October, 2009 to February, 2010: In October, 2009, two years after spending a month studying Arabic at Al Azhar University in Cairo, I joined an “I LOVE EGYPT” Facebook group. Suddenly, I had friend requests from over 30 Egyptian young men. I was still so enamored of Egypt after my time there, that I added them all. Some of them started chatting with me. Irritatingly, I found many of them were looking for someone to marry to get a U.S. passport. Some of them just became friends and others I never really talked to at all. But one young 26-year-old doctor, Ahmed, started chatting with me in late October. I enjoyed our chats so much that I ended up talking to him by Yahoo or Skype or MSN messenger nearly every day, from late October through early February, when I left Virginia to go teach English in Korea for a year.
I liked Ahmed so much, from his looks to his personality, his sense of humor, and his persistence, that I fell a little in love with him. It was really ridiculous, considering our huge age difference and our geographical distance from each other. Despite that, I determined that on my way to Korea, I would make a stop in Egypt and meet him in person. So, the ticket I bought took me to Korea via Cairo for four days.
During our many chats, Ahmed sent me pictures of himself. One Sunday afternoon, he sent me YouTube videos of Egyptian composer Omar Khairat. He had recently been to see Omar Khairat in concert with his friends and he also sent pictures of himself, with his friends and the famous composer. I remember that November day, sitting in my room with a cool breeze coming through the open window and pumpkin and squash-colored leaves rustling in the wind to the melodies of Omar Khairat’s music.
Ahmed worked at a hospital and a private clinic, and every time I talked with him, he seemed to be at one of those two places. I determined that I would arrive in Egypt on Thursday afternoon, February 11, so that I could spend all day Friday with him. Friday is the holy day in Egypt and it was Ahmed’s only day off. He would have to work the rest of the time I was there, but he would try to get off in the evenings. I didn’t mind because I knew people in Egypt I could visit and I was familiar with Cairo from my time there in July 2007.
I was due to arrive in Korea on Wednesday, February 17 for the EPIK (English Program in Korea) orientation. So I would have to leave Egypt by Tuesday, February 16.
Friday & Saturday, February 5-6: In Virginia we had two blizzards in a row. The February 5–6, 2010 North American blizzard, referred to at the time as Snowmageddon, dropped 20-35 inches of snow across southern Pennsylvania, the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia, northern Virginia, Washington, D.C., Maryland, Delaware, and southern New Jersey, bringing air and Interstate Highway travel to a halt (Wikipedia: February 5-6, 2010 North American blizzard).
My neighborhood in northern Virginia on February 7, after the first blizzard.
view to the corner from my house, February 7
my house with piled up snow
our border collie Bailey and his frisbee in the snow after the first blizzard
the woods after the first blizzard
Tuesday & Wednesday, February 9-10: The second blizzard, the February 9–10, 2010 North American blizzard was a major winter storm and severe weather event that afflicted the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic and New England regions of the United States, affecting some of the same regions that had experienced a historic Nor’easter three days prior. This storm brought 10 to 20 inches of snow across a wide swath from Washington, D.C. to New York City (Wikipedia: February 9-10 North American blizzard).
Thursday, February 11: I had bought a ticket to fly out on Wednesday night, February 10, but as all area airports were closed due to the blizzard, I was delayed a day. It turned out I didn’t arrive in Cairo until late Friday afternoon, leaving me little time to spend with Ahmed on his day off. Sometimes it seems that life conspires against our best-laid plans. Often these things that go wrong are a sign that something is amiss, and it turns out I should have heeded those signs.
On the flight to Cairo on Egypt Air, a flight attendant named Alaa, 42 years old, flirted with me constantly on the overnight flight. At that time I could speak a little Arabic and he seemed greatly impressed by this. He gave me his number and invited me to call him while I was in Egypt. I didn’t think I would since I would be with Ahmed, but I noted the number, just in case.