Last days

07/09/2021

Last days

Today was a series of lasts: last full day on the cruise ship, last day to visit the islands, and last day for Kathy’s Z-pack series of antibiotics. The day started bright and early as we had to get up and get our PCR COVID test, which will be needed for the flight to Turkey in two days.  Then we had a quick breakfast, went to the cabin to get cleaned up, and we were off for our next adventure.

The next adventure took place on the island of Crete.  Crete is the largest of the Greek Isles and the 5th largest in the Mediterranean Sea.  A full 48% of the Crete income comes from tourism.  Most of the rest is agriculture, particularly from the millions of olive trees used in making extra-virgin olive oil.  Since it is less than 200 miles from Europe, Asia, as well as from Africa, its strategic location has made it an attractive island to conquer for thousands of years.

Once the tour ended, we decided to stay on the island and stroll around the streets wandering through shops and eating lunch while doing some people watching. Lunch was a traditional Greek fare that had Dave trying for the first time souvlaki, which was not what either of us expected (Dave had no idea what to expect!). Kathy had a traditional gyro, which was not so Americanized.  The meat comes in pieces, and you put your gyro together.   We walked up some stairs, rounded some corners and soon we were back at the boat dock. Not yet wanting to return onboard so quickly, we decided to walk in another direction where we found some statues that detailed some of Greece’s famous mythological legends.

Kathy’s bladder finally insisted it was time to return to the boat and we boarded in the late afternoon.  We enjoyed a quiet hour or so in the room just reading, dozing, and relaxing. In a quest to get in our steps we decided to stroll around the ship. We meandered up to the top deck where we watched kids play in the pool, mothers get mad at the kids who were playing in the pool, and old people chuckling (and, we are sure, saying like us, “Phew! Thank goodness we are past that!”) While it was fun watching it all play it out, we did not last long in that location, as we were driven out by the smoke from the boat smoke stacks. Instead, we went to the sports bar where the only sports were a bunch of kids playing Wii bowling – seriously!!! 😊 😊

Finally, it was time for dinner, but first we had to change. Dave knew better this time!  He learned his lesson tonight and changed before arriving at the restaurant. While enjoying another wonderful dinner, Kathy noticed that a young boy at the next table was wearing shorts.  On their way out, Dave had a lively discussion with the pants patrolman about sex discrimination and now age discrimination. The answer from the pants patrolman, “Put it in the comment section of your guest questionnaire.”  The staff on the entire ship has been outstanding and their sense of humor matched Dave at every level!  We had a wonderful time.

Cruising the Nile

July 2nd,, 3rd and 4th,  2021

Well, we are behind on keeping up our notes for the journey. It has been a busy two days, but the most important part is we have our own shower, toilet, and a big old bed!! Ahhhhh, the luxuries of life. Our new guide Michael picked us up from the train, deposited our luggage in our rooms, checked us in, fed us lunch, and then we were off for our first adventure. No rest for the wicked. Yesterday saw us visiting the High Dam and learning the history of the dam and the importance of water in this area. The heat alone is enough to teach one about how important water is to exist here in the desert.  We were joined by a lovely couple from Puerto Rico, Raul and Julia, who are taking a similar trip like ours except in reverse. They started in Greece, then Turkey, and lastly in Egypt and fly home the same day we fly to Greece. We were on the same train and will be with them on the same flight back to Cairo. They are a lovely couple, and it has been a joy to get to know them.  We have had the opportunity to get to know them as they are our dinner mates in addition to being with us on this leg of the tour.  Last night we stayed on the boat which was docked at the port and don’t expect to set sail until tomorrow afternoon. That evening after dinner we had a delightful show highlighting the Nubian culture. The dancers at one point were wearing a horse costume and Dave got nudged by the “horse”.

