Where did I leave off? Ah, yes, we were in tech for the show but it hadn't happened yet.
WELL. Tech went just fine. As planned? Never. Without hitches? Unheard of. Did we get everything done that we needed to do to the best of our ability and were ready for the show in time AND had enough time to go see some sarcophaguses (sarcophagi?) on our dinner break? YES.
The show went very well. Right before the show opened, I remember hearing Wes (our technical director) say something like "they say people come kind of last minute here", which I took to mean, "the crowd is really small." I was pleasantly surprised when the curtain opened and there was a large crowd! Not "full house large", but plenty. And the house was BIG. This was a state-of-the-art theater and they had already blocked off a good 3/4 of the seats in the house, probably knowing the estimate audience size for this festival was smallish.
We had been warned previously that Egyptian audiences will let you know if they are bored with a show, through talking, being on their phones, or just straight up leaving. This does actually fit right in with the relaxed attitude of the culture that I mentioned before. 'Language of Chance' was definitely received differently, but as far as I know, no one walked out and it wasn't until after the show that we really found out how they felt.
During the show, there was almost a complete absence of laughter. And it's not that Ty was having an off night (not that Ty is the only funny one, but he does make a good token clown of the group)! Where they lacked in laughter, they did make up for in applause, however. They were loud, raucous applausers. Which, was great, because otherwise, we would never have known they were enjoying it. I looked out at their faces many times, and was unsure what to read. Ty claims he saw people on their phones. However... AFTER the show, when we gave out balloons and made ourselves available, we were treated like rock stars. Seriously. Alright, maybe folk rock stars, or like... a really good blues band. in any case, people rushed the stage and were eager to compliment us and get photographs. There were lines to sit next to us and get photos. I was so impressed with Anna, never shying away from the cameras and offering herself, when I was ready to retreat she got me back in the game, which was appreciated because oh my god was that fun!! Even better, an audience member/fan friend requested many of us on facebook afterward, and their profile picture was one of the photos that had been taken that evening, with Anna and Zora! So wonderful.
It certainly felt good to be so appreciated, in such a different country/culture. Even though the audience was not entirely Egyptian, the rest were from other Eurasian countries. Many people got the "meaning" of the show, and others complimented our diverse skill set. We got comments like: "the show seemed to be a search for knowledge, rather than knowledge being given" and "you are a circus who does so much more than circus!" People seemed really impressed that we can dance, sing, and play music in addition to the total badassery that is our compilation of circus skills. I, personally, was surprised by how well the show went. I guess I was nervous that the "weirdness" of it would not translate, or would not be appreciated by what I thought might be a more strict culture. What I failed to remember... is the universality of circus joy. And, well, art.
After the show, we cleaned up and headed off to a party on a rooftop. This was a lovely event thrown by the organization that brought us there and was attended by staff of the organization (called I-act), fellow festival members, and other people affiliated somehow with the building or partner companies to I-act. There was excellent music and dancing, fancy caviar and cheese catering, and many, many wonderful people to meet. Oh, and a rooftop view of Alexandria at night. Unfortunately, I missed most of it because I headed of with Ty, Anna, Wes and our volunteer friend Rashed to get food post-show. We assumed we'd come back and the party would still be raging, but alas, it was over much earlier than we thought. We were bummed, but speaking for myself, I had a great time spending more time with Alexandria-born Rashed, who speaks excellent English and who we learned a lot from. Anyway, it's probably good we were forced to get to bed, as we'd be getting up really early for the following day of... pyramids!! And other stuff, too, I guess, but who cares. ;)
(p.s. we went out in search of more traditional Egyptian food, but evidently there weren't any acceptable options for 3 vegetarians at 11pm, so once Ty threw out "pizza", we ended up at Dominos! Yes, that's right, we ate Dominos in Egypt and it was damn good. Apparently in Egypt, it is traditional to eat pizza with ketchup. Even in Dominos, your pizza is served with a plate, a knife and fork, and 2 packets of ketchup! None of us were eager to add any more tomatoes or sugar to our pizza, but we got to enjoy watching Rashed engage in this tradition.)
Alright, this brings us to our final day in Alexandria: Wednesday. The day of the pyramid visit and the complete and utter exhaustion of every single member of Conundrum. Ha. Alright, but really, 3 days into a 9-hour time change, post-show, and after so much traveling, another 3 hour car ride, 4 hours in the sun, then 3 hours walking around what is basically an Egyptian outdoor mall, and at the end of it all, another 24 hours of plane ride? I'll speak for myself, and just say that *I* was exhausted, but I imagine others were, too. Which does NOT mean that we didn't make the most of this final day! You can definitely not say that we didn't fit as much as we could into these 3 days. :)
After our final buffet breakfast (I'll miss those buffet breakfasts!), we all assembled in the hotel lobby to await our ride. An hour late, it arrived (true Egyptian style? Similar to Vashon style, perhaps?), and we loaded up our 8 enormous bags of sets, costumes, gear, and personal affects and ... mostly slept for the 3 hour ride to Cairo.
This time, however, it was in the daylight, and I could see that we were actually riding through desert. It was a landscape I've never gotten to see before on a drive. And, in fact, we got to see the pyramids on the drive! I also saw what must have been some sort of military base, an enormous fighter jet, and the usual TONS of billboards and shopping centers in clusters as we neared Cairo. Cairo is an enormous, well-populated metropolis. The cityscape just stretched for miles and miles. There was a point where you could not see either end of the cluster of buildings from the road, and the buildings were many miles away. I have never seen a city so large before.
