Sunday, April 18, 2010

Edmonton is the new Egypt

Right about now I should be exhausted from a day of seeing pyramids and the sphinx and the Egyptian museum, sleeping on an overnight train from Cairo to Aswan where we'd be boarding a felucca to explore the Nile.

Right about now I need to remind myself not to think about what I should be doing if it weren't for that damn ash cloud over Europe.

I woke up in Edmonton Thursday morning to the news that a volcano had erupted in Iceland, disrupting flights to the UK. It took me a few sleepy minutes to realize that this news meant something to me: our flight went through Heathrow. After confirming on the Air Canada website that the flight was cancelled, I called Teresa. She thought I was joking. I mean, come on, a volcano erupted in Iceland and our trip to Egypt was cancelled? Next you'll tell me a butterfly flaps its wings in Brazil and causes a tornado in Texas.

But I wouldn't be that cruel. This was our reunion tour, our trip of a lifetime.

We kept channelling our inner Douglas Adams by reminding each other: Don't panic. Not yet. We spent the morning on the phone with airlines, the tour company, and each other, determined not to give up until we were out of options.

Finally, we were. Even though we had cleverly booked an extra day in Cairo before the tour started, in case of delayed flights, it wasn't enough. It was too late to find a sugar daddy with a private jet. We didn't have the time or extra several thousand dollars to book last-minute, non-direct routes on other airlines. One of us is not unemployed and unfettered and had to consider vacation time and child care, so extending our end date wasn't possible, even if it were an option. The airlines were offering refunds and the tour company postponements, so we resigned ourselves to try again at a future date.

We had two options: mope, or laugh about it. We chose the third option: laugh while moping about it.

Friday, the day we should have arrived in Cairo, we embarked on our Egypt-in-Edmonton tour. We wore our sun hats and sunglasses, carted along our Lonely Planet Egypt book, and went to the pyramids. We saw a camel. We visited the Valley of the Tombs. We ate African food and watched people smoke shisha. We went down to the river. We viewed a mosque.

We also took inspiration from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, prepared with our towels and peanuts and taking pictures with our whiteboard signs. And then we found a hideous song about the ash cloud and made a slideshow of our pictures. Thankfully we're both still goofy young at heart.

We've rebooked for September 30. I'm headed back to Vancouver tomorrow, forcing myself to look on the bright side (double the anticipation! more time to do taxes!) and facing my "what next" questions earlier than expected.

But the long-awaited reunion took place, and we had fun turning volcanic ash into lemonade. Egypt will be there for us in 184 days. Barring volcanic activity or other natural disasters.

(Non-video-ized pictures here)