Friday, October 17, 2008

A Sudanese Soirée in Ain Shams

After making significant headway on my book review (of Barbara Harrell-Bond's Imposing Aid), I ran a couple of errands. The first took me to the market down the street to get a box of water. The guys that work there know my face by now and we all try to make friendly conversation in our Arabic-English pidgin. One guy inquired if I was from Germany. I get that a lot, so I must be phenotypically faithful to my German genes. I'm sure me lurching about trying to carry this box containing eighteen liters of H20 was a sight to behold. Undaunted, I heaved and swayed the three or four blocks back to my building and then climbed the steps to the fourth floor. I was so motivated, that after a brief moment of respite, I struck back out again, this time in the opposite direction and in search of bread. It's not at all like hopping in my old '96 Mercury Mystique and buzzing over to Kroger to buy multi-grain organic goodness. I feel like I earn every carbohydrate in the bread I purchase here just walking to get it.
After finishing off some baba ghanoush and indulging in bread and halawa, I settled in to trying and firm up the topic for one of my papers. In the middle of researching the treatment of Somalis in Minneapolis and Cairo, however, I was invited to joined Natalie and Cynthia in Ain Shams. These two girls are insanely dedicated to the St. Andrew's Youth Violence Prevention Initiative, investing most of their time here in trying to provide opportunities to Sudanese refugees to help themselves escape violence and hardship. I didn't want to pass up the opportunity and thus found myself in a dingy flat scrubbing walls and washing floors along with fifteen or so southern Sudanese guys for whom this place will be a school. I've been switched to that location to teach English as the times of classes at the Ma'adi school conflicted with my classes. The whole ordeal was a lot of fun, but it was sobering to think what kind of struggles these young men have had to face. They are here in Cairo without their families and have turned to forming gangs to cope. The school in Ain Shams is just starting up and there's a lot to do to ensure it's success, but the fact that so many of the future students came today and have taken such pride in the place is a hugely positive indicator.

News of Egypt and the region:
Somali pirates threaten Egyptian economy
Democracy in Egypt
UN withdrawing non-essential employees from Yemen in wake of terror threat

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