Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Far away in Hay al-Ashr

Yesterday I had lunched with my Togolese-French neighbor, Ablavi, who is doing research for CEDEJ (Centre d'études et de documentation économiques, juridiques et sociales) on the denial of public education to Sudanese children in Egypt. Under international law, the children should have full access, but the reality on the ground is much different. Following my lentil soup and ta3mayya with eggs, I came back with Ablavi to our building and then set to reading one of the chapters of a book we're discussing today in Comparative Migration Law. It deals with the concept of "effective nationality" and moral links between a person and his or her country as opposed to merely nominative associations.
Later on, I joined the head of the project through which I teach English, and another volunteer teacher for a forty-five minute cabride to Hay al-Ashr. This place is a whole different world than downtown Cairo. It's much more diverse; Sudanese, Somalis, and many other African migrants and refugees are interspersed among Egyptians. They live in dozens upon dozens of buildings that look exactly the same, built, I'm told, as government housing projects. In many of the windows there is no glass and many of the structures are far from finished and never will be. A burnt-out charter bus marks the right turn to the anonymous-looking apartment complex where we will be teaching this semester. The kids are younger this time around, in their mid- to late teens. I'll be teaching the highest level courses as I did in Ain Shams. After setting some things up and meeting some of the students, the three of us went to a small room with bright blue walls on the third floor of a building a few streets over from the "school". There my companions enjoyed Sudanese food. The ride back was on a bus rather than a taxi; my first experience with the dodgy public buses of Cairo. The seats were falling to pieces, stares and whispers ensued and continued the whole way back. At one point, an elderly man got on the bus and began shouting a recitation of the Qur'an, wandering up and down the center aisle. Every bump sent us nearly out of our seats with no handle or other means of bracing ourselves to be found. I didn't mind it though, but I fear I'll never be able to find my way to such a bus in the middle of Hay al-Asher at 9:45 PM. The only way you really know where the bus is going is from the shouts of a kid who stands in front. I could make out "Tahrir", so maybe I'll figure it all out eventually.
Once back, I made dinner and then hung out with Phil and Ross for a while–we went to get juice. Phil talked to me about the development class and how much he enjoys it and I edged ever closer to trying to switch out of psycho-social and into Migration and Development and fully commit to the Master's. I have looked into fellowship opportunities but would need to apply by March 1st which means I'll have to formally switch from the Diploma into the Master's ASAP. I plan to talk to Ray, the head of the program, today. I have Law in a couple of hours and then the CMRS seminar immediately after. Philip Rizk is coming to speak tonight about the situation in Gaza and his film, This Palestinian Life. It should be interesting and, I hope, an opportunity to hear more about the other blogger and activist, Diaa Gad, on whom there is very little information.

New York Times article on the state of the freedom of speech in Egypt
Abbas indicates flexibility toward Hamas on eve of reconciliation meetings in Cairo
Egypt to send troops, police to Congo as part of UN peacekeeping mission

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