Sevcik's Blog

A year in Cairo Egypt

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

monasteries, Thanksgiving, and pyramid tourism

A couple weekends ago a few of us took a long Sinai day trip to visit the St. Paul and St. Anthony’s monasteries. They were incredible! St. Anthony’s monastery is the oldest in Egypt—dating from the 300s. St. Anthony lived in a cave up the mountain from where the monastery stands today, and should you decide to trek up the mountain you can search the cave out yourself! (See the pictures when I email them to you. By the way, if you want to see my photos but are not already on my list, send a message and I’ll be sure to add you.) One of the coolest things I heard all day was this; for over 1500 years monks have received water coming from a well source only 10m into the bluffs. Funny thing is, it’s been the same quality and amount of water every day for over a thousand years, and yet it never rains out there in the Sinai. Pretty nifty!
For Thanksgiving we had a whopping 47 people at our Dawson Hall home. Most people were other foreigners living and working here within a church or educational system. Ah, it’s so good to spend time with people who can completely understand your language and humor without needing to put much effort into it. And one of the best parts of the night was eating American food—yippee! On the eve of Thanksgiving our hired cook searched the streets of Cairo for turkeys and finally produced four big one for us. We also had gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green-bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, and pumpkin pie. YUM YUM YUM! After stuffing ourselves silly and getting all hyper (or maybe that was just me…) we sang hymns as Nelle played the piano. The climax of the night was talking with my family—including grandparents and aunts! The greatest blessing of the evening: having Teri back with us!
Thanksgiving weekend as also the perfect opportunity to visit the well-known Giza Pyramids! However, the day turned out to be one of the most polluted days I have EVER experienced and very hot. I literally walked around with a bandana covered with pink pigs shielding my nose and mouth. I still felt sick for a good two days afterward. (When the pollution is really bad, I get headaches, sinus problems, and feel drowsy.)
The day began in Memphis, the ancient capital of Egypt and one of the world’s earliest settlements. Today it’s not much more than a small community daily welcoming loads of tourists whether they like it or not. What’s left of Memphis is a little museum-type area full of unearthed tablets, sculptures, and sarcophaguses. Still, very cool to check out and there is one big statue of Ramses III lying on its back that is so smoothly carved you just want to stare at it forever and treat it like it’s the statue of David (see my pictures).
Next stop was visiting the step pyramids which is thought to be the first time stone masonry was practiced—that being the first time stones were cut to shape and purposefully placed rather than random rocks being piled up (thanks Teri!). Stealing from Teri: “It turns out that you can no longer go into that pyramid--not even archaeologists--because it's not safe anymore. That's right--after 5,000 + years, it's no longer safe. Why, you ask? Well, three words: Aswan High Dam. That's right, the big engineering wonder. The water table has risen like crazy, and continues to rise, meaning that formerly stable land is no longer stable, and formerly stable rock piles (like pyramids, like ancient churches, etc) are falling apart. Also, the weather has changed significantly in the past few years because of the rising water table. Apparently humidity is relatively new in Egypt, and the haze we've been experiencing this week has more to do with humidity than pollution, though the pollution is HUGE. The humidity just means that the nasty pollution looks more solid in the air. It was the worst I've ever seen it, actually, on Saturday. The humidity is ruining thousands-of-years-old paint on tomb walls, icons in churches, and buildings everywhere. In addition to all that, of course the Nile no longer floods so there are no more rich silt deposits in the farm land, which means that now farmers need fertilizer. Fertilizer is expensive, and it contains all kinds of chemicals that the land here never needed before and has not known. And where are the chemicals going? Into the rising water table and the already polluted Nile. Who thought this dam was a good idea? Many Egyptians are calling it "that damn dam." Amen to that.”
We moved on to the Giza Pyramids from there—the most famous of all. They are truly HUGE and amazing! It’s incredible to think of how perfect they are as well—the dimension are off no more than 10 cm in any direction, and everything is lined up perfectly with the four coordinates. These ancient Egyptians (or ancient slaves) were math geniuses, that is for sure! I spent most of the time working hard to avoid the annoying men trying to sell postcards and miniature pyramids or the other men calling for me to take a “very cheap” ride on a camel and take a picture. No thank you, no thank you. Every time I visit these amazing sites and want to be alone and sit in God’s glory and wonder of it all, I’m constantly hounded by people. Some of us visited the Solar Boat museum where archaeologist found a cedar boat designed to carry the (dead) pharaoh from the tomb into the sun/afterlife every day and then return.
As we were leaving the site, I took a camera shot/video of the contrast of contemporary society meeting antiquity; Pizza Hut and KFC are the closest eateries to the Sphinx and pyramids. One can munch on some supreme pizza and sip on some coke while looking through a window splashed with a semi-transparent “Pizza Hut” logo and see the magnificent creation of thousands of years ago through the letters “ZZA HU”. Odd.
Also, I’ve had some incredible musical experiences lately. In the past couple weeks I’ve listened to a World Music concert with Bill Evenhouse at AUC, a Cairo Symphony concert at the Cairo Opera House, and a Jai (guitarist from Australia) concert at Sawy Cultural Wheel. Almost every week the AUC holds a free concert on Wednesday evenings and I try to take advantage of it as much as possible. Can’t get that at home!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Stinky fish and Psalm 4

So, last week while I was subbing for Teri’s Level 3 English class (I subbed for 4 weeks) we were talking about traditions and holidays and I found out Copts fast for more than 200 days of a year! YIKES! Each fast through the year is a different length of time and expects one to fast in differing ways. This past week Copts have started the “Advent fast”. They cannot eat meat or any milk products until Christmas. Then, for “lent fast” they must also refrain from eating fish. So, that means no milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, meat, fish, etc. for 50+ days in a row, after already fasting for 40 days!

As we were discussing these traditions, one student explained many people break the Easter fast by eating “Stinky fish”—fish that has been soaking in a salt solution for a number of years. “Like lutefisk?” I thought. Not exactly. Tonight before my class the student handed me a wrapped gift and said her class is really going to miss me as their teacher even though they are happy Teri is back. When I returned home and opened the gift it was non-other than stinky fish in a jar! Ha! Oh, it looks and smells so horrible. No wonder it’s called stinky fish. If I ever had to fast from milk products and meat for more than a month you can bet I’d be eating a thick juicy hamburger and some DQ at the end. (Ironically, I am fasting from juicy hamburgers and DQ for a year! Hmmm…if anyone wants to go out for some good grub next August, I’m your woman!)

