Posted: December 25th, 2004 | Author: | No Comments »

“A few days ago someone asked me where I see myself in 12 years. Like most people I know I answered that I see myself married with a good career and a few kids. The person asked if that’s all I aspired for myself in 12 years and for the life of me I couldn’t understand why they would ask that and thus I stuck to my original answer not being able to see beyond what the person was mentioning. What else could I possibly want in life? A house, maybe. A dog? I really didn’t know. And then it dawned on me.I recently came back from a month and a half in Egypt and since then I could not tell anyone what I learnt about the people there. Now, I think I might just have found my answer. I went with my best friend and her family, all of whom were extremely well off, and thus I managed to live the high and mighty life in Egypt. But I did meet one girl and now that I think about it, she taught me more about life and she never said a word to me in a language I actually understood.


When I got off the plane in Egypt the first thing that hit me was the smell, the dusty, dry, dirty air. Everything smelt. And then I saw people, not just a group, it was a herd of people waving and screaming as friends and family came off the plane. I pitied them. I thought to myself, if this was Canada, everyone would be civilized, wait till the people actually got out of the doors before smothering them and delaying all of us waiting behind. And then I got outside. All I saw were buildings, one after another after another. Mostly made of brick, none of which really looked stable to me and I saw army officials everywhere with machine guns. A diplomat from some country was going through the city of Cairo the day we arrived and as a safety measure young army men lined the streets in their thick black uniforms. They were standing there in 40 degrees Celsius weather and yet a few of them still managed to laugh and joke around. I watched curiously as water jugs were passed down the rows and each boy took just a bit in order to leave some for the others, and yet all I could think is how cruel it was to let those boys stand out there in the heat and how come each them don’t have a thermos and ice cold water. As these thoughts raced through my mind, I watched as one boy fainted and a dozen others caught him and haul him away behind the large walls with wire lacing and loads of docile boy faces with machine guns guarding the doors.

Everything I saw made me pity the people of Egypt even more. The boys begging you for money, the girls selling Kleenex for a pound, the men out in the heat selling hand kerchiefs and lavender necklaces. The men riding donkeys, the little babies sleeping on cardboard beside their mothers at 2am. The lack of hygiene and the lack of food, it all made me cry. One little boy came and stood next to us as we bought food from the Metro Store (the 24 hour grocery store owned by the French) and begged us for a banana. The bananas weren’t even ripe, but we gave him two. As I left the store I saw the little boy and he had nicely split the bananas among all his friends and sat there laughing at some joke. I could go on forever about what I saw and how much I wanted to cry for the people there, but there comes a time when you stop seeing these things and they just become part of the background and whether you like it or not, when it’s not about you, you stop seeing it after awhile.

So my story comes to a girl named Basma. She worked for my best friend’s grandma as a helper. Often she would com e to our apartment and help out with dishes and the sort. We decided that we would take her along with us to a beach resort on the Mediterranean Sea and off we went. I didn’t think much of it, she was a cute but simple looking girl of 15 and I thought this must be so awful for her to have to travel with us and see the Sea. We all decided to go to the beach right when we got there; it was the most amazing thing I had ever seen. You don’t find water that blue and that warm anywhere else. After having quenched our thirst for the beach we sat on the beach chairs we had and just watched the water, that’s when I saw her. Basma sat on the edge of the water and laughed to herself as the water slowly crept up the beach and soaked her feet and skirt. I later learnt that she had never been to a beach before, this Egyptian girl had never seen a beach when she lives about an hour away from the most amazing beach I had ever seen. She didn’t stop laughing and smiling at the water, it didn’t cease to amaze her. At the time I didn’t think much of the moment but I suppose my inner self stored the memory as clear as day for whenever I would need it. Now that I looked back I realize that I didn’t need to pity her. She was so simple and it was her simple life and her simplicity that allowed her to enjoy, what I otherwise just simply thought as amazing water, and find it completely enthralling. I don’t see life like that, little things do not amuse me, I seldom find jokes funny let alone laugh at the sea. That’s not to say that I’m a dark person or that I don’t enjoy life, but living in this society seems to drain you of your simplicity and replaces it with a rather hard shell where comedian are hired to make you laugh. What makes the fact that she spent so long sitting there, the entire time giggling and laughing away amazing, was that at the time her life was hanging in the balance. Her mother, I later learnt, was dying of kidney failure and Basma is the eldest of five children whom don’t have a father, but she laughed. And she never seemed to stop. Every time we took her to the beach she would sit by the water and soak it all in. Sitting in an outdoor theater she was amused by the TV and the comic movie that it had to offer. She never seemed bored or disappointed with life. What more is that she aspired to be someone, she wanted to go to University and though everyone knew that she would never be able to live her dream, she would still tell us that that’s what she wanted to do. She was going to get married in a few months, there was no way she would ever be a university student, not in her circumstance.

And now I realize that I don’t pity her, I envy her. I have all the opportunity in the world to become anyone I want to be and I dream to be her. I want to be able to want something, to dream for a goal, I don’t want a career I want to do something. I don’t want to wake up 12 years from now, turn off my alarm and force myself out of bed. I want to dream. I want to be simple. I want to see the beauty of the Sea, I wan t to laugh at the water, and I want to see beyond my own problems. With all that that girl faced she still wanted to go to school, she yearned to learn. I dread school and dread the process of learning. I occasionally find something fascinating, but mostly it’s just boring. I no longer pity the people of Egypt, what more would you want then have a herd of people you love dash at you as you enter the country, so what if we all have to wait a little longer to get out. The streets maybe dirty and the poverty level unbelievable but the country has culture and it has pride. The people sing and cry, they live and they die but nothing phases their laughter.”

— Written by N. after her trip