Tag Archives: sarah sheffer

The Cat that Ate the Canary


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.


Something that was missing this time was the firearms.  In 2009, men in white uniforms (or black, depending on their purpose) were on every single street corner in Zamalek, in 2s or 3s.  There’s a slow, eroding unnerving that happens to a person when they see so many men with guns as part of their everyday landscape.  It was nice to see Cairo unmarred by so many guns.  But make no mistake, word on the street is that for the first time, regular Cairenes are starting to carry guns to protect themselves.  And the lack of law enforcement on the street corners doesn’t mean that there are no soldiers or that they aren’t dangerous—we saw them marching in formation toward the US Embassy, and their handiwork is all over Tahrir in the form of injured, abused and sexually assaulted citizens. 095The whole trip was beautiful and made me feel simultaneously light and so much more like myself.  Something about Sarah and Cairo makes me feel like my course has been righted, like I’m not wasting my time, like I’m home.  When it comes down to it, Sarah is one of the people who is home for me, and everyone in her life opened themselves up to make me feel home with them, too.  I can’t express how thankful I am that I was able to have conversations about politics and play with kittens and drink wine and eat reese’s pieces and088 snuggle in a giant bed with four other people.  Cairo was like one long exhalation, like one big hug you’ve been waiting so long to have.
Until next time, Cairo,