Anniversary of Egypt’s Future Family
My tram acquaintances stack into a larger trend over these last two months of meeting more Egyptians. A girl I met in yoga the first weeks of the program, invited me to eat with her family. Apart from accidentally eating a small fish bone, I had a great time just hanging out with her and her sister. Just like my American friends, they were amazed and horrified at all the American movies I haven’t seen and told me which ones I must see. As they figured if they as Egyptians had seen them I can hardly claim to be American until I have. In addition to sharing her language, food, and family with me, she showed me the local favorite parts along the Corniche. Exploring it with a local Alexandrian illuminated the aspects of Alexandria’s history that still engage the youth. I loved listening as she pulled at different threads of the city’s history, and thus her own. Alexandrian through and through, all of her family lives here and has for numerous generations. Trying to imagine the city through her lens left me ruminating.
The friendly tram commuters invited me to a party celebrating the year anniversary of their volunteer organization, Egypt’s Future Family, at the university. I met them during a free period between classes for two hours. I loved actually feeling like an Egyptian student for a change. They introduced me to their friends as they scrambled to complete the final preparations before the festivities began. As only Egyptian humor can compose a lighthearted political critique amid the second stage of the revolution to kick-start a celebration, the opening anecdotes focused on the revolution, scintillating laughter across the two hundred students in the audience.
Part and parcel with their pride in being Egyptian, Egyptians are proud of their national humor. More than the mere absence of being politically correct in Egyptian culture, Egyptian humor is applicable in all situations, which I’ve found to be wave-breaking-on-your-face refreshing and startling. Revolutionary-lore spreads how individuals while suffering the blows of the riot police during the 18-days or while being tortured by Mubarak’s regime laughed and cracked jokes on their own situation. Egyptians may breathe in tear gas but they exhale laughing gas.
A wiry boy took the stage and long before he opened his mouth his own image, projected as his backdrop, indicated he was going to rap. Accustomed to an oscillating sequence of ‘oriental’ music and American pop, my jaw sprang into a grin as he started rapping Gangnam Style in Arabic. It took me a concentrated minute to discern whether he was rapping the Korea words with a heavy Egyptian accent or in Arabic. Five girls shrieked and capered throughout his three-song performance to the rolling eyes of the larger audience. My new Egyptian friend who had brought me to this anniversary celebration asked me if I had understood his rapping. I muttered, “Not even a little.” She laughed, “me neither!!”
I met my new Egyptian friend on a tram about a month. Coming back from school with my language partner, we both noticed the girls next to us listening to our conversation. A little embarrassed we switched subjects and languages (yes, defeating the purpose of an Arabic language partner). After saying goodbye to my language partner, I continued on the tram, nose buried in my notebook. By the next stop the girls next to me saved me from my new vocabulary mumblings and started talking to me. I enjoyed responding to their superb English with my broken Arabic so much that I overshot my stop by five stops, no small feat.