 

The next day, Saturday the 3rd, arrived bright and early with an 04:00 wake up call to start our journey to Abu Simbel Temple Abu Simbel – Wikipedia,   a 3.5 hour bus ride one way and a 3.5 hour bus ride back, which really means, in Egypt time, a 4 hour bus ride there and a 4.5 hour bus ride back.  This meant our cruise ship was late leaving the dock and heading downstream to our next destination. The drive was worth every minute, as at the end of the drive we arrived to view the magnificent temple built for Ramses II and a smaller one for his wife Nefatari (not Nefertiti). The temple has magnificent statues that had to be moved after the High Dam was built, as it was then flooded by the reservoir and covered by the water. UNESCO spent years moving the temple to higher ground.  They had to build a concrete wall around it, then pump the water out, before cutting it into parts and reassembling it on higher ground.  We walked around each temple and into the chambers marveling after all these years at how the walls still “talked” and told a story to the visitors to the temple. While the visit was short in comparison to the drive, it was worth the time it took. The drive home took a tad bit longer as a powerful windstorm kicked up the sand, making driving difficult for the bus driver.

After a late lunch we arrived at our next stop, Kom Omba, a temple that was unique in some of its characteristics.  Our knowledgeable guide for this part of our journey, Michael, delighted in talking about how this temple gave us a glimpse into the ingenuity of the ancient Egyptians, including the fact that they invented scissors. One entire wall showed how a hospital worked and the tools used by the practitioners. Dave was suitably impressed with the scissors, sponges, cupping devices, opium for pain, and the birthing techniques that were highlighted on the wall.  The ingenuity did not stop there as they had a well system that was designed to filter out sediment and provided clean drinking water for the residents who lived there thousands of years ago.   Dinner was a buffet consisting of traditional Egyptian fare.

The food is a story in itself, as Dave has been adventurous. He has tried just about everything; sometimes with success, but sometimes the failures were EPIC!! He was excited because next to the dessert fare and cheese bar there were grapes and/or lychees……… or so he thought.  With the first bite, he got a taste of pickled onions and green and black olives. Not his finest moment. He next tried chicken strips, again another failure.  It was not chicken, but instead were fish sticks. Kathy knew it was not chicken, but instead of warning Dave, she just watched him bite into it and she waited for his reaction.  Dave was suspicious but soldiered on.  Foolish Dave. He tried again at another meal and was rewarded with another bit of some yummy fish.  Thankfully, he has had many more great tastes of food than bad food. We have enjoyed the fresh fruits and vegetables.

As the ship went through a lock on the river, Dave was ready and taking photos.  Some of his photos included the hucksters who took advantage of the boat slowing down to enter the lock by rowing their boats alongside the ship to try and sell their wares.  If you dared enter into a conversation with them, they would fling their goods up onto the ship, expecting you to pay for them.  However, you could fling them right back at them, too.  This could go on three or four times!

While Dave was watching this unfold, Kathy took advantage of some down time to get an aromatherapy massage. The massage was one of the strangest experiences according to Kathy, sort of like military induction. The massage therapist waited for Kathy to “drop” her clothes and climb on the table. No privacy no here is a towel, no I will wait here while you undress, just remove your clothes and climb on the table. She then proceeded to give me a massage, while not painful, it also did not put her to sleep.   She did a deep massage on the back, legs, and arms. Next was an aromatic facial that included a mud mask and heated towel. The massage came to an abrupt end when she flipped off the towel that had been covering me and said, “you’re done.” A weird end to a weird start. For a society that values modesty in females guess it does not extend to foreigners.  A lovely lunch followed where we got to have an interesting conversation with Raul and Marie where we learned in addition to be an attorney, she is also a published author. Hoping to read her book and eventually get my copy autographed.  What an accomplished couple and we have had so much fun talking with them and sharing our tour with such a fun couple.  (pictures will soon be posted)

Afternoon on July 4th has arrived quickly, and the day spent relaxing after the massage sees us journey into Luxor to visit many of the sites. Stay tuned for an update of this afternoon and evening adventures. Happy Fourth of July to all!! Shoot off a few fireworks for us!!

I want my Mummy!

