Friday, October 5, 2007

The Interior of my Ministry: Part II

Yes, I live in a shitty apartment where my showers are dictated by when the hot water boiler in the bathroom decides to work. It’s sad sometimes that one of my favorite games while sitting on the shitter is how many ants can I stomp within my reach. However, who am I to complain? I have a great roof atop me, tons of piasters at my disposal and not a concern about where my next meal will come from.

It’s hard not to give to a crying old woman. My heart hurts if I pass her by. In a country of 80 million with nearly 30% below the poverty line, it’s difficult to help them all. However, there are ways, and I am very happy that AUC students are doing their part.

Through programs that help the needy, such as AYB in Ein Seerah and the Help Club delivering iftaars, AUC students are doing their part. It makes me happy that although the top 2 richest percent of kids go here, it does not stop them from developing their surroundings. An obvious schism exists between the lavishness of their dwellings and the streets they walk through to get to campus. For us and them, with only 7.5 EGP, which isn’t even equivalent to $1.35, one can provide a full meal to a fasting soul. A little money and effort can go a long way here.

That is why my shitty apartment does not bother me much. Plus, I have so many advantages living here. Knowing that I live in a standard Egyptian apartment, I know that I am living through one of the fullest study abroad experiences here. I deal with the super on a weakly basis regarding bad plumbing, gas, elevator problems, garbage disposal, you name it. I think this is helping my Arabic, or at least I hope so.

It’s hard to get to neighbors in my building though. I’m living with two other full-time AUC Egyptian students and everyone knows that our apartment is filled with three young bachelors and hence, everyone is almost always scrutinizing us. Yet people are still friendly. I’ve introduced myself to the young lady living alone next door. I’ve borrowed a lighter from the grandma living above us. The old retired accountant keeps inviting me up to his place on the eighth floor. His apartment use to serve as his office. Surprisingly, a lot of apartments in my building are offices. There are at least five doctor’s offices in my building. It probably makes it more difficult for my doorman to keep track of everyone. It definitely makes it more difficult for me to socialize in our elevator since I only see these visitors once on their way to the doctor’s.

Speaking of our elevator, it is one of the scariest rides the world has seen. There are two in our building each serving different floors. The one that serves mine has been broken since the day I got here and hence I have to use the other one. This means I have to take it to the sixth floor everyday and walk down one flight. I don’t mind doing this, especially at night. However, during the daytime, every time I get off the elevator, I see the huge drop between the end of the elevator and the sixth floor, terrifying each time I cross. I skip a breath every time.

As you can see, there are little things I am forced to deal with on a daily basis but it makes my experience here quite unique. I love the fact that I can hear the azan, the call to prayer from my bedroom window. That is also because there is a mosque catty corner to my apartment, to the side of the wizara-al-daakhaliyya, the Ministry of the Interior. And whenever I am hungry, I walk down the block to this place I call “The Red Place” since I can’t come up with a better name for it since I never bother reading the Arabic on their signs. They just have huge red billboards and tacky flashing lights. The place is legit though and I love the food and price there so I guess I should invest in its name, but for now, it’s “The Red Place”.

I love my neighborhood. I’ve explored three corners of it: north, east, and west. I have yet to walk down south and I don’t know what keeps preventing me from it. One day, insh’Allah, one day.

A lot of my non-Muslim study abroad friends have now come to understand what insh’Allah really means. It roughly translates to “If God wills” and is used to mean “hopefully”. However, when it is used, the new connotation everyone has derived from it is that “If all conditions are perfect, and the weather is exactly 15.26 degrees Celsius, and two cats walk side by side with me for two meters, and my big toe stops feeling itchy, I might come and fix the phone line, insh’Allah”. I’ve always understood this hidden meaning of the word because Bangladeshi people use it all the time, but it’s nice knowing that my other friends are picking up on these subtle thoughts.

In conclusion, insh’Allah, I will continue writing my internal thoughts. It helps, but not when you have three papers due next week. It’s finally hitting me that I’m not here in Egypt on vacation and that I’m actually here to study and work. The sinuses due to the changing of seasons haven’t helped but, but Allahu a’lam, God knows best. Everything is in His hands and He has helped me tremendously thus far, and I trust in Him enough that He will continue to do so. Jazakh’Allah Khairun. Amen.

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