I remember when I was 15 and my mom graduated from nursing school; we went on a trip, her, her best friend from nursing school, the friend’s ten year-old son, and I, to Disneyworld in Florida. One of the days we drove out from Orlando to Daytona Beach to see the ocean, a thing none of us land-bound Midwesterners had seen before, especially us two kids. As we came over the final large hill before descending to the beach we found the mighty Atlantic stretched out before us disappearing into the horizon. Bewildered, the ten year-old cried out, “but it looks just like Lake Michigan!” And he was right, it did.
Yesterday I was privileged enough to be invited by my husband’s uncle to go with him and his three daughters out to their chalet (as they refer to it in Egypt) in a resort on the Suez Canal. The Canal, of course, is very historical and has quite a story behind it, but what I find most fascinating is that we seemed to be traveling through a never-ending expanse of lifeless desert before we almost stumbled over the greenery surrounding the man-made canal. As I sat, later that day, at the side of the pool lounging in the shade and listening to the Enrique Iglesias being piped over the loudspeaker everything seemed so reminiscent of similar lazy days spent stateside. The heat, so like the heat in Arizona, the smell of chlorine, the unintelligible shrieks of playing children, and me. The only thing that differed was the smattering of Arabic conversation that I could occasionally overhear. I could imagine, for a second, that I wasn’t in a foreign country at all but still in the US as usual.
Later that evening after the sun went down, we went en masse to the beach on the edge of the canal to enjoy the cool breeze coming off the water and look at the stars; a thing we cannot do in light and smog-polluted Cairo. Sitting with my legs dangling over the edge of the canal the waves lapped gently at the rocks and sounded like nothing so much as the waves of a lake splashing onto the shore. The lights of the chalets that dotted the curve of the bay looked like the cabins found on Lake Mille Lacs and I felt again that I could imagine I was home dangling my feet above the lake not far from my house.
My reminiscing was broken a few moments later when one of the lights I mistook for a chalet on the far edge of the shore broke off and turned into the headlamp for a massively huge tanker making its way laboriously from the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea.
The rest of the time we all spent watching the huge ships move in the dark, lit up like Christmas trees from hull to stern.
No matter how far away from home we find ourselves, no matter how different the day to day things may seem, we can find similarities to what we know and are familiar with in the elements.