A little pilgrimage to Alex

Agamy, Alexandria, Egypt

February 2017

It was hot that day, like it always is in Egypt. I had just finished working all day in a dimly lit abandoned apartment building. My clothes were covered in dust and my face covered with grime. We were to sweep the piles of dust into trash bags. Not glamorous work.  I was lounging on one of the chairs on the roof of the hostel I was volunteering with. The day was ending, a pink haze falling right behind the pyramids. I set up a time lapse and was simply watching the sunset fade behind the what I like to call big ass triangles. 

I was evaluating the other strangers on the roof. There was a woman I had seen before and talked to. She was well into her 50's liked to drink and had been traveling most of her life. She liked to tell me stories of some of her scarier travels and the crazy parties she's been to, all the times she'd gotten drunk and not known how she made it out of the country she was in. I liked her. 

There were 2 guys in the corner non discreetly getting high. One had curly hair and the others was slicked back wearing sunglasses at night. They were with 2 other French men who wore white pants and had long hair. My friend I had met in Israel, a 19 year old American kid with the same name (Alejandro) napping in the corner. We had been traveling together on and off for a couple weeks and I hooked him up with the gig. There was a new guy from Chile that had just arrived in time for the sunset and an older Japanese man. The Chilean guy knew Japanese so as the sun was setting I heard French, Japanese and Arabic. 

Now up until this point I had been really just winging it. My trip consisted of 2 things- finding a place to sleep and taking photos. My grandmother was born in Alexandria and that's partly how I got my name, so I knew the real purpose of me going to Egypt was to get to Alex. A pilgrimage if you will. 

My aunt told me that my grandmother predicted I would be the one to make it back there. My grandmother was one for prophecies. When I was 6 she said that I wouldn't marry, wouldn't have kids, but a career and a story; yes. My sisters had the brains and the beauty but I had the brawn's or as she said the cojones (she was a sassy lady my grandma). So true to prophecy I became the first of my immediate family to make it back to her birth place. 

The sunset was beginning to fade. The sweet smell of weed tickled my nose. I had been in Giza for about a week and a half and I needed to move on. I needed to figure out how I was going to make it to Alex and for some reason I felt like it was time to go.

So I struck up a conversation with the guys. Asked them if they knew of any cheap buses to get from Giza to Alex. I had run out of money and needed to get to an ATM (I knew though there wasn't more than $5 in there but the $5 would get me to Alex). I asked the guys about cheap places to stay. One of the guys told me he was from there and would be heading that way tomorrow, asked him if I could tag along and there I was on my way. 

My new guide brought me to Alex, helped pay for my seat there on the microbus we took and hooked it up with an apartment (big ups to Geno).

I found out that the guys were surfers and they had been working on a documentary on Agamy, Alexandria surf culture with the French guys at the hostel. So that was how I came to know the Surfing the Nations crew a non profit organization dedicated to teaching surfing to kids in need and working with various outreach groups around the world. 

They showed me around Agamy, took me in and let me stay with a family who lived there. We listened to music in their 2 bedroom apartment and danced in their family room.  I got to go horseback riding on the beach and explore the empty apartment buildings along the shore. I went to the Alexandria Library but had to yell at a taxi driver because he was trying to overcharge me for the ride. I swam out to a small island off the coast. One of the surfers had a motorcycle and took me around the beach town - we crashed into some rubbish in the road and I now have a scar on my right ankle from it. Another took me to a night club that was famous in the town and we watched a 70 year old woman get really drunk she couldn't stand up straight. 

A little story for a little pilgrimage. I like to think it was my grandma whispering in my ear telling me when to leave, when to stay, when to drink and when to dance. She was the one directing and guiding me through it all. I like to imagine getting drunk with her, having her tell me dirty jokes and swapping stories with me. I remember she once told me that we all turn into tiny specs of dust, that we all become our own Goddesses made to protect the ones we love when we pass on. 

My grandma was a little crazy, my Dad said she had never been diagnosed with bipolar disorder but once he came home to her holding a knife at my aunts throat when she was 12. But my Grandmother was incredibly intelligent she knew 7 languages and the FBI requested she work for them. She flat out said no because she wouldn't die for the government when her kids were still in her care. Her past is still a mystery to me, I hear various stories from aunt and dad. She had had many husbands and many lovers. She traveled all over the world picking up a different language and custom along the way. 

Most of the memories I have of her was her when she wasn't doing too well health wise. She had a breathing apparatus hooked up to her nose and she was overweight. I remember her taking a puff of her cigarette saying

"To hell with it all, I'm going to die anyways." 

But I knew she was a force to be reckoned with. I knew she was someone that when she was speaking everyone in the room would listen. She could conjure up stories in the blink of an eye, she would buy tiny crystals from jewelry TV shows just because she liked the way they sparkled, she could tell the future and she liked to watch the Jungle Book and other silly kids movies. She was a mystery to me and my sisters whenever we got to go visit her.  

She lived a great story. 

To my Grandma Yvette- A little story for a little pilgrimage.