After studying Arabic for two years and dreaming about going to Egypt this entire semester, with our trip’s finalization pending on Egyptian politics, it feels surreal that I am actually going to Cairo on my first (and hopefully not last) trip to the Middle East. It’s difficult to put my feelings into words: it’s some mix of excited, nervous and worried.
What am I worried about? Surprisingly, the political protests are not my biggest concern right now. When I’ve told a few people about my project to work with street children in Cairo, they seemed to get the impression that I’m another one of those privileged Americans traveling to a developing country to “make a difference” and “teach them our ways.” My parents have frequently asked me, why are you teaching the children English? Why should they learn/ need to know English? And I realized that at this moment, I don’t have an excellent answer to that question. Along with this realization, I’m worried that this civic engagement program will benefit my “character development” more than the children I will work with. How do I ensure that this doesn’t happen, and that I can actually help these kids?
But along with these worries, I have hope. I have hope that by befriending the children, we will both learn from each other and use our newly gained knowledge to benefit our communities in the future. I do not want to think about this trip as a two-month project, but as a stepping stone for the childrens’ and my group’s future education and work. I am hoping that with this perception, I will make the most out of this trip. I can’t wait to arrive in Egypt tomorrow!