Last week I started reading Psalm 4 with my level 4/5 class and using it as a bible study. In an hour and a half we only got through the first four verses. Of course, we go on tangents for a while, and I make all of them speak the psalm out loud and we talk about the vocabulary, but still, I wasn’t sure if they left feeling disappointed that we didn’t “get anywhere” last week. Boy was I wrong. Within the first few minutes of class today Equib said since last week he has been praying Psalm 4 (and some other psalms) in English and has found it to be much more meaningful than reading it in Arabic! He explained that using another language makes it “new” again and the words help him visualize the message, especially since we took so much time discussing it last week. His spiritual life has awakened! Thinking back, it really was a great bible study conversation full of great theology and idea of how we should live. Ah…I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again—I love this class!

Thursday, November 24, 2005

a bit of this and that...

A wonderful woman reminded me that when we are doing crucial work for the Lord the devil is also working very hard to keep it from happening. Ah, yes, I agree. However, good always prevails and when you look around it’s easy to see how beautiful life really is! Today, being Thanksgiving, I thank God for the gift of sharing this experience with you and the blessing to be here in the first place.

Yesterday started like any other day. I woke up, got ready for work, had my bowl of bran cinnamon stars (the closest thing I can find to Wheaties…yeah, not really close ;-) with a banana, and headed out the door for work. Since I walk against busy traffic in one of the dirties parts of one of the most polluted cities in the world, the walk to the metro station always leaves me feeling dirty and coughing. I now wear sunglasses to shield my eyes and wrap a scarf around my mouth as a filter. It looks funny, but it’s worth it J
Being in one of the most populated cities in the world, the metro is always PACKED. Sometimes I have to wait for a couple of trains to go by before I even attempt to push my way onto the tram. When one finally attempts to get on the Metro she is shoved and pushed all over the place. People are trying to get off the tram just as desperately as you are trying to get on. If you ever just sit and watch this scene it’s really quite hilarious; thousands of people crammed so tightly that there is rarely a need to hold on because everyone just falls into each other when the tram starts and stops.
Yesterday was such an experience, with one main difference. When I got off the Metro at Nasser station for work I immediately noticed that my purse felt lighter than normal. “Oh, crap,” I thought. Yes, crap. My wallet and phone was stolen. Boo! Of course, I was upset, mostly at myself. Then I was upset to realize that it was one of my fellow female human beings who stole it (I was in the woman’s car). Ah, punk woman, why can’t we just stick together in this world?! Anyhow, I spent the morning trying to stop the phone line, figure out if I had anything incredibly valuable missing, and really hoping that I had my address somewhere in that wallet so that at least my IDs would be returned (no luck). Carole immediately typed out an “emergency contact” list that includes our address for each volunteer to put in our wallet and purse in case this would happen again.
So, word quickly spreads around work that I had things stolen, and I had so many people approach me with such support and empathy—it was so sweet! But what I really thought about was what was missing and how it’s really nothing. Sure, I’m out a decent amount of money, a phone, and my International Student ID card (which costs quite a bit to replace), and a few other things, but that is nothing. Being approached by people who go hungry daily and listen to them feel so bad for me was so humbling. Within minutes I was in a great mood again and chalked it up to experience.

