4th of July dinner at Lucille’s – an American-style diner in Cairo where we dined and celebrated being American, and everything that comes along with it. Bacon Cheeseburger? Check. French fries and onion rings? Check. Entirely too much food and drink? Check. Thesis interview with a leading women’s rights activist? Check. Conference on Egypt-American relations after the revolution? Check. Patriotic songs in the van on the way to dinner? Everything from Star spangled banner to Yankee Doodle? Check. American flag cake? check. These were all the ingredients that made up one of my favorite 4th of july’s so far…
I have never been more proud to be American in my entire life, than after living in Cairo for 4 weeks. That’s not to say that I dislike this city or that I feel like Americans are better than everybody else in the world.. but its rather that this trip has given me a huge slap of perspective that I certainly needed. It is helping me to understand societal problems that I have only read about in academic articles or on the new york times. This trip is helping me to realize what democracy actually means and how lucky I am to have the opportunity to talk to my friends or even strangers about what our government is doing and whether or not we agree.
This trip is making me appreciate the dream of my future .. the idea that I have very few limits on what I can do and what career I can pursue. It’s also making me appreciate my life, and what Ming and I have coined, “First World Problems” … aka What grade I get on my Arabic test, what time I have to get up in the morning for class, or what kind of shoes I am wearing, or what apartment I am living in, or what meal plan I will choose, or how often I get to come home during the year to see my family. Compared to the problems we face every day here in Cairo, these first world problems become almost embarrassing. I am at one of the best colleges in the United States with professors who are so dedicated to helping me succeed, I have a right shoe and a left shoe at all times, I always have a roof over my head and smiling faces to welcome me home, I always have a meal to eat.. and I can eat different things every day, and my family not only wants me to come home but is a home of love and support.
The children at Ana el-Masry have taught me in a very weird way to appreciate all of things and not to take them for granted. My problems are first world problems to a T. And without perspective, its easy to get caught up and forget how unimportant those problems actually are in the world. I don’t think I will come back to America and suddenly decide to live on 2 dollars a day and camp on the quad every night and quit school to join the peace corps, but I will certainly have a new outlook on life and a new attitude when I need to get up for class at 9 in the morning… I have opportunities and a future that will hopefully lead me in some path to influence these problems that I am experiencing this summer. In sha allah, this will not be the last time that I am slapped with perspective.