Mismatched shoes. Shoes that don’t fit. Dust, dirt, everywhere. Stained clothes. The unfairness of it exacerbated by the cuteness of their smiles.
A lust for life expressed in the way Monar shakes those hips to Shakira; in the beauty of the picture Adham draws symbolizing Egypt; in the looks of pure joy that cross their faces when we pull out their craft folders.
The amount of effort it takes for them to attempt standing in a single-file line. Trying to fathom what kind of chaotic life they must have led for this elementary task to pose a challenge.
Today, Monar was not participating in art class. I urged her to try drawing. She said she would on one condition—if I watched her so that she could sketch a portrait of me. Amused, I sat down and she commenced her work. Focused, she drew my perfectly circular face, lopsided eyes, nose in between my eyebrows, and a twisted smile. Above, she wrote in Arabic and English “I love you,” and underneath, “Allah.” “Allah,” she said, pointing up at the sky.
She embodied the realization that despite everything, these kids have faith. They have hope for a bright future. What breaks my heart is the little chance of them attaining the future they deserve.
And so I am frustrated. I am frustrated that we are only here for two months. I am frustrated that I can’t speak Arabic well enough to more fully interact with them. I am frustrated that Egypt does not provide opportunities for social mobility. I am frustrated that they do not have families, and may never have them.
Most of all, I am frustrated that even if I gave them everything I could, that wouldn’t be enough.