Today saw us pack up and get ready to leave the hotel. Knowing that our ride would not be there until noon, we decided to again go out and explore the surrounding area. A nice bonus was finding mouthwash and shampoo/conditioner to replenish the items we had to leave at the Buffalo Airport. Another handy discovery was an ATM to get some money for our next leg of the journey. We felt we were on a roll and needed to celebrate. What better way than stopping by another local bakery where we got a platter of tiny-sized baklavas and some “bird nest” pastry which are best described as shredded wheat coated in a layer of honey, made into the shape of a bird’s nest, and with either two almonds or two macadamia nuts in the middle. It looked exactly like a bird’s nest and tasted amazing.

Soon, our guide Sam was here, our luggage was stowed safely in his trunk, and we were off to explore the city of Cairo again. First stop was the Civilization Museum which was recently completed and beautifully designed. The exhibits were well lit and displayed and had translations in English and Egyptian. The upstairs housed an assortment of items showcasing the history of ancient and modern Egypt and provided us with further understanding of Egypt. Sam carefully took the time to explain many of the items on display and he graciously shared his knowledge of ancient culture, tools, people, and the history of the area. Also in the museum were displays of more modern leaders and their contributions to Egyptian culture and modern Egypt.  The lower level of the museum housed the mummies, which are still intact, thousands of years later. We wish we had some pictures to share, but none were allowed.  We can only recommend you Google them to see the details of mummies of famous people like King Ramses II and Queen Nefatari.  Some of the mummies still had hair on them and you could see the color, or braids, or flowing locks.

Next stop was the Mosque of Sultan Hasan built in the 1300s where we wandered around while Sam explained how the faithful prayed in the direction of Mecca, where the Imam sits, and where the faithful sit and pray, listening to the Imam speak. When you enter a mosque, one difference that is noticeable is you see no imagery or icons. Muslims do not believe in this as part of their religion and as such you see only geometric designs.  We also went to another mosque built in 1922 right next to the first one, ‘”””””””.  We saw the same structure and design as the other mosque. This mosque was unique, though, as it housed the burial site of the Shah of Iran after he fled Iran after the 1979 revolution. Despite the fact that other Muslim countries denied entry to the Shah, Egypt remembered his assistance many years earlier and repaid the Shah for his help. As a teaching of Islam says, if you help someone, then one day, they will help you. In Egypt, they are Suni Muslims and in Iran they are Shiite Muslims, and they two factions do not coexist easily.

Rounding out the guided tour, we drove, not walked, through the City of Dead. All we could think is how sad. It is a cemetery, and the dead are buried below ground with a small enclosure built above it, about the size of a shed. Now, the homeless occupy the areas above the dead. The City of the Dead has become a large homeless shelter for many of the working poor.

Sam then offered us a choice, shopping or someplace for dinner. Kathy, not wanting to brave the shopping crowds or heat, picked dinner which ended up being perfect for her. Both had a very nice meal which was recognizable and delicious. Kathy had Salmon and Dave Chicken Cordon Bleu.  We did each try a smoothy and both were amazing.  Kathy’s was strawberry with Hibiscus flowers and Dave’s was caramel. Both were ice-cold and delicious and very welcome on a hot day.

Last stop was the train where we met up with Sam’s brother-in-law, Ayman, who had our tickets. We were joined by a couple from Puerto Rico, Raul and Maria, and we were soon deposited into our “cabin” to spend the next 12 hours. The size was smaller than my closet at home and included an upper and lower bunk, a sink, and……….air! We met our next-door neighbors, two cousins from the States:  Josh from TN and Vince from Ohio, who were spending time in Egypt as sort of a reconnaissance.  Meals were somewhat edible. Dave will eat anything, and he said it was fine but Kathy is a bit more discerning. Sleep was elusive for Kathy as the temperature from the air conditioning dropped the room to a “I can see my breath” temperature, the noise from the other trains, and the constant motion, bumps, and halting of the train made it difficult to stay asleep.  Breathing a sigh of relief, we were “soon” off the train, as it was only three hours late getting into the station. We were promptly picked up by our guide Michael who drove us to the cruise ship for our next stage of the journey – a cruise down the Nile river.  It was like being deposited into heaven. We have a sitting room with couch, chair, and a TV. A separate bedroom with his and hers bathrooms.  Secret to a happy marriage: separate bathrooms!! 😊

We even have the internet. I hope it is good for the entire trip. Like the bathrooms, we have his and hers access!