The day turned out to be wonderful. First of all, we are now FINALLY connected to the internet! World Wide Web here we come! (Another project I’d really like to do is get an appropriate website created for St. Andrews…any ideas would be appreciated!) Up until now, Dick was the only person in the entire compound who had internet, and it was dial-up at that. Now, every computer is networked and we all have the internet! First of all, it makes my job much easier. Now I can connect with volunteers, send documents around the compound, and research materials for teachers. Whoo-hoo!
Ah, getting these computers connected to the world was such an Egyptian experience. In America, when we say we want something done by 3:00pm on Friday we mean 2:45pm on Friday. In Egypt, everything happens “bokra, insha-‘allah” –literally “Tomorrow, God willing.” This is the most common phrase in Egypt, and there is no doubt why. EVERYTHING takes longer than you want or expect it to, which means you learn to not expect anything to get done when you expect it to. J On top of that, every week I’ve been at St. Andrews my computer has crashed or the printer hasn’t worked or my documents have been lost or my A drive doesn’t work (it never has) or SOMETHING has happened to my computer. When will it get fixed? “Bokra, insha-‘allah.” Okay, so it’ll get fixed next week then, eh?
On the one hand it can be frustrating, especially for an American, to wait so long for anything. But, on the other hand, I’ve been learning how to be much more laid-back and less stressed than I ever have in a job. As time goes on, I keep realizing how silly our American “need to succeed” is—as a pastor at Maadi Community Church said, “We are not made to succeed, but to be significant.” Even though days can get lonely in Egypt, in other ways life is so much more meaningful because people concentrate on being “significant” to each other—living for sharing and community and spending time getting to know each other intimately. I’m convinced that many of America’s problems are directly related to the lack of intimacy, community; being a part of something bigger than the self. Look in the bible—Jesus expects us to live for each other and amongst each other—when we really love our neighbor as ourselves we have formed bonds that will pull us through the good and the bad—together.
There are some other great things going on at work. For one, The Arc is hopping! The Arc is an amazing ministry in the basement of the church. Here refugees find peace and renewed energy by expressing themselves through artwork. We supply art materials for the refugees, and when a piece of artwork is sold the refugee keeps 90% of the money and gives 10% to St. Andrew’s in order to buy more supplies. As you walk into this little, quiet church basement room in the middle of one of the most polluted and crowded cities of the world you find yourself mesmerized by the calmness and the serenity. In the back of the room you find a sewing machine and fabrics where students learn to sew clothes or make blankets, hats, and bags. Mostly, though, this area is a place for women to seek refuge. Suicide is a big problem amongst the refugee women who are cooped up all day without jobs, money, food, or purpose. Men have places they can go to smoke and talk together, but women do not. The Arc serves as a place where women can come for tea and coffee to socialize and share stories. In the front section of The Arc you find two rickety chairs placed behind two easels, usually with a man or two occupying the seat. Here you find expressions of anger, pain, love, and hope through paintings, pottery, and crafts. Women especially enjoy making photo albums and mirror décor. Yesterday artists spent the day tie-dying scarves to sell at bazaars coming up this month. I visited them and took a bunch of pictures. Refugees are traumatized, and being able to put their energy into art has been such a useful way to cope and keep hope.
Also, I held two teacher meetings this week and after 4 hours I came out with a HUGE list of ideas of what can be changed and improved around here. I’m so excited about this for many reasons. For one, I love having projects, so I’m personally pumped for the challenge. More than that, though, is that the teachers are getting their voices heard. Thing is, Africans are NOT used to sharing their ideas to anyone “above” them (in a hierarchy). They do as they are told, and they do not question authority. Ever since I arrived I’ve been trying to help them see that I really appreciate their feedback and teach them the importance of expressing their ideas and feelings. At the beginning of this week I finished meeting with each teacher individually to discuss my observations of their teaching methods and classes as well as encouraging them to let me know what we can do to help THEM.
Suddenly it’s like a small box just burst open with a big bang. Teachers are asking for specific things in the areas of teacher training, computer development, school dress code, placement testing, volunteers, textbook resources, discipline issues, etc. Slowly but surely we’ll address as much as possible. I’ve already been able to get a few textbooks for the classes and I’ve connected with an educational psychologist who is willing to provide free teacher training for the teachers. Next week we’ll put up new “Volunteers Needed” posters around the AUC and hope we get some responses. Other issues, such as student placement, are much more complicated and require a lot of time and thought. (See below for more details on the complexity of student placement in classes.)
It’s been cold here (yes, Egypt gets cold!) and we’ve been noticing that some students are still coming to school in summer clothes. A few of the children are sick with fevers and shivering. It’s becoming more and more obvious they do not have appropriate winter clothing and it breaks our hearts to know they don’t have the resources to buy warm clothing. Thankfully I’m working for an organization whose heart goes out to these children, and we were able to find some monetary resources to help pay for winter clothes. I spoke with one of our teachers about the issue and she agreed to go on a shopping spree for coats, sweaters, shoes, and socks this weekend. I’m filled with joy to know we can help these children with tangible things that make such a difference in their lives. For instance, this past week two little girls came to school very cold and sick so we brought them to the conference room and let them sleep most of the day using table cloths as covers. Today Dick decided we need to buy some blankets (yes!). So, we did. St. Andrews now owns two thick blankets to use whenever kids come to school cold and sick.
The hard part is trying to figure out how to give them things they need. With the youngest kids this is no problem—if we offer them a sweater they will take it. But the older children are very embarrassed about their situation and it becomes a sensitive issue. In fact, here’s a specific story for you. One of Mariam’s students never eats his “breakfast.” (We buy a fuul, taamia, or potato sandwich every day for each student—for some this is their only ‘meal’ of the day.) However, he keeps the sandwich all day and takes it home. Mariam figured out that he keeps it to share with his brothers later in the day. This poor boy is sharing his one small sandwich! It’s incredible.
Of course, these stories make our hearts break, and they also directly relate to how I handle my job here. One thing I’m constantly considering and changing is my expectations for the staff and students. When I first arrived many things surprised me, such as the number of students who show up late every day, the lack of discipline in the classroom, the craziness and noise of the flower class (Kindergarten/1st graders) and the number of teachers who have never been trained, to name only a few. In American standards, this school is not up to par. As time goes on, however, I’m becoming more and more amazed by my staff and students and see how incredible this Learning Center really is. The staff and children have all been traumatized in ways you and I could never imagine. They are dealing with issues outside of school we might never personally deal with in our lives—malnutrition, abuse, harsh weather conditions, famine, war, etc. Some have never been to a school so the concept of sitting quietly and studying at night is so foreign to them. When a student comes without his homework done, the reasons can range from no one in the home knowing English well enough to help to having to spend the night in a one-room flat with 20 other refugees and no light to work. Thinking of this, I’d say two key parts of my job description is to listen and be flexible.
Due to these circumstances, I’m realizing this school is not just for your classical educational purposes or to get students prepared for resettlement to a Western country. It serves as a place to teach children morals and values, encourage and empower them to make something of themselves, and to be a place of refuge and peace. The most important rule at St. Andrews is the complete intolerance of violence. Other refugee schools allow the staff to beat children as a disciplinary tool, but not here. The children have seen abuse their entire lives and it’s obvious. When students get in trouble in class and are sent to Henry or me they are so scared they shake or recoil at any touch or quick movement. Their bodies are so conditioned to beating it immediately responds in any type of trouble, even when they know we will not hurt them.
As I said, some children have never been to school in their life. They were born and raised in the bush of Sudan. Others come from upper-class families (by the standard of their home country that is) and attended good private schools before they became refugees and fled for their own safety. Some students speak English very well; others never heard English before coming here. Some advanced students are 9 years old while some 15 year olds are beginners. It’s my job to figure out a way to place these students in an appropriate class level, and I’m discovering it’s a very daunting task! In the past, students have been placed based more on their age level rather than current knowledge or ability, which has led to wide ranges of levels in each classroom. This directly affects discipline issues as well, because those students who are far behind get discouraged and then become a distraction. I’m trying to figure out a way to combine knowledge/ability with age to more appropriately place students next year.
Still, there are blessings within this crazy system. For one, all of us are learning about the culture and customs of people from around the world. Every day I interact with Muslims, Christians, Ethiopians, Sudanese, Egyptians, Dinkas, Eritreans, Congolese, Americans, Burmanese, Burkina Faseans, Canadians, Italians, Somalians, etc. There are some strong cultural, social, political, religious, and economic differences between us but at St. Andrew’s it’s like one family here—I sense a lot of respect and trust. I am so blessed to be included in this great ministry.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

BBC and Al-Ahram Weekly articles RE: Sudanese sit-in

Please check out these websites for more information about the Sudanese in Egypt. (The BCC has a LOT of information about the history of Sudanese issues in general--very good info!~)

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Riots in Alexandria...and student response

Many of you probably heard about the riots in Alexandria near the end of October. To give you a synopsis, a DVD recording of a performance of “I Was Blind But Now I See,” a play performed in a church in 2003, was circulating in Alex. The play is about a young Copt, Mina, who is persuaded to convert to Islam by the emir of an Islamic group. He is promised a flat, a wife, and better living conditions, so he converts and adopts the name Taha. He soon becomes disillusioned with the emir’s hypocrisy and decides to leave. Before he is gunned down, he reaches his family’s home, crawls to the doorstep, and is embraced and forgiven by his family.

