Unless you’re talking politics, the people here are splendid, from the moment Scott and I arrived we’ve been doted over. In fact, our arrival was really something else. Our newly adopted father, Baba and his son, Zahid picked us up from the airport at two in the morning and took us to their apartment in Dar’ Salam- a suburb of Cairo with ‘project-like’ buildings sprouting up everywhere from the dirt packed streets.
Arriving exhausted from the days travel I was ready for rest. However, once inside, we were greeted with wide grins and excited babble. The whole family had stayed up for the opportunity to meet a pair of Americans. To know that we weren’t hated let alone actually admired was shocking.
Having recently traveled through France and Spain where we received an abundance of anti-American and anti-Bush sentiment. We were actually very nervous to come here because of the current political situation. After all, this was the Muslim world- post 9/11.
After hours of questions coarsely translated by Zahid’s limited English, and a hot meal prepared and served only by the women, we were beat. Seeing the morning light, we realized just how late, or early it was. With weary gestures we indicated that we needed to sleep. Almost grudgingly, we were allowed to escape as the center of attention.
On my way to bed I felt the urgency to use the bathroom, I’d been holding it far too long. Hagar, our new little sister led me strait there, all the while screeching “I am Amereekah” It was days later that I learned this was actually her way of insisting she was American. “I am America, yes?' With the current political situation, I was quite surprised anyone had interest in being American- I know I didn't publicly admit to it. Of course, she also insisted that she was my little sister, and not just an adopted sister either, but my real sister. ‘I am Agala, yes?’ This was her butchering of my tranquil sister Angela’s name. Both Scott and I sure get a good laugh from this even now- years later.
Left to do my duty, I sat down for business and wondered about this truly foreign nation. When I had finished I looked for something to wipe with. Shit, I saw nothing, no evidence of that familiar paper. Suddenly, my mind buzzed with a phrase my buddy Joe had told me after returning from the Philippines. ‘Wipe with the left, eat and shake with the right.’
Quite frightened, I reasoned to myself, this was not the Philippines, this was a modernized place, Cairo. I then thought back to the dirt streets and donkey carts. I wasn’t fooling anybody. Nearly paralyzed, I began to plot. Nothing came to me until what seemed like hours later. ‘When in Rome do as the Romans,’ it’s a cheesy cliché, but as a traveler it’d been my saving grace countless times.
After attacking the soap bar I went dry my hands on a towel- the same towel I presumed was used countless other times by those not so concerned with germs- I then thought better of it and used my shirt.
Returning to the bedroom they stationed us in, with my head hung low I quietly told Scott of my experience. He taunted me for awhile, calling me ‘fecal fingers.’ I then ended up in some form of a pretzel, after failing to teach him a lesson by ‘beating him up.’ Countless times I believed I could take on my big brother, only to be twisted into some pain inflicting hold.
We had made peace and were under our blankets when I heard: ‘Goodnight fecal fingers.’ Immediately my resentment for him grew, it wouldn’t have been so bad if I could have put him in his place, but he always seemed to outdo me physically. I then realized he too would be reduced to the act soon enough. I plotted how I could turn it on him, but soon laughed at how ridiculous I was being.
After all, this was my best friend, and no matter how I resented him- for being cooler, more street-wise, a better cyclist, and mountain climber, as well as better looking (both in a Speedo and street clothes) - we still enjoyed each other’s company and there was no one I admired more. At this discovery I went to sleep peacefully dreaming of this new land.