The best way to describe these last couple of weeks is “emotionally charged.” It has been a rollercoaster of feelings for all different kinds of reasons – depression, passion, wonder, frustration, euphoria, contentment, anger, shock. So much has happened since Easter that it is a mystery to me how I’ve managed to handle it all. I really owe most of it to the incredible friends I have made since being here. Without the constant mutual support between Sarah and Matt and I, these last couple of days, especially, could have easily been overwhelming. Before I begin, I do want to give the two of them a shout-out. Up until I met them at the airport, I had no idea of who I would be spending my 4 months in Egypt with. That was definitely and easily my biggest anxiety. Anything can be made better with amazing people, or vice verse-ly, a tough situation can be made miserable with the wrong type of people. I rolled the dice and thank gosh, luck was on my side. Sarah and Matt have turned out to be the most incredible people, they are passionate and caring and although we differ on many issues, I would do anything to help them. They are those kinds of people that you stay life long friends with. In fact, we’ve already started planning trips together to visit one another once we get back to the States. The people you have these experiences with really make the biggest difference… and I am so grateful and blessed to have shared it with them. They have made my time here fun and enjoyable, especially through those tough times (like when you get sick, when the showers don’t work, when you miss home, when you need a hug, or when tragedy strikes at home). So here’s to you Matt and Sarah, before this trip I worried I would lose friends, but here I am gaining two best friends.
I will start with the reasons behind the more exciting and happy feelings that I have had over the last two weeks. The majority of these feelings occurred while we were enjoying some time away from Alexandria. The first getaway was the weekend following Easter. The entire group met up with Miriam (Roma) and we spent an entire day exploring Cairo together. We headed to Coptic Cairo and then made our way (slowly) across town to Khan Al Khalili. Coptic Cairo is a place that just makes you go “Wow.” Everything there dates back to 14, 15, 16, AD: the gorgeous churches, the breathtaking paintings, the relics, the stone streets, the ancient architectural designs.. some even older than that. The alleyways are narrow and filled with bright tapestries and photographs and trinkets for sale. The churches look as if they belong in Italy. The most astounding part of Cairo for me was walking into the prison cell of St. George. I’m still not sure if he is considered a Catholic Saint or not, but he sure as shootin’ should be. What an incredible story. I highly recommend taking the time to Wikipedia it. It was another heavy, spiritual moment that left me in a slight daze. Adding to the awe and wonder was the display of the torture tools used on St. George… it was unreal. Following that very moving experience we made our way to a much lighter atmosphere in Khan Al Khalili. We spent hours wandering and admiring and looking and smelling. I bought a couple of small things but my most prized find was a tiny little perfume shop that sold perfumes for 1 pound per gram. In other words, I could get a full bottle of exceptional (and rare) Egyptian made perfume for a little more than $2. I bought two bottles. haha. Now I’m going to smell like Lotus flowers and Queens of the Nile when I get back home
Cairo was a great, short trip but the next adventure to Sharm Al-Shaik blew every other vacation and experience I’ve had thus far in Egypt out of the water (with the possible exception of climbing Mt. Sinai). It topped riding a camel, seeing the pyramids, the luxurious Nile cruise… it even beat a weekend at the 5 star resort in Ain Sockna. It was exhilarating and relaxing and just plain FUN. The initial intention of Sarah and I escaping Alexandria was to get some sun on the last weekend we would have together (other than the one before finals). So, where better than sunny Sharm Al-Shaik along the Red Sea? While enjoying our time at the beach, however, we were made aware of all the tourist-y activities available. It didn’t take very long to decide that we were gonna do something nuts haha, yet 170 pounds later I have never made a better decision. The three of us were first taken out into the bay on a glass bottom boat so we could see every reef and fish that passed underneath. Then Sarah and I went snorkeling with the same fish and coral. That experience reconfirmed every decision I have made to join the Navy. Despite everything… I love the water. I love the smell of the sea, the misty burn of the wind on my face. What a feeling! Being in the warm water with the perfect sun on my back and looking big eyed at the vibrant colored fish… it was a feeling of pure joy and happiness that I will never forget. I loved every minute of it. But, just when I thought life couldn’t get any better, it did. Less than 3 hours later I was on a boat in the middle of the bay stepping into a harness. Next minute I was up over 100 feet in the air, parasailing, soaring and floating in the breeze like a lazy butterfly. Under my feet was nothing but wave upon wave of beautiful, deep sea blue, but to my right and left was the breath-taking spectacle of the sun setting beyond distant Sinai mountains hovering ominously above palm tree covered beaches that seemed to stretch the length of the sky. Just wow. Wow. I’m not sure there’s ever been any other moment that I have felt so free.