As the film circulated the word spread quickly, and more than 5,000 demonstrators gathered at Mar Girgis church to protest the play and demand an apology from church leaders. On 19 October a nun was stabbed on the steps of Mar Girgis. When church leaders would not apologize (perhaps less inclined to after the attack against the nun), the demonstrators moved on to other churches and started attacking Coptic-owned businesses. By 22 October 16 shops in the area had been damaged, two more people had been killed, more than 100 injured, and at least 105 detained. It was the worse outbreak of sectarian violence and tension since 2000.

Questions are being asked about the timing of the DVD’s “discovery.” There is speculation that the unrest might provide the government with a justification for extending emergency law. Some have said the violence is an attempt by Islamic extremists to tarnish the image of Maher Khalla, one of two Copts who is running in the upcoming parliamentary elections. Khalla withdrew from the elections on 22 October, saying he wants to avoid the recurrence of violence.

Thankfully, many people are looking for a bright future and are angry at the media for heightening tensions between religious groups. One man said, “People threw rocks and garbage. Why? For what? Ignorance. Really, this is nothing but ignorance. The man who attacked the nun hadn’t even watched the DVD. This is barbaric.” Another man said, “This isn’t going to stop me from associating with my Muslim friends…in this neighborhood, we—Copts and Muslims—live together. We share the same hardships. It’s inconceivable that a problem like this should tear us apart.” (Cairo Magazine, Issue 29.)

In light of this, I decided to talk with my conversation class about what it’s like to be a Christian in Egypt. Keep in mind these are the opinions of my class of Coptic Christians (with their own bias) and do not reflect society as a whole!
When I asked the class about Christian/Muslim relations I heard the following:
**It already takes years to get permission to fix something in a church (because the government has to “okay” it), but it is better than it was before. In the past, when a church was built, a larger mosque would be build next to it.
**The media is Islamic. Every TV channel stops the program during prayer time, and all but one actually recites the prayers on the TV.
**Some employers give the Christians a harder time at work just because they are Christian (again, this could just be opinion!)
**Christians feel the pressure to fast along with the Muslims out of respect for them. Employers are not good about keeping filtered water available for their Christian staff during Ramadan.
**All the students say they have Muslim friends, but they avoid the topic of religion. If they must talk about religion, they talk about their own and do not condemn the others. If they tried to question each other they would lose the friendship.
**Christians often have to work on their Sabbath day—Sunday—so most Christian church now offer a (generally larger) Friday service. Some can go to church on Sunday but are then expected at work afterwards.
**YES!!! One man said, “It’s important to not protect our religion by hating the other or saying they are wrong. Instead, we must go back to the bible and share it and ourselves with each other.”
**Most Christians want private education because they think the public system is biased for Islam. In public schools one of the most important subjects is Arabic Studies in which students study Arabic poetry, grammar, and the Koran. Christians don’t like it because they are forced to memorize Koran prayers and recite them. They are tested on this.
**There has been more freedom of expression in Egypt in the past five years than ever before. Ten years ago they couldn’t speak out against the government. Now they can (although they joke that no one listens anyway). I asked them, “What changed?” Their answer was America. America has been pressuring President Mubarak to move to a democratic government and for many Egyptians this has been a great thing.
**I also heard a lot of people say that among the educated, there are no major problems between Muslims and Christians. Muslim woman are best friends with Christian women and religion is never an issue.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Terry Waite

This evening I attended The Church of St. John in Maadi for a lecture by Terry Waite, a hostage negotiator, humanitarian, and author. He is a world-renowned peacemaker, devoting his life to humanitarian causes, inter-cultural relations, and conflict resolution. Tonight’s lecture was “Survival in Solitude”; a talk of his own experiences in solitary confinement for four years in Beirut, Lebanon. It was one of the best speeches I’ve heard in my life, and I would like to share some of it with you.

For over 4 years Waite was chained to a wall, often left in darkness, beaten, and subjected to a mock execution. One example of torture; a guard would place a pillow over Waite’s face, sit on it, and other man would whack Waite’s feet with cables. Other times Waite was forced into a locked refrigerator. All his possessions were taken from him and was left with shorts and a singlet in the summer and pajamas in the winter. He slept on the floor. He was allowed only one bathroom break per day. Every time a guard came into the room Waite had to put on a blindfold; I got the impression that he didn’t see a human face for 4 years.

Waite began his speech by explaining some of his rather humorous experiences in confinement. Fortunately, one of the guards was relatively nice to him, and agreed to help find English books for Waite. However, the guard couldn’t read English, and even if he could, it was unsafe for him to be caught in a bookstore with English books. In some way, there was a friend of a friend of a friend who was able to pick up books for Waite. The first book; The Great Escape by Paul Brickhill about American and British POW’s efforts to escape camps from their German captors in WWII. Ironic, isn’t it? The second book was a manual about breast feeding. J The next book was about infants. Waite was clever, though. He asked for paper and a pencil (one of two times he was allowed paper) and drew a picture of a penguin, telling the guard to get books with this animal on it. It goes to show the value of symbols and trademarks—they travel across nations and cultures more than just about anything. Powerful. Also, I was amazed at Waite’s ability to laugh at these situations and see the humor in them.

When Waite first realized he had been tricked into becoming a hostage himself, he told himself to follow these three thing; do not regret, do not pity yourself, and know your sentimentality (i.e., do not say “Oh, if only I would have done this…”). Instead, he decided to approach each day as a gift and live within the moment. You are where you are now and you must deal with that. Being regretful or pitying yourself will only demoralize you and make you ineffective and lose hope.

As Waite saw his physical body disintegrate he knew he had to learn to live from within. In his mind he ‘wrote’ poetry and thought of books he knew well. He used the language of his mind to create harmony in his soul. Your whole life is in your head, really; you cannot see, hear, think, talk, etc. without your mind. Therefore, you must use creative imagination to keep your soul going, but you must also discipline the mind so that it doesn’t run away form you and think of the worst possible scenario. Also, he said it is important for everyone, at some point in life, to be self-centered; not to be selfish, but to know the self. When you do this, you realize the dark side of your self along with the light side, and you must face it. You cannot focus on obliterating the darkness, but rather embrace your humanness and heighten your lightness for the world.
No matter what happened to him, Waite knew his soul could never be taken from him. This belief kept him maintaining hope, and hope keeps you alive. He also would never let his anger turn to bitterness. He continued to stress we must never let anger turn into bitterness. Bitterness is the cancer of the soul and will lead you to hate and violence, spreading more bitterness and hate.

