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Selma Cook

Migrating to a new country and gettting accustomed with a new language and the new ways of people, can provide many funny memories.

In the middle of Cairo there is a mountain, although it looks more like a gigantic rock, which from time to time breaks off and crumbles, crushing whatever happens to be beneath it at the time. The road that winds its way to the foot of the rock, is in-line with a precipice, having no guards or railings, and falling hundreds of meters onto solid, broken rock below.

People, as people do, get used to their conditions and what others may see as positively disastrous, they see as perfectly normal. Some may even shake their heads in surprise, wondering why the others get so upset. Suicidal bus-drivers flying down the rock at break-neck speed, sending hot-shot army officers clinging to their seats in fear of death, all becomes ordinary after a while. In fact after having traveled the rock a few times, the sighs of relief when climbing out of the bus, become less intense.

The first time Sara drove her car, she was at the top of the rock. One year of trying to catch buses had given her the courage needed to drive a car. Not something fancy, just a little car, ideal for the crowded roads. She settled down behind the steering wheel. The children were safely in the back seat. She tried out the gears a few times. It was strange to change gear with her right hand and work the clutch with her left foot. "It would only take some practice," she told herself.

"Say Bismillah and read Quran girls," she said confidently. Carefully she reversed into the street and started down the road. The street was quiet and the car hopped and jumped a little but by the end of the street, they were driving along smoothly. After two or three minutes they approached the road leading its winding path down the slope of the rock. She dared not look to her right, for across a narrow path of gravel, was a sheer drop. She kept as close to the white line in the middle of the road, as she dared, keeping in mind suicidal bus-drivers and stray donkey carts. Not more than fifty meters down the road she started to relax, there was a bit of traffic but she was keeping up.

Then her windscreen shattered. She didn't hear or feel a stone or any thump or anything. It just shattered. And all of a sudden she couldn't see a thing in front of her. It was impossible to pull over to the right because of the precipice and there was too much traffic to pull over to the left. So she had to stop where she was and try to ignore the angry beeps and honks and waving arms. "What do they expect me to do?" she asked herself aloud.

There was nothing else to do. She had to get out of the car and flag someone down to help her. The cars behind her had adjusted to the new situation and passed her, dodging oncoming traffic. She was ignored until she raised her hand to the next approaching car. It was a small truck full of workers. It's not unusual for women not to talk to men, so she just pointed to her windscreen and shrugged her shoulders. Without a word, they got out of the truck, smashed in the windscreen then with bare hands picked up every piece of glass from her car, nodded and smiled and returned to their truck and drove away.

"Well, here we are again kids, Just this time we have a bit of a breeze." She continued down the rock, wearing sunglasses to keep the dust out of her eyes and finally made it to the bottom. "Now, how to get to Heliopolis?" she thought. Then she saw a bus, with the number for the place where she had to go. "That's it," she said aloud. "I'll follow the bus." She had no idea how to get around Cairo. Road maps were no good, they weren't the same as the streets. Road signs were even more of a problem. How many times she approached a junction, and read the sign above the road showing, this way to this place and that way to that place. It sounded easy enough until she got to the junction and found three roads! It was much easier to follow the bus. People sitting at the back of the bus started to stare, when they noticed her stop whenever the bus stopped. She fought like crazy not to lose her place behind it. She didn't allow any other car to swerve in front of her, until she arrived at the place she knew.

Then she looked, blinked and looked again. "Perhaps some dust got in my eye," she told herself. She was dead-set sure she had seen a tree moving down th street. Even the children in the back seat had leaned forward to get a better view. She rubbed her eyes. Yes, it was a moving tree. This surely was not Dunsinane and Macbeth was nowhere in sight, but that tree was not only moving, it was swerving in and out of the traffic.

She was now in home-territory, so she decided to follow the roving tree. It was an eight laned freeway and she moved along with the other traffic behind the tree. No one was surprised. No one even beeped, they just moved around it and it, in return, helpfully kept to the right of the road. "Come on Mum, go in front so we can see what it is!" the children cried. "Ok, let's go."

She gunned the little motor and pulled alongside the tree. Still they couldn't see anything, not even wheels. Then she edged in front and through her rear-vision mirror she saw a little old man riding an ancient bicycle absolutely surrounded by this enormous tree. He had left a little space in front to see the way. This was the road to the airport . "Where on earth could he be going with that tree?"

They were so engrossed in the tree episode that she found herself in unfamiliar territory. So she pulled over to the side of the street, and waited for the number thirty one to come along.