Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Race for the Cure, Egypt Style

I seem to have most occasional updates to this most itinerant blog of mine. It is not as if nothing ever happens to me. Quite the contrary. Alot seems to happen to me, though most of it too prosaic and base to really be of interest to an audience (or too inappropriate; one needs to be marginally cognizant of future employment when splashing her comings and goings across the interwebs for the generally uninterested human populace to see. Employers, and most especially government agencies, are severely lacking in a sense of humor.).

So where does that leave us? Well, it leaves me sitting in this most lovely of cafes at 1 in the morning, watching traffic flash by along Qasr El Aini, listening to the bubbles of sheesha and the strident voices of Arab pop stars on television, staunchly ignoring the backlog of homework and lesson plans cluttering my life. Maalish. No worries. Hakuna Matata. Inshallah, it will all get done, semi-on time and questionably well done. Have another tea, sit back, and enjoy the ride. Welcome to life.

We all need a car accident in our lives. Ok, maybe not an actual accident,with shattered glass and folded steel, but a hypothetical one at least. We need a jolt, a jarring, a jimmying of our current existence, something to tell us, 'yes, you are still alive, but that could change in the barest blink of metal and concrete and screeching tires. So do something useful for a change.' Or so a dear friend of mine tells me, marveling at the scars on his hands and the sensation of feeling life sift through his hands as the steering wheel lurched into a wall. My car accident happened last summer, when the jumble of my personal inadeqacies and mistakes hit a wall called reality, sat up, and took stock of the situation. Selflessness is stupid. Selfless people have no self. But selfish people have only fish to keep them company. Ok, bad analogy. Maalish.

So I did something moderately selfish and moderately selfless last week. I went on Susan G. Komen's Race for the Cure. In Egypt. Selfless, because my participation contributed to something greater than myself, to the awareness of a cause seldom voiced in Egypt, breast cancer. Selfish because it was held at the coolest venue ever – the Pyramids, and a greedy little part of me wanted to be able say. “Oh yeah, so, you did the Race for the Cure in your rinky-dink little hometown? I did mine at the PYRAMIDS! Mwhahaha.”

I am not Egyptian, in case you hadn't noticed by the glaring atrocity of my blonde hair, mischevious blue eyes, and Nordic height. I, therefore, am able to judge Egypt unfairly from my ethnocentric, American stereotypes that are clearly superior to anywhere else (can you tell I've been spending too much time with anthropologists. Geez.). As such, I expected the event to be disorganized, chaotic, and frustrating. It was none of those things. The shuttle bus awaited me at 7:30 am in Maadi, departed on time to the pyramids and deposited me at the front gate amid a swelling mass of similarly white-shirt clad Racers. I found my friends easily, despite the burgeoning crowd. We passed smoothly through the gates into the Pyramids proper, boarded a waiting bus and drove 10 minutes to the start line of the race on a fairly average plateau overlooking the last remaining wonder of the world in the clear glory of a blue Cairo morning. We milled amongst the multitudes, danced a bit to Michael Jackson, jostled near the starting line as the announcer told us the race would start, 'inshallah' in 10 minutes. It wasn't an unpleasant wait. Veiled and unveiled women, young and old, men and women, stood excitedly around us, playing drums and singing, waving banners and parading. An unseen signal released the horde upon the poor tourists merely attempting the visit the pyrmaids. 20,000 strong, we flooded the plateau of Giza in a sea of white and pink, sprinting, jogging, and strolling downhill, swirling amongst the pyramids, clambering atop their stones for photos, around the tourist buses stuck on the road, amidst the camels and horses, past ancient funerary temples and halting in front of the Sphinx, sweaty, laughing, and somewhat sun-burned, even at 11 in the morning.

A ceremony of sorts was held at the pavilion facing the Sphinx featuring music, loud Arabic orations, and general revelry. Jackie, Mark and I instead ditched the party and struck out into Giza, grabbing some street food, a taxi, and, eventually, a long Metro ride home.

This is the first time in five years that I have spent more than one year in a single location. The first time I could not merely flit away come May or June to a new adventure, leaving the wake of my old one behind. The first time I have a home of sorts, however dysfunctional, to return to. Casual acquaintances to remember and inquire after their summer. Favorite cafes and haunts to revisit and be welcomed like family. It's nice. Cavorting whimsically through careers, lives, friends, loves, and countries sounds terribly romantic, but this odd desire to be settled, semi-permanently, wars against it. I don't mean 2.5 kids and a white picket fence, but, permanency. Permanency. Stability? Selflessness? Selfishness? Somewhere in this amorphous world of vague terms lies a future. I suppose that's where I come in. To find it.