Leavin on a Midnight Train in Egypt
After a day of touring Giza, seeing the pyramids, some temples, dodging camel patties, and taking in all the dust a nation had to offer, it was time to travel to the next city on our tour. This was to happen via sleeper train, and we headed to the train station in Cairo. I hadn't looked this train, (nor anything else) up online the way my mom had, but from her report she said that it was very nice--first class, she'd said. In my demented, unrealistic optimism I pictured a train to the tune of the Orient Express. I know that that's mildly crazy, but this trip was not cheap, and I have definitely logged my time in and out of college at youth hostels, cheap and dangerously horrible hotels, random couches--the travel of the young vagabond explorer. This was my choice, and just when I thought those days were behind me, our train pulled up in Cairo. I should have had the good sense to be nervous about what this train would be, as the station was filthy, crowded, smoke-filled, and filled with locals sitting, standing, and laying all over it. Stubborn optimist that I can be, I still believed that a luxury train would pull up any second. Perhaps I also believed Aladdin would be driving this train. To my dismay, we were supposed to board the train in front of me, and I had to stop looking for Aladdin and the luxury train in the distance. The train looked like the worst of my youth hostels on wheels. I had flashbacks. I don't read Arabic, but I was certain the writing on the train read "The S.S. Sucker!!!" It was the perfect train to take unsuspecting tourists and sell them into slavery or force them into work camps. All aboard!
The train's interior rivaled its exterior in its horribleness. Most notably, there were no showers on this train. So let's review. See, the problem with ancient ruins, is that they're ruined. They're dusty. My group, 89 in total, had been touring the hot desert all day, to head to a filthy, smoggy train station for a 12 hour train ride that night. By the time we got to the train station, I told my mother she looked like a commercial for "sweat happens." And in the kind of "this will be cheaper" planning that can only come from the mind of a man, showers were not accounted for in any part of this touring day. Our individual "rooms" were the size of closets, and the space between the chairs (that would later be a bed), and the wall in front of it was nearly the exact size of one suitcase. It reeked. One of the travelers put it best when she said, "when I looked this train up online, it didn't smell like this." It smelled thickly of cigarette smoke, and some other stench that I hoped wasn't 'ode to dead body.'
There was nothing I could do to change things, so I began to read. I should say here, that I can tune a person out with the best of any man. If I don't want to hear you, I won't. I knew my brother was grumbling beside me. I'd made out a few words, but processed nothing, and continued to happily read my book.
"SHANNON!" he screamed, and this called me from the family I was reading about in my delightful reading trance. I looked at him, clearly he had something on his mind.
"I see you smiling, and I hate that," he began. "I'm so mad that you've climbed your freaking reading rainbow, off reading about people who get to take showers, and eat dinner, and sleep in beds tonight! THAT is not your reality!! THIS is your reality!! DENIAL WAS THE RIVER OUTSIDE OF THE HOTEL!"
Twenty-three years of watching my brothers' diabetic mood swings, and I'm completely unmoved by this performance.
"Is your sugar low? You seem cranky," I said over a yawn.
"That's another thing! I've been saying that for the last twenty minutes! I was saying, 'hey, I need some juice,' and 'time's running out,' and you're over there in your stupid book and you don't even care!"
"Troy, I didn't hear you. Look, we both know that if you actually did something impressive like pass out, or went into convulsions that no one here could or would save your life faster. Now eat your skittles and shut your little pie hole, please," I went back to my book.
Dinner arrived shortly after my brother's outrage, and met the 'don't ask questions about what you're eating' standard of a third world country.
"Troy, do you think this monkey had a good life before he became our dinner?" I asked.
"I don't know, but if you check under the pigeon there's fries," Troy responded.
Hours later, my parents, who my brother and I call 'the kids' came down our room to see if somehow our accommodations were better. There wasn't enough room for them to come in, and it only took two seconds, and my brother saying, let me step into the hall so I can take off my belt before my mother went into hysterical laughter. In further news, she'd brought the report that she'd spotted a roach in their room. Thank you, Marcella, with Eyewitness The Terrible News. My mom absolutely can not resist reporting bad things to people. I asked her what the heck coach was, if this was first class? Coach must have meant you were on cleaning and service duty for the night.
The attendant came by to break down the top bunk, and to threaten us with breakfast in the morning, and my brother and I went to restless sleep en route to Aswan, Egypt.