Greetings from Cairo!
There is good news tonight – The Augustana Band and those who travel with it have arrived safe and sound in Cairo. We just concluded a “feast” together in the Oasis Hotel Dining Room and people have wandered off to bed or to unpack. This has been a long but memorable day!
All three groups converged on Kennedy Airport, and each of us had our own stories to share. The Pennington group got nailed for overweight baggage fees in Minneapolis ($800+) yet the Ammann group which followed was charged not a penny at the same check in point (with the same oversized items!) and the Heegel group out of Sioux Falls followed suit. How can an airline have so many different ideas of how to handle people? I guess it all depends upon who is where, and how happy they might be on a particular day, eh? So much for all that preparatory work done on our behalf by the folks at Seminars……….yet in hindsight, is it any wonder that the airlines made a BILLION dollars off of the flying public last year? Let’s just hope the dear woman in MSP gets a cut of her charge. Not.
GOOD NEWS though is that we all made it together, boarded our flight to Cairo and had a safe and enjoyable 11 hour flight from NYC to Cairo. For many, the 11 hours literally “flew by” as they slept the majority of the way. For others, three movies helped pass the time, and the flight crew was great. As I departed the plane in Cairo, the lead steward remarked to me that “the crew talked tonight, and we think this is the nicest group of students we’ve ever had fly with us.” “Yes, I think so too,” I replied….”Augustana students have that kind of reputation….I’m glad you found it to be true!” Then, under my breath, I thought, “And now, could you go tell that crabby lady in Minneapolis your thoughts?” HA!
Arriving in Cairo was interesting – we deplaned into buses, then moved into the Arrivals Hall. The lines for passport control were quite long, but all made it through without incident. As we collected our baggage and learned that ALL of our checked bags appeared on the belt, I thought we were home free. What a celebration! Four flights, 90 people, small planes, big planes, and EVERYTHING showed up! Amazing.
I was ready to lead the crew out to our waiting buses when the Customs Officials decided to delay us. “What is all this stuff in the boxes?” they asked. “Why do you have all these strange cases? What is in here?” Even though I explained who we were and what we were up to, the Customs folks decided to exert their official-dom and took your writer aside to “visit” about our bags. We soon agreed that they would spot check certain bags (which then became ALL the bags, then changed again to every third bag, and then, finally, just a few…………) Luckily, we had a manifest that showed each and every item, the serial numbers and names of the person it belonged to …….after an hour, we finally satisfied the officials and the Band was free to depart. You can ask the gang how I looked as we departed. Was it triumphant? Joyous? Nervous? No, I looked as though I’d just swam across the Nile to bring our instruments to the other side……..it was hot, and got hotter as the conversations continued. Ahhhhh, alls well that ends well……..and my shirt can be cleaned! That was hard work!
90 minute drive to the hotel, right through the heart of Cairo. No one knows it, but we drove by the Pyramids in the dark……..and in the morning, they’ll be at their base. Gotta get to bed so that I can enjoy it with them. More fun (and photos) tomorrow!