Tom and Gladys in Alexandria, Egypt, with their son, Trei, and daughter, Alexi.
Old Stuff and Kids On a recent vacation, my family and I decided to be tourists in Alexandria, Egypt. We planned to see the Citadel of Salah al-Din, the catacombs, the Pillar of Pompey, the acropolis, and the Bibliotheca Alexandrina.
e haven’t been frequent tourists since coming to Egypt, and it feels a little decadent, even luxurious. We spent most of one day walking in pursuit of seeing “old stuff.” Admittedly, some of that walking was because we had gotten lost a few times. But I’m realizing that I love getting lost, though my family is less enthusiastic about it. Getting lost usually takes me unexpected places where I can see unexpected things and meet unexpected people. It often helps me to find the real city, the real people, and the real lifeblood of the place I’m visiting. We received help and directions from multiple people during the course of the day. Some advice was accurate; some was the “nice of them to try” kind of help. We ’ v e f o u n d that if we ask peo-
ple for directions, they feel obligated to help us whether they know anything about where we’re going or not. Once we were on a bus trying to find a mall in Cairo. My wife, Gladys, asked the woman next to her where the mall was, and the person in front of her turned around to give an opinion in Arabic. A man across the aisle leaned in and gave his opinion. Then someone standing over him voiced his idea, and like a brush fire, the whole bus became engaged in talking about where we should get off the bus. We smiled and nodded appreciation for their
efforts. Soon we were walking away from the bus with almost everyone on board waving goodbye to us. We emerged from the catacombs looking every bit the tourists. I had my video camera and a backpack with the family’s provisions for the day. The restaurant we were going to was on the other side of town. So we began the drill: we needed to find a taxi, we needed to be convinced that the driver understood where we were going, and then there was the critical question, “How much?” We knew from our previous three days that it should cost no more than 25 Egyptian pounds. Our first taxi driver said, “Thirty.”
Tom surrounded by children in Alexandria.