The evacuation order has been lifted!
I know; I'm a few days late in sharing the news--we received word Thursday that it would be lifted Friday--but I've been exceedingly busy since I found out. Within half an hour of receiving the word, I was on the phone with the government's travel agency. I wasn't allowed to get tickets yet--it was Thursday around 4:30pm, and I couldn't get tickets until the order was lifted officially Friday morning--but I was allowed to make reservations, and reservations I would make! I quickly discovered that it would be easier said than done. The itinerary I wanted was sold out for both Saturday and Sunday, and I wasn't sure if I was allowed to make reservations for Friday since I wasn't certain when the paperwork would be signed. But I finally made reservations on a different airline for Sunday afternoon.
The next two days were a flurry of activity. Friday morning I dealt with a mistake by one of the travel agents, who misread my travel orders, claimed that the government was not going to pay for our tickets, and refused to issue them. (Thanks to Dianna at the State Department for helping clear that up.) Then I packed, attended one last gathering of the family, attempted to finish replacing the velcro and elastic on a bunch of cloth diapers (thanks, Mom, for doing most of it for me), and acquiesced to Alexa's rather piercing demands that I take frequent breaks to hold her and reassure her that the flurry of activity wasn't a prelude to my leaving her. On Sunday morning, I attended church in jeans and a t-shirt, then went directly to the airport. My mom rode with us to keep Alexa happy in the backseat on the 45-minute drive, and we were followed by my sister-in-law, sister, and niece, who came to give Mom a ride back home and to see us off.
I had a brief period of worry at the airport when I realized that there could be a problem with Alexa's visa, but it was alleviated pretty quickly by phone calls from the ticketing agent to her supervisor and from me to Jeff. Then it was just a matter of getting through security, to my gate, and on the plane. That part was much easier than it could have been because Jeff and I had planned ahead and purchased a Gogo Babyz Travelmate. It's basically a cart that you can attach to almost any car seat to give it wheels and a telescoping handle--effectively turning the car seat into a bare-bones stroller. I went through a total of four airports, including my originating airport and Cairo, wearing a backpack, with a diaper bag worn diagonally over my torso, pushing (or at times pulling) the car seat. I was happiest when Alexa was in her car seat, but there were times when I managed to get through the airport with all my stuff while carrying her, which I never could have done without the Travelmate. I also had a Moby wrap available in case I needed to tie her to me, but my connections all were quick enough that I didn't really have time to tie it on and use it.
Once I arrived in Cairo, I wasn't sure whether or not to expect an expeditor. Jeff had said he'd try to get one for me, but the arrangements all had to be made over a holiday weekend, so he wasn't sure if it would work out or not. There was no expeditor waiting for me at the plane, but I managed to get through immigration, baggage claim, and customs without one--God bless porters who are willing to work for baksheesh plus the $1 cart rental fee.
I expected to see a driver with my name on a card as soon as I cleared customs, but none of the signs had my name on them. A phone call to Jeff's office resulted in the phone number for the travel agency's switchboard, and they sent me the number of an expeditor who was looking for me. At that point, I only needed the driver, but I knew that the expeditor would bring the driver, so I called him anyway. It turns out that the expeditor had misunderstood which flight I was on; he was waiting at a different terminal. He sent the driver to me but didn't come himself. Just as well--I wasn't in the mood to tip him. The driver came and collected me, along with Alexa, all of our carry-on baggage, our two large checked bags, and our checked fold-up travel crib. In no time we were on the Ring Road headed to Maadi.
Jeff was waiting for us at home. He'd been able to get off work early, and he met us at the gate. He was thrilled to see us, of course, and couldn't get enough of holding Alexa. The guards and staff all welcomed us back enthusiastically. It felt so good to be here again!
Since we arrived home, I've been trying to unpack. Alexa is adjusting, although she's gone back into full separation anxiety--she'd had it bad when the evacuation first started, probably due to stress, and by the time we left the States, she had just started to be okay spending time with the extended family without me. Now she wants me all the time, and she gets very upset if I'm out of sight. But that was expected, and she does enjoy playing with her daddy as long as I'm there too. And she grins like crazy when she pets the cats (under our careful supervision--she likes to pull hair, tails, ears, anything she can). I'm sure she'll be fine before long. She's been through a lot in the last few months, and it just takes some time to adapt.
I'm loving being back here, with my husband, in my apartment, taking care of our daughter and our cats. I haven't gone out yet because I've been focused on unpacking, but I'm looking forward to getting out there again. I have a feeling Jeff will want to be with me the first time, making sure I'm aware of new security guidelines, although I think he's filled me in pretty well. I intend to make the most of my last couple of months in Egypt. I'm just so grateful to have them!