And that really resonated profoundly for me. This is a topic that is rather hard to write about in our culture because there is no grey area or middle ground for patriotism. Either you love America or you’re likened to a terrorist. This isn’t fair because the more you grow to love something, the more cognizant you become of the flaws. Travel has allowed me to see my home nation with a different perspective, from afar and from the eyes of others around the world. When we let ourselves escape our comfort zone and throw ourselves into something new and out of the ordinary, we are capable of incredible realizations.
The blizzard was not nearly as severe as all the weather forecasters had predicted, but the fact that I had to suffer in this insufferable way was simply too much for me. Forlornly, I made my way to the little cafe in the lobby of the Jane Hotel. I glowered at the freshly painted walls, signed wistfully at the memory of the Café Gitane’s lost nearness, scowled when I was told that they didn’t have an espresso machine, haughtily accepted drip coffee, and took a seat beside the windows whilst waiting for overpriced avocado toast to arrive. I was insufferable. The toast was actually great. I love a seedy bread.
Land returned to view and I was delighted by my first sight of Saudi Arabia. The sands were red and lovely. I smiled to myself, getting over my depression, I was flying over regions of the world that nobody in my generation would have dared to dream about years and years ago. So many of them still believe that the Middle East is a dangerous place — and it can be — but so can small towns in America. There is danger everywhere, but it need not ruin our ability to explore or lessen the chance to broaden our horizons. The world is absolutely wonderful and I’m so in love with it. I’m so glad that I got over any cultural fear I had and let myself discover this beloved region.
Nobody bothered me as I stood there. All the touts knew me and knew I had my people. They were nothing but friends and strangers now. I was no longer a source of revenue. I was just a man. I was just Ben standing beside the Nile. I really don’t know how long I was there, but as I did, my life began to pass by in my memories. I was back at Egyptian Treasures with my dad and Donald, talking about Cairo and dreaming of treasure. I was on an ancient computer in elementary school furiously printing pages from the Theban Mapping Project. I was in Barnes and Noble buying discounted books. I was in the Louvre staring at hieroglyphs. I was screaming at textbooks. I was dreaming of the future. I was back on a rooftop in Giza with Lady M. I was wandering through temples with Abdul. I was breaking the Ramadan fast at the Khan el-Khalili. I was dreaming of digging. I was in raptures at the thought of the basements of the Egyptian Museum. I was drinking Stella again with Hassan. I was back by the Nile. And I was an Egyptian through and through.
I don’t mind aging so much. I joke about it frequently, but I feel as if I was “eighty before I was eighteen.” I was a grumpy old man for the majority of my life. I didn’t do anything terribly exciting or socialize or have a dozen boyfriends or wake up on a riverbank with no memory of getting there. Honestly, I can’t say that I regret that, but there are times when I wonder what I missed out on during the course of my tame youth. I feel younger now than I did back then. I still haven’t woken up on a riverbank, but that’s just fine. I have woken up in five star hotels, so that’s better.
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