My understanding of the situation in Egypt is limited. Here’s what I know: President Hosni Mubarak has been in power since 1981, and his government is beset by corruption; the country has stabilized but stagnated under Mubarak’s rule; protesters are calling for reforms, including presidential term limits and an increased minimum wage, among others. My limited understanding comes from a lecture I attended two weeks ago while I was actually in the embroiled region, studying abroad at the American University of Cairo.
My stay in Cairo was short-lived — within days of getting there, I unexpectedly got relocated to SFS-Q after I was evacuated from Cairo amidst the protests. Now, after a few days in Qatar, I’m excited to return to Georgetown. Despite my physical location, as I watched the events unfold last week, I had little personal understanding.
My first personal encounter with today’s Egypt came from my Survival Arabic teacher. Her name is Shareen, and she is a part-time, night teacher at the American University in Cairo. She is a 30-something, unmarried Muslim woman, which she admitted was highly unusual. For some women, she said, her situation would be a disaster. But Shareen is unconcerned; she works as an accountant during the day and a teacher at night. She hates her day job, but it provides her the steady income she needs to teach.
Shareen was an excellent teacher. Her task was monumental: teach five students a new language with a different alphabet and unusual sounds in 20 hours over five days. I made her task no easier; I joked and laughed throughout the better part of each class. As the best teachers do, she incorporated my silliness into the lesson. If I used a word we hadn’t yet learned, we learned it. If I was whispering, I would get a glare and I deserved every one of them.
Maybe most importantly, Shareen really cared about us. If we yawned, she asked if we had gotten enough sleep. If we hadn’t, we got a longer break than the other classes. She gave the class her email address and phone number and let us know that if we needed anything, Arabic-related or not, she was available. Shareen was the rare teacher that actually went out of her way to make sure that we knew her job did not end when we left the classroom.
Shareen struck me as a particularly progressive Egyptian, though my baseline is only hearsay — I didn’t meet many Egyptians. But to me, Shareen is the face of a revolution. She is one among many who will be affected by this revolution in Egypt. Though these protests have at times been ugly, Shareen unwittingly helped me to understand how important they are for the people of Egypt.
Rich Rinaldi is a junior in the McDonough School of Business and served as staff development director for The Hoya.