1.26.2011

notes from the sidelines

Several years ago I went to Egypt with my cousin to visit her family who lives there.   Her girl cousins waited up for us the night we arrived in Cairo, giddy with excitement. We asked where they wanted to take us. They took us to an Egyptian Hardees.
spot the 6 foot tall american!
Later we were taken in by a family who owed my cousin's dad a favor of some sort, and repaid it by hiring a private tour guide, chartering sailboats for leisurely trips up the Nile and arranging for chauffeured cars to take us through Cairo, showing us important mosques and museums.

Then they took us to their beach house outside of Alexandria.  The water was electric blue.
the water shames the sky.

And there were their servants (different from the ones they had in Cairo) who lived at their beach house.
you are already in love with that boy.

Those two, plus a cute baby, plus a grown woman, lived in what we would call a cinderblock storage shed behind the house.  I was there for 3 days before I realized that.  

I bought some candy and a toy for that boy.  As I was leaving I realized that he had to give it to the family (the boss's) kids.  He couldn't keep it for his own.  This really messed with me.   I was furious-to-the-point-of-tears while saying goodbye and thanking the hosts who had been so, so, SO generous to me.  

My cousin's mother tried to make me see reason.  They were a good family to work for. I guess I just hated that they had to work so hard, and that things were set up the way they were.  That kid didn't go to school, he never would. That girl gave me an elaborately printed prayer card even though she didn't know how to read. 

I wonder how old that boy is, and if he still has that expression, and if he is protesting in the streets of Egypt right now, and if these protests will lead anywhere, and if his life will ever get better, and if he'll be able to keep things for his own. 


1 comment:

Jeremy said...

Thank you for writing this. It's good to connect real people in the real world to the abstraction of the news.

I hope your cousins and their cousins are all okay.