Where there is happy there is sad (unfortunately) however, and these last two weeks were no different. I have suffered a couple of days of nostalgia for home. Mostly caused by frustration and anger over the small things here. It wasn’t anything that couldn’t be cured by a pep talk from Sarah and a hot shower while blasting Toby Keith, though. It is easy to forget while reading this blog that despite all these wonderful adventures and ah-ha moments, I’m not home. I can’t do all the things I want. I can’t eat what I want. I can’t go for a run after a frustrating day of classes (more on that in a second) or grab a bowl of cereal when I’m hungry. I can’t have bacon at breakfast or wear shorts when its hot. I get charged triple anywhere I go because I’m very obviously white (taxi drivers are especially guilty of this). I haven’t heard country or pop or rock music on the radio in months, I haven’t really heard English in the media in months. I still get the woots and whistles, and approached by hopeful Egyptian men because I’m a highly sought after foreign girl. So many things that recently have clawed the way to the forefront of my mind, and consumed my sole focus for a day or two. This craving for America and for home, as well as the source of MUCH of my recent frustration, also came through recent debates/discussions within my classes. The frustration aspect mostly came from the passion to fix things here in Egypt. I feel it would be almost too easy to just run for office and kick out all the old Mubarak-age bureaucrats. I am frustrated because I wish more Egyptians would feel the same way. Where is the action to follow their words? Someone has to take that passion and get it where it can do some good. Someone needs to challenge Morsi. To put their name on a slate and state their platform. Why no one does is beyond me. Also, many of my classroom lectures in the past have discussed America and I am extremely proud of how objective I have grown, even to the point where I can quite easily see and discuss flaws made by America and the West without emotion. However, with all the other anti-Egypt emotional forces bending and threatening my objective will, I finally couldn’t take it. I more or less snapped. Nothing crazy or anything but rather than swallow the digs against America, I fought back and argued – very passionately too. My lawyer-to-be sister would have been proud. haha.
As I said, the missing home feeling was mostly manageable but what happened on April 15th and even more recently, yesterday, the 17th, shook all my resolve to the core. That was when tragedy struck home and it nearly crippled me. The events of Boston and in West, Texas have had an indescribable effect on my appreciation for America. Being here I have learned to truly appreciate everything I have (as I discussed especially regarding the freedom of religion) but in no way could I have predicted what something like that would do to me. Regarding Boston, not knowing who is responsible (yet) is the only merciful aspect of the entire situation for me. Not knowing who would murder people like that, my people is truly a blessing in disguise. This wasn’t in Baghdad, or Tel Aviv or Beirut or Cairo.. this was in the heart of America. This was in Boston. This was in a town an hour from my home. Boston is my town. When people here ask me what city I’m from in America, I say Boston. Not knowing who would dare to strike at my home has been my only source of relief. Being here and being so helpless… and not knowing the news for what feels like centuries… It was and is beyond angering. Here people went about their daily lives like nothing had changed. I wonder if they have grown so used to explosions and violence and bloodshed that they can no longer mourn the loss of life. If they have become so accustomed to it all that it hardly seems tragic anymore. I know I should pity a person who has gone through so much that would cause those (lack of) feelings but how can I when it was my home this time? Wouldn’t they feel the same if it was their neighbors covered in blood like it was mine? Not sure. But I do know that what happened in Boston on April 15th has me itching to get home and to do something. I am proud to say that I will be a part of the Navy and it will soon be my job to get the guy that did that. A part of me hopes they don’t catch him for a year or so, so I can do the job myself.
So sorry for the wordy entry… This post is very authentic and I hope it wasn’t seen as a complaining rant or a showing off tangent. I wanted to be real. I promised I would be. This is how I’ve been feeling and I wanted to share because it is part of studying abroad, just like it’s a part of life. I hope you enjoyed some of it at least.
Thank you for reading and until next time…