Susan Johnson has failed to get into Gaza from Egypt. She is on her way home to Doylestown, Pa. This is her last dispatch from Cairo.
And here I sit in my cheap little hotel, my last hours here.....In the wee hours of the morning I'll be in the air, headed back to the States. My emotions are up, down and everything in between. Six weeks is a long time to be away; it's difficult to imagine being home. Saying life in Cairo is different compared to Doylestown is absurd....it's beyond night and day.
Sunday, September 26 was memorable. I finally surrendered to the fact I wouldn't be going to Gaza. The hurt and disappointment weren't as overwhelming as anticipated. The handwriting had been on the wall, which I'd seen but ignored. Accepting reality wasn't difficult..... well that's not true....It was, is, and will probably always be difficult. It's not knocked me flat out on the floor, yet, which is good.
I've avoided being a tourist in Egypt...not certain why...perhaps somehow seeing the sights would be betraying Gaza and my focus on going there. That may sound silly but that's the way my mind works. I put Egypt's history and fantastic sights in a box, locked it and hid it in the back of my mind. Rarely did I think about the Pyramids unless someone asked what I thought of them. When they heard my reply they quickly remembered they had an appointment and took off.
Well... Susan was reluctantly becoming a tourist.
We began mapping out my week of touring; which was actually exciting and fun. The hotel's driver would take me where ever I wanted to go....we even talked about driving to the Rafah Border Crossing so I could take pictures. The pyramids and Sphinx were scheduled for Wednesday; Thursday I was taking the "City Tour" old Cairo, the Bazaar. Islamic City, Saturday was set aside for Alexandria. That left me Sunday and Monday to add on sites.
Monday was for shopping. I look for Fair Trade handcrafts; it's nice to know the artisans are receiving their fair share of the profits and not being exploited.The taxi left me in front of an old building...once again it was French and in need of repair. Fair Trade Egypt was on the second floor....which is called the first floor...I just can't figure that out. Inside the marble entry, grand stairs, landings and staircases maintained their elegance. The shop met with my expectations; I easily purchased small gifts for everyone on my list in less than an hour.
I was going to a coffee shop around the corner; as I stepped from the landing to the grand stairs I missed the first step.....and began to fall... I couldn't grab the railing on the right...realized I'd begin tumbling like a roll-y-poll-y until I hit the entrance....began running toward the left.....my body leaning about a step and a half ahead of my feet...trying to catch up with my body was hopeless.....I noticed an old man slowly walking up the stairs....right in my path.....tried avoiding him, with no luck....the impact slowed me down....the final steps I spent twirling along the wall.....just as I thought, "damn, I made it with out falling flat on my face" .....I missed the last two steps...falling...hitting the marble entry....flat on the left side of my face.
It must have been pretty spectacular. A crowd had gathered and continued to expand onto the sidewalk outside. I saw the old man laying flat on his back, moaning loudly....he had people helping him...I kept asking them to get ice for the back of the head....no one got ice, I realize they probably didn't understand me. I knew I needed a hospital...wanted a taxi...someone called an ambulance....refused the stretcher, I won...refused to lie down on the stretcher in the ambulance, I won but lost...the ride was awful and I almost threw up.
The hospital was probably used as a movie set for Humphrey Bogart....very old, in need of repair.. Calling the building and emergency treatment area outdated is an understatement. A very nice doctor put 18 stitches on my face next to my left eye.... telling me I'm going to have a very bad scar. He wanted to have me stay in the hospital overnight; I declined. Repeatedly I told him my left foot hurt...he felt it, pressed here and there and said he didn't think it was broken. I returned Wednesday morning because the foot was swollen and very painful....again, he didn't think it was broken but had it x-rayed. It's broken and now in a cast...it's bright orange...my crutches are grey.
My sightseeing plans were ditched. I've spent the past ten days sleeping and thinking. Thinking about Gaza...how next time I will do everything right...no mistakes...do more research....be better prepared.....I'll find a friend in Congress....I'll be allowed in next time. Disappointments? There have been many. The new camera has no photos of children drawing, flying kites, telling their stories, smiling. There are no new drawings for "A Child's View from Gaza"....I have made arrangements for more but it will take time; I'll need to be patient. My Arabic remains nonexistent....I was sure the children would teach me all the words I need to know. I haven't met Mona El Farra or Talal....God that makes me so sad.
I would have learned so much. Not seeing Gaza, the beautiful Gaza ... beaches and the sea; beautiful in spite of the fact they're polluted. Donkey carts clopping along the streets. Camels walking along the beach....I was going to ride a camel or at least have my picture taken on one. Following up on houses and buildings that were in ruins last year...