03 June 2011

Cairo Part II / London Part II

My last few days in Cairo were depressing. I was exhausted and lonely, and I was the only guest at my hostel. I flicked on the television and was shocked to see the horror that was unfolding in Brisbane. CNN covered the floods incessantly throughout the night. I saw familiar images of home completely submerged in water; from parts of my campus in St Lucia to the riverside bikeway I had ridden on every day for the past year. I logged onto facebook to find some even more unsettling images; the apartment I had lived in for the past two years was inundated with water. In the hours to follow, I was gripped on both the computer and television screens. It was amazing to see the resilience and unity of those in Brisbane, and, in a way, this made me extremely homesick. I desperately wanted to catch the next flight back to Brisbane to help out, and to make sure everyone was alright.

I spent the last couple days in Cairo wandering the streets by myself. I had never felt so isolated and paranoid in my life. I had just heard on the news that a policeman had opened fire on everyone in a train carriage before shooting himself. This occurred a couple stops away from where I was staying. Then I’d learnt that there was a bomb blast in a nearby town that killed over a dozen people. I also wasn’t sure how my friends and family were dealing with the floods back home, as many of them didn’t have power or a means to respond to my correspondences.

I was then informed that London, my next destination, had raised its terror alert level up a notch. The thought of flying in a plane from Cairo to London became extremely daunting for me. The actual flight itself was even more daunting. The lax security at Cairo airport concerned me greatly. Our flight was delayed twice because of a supposed imposter on our plane. As I sat in the back row, I overheard one of the air stewardesses telling another that the headcount came up with one too many passengers. We had been seated on the plane for almost an hour and had not left the tarmac this whole time. As I prepared myself for what I thought was my impending death, I was relieved to hear that the errant headcount was a result of a mistake; a stewardess had counted a baby on board when she shouldn’t have.

I was relieved when I touched down in London safely. I only spent a few days there and I was busy catching up with friends and organising the shipment of my items back to Australia. Soon after, I heard about the uprising unfolding in Egypt. I considered myself extremely lucky to be staying out of danger.

While London was covered in snow, the Tate Museum was covered in sunflower seeds! Aurora and I visited Ai Wei Wei’s famous sunflower seed exhibit whereby one million porcelain replica sunflower seeds were scattered across the floor. Each of the one million sunflower seeds were hand-fired and hand-painted by inhabitants of Jingdezhen, the 'porcelain capital' of his native China.

My remaining time in London was quite unmemorable, primarily because it involved a lot of drinking. One night we went on a mission to Brick Lane and ended up sleeping on the floor of James’ place in Vauxhall. Another night we went to my favourite cheese and wine spot in the world, Gordon’s, just by the Embankment Tube Station.



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