by Nanda Navis (’12)
Each morning of late, I have been waking up to the hot summer sun of Cairo. I’ve taken to sleeping on the couch, since the living room is the only room in our house with a/c and my room is so stuffy it only cools down to about 80 degrees, with the fan on high.
For the past ten months I have been waking up to varying levels of street noise, taking a cab, the metro, and another cab to get to work each morning. The key to life, I have discovered, is flexibility. Traffic may be awful and make you late to work. Power outages may cut your fans and Internet off. Protests may keep you home from work for a week. But no matter what, you can always count on two things: sunshine and Egyptian hospitality.
When I get to work every morning, within the first twenty minutes I am offered tea. There are times when I almost dread going to someone’s house, because I know I will eat more food than I do on Thanksgiving. Egyptian mamas tend to insist that you keep eating and drinking tea even when you feel like you are going to burst. Hospitality has taken on a whole new meaning after living here.
Each day brings new challenges and opportunities. I have not been able to fully appreciate them, but that is part of the learning that has to happen. Each Egyptian is willing to stand up for for their country and their beliefs; to fight to make it better, to give more opportunities to the people, and to be free to worship their God. Their spirit and hope sustains them through revolution and upheaval. Even when you feel like you do not have gifts to give or cannot help, never underestimate yourself. Though I have only been here for a year, my ability to speak and write in English has proved to be remarkably valuable to the organizations I work with and even a little help has improved communication between organizations.
Nanda Navis, ’12, is living and working in Cairo, Egypt for a year-long term with Mennonite Central Committee. Her placement is in two locations, the Deaf Unit and EpiscoCare; both organizations are associated with the Episcopal/Anglican Diocese of Egypt. As a 23 year old who has lived in nine different countries, being overseas isn’t new, but being sans-family and working as a volunteer is. She spends a lot of time on the computer working with foreign donors, designing publications or websites for both organizations, taking pictures for said publications and hanging out with adorable deaf Egyptian children, as well as drinking a lot of tea and Nescafé. For more glimpses of life in Egypt, check out Nanda’s tumblr and blog.