Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Tugging At My Heartstrings


Nothing humbles you quicker than being confronted with your own privilege. As difficult as Egypt has been, the reality is is that it has provided me with one of the few opportunities in my life to break into an upper-class sphere simply because the majority of  people around me are so poor. Due to 1) the strength of the U.S dollar 2) the unspoken respect commanded by an American passport and accent 3) and a degree of self-censorship from the prejudices of the masses that I've face, I've been able to maintain a comfortable lifestyle even with the daily inconveniences of Cairo. I've struggled with this privilege and it's inherent elitism throughout my entire time in Egypt. As a child growing up, there were periods when my immigrant family did not even have hot water. Thus, to be unexpectedly catapulted into an upper-crust lifestyle when children beg outside my window has left me trying to reconcile my sucesses, my obligation to my fellow man, the Egyptian gvernment's obligation to its people, and  the complacency and creativity of the people.

The other day, I was riding the metro home on the metro when a woman put her child down on the ground next to my feet and started peddling her goods. I was sitting in the corner of the cart and stared down at the bundle in surprise. Often times, metro peddlers will hop from cart to cart selling everything from glue to hairpins for a few pounds. The peddler will throw his/her goods into each persons lap and return to pick up the money for good purchased or the goods that people did not want. This particular woman was dressed in a dirty gallabeyah with a scarf haphazardly wrapped around her hair. Her feet had been blackened by the dirt on the streets and flopped loosely in over-sized slippers as she walked. Beads of sweat mingled with the stray hairs on her forehead as she gathered her goods (hair clips, I believe) and began a sing-songy chant about the quality of the goods she was selling. As she worked her way up and down the aisle, the young girl she'd put down sat stunned for a moment as she rubbed the sleep from her eyes. The child could not have been more than a year old and once she realized that she was in a strange place without her mother, she let out a heart-wrenching wail. The mother flinched at the sound of her child's cries but continued to peddle her goods down the cart.

I looked down at the little girl who's face was now smeared with a combination of tears and dirt. Her wails finally subsided into pitiful hiccuped whimpers as if she'd realized that her mother needed to work and wouldn't come back for her until she was done. The girl cowered at my feet and I instantly wanted to save her from the life of hardship and unfairness that surely awaited her. For some reason, I felt guilty that she would not have the best things this world could provide as i took full advantage of the best her country could offer me. I'd seen Egyptian women offer their bottles of water to thirsty people when the heat of the metro became too unbearable on the hot summer days. I was always amazed at the ease in which people shared water and food here without a second thought about germs or disease. I pulled out my bottle of Dasani water, unscrewed the top, and, a little unsure of myself, offered it to the little girl. She took a long drink of the cool water and instantly stopped crying. She smiled at the bottle, unconcerned about the source that provided it to her. Seeing how happy it made her, I handed the bottle to her. As I got off the train, I looked back to see her small arms wrap around the bottle as she hugged it to her chest and quietly waited for her mother to return for her.

In the News:
NY Mosque Near Sept. 11 Site Wins Approval
I Was Attacked and Beaten By an Egyptian! -What black women really have to deal with in Cairo
No blacks in the pool


Anonymous said...

Your article about the vendor and her child is sad, but remember you did not cause it, cannot cure it and cannot control stop the moaning.

Frenchie said...

I'm allowed to bemoan what ever I like on my blog. It's a part of being human to reflect. Thanks for reading!

villa spanien said...

Thanks for sharing your experience..its really heart touching post and feeling little sad also..Just to say all the best for your further life..

Divafied Mama said...

Your post has me feeling some type of way, in a good "there are actual human beings out here" type of way. Poverty is real, and anything little act of human kindness is greatly appreciated. You will be rewarded in the end!

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