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The following is a guest post from AUA Mosaic Fellowship recipient Nicolas Miyares. He recently returned from volunteering with Hands Along the Nile Development Services, Inc. in Egypt. To find an amazing opportunity like this one, search the AUA Directory of Recommended Organizations© today!
It’s hard to imagine that just last week I was halfway around the world in Egypt. The moment I stepped off the plane in the JFK airport, I fell right back into my college routine of excessive studying and eating a whole lot of pizza (the stereotype that college kids eat nothing but pizza is very, very true). By Wednesday (we arrived back in New York City on Saturday night), I was already so re-acclimated to college life—the endless meetings, the studying, and the lack of sleep—that when people asked me about Spring Break, I felt as if it all happened a long time ago. But it didn’t. The memories are still vivid and the story is still fresh; so when my friends eagerly asked me to tell them how I spent my time in Cairo, I was more than ready.
My closest friends—all action-craving guys—wanted to hear if I had been in any imminent danger or whether the region was as unsafe and unstable as the media outlets portray it. So they were a bit disappointed to hear that Cairo (at least the parts of Cairo we saw) felt relatively safe. Of course, we were only there for a week; but during that time I never felt particularly threatened. The constant sight of armored vehicles and military personnel took some getting used to, but overall, things seemed pretty tame. It was actually the sense of normalcy that surprised me the most about Cairo. A revolution that toppled a 30+ year–long regime was toppled only a bit more than 12 months ago. Since then, a council of the highest-ranking military officers has been ruling Egypt, much to the disapproval of many of Egypt’s revolutionaries. Although I didn’t expect to witness the instability that defined 2011 for Egypt, I certainly didn’t expect to see hardly any of it.
But what actually struck me the most about Cairo and its people was the fact that they are just like us. When I was a kid, I used to play with my globe and think of all the far-away lands I would one day venture through and the exotic, interesting people I would meet along the way. Now that I’m an adult with a passport full of stamps and visas, I’ve come to realize that while each culture and nation has its idiosyncrasies – humans in general – are nevertheless mostly the same. The college and English students (from the English conversation class we attended at the US Embassy) we met, for example, shared our same interests—they had similar social and political concerns and shared similar professional aspirations. In the Garbage District, where the zabbaleen make a living foraging through trash looking for recyclable goods, we found a community of people who placed a strong emphasis on education, business, and family.
I used to marvel at the enormity of the world and the sheer number of different cultures and people that inhibit it; now I marvel at how small the world truly is and how we’re all so very much alike. Our trip to Cairo only reinforced this notion, and I can’t wait to share it.