Monday, June 20, 2016

Guten Tag, Cairo

I'm exhausted, my back aches, blisters have most certainly begun to resist the canvas of my Converse and my mother has already begun to annoy me - have I mentioned that we haven't even left yet?

Hopping on the NJT I had a belly full of bagel and a head full of chaos.

Following what can only be identified as the darkest two years of my life, I am marking the anniversary by making my virgin sojourn to Middle East - and bringing my mother to boot.

Feeling hopeful for the first time in what seems like ages about what life has in store, I am ready for another adventure, if not the slightest bit weary of the heat and oppression of my given gender.

Never one to back down from a challenge ... here we go!

They say Baby Boomers are the ones trapped between generations, caring for their aging parents and still housing their recent college graduate children struggling to find sustainable work. But maybe that is simply the cycle of life.

A couple of years back I traveled to Morocco with my youthful, brilliant and in shape father and there were most certainly moments where I felt like I was guiding a toddler through the playground one sandbox at a time.

This time I am with my mother and the destination is the Middle East, Egypt to be exact, and though I am expecting and ready for some culture shock hand-holding, I did not foresee needing to help her properly use headphones, explain how food service works on a jet, or unbuckle her safety belt for her whilst still on the United flight. Literally.

Perhaps child and parent roles are not so clearly defined and one is not always teacher while the other is student. Maybe it is more of a reciprocal relationship through life, or at least it is once you've reached your thirties. Or maybe, as is the case from time to time, it's just me...

Descending upon Munich is a beautiful tapestry of manicured farm land and adobe colored thatched roofs, intermittently sprinkled into the landscape in what I can only imagine are quaint villages in which there still resides a butcher, a baker and a candlestick maker.

After taking a whore's bath in the Munich airport, mom and I dropped our bags at the affront to TSA known as the onsite storage center and headed on the S8 train (the yellow line) to Marienplatz, or for those in the know (see: Wikipedia), city center.

Germany seems to be a quiet place, even if my travel companion does not.

Having worked the majority of the lengthy flight editing photos I am now having trouble transferring those images and am left despondent. Mom, having claimed she has not slept a wink in nearly 20 years, remains surprisingly spry.

The S8 train leads us through the rich, lush countryside and the casual conductor took me by surprise when he presented himself to be a well-coiffed hot German dude with a tightly woven sweater and a backpack, ready to hop into an international spy movie at the drop of a hat. He authoritatively checked our day pass prints out and went alone his way, displaying his pert posterior in the process. Who knew Germans could have fatties too!

The bells of New Town Hall filled the square with music and as we rode the escalator up from the underground train. Here we were met with a crowd, gathered to watch the carousels of figurines built into the Gothic structure spin about, delighting the young and old alike. The sun greeted us warmly and it was a new day; a new city. Trying to remind myself that I am actually in Europe, and not an attraction at Disney World, mom and I strolled about the square, taking in the sights, stopping briefly by a beautifully blue fountain where to German men, chorused, said hello. Delighted that I could actually be hit on in Eastern Europe, especially when having the same clothes on for 2 days straight gave me a boost. Upon second glance one of the said hitter-oners was biracial at the very least and it all began to make sense. Existential crisis averted.

A short walk leads you to St. Peter's cathedral where you can, as I did, light candles for your loved ones who have gone on to hopefully a better place (two in every country for me), climb the bell tower which will make you huff and puff but by the time you see the view from the top you most certainly will not want to blow the house down, and purchase slightly inappropriate postcards with sexual content for your underage nephew.

Just beyond St. Peter's is the beer garden known as Viktualienmarkt. A jovial place surrounded by shops selling handmade crafts and handmade cheese. After some debate on where to eat and even more on where to sit we were set. Two bratwurst, one spicy, on not. Some sweet tasting potato salad. A beer of indeterminate name and, the piece de resistance, a handmade pretzel, on which I may be able to subsist for life.

A sunny spot in what can only be deemed old people heaven was located and mom and I sat down to our feast (about which one of us was FAR more excited than the other) among the crowds of smiling, amiable and perhaps slightly intoxicated seniors. Seating is limited and personal space a foreign concept. Illustrated by  the woman behind me used my spine for support and   the elderly man sitting next to me using broken English and hand gestures to heavily imply that I clearly liked my meal, as a bit of hot mustard and single bite were all that remained on the plate. It is good to know I can be fat shamed in all cultures.

With no particular direction in mind we stumbled upon the posh part of Munich where store fronts like Gucci and Ferragamo lined the streets and not much else, so it was back to the New Town Hall for us. The obligatory German doll for my niece purchased at tourist prices neatly tucked into my camera bag and we sat down among the mullets and questionable fashion choices of Europe for a cup of tea.

When the weather began to turn, so did we - toward the subway - and back to Flughafen M√ľnchen. Mom seems to have gotten confused between when we had decided we needed to be at the airport and what time our flight actually departed so we had plenty of time to patronize Airbraus and for me to aggressively fight with my computer in an attempt to deliver images to a client I was now certain would be late. Nothing like the desperate feeling of helplessness and rage of frustration to start off a mother-daughter week of bonding!

After pacing the tiled floors of the airport in search of food we settled at Selmans, an eatery offering everything from octopus to omelets and apparently boasting the most fragrant fake flowers that ever did exist as the look of ecstasy that crossed my mother's face when inhaling a nose full of woven silk almost had me convinced I didn't see the dusty petals.

Ordering a hamburger I was most certainly served a Spam burger, but desperate times call for desperate measures and the mystery meat was consumed with great appreciation and little inquiry.

My mother can be a bit of a prude and the mere mention of the word vagina can cause a litany of reactions. Today it was boisterous disdain and darting glances, looking around for the nuns who were most certainly standing by, rulers in hand, ready to bloody my knuckles and make me a good little girl. Why nuns would be boarding a predominately Muslim flight is beyond me - but there you go. I often wonder if these reactions are generational or personal. That the generation gap between a child of the 50s and a child of the 80s is so great that one is extremely modest and the other not so much is a question I simply cannot answer. The fact that this particular genitalia-related incident was encountered while boarding a plane with women draped in yards of dark fabric to maintain their own modesty most certainly played a role.

Regardless, we were set to bid adieu to Germany and move on to the next leg of our journey...