I havent been posting lately. The whole thing has been kind of fragmenting. I need to get my shit together. I thought I needed a place where I could be both honest and heard in writing. Ive kind of receded from that lately...
Sixth of October is a holiday in Egypt. Its the day that Egypt beat Israel and took back the Sinai peninsula. The fact that they commemorate it at all is telling about their situation with Israel. I think if a country remembers the day it won a war with a national holiday (everyone gets the day off) it is a sign there is unfinished business with that country. I mean, Americans dont commemorate the day we won Texas from the Spanish.... Or was it Mexico?
Every morning they have an assembly at school. The kids sing the national anthem and pay their respects to the flag... My first days at the school it struck me that this was a root of the overall patriotism in this country. People here are really proud of being Egyptian, in a way I never saw in the Burkinabe. It is a good thing. They have a lot to be proud of here.
An old man that works at the school got up and read something about the 6th of October holiday. In it he talked of Egypt beating "our enemy Israel." I listened to this speech and was afraid. I was afraid because in the speech, he seemed to be indicating that Israel would always be their enemy almost no matter what. Egypt shares a border with Israel. He was spouting this to kids that were as young as 3 and a half. I thought about what it would be like to hate someone who was a 15 hour bus ride away.
On the ride home the other teachers talked about it a little bit. Their response was that we do the same thing in the states, as though that were a justification. Terrorism as a blanket meaning for Arabs and Muslims, which are curiously all the same thing. When you start attaching certain behaviors to certain races of people, it is indeed racism. It doesnt make it right. But it was curious to me that when the conversation got started among them, all they could say was, "well, we do it too." We are indoctrinated with the idea of hating terrorists. But no one ever talks about why. Or at least they werent. It frustrated me. I was trying to understand why such things happen in the world and all I get is a stone wall of incomprehension, as if I were trying to pass judgment on all Egyptians. I want to know why this is happening in the world. What his words were a product of beneath the veneer of hate, and why he, or anyone would indoctrinate hate into children. I will be thinking about this for a while, there must be answers beyond the simple responses people give. If those answers sufficed, there would not be hate.
I get frustrated. I have worked so hard to work past a sheltered perspective. Usually I work myself into psychological quandaries without anyone to talk to. It makes me feel lonely. It gets harder and harder to communicate my experience to others as I diversify and individualize my experience. I find myself routinely surrounded by people who do not apparently value intellectual pursuits in terms of analyzing life or culture or the way that things are, or at least people who can love things really hard and well. I think that counts for a lot.
The group of people I work with-- I feel a bit bound to spend time with them, but lately have a really hard time finding commonality. They get really negative and finicky about things that dont matter. They seem content with being friends with whoever happens to be around at the time. This is fine. But there is a culture of subtly jabbing at others that develops. Overall I just find myself bowing out again. I dont seem to know how to interact with them very well. I dont know what to say to them. I dont know why I get like this. I know I want to branch out and meet other people. Whenever I was younger, all through high school and college I operated with several groups of friends, people for different moods I suppose, who filled different needs for me.
I am dying to be able to do something important, say something important, be around something important. The last five months of Peace Corps I felt this devastating loss of purpose and I blamed myself. I went home and wallowed in that loss of purpose because there was nothing else. Now I am here, but teaching for me is not purpose. I need to see my work in the context of a big picture, and see its utility. These are the same problems I have faced for some time now. I took this work because meaningful work did not seem to be available, and I just wanted to feel useful and be able to take care of myself again. But it is not movement. I like Cairo, and I am moving very slowly toward my goals of learning Arabic, understanding poverty in this country, learning about what NGOs exist in Egypt and what the major development issues are, finding out about their media, learning about options to find out about Egyptian culture and to pursue art and an art community. (Community which I have recently realized is an important value of mine.)
...But when I am at school, when I am around the teachers with whom I spend most of my time, I forget these things though if I remember, I feel just as alienated as I ever did in the states. I feel alienated by the things that are seemingly the most familiar. I dont know why that is.