November 2010


As Danny says, “The Frankfurt airport is trying to single-handily rid us of the German stereotype.” He actually made this comment as we were going through their extra round of security required even of passangers on connecting flights. Little did we know how true it would be.

I met up with Danny, who is part of the training team for Cairo, at our gate in Dullus. The first leg of the journey was mostly uneventful minus the usual pain and sleeplessness accompanied by weary travelers doing a trans-Atlantic flight in coach. The one funny moment was when Danny turned to me and quizzed me on Arabic.
“How do you say I’m your husband?”

“Hoowa zawjee. And I have a ring, wanna see it?” I start rummaging through my bag.

“Wow, Kathryn. You’re really moving fast in this relationship.” (Side note for the linguists. The Egyptains pronouce the Jeem letter as a “g” instead of the “j” the rest of the Arab world uses.)

So we arrive in Franfurt. I’ve of course managed to get a cold Sat night, so I’m all sniffly and headachey from intense sinus pressure. We find a cafe, I lie down in the booth for about two hours, grateful to be horizontal. We get to our gate on time and watch the light snowfall. In the States, the weather might cause concern, but Germany gets a lot of snow and our plane landed fine. Furthermore, the snowfall doesn’t seem that heavy. An annoucement comes on and I gather “Information, flight to Cairo” from the German version before hearing that our flight is possibly delayed in English. Still, half an hour later, we’re boarding and grateful we don’t have to call our Cairo contacts to tell them we’ll be late.

Getting all settled on the plane, I realize just how tired I am and how great it is that this flight is only four hours. It’s 2 PM when they annouce boarding is complete; by 7 PM we’ll be at the hotel. Then we can meet with our teammates (Lauren and Jen) who are already there, grab food, and sleep till dawn.

And this is where Danny’s dire prediction takes hold. The captain comes on the intercom to say that he cannot get ahold of anyone to find out when we can leave since now our plane needs de-icing. An hour later, he still can’t find a manager. The staff comes round with water, then pretzels, and an hour later both. At some point they serve all drinks, and I go for the free gin and tonic. Talking to the purser, I find out the staff doesn’t start getting paid till we roll backwards and get going towards the runway, none of which has happened yet.

At 8 PM we decided we really needed to contact the team back home. Of course the super expensive airplane phone ($10/minute) didn’t work. Much earlier, we’d discovered I couldn’t send a text with my American phone. Finally, we asked the American sitting near me (who had successfully sent text messages) to borrow hers. It is 9 PM before our plane moved. We had waited on the plane for seven and a half hours! (We boarded at 1:30.) We land in Cairo at 2 AM  local time. So we were on that plane almost three times as long as the flight took. Luckily, Danny and I were just so exhausted we couldn’t get angry or even upset. My internal monologue for most of the trip had been, “Well, you’re using so many Kleenex, you probably wouldn’t be sleeping if you were in your own bed.”

Luckily, everything went smoothly at the Cairo airport. Our driver, bless his heart, had waited for us the whole time. He drove like someone from Cairo, which requires that you place the car in the middle of the white lines on the pavement at least half the time. Luckily, at this point, no one was awake so there wasn’t any traffic to the airport. We were in our rooms by three in the morning.

Today we went to work for a few hours in the afternoon after some pick-up mix-ups. Don’t worry; I’m going to bed after supper. Tomorrow will be a big day!

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Boarding the Tripper Bus in Rosslyn, I realized I hadn’t been to New York since Junior Year of college. Wow. After working in DC for over a year, that just seemed shameful. The bus ride helped continue the chaos of the past few weeks. Traffic at the tunnel was so bad that my bus was two hours late. While I made the opera at the Met, I lost most of my dinner time with an old friend from WM. I got off the subway, walked out at Lincoln Center in time to see the Hotel Empire, where I’d stayed ten years before on my first trip to the city. Greeting Stephanie, I asked her to order for me and went to the bathroom for an attempted transformation from exhausted traveler to chic opera lover in a new ice blue dress I’d bought two weeks before. It would have worked better if I’d found the hose I’d packed.

Laura was waiting for me at the fountain outside the Met. We had to check my bookbag, which was crammed full with my laptop and three days worth of clothes. Racing up to the top balcony as the gong rang, we managed to scurry into our seats just before the curtain rose on Il Trovatore. As a little girl, I’d sit with my dad in our den and watch opera videos from performances at the Met though I didn’t know where they were back then. I was so thrilled to actually be at the Met for the very first time watching an opera that I grew up on. I was amazed that the subtitles were not above the stage but instead were located just in front of every seat in the house. They were so perfectly installed that you couldn’t see the text from your neighbor’s screens. My only disappointment was realizing that my binoculars had been left in my bookbag in the check room. The production was amazing, the set inventive, and the singing superb. I loved the bird’s eye view which allowed me to see everything. The acoustics are fantastic. My head bopped along during the “Anvil Chorus” and other hit tunes.

