OK, I wasn't able to post in here while in Egypt, we didn't have internet! I learned that time is viewed differently there than in some western countries, everyone is a little bit late. So here are some thoughts and pics since then!
One of my initial responses upon working with a group of 27 people from 10 different countries (Brazil, China, Columbia, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, Germany, Norway, Sweden, U.S.) was how much they know about American TV, music, and films -- they use many of our colloquialisms and slang. The differences between us seemed small, as their language was so familiar even as their accents were not -- they could all be living in New York!
There is a transparency that makes me feel at a disadvantage, as if they can know me but I can’t know them. They have a window through which to see me and my country. Of course, we know this is a very distorted view, but a view none-the-less.
I like surprising people from other countries when they meet someone like me who is not what they see on television. Even more so, I like that I’ve never seen the shows they refer to, and sometimes have never heard of them! Can I actually be American in that case?
The globalization that is taking place is one that largely effects the wealthy and/or privileged, but will no doubt trickle down to the others. The Egyptians I’m working with (as well as participants from Columbia and China) have grown up going to private schools (French or American) and traveling abroad, living in stark contrast to the rest of their compatriots. The moral consolation seems to be the employment of those who would otherwise not have jobs. Is this the model that many right wing thinkers in our country have when they declare they don’t want to raise taxes on the wealthy?
As our middle class erodes, does the United States become more like a “developing country” (or third-world, as they refer to themselves)? I want to ask our politicians, especially the republicans—would you rather that our country become more like India or Finland?
Of course, I realize this is all so obvious, but experiencing it is so much more powerful than reading about it.
Did you know that in Finland they don’t use gender-based pronouns? They have only one word for he or she, him or her. Just a little piece of trivia I learned on this trip!
Stay tuned for more from Egypt! Soon...