Welcome to jdenparis.com.  I'm jd, and I just graduated from college.  For one year before med school, I'll be working and living in Paris, and traveling the world with my job.  Below are my stories, photos, and videos.  Enjoy!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

let me tell you something about cairo...

After my amazing trip to New York, there were exactly 0 minutes of down time. I went straight from the Bloomberg Brunch to the airport with Jose (my boss), and we landed in Paris on Tuesday morning (middle of the night NY time). I went to the Union apartment, took a 1 hour nap, showered, and went in to work. The next two weeks were absolutely crazy, as The Union was hosting its annual World Conference in Paris (last year was Cape Town, SA, next year Cancun!). 2,000 of the world's leading Tuberculosis experts descended on this big conference center, and I was assigned to man the International Management Development Programme booth. At this point, I had been working for 27 days straight, including weekends and travel. After the conference (it ended on a Monday), it was straight off to Egypt on Saturday (25 oct)!

The flight to Egypt was pretty cool. I got to see the Alps, which looked to be just about as high as we were flying. Jose and I were on the same flight, and so I was able to talk to him at length about some really interesting things, like his involvement in the tuberculosis program in India that expanded treatment availability to 500 million people when the funds were meant for just 250. I speculated that someone he knows was sure to win the Nobel prize (he said "our circle" which made me feel important), and he replied that one of his professors at UPenn did.

Anyway, we got to Cairo, and found the driver from the hotel with the sign with our name on it. As we walked to the car, he looked at us smiling and said "the only car available was the Hummer." I started hysterically laughing, as Jose is such a straight-laced guy, and we were about to ride like 50 cent's entourage. When the driver went to get the car, I told Jose that a Hummer is one of those huge cars that gets <10 miles to the gallon and usually transports people blasting rap music. Sure enough, our Hummer was no exception :p

The hotel was incredible - best I've stayed in so far for work (didn't beat Cheeca Lodge and Resort). I had a big queen size bed, 26in flat screen, robe, slippers, the works. I was even able to set my wakeup call from the tv! The course started immediately the next day, so again there was no time for rest. After work, Jose and I went to dinner. He was really excited about this restaurant they have in the mall adjacent to our hotel. He said it was like being in the jungle. It was.

My first dinner in Cairo was a Safari Burger at the Rainforest Cafe!

The next day after class, I met up with Lauren Linakis for dinner. She's working the second best internship in the world as an assistant to the president of one of the American Universities in Cairo (or maybe The American University of Cairo?). Anyway, I had one of the Egyptian Union staff help me out getting downtown from the hotel. We went to the concierge together to ask about getting a cab and negotiating a price. There are two types of taxis - legit taxis that have meters and stuff (yellow), and black taxis that you have to bargain. still legit but perhaps less regulated.

Concierge: "Well, you can the black taxis, but just know it costs about 30 - 40 Egyptian pounds to go, so thats what you have to ask for."
Union Employee: "But sir, I, as an Egyptian, would only expect to pay 15-20 Egyptian pounds for that."
C: "No. I... AS AN EGYPTIAN... pay 20-25 E pounds, and so he should expect to pay 30-40."

and so on...

I wound up taking a yellow taxi with a meter. I had a hard time getting the cabbie agree to turn it on, but he finally did. As we were driving, we turned right off the main roadway, drove for 5 min, turned around, and went back to the main roadway. He did this 2 more times, always returning to the same roadway. I wonder what he was looking for on those detours...

Driving in Cairo is the worst I have ever experienced. Even worse than stand still tuk tuk Bangkok (though maybe not during the protests). First of all, there are no traffic laws. As a tram approached, cars crossed the tracks until the very last second. I don't remember if there are traffic lights, but if they were there, nobody obeyed them. Secondly, the air is UNBREATHABLE. It's a combination of the constant stand still traffic (resulting from no traffic laws and overwhelmed streets), super old cars with nonexistent emissions standards, and smoking in restaurants. We finally got to downtown Cairo, but it was not where I asked to be let off, and i felt sick after the detours and smog. At least the ride only cost 2-3 USD. Regardless, I had to ask a bunch of people for directions to the address I had, and it took about 20-25 min more to find it.

Finally I met up with Lauren in this restaurant downtown and not far from the Nile. We had a nice Egyptian meal together and it was great to see a familiar face :) After the meal, she showed me the Nile. On the way there, she was getting lots of stares for not being veiled and for showing her ankles. Apparently that's 'ok' there, but it's so shocking to actually see it rather than hear on the news. Crossing the streets was a death wish. We had to traverse a traffic circle. God was on our side.

When we safely got to the river, she pointed out that there were so many people on the bridge looking over the water. They were all the young men and women courting each other as part of the arranged marriage process! There's no real dating in Egypt - nuts. I had to go back to my hotel at this point, and I decided to take one of the unregulated black taxis. Lauren tried to negotiate a fair price for me before I got in the cab, and she told me to get out, throw the money in the window, and just walk away at the end. Good advice! I made it home safely, and not ripped off (that was lucky as I would soon learn...)!

Ok will share more + pics later

a bientot,

1 comment:

rosasharona said...

wow that air in egypt will have me suffering a permanent migraine...

happy new year!