Egypt — the First and Maybe the Last Post

Readers of my articles should be familiar by now with my General Theory of Caloric Dispersion (G.T.C.D.), the best-known example of which involves breaking a cookie in half and eating each part separately. It has been proven to the satisfaction of some of us that this method of consumption reduces the total number of calories involved by a significant amount. The question remains: does this process apply to other foods, say a roast chicken or artichoke hearts? I will be the first to admit that more research needs to be done on this topic.

What I have been working on most recently is a theory that is somewhat similar, which I call the General Theory of Ardor Dissipation (G.T.A.D.). What is this speculative proposal about? Let’s say you planned some activity six months in advance, but when it’s time for the event to happen, your enthusiasm level is gone the way of all calories. And this could happen.

Several months ago when we first heard about a trip to Egypt and signed up, it seemed like a great idea. And it still does – in theory. Visiting some of the most important pyramids, the temples of Karnak, the Elephantine Fortress (site of the oldest known diaspora community), the Valley of the Kings, the Necropolis of Thebes, and the Ben-Ezra synagogue (home of the Cairo genizah), and having the services of an expert in the field, on “the first ever kosher tour of Egypt through the eyes of Tanakh,” what could be bad?

Hence the question: why am I less enthused, now that the trip is several weeks away? The quote from either Paul Samuelson or John Maynard Keynes (or both, depending on whom you ask) goes something to the effect: When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir? As of two months ago, there seemed to be a certain predictability to our lives. Barbara and I were fully vaccinated against COVID; one could travel anywhere within reason; one could at least make plans to travel anywhere within reason; one could function from day to day without worrying that the ‘rules’ would change while you were out walking.

For those not paying much attention to the world around them, or someone reading this post well after the fact, the ‘rules’ have decidedly changed. We have a new and unpredictable strain of COVID with a whole new swath of ‘red’ and ‘yellow’ countries. So is this a good time to be gallivanting around the world, especially to countries whose tracking of the virus may be considered suspect, whose medical facilities may not inspire confidence in a potential traveler, and whose color scheme may change from week to week?

Not only do some of us feel more vulnerable to the virus, our government here in The Land – with all good intention – is careening wildly from one course of action to another every day. If we go anywhere and come back, will we need to go into self-isolation for three days, a week, or who-knows-what? Will the airport even be open to leave or return? And what about the policies of a country where we might be planning to visit?

One of the key elements in my strategy to age gracefully is the reduction of all unnecessary stress, and, as we all should know, one of the major contributors of stress is unwanted unnecessary uncertainty. It’s one thing if you’re planning to fly to or from The Land for a Big Event, a family simcha, for example. You’ll put up with a lot of aggravation along the way. (You won’t like it, but you’ll do it.) But for something you can easily put off? As our friend Richard Levine pointed out, the pyramids will still be there when COVID is under control (if that every happens). We can simply add this trip to our list of tiyulim on hold, Tuscany, the U.A.E., for example, plus the other destinations I’d love to get to (like Provence), if it’s at all possible.

Some people can just lock up where they live, wander the earth anytime they want and come back whenever with no worries, no cares, not even a houseplant to water. If we go anywhere for any period of time, we need to have someone take care of the pussycats. If we go in January, considering the risk of self-isolation when we return, we will need to arrange to have comestibles delivered – otherwise we’ll be dipping into our bag of Happy Cat (dried salmon flavored) with the three of ours who do not like to share. All of this can be arranged, but we need to know in order to plan. You know what? In the immortal words of Ira Gershwin, Let’s call the whole thing off. For now, at least. There will be another trip when life is a little calmer.

What happens if we back out at this late date? How much money would we get back? Barbara fished out the information about our trip. No surprise: the closer to the start date, the greater the penalty for canceling. The latest word from the tour company is that the trip is still on. Only if Egypt is declared a ‘red’ country, or if that country decides to close its airports to our country, will the trip be called off, and the final determination will be made a few days (!) before we’re supposed to leave. Which I can understand from their point of view. There are all sorts of financial matters to be considered, plus, for everyone like me who is ambivalent, there are all those who are fervently hoping the trip will take place as scheduled.

So how much money would we lose if we cancel right now? (Understand that Barbara does not share my concerns; she’s ready to get on the plane.) We were then in the 21-25 day window of opportunity; we would get half of our money back if we acted then and there. On the other hand, if we waited……. The Omicron strain of COVID is spreading throughout Africa like a house on fire – as it is in Israel. I still think there’s a fair chance that Shai Bar-Ilan will have to give us a full refund.

Game theory time! Do we take the 50% and run, or do we hold out, meaning we will get back all or none of our money? Tough call, don’t you think? While I was pondering the matter, I decided to look again at the information the company sent us, just to make sure. Good thing I did. It doesn’t say 21-25 days, it says 21-25 working days. Let’s see, five working days per week….. We would get back only 25% of our money. That’s a whole different kettle of fish – as in, it’s not worth it. We’re back to all or nothing, and we won’t know until the last minute which it is, if the trip is on or off. And even if the trip goes on as scheduled, do I have to go – just because I paid my money?

Maybe I should calm down. As Nachum pointed out, we would be in Egypt but, in a sense, in a bubble, with a group of maximumly vaccinated Anglos. He’s right in a way. We’re more likely to be given a re-used bottle of tap water, which would put us in the hospital on the spot, than to catch COVID from random Egyptians, from whom we would be separated most or all of the time. As far as a ‘yellow’ Egypt, we’re on our way to a ‘red’ Israel. Could it be that we’d be safer there? (The headline in today’s edition of the Ma’ale Adumim weekly newspaper announces that there are 770 confirmed cases of COVID in our fair city – 55 of which are child-care providers – with 27 children’s facilities temporarily closed.)

That’s where things stand at the moment. We’re scheduled for a Zoom meeting Sun. evening where we will get more information about the trip, which might or might not take place and on which I might or might not go. I think I’ll check out what the weather is like in Cairo the end of January and charge the battery in my camera – just in case. Because you never know.

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