What could have been.

With all the stuff that has been going on in Egypt this past week it has got me to thinking about what might have been. For the longest time I wanted to teach in Lebanon but thought it probably wasn’t the safest. Ever since I got hooked on Lebanon (2003?) I had told people that I wanted to teach in Lebanon but I’d probably teach in Egypt instead since Egypt was more stable/safe. Then came the wars in 2006 and 2008 to confirm my hesitation.

Last summer I visited Lebanon and stayed for a month and loved it so much I knew I had to come back. If it hadn’t been for that trip I very well may have been in Egypt right now.

Not that that would have been the end of the world.

My friend Emily has been teaching at an international school In Cairo (Maadi) for the last five years. At the beginning of the week we were both joking about the protests in our respective host countries and how the news blows it out of proportion and freaks out our loved ones back at home. (Actually she was complaining that at first the international news wasn’t giving Egypt the coverage it deserved, though she herself was safe.). Now, a week later, it’s clear something huge is happening in Egypt and no one knows how it will turn out.

We spoke in the phone today and she told me that her school has been closed for a few days and about a third of the students have left the country. Even though many Americans in Egypt are being evacuated, her school isn’t evacuating teachers just yet (though they can leave at their own expense if they wish). She says her neighborhood is being patrolled by locals who are protecting the area and drinking tea by “campfires” in the down time. From 8am until 3pm people are walking their dogs and going about their errands (she went for a pedicure today!) but everyone is sure to be back home in time for the curfew. With no internet now (and no text messaging either!) her biggest concern is boredom! She’s going to keep me posted and if she does get evacuated, may just come to stay with me in Beirut to wait it out (imagine the irony!).

So all I can do is think of how I sorta dodged a bullet on that one. (Well, for now anyways.) I’m also wondering if this could be me in a few weeks(?), months(?). All is quiet here now, but I guess you just never know.

11 Comments on “What could have been.

  1. It’s true you just never know, but bad things happen all over the world, all the time. (Who knows what might happen to New York City next?) Still, SO glad to know that all is quiet and safe in Beirut, and that your friend is safe.

    When Tienanmien happened back in the 80s, I remember that several of my parents’ friends were in town on business (I lived in Taiwan at the time). They couldn’t get out because the airport was shut down but overall the gist was “it’s localized. I’m fine.”

    • I think that generally “uprisings” or protests are just an inconvenience to foreigners (not the locals who have to deal with the ultimate outcome, of course). If Israel were bombing Lebanon I would be much more frightened than if there were protests (even violent). Though my Lebanese friends would probably say that we are relatively safe even in that situation.

  2. We have some friends that have been planning a trip to Egypt for next fall. They are now going to have to cancel. While it may be cheaper to travel there now, who knows if things will stabilize by then.

    Stay safe.

    • I have a friend who just bought a ticket for March 24th! She’s waiting to see what happens but might switch it to Jordan. I think your friends should wait a bit before they rebook their tickets. A LOT can change between now an the fall!!

  3. Im happy you arent in Egypt right now either. Though it seems like Lebanon is headed for the same thing. I just hope that if something does happen where you are that the school gets you out immediately!

    • Well, I know that they have a plan in place which includes 1) staying home away from windows, exterior walls, 2) coming to campus (the safest place in Beirut arguably), 3) going to the mountains to get out of danger (usually no fighting there), 4) getting out of the country via Damascus, 5) getting out of the country via Cypress. I doubt it will get to level 4 or 5 but it’s good to know that they are prepared just in case.

  4. I´m hoping these changes in the Arab world are for the best, even if not completely violence free. Minty mentioned Tiananmen – it brought changes, but not as many as one would want. So I hope these are different.

    Stay safe!

  5. Hey! Isn’t it strange how things fall into place? Please tell your friend Emily that CNN has had almost constant coverage of Egypt since the very first day. As you know, it is basically my only option for daytime television/ background noise, and I can assure you, it has practically stayed on Egypt for over a week now, not that I am complaining. I am watching it all. I hope that makes her feel better. And I hope she stays safe! Haley

  6. She went for a pedicure today? I can’t believe that. Wow. That surley puts a different twist on things.

    Her main concern is boredom? What about the next steps for the country, what about the well being of the people who are in the streets protesting, what about how this conflict affect is and has been affecting millions of people..their work..their homes..their lives.

    I suppose it’s comforting to hear that some people are not taking it too seriously? My friends father has been stuck inside of his home in Alexandria for days now..and I know for a fact that it hasn’t been as easy on him as it has been for your friend.

    • Actually, she takes it quite seriously! She wanted to go out and join the people on the streets and feels deeply for Egypt and the people who live there. What I meant was she doesn’t feel unsafe where she is so she isn’t concerned for her own personal safety. Her only reason for wanting to leave the country at this point would be because she is bored being confined to her house for the majority of the day. Turns out though that her school won’t be evacuating its teachers and will reopen next week. She’s happy that at least she’ll be going back to work (even if the students don’t return) so she won’t be bored.

      As for the pedicure, she said she went to get one in order to give the lady some business (and she was grateful).

    • I could have said that I lay awake at night listening to machine gun fire. I could have said that I sit glued to the TV all day crying at images of the protestors, many of whom are close friends, some of whom are injured and some of whom are missing. Instead, I lie to the people I love to protect them. Who could think that life goes on as normal? And what would you have me say to my family members and friends outside who are sick with worry?

      I kept my scheduled appointment because Noha is a single mother struggling to pay her daughter’s school fees. It was also a sign of solidarity. Almost all of the expats have evacuated but I am holding on. Although I don’t believe that it is my place to protest against a foreign government, I have gone to Tahrir to observe with my own eyes. More importantly, I continue support my community in whatever way I can.

      Please don’t judge my experience based on a sentence without a context on someone else’s blog.

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