Sevcik's Blog

A year in Cairo Egypt

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Field Trip with Mariam

Yesterday I partook in a field trip! Being that Tuesday was the last day of fall semester for St. Andrews (even though it was suppose to be Thursday, but that was changed due to the fact both Dick and I are leaving the country tonight) Mariam decided to take her class to a governate about 45 minutes away from downtown Cairo for a day of games and bike riding. I invited myself along, and I’m sure glad I did because it was a blast!

We rented a microbus and traveled out of the city to a smaller town in the delta region. After hopping off the bus onto a bridge over a Nile tributary we made our way to a park where we found a mini Ferris wheel, bumper cars, and an Egyptian DJ playing American rap music. We weren’t there for the wheel or cars, however. Instead, we found a grassy spot to play some football (soccer), dodge ball, and Steal the Bacon (also known as Steal the Luncheon Meat—pigs are unclean in Egyptian standards). Mariam, Amany, and I (the staff) where quickly knocked out of the games—probably so the kids could be more aggressive without “hurting the misses!” Cute! As we were sitting on the sidelines watching, a few of the boy students bought flowers for each of us. Later I found Ashraf pulling the pedals off of one, I think to figure out if “she” (whoever she is) loves him or not ;-)

Then it was bike time! Whoo-hoo! We rented about a dozen bikes from outside the park and we were given one hour to tour around. These kids were ecstatic to go biking! It was like Christmas morning for them. We had a hard time taming their excited energy enough to keep them near us so we could keep an eye on them and make sure they were safe.

As I learned at FLBC, safety is the NUMBER ONE thing to consider on these excursions, and I certainly experienced some fear of safety regarding those bikes. Because a few of the girls had never biked in their life, Mariam and I rented bikes that had a flat wired platform on the back used to hold groceries and other supplies, or in our case, another person. I was nervous in the first place to be riding these rickety old bikes (Globalites—remember biking in Luxor? Yeah, like that.), and I spent the first few minutes testing the pedals, breaks, and tires. I’m not sure what it is about these cheap bikes, but they stink when it comes to turning around. Like a big truck, one must make a huge loop starting from the curb and pray you can make it around before hitting the curb on the other side. Now, add another person sitting side-saddled on the back. Then, throw in some other road distracters such as other bikers, boys on motorbikes (who should NOT be riding motorbikes!), vehicles, donkey carts, and horse-drawn carriages—all without traffic regulations as we know them. Mix in a dozen enthusiastic kids and you have yourself a recipe for “Fear On Egyptian Roads.”

We managed all right, however. I started off extra cautious and conservative. Over time I gained more confidence and gave the student a faster, more fun ride! There was one major unfortunate aspect to this fun, however—the Egyptians. Since I don’t speak Arabic, I had to ask the students to tell me what the men were saying as we rode by. Sometimes they would tell me the nasty things that were said, and other times they said it was so bad they wouldn’t repeat it. Of course this just boils my blood, but there’s something even worse—the way some (not all) Egyptians treat Sudanese. It went so far as having an Egyptian man drive past us, then stop to wait for us to catch up, only to shout out the window that we are different colors and shouldn’t be together. Other young boys would ask the girl sitting on my bike if she and I are friends, and when she said yes, they said they wouldn’t believe it. Why would this white woman want to be friends with an African? It’s sick, isn’t it? I tried to teach a couple students how to bike, but it’s a bit different when they are 12 instead of 6. They are much too heavy for me to do much good and eventually we went back to riding two on one.

After biking time, we played “hackysack” with a football, and each time a student got the ball the others would yell out his or her tribe and crack some jokes--all in good humor. Even though I don’t understand Arabic and had no clue what was going on most of the day, actions speak louder than words and it was obvious how much the students care for one another. They get along so well and look out for each other. Back in Sudan these tribes are/were killing one another, but our students in Cairo are learning to love and respect each other. Only an hour ago before on the street we experienced the differences that separated us (Egyptians, Americans, and Sudanese), but within our group the differences made for sharing and bonding. As we left the playground, Mariam said, “Let’s sing!” and they came up with none other than “I Lift My Eyes Up”—one of my favorite songs from FLBC, and so appropriate for all of us!


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