If you read the first two editions of The Smooth Traveler (Sorrento and Rome), you have probably realized that I am, well, not so smooth. I am a little clumsy, a little goofy, and a bit of a goober! In fact, I am pretty sure that when I take a vacation, my brain takes a little vacay as well!
Since embarrassing stories are best when shared, here we go with the third installment of The Smooth Traveler: Egypt Style…
Way back in 1999, I went on a May term study program in Egypt and Israel. It was a pretty amazing learning opportunity with just 9 college students and 2 professors. We spent one month in Egypt and one week in Israel learning about world civilizations and earth sciences.
This was a pretty big deal for me, as I was 19 years old and on my first big trip without family. A huge leap for me, as I am a big fan of my comfort zone and this was definitely NOT within that realm. But thankfully it turned out to be an amazing adventure, filled with unforgettable experiences. We visited temples, strolled among towering statues and obelisks, climbed Mt Sinai, rode horseback by the pyramids of Giza, snorkeled in the Red Sea…
But the experience that I want to share with you, the one that distinguished me as a smooth traveler even at the young age of 19, was a little less exotic. In fact, it is something that could have happened here at home. It was a little incident that occurred while ordering dinner. And not a delicious Middle Eastern meal, mind you, but pizza. From Little Caesars. Oh the shame!
Here is how it all happened:
The six female students on our May term all shared a flat in the Zamalek district of Cairo. Typically we had meals as a whole group, either out and about or at the study center, but occasionally we were left to find meals on our own. On this particular occasion, we girls were feeling hungry for a little American comfort food. Not wanting to leave the flat, we decided that pizza delivery would be just the ticket, so Little Caesars it was.
So we called to order a couple of pizzas. Now if you have ever had to make phone calls in a foreign country in which you do not speak the language, you already know that this can be intimidating. You can’t gesture or get your point across with your expressions–it is all verbal. So obviously, this could present a bit of a challenge. But we determined that pizza was a universal language and it would be just fine.
Cue the phone conversation that still to this day makes me laugh at myself:
Me: Hello. We would like to order two pizzas for delivery.
LC Employee: Yes, what is your order?
Me: Ummm, we would like a large pepperoni pizza, please. And a large cheese pizza as well.
LC Employee: Yes. Anything else?
Me: No thank you.
LC Employee: Okay. A pepperoni and a margherita margherita.
Me: No! No margaritas. Please just one pepperoni pizza and one cheese pizza.
LC Employee: yes, one pepperoni and a margherita margherita.
Me (becoming frustrated): No, sorry, no! We do not want any margaritas. We can’t have margaritas. No margaritas! Just a pepperoni and a cheese pizza!
LC Employee (also exasperated, I am sure): Yes. Okay, you want one pepperoni and a margerita margherita…
Me: No, no, no…
Now this was 18 years ago, so my memory is a little foggy here, but I think I can safely assure you that this ridiculous back and forth continued a bit longer before the kindly Little Caesars employee explained to me that a margherita was not an alcoholic beverage, but rather a cheese pizza. Ohhhhhh, I get it now! We finally ended the phone call once all was sorted with the address and delivery times. I felt mighty sheepish and I am sure my friend on the phone had a good laugh at my expense. But hey, at least the pizza was good! 🙂
Tips and Lessons Learned:
- Even when traveling in distant countries, you can always rely on a little food from home. Pizza Hut, KFC, Little Caesars, McDonalds. They were all there…
- …but please do try to eat delicious local food!
- When ordering takeout in another country, it is best to get someone who has at least a basic grasp of the language. You know, the important things like pizza vocabulary!
- Finally, the lesson I learned and will never forget. Margherita Margherita: (noun) Little Caesar’s adaptation of typical Neapolitan pizza with tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil. NOT an alcoholic beverage!