June 30,2021

Egypt Day Two saw us again brave the heat to visit some historic sites in the Cairo area. (We do think that it stayed below triple digits today, so at least we had that going for us.)  We started out the day with a new twist on breakfast: scrambled eggs, decent coffee (so says Kathy), and the obligatory Tang for Dave. The eggs were much tastier than the plain egg (crepe) we had the day before and the coffee was more like home and less like pudding, again according to Kathy.

Belly’s full, we felt that we were ready to begin our day with Sam, our trusty guide in Egypt. Driving into the heart of Cairo was an adventure.  We have determined that pedestrians in Egypt are the equivalent to the frogs in Frogger: they stroll, saunter, dash, and dodge cars on highways, rural streets, and city traffic.  There is an ethereal balance between automobiles and pedestrians in Egypt.  None like to give ground, but both do in the end when needed.  We have witnessed no accidents or even close calls in three days here, so who are we to judge?  Lanes, if painted on the freeway, are just a suggestion.  (Think Bumper Cars, but without the bumping!)  There is no need to stay in the lane, straddle the lane, or be accommodating to the other drivers. It is okay to cut in front of someone, cut them off, or turn abruptly in front of them. Going down the wrong side of a highway can be useful at times, so go for it!  Cars are like pedestrians: it is every man or woman for themselves!!  Oh, and this would be crazy enough with cars and pedestrians struggling amongst each other. Throw in crazy motorcyclists, the ubiquitous tuk-tuks, horse- and donkey-pulled carts, and even camels vying for asphalt space (when there was asphalt), and scenes from Indiana Jones are recalled.

The first stop was the Great Museum of Cairo which houses thousands of Egyptian artifacts.  Much of the displays have been moved to the new museum scheduled to open later this year, and yet we still did not get a chance to see everything. One of the highlights was some items from the tomb of King Tutankhamen, “King Tut” or the “boy king”, whose burial site was the only tomb found intact and had not been robbed through the ages. A nice change-up was ice-cream after our walk through the museum, even if it was more expensive than our dinner later that evening.

Next stop was the Citadel, which is large fort including two mosques. Our guide, Sam, spent time explaining the Islamic religion and gave us a great deal of insight into the parallels between Christianity and Islamism. We felt blessed to have a greater understanding of the religion, as well as the commonality and differences between the two religions. We do believe that greater understanding creates an environment of mutual respect between the two cultures instead of fear. The sites provide written literature about the basic questions asked across the globe: the “why’s” of Islamic religion.  We went away from our time there with information to better understand.

We did find though that Dave and Kathy were somewhat of a novelty or had a certain amount of celebrity status. Upon entering the Citadel, Dave was asked to pose with a group of young men, each one individually and then together. Apparently, foreigners are not seen very often by local Egyptians, and they are an instant attraction. That uniqueness continued to Kathy.   At one point, she asked a woman if she needed help taking a picture with her husband. Instead of wanting a picture with her husband, she wanted her picture taken with Kathy. In total, about twenty pictures were taken of Kathy and her, including her kissing Kathy on the cheek, and then the other cheek, Kathy kissing her on the cheek, Kathy and her hugging, and of course smiling at the camera.  The woman seemed almost giddy with the experience.

Next stop was without a doubt the most interesting and awe-inspiring moments in our entire journey and made the trip here worth every moment. Dave and Kathy visited the Coptic Christian Church of St. Mary (Also known as the Hanging Church) and stood in the same room where the Virgin Mary, Joseph, and baby/toddler Jesus stayed. We saw the well where they drew water out of when thirsty. Joseph, Mary, and Jesus fled Jerusalem after King Herod ordered the killing of all the male firstborn children. As the bible recounts, they fled to parts of Egypt.  The Egyptians and Islamic religion consider Jesus a prophet, and on each site where the family stayed, a Christian church was built. You can trace the route and visit these most holy churches.

On the way out, Kathy and Dave stopped by the obligatory gift shop, looking for a Christmas ornament for home.  They did not find an ornament, but they did find a 2021 Calendar, in Arabic, with the cover showing a photo of the Linn Cove Viaduct, which is in the district of the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina where Dave served for years as the District Ranger.  Perhaps this was how they obtained their celebrity status?

