Sometime in the spring, an e-mail from Mado and Sawsan, announcing an upcoming ESC reunion appeared on our computer screen. It was to be held on September 9,10 and 11 in Cape Cod where Mado and Elly have a summer retreat. An outline of the scheduled events followed soon after.
In the early afternoon of Friday, the 9th of September, Old Boys and Girls, started arriving, some singly, others accompanied by spouses, at the Blue Rock Hotel. Very soon after settling into our rooms, we headed for the dining room for some late lunch. A few members of the group were already there exchanging hugs and kisses, while the waitress hovered nearby, patiently waiting to take our orders.
Soon after lunch, the small crowd dispersed for a brief rest, and to freshen up and dress for the informal gathering scheduled for the same evening at Elly and Mado's place. We had all received their gracious invitation to a party they were hosting to welcome us to the Cape.
Feeling (and perhaps acting) like a bunch of students gathered for morning assembly we were engaged in animated chit chat in the hotel's parking lot when around five o'clock, Sawsan, list in hand, with great diplomatic skill and with admirable patience began shepherding the group towards the vehicles of those among us who had volunteered to drive for the car pool.
Mado was awaiting us at the entrance to the lovely and spacious party room of the complex where he lives. A steady sequence of animated greetings and hugs continued uninterrupted while Mado went around distributing beverages, until the last guests arrived.
On these occasions, we are ever impressed by the distances travelled by some in order to attend these get togethers. Coming all the way to this reunion: from the UK were Eileen Mills, Ellis and GillianDouek; and from California the Topsakals & Essam Badawi (who hasn't missed a single OBOG reunion to date). Soon we turned our attention to the lavish buffet that was lovingly prepared by Elly. The buffet was funded by dues collected at the 1999 ESC reunion in Washington D.C. and by the sale of some ESC keychains at the 2004 reunion in sunny California. Plates piled high with food, including some of the special Middle Eastern fare we are all so fond of, conversation turned to the inevitable reminiscing. Fond memories revived, beloved teachers and friends remembered, exchange of information bearing on events in our lives, the evening advanced. A short briefing regarding plans for the next couple of days brought the evening to a close. It was 10 o'clock when we filed out to return to our quarters.
Next day, Saturday, September 10, we met after breakfast and, equipped with a map, and duly "car-pooled" we departed from Blue Rock Hotel At 9:45 for our "scenic drive". After visiting several points of interest, Barnstable Harbor and Lemon Tree Village, we were to meet at Chatham Beach House Grill for a light lunch. Each group had diverse experiences. A few did some shopping, others enjoyed browsing, some got lost, but everyone felt sheer delight at being together again. We arrived at the meeting place at different times (depending on the skill of our respective navigators). We had lunch on the very large terrace of the restaurant overlooking the beach. The weather was lovely!
After lunch, we sauntered over to the very big and notable Chatham Bars Inn across the road for the customary group photograph. When, after endless giggling and fidgeting, this was finally accomplished, wives and husbands of the OB/OGs joined the group for an all inclusive photograph. An unsuspecting passer by was conscripted. Little did he know that he would be saddled with some fifteen different cameras to do the job. It was quite funny watching him pick up each camera, taking the picture, then putting it down on the sidewalk before picking up the next one. He must have been quite frazzled, but he did it all with a smile.
After this memorable photo session, a few of us went for a walk on the beach, while others returned to the hotel to change and prepare for the Main Event, the formal dinner at Old Yarmouth Inn at 7:00PM.
At the Old Yarmouth Inn, a cozy charming place, tables were set for us in a separate room where more wonderful surprises awaited us. Some OB/OGs had come to attend the dinner only and to be with us if only for a few hours: among them, Toman and Mrs. Fayed drove in from Connecticut, and Elly Antoniou, had flown in all the way from Greece. Amidst more reminiscing, animated chatter and exchange of news, time just slipped away, until Mado stood up to deliver a brief discourse. Of particular significance, he indicated that this particular reunion had an added dimension to it. For the first time, we welcomed OB/OGs from the other English Schools in Egypt : Louis Cabri from Gezira Preparatory School (GPS); Samir Habiby, from The English Mission College (EMC); and Ahmed Hakki from Victoria College (VC). The only rule governing this inclusion being that they had to be invited by an ESC OB/OG who is attending. It must be mentioned that some attendees enjoy special status. Ahmed Hakki is not only a Victoria College OB, but the spouse of our very own Giselle Ahmed. Samir Habiby, other than being an English Mission College OB is the brother of Elias Habiby. And, finally, yours truly attended Victoria College for a number of years before transferring to the ESC (main reason being that the ESC had the girls). This announcement was well received as indicated by the ensuing applause. Soon after, we dispersed, almost abruptly it seemed, to prepare for the next day's adventures and for a night's rest.
The following morning, on Sunday September 11th, after an early breakfast, those of us who had elected to stay an extra day were gathered once again in the hotel parking lot at 7:45, whence we made our way to the ferry docks in Hyannis Port. The trip started with some excitement when it was discovered that two girls from the group were missing. Hectic searching, telephoning back and forth resulted in their being found just a few minutes before departure, calmly sitting on a bench, under a tree in the parking lot at the farthest end from the docks. With a sigh of relief we boarded the Ferry, and we were on our way to Nantucket. It was a lovely, sunny, day. Sitting around in small groups, wandering around inside the ship or outside on deck, sipping on coffee, nibbling on snacks we made the crossing to Nantucket where a bus was waiting to take us on a tour of the island. The end of the informative and very enjoyable tour found us back on the main street of Nantucket. We wandered around, visited the numerous art galleries, gawked at a lot of quaint and some very expensive articles displayed in shop windows until we found a lovely little restaurant where we stopped for lunch in the garden courtyard at the back. At 4:00PM a happy but somewhat tired group was on the Ferry on its way back to Hyannis.
In the evening, one big group went to a Pizza Parlour with Elly, others went to seafood restaurants, some just went to bed.
On Monday morning, following breakfast, fond farewells, tearful good-byes and promises to "keep in touch",
people left to catch flights or drive home. Some of us stayed on for yet another day for some more sightseeing and a few hours more of togetherness. Later, in the afternoon, we met at Mado's and Elly's home for cocktails and an exchange of final farewells.
On Tuesday, Jackie and I spent the hours, on the drive home to Toronto, Canada, reliving the wonderful experiences created by another memorable reunion and delightful mini-vacation, albeit with a little nagging heartache. I could not help but wonder how or why The English School Cairo had so consistently produced so many truly successful and very distinguished members of society in all spheres of life. People who came from such disparate backgrounds and cultures, different nations, different faiths, yet remain so closely knit by mutual affection, esteem and respect. Undeniably, it was a crowd of exceptional human beings, brought together in a unique place at a special moment in time. We come together at every reunion knowing full well that the time can never be recaptured and the place no longer exists. Yet, we come together, drawn by some need. I have come to the realization that, for me, it is the need to find the reassurance that there was indeed a time when we lived in a kinder, gentler world where, in spite of any differences, we knew that we were all members of the same human family.
To the tireless and dedicated organizers of this event, Sawsan Nosseir, Elly and Mado Zaki and Michael Topsakal a heartfelt thanks and "A la Prochaine".