Monday, December 1, 2008

December? When did you get here?

Shopping at Alfa Market the other day, I ran into this lonely-looking Santa Claus in the back of the store, but even the gaudy Christmas decorations in stores that cater to foreigners didn't prepare me for today. What is today you ask? The 1st of December! I cannot believe that it's the month of Christmas and New Year's Eve and that I've been here in Egypt for over a quarter of a year now. Holiday planning and my trip to France and Belgium are underway. My month away from Egypt promises to be quite busy.
My stomach is being a bit more agreeable today and I've managed to make some headway on my paper (over 3,000 words at this point). I went back to Ain Shams tonight to teach English as usual and I sincerely regret not having brought my camera. In the run up to Eid al-Adha, the bloody holiday that will take place a week from today, more and more goats and cows have been appearing in the streets. In one particularly disconcerting display, a butcher-shop was brightly lit with the equivalent of Christmas lights that descended from the roof a multi-story building across the street. Flashing pinwheel lights and a host of different colored bulbs illuminated dozens of carcasses hanging on meathooks. And right next door were penned in cattle and goats, lowing and bleating in blissful ignorance, though I could have sworn that one exceptional cowlooked on with something like suspicion at the grotesque sight.
Class today involved prepositions and how they changed the meanings of various verbs like "put" and "take" and "turn". My student who'd been arrested came tonight and was actually one of the most eager to participate. After watching a video in law class yesterday on the rather bleak state of affairs regarding the rights of Sudanese refugees, I wished there was something more substantial I could do to improve their prospects of a better life. Tito, my best student, the one who'd ask me to help him learn French but hadn't come to class the last couple of weeks, showed up with his little brother who couldn't have been too much different in age from my won little brother. It's always sobering to think about just how different our lives are. The time I spend with refugees and studying their situations and experiences as well as living here in Egypt has transformed my vague theoretical awareness that the majority of the world lives in poverty and dysfunction into something much more viscerally real. And, as some of my classmates would point out, we don't even live in the "real" Africa. Spending time with family over the holidays, I'll be all the more appreciative of my life at home, but certainly painfully reminded that I can't blissfully assume everyone everywhere is just as happy, well-fed, and secure.
After teaching, I came back to my apartment with the noble intent of pounding out some more of my essay but since then have only managed to watch Al-Jazeera International and order and eat some pizza from Maison Thomas in addition to answering important emails. The hawkers on the metro have arrived at a new level obnoxious. One was trying to sell flashlights which he shined in people's eyes. Now, in my opinion, blinding people and trying to send epileptics into seizures just isn't a good salse tactic, but the deep sense of guilt Egyptians have toward the poor brought about a few transactions.

An article about the Cairo Metro
Increasing ire at alleged police misconduct
High prices, low demand complicate cattle sales as Eid al-Adha approaches

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