In my first post I toyed with what is to come, before I go further, here is a glimpse of my experiences last year in Egypt.
“Why Egypt?” Is something quite a few have asked me. It’s a Muslim-Arab country, a place the United States needs to seriously revamp policy. I want to learn Arabic. I wanted to understand how people somewhere else live and think and investigate the so called “clash of civilizations.”
There are many who shaped last years experiences, fostered my love for Egypt and curiosity to learn more. Whether physically present this year, I know they will come up as I move forward.
First there was Mary. A fellow Northeastern student and native of Alexandria, Egypt, she was the first to make me repeat the challenging letter غ”ghayn” and infect me with her obvious love of the region. Once in Egypt, with her scheming smile and home-land know-how, she was always up for an adventure. With her I first explored bustling Talaat Harb square and the famous khan el-khalili souk (market). Without fail she found delicious places to eat and was adamant no cabby charge us like clueless foreigners. In my current state of limbo she continues to tell me, I’ve got this.
Tara,”Tito” and Katharine, “K-funny” were my givens last year. With Tito’s thoughtful questions and Arabic skills and K-funny’s sarcastic humor and chill demeanor there were no two with whom I’d rather brave new terrain.
Mostafa, “Mufas” and Karim, “K-$” are similarly aged Egyptians we met through a dialogue discussion–I think Mufas first talked to me because of the video camera in my hand. From horses and feluccas, long night discussions, favorite cafes and tons of questions, these guys showed us their Cairo, turning it from simply a place of intrigue to a home with friends and memories.
Through English conversation practice at St. Andrews, a service for refugees I met, Soulymaine. A towering Senegalese, his warm smile, Bob Marly backpack and utterly different take on Cairo kept us talking far past the conversation session.
A traditional meal cooked by his mother, besides being delicious was the epitome of generosity Cairo evokes in my mind. During my last days I met Rami, who made question the narrow patch of Egypt I thought I grasped.
In Abu Dhabi I met many from across the Middle East. Maher, from West Bank, Palestine, critiqued the Arabic music on my ipod–it’s all the old stuff!–inspired me to take a real look at the continuing Palestinian-Israeli conflict and think about my own choices like drinking alcohol and relations with my family.
There are more too, among the rest of my American peers, the ever- stylish Oscar, Julia, who had a knack for meeting characters, Brett who always had a good book and Asha- always smiling and making friends, and Mufas and K$s’ endless stream of buddies–Amr, Basem, Karim, Jessy…
Others will be introduced as we reunite.
As I prepare for flight, I’m eager to see these friends and apprehensive of a Cairo barren of others. If last year taught me anything, it’s be ready for anything, friendly and flexible, ask question, be prepared for complicated answers and never assume you have the whole story.
“As is the case with any international journalist, you will be responsible for finding stories on your own,” Carlene, my journalism professor and co-leader of the dialogue, wrote in an email earlier this morning. Last year I longed to explore more, to break away from confines of government guards following us and spend more time with local people. Here’s my chance.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” I heard that a lot last year. It was rational to return to the pyramids, go to every museum, spend lots of money. “Who know when we’ll ever be back,” peer after peer rationalized.
I never felt that way.
How or when I could not say, but that I’d return to my sunny sandy land of kindness and mystery I was sure.
When last Fall, Carlene answered my email inquiring about journalism programs with multiple exclamation points (rare as she pointed out) describing this dialogue, my planning began.
The journalism dialogue was perfect, however 5 weeks, only 2-3 in Egypt, was a tease.
How could I learn Arabic, discover the Egypt, make the friendships and connections, test my ability to live alone across the world in 5 short weeks?
So I lengthened it to 7-8 months.
After Egypt, Syria and Qatar, I’m returning to Cairo.
From there, things get hazy.
I want a home-stay but could also rent an apartment share downtown or in Mohandseen. I *think* I have an internship at a refugee organization I worked with last year, but haven’t heard back in a few weeks. I’m revising an independent research proposal/waiting to discuss it with Sullivan before the Honors Committee will approve it. Can’t apply for much funding ’til I get that worked out. And or course, I’ll be studying Arabic until I dream of it. Where? TBA…
Though thinking of those I will miss has weighed me down the last couple days, I’m confident my plans, or lack-of will fall into place. It’s not that I believe in fate or anything, I Just believe there are tons of opportunities and great people when you look for them. If the refugee organization doesn’t work out, I’ll find something else, if no home-stay, I’ll find an apartment.
I got this.
So here I am. Home in NY for a last couple days. Clothes and books are strewn about (though that’s nothing atypical), friends and family time crammed into a few more days a smile on my face.
The feeling that something awesome is beginning never gets old.