World through my eyes

Monday 27th September

Up at 7:45, after a good night’s sleep. We partook of the standard breakfast once again, then repaired to the main lecture room where I started my presentation on cell phones and mobile computing at 9:30am. I gave two presentations each of just over an hour, one was on How Cell Phones Work, and the other was on Smartphones and Mobile computing. After the same box lunch as the day before (rice, lamb, potatoes, mango drink, bread, grapes and salad – I avoided the latter 2 for fear of them being washed in suspect water and thus themselves being suspect) we decided we should get some money from the ATM since the travel agent wanted hard Egyptian pounds (about 5.5 LE to the US$). Mikhail and I with a guide (Ahmed) crossed campus to a shopping center (about 102degrees Fahrenheit but don’t worry dear it’s a DAMP heat) trying to find any shade we could (it was close to midday so there was none).  However, not so simple the ATM refused us both after trying several times (mine had worked in London). So we repair to the video game Fiat 121 with no seatbelts that has to be hot wired to start and with the driver of two nights before took off for Cairo an hour away to find a big international bank with an ATM, with windows wide open and air in pouring that would have made hair dryers proud. Once we got into Cairo itself, the traffic was like India, the mirrors were all turned in and one could easily walk as fast as one could drive. After what seemed an age and sweating like pigs, we found an HSBC bank. Again no success for either of us after multiple tries and it warning us that if we tried again then be prepared to kiss goodbye to your ATM card. Luckily it gave us a code that said why it was being so recalcitrant, so we duly entered into air conditioned comfort of the bank and found Aliyeh who had studied in the US in Washington, spoke excellent English and Allah be praised was in customer relations. I asked if I could use a private check she indicated it might work but would take 21 days to clear so back to the drawing boards. She interpreted the numeric rejection codes. Mine said I did not have an account, yet it had worked in London. So I tried instead my credit card, it demanded a PIN which I do not have for a credit card. I tried the PIN for my ATM and it promptly threatened to relieve me of my credit card. Finally in desperation I stuck the ATM card back in entered the PIN and figured I should try not asking for Cash but request a checking account and bingo a miracle happened and it dispensed the requested cash. Mikhail had a different rejection code which to him suggested using a different account and he was also successful a couple of minutes later. So back into the car only to find the hot wiring was failing so we got behind and gallantly pushed it into Cairo traffic and jump started it. Then off to the travel agent. She prepared our electronic tickets in exchange for our hard gained monies and sent us on our way after about an hour. As we were leaving I asked for the name and email of the travel lady in case we get into problems later on. At this time I discovered it was the same lady I had been trying to work with earlier via email from the US. This was encouraging since I was getting concerned that I might be double booking. Meanwhile our guide got onto a taxi company to arrange rides between Helwan University and the airport for this coming Sunday, when we travel to Luxor and the Valley of the Kings, and also to the airport on Monday. Then once again back into the car which the driver had left running all the time for reassurance sake, followed by back into the walking speed Cairo traffic and then as we got out of the center back to the hair dryers and video game. But we had our air tickets and tour for the Valley of the Kings so we declared victory.  We got back at about 5pm, logged in, read emails, etc, and returned to breakfast/dinner at the Guest House at about 7:30. Monique lent me the Etilslat (one of the major cell phone carriers in Egypt, this one is from the UAE) 3.5G Internet connection USB stick so I was able to logon and Skype with Liam and Sian. Could notb see anyone else logged on so that was it. Then a shower, wash some socks which last about a day before they threaten to overwhelm one’s olfactory senses, and then to bed at 11:45pm.

 

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