Once, when Waite was very sick, he was able to plead with a guard to let him use the bathroom one extra time that day. In the restroom Waite found the guard’s gun, and within an instant decided he would not use it for any purpose. Why? Integrity. Waite had always told the hostage takers that violence is never a solution; violence only leads to more violence. So, after using the restroom he told the guard, “You left something in there” and went back to his cell. You can be robbed of most things, but if you really lose everything if you sacrifice your integrity.
Waite was able to look beyond his own suffering and see the greater picture. He realized that his captures had also experienced oppression, and they were suffering in many ways of their own, such in that they lost the ability to view their hostages as human beings. You can only imagine the defeat of the soul when you have enough fear, anger, and hate in your heart that you lose the sense of sympathy for a fellow human being. Waite said no matter what suffering exists in your life and in the world, you cannot let suffering destroy. You must use it for creative good. At heart most people believe in compassion, love, and justice. At the heart of Christianity and at the heart of Islam is a desire for peace and justice. There are no shortcuts to peace and stability, but we each have the responsibility to do our part in this world.

The speech was full of wisdom, expressed through this man’s own integrity in these experiences. His speech was light-humored, hopeful, and honest. He stood as a symbol of the peace, grace, and open-heartedness. Especially in light of what I’ve experienced lately, Waite spoke to me when he said this; in dire situations, you discover the resources inside you that you never really knew you had—they come out in you when you need them to. Humans really are amazing creatures.

Star Tribune Article RE: Sudanese in Egypt

Please check out the article from this week's Minneapolis Star Tribune. (Thanks Sarah!) I have met Isaac a number of times at St. Andrew's. Remember one important thing as you read it--this is American media. Therefore, take what is said with a grain of salt. The way Egyptians are portrayed is very negative, but it is not the attitude of Egyptians as a whole. In fact, most people I associate with are very interested in helping the Sudanese. It's mostly the uneducated who make problems for the Sudanese (and Westerners for that matter!).

One thing I didn't notice until someone pointed it out is the photo gallery of 8 photographs. Be sure to click on that link!

Free of Sudan but trapped in Egypt, by Sharon Schmickle

Mosques and Ultimate Frisbee

I had a GREAT day today! It started with a tour of Islamic Cairo with the Dialogue Forum and ended with playing Ultimate Frisbee in the Gezira Club. We toured the Sultan Hassan Mosque, Al Rifai Mosque, and Qasr al Amir taz. The Sultan Hassan mosque was built in 5 years in 1352. On the left side of the entrance is a slab of black marble for people with “blind eyes” and on the right side is a slab of white marble for people with physical handicaps; the Sultan will hand out money to these people each week. We saw the four elements of the mosque—pulpit (where the man preaches), the niche (where a man speaks against a wall in the direction of Mecca and the voice is echoed), the stand where a man projects the prayers so all can hear, and the Chair of Islam where the Imam sits cross-legged and reads the large hand-written Quran. The four schools of Islam have been taught at this mosque (100 students per school) in the four corners of the courtyard. Also, there used to be a thriving hospital there—used as quarantine during the black plague. When we toured the Al Rifai Mosque we saw the tombs of Muhamed Ali’s grandson’s four wives; a French, Egyptian, Greek, and Turkish woman. Also, the mosque is depicted on the 10 pound Egyptian note.

This afternoon I met with Tamboura and Rania (both work at St. Andrews) to play Ultimate Frisbee at the Gezira Club. I believe the Lord answered some prayers with this experience. The Gezira Club is on Zamalak Island on the Nile and one of the only places in Cairo where fields of green exist. In general it’s very expensive to get into the club, but going into a side gate we pay Le 3 to use a small portion of one field to play Frisbee. The team is composed of young adults from Europe, Egypt, Sudan, Burkina Faso, Burma, Canada, America, etc. who gather each week to let out some energy in an intense 2 hours of Ultimate Frisbee. A great melting pot! And guess what? There is a TRACK there as well! It’s a dirt track, about a mile long and loops around a number of fields. After playing one game of ultimate I decided to spend time running. When I reached the far side of the track I found a 400m turf track to run on as well. I saw men playing soccer, a man timing his son doing 50m dashes, and a birthday party using a field for entertainment and dancing. There was a mosque as well, and at sundown a number of people (including Rania) took a break to pray.

After the game five of us went to a coffee/tea shop to relax and drink some fresh mango juice. Our group included a computer science man from Burkina Faso who speaks 4 languages, a man from Burma who speaks 8 languages, an Egyptian man working his way through school at AUC and Cairo University for a double master’s degree, another man, and me. We had good conversation, and I felt very comfortable with each of these men.

And guess what? As I walked around town today I counted the number of men who DIDN’T look at me at all. I counted over 25. I thank the Lord for these 25+ men today who don’t get a rat’s bottom about me in any shape or form! That’s quite funny, actually—thanking God for men who are not interested in me at all! J

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Bait El Salam and Synod of the Nile 150th Anniversary

Last weekend our group met up for the first time since we split up for our volunteer over a month ago---and it's about time! :-) We were invited to a 50th anniversary celebration for the Beit El Salam (House of Peace) center near Alexandria. A number of original volunteers (mostly American) who helped build the center back in 1955 were there. We are the 2005 'generation' of these volunteers, so we were there to bring the new with the old. We really didn't have a part in the celebration, other than to sing HAPPY BIRTHDAY BAIT EL SALAM about 10 times, eat some good meals and a piece of the most gigantic cake I have ever seen (it took 10 men to walk this cake to the front of the room), and listen to how the center has helped so many people over the years. Our sleeping arrangements were awesome--18 women in one 'dorm room' of 9 bunks. I could barely get around my bunk to get into bed. The woman sleeping below me was about 65 years old and had a bad cough. Across the room was a woman with an infant, crying. Some people snored. We went to bed with the lights on and people coming in at all hours of the night talking in normal voices. Still, I slept really well and it was quite an experience, esp. with communication barriers!

We had an extra day to tour around Alexandria, but with the combination of our bus coming 3 hours late and the fact that all tourist sites were closed for Eid, we ended up going out to eat at a fish restaurant and shopping at Carrefour. The best part of the weekend was being together again and enjoying the fresh air on the beach.