The Giza pyramids are outside of the city a ways. The driver took us right to a little perfume shop, and inside we met with our guide who walked us through the different options we had. After the long process of attempting to reach a consensus between 7 different people while managing a language barrier, we decided to all ride horses and to see the 3 large pyramids and the Sphinx, the longer of the two options, at a 2.5 to 3 hour total trip. The other option is a 45 minute option that shows you the 6 smaller pyramids and you don't get to go inside. Many people on facebook asked us "where are the camels?" and the answer is this: there were many camels there, and we could have ridden them if we wanted to, but Ty spoke up early and said that he had ridden a camel before and that he found it sad, which, I honestly think affected us all. I am not sure if there is good reason to be sad about it, or it we just don't know enough about camels, but once a few people chose horses, everyone else did, too, because we wanted to stay together. Once we got out there, we were so glad we did because they are fast and we had more autonomy. The trainers/guides seemed to treat the horses very well. I learned that my horse was named "Chance" and it felt amazing to gallop through the desert with pyramids in sight! Wow, an experience I will not soon forget.
We took SO many pictures, but unfortunately, my camera was not one of them, as it was almost dead by that time. But I do have the gems that the guide took. He must have done that 1,000 times. He is a wizard with an iphone and knows how to capture a jumping shot like no one I've seen. That ridiculously post-card-esque picture on Facebook? I am sure every tourist who goes through there has a similar one. That man knew how to take a good photo. But! A picture not every tourist has? A photo of 7 people doing handstands on the side of a pyramid! We also did a pyramid on the pyramids. I'll be really excited when Erica posts those...
It was not as crowded as I thought it would be. The sphinx was by far the most crowded, the part where everyone gets on foot and walks inside. We got to walk the entire perimeter of a pyramid, which was amazing. I mostly chatted with the guide and he told me a lot about the pyramids, the mysterious construction, the types of rocks... there was a lot of energy in that place, for sure. And when we walked around the pyramid, there was almost no one else there. I think not many people choose the option to walk around, perhaps content with just seeing it from one side.
After returning to the perfume shop where we started, and enduring a 30 minute speech about buying their concentrated, pure perfumes and serving us free teas and coffee (SO GOOD), we declared our hunger and left the shop in search of food. We were taken to a restaurant that made us really happy we hadn't eaten since breakfast. A course-style meal, we enjoyed fantastically tasty baba ganoush, tahini, salad, some really weird cheese that tasted like it had gone bad but was supposed to taste that way apparently, and then our main courses of cinnamon-y rice, veggies, and... french fries! There was a surprising amount of french fries on this trip. And, let me include the meat eaters: Jonathan enjoyed "wiggly liver" and beef, and Zora had the chicken. It all looked and/or was amazing. Dessert was a honey and semolina square, and we all enjoyed mango smoothies that were really just mango, so just mango that there were strings and chunks of fresh mango in every sip. Delicious.
Finally, we headed towards the airport and stopped at a large (and I mean LARGE) outdoor bazaar, still in Cairo. We split into two groups and went in search of souvenirs, rest, coffee, wifi... and we found it all! After a trip that mostly defied the expectations I'd had regarding social rules, our time in Cairo finally brought it to the surface. I had only needed to use my "wedding ring" once in Alexandria, when we met a couple in the gardens and they asked (and my asked, I mean presumed) that J-Ro and Zora were married, then looked expectantly at Erica and I. But at this market, I didn't even have it on and it didn't matter. My group was me, Jonathan, Erica, and Zora. And I could count on two hands the number of times someone made a comment along the lines of: "Three wives? You casanova!" Actually, this is my favorite: "Three wives! You lucky man. I would give you 10,000 camels for just one of them." It was much easier to just find it funny and shake it off because of how different it is from sexism in the culture I live in. At least it's not subtle... ;) I also got a minimum of 7 comments on my hair, all positive, well "positive", they are trying to sell me something after all, and one person was SURE that I was Hannah Montana. I was propositioned for marriage twice. I guess in those cases, the ring WOULD have helped. But it did not feel threatening, definitely all seemed related to trying to make a sale.
Overall it was fascinating, but overwhelming, too. Many of the items were the same at all the stands, and we came to realize that most of it wasn't even made it Egypt. It seemed a bit touristy, but we did only scratch the surface, there may have been a lot more to see. After enough proposals and "no, thanks yous", you just have to sit down and have some tea. And that we did, until our ride came back to take us to the airport, 4 hours early.
And the rest is quite uneventful! Airport times, sleeping, watching many movies, sleeping, getting to completely seran-wrap one of our luggage items, waiting in line, eating ice cream at 1am, waiting in lines, more security, showing our passport at least 7 times (Ty kept count), and then finally arriving back in Seattle. We left Frankfurt at 10:30am and arrived in Seattle at 11:30am. Except, then we had an entire day left when it was nighttime in our minds... or maybe we had never adjusted to Egypt time at all. In either case, I slept for 17 hours when I got back, which I swear is a new life record. I carved out a sweet 3 day buffer period following this trip, but not everyone could do that. They have work, more driving, other obligations...
Jonathan even has another show! Tomorrow night (or tonight, or yesterday), Saturday, October 24th, on Vashon Island with IMPulse, go check it out! I'll be there. Details: http://www.openspacevashon.com/calendar/theatre/eventdetail/15898/-/we-all-fall-down
Thanks so much for reading about our trip! And really, there is so much more that happened... chat with any of us for details, or feel free to ask me out for a coffee or a beer. I'd be more than happy to keep chatting about it!
Check back for future Conundrum trips and travels. Next up: NYC in January!