While in the United States, I’m sure I would know this type of thing instantaneously, here I didn’t find out until this morning, via a friend’s Facebook status.
Picture snagged from Al-Jazeera’s “In Pictures” report.
While partly because people don’t care in the same way as in the United States, it’s also simply because I don’t have internet at home (yet!) and haven’t been looking at the news as much as I’d like.
While Michael Jackson’s death makes me sad and is justifiably front page news, take a minute to think about what the affair looks like for people here.
People are constantly telling me a lot of their knowledge about the United States comes from movies. You really watch our chic flicks like “How to Lose a Guy in 10 days” and “Knocked Up” I incredulously asked a young women I met last week. She was a friend’s friend and had just told me I was the first foreigner she met.
How can people apply what they see in movies to real life. Aren’t they getting more reliable information from the media?
Not talking to friends, hearing conversations in public places, work and school anything read in the news is interpreted differently-it lacks context and the “right” grains of salt.
From Al-Jazeera’s report of people bursting into tears and the New York Time’s coverage about how close people personally felt to the dead star, the articles paint a picture of a nation in mourning. While MJ’s death is a tragedy, which should not be trivialized in any way, I’m guessing the majority of people in the U.S. are relatively unaffected.
Yesterday one of the refugees I’m working with who is resettling in San Francisco approached me with a question. “Do you know Donald Trump?” From the way he asked I was pretty sure something was up.
This refugee, like the majority I work with, is intelligent and well-educated. They probably wouldn’t have made it out of Iraq and to us if they were not. He reads the news, has watched the movies and knows the U.S. map.
That doesn’t mean he has any clue what the U.S. is like.
“Yes… I know who he is,” I answered. “…You mean personally….no, not personally.”
“I’d like to meet him,” the soon to be San Fran resident told me.
“People think Egypt’s just a desert.” Friends and interview subjects alike have expressed this frustration to me.
Fellow students have also said they’re surprised by how “Western,” Egypt is.
If you know where to look, you can find anything in Egypt.
Last night we went to Sequoia, a posh restaurant on the Nile to celebrate Christina Petrucci’s 20th birthday.
The sushi was fabulous.
“Nice car Karim,” I said sliding into the back seat with two other American friends. Before I was fully seated I caught my error. “Whoops, I forgot we’re not supposed to compliment people’s possessions.”
Despite one past trip to Cairo on my record, living in Cairo often feels like learning an entirely new system of human interaction. The other day on our way to Abdu and Hayam’s (good friends of Professor Sullivans) house, Carlene warned us not to compliment people things. They’ll think you covert it,” she warned. Complimenting houses and children are especially treacherous errors, believed to bring bad luck.
These episodes pop up all the time.
Sometimes it’s hard to figure them out at all. Did the chef at the shawrma stand Baraka tell us too many students come here to learn Arabic? What did he mean by that?
Last night a group Northeastern students and I ate dinner and enjoyed (some less than others) some funky music at the Cairo Jazz Club–a restaurant, lounge and bar primarily aimed at a western crowd. I was eager for my new American friends to meet my favorite Egyptians from last year and vice-versa.
At one point I popped my gum. Is that rude? I yelled through the music to my Egyptian friend sitting next to me. He told me to stop worrying about things like that. I tried to explain it’s not a questioned of “worried” rather wanting to be in tune with the culture.
After a while the girlfriends I came with grabbed cabs to our hotel Flamenco–blogging and beds called. The rest of us left for a quieter location where are jumble of “Arablish” had a chance of making sense.
”There aren’t any woman here,” I pointed out before taking a seat at the outdoor cafe we chose. The guys didn’t see a problem with it. While I don’t inherently, I want to experience the culture here–not live like I was in the United States.
Walking home at 2 a.m. with one American guy I was aware how taboo this would be if I were an Egyptian women.