November 8th was the big day for the Synod of the Nile 150th anniversary at Kasr Al Doubara Evangelical Church. Here's some history for you: (Thanks to Jason Clay--he gets credit for this!) In the 1850’s, the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America sent missionaries to Egypt and evangelized up and down the Nile on a houseboat. An Indian prince had come to Egypt to select a bride, and when he married an Egyptian woman, they had their honeymoon on a houseboat. After the honeymoon, the prince donated the boat to the Presbyterian Church. It was christened “The Ibis,” and the church used it for years, up and down the Nile. Eventually they set up permanent missions in cities such as Alexandria, Assuit, and Minya, and built a seminary in Cairo. Their main focus was on education, so they built schools for children all over Egypt. That tradition is still alive today. In fact, we live at one of the schools: The Ramses College for Girls. Currently there are around 30 schools in Egypt run by The Synod of the Nile. In 1891 the first batch of Egyptian ministers graduated from the seminary. Evangelical Theological Seminary (Evangelical means Presbyterian in Egypt) still exists today, and is only a 20-minute walk from where we live. Last year they graduated 35 students and the enrollment is on the rise.

In the 1920’s Egyptians gained independence from the Americans and have been running the Egyptian Evangelical Presbyterian Church since then. The actual name of the church varies depending on who you are talking to or what time period you are reading about, but for all intents and purposes, it is the same as the PC(USA), it’s just in Egypt, run by Egyptians.For those of you not in the Presbyterian Church, a synod is simply a governmental body. In the U.S., the structure of the Presbyterian government goes like this: Local Church Session à Presbytery à Synod à General Assembly. Each level encompasses a larger geographical area than the last, with the General Assembly covering the entire country. The church in Egypt has the same structure but the Synod is the largest level. There are eight presbyteries and 312 churches in the Synod of the Nile.So when we talk about the History of the Synod of the Nile, we are really talking about the history of the Presbyterian Church in Egypt, beginning with the first missionaries from the U.S.

Now back to the 150th Anniversary celebration. The large church was packed with Egyptians from all over the country, forty some odd foreigners including Americans, Scots, Dutch, Germans, and Canadians, and representatives from each major religion/denomination in Egypt, including Islam. In fact the most prominent Muslim from Al Azhar Mosque, the center of Islamic thinking, attended and gave a very inclusive speech. His name in the program is Grand Imam Dr. Mohamed Said Tantawy. In his speech he said, "We can love each other...we should live together united. We need to suport each other. Only God can wage religion...We can be different and argue, but in the end the argument should fade away by opening our hearts to each other. We are privileged with peace and forgiveness... We salute and congratulate the evangelical church. May God continue our peace and unity and scatter love ot each other, not war." WOW.

Marian McClure, Director of the Worldwide Ministries Division of the Presbyterian Church gave the keynote address. There were representatives of the Roman Catholic Church and The Coptic Catholic Church, and the Mayor of Cairo delivered a speech. This whole celebration was a BIG DEAL, attracting all kinds of “powerful people.” Martha Roy, the 92 year-old musicologist who plays the organ at St. Andrews was given special recognition. Victor Makari (a native Egyptian who now lives in the U.S. and works for the PC(USA)) spoke about Martha said she had known five generations of his family starting with his grandfather, down to his grandson. (Thanks Jason!)

By the way, the only major religion/denomination not present was the Coptic Orthodox Christians. The Coptic Catholics are a separate church from the Roman Catholic church, but they recognize the Roman Catholic pope. The Coptic Orthodox, on the other hand, have their own pope, Pope Shenouda II.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Violated--worst experience(s) in Egypt

I prayed I would never have to write a blog like this, but it’s time. Well, I guess I don’t HAVE to write about this, but I’ve decided that I created this blog to give an honest account of life in Egypt and I have a responsibility to do just that, even the bad things.
So, here goes.

Yesterday I had one of the worst experiences of my life. I was horribly groped as I was coming home from work. I noticed the shadow of this man before he actually approached me, but I didn’t expect him to do what he did. Right as I was nearing RCG I came to the point where I’m blocked on both sides—RCG’s wall to my left and the start to a bridge to my right. Just then I felt a hand from behind swipe me starting from the crotch on backwards. It was disgustingly deliberate and carefully timed. I was FURIOUS. I quickly turned around and shrieked at this man. He did not expect me to stand my ground. He backed up and said, “Oh, I’m sorry.” Yeah right. I then started approaching him with more shrieks and yelling (not such nice things) at him. He became frightened and ran off.

It might not have turned out so well. Ha. “So well.” As if feeling like a piece of meat, degraded, demoralized, violated, slimed, and being totally taken advantage of is an okay thing. But, really, it could have been worse. Unfortunately, you usually cannot yell back at these nasty men. Why? Because they turn it right back on you and there is nothing you can do about it. Once you accuse them of being a pig, they (in Arabic) yell that it was YOU (the WOMAN) who tempted him and therefore it’s YOUR fault. And this works, because what else can they expect from a Western woman? This is NOT America, meaning that I have no rights here to speak up against it. If you are American, stop right now and thank God for the laws and rights you have as an American. In America this is sexual harassment, here there isn’t a darn thing I can do about it.

I am appalled at the way men behave in this culture. The experience I had yesterday has happened many times, actually. It happens walking down the street, on the metro, walking up stairs, anywhere. And the men are skilled at making it look like they are doing nothing wrong. They are like pick-pocketers, only woman-violators. I can think of a number of times I’ve grabbed a man’s hand and thrown it as he’s been slightly touching my butt or breast or something to that effect. I am becoming more and more tense as I walk down the street. Although you can sometimes figure out who is going to give you trouble, some of them are so good at it that they don’t reach out for your crouch until the last literal split second. And, being in a city of 22 million people, it’s not easy to avoid the crowds on the street enough to be left alone.

My response to this is getting worse with time. When I first arrived it was easier to just think, “Oh, those crappy men” and try to laugh it off, praying for them, and keeping my cool. But yesterday I came in bawling and trying to find Carole for comfort. I came here as an adventurous, equality-minded woman and I’m slowly but surely having to change my identity to fit this culture. I certainly won’t sacrifice too much of myself, but some parts of me have changed.

