costs 61LE and you can get it in about 3hrs from Mugamma.

Once you get back in Egypt, there are travel companies offering rides from the airport, but they are extremely expensive.  I was told 57LE for about a 15min trip.  If you don’t mind walking out a bit you can find a black and white taxi (they are forbidden from waiting directly outside of the terminal).  You might want to negotiate terms first.  Even if it’s a short trip, drivers expect more if you are coming from the airport.

My last trip, a driver ran up to me, offering a ride.  I was leery at first, cause I didn’t see his taxi right away.  The last thing you should do, especially as a woman alone, is get in an unmarked car with some guy offering a ride.  Anyway, I asked him how much he wanted, and he waved the question off.  My mistake.  On the way out of the airport ( and Cairo airport is a city itself), he picked up an elderly couple.  They negotiated a rate of 20LE to Misr Jedida (Heliopolis).  I took note of this and when I got out, I handed the driver 20LE.  Misr Jedida is farther, no way was I gonna pay more for  a shorter ride.  He jumps out of the car, of course he wanted more, 40LE to be exact.  I said, NO WAY.  A crowd is forming now.  That’s what happens in any dispute here.  A bunch of people crowd around to mediate, or just to watch.  I complain that I never agreed to 40LE, and ask why are the Egyptians paying 20LE, he says ‘malish dawa’ (sp?), or none of your business, lol.  We finally agree on 30LE, which is not bad, considering with the travel companies you pay around 60LE.

I’ll add more stuff as I think of it, inshallah.

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Third Culture Kids

I got that term from an expat homeschool group I belong to.  It refers to kids who’ve traveled/lived overseas most of their lives.  I wonder if my kids will end up like this.  Global citizens with no ‘home’ culture.  They are biracial Americans, living in Egypt.  They are familiar with three languages and somewhat fluent in two of them.  Dd loves America.  Our last day there, she was singing ‘good-bye America’, ‘good-bye clean streets’.  My son refers to America as a ‘kafir’ country, but he doesn’t necessarily favor Egypt.  My youngest hasn’t really expressed a preference as far as I can see.  But our experiences have certainly changed them.  They never saw poor people in America.  I mean REALLY poor, dirty clothes, homeless, type poor.  Here it’s in your face.  They are unfamiliar with typical American names.  My dd pronounces Barbara=Ba-bear-ra.  Once my youngest was reading a book, and she kept referring to a character as Tris.  I told her to let me see it.  It was Chris.  I corrected her, but she insisted on saying Tris, cause ‘Chris doesn’t sound nice.’  They don’t understand American slang (no big lost there), and sometimes copy the British venacular (thanks to being friends with a British family). 

A former friend of my husband’s claimed that they will grow up as outcasts.  Both for being raised outside of America and outside of public schools.  They won’t know how to deal with race.  I certainly don’t want them to be outcasts, but not sure what it means to ‘fit in’ to American society.  Could be a good or bad thing, depending on how you are defining it.  I don’t want them fitting in with a lot of what I’ve seen in the blogging community, both from muslims and non.       

I don’t think term is necessarily suitable to the children of immigrants to America.  America has a way of swallowing foreigners, and by the second or third general, they are completely American.  At least in my experience. 

Egypt was not our first stop and I don’t know if it well be our last.  A return to the US is entirely possible.  Inshallah I hope they will be suitably prepared spiritually and educationally for whatever realities they face.   

Where have I been? In America!

I have had some major life changes, including dh moving to the states to work, and me and kids staying here in Egypt. And that is not all! Anyway, I went a little out of my head, and took a trip to the states without the kids. They stayed with their Quran teacher.

I traveled Egypt Air. To be honest, I have always looked down a bit on airlines from third world countries, preferring the European Airlines for international travel. But Arab carriers tend to be cheaper, and since we’re not rich, I have tried a few, including Air Morocco, and Tunisian Airlines. Egypt Air was pleasantly surprising. Unlike Moroccan and Tunisian Airlines, there was no alcohol being served. Mashallah, the dua for travel was made by the pilot, and flashed on a screen for passengers. That felt really good, to travel with people who believe that success in anything, including travel, lies with the Lord of the world.

I’ve spoken with people who won’t travel with European carriers, cause they don’t want to travel with ‘kaafirs’, but for me it’s always been a safety issue.  And as far as I’m concerned, you can’t tell any outward difference between the Europeans lines and the ‘muslim’ ones (except Egypt Air).  Well, mashallah, Egypt Air has been around for 75 years, they were the seventh carrier in the world and the first in Africa.  I don’t know how they rate for safety, but that is noteworthy experience. The only down side was that my luggage was lost.  I shopped til I dropped for clothes/toys for the kids (partly to make up for leaving them in Egypt). and they were really disappointed.  Alhamdulillah, I got a call at 4am two days after my arrival, and they had my stuff!  All of it!  And they delivered it to my door. 

America was a bit of a shock.  All that stuff, and for cheap!  Walmart!  Dollar Stores!  Dunkin Donuts!  There was too much to choose from and I couldn’t possible get a taste of everything I’ve been missing.  Seeing my dh was the best part.  He had everything waiting for me, red roses, chocolates, even TWIZZLERS, LOL!  12 days just was not enough time, especially when I had to meet with friends and family.  Also had a very interesting experience taking my drivers test (to renew) with an Indian named ‘George’. 

No problem going through US Customs, alhamdulillah.  Was waved right through.  This was my first time traveling  alone internationally so I was confused switching over to my connecting flight, but alhamdulillah made it.  For the first time I was asked to remove my niqab in America!  I’m used to it in Egypt, but usually they’ll get you a woman.  I did have one male officer who insisted I lift up my niqab, but he was probably curious (or miffed) because I insisted I am originally from America.  I always get that, going in or out of a muslim country.  First, where are you originally from.  Me: America.  No, originally, originally.  Me: America.  Where is your father from?  Me: He’s American too.  They finally give up and hand the passport back, after insisting on seeing my face (they want to make sure I am a REAL American?).

The trip back was ok, except  I left on yawm al-Arafat and arrived on Eid.  So no fasting and no Eid prayer for me!  The person who checked me in at Delta was a muslim, who gave salaams, then mentioned that the ssss symbol on the lower right part of my ticket meant I’d been picked out for ‘additional scrutiny’.  Then he  moved me to the front of the line, to the puzzlement of the white businessmen behind me.  The Ohare screeners were pretty nice (much better than New York, where I was told to spread ’em and patted down).  Once back in Egypt the crew wished us kulli am wa antum tayyabeen.  Not really a substitute for missing Eid with family, but it’ll have to do.  I’d looked forward to getting some pics of all the slaughter that goes on in the streets, but most of it was finished by the time I got here.  Looking forward to my next visit with my dh!