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.