In my entire life I’ve always approached people with sincere trusting. I assume “innocent until proven guilty” with people. Now, it’s “guilty until proven innocent.” I’ve hardened. I’ve tensed up. Thing is, I have reason to not trust. I have not made one genuine friendship with a man here. Frankly, it just doesn’t happen for women. This is so hard to accept, because my experience is vastly different than the experience of the male volunteers and I have to work on not resenting that fact. Even the one Egyptian male who we have become friends with and learned to trust over the past couple months has started to cross the line with me.

One of the worst parts of this is that these experiences are affecting my view of the Egyptian culture and I feel so bad about feeling that way. So, it’s a cycle. I get angry, and then I’m angry for being angry. I tell myself I need to think of it from their perspective, I need to be more patient, I need to be x,y,z. But, I’m getting to the point where I don’t want to make excuses anymore. I don’t want to feel like I need to “be” a certain something or accept being treated with such disrespect.

Why do the men behave this way? First of all, it’s men of ALL ages—from 13 years old to over 60—no joke. It makes me ill (literally at times) to have men older than my father treat me like a sexual object. It seems to be “taught” in this culture that it’s okay to be this way. There are probably many reasons for it. For one, the mixture of the religious and social culture has a lot to do with it. Most women are veiled in Egypt, and more and more are taking on the veil all the time. There are at least twice as many women wearing the veil as there was two years ago when I was here. There is an aspect of this that psychologically makes you desire more that which you cannot see or have. Then comes the release, and it happens not just to Westerners (but probably to us more because they think we are all about sex) but also to Egyptian women. Also, men and women grow up so separately. The idea of Western dating does not exist—you cannot “date”, hold hands, meet alone, etc. The only woman you’ll really ever ‘know’ or ‘see’ is your wife, generally an arranged marriage. Sexual tension builds up. Also, men ‘rule’ within the Islamic/Egyptian culture, and therefore woman can be seen as objects to be conquered. There is an aspect of this that is certainly a power struggle deal. There’s more to it too, I’m sure. For instance, the unemployment rate. So many educated (and non-educated) people are without jobs and it robs them of their sense of identity and empowerment. It seems that many people are frustrated with their living situations and this comes out in a variety of ways.

Despite trying to understand the root of these issues, something changes when it suddenly happens to you. Three months ago I could have been sitting at home having a discussion with a good friend and expressing open-mindedness as to why men behave this way. The moment you become a victim it changes everything. Everything. I can’t even imagine the emotional, physical, psychological, and spiritual turmoil a rape victim must feel.

So what do I do? I know we are suppose to go out and get to know people. But I'm wondering if it would best for me to just keep the few I do trust close to me and avoid the rest. My experience thus far in "going out and experiencing" has been much more negative than positive for my self-being and my attitude towards this culture. Thank the Lord for having a chance to teach conversation class (with good men) and helping out with Dialogue Forum (with good men). These are the few things that keep me pushing through the rough spots.

I am also so afraid that this will affect me when I return home. Will I feel liberated when I return home, or will I have learned to not trust men? (It’s scary how fast these experiences can add up to really hit you at the core—your soul—and change your perception of people.) I am truly concerned about this and I ask for your prayers about this; not just for me, but all of us dealing with similar issues. We need your support and your love.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Female Teen Workshop Day 2

On November 1st we held the second workshop day for the teenage girls at St. Andrews. Last week we talked about menstruation, female anatomy, and health, while this session dealt with male/female anatomy, sex, drugs, and HIV/AIDS. These sessions are SO HELPFUL for these girls! Most of them have never heard this information before--the ignorance is just saddening! I discovered in the African culture, you are a virgin so long as you still have your hymen. So, you can 'get pregnant' and still have your 'virginity' and be suitable for marriage, but if your hymen is broken, oh man, that's grounds for divorce right away! In Upper Egypt, actually, on the wedding night the man will break the hymen and expect the woman to bleed on a white sheet. The couple then hangs the sheet out of their bedroom window or door so that the family members (who are all there waiting) can see she is a virgin. Apparently you can now have surgery to 'fix' your hymen after it has already been broken so that you are a virgin once more; and this is done all the time! Another thing--most girls have undergone circumcision because they should not have the right to desire sex so much---because it would attract the men too much. It’s so sick it makes me ill.
When we discussed HIV/AIDS one girl asked, “Is AIDS like other diseases or does it mean that God is very unhappy with us?” Oh, no. This poor girl fears God so much that she believes the Lord is out to punish her. To talk about HIV/AIDS prevention we pulled out a condom and showed it to the girls. This was a bit of shock to them; it was even the first time my translator teacher had ever seen a condom. When she opened the package she gave a little shriek as she felt how ‘slimy’ it was. When Mary Anne pulled out a female condom the girls were beyond bewildered. The Sudanese women, by culture, cannot use contraceptives, and the idea of a woman taking that much control of her sexuality was too much for them. We quickly got rid of the female condom, but continued to express the need to protect from AIDS as much as possible. One girl said a brother and sister took a bath together and then the girl was pregnant—how did that happen? Oh, man.
One student, a girl from Ethiopia who attended a private school in her home country, told me after the session that it was so helpful for her! She did have these types of talks in her old school, but this time she was “less shy” and more comfortable listening and asking questions. That was so good to hear, especially from a girl who HAS heard a lot of this information—I can only imagine how it can help the majority of our students who didn’t have a clue. In fact, our office manager pulled me aside later on and asked what was going on in the conference room, because he overheard a group of girls say they were so thankful for the workshop and something “moved” them. Yeah God!
November 25: I sent a questionnaire around the classrooms to get some feedback about the workshops. When I asked what more they would like to know one person said, "I just like to know more about other things; about the trouble of life and health, diseases and how to protect ourself and how to be good people" and another said, "First of all thank you to teach us what we dont' know we get a good idea about it. If we take another class like this depnding on drugs also we get a good concept."

