Archive for December, 2010

Arriving in Egypt

Posted: December 21, 2010 in cycle tour '99

The story starts in Rome really...

Pyramids, Cairo

Pyramids, Cairo

Steve had decided to head back to London town to spend some time with Candice which meant I would be flying on my own to Cairo… with two bikes and a pretty much all our bags! The flight was intriguing to say the least. As I checked in @ the Alitalia counter the attendant asked me if I would like a smoking or non smoking seat. I selected non smoking only to find the row in front of me was a smoking seat. Basically I was flying in a pub.

The flight was full of a mix of what I thought to be adventurers from lost world, perhaps raiders of the lost ark? They had those hard round hats on with a mix of white and cream clothes ready to tackle the heat of the Egyptian terrain. Then there were Egyptians enjoying the smoking opportunity sucking back on as many cigarettes as possible as though there was some sort of world record on offer for the most cigarettes put back for the duration of this particular flight. The landing time was midnight. We hit the ground with a puff and immediately everyone in the cabin began to applaud. This was foreign to me, but I joined in anyway thankful I guess to have made it to Africa in one piece despite all the damage to my lungs. Then the doors opened.

The heat seemed to wrap its arms around me and smother me in some sort of awkward welcome. After the initial shock I breathed it all in as I was now in fact one step closer to home and more importantly I was back in AFRICA!! I can’t describe the feeling. Despite not being Egyptian and being a long way from South Africa it was as though my soul had finally returned to the land that it was made for. Now all we had to do was head south to South Africa.

Having been in first world countries for the first half of the year I was used to plain sailing through customs and border posts. I forgot I was back in Africa. As I waited in the queue I noticed what I considered a fairly dodgy set up. Why are there ATM’s this side of the customs desk? As I approached the officials I noticed he was in a glass cubical with a room attached to it which had had its windows blackened. I pushed my passport through the window as it I was letting it go forever. He opened it and began to page through it, a frown appearing on his face with every flip of the little green pages. Eventually getting to the end he looked up and me and inquired “Where is your visa?“. A visa – now that would have been a good idea! The only problem was when we left SA we didn’t need a visa to enter Egypt. Apparently in April the laws had changed. Shucks. I began to explain but was met with a hand gesture which pointed toward a row of seats conveniently positioned opposite the ATM’s. With his other hand he shoved my green passport into the black room via a small hole. It was gone.

I sat and waited. Around me was a whirl of officials in weird white uniforms walking around which a bunch of passports. What on earth was going on? I remembered that Steve had arranged for a host to fetch me so began to feel a little tight on time. Half hour later an official was walking around shouting “GALLEY, GALLEY, GALLEY” which I ignored until I realised he could in fact be shouting out my surname with an off Egyptian slant. “GALE?” I shouted.  “Yes, GALLEY” he replied promptly sitting down next to me and paging through the pages like the other official. And then it came, the repeat question you get in these situations as though no one actually talks to each other, ‘Where is your VISA?“.  I began the same explanation which seemed to fall on deafened ears. Luckily I had a man of reason. He came up with a pearler.

How much do you think it would cost to stay in a hotel in Cairo?” was his question.

Having never been here before, nor not really knowing exactly which category of hotel he was talking about – luxury, rustic, beach side villa, overlooking the pyramids – left me somewhat at a loss. All I could do was hazzard a decent guess so I went for middle of the range.

30 Dollars” I replied, shrugging my shoulders.

US Dollar” he checked

Of course” I said not even knowing what currency they had in this country.

Great. You are right (imagine that!). Tell you what we do, you can pay me for 3 nights accommodation right here (using the conveniently placed ATM’s) and I will give you a visa which will be good for your stay.” was the offer.

Now I am between a rock and a hard place. I am now an hour late for the hosts, don’t do the bribery thing and seem but have limited options. After some meaningless attempts at getting him to see my point of view I walked over to the ATM and put in my VISA card. 120 USD later and I was getting a nice big stamp in my passport. I was now free.

I rushed through to collect all the bikes and bags which thankfully were standing there waiting. I looked around for the next official to pounce and nail me for not having the correct tape on the box or something, but nothing happened. I walked through to the arrivals and saw my name on the piece of paper held by a middle aged European. He took me out to his car, or should I rather say his tin can on wheels. It was about as long as my bike and half my height. I had two bikes and a load of bags and they were not going anywhere in this vehicle.

I flagged a taxi and got him to follow us with the bikes attached to his roof and in his car. We left the airport and headed onto the national hiway. My living!! It was now close on 2am and the roads were as full as rush hour. The hiway was divided by an island which was full of half of Egypt playing football, having barbecues. There was even a few wedding couples having pictures next to the Air Egypt fountain! In front of me I could barely make out how many lanes were painted on the road as there was simply a myriad of red tail lights all blended into one another, dodging, winding, hooting and trying to avoid the donkey which all of a sudden pulled into the slow lane from an on ramp. It had happened. I was back in the 3rd world. I was back in the mayhem of Africa. I was back in the land of ‘anything can happen!’

Al I remember is that I sat with both my arms stretched out from either side of me, looking left and right and straight ahead at the mayhem around me, sometimes behind to check on the bikes with hugest grin on my face.

I was home.

End of year Questions

Posted: December 14, 2010 in articles

Everyone is slowly getting into holiday mode. That end of year feeling! I also pick up on various conversations about next year and the expectations that people have for it. Part of setting up a great 2011 is about ending 2010 well. Do we simply kiss it goodbye and relax now until the next years starts? It seems many are in that mode already!

I am a firm believer in the power of the right questions.  Many of us look for answers, but few sit down and think about the right questions to ask. Questions have the uncanny knack to open up possibilities, to get us thinking out the box and perhaps break down the limitations we put on ourselves. Check the things that say to yourselves (see my blog on assumptions)

Perhaps a great way to end this year would be to ask yourselves some good questions. At least commit some time to jot down some thoughts about 2010 which could really support a strong transition into 2011.

Use these as a guide:

  • What energised me the most during 2010?
  • Which relationships have been my most effective this year? why?
  • Which relationships put my under the most pressure? why?
  • What strengths did I see in myself during 2010?
  • Under which conditions in my professional capacity did I see myself thrive?
  • What were some of my barriers to success this year?
  • What did I avoid doing that I know I most needed to do?
  • What did I do that surprised me?
  • What ideas or concepts that I thought about really resonated with me?
  • Who inspired me this past year?
  • What can I do to finish off this year well?

A little while ago I spent some time with Roly Struckmeyer talking about his song ‘Ferris Ride’ – take a look at my insights off the back of that meeting – some of what that song is about challenges us to disconnect a little and ask ourselves some great questions.

All the best with finishing this year well!