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Veterans Day - Today and All Those Years Ago

Veterans Day, all those many years ago, I was in Egypt. I had run out of money. So I sent my father a desperate email from the cyber cafe, after I had a big glass of juice at the Hilton café (no ice, as ice is almost impossible to find in Egypt).

I had very carefully calculated the expenses of my trip. It was midnight in Seattle, Veteran's Day was just beginning and most everyone was asleep. Later that night in Egypt I received his message back: "No problem. $750 in Friday and more available if you need it. Sorry to hear you're off to a rough start. Love, Dad."

Waiting for my friend, Amr, that day in the lobby, I was sitting near a distinguished man in a business suit. When I lit up a cigarette, he pushed an ashtray toward me. "Shokran," I said.

"You speak Arabic?" He asked.

"No, no. Only a few words." It was outrageously flattering to think that my pronunciation was remotely authentic. Flattering and delusional — as delusional as a train ride to a remote Egyptian village. As outrageous as thinking I had Egyptian eyes, dark and mysterious. But I do not. My eyes are green.

"Where are you from?" he asked politely.

"America."

"Is this your first time in Egypt?"

"Yes."

"Welcome."

"Shokran."

"Tell me, why is your Embassy closed today? I had business there, but when I arrived, they were closed."

"It's Veteran's Day," I said. "This is a national holiday, to honor all the veterans who died in all the wars." He flashed a subtle, knowing eye.

I flashed on those I had love and lost. Grampa, Dad, Terry, veterans all. Veterans Day. Dark and mysterious. To be remembered.

Excerpted from:

Lost & Found in Egypt: A Most Unlikely Journey Through the Shifting Sands of Love and Loss.