Over our fall break, my friend Kathy selflessly took on my duty shifts so I could go away for a few days. I spent a glorious time sneaking off to Cairo and getting reacquainted with one of my favorite cities in the world. Of course, when I say I “snuck off” I mean all my coworkers and students knew where I was and friends at home and in Cairo knew of my whereabouts. What I was really sneaking away from was the stress of NUin and the worries of everyone related to me, all of whom were in the dark until I was safely in a cafe in Cairo.
As soon as I was in the cab I felt a relaxed sense of calm, even though the ride was long and jerky. I knew he was scamming me and complementing my feeble Arabic for a tip, but it still felt nice to flex those muscles. I had spoken in Arabic on the plane but the Greek flights attendants looked at me like I was crazy until I addressed them in their own language or mine. The entire trip was marked by an unloosening of the spine, and unclenching of the fingers and toes, a relaxation of my mind. I didn’t look over my shoulder for students or staff, I didn’t have to think before every word I spoke and every feeling I experienced. I didn’t pause before hugging or dancing or kissing. I slept when I wanted to, drank when I wanted to, and dressed how I wanted to.
I loved seeing the overwhelming pride in all things Egypt. Trees that had once been naked or painted white were painted for the flag. Most public surfaces were covered in graffiti calling for freedom, celebrating the people, and calling for religious tolerance with the symbol of the cross and crescent.