There was another humorous moment when Dave and Kathy first arrived at Coptic Cairo.  Sam dropped them off near the entrance and went to park his car.  While waiting for Sam, Dave and Kathy were approached by one of the three branches of police we have seen so far.  This one was a Tourist Police Officer.  He had a book where he took our names and where we were from. Usually, Sam handled this at the tourist sites, but he was parking the car.  We just stood there waiting for Sam and Kathy got the feeling the officer was waiting for us to hand him a bribe. As we were waiting, one person exited the area, shook hands with the officer while holding some money, and then the officer deftly placed the money in his pocket.  While waiting, though, Dave struck up a conversation with the officer and told him he is a retired Police Officer.  The officer proudly announced that he is a Captain, at which time Dave saluted him and shook his hand.  A more cordial scene unfolded thereafter.  On our way out, El Capitan said goodbye to Dave and saluted him, but never left his chair in the shade to accept a bribe.

We rounded out the day relaxing with our guide and drinking coffee and tea at a local coffee house. While Sam thought the coffee was amazingly good, Kathy likened it to coffee pudding. Dave kept it safe and had Lipton tea.  Sam regaled us with tales from his life in Egypt, his family and his career. Desperation crept in, and Kathy finally had to cut off Sam and said she had to use a restroom or ………… He graciously drove her back to the hotel. Phew!!!

Dinner was an event.  Instead of ordering in as we have the previous two nights, Dave suggested we walk to a local street and find some food. Kathy is always willing to follow him and was onboard with the idea.  She has always (Dave’s edit:  USUALLY) been happy with his suggestions. Like always, some of the best times and best food can be discovered around the corner in local neighborhoods. We went to a restaurant and had pasta with chicken, which was yummy, cooked to a perfection, and was affordable.  It came with a cucumber salad, a tomato appetizer, and water for the grand total $3.50 US dollars. Next stop, the local baker where we again splurged and bought two small slices of cake and a package of cookies for the grand total of $3.50 cents. Total dinner including dessert: $7.00 US dollars (or 100 Egyptian Pounds).  Oh, and we have cookies for our train trip tomorrow. We were again asked to pose with the owner of the restaurant and all his staff. It took a couple of tries but he finally had the perfect picture to remember us visiting him at the restaurant. Again, celebrity status!!   The Blue Ridge Parkway strikes again.

Tomorrow, THE OVERNIGHT TRAIN……………

 

06/29/2021 Visions of Sugar Plums Dance in our heads

Okay, not quite Sugar Plums, but visions of ice-cream or lemonade is dancing in our heads. I am melting!!!! (Said the Wicked Witch of the West…)  😊 Today was our first full day in Egypt, our first time on the African Continent.  The day started off benignly enough with breakfast, which consisted of an egg or omelet (made to appear as if they were a crepe, but with no sweet filling), cheese slices, some round pieces of meat (bologna?), some jelly and some sort of replica pita, with a bean curd to dip it in.  Still, it was tasty and filling and prepared well with a nice presentation. It was washed down with “orange juice” (Read: Tang) for Dave and Egyptian coffee for Kathy. One cup of coffee and Kathy was already bouncing off the walls. A great energy boost for the day spent touring the sights of Cairo.

Our very knowledgeable and enthusiastic guide, Sam, started the day by taking us to Saqqara, an Egyptian village in Giza. It is world known for its vast, ancient burial ground of Egyptian kings and royal which served as the necropolis for the ancient Egyptian capital, Memphis. Saqqara contains numerous pyramids, including the world-famous Step pyramid of Djoser, sometimes referred to as the Step Tomb, and a number of mastaba tombs. (Thank you, Wikipedia!) We went into one of the tombs which has the actual hieroglyphics, still amazing to view thousands of years later. Our guide in the small tomb shone a light on the rock walls, which were made of alabaster and limestone. The alabaster section was translucent and was right next to the limestone which was opaque. What ingenuity!! He then turned off the lights and put a flashlight to the wall where a carving of the king could be seen in the shadows as a bas relief.  Did I forget to say it is hot?  The inside of the pyramid was much cooler and Dave mentioned that, if he were king, he would want to die early and spend more time inside!

