29 September 2010

Embrace the Cupcake

"Life is precious."  I hear that all the time.  I often think it.  It took a near-death experience for me to actually GET IT.
I used to think that traffic in La Paz, Bolivia is bad.  But if we're honest, Cairo takes the cake.  Egyptian traffic defies both description and comparison.  Here are some photos that *might* give you an idea.
Note: people crossing; the guy on a motorcycle (with no helmet); the multiple directions that vehicles are pointed; and the minimal space between everything.

Be sure to add in the horse-drawn buggies, for good measure.
There were no more than 2 inches between bumpers.
Speeding towards a traffic jam.
The hubs and I recently had a grand Egyptian adventure that took the form of a 2-week jaunt << with backpacks >>, around the land of the Pharoahs, the Nile, the shisha, and queso egipcio. 

In Cairo and Giza, we mainly traveled by taxi, minibus, metro, or by foot.  In most other cities, we would travel by tour bus or by foot.  The majority of our travel from city to city in Egypt took place by train.  However, we did travel twice by bus, once from Cairo to Sharm El Sheikh, and then again from Sharm El Sheikh to Alexandria.  Going to Sharm was entirely uneventful... rather boring, in fact- it was during the daytime, on a new, very clean, comfortable bus.  
While in Sharm we bathed in the Red Sea, and we snorkeled along the Sinai Peninsula.  We slept late and walked slowly; we smoked shisha, we ate koshari, and we enjoyed one another's company.

When it came time to make our way towards our next destination, we bought our bus tickets and got to the station early.  We loaded up, gearing ourselves mentally for an overnight bus-ride on a tiny old bus.  We left Sharm at 9 pm, and at around 1 am, we were startled awake by the sound of smashing glass and the bus swerving back and forth on a 2-lane highway.  We knew we were in the middle of the Egyptian desert. It was the middle of the night.  We were the only tourists on a bus filled with locals.  That's all we knew.

By the grace of God our bus didn't flip over.  If the tires had hit the sand, I'm confident the bus would have turned.  But they didn't, so it didn't.  

Thinking back on that manner of being awakened, I've never been more horrified.  My husband was next to me, and I was thinking 3 simultaneous thoughts in that moment 1) "Please God let us survive this experience together."  2) "Please God don't take my husband from me." 3) "Please God don't take me from my husband."

I could see the fear written all over the hubs- in the whites around his eyes, in the lines of shock in his brow, the way he reached to me with one hand as if we were miles apart and he reached with the other hand for something -- anything -- stable to hold onto.  

For the record, there's nothing stable to hold onto inside of a swerving bus.  

It felt like an eternity until the bus finally stopped, and then it took another eternity to realize 1) we were still alive, and 2) the bus had stopped moving.

In complete and total shock, I turned around and managed to squeak out, "English?"  And wouldn't you know that, in the form of a tri-lingual Egyptian who spoke perfect English, an angel sat right behind us.  His name was Mohamed.  He told us what he thought might have happened <<as in, what he thought the bus might have hit>>, but it turned out to be different.  Come to find out, our bus t-boned a guy on a motorcycle.  A guy on a motorcycle who wasn't wearing a helmet.  By the time I got my wits about me enough to get off the bus, I walked to the front of the bus and saw a crumpled motorcycle <<the headlight was still on>>, and the front windshield of our bus had this perfectly shaped, round spot where the impact had occurred- the impact between the glass and an unprotected human head.  The shattered glass was strangely beautiful.

We spent the next 5 hours on the sidewalk in front of the closest police station, waiting for a new bus to come and pick us up.  It wasn't until we were on the bus, huddled together and giving thanks for our lives that it dawned on me that my strongest concern was for my life and my husband's.  It was then that I began to grieve the motorcyclist.  It took every shred of strength to maintain outward composure- everyone else on the bus went back to sleep, content to be enroute to their final destination once again.  I can't say that the locals weren't concerned with what had happened.  I was overcome by a sense of selfish self-preservation that clouded my ability to care at that moment for others around me (aside from the hubs, of course).
So I'm continuing to unpack this experience-- processing it and my reaction to it-- still wondering why it happened and what there is to learn from it.  

There are, of course, some things I've realized since then... A sink full of dishes bothers me a little less.  If my floors are dusty and company's coming, that's okay.  When my jeans fit a little tighter than I'd like, I give myself some grace.  Because eff -- I'm alive!

That guy on the motorcycle, he's not.  He was a brother, a son, a father, a husband.  And his family is left grieving.

And now I'm back in my sweet and comfy bubble making a conscious choice << instead of worrying, fussing, or obsessing >> to give thanks.  I'm grateful to have one more chance to tell my husband I love him, to listen to a hurting friend, to spend time with my parents and my sisters, to work hard at the job that I'm entrusted with. 

As my friend Becca says, instead of feeling guilty I'm choosing to embrace the cupcake.

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