Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Final Thoughts from a Balcony in Cairo . . .

We have 8 days left in Egypt, and in 9 days I’ll land in Portland. Tomorrow I have 5 papers due, on the topics of: if political Islam is compatible with democracy, what the biggest obstacles to peace are regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, if the U.S. should continue its special relationship with Israel, and two “engagement” papers dealing with Muslim-Christian relations and how to solve conflict in the Middle East. The last week has been spent mostly just camped out in our apartments, writing papers, drinking cup after cup of tea, and leaving only to walk down the street for schwerma or koshary for dinner. I finished writing last night and now I’m just focusing on editing my papers and final touches. We’ve also heard three debates over the last few days – I was lucky that I had mine before travel component, it’s made my life a lot easier now. So we all hang out in our flat, spread out all over the place, in our own little spaces that we’ve claimed. I camp out on the floor in the living room, my books all around me; another girl sits on the couch, several sit around the two tables in the dining room/living room, two girls stay in their room, and another stays in her room, although she comes out every 10 or 15 minutes because she doesn’t stay focused that well. Tomorrow we’ll turn in our papers and then have discussions about the two engagement papers since they’re more opinion driven. Then Friday we have a free day, when I think some people are planning to go to the pyramids and then to the Khan el Khalili (the big bazaar). On Saturday we leave for Anafora, which is a monastery/retreat center where we’ll spend the weekend for processing and “re-entry” talks about ending the semester and going back to the states. Tuesday and Wednesday are more free days, with our “Ma Salaama” (goodbye) party on Wednesday night. Then Thursday really early we go to the airport and catch our flight to Frankfurt and then to Washington, D.C.!
I’m ready to be home, especially now that my papers are done and class is over. This semester has been so great, but I’m tired and I miss home. Sitting on my balcony right now and looking at the apartment buildings in the afternoon sun makes me think that I will miss Cairo and the Middle East, but then I hear a car screech by or suck in a deep breath of polluted air and remember how wonderful home will be. And it will be Christmas time! It totally doesn’t seem like December, even though we celebrated Thanksgiving last week with great homemade food, and even though I celebrated my 21st birthday on Sunday. (Which was great fun – my friends took me out to a Chili’s on a boat on the Nile.) We’ve even started listening to Christmas music in our apartment, and the program assistants hosted a Christmas party/study break today with cookies and decorations and music, but it’s just not the same when no one outside of our little community is getting ready for the holidays. I’m so excited to go home and decorate the Christmas tree and have Christmas treats and spend time with family and friends.
I will never forget this semester, and I’m hoping that I can incorporate the things I’ve learned over the last 3 months into my life at home. Some of the biggest things I’ve learned are the power of peace and words to change situations. So many of the people we’ve talked to have simply asked us to share their stories with people at home, to portray the human element of these conflicts and issues. This trip has taught me the value of a balanced view, as well as the fact that being well-informed can really change minds. If education systems were balanced and people knew both sides of issues, I think there would be a lot less conflict in the world. Also, if the human aspect was emphasized and people took the time to get to know each other on an individual level I believe that violence could be seriously decreased. That is a very idealistic and simplistic view, but I truly think that it would solve problems. As Christians we are called to be salt and light to the world, which has always been one of my favorite descriptions of a faithful life. We are to flavor the world, to bring God’s light to all those around us. That means sharing with others, not just the message of the Kingdom, but also truth that we’ve seen around the world or at home. God is at work in the Middle East, just as He is at home in Newberg, Oregon or Seattle, Washington. My hope is that through my experiences here this semester I have brought salt and light to this region, and I bring salt and light back to the states, to share with those around me what is going on in the Middle East and what we can do about it. I would love to honor the requests of those we talked to here and share their stories with all of you at home, so if anyone would like to talk with me once I get back, I would gladly sit down for coffee with you. I will need a chance to relax and gather my thoughts after this busy 3 months, but once I’m recuperated I will be open to share pictures, stories, and thoughts.
Thank you to all of you who have been reading this blog throughout this semester. My mom kept telling me the great number of people who have kept track of my adventures, and I cannot describe how blessed I feel to have so many people care about me and my experiences. Apparently my support base is even bigger than I thought, and so I thank you. May God bless you as we enter the holiday season, and may He continue to bless your lives throughout the next years. Thank you again.
(And everyone should travel to the Middle East if you have the chance! It’s a great place!)


  1. Great post, hon. We're counting down the days until you're home. By the way, I couldn't turn off my editor brain when I read your heading; hope it doesn't sound like you're ready to jump off that balcony. Wondered if "Concluding thoughts from a balcony..." would be better. Ha ha. Love you!

  2. You may not even catch this until you're home, as you're probably within an hour or so of leaving for the airport. But I wanted to say that this is a great post, full of reflection and wisdom. I would love to be one to whom you tell the stories of the people you met. Hope traveling is without complication!