After our tour of the ancient site, we went to a local Carpet School where a family has been making hand woven carpets for generations.   Carpets made of Egyptian cotton, wool, and silk from China. We felt awed at the swift and talented fingers of the generations working on the carpets, from a young boy to an older male artisan. Most are made with a pattern to see where each stitch knot should go. The elder man created all of his rugs just from his mind. We did buy a beautiful carpet to bring home and put in our entry way, a reminder of our time here in Egypt.

Our next stop was the outdoor museum in Memphis (not the one in TN) where we saw a statue of Ramses II and other carvings and statues from days long ago.  How these ancient Egyptians carved these huge statues out of single blocks of stone is still a wonder.  Next stop was a papyrus school where we learned how the ancient paper was made.  The painstaking methods taken to make the stems of the papyrus plant into paper that lasts for hundreds of years is amazing.  It reminded us of how they made similar products in Samoa. We had an opportunity to purchase a painting on the papyrus but decided to pace ourselves when it came to the purse strings. Next step was a cotton shop where there were some of the most beautiful shirts, gowns, belly dancing outfits, and a tiny corner of men’s shirts and clothes. While Kathy was tempted to buy a beautiful gown, she refrained and managed to curb her spending impulses. A lovely interaction with a shop girl who kept giggling at Dave’s (and Kathy’s) jokes rounded off a wonderful afternoon.

Our last stop was Giza, home of the iconic pyramids and sphynx.  We walked around the pyramids, dodged the people wanting to sell us trinkets or take us on a camel ride, and just marveled in awe at the history and majesty of the pyramids. Amazing how so long ago they were built and how precisely and beautifully.

Phew, we are now home, or at least our home for a couple of more nights. A shower to get the sweat off our bodies, a small catnap, and now time to think about a meal. Our first one since breakfast. (Dave must have missed the travel brochures where they mentioned that the Arabic language has no word for “lunch”.) You know what they say: “Fat boy’s gotta eat!” so the decision was made to have a pizza and “salad” delivered to the hotel. Surprisingly good, the crust was amazing. Kathy’s only huh??????? Who sends ketchup packets with pizza? She finally figured out why, no marinara sauce on the pizza. Just the way Kathy likes it cheese, beef pepperoni, and the crust. It could have used some chili peppers sprinkled on the top.  Now just wishing for an ice-cream, or at least an ice-cold diet Coke.

06/27/2021 “Brick Walls” a Novel by Kathy and Dave

A few quotes of Randy Pausch given during his last lecture fits us to a “T”. The first quote – “Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.” – is the first part of our trip. We gained quite a bit of “experience” after our Round the World Trip was cancelled which helped us prepare for a multiple-country trip during the COVID-19 global pandemic.  We could not have predicted all the “bumps” in the road and, as Dave said, “This is death by a thousand papercuts.”  It is an accurate portrayal of our “experiences” so far this trip.  The other Pausch quote, “Brick walls are there for a reason.  They are not to keep people out. The brick wall is there to give us a chance to show how much we want something. The brick walls are there to stop people who don’t want it enough.”

The planning began benignly, we decided to use our prepaid tour that we cancelled last year in Egypt. We felt confident as the virus, while still prevalent, was waning in Egypt. We were vaccinated and knew that we would be extra careful. Dave, with his gift for planning, began to get to work on all the details. The first decision was to tack on a couple more destinations that were not originally on our Round the World Trip. A quick “hop” to Greece and Turkey seemed to fit the bill perfectly. Due to the logistics of traveling during the time of COVID, we decided to book with tour companies, something we have not really done. One would think it would make things easier………NOT!!!

First, Greece changed the rules for entry to their country.  They would allow people to enter by plane, but not by cruise ship.  This meant changing our tour, since we were supposed to go to Turkey first, then cruise from there to some Greek islands before touring Athens.   The new Greece to Turkey trip (instead of Turkey to Greece trip) did not jive with the dates for the Egypt tour we had already booked.  So, we had to look at the dates for each trip and try to arrange them both altogether. Phew! Sweet relief as it all came together in time for us to book our flights. Hardly any blood was shed changing around our tours to come together perfectly. Flights were now booked, and we could now plan for what should we take (think hot weather!)

