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Africa » Egypt » Lower Egypt » Cairo
December 11th 2009
Published: December 11th 2009
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Hello Danielle,

Thank you very much for given me your email and for a lovely day actually it's a great one.

It's really amazing because my love for your people is growing up everyday but actually you deserve this love. Really you're people who God love them more than others.

Whatever I write whatever I say I can't express how I really feel and what you're really deserved. And there's no way we can pay you back, but my plan is to show you that we understand. We appreciate that. Please tell your people that.
Thank you very much again, this is my email address.

God blessed you and keep you.

Zakria.

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This is the email that I received today from a Sudanese refugee that is a student in our STAR (Student Action for Refugee Program) with which I am both a teacher and the Academic Director. This like others that I have received brings tears to my eyes and my heart moves up into my throat. It's difficult to swallow and it always takes me a while before I can put together the "right" words to write back to the individual. Its like what are you supposed to say? Thank you, Don't worry about it....Really what do you say?

The other night Amanda and I held our last English class with our group of Sudanese and Iraqi refugees. They had their final exam and then Amanda and I brought stuff to make ice cream sundaes and we had a celebration. As we called them up to help themselves they said that they had something for us - "We don't have anything to offer you that can compare with what you've given us but we want to give you something." They presented us each with a watch - nothing designer or expensive but they all pooled what little money they have to buy them for us. Tears immediately filled my eyes and I was at a loss for words. What do you tell people who have looked death in the face, have had their entire families murdered or lost in the swell of persons fleeing from war. Two of our students (now when I say students they are all between 18 and 55) were in the military under Saddam Hussain - they want to go back to Iraq but they can't, they can't be resettled in the States because they were in the Iraqi military - what hope do they have then? What do you say to a woman who has been raped by gangs of rebels or members of government or the army? What words can you give them that will somehow make things better, that will make you feel better, that will make everyone "understand". I faced many of these questions while living in the refugee camp in Ghana and all you can do is really make yousellf "numb" to what you're hearing because I don't know what its like to have been raped, I don't know what its like to be tied down and brutally raped and beaten by numerous men, I don't know what its like to watch someone massacred in front of me, to run for my life, to leave everything behind. I've experience loss but nothing like these people. I can't even think about something happening to any of my family members without feeling sick to my stomach much less experiencing this loss all in one swoop. You have to become numb as some point so that you aren't consumed with anger, guilt, sorrow and such extreme sadness. That is why in the classroom they aren't refugees - they're just "normal" people like you and me who want to learn a second language. They leave their stories, they're sadness, they're loss and fears at the door. In the classroom that's all they are...Students.

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It has been a difficult semester with the Egyptian government forcing the schools closed twice for extensive periods of time because of H1N1 fears. A 4 month semester was completed in 7 weeks. I took 3 courses (full-time for grad students), took intensive Arabic courses, got a tutoring job, became the Academic Director for STAR and also taught my own class with my friend Amanda. I've met amazing people (both expats and Egyptians) who have all become my family here. I've made Cairo my home and it really does feel that way. I'm here for a reason and I really do believe that. I'm here because something is telling me that I'm supposed to be here and that this is my "calling" in life because as difficult as it can be to be here (emotionally, frustrating, make you wanna yell out loud and hit something) at times, I absolutely love it and wouldn't change this experience for anything. Every day is definitely an adventure and there is never a lack of excitement in Cairo - that's for sure. There are always the emotional ups and downs of living abroad, especially in a culture such as this which can be extremely difficult for a foreign woman but I'm surrounded by amazing people and I'm really loving what I'm doing over here.

Justin was just here for 2 weeks and I couldn't have been happier - though I couldn't have been any more upset to see him go either. It was so nice to have someone from "home" here - someone who knows my family, Vermont but who also understands what I"m doing here since he was with me in the refugee camp. He's promised to come back in September so I'm keeping him to it. Beth arrives next Monday for 10 days (we were in Chile together) so it will be soo nice to see her and show her "my home" - especially since its the holiday season and its my 3rd Christmas away from home (I WILL DEF be home next year as 3 years is too long for the holidays). I have 7 weeks off before the next semester begins so I'll be continuing with my Arabic classes, tutoring and have plans to go to Tunisia for a few days before the semester begins. Also, my cousin Ryan and his girlfriend are coming at the end of January so again, so excited to show friends and family from home my new "home" here in Egypt. My friend Maria from college is coming in May for about a month so again it's soo nice to have so many visitors to look forward to. So far no complaints yet (though I guess you'll have to talk to Justin or Ashley directly to get the "truth" about that)!

I'm definitely having my share of fun as well - don't think its all hard work and no fun. 😊 The two local bars that all the students and young people go to are on my street so it's definitely not a repeat of last year in Doha where fun was hard to come by. There are lots of great restaurants and clubs all around the city. Some friends and I went to see Beyonce in concert last month - her first trip to Egypt - we needed a break from Cairo - and we had a blast. When Justin was here we went camping in the desert which was amazing - soo nice to have fresh air and to see stars again (haven't seen them in 4 months!). The pollution here is horrendous and the "experts" say living here is like smoking a pack of cigarettes a day - oh great!

Its still a little early to tell but I did have plans to come home next summer but as it looks I don't think I'll be home again til next December. Maria is coming for a bit and I have the opportunity to work with refugees here in Cairo as part of an internship that would be amazing. I'm also thinking of taking a summer class since I'm a dual degree student I would like to get some credits out of the way so that my thesis semester I can actually go "abroad" (as in out of Egypt) to write my thesis. I'm thinking about going back to West Africa to write on post-conflict countries (specifically Liberia and Sierra Leone) but we'll see. It may seem to early to think about it but our first night of graduate orientation the International Human Rights Law Chair said "as of this minute you should all be thinking about your thesis" - not overwhelming or anything!!?!??!?! So hopefully as my friends have already jumped on the bandwagon to come and visit the rest of my friends and family will do the same (hhh hmmm, mom & dad especially!!!)


Here are some links to pictures - just so much faster than trying to upload them on here. I've still got lots to upload since Justin's visit so expect some more soon.

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2037913&id=31601096&l=5153ce21f6 - Egypt

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2040060&id=31601096&l=623071f610 - you know you're all interested in seeing the Diva herself - haha - Beyonce photos

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and wish you all the best wishes for a Merry Christmas and wonderful New Year. Maybe you should all make the new year's resolution "to travel more" and come for a visit!

Lots of love to everyone,
xoxo
Danielle

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