Swine Flu Without the Swine

Sara surprised me at Christmas with the announcement that we would be going to Egypt in May and we would do it on a budget of under $3000 total for the two of us, including airfare.  In keeping with our travel mantra of traveling light and more importantly traveling cheap, Sara planned the trip for my 40th birthday that included using every possible airline mile we had earned over the past few years.  When she called to get plane tickets, she discovered that it was going to cost $3000 each for us just to fly there.  It seems that frequent flier miles were our only option.

After a great many phone calls, Sara finally got us two tickets using all of the miles from both of our credit cards.  Unfortunately, they were on two separate airlines, but only an hour apart on each end.  She then developed an itinerary that we changed at least 40 times before we booked everything.

My job was to fully research the history of Ancient Egypt.  As I have mentioned before, I am a bit of a history buff and, in my opinion, Egypt is the mecca for history buffs (other notable mentions include Rome, Greece and China, okay and maybe Turkey as well).  I drive around a lot for my job, consequently, I listen to a lot of books on CD.  I was able to find a course from The Teaching Company called, The History of Ancient Egypt, taught by Bob Brier.  It is 48 lessons of some of the most interesting history you will ever hear.  Fascinating stuff, not only about the pharaohs and the pyramids, but how they made mummies (Bob Brier is the only modern Egyptologist to actually mummify a person using the Ancient Egyptian technique), how they made obelisks, the Egyptian gods and goddesses and so much more.  If you have any interest in Egyptian history, this is the easy way to learn it.

Sara was busy planning and booking, while I was busy studying, when the swine flu hit.  I'm sure you all remember the media hype from the swine flu.  Hundreds of people dead in Mexico, the disease rapidly hopping the border to the US, schools shut down, people quarantined.  Only it turns out that it (at least at this point) is not even as deadly as the regular flu.  However, we did not know it at the time and we were a bit worried.  I watched our Vice President warn us not to get on an airplane (and then quickly backpedal when the airline industry threw a fit).  Sara and I knew we were safe, though, when Egypt, the exact country we had already made plans to visit, announced that it was rolling out the red carpet for us by slaughtering every pig in the country.  Every pig.  Something like 300,000 of them.  No shit.  We might get blown up or kidnapped, but we damn sure weren't going to catch swine flu from eating pork...in a Muslim country that doesn't serve pork...from pigs that don't pass the disease anyway.  Whew.  We felt much better knowing that if we survived the plane ride over, we were safe.

The day of departure finally came.  Woohoo!!!  Sara's parents came all the way from Taiwan to watch Ender, our two-year old and we bid a tearful goodbye to all of them and Mackenzie, my thirteen-year old.  I kissed Sara good-bye as well and we set out on our journey together...alone.  Due to weather, I almost missed my connecting flight in Chicago, but made it and twenty-six short hours later, I arrived in Cairo!  I stepped off of the bus that took us from the plane to the terminal to a madhouse of people trying to get through the gate into the building.  Apparently, the government wasn't absolutely certain that their plan of eliminating all of the swine would keep out the swine flu, so it had two ladies with ear thermometers (yes, the kind you get at the drug store) checking everyone who came off of the plane.  First, you had to fill out a form with contact info and then they stuck the thermometer in your ear.  There was no washing or sanitizing of the thermometer, so I would assume that if one did have swine flu, everyone else behind him would get it as well, but at that point I guess you could have all the free pork chops you could eat.

I made it through the line and found Sara, who had been there for an hour and had everything all figured out already.  We got money, cleared customs and found our ride to the hotel.  I was exhausted from the trip, and luckily it was almost bedtime, but I was also really, really excited.

We had arrived at our first stop and were ready for Egypt and the Egyptians.  Our first full day was to be spent entirely at the Cairo Museum.  We saw the museum, but when hunting for a cold drink, we got a little taste of what the guide books warned us not to do.  But that story is for next time...

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