But then, our flight from Egypt to Greece after our tour was cancelled.  Initial panic, but then a quick resolution: we booked a new flight and, while not optimal (a 3 am flight to Greece), it did get us to Greece in time to start that tour. Then- Really???? Just when we had “bandaged” all the “papercuts”, another flight was cancelled and they “kindly” rebooked us for a flight that gave us the privilege of staying 25 hours in the Moroccan Airport – without asking or checking with us. How nice!! This flight was the last leg of the journey from the US to Egypt and was a major glitch.  Dave’s papercuts were now hemorrhaging! We would be stuck in an airport for 25 hours, our COVID test (which cannot be more than 96 hours old from when we enter Egypt) would expire, and we would be late for the tour.

While trying to fix that issue, we were notified by the tour operator in Greece that Egypt does not accept any old COVID test, it must have a QR code or a stamp from the lab on the test. Who the heck does those in Western NY?  Apparently, NO ONE!!  And what is a stamp??? We did find one at the JFK airport that does the test and provides a QR code. It would mean we would have to get to JFK early enough to get the test done, get checked in, and go through Customs. Adapting quickly, we changed our flight again and (hopefully) got a refund for the tickets for the cancelled flights. (That might be a story for another day, as we may have bought 4 tickets?)  We rebooked the flights directly with another airline. (This time we got refundable tickets—see what experience does!) The plan?  Leave Buffalo early, arrive at the JFK airport in enough time to take a really expensive cash only COVID test, get on plane to Frankfurt, and then to Cairo. Best laid plans!!

We did decide to get a COVID test on Friday from a local clinic as they guaranteed same day results and we were concerned about being able to get into the secure area at JFK to take our next test. Sunday came early, like really early, not just early, but really, really early like 03:30 early. The time most 20-somethings are coming home for the evening. Dragging our brother George out of bed at the ungodly time of 04:30 so that he was (supposedly) awake (enough) to take us to the airport was how we started our day.

Next thing we learned; our first flight of our trip got delayed for four hours. There goes our window. An incredibly nice gate agent helped us by allowing us to take our checked luggage on board with us, minus of course shampoo, conditioner, mouth wash, and what seemed like galloons of sunblock. Woo Hoo as that saved us 15 minutes. While waiting at the gate, we were looking at options. NEWS ALERT!!!! Egypt will now allow you in if you are fully vaccinated and you have a QR code for the vaccination. Excelsior NY COVID Pass to the rescue!  Ahhh sweet relief. We figured out a way to print them out (don’t ask how, as airport security may still be looking for Dave – score on for face-concealing masks!) Now we just need to get to JFK and see if they accept it. A mad dash through the JFK Airport (speed records were set) and we managed to get from Terminal 5 to Terminal 1 in a scant 20 minutes (Google maps said it would take 56 minutes, but it doesn’t know us, does it?) We knew our backpack luggage would be helpful some day!  Dave kept looking for the camera people on The Amazing Race.

Racing to the ticket booth we were turned away, but only briefly. We had you going for a moment, didn’t we? They only allow surgical grade masks.  So Dave – ever the emergency preparedness person – pulled out of his “hat”, or in this case, his pack, two N-95 masks. The ticket agent hadn’t heard of the QR code for vaccines, but he said we did need the printed copy to get to Frankfurt.

Checked in, we were finally ready for the long flight to Germany……which, once again, was delayed. We could have canoed quicker to this side of the world. Finally aboard the plane to Cairo, we prayed that Egypt would take our mundane COVID test results from the local lab, one that has no QR code or Stamp!!! After a brief moment of suspense with the agent, YAY!!! We climbed over this brick wall and are now safely ensconced in our hotel room, a room with a view of the Great Pyramids of Giza. Tired, now clean, with teeth brushed we begin our amazing adventure on the African continent. Stay tuned.