Sunday, September 14, 2008

A BIG change of plans.....

Well, what can I say? You have to be ready for change when you travel.
I was out last night and came home late, around midnight. I noticed there was a text message on my mobile phone that I hadn't noticed. The text had come in around 9:15 pm.
I'll just quote it verbatim: "I am a KILLER!!! I kill people for money. But you are My FRIEND... I will kill you "FOR FREE."
Now imagine, being alone in a hotel in Alexandria, Egypt, not really knowing anyone well. Going to the police didn't seem wise, because of all you hear about the problems and corruption within the police departments here. The number wasn't one I recognized, nor had I given my cell number to very many people here. But I had met many of Mohammed's friends, and most of them knew where I was staying, at the Hotel Capry (sic), and they also knew my travel plans to head to the Sinai. Could they follow me? Probably not, but one never knows.
I sort of freaked out a bit. Looking back, perhaps I over-reacted, but I did feel a strong sense of danger, and I felt like I should follow my instincts and get the hell out of here. I didn't sleep that night a wink, but got up as soon as I thought the shops might start opening, around 9 am, and I went and bought an airline ticket back to the good ol' United States.
Surprised? Me too.
Yep, I"m coming home early, and not going to Jordan or Israel. Part of me feels like I've done enough already on this trip, while of course I have some second thoughts on whether I should've kept traveling. All I can say is that, at the time, it felt better to head home. Better safe than sorry, that sort of rationale.
Someone told me that Egyptians have a very weird sense of humor, and it could've been someone's idea of a joke. But, of course, it didn't seem funny to me at all. It just didn't feel like something you would chalk up to a "cultural misunderstanding." The text felt angry, like it was coming from someone I had irritated. Or perhaps they just didn't like Americans. Who knows?
I've thought and thought about who it could be, and I'm sure it had to be someone, somehow connected with Mohammed. I do like the guy, but I did at times question his judgement in friends. Trying to talk to him about this was an exercise in frustration, in any case.
On the other hand, I do feel a sort of relief. The next month was going to be difficult, mostly the Israeli portion because I would've hit Israel during the high holy days of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. That's a major holiday period for Israeli's, naturally, and the country shuts down, hotels are booked and prices go up. Plus, I wasn't getting much response from friends there who I was trying to connect with.
In a certain way, I didn't do a very good job of planning this trip, in that I hit Ramadan throughout Tunisia and Egypt, and then the holidays in Israel as well. Me bad, but how can one know unless you've been here?
I have no regrets. I feel as though this will propel me to figure out the "what's next" for my life, whether it be in Denver, in Beijing or somewhere I haven't thought of yet. There's still a prospect of a getting on with FEMA, and I have a few ideas brewing on my own (as I blogged about last month). So we'll see. All's well that ends well.
SORRY that I won't be going to Petra for ya, but I suppose it will still be there the next time. So, a month ahead of time, perhaps the next time I see you will be in Denver?? I look forward to it.
Please feel free to let me know what you would've done in this situation. But please don't be too quick to judge, just as I am trying hard not to be too judgmental of all Egyptians.


Pharao said...

Hi Thom,

I am surprised to read that you go home instead to Petra. But I can understand your desicion. In my sight, somebody made a big bad joke with you. But you are right: it's better to be careful. So I wish you a safe way back home, and thanks again for our good talks in Alexandria. Assalamu aliykum wa rahmatullah wa barakatuh - the peace be upon you and God's mercy and his blessings!
Yours, Ernst

Wylie said...

Hi Thom: Bill and Jan Ankele here (from your trip to the Manu in 2000). Sorry you didn't get to Petra. We did the year we went (think it was the year before Peru) and it was pretty awesome. However, we were visiting the church at Mt. (can't remember) in Jordan where Moses supposedly first saw the promised land. The next day we read in the paper that a group of Palestinian terrorists were arrested on their way there that day, intent on kidnapping American can be pretty insecure. Glad to hear you are still kicking about though!


Isis said...

Dear Mr. Wise,

I just read your article in Denver Post. In behalf of all Egyptian I would like to apologize on the bad experience that you had in Egypt.

And if you would like I would be more than happy to apologize to you in person. Currently I live in Denver, and I know that you travel a lot all over the world, but if you have 15min I can defiantly apologize to you in person.
Thank You
Nesreen Arafa

Anonymous said...

My dear,

I can't let you alone for a moment without a death threat! I'm so sorry for the scare.

Here's what I know for sure... you have great instincts and when you follow them you stay out of trouble.

It is so good that you are back home and I would love it if you would call me so we could catch up. I can be reached most evenings in my new (yes, I've moved again) digs. I still have the same cell and email as always so please get in touch.

I love you.