Brooklyn, NY, USA
A year ago tomorrow, I was sitting on the other side of the East River, in Wes and Lindsay’s Manhattan apartment, glued to my Facebook feed and Al-Jazeera’s live blog of events unfolding in Cairo, just blocks from my apartment. Should I return to Egypt, or be worried about things falling apart there? I’m just a couple miles from where I was then, but so much has happened in that year, and I’m in such an unbelievably different place now than I was then.
Who could have guessed then how much I would grow to love Egypt in the months that followed? A year ago, I still hated Cairo, still compared it to Amman and found it lacking in almost every way. A year ago, I didn’t have the confidence to follow what was happening in Egypt on Al-Jazeera Arabic, which now seems, if not easy, at least manageable! I have, in the intervening year, written dozens of pages of academic papers in Arabic on topics as diverse as politics, rhetoric and Islamic philosophy. A year ago, I couldn’t have imagined that I would date one of the original January 25th protestors, or be following his every journalistic dispatch from Tahrir Square with such interest and trepidation.
And why was I even in NYC a year ago? I was here to interview for the New York City Teaching Fellows … a successful interview! But I had no idea then what I was getting myself into. I thought, intrepid international traveler and multi-cultural adventurer that I am, that teaching in NYC, in my native language, in a school system very similar to the one I grew up in, would come easily to me after teaching English in Peace Corps Jordan and Arabic to Somali refugees. I could never have imagined the challenges that awaited me here in the Five Boroughs, nor how much I would long some days for the simple excitement of tear gas and “isqat an-nidham”!
So tonight, as crowds are gathering on Tahrir Square in Cairo’s pre-dawn hours, I can only marvel at where I’ve been, and how I wish I were celebrating with the Egyptians right now!