Saturday was equally busy. I met Samantha in Time Square for lunch before heading up to the Cloisters near Tyron Park. I’d never been that far uptown before. The park had a fabulous view of the Hudson that reminded me of seeing the Potomac from Mount Vernon. After even just half an hour in Time Square, the park was exactly what I needed. Along the river and on a hill with little development to be seen on the other riverbank, I felt I’d been instantly transported to the countryside. Ahead, I could see what appeared to be a monastery, but which was in reality my destination.

The Cloisters itself was awe-inspiring. I hadn’t been to the Musee de Cluny, the medieval museum in Paris, in ten years, but I still remembered how much I’d loved it. Like so many people, I’d been enchanted with the Red Unicorn tapestries. I’d been excited to learn that their companions, the Blue Unicorn ones, were in New York City, but on previous trips, I’d been unable to make it uptown to the museum. The whole museum was so perfectly laid out that I felt that perhaps I was back at the abbey and churches I’d toured in France or at least in Paris at the Cluny. There were stone entranceways, stain glass windows, scenes carved in ivory, and other beautiful relics. One I’d never seen before was the bust of a saint that was created to in fact hold the supposed skull of said saint for display in a church.

I could have stayed longer, but I took the bus and subway back to midtown to finish the final goal of the day: procuring Broadway tickets. An hour into the TKTS line, Sam finishes with her afternoon plans, and I call her to check out ticket prices. It turns out the half price TKTS tickets are still more than the balcony ones when I finally arrive at the ticket booth. So, I meet Sam, and we head to the theater’s box office to buy full price balcony tickets. Pulling out her student ID, she’s able to buy two student tickets, and viola! We have two decent priced tickets to see A Little Night Music  with Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch.

With time to kill, we wander around the area heading towards Bryant Park with Samantha’s very nice boyfriend. The tree at Rockefeller Center is covered with scaffolding for the decorating that will be happening over the next few days. Bryant Park is known for its free ice skating, and we stop to watch the skaters before continuing onto the stalls. The rest of Bryant Park is littered with temporary but sturdy stalls that sell hot cocoa and holiday gifts. For dinner, we go to an amazing French-Thai fusion place on 9th Avenue near 48th Street.

Before eight o’clock I am mounting quite a number of stairs and having déjà-vu from the night before especially as we are once again at the top of the house and I realize my binoculars are again far away from me, this time in Laura’s uptown apartment. Our view of the stage is perfect. The set is not opulent but versatile, functional, with just the right amount of detail. And far more of a set than Chicago’s, which is the only other show I’ve seen on Broadway. As the show began, I was hit with the realization that even though I’d been in this show, it was eight years ago and I had never seen it having always been backstage. I found myself doing comparisons between the productions. I think our version of “It Would Have Been Wonderful” was just as good as theirs before David lost his voice. Perhaps the most surreal moment was the first time Bernadette Peters walked onstage as Desire Armfelt (she had waltzed with the rest of the company in the dark during the beginning but I don’t think the audience recognized her). The play stopped as the house broke out into applause before she opened her mouth. Her mannerisms and her voice were exactly what I’d seen in the movies. It was fitting that she was playing a big star in the show itself. Her presence and the audience’s reaction was very different from my experience seeing Guys and Dolls in London’s West End when Ewan MacGregor started. My friends and I were thrilled to see him on stage, but (maybe because the British are reserved) the audience seemed to have been there for the show itself.

Not to say anything negative about A Little Night Music. Elaine Stritch’s comedic timing was perfect. The show on a whole was simply funnier than I ever remember it being from freshman year of college. The songs were well done. I found it interesting that the actress who played Anne sounded like Bernadette Peters. It was pronounced enough that I think it was definitely deliberate, and it would help make sense of why Fredrick was attracted to her in the first place. She reminds him of his lost love, Desire. Or at least that’s what I felt was being shown with this version. Anne was sufficiently annoying as always. If the show itself didn’t impress me enough, I was even more impressed by the curtain call. With two such big stars, I was expecting to have a painfully long one. However, it was done with a speed and efficiency that left my hands grateful and my mind thinking the director needed to have a talk with his counterpart at the Met.

After the show, we ended up back at Bryant Park to watch the skaters this time from the warmth of Celsius, a restaurant overlooking the ice rink. Sam and I ordered Red Vixen drinks (doesn’t that just sound fun!?) and split two supremely chocolately desserts with her boyfriend. We was such a great way to end the evening.

Today, before heading home on the early afternoon bus, Laura and I went to a book binding party. Her brother-in-law runs a very small publishing press. He has friends over to help sew and bind the books, and this time I got to go. Think about it: me, making books. What could make more sense unless it’s me making chocolate? Laura and I arrived in Brooklyn around eleven and stayed two hours. I was very excited to see her sister and meet the new husband as well as their friends who came over. Sewing the binding of books with the authors in the room was just the kind of unique experience that makes me think I just know the coolest people ever. It was also a nice, non-touristy way to feel I’d really been to the city. As I got on the TripperBus home, I promised myself that I will definitely be coming back well before another year passes!

(This Post’s title comes from a great Dar Williams song about the Hudson River in New York City.)