Unexpected Incidents in Egypt
May 11th, 2010 | Blog, Travel, culture, dervish, Egypt, generosity, microbus, peace, Travel
My life in here in Beba has been similar to the previous posts I have written. I am still living here at the church and teaching English in two different towns. I have a couple more stories about Egyptians that I find telling about the culture as a whole.
Both of them actually happened as I was travelling between one of the towns where I teach and the one where I live. As you may recall I have been taking microbuses between these two towns which they pack completely full of people and then go careening off down the road to try and make as many trips as possible in the day so they can make enough money to pay rent. They aren’t the wealthiest people, these microbus drivers, but they do seem to normally make enough to at least feed their families.
I have been having some trouble lately finding microbuses that will take me back to the place I live at 9 or so at night which is when my course finishes. I think I had to wait for about an hour for this one to show up and when it finally did, there weren’t enough people to fill it up, so the driver made the trip with only a half full bus. Normally the microbus will drive to the microbus station which is on the outskirts of the town where I live and about a fifteen minute walk from the church where I sleep. So when the driver pulled up to the station I prepared to disembark like everyone else, but the driver told me to hold on for a minute. So I sat back down and waited for everyone else to get off, and then the driver turned to me and asked where I lived. I told him I live at the church, and he said, “ok” and took off driving towards the church. I assumed that he must also live around that area or something, but he told me that he doesn’t even live in my town, but in the big town about 20 miles away. He chatted with me a bit as we drove to the church and then when we got to the church he got the money out that I had paid him for the trip and handed it back to me. Now I have lived in Egypt long enough to know that people often play this game and it’s a form of being polite, so I politely refused it but acknowledged his generosity for offering just like I’ve done so many other times. I fully expected him to put up a bit of a struggle and then tuck the money back into his pocket. What ended up happening, however, after a 2-3 minute back and forth was me tucking the money into my pocket because he was adamant that because I was a guest in their country that it was a sin for him to take my money. I tried to explain to him that I live here now, and I have lived here for 7 months or so and that I’m probably past the stage of being a guest, but he wasn’t having it. He then bid me goodnight and drove off, back to whatever he was planning on doing before he realized he had a ‘guest’ in his microbus.
The second story also occurred as I was trying to get from the town where I was teaching to the place I could sleep, although this time I was riding the third class train that goes between the two small towns. Normally when I take the train, there aren’t any stops between the two towns, so the first stop is the place where I get off. On this particular night, I was quite tired and not really paying attention so I didn’t realize that this was a different train. At the first stop I got off, still without really paying attention, and it wasn’t until the train pulled away that I realized I was not in my town but in a tiny village between the two towns. It was about 10:30 at night so I decided I would try to go out to the main road and hope to flag down a microbus or something. I was also sort of bracing myself for the stir I knew would come once people in this village got wind of the fact that there was a giant white man in their midst, and trying to gear myself up for the onslaught of “what’s your name” and “welcome in Egypt” that I thought for sure would be coming (it seems to be the only two phrases in English that they really teach well in the public school systems here and so its what absolutely everyone knows).
What ended up happening, however, was that as soon as I stepped onto the sort of main road in the village I ran into someone I knew. Every church in Egypt has soldiers stationed outside of it, probably for the dual task of making sure the Church isn’t doing anything it shouldn’t be, and for dissuading anyone who may have a grudge against the Christians from doing something drastic. I sometimes sit and talk with the soldiers outside the church I live in, and the person that I ran into in the street happened to be the one soldier that I used to talk to quite frequently, but who I hadn’t seen in months. He told me he had been stationed in this tiny village because of some disturbances that needed to be sorted out. So the first pleasant surprise I had from getting off the train at the wrong station was running into somewhat of an old friend who I hadn’t seen in months.
After catching up with him for a bit I went out to the main highway area where the microbuses are and waited around hoping one would show up, which none did. I finally decided my only chance would be to hire someone with his motorcycle and have him drive me to the church. I saw some guys standing around and one of them had a motorcycle so I asked if he would be willing, and he agreed to do it, however as soon as I got on the motorcycle it ran out of gas. It was at this point that a man who had been sitting in his truck called me over and asked where I was trying to go. I told him to Beba, and he said, “okay get in here and I’ll take you.”
I thought that he was on his way to Beba already, and so thanked him and hopped in. It wasn’t until we reached my town and I asked him where he was headed that he told me he was just taking his son home and his home was right next to the place where he picked me up. He saw someone in need and although it was quite late at night (his son slept the whole way there) and I’m sure he must have been tired from the day and longing to get back to his house and rest, but he put all of that on hold to drive me to a town about 15 minutes away from where he had just arrived at his house. So in the end, although I had been gearing myself up for some of the more obnoxious aspects of the Egyptian culture, like people following me around and practicing their two phrases in English, I was not only not harassed, but was treated with an amazing display of generosity.
Anyway, I feel as though I have probably gone on long enough. The day to day of my life doesn’t really change, so I thought I would just fill you in on some stories that are true indicators of the heart of the people that I am living with. I hope you enjoy this, and hopefully it also won’t be so long before my next update. Also, I will now be in Egypt for another 3 years and I have my own rather large apartment, so if any of you feel the desire to come visit Egypt I will be happy to host you.
great read, as usual. Keep it coming, love to hear from your experiences.