Tuesday, August 20, 2013

To Go or Not to Go

I'm not even sure where to start. In June, when I came back to the States, I thought I would spend the summer in Seattle, working temp jobs to earn money, working on writing projects and seeing friends. Two out of three ain't bad. I didn't end up getting regular work, though I did work for two very generous friends (Alison and Kate) who both gave me work. 

In the mean time, Egypt has become embroiled in internal conflict. While the seeds were there, it did not seem like it would become so immediately explosive. As I write this, I'm trying to catch up on news, and seeing what will happen next. For most of last year, not much happened. But what we all missed in Egypt was the slow build and slow boil that was happening in a country with a lot of internal pressures. 

No matter what side you're on, the problems in Egypt remain. And they must be solved. Any government that takes shape must first manage the people, and then start solving the problem. The people only know that they want jobs, food, fuel, and places to live, and medical care. These are challenges that all nations face, and without these needs being met, pressure mounts until it explodes. In the last year, food and fuel costs began to rise, and there were fuel shortages and power outages that partially led to the ouster of Morsy and the Muslim Brotherhood. The fact that these shortages ended immediately after the ouster is a mystery that's not really being covered in the the wake of the much larger stories of violence and instability.

All that aside, I have decided to go back to Egypt to finish my degree. Daily I get emails, messages, and postings on FaceBook from friends and relatives concerned for my safety. I absolutely hear you. I do know that Egypt is in turmoil, and that a lot of violence has taken place. That said, the violence has been very localized and for very specific reasons between very specific groups. Those killed have been in direct conflict with each other. The sit-ins, marches and protests have all been announced ahead of time, and the locations have been specific and central. To date there have been no car bombs, hostages, or actions against foreigners, and especially no Western or American targets. I know it's a little cherry-picking on my part, but the analysis is important. 

Part of my decision to go back is because I want to finish what I started. My degree program has supported me with housing and an education. The kids I'm teaching will soon enter the same society that is desperately trying to stabilize the country. They are from the richest, most influential families in the country. I don't have illusions that I'm personally responsible for Camp David II, but I do know that education is key to the solutions in that region. That said, I have also researched going to school in the state where I have residency (Georgia) will only take two of the classes which means I have to start my degree over again.

Safety is first, education second. If things escalate, and the State department orders evacuation, I am ready to leave. The community where I live and work is called New Cairo. It is located outside the perimeter road (called the Ring Road in Cairo) and far on the eastern side of the city, well away from any conflicts so far. It borders the airport and is the closest community to the airport. I know this all sounds like little comfort when all you've seen is machine gun toting men on rooftops firing into crowds, but my analogy might be helpful. Imagine being worried for relatives who lived in Brooklyn when you heard there was a riot in Times Square. Yes, both events are in New York, but from Brooklyn, you could not hear or see anything going on in Times Square. 

The semester is going to be very challenging, especially at the start. I promise to keep you all updated. I am not a "protest tourist" and have never been to a protest, nor do I plan to go. I'm not an adrenalin junkie. When asked about my view on Middle East politics or religion, I reply with the truth: I really don't know enough to contribute much to the conversation, but I would love to hear what you think. I have learned a lot this way. I don't know if I'll ever fully understand the Middle East, but it is fascinating to live in a place so different from the U.S, and one that is possibly in the midst of the struggle that formed the U.S. Democracy is not pretty at its start, but that does not mean that it shouldn't start. 

1 comment:

  1. Yes I am worried about you Graeme; but you are the one who must make your own decisions and if you feel confident enough to go back then I must have faith that you have lived there before and know the people and you are not being reckless with your well being.
    Enjoy the time there and learn all you can and don't forget to send me my name in hieroglyphics.
    Love always, Nelle