It’s All About Perspective…

When I was in the first grade, my parents took us on a three-week long vacation over spring break. It was longer than the week long vacation period and we’d have to miss two additional weeks of school. I still remember the conversation that they had with my teacher asking if she thought it would be all right for me to miss those two weeks of school. My teacher said that she did not have any issues with this because “What she will learn from traveling is more than she would learn in those two weeks in school.” I found that sentence so interesting even though I did not fully understand what it meant at that time and even though it would be years before I actually would appreciate the lessons that I did actually learn from that family vacation to India.

Today I know that there is no better way to learn about new cultures, countries, or customs than traveling and actually being in the middle of it all. And with all of the traveling that I have already done, I considered myself fairly educated on the ways of the world and aware that life elsewhere is not always the same as our day-to-day routine in Toronto or San Francisco. I say ‘considered’ because yesterday, with just an 8-hour layover in Cairo, Egypt, I was reminded of how much more there still is to experience…and about how everything is about perspective.

For our layover in Cairo, we had arranged for a tour agent to meet us at the airport to see the Pyramids. Since it was all done so quickly and we hadn’t met before, I had told her to look out for the tall couple exiting from our flight. When we met she laughed and said that she nearly missed us because we were not tall, at least not by Egyptian standards. Hmm….interesting I thought. All my life, I’ve been identified as the “tall” girl and here this woman was saying that I was definitely not tall. I felt slightly annoyed that she found this so funny, but more curious about how “short” I really was in Egypt. As we started off in the car, I kept my eyes glued out the window…

Pharaoh Ramses II — now that’s what I consider tall!


We passed an area of town that looked ancient, in my opinion. Buildings were crumbling, streets were narrow and I was in awe of all of the beautiful domed roofs of the old mosques. “This is the new part of Cairo” our guide said. New?! She read the question right off of my face. “Well, it’s about 3 hundred years old, but it’s new because the part we’re going to is over 3 thousand years old”. Fair enough. Another lesson in perspective.

When we finally reached the pyramids, it felt almost surreal. We were standing in front of these giant monuments, which I had wanted to see my entire life. Oh and there was the Sphinx! And camels! And…Pizza Hut? Ok I was surprised by that one too. I was expecting to see nothing but sand for miles and miles and these structures protruding out from the desert. This was not the case as there was a shopping plaza right behind us and a stage set-up to the side for the nightly sound and light show. But I guess this could be considered progress? I mean do we say anything when the areas around the Colosseum or Niagara Falls get “built up”? I wonder what other people think? As I contemplated this for a brief moment, I suddenly heard the sound of fireworks go off. I smiled, reminiscing about the last fireworks show we saw on the Fourth of July. Fireworks mean celebration, happiness and special occasions right? So I asked our guide what the occasion was for these fireworks. Now she looked annoyed and said “Oh yeah, those things. They’re horrible”. She told us how fireworks would go off in the city randomly to distract from the sounds of the bombs and missiles that had filled the city over recent months and years. The fireworks were not pleasant to her. They were a reminder of the Cairo that she was hoping to move past.

It really is all about perspective…

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