Thursday, November 03, 2005

El Minya

Last weekend I went to El Minya, a town in Upper Egypt along the Nile where Stephen and Eric are serving this year. It was the most incredible weekend thus far, and I’ve decided Minya is my favorite Egyptian town. The ‘vacation’ started with me running out of Dawson Hall late—about 7:12am for a 7:40am train, so I was trying to jog with my huge backpack My arms and legs were scratched, and my knee was bleeding. And, of course, we are in Cairo, meaning I was DIRTY. Alas, I had to continue and deal with being covered in dirt and scratches. Being that it was Friday morning (Sabbath day for Muslims) the Metro wasn’t moving to fast and I waited a good 12 minutes for the metro. By the time I made it to the train station I was dirty, bleeding, sweaty, and LATE. I went to the wrong platform and then a bunch of men ushered me in the right direction and they all yelled down the station to have the train wait for me. I just might have been the last one on the train. But, whew, I made it! I was even able to use the nasty bathroom sink water of the train to wash off. I didn’t trust the water too well though, so I put some Purell on my cuts and just let that sting. Well, it was the best thing I had at that point!
The train ride was mostly relaxing. I brought a book—Blood Brothers—and also enjoyed looking out the window at the Nile villages as we passed on by. It’s so interesting to watch these men and woman living just as they would 2000 years ago; women carrying food and water on their head walking around the village, men fishing on small wooden boats, riding donkeys, or doing back-breaking work in the fields. I kept having the feeling that I was in India, not Egypt. Of course, I couldn’t get by with a completely uneventful train ride. The man next to me, an older Egyptian man from Aswan who knew basically no English, kept trying to get me to look at him, holding his hand palm out on our arm rest for me to touch it (I think), and he also slyly kept touching my leg. By the end of the train ride he was asking if I was married and wondering if he could be my “babibi” (his dear) and marry him. Yuck. This wasn’t the first time I’ve been in that situation and it isn’t the last either.
Once I arrived in Minya, Yvette, Eric’s boss, picked me up and walked me to the Corniche (the waterfront of the Nile) where we found my home for the next couple days—a houseboat on the Nile. That’s right—I stayed on a boat on the Nile. One more time—I slept on a boat that was on the Nile. How great is that?! So, I literally looked out my window and there was the Nile...looked out my window and watched patches of grass float by, or men on fishing boats float feet from my bed. Even as I took a shower the window was a foot away, and oh, there's the Nile again!
Only one little problem; the key and the doorknob. The doorknob was broken (it fell off) and within the first 5 minutes I had locked myself into my room. (By the way, I also couldn’t lock the door from the outside or even shut the door without it getting suck and not being able to get in. One man had to crawl through the bathroom window next to my room to get into my bedroom window and open the door from the inside. Long story…). Fortunately there were three kids outside my room just about then and I yelled for them to open the door for me, crossing my fingers that they would understand what I said. They did! I soon met their amazing family and realized I had taken EFL classes with their parents in September. The Smith family (Jennifer and Brad, Nicolas (14), Rebecca (13?), and Emily (10)) is from Georgia and serving for three years through the MCC in Beni Suef. They’ve been here for 2 years already. For the next three hours I sat with the family on the boat to relax and look enjoy the Nile breeze. I had a good laugh at one point—across the river on a far-off bluff was the sign “El Minya” in big white letters—the Egyptian Hollywood! Ha!
That afternoon I enjoyed a large meal with Stephen, Eric, and a bunch of Stephen’s co-workers from the Evangelical Association for Sustainable Development. We ate on the roof of Yvette’s family’s flat building and from there I could see the village from a bird’s eye and watch people buying and selling produce in the streets. Like always, we had a wonderful Egyptian meal and I ate until I was stuffed—it’s no wonder I’m gaining weight here! We played Dominos, pool, Arousti, and played with a remote control car. I so enjoyed this group of people; they were so welcoming and many of them spoke enough English for me to get a good sense of their great sarcastic humor. Egyptians are well-known for their humor; and it’s great when I can get in a group and banter right along with them.
I woke up before sunrise both mornings to sit out on the boat and watch the sunrise over the Nile behind the bluffs and then go for a run. Ah, running; one of the great joys in life J I couldn’t begin the run, however, without having a ‘conversation’ with a man who knew nearly no English but still wanted me to be his bride. (What’s with that?) Thankfully Stephen came to rescue me and then running was great, especially running along the Corniche before the rest of the town was awake...without being hassled and harassed. Such a blessing! And get this--the Sunday morning on my run there was no one outside--its was 6:30am so of course the village is asleep, and Muslims had already prayed and gone back to bed. So, here I am running down the Corniche watching the sun rise above the bluffs and enjoying the changing colors of the sky and the reflection on the Nile when up ahead I see a shepherd with a flock of sheep! He was on the other side of the street, and was carefully herding his lovelies in a group to walk across together. He was wearing the typical turban on his head with plain drapes of clothing and was like I was back in time with Jesus! So cool!
In Minya I also toured the Beni Hassan tombs. It’s one of the only Middle Kingdom sites (2040-1782 BC) that survived the reconstruction of the New Kingdom. The main group of tombs is decorated with painting of prayers written to Osiris and Anubis and they are among the first decorated with only with brush and paint. They also have full front face illustration, differing from older paintings. I just love to see how these Egyptians lived so similarly to Egyptians now, or even people in general! There are depictions of feasts, making wine, herding cattle, sports/wrestling, harvest time, bird trapping, fishing, and enjoying music and dancing. The few depictions of the Syrian guests were so cool--women wearing striped and polka dotted dresses--it's so 'natural' that it's almost like these paintings were done just decades ago. I also noticed that there is an incredible representation of athletics and recreation, from wrestling and acrobatics to dancing and juggling. Really, in over 4000 years we certainly have differences in technology and the like, but really, life hasn't changed much. It was beautiful!
One of the great things about Minya was that people left me alone for the most part. Okay, yes, I had a few proposals, but that was much better than getting grabbed and mocked and yelled at all weekend. I mostly felt free to just be me. Sweet! The most frustrating experience was dealing with the tourist police. They followed the Smith family everywhere which meant they started following me. They came to Beni Hassen, insisted on going to The Crucible with us, and one even strolled 20 feet behind me all the way to Eric and Stephen’s house. When I left on the train for Cairo I was interrogated with questions about where I was from, why I was in Minya, and where I stayed. All of this information was written down and passed along. Not sure what they do with it, though. A couple other activities for the weekend included going to an Egyptian folklore song/dance/performance at the Jesuit school with the guys and Rania (a woman who works with Eric), watching the movie The Crucible at the Jesuit school (watch it!), drinking tea with Pastor Medhat (who has a congregation in a small village) at an upscale café along the Nile, attending worship at Saamia’s church (Saamia is our coordinator in Minya and works with Stephen), and shelling peanuts after the service